A very odd blend of caper action, dark drama and romantic comedy, this slickly made con-artist romp never quite finds its stride. There's a merciful vein of sharp wit in the script, thanks to writer-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy Stupid Love) and a spiky performance from Margot Robbie. But Will Smith's presence leaves everything feeling rather tame, compromising his character by making him a nice-guy crook rather than the unpredictable black-comedy protagonist he really should have been.
It opens as the wide-eyed Jess (Robbie) approaches veteran grifter Nicky (Smith) about learning the art of the con. She follows him to New Orleans for some major pickpocketing and double-crossing in the run-up to a big football championship, but Nicky unceremoniously dumps her afterwards. Three years later, they meet again in Buenos Aires, where both appear to be running scams centred around the Formula One team owned by Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro), who's never far from his right-hand goon (Gerald McRaney). With help from his old pal Farhad (Adrian Martinez), Nicky sets out to run his sting. But Jess is a distraction, and the stakes are too high for him to take his eye off the game.
While it's one of the running gags, Nicky's soft centre is a serious problem here, making the movie feel like a vanity project for Smith, who seems far too determined to be sympathetic. (Ficarra and Requa know how to make an anti-hero likeable: see Bad Santa.) Instead, Smith is a jarring combination of beefy physicality, fast-talking thievery and squidgy emotions. Robbie is able to more effectively merge Jess' gung-ho personality with her gleeful criminality, but when they're both together on-screen it's impossible not to feel like everything about the characters' relationship is a big con. So we wait for the script to reveal its clever twists and turns. But they're surprisingly few and oddly inconsequential.
Continue reading: Focus Review
Michelle Monaghan, James Marsden, Nicholas Sparks and Denise Di Novi - Photographs of the stars on the red carpet for the premiere of "The Best Of Me" in Los Angeles at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live - Los Angeles, California, United States - Wednesday 8th October 2014
Based on the Gayle Forman novel, this teen weepie is wrenchingly emotional and packed with girly fantasies. But the characters and situations have a lot more earthy honesty to them than this summer's other big adolescent tearjerker The Fault in Our Stars. It may be just as relentlessly sentimentalised, but the issues involved are faced with a lot more grit and realism, so the film earns its sob-inducing emotions.
Set in Portland, Oregon, the story centres on the Hall family. Parents Kat and Denny (Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard) are former rockers who have mildly toned down their wild ways as they have raised their children: 17-year-old Mia (Chloe Grace Moretz) and the younger Teddy (Jakob Davies) to be independent and artistic. Although Kat and Denny are rather taken aback by Mia's obsessive love of classical music and prodigious gift with the cello. Then Mia is shocked to discover that the cool rock-god Adam (Jamie Blackley) at her high school is interested in her. As their relationship develops over the next year, it hits a few bumps along the way. And it's during one of these bad patches that Mia is in a life-threatening car crash with her family. In an out-of-body experience, she watches everyone react to her life-and-death situation, wondering, "Should I stay or should I go?"
Which of course would be a much better title for a rock-n-roll movie than this one. Never mind, since the film is structured as a peeling-onion of flashbacks and out-of-sequence revelations, Mia's conundrum is genuinely complicated, in a movie sort of way. But then everything about this film exists only in the movies, most notably Adam, the most perfect boyfriend in the history of cinema: a bad boy musician with a deep soul, open emotions and thoughtful reactions. He has so clearly been devised to appeal to the teen-girl audience that it's occasionally a bit ridiculous.
Continue reading: If I Stay Review
After three tours of duty, shellshocked Marine Logan (Efron) heads home with no plan for the future. At one point in battle he'd found a picture of a pretty girl who became a sort-of guardian angel, so he decides to locate her based on landmarks in the photo. Eventually he meets kennel-owner Beth (Schilling) in down-home Louisiana. Without telling her how he knows her, he takes a job and reluctantly falls for her while charming her smart son (Stewart) and sassy granny (Danner). But Beth's sheriff ex-husband (Ferguson) isn't happy about this interloper.
Continue reading: The Lucky One Review
Cal (Carell) is shocked when his wife Emily (Moore) tells him she's had an affair and wants a divorce. He has never even dated another woman and has no idea how to start, but one night in a singles' bar the slick womaniser Jacob (Gosling) inexplicably offers to mentor him. But even though he learns quickly, Cal is still hung up on Emily. Meanwhile, Jacob finally meets his match in the spiky-sexy Hannah (Stone), while Cal and Emily's teen son (Bobo) pines after his babysitter (Tipton), who has a crush of her own.
Continue reading: Crazy, Stupid, Love. Review
Now I'm probably the last person in the world who ought to judge what makes for a good children's movie, but if you'd asked me that yesterday, I certainly wouldn't have said James and the Giant Peach. This is a story about a young boy, James (Paul Terry), whose parents are eaten by a spiritual rhinoceros. He is adopted by his cruel aunts (Miriam Margolyes and AbFab's Joanna Lumley), who abuse him cruelly. Then an "old man" (Pete Postlethwaite) gives James some "alligator tongues" which he spills on a peach tree, creating the aforementioned giant peach. Inside this peach, where James hides to get away from his aunties, he finds a bunch of giant bugs: a Brooklyn centipede (Richard Dreyfuss), a cowardly earthworm (which is, by the way, not a bug--David Thewlis), a sultry spider (Susan Sarandon), a matronly ladybug (Jane Leeves), and sundry other insects.
Continue reading: James And The Giant Peach Review
The film may look like a relative to the Freddie Prinze Jr. vehicle She's All That (1999), but it's more like a cousin to Robert Mulligan's The Man in the Moon (1991). The story begins predictably enough: Landon (Shane West), a young teen sowing his oats through his high school years, is forced to take on charity work after orchestrating a stupid stunt that nearly paralyzes a kid. While mopping up hallways and tutoring youngsters, he comes across Jamie Sullivan (Moore), a level-headed duckling (not so ugly), with a good heart and religion at her core. If this were Prinze pap, Landon would spruce her up and show the world what it's been missing. Instead, in this Karen Janszen adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel, Jamie stays true to herself, and the shy girl has a life-changing effect on the guy.
Continue reading: A Walk To Remember Review
But, one person to another, I wouldn't be in Robin Wright Penn's shoes if you paid me a million dollars.
Continue reading: Message In A Bottle Review
Regardless of its senseless title, Original Sin does actually have a plot (albeit one of the most mangled acts of screenwriting since The Art of War, based on the book Waltz Across Darkness). Boy (Antionio Banderas) places personal ad sometime around 1900, searching for a wife. Since this is a century ago, we narrowly dodge a remake of Green Card, only to find that the Girl (Jolie) faked her photo and is actually beautiful. Skipping a few moderately useless sex scenes (getting the question out of the way, yes, we get to see Angelina Jolie's breasts again), the Girl turns out to be a con artist, swindles Boy for his money, and heads for the hills.
Continue reading: Original Sin Review
Nightmare is the story of one man's quest to discover his true purpose in life -- to look beyond the accolades of his peers, the achievements of his years, and the praise of his ego. Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloweentown, is the main dude behind the Halloween holiday for kids everywhere. But during his reign as pumpkin king, Jack has somehow lost his understanding of his place in the world and the magic he creates with his Halloween holiday. After the completion of one particular Halloween season, Jack walks with a heavy heart and ends up discovering in the woods outside Halloweentown a grove of trees with doors to all of the other holidays in the world. Imagine his surprise to discover Christmastown, a far more impressive and uplifting holiday than Halloween, surrounded by happy elves making toys, and with good cheer all around.
Continue reading: The Nightmare Before Christmas Review
Never before has murder been so much fun than at the hands of Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, perfectly cast as foils for one another in one of the blackest comedies on film. A must-see for the Gen-X set, Heathers is a scathing lambasting of the American teen in the late 1980s, but its presence will be timeless.
Continue reading: Heathers Review