Let's not kid ourselves about this. Part of consuming Hollywood entertainment is that, on some level, we like these people. It's strange, but I probably like Tina Fey and Paul Rudd more than actual live humans I've met and have to deal with on a regular basis. Yes, I recognize that I only know them through the characters they play (and that includes their "as themselves" appearances on Letterman's couch or the Golden Globes stage) but their finely sculpted personas of vibrant, clever, likable people automatically gives them lift in any project they choose. When they star together in 'Admission' - a romantic comedy that is just a little bit smarter than the other leading brands - and one where they find a degree of happiness together, well, this puts the movie far off the likability charts.
To watch 'The Place Beyond the Pines' is to observe characters making discoveries. Discoveries about their past, their environment, their heritage. When the revelations come they aren't met with gasps or dropped objects, but with an understanding, an acceptance that, yes, this is, indeed, the way things are.
While you'd swear with every bone in your body that this vast, rich, symbol-heavy tale was surely based on a thick doorstopper of a novel, the surprising fact remains that it is, actually, an original screenplay. It seems, though, a natural progression after the character portraiture of Derek Cianfrance's last film 'Blue Valentine.' This new one has the essence of 'Blue Valentine' but blown open far and wide.
A few titters wafted through the screening of 'Dead Man Down' as the WWE Studios logo came up on the screen. “Prejudice!” I thought. “Who is to say that Vince McMahon's new(ish) venture can't produce a quality piece of filmed entertainment?” Turns out all skepticism was justified.
'Dead Man Down,' a tiresome, predictable slog through every “in too deep” crime story cliché you've ever seen has as much subtlety as the average Face or Heel shouting into the mic during a Monday Night Raw. This is a dull movie that only perks up when it veers into the laughable, as when Noomi Rapace's character intentionally spikes Colin Farrell's character's two-years-in-the-making vengeance plot because she “had a moment,” but then bounces back into plan five minutes later anyway. Yes, I'm getting ahead of myself.
'21 and Over,' despite being the directorial debut of the odious 'Hangover' writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, isn't quite the bro-fest you might think it is. Yes, it definitely treads a bit into date rape jokes and offers an easy layup to any and all homophobes in the audience (more on this in a bit) but, by some miracle, more scenes than you might expect will actually make you laugh. Despite a premise that has the blur of a Xerox of a Xerox, there are individual sequences that are, surprisingly, clever and endearing.
'Snitch' begins when middle-class 18 year old Jason (Rafi Gavron) agrees to accept a giant box of ecstasy tablets sent to him via FedEx from a dumbass friend. Now he's facing a harsh mandatory minimum sentence unless he gives up another name to the Feds. Problem is, the one guy he knows in the drug trade is the one who snitched on him, so he's got no room to negotiate. But not so fast - his father is Dwayne Johnson.
Crime doesn't pay. It'll just make you feel bad when your parents have to jump through all sorts of crazy hoops to rescue your ass.
Funny is, of course, subjective. I find Woody Allen funny but there are plenty of people who find him about as amusing as being slowly asphyxiated in plastic bags from CVS. Still, I'll hazard to guess that there is no one who will find Melissa McCarthy obnoxiously singing along to Kelis' not-at-all-current "Milkshake" funny. Especially when 'Identity Thief' - a new "comedy" with McCarthy and Jason Bateman - goes to quite successful lengths to make you HATE her character. And you just might wind up hating this movie too.
Nobody asked for this movie. But someone was going to make it. I'm just glad it was Matthew Johnson, a young (but not as young as he looks!) Canadian director/co-writer/co-star who has the chutzpah to take on a really difficult subject and the chops to deliver without coming off as crass or exploitative. There are plenty who will refuse to give 'The Dirties' the time of day, and that's somewhat understandable, but if you believe that, in order to correct a problem it must first be discussed, 'The Dirties' is, I feel, a noble mix of entertainment and social importance.
'Warm Bodies' is a supernatural teen love story with a brain. (Excuse me. . .BRAINS!) It is hardly a memorable film, and certainly a step back for director Jonathan Levine after the masterful '50/50,' but it's cute, and if you are a high schooler looking for a date flick or slightly older and chaperoning your niece you could do a hell of a lot worse.
For some psychotic reason my parents showed me '2001: A Space Odyssey' when I was around ten. Ever since, I've been chasing that dragon. I've been looking for someone to use the powerful tools of cinema to show me - not tell me - something important about the Universe and have me work to (almost) understand it.
There have been times that have come close - Godfrey Reggio's 'Koyaanisqatsi' probably closest, with 'Eraserhead' and 'Enter the Void' in there, too. I'll need to see Shane Carruth's 'Upstream Color' again, but it may belong on this short list. Almost everyone who watches 'Upstream Color' will come out of it saying "I need to see that again."
Allow me to mar the sophisticated, near-painterly screenplay of Richard Linklater's 'Before Midnight' with these purple lines from the Steve Miller Band: time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future...
'Mud' is a great story, but not a particularly great film.
Dripping in regional specificity and broad metaphor, Jeff Nichols' new film feels more like a big, fat American novel you get assigned in 10th grade than the follow-up to 'Take Shelter.' That earlier film's ominous tone and psychological portraiture is traded-in for large, gestural story beats that itch to be broken down and discussed for their symbolic meaning. When you are done explaining just what Boo Radley represented, then you can sink your teeth into Joe Don Baker's character "King."
Who is May? She's a half-American, half-Palestinian Christian, born and raised in Amman, Jordan and living as an author in New York City. That's a lot of labels, so you can somewhat understand why she's having trouble figuring out what she wants in life.
It is every 16 year-old's rite of passage to sneak into an R-rated slasher, get grossed out by blood, turned on by boobs and shout back at the screen. To that end, 'Texas Chainsaw 3D' is a worthy claimant to the franchise.
Ed. note: What are the Top 20 Movies of 2012? We asked our film critic Jordan Hoffman (who previously put together a list of the Best Movies of the first half of the year) to compile a list of the Best of 2012 of all the many movies he saw this year.
Pop culture enthusiasts can be forgiven if they approach Peter Jackson's J.R.R. Tolkien prequel trilogy thinking about 'Star Wars.' Will this next (but previous!) chapter in one of Fandom's key franchises broaden the cinematic universe we love so much, or will this be another case where they should have let enough alone?
Well, as is so frequently the case in life, I can't give you such a black and white answer. For starters, we may not be able to fully analyze 'The Hobbit' until all three chapters are in. Nevertheless here we are and 'An Unexpected Journey' does, indeed, have a lot going for it. It is also saddled with tangents, jabberjaw scenes that never end and far too many beats whose sole function is to remind you how much you love the original 'Lord of the Rings' films.
I can only take so much. I approach a family-friendly film with as open of a heart as possible, but when hit in the face with the shovel of whimsy and wonderment and wide-eyed optimism over and over and over again, eventually, I have to strike back. Sorry, 'Rise of the Guardians' - there's a lot that is admirable in you, particularly some of your design work, but you brought this on yourself.
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