Silver Screen: The Score Card, July 19, 2012 Edition
> Opening this week (Friday unless otherwise noted).
< Leaving Carbondale this Friday.
by Bryan Miller unless otherwise credited.
The Amazing Spider-man (PG-13, **1/2): The appropriately named director Marc Webb does decent work with this reboot of Marvel Comics' most successful character, but he never makes a case that it needs to exist. It's a familiar origin story: Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) gets bitten by a radioactive spider, fails to save his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen), makes a costume, and becomes a web-slinging crime-fighter. Yet again the scientist who runs the lab where Peter is bitten injects himself with a serum and becomes a super-villain, this time around a raging lizard monster (played in human form by Rhys Ifans) that consistently looks like a character from a videogame-cut sequence circa the year 2000. Better-than-average dialogue and character interaction between Parker and girlfriend Gwen (Emma Stone) and solid performances make the drama work far better than the humdrum action, which mostly takes place in the dark or underground in the sewers and is tediously conventional. Either Webb has seen too few superhero movies, or we've seen too many. In 2D and 3D.
Brave (PG , ***): Pixar’s latest is perfectly adequate but not up to their own high standards. Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) is a flame-haired princess eager to buck tradition and shirk her responsibility to be partnered in an arranged marriage. She meets a witch, makes a wish, and it backfires. What follows is both silly and predictable, with an anthropomorphic bear standing in during all the mother-daughter scenes that are supposed to form the emotional core. Neither the action nor the jokes work especially well, although the animation and visual aesthetic are astounding, especially with 3D to lend depth to the intricate backgrounds. It’s handsomely adorned but uninspired; great for kids and passable for adults, which is a big step down from Pixar’s usual demographic transcendence. Bolstered by nice vociework from Emma Thompson and, of course, Billy Connolly and Craig Ferguson, who should be (and probably are) required casting for any Scottish-themed cartoon. In 2D and 3D.
Moonrise Kingdom (PG-13 , ****1/2): Wes Anderson's latest unfolds on a bucolic island off the coast of New England in 1965, the setting for the small-scale epic love story between Sam (Jared Gilman), a lonely scout at summer camp who runs away with kindred spirit Suzy (Kara Hayward), a morose loner trapped with her stuffy psychologist parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand). Their secretive departure, the stuff of campfire legends, creates a buzz of excitement around the island as the scout master (Edward Norton) and police officer (Bruce Willis) launch search parties to find the missing couple. This isn't Anderson stretching the bounds of his comfort zone, it's Anderson at his Andersony-est, which is fantastic. All his hallmarks are here: embellished dioramas, meticulously orchestrated tracking shots, the wonderfully fussy set designs. Anderson continues to refine his aesthetic and succeeds, like his characters, in creating his own tiny, personalized, perfect world.
Savages (R, ***1/2): Oliver Stone's latest is an uncharacteristically straightforward thriller based on Don Winslow's arch crime novel of the same name. A little of Winslow's black humor and luscious language is lost in translation, but Stone hits most of the high points in this ensemble tale about the drug trade. Beach buddies Chon and Ben (Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson) happily share a girlfriend (Blake Lively) and a thriving boutique-pot business until a ruthless Mexican cartel (led by a defiant Salma Hayek and a wonderfully menacing Benicio Del Toro) move in.
Ted (R, ***1/2): Family Guy creator Seth MacFarland makes his debut both as a director of feature film and live-action (sorta) in this characteristically raunchy comedy about a little boy who makes a wish for his teddy bear to come to life. That wish comes true, and thirty years later the boy, now grown up into a lazy man-child (Mark Wahlberg), is still best friends with his talking bear (voiced by MacFarland), a pot-smoking poon-hound living in the post-glory days of his celebrity as the world’s first magical being. An impending marriage proposal to the requisite girlfriend (Mila Kunis) threatens to break the two pals apart as they’re both forced to grow up and face the adult world. The plot is a goofy, magical realist take on a too-familiar storyline, but MacFarland is an undeniably sharp jokewriter and fantastic voice talent who finds plenty of demented laughs along the way. The movie is inert whenever the computer-animated star is out of frame, suggesting MacFarland is still more comfortable with cartoons than real live performers, but it’s a solid first outing.
< To Rome With Love (R , ***1/2): Woody Allen's latest, another of his European travelogue movies, is a whimsical throwback to his sketch-comedy past featuring four vignettes about the lives of tourists and citizens in Rome. An architect (Jesse Eisenberg) seeks spiritual advice from the imaginary apparition of his idol (Alec Baldwin) to help him navigate a love triangle (with Greta Gerwig and Ellen Page); a beautiful tourist (Alison Pill) falls in love but fears the outcome when her father (Allen) visits and attempts to turn her future father-in-law into an opera star; a middle-class office worker (Roberto Benigni) is baffled when he becomes an inexplicable overnight celebrity; and a pair of small-town lovers (Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi) get separated for a day in the city and stumble upon temptation. This is lightweight Woody fare, but it's not frivolous. Some great jokes and wonderful performances from Baldwin, Eisenberg, and Page, plus an especially hilarious Benigni, make the movie feel like a two-hour summer vacation.
Also in or Coming to Local Theaters
> The Dark Knight Rises (PG-13): Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated conclusion to his Batman trilogy. Here his somber caped crusader (Christian Bale) must come out of retirement to contend with the beautiful Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and do battle with the brutal Bane (Tom Hardy). Featuring Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Marion Cotillard.
Ice Age: Continental Drift (PG): A big melt sends the crew of pre-historical animals Manny (Ray Romano), Diego (Denis Leary), and Sid (John Leguizamo) adrift on an iceberg and floating toward new adventures in the second sequel to this computer-animated family comedy. Preceded by a new computer-animated Simpsons short, The Longest Daycare. In 2D and 3D.
Katy Perry: Part of Me (PG): You won’t see the part of Kate Perry that made her famous in this PG-rated faux-documentary about the onstage and offstage life of the plastic pop star, which works as a feature-length commercial for a product already thoroughly forced on the American public. Made all the more shameless by a cash-in on the 3D craze. In 2D and 3D.
< Madagascar III: Europe's Most Wanted (PG): Sequel to the computer-animated kiddie comedy about a group of New York zoo animals who get sent back to the titular land and must continue their journey back to captivity, like animals do. Featuring the voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Frances McDormand, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Bryan Cranston, among others. In 2D only.
Magic Mike (R): Steven Soderbergh directs this project produced by star Channing Tatum, who based the film on his earlier career as a male stripper. Featuring Matthew McConaughey as the slick and-- obviously-- shirtless club owner, alongside Olivia Munn, Alex Pettyfer, and Cody Horn.
< People Like Us (PG-13): Chris Pine stars as the son of a deceased record producer (Philip Baker Hall) who is tasked in the will with delivering $150,000 to an alcoholic sister (Elizabeth Banks) he’s never met. Featuring Olivia Wilde, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Mark Duplass.
Safety Not Guaranteed (R): A strange classified ad seeking a companion for a time-traveling adventure leads a journalist (Aubrey Plaza) and her cohorts to an eccentric loner (Marc Duplass) in this comedy featuring Kristen Bell and Jeff Garlin. Directed by Colin Trevorrow.
Tyler Perry's Madea’s Witness Protection (PG-13): This time around, Tyler Perry’s title character must turn her Atlanta home into a safe house and host a family (played in part by Eugene Levy, Denise Richards, and Doris Roberts) that her prosecutor nephew has brought her. Culture clash ensues.