Andrew Lazar

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Mortdecai Review


Bad

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 Otherwise, the film feels clumsy and outdated, and even Johnny Depp's quirky schtick seems halfhearted.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


Weak

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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Cats & Dogs: The Revenge Of Kitty Galore Review


Weak
Things have been ramped up considerably in the nine years since Cats & Dogs, and it's not good news. This film is more of a full-on spy spoof, but unlike the original it's too talky and chaotic to engage with either kids or adults.

Diggs (voiced by Marsden) is a brave but impulsive K-9 cop sacked from the San Francisco police force but recruited by the top-secret dog intelligence agency to work with veteran Butch (Nolte) to stop the menacing Kitty Galore (Midler) from taking over the world. But the cats aren't happy with Kitty's evil plan either, so feline spy Catherine (Applegate) teams up with the dogs. Yes, dogs and cats working together! Of course, Diggs' human partner (O'Donnell) and Kitty's magician owner (McBrayer) are oblivious.

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I Love You Phillip Morris Review


Excellent
Ficarra and Requa move into the director's chair for a true story that frankly could only have been adapted by the writers of Bad Santa. And by refusing to play to the cliches, they've made a film that defies categorisation.

Steven (Carrey) is a pillar of society with a wife (Mann) and family who one day has an epiphany: he can now be himself, a gay man who doesn't follow the rules. He uses brainy, charming bravado to con his way to wealth, which lands him in prison. This is where he meets nice-guy Phillip (McGregor), the love of his life. So Steven launches a series of increasingly elaborate scams to get Phillip released and then to escape from prison himself so they can be together.

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Cats & Dogs Review


OK
I have officially reached my quota for the year of talking animal movies. Dr. Dolittle 2 pushed me to the edge, and the animatronic animal flick Cats & Dogs has pushed right over it, into a giddy oblivion where I now firmly believe purple dinosaurs can communicate with humans through song and dance.

Cats & Dogs is ridiculous and harmless, a Mission: Impossible for the animal world. For years, a secret high-tech espionage war has been waged between the feline and canine races, right under the noses of ignorant humans. The spark of this high-tech war came about as the result of the dog race overthrowing the then-dominating cat race during ancient Egyptian times (they even ruled the human race). Man's best friend re-established the humans as the dominant race and has protected that balance for years. And a breakthrough for dogs is approaching, as one human, Professor Brody (Jeff Goldblum), is on the verge of discovering an allergy vaccine which will enable all humans and dogs to co-exist in peace. The only problem is that the diabolic Mr. Tinkle (voiced by Sean Hayes), a furry white Persian with the attitude of Richard Grant's character from Hudson Hawk, and his small army of pesky felines have "cat-knapped" the family dog Buddy, who has been guarding the Professor and his family from the tuna-breathed fiends. The bodyguard job then falls on the shoulders of a Beagle pup named Lou (voiced by Toby Maguire) -- who is mistaken as a secret agent dog by an Anatolian Shepard named Butch (voiced by Alec Baldwin).

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10 Things I Hate About You Review


Good
Boy meets girl. Another boy bets boy he can't score with girl. Boy pays third boy to try to loosen up girl's sister so he can get girl. Serious themes that haven't been explored since... well... since She's All That.

At least 10 Things I Hate About You has one hell of a good title. I give it points for that alone. And while this updating of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew is clever and funny at times, much of the film is just not entertaining due to bad directing by way-out-of-his-element first-timer Gil Junger.

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Assassins Review


Very Good
Okay, I admit it. I was expecting something horrible like Judge Dredd when I sat down for Assassins. Instead, imagine my surprise to find a nicely-crafted action thriller that does not feature Sylvester Stallone making a bunch of "witty" remarks.

Assassins is essentially an updating of a well-established story line. Robert Rath (Stallone) is the best in the world at what he does--killing people for money. But he's getting tired of it all and wants out of the business. Unfortunately, you can't just give two weeks notice to your faceless hit contractor; it's a bit more difficult than that. So it's understandable that Rath barely flinches when he finds out Miguel Bain (Antonio Banderas), the #2 assassin, is after him.

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Space Cowboys Review


OK
The good news about Space Cowboys is that Clint Eastwood proves to be a skilled comedic director. The bad news is that only the first half of the movie is a comedy - the second half is a sloppy attempt at a heart-pounding, Apollo 13ish, mission-gone-haywire space drama that's vague, oversimplified and unbelievable. There's a gem of an entertaining movie somewhere in there, but it's never fully realized.

The plot is solid high concept. If you did a double-take when you first heard that John Glenn would return to space, you'll love the basic premise of Ken Kaufman's and Howard Klausner's script - four daring, old Air Force codgers weasel their way back into NASA's space shuttle program to attempt an equipment repair mission that only they know how to perform. Our movie visions of strapping, young astronauts (Dennis Quaid, Bill Paxton, Ben Affleck, to name a few) are smashed once we see an aging James Garner pull on an airtight suit.

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Death To Smoochy Review


Bad
Classic children's television show hosts like Mister Rogers and Barney make great role models for children, but their trite style makes them easy targets for adult jokes. Danny DeVito's latest project, Death to Smoochy, is well-intended with its mockery of children's television and those inane hosts, however it is completely misdirected in its efforts to be funny.

After the obnoxious but popular host Rainbow Randolph (Robin Williams) is caught taking bribes from parents who want their kids on television, network head Frank Stokes (Jon Stewart) pulls the plug on his show. An exhaustive search through the downtrodden Barney wannabes to replace Randolph yields a pink, squeaky-clean rhino named Smoochy (Edward Norton), who becomes an overnight success with the kids despite his preachings of bland politically correct messages to children. Despite Smoochy's best wishes, his boss Nora (Catherine Keener) wants to cash in on the show's newfound success by selling Smoochy-sponsored cereals, cola, and string cheese. Randolph, on the other hand, is hell-bent on making life miserable for the rhino, and Smoochy's crooked agent (Danny DeVito) is busy making backdoor deals trying to sell Smoochy out to the mob.

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Andrew Lazar Movies

Mortdecai Movie Review

Mortdecai Movie Review

Despite a superior cast and terrific-looking production values, this mystery romp is a misfire on...

American Sniper Movie Review

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Once again, director Clint Eastwood lurks in the background, springing a stunningly atmospheric thriller on...

Behaving Badly Movie Review

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Cats & Dogs: The Revenge Of Kitty Galore Movie Review

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Things have been ramped up considerably in the nine years since Cats & Dogs, and...

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Ficarra and Requa move into the director's chair for a true story that frankly could...

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I have officially reached my quota for the year of talking animal movies. Dr....

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Boy meets girl. Another boy bets boy he can't score with girl. Boy pays third...

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Lucky Numbers Movie Review

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