Archives for posts with tag: 2 out of 5

This movie came out 20 years ago, and I had almost no idea what happened in it. That is to say, I thought it was Air Force One, but with Nic Cage as Gary Oldman. It’s not.

Cameron Poe (Cage) is an Army Ranger from Alabama. We are told. His accent is from nowhere on Earth and presumably from nowhere else either. Some guys are unpleasant to his wife, Tricia (Monica Potter), in a bar, and then try to beat him up too. He accidentally kills one of them, and goes to prison. Eight years later, a parolee, he is put on a prison transport plane home. It’s his daughter’s birthday, and he’s never seen her.

MV5BMGZmNGIxMTYtMmVjMy00YzhkLWIyOTktNTExZGFiYjNiNzdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTQxNzMzNDI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Here is our second infusion of characters. There’s a young, by-the-book US Marshal Larkin (John Cusack), and an older swashbuckler who drives a convertible with the plate “AZZ KIKR” (Colm Meaney) on the good side. For the villains, a litany of goofy nicknames and surprisingly major actors: Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (John Malkovich), Diamond Dog (Ving Rhames), a serial rapist called Johnny 23 (Danny Trejo), and total weirdo who apparently once wore a victim’s face as a hat (Steve Buscemi), among others. They hijack the plane. Nic Cage tries to stop them from escaping.

Aside from the accent, and the terrible hair, and the outfit, Cage is mostly fine. Malkovich and the rest of them are convincingly off-putting in various stations on the train line to Psychotown. John Cusack is a weenie, Colm Meaney is a jackass. Dave Chappelle is Dave Chappelle.

It’s bad. But it commits, so I’ll allow it.

Director: Simon West
Rating: R
Length: 115 minutes
Score: 2/5

Do you think that Chris Evans is cute and charming enough that you want to watch a version of Before Sunrise that he directed and in which he stars? Because then you should watch this, but probably for no other reason.

Brooke (Alice Eve) is an art dealer in Manhattan possibly cheating on her husband, and her handbag is stolen, so all she has is her phone and a train ticket. She misses the last train. Nick (Evans) is in town for a band audition, but is busking in Grand Central to avoid running into an ex at a party. He is bad at paying credit card bills. They spend all night having various misadventures trying to get Brooke back to Boston.

They’re both attractive, but they talk about their feelings a lot and it’s irritating. And, frankly, it’s evident that the facet of this movie that involved the most thought was stranding them. In 2014, it’s tricky to be truly stranded, between phones and credit cards, MV5BOTMxNzE0NjY4NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjIxNjIzNjE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_and the film does a lot of work to make sure you know they’ve tried everything. If only the writing had involved that much effort.

And I hope it doesn’t bother you that we are asked to believe that somebody spends a night in a hotel with Chris Evans and doesn’t sleep with him.

Director: Chris Evans
Rating: PG-13
Length: 95 minutes
Score: 2/5

I’m going to be unfair to this movie, because I’ve read the novel by Irène Némirovsky, which is brilliant. Suite Française was written during the war, before Némirovsky was murdered by the Nazis, and, though unfinished, it has a much broader and clearer vision of humanity than the film does. It follows, among others, a middle-class family whose son is away at the fighting as they flee Paris, an aging bon-vivant who sticks to his champagne amid the German bombs, an absolutely awful matron of late middle age who values her silver more than people, and a young married lady in the country in whose house an officer of the Wehrmacht is billeted.

MV5BMTczMjg3MzQ0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDYyNzY4NDE@._V1_UY268_CR4,0,182,268_AL_The movie, naturally, concentrates on the last grouping, because there’s the most smooching in it. Lucile Angellier (Michelle Williams) is unhappily married; luckily her husband is a POW, but unluckily her mother-in-law (Kristin Scott Thomas) is around to be unpleasant to her. When the Germans invade, Lieutenant Bruno von Falk (Matthias Schoenaerts) is put up in their house. He is polite, has a nice dog, and can play the piano. Lucile lacks a personality entirely.

Meanwhile, the mayor, Viscount Montmort (Lambert Wilson) and his wife (Harriet Walter) are trying to accommodate themselves to reality; a horrible German officer (Tom Schilling) is billeted on a farm belonging to the Labaries (Sam Riley and Ruth Wilson), which ends about as well as you’d think; a Jewish woman (Alexandra Maria Lara) and her daughter are…there.

This movie is stupid and melodramatic. You don’t need to add pathos to the Nazi invasion of France, or insulting inanities to Némirovsky’s novel. I suppose that, once one has hired the extremely handsome Mr. Schoenaerts, one feels he ought to be on screen, but every other story in the novel is more interesting than Lucile’s and Bruno’s, and less well-trodden.

Director: Saul Dibb
Rating: around PG-13
Length: 107 minutes
Score: 2/5

Sometimes you’re in the mood for bad romantic comedies. It’s like bad Chinese food. You know there is good Chinese food, and you could eat that, but what you want is greasy General Tso’s and an extremely dodgy egg roll. These movies are that, but for the eyes and brain.

MV5BNmRjYWE3OTQtYzEwOC00OWM4LTk3MzktZTUyZTgzNjY4NDc0L2ltYWdlL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTQxNzMzNDI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Ostensibly, the premise–four young women who are best friends forever, share a magical pair of jeans, and support each other through all of life’s vicissitudes–is charming. Bridget (Blake Lively) has lost her troubled mother, Carmen (America Ferrera) discovers that her father is about to remarry into a perfect family in the Carolinas, Lena (Alexis Bledel) puts her foot into unexplained family nonsense in Santorini, and Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) is an irritating so-called rebel with terrible dress sense. She makes films, obviously. Some of these are real problems, and some of these deserve sympathy, and every single one of these people acts like a total dickhead.

It doesn’t help that only America Ferrera, of the four, is able to deliver her lines with any hint of conviction. At least we’re mostly used to that. She, however, is saddled with the worst nonsense. Her parents are long-divorced, and her dad (Bradley Whitford) has failed to tell her that he’s going to get married to a lady with two kids of her own. Which isn’t great, but, honestly, what can you expect of Bradley Whitford? So she goes to visit, and the new family is a little dippy and clueless, but Carmen’s self-involvement borders on the solipsistic. Because the new family is skinny and blond, Carmen decides that their lives are perfect and that her dad is trying to pretend she doesn’t exist. And this, after she learns that the son goes to visit his dad in a rehab facility every month. She throws a hissy fit and then a rock at their window.

Elsewhere, Bridget works out her daddy issues in the most hackneyed way possible, Tibby has to deal with mortality (but finds a very cute boyfriend in the person of Leonardo Nam’s Brian), and Lena makes out with Kostos (Michael Rady).

MV5BMTMwNDYyMTY5Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzAwMjY2MQ@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_In the second movie, they’re all at fancy colleges (two Ivies, RISD, and NYU for Tibby because rebellion; she also works in a video store). This has not lessened their gyroscopic tendencies. They all have increasing secret pains which they don’t talk about and then scream at each other for not knowing about, and it is tiresome to a degree.

And then, movie-style, unearned rewards are thrust upon them.

Director: Ken Kwapis (1) & Sanaa Hamri (2)
Rating: PG & PG-13
Length: 119 minutes & 119 minutes (for reals)
Score: 2/5

There are at least three movies called Sparkle, and this is almost certainly the least well known. And justifiably so. For one thing, there’s absolutely no reason to call it “Sparkle.” For another, it is tripe.

Well, that’s not entirely fair. It’s actually often rather sweet, and it’s quiet enough that you’re not too fussed about the improbabilities. But it is also essentially a light take on The Graduate, and that’s hard to do for a range of excellent reasons.

Sam (Shaun Evans) is a waiter somewhere in the north of England. He has a terrible haircut and prominent ribs. His mother, Jill (Lesley Manville), is a slightly delusional singer of the never-was variety. She’s close enough to real that it’s touchingly sad. Sam does not have a father. One night, Vince (Bob Hoskins) comes into the restaurant where Sam works, and MV5BMTQ5NDg2MDI2MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzQ0NzkwMzE@._V1_UY268_CR9,0,182,268_AL_perhaps because Jill notices his father having a stroke before anyone else does, Jill and Sam end up moving to London and putting up in a flat Vince owns.

So Sam gets to be a waiter in London! And that’s the end.

Haha, no, obviously not. He’s passing out cocktails at some party run by Sheila (Stockard Channing), and sleeps his way into being her personal assistant. Her hair is glorious; her accent is execrable. She has no edibles in her flat besides Cheerios and Moët. Her parties are apparently good, though, and at the next one, Sam meets a politically active young woman whose name is Kate (Amanda Ryan, who slots into this part just as well as she did as Holly Dartie in The Forsyte Saga, which is impressive).

Now, because you’ve seen a movie, you know that Kate is Sheila’s daughter, but Sam doesn’t know he’s in a movie, so he doesn’t realize this. There will be bumps on this road, but on the way you meet Kate’s uncle Tony (Anthony Head) and his boyfriend, Jill finds love, and Sam steals a stuffed dolphin.

Could be worse, and you get to see Anthony Head do dolphin impressions, so.

Director: Tom Hunsinger, Neil Hunter
Rating: M? ish?
Length: 100 minutes
Score: 2/5

Ads for this movie ran all the time before it came out, and I think I’d meant to see it.  The previews were gorgeous, as if Blake Lively had made an extremely stylish perfume commercial in every decade in the twentieth century.

That’s really all there is. Adaline Bowman (Lively) almost dies in the and her twenties, but, because of some dubious scientific mumbo-jumbo, not only doesn’t die but actually stops aging.  Obviously.  In the fifties or sixties the FBI gets really hot under the collar about it, plus there’s the obvious social awkwardness when your daughter starts to look older than you.  So she moves house (apparently only within and around San Francisco) and changes her name every ten years.  When we meet her, she has just obtained a new passport, and is finishing out her job in the public archives before a move to Oregon under the new pseudonym.  Because of her condition, she has never allowed anyone to love her since her husband died young, and this tragedy lies heavy on her, though it does not compromise the bounciness of her ponytail.

Enter Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman), tech Croesus and philanthropist.  He falls for her at once, and is the kind of pushy about it that you can only be if you’re very handsome.  Because of how plots work, Adaline (currently called Jenny) finds herself falling for him, too, even though she’s so security-obsessed.  She judges both his cooking and his taste in jazz, since her age allows her to have buckets of knowledge and be hyper-observant and her beauty allows her to be kind of an ass.

After something like three weeks of dating, Ellis takes her up to his parents’ fortieth anniversary do.  His dad, William (Harrison Ford), is an astronomer who keeps waiting for a comet to pass.  Now, obviously William and Adaline had an affair in the sixties, and obviously Adaline and the comet are analogous near misses.  William figures it out and yells about how desperately he wants Adaline to learn to love, at least for Ellis’s sake.

And here’s the kicker: after about thirty seconds of self-centered nonsense and running away, Adaline figures that’s fine!  And Ellis is not bothered!  What the actual foxtrot!

I have so many questions.  First, why does it not occur to Adaline to ask what Ellis’s dad’s name is?  They share a surname, and, unlike Adaline, William doesn’t lie about his.  Second, why is the Freudian weirdness never addressed?  Third, why isn’t the actor who plays young William in the sixties flashbacks going to play young Han Solo (no disrespect to Alden Ehrenreich)?

This is a silly, rather dreadful movie.  Huisman is cute and Lively looks stunning in every possible decade, somehow managing to find splendid jazz age gowns in the 2010s.  The emotional beats, however, are stupid and insulting, and the unnecessary fake science is worse.  But if you want to watch a feature-length perfume ad, go ahead.

Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Rating: PG-13
Length: 112 minutes
Score: 2/5

Presumably this is based on the 60s series I haven’t seen, so it should have been a stylish and refreshing sundae of Cold War nonsense. Unfortunately this was made when we were trying to make Armie Hammer happen, and neither he nor Henry Cavill can elevate a mediocre script.

Napoleon Solo (Cavill) is a CIA agent, Illya Kuryakin (Hammer) is a KGB agent. They fight with each other and then learn that they must work together to thwart a plot involving a rogue nuke. Gaby (Alicia Vikander) must be spirited out of East Berlin to help them. She is an auto mechanic but also looks very cute in mod smocks! Of course.

The film has charming bits. The scenery is mostly gorgeous, and East Berlin is appropriately depressing. Cavill wears good suits (and seems not to have the terrifying bulk of Superman), and Vikander’s clothes after she leaves East Berlin are great. Wonderful statement jewelry and fantastic hats. Hugh Grant’s British intelligence chappie is fine, as well. In a pleasing reversal played for good comic effect, the KGB gadgets are better than the American ones.

But there’s nothing new about the plot, and Solo and Kuryakin are both completely hollow. I expect they are supposed to be, but it doesn’t make for a watchable movie, because they’re don’t quite go enough for the gusto on the Bakelite vacuity.

Director: Guy Ritchie
Rating: PG-13
Length: 116 minutes
Score: 2/5

If you’d like to watch a romantic movie with multiple generations and Vanessa Redgrave, watch Letters to Juliet, which is silly but palatable. Do not watch Evening, which is self-serious and terrible.

Anne (Vanessa Redgrave) is dying. Her daughters, Connie (Natasha Richardson) and Nina (Toni Collette), come to stay with her, and notice that she starts mentioning names they have never heard. It goes without saying that Connie has a husband and kids and a Range Rover where Nina has a boyfriend in a band and a bad dye job (hers, not his), and that they are mutually awful to each other.

The audience sees the people behind these names in flashbacks: young Anne (Claire Danes), Harris (Patrick Wilson), and Buddy (Hugh Dancy). Anne’s friend Lila (Mamie Gummer) is getting married in Newport; Buddy is Lila’s brother and Harris is their housekeeper’s son, now a doctor. Anne is their impecunious artistic friend, as we learn because she’s not blonde and has heard of Greenwich Village, even though it’s the fifties. Since my dad sub-let a flat from a sitar player in the Village at about this time, and my dad is hardly an espadrille-wearing anarchist, this seems laid on a little thick. It can be galling and awkward to be a poor relation at a Newport wedding, but if the bride really wants you to be her maid of honor, you could maybe try to handle it with a little grace.

Buddy is…something. He’s constantly drunk and on the verge of writing a novel and has carried around a note from Anne for four years but kisses Harris and drunkenly jumps off a cliff but is fine. Constantly drunk and jumping off cliffs is standard Newport wedding behavior, as, probably, is being on the verge of writing a novel. One supposes that kissing Harris seems odd for the fifties, or would, if the movie didn’t have every single character stress that absolutely everyone was irresponsibly in love with Harris. So much for Buddy.

Harris, of course, is Anne’s great love too, but circumstances and expectations conspire against their eternal happiness. She regrets this on her deathbed, as she has evidently forgotten that Harris, as we have seen him, had approximately the personality of damp celery. But, of course, Anne’s choices are now being borne out in her daughters, somehow. They realize she was doing her best, and now they’re doing their best, and everything is fine. It’s offensively pat.

On a formal note, the flashbacks don’t mesh especially well, and it can be difficult to discern why, exactly, we have flashed back, or why, for instance, Eileen Atkins (as the night nurse) is now wearing an evening dress. It’s charming to have Meryl Streep play the older Lila, but not worth it for an unnecessary framing device. It’s not as bad as, say, The Notebook, but that’s only because it isn’t quite as cynical.

Stray observations:

  • They don’t even let Claire Danes commit to the ugly cry. They do let her slap people and over-dramatize herself, though.
  • Why did Glenn Close sign up to be Lila’s mom? Any actress could have done that part.
  • Seriously, you don’t have to be poor and artistic to have the capacity to feel. And name-checking The Great Gatsby doesn’t fix the hackneyed way you’ve dealt with class.
  • A character is hit by a car, and a bridesmaid observes, in scarily flat tones: “Oh my goodness, the blood, it’s everywhere.” That’s the worst piece of dialogue, but the rest of the movie runs a close second.

Director: Lajos Koltai
Rating: PG-13
Length: 117 minutes
Score: 2/5

The Cider House Rules is a lousy book, but it’s probably a worse movie. And that’s before you are even asked to believe that Tobey Maguire could ever get within five feet of Charlize Theron.

Homer Wells (Maguire) is an orphan, brought up in Dr. Larch’s (Michael Caine) orphanage-cum-free-abortion-clinic in the most depressing town in Maine. Homer learns much surgery, including obstetrical procedures, but does not want to perform abortions. And, in case you don’t understand about Chekhov’s gun, yeah, that’ll come up later. At some point, Candy Kendall (Theron) and Wally Worthington (Paul Rudd) show up, needing Dr. Larch’s services, and they take Homer back to the coast with them. He starts working on Wally’s family’s orchard, and stays there as Wally goes off to fly in WWII, because he is believed to have a dicky heart. Because Dr. Larch has told him so. Which is a lie. Dr. Larch also forges a medical education for Homer. Which is apparently fine? Because one Maine doctor with an iron sense of his own morality and a lightbox is like actual qualifications.

While at the orchard, we embark on a Wally-Candy-Homer love triangle. It is ludicrous. I can’t decide whether it’s more or less ludicrous than the 600 pages of angsty nonsense in the book. Maybe it’s just more compact. Perhaps more interestingly, but also seeming rather like events that happen in a parallel universe, there are racially charged and otherwise unpleasant interactions with the orchard staff, particularly Mr. Rose (Delroy Lindo) and his daughter (Erykah Badu).

Mercifully, the film only takes one generation for matters to play out instead of the book’s two, so…it’s shorter than it could be. It also doesn’t perpetuate the apparently common belief of male novelists that all women are probably lesbians except when there’s a certain man around, so…there’s that.

It does, however, have Michael Caine doing a deeply dodgy American accent. And Tobey Maguire’s face. So it could be a lot better, is what I’m saying.

But Maine is lovely.

Director: Lasse Hallström
Rating: PG-13
Length: 126 minutes
Score: 2/5

On IMDb, this movie is billed also as a comedy. I don’t remember the early 90s that well, in fairness, but it’s a mystery to me how this is at all funny. Like, it starts in an orphanage, there’s an attempted rape, stalking, and heart disease… Does one hockey game really make a difference?

Caroline (Marisa Tomei) is a diner waitress in Minneapolis. She falls in love too quickly and men treat her badly. Adam (Christian Slater) is a diner busboy with a heart condition, a dog, a lot of books, and no parents. Rosie Perez is Caroline’s sassy waitress friend. Her name is Cindy, apparently, but, you know, it’s Rosie Perez. Oh, and then a couple of dudes attack Caroline and Adam saves her (because he follows her home, which is obviously way better than being a rapist, but isn’t…great), so she falls for him.

So I guess you could say that both Caroline and Adam have heart conditions! Only some of them are metaphorical!

Marisa Tomei is, of course, adorable. But her charm and her (as far as I can tell) plausible Minnesota accent are wasted on a dodgy script and a taciturn and ill-groomed Christian Slater. The 90s were definitely a time when we could not tell the difference between “deep and quiet” and “possibly Nell, from the movie Nell.” Or between “sensitive hair” and “doesn’t know how to buy shampoo.” Or even between”sweetly devoted” and “sneaks into your bedroom regularly and watches you sleep.”

Director: Tony Bill
Rating: PG-13
Length: 102 minutes
Score: 2/5