movie review

“Jack the Giant Slayer”

March 10th, 2013 at 11:46 am by under A Look at the Movies

Four-StarRated PG-13
1 hour 55 minutes

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ian Mcshane, Stanley Tucci

These days It’s pretty hard to find a spectacular tale of make believe that appeals to the grown ups as much as the children.

“Jack the Giant Slayer” will delight just about everyone. The huge amount of money spent on this lavish production entitled Warner Brothers to take a few liberties with “Jack and the Beanstalk”.

It’s not just the visually stunning production that makes “Jack the Giant Slayer” such rip roaring fun.

The script brings the characters to life adding menacing and humorous dimensions along the way. Jack’s passion for Beanstalks runs a close second to his infatuation with the embattled Princess.

And when was the last time we enjoyed a big budget storming of the Castle complete with all the stylish excitement, that I was afraid went out of style in the 1950′s?

As long as you tell the children, there was a time when we’d thrill to this high class extravaganza every Saturday afternoon.

Ewan McGregor isn’t exactly the reincarnation of Errol Flynn, but at least he gets into the spirit of this rollicking make believe.

“Jack the Giant Slayer” knocks ‘em dead with 4 stars. And it’s just like they used to make ‘em.


March 9th, 2013 at 11:14 am by under A Look at the Movies

Three-StarRated R
1 hour 35 minutes

Starring: Ed Harris, David Duchovny, William Fichtner

Look, if you’re going to spend an hour and a half cooped up in a Russian Nuclear Submarine, it’s good to have a compelling story to keep us engrossed in the action.

“Phantom” takes us down deep into a fanatical cold war plot fifty years ago, that nearly plunged us all into world war three.

David Duchovny is back on the big screen as the KGB conspirator hatching the plot.

With the action unfolding at such close quarters, we feel Duchovny’s intense rivalry with the aging submarine commander, Ed Harris.

To the film’s credit, none of the actors even attempt to put on a phony Russian accent. “Phantom” depends entirely on its tense doomsday scenario for real authenticity.

Harris and company put on a good show exploring personal responsibility in the face of high ranking lunacy, and the cramped quarters aboard the Submarine only intensifies the tight spot that they find themselves in.

Everyone who enjoys a good, wartime suspense thriller will find “Phantom” more than see-worthy.

“Phantom” torpedo’s any doubts with 3 stars. So come aboard and take the plunge.

“Safe Haven”

February 24th, 2013 at 11:23 am by under A Look at the Movies

Three-StarRated PG-13
1 Hour 55 Minutes

Starring: Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel

Have you noticed the most absorbing love stories always involve elements of danger, Intrigue and surprise?

There’s no “Safe Haven” for runaway wife Julianne Hough. Will here past catch up with her or can she start fresh with Mr. family values, nice guy, Josh Duhamel?

The author, Nicholas Sparks enjoys taking his own sweet time revealing a little at a time during the next two hours. Time enough for tender feelings between the single Dad and the mysterious stranger who just seemed to come out of nowhere.

It’s the perfect picture for incurable romantics, even though the dreamy lovers take a bit too much time getting to where the film’s going. But when it gets there, the pay-off is well worth the wait.

Anyone familiar with Nicholas Sparks’ romantic sleight of hand should know something extraordinary will happen, and It does, but don’t expect me to give away the ending.

“Safe Haven” relentlessly tugs at your heartstrings with more reckless abandon than you could ever imagine. The picture provides “Safe Haven” for those willing to reward a good love story with 3 stars. Who says Becker doesn’t appreciate a good heart tugger now and then?

“Beautiful Creatures”

February 23rd, 2013 at 11:30 am by under A Look at the Movies

Two_StarRated PG-13
2 hours 10 minutes

Starring: Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson, Emmy Rossun

Young people who haven’t yet kicked the “Twilight” habit can fall back on “Beautiful Creatures” for their latest fix of forbidden love between mismatched teenagers. Little does Adam realize that Lena’s a witch, in the best supernatural sense of the term.

The sultry setting of the decaying aristocracy in the deep south provides atmosphere. It’s a colorful cast of supernatural creeps led by Jeremy Irons, who spices up what would otherwise be just a bland “Twilight” style young romance.

Adam doesn’t get it. He’s sure he and Lena would make a terrific couple. But this is no time to be clueless about the nature of her paranormal predicament, reaching a not too sweet sixteen.

Wait until he meets the weirdo’s in her family. Someone obviously forgot to rein in Emmy Rossun’s other worldly wardrobe.

And Emma Thompson just can’t contain her enthusiasm chewing up the scenery with gusto. Such is the curse of having too much spellbinding power.

As long as the old pros are up on the screen, “Beautiful Creatures” is tolerable If not exactly sterling. But the young lovers leave so much to be desired, “Beautiful Creatures” gets bogged down with a less than lovely 2 stars.

“Beautiful Creatures” is one Witches brew that could have used much more flavoring.

“A Good Day to Die Hard”

February 17th, 2013 at 10:54 am by under A Look at the Movies

Two_StarRated R
1 hour 40 minutes

Starring: Bruce Willis

It’s the 25th anniversary of the Bruce Willis action thriller classic, “Die Hard”.

The fourth sequel, “A Good Day to Die Hard’, is little more than a silly spoof of the original.

Willis comes to the aid of his son, a CIA spy, to rumble with the Russian bad guys in Moscow, where the dialogue is always over the top.

The running joke involves Willis winning the respect of his ingrate of a disrespectful son, who acts as If he’s not familiar with Dad’s back story.

Many of the scenes such as “Shoot the Glass” pay homage to the 1988 original. The father and son repartee carries cool to its most ridiculous extreme.

When junior asks if dad has a plan, Willis replies, we’ll just make it up as we go. And I suspect that’s exactly what the writers did, making it up as they went along. The film’s driven only by the desire to never apply the brakes to the demolition derby action scenes.

There’s always something visually going on to remind us of the original. A bad idea since everything in this woeful retread is strictly inferior. And the characters including the Icon himself are decidedly one dimensional. “A Good Day to Die Hard” is just a shallow shadow of the original. All the action in the world won’t win this sequel anymore than 2 stars. Bruce Willis has made one sequel too many.

“Side Effects”

February 16th, 2013 at 11:33 am by under A Look at the Movies

Three-StarRated R
2 Hours
Starring: Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones

I ask you, can the side effects from an experimental anti-depressant drug be an excuse for murder? How’s that for an intriguing who Dunn it?

Director Steven Soderbergh’s gripping psychological thriller happens to be a very stylish mystery, with the gifted Rooney Mara giving an exceptional performance, with or without medication. She suffers from extreme anxiety. Mara gives one of the most realistic performances you’ll ever see as an over the edge nervous wreck.

No wonder Psychiatrist Jude Law figures that popping a potent pill might do her some good. “Side Effects” plays games with your head and makes subtle statements about the unholy alliance between doctors and dug companies.

All the while you’re never quite sure exactly what’s going on in her head. You might even need a sedative to settle your nerves once the motives become clear. The way the picture keeps you guessing, it would be a crime to deny “Side Effects” a very deserving 3 stars.

You, the audience may suffer one side effect. You’ll want to kick yourself for not figuring out the very tricky ending.

“Warm Bodies”

February 3rd, 2013 at 10:50 am by under A Look at the Movies

Three-StarRated PG-13
1 hour 35 minutes

Starring: Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich, Nicholas Hoult

Apparently zombies have come a long way since “Night of the Living Dead”. Now they want more out of death than merely terrifying survivors of the dread plague that nearly wiped out the human race.

“Warm Bodies” tells the humorous and sometimes touching tale of a lovesick zombie who needs to network with a warm body.

Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer could be the year’s most mismatched couple. In one of the film’s more amusing scenes, he’ll protect her from a band of marauding zombies. He thinks fast on his feet having her impersonate their strange movements, and then letting her down easily that she’s overdoing it. “Warm Bodies” is just the right mixture of menace and mirth along with its good hearted message that love makes everything possible in a world otherwise ruled by suspicion and mistrust. It’s certainly corny but clever enough to somehow be rather appealing.

“Warm Bodies” just might give zombies a good name for a change. The warm and witty satire revives a much maligned genre with 3 stars. Don’t be surprised if “Warm Bodies” makes you feel good all over.


January 27th, 2013 at 11:14 am by under A Look at the Movies

Three-StarRated R
2 hours

Starring: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte

Don’t look now but Jason Statham has cornered the market as Hollywood’s toughest anti-hero with a permanent five o’clock shadow.

Statham gives his cool, rugged persona a violent workout playing “Parker”, in this rousing revenge thriller. He’s the high minded crook who lives by his own code of conduct, no matter how much he irritates the crime boss and invites retribution.

“Parker’s” such a stubborn maverick. The pictures got no place to go except to test the limits of brutality. “Parker’s” got a score to settle, and with the help of Jennifer Lopez, he just might turn the tables on the gang that left him for dead.

“Parker’s” such a stylish thriller, reminiscent of so many earlier gangster yarns about the independent loner.

Statham isn’t much of an actor, but he’s got charisma, and for the demands of this role, his rugged charisma’s quite enough.

“Parker’s” fast paced action will keep you wide awake in spite of the film’s distorted sense of morality. This lively caper yarn makes off with three stars.

And Statham carries it off without smiling even once.


January 26th, 2013 at 11:04 am by under A Look at the Movies

Two_StarRated PG-13
1 hour 40 minutes

Starring: Jessica Chastain

I ask you, what’s a marvelously gifted movie star like Jessica Chastain doing in a cheap horror film like “Mama”?

It’s enough to make Chastain fans cringe in horror. Luckily, Chastain’s barely recognizable under a black wig. She’s hardly shown to good advantage as a clueless Good Samaritan who adopts two really strange children.

When one of the cast members mumbles that things will get better, I can assure you this low power ghost story doesn’t get any better. The deeply disturbed children can only relate to an overly protective maternal demon. You keep asking yourself throughout the film, why did Jessica Chastain lower herself having to fake the heebie jeebies in this warmed over “Poltergeist”?

Even with ghostly images coming out of the woodwork, the terror is strictly of the ho-hum variety, much too tame for horror fans expecting blood curdling thrills and chills. What did you expect from a tepid PG-13 shocker?

This paranormal foolishness lapses into cheap sentiment and hardly makes a ripple on your nervous system with 2 stars. There was movie years ago called “I Remember Mama”. You’ll forget all about this “Mama” in no time at all.

“Broken City”

January 20th, 2013 at 3:29 pm by under A Look at the Movies

Three-StarRated R
1 hour 50 minutes

Starring: Russell Crowe, Mark Walberg, Catherine Zeta-Jones

Crime and corruption during New York’s bitter mayoral election makes “Broken City” an intriguing destination.

Especially since Russell Crowe relishes his ruthless nature as the shifty politician. Crowe’s performance gets my vote as the best reason for seeing this smart and sassy political thriller. It soon becomes apparent just what’s behind Crowe’s unlikely alliance with ex-cop Mark Walberg.

Walberg lives dangerously weaving through the tangled plot involving the mayor’s sinister administration.

Could the city’s first lady Catherine Zeta-Jones be two timing her unscrupulous public servant of a husband? Looks like there’s more dirty work for lapdog Walberg to do for his boss, the Mayor.

If anything, “Broken City” has too many unanswered questions. But the snappy screenplay exploring shady dealings in high places catches just the right mood of “Broken City” shenanigans.

The movie ticket you buy entitles you to a first rate political thriller, and you get what you pay for. In the proper spirit of the picture’s take on morality, you might even say “Broken City” deserves to be paid off with 3 stars. “Broken City” has all the ingredients for a zesty night at the movies.