Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) is at the plate many times in 42, Brian Helgeland’s effective, occasionally rousing film that focuses on Robinson’s first few years in the majors with the Brooklyn Dodger organization.
It’s the End of the World: Olympus Has Fallen, G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Cloud Atlas has got to be my favorite film of the year so far. Tom Hanks (Forest Gump, Catch me If You Can), Halle Berry (X-Men, Die Another Day), Hugo Weaving (Pricilla Queen of the Desert, The Matrix Trilogies) and Jim Broadbent (Moulin Rouge, Harry Potter) all gave tour de force performances. The performances combined with the film itself and the directors, I would be surprised if this film did not receive many Academy Award nominations. They were that amazing!
I recently attended a screening of the fun and heartfelt film Hotel Transylvania wherey producer Michelle Murdocca (Open Season 2, Stuart Little) explained, “Executive producer and star Adam Sandler did an amazing job joining this production late in its original inception. It took some 10 years to get this project in theatres.” She was on the project from the beginning
Frank Langella Gives An Amazing Performance In Robot & Frank!
The Expendables 2 is an action-packed, testosterone-filled sequel to the 2010 Sylvester Stallone-driven (writer, director, star, set caterer—I may be mistaken on that last part) commando adventure. This time out Stallone shares the writing credit with Richard Wenk and relinquishes the directorial reins to Simon West. The result is the rare sequel that is actually an improvement on the original. Whereas the first film was laden with expository, brooding scenes meant to establish the team’s camaraderie and air of fatalism, the sequel is more focused and tighter paced yet with a looser feel, courtesy of some macho, quasi-mocking banter. In addition, the action scenes are consistently exciting and exhilarating without being excessive and exhausting. The plot is pretty negligible…the bad guys led by Jean-Claude Van Damme want to steal a lot of plutonium, enslaving a small town-and killing an expendable Expendable (Liam Hemsworth with death written all over his face—you’ll know the minute he mentions the girl waiting at home) in the process. This galvanizes these altruistic mercenaries (they only kill for a good cause) led by Stallone and Jason Statham into doing what they do best: locking and loading to wipe out these evildoers and possibly the save the world as we know it. Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger are back, but this time they ‘re not just picking up a check—these action icons are picking up automatic weapons and blowing away the bad guys; in addition, the script abounds with references to their past triumphs that enables everyone to be in on the joke-and enjoy themselves while doing it. At the screening I attended, the biggest audience response was reserved for Chuck Norris, playing a renowned lone wolf of a mercenary. Perhaps the big screen wants him back…
Dax Shepard wrote and co-directed (with David Palmer) Hit & Run, a hit or miss chase comedy that is noteworthy for not wasting the lovely and talented Kristen Bell, as well as giving Bradley Cooper a chance to shine as a vengeful bad guy with jail issues. Shepard is Charlie Bronson, so named after he entered the witness protection program. His idyllic, anonymous existence in New Mexico (with live-in girlfriend Kristin Bell and skittish agent/caretaker Tom Arnold) is jeopardized when he decides to drive her to L.A.---thus incurring her ex-boyfriend’s wrath, which leads the ex to contact Shepard’s nemesis, a dread-locked Bradley Cooper. Much fleeing, chasing and stunt driving ensue. The car chase scenes themselves are probably the lesser part of the movie; they’re not bad but you’ve seen them before-and better. However, the writing gives the performers plenty of opportunities to show off their wares; Tom Arnold, while initially a little too cartoonish as the would-be protective agent, nevertheless gets to display flashes of likability and warmth; Bradley Cooper is like an actor reborn as the animal-loving, gun-toting robber with more than a few axes to grind. Kristen Bell finally has a lead role that gives her a chance to show many of her formidable skills, including her comic timing, intelligence and ability to project strength and vulnerability (previous films of hers generally focused on one aspect, much to the films’ detriment). Shepard (Bell’s real-life fiancé) and Bell convince and have genuine chemistry as a couple, so that their exchanges between the chases aren’t just filler, but portray the insecurities and suspicions that can befall even a seemingly happy couple. Hit & Run is a hit—whenever the tires aren’t screeching.
Technology Supreme In Fast Action Total Recall!
There are interesting and visually stimulating choices director Lein Wiseman (Underworld, Live Free & Die Hard) made for this action adventure Sci-Fi film. Taken originally from the Philip K. Dick short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale," screenwriters Kurt Wimmer (Salt, Street King) and Mark Bombeck (Race to Witch Mountain, Deception) successfully made a new twist on this remake by making it completely earthbound.
Jay Roach’s funny but uneven political spoof The Campaign pits morally lax incumbent North Carolina congressman Will Ferrell against insecure, uptight tour guide Zach Galifianakis. Before you can say “no contest,” Galifianakis, with some seriously shady financial backing, not to mention a shark of a campaign manager (Dylan McDermott), manages to give the previously unopposed Ferrell a run for his money, as the two candidates descend to the kind of overzealous one-upmanship (including a novel use of a sex video) that gives politics a bad name. While the movie makes some passing references to the current economic situation and the power of the media, much of what occurs is a little too silly, with a corresponding lack of insight, to make this a genuine political satire. Despite this lack of artistic ambition, The Campaign is pretty funny, with a few hilarious sequences including a dinner in which Galifianakis learns more than he wanted about family secrets, and a scene involving the overly eager candidates and a baby. There is solid support form Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow as Galifianakis’ rapacious backers, Jason Sudeikis as Ferrell’s campaign manager, and Dylan McDermott as Galifianakis’ campaign manager from Hell-almost literally. As for the candidates: I've rarely found Galifianakis funny in the past, yet here he manages to be likable and appealing, even when he engages in some down and dirty dealings. Ferrell’s incumbent also manages to retain his likability, even when indulging in the must outrageous, childish behavior. Amidst all the shenanigans, there is a quiet scene where Ferrell and Galifianakis share some bourbon and reflections. It is not a particularly funny scene (nor was it intended to be), but it manages to convey some of the characters’ decency, so that what happens at the end of the contest is not totally unexpected or unfounded.
The sunny trailers for David Frankel’s Hope Springs might lead you to believe this may be a cheerful comedy about post mid-life crisis, but it’s much more serious than that. Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones’ lengthy marriage has fallen into a malaise of hasty morning goodbyes, unrelieved small talk (if any) at dinner, separate bedrooms, and nothing in the way of intimacy. While Jones is seemingly content with how things are, Streep has decided (over Jones’ objections) that they will travel to a small town in Maine (called-you got it-Hope Springs) for some intensive couples therapy with compassionate counselor Steve Carell. There is some humor here- in the befuddled, cantankerous Jones’ reactions to small town life, as well as Streep’s sojourn in a tavern (under the watchful eye of bartender Elizabeth Shue—somebody get that actress more work). However, the wrenching power of the movie is in the portrayals of Streep and Jones. They are entirely convincing as a couple whose relationship is more like that of roommates than of soulmates. One can see Streep’s insecurity as she wonders if she is still attractive to Jones, as well as Jones’ fear that he is no longer the man he was-or that Streep deserves. The most intense scenes are in the therapist’s office as they lay bare, under Carell’s gentle prodding, all the disappointments and regrets-as well as the happy memories that caused them to find each other in the first place. The movie shows is how easy it is for two people to fall into marital monotony, to forego meaningful communication in favor of impersonal distance. Where the movie occasionally falls down is in not trusting the actors’ abiltities and instead adding some music to needlessly underscore the emotional moments. In spite of this shortcoming, the exquisite artistry of Streep and Jones should manage to move the hardened heart.
Directors Steve Martino (Horton Hears A Who) and Mike Thumeier (Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaur) took us on another adventure of fun and frolic with all our favorite characters and a few more for a great ride on water, land and even the back of a whale!
Savages - a Vicious Califor-noir from Oliver Stone
There is so much to savor in Oliver Stone’s Savages, especially if you’re a fan of clever dialogue, pulp fiction, film noir, Salma Hayek-and John Travolta.