Carell, Carrey headline good-not-great comedy

Any profession that gave us such pop culture touchstones as David Copperfield and Siegfried and Roy is ripe for satire. The world of the Las Vegas magician is one that rarely gets the Hollywood treatment, despite the fact that it is clearly asking for it.

But longtime television director Don Scardino has tackled this high-pressure world of excitement and illusion with the new film 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.' Unfortunately, this star-driven comedy succumbs to the temptation of the formulaic, sacrificing some of the potential impact in the name of the familiar. The end result is a decent studio comedy that could have been ever so much more.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 20 March 2013 12:29

The Call' misdials

Thriller starts strong, loses steam

I enjoy a good thriller as much as anyone. There's something wonderfully engaging about the mounting tension that a well-crafted thriller can bring. The agonizing wait as the story unfolds, the squirming in your seat as you question each twist in the action it all makes for good cinema.

Unfortunately, recent tendencies in Hollywood indicate that studios have decided that a film that is 'just' a thriller isn't enough. There's got to be something else, some other kind of hook. Maybe you throw in some big-budget action, maybe you tack on some supernatural elements regardless, you're basically saying that the tension is not enough.

Published in Movies
Disney offering offers decent family fun

There are few places in cinematic history as iconic as the Land of Oz. 1939's 'The Wizard of Oz' is more than a family classic; it's a pop cultural touchstone as significant as any in film. Plenty of subsequent artists have returned there in the years since, with varying degrees of success. Big-screen trips to Oz have basically been flops.

'Oz the Great and Powerful' is Disney's latest attempt (their last was 1985's 'Return to Oz') to travel down the yellow brick road. 

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 13 March 2013 15:34

Dead Man Down' is D.O.A.

Strong performances can't salvage weak plot

Those people who enjoyed director Niels Oplev's work with the first film version of Stieg Larsson's 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' have likely been looking forward to the director's American theatrical debut. 

'Dead Man Down' would appear to have all the requisite pieces. There's a strong cast, including Noomi Rapace, who so embodied Lisbeth Salandar in 'Dragon Tattoo.' There's a dark undercurrent of deception and vengeance fueled by anger. The story has that noir-ish feel that Oplev grasps so firmly.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 06 March 2013 15:14

21 and Over' underwhelms

Coming of age comedy unfocused, unfunny

Films that show us a group of young friends (usually male) making a big transition in life particularly the end of high school or college have always been popular in Hollywood. And with good reason; their primary target audience sits squarely in that age range. 

'21 and Over' is the latest offering in this particular coming of age subgenre. However, recent years have seen an increased tendency to turn these kids into oversexed, foul-mouthed punks with little to no redeeming value. There's no one to root for because everyone is terrible.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 27 February 2013 13:29

Dark Skies' aren't gonna clear up

Sci-fi/horror film offers bland rehash of old ideas

There's something special about a spooky movie.

Sometimes, you just want to be scared. You want to watch people forced to deal with phenomena that they can't explain. You want to see them confronted by someone or something that represents 'the other.' 

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 27 February 2013 13:27

Snitch' not quite Rock-solid

Action thriller first of four 2013 vehicles for wrestler

Like it or not, we're going to have to come to terms with a simple truth: the Rock is a movie star.

See, 'Snitch' is Dwayne Johnson's first film of 2013 the first of four hitting screens in the next six months. You've got the latest incarnation of 'GI Joe' at the end of March, the sixth 'Fast and Furious' offering come Memorial Day and the Michael Bay bodybuilder action movie 'Pain and Gain' early this summer.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 14:10

Nothing good about A Good Day to Die Hard'

Action franchise's latest offering weak and uninspired

Every film fan has certain movies that he or she can't resist, despite knowing that disappointment is inevitable. Some are the product of too-good-to-be-true trailers, others the result of overextending a once-beloved franchise. We go to the theater, understanding full well that we are most likely not going to enjoy the experience.

Which brings us to 'A Good Day to Die Hard,' the fifth installment in the ongoing 'John McClane cracks wise, gets shot and eventually murders all the foreigners' series of films.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 14:07

Beautiful Creatures' not a pretty sight

Newest young adult adaptation feels dull, derivative

There's no doubt that with the recent conclusion of the wildly successful 'Twilight' saga, the powers-that-be in Hollywood are all desperately searching for the next young adult literary property to be turned into box office gold.

The folks at Warner Brothers seem to think they may have found it. They have produced 'Beautiful Creatures,' based on the novel of the same name by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. It is the first in a four-book (so far) series known collectively as the Caster Chronicles.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 13 February 2013 14:29

Identity Thief' an identity crisis

McCarthy vehicle struggles to find fun

Since Melissa McCarthy broke out with her supporting role in 'Bridesmaids,' it seems like Hollywood has been trying to figure out what to do with her. Her television bona fides are set she's an Emmy winner for 'Mike and Molly' but movie stardom is a different animal. Pairing her with a talented foil to her brand of broad physicality someone like Jason Bateman and letting her loose probably seemed like a good idea. And maybe it was.

Unfortunately, the end result this time was 'Identity Thief,' a film struggling to understand its own identity.

Published in Movies
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