Movie Review: "Dumb and Dumber To" C+ November 14, 2014
The first problem with making a sequel to "Dumb and Dumber" 20 years later -- a problem that might have been unavoidable -- is that playing an idiot is a young man's game. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels aren't "old," exactly (they're 52 and 59, respectively), but neither do they have the youthful vigor and innocence that made Lloyd and Harry such likable morons in 1994. Coming from men in their 50s, the juvenile buffoonery and slapstick often feels wrong somehow, just as it does when children try too hard to appear grown-up.
Movie Review: "Foxcatcher" A- November 14, 2014
If you don't remember the bizarre news story from the '90s about weirdo billionaire John du Pont and gold-medalist wrestlers Mark and Dave Schultz, then Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher" won't just be deeply unsettling, it will also be surprising. And even if you do know ahead of time what direction the story goes, you may not be prepared for the masterful way that Miller keeps us off-balance and uneasy, or for the gnawing sense of doom that gradually builds.
Movie Review: "The Homesman" C- November 14, 2014
Tommy Lee Jones has acted in movies of many genres, but when he directs, he sticks to Westerns. His debut behind the camera was a 1995 TV movie, "The Good Old Boys," followed 10 years later by an impressive theatrical feature, "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada." Now comes "The Homesman," a tonally disjointed, intermittently bearable drama (with awkward comic moments) that makes you wonder what TLJ ever saw in the Old West.
Movie Review: "The Theory of Everything" B- November 14, 2014
The crisp air, the pumpkin-flavored things, the respectful biopics about troubled famous people: these are the unmistakable signs of autumn. "The Theory of Everything" is about Stephen Hawking, the brilliant physicist with the robot voice, and it is as gentle, reliable, and pretty to look at as the falling of the leaves. It also has approximately the same level of dramatic tension.
Movie Review: "Rosewater" B- November 14, 2014
"Rosewater" is a sober, respectful account of an Iranian journalist's experiences covering that country's controversial 2009 election, and his subsequent imprisonment on nonsensical espionage charges. It's a serious reminder that freedom of the press is threatened in many corners of the world. And it's a perfectly good but utterly unremarkable drama that wouldn't garner much attention if it weren't the directorial debut of "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart.
Movie Review: "Interstellar" B- November 5, 2014
Like most of his movies, Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar" is about the conflict between human weakness and human ambition. Whether it's an amnesiac tracking a killer, a troubled billionaire dressing as a bat to wipe out injustice, or the last remnants of mankind seeking a new Earth, what we want to do is often far greater than what we're capable of.
Movie Review: "Listen Up Philip" A- October 31, 2014
[In theaters and Video on Demand.]
Movie Review: "John Wick" B+ October 24, 2014
There's a certain kind of action movie where a former cop/assassin/mercenary is dragged out of retirement by a nefarious act that begs for -- nay, demands -- justice (this time it's personal, usually), whereupon we are treated to a satisfying tale of violent retribution. "John Wick" is that kind of movie. In fact, it's determined to be the quintessential That Kind of Movie, slyly boiling the plot down to its barest essentials and exaggerating its hero's power for the sake of humor, all without failing to deliver the impeccably choreographed fight sequences that are the hallmark of a quality production of this genre.
Movie Review: "Fury" B October 17, 2014
The title character of "Fury" is a Sherman tank operated by the U.S. Army at the tail end of World War II, in the heart of Nazi Germany. In addition to the home-field advantage, we're told the Germans also have more firepower and better war machines than we do. But do they have more pluck and determination? More than the Yanks?! Think again, Jerry!
Movie Review: "Birdman" B+ October 17, 2014
"Birdman" opens in a dressing room at Broadway's St. James Theatre, where a fifty-ish man in tighty-whiteys sits meditating. And levitating. And hearing a guttural, self-doubting voice in his head berating him for falling this far. The man is Riggan Thomson, once the star of a blockbuster superhero franchise, now washed-up and trying to revive his career by starring in a stage version of a Raymond Carver story that he adapted and directed himself. Also, either he's losing his mind, or he really does have superpowers. Or maybe both.