Sex and the City 2 (New Line/Warner Bros.)
I’m sorry. Am I missing something here?
Are any of these women supposed to be remotely relatable?
Are any of them supposed to be women at all?
There’s Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), the whiny, self-absorbed, unbearably wistful alleged fashionista (a claim I more than once felt quick to refute), who traps her newly-snagged beau “Big” (Chris Noth) in a marriage of smothering perpetuated fantasy. What a catch!
Then there’s Charlotte (Kristin Davis), who rages like a maniac at her kindergarten-aged daughter for getting finger-paint on her vintage dress (a dubious wardrobe choice to begin with for icing cupcakes), before locking herself in a pantry away from her wailing children to wallow herself. Mother of the year!
Next there’s Samantha (Kim Cattrall), who, amid the onslaught of menopause, has the sex-drive of a 16-year-old boy (a bedfellow she would also be unlikely to pass up) and appears unable to connect to the world in any way that is not carnally conceived, while her tally of lays is surely only rivaled by her tally of contracted venereal diseases. Break me off a piece of that!
And finally, there’s Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), the overburdened worker bee missing out on her own life, who does manage to generate some likability, if only because her one-note character contrivance is the least sour to swallow. Yawn!
So the four hens pack up for an all-expenses-paid pilgrimage to the Middle East. And no, they are not captured by terrorists. They head to Abu Dhabi—the “New Middle East”—a lavish paradise of riches, privilege, and excess, where they can assert their value as strong, independent women.
Because nothing says “strong, independent woman” like the indulgence in things over friends and family, or public indecency and general cultural disrespect, or the most horrific puns imaginable (including a double pun, which should be outlawed: one’s “interfriendtion” becomes another’s “interfuntion”), or histrionics unworthy of even the cheesiest after-school special.
“I am woman, hear me roar,” they (attempt to) sing, during one nearly intolerable karaoke sequence. But actions speak louder than words, even when those words could burst an eardrum.
Indeed, and despite what it may claim, Sex and the City seems intent on keeping social conventions exactly where they are. The ladies should love clothes, trinkets, and their husbands. Their husbands, the men, should be sweet and simple. And the gays—yes, the gays should continue to self-marginalize with sparkles and absurdity.
The film starts off at a “gay” wedding—“gay” in a two-men-getting-married way, and “gay” in a Liza-Minnelli-covering-Beyoncé way. This is supposed to celebrate societal progress, but it’s just frivolous ostentation and theatrics—not a gay wedding, but a drag show.
As is the entirety of Sex and the City 2: an extravagant, flashy, ridiculous drag show, starring not four women, but four larger-than-life, stereotyped archetypes—four drag queens.
Written & directed by Michael Patrick King.
Rated R for some strong sexual content and language.
Runtime is 2 hours, 26 minutes (no joke).
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Disney)
This one could have been pretty cool. The last time Disney joined forces with power-producer Jerry Bruckheimer for a swashbuckling adventure, we got the wondrously captivating Pirates of the Caribbean starter.
Prince of Persia, based on the video game of the same name, hardly measures up to even the lesser Pirates sequels—or even the lethargic Clash of the Titans remake from earlier this year.
This is the epitome of a blockbuster letdown.
Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Dastan, a Persian peon with unlikely acrobatic skills adopted into the royal family as a boy. He finds himself at odds with his regal relatives following the siege of a neighboring city suspected of supplying weapons to enemy combatants. Hastily accused of treachery, Dastan flees into exile with the headstrong Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton), who safeguards a mystical dagger capable of rupturing the fabric of time.
The pair sets off on a haphazard journey through the desert to clear Dastan’s name, and to prevent evil forces from harnessing the powerful “Sands of Time.” As the plot meanders, so do they—wandering through stretches of sand with nary a plan.
They run into a horde of traders headed by Alfred Molina‘s slippery Sheik Amar, who takes them back to his Ostrich-race gambling headquarters. Molina injects some much-needed humor into the film, but the rest of the cast seems to be taking the whole ordeal much too seriously—a crucial misstep when your plot involves magic sand, ostrich races, and cat-like scaling of buildings (and a clearly-Caucasian Persian prince who speaks with a hybrid British-Australian accent).
Gemma Arterton in particular becomes so irritating in her how-dare-you-I-don’t-need-you-I’m-no-damsel-in-distress insistence that you’ll hope her every step through the desert will find her sucked into a spiral of quicksand.
As for the time-turning bit, it would take a manual (a video game manual, perhaps?) to understand all of the specifics of how it works and what it means (indeed, as characters attempt to explain it, they sound as though they are reading out of a manual). But essentially, you fill the dagger with sand from the “Sands of Time,” then you push down on the jeweled button on its hilt (not unlike pressing a button on a video game controller), and you’ll travel back in time by a few moments.
The time-travel effect is neat at first—Dastan bursts into sand flecks and hovers as the world around him freezes then plays in reverse—but the actual use of time travel is far too meager, especially as the main story hook. And it is accompanied by an otherwise consistently lackluster visual design, including a climactic CGI explosion so trippy and confounding that I thought the Prince of Persia may have dropped acid.
Sets look like they were constructed out of styrofoam and mounted on the stage of a high-school auditorium, with overbaked lighting, sand-streaked lensing, and hokey stunt-work (costumes are quite nice, though).
Then director Mike Newell makes the maddening decision to capture most of the film in close-up shots, so that any sense of epic scope or wonderment, any curiosity to explore the expansive Persian landscape is imminently quashed.
As are my hopes for another Pirates-esque adventure.
Directed by Mike Newell. Written by Boaz Yakin, and Doug Miro & Carlo Bernard, based on the video game series by Jordan Mechner.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.
Runtime is 1 hour, 56 minutes.