Reel Life mini-review: "The Short Game"
Kids say the darnedest things, even when they're competing at the annual U.S. Golf Kids World Championship Tournament at Pinehurst.
That's pretty much what we get out of "The Short Game," Josh Greenbaum's sports doc that offers more cuteness than suspense as eight of the greatest golfers in the world (ages 7 or 8) go up against each other -- and themselves.
In a series of zippy personality profiles we get to quickly know these kid players from all over the globe: South Africa, China, France, the Philippines and the U.S.
Among them: California girl Amari "Tigress" Avery, born on the same day as her hero Tiger Woods; Floridian Allan Kournikova, the highly driven half-brother of tennis star Anna Kournikova; and Zama "The Dreamer" Nxasana, a South African boy with a killer smile.
Greenbaum's cameras capture the helicoptering parents, the encouraging coaches (sometimes, they're the same) and the occasionally comical ways the tiny athletes prepare for battle.
"After I have a nap, I'll have better concentration!" says Alexa Pano from Lake Worth, Florida.
Greenbaum never scratches beneath the surface of his subjects. He lets athletes, coaches and parents prattle on unchallenged by follow-up questions or redirection.
"See his explosive temper," a coach tells us about his golfer, "which you would see in every great player." Really? Every player must possess an explosive temper to be a great golfer?
"The Short Game" doesn't short us on recycled sports clichés, either. Especially the tired "gotta have heart" bromide ("It's not how big you are, but the size of your heart!" a coach waxes poetic) and the ever-popular sports-as-life metaphor. ("Golf isn't just a sport," a coach emotes. "This is life!")
Fortunately, the kids' personalities rescue "The Short Game" from a cinematic bogey. Take the 7-year-old who incredulously asks her father, "Do I really need a pep talk?"
That's one good swing on the subject.
"The Short Game" opens at the South Barrington 30 and the River East in Chicago. Rated PG. 100 minutes. ★ ★ ★
Reel Life mini-review: "The Colony"
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Laurence Fishburne, the star of the cutting-edge "Matrix" trilogy, now leads the cast in Jeff Renfroe's edgeless, derivative, CGI-heavy science-fiction horror "The Colony."
In a world blanketed by an Ice Age where a single cough or a sniffle can get you booted out of an underground bunker called Colony 7 (or worse, being shot by Bill Paxton's overzealous colony commander), food is scarce and resources limited.
When a distress call comes in from nearby Colony 5, co-commander Briggs (Fishburne) taps the sexiest guy he can find, Sam (Kevin Zegers), to go with him on a rescue mission through miles and miles of phony-looking computer-generated snow and frozen landscapes.
Sam and Biggs no sooner arrive at Colony 5 when they discover kajillions of cannibals who've already chopped up the locals and hung them up like cattle carcasses.
Biggs and Sam race back to Colony 7, never worrying that their tracks will lead the hungry hordes to their very door steps.
Nothing in "The Colony" feels real. Not the emotions, the settings, the characters or even the cannibals. (Apparently, switching normal people to all-humanoid diets turns them into grunting, psychopathic ids incapable of constructing sentences through their filed-down teeth.)
"The Colony" has the distinction of being the first movie shot at the decommissioned NORAD base in Ontario, Canada. For all we know, it could just be another CGI backdrop.
"The Colony" opens at the Streets of Woodfield, Schaumburg. Not rated; graphic violence, adult language. 93 minutes. ★ ½
Reel Life mini-review: "My Lucky Star"
Dennie Gordon's spy-spoof "My Lucky Star" is a lighthearted mess that can't decide what genre to be when it grows up.
Ziyi Zhang, who enthralled worldwide audiences with her martial arts moves in Ang Lee's magnificent "Hidden Dragon, Crouching Tiger," plays Sophie, an inept office sales girl who dabbles in creating comic book adventures in her spare time.
When she wins a vacation in a contest, Sophie meets an Asian James Bond in David (Leehom Wang), under cover to locate the Lucky Star diamond before it falls into the hands of a generic super villain plotting to use the stone to create a super laser weapon.
"My Lucky Star" squanders its endless possibilities for clever parodies of science-fiction films, spy thrillers and comic book adventures.
Gordon (an American) clearly intended this insipid action comedy to be pure escapism. But Zhang's character is so idiotically naive and her adventures so flairlessly executed that it's the thing to escape from.
"My Lucky Star" opens at the River East in Chicago. Not rated, but suitable for general audiences. 114 minutes. ★ ½
• Daily Herald Film Critic Dann Gire's column runs Fridays in Time out!