SEX AND THE CITY 2
Parents, lock up your fanboys! Yes, the ladies of the Sex and the City franchise are back to once again strike terror in the heart of any male moviegoer who steadfastly believes that cinema was only created to serve those folks sporting a Y chromosome. Admittedly, annoying these computer trolls sounds like reason enough to give Sex and the City 2 a
hearty recommendation, but the truth of the matter is that this follow-up to the 2008 smash (itself based on the hit HBO series) doesn't quite measure up.
As I wrote in my review of the first film, "Sex and the City works because its ability to mix real-world issues with reel-world fantasies interestingly provides it with both gravity and buoyancy." In SATC2, only half of the equation really works. That would be the dramatic side, represented by those sequences in which the principals cope with issues that resonate beyond the screen. For starters, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mr. Big (Chris Noth) are pleased to finally be married but also quickly realize that compromises need to be made for both their sakes -- as an example, Carrie desires to spend some nights out on the town while Big is content to eat take-out and spend the evenings on the couch. And then there's Charlotte (Kristin Davis), whose constantly shrieking kid would fray anyone's nerves; in one of
the film's best scenes, she and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) confide in each other the sorts of thoughts that parents frequently entertain but usually don't dare to say out loud.
Moments such as these prove to be so affecting and sometimes even insightful that it's a shame the film's more lighthearted elements turn out to be so ham-fisted. Some bits are excusable: Many male moviegoers will take offense at the sight of hunky men's penises bulging under Speedos, but how is this female-oriented eye candy any different than, say, Megan Fox letting her breasts do her acting for her in that accursed Transformers sequel?
But a major plot point takes the foursome out of New York for a trip to the United Arab Emirates, and while the
thought of these liberated ladies confronting Middle Eastern misogynists sounds tantalizing on paper, clumsy writing strips the material of any import. And it's not just the plotting that's below par: This lengthy segment of the film also produces some atrocious quips that cause the ears to bleed. "Abu Dhabi Doo!" and "I'm having a mid-wife crisis" are bad enough, but the nadir is easily when Samantha (Kim Cattrall, here forced to endure various humiliations) meets a hunky Australian in the desert and moans, "Lawrence of my labia!" If that doesn't have Lawrence of Arabia director David Lean spinning
around in his grave at mach speed, nothing will.
PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME
To say that Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time isn't as bad as other films adapted from video games is a bit like saying that day-old roadkill doesn't smell as bad as week-old roadkill. It isn't praise so much as it's looking for the silver lining in an otherwise unfortunate situation.
Certainly, Prince of Persia is far better than such wretched works as Super Mario Bros. and Resident Evil, but it's still little more than an average fantasy flick. To its credit, the action scenes are better orchestrated than what's been coming down the pike of late (e.g. Robin Hood), but little else in the film works. The plot concerns the efforts of a buff prince (a game but miscast Jake Gyllenhaal) to aid a princess (Gemma Arterton, even more dull than in Clash of the Titans) in
protecting a mystical dagger from falling into the wrong hands. The blade, you see, has the power to turn back time, although the specifics of this procedure seem to change at the writers' whims as well as sometimes allow the holder to end up at the most convenient points in time imaginable.
As expected, the film is packed with CGI effects, some more believable than others. The film is also crammed with the usual stock characters in the supporting ranks, including the money-hungry Arab (Alfred Molina) used for comic relief and the noble black sidekick (Steve Toussaint) willing to sacrifice his life so that the whites (or, in this case, whites-in-bronze-makeup) can live happily ever after. The only original characters are the ostriches, and it must be noted that they deliver the best performances.
The film takes chances with the fates of some of the characters but then serves up an ending that leaves the viewer feeling absolutely cheated. I won't reveal how this plays out, but let's just say that this device should be retired right alongside the hoary "It's all a dream."
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