Sy Becker

“About Time”

November 10th, 2013 at 11:05 am by under A Look at the Movies

Four-Star

Rated R

2 hour 5 minutes

Rachel McAdams, Donhnall Gleeson, Bill Nighy

Just imagine being able to re-live memorable moments and even improve them the second time around.

“About Time” is British romantic fantasy at its best.

It’s a whimsical love story enhanced with wonderful acting and a deep sense of humanity. Where a father can explain to his son the family secret of selectively going back in time.

“About Time” introduces us to the fine Irish actor Donhnall Gleeson, who wisely takes full advantage of the family secret.

Rachel McAdams gives her most enchanting performance since “The Notebook”, as the object of Gleeson’s romantic magic.

But it’s Bill Nighy’s proud and loving father that gives “About Time” it’s timeless appeal.

Writer-Director Richard Curtis has been responsible for so many wonderful British romantic comedies. Curtis hasn’t lost his touch. The characters come alive with truthful feelings, and the fantasy never outwears its welcome.

They say time flies when you’re having fun. The two hours of feeling good along with a touch of sadness go by much too quickly.

“About Time” is all about rewarding a superior human comedy with 4 stars.

Considering how good a time you’ll have laughing and brushing away a few tears, there’s no question “About Time” is all about time well spent.


“Ender’s Game”

November 9th, 2013 at 11:00 am by under A Look at the Movies

Three-Star

Rated PG-13

2 hours 10 minutes

Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld

You may have heard that popular perception, if you’ve got computer problems just ask a 14 year old to fix it.

“Ender’s Game” carries that a step further. This surprisingly thoughtful space age adventure has Harrison Ford putting the future of mankind in the hands of a rebellious teenager named Ender.

Asa Butterfield with the aid of some out of this world visual effects goes out of his way to justify Commander Ford’s confidence in the young genius.

But to bolster “Ender’s Game” with an air of complexity and realism, the audience can warm up to emotionally, Ender is far from flawless.

Will Ender justify Ford’s faith in him or will the earth came crashing down into a zillion cinders?

Since this is popular science fiction adventure and not some art film allegory, I’m sure you know the answer.

But that doesn’t stop “Ender’s Game” from putting on a good show.

If something went haywire with my computer, I’d call Ender in a flash. Sci-Fi fans who don’t mind a sermon on the side, could do worse than trusting “Ender’s Game” for a good evening’s entertainment.

“Ender’s Game” blasts off into space with 3 stars. The film’s substance propels “Ender’s Game” to the top of its game.


“Last Vegas”

November 3rd, 2013 at 11:13 am by under A Look at the Movies

Two_Star

Rated PG-13

1 hour 45 Minutes

Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline

Apparently the people who made “Last Vegas” were convinced that no one over 40 had seen the “Hangover” series, you know, the witless comedies about a hell raising Las Vegas bachelor party.

So, they made it again, only this time for a much older audience.

Boyhood buddies Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline turn back the clock for the Michael Douglas marriage to a much younger woman.

And of course the senior wedding party are all closet lechers making with the needless jokes about Viagra.

According to this thinly veiled commercial for the Las Vegas chamber of commerce, Douglas and his best men are the only senior citizens in Vegas. Everyone else is a refugee from spring break.

Douglas who never grew up, can’t help trying to Impress his ancient buddies.

I found “Last Vegas” a corny, cumbersome comedy that diminishes its lustrous cast. “Last Vegas” came up snake eyes trying to tug at our heartstrings with their ageless wisdom, when in fact all they do is embarrass themselves.

I expected much more from a film boasting such legendary icons. But we can’t blame them for “Last Vegas” coming up short with only two stars.

You can’t help coming away with the feeling that what happens in “Last Vegas” should have stayed there.


“The Counselor”

November 3rd, 2013 at 10:08 am by under A Look at the Movies

Three-Star

Rated R

1 hour 50 minutes

Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz

Never get on the wrong side of the Mexican drug cartel. It’s liable to be a fatal mistake.

“The Counselor”, Michael Fassbender gets in over his head in this hard boiled psychological crime thriller. “The Counselor” never did understand the implications of his greed. And now his time is running out.

Fassbender’s also got to worry about co-conspirator, Javier Bardem, upstaging him. If not Bardem, then certainly super cool hustler, Brad Pitt.

Fassbender’s only now realizing what a crooked lawyer he’s become, and what danger he’s facing

“The Counselor” reminds me of those classic film noir thrillers of yesteryear. The compromised hero knows it’s only a matter of time and he’s powerless to do anything about it.

Especially with cold blooded woman on mystery, Cameron Diaz, lurking in the shadows. She is one very dangerous lady.

I’d say “The Counselor” has everything a devious thriller should have, including not a single character worthy of redemption.

But emotional involvement doesn’t much matter, not when you’re drawn in by the film’s stylish depravity. “The Counselor” argues quite a case for three stars. This picture’s deep, dark and brooding. Just the way I like it.


“Escape Plan”

October 27th, 2013 at 10:58 am by under A Look at the Movies

Three-Star

Rated R

1 hour 55 minutes

Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel

Let me tell you, there wasn’t been a prison built that Sylvester Stallone can’t break out of.

That’s what he does for a living.

But since Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger can’t carry a movie all by themselves anymore, they need each other for a foolproof “Escape Plan” from the world’s toughest prison. But something has gone wrong.

Surprise, Jim Caveivel’s Warden Hobbs just happens to be a sadist, as we know all Wardens are.

The writers have marinated the plot with every prison film cliché imaginable. But the real fun is having Stallone and Schwarzenegger grunt their way through the dialogue.

The two aging superheroes do us a favor by delivering amusing performances in what turns out to be a fairly sharp escape adventure.

If you let your guard down, the intricate plotting might even catch you by surprise.

While the heroes languish behind bars, Stallone’s confederates on the outside are stymied. They can’t locate the mysterious prison.

I hope you realize “Escape Plan” isn’t to be taken too seriously. If you enjoy the film for what it is, slam bang foolishness, you won’t mind my giving “Escape Plan” 3 stars.

Because just seeing Schwarzenegger sneering is alone worth the price of admission.


“Carrie”

October 26th, 2013 at 10:49 am by under A Look at the Movies

Three-Star

Rated R

1 hour 40 minutes

 Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer

I think it was Stephen King who might have said, hell hath no fury like a bullying victim with supernatural powers. A victim by the name of “Carrie”.

Strangely enough, this creepy re-make of the 1976 horror classic is more relevant today in this millennial era of really mean girls. “Carrie” can’t even feel confident about her special powers.

Chloe Grace Moretz suffers up a storm while her evil classmates gloat with lip smacking sadistic glee.

“Carrie’s” demented mom, Julianne Moore, can’t help being a religious fanatic. Moore, as mentally unhinged as the role demands, brings new meaning to being locked in the closet for your own good.

How far can her tormentors push this unstable wallflower before “Carrie” cuts loose with a terrible vengeance?

Hardly anything in this respectable re-make tops the original, but on its own terms, this “Carrie” still leaves you cringing.

Don’t expect to see the same shower scene nudity that shocked audiences nearly forty years ago. The reason is simple. Sissy Spacek was 27 when she played “Carrie”. Chloe Grace Moretz is barely sixteen.

Stop by and say Hi to “Carrie”. And see why this re-make plays well enough with 3 stars.

Though it’s not exactly the film to see on prom night.


“The Fifth Estate”

October 20th, 2013 at 10:40 am by under A Look at the Movies

Three-Star

Rated R

2 hours 15 minutes

Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Laura Linney

Someone who admired Julian Assange described the Guru of Wikileaks infamy as the high Priest of truth. His passion for making top secret documents public, makes “The Fifth Estate” a highly provocative political thriller.

You’ll decide if Wikleaks overstepped itself, but to America’s Cloak and Dagger community, Assange remained a dangerous pain in the neck.

Rising star Benedict Cumberbatch puts on a brilliant acting clinic, how to portray a man on a mission obsessed with whist blowing, no matter what the consequences. The fine German actor, Daniel Bruhl is equally Impressive as the skeptical protégé. He’s not quite the absolute fanatic as his mentor.

“The Fifth Estate” accelerates It’s storytelling to the point where you’ve got to stay sharp to follow the action and the motivations of the characters.

“The Fifth Estate” is never anything less than a top grade thriller.

The picture raises highly controversial Issues that’ll have you taking side. You’ll find me on the side of anyone who favors giving “The Fifth Estate a respectable three stars. With its powerhouse cast and thoughtful Issues, how can you go wrong. And besides, I enjoy films that you can argue about later.


“Captain Phillips”

October 19th, 2013 at 11:09 am by under A Look at the Movies

Four-Star

Rated PG-13

2 Hours 15 Minutes

Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Barkhad Abdi

Tom Hanks gives perhaps his finest performance as the embattled “Captain Phillips” , the cargo ship skipper held hostage by Somali Pirates.

And the way Director Paul Greengrass vividly orchestrated this intense tale of survival on the edge, “Captain Phillips” combined all the ingredients for a terrific adventure.

Hanks confronts a terrifying situation very delicately.

Hanks combines his appealing everyman charisma with a truly believably performance. He’s dealing with desperate characters who don’t seem to grasp they’re on a suicide mission. Hank’s concern is with his crew and theirs with him.

Since “Captain Phillips” is based on fact and we pretty much know how the hijacking will play out, the building of unbearable suspense is all the more remarkable.

Throughout the ordeal, “Captain Phillips” still manages to show compassion for the wretched pirates.

The real “Captain Phillips” covered himself with glory, and so does this brilliantly directed seagoing adventure that rides the waves all the way with four stars.

Look for tom hanks to be nominated for another Oscar, and “Captain Phillips” to be honored as one of this year’s best films.


“Runner Runner”

October 13th, 2013 at 11:02 am by under A Look at the Movies

Two_Star

Rated R

1 hour 35 minutes

 Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake, Gemma Arterton

I’ll bet that on-line gambling is much more interesting than the way it’s portrayed in “Runner Runner”.

Math genius Justin Timberlake is working his way through college rigging the game, until his luck runs out at the hands of on-line kingpin Ben Affleck.

If you’re expecting “Runner Runner” to offer anything you haven’t seen before, the odds are definitely not in your favor. Affleck knows how to play the game of seducing promising stooges to do his dirty work. Just as you might Imagine, Affleck’s protégé becomes just as disillusioned with his new job as you’ll be seriously disappointed with this half-hearted thriller.

The picture plays like the first draft of a script that the writers lost interest in half way through, which accounts for the characters being so one-dimensional.

Don’t you be a sucker and gamble away your money on the off-chance that “Runner Runner” might be a pleasant surprise.

Believe me, it’s thrown out money, and with a roll of the dice, “Runner Runner” came up snake eyes with two stars. “Runner Runner” is a bad bet.


“Gravity”

October 12th, 2013 at 10:24 am by under A Look at the Movies

Four-Star

Rated PG-13

1 hour 30 minutes

Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

It’ll come as a shock to some that “Gravity” has no aliens, no inter-planetary warfare and no Captain Kirk at the controls.

“Gravity” isn’t even science fiction. It’s a dazzling vision of outer space at its most terrifying.

When astronauts Sandra Bullock and George Clooney find themselves at the mercy of a space mission gone terribly wrong.

The amazing visual effects and the eerie use of sound have you sharing the jeopardy of the vast empty space. We experience what they experience. Clooney gets star billing but the picture belongs to Bullock. You might say she spends most of the movie cut off from the rest of the universe.

“Gravity” runs barely an hour and a half. That’s all the time needed for this tale of survival to keep you firmly in its grip. It’s a powerful piece of moviemaking that builds into a gripping emotional experience.

“Gravity” is so overpowering, this masterpiece makes most science-fiction thrillers look laughable by comparison. “Gravity” takes us on quite a spectacular ride that aims for and reaches new heights with four stars.

My advice is to see “Gravity” in 3-D. That way it makes all the difference out of this world.