Silver Screen: The Score Card, May 30, 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 “comedy about adultery”) 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.
Fast and Furious VI (PG-13, **): Improbably, the Fast and Furious series has become one of the most financially successful franchises in film history. Even more improbably, the fourth and fifth entries in the series actually saw a relative increase in quality, increasingly over-the-top stunts and setpieces that generated enough dumb thrills to call them successes. This chapter, however, which directly leads into a forthcoming seventh movie, is a dud, with an overstuffed cast and a climax that’s silly even by the franchise’s own internal standards, defying not just physics but logic. Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, and even Michelle Rodriguez, who was killed off two movies ago, return along with additions Dwayne Johnson and Gina Carano to battle a generic team of bad guys for an even more generic deadly device that might as well be called a MacGuffin Bomb. The tone is too serious for a movie this silly, and aside from a cool chase sequence involving a runaway tank, the trademark action sequences feel pat.
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.
The Hangover Part III (R, *1/2): The sequel to the smash-hit Hangover had the boys (Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, and Ed Helms) getting drugged up and losing a member of the group before yet another wedding. It was stupidly improbable, but turns out no less dumb than doing a sequel without an actual hangover. Here the fellas, on a mission to take the increasingly out-of-control Alan to a sanitarium, are waylaid by a gangster (John Goodman) who wants to use them to find Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong), who absconded with $20 million in gold. The result is a generic road comedy that lacks the clever structure and audacious gags of the first two. Series director and now cowriter Todd Phillips attempts to nostalgize their previous adventures and cap the trilogy off with heart-warming callbacks, which is a betrayal of the crass, borderline-nihilistic humor that made the original such a success.
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 only.
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.
Epic (PG): In this computer-animated cartoon adventure, a teenager 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.
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.
Now You See Me (PG-13): A group of magicians use their skills to steal millions from the rich and redistribute it to the masses in this thriller from Taken director Louis Leterrier, starring Morgan Freeman, Woody Harrelson, Michael Caine, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, and Isla Fisher.
< 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.