Movie Review: "Get Hard" C+ March 25, 2015
On paper, the central joke of "Get Hard" is that a white-collar criminal (Will Ferrell) hires someone he believes is a tough felon (Kevin Hart) to help him prepare for San Quentin, where he's headed a month from now. In practice, the central joke is this: Hey, did you know that in prison, there is a lot of RAPE? Where the men rape each other? With their penises? Boy howdy, what a rapey time they all have, there in the prisons!
Movie Review: "The Duke of Burgundy" B+ March 20, 2015
Photographed in the sumptuous colors of yesteryear's art-house smut, "The Duke of Burgundy" does concern an intimate S&M relationship between two winsome ladies, Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and Ellen (Chiara D'Anna). And these ladies do indeed have sex, with each other. But don't mistake writer/director Peter Strickland's surreal, mischievous love story for mere lezploitation. I'm not sure Ellen and Cynthia even qualify as lesbians, since the film is set in a world where men don't exist. In fact, the only masculine reference in the whole thing is the title, which is a species of butterfly.
Movie Review: "Run All Night" B- March 13, 2015
"Run All Night" looks to be just another movie where bad guys threaten Liam Neeson's family, and he uses his particular set of skills to kill them all. And in truth, it isn't much more than that. But this sturdy genre exercise -- Neeson's third collaboration with director Jaume Collet-Serra after "Unknown" and "Non-Stop" -- finds the imposing Irishman in top form, menacing to villains but soft and likable to us good guys, and Collet-Serra's workmanlike proficiency keeps all the gears running smoothly.
Movie Review: "Unfinished Business" C March 6, 2015
Sometimes when I'm writing I'll get stuck on a paragraph or a sentence, leave it half-developed, and come back to it later. But it has happened (more than once, I confess) that I've been under a tight deadline and, in my haste, have forgotten to return to the problematic section to polish it up before it went live.
Eric's Blog March 2, 2015
Lisa Valentine Clark is one of my best friends, one of the funniest people I've ever met, and now a published author! Her book, "Real Moms: Making It Up As We Go," combines two of the things she is best at: improv comedy and parenting. You should buy this book (here).
Movie Review: "Focus" B February 27, 2015
"Focus" is about con artists, and the title refers to the fact that humans are easily distracted and thus subject to being conned. Some of us are easier marks than others, of course. I, for one, am almost always fooled by the tricks in con-artist movies. Even when I should know better, I think, "Uh-oh! They blew it! Their caper's not going to work! How will they get out of this?" And then it turns out they knew what they were doing all along, the setbacks were part of the plan, and I am delighted. Every time.
Movie Review: "The Lazarus Effect" C+ February 27, 2015
"The Lazarus Effect" begins with some medical students trying to resurrect a pig. This is a great use of everyone's time, you'll agree. If there's one thing we don't have enough of, it's live pigs. Actually, these students have developed a serum that might lengthen the window of time that doctors can revive a person after he or she is clinically dead. What's more, where there's usually brain damage in cases like that, this Lazarus juice keeps the brain sharp. Why, a person brought back to life with this serum might even have EXTRA brain power...
Movie Review: "'71" B+ February 27, 2015
Northern Ireland's long, bloody conflict, quaintly nicknamed The Troubles, was between people (mostly Protestant) who wanted to remain part of the U.K. and people (mostly Catholic) who wanted an independent, united Ireland. Americans may have only a vague awareness of the issues involved -- apart from a few movies and a U2 song, it hasn't been prominent in our culture -- but in watching "'71," it's easy to see parallels to Afghanistan, Iraq, Selma, and Ferguson.
Movie Review: "The Duff" C February 20, 2015
Everyone knows Duff is Homer Simpson's favorite brand of beer. What "The DUFF" presupposes is: what if it were also a mean acronym used by teens in a formulaic high school comedy? DUFF stands for Designated Ugly Fat Friend, and it's the person in a group who makes the others look better by comparison. You don't even have to be particularly ugly or fat to be a DUFF, just less beautiful or thin than your peers. It's an unfair system, but that's high school for you.
Movie Review: "Hot Tub Time Machine 2" C- February 20, 2015
"Hot Tub Time Machine 2" answers the question of how bad a movie has to be for John Cusack to want nothing to do with it. His original "HTTM" co-stars Rob Corddry, Clark Duke and Craig Robinson all returned for this misbegotten, low-energy sequel, which—despite having the same writer (Josh Heald) and director (Steve Pink) as the first one—has little of its charm. The three remaining guys travel to the future this time (taking nostalgia-related comedy off the table), and only 10 years ahead (a waste). Playing Cusack's son, Adam Scott partly fills the fourth slot in the ensemble, but it's mostly been reduced to a trio—and one without an authentic emotional core to ground it. These three buffoons and jerks are acceptable (and sometimes funny) as one-dimensional vulgarians, but pretty unappealing as protagonists.