Reviews


They finally missed, wah wah wah!

They finally missed, wah wah wah!

It saddens me to report that Joel and Ethan Coen are mortals. They have finally written, directed and edited a not-so-great movie called “Hail, Caesar!”

It’s not a bad film, it has its moments and some nice scenes, but it’s overall a miss for the brothers Coen. Wah wah wah.

As a fanboy, I believe they are two of the most provocative filmmakers working, and maybe the best writers. I await every project of theirs with baited breath (live bait is tough to get at the concession stand, but Regal has pretty good nightcrawlers–– hold the butter!).

“Hail, Caesar!” has a stellar cast: George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, Alden Ehrenreich, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Channing Tatum to drop a few names, and it has beautiful cinematography by master Roger Deakins, but the thing doesn’t gel.

The spoofs of the movie genres are spot on––– Esther Williams-swim-extravaganza, Gene Kelly-ish elaborate dance sequence, and overwrought Charlton Heston religious drama–– these are worth the price of admission. But the usual joy and crackling smart dialogue one comes to expect from the Coens is light.

It occasionally snaps, but the film doesn’t pop. Wah wah wah.

That said, I can’t wait until I see what the brothers do next. Back to the concession stand for some live bait.

Forget Denmark, Steve Carell thinks something stinks on Wall Street.

Forget Denmark, Steve Carell thinks something stinks on Wall Street.

The Big Short is being billed as a comedy, which is funny. Hilarious, really.

Yes, it has some funny lines and devices, but it’s a tragic film and an essential one every American should see.

Director Adam McKay doesn’t need green screens and CGI magic to depict catastrophe and humanity put on the brink, he just needs a cast of banksters and greedy Wall Street goons in suits with computers, placing bets and rigging financial markets with bogus financial instruments. The film’s shot with a lively pace and curious camera showing how the sleight of hand of pop culture infatuation lulls us into complacency as visions of The American Dream are manufactured out of whisper-thin air.

Sure, the financial rigamarole hocus pocus is complex stuff, but the script by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay breaks it down into palatable chunks you’ll comprehend. And when you put all the pieces together, you see the inevitable train wreck coming. When it finally occurs, you’ll wonder how and why it was allowed to happen.

And why in the hell just one person went to jail.

The fix was in. The fix is still in. Too big to fail is now bigger and starting to play the same games. This movie peeks behind the curtain and shows how the magic trick was done to decimate so many financially.

This is entertainment of the highest order–– intriguing, entertaining, provocative and compelling, with great performances by Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt and many more.

This may be the best film of the year, and certainly it’s the most important. See it and weep.

Trouble ahead, bad acting notification–– beware!

Trouble ahead, bad acting notification–– beware!

I fed the beast. Ponied-up some money to see Jurassic World. If you’re one of the 316 people left on the planet who has not seen it, let this serve as a warning.

Don’t! It’s a steaming pile of dino dump.

All the money and attention is paid in the service of the technology that creates dinosaurs in ones and zeros, and by that measure, the film succeeds. You will believe dinosaurs exist and they won’t make very good house pets.

As for the protoplasm side of the equation, this film is chocked with B and C level talent. Okay, except for Chris Pratt, who has star power and does what he can given the lameness of the script. Vincent D’Onofrio chews up some scenery, and the rest of the cast feels like a community theatre production. It’s as if IMDB had a lottery and the cast was selected on the basis of their “luckiness.”

Bryce Dallas Howard is the lead. Huh? Why?

I won’t bother going on. The message is that people and their greed are bad. Special effects good. Who am I kidding–– you’re going to see it, aren’t you?

Welcome to modern cinema, where computers rule and humans pay to see their handiwork.

Doc prepares to bust open the case.

After doing research, Doc prepares to bust open the case.

Paul Thomas Anderson (“PTA” in the trade) is one of those people. If he’s behind a camera, I’m in front of the screen. Gimme, gimme, gimme.

A few months back, the trailer for his latest film Inherent Vice was released. Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Benicio Del Toro, Martin Short and a slew of other interesting actors in the trippy tale of Doc Sportello, a gumshoe in sandals, as he smokes dope, snorts blow and tries solving a corker of a case set in 1970 L.A.

The movie’s based on Thomas Pynchon’s novel of the same name. Pynchon is a writer with a cult following. I never waded into those waters, so I got the book and dove in. The guy can write, some passages are transformative. That said, I got a little over half way through the book and it was a confusing mess. I laid the novel down and never picked it up again. I just didn’t care.

I liked the movie much better– liked it enough to finish it at least. The performances PTA gets from his cast make the confusing tale fun to watch. Robert Elswit’s cinematography makes you want to pack a bag for the L.A. sun, and Jonny Greenwood’s score pluses the pretty pictures and powerful performances. Everyone delivers the goods, and Joaquin shines as usual.

Is it perfect film? No. It’s not a perfect story. It’s like an impressionist painting, there are strokes all over the place and with some distance, you get the true beauty and artistry of the picture.

Inherent Vice may try you at times, but it’s worth the ride.

Pick up the pace, Reese, please pick up the pace!

Pick up the pace, Reese, please pick up the pace!

“Wild” is a movie based on a book, Cheryl Strayed’s memoir called “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” about hiking more than 1,000 miles with no prior experience, unless you count walking as a skill. I used to on my resume.

I didn’t read the book, but my wife did and she wanted to see the movie and I was mildly curious. The film stars Reese Witherspoon, the pretty woman from the “Legally Blonde” franchise, and she scruffs up her beauty in that way Hollywood scruffs up beauty (dirty, but still attractive). Oh, and get a load of this–– in the movie, Reese apparently stinks to high heaven as she hikes across America!

We’re talking Oscar catnip, people!

Throughout the journey, there are all sorts of flashbacks in which we see Reese’s miserable life raised by an abusive alcoholic father and a free spirit mother who showers her and her brother with love, laughter and wisdom while you wait.

Reese apparently gets married to some good guy and then her loving mom gets cancer. Mom dies quickly. This makes Reese’s character very sad so she does what you’d expect–– she has lots of sex with many men and smokes heroin, but that high apparently takes too long so she shoots heroin and lives like an animal and somewhere in her descent she decides she’s got to get it together so she buys a ton (literally) of camping equipment and food and begins hiking the PCT.

The movie follows this journey intercutting all the flashbacks of her life and you go along for the hike and honest to God all the while I kept wishing Reese would walk faster to get the damn thing over with.

It’s a slog. I stayed awake through most of it, and I feel like that’s an accomplishment, one I achieved without having to sleep with many strangers or shoot heroin.

Enter this cinematic journey at your own risk. If you do find yourself caught in a theater with this film, at the first signs of boredom take my advice–– walk!

Ain't romance something?! Yeah, you betcha it is!

Ain’t romance something?! Yeah, you betcha it is!

For anyone who’s suffered through mindless romantic comedies, They Came Together covers some familiar territories with sharp sarcastic teeth.

It does for the genre what Airplane did for disaster movies (not nearly as hilarious, but with plenty of laughs, characters and memorable scenes). Just to be clear, this is not a classic like Airplane, but it’s got many more laughs than most contemporary comedies.

If you’re looking for a fun way to spend 83 minutes, grab this baby on demand and let Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Ed Helms, Ken Marino and over a dozen more comic actors deliver the goods.

The plot is as stupid as any modern romcom, and the script by Michael Showalter and David Wain (who also directed) delivers sophomoric laughs throughout. This is mindless entertainment at its best.

Order it up and enjoy the ride.

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