Silver Screen: The Score Card, May 23, 2013 Edition
> opening this week in Carbondale (Friday unless otherwise noted).
< leaving Carbondale this Friday.
by Bryan Miller unless otherwise credited.
The Big Wedding (R, *): This American adaptation of a French comedy (which is the French term for Ncomedy about adulteryî) has been improperly translated. The cultural dissonance between the stiff, WASPy family and the casual infidelities that drive the plot would be too much to bear even if the movie was overloaded with extraneous subplots that add nothing but running time. Robert De Niro stars as a divorced artist now living with the best friend (Susan Sarandon) of his ex-wife (Diane Keaton). But to appease his adopted son’s conservative biological mother (Patricia Ray), a Columbian Catholic/ethnic caricature, the family must pretend the divorce never happened during the wedding proceedings, setting off a series of low-grade farcical encounters. The bride and groom (Ben Barnes and Amanda Seyfried) are almost completely lost in the shuffle in this tonally inconsistent mess, which veers from light slapstick to strained ribaldry from moment to moment. Like most weddings, you’ll probably go to this out of obligation and mostly just be relieved it’s short.
Forty-two (PG-13, ***1/2): The life of baseball legend Jackie Robinson is such an inspirational tale that any movie about him is bound to be affecting, but writer/director Brian Helgeland’s appropriately reverent biopic is such a straightforward hagiography that it fails to capture the nuances of the man and the troubled era in which he lived. Chadwick Boseman, with emotive eyes and a credibly athletic build, is excellent as the man who broke baseball’s color barrier. Less inspiring is the jowl-centric, hammy performance by Harrison Ford as Branch Ricky, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ owner who hired Robinson and who receives far too much screentime. The film doesn’t entirely avoid the tough issues, but it mostly provides the kind of historical gloss you’d expect out of a museum filmstrip. It’s better for Forty-two to exist than to not, but such a remarkable life deserves a more remarkable film.
The Great Gatsby (PG-13, ****): Baz Luhrmann adds a lot of embellishments to this livewire adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s American masterpiece–an anachronistic hip-hop soundtrack, reconstrued racial politics, and 3D, not to mention a stupid frame story bookending the novel’s action. By and large Luhrmann’s flourishes add value and some real novelty to what could otherwise be a stiff, conservative adaptation, and what it sacrifices in its goofiest moments it makes up for in fantastic ones. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as the mysterious playboy Gatsby, who throws lavish parties hoping to attract the attention of lost love Daisy (Carey Mulligan). With the help of his new pal, Daisy’s cousin Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), Gatsby finally gets his wish, with disastrous consequences. This is a lively if unconventional interpretation of the book, not a replacement for it but a nice companion piece, and Luhrmann mostly makes the right decisions in the critical moments, making this an absolutely worthwhile oddity. In 2D and 3D.
Iron Man III (PG-13, **1/2): Writer/director Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) takes over the Iron Man franchise, which seems particularly lackluster post-Avengers. A bevy of subplots and superfluous supporting players isn’t enough to distract from a stupefyingly simple plot and one-note characters motivated by nothing more than plot necessity. An evil terrorist leader called the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), who is from a country that is not China, is somehow in cahoots with an evil scientist (Guy Pearce) who’s driven to villainy after being snubbed once a party. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) must contend with this, plus distractions galore from his girlfriend (Gwyneth Paltrow) and generic best friend (Don Cheadle) in between quips and lackluster action sequences-- although admittedly the final setpiece, featuring an armada of Iron Man suits, is pretty damn cool. Downey’s charisma has been reduced to a cheap special effect in this bland blockbuster. In 2D and 3D.
< Oblivion (PG-13, ***1/2): This sci-fi action flick has nothing particularly original to offer, but it’s well-paced and gorgeous to look at. Writer/director Joseph Kosinski adapts his own graphic novel about the last two people left on Earth (Tom Cruise and Andrea Riseborough), who are assigned to be the maintenance crew for the last few machines left on the shattered planet after the rest of humanity has departed for the safety of a new colony on one of Saturn’s moons. But our man’s investigations in the ruins of his former civilization lead him to wonder if the alien attack that brought about the destruction isn’t a cover story for something more nefarious. The answers to his questions aren’t terribly original, but they’re deftly employed, and the action is crisp and effective. It makes for a movie that’s big and beautiful to look at but has barely a thought in its head. Featuring Morgan Freeman and Olga Kurylenko.
< Pain and Gain (R, ***): Michael Bay’s version of a smaller-scale, quirky comedy is still over-edited and overblown nearly beyond recognition, but his pumped-up style is a nice match with the excessive milieu of the bodybuilding world and the bizarre true tale of a trio of meatheads (Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, and Anthony Mackie) who kidnap a loathsome entrepreneur (Tony Shalhoub) and hold him for ransom. Ultimately Bay’s penchant for hyperbole at all levels gets the better of him, but along the way he conjures up a decent action-comedy that works best as a showcase for the talents of Johnson, who gives a powerhouse performance that still never quite taps the full range of his potential. It’s a slick piece of entertainment that’s funnier than it has any right to be, although it remains near impossible to tell when Bay is winking and when he’s being serious.
Star Trek into Darkness (PG-13, ****): J.J. Abrams’s sequel to his pretty nifty Star Trek reboot is sleeker and shinier than the last installment, but not smarter. Almost all traces of the franchise’s fondness for moral dilemma and cosmically rendered social-justice issues have been swept aside in favor of breakneck action sequences that are undeniably pretty thrilling. Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), and the rest of the crew (Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, and Anton Yelchin) venture toward hostile Klingon territory to seek vengeance on an assassin (Benedict Cumberbatch) who attacked Starfleet, only to discover their target is one of their oldest and deadliest foes, and that they may have been manipulated by forces back home. There’s some too-clever inversion of the original series’ second movie, but a dynamite cast and some awe-inspiring images of space, along with a great turn by Cumberbatch, keep it exciting even if it is all pretty frivolous. In 2D and 3D.
Also in or Coming to Local Theaters
> After Earth (PG-13): Will Smith and real-life son/spinoff Jaden Smith costar as father-and-son spacemen who crash land on a hostile planet Earth one-thousand years after its evacuation. It must be noted that Will’s character is named Cypher Raige.
The Croods (PG): Computer-animated family comedy about a prehistoric family that ventures out of a cave to discover the wonders and terrors of the natural world. Featuring the voices of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, and Ryan Reynolds. In 2D only.
< Disconnect (R): Ensemble drama about the way technology and social media causes isolation in modern society, featuring Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Alexander Skarsgård, and Paula Patton.
< Escape from Planet Earth (PG): Computer-animated, family friendly comedy about a group of goofy space aliens who crash land and must subsequently get off of Earth. Featuring the usual spacecraft full of celebrity voice talent, including Brendan Fraser, Ricky Gervais, Jessica Alba, and Sofia Vergara, among others. In 2D only.
> Epic (PG): In this computer-animated cartoon adventure, a teenager who gets miniaturized and embroiled in a conflict between warring sects of tiny forest creatures. Featuring the now-mandatory rundown of celebrity voice talent, in this case Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, and Aziz Ansari. In 2D and 3D.
Fast and Furious VI (PG-13): That’s right, six, because five wasn’t enough, and also these movies make a ton of money overseas. Vin Diesel and Paul Walker are again joined by Dwayne Johnson, this time as they try to track down a rogue soldier who specializes in what the promotional materials hilariously refer to as “vehicular warfare.”
The Hangover Part III (R): In the promised final installment of the popular comedy series, director Todd Phillips drops the actual hangover conceit. This time the boys (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis) are forced by a gangster (John Goodman) to track down their ne’er do well associate Chow (Ken Jeong). Featuring Melissa McCarthy, Mike Epps, Jeffrey Tambor, and Heather Graham.
> The Iceman (R): Biopic about hitman Richard Kuklinski starring Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Shannon in the title role and a terrific supporing cast that includes Stephen Dorff, Chris Evans, James Franco, Ray Liotta, Winona Ryder, and David Schwimmer.
Mud (PG-13): Matthew McConaughey stars as a fugitive who convinces two young boys to hide him. Also starring Reese Witherspoon.
Peeples (PG-13): Tyler Perry produces this distinctly Tyler Perry-esque comedy directed by Tina Gordon Chism about a lovestruck man (Craig Robinson) who faces flack from the well-to-do family of his girlfriend (Kerry Washington) when he shows up at the family reunion with plans to propose.