Will Smith and Margo Robbie look fabulous together in the crime caper comedy “Focus”. She begins the movie trying to scam him only to learn he’s wise to her. Soon the older scam artist takes the younger student under his wing and into his bed. Act one brings Smith and Robbie to New Orleans for the Superbowl as part of a team of small time crooks, pick pockets, and thieves. The big game leads to a great scene as Smith loses one bet after another doubling up to seven figures and a hilarious pay off. The story breaks and brings the characters together a few years later for a race car scam in South America. Robbie made a deep impression as the street smart wife in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” She’s very beautiful in “Focus” and has great chemistry with Will Smith. The mid-point of the movie almost fools the viewer but by the time “Focus” gets going good we know we’re being conned. I doubt anyone will believe any of this for a moment. Does it deliver what it promises? Comedy crime caper. Is it entertaining? Fun but not convincing. Is it worth the price of admission? Maybe for a so so not bad mindless time.
Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass play a couple of doctors working on a serum to bring back to life patients who die on the operating table. They do it to a dog. It works. Olivia has an accident, so he does it to her. But somehow she’s different. “The Lazarus Effect” follows the cheap horror formula–one set with a couple of exteriors. Lots of dark hallways and a few bad dreams. Needles and knives–the better to impale you. Plus a small cast. Does it deliver what it promises? Same old same old. Is it entertaining? Reminds me of “The Re-Animator” just not nearly as good. Is it worth the price of admission? Skip it unless you are desperate to see Olivia Wilde in anything.
Anna Kendrick continues to amaze with her singing ability. In “The Last Five Years” she begins this love/marriage/break up story singing about the break up of her marriage. Anna’s story goes in reverse while her lover played and sung by Jason Robert Brown tells his story forward. The idea began as an off-Broadway musical and it adapts well to this small musical film. When their story meets in the middle and they marry, I felt a well of emotion that surprised me. And when the story ends, I left with a sense of grief and caring for the couple. It’s a nice change to leave a movie filled with emotion. Does it deliver what it promises? Unusual musical about the beginning and end of love and marriage. Is it entertaining? Very powerful. Is it worth the price of admission? Yes and you will have to hunt to find this one so remember the title “the Last Five Years. “
Most of the cast of the original sort of funny raunchfest “Hot Tub Time Machine” return for this sequel in which Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, and Clark Duke try to return to the past but wind up in the future in order to prevent someone from shooting Rob in a very uncomfortable section of his anatomy. If you go don’t bother trying to make sense of the plot because it’s got more holes than a pound of swiss cheese. The jokes mainly involve flatulence illicit sex body parts poop and bodily fluids. Plot twists, penis jokes and raunchy material comes at a clip. The effect isn’t particularly fun although Robinson is especially likeable and a couple of time I couldn’t help but laugh. Does it deliver what it promises? Raunchy comedy about time travel to the future and past. Is it entertaining? Dirty but sometimes funny. Is it worth the price of admission? You go at your own risk.
Does anybody really expect “Fifty Shades of Grey” to be a great movie? I doubt it. “Fifty Shades” arrives in time for Valentine’s Day. Based on the book about a young virgin just out of college who meets and captivates or at least interests a late 20′s Billionaire named Christian Grey. They meet cute when she shows up at his office to interview him for the school paper. He responds by coming to her college campus and — well gee I guess there’s no other way to state it — stalking her. Soon he flies her to the big city for dinner in his apartment. As part of the visit he gives her a peek at his Red Room of Pain. Christian is into S and M — as long as he’s the dominator and his partner is a submissive. What follows is dating and sex and negotiation about a contract spelling out what he can and can’t do to her if she’ll only let me practice his kinky stuff on her. Jamie Dornan looks good in a Canadian kind of way. Dakota Johnson starts the movie de-glamorized and actually is kind of funny as the star stuck young girl. As she grows into her desire for Christian she gets more done up and as an actress she’s not bad. Even thought she spends half the movie without any clothes, I came away remember her beautiful eyes. “Fifty Shades” however rarely rises above feeling just a little creepy. Once the couple start having sex the scenes are quite soft and go to great lengths to avoid any full frontal shots. I’ve seen more in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition. The film has a female director Sam Taylor-Johnston and a female script writer Kelly Marcel–so I guess you can’t call it sexist. What you probably will call it is extremely disappointing. The book ends with a cliff hanger. The book’s ending stuck onto this movie drew howls from a preview audience. I here they have two more of these in the works. I think I’ll pass. Does it deliver what it promises? Soft porn movie of spicy book. Is it entertaining? Slow and not too exciting. Is it worth the price of admission? For those who read the book and can’t keep themselves away but for others Nah.
SpongeBob and his friends have a fine time in this funny fun adventure as told to us by a very funny Antonio Banderas. The plot revolves around Krabby Patties and a secret recipe which must be chased and retrieved several times. The high point comes when SpongeBob and his pals overdose on cotton candy and yell and scream like a bunch of five year olds on too much sugar. The movie is great fun and puts us in touch with our inner five year old. Now pardon me as I plan to raid the pantry for sweets. Does it deliver what it promises? Great fun kids movie which adults can enjoy. Is it entertaining? A scream. Is it worth the price of admission? For kids and grown up kids.
“Jupiter Ascending” sure feels a lot of “Star Wars” except it switches Dar Vader “Luke I AM yourfather” for Mila Kunis “I am NOT your mother!” Mila—of the beautiful skin and piercing eyes— plays a housemaid living in a house full of Russian immigrant housemaids. But really she’s a princess. (Pardon me, but didn’t Anne Hathaway already do this?) Anyway, a bunch of spacemen come to fetch her while doctors are about to harvest her eggs. Yeech. The bad guys who want to kill her are defeated by good guy Channing Tatum who informs Mila that she is a space princess and is destined to rule the earth. Channing must save her from Oscar nominee Eddie Redmayne who wants to kill her because either she’s his mother or his sister or his second cousin. Eddie and company want to harvest the earth of us humans when we overpopulate the place. He plans to make us some kind of face cream that delays the effects of aging. “Jupiter Ascending” has a lot of chase scenes and in the nick of time moments. Too many, I’d say, probably because the filmmakers needed a way to advance the story. Does it deliver what it promises? Space adventure a la “Star Wars” just not nearly as good. Is it entertaining? Long and often boring. Is it worth the price of admission? I think I’ll take the bus.
Jude Law begins “Black Sea” losing his job. We watch him swallow his anger as some corporate snake offers him a settlement to leave. A few days later he latches on to a scheme to pilot a sub into the Black Sea to reclaim a shipment of Nazi gold lying in a U Boat somewhere in disputed waters. The usual suspects arrive hoping to split the gold and live out their lives rich. Half the guys speak Russian, the other half speak with thick Scottish brogues — you might plan on missing every other word. Also along for the ride another corporate snake who has set up the plan. That’s just to stir the plot even more and sure enough late on he throws out a plot twist I never saw coming. Law’s a fine actor and the movie has great tension. Men in submarines working in close quarters not trusting each other. And let’s not forget the money — a Nazi sub full of golf — Das Loot! Does it deliver what it promises> Taunt undersea drama with a nice twist. Is it entertaining? Gets it done. Is it worth the price of admission? For a January release.
Not even Octavia Spencer and Kevin Costner can save this overcooked script about a custody battle for a cute seven-year old mixed race girl. Costner plays a wealthy California lawyer whose daughter has died in childbirth, leaving Costner and his wife to raise her. Jillian Estrell plays the granddaughter and is quite winning. Suddenly and off camera as the story begins, Costner’s wife dies in an automobile accident. Spencer suggests Costner bring the child over for more visits. The suggestion turns into an argument that lands both families in family court. The child’s father has disappeared in a fog of drug addiction and prison. His reappearance – played by Andre Holland – complicates matters. Anthony Mackie – another member of Spencer’s large family – conveniently has a law degree and the smarts to win custody away from Costner, who begins to drink excessively after his wife’s death. The resolution feels contrived but not much more contrived that everything else about Black or White. Does it deliver what it promises? Drama about race, money, and parenting. Is it entertaining? Dramatic but not believable. Is it worth the price of admission? Not very good.
Early word has “Leviathan” the favorite for this year’s best foreign film Oscar. Set in modern-day Russia, an average man with a young wife and an angry son fights back when the corrupt local officials who run his town decide to confiscate his house. An Army friend comes to his aid. Officials fight back. His friends fall somewhere between betrayal and supporters. By the end of “Leviathan” the viewers almost stumble out of the theater — with the weight of a modern-day believable portrait of post-Soviet Russia. Don’t expect a zippy tight drama. “Leviathan” takes its sweet time — almost two and a half hours — adding to the plot’s punch. Now showing at the Avalon theater and attracting Washington’s Russian community. Expect to overhear those who know say “That’s about right.” Does it deliver what it promises? Dark Russian modern day drama. Is it entertaining? Powerful is a better description Is it worth the price of admission? I’ll put my money on “Leviathan” as best foreign film this year.