A film about a man who is addicted to pornography hardly sounds like your usual rom-com fare, but critics almost unanimously conclude that Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the writer, director and star of Don Jon, pulls it off. Who would have thought one of the most amusing and oddly insightful romantic comedies would be built around the power and the potent pull of porn? asks Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times. Claudia Puig in USA Today notes that The film cold have come off as a frankly smutty exercise. Instead, she says, Gordon-Levvitt has made a satirical, assured, darkly comedic and even poignant film that has a fair amount to say. Manohla Dargis in The New York Times describes it as a deceptively sincere movie about masculinity and its discontents. And Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News writes that Gordon-Levitt knows just how to reel us in (sex) before schooling us on the important things in life (love). But a few, mostly male critics, aren't impressed. Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal calls it an overheated disquisition on the pleasures and limitations of masturbation. And Rex Reed in the New York Observer simply dismisses it as a benign little time-waster.
Virtually every major critic has praised the script, direction, and performances of Prisoners. But some are suggesting that the problem with it may be that it's just too effective -- a film about kidnapped children that will leave moviegoers unsettled even as they leave the theater. A devastating psychological thriller, Prisoners pulls us deep into our worst fear: the Amber Alert, writes David Hiltbrand in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Audiences are likely to be surprised, no, shocked, by its twists, several critics suggest. A.O. Scott in The New York Times concludes: By the end, you may be a little worn out, and perhaps also slightly let down by the fussily clever revelations that wrap up the story, but in the meantime, you are a willing captive, unable [to] tell the difference between dread and delight. A few other critics express uncertainty about The Ending. Lou Lumenick in the New York Post remarks that it is a film that seems headed toward one conclusion, then veers toward another. Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe and Mail remarks, The film you begin watching when The Lights dim is not the same one you carry home from the theater. But Peter Hartlaub in the San Francisco Chronicle assures his readers, The final scenes are anything but a cop-out. The two stars also come in for their fair share of praise. Richard Roeper in the Chicago Sun-Times writes: Best performance of Hugh Jackman's career. Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times echoes that assessment, calling his performance unforgettable, then writes that Gyllenhaal continues to power through the darker roles he's favored lately. All in all, writes Rex Reed in the New York Observer, When it comes to thrillers, this one is As Good As It Gets. Not for the squeamish, but for anyone who loves movies, it's too exhilarating to miss.
Opening in just 6 theaters, Woody Allen's latest film, Blue Jasmine, is receiving some of his best reviews ever, thanks mostly to the performance of Cate Blanchett. Her character, Jasmine French, writes Manohla Dargis in The New York Times, is brilliantly brought to quivering life by Ms. Blanchett in Allen's most sustained, satisfying and resonant film since Match Point. Blanchett, writes David Denby in The New Yorker, gives the most complicated and demanding performance of her movie career in what he regards as the strongest, most resonant movie Woody Allen has made in years. That comment is echoed by Claudia Puig in USA Today, who says of Blanchett's performance: It's one of the year's finest, most complex portrayals, in one of Allen's best films in years. Left-handed praise comes from Rex Reed in the New York Observer. I do not consider Jasmine a typical Woody Allen comedy., he writes. It's better than anything you might imagine.
That cloud of dust kicked up last weekend by the great horse Silver may now cloud the opening of another megabudget film, Pacific Rim, which opens on Friday. With several analysts suggesting that audiences are becoming inured to multimillion-dollar special effects, the latest $200-million blockbuster, featuring a plethora of digitally created robots and monsters, may open with as little as $25-35 million, according to Daily Variety. Early reviews have been decidedly mixed. Joe Neumaier in the New York Daily News suggests that nine-year-old boys might go crazy for the robots and sea monsters in the movie, but if you're old enough to buy alcohol, Rim will likely be as gripping as watching a Transformer toy battle in a bathtub with a rubber dinosaur. Rex Reed in the New York Observer wasn't even impressed by the film's costly special effects. I suppose some effort should be made to extend at least a one-star rating for computer graphics, since that is all this incredible waste of time and money is about, he wrote, but even the special effects are cheesy and stupid. But Lou Lumenick awarded four stars to the movie in the New York Post, commenting, This ultimate geekfest will remind you of at least two dozen earlier movies. And I loved, loved every second. And Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune concluded: It's noisy, overscaled fun, this picture, and now and then a little poetry sneaks in to tantalize.
On a per-theater basis, the top earner of the weekend was not any of the $100-million blockbusters. It was director Pedro AlmodÃ³var's comedy I'm So Excited!, which debuted with $105,000 in five theaters -- or more than $20,000 per theater. The film's success came despite mostly negative reviews. (The New York Times called it airless, uninvolving. But Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times predicted that it will likely divide audiences into love-it or hate-it camps, as any good-bad campy film should.) Also opening in the art houses was Neil Jordan's vampire tale Byzantium, which collected $18,000 from six theaters and drew mixed reviews. It's not perfect, but when it works, Byzantium towers above all of the romantic vampire slobber we've been getting lately, wrote Rex Reed in the New York Observer. On the other hand, Kyle Smith in the New York Post awarded the movie a single star and commented that star Saoirse Ronan and the movie need a blood transfusion.
Man of Steel is another one of those movies that are often described as critic-proof. Good thing, too, because most critics are flinging kryptonite at it. Referring to the opening scenes, which describe the birth of Kal-El on the doomed planet Krypton, Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal remarks, On our planet, however, the story proves to be a miscarriage, if not quite an abortion. Here's one more studio extravaganza brought down by numbing action and an addiction to generic digital effects. Rex Reed in the New York Observer grouses: Despite an obscene budget that could have made a giant stride in the cure for cancer, there isn't much originality, and the whole endeavor appears to be the work of grown men who never outgrew puberty. Most of the reviews are quite so negative. Ty Burr in the Boston Globe finds much to like about it, but what's missing, he writes, is a sense of lightness, of pop joy. and in the final half hour the film simply gives in to The Urge to just smash things. Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune acknowledges that the film has all the stuff it takes to compete in the modern blockbuster world. However, he adds, The scale of the destruction borders on the grotesque. By the time Superman squares off against General Zod ... in a climactic, city-destroying Melee that goes on for what feels like weeks, it's no wonder the boy born Kal-El on Krypton eventually transforms into a bit of a prima donna. Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times allows that the story is well-imagined in terms of broad outlines that are more science fiction than superhero. However, he adds, While its ambition and scope pull one way, its pinched and unconvincing sense of drama pull the other. The film, he concludes, is not emotionally convincing. Manohla Dargis in The New York Times is equally of two minds about the movie, describing it as being at once frantically overblown and beautifully filigreed. Someone, she writes, should have smacked the director, Zack Snyder, in the head and reminded him that he was midwifing a superhero franchise. Most of the critics agree, however, that British-born actor Henry Cavill was a fitting choice to play the title role. Peter Howell in the Toronto Star says that Cavill transforms into an uncommonly brooding but refreshingly deep Superman. Claudia Puig in USA Today writes that he has the strapping good looks of the comic icon, and humanity to match his superheroism. But Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post concludes that Cavill makes a well-built, handsomely credible Superman in Man of Steel -- or at least he will, in an already-planned sequel that, with luck, will more thoughtfully exploit his talents. For now, audiences can only speculate as to the hidden depths of Cavill, who in Zack Snyder's busy, bombastic creation myth is reduced to little more than a joyless cipher or dazzling physical specimen.
Over rock and roll's "ages" since the 1950s -- and especially since the 1980s -- pop music lovers have split into separate in-groups, each one becoming a veritable religion unto itself, each one scorning The Others. That sort of musical disunion is apparent in the reaction to Rock of Ages , even among the critics, many of whom were compelled to take sides way back in the '80s, which is the setting for the movie. To them, the movie is either "sweet," or "tame" or, as Liam Lacey puts it in the Toronto Globe and Mail, "like a two-hour drive listening to a Classic Rock station." They are not discussing the quality of the filmmaking, it would seem, but reflecting their tastes in the music. "Yes kids," comments Peter Howell in the Toronto Star , "there really was a time, just before the necessary corrective of grunge, when bands like Journey, Foreigner, Poison and Def Leppard were taken seriously." Later "The 1980s were rock's most embarrassing era." Yet Stephen Rea concludes his review in the Philadelphia Inquirer by remarking, "If you have a soft spot for the glam and pomp of Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, and Styx, there are worse ways to spend a couple of hours than with this odd assortment of courageous thespians bringin' on the heartbreak, and feelin' the noize." Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times praises the film for taking "songs you may never have loved and [turning] them into a musical that's easy to enjoy." But Lou Lumenick in the New York Post writes that the only reason he liked the movie is that "this plodding mess may help put to rest Hollywood's inexplicable two-decade love affair with the awful '80s, a pop- culture decade that's overdue for a break." That's the sentiment of numerous critics. To Ty Burr in the Boston Globe Rock of Ages amounts to a "corporate nostalgia cruise of a musical," although he acknowledges that the film "has its cheesy pleasures." There are no pleasures in the movie at all that Rex Reed of the New York Observer can detect (although one suspects that Reed's own musical tastes may run the gamut from Perry Como to Patti Page.) "This sloppy freak show is two minutes shy of two solid hours of screaming swill, without a shred of freshness, insight, cleverness or coherence to be detected within a two-mile radius," Reed writes. He's appalled that the original Broadway show on which the movie is based is still running -- something that he attributes "to the confounding disregard for taste and intelligence rampant among today's mass-market audiences." Although his role, based on GUNS N' ROSES' Axl Rose, is only slightly larger than a cameo, Tom Cruise figures prominently in most of the reviews. Comments Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News "As he's repeatedly proven, no one captures unadulterated id better than Cruise. It's tremendous fun to watch this worldwide megastar explore the basest nature of his own game." Manohla Dargis in The New York Times likens the whole affair to a "bad Broadway musical" but that a "whispering and writhing Mr. Cruise makes it watchable." And Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times relishes a scene in the movie in which Cruise's character is interviewed by a Rolling Stone reporter. He's "so narcissistically seductive he almost seduces himself," Ebert writes.
Continue reading: Movie Reviews Rock Of Ages
Critics have by and large concluded that Steven Soderbergh's Haywire has put a new wrinkle on the action flick, thanks mainly to the performance of Gina Carano. "Watching Carano kick, spin, flip, choke, crack and crush the fiercest of foes ... is thoroughly entertaining, highly amusing and frankly somewhat awe-inspiring," Betsy Sharkey remarks in the Los Angeles Times. Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal suggests that Carano's character be viewed as "a fighting machine, one that registers ambient danger with all the efficiency of The Terminator and the light irony of James Bond, but also as a beautifully seductive construction at the center of a film that is itself an elegant machine. There's no deeper meaning to Steven Soderbergh's thriller than what meets the eye, yet its lustrous surfaces offer great and guilt-free pleasure." Carano, who in real life is a mixed martial arts champ is "not a great actress," writes Anne Hornaday in the Washington Post , "but she doesn't need to be in a movie that ... doesn't get bogged down in psychology. ... Instead, Haywire simply gives audiences what they came to see bruising fight sequences set up and executed with economy, skill and one or two genuine jaw-dropping jolts." But Carano leaves Rex Reed in the New York Observer cold, writing that she has "all the charisma of a Sherman tank." As for the movie itself, it's "nothing more than a locker-room joke," he remarks. "Nothing resembling plot, character development or a star-making career move of any kind is anywhere apparent. The whole point of this time-wasting farrago of idiocy is that women can cut, kick, Slash, burn, maim and kill just like men_and make bad movies that are just as stupid."
Continue reading: Movie Reviews Haywire
If you think you have seen a movie about every sport that has ever existed, think again. The Big Year is a movie about competitive bird watching and stars Owen Wilson as the champion -- a man who has spotted more than 700 bird species in a single year -- and Steve Martin and Jack Black as two of his challengers. The contest's color analyst ... er ... narrator is John Cleese, who also provides a primer on the sport of "birding." The movie, writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times , "has an innocence and charm that will make it appealing for families, especially those who have had enough whales and dolphins for the year." A.O. Scott in The New York Times uses the adjectives "gentle and low-key" to describe the film, adjectives that are unlikely to turn up in ads appearing on the movie pages, where the preferred words for selling comedies include "outrageous" and "uproarious." Likewise Ty Burr in the Boston Globe observes that the three leading characters in the movie are "good company. So, in its fubsy [dumpy] way, is the movie." And Betsy Sharky writes that while the movie "might not soar ... there is some harmless pleasure to be found when feathers aren't ruffled, when the fowl is not foul." Rex Reed in the New York observer was neither Charmed by the movie -- nor by its stars. "Steve Martin has isolated moments trying in vain to choke some humor out of a film that is only slightly less amusing than a case of bird fever," he writes, "but he's got his work cut out for him sharing the screen with Jack Black and Owen Wilson, two of the screen's most annoying unsolved mysteries." And Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune concludes that this "gentle, diffident concoction ... has barely enough pulse to power a hummingbird."
Continue reading: Movie Reviews The Big Year
Rex Reed - Erv Raible and Rex Reed New York City, USA - Opening night of 'Michael Feinstein-Swinging in the Holidays' at Feinstein's at the Loews Regency Hotel - After Party Tuesday 30th November 2010
The film is based on Gore Vidal's bestselling 1968 novel, which gave us Myra as a magnificently over-the-top symbol of changing sexual mores, greed, revenge, Hollywood, and how they all intersect. In the hands of director Michael Sarne, the story became a messy sex farce; Vidal stepped away from the project, and for good reason. In the book, Myra romanticizes the great movies of the 1930s, arguing, in fact, that it was the best decade ever for movies. This inspires Sarne to raid the 20th Century Fox vault and cram in seemingly dozens of clips from Laurel & Hardy and Shirley Temple films, sometimes ironically, but mostly sitting there like a bad joke told at a dinner party. (It may be that Myra's sole usefulness is that it inspired a similar idea in the HBO TV series Dream On, actually done well.)
Continue reading: Myra Breckinridge Review
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