TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON – C
Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel
This second Transformers sequel isn’t as numbing as number two, but there’s still no denying that the franchise has gotten very rusty. Though things eventually pick up, the first half of Dark of the Moon seems to consist entirely of actors trying to be as annoying as possible.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER – B-
Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones
There has been a lot of build up to The Avengers, but Captain marks the first origin story (following Thor, Iron Man and Hulk) that plays more like a preview than a stand-alone movie. Despite its retro, good ol’ boy charms, Captain doesn’t really build to a satisfying conclusion.
LARRY CROWNE – C
Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Bryan Cranston
Hanks has shown pretty good instincts when it came to picking his projects before and behind the camera. But it is hard to get a finger on what he was thinking when he co-wrote and directed Crowne, an aimless and one-note comedy that plays like a sloppy episode of Community.
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEALTHY HALLOWS, PART II – B+
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
After a surprisingly disappointing Part I, the Harry Potter series returns to its glory with this deeply satisfying swan song. Though certain elements of the story seem rushed, it all remains spell-binding, emotionally captivating and meticulously crafted. Farewell Potter.
GREEN LANTERN – C+
Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard
Not as bad as you may have heard but not as fun as you would have hoped, Green Lantern is a forgettable superhero adventure that is ultimately unable to find the right balance between goofy humor and legitimate thrills. It looks nice but it doesn’t ever really engage.
Friday, December 9, 2011
Friday, November 4, 2011
FAST FIVE – B-
Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson
After sputtering on empty for the last few films, the Fast franchise gets some extra muscle here with the addition of Johnson to the cast. Director Justin Lin also has more fun with the set-pieces than before, allowing the destruction to overshadowing the lumbering dialogue and performances.
HORRIBLE BOSSES – B
Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston
A clever blend of 9 to 5 and Throw Momma From the Train, with three friends plotting to kill their bosses. Though Colin Farrell’s role is too small, most of the laughs are generated by the evil superiors, with Aniston in particular offering an uproarious performance as a nympho dentist.
ROOMMATE, THE – D
Minka Kelly, Leighton Meester, Cam Gigandet
No one was really clamoring for a remake / rip-off of 1992’s Single White Female, but we got one anyways with this achingly awful thriller about a pyscho college student and her dorm mate. Watching the ridiculousness unfold, you just feel embarrassed for everyone involved.
JUST GO WITH IT – C-
Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Brooklyn Decker
No matter what you may think of Aniston’s post-Friends career choices, one thing is clear: She is definitely the best part of this unfocused and limp romantic comedy, bringing sparkle to even the most tired dialogue and lame set-ups. It’s not enough to save the rest of the film, but it helps.
RED RIDING HOOD – D+
Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Virginia Madsen
Hood director Catherine Hardwicke also brought us the first Twilight film, so you can excuse her for trying to tap into the same gothic romance vein as that successful series. What you cannot excuse her for is such a dreadfully serious and clumsy interpretation of the classic kids’ story.
CEDAR RAPIDS – B-
Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche
Imagine a milder version of The 40-Year-Old Virgin and you’ll have Cedar Rapids, a moderately engaging comedy about a small town insurance salesman who gets shaken upside down by a trip to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It’s all fairly pleasant, but not particularly memorable.
MECHANIC, THE – C
Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Tony Goldwyn
In this remake of a 1972 Charles Brosnan film, Statham plays yet another hitman who gets double crossed and must clear his name. Where it all gets silly instead of just repetitive is when Statham brings in an apprentice and seems to teach him everything he knows in just 10 minutes.
Friday, October 28, 2011
TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT – C
Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler
Despite the emphasize on wild ‘80s fashion and music, Tonight isn’t designed as a spoof of the decade so much as a tribute. Unfortunately, it just ends up coming across as a reheated leftover, with a generally shapeless narrative, overly aimless characters and bland screenplay.
AFRICAN CATS – B
This Disneynature documentary, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, has a more consistent storyline than previous efforts like Earth and Oceans as it follows a single mom cheetah and a pride of lions. But while it may be more engaging for children, it also loses some scope in the process.
LINCOLN LAWYER, THE – B
Matthew McConaughey. Ryan Phillippe, Marisa Tomei
Fancy lawyer duds look good on the customarily shirtless McConaughey in this slick thriller, favourably bringing to mind his early turn in 1996’s Time to Kill. Lincoln occasionally falls back on familiar procedural tropes, but the drama’s shifting moral compass keeps things interesting.
DILEMMA, THE – C
Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly
Director Ron Howard returns to his roots with this comedy built on a shaky premise for laughs: a cheating wife and clueless husband. The film ends up straining under the weight of all the misunderstandings that could have easily been solved if the characters actually spoke to each other.
UNKNOWN – C
Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones
Neeson continues his late career bloom as an action hero (following 2009’s Taken) with this absurd thriller about a doctor with questions about his past. Unknown comes across as a pale imitation of The Bourne Identity, with an exceedingly inexpressive Jones as Neeson’s wife.
Monday, October 17, 2011
THOR – B
Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins
A solid if unremarkable origin story for Marvel’s God of Thunder. Director Kenneth Branagh was an inspired choice for bringing weight to the otherworldly conflict in the story, but too much of the action feels decidedly earth-bound, with not enough at stake for real excitement.
SUPER – C
Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler
Super shows up late to the superheroes-with-no-powers game given the 2010 releases of Defendor and Kick-Ass, but Super isn’t just hobbled by over familiarity. It’s also a decidedly unpleasant comedy, without any likeable characters or anyone worth rooting for.
HOODWINKED TOO!: HOOD VS. EVIL – C-
Hayden Panettiere, Joan Cusack, Glenn Close
The low-grade animation (voices don’t line up with mouths) is one of the many distractions in this unappealing sequel to the 2005 original. Coming across as a third-rate Shrek spin-off minus the memorable characters, Hoodwinked Too has a lot of energy but barely any wit or laughs.
WIN WIN – B+
Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale
Director Thomas McCarthy (The Visitor) offers another finely tuned portrait of a man in crisis. This time, it’s a small town lawyer / wresting coach who befriends a lost teenage boy. Giammati finds new shades to his sad-sack persona and Win Win make for an appealing champion.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Just playing a little catch-up here:
ARTHUR – C+
Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Jennifer Garner
Brand may have found new layers to his wild guy roots with Get Him to the Greek (2010) but his just seems to be running paces with this flimsy remake of the 1981 Dudley Moore comedy. There wasn’t enough thought put into his character, with very inconsistent levels of idiocy.
BATTLE: LOS ANGELES – D+
Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Michael Pena
Imagine a low-budget, dusty and highly impersonal version of Independence Day and you still wouldn’t have this shockingly inept alien-invastion drama. None of the characters here have any personality, which makes it more than a little difficult to care if they are shot down.
BEASTLY – D
Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens, Neil Patrick Harris
A stunningly awful revamp of the Beauty and the Beast story about a vain high schooler taught the importance of inner beauty. Complete with ludicrous casting (Mary-Kate Olsen as a witch), stiff lead performances and ear-ache inducing dialogue, Beastly certainly lives up to its title.
BEAVER, THE – C+
Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin
Provided you are able to look past Gibson’s recent off-screen antics, this is a surprisingly affecting look at a man who is able to control his depression with a stuffed puppet. But it all goes wildly off the rails in the second half when Gibson’s character becomes an unlikely celebrity.
BRIDESMAIDS – B+
Kristin Wiig, Maya Rudolf, Melissa McCarthy
An uproarious comedy that hits a better comedy jackpot than The Hangover. Wiig – who cowrote the film – offers a terrific performance as a disastrous Maid of Honor, expertly balancing comedy, charm and an undercurrent of sadness, even if she’s constantly upstaged by McCarthy.
CONSPIRATOR, THE – B-
James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Kevin Kline
Robert Redford’s look at the aftermath of Lincoln’s murder – particularly the trial of the mother of one of the men involved (Wright) – is involving and well constructed. But the oddball casting of some minor roles with lightweights like Justin Long and Alexis Bledel is distracting.
DRIVE ANGRY - D
Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, Billy Burke
A vile and putrid action horror film about a father escaped from hell and out for vengeance. Cage spends the whole film looking like he’s suffering from constipation and the storyline is insulting when it isn’t just blantantly stupid. It makes one wish for the sophistication of Ghost Rider.
EVERYTHING MUST GO – B-
Will Ferrell, Michael Pena, Rebecca Hall
Kudos to Ferrell for trying a more dramatic roll – here playing an alcoholic who camps out on his lawn after his wife leaves him– but his established persona still ends up hurting the film. Even without obvious laughs in sight, one keeps expecting something just around the corner.
GNOMEO & JULIET – B-
James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Tom Wilkinson
A sweet animated spin on the old Shakespeare play, substituting red and blue garden gnomes for the title lovers. But though the visuals and story are colourful, all of it enlivened by bouncy Elton John pop songs, it still feels a little too derivative of the Toy Story and Shrek films.
GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD, THE – B-
Super Size Me’s Morgan Spurlock takes a look at ever present product placement with this comic documentary. But though Spurlock aims to peel back the curtain on marketing, most of his insights aren’t particularly revealing. It’s all amusing enough but fairly forgettable.
HANNA – C+
Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett
Joe Wright’s teenage girl take on The Bourne Identity has a nice visual texture and features another subtle yet expressive performance from Ronan. But there is very little coherent motivation behind many of the characters on screen, leading to a rather aggravating experience.
I AM NUMBER FOUR – C-
Alex Pettyfer, Dianna Agron, Teresa Palmer
This blatant attempt at creating a new Twilight series “borrows” many elements from its predecessor – swapping moody teenage vampire for moody teenage alien – but somehow manages to be even more silly. Pettyfer is a stiff bore and Agron barely registers as his love interest.
INSIDIOUS – B
Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey
The creaky haunted house concept gets a welcome facelift with this smart horror film, wisely focusing on the mysteries of the unknown and genuine parental concerns. Sure, it is constructed from familiar horror tropes, but it’s all put together with enough skill to get under your skin.
JANE EYRE – B
Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell
The Charlotte Bronte classic gets a facelift with this gothic-style drama about romance and secrets. Though Alice in Wonderland’s Wasikowska is a bit too controlled as the orphaned girl who transfixes the man of the house (Fassbender), her costar smoulders with passion and intrigue.
JUMPING THE BROOM - B
Paula Patton, Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine
With its culture-class storyline, you’d be forgiven for expecting Broom to be another stereotypical comedy along the lines of Our Family Wedding. But while Broom has a familiar set-up, it smartly spins its characters in surprising ways. If only Patton toned her performance down a little.
LAST NIGHT – B
Kiera Knightley, Sam Worthington, Eva Mendes
The two sides of adultery – emotional and physical – are explored with sensitivity in this deliberate drama about a married couple tempted to cheat when he leaves on a business trip. The genuine emotions in Knightley’s side overshadow Worthington’s more sexual explorations.
LIMITLESS – C+
Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro, Abbie Cornish
There are some interesting ideas and visual tricks rattling around in Limitless, but the film is too ambitious for its own good. Far too many important questions are left unanswered, the connect-the-dots narration is intrusive and the story bounces around like a hyperactive ping-pong ball.
NO STRINGS ATTACHED – C+
Ashton Kutcher, Natalie Portman, Kevin Kline
Strings wants to be a new style romantic comedy, focusing on friends (Kutcher and Portman) who decide to have sex without the emotional connection. But the screenplay ditches its concept far too early, quickly falling into a routine of overly familiar rom-com beats.
PAUL – B-
Seth Rogan, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost
The folks behind Superbad and Shaun of the Dead unite for this uneven but amiable alien goof about two British nerds helping an alien get home. Rogan’s performance as the alien is a bit too familiar to his turn in Monsters Vs. Aliens, but Kristin Wiig is a treat in a supporting role.
PROM – C+
Aimee Teegarden, Cameron Monaghan, Nicholas Braun
The fantasy version of prom – the prom all girls expect when they are 12 years old - is turned up to 11 with this chaste and bland Disney drama. Minus the moderate charms (and peppy songs) of the High School Musical franchise, Prom is a wholly forgettable experience.
RANGO – B-
Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Timothy Olyphant
An odd little film, Rango is at once visually dazzling – with a lot of attention to detail – and yet so grimy and ugly that it is hard to cuddle up to. There are some existential elements to the story that will be confusing to youngsters and many of the cleverest gags will go over their heads.
RIO – B-
Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Jamie Foxx
All the colours of the rainbow are on display in this lively animated tale about two blue macaws trying to evade poachers in Brazil. But despite the bright visuals and energetic music, the storyline sags a bit when it should be soaring, mostly because the romantic angle of the story lacks spark.
SANCTUM – C+
Richard Roxburgh, Ioan Gruffudd, Rhys Wakefield
James Cameron produced this thriller about trapped cave dwellers and though the film admirably tries to keep things realistic (no Descent-style creatures here), it underwhelms in the drama department. The story has major issues with pacing, particularly early and late in the game.
SOMETHING BORROWED – C-
Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson, John Krasinski
It’s hard to say which is more obnoxious in this contrived, tiresome and formulaic comedy – Hudson’s irritating performance as the selfish best friend of our heroine (Goodwin) or the fact that we’re supposed to buy that these two would even be friends in the first place. Something stinks.
SOUL SURFER – B-
Annasophia Robb, Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt
This touching drama focuses on Bethany Hamilton, the real-life surfing champ who survived a freak shark attack. But while Hamilton’s triumph is inspiring, too much of the focus is on her return to the ocean instead of the emotional trauma that would have come with losing an arm.
SOURCE CODE – B
Jake Gyllenhaal, Verga Farminga, Jeffrey Wright
Yes, this trippy sci-fi mystery about a man who keeps travelling back in time to discover the truth behind a train bombing borrows heavily from The Matrix and Inception. But it is still undeniably involving, with a deliberate pace, intriguing mystery and skilful performances.
SUCKER PUNCH – C-
Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone
Director Zack Snyder takes his visual style from 300 to a whole new level with this adaptation of a graphic novel about girls locked in an insane asylum. But fancy graphic work can’t disguise the fact that the story is cold and the structure – one wild fantasy after another – dully repetitive.
TRUST – C+
Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Liana Liberato
David Schwimmer (yes, that David Schwimmer) directs this cautionary tale about Internet predators. But though the intentions here are good, the film feels a bit too much like a preachy TV-movie-of-the-week instead of a stirring drama, with too much focus on the anguish of a father (Owen).
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS – B+
James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
A first class prequel to the X-Men trilogy, focusing on the backstory between Professor X and Magneto. The clever origin elements extend throughout the entire film, allowing for a deeper understanding of the characters while also delivering plenty of action and mutants.
YOUR HIGHNESS – C+
Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman
If you’ve ever wondered just how many penis jokes you can fit in a single film, you don’t need to look much further than this juvenile riff on Monty Python. Though there are a few laughs here and there, too much of the comedy focuses on the same naughty themes again and again.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, James FrancoHaving never read the 2006 memoir Eat Pray Love, I cannot comment on how closely this version matches the original work. I can, however, say that I can only hope that all this selfish naval-gazing came across better on the page than on the screen, even with all the fancy global backdrops.
Steve Carell, Jason Segal, Russell BrandBy this point, it isn’t the technical achievements of animated films that really provide the dazzle – it’s the screenplay and the story. Despicable Me aces both, offering a lively, warm and often hilarious tale about a bad-guy (Carell) whose heart gets melted thanks to three little girls.