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Mortdecai Review


Terrible

Despite a superior cast and terrific-looking production values, this mystery romp is a misfire on every level. The only vaguely entertaining moments come in some snappy wordplay that's presumably all that remains of Kyril Bonfiglioli's beloved novel Don't Point That Thing at Me. Otherwise, the film feels clumsy and outdated, and even Johnny Depp's quirky schtick seems halfhearted. So even though it looks great and elicits a few giggles, it's such a mess that it's hard to imagine why anyone got involved.

Depp plays Lord Charlie Mortdecai, an art expert whose immaculately kept manor house is at risk of foreclosure due to unpaid taxes. So he leaps at the finder's fee when his old pal MI5 Inspector Martland (Ewan McGregor) asks him to investigate a murder linked to a missing Goya painting. The problem is that Martland still holds a torch for Charlie's wife Joanna (Gwyneth Paltrow), a brainy bombshell who launches her own investigation into the case. With his trusty manservant Jock (Paul Bettany) by his side, Charlie is taken to Moscow and Los Angeles in search of the Goya. And it all boils over in a chaotic encounter with a smirking art collector (Jeff Goldblum), his man-crazy daughter (Olivia Munn) and a sneaky killer (Jonny Pasvolsky).

Despite quite a lot of adult-aimed innuendo and violence, director David Koepp (Premium Rush) shoots the movie as if it's a hyperactive kiddie flick, all bright colours and shameless over-acting, with whooshing digitally animated transitions and a series of awkwardly staged car chases. None of this is remotely amusing. Even the constant double entendres are painfully overplayed, while the cartoonish Received Pronunciation accents put on by Depp, Paltrow and McGregor are more distracting than humorous. All of this leaves the characters impossible to engage with on any level; they aren't funny, endearing or even interesting.

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American Sniper Review


Excellent

Once again, director Clint Eastwood lurks in the background, springing a stunningly atmospheric thriller on audiences when they least expect it. Honestly, for an 84-year-old Eastwood is an astoundingly nimble filmmaker, able to take an audience right into a tense situation while never cheating with flashy movie trickery. This film grabs us without mercy, pulling us into a morally complex situation that gets our head spinning.

It's the true story of Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), the Navy Seal sniper credited with the most official kills after serving four tours of duty in Iraq. Based on his memoir, the film traces him from his religious upbringing, during which he's taught about guns and encroaching evil from an early age. So after the 9/11 attacks, he enlists in the Navy. His sharp-shooting skills are quickly apparent. And as he prepares for his first assignment abroad, he romances local girl Taya (Sienna Miller), a feisty woman who knows what she's getting into. Chris, on the other hand, is instantly thrown into a quandary when his first targets as a sniper are a woman and child who seem to be carrying a bomb. Over the next few years, his marriage to Taya and his moral centre are tested by his military service. And when an Iraqi sniper challenges him, he takes it personally.

Jason Hall's script sticks close to Chris' perspective, which is intensified by Eastwood's coolly efficient direction and Cooper's beefy performance. By putting the audience so tightly within Chris' point of view, we are unable to escape the psychological impact of his experiences, even if real warfare is no doubt much more horrific even than what's depicted here. Cleverly, the film never asks us to judge Chris, merely to see how battle changes him. And Cooper is terrific at finding tiny details that reveal both Chris' altered state and the core stability that never leaves him.

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Behaving Badly Review


Grim

For a comedy that so desperately wants to be rude and sexy, this movie is remarkably timid. It does a great job putting up a front as an anarchic laugh riot, but the genuinely funny moments are few and far between. And it seems to have been written by sniggering teenage boys who can only imagine what it's like to experience sex, drugs and romance, but they haven't a clue, really. Thankfully, the starry cast makes it just about watchable.

With a drunken mom (Mary-Louise Parker) and a deadbeat dad (Cary Elwes), 17-year-old Rick (Nat Wolff) pretty much has to grow up on his own. Then over two fateful weeks everything starts going wrong. Just as he seems to be making progress with hot good-girl Nina (Selena Gomez), he gets caught in a drug deal with a strip-club manager (Dylan McDermott), the cops find a dead mobster in his car, and then everyone is arrested when a house party he throws turns into a drug-fuelled sex romp. Even more precarious for Rick is the fact that he has just lost his virginity to Pamela (Elisabeth Shue), who is both his mother's best friend and the mother of his best friend Billy (Lachlan Buchanan).

Yes, the script wallows in sex and drugs, but never seems quite sure what to do with them, shying away whenever anything remotely grown-up threatens to happen. Instead, scenes degenerate into corny broad comedy that feels more than a little desperate. Director Tim Garrick throws everything he can think of at the screen, so naturally a few gags stick. Even if the plot is paper-thin, and several of the jokes are beyond offensive (including gags hinging on both statutory and prison rape), there are also several witty zingers that elicit outright laughter. Such as when Nina remarks casually that her parents are away from home attending a pro-life gun rally in Dallas.

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