Film Shorts

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Posted April 17, 2013 by KRISTIAN LIN in Film

The Host (PG-13) Spectacularly bad. This thriller is set in an Earth where sparkly, floating alien invaders called “souls” have taken over the bodies of most humans, turning them into peaceful, courteous, loveless automatons with a curious preference for white clothing and silver vehicles. Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) stars a human girl captured at the beginning of the film and implanted with one of the souls, only the implant doesn’t quite take. Her human personality and the soul carry on a running conversation on the voiceover track, and the device is so laughable and hokey that you wonder why no one told writer-director Andrew Niccol that it wasn’t working. This is based on a novel by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer. Somehow, it manages to be worse than any of the Twilight movies. Also with Diane Kruger, Max Irons, Jake Abel, Chandler Canterbury, Boyd Holbrook, Frances Fisher, and William Hurt.

Disconnect now playing exclusively in Dallas.

Disconnect now playing exclusively in Dallas.

Identity Thief (R) Just about everything in this comedy is spectacularly miscalculated. Jason Bateman plays a responsible, repressed milquetoast-y finance guy in Denver who travels to Florida to capture the con artist (Melissa McCarthy) who has stolen his identity. The list of this movie’s failures is long: the depiction of the con artist as an overweight, oversexed caricature; the subsequent attempt to turn her back into a real person; the movie’s left turn into an action flick when one of her victims turns out to be a crime lord who sends his thugs (Tip “T.I.” Harris and Genesis Rodriguez) after her. Bateman and McCarthy struggle valiantly to mine laughs from the material, but it’s all for little effect. Also with Jon Favreau, Amanda Peet, Morris Chestnut, John Cho, Robert Patrick, Ben Falcone, and Eric Stonestreet.

Jurassic Park (PG-13) Steven Spielberg’s 1993 dinosaur blockbuster holds up better than you might think in this 20th-anniversary 3D re-release. The script’s characters are poorly drawn (the kids especially, but the adults too), which is the biggest reason why the movie doesn’t rank with the director’s best work. Still, Spielberg’s ingenuity and flair for action sequences are on good display here — check the T. rex’s artfully stage-managed entrance or the scene with the van stuck in a tree. For a movie whose success was based on special effects that were cutting edge 20 years ago, this has aged rather well. Starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Ariana Richards, Joseph Mazzello, Bob Peck, Wayne Knight, and Samuel L. Jackson.

New World (NR) This grim, overlong Korean cop thriller stars Lee Jung-jae as a burned-out deep-cover agent inside the mob who’s torn between his callous police handler (Choi Min-sik) and his depraved, trashy, half-Chinese boss (Hwang Jung-min, providing the few notes of humor here). The movie owes an obvious and heavy debt to The Departed and/or its Chinese original, Infernal Affairs. The story’s thoroughly bound by the clichés of thrillers about cops who are in too deep, and by the time it starts to fiddle with them, too much time has gone by. Also with Park Sung-woong, Song Ji-hyo, Choi Il-hwa, and Lee Kyoung-young.

Not Today (PG-13) Cody Longo stars in this drama as a spoiled rich kid who helps an Indian man (Walid Amini) to find his daughter, who has been sold to sex traffickers. Also with John Schneider, Justin Baldoni, Wilson Bethel, Shari Wiedmann, and Cassie Scerbo.

Olympus Has Fallen (R) Gerard Butler stars in this thriller as a haunted-by-failure Secret Service agent who infiltrates the White House after North Korean terrorists breach the perimeter and massacre everyone who’s supposed to protect the president (Aaron Eckhart). The only thing that’s done well is the staging of a large-scale, multiplatform, paramilitary assault on the White House, executed in scarily plausible detail by director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day). Everything else here is lame, jingoistic, obvious, and casually racist. Oh, and the plot is full of holes, too. Every story beat is shamelessly cribbed from Die Hard, and not well, but that 13-minute White House sequence is worth buying a ticket to a different movie and then sneaking into this one for. Also with Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Robert Forster, Finley Jacobson, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, and Ashley Judd.

Oz the Great and Powerful (PG) A good-looking mess. Sam Raimi directs this movie that stars James Franco as a circus illusionist who is transported to the magical land of Oz, where he meets three magically empowered sisters (Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams) and becomes the wizard. Raimi and cinematographer Peter Deming render Oz and its creatures in eye-popping color, but the movie is tone deaf, lurching from slapstick comedy to lyricism to action thriller at will. It misses badly, whether it’s aiming for pathos or cuteness — the talking monkey voiced by Zach Braff is a big mistake. The only cast member who looks comfortable is Williams, finding the balance of funny and ethereal that the rest of the movie lacks. Also with Bill Cobbs, Tony Cox, Abigail Spencer, Joey King, and Bruce Campbell.

The Place Beyond the Pines (R) Derek Cianfrance’s follow-up to his magnificent Blue Valentine is bigger, more ambitious, and worth seeing despite its mess. The film is divided into three sections, one about a motorcycle stunt rider (Ryan Gosling) who takes to robbing banks, one about a young cop (Bradley Cooper) who brings him down, and one about the cop’s teenage son (Emory Cohen) and his friendship with a friendless kid (Dane DeHaan). Cianfrance does it all up as seriously as an O’Neill play, and his emphasis on fathers and sons only becomes too heavy in the third segment, which contains a plot revelation that’s wholly unworthy of the rest of the movie. Still, each story is fascinating in itself, with great turns by DeHaan and Gosling and an acute look at a bully who disguises himself as a best friend. Earnest and intelligent, this is an Oscar-caliber film in the midst of spring. Also with Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne, Mahershala Ali, Ben Mendelsohn, Harris Yulin, Bruce Greenwood, and Ray Liotta.

Scary Movie 5 (R) Credit the filmmakers with this much: While their latest horror-movie spoof takes on some predictably behind-the-curve targets (Black Swan, Inception), it also sends up some more current movies like Mama and the Evil Dead remake, almost certainly by parodying those films’ trailers rather than the films themselves. It’s resourceful. The spoofs still aren’t funny, though, and internet parodies have rendered movies such as these obsolete. Until someone comes up with actual material, they really should just stop these things. Starring Ashley Tisdale, Erica Ash, Simon Rex, Katrina Bowden, Sarah Hyland, Jerry O’Connell, Kate Walsh, Molly Shannon, Katt Williams, Terry Crews, Heather Locklear, Charlie Sheen, and Lindsay Lohan.

Silver Linings Playbook (R) Bradley Cooper stars in this volatile, terribly funny comedy as a bipolar former schoolteacher and die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan who leaves a mental institution to move back in with his parents. Adapting a novel by Matthew Quick, writer-director David O. Russell (The Fighter, Three Kings) captures the rage and instability inside his characters by filming ordinary domestic scenes with a whirling fury. His approach spreads to his actors, including Robert De Niro, bringing more energy than he’s brought in 20 years to the role of the hero’s combative dad, and Jennifer Lawrence, deploying her fierceness for comic effect as a cop’s widow with her own mentally troubled history. This is Russell’s warmest and most likable film, a tribute to the unconditional love that binds you to your family and your football team. Also with Jacki Weaver, Julia Stiles, Anupam Kher, John Ortiz, Shea Whigham, Paul Herman, Dash Mihok, and Chris Tucker.

Temptation (PG-13) Early on, a therapist tells her patient, “I’m not judging you.” No, that’s Tyler Perry’s job. The filmmaker’s myriad issues reach pathological levels in this Fatal Attraction rip-off starring Jurnee Smollett-Bell as a young aspiring marriage counselor whose job at a matchmaking agency leads her to cheat on her solid, unexciting husband (Lance Gross) with a wealthy, charming social-networking mogul (Robbie Jones). Perry actually comes up with some perceptive stuff in the early going about how couples go stale, but then the movie degenerates into hysteria fueled by his typical need to punish professionally ambitious female characters, especially if they have sex outside marriage. This is truly reprehensible. Also with Kim Kardashian, Vanessa Williams, Renée Taylor, Ella Joyce, and Brandy Norwood.

Trance (R) A slick, pretentious pile of nonsense. James McAvoy plays a London art expert who helps a bunch of bad guys steal a Goya painting from his auction house, gets hit in the head, and has to visit a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) to help him remember where the purloined artwork is. Director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) gives the movie a seductive look and soundtrack full of trance music — heh, heh. The script unfortunately hinges on ludicrous coincidences and character revelations that aren’t nearly as shocking as the filmmakers seem to think. Along with The Beach, this is easily Boyle’s weakest directing effort to date. Also with Vincent Cassel, Danny Sapani, Matt Cross, Wahab Sheikh, and Tuppence Middleton.

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES:

The Company You Keep (R) Robert Redford directs and stars in this thriller as a former 1960s Weather Underground terrorist who’s forced to run from the law after a young journalist (Shia LaBeouf) exposes his identity. Also with Susan Sarandon, Julie Christie, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Terrence Howard, Stanley Tucci, Richard Jenkins, Brendan Gleeson, Brit Marling, Sam Elliott, Stephen Root, Jackie Evancho, and Anna Kendrick.

Disconnect (R) Henry Alex Rubin (Murderball) directs this drama of interlocking stories about characters struggling to communicate in today’s world. Starring Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Frank Grillo, Michael Nyqvist, Paula Patton, Andrea Riseborough, Alexander Skarsgård, Max Thieriot, Jonah Bobo, and Norbert Leo Butz.

Language of a Broken Heart (R) Juddy Talt stars in and writes this comedy about a best-selling author who returns to his hometown after a romance goes bad. Also with Julie White, Kate French, Ethan Cohn, Oscar Nuñez, and Lara Pulver.

Room 237 (NR) Rodney Ascher’s documentary interviews several movie fans with convoluted interpretations of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and what it ultimately means.


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