David Riedel

Jon Favreau (shown here alongside Sofia Vergara) wrote, directed, and stars in Chef, a foodie friendly big screen comedy about restaurant career navigation. Publicity photo

Jon Favreau’s Chef is predictable and pleasing

Sometimes it’s nice to see a nice movie. “Nice” is a bad word—it’s usually reserved for people who are inoffensive but undatable or your grandmother’s ruminations on her flower garden—but occasionally the word just works. “Nice” is a good description of Chef, writer-director Jon Favreau’s return to smaller stories after the gargantuan (and flat, and […]

Godzilla leads the summer movie onslaught in an attempt to recapture the style and seriousness of the Japanese film monster’s legacy. Publicity photo

Live action dominates the summer blockbuster season

It’s mid-May: The crushing tide of summer movies is just around the corner. Gear up. Actually, we don’t really have a summer movie season anymore. Of all the traditions Star Wars ushered in—it was released on May 25, 1977, just in time for Memorial Day—summer release dates have largely gone kerblooey. To wit: Captain America: […]

Hell hath no fury like Leslie Mann, Cameron Diaz, and Kate Upton, who bond as jilted lovers in The Other Woman.
Publicity photo

No surprises in the lazy plot of The Other Woman

The Other Woman has approximately 1 million things working against it. First, we’re expected to believe Kate (Leslie Mann) is some sort of undesirable fuddy-duddy. Mann has played this role before, mostly in her husband Judd Apatow’s movies, but at least here she has a chance to use her goofy muscles instead of just reacting […]

Johnny Depp defies death via artificial intelligence in order to save the human race in Transcendence.
Photo: Warner Brothers.

Transcendence descends into a tech quagmire

One of these days someone is going to have to write a movie that explores—purposely—the irony of making a film that uses cutting edge technology to tell an anti-technology story. Transcendence is not that movie. Its storyline, character arcs, and politics are so hopelessly muddled, it’s unclear what its makers were thinking. In fact, there’s […]

Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky takes a violent approach to tell the epic story of Noah, starring Russell Crowe.

Russell Crowe’s woeful heroism can’t save Noah

Forget all of the hype surrounding Noah. What really matters is whether the movie is any good. It isn’t. To paraphrase Edward Burns, it is dull, dreary, dry and a bore. Noah—and by implication its director and co-screenwriter Darren Aronofsky—can’t decide whether it’s a big head trip (an Aronofsky specialty) or an action picture or […]

Divergent, starring Shailene Woodley and Theo Jones, tries to capture the young dystopian movie audience, but never quite catches fire.

Film review: Society is divided in Divergent’s thin premise

It’s the distant future. The citizens of what was once Chicago live in a dystopian society—is there any other kind of post-apocalypse?—that is divided into five factions. Members of Erudite are intelligent. Amity are peaceful farmers. Candor speaks truthfully and handles the law. Abnegation is selfless and runs the government. And then there’s Dauntless, the […]

Fans revive the canceled “Veronica Mars” series through a crowdfunded campaign to give the teen sleuth new life on the big screen.

The Veronica Mars movie plots a new direction

During the closing credits in Veronica Mars, there’s a text crawl that reads: “This movie would never have been possible without the endless faith and support of our fans around the world, and especially the 91,585 backers who pledged on Kickstarter to bring Veronica back to life. Thank you for never giving up, and for […]

The Gods must be bloodthirsty in 300: Rise of an Empire, the sequel to the fantasy action thriller 300.

Film review: The 300 sequel is an epic blood bath

Is there any way to appropriately review 300: Rise of an Empire? This is a movie that has—whether it knows it or not—no ideology or purpose or ambition to be anything but a blood-and-guts spectacle on a massive scale. In fact, the blood and guts are so prevalent and unsparing they grow monotonous. Sure, there are […]

Jennifer Lawrence, Channing Tatum, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ellen DeGeneres, Kevin Spacey, Bradley Cooper, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyong'o, Peter Nyong'o, and Angelina Jolie. Courtesy Instagram.

A grump’s review of the 2014 Oscars

There’s a line in the song “So Lonely” by The Police that seems relevant when discussing the Academy Awards: “No surprise, no mystery.” Was anyone surprised that Chiwetel Ejiofor, who gave the best performance in the most important movie of 2013 (that’s 12 Years a Slave), lost out to Matthew McConaughey, who gave a nearly-as-good […]

Kevin Costner’s days are numbered in 3 Days to Kill, Luc Besson’s latest older-white-guy-as-killing-machine screenplay.

Film review: 3 Days to Kill may be three too many

By now we’re all familiar with Luc Besson’s oeuvre, right? You may remember him as the writer responsible for resurrecting Liam Neeson’s career with Taken, a movie in which young women can do nothing for themselves while older men beat the shit out of other men who would do the women harm. With Taken, Besson sort […]

Mark Wahlberg (second from left) stars as a Navy SEAL who becomes the only survivor of a precarious mission in Afghanistan.

Film review: Lone Survivor

Mark Wahlberg is a bad actor. There are movies when he’s passable (Date Night; Ted), but most of the time he’s inexplicably praised (his wretchedly unbelievable performance in The Departed) or he makes bad movies worse (The Happening; Broken City; The Lovely Bones; I Heart Huckabees). It’s particularly distressing that he’s no better than usual […]

Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix co-star in Her, a movie about the plausibility of a user falling in love with his operating system.

Film review: Her

It’s the sort of utopian, not-too-distant future. Men wear high-waisted pants and mustaches without irony. Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his operating system. It sounds crazy. And creepy. Though how far are we from that reality? We’re already in love with our gadgets. Why shouldn’t it be plausible that someone invents an operating system […]