Friday, May 27, 2016

X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (D+)

Convoluted and misguidedly self-serious, X-Men: Apocalypse has brought to a screeching halt all the joyous and energetic momentum instilled by its two revamped predecessors (First Class, Days of Future of Past).  It’s a retro rehash of things we’ve all seen before…  The atmosphere is bleak, the message muddled and the overall tone is underwhelmingly uptight.  Credit where credit is due, however, Fassbender and McAvoy deliver nuanced performances that give the movie a modicum of weight. But even they struggle mightily to keep the film afloat under the overbearingly dull weight of Isaac’s mumbling, blue Smurf-like baddie (Apocalypse), Lawrence’s I’d-rather-be-anywhere-else-than-here, sleep walk attitude and an abundant shroud of misjudged steps in the writing, editing and directing departments.  Additionally, we’re introduced to a new moping mob of millennial mutants that collectively have the charisma of a wet paper sack.  Two stoic performances and a few solid action beat highlights aside – this is a bloated, confusing and virtually humorless affair.  The day my 11-year old son and I are both bored by a superhero movie is the same day I urge most people to skip said superhero movie.  Today is that day.  This X crew isn’t uncanny – they’re just uncommonly bland.

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne and Oscar Isaac
Directed by: Bryan Singer (X-MEN, X2: X-MEN: UNITED, THE USUAL SUSPECTS and SUPERMAN RETURNS)
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 2hr. 16min.
Story: Since the dawn of civilization, he was worshiped as a god. Apocalypse, the first and most powerful mutant from Marvel’s X-Men universe, amassed the powers of many other mutants, becoming immortal and invincible. Upon awakening after thousands of years, he is disillusioned with the world as he finds it and recruits a team of powerful mutants, including a disheartened Magneto, to cleanse mankind and create a new world order, over which he will reign. As the fate of the Earth hangs in the balance, Raven with the help of Professor X must lead a team of young X-Men to stop their greatest nemesis and save mankind from complete destruction. [20th Century Fox]

Thursday, May 26, 2016

ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (C+/C+)


A clunky, time-travel tap-dance through Wonderland-past, Alice Through the Looking Glass is, surprisingly, not nearly as bad as you might expect…  Now before you take that as a ringing endorsement of quality, let’s pump the brakes – the narrative here moves at a neck-snapping, mile-a-minute pace,  so by the time you’ve deciphered Johnny Depp’s hard-to-understand, Mad Hatter, gap-toothed ‘lithp’, you’re back in the cinematic weeds playing catch-up with the hollowed-out and barely-there ‘thtory’.  Sorry…story.  I mean, there’s enough here to hang a hat on – but with the wafer-thin narrative now riding shotgun, the mind-bending visuals take the wheel for this ocularly impressive, two-hour long, fear and Loathing in Wonderland, acid road trip.  It’s an eccentrically inventive adventure with a whacked-out, A-list cast that’s game for all the eye-popping special effect curveballs thrown their way.  The movie is at once an engagingly convoluted and whimsically gaudy mess…just not in a way that makes it really bad.  In a single word, it’s bonkers.  Or better yet, take my 11-year old son’s reaction: ‘I liked it, but I have no idea what just happened.’  Most critics will force their predictably negative potion in the hopes you’ll skip it all together, but for those with even a remote interest in the material – your best bet is to respond with a simple, Lewis Carroll inspired quote: ‘Eat me!’

Starring: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen
Directed by: James Bobin (THE MUPPETS and MUPPETS MOST WANTED)
Rated: PG
Running time: 1hr. 48min.
Story: Alice travels back in time to save the Mad Hatter.

Website: www.movies.disney.com/alice-through-the-looking-glass

Friday, May 20, 2016

THE NICE GUYS (A)


Slick, sly and sarcastic, The Nice Guys is a breezy, meaty detective crime caper that delivers the guttural laughing goods!  It’s a delightfully scrappy and jam-packed jaunt through the affluent hills and downtown dregs of Los Angeles.  Writer and director Shane Black deserves awards and accolades for the teaming of Crowe and Gosling – two tremendous actors who muster up an irresistible level of maniacally charismatic and playfully manic energy.  Together, their rapid fire riffs reach Abbott and Costello levels of slapstickian chatterbox greatness.  The third main character at play here, would be the City of Angels itself – Black’s masterful and self-assured plate spinning rings every last disco-and-drug-infused drop from the city’s flamboyant, late 70’s cinematic sponge.  He brilliantly captures the gaudily gold aura of the era.  Giving you a break from the summer box office behemoths, The Nice Guys is a fouled-up, foul-mouthed, riotous romp offering hysterical bouts of humor, intense action sequences, an intriguing array of interesting characters and an intricate who-done-it, bounce-around-like-you’re-living-in-a-pinball machine plot.  Let your mouth munch on popcorn whilst your brain munches this – its refreshingly fun cinema for the soul.  In this age of superheroes, Gosling and Crowe turn out to be the real dynamic duo – making The Nice Guys a refreshingly boisterous, bullet-riddled, budding bromance blast! 

Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Keith David, Beau Knapp and Kim Basinger
Directed by: Shane Black (Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and Iron Man Three) 
Rated: R 
Running time: 1hr. 56min. 
Story: In 1970s Los Angeles, down-on-his-luck private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and hired enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) must work together to solve the case of a missing girl and the seemingly unrelated death of a porn star. During their investigation, they uncover a shocking conspiracy that reaches up to the highest circles of power. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

MONEY MONSTER (B)

An occasionally intense, fairly engaging and ultimately disposable hostage thriller, Money Monster goes out of its way to avoid the heady, deep-end-of-the-pool intricacies its trailer or poster or casting might imply…  It’s a solid enough film, but could never swim in waters churned by the likes of, say, Wall Street, Network, The Big Short or Margin Call (to name a few).  At a briskly efficient 98 minutes, it’s a surface level examination of corporate fraud, stock market analytics, algorithmic nuances, greed, glitches and just how easy it is for some to screw over the hopelessly optimistic and haplessly desperate, bull-market-craving masses.  There’s no triteness to this slimmed down approach, but the rat-tat-tat of cable TV media production and consumption plays a large, more important role here – and that’s where Clooney, Roberts and O’Connell shine – adding pleasant doses of humanity and humor to the proceedings.  Acting, direction and dialogue may all be on point – but the journey and overall message aren’t breaking any new ground.  Money Monster may show us a great deal of things we’ve seen before, but it still remains a timely, breezy and lightly entertaining thing to watch in a dark room while shoving popcorn in your face.  It also makes a decent respite for those looking to shield themselves from the blockbuster boys of summer. 

Starring: George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Jack O’Connell 
Directed by: Jodie Foster (The Beaver, Home for the Holidays and Little Man Tate)
Rated: R 
Running time: 1hr. 30min. 
Story: Lee Gates is a bombastic TV personality whose popular financial network show has made him the money wiz of Wall Street. But after he hawks a high tech stock that mysteriously crashes, an irate investor takes Gates, his crew, and his ace producer Patty Fenn hostage live on air. Unfolding in real time, Gates and Fenn must find a way to keep themselves alive while simultaneously uncovering the truth behind a tangle of big money lies.