Friday, April 29, 2016

MOTHER'S DAY (D+/B)


Not unlike its painful, predecessing sistren (2010’s Valentine’s Day and 2011’s New Year’s Eve), Mother’s Day is an awkwardly paced, holiday-themed ensemble that obnoxiously panders to its audience via a series of unfortunate meet-cute coinkydinks.  It’s not a good movie, but somehow still better than the aforementioned hollow duds that proceeded it.  To be wholly fair, I took my own mother who called it ‘light fun’ and stamped it with a solid B grade – and judging by the laughter and applauds gratuitously bandied about at our 300+ person advanced screening, I would say the feeling of this being a heartwarming tale is mostly mutual.  These moviegoers were eating the mind-numbing, eye-rolling shenanigans up with a spoon. Part of it makes sense as Roberts, Hudson and (especially) Aniston are all quite good given the seemingly insurmountable odds that lay before them – poor direction, lazy editing, bad scriptwriting, etc.  Mother’s Day is a forced mess and has the specific feel of a two-hour, one-season-only, late-to-mid 80’s sitcom created by fecal-throwing monkeys more interested in de-bugging their sandy-brown manes in lieu of creating passable dialogue, interesting characters or believable scenarios.  I mean seriously, how does a movie about mothers NOT have a mother drinking wine in it?  Most moms don’t not drink wine – ever.  I could easily drop a lazy F-grade for this troublesome flick, but a charming Aniston – along with the occasional truth about raising children – proves to be a very small sail of hope on an otherwise very leaky vessel. Its heart may occasionally be in the right place – I just wish it had the occasional brains to match. 

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, Jason Sudeikis, Britt Robertson and Timothy Olyphant 
Directed by: Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman, Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve)
Rated: PG-13 
Running time: 1hr. 58min. 
Story: "Mother's Day" is the latest star studded ensemble comedy from director Garry Marshall. Bringing together Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson and Julia Roberts along with Jason Sudeikis, it's a celebration of mothers everywhere. This big-hearted comedy invites us all to enjoy the laughter, tears and love as three generations come together in the week leading up to Mother's Day. 

KEANU (B)

Much more than the ‘gangsta kitten movie’ the poster implied or my wife made fun of me for wanting see, Key and Peele – the hysterically funny, former Comedy Central comedians – deliver an energetically rousing, drug-and-profanity-laced, action-packed comedy about rescuing a lost…well, yeah, okay…gangsta kitten.  Keanu makes for a hilariously breezy and equally offensive time at the movies.  And as terrific as the comedic bits may be, the movie itself has a tough time keeping up with the talent. The simplicity of the find-the-feline narrative occasionally dictates that the story falls flat – it’s not particularly deep cinema containing intrigue at every turn.  The winning and welcome stylings of K and P, however, willfully embrace the zany, offbeat and just plain silly.  Watching this dynamic duo falsely ping-pong from suburbanite straight-males to thuggish street life baddies is the movie’s gold – and it employees shock-value barbs, dimwitted dialogue and a decent bite of social commentary to full effect!  Goofy, good-hearted, guffaw-riddled and graphic, Keanu is more excellent adventure than bogus journey – and a trip that’s definitely worth taking! 

Starring: Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Tiffany Haddish, Jason Mitchell and Method Man 
Directed by: Peter Atencio
Rated: R 
Running time: 1hr. 40min. 
Story: Two friends pose as drug dealers to get back a stolen cat. 
Website:  www.keanumovie.com

Friday, April 22, 2016

THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER'S WAR (B-)

Axing the dour-stricken and bored-to-the-brim Kristen Stewart (the titular female character from 2012’s Snow White and The Huntsman) was a brilliant move and all this follow-up film really needed to do to raise the enjoyment factor… That alone would have sufficed for most – but in lieu of her royal grumpiness, the line-up (which already included Hemsworth, Theron and Frost) grows to talented new heights with the addition of Blunt and a bad-to-the-bone Chastain.  The Huntsman: Winters War is probably best described – albeit very clunkily – as Game of Thrones meets Frozen meets Lord of the Rings meets Brave meets Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom with a dash of Terminator 2.  This description is a mouthful, the busy film itself is an eyeful and the experience, well, the experience, unfortunately, never quite fills the brain.  As a whole, it’s a fantasy-based, warring queen cavalcade of seen-it-before visuals, uninspiring action sequences and a ping pong-like narrative that never really allows the film to completely gel.  The life preserver, however, in this vast sea of cinematic mediocrity is the A-list cast who are all clearly having a blast while they share top billing in a film that – upon first blush – is seemingly beneath them.  With their heavy and hearty thespianic lifting, the film sporadically comes alive with a nice dose of humor, a tad of heart and a robust energy that will almost certainly and harmlessly engage (to some extent) most audiences.  A better film would have been welcomed, but a little harmlessly surprising fun never hurt a soul.


Starring: Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt and Nick Frost 
Directed by: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan 
Rated: PG-13 
Running time: 2hr. 3min. 
Story: Long before the evil Queen Ravenna was thought vanquished by Snow White’s blade, she watched silently as her sister, Freya, suffered a heartbreaking betrayal and fled their kingdom. With Freya’s ability to freeze any enemy, the young ice queen has spent decades in a remote wintry palace raising a legion of deadly huntsmen—including Eric and warrior Sara —only to find that her prized two defied her one demand: Forever harden your hearts to love. When Freya learns of her sister’s demise, she summons her remaining soldiers to bring the Magic Mirror home to the only sorceress left who can harness its power. But once she discovers Ravenna can be resurrected from its golden depths, the wicked sisters threaten this enchanted land with twice the darkest force it’s ever seen. Now, their amassing army shall prove undefeatable…unless the banished huntsmen who broke their queen’s cardinal rule can fight their way back to one another. [Universal Pictures] 

A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING (B-)


This awkwardly titled flick – based on the popular novel – is a quirkily low-key, fish-out-of-water dramedy that falls somewhere (more positively) between Bill Murray’s brilliant, fish-out-of-water, Lost in Translation and Bill Murray’s fairly embarrassing, fish-out-of-water, Rock the Kasbah.  This fish may occasionally flounder due to hurried plot points, forced encounters and a scattershot storyline (meant to mirror the main character’s experience in Saudi Arabia, I imagine) – but it’s also kept alive by a sharply focused and poignant performance from Tom Hanks – a washed-up tech salesman dealing with/running away from troubles back home and grappling with isolation, clarity and a sense of purpose on foreign soil. As he almost exclusively does, Hanks instills a great deal of charm to the proceedings and earns my mild recommendation to, at the very least, catch it when it hits Blu-ray in the very near future.


Starring: Tom Hanks, Sarita Choudhury and Alexander Black 
Directed by: Tom Tykwer (Cloud Atlas and Run Lola Run) 
Rated: R 
Running time: 1hr. 30min. 
Story: Cultures collide when an American businessman is sent to Saudi Arabia to close what he hopes will be the deal of a lifetime. Baffled by local customs and stymied by an opaque bureaucracy, he eventually finds his footing with the help of a wise-cracking taxi driver and a beautiful Saudi doctor. (Roadside Attractions) 
Website: www.imdb.com/title/tt2980210/

Friday, April 15, 2016

THE JUNGLE BOOK (A)

As if casting from a stable of live animals that can actually speak and act, director Jon Favreau has created a visually stunning, thematically rich and humorously heartfelt adventure that fires on the fervor of friendship…  Simply put, The Jungle Book is a wondrous, must-see experience for the entire family (a proven statement since my 9-year old and another-aged mother both loved it as well; though young ones might label a few scenes as ‘scary’).  This is a gorgeously imagined treat that literally drops you in to the depths of a living, breathing, yet still computer-generated jungle – a place where every snap of a vine, every splash of water, every crackle of flame is felt.  And as gorgeous as this movie looks and feels, it’s the relationships and brilliantly focused voice work that will undoubtedly win audiences over.  Murray, Kingsley, Nyong’o, Walken, Johansson and Elba all dutifully support the lone human in the mix, newcomer Neel Sethi (Mowgli the man-cub) – as  a boy raised by wolves being pressured back to his human herd, he affirmatively anchors the film and its generous themes of family, preservation, survival, innovation, courage and pride.  The story is appropriately accessible, the scenery breathtaking, the cinematography lush and the direction delivered with a refined urgency and immaculate attention to detail.  Plus, a couple of briefly subtle musical numbers will add a nice toe-tapping touchstone to Disney’s 1967 animated original (based on the written works of Rudyard Kipling).  Mesmerizing and immersive, The Jungle Book is a magnificently majestic mammalian masterpiece!


Starring: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Christopher Walken and Scarlett Johansson 
Directed by: Jon Favreau (Chef, Iron Man and Elf) 
Rated: PG-13 
Running time: 1hr. 51min. 
Story: The man-cub Mowgli flees the jungle after a threat from the tiger Shere Khan. Guided by Bagheera the panther and the bear Baloo, Mowgli embarks on a journey of self-discovery, though he also meets creatures who don't have his best interests at heart. 
Website: www.disney.com/the-jungle-book-2016