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December 2012

Film Review - The Impossible


Regular moviegoers, the weekend warriors, are repeatedly assaulted with images of disaster, often taking on a global reach of apocalyptic doom. One becomes desensitized to such grand illusions after a while, regarding the end of the world as a time when the Capitol Records building eats it, the Eiffel Tower takes a tumble, and Red Square is reduced to rubble. “The Impossible” is a harrowing reminder of real-world nightmares, with the film dramatizing the devastation and anguish that followed the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami disaster in a frightfully vivid manner, taking a refreshingly blunt perspective on the challenges of survival and the tenacity of the human spirit. Although it sounds like a downer, “The Impossible” is actually emotionally satisfying and educational in a way, with director Juan Antonio Bayona doing a superb job keeping the details vital and the characters admirably resolute. Read the rest at

Film Review - Promised Land

PROMISED LAND Matt Damon John Kransinski

“Promised Land” is a film filled with unfinished business. Reteaming director Gus Van Sant with co-writer/star Matt Damon (after their work on “Good Will Hunting” and “Gerry”), the picture is a messy affair with a killer hook, bringing a critical environmental issue to the forefront without much of a game plan to dissect it. Convincing for the first two acts, “Promised Land” has an adequate grip on character and offers a slew of terrific performances. It’s an interesting movie, but never reaches the greatness or significance it imagines for itself, cursed with a dreadful conclusion that’s strangely non-committal considering all the passions swirling around the material. Read the rest at

Film Review - Save the Date


Expectations that “Save the Date” is going to be a jaunty affair are cut short in the opening five minutes, when it becomes clear that writer/director Michael Mohan is going to make the audience feel every last possible moment of discomfort and empty-eyed reflection. A slog attempting to resemble a romantic comedy, “Save the Date” doesn’t have the benefit of likable characters and a reinvention of relationship woe. Instead, it slumbers through routine conflicts, often in the dullest manner imaginable, refusing the lure of a snappy pace to wallow in poor communication contests that grow intolerable as Mohan makes a 90-minute run time feel like three years. Read the rest at

Film Review - Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy

ECSTASY Kristin Kruek

I’m not exactly sure what prompted interest is adapting “Ecstasy,” Irvine Welsh’s 1996 collection of short stories, but it seems as though the time for material like this to truly take off has passed. A distant cousin to the chemical behemoth known as “Trainspotting,” “Ecstasy” attempts to conjure the same sense of insanity, musical muscle, and impish wit, only to stumble repeatedly as it struggles to put on a dazzling sound and light show. Director Rob Heydon has the unfortunate task of following Danny Boyle when it comes to Welsh’s world of miscreants, and while the movie retains a few gripping dramatic moments, as a whole it fails to catch fire, with a serious been there, done that atmosphere the production can’t escape. Read the rest at

Film Review - Parental Guidance

PARENTAL GUIDANCE Billy Crystal Bette Midler

Billy Crystal hasn’t starred in a major motion picture since 2002, where he burned off considerable audience goodwill with the abysmal sequel, “Analyze That.” There was a bit part in the “Tooth Fairy” with Dwayne Johnson, but let’s not dogpile on the guy. Considering he’s been away from screen comedy for an eternity in Hollywood years, perhaps Crystal could’ve taken just a little more care with his return to the multiplex. Instead, he’s sprinted back to mind-numbing nonsense with “Parental Guidance,” an ugly, honestly baffling family comedy that repeatedly turns to the toxicity of bodily fluid humor to bang its comedic gong. I’d write that this is the worst production Crystal has been involved with this year, but we all saw the Oscars. Read the rest at

Film Review - Les Miserables

LES MISERABLES Hugh Jackman Anne Hathaway

Victor Hugo’s celebrated 1862 novel concerning crime and punishment has been turned into a great number of features throughout the years. However, this “Les Miserables” takes its cues from the 1980 French musical, which sprouted to blockbuster life when it found an English translation in 1985. Beloved by millions who’ve grown accustomed to the safe distances and narrow expanse of the stage production, the movie smashes the divide between the actors and the audience, with director Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”) creating a decidedly raw and intimate film that aches to preserve the soulfulness of the performances and the fiery poetry of the lyrics. “Les Miserables” makes a few controversial moves along the way, but it is, at its heart, grand entertainment, with a concentration on anguish that cuts all the way to the bone. Read the rest at

Film Review - Django Unchained

DJANGO UNCHAINED Jamie Foxx Christoph Waltz

With “Django Unchained,” writer/director Quentin Tarantino manufactures his most unsatisfying film since bursting onto the scene with 1992’s “Reservoir Dogs.” Not that “Unchained” is a disaster, far from it at times, actually, but there’s a lethargy here that’s disconcerting, blocking a lovely view of all the cinematic tributes and screen artistry that typically resides in Tarantinoland. A violent, winded take on spaghetti westerns, “Django Unchained” features all the helmer’s trademarks and casting appetites, locked into an overlong event that’s sporadically enchanting and daring, lacking the fresh pace and series of bruising confrontations that helped Tarantino’s last effort, 2009’s “Inglourious Basterds,” to soar. Read the rest at

Film Review - Rust and Bone


"Rust and Bone" is a story of perseverance, though it probably wouldn't be caught dead with that label. The latest from "A Prophet" director Jacques Audiard, the feature is a defiantly untouchable creation, refusing the lure of sensitivity to portray human connection and vulnerability in the most minimal manner possible. Anchored by two fantastic leading performances from Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts, "Rust and Bone" doesn't always understand what type of movie it wants to be, often caught chasing tangents and unfinished thoughts. However, the ache of these characters and their formless attempts to bond under extreme stress is endlessly fascinating, permitting the effort a full sense of life beyond a surface of confusion. Read the rest at

Film Review - Jack Reacher

JACK REACHER Tom Cruise Rosamund Pike

“Jack Reacher” is a different film than I was expecting. It’s a different film than many will be expecting, with the possible exception of those already engrossed in the Jack Reacher books by author Lee Child, but even the fanatics might be puzzled by a few of the new details required to turn a page-turner into a Tom Cruise starring vehicle. There’s a bite to the picture that’s most welcome, hitting with a surprisingly hard PG-13-level of violence that gifts the tale a cold stance of intimidation. But there’s also a story, and it’s a thick one, with motivations, last names, and vague supporting characters all vying for attention in an already crowded movie. “Jack Reacher” has moments of inviting escapism, but it’s also a mystery of debatable importance. In the end, writer/director Christopher McQuarrie makes an engaging feature, but often chooses the wrong elements to emphasize. Read the rest at

Film Review - Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away


I’ll admit that I haven’t had much exposure to the various shows and individual performances of Cirque du Soleil, but it’s easy to see that their debut feature, “Worlds Away,” is little more than a commercial for the Canadian outfit. For fans, the 3D movie will be a warm reminder of previous accomplishments and current successes, returning to a place of extraordinary theatricality and flexibility as director Andrew Adamson attempts to capture an event that should really be enjoyed live. For outsiders, “Worlds Away” is an interesting experiment in self-promotion, though the attempt to build a narrative capable of connecting disparate fantasy sequences smoothly is botched, resulting in a highlight reel that grows tiring over 85 minutes of screentime. Read the rest at

Film Review - Room 237

ROOM 237 Still 1

For some, Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror film, “The Shining,” is an effective chiller with a triumphantly realized streak of sinister, otherworldly behavior. For others, the picture is an interestingly crafted but hopelessly inert experience in directorial indulgence. However, for a select few, “The Shining” is a big screen Rubik’s Cube of interpretational delights, with every single frame of the movie containing a deeper meaning waiting patiently for feverish analysis to discover it. The creators of “Room 237” actually make an attempt to deconstruct the work, asking six participants of no apparent fame to share their study of Kubrick’s labor, with director Rodney Ascher piecing together a fascinating study of the feature and all the real and imagined secrets these interviewees have spent the greater part of the their lives obsessing over. Read the rest at

Film Review - This is 40

THIS IS 40 Leslie Mann Paul Rudd

As everyone knows by now, when Judd Apatow decides to make a movie, it’s never a tidy, easy event, but an immense outpouring of sensitivities and improvisations. The director is more of a wrangler, picking the best moments of imagination and vulnerability to shape the viewing experience, leaving the end product formless yet filled with enormous laughs and a manageable level of heartache. A spin-off of his 2007 hit, “Knocked Up,” Apatow returns to the story of Pete and Debbie, hoping to expand on the claustrophobia of their marriage as it slams into the reality of the aging process. The results are uproarious and keenly observed, continuing Apatow’s satisfying quest to inspect itchy human behavior with a pronounced silly streak. Read the rest at

Film Review - Monsters, Inc. 3D


The latest Disney film to receive a 3D makeover and a rerelease in theaters is Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.” Coming mere months after the reissue of “Finding Nemo,” “Monsters, Inc.” continues a positive trend for the company, who appear to be selecting their upgraded titles wisely, choosing features that benefit from the additional depth. The 2001 movie is certainly less expansive than “Nemo,” but its vision of a parallel universe of ghouls working to purge fear out of human children lends itself to a comfortable visual experience, with a few sequences revealing some of the best work these conversion efforts have provided thus far. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Guilt Trip

GUILT TRIP Barbra Streisand Seth Rogen

“The Guilt Trip” is a picture where the performances are flavorful but the production is much too bland. Ostensibly a comedy, the film strangely avoids anything approximating a joke, wasting humorous situations and the potential for pace on a falsely sentimental tone that’s uninteresting and insincere. “The Guilt Trip” is too busy being totally harmless that it forgets to put in the effort to be hilarious, which is exactly what ticket buyers want when they plunk down serious coin to spend 100 minutes with Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand. For a road movie, the feature goes absolutely nowhere. Read the rest at

Film Review - On the Road

ON THE ROAD Kristen Stewart

It’s been a long journey to bring Jack Kerouac’s seminal novel, “On the Road,” to the screen, which probably should’ve served as a warning to anyone daring to make the commitment. After 50 years of false starts and adaptation blues, the work has finally been dramatized, though, after watching the movie, it’s difficult to understand why anyone would be excited to turn this decidedly literary creation into a cinematic experience. Labored and miscast, “On the Road” mistakes droning meditation for soulful significance, dashing around Kerouac’s experiences without establishing connective tissue, making the feature less about the characters and more about the highlights, trying to pack in as much of the source material as possible, regardless if it flows or not. Read the rest at

Film Review - Any Day Now


One would have to be a Grinch to be anything but a puddle of tears at the conclusion of “Any Day Now.” After all, it’s a potent story about human rights, set during a time when injustice toward the gay community was a common occurrence, finding those capable of great love shut down simply due to their sexual orientation. However significant the story, it’s difficult to swallow how co-screenwriter/director Travis Fine treats the effort, selecting a Very Special Movie approach for material that deserves nuance and patience, relying on shameless manipulation to communicate simple ideas on prejudice and parenting. Every melodramatic cliché is handed the white glove treatment in this maudlin misfire. Read the rest at