The Heat (2013)
Gemma La Mana/20th Century Fox
Even though the buddy-cop subgenre gets an estrogenic makeover with “The Heat,” it’s no less chauvinistic — unless your idea of gender equality is that men shouldn’t have the monopoly on assholery. Look, it’s certainly a woman’s prerogative to be deplorable if she chooses. To think otherwise would be quite sexist itself. But “The Heat” derives its comedy from the most grotesque stereotypes imaginable of careerist women, as if the moral of the whole story is that women who are capable of being collegial while juggling family and ambition could never amount to anything.
Continue reading "White Chicks" »
“Star Trek Into Darkness” does a good job of building things up before descending irredeemably into a place where no one can hear you scream. At first glance, it has everything
necessary to get our backsides onto the seats. It’s the latest in the long line
of the “Star Trek” movies, and the second since director J. J. Abrams rebooted with some success back in 2009. But once you leave the theater, you realize how dark it truly was. The setup: While observing life on a planet leftover from “House of Flying Daggers,” Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban, whose brilliance in this part is underappreciated) set in motion a chain of events which require Lieutenant Uhura’s (Zoe Saldana) boyfriend Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) to be lowered into an active volcano. To save him, a whole bunch of rules are broken, which bring Captain Kirk back to Starfleet headquarters to be yelled at by Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) and Admiral Marcus (Buckaroo Banzai himself, Peter Weller). The yelling is cut short when a villain named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch, who clearly studied at the feet of Alan Rickman’s performance in “Die Hard”) shoots them up. This sends our heroes on a secret mission to either kill Harrison, or maybe actually — since the only non-American lead character (a very uncomfortable Simon Pegg) reminds Kirk that they aren’t soldiers — instead bring him to trial. Oh, and there’s a blonde named Carol (Alice Eve) who at one point changes her clothes.
Continue reading "To Seek Out New Civilizations for New Life" »
The Internship (2013)
Phil Bray/20th Century Fox
“The Internship” reunites Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn eight
years after the Frat Pack blockbuster “Wedding Crashers.” Instead of crashing weddings
for free food, free booze and hormonal women, this time they are crashing
Google’s Mountain View, Calif., campus for prospective employment and, O.K.,
free food. The freewheeling naughts have made way for the fruitless teens. Even
those perpetual slackers who talk a good game can’t talk their way out of the
paper bag that is unemployment nowadays. In the face of the rippling
foreclosure and broken marriage, though, the Frat Pack keeps its sunny side up:
Who cares if the Google internships are only open to college students? Let’s
enroll in the University of Phoenix!
Continue reading "The Pursuit of Haplessness" »
Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
Expectations are naturally low when you enter the sixth part of a franchise, unless you’re a J. K. Rowling fan and you’re watching "Harry Potter," and with "Fast Five" being such a lackluster affair, the expectations here are rock bottom.
To attempt to offer an outline of the plot would not only be pointless, but in a way would do the film a disservice. There is a story of sorts, involving some military bad guys and a MacGuffin (in the form of a world-ending microchip) but it’s so thin and clearly only there to allow the ridiculous action to happen, that it’s barely worth mentioning. All the gang are back — including one that was supposedly dead — and they’re all needed for one last job . . . again.
Continue reading "Driving, a Hard Bargain" »
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
Zade Rosenthal/Paramount Pictures
With “Star Trek Into Darkness,” director J. J. Abrams and his cast and crew have crafted a follow-up film that feels like the second part of a two-part story. This new movie is not simply another voyage with the recast crew of the starship Enterprise; it also addresses and resolves some of the nagging concerns and problems some people may have had with the first “Star Trek” reboot film in 2009. The previous film, while funny and thrilling, was far from perfect, with the script feeling like a list of ideas cut and pasted together. A similar compilation approach has been taken with this sequel; but overall it feels far more cohesive than the previous entry, and it develops the main characters in important ways.
Continue reading "A Very Personal Enterprise" »
I'm So Excited! (2013)
Paola Ardizzoni and Emilio Pereda/
Sony Pictures Classics
Hanging an apparent left turn from his recent forays into melodrama of various flavors, Pedro Almodóvar re-embraces high-camp farce with a vengeance in "I'm So Excited!," along with the chance to regrumble his annoyance at the current state of his home country. The result is occasionally something like oxygen starvation. In Mr. Almodóvar's very broad-brush comedy, a variety of hapless and horny characters cocooned in the business class cabin of a Peninsula Airlines flight set about coupling, confessing and — in the Kenneth Williams sense — carrying on. A raft of Mr. Almodóvar's regulars pass along the aisles, including Cecilia Roth as a former dominatrix with the dirt on Spain's elite and Lola Dueñas as a vaguely psychic virgin with a bad case of peninsula envy. Flagrant fragrant archetypes all.
Continue reading "Fly the Overfriendly Skies" »
The Look of Love (2013)
Paul Raymond, not just a name to conjure with but the name to conjure with if any of your teenage years coincided with 1970s Soho, withstands most of the attempts made by Michael Winterbottom's "The Look of Love" to unpick his inner workings with outer shell safely intact. As incisive inquisitions go, Mr. Winterbottom opts to attack his subject with a soft cushion. Raymond's many supposed sins against British good taste and more certain crimes against his own family are presented as-is, side effects of a northern lad's uninhibited progress through the big city. Even the vast cultural upheavals happening in his country and on his doorstep — some with fuses lit by Raymond himself — can only vaguely be heard rumbling somewhere off in the distance, exploding out of sight and around the corner.
Continue reading "24-Carat Party People" »
Iron Man 3 (2013)
At some point in any hero's journey, the past will come back to haunt him or her, and so it is with Tony Stark a k a Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). His past mistake is Aldrich Killian, a slithering Guy Pearce as an ambitious genetic engineer who wants to form a partnership with Stark. Of course Tony Stark snubs him, and the seeds are planted for revenge years later.
Into the picture steps a global uber-terrorist known only as the Mandarin, played with delicious delight by Sir Ben Kingsley, who is clearly enjoying himself in the role. Stark's world is quite literally torn apart, and he begins his road to redemption and his own revenge.
Continue reading "Overruled With an Iron Fist" »
The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2013)
Ishaan Nair/IFC Films
Mira Nair's latest film, "The Reluctant Fundamentalist," is an investigation into Americanness wrapped in the veneer of a brash thriller, and — given recent events in domestic terrorism — eerily timely. Based on Mohsin Hamid's book of the same name, the story focuses on Changez (Riz Ahmed), a young man who is implicated in a high-profile kidnapping in Pakistan. Through conversations with a journalist, Changez retraces the steps that have led him from a sleek financial firm in New York to a radical professorship in Lahore. Jumping between moments of classic suspense and romance, Ms. Nair zeroes in on post-9/11 racism and its potentially radicalizing effects, namely on young men who feel increasingly alienated from the American dream — whatever that may be.
Continue reading "Scorn in the U.S.A." »
Prince Avalanche (2013)
Scott Gardner/2013 Sundance Film Festival
David Gordon Green’s recent mainstream oeuvre has resulted
in one hit (“Pineapple Express”) and two duds (“Your Highness” and “The
Sitter”), in both the commercial and the critical senses. So a return to his
indie roots would appear to be a welcome development for a director who initially
carved his reputation out of the Malick-esque “George Washington.” But upon
closer examination his latest, “Prince Avalanche,” is not unlike a bromance
straight out of the Apatow clique that Mr. Green has ingratiated himself with via collaborations with Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill.
But then you discover “Prince Avalanche” is actually just a remake of the 2011 Icelandic film “Either Way” by Hafsteinn
Gunnar Sigurðsson, and you wonder if Mr. Green could sink any further.
Continue reading "All the Real Bros" »