Though armed with a number of charismatic performances, My Life in Ruins primarily comes off as a hopelessly corny romantic comedy that boasts a myriad of jokes and gags that wouldn't pass muster on the hackiest of sitcoms. The movie casts Nia Vardalos as Georgia, an American living and working in Greece as a tour guide who impulsively decides to move back home following one last jaunt around the picturesque countryside. Georgia's latest batch of clients - including Richard Dreyfuss' scrappy Irv, Harland Williams' obnoxious Big Al, and Caroline Goodall's stuffy Dr. Tullen - inevitably force the homesick single gal to reevaluate her decision, as they slowly-but-surely teach her a series of life lessons that lead directly into a burgeoning relationship with hunky bus driver Poupi (Alexis Georgoulis). It's a familiar premise that's initially employed to entirely underwhelming effect by filmmaker Donald Petrie, as the director - working from Mike Reiss' screenplay - places a consistent emphasis on eye-rollingly unsubtle elements that are exacerbated by the presence of characters that are almost uniformly one note. It subsequently goes without saying that the talented cast - Dreyfuss is all but retired and this is what he chooses to do? - is generally left floundering amid a sea of exasperating clichés and stereotypes, yet there's little doubt that the increasingly affable atmosphere does ensure that the movie improves ever-so-slightly slightly as it progresses. The almost comically upbeat nature of My Life in Ruins' conclusion - virtually every character receives their own personal happy ending - leaves the viewer almost willing to forgive the ineffectiveness of that which preceded it, although it'd surely take a lot more than a pleasant finale to erase the memory of the film's aggressively unwatchable opening hour.
Timecrimes (June 12/09)
A smart, occasionally thrilling science fiction tale, Timecrimes follows an ordinary man (Karra Elejalde's Hector) as he finds himself face-to-face with two separate versions of himself after inadvertently stepping into a low-rent time machine. Filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo has infused the proceedings with an unapologetically hard-edged sensibility that's ultimately reminiscent of Shane Carruth's similarly-themed 2004 effort Primer, although there's little doubt that Timecrimes fares a whole lot better than its intriguing yet hopelessly impenetrable predecessor - as Vigalondo generally does a nice job of ensuring that the movie remains easy enough to follow for the duration of its appropriately brisk running time. It's just as clear, however, that Vigalondo's labyrinthine screenplay demands a great deal of attention from the viewer, with the suspension-of-disbelief factor almost egregiously high during the film's opening 45 minutes - as Hector 1 behaves in a manner that initially seems just a little too calculated for comfort. Hector's actions are inevitably explained away by his desire to maintain a consistent timeline (which, if interrupted, would essentially negate his entire existence), and it consequently becomes awfully difficult not to sympathize with the character's ongoing efforts at repairing the damage from his unwitting escapades through time. The end result is a mind-bending endeavor that would surely benefit from repeat viewings, as it does seem as though the kinks within the story would naturally smooth themselves out once the big picture has been revealed.
Hide (June 29/09)
The degree to which Hide ultimately alienates the viewer is really quite remarkable, as the film boasts a promising opening half hour that's slowly but surely squandered by screenwriter Greg Rosati and director K.C. Bascombe. The movie - which follows sociopathic criminals Billy (Christian Kane) and Betty (Rachel Miner) as they're reunited after seven years apart - initially sets itself apart from its myriad of similarly-themed brethren with Bascombe's dreamy (yet distinctly ostentatious) visual choices, and there's little doubt that Kane and Miner's unexpectedly strong work proves instrumental in grounding the proceedings even through its more overtly oddball moments. The almost otherworldly atmosphere does become increasingly problematic as Hide progresses, however, as there reaches a point at which the relentlessly meandering nature of Rosati's script begins to nullify the movie's positive attributes (ie one can't help but grow impatient for something, anything, of interest to occur). It's consequently not surprising to note that the number of pointless interludes grows steadily as the movie unfolds, with the few compelling moments - ie Billy's encounter with a timid waitress (Beth Grant's Candy) - ultimately rendered moot by the woefully pronounced emphasis on head-scratching elements. By the time the aggressively baffling third act rolls around, Hide has firmly established itself as a hopelessly misguided piece of work that'll force even the most hardened David Lynch fan to throw their arms up in frustration.