Jason Bourne — 2 stars — Opens July 28, 2016

July 28, 2016 on 5:51 pm | In Movie Reviews | Comments Off on Jason Bourne — 2 stars — Opens July 28, 2016

Matt Damon returns as “Jason Bourne” in another adventure based on “The Bourne Identity.”  Fans thrilled to the original films based on the 1980 Robert Ludlum thriller.  In the original CIA trained killer Bourne wakes up with amnesia and gradually must discover his identity while fighting the many forces out to kill him.  As the film series progressed, the Bourne movies set the standard in fast paced quick cut non-stop action, so quick in fact that viewers who blinked could miss something.  The “Bourne” series benefited from the casting of Matt Damon, who made the role his own.  A few years ago Damon said three Bourne movies were enough.  He was right.  The new “Jason Bourne” doesn’t advance the series because it has nowhere new to go.  Bourne learns a few more things about his past and about his father’s identity but begins the movie somewhere off the grid with not much explanation other than to showcase his new life as a back alley bare knuckle boxer.  Julia Stiles emerges from the third film to access a CIA computer which puts the agency on her trail.  Her action brings Bourne out of hiding and off we go.  “Jason Bourne” turns into one long eye-popping chase, in which assassin Vincent Cassel chases Bourne, at the direction of  snarling CIA director Tommy Lee Jones, whose demeanor falls somewhere between one-note and laughable.  It makes me sad to see Jones used so poorly.  Speaking of not doing much with an actor, the rising star Alicia Vikander doesn’t fare much better as an assistant who decides her boss is part of the problem and that Bourne has value alive.  A subplot involving a computer billionaire and an internet spying scheme  doesn’t add much except for a scene reminiscent of the original “Manchurian Candidate.”  Director Paul Greengrass does too many things to amp up the tension–the music pounds and the action scenes fly.  After a while “Jason Bourne” gave me a headache.  It also gave me no reason to look forward to yet another movie which the filmmakers clearly hope to produce.  Matt Damon was right — three Bourne adventures is plenty.  “Jason Bourne” 2 stars – PG-13 – Extreme violence and a high body count.  Does it deliver what it promises?  Another Bourne whether we want it or not.  Is it entertaining?  Loud, jumpy, and nothing new.  Is it worth the price of admission?  If you must.

Nerve — 2 stars — Opens July 27, 2016

July 28, 2016 on 12:39 am | In Movie Reviews | Comments Off on Nerve — 2 stars — Opens July 27, 2016

“Nerve” feels contemporary what with everyone going around looking at their smart phones bumping into things while playing “Pokemon Go.”  “Nerve” presents as an on-line game that rewards players for successfully completing dares.  Shy high schooler Emma Roberts decides her life in the corner has come to an end and joins the fun.  She starts by kissing Dave Franco – a total stranger – and teaming up with him.  Since this is a movie we soon learn he’s a plant with his own agenda.   The dares increase in intensity and if you fear heights as much as I do you will have plenty to make you squirm.    “Nerve” has some great moments but doesn’t quite pay off.  In fact, the “Hunger Games” style ending makes very little sense.  Several things struck me watching “Nerve.”   Emma Roberts is 25 and Dave Franko about 30 while the woman who plays Emma’s best friend Emily Meade is over 30, yet we’re expected to believe they’re 18 or 19.  I guess that’s a compliment to the actors but their age difference made it a lot to swallow.   Also, to drive home the point we’re in a high schooler’s social media world, the screen fills with all kind of computer messages and other stuff that basically gave me a headache.  I like Emma Roberts and Dave Franco.  I hope the next time I see them they play someone their age.  2 stars PG-13 for violence, frightening situations, and a few sexy moments.  Does it deliver what it promises?  High school kid computer game movie.  Is it entertaining?  It zips along at 90 minutes.  Is it worth the price of admission?  Nah.

Weiner — 3 1/2 stars — Summer, 2016

July 25, 2016 on 6:17 pm | In Movie Reviews | Comments Off on Weiner — 3 1/2 stars — Summer, 2016

“Weiner” documents former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s disastrous campaign for mayor of New York in 2013.  You may remember Weiner resigned from the House of Representatives when a woman revealed a text he sent showing a bulge in his underwear.  Weiner’s marriage to Huma Abedin, the longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, provides an important and contemporary element to the scandal.  Must I remind you that Hillary and Huma are close and that Hillary had to contend with her own husband’s admission of sexual exploits?  Weiner appears to be on the road to a comeback until another women reveals texts and sexts sent by Weiner.  As the story plays out, shock jock Howard Stern brings the woman (Sydney Leathers) to New York to confront Anthony Weiner on election eve.  The chase between the woman and Weiner’s campaign is cringe inducing and jaw dropping.  The camera captures Huma Abedin’s pain in a series of breath-taking moments.  One scene between husband and wife plays out in complete silence and will resonate with any spouse who finds him or herself shamed and embarrassed.  “Weiner” also reminds us of the Congressman’s passion to improve society.  At one point the documentarians ask “Why are you letting us do this?”  Weiner has no answer, but this study of talent, and vanity and narcissism and shame is like watching a car crash.  You can’t take your eyes off the screen.  “Weiner” 3 1/2 stars.  Does it deliver what it promises?  Stunning documentary.  Is it entertaining?  Fascinating.  Is it worth the price of admission?  The must see documentary of the year.

Cafe Society — 3 stars — Opens July 22, 2016

July 21, 2016 on 9:32 pm | In Movie Reviews | Comments Off on Cafe Society — 3 stars — Opens July 22, 2016

Woody Allen mixes nostalgia with lost love in “Cafe Society.”  Jesse Eisenberg stars as Bobby Dorfman, a kid who leaves his father’s Brooklyn jewelry business to start a new life in 1930’s Los Angeles where his uncle Phil – played by Steve Carroll – rules the movie colony as a powerful agent.  Bobby’s plan is to beg  Uncle Phil for a job – and after a time Uncle Phil caves.  Bobby becomes Phil’s go-fer and gets a tour of the town from Phil’s secretary Kristen Stewart.  Eisenberg has romance on his mind but Kristen tells him she’s got a boyfriend, an older married man, who turns out to be Uncle Phil.  Just when you think the two kids will get together, fate pulls them apart, and Bobby moves back to New York where his brother has strong armed his way into the night club business.  Soon Bobby’s the toast of “Cafe Society.”  Jesse Eisenberg makes a fine stand in for Woody Allen, who narrates the story.  “Cafe Society” lays on the glamour but also mixes in a few delightful unglamorous family moments providing actress Jeanne Berlin many hilarious scenes.  I like Woody Allen, even though many of his movies feel the same.  “Cafe Society” offers echos of “Bullets Over Broadway” “Radio Days” “Manhattan” and “Annie Hall.”  I’m not complaining because I loved those movies.  “Cafe Society” tops things off with a stunner of an ending, an unexpected deeply true twist that I doubt you will see coming.  The ending makes this pretty good Woody Allen comedy almost great.  3 stars PG-13 for violence.  Does it deliver what it promises?  A by the books Woody Allen comedy. Is it entertaining?  Funny, charming, and touching.  Is it worth the price of admission?  Most certainly.

Equals — 2 stars — Opens July 22, 2016

July 21, 2016 on 9:23 pm | In Movie Reviews | Comments Off on Equals — 2 stars — Opens July 22, 2016

“Equals” joins a long list of unhappy stories set in the future where the population live in a brave new world after some shattering event.  In the case of “Equals” the population is forbidden from feeling, especially the worst of all:  falling in love.  In this  future we find Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult at work in a writing factory creating prose and the graphics to go with it.  Hoult feels something strange for Stewart and vice versa and when they finally arrange to be alone, their forbidden desire explodes.  Predictably the powers that be pursue the brave couple the better to send them to a “cure” clinic.  The ending may require a handkerchief for some, not so much for others for whom this story feels like a hundred better movies.  “Equals” might have worked better as a television movie so maybe it’s no surprise the film has been available on demand and arrives in theaters as an afterthought.  “Equals” does document the continuing appeal of Kristen Stewart, who got a lot of criticism for her early work in the “Twilight” series.  “Twilight” didn’t give her much beyond choosing a boyfriend.  She’s pretty good in “Equals” even if I didn’t pick up much chemistry between her and Nicholas Hoult.  “Equals”  2 stars PG-13 for intensity and brief nudity. Does it deliver what it promises?  Future shock.  Is it entertaining?  Mildly.  Is it worth the price of admission?  Rainy day time filler.

Ghostbusters 2016 — 2 1/2 stars — Opens July 15, 2016

July 14, 2016 on 8:32 pm | In Movie Reviews | Comments Off on Ghostbusters 2016 — 2 1/2 stars — Opens July 15, 2016

I felt like I’d seen two different movies when I walked out of the screening of the “Ghostbusters” reboot.  The first hour features sparkling laugh out loud dialog as we follow the story of Kristen Wiig, a professor seeking tenure who once wrote a book titled “Ghosts From Our Past:  Both Literally and Figuratively.”  Evidence of the book and a viral posting on You Tube ruin Kristen’s chance as a tenured professor.  Instead she renews her association with Melissa McCarthy, who has continued her ghost research with the help of wacky techno nerd Kate McKinnon.  Together the three discover evidence of a new ghost infestation and get a four compatriot when MTA worker Leslie Jones spots one on a lonely underground track.  The foursome set out to rid the Big Apple of these bad apples setting up shop with beefcake Chris Hemsworth as their dumb as a post receptionist, twisting the usual dumb blonde at the front desk character with a feminist tweek.  The guys from the original return in small cameos the largest given to Bill Murray as a “Noted Ghost Debunker.”  The four women are very likeable, with McKinnon and Jones as breakout performers.  I’m looking forward to seeing what they do next.  I reviewed and lived the summer of ’84 when the original “Ghostbusters” opened.  The theme song blared from every radio station and every kid turned out to love the movie that summer.  As with the original, “Ghostbusters” turns into a different movie for the final reel, long on computer effects and short on human wisecracks.  The reboot gets once the ghosts take over the second half and the fun steps aside for CGI graphics.  Give me more funny ladies and less special effects.  “Ghostbusters” 2 1/2 stars PG 13, a few scares and a lot of crude jokes.  Does it deliver what it promises?  Comedy remake.  Is it entertaining?  Too long and too many special effects.  Is it worth the price of admission?  Those of us who remember the original can easily take a pass.

The Infiltrator — 2 stars — Opens July 13, 2014

July 13, 2016 on 1:36 pm | In Movie Reviews | Comments Off on The Infiltrator — 2 stars — Opens July 13, 2014

Brian Cranston plays Robert Mazur, a U.S. Customs agent who wrote a memoir about the year he posed as a money launderer to infiltrate the Columbian drug trade.  Since his days on “Breaking Bad” Cranston brings style and gravitas to this kind of role.  He’s aided by a fine cast, including John Leguizamo and Diane Kruger as fellow undercover agents, and Benjamin Bratt as a sophisticated cartel operative in Pablo Escobar’s network.  I imagine Mazur’s memoir makes for tense reading.  This film feels like too many other drug world stories and a few too many scenes ring false.  Never in the two-hour running time did I feel Cranston’s life was really in danger.  Also, his ability to move between his high-powered undercover persona and his regular guy suburban dad real life feels too much like something you see only in the movies.  Cranston fans may find this ok, but it feels like the same old same old to me.   Two Star – rated “R” for sex and violence.   Does it deliver what it promises?  Drug war memoir.  Is it entertaining?  Nothing new to this.  Is it worth the price of admission?  For Cranston’s fans and there are many.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates – 2 1/2 stars – July 8

July 7, 2016 on 1:53 pm | In Movie Reviews | Comments Off on Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates – 2 1/2 stars – July 8

Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza more than hold their own with bad boys Adam Devine and Zac Efron in the very funny gloriously raunchy “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.”  In classic sitcom style Adam Devine as Mike and Zac Efron as Dave are a pair of brothers who just wanna have fun — so much fun that they have spoiled or wrecked havoc on a series of weddings and other events displayed in a hilarious home video that includes a fireworks display gone woefully wrong, plus a few physical gags with a series of bridesmaids and a hard party event with a grandfather whose heart can’t quite take it.  Now we meet Anna Kendrick as Alice and Aubrey Plaza as Tatiana, two equally hard partying girls working as waitresses at a bar who can’t quite leave the bar’s contents alone.  Meantime Mike and Dave’s father – played by the excellent Stephen Root – lays down the law.  In order for the boys to attend their sister’s Hawaii destination wedding, they must find and bring two nice girls as their dates.  A tv appearance and internet video takes the boys viral and gain the notice of Alice and Tatiana when they lose their waitress jobs.  The girls shoplift some nice dresses and put on a good enough act to win the trip.  The wedding turns into a disaster with several laugh out loud and quite blush worthy moments.  “Mike and Dave need Wedding Dates” aims low and hits hard.  The cast rounds out with Sugar Lyn Beard as Mike and Dave’s little sister, and the dryly funny Sam Richardson whom some will recognize from “Veep” as the hapless groom.  Lower your expectations and enjoy the fun in this guilty pleasure.  2 1/2 stars “R” rating – for language, nudity, and gross out situations.  Does it deliver what it promises?  Raunchy comedy.  Is it entertaining?  A guilty pleasure in league with “The Wedding Crashers” “Neighbors” and “Bridesmaids.”  Is it worth the price of admission?  Great fun

Swiss Army Man — Zero — Opens July 1, 2016

July 6, 2016 on 12:42 am | In Movie Reviews | Comments Off on Swiss Army Man — Zero — Opens July 1, 2016

“Swiss Army Man” opens with Paul Dano alone on a deserted island a survivor of some sort of wreck or accident.  Life is not worth living so Paul sets up a noose and prepares to hang himself.  But then he sees the corpse of Daniel Radcliffe, washed up on shore.  Now he has hope.  His hope turns to delight as he discovers the corpse has the ability to pass gas with such force he can use him as a human jet ski.  Soon the corpse begins to talk and together the two discuss the joys and despair of life as we know it.  “Swiss Army Man” can be seen as creative and touching or as a silly waste of time.  I like movies that are different and creative, but in this case, count me out.  Does it deliver what it promises?  Story of a very sick young man.  Is it entertaining?  Slow and depressing.  Is it worth the price of admission?  No thanks.

Our Kind of Traitor — 2 stars — Opens July 1, 2016

July 5, 2016 on 8:07 pm | In Movie Reviews | Comments Off on Our Kind of Traitor — 2 stars — Opens July 1, 2016

Ewan McGregor plays a poetry professor drawn into international intrigue in “Our Kind of Traitor.”  On holiday with his wife trying to put the spark back in their marriage, he meets loud mouthed Russian mobster Stellan Skarsgard, who takes him aside and confides he wants to defect — so if McGregor will just take this thumb drive to the authorities back in London everything will be fine.  I guess McGregor didn’t hear those announcements at the airport about not accepting a package from a stranger.  Soon McGregor and his once bored wife Naomie Harris are chasing from Switzerland to Paris  to international locations thanks in part to rogue British intelligence officer Damian Lewis, who has his own score to settle.  “Our Kind of Traitor” comes from a John LeCarre novel and feels like a good enough yarn for a rainy day but it lacks spark.  The film looks dark and fuzzy and feels that way too, in fact it feels like a copy of other better spy tales that have an average guy in the middle of the action.  Skarsgard makes a great Russian mobster.  McGregor’s fine as the guy stuck in the middle.  Naomie Harris is a little too hot to stay married to a poetry professor.  Does it deliver what it promises?  So So spy yarn.  Is it entertaining?  Slow and predictable.  Is it worth the price of admission?  Not very special.

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