Magically funny: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone exceeds low expectations The advertisements for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone make it seem like it will be the least funny, most egregious, and patience-trying movie of Steve Carell’s career. A movie comedy about Las Vegas performers and street magicians? News flash: The David Blaine jokes stopped being funny the moment […]
Behind the curtain: Oz the Great and Powerful is a playful take on the wizard’s rise In this day and age, when everything in life—movies, television, sporting events, you name it—seems rooted in money, a prequel to The Wizard of Oz feels like, perhaps, the most cynical of moneymaking schemes. Is there a more surefire […]
There’s a story about “Jack and the Beanstalk” in which Jack trades a cow for some magic beans. He gets the beans wet, they grow into a beanstalk that reaches into the sky, and Jack and a rabbit battle a giant with a speech impediment who wants to grind their bones to make bread.
A loving married couple, Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges, (Jean-Louis Trintignant), both retired music teachers in their 80s, find their marriage taking a markedly different turn when Anne suffers a stroke. At first, Anne is able to retain something of her former self. She’s confined to a wheelchair, but has control of one side of her body.
Each year we think the Oscars can’t possibly be worse than the year before. And then each year, it’s so much worse than the year before (except last year; nothing will ever out-worse Billy Crystal and his non-eyebrows). Straight up: I will pay for the next Academy Awards ceremony if they bring back Franco and […]
When did the demon dogs of hell stop merely influencing movie stars and studios and begin pulling the strings? To reiterate the inescapable point, A Good Day to Die Hard is a piece of shit.
The trailers for Side Effects, director Steven Soderbergh’s new thriller, make it look like an indictment of all things pharmaceutical.
What Warm Bodies has that most other zombie flicks don’t is the zombie’s story. Our narrator, R (Nicholas Hoult), is a zombie. He doesn’t know why he’s a zombie. He just knows he is. He also knows he’s different from most other zombies. He collects things, like vinyl records. He tries to make friends, and has one in M (Rob Corddry).
Non-sequitur alert: Now that the wretched Super Bowl is over, let’s discuss music documentaries. There are two reasons I’m thinking about music documentaries. First, 2012 was a great year for them. Searching for Sugar Man—which is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature—gets my vote for the best nonfiction narrative film of last […]
Is this movie a comedy? Horror? A—gasp!—drama? Why does Jeremy Renner play Hansel for laughs? Why does Gemma Arterton play Gretel straight, but occasionally for laughs? Why is Famke Janssen so, so, so serious? For that matter, why is she covered in hideous make-up for the most of the movie when she has such an exquisite face?
Here’s the deal. There are three key pieces of information that roll up in Broken City’s first three scenes: Billy Taggart (Wahlberg), a New York cop, shoots and kills a suspect he’s chasing; a judge decides the district attorney’s office doesn’t have sufficient evidence to bring charges against Taggart; Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Crowe) and the police commissioner congratulate Taggart on beating the rap, and he’s forced to resign.
The torture debate detracts from a different critical narrative; imagine how we’d howl if the movie whitewashed that part of America’s recent past. But forget the politics. This is a movie. As a piece of drama, Zero Dark Thirty is a marvel.
In the awards show canon, the Golden Globes have secured themselves a lofty place just below Oscar. How is it that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which once called Pia Zadora “New Female Star of the Year” for her role in the soft-porny Butterfly, is now arbiter of taste and soothsayer of the Academy Awards? […]
I mention all this to give Les Misérables context in the annals of film history. Unlike Playing for Keeps, Les Misérables features a solid cast. Hugh Jackman, a man known for his acting and singing chops, is Jean Valjean, the hero we love.
Spaghetti southern: Django Unchained is a lawless, violent romp marked by stellar performances First, the cynical: One wonders whether making a movie that takes place in the pre-Civil War American South is Quentin Tarantino’s way of getting around criticism for using the n-word. Second, the straight-up: Django Unchained is loads of fun. For years, I’ve railed […]
There’s a lot going on in writer-director Judd Apatow’s This is 40, including bickering siblings, failing businesses, grand theft, and one or two big surprises. Perhaps this is Apatow’s achievement: He’s made a watchable movie in which the emotional content mirrors real life so closely he doesn’t need a conventional narrative. The ups and downs of human existence are plenty.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first film in writer-director Peter Jackson’s three-part Hobbit series based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s book. That means each film—and this one is just shy of three hours—tells about 100 pages of story, provided each film sticks to the events contained within those pages. Before we get any more meta, […]
Playing for Keeps is not the worst movie of 2012. In fact, it’s not even in the bottom 10. (It may be in the bottom 11.) And in life’s grand scheme, it’s innocuous.
Director Andrew Dominik returns with Brad Pitt in tow after the debacle of their leaden-paced, underwritten, overproduced, and preposterously long The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
How Pi survives without killing Richard Parker, himself, or dying of starvation is a fascinating allegory on faith and primal instincts. None of the allegory feels overwhelming or forced, and viewers will probably find themselves taken in by the story and forget they’re wearing bulky 3D glasses.
It’s that time of year again when transparent Oscar fodder makes its way to the local theater. Generally speaking, that means the ratio of able-bodied actors playing physically disabled real-life figures increases, and we get movies such as The Sessions.
Let’s face it: A James Bond movie is good for what it is, and Bond is good at what he does. Namely, he kills a lot of people, saves countries (his own and a few others), beds women, drinks vodka martinis. He allows us to escape for a couple hours. No more, no less.
Maybe it’s the 1980s and 1990s nostalgia for vintage video games. Maybe it’s John C. Reilly’s and Sarah Silverman’s terrific performances as Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope von Schweetz. Maybe it’s because so many animated movies lately have been just O.K. (Frankenweenie) or downright mediocre (Brave). But something about Wreck-It Ralph made my cold critic’s heart grow three sizes.
There’s a moment near the end of Alex Cross when the titular hero (Tyler Perry), while chasing a hit-man known as Picasso (Matthew Fox) through an abandoned theater, steps on some old 35 millimeter film.
The most noticeable thing about Argo —and this can’t entirely be the point —is that Ben Affleck, as a director, continues to grow into a confident helmsman. He trusts his actors (there’s not a weak supporting performance in the bunch), trusts the story, and doesn’t rush anything.
Just how bad is Taken 2? Bad enough to make a re-examination of Taken seem in order. Sure, Taken has its moments of near parody, including (but not limited to) Liam Neeson’s “very special set of skills” speech; the nameless bad guys who are so plentiful that they exist only to be killed; the clueless […]
In 2072, living bodies can be tracked. When they’re no longer living, the authorities are alerted. Pity the mafia, which faces the prospect of not killing anyone it wants killed. Luckily for future bad guys, there’s time travel. The mafia sends the poor souls it wants dispatched to the past. Disappearances don’t raise hackles—presumably because […]