THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN Rated: 9
I saw THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN yesterday (Opening day-July 3, 2012) and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you have any interest in this type film, I urge you to see it…and soon. Both Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are perfectly cast and are as accompolished as they are attractive.
BATTLESHIP Rated: 7
I was pleasantly surprised by BATTLESHIP.
I hated the trailer for it, actually ALL the trailers. That along with all the negative buzz had me prepared for a long two plus hours. While it’s not a total success, I was entertained and never even considered walking out. My basic problem with it is one of scale/scope.
The alien invaders are depicted as being so huge and so powerful that I could never get my mind wrapped around any idea that the good guy humans would be any match for them.
The trailers made it look like TRANSFORMERS at sea and the cast was not depicted or even credited. How can it make any sense to hire known/liked actors and then hide them?! Since business has been soft, clearly that marketing approach didn’t work. What I liked best are the non-CGI sequences although the FX is very well done.
Speaking of the cast, I’ve been a fan of Taylor Kitsch since televisions’ FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. How nice to see him cleaned-up. I’m also a fan of Alexander Skarsgard, best know for television’s TRUE BLOOD. Both of these young actors have bright futures. New to me is Brooklyn Decker, a former model. Based on her work here, I like her. Also from FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, as always I enjoyed seeing Jesse Plemons. And Liam Neeson is solid in support. I’m a long time fan of director Peter Berg going back to his acting on television’s CHICAGO HOPE (1994 – 2000) and look forward to whatever he does next either in front of or behind the camera.
THE BOURNE LEGACY Rated: 9
My rating of 9 is based on seeing The Bourne Legacy a second time within a few days of its theatrical release in August 2012.
Frankly, other that the Alaska-set footage in the first hour, I was mostly just confused during my first viewing. All that confusion (well almost all) cleared with a second look and satisfaction set in.
All that aside, The Bourne Legacy is a classy thriller. I’m surprised that it hasn’t been received more enthusiastically although business and reviews are generally good. (I suggest you check out the very positive Kenny Turan LA TIMES review.)
Jeremy Renner is excellent in the lead role and comparisons to Matt Damon are beside the point. I like both actors a lot this is the first time I’ve actually liked Rachel Weisz her Oscar non-withstanding. Edward Norton is effective in a large supporting part.
THE BOURNE LEGACY can boast of absolutely superb cinematography, dazzling editing, and some of the best musical scoring I’ve ever had the privilege to hear. All of these elements in the film deserve Oscar consideration. I suggest you stay through the closing credits which include Moby’s re-recording of their great song, “Extreme Ways (Bourne’s Legacy)” as Written, Produced and Performed by Moby. (It has been used in all four of THE BOURNE films now.)
Co-writer & director Tony Gilroy wins me over with this one and proves to be as expert at directing large scale action along with intimate dialog heavy dramas.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS Rated: 5
I had high hopes for this one based on early buzz coming out of the 2012 SXSW Festival and the preponderance of favorable reviews. Guess what: It turns out to be an over-the-top mess that lets a clever setup spin totally out of control. And there are zombies in it. That’s never a good sign as far as I’m concerned. Groan.
I did enjoy seeing pre-THOR Chris Hemsworth. Along with the rest of the cast, he does as instructed and is adequate. I’m almost never amused by stoners and Fran Kranz as “Marty” is no exception.
I was hoping for a SCREAM type diversion and this ain’t that.
CHRONICLE Rated: 4
I’m very surprised that this silly trifle has received an abundance of favorable reviews and just can’t understand why. Of course, I’ve never bought into the whole “found footage” gimmick that started with THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999) so keep that in mind as you read this.
For me, it’s always about the story first. There is very little story here…and CHRONICLE ends without even an attempt to explain what caused the guys to get their awesome powers from just dropping into a hole. As for me, I wish somebody had just dropped the cameras that (shakily) shot this thing into that hole and quickly covered it with cement.
Question: Since it is established early that the lead characters can fly, will somebody please explain why they would choose to drive a car to get to another location when time is of the essence. DUMB.
DJANGO UNCHAINED Rated: 4 1/2
Bloated. Boring. Bloody. Endless.
I fully realize that many serious film observers love this 165 minute orgy of self-indulgence and splatter from director-writer Quentin Tarantino but count me out.
FRIENDS WITH KIDS Rated: 3 1/2
I hated every frame of this alleged comedy and squirmed through the whole thing.
The rhythm as set by director Jennifer Westfeldt totally annoyed me.
To be fair, it has received generally favorable reviews so you just might disagree with me.
I don’t blame the cast. They all did as told and looked good doing so. And, it was especially nice to see Edward Burns cleaned-up and playing an educated, likable character. Somehow, he hasn’t reached his potential in my opinion, but this is a step back in the right direction.
FRIENDS WITH KIDS just didn’t work for me. Next.
HAYWIRE Rated: 8 ½
HAYWIRE is the first 2012 release that will find its way into my top 20 or so best/favorite films of this year.
I’m disappointed and surprised that HAYWIRE has not found the audience it deserves.
For anybody that likes action films, I highly recommend that you look for it on DVD.
Leading lady, Gina Carano is a real life MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) champ and uses those skills expertly here. And, she is beautiful. And she is comfortable in front of the camera.
The male leads are three of my current favorites. Each gets ample but limited time to register strongly. Plus, I’m happy to report that all three are cleaned-up, looking fit and well photographed. Therefore, HAYWIRE is a must see for any fan of Channing Tatum (DEAR JOHN – 2010), Ewan McGregor (THE GHOST WRITER – 2010) and/or Michael Fassbinder (SHAME – 2011).
Edited down to a taunt 93 minutes, there is not one bit of fat to mar the flow and every frame counts. This is my idea of what an action film should be.
The plot is not really the point here…and it is a bit difficult to follow. Not to worry. Enough is explained by the end and I stayed engaged throughout.
I never know what to expect from Director Steven Soderbergh. I suspect that most would agree with me that TRAFFIC (2000) & ERIN BROCKOVICH (2000) are his two best films. I find it strange that even on paper, only CONTAGION (2011) had the elements to rival those two for overall impact. While successful and entertaining CONTAGION falls a bit short of his best two and I rank HAYWIRE side-by-side with it. Sex, lies, and video tape(1989) is his third best film and in a class by itself. I certainly don’t begrudge Soderbergh earning his big paychecks for OCEAN’S ELEVEN (2001), OCEAN’S TWELVE (2004) & OCEAN’S THIRTEEN (2007), nobody is going to confuse them with serious cinema. I like KING OF THE HILL (1993), THE UNDERNEATH (1995), & OUT OF SIGHT (1998). On the other hand, I hated THE GOOD GERMAN (2006) & THE INFORMANT! (2009) and am unimpressed with the several other entries in his oeuvre.
Further, I am totally enthusiastic about his three upcoming projects: MAGIC MIKE (2012), BEHIND THE CANDELABRA (2013) & THE BITTER PILL (2013). Each of these has elements that could make them favorites.
HEADHUNTERS (HODEJEGERNE) Rated 8 1/2
This film from Norway is special. It’s in very limited USA theatrical distribution now (May 2012) but well worth watching for on DVD if it isn’t/didn’t play at a theatre near you…and it probably isn’t/didn’t/won’t. Marketing for it has been poor, in my opinion and even I wasn’t really aware of it even though I keep up with this sort of thing. Because Danish born actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is a personal favorite of mine, I was watching for it. I first became aware of Coster-Waldau in 2004′s WIMBLEDON and thought he was terrific in all 8 episodes of Fox Television’s 2008 series, NEW AMSTERDAM. (He is currently busying himself with television’s popular HBO Network’s GAME OF THRONES which I haven’t seen/don’t follow.) He reminds me of Michael Fassbender and should be strongly considered for parts appropriate for Fassbender.
I am unfamiliar with director Morten Tyldum but assume he is Norwegian. I know he is talented and love the energy he brings to this material.
All the cast is accomplished with Aksel Hennie leading the way with a bravura take-no-prisoners performance. Also, especially impressive is the beautiful Synnove Macody Lund.
An English language remake would be a great idea.
THE HUNGER GAMES Rated: 8 ½
THE HUNGER GAMES will make my Top Ten Films of 2012 and I’m hoping it will take one of ten spots as a Best Picture Oscar 2012 Nominee.
As a big fan of the book (and also the other two books in the trilogy by Suzanne Collins), my first response to the film was to feel a sense of relief. I thank the movie gods that they didn’t mess up the film. My only real objection is that the film wasn’t longer…and I rarely have that reaction. I’m hoping the DVD will include lots of deleted scenes.
All the casting is strong and Jennifer Lawrence is an inspired choice as Katniss. I predict that she will receive her second best actress Oscar nomination for her work here. Although Liam Hemsworth has little screen time as Gale, he is exactly as I pictured the character while reading the book. Josh Hutcherson is good as Peeta while Woody Harrelson is better as Haymitch. All the rest of the casting is exceptional and I didn’t detect a single misstep in any of the performances. I especially liked Amandla Stenberg as Rue and Alexander Ludwig as Cato.
Some of the early “hand held” camera work was annoying but all other technical elements were appropriate for the material.
Bring on CATCHING FIRE. If it were up to me, Gary Ross would direct it, alos.
“MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOR!”
HYSTERIA Rated: 7
How nice to see Hugh Dancy (EVENING – 2007) all cleaned up and playing a character with no real problems. Since I am a big fan of his, the fact that he is the lead in the film added considerably to my enjoyment. I have mixed feelings about his co-star, Maggie Gyllenhaal but liked her well enough here, although not one minute did I believe these two actors would ever be attracted to each other even though the script insists otherwise.
It was good to see Rupert Everett in support. He has matured nicely and not once while watching this film did he remind me of himself in that Madonna disaster that was very inappropriately named THE NEXT BEST THING (2000).
The subject matter of HYSTERIA concerns the invention of the electric vibrator in 1880s London but the approach is anything but graphic. It is slight but I was entertained.
JOYFUL NOISE Rated: 7 1/2
I thoroughly enjoyed JOYFUL NOISE both times I saw it. It qualifies as a guilty pleasure but I place a strong emphasis on pleasure. How nice it is to leave the theatre smiling and satisfied! It really should have been better and would have benefited greatly from a rewrite/polish. (Am I the only one who likes for characters to have believable arcs?!) However, I’m grateful that it got made at all.
The best thing about it is the abundant music performed full throttle by a cast that is likable, relaxed and amazingly talented. The four leads are each given individual musical solo opportunity to shine and they also work together in various combinations.
I had forgotten just how good both Dolly Parton & Queen Latifah can be when properly cast and these parts show them at their charismatic best. I remember Keke Palmer fondly from the excellent AKEELAH AND THE BEE (2006) and it’s nice to have her back so nicely matured. (And she can really sing!) Newcomer Jeremy Jordan shines as Randy. This young man is currently (April 2012) staring on Broadway as the lead in a new musical called NEWSIES, based on the good 1992 film of the same name.
Director Todd Graff is a better director than the same Tood Graff is a writer…but he deserves to get other chances to deliver additional original musical films.
Dare I even hope that the Music Branch of The Academy can get it right for a change and nominate the song Dolly Parton wrote and performs here?! It’s called “From the Earth To The Moon And Back” and it is simply lovely.
KILLER JOE Rated: 8 1/2
I had been wanting to see Killer Joe since it opened in Los Angeles on July 27, 2012 but due to questionable distribution in this market, that just wasn’t convenient. It didn’t get booked in West Hollywood, North Hollywood, Beverly Hills or Hollywood until August 31 and the fact that it is rated a well earned NC-17 from the MPAA cannot be blamed. I finally saw it on Labor Day (Sept. 3, 2012). Hopefully, the reopening of the (now Sundance) Sunset Cinema in West Hollywood will give this type specialized film better booking opportunities.
All that aside, Killer Joe is terrific! The one best single word to describe it is audacious. Although I have serious reservations about the NC-17 MPAA rating in general because of the problems it generates, make no mistake that Killer Joe is intended for adults…and there’s not a thing wrong with that. The violence is over-the-top for sure but it didn’t really bother me somehow. On the other hand, toning it down a few notches would not have hurt the film one bit and would have made it more accessible.
Credit director William Friedkin for making Killer Joe such an entertaining success…and, frankly, I’m surprised that he had it in him. He is his mid-seventies now, and based on some of his recent work, including his failed filmed version of stage-bound Bug (2006), I suspected he was far past his prime. Had I not known, I’d have figured that Killer Joe have been directed by a young first time director. It’s great to have Friedkin back in excellent form.
The acting by the five principal actors is powerful and award consideration worthy. That is unlikely because of the sex and violence but I’d love to see some love shown from SAG in their “Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture” category at least. The five are Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Gina Gershon, Thomas Haden Church and Juno Temple. Each uses a ”take no prisoner” approach but they clearly understand their characters and are fascinating to observe.
Since theatrical distribution is limited and spotty, I suggest you add this to you DVD want-to-see list…but clearly understand that it definitely isn’t for the squeamish because of sex, nudity and violence!
LES MISERABLES Rated: 9 1/2
It will be one of my 5 favorites of 2012. My only minor reservation concerns the script/plot. I was a bit confused near the end and felt like too much was coming at me all at once.
I loved all the actors and their performances/singing.
I will be shocked if Anne Hathaway fails to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. If I had a vote, she would get it. Hugh Jackman clearly deserves a best actor nomination and well may be my choice to win. Further, I was especially impressed by Eddie Redmayne and hope he is nominated as Best Supporting Actor. The music is magnificent. This film/play/music is not going to please everybody but this is a vivid reminder of just why I LOVE FILMS.
LIFE OF PI Rated: 7
I finally saw LIFE OF PIE a few weeks after its initial theatrical release and liked it better than I thought I would. It is beautifully filmed and generally held my attention.
I haven’t/won’t read the book and suspect those that have will appreciate the film more than I do. Director Ang Lee’s work is excellent, as always, but slightly less than major award-worthy this time, in my opinion.
If you like this type film, you’re in for a treat. On the other hand, if you don’t like this type film, just avoid it and shut up. Advertisements/promotions for THE LUCKY ONE make it clear that it is a contemporary romantic drama in the tradition of other works from (or similar to the oeuvre of) Nicholas Sparks (THE NOTEBOOK).
Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner, Riley Thomas Stewart & Jay R. Ferguson star and each is well cast and delivers attractively, effectively and expertly. Zac Efron has matured nicely. I haven’t liked Blythe Danner (lOVIN’ MOLLY-1974) as much for a long time…and her hair is under control this time, not a given of late.
THE LUCKY ONE is beautifully photographed by Alar Kivilo who takes full advantage of lush Louisiana locations in St. Bernard Parish. Another plus is the musical score/scoring by Hal Lindes and Mark Isham. Further, if written for the film and if the Music Branch of The Academy can remove their heads from where-ever it is that they often stick them long enough to pay attention, careful consideration for an Oscar nomination should be granted “The Story” as sung over the end credits by Brandi Carlile.
Direction by Scott Hicks (SHINE – 1996) puts just the correct spin on the material at hand.
MIRROR MIRROR Rated: 6
I really wanted to like MIRROR MIRROR…but…alas.
I’m still a big Julia Roberts fan and I’m still a big Armie Hammer. Neither of their careers will be hurt by this mistake but neither will benefit either. I look forward to their next films.
The problem here is tone and the script and/or direction just doesn’t provide expected and necessary humor. Some of the visuals are effective, but, overall, I was just bored.
MOONRISE KINGDOM Rated: 2 1/2
This one got almost all positive reviews from critics everywhere. It got 146 favorable to only 9 negative as monitored/reported by Rotten Tomatoes. (Rex Reed is the only well-known critic to react the way I did.)
Therefore, I don’t want to be responsible for anyone passing on it based on my reaction since there’s a good chance you’ll be entertained. However, for me personally, it was a huge waste of time and a very long 94 minutes. I found it pretentious, paper-thin and far too self-aware/self-conscious/self-satisfied. Clearly, I’m not of fan of director Wes Anderson’s work. So be it.
Everything else aside, I will register outrage at the incidence of tobacco use depicted throughout. Especially, do we really need to see a 12 year old smoking a pipe?!
ON THE ROAD Rated: 4
Although it does have an interesting “look”, was well cast, had decent production values, and can boast of well directed individual scenes./segments, I was totally uninvolved and could hardly wait for it to end. Further, if all scenes of people smoking various substances were cut from the film, the running time would become about 15 minutes and that would be quite long enough for me.
ONE FOR THE MONEY Rated: 2 ½
ONE FOR THE MONEY is awful in every possible way. It is sure Razzie bait & a strong contender to lead my list as worst film of 2012 and we’re still in January.
Generally, I like Katherine Heigl but she is woefully miscast and so poorly directed that she seems to have wandered onto the wrong set and has no idea of just what kind of movie she is making. And she looks terrible, and is poorly photographed …and THAT HAIR! For reasons unknown, the director regularly calls attention to said hair. This is the first time I’ve been aware of Jason O’Mara and feel he has still untapped potential. He is a likely candidate for parts also suited to Gerard Butler or Clive Owen. Other cast members seem to posture as instructed and should suffer no permanent career damage since the resulting mess is not their fault.
Director Julie Ann Robinson has some decent television directing credits which surprises me based on the evidence here. I hated the musical scoring blamed on Deborah Lurie. There are eight credited producers. They should all be ashamed of themselves for allowing this piece of crap to escape into movie theatres. BLECH.
PROMETHEUS Rated 7
Truth being told right up front here…PROMETHEUS is not my kind of film. The graphic splatter factor is just too blatant & unpleasant for me and I fully realize that I’m way beyond the target audience. So be it.
I went in fully expecting to be unable to follow much of the mythology and was surprised that I did “get” much or most of it…at least I think I did! In some respects, to me it seems that the whole thing was just a setup for a sequel and the plot takes us on a round trip that ends up right back where it started. I’ll leave it to others to figure it all out, if they wish. I’ll spend no more time pondering it.
I am surprised that, according to exit poles, much of the younger, male audience it attracted did not particularly like the film. I came away thinking they would.
PROMETHEUS is quite well produced. It looks and sounds great. I’m less impressed with the concept/story/script. Director/Producer Ridley Scott (ALIEN – 1979, BLADE RUNNER – 1982, THELMA & LOUISE – 1991, HANNIBAL – 2001) does his usual and expected terrific job. Well cast and well acted all around, Noomie Rapace and Michael Fassbender stand out. Personally, I was happy to see Logan Marshall-Green on the big screen since I am a fan of his going back to television series THE O.C. (2005), 24 (2005), & TRAVELER (2007).
SAFE HOUSE Rated: 8
Right off, I’ll confess to being confused through much of the film although I never lost interest. Complicated it is, but in/at the end, enough is made clear to bring satisfaction.
Oscar Winner Denzel Washington (MAN ON FIRE – 2004) is in full charismatic mode here and it’s clear he is having a good time. That proves to be infectious. I have mixed feelings about co-star Ryan Reynolds (THE PROPOSAL – 2009) but his performance here erases most of the memory of how much I hated him in THE CHANGE-UP (2011).
The best news is the emergence/breakthrough of a really good new action director named Daniel Espinosa. Swedish born to a Swedish mother and Chilean father, I’m expecting him to become a top choice for many upcoming action projects. With the right script, movie magic would be the likely outcome.
SAVAGES Rated: 8 1/2
I was totally engaged for the full two hours and 10 minutes of SAVAGES. It’s great to have Director Oliver Stone back doing the kind of film that he does better than any or most. I loved the cast, especially: Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson, Salma Hayek and John Travolta. (Note: Director Stone’s attractive twenty-something son, Sean Stone, has a small part playing ”Eric/Marijuana Grower”.) Generally, I dislike films about recreational drugs but this is an exception. And, it looks and sounds great. Be warned that it’s not for the squeamish but I felt the gore/violence was appropriate given the material. An added bonus for me was seeing scenes shot in downtown Laguna Beach, California. They reminded me of the many great weekends I spent there a few decades back.
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN Rated: 8
SWATH is entertaining without being particularly special or memorable. I liked both Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth a lot. Kristen Stewart was better than I expected…but I still don’t like her. In a supporting part, Sam Claflin is new to me and likely to have a bright future. At a numbing 127 minutes, SWATH is about 20 minutes too long and that’s it main problem. It does include some unexpected and impressive special effects. At the end, I was surprised to see that it has been awarded a PG-13 MPAA rating since intense violence abounds. It deserves an R.
As best I can tell, this is Director Rupert Sanders theatrical feature debut and, generally, he got it right. Expect more from him.
SPARKLE Rated: 4
Sometimes, it’s hard for me to place the blame when a film goes wrong. Not this time since the Sparkle director is also a co-writer and can’t escape criticism. I strongly suspect his intentions were good so I won’t mention his name here. Further, I don’t want to discourage the targeted primary audience from attending since that would be much more forgiving than I am.
Some of the individual scenes are decent, but things never come together and there are far-too-many plot strands. And…there is no coherent/consistent arc. Plus, there are too many songs and few really focus in on the material successfully or rise above the clutter.
My main interest in the film is that it is the last one featuring a personal favorite, the late/great Whitney Houston. In her later scenes in Sparkle, she does her job well but in the earlier scenes I doubt that even an age appropriate Cicely Tyson could have made the part interesting. Whitney Houston sings gospel hymn “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” nicely but, in the context of the story, I seriously question if it fits if the intent was for it to comment on what was happening with the story at that point.
The other performances were all on the overwrought side, obviously in response to direction. Jordin Sparks is comfortable enough in front of the camera but any evidence as to whether or not she can act is not evident here.
THAT’S MY BOY Rated: 1 1/2
Since it’s an Adam Sandler film, I knew what I was in for, but I’m still stunned at just how bad this one really is. Add it to The Top Ten Worst of All Time List.
Sandler has now established a new low. To spend any more time on it would be a waste but I will list a few words that describe what I think of it:
Disgusting. Lame. Juvenile. Mean-spirited. Racist. Xenophobic. Muddled. Crass. Wretched. Repulsive. Redundant. Rancid. Vulgar. Coarse. Stupid. Worthless. Sleazy.
THE VOW Rated: 8
This is an excellent movie. If you have any interest in the romantic drama genre, this one is for you.
Stars Rachel McAdams (THE NOTEBOOK – 2004) and Channing Tatum (DEAR JOHN – 2010) are as likable as they are attractive and neither has ever been more effective than here. They are two of my favorite newer stars and these performances illustrate why. And, the chemistry between them is exceptional.
THE VOW is well directed by Michael Sucsy and it’s very easy on the eyes and the ears.
As always, music by Rachel Portman (THE CIDER HOUSE RULES – 1999) is lovely and a big plus.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING Rated: 3
If you decide to see this piece of crap, and I recommend that you pass, what you should expect to see one of the worst films of 2012 and any other year. The tone is silly, snide and seedy. The pace is deadly. The direction is unnoticeable or non-existent. The editing/mixing together of the various strands of what passes for plot(s) is random, awkward and totally without purpose.
About the cast: I didn’t like Cameron Diaz here. I never like Jennifer Lopez anywhere. I found Elizabeth Banks very annoying. I still like Chace Crawford. I liked Brooklyn Decker in BATTLESHIP. Dennis Quaid is embarrassing. I like Matthew Morrison on GLEE. I wish Chris Rock would retire. I’m looking forward to Joe Manganiello in MAGIC MIKE.I have no idea what he was attempting to convey with his character here but it made me uncomfortable. Rodrigo Santoro didn’t damage his career but he certainly won’t include this on future his future resumes.