Silver Screen: The Score Card, July 11, 2013 Edition
> opening this week in Carbondale (Friday unless otherwise noted).
< leaving Carbondale this Friday.
by Bryan Miller unless otherwise credited.
The Heat (R, **1/2): This programmatic buddy-cop comedy would be tolerable but perfectly forgettable if not for costar (and SIU alumna) Melissa McCarthy, who shines in seemingly any situation. Here she’s a loutish Boston detective paired with an uptight FBI agent (Sandra Bullock) to bring down the world’s most generic drug ring. A great cast of supporting players, including Jane Curtin, Bill Burr, Tom Wilson, and Southern Illinois’s exceptional homegrown talent Ben Falcone help compensate for the thin plot, while Bullock holds her own without bringing anything distinctive to the table. Cops in these movies always gripe that they work better alone and don’t need a partner. In McCarthy’s case, it’s probably true.
The Lone Ranger (PG-13, ***): The confused, overstuffed, but occasionally thrilling reboot casts white guy Johnny Depp as a sage but slapstick version of Native American Tonto and turns the titular masked man (Armie Hammer) into his sidekick. The best moments of the movie play like a buddy-cop flick in a western setting, with the two vigilantes frequently at odds as they attempt to find the outlaw (William Fichtner) who killed the Ranger’s brother and massacred Tonto’s tribe. An overload of subplots and extraneous characters, not to mention a tone that veers between screwball silliness and funereal reverence, keeps the movie from ever gaining significant momentum. But in its better moments, especially the glorious finale, it’s a delightful ride.
Man of Steel (PG-13, *): Christopher Nolan produces and Zack Snyder directs this god-awful update of the Superman story, stripping it of brightness and levity and making having superpowers seem like a total drag. Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) is actually Kal-El, the last son of Krypton, raised by his adopted parents (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner) after his planet was destroyed. The few remaining Kryptonians, led by General Zod (Michael Shannon), come to Earth looking to turn it into New Krypton, and only Kal can stop them. It’s a straightforward story mangled into nonsensicality by a lot of unnecessary diversions and embellishments. The awkwardly structured script keeps the story from ever settling into a rhythm, so the final product turns out to be a relentlessly nonsensical, decontextualized group of action sequences. The performers, including Amy Adams as Lois Lane, do their best, but there’s nothing they can do to redeem this occasionally pretty but consistently moronic, self-serious material. In 2D only.
< Now You See Me (PG-13, 1/2*): One of the most flagrantly stupid movies in years. Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, and Dave Franco costar as magicians who are brought together by a fifth mystery man who helps them plot elaborate tricks in which they rob banks and give the money to their audiences. Mark Ruffalo is the FBI agent tasked with tracking them down, with some aid from professional magician-debunker Morgan Freeman. The plot is a convoluted, hilariously implausible mess leading up to a big reveal that plays more like a punchline. God-awful director Louis Leterrier can’t recreate the literally impossible magic tricks with practical effects, but must use digital wizardry, which isn’t magical in the slightest. An insult not just to the audience’s intelligence, but to intelligence itself.
< The Purge (R, *): Writer/director James DeMonaco squanders a potentially interesting premise in this mixed-up home-invasion thriller masquerading as B-movie social critique. In the America of 2022, crime and unemployment have been solved with the annual purge, when all crime is legal for a period of twelve hours. The specifics of how this works are never discussed, but the big concept is ultimately just used as an excuse to set up a basic and not-too-thrilling thriller about a man (Ethan Hawke) trying to protect his family from invading hordes. The film feigns interest in moral complexity a few times without ever having the intelligence or attention span required to follow up on its promises, instead delivering an unimpressive carnival of carnage that gets the audience hooting for all the wrong reasons.
This Is the End (R, ***1/2): Seth Rogen’s directorial debut, with partner Evan Goldberg, is both a standard Seth Rogen movie and a parody of Seth Rogen movies. Rogen and his frequent onscreen pals (Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Michael Cera) all play cartoonish versions of themselves as they hole up at James Franco’s house trying to ride out the Biblical apocalypse. The big armageddon jokes are impressive in scale, but most of the comedy still comes from the bickering and bantering among a gang we’ve become so familiar with at this point it feels like we’re a part of it. That’s what makes the movie work so well, but also why this hopefully really is the end for this cycle of filmmaking. This is either going to be the capstone to a fun cycle of comedies with a rotating troupe or the jump-the-shark moment we’ll recognize only in hindsight, when we really are lining up to buy tickets to Pineapple Express II.
White House Down (PG-13, ***): This is a tough one to grade, as it's a zero-star movie that's so delightfully stupid it works brilliantly as an action-comedy sendup. The line between spoof-er and spoof-ee is entirely blurred, as though Top Gun and Hot Shots were rolled into one movie. Here a low-level lawman (Channing Tatum) is on a tour of the White House with his impossibly precocious daughter (Joey King) when a coalition of white supremacists and anti-government mercenaries attack. Our hero must team up with the president himself, played by Jamie Foxx, a hilariously idealized version of Obama who's not only willing to forsake a second term for his liberal principals, he'll fire a rocket launcher out of the window of a moving limousine if necessary. An array of ace supporting players including Richard Jenkins, Jason Clarke, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, and Lance Reddick help make this one of the most unintentionally hilarious movies of the year. Director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Godzilla, 2012) couldn't have made such a great wink-and-nudge pseudo-comedy if he tried, but that's the beauty of this perfectly stupid piece of non-art, which is such a sterling example of brainless summer moviemaking that it becomes a referendum on the whole callous, pandering enterprise.
World War Z (PG-13, **): A perfect example of a dumb summer blockbuster trying to fake its way through on budget alone. Brad Pitt does his best to hold together this disorganized, meandering thriller about the outbreak of the zombie apocalypse, but with multiple directors-- Marc Forster is ultimately credited-- and a cadre of screenwriters, the story goes in four directions at once without ever really getting anywhere. Pitt traipses from episode to episode with no real connectivity between them, en route to a climactic solution that doesn't make sense even by the film's own shoddy, internal logic. The only thing to marvel at is the occasional broad shot of whole city blocks teeming with zombie chaos, but the big disaster sequences turn dull whenever the camera dips down to street level and we see that this horrifying horde is really just a cluster of generic, digitally rendered videogame villains. In 2D and 3D.
Also in or Coming to Local Theaters
Despicable Me II (PG): Sequel to the mediocre computer-animated kiddie comedy about a villain (voiced by Steve Carell) who goes soft when he inadvertently adopts some kids. Here he’s back, helping the Anti-Villain League fight a fellow foe. Featuring the voices of Kristen Wiig, Russell Brand, and Steve Coogan. In 2D and 3D.
> Grown Ups II (PG-13): Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, and David Spade, et al., return for a slapstick look at middle age.
> Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain (R): Kevin Hart (Death at a Funeral, The Five-year Engagement) in a sold-out standup comedy performance at Madison Square Garden.
Monsters University (G): Pixar goes back to the well for another sequel, this one a prelude to an earlier hit that shows how monsters Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) met at college. Featuring the usual lineup of celebrity guest voices, including Charlie Day, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren, Dave Foley, and Aubrey Plaza. In 2D only.
Pacific Rim (PG-13): Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth) helms this big-budget blowout about an alien invasion and the humans in robot suits who need to fight them off. The cast includes Charlie Hunnam, The Wire's great Idris Elba, Ron Perlman, and Charlie Day from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. In 2D and 3D.
> Turbo (PG-13): Computer-animated family comedy about a speedy snail who’s determined to win a big race. Featuring the usual plethora of celebrity voices, here including Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Samuel L. Jackson, Bill Hader, and Snoop Dogg. In 2D and 3D.