September, 2012

“The Master”

September 30th, 2012 at 8:23 pm by under A Look at the Movies

Rated R
2 hour 15 minutes

Staring: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix

It only stands to reason that Phillip Seymour Hoffman, one of America’s most charismatic actors, should play “The Master”, based on a most fascinating cult figure.

The acting is everything in this challenging drama about “The Master” who takes pity on, and helps mixed up Joaquin Phoenix find a meaningful life. “The Master” is one of those complicated psychological studies that require your complete attention to even approach being deeply satisfying.

Hoffman and Phoenix dominate the screen as master and protégé.

If you’ve got the patience for this style of moviemaking, you’re in a rare treat. If not, “The Master” can be heavy going much of the way.

Hoffman and Phoenix don’t do all the heavy lifting by themselves. Amy Adams gives a striking performance as Hoffman’s ultra-supportive spouse, helping peddle Hoffman’s self-improvement Snake oil.

As you can guess, “The Master” is not for everyone. Nor was it meant to be. “The Master” is complex, an often fascinating piece of work. Good, but not great with 3 stars.

See it for no other reason than the marvelous acting.


“House at the End of the Street”

September 29th, 2012 at 8:59 pm by under A Look at the Movies

Rated PG-13
1 hour 40 minutes

Staring: Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Shue, Max Theiriot

When one of the characters described “The House at the End of the Street” as a drag on the real estate market, you can guess that something gruesome happened there.

It’s the typical plot line for a not very intriguing psychological thriller. Jennifer Lawrence and her overly protective mom, Elizabeth Shue, get too nosey for their own good.

Lawrence obviously went slumming before the release of “The Hunger Games.” For every young star growing up, the rite of passage includes appearing in this type of low budget thriller.

The overly inquisitive teen just can’t resist undercover the creepy secrets of “The House at the End of the Street,” where lunacy may run in the family. You’ll do well keeping you distance from this second-rate “Psycho” spin-off.

As long as we understand that “The house at the end of the street” is only for the most incurable fans of shock and shudder, this cheesy chiller belongs in the low rent district in the neighborhood of two stars.

As Jennifer Lawrence matures into a major Hollywood star, she may one day regent having set foot in “The House at the End of the Street.”


“Trouble with the Curve”

September 29th, 2012 at 8:53 pm by under A Look at the Movies

Rated PG-13
1 hour 51 minutes

Staring: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake

Nobody plays an old grouch with a chip on his shoulder with more conviction than Clint Eastwood. “Trouble with the Curve” is the sweetly sentimental fable about the aging baseball scout with failing eyesight, and his last chance to patch up the relationship with his estranged daughter Amy Adams. And Eastwood plays it for all its worth.

Amy Adams is convincing as Eastwood’s long neglected daughter, you’re willing to forgive the screenplay being so stacked with cliché’s. Their best heart tugging scenes together are filled with old wounds blocking emotional reconciliation.

Making certain that “Trouble with the Curve” touches all the bases, romantic Justin Timberlake provides Adams with just the right amount of hormonal relief from all that family stress.

Eastwood never lets us forget that even at age 82, deep down he’s still vintage “Dirty Harry” and “Josey Wales.”

“Trouble with the Curve” is a delightfully hokey slice of down-home heart throbbing. Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams are perfect together, which helps give “Trouble with the Curve” a winning score of three stars.

As Eastwood himself might have said decades ago, this lovely film will make your day.


“Resident Evil: Retribution”

September 29th, 2012 at 8:46 pm by under A Look at the Movies

Rated R
1 hour 40 Minutes

Staring: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez

Now for the fifth time ex-model Milla Jovovich flaunts her meager act skills in yet another “Resident Evil” sequel. But since acting is the least of the film’s concerns, what does it matter anyway?

“Resident Evil: Retribution” makes you wonder what we did to deserve this dreadful futuristic Science fiction thriller. That’s really no worse than any of the earlier “Resident Evils”.

She’s still struggling with the evil corporation that turned half the world’s population in Vampire Zombies; leaving the rest of us to tolerate the mindless gibberish that can be heard occasionally between the deafening special effects.

From what I can gather, the alternate reality plot involves much hand to hand combat between good women and bad women. The stupid scenario’s a complete blur. Just like the earlier “Resident Evil” rubbish. At this point even our harried heroine should be fed up with this foolish franchise.

Good luck if you’re planning to waste any of your hard earned money on this garbage. “Resident Evil: Retribution” deserves exactly what its predecessors got and that means one star.

The series ends exactly where it began at the bottom of the barrel.


“Arbitrage”

September 29th, 2012 at 8:40 pm by under A Look at the Movies

Rated R
1 hour 40 minutes

Staring: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth

If Richard Gere isn’t careful, he’s liable to give Wall Street billionaires a bad name, as he does in the gripping thriller “Arbitrage”.

Beneath his glittering surface of success, Gere faces financial disaster. He’s engaged in shady speculations once too often. When his daughter Brit Marling points out a 4 hundred million dollar gap in the balance sheet, Gere brushes it off with “That’s ridiculous. He’ll get back to her”.

This master of monetary manipulation should have no trouble covering up his responsibility for the traffic death of his favorite mistress. And just when it seems Susan Sarandon will continue her one dimensional wifely role as Gere’s enabler, she suddenly comes alive with righteous indignation.

Gere’s spellbinds wheeling and dealing is so masterful you can almost forgive his ethical shortcomings, or at the very least feel his exhilaration at winning.

Tim Roth plays by the same sleazy rules. Roth gives an entertaining performance using less than wholesome Detective work trying to nail the fat cat. But with so much at stake, can they really just sweep it all under the rung?

Richard Gere’s marvelous performance should seal the deal for an Oscar nomination. It’s the best acting Gere’s ever done. That, together with a powerful script, make “Arbitrage” stock worth 4 stars.

There are times when “Arbitrage” just takes your breath away.


“The Cold Light of Day”

September 29th, 2012 at 8:36 pm by under A Look at the Movies

Rated PG-13
1 hour 35 minutes

Staring: Bruce Willis, Sigourney Weaver, Henry Cavill

I always find that confusing tales of International Intrigue can usually attract an audience, as long as there’s enough shooting and car chases that fill the gaping holes in the story.

Bruce Willis’s family suddenly disappears during a European vacation, and this super secret agent for the CIA owes his son, Henry Cavill can explanation for being such a shadowy character.

Willis beats the living daylights out of anyone who gets in his way. The confused Cavill spends most of the movie in a quandary trying to rescue his family. He’ll discover that renegade agent Sigourney Weaver’s not to be trusted. You can trust your judgment that the shadowy plot involving a top secret missing briefcase is much too confusing.

The action adventure with the exotic Spanish setting plays out as generic as they come. Hardly anything distinguishes “The Cold of the Day” from dozens of other high Octane thrillers, where high speed chases and cliffhanging as no substitutes for cleverness and originality.

So prepare yourself for an action packed hour and a half that never quite convinces you that “The Cold of the Day” deserves more than a lukewarm 2 stars.

You too will give this film a chilly reception.


“The Words”

September 29th, 2012 at 8:22 pm by under A Look at the Movies

Rated PG-13
1 hour 35 minutes

Staring: Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid

You’ll agree most moviegoers aren’t storming theaters to see love stories about a passion for writing, which makes “The Words” all the more remarkable. It’s a haunting story within a story about the consequences of living a lie.

By a quirk of fate, Bradley Cooper takes credit for a literary masterpiece written by Jeremy Irons years earlier.

As Irons put it, “It’s a about a man who wrote a book and then lost it and the kid who found it”. But no one’s going to cheat Jeremy Irons out of his richly deserved Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.

The deeply emotional story takes us back to the love of his life who inspired the best seller that should have brought him fame and fortune.

You may question the form in which the film unfolds, but there’s no denying the satisfaction you get from this deeply moving story. And like most provocative films that involve fate and regret, “The Words” poses the questions and permits us to provide the answers.

After a summer of comic book super heroes, what a pleasure to find a grown up drama with something important to say. “The Words: speak eloquently that I give this fine film four stars.

When it comes to praising “The words”, words will not fail you.


“The Possession”

September 29th, 2012 at 8:14 pm by under A Look at the Movies

Rated PG-13
1 hour 40 minutes

Staring: Kyra Sedgwick, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

The cheesy Exorcist copycats have gotten so tacky, Demons are now available at tag sales. I’m not kidding. Single Mom Kyra Sedgwick and her soon to be demonized daughter unwittingly buy a demonic box containing a you know what at a yard sale. Bu believe me, “The Possession” is no bargain.

Clueless estranged Dad Jeffrey Dean Morgan can’t understand what’s possessed his pre-teen daughter to start behaving like Linda Blair in 1973. Since a skimpy budget for this bargain basement demonic possession thriller doesn’t permit hiring a trained Exorcist, Morgan tackles the assignment all by himself with predictable results.

To say that you’ve seen all this foolishness before including a tacky Exorcism is simply stating the obvious. You’re in possession of a ticket to a crummy tale of the supernatural.

Will she finally cough up the mischievous Demon before you start coughing up your Popcorn from snickering? Well at least we find out soon enough what’s on the Demonic agenda. You’ll do well to find something more original to do with your time. That Demon curses “The Possession” with only one star.

Just remember I’ve got to see them all good and bad. But you don’t.


“Lawless”

September 29th, 2012 at 8:10 pm by under A Look at the Movies

Rated R
1 hour 50 minutes

Staring: Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain

The exploits of a family of Moonshiners during Prohibition are the stuff that legends are made of. “Lawless” tells the gripping and frequently violent tale of life in the backwoods of Virginia in 1933, where a young man comes of age very quickly as the leader of the clan.

Tom Hardy’s grim charisma is perfectly suited for his unyielding character, when he tells his kid brother “It’s not the violence that sets men apart, It’s the distance that he is prepared to go”. And “Lawless” goes as far as it has to creating the mood and the atmosphere of the time.

The film’s as brutal as it has to be to tell the true story of life on the fringes of desperation. “Lawless” fails only to provide the magnificent Jessica Chastain with a role worthy of her immense talent.

But this is Tom Hardy’s movie and to a lesser extent, his nemesis, Guy Pearce. “Lawless” just bristles with realism and a sense of doom. It’s what a powerful movie should keep you on edge. We’re told their Moonshine really packed quite a kick and so does “Lawless”, which bubbles up to a potent 3 stars. There are moments when you think you’re watching a classic.


“Premium Rush”

September 29th, 2012 at 8:05 pm by under A Look at the Movies

Rated PG-13
1 hour 30 minutes

Staring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon

Those daredevil, death defying messenger boys on bicycles deliver their “Premium Rush” no matter what. They recklessly weave at top speeds in and out of Manhattan traffic. It’s all in a day’s work for fearless Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

His risk taking adventures make for a clever and quite intense action adventure. Imagine Gordon-Levitt’s surprise when high strung, crooked cop Michael Shannon tries to intercept what seems like a routine “Premium Rush”.

The mystery unfolds in a highly entertaining flashback style. Gordon-Levitt prefers riding a bike with no brakes to intensify his living dangerously lifestyle. We get an intriguing character study of a free spirit who wouldn’t be caught dead working behind an office desk eight hours a day.

Shannon’s persistence keeps getting on Gordon-Levitt’s nerves. What’s in that mysterious envelope anyway?

The thrilling bike riding scenes enhance the carefully constructed story. And for sheer dramatic intensity, nobody beats the edgy Michael Shannon.

“Premium Rush” even pushes the envelope ever so slightly as an exciting chase thriller. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives another excellent performance.

Whatever’s inside the envelope probably contains three stars.

We know that moves released this time year aren’t supposed to be much good, but “Premium Rush” is a welcome exception.