Critical Consensus: "Crank" Is Well-Ranked; "Illusionist" Is Magic, "Crossover" Is An Air-Ball, "Wicker Man" Gets Burned

This week at the movies, we've got hoopsters with big dreams ("Crossover," starring Anthony Mackie), scary goings-on on remote islands ("The Wicker Man," starring Nicolas Cage), fast, fast vehicles ("Crank," starring Jason Statham and Amy Smart), and magic ("The Illusionist," starring Edward Norton and Jessica Biel). What do the critics say?

If you want realism, go rent "The Bicycle Thief." Critics say "Crank" is a ludicrously over-the-top action flick with nary a moment of probability. And that's a good thing. The story involves a hit man (Statham) who must stay awake to complete his mission and get out of the business. The critics say the film makes precious little sense and eschews both the laws of physics and political correctness. They also note that it is a lot of fun, with terrific action sequences and a knowing sense of humor. Why this movie wasn't shown to critics beforehand is beyond us, since at 75 percent on the Tomatometer it's the best reviewed unscreened film of the year, beating out "Snakes on a Plane" (69 percent).


It appears Jason Statham's alarm isn't working again.

"The Wicker Man" wasn't screened for critics either, and this time, it looks like there was a good reason for that. Critics say Neil LaBute's remake of the 1973 cult classic subtracts most of the subtext of the original and replaces it with tons of unintentional laughs. Cage stars as a cop who gets ensnared in sinister rituals on a remote island while searching for his girlfriend's missing child. Scribes say the film was misconceived from the get-go and contains a startling amount of sexism. At 11 percent on the Tomatometer, this "Wicker Man" is getting burned. It's also well below the original (89 percent).


Movie critics tried a bunch of disguises in an attempt to sneak into screanings of "The Wicker Man."

One of the reasons streetball is so much fun to watch is its sheer unpredictability. The critics say the opposite is the case with the hoops drama "Crossover." The film tells the story of Noah (Mackie), a talented kid who hopes to get to med school with an assist from his hoops scholarship, but must deal with the full court press of some of his relationships. The critics are treating "Crossover" the way Dikembe Mutombo would handle a shot in his direction. They say the film is too by-the-numbers to be dramatic. At zero percent on the Tomatometer, "Crossover" is tied with "Zoom" (each of which have 46 rotten reviews) for the title of worst reviewed film of the year.


"Run, Anthony Mackie! Run for your life! Get help!"

"The Illusionist" goes wide this week, and the critics are largely under the spell of this Sundance-approved period mystery. The film tells the tale of Eisenheim (Norton), a magician who runs afoul with the authorities for his feats of illusion and his romance with the prince's fiancée (Biel). The scribes are praising "The Illusionist" for its remarkable set design, sweeping romance, and its twisty plot. It currently stands at 75 percent on the Tomatometer, good enough for Certified Fresh status.


In "The Illusionist," Ed Norton plays a man outstanding in his field -- or is it out walking? (Thank you. I'll be here all week.)

Also out this week in limited release: hipster fave Andrew Bujalski's no-budget comedy "Mutual Appreciation" is at 100 percent on the Tomatometer; Ric Burns' "Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film" is also at 100 percent; that lovable collie "Lassie" is at 90 percent; Kirby Dick's guerilla investigation of the MPAA, "This Film Is Not Yet Rated," is at 83 percent; Zhang Yimou's latest, "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles," is at 69 percent; Edward Burns' latest examination of suburban romantic angst, "Looking for Kitty," is at 38 percent; and Mike Judge's "Idiocracy," which is in limited release, was not screened for critics.


"Mutual Appreciation": As Sonic Youth might say, confusion is next and next after that is the truth.

Recent Neil LaBute Movies:
------------------------------------
65% -- The Shape of Things (2003)
64% -- Possession (2002)
83% -- Nurse Betty (2000)
76% -- Your Friends and Neighbors (1999)
89% -- In the Company of Men (1997)

Recent Jason Statham Movies:
---------------------------------------
15% -- London (2006)
27% -- Revolver (2006)
50% -- The Transporter 2 (2005)
73% -- The Italian Job (2003)
53% -- The Transporter (2002)

Recent Basketball Movies:
--------------------------------
90% -- The Heart of the Game (2006)
58% -- Glory Road (2006)
69% -- Through the Fire (2005)
14% -- Rebound (2005)
64% -- Coach Carter (2005)

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