Arthur

Warner Brothers

Rated PG-13 for sexuality, profanity and pervasive substance abuse.

Reckless Playboy Risks Inheritance in Romantic Comedy Remake

Bon vivant Arthur Bach (Russell Brand) stands to inherit a billion dollars as the sole heir of a fortune controlled by his widowed mother, Vivienne (Geraldine James). But because the eligible bachelor’s been nothing but a constant source of embarrassment, the imperious, family matriarch is considering cutting him out of her will entirely.

For this flamboyant flexisexual’s tawdry exploits always seem to end up splashed across the tabloids, whether he’s being caught exposing himself in a limo by the paparazzi or waking up in bed with a couple of teenage transvestites. Worst of all, Arthur’s also a staggering, speech-slurring drunk who carries a flask and seizes on any flimsy excuse to imbibe. Consequently, his only close friend is Hobson (Helen Mirren), the loyal nanny/confidant who’s been tucking him into bed and reading him to sleep at night since he was a toddler.

Fed up with watching her reckless offspring fritter away both his trust fund and his future, Mrs. Bach decides that settling down with a socialite is the only way that her petulant playboy will ever be forced to mature. So, she secretly arranges for him to wed Susan Johnson (Jennifer Garner), the daughter of a Manhattan real-estate tycoon (Nick Nolte).

Against his better judgment, Arthur agrees to proceed only after his mom levels an ultimatum: either marry her or lose your inheritance. The engagement is announced and soon New York City is abuzz about the impending nuptials with a magazine devoting a cover story to the high-profile couple.

Meanwhile, Arthur becomes consumed with overwhelming regret when he wakes up to the fact that his heart already belongs to Naomi Quinn (Greta Gerwig), a free-spirited tour guide he recently met inside Grand Central Terminal. He suddenly knows that she’s the one for him, even though she’s just a commoner who still lives with her dad (Peter Van Wagner) in a modest tract house in Queens.

It’s not long before Arthur shares his misgiving with Susan about the “macabre conspiracy to railroad us into a loveless marriage.” However, his bride-to-be will have none of it, nor will his mother who is mortified to learn of his association with a lowly lass from the wrong side of the tracks. Thus, Arthur finds himself on the horns of a dilemma: whether to forsake a limitless fortune to be with the woman of his dreams or to enter a marriage of convenience to continue living in the lap of luxury.

So unfolds Arthur, an ill-advised remake of the 1981 classic co-starring Dudley Moore and Liza Minelli, and for which Sir John Gielgud won an Academy Award playing Hobson. First of all, I’d like to think that our sensitivity about alcoholism has evolved over the intervening years to the point where we consider it a serious affliction, and wouldn’t want to be so callous as to laugh at a lead character hopelessly in the grip of the disease, anymore than we’d find a film revolving around a hapless heroin addict hilarious.

The second major flaw is that where Moore imbued Arthur with an impish, endearing vulnerability, Russell Brand interprets him as a brazen and unapologetically-audacious lout. Maybe that’s more in line with the mindset of a spoiled-rotten, 21st Century schizoid heir, but it also makes for an awfully unlikable protagonist.

Even this version’s anti-climactic finale is an almost insulting, tension-free afterthought, which pales in comparison to the original’s exuberant Hollywood ending with a cherry on top. Arthur 2.0, not exactly an upgrade.

Fair (1 star).

Running time: 110 minutes.

TRON: Legacy 3D Blu-Ray

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Rated PG for sci-fi violence and mild epithets.

Scintillating Sci-Fi Sequel Showcases Next Generation Special F/X

Released in 1982, the original TRON was a futuristic thriller starring Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn, a programming genius/video arcade owner who somehow ends up physically deconstructed and teleported to a digital world after hacking into a software company’s mainframe computer. Then, while lost in cyberspace, he’s forced to survive by participating in a series of life and death gladiatorial games.

Set 20 years later, TRON: Legacy revolves around Kevin’s orphaned son, Sam’s (Garrett Hedlund) search for his dad after being accidentally sucked into the same parallel universe. Soon captured, he proves to be no match when pitted in an arena battle against CLU (Codified Likeness Utility), a diabolical digital copy of his long-lost father programmed for evil.

Sam is saved in the nick of time by Quorra (Olivia Wilde), a warrior who arranges a father-son reunion at a hideout off the grid in a place called the Outlands. From this point forward the trio’s quest is essentially to find the portal back to reality.

Worth its while for the next generation special effects alone, especially when witnessed in 3D, TRON: Legacy marks the directorial debut of Joseph Kosinski. For the engaging plot takes a back seat at every turn to the magical roller coaster ride provided by the visually captivating cinematography featuring an ethereal landscape highlighted in neon.

Note: Should you opt to invest in the 5-Disc Combo Pack, your reward will include not only the original TRON and its extras, but the Blu-ray, 3D, 2D and Digital versions of TRON: Legacy, as well as a smorgasbord of featurettes.

Excellent (3.5 stars).

Running time: 125 Minutes.

5-Disc Combo Pack Extras: Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray 2D, DVD and digital copy of TRON: Legacy, “Visualizing TRON,” “Installing the Cast,” sneak peek at the Disney XD animated series TRON: Uprising, “The Next Day: Flynn Lives Revealed,” “Disney Second Screen: TRON: Legacy,” “Launching the Legacy,” “Disc Roars,” Daft Punk music video “Derezzed,” plus all the bonus features from Tron: The Original Classic Special Edition.

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun

For movies opening April 15, 2011

The Conspirator (PG-13 for violence). Robert Redford directs this courtroom drama about slave owner/Confederacy sympathizer Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), the only female arrested as an accessory to John Wilkes Booth’s (Toby Kebbell) plot to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. Talented cast includes Academy Award-winner Kevin Kline, Oscar-nominee Tom Wilkinson, plus James McAvoy, Evan Rachel Wood, Stephen Root and Justin Long.

Rio (PG for mild, off-color humor). Animated family comedy about a domesticated macaw from Minnesota (Jesse Eisenberg) who embarks on an exciting adventure after conquering his fear of flying to make a daring escape from captivity with the bird of his dreams (Anne Hathaway). Voice cast includes Jane Lynch, Wanda Sykes, Will.i.am, Jamie Foxx, Leslie Mann, George Lopez, Sergio Mendes and Tracy Morgan.

Scream 4 (R for profanity, underage drinking and graphic violence). Revival of Wes Craven slasher franchise finds protagonist Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returning to her hometown for the first time in 10 years only to find herself again stalked by the serial killer, Ghostface (Roger L. Jackson). Ensemble cast includes Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Anthony Anderson, Rory Culkin, Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, Kristen Bell and Anna Paquin.

Armadillo (Unrated). Afghan War documentary shot by a journalist and cameraman embedded for half of 2009 with a unit of young Danish soldiers stationed in a dangerous region of Helmand province teeming with Taliban. (In Danish with subtitles).

Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 (PG-13 for sexuality). Initial installment of sci-fi trilogy based on Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel of the same name revolving around a railroad executive’s (Taylor Schilling) attempt to keep her business afloat amidst a crumbling American infrastructure. With Paul Johansson, Michael O’Keefe and Jon Polito.

The Double Hour (Unrated). Convoluted crime thriller, set in Turin, about a lonely ex-cop (Filippo Timi) who falls head-over-heels for a Slovenian chambermaid (Ksenia Rapaport) he meets at a speed-dating bar only to have their whirlwind romance turn tragic when they venture to the country for a weekend getaway. (In Italian and Spanish with subtitles.)

The First Beautiful Thing (Unrated). Prodigal Son flashback flick about a misanthropic college professor (Valerio Mastandrea) who returns to his hometown to care for his terminally ill mother (Stefania Sandrelli). With Micaela Ramazzotti, Claudia Pandolfi and Marco Masseri. (In Italian with subtitles)

Fly Away (Unrated). Poignant coming-of-age drama about a single mom (Beth Broderick) grappling with the challenge of how to handle her increasingly independent autistic daughter (Ashley Rickards). With Greg Germann, J.R. Bourne and Elaine Hall.

Footprints (Unrated). Hollywood whodunit about a young woman (Sybil Temtchine) who awakens with amnesia one morning facedown on the famous sidewalk in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater where she proceeds to spend the rest of the day trying to piece together her identity. With H.M. Wynant, Pippa Scott and John Brickner.

The Imperialists Are Still Alive (Unrated). NYC romance drama about a French immigrant (Elodie Bouchez) who finds it hard to focus on her blossoming love affair with a Manhattan med student (Jose Maria de Tavira) when she learns of the CIA’s detention overseas of her childhood sweetheart as a suspected terrorist.

Phillip The Fossil (Unrated). Midlife crisis drama about an aging party animal’s (Brian Hasenfus) quest to find meaning in life beyond hedonistic self-indulgence. With Ann Pallica, Sarah Nicklin and Tom Sullivan.

The Princess Of Montpensier (Unrated). Sixteenth century costume drama about a teenage heir to the French throne (Melanie Thierry) who would rather wed her handsome young cousin (Gaspard Ulliel) than the aging nobleman (Lambert Wilson) she’s been promised to. (In French with subtitles.)

A Screaming Man (Unrated). Dysfunctional family drama set in Chad against the backdrop of civil war and revolving around a prideful swimming pool attendant (Youssouf Djaoro) who resents his young son (Dioucounda Koma) for taking his job when the upscale hotel where he works is purchased by new Chinese owners. (In French and English with subtitles.)

Square Grouper: The Godfathers Of Ganja (R for underage/illegal drug use). A seriocomic documentary depicting Miami’s Marijuana trade in the ‘70s.

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