As a longtime science fiction fan, there was a part of me enthralled by 'Safe Haven.' This newest adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel may as well be set on another planet – a world where everyone is perfect, (except the one guy who is bad), the weather is wonderful (even when it rains) and you can support yourself off of tips from the lunch shift.
Shot in a postcard-ready coastal town, but in the blandest possible way, this overwrought weepie about finding your "true home" is far too silly to get worked up about, and has all the daffy joy of mass dosing on multiple episodes of 'All My Children.' While too much exposure to this material could cause developmental damage to young girls (much as violent video games to young boys) biting the bullet and taking a date to such a film once in a while is, I suppose, the price of being in a relationship these days. 'Safe Haven' won't hurt too much if you keep your wits about you.
The McClanes are a weirdly demanding family. They refuse to love husband and father John until he saves each of their lives from vicious terrorists: first his wife Holly ('Die Hard' and 'Die Hard 2'), then his daughter Lucy ('Live Free or Die Hard') and now his son Jack in 'A Good Day to Die Hard,' the latest and exponentially worst film in the 'Die Hard' franchise. How many more bad guys does John McClane have to kill to get his family to see that he really does care? More, it seems; the answer is always more.
You'll see 'No' sometime after its limited release date on February 15th. I had the good fortune to watch it on February 4th, the day after the Super Bowl, our country's unofficial national holiday for advertising; the one day of the year when viewers go to the bathroom during the entertainment programming so they won't miss the commercials. We take Super Bowl ads seriously as art as well as commerce, and maybe even as reflections of our country's headspace at a given moment. That's all beneficial context with which to view 'No,' Pablo Larrain's inspirational but clear-eyed historical drama about a real moment in time when good advertising toppled a horrible dictator.
Funny is, of course, subjective. I find Woody Allen funny but there are plenty of people who find him about as amusing as being slowly asphyxiated in plastic bags from CVS. Still, I'll hazard to guess that there is no one who will find Melissa McCarthy obnoxiously singing along to Kelis' not-at-all-current "Milkshake" funny. Especially when 'Identity Thief' - a new "comedy" with McCarthy and Jason Bateman - goes to quite successful lengths to make you HATE her character. And you just might wind up hating this movie too.
Press screenings of Steven Soderbergh's 'Side Effects' -- supposedly the director's final theatrical film before his self-imposed retirement -- were carefully monitored for latecomers. Stragglers who arrived after the screening began were greeted by signs like this one, reading that "due to the non-linear nature of this film, it would be unrewarding for you to enter at this point." This sort of thing is fairly unprecedented at press screenings (at least in my 10 or so years of experience), but they do resemble warnings that were placed outside theaters back in 1960, when what would become one of the most famous movies in Hollywood history was released to theaters -- a knowing wink from "The Filmmakers," as they signed their note, indicating their inspiration in this endeavor. That inspiration can be found here -- but be warned that clicking that link could probably be considered a spoiler.
Nobody asked for this movie. But someone was going to make it. I'm just glad it was Matthew Johnson, a young (but not as young as he looks!) Canadian director/co-writer/co-star who has the chutzpah to take on a really difficult subject and the chops to deliver without coming off as crass or exploitative. There are plenty who will refuse to give 'The Dirties' the time of day, and that's somewhat understandable, but if you believe that, in order to correct a problem it must first be discussed, 'The Dirties' is, I feel, a noble mix of entertainment and social importance.
In 1982, Walter Hill directed '48 Hrs.,' with Nick Nolte as a loose cannon cop and Eddie Murphy as a fast-talking criminal. The oil-and-water chemistry worked, the movie was a hit, and an entire genre -- the buddy cop movie -- was born. Hill has had a long a varied career in Hollywood, directing tough, lean action movies and Westerns and producing the 'Alien' franchise, but '48 Hrs.' and the myriad imitators it birthed will always be his biggest legacy. That fact alone makes his new movie, 'Bullet to the Head,' interesting, since it's Hill imitating himself, with his first return to the genre since 1990's 'Another 48 Hrs.' The mixed results probably won't inspire a resurgence of buddy cop movies, but they're not terrible either, with enough Walter Hill flair to make some moments quite memorable, even if the movie as a whole has its problems.
'Warm Bodies' is a supernatural teen love story with a brain. (Excuse me. . .BRAINS!) It is hardly a memorable film, and certainly a step back for director Jonathan Levine after the masterful '50/50,' but it's cute, and if you are a high schooler looking for a date flick or slightly older and chaperoning your niece you could do a hell of a lot worse.
'Parker' is not Jason Statham's best movie, but it may have his defining onscreen moment, a perfect, succinct summation of everything pleasurable about his onscreen persona. His character, a thief and con man named Parker, has returned to his hotel room in Palm Beach. He's surprised by an assassin; since this is a Jason Statham movie, an elaborately choreographed fight scene ensues.
The assassin's weapon of choice is a knife and after he gets Parker in a headlock, he tries really hard to get Statham's face acquainted with the finer points of his blade. The knife keeps inching closer and closer to his eyeball -- so to save himself, Parker sticks up his hand and willingly lets the assassin stab him through his palm. The sacrifice gives him just enough of breather to gain the upper hand. That is The Cinema of Jason Statham in a nutshell: action and indomitable determination. His characters are all men who'll stop at nothing to win; an echo of Statham's onscreen work ethic -- he'll stop at nothing to entertain you. Even in a vehicle as average as "Parker," Statham still delivers an intensely committed performance.
I have a theory that I should probably run by an evolutionary psychologist (an actual field of study). I think we have so many people with emotional problems because our brains have not yet adapted our early fight-or-flight responses to the conditions of the modern world. This disconnect between the biological and the environmental is, in my extremely uninformed opinion, why you have people who crack on the Maury Povich show when they see balloons or something.
We can act like tough guys if we want, but we all experience irrational paranoia. Not all of us collapse like Juno Temple's Alicia in Sebastian Silver's quite extraordinary film workout 'Magic Magic.' The film opens with young Temple visiting her cousin (Emily Browning) and her cousin's friends in Chile. It's her first time out of the country, and her shyness and inexperience manifests in odd ways. (I've never seen someone shower in such a unique position before.)
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