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Three Dramas from Sony

Debbie Macomber's Mrs. Miracle (November 14/10)

Based on a novel by, of course, Debbie Macomber, Debbie Macomber's Mrs. Miracle follows widower Seth Webster (James Van Der Beek) as he attempts to find a babysitter willing to put up with his twin boys' rambunctious behavior - with his problems apparently solved by the sudden appearance of a kind nanny named Mrs. Merkle (Doris Roberts). Mrs. Merkle, nicknamed Mrs. Miracle by the kids, quickly proves to possess more than just child-rearing skills, however, and it's not long before she's attempting to set Seth up with an emotionally-damaged travel agent (Erin Karpluk's Reba Maxwell). Debbie Macomber's Mrs. Miracle generally feels low rent and simplistic even by the less-than-impressive standards of its made-for-television brethren, as the movie boasts a pervasively bland sensibility that's reflected in its various attributes (including David Golden's predictable and consistently underwhelming screenplay). The relentlessly banal atmosphere inevitably grows oppressive, with the stale vibe perpetuated by an ongoing emphasis on almost eye-rollingly hackneyed conventions and cliches (ie the dreaded fake break-up). And although both Van Der Beek and Karpluk are quite charming (and possess genuine chemistry with one another), Debbie Macomber's Mrs. Miracle is ultimately a bottom-of-the-barrel bit of filmmaking that seems unlikely to win over even Macomber herself.

out of

Georgia O'Keeffe (November 6/10)

Georgia O'Keeffe casts Joan Allen as the title character, an American painter whose relationship with a philandering fellow artist (Jeremy Irons' Alfred Stieglitz) ultimately comes to define both her life and her art. Despite its true-life origins, George O'Keeffe is, for the most part, a pervasively superficial piece of work that boasts few attributes designed to capture (and sustain) the viewer's interest - as director Bob Balaban, working from Michael Cristofer's script, has infused the proceedings with an almost wildly inauthentic feel that's reflected in everything from its cheap-looking sets to its uncomfortably over-the-top performances to its hopelessly affected dialogue. There's subsequently little doubt that Georgia O'Keeffe remains utterly uninvolving for virtually the duration of its overlong running time, with the less-than-enthralling vibe compounded by Cristofer's head-scratching decision to leave O'Keeffe's artistic endeavors largely unexplored - as the screenwriter instead emphasizes her on-again-off-again coupling with Irons' character (but given that neither figure is especially well developed, it becomes impossible to work up any interest in the fate of their relationship). The inclusion of several unusually pointless sequences - ie O'Keeffe learns how to drive - cements Georgia O'Keeffe's place as a rather insignificant piece of work, which is a shame, undoubtedly, given the importance of the film's subject to the art world.

out of

The Karate Kid (November 16/10)

A worthless, utterly disposable remake, The Karate Kid follows scrappy 12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) as he and his single mother (Taraji P. Henson's Sherry) move to China after she's transferred there for work - with Dre's ongoing encounters with a group of surly bullies inevitably forcing him to learn kung fu from his apartment building's grizzled maintenance man (Jackie Chan's Mr. Han). It's clear right from the get-go that The Karate Kid's biggest deficiency is its star, as Jaden Smith delivers a wooden, hopelessly uncharismatic performance that effectively prevents the viewer from working up any sympathy or interest in his ongoing exploits. (That he's been surrounded by a whole host of aggressively bland periphery figures only exacerbates this feeling.) There's consequently little doubt that the film's astonishing running time of 140 minutes (!) often feels much, much longer, with the increasingly interminable atmosphere compounded by the presence of several padded-out and entirely needless sequences (ie Dre and Mr. Han visit an ancient Chinese sanctuary). It's also worth noting that even the movie's fight scenes, presumably meant to come off as a highlight, manage to disappoint, as Harald Zwart's incompetent direction transforms such moments into an incoherent blur of action and movement (ie enough with the shaky camerawork and tight close-ups already). And although Jackie Chan delivers an impressively complex performance and manages to put his own spin on Pat Morita's iconic Mr. Miyagi, The Karate Kid is ultimately a tiresome and wholly irrelevant piece of work that forces one to view the comparatively masterful original in a whole new light.

out of

© David Nusair