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'As Seen Through These Eyes'

CAPSULE MOVIE REVIEWS

Also: 'The Canyon,' 'Hannah Free,' 'Motherhood,' 'Stan Helsing'

October 23, 2009|Gary Goldstein; Kevin Thomas; Glenn Whipp; Robert Abele

Claudia Allen has skillfully adapted her play to the screen, opening it up without destroying its intimacy and cohesiveness. Wendy Jo Carlton has directed "Hannah Free" with a simplicity and cinematic fluidity that serves Allen's often tart, amusing dialogue well. The exceptional cast includes Kelli Strickland as the younger Hannah and Ann Hagemann as the younger Rachel. The film goes for an ending scene that would surely smack of the improbable were it not so well-played by Gless, Jackson and especially Miller -- but in the end, the movie belongs to Sharon Gless.

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Kevin Thomas --

"Hannah Free." Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. At the Music Hall, Beverly Hills.

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Scratch this one off the to-do list

Uma Thurman's beleaguered West Village mom is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day in "Motherhood" -- and it's no picnic for us, either. Whiny and self-involved, Thurman's mother of two sees judgment around every corner and believes the universe has conspired against her because the bakery misspelled her daughter's name on a birthday cake. Meanwhile, she can't get in touch with her long-suffering husband (Anthony Edwards), believing he has intentionally silenced his cellphone.

Gee . . . you think?

Katherine Dieckmann's canonization comedy aims to depict the jingle-jangle jumble facing smart women in the early 21st century, mothers trying to hold on to some semblance of self-identity as they plow through yard-long to-do lists.

But Eliza's (Thurman) 24-hour journey invites the kind of judgment it condemns, presenting its character's "plight" with a self-important insularity that will genuinely offend women who don't have two adjoining apartments, loving husbands with flexible schedules and the ability to indulge in midday shopping sprees.

We see Eliza mightily multi-task her way through planning her daughter's sixth birthday party (are goody bags really that imposing?) and find the time to write a 500-word essay on motherhood.

Eliza is also a blogger, which means Thurman spends much of the movie in voice-over mode, prattling on while betraying the trust of a friend (poor Minnie Driver), failing to pick up after her incontinent dog and making you wish that movies, like cellphones, could be silenced.

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Glenn Whipp --

"Motherhood." MPAA rating: PG-13 for language, sexual references and a brief drug comment. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. In selected theaters.

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Horror spoof's comedy is horror

"Stan Helsing," 90 interminable, sour and aggressively tasteless minutes of supposed comedy, has only one power: to foment existential doom in anyone expecting a funny spoof of horror flicks.

It's set up as a reluctant hero story in which a pea-brained video store clerk (a vacant-eyed Steve Howey) accepts his legacy as a descendant of the famed monster hunter Van Helsing to save a haunted town (cue the lame Freddy / Chucky / Michael Myers gags).

But this ill-assembled mess is mostly a horror show of toilet noises, genitalia references, cheap shots, creepy sex gags (I hope scantily clad hotties Diora Baird and Desi Lydic were paid well), and a rainbow of career-shame colors on "Saturday Night Live" performer Kenan Thompson's face.

Dumb humor is an art like any other, but writer-director Bo Zenga's way with jokes is no different than that of a 5-year-old pointing at dog poop, who grows into a teenager tittering at underwear, who becomes a middle-aged, raincoated misogynist.

Like garlic, holy water and silver bullets for our mythic evildoers, "Stan Helsing" is a surefire repellent to any good time.

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Robert Abele --

"Stan Helsing." MPAA rating: R for crude and sexual content, some drug use and language. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. At the Mann Chinese 6, Hollywood.

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