Glenn Close got an Oscar nomination as best actress for Albert Nobbs—the story of an Irish woman who poses as a man in order to find work in Ireland during the tough times of the 19th century. Janet McTeer also received a nomination as a plumber using the same ruse, living in marriage with another woman. Just think “Yentl” without music. The story takes some nice twists and even serves up a few jolts. But I never got past knowing that I was watching Glenn Close impersonating a man—and kind of a weird little man at that. Does it deliver what it promises? High class gender bender. Is it entertaining? Some good storytelling and acting. Is it worth the price of admission? I might watch this on cable if I were you.
Sam Worthington starts the movie checking into a swank Manhattan hotel and climbing out on the ledge. The crowd gathers, the police arrive, Elizabeth Banks shows up as a negoiator and you think—that’s it. Except, this “Man on a Ledge” has a bigger plan involving revenge and redemption and bad guy Ed Harris who claimed Worthington made off with a multi million dollar diamond. So while everyone looks up at Worthington on the ledge, his brother cracks the highest levels of security to prove his innocence. I wish I could get excited one way or another about “Man on a Ledge”—it’s not bad but it’s not great—it’s fine and it’s average—and I suppose the script twists make it worth watching. Just don’t expect it to make a lot of sense. Does it deliver what it promises? Crime thriller with a twist. Is it entertaining? Nice twists. Is it worth the price of admission? Maybe on a gloomy day.
Liam Neeson protects an arctic wilderness camp by hunting the wolves they prowl around the camp. I assume they’re drilling for oil in the far reaches of Alaska or something. Anyway, Liam and an airplane full of tough guy get on a flight back to civilization except the thing crashes, and the wolves that Liam spends his nights hunting seem to want revenge. So Liam leads the survivors through the snow, hunted by wolves. One by one they drop—kind of like Alien or a dozen other horror movies—and then the end, with a twist that some will love but left me flat. Not bad not great not black not white, just ”The Grey. Does it deliver what it promises? Man versus wolves. Is it entertaining? If you like wolves. Is it worth the price of admission? Maybe on a snow day when you have to get out of the house.
Mixed martial arts champ Gina Carano plays a spy for hire whom somebody wants to eliminate. Bad idea. She decimates an all star cast kicking, chopping, shooting, doing what ever to move on to the next foe. Carano has little or no action experience but her athletic skills put her on par with a great cast including Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, Channing Tatum, and Michael Douglas. And she does it with such style. Don’t go expecting great literature but do go for the violent fun of it. Please notice that “R” rating, too. Does it deliver what it promises? Kicks. Is it entertaining? You bet. Is it worth the price of admission? Great fun.
George Lucas tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen as action heros. The special effects take us into the airplanes with the black pilots who broke barriers during World War Two. Opening the week of the Martin Luther King holiday gives this story an extra historic context. I think most war movie fans would like “Red Tails” to take its place alongside the great war epics of our time, notably “Saving Private Ryan.” Unfortunately the dialog weighs the story down—it’s wooden and not very interesting. Stars Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr. don’t get much to work with—Howard spends his time scowling while Gooding walks around smiling and puffing on a pipe. Their roles seem inserted. David Oyelowo strikes some sparks as hot dog pilot “Lightning” Little. “Red Tails” reminds a new generation of an important accomplishment, even if this story could have been told better. Does it deliver what it promises? War movie filled with war movie cliches. Is it entertaining? Great special effects. Is it worth the price of admission? As a history lesson.
Young Thomas Horn plays an unusual youngster traumatized by the death of his father (Tom Hanks) in the twin towers on 9/11. He finds a key and begins a search for a clue he believes his dad left for him. Sandra Bullock plays his grieving mother and Max Von Sydow has a nice turn as an old man who has chosen not to speak—writing notes or raising one hand on which he has written “yes” or the other with “no.” “Extremely Loud” has a nice cast and a touching story but I wonder if the time for a 9/11 movie hasn’t arrived yet or if it has if this is the right one? Does it deliver what it promises? 9/11 story. Is it entertaining? A child’s journey. Is it worth the price of admission? Some of you will enjoy this, others not so much. Me? I liked it fine.
Two married couples meet to discuss a fight between their sons. The meeting starts on a few politically correct notes and spirals downward. Cast includes Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet. Roman Polanski directs this film of a play. In spite of the great cast and director, “Carnage” looks like a play, and drags on like a play. A couple of outrageous moments of surprise keep this from out and out failure. Does it deliver what it promises? Yuppie parents at odds. Is it entertaining? Slow and talky with a couple of good jolts. Is it worth the price of admission? I’d wait for cable to snatch this up.
Mark Wahlberg thriller. He’s a former smuggler called back into the life when his brother in law screws up a deal and owes a bad guy a fortune. Giovanni Ribisi plays the character in question and he’s very believable–especially when he’s threatening Wahlberg’s pretty wife Kate Beckinsale. “Contraband” gives a plum role to the great character actor J.K. Simmons (of “the Closer” and “Juno” among others). Simmons plays a crooked boat captain angered by the thought of not getting a cut of anything untoward on his vessel. “Contraband” throws a wonderful twist into the plot, including unseen sides of several major characters. The mix makes it fun to watch. Does it deliver what it promises? Crime caper with a twist. Is it entertaining? Good cast and plot. Is it worth the price of admission? For fun.
Gritty unflinching story of a black teen girl’s struggle to find herself and find the courage to come out of the closet to her family. “Pariah” faces family drama and pain without blinking. The lack of sugar coat gives “Pariah” an unusually strong realistic feel. In other words, don’t go expecting sunshine and happiness and everthing turning out all right. In life, everything usually doesn’t turn out ok. As the center of the movie, unknown actress Adepero Oduye gets firmly on the radar as someone to watch. The Sundance Film festival launched “Pariah,” a strong entry in the independent film world. Does it deliver what it promises? Gritty coming of age story of black teen girl. Is it entertaining? Strong stuff hard to ignore. Is it worth the price of admission? A strong independent.