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Walk of Shame (2014)
First, Elizabeth Banks is one of the funniest women working in film today. The fact she is also smokin' hot might bring to mind mid-career Monroe, but Ms. Banks doesn't feel the need to play down her intelligence.
That being said, the set up of the film is pretty simple. Very tightly controlled woman finds her life going out of control. Half the comedy is from her trying to regain control, half the comedy is seeing how bad she is at it. Banks is game for most anything, including pratfalls, and thankfully the director had the good taste not to have to humiliate her character excessively (see: Ed Helms in "Hangover 2").
Also full of some fun supporting characters and a nice turn by James Marsden. Check it out...very date night worthy.
Compelling, Intelligent, Very Watchable
At first, I wasn't sold on the lead actor Titus Welliver, at first. I know him from his other work, and had pictured the character of Bosch a little different physically. But he did a good job of conveying the moral depth of the character as well as his tough decency. By the middle of the episode, I was a convert and ready to see a lot more.
The series premiere was intelligent, well-written, and I loved the casting. Other than one or two characters who had to be "L.A. Beautiful," many of the actors seemed to be cast for having acting ability and striking (but not "gorgeous") features. It added a layer of authenticity to the proceedings.
Very well done, well worth your time.
Very solidly made B-Movie
And I'm not saying B-Movie like it's a bad thing. In this case, you have the basic lone cowboy who is trying to leave his past behind, but he also can't let injustice pass. What was nice about this film was it shaded many of the characters, those whom in lesser movies would be just "the bad guy" (insert maniacal laughter while shooting hapless henchmen) or "the sniveling druggie;" actually showing them to have human reactions to some of the things they set in motion.
Given that, the film still delivers on the B-movie structure we know and love, with creepy antagonists, double-crosses, danger to the innocent, and a certain Old Testament level of righteous ass-beating delivered to the wicked.
Actually very fun and more enjoyable than a lot of movies with a much larger budget.
Enough Said (2013)
Funny, honest, smart, and bittersweet.
Bittersweet, of course, as it was one of James Gandolfini's last films before his sadly untimely death. Melancholy, too, as his sweet, smart, and gentle portrayal of a fundamentally decent guy was spot on, and such a lovely departure from the brutality of Tony Soprano. For those of us who had watched his career, we knew he was capable of more (see his sensitive enforcer in "Get Shorty,"), but despaired of him being typecast as a heavy.
Those morose reflections aside, this is a funny and honest film. Some of the honesty is wince inducing, especially when showing the stupid things we do to keep from being hurt or compromised in a new relationship. Ms. Louis-Dreyfuss for the most part did a good job, but a few times the character seemed to verge on a slightly saner version of Elaine from Seinfield.
Still, it was a good character piece, a rom-com for the romantically jaded, middle-aged person with both kids and baggage. Well worth your time.
As if made for the subtlety-impaired
Whew, with cable everyone knows the basic story of "Carrie," thanks to the very effective film put together by the not-so-closet misogynist Brian ("How many times can I kill my wife the actress in my own films") DePalma. Along with the gore, it was anchored by two tremendous performances from Piper Laurie as her nutty mom and an Academy Award nominated performance by a radiant and truly gifted Sissy Spacek.
Ms. Moore and Ms. Moretz are also gifted actresses, but for the love of anything with cinematic worth, who thought this script was even competent? (SPOILER) It's not enough that the religious fanatic mom (a stereotype that was old and tired long before the original film) is so stupid she doesn't know she's pregnant, no, we have to show she's extra disturbed by having her gouge herself with fingernails and sewing implements.
Ms. Moretz was let down not only by the script, but by the director. Chloe convincingly shows us a frightened, abused child, but then it's time to (SPOILER) bust out the library books and discover, really early on, that she has powers. And she's playing with the powers through the movie until the end. In the DePalma film Carrie's response to the horrible hazing was a primal psychic scream of inchoate outrage, the abused child striking out blindly against all those who had tormented her (real and imagined), a terrified tantrum, but in this far inferior remake, Moretz's Carrie is consciously vengeful, stalking and striking and finding in a way that made her far less sympathetic than Spacek's Carrie.
Sorry, it was just a waste of time. Ms. Moretz, you can do so much better than this.
Tough Guy and CGI
"Riddick 3" is an ugly collision of B-movie tough guy clichés bathed lovingly in a lot of average to inept CGI. The basic plot has Riddick marooned on an inhospitable planet. It's a set up that gives Vin a chance to flex a lot, grunt, grimace, and mimic standard "he's a real bad-ass" trophes. One of them is seen in the trailers, which are basically flying motorcycles, including high rise handlebars, as made famous by "Easy Rider" and every other motor cycle fetish movie/magazine around. The other (spoiler) was uncomfortable to watch, and completely unnecessary to the film, where Riddick predicted he would be "balls deep" in the character played by Katee Sackhoff, and yes, at the end of the film, her character asked Riddick to boink her.
It was so out of left-field for that character, completely unearned in the arc of the story, and embarrassingly juvenile: it made the film feel like fanfic written by an intelligent but completely socially awkward junior-high kid. There is a reason this film essentially tanked at the box office.
The Lone Ranger (2013)
It's a Master's Thesis
In how to really screw up a fun movie with padding and really tired, clichéd, and just lazy PC nonsense.
The first 40 minutes or so my wife and were really enjoying the film. Yeah, Depp was goofy and they made Armie Hammer kind of a doofus. Fine, they were going for a more light-hearted presentation, in some places almost Looney Tunes kind of experience with gravity and defying the laws of physics (especially with the horse...he and Depp had some great scenes together).
But then about an hour in, things began to grind to a halt. It started small, with the Christians in the town drumming up a torch-lit raid on the brothel. Then we get the railroad folks who are exploiting (quelle surprise!) the working people and who (extra shocking surprise!) are actually trying to chase the peaceful Indians off their land. The shock and awe was complete with the appearance of George Armstrong Custer look-alike, and we all know where that leads.
After that, it was a painful slog through one absolutely unexpected cliché after another. There were occasional bright moments from Depp, but Hammer's Lone Ranger character was just an idiot. Hard to root for an idiot, although he must have something going on, because the Lone Ranger was magically able to use his whip and shoot with great accuracy, when he had been basically a doofus the entire film.
Sigh. This is a more disappointing film than something clearly inept and made by drunken lemurs. With a garbage film, you know what you're getting. The Lone Ranger had a pedigree, it had a heritage and a history (both in terms of the current filmmakers and the mythos of the story itself), but somehow the drunken lemurs took over and turned this movie into garbage, too.
This Is the End (2013)
It's like a Hope and Crosby Road movie
About the end of the world, but without the wit, charm, or intelligence.
Let's face it, Hope and Crosby could sing, dance, and tell witty if occasionally suggestive jokes. The closest thing to wit in this film were the many ways they made "d!ck" jokes, along with the variations on discussing that subject that any moderately facile seventh grader could have come up with.
This is like a really bad home movie, put together by a bunch of self- indulgent, overly-compensated actor friends when they were really wasted. So, naturally, they go for every coarse joke, every humiliating situation, all of it with an admirable lack of self-awareness.
Complete waste of time. It's as funny as listening to a drunk try to tell a shaggy dog joke and he keeps losing his place. There's a tiny bit of fun watching him flail, but sticking around for the entire hour and forty minutes is sadistic to him and masochistic to you.
More Magical Than Harry Potter!
*Spoilers commencing immediately* I mean, in this movie, they call them "Doctors," but the Doctor is able to whip up a vaccine to the dreaded Lupo virus in under five minutes. If that's not magical, I don't know what is.
Somewhere, a screenwriter is under his analyst's couch, weeping "They destroyed my script." I'm not sure we're talking about the genius who wrote "BattleDogs," because the film is a subversive piece of work that would make Andy Kaufman proud: you know, it abandons tired conventions like logic, consistency, and entertainment value to force the viewer to confront their own bourgeoisie expectations of film.
Really, now, why should characters in a movie pause to ask a questions like "How did that werewolf drop from the sky into the middle of this empty airport? And shouldn't I mention that to someone?" What right does an audience have to demand the merest of nods to reality in the portrayal of a high ranking U.S. Army Officer by having the actor shave his goatee? And who made you God with your petty requirement that the director set up things by actually showing someone with a magical vial of the virus so it would be handy to turn the hero into a werewolf so he sacrifice himself to save the day? Linear cause and effect is so twentieth century.
The small-minded nerve of you philistines is a sad commentary on our educational system. Really smart people would appreciate the way the cutting edge artistes behind "BattleDogs" were transgressively interrogating our tired notions of "competency" and "not quite as stupid as a stick" movie-making.
On the other hand, it's possible the script was too long and had too many big words in it, so they tore out pages at random and filmed it anyway.
Either way, the world is a poorer place for it.
The World's End (2013)
Fun movie, but they didn't know how to "End" it
Offbeat English comedy, which might best be described as "British High School ReUnion meets End of the World movie."
The film had a nice inventive energy, with a cast we're already pre- disposed to like (Pegg, Frost, Freeman, and Pike), with other character actors (Paddy Considine and Eddie Marstand) whom we've previously seen as very unlikable characters being given a chance to show a softer, more appealing side.
The film does take a little while to get going, comedically and plot- wise, revealing how much the friends have changed while their leader, Garry King (Pegg) continues to cling to his long-gone glory days.
Once the "World Ending" problem is uncovered, the action/comedy really picks up, and many well-known SF films are given gentle homage, while there is some real poignant emotion revealed between the characters.
Yet...once the film "ends," there is a weird coda that seems strangely tacked on, which is very unsatisfying. I don't want to say more, lest I ruin it for someone, but it felt strangely self-indulgent, even amateurish. It left me deeply disappointed.