'Drinking Buddies' may have a cast full of popular film and TV actors, it might have a bigger budget and a more accomplished cinematographer, but it is still a Joe Swanberg movie through and through. As in previous works by the prolific independent filmmaker like 'Hannah Takes the Stairs' and 'Alexander the Last,' the plot advances glacially. The characters ramble, mumble and stammer in the extreme. The primary conflict in this movie is the protagonists' absolute inability to tell each other how they really feel beneath their flirtations and small talk.
Joss Whedon took a break from the 'Avengers' movie universe to film a slight modernization of William Shakespeare's 'Much Ado About Nothing.' A group of his friends and familiar faces from the Whedon-verse hang out at the director's house for a week and make an indie film -- the results border on the self-indulgent while blissfully eschewing pretension.
A few titters wafted through the screening of 'Dead Man Down' as the WWE Studios logo came up on the screen. “Prejudice!” I thought. “Who is to say that Vince McMahon's new(ish) venture can't produce a quality piece of filmed entertainment?” Turns out all skepticism was justified.
'Dead Man Down,' a tiresome, predictable slog through every “in too deep” crime story cliché you've ever seen has as much subtlety as the average Face or Heel shouting into the mic during a Monday Night Raw. This is a dull movie that only perks up when it veers into the laughable, as when Noomi Rapace's character intentionally spikes Colin Farrell's character's two-years-in-the-making vengeance plot because she “had a moment,” but then bounces back into plan five minutes later anyway. Yes, I'm getting ahead of myself.
"I don't want to be a good man; I want to be a great one." So says Oscar, a humble (read: crummy) magician in a traveling circus circa 1905, just before a magical tornado sweeps him and his hot air balloon away to a land that just so happens to share his nickname: Oz. In 'Oz the Great and Powerful,' Oscar (James Franco) finds exactly what his heart desires; the chance to be a great man, wealthy and powerful, the ruler of a beautiful kingdom. And the kingdom does look damn good, and most of Oz's adventures in it are pretty entertaining as well.
The third row of an IMAX screen is a sufficiently disadvantageous perspective to give you a taste of the way the hero of 'Jack the Giant Slayer' sees the world. From that angle, even regular-sized humans loom ominously overhead; you can imagine how big the giants look. But that's about as impressive as the surprisingly crummy 'Jack' gets.
This review contains spoilers for 'The Last Exorcism' -- though not for 'The Last Exorcism Part II.'
Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell), the heroine of 'The Last Exorcism,' was a great tragic figure; a sweet, innocent girl inexplicably hounded by a nefarious cult and a vicious demon named Abalam. With 'The Last Exorcism Part II,' Nell's story grows even sadder -- by extending it into this superfluous and perfunctory sequel that casts her as a quivering, helpless victim and strips away almost everything that made the first film such an unexpected delight. Gone is the effective found footage gimmick, gone are the profound questions about faith, gone, most surprisingly, is most of Bell's impressive contortionist act. This time, she does as much contorting on the poster as she does in the film itself.
'21 and Over,' despite being the directorial debut of the odious 'Hangover' writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, isn't quite the bro-fest you might think it is. Yes, it definitely treads a bit into date rape jokes and offers an easy layup to any and all homophobes in the audience (more on this in a bit) but, by some miracle, more scenes than you might expect will actually make you laugh. Despite a premise that has the blur of a Xerox of a Xerox, there are individual sequences that are, surprisingly, clever and endearing.
Among the more difficult tricks in any artform is to create something new-but-familiar. Such is the world presented in 'Stoker,' Park Chan-Wook's ('Oldboy,' 'Lady Vengeance') first English language film. You can hum along as if you've heard the tune before, but examining any specific moment reveals that, beneath the ice, there's a river of peculiarity far more unique than may first seem obvious.
'Snitch' begins when middle-class 18 year old Jason (Rafi Gavron) agrees to accept a giant box of ecstasy tablets sent to him via FedEx from a dumbass friend. Now he's facing a harsh mandatory minimum sentence unless he gives up another name to the Feds. Problem is, the one guy he knows in the drug trade is the one who snitched on him, so he's got no room to negotiate. But not so fast - his father is Dwayne Johnson.
Crime doesn't pay. It'll just make you feel bad when your parents have to jump through all sorts of crazy hoops to rescue your ass.
It's a challenge young Lena (Alice Englert) asks Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) when they first meet and when they say their goodbyes. On the surface it's a response to whether or not the book she's reading (a collection by Charles Bukowski) is worthwhile. On a deeper (but not too deep) level it comments on the true nature of a young woman born into a family of “casters cursed to the dark side.” But from my vantage point, that of a critic readying his review, it was a plea.