Sony's February '12 Releases
The Mighty Macs (February 20/12)
Based on a true story, The Mighty Macs follows Carla Gugino's Cathy Rush as she becomes the head coach for an all-girls Catholic college's basketball team - with the film detailing Cathy's ongoing efforts at both whipping her ragtag players into shape and dealing with a variety of other problems and obstacles (including the skepticism of her sexist husband). Though well made and well acted, The Mighty Macs is never quite able to become anything more than a sporadically passable yet mostly tedious drama - with the pervasively familiar storyline ranking high on the movie's list of deficiencies. Filmmaker Tim Chambers has infused the proceedings with a palpably routine feel that grows more and more problematic as time progresses, with one's ongoing efforts at embracing the characters and their exploits consistently stymied by the total lack of surprises within Chambers' screenplay. It's a shame, really, given that there's certainly plenty here worth admiring, with the most obvious examples of this Gugino's strong lead performance and the movie's atmosphere of authenticity. (It's worth noting, too, that the climactic basketball game is admittedly more suspenseful than one might've anticipated, even though its outcome is never even remotely in question.) The end result is a well-intentioned and consistently earnest endeavor that is, unfortunately, completely underwhelming almost from start to finish, with the movie's unabashedly inspirational bent ensuring that it might play well among families and sports fans.
Retreat (February 21/12)
Despite the rather promising nature of its setup, Retreat inevitably (and lamentably) establishes itself as a generic and hopelessly uninvolving thriller that grows more and more tedious as it progresses. The storyline follows married couple Martin (Cillian Murphy) and Kate (Thandie Newton) as they attempt to work out their personal problems on a desolate island, with trouble ensuing after a mysterious stranger (Jamie Bell's Jack) arrives on the scene claiming that a deadly disease is sweeping through Europe. Filmmaker Carl Tibbetts, working from a screenplay cowritten with Janice Hallett, has infused Retreat with an almost excessively deliberate pace that proves problematic right from the outset, with the movie's hands-off atmosphere exacerbated by Newton's cold, oddly unsympathetic performance (ie she seems to actively hate her own husband). Jack's killer-disease revelation admittedly does inject the proceedings with some much-needed energy, although even this aspect of the film ultimately falls flat due to Bell's overtly sinister turn (ie one's efforts at buying into the character's claims are consistently thwarted by his exceedingly evil demeanor). And while Tibbetts has admittedly peppered the narrative with a few standout sequences (eg Martin attempts retrieve Jack's handgun while the man is unconscious), Retreat has been saddled with an aggressively uneventful midsection that does, in the end, diminish the impact of its final scenes - which effectively cements the movie's place as a thoroughly misguided piece of work.