Thumbnails May 10
by Tony Medley
Death at a Funeral (8/10): Even though I had
laughed throughout director Frank Oz’s British original in 2007, I was
still laughing throughout this hilarious remake. Americans generally
don’t do farce as well as the English and French, but director Neil
LaBute gets top performances from this cast, headed by James Marsden,
Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, Martin Lawrence, Ron Glass, Keith David, and
Peter Dinklage reprising his role from the original.
Date Night (7/10): Channeling 1970’s “The
Out of Towners,” one of my favorite comedies in which Midwesterners Jack
Lemmon and Sandy Dennis took a disastrous trip to New York City, Tina
Fey and Steve Carell overcome the first dismal 15 minutes of slice of
life dialogue that populate the worst of the chick flicks. After they
get all dolled up and con their way into a table at a trendy Manhattan
restaurant, their trip into the city rivals the one taken by Lemmon and
Dennis 40 years ago. Everything goes awry. James Franco and Mila Kunis
sparkle in award-quality performances as a pair of lowlife crooks.
Chloe (7/10): In this remake of the 2003
French thriller, “Nathalie,” Julianne Moore suspects her husband of 25
years, Liam Neeson, of infidelity, so she hires a prostitute, Chloe
(Amanda Seyfried), to make contact with him, tempt him, and report back
to her, with startling, unforeseen consequences. This is a byzantine,
titillating, well-acted, potent exploration of jealousy and desire.
Seyfried shows that her lame performance in “Mamma Mia” (2008) was an
aberration, because she is appropriately creepy in this. Even so,
Moore’s is the performance that shines.
Paper Man (7/10): Even though Emma Stone has
found herself in some dreadful movies (like 2008’s “The House Bunny” and
2009’s “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”), she always managed to give
rewarding performances. Finally finding herself starring in a movie with
good material, she steals the show from her able cast of Jeff Daniels,
Ryan Reynolds, and Lisa Kudrow in this film about two defective people
of different generations who develop an uncomfortable camaraderie.
Loaded with talent and beauty, Stone is a comer.
Harry Brown (7/10): Michael Caine is at the
top of his form as he goes out on his own in a cruel world to gain
revenge for the murder of his friend by bunch of London punks. There are
some distasteful scenes, but this is a high-tension film, with some
violence, that doesn’t let up.
The Joneses (5/10): Burdened by an extremely
slow, uninvolving 50 minute setup, this unique tale picks up but then
loses it all with a craven Hollywood Ending, despite fine performances
by Demi Moore, David Duchovny, Gary Cole, Amber Heard, and Ben
Hollingsworth. But despite their good performances, Heard (who teems
with sex appeal) and Hollingsworth, at 21 and 25, respectively, are too
mature to pass as high school students.
Who Do You Love (5/10): This is the second
disappointing biopic in two years of the Chess brothers who brought
black blues to the mainstream. Unfortunately, it ignores lots of
wonderful music of Chuck Berry and others and downplays the misdeeds of
the Chesses in their management of their disadvantaged black talent.
Clash of the Titans (4/10): It’s appropriate
that this is presented in vapid post-production 3-D with washed out
color because it’s a vapid, washed out movie. The film is basically just
a set piece for the numerous fight scenes that highlight the special
effects. But the fights are so predictable and rote that it was
difficult to keep my mind from wandering while they were onscreen, which
meant most of the time.
The Losers (4/10): This is yet another
low-intellect, overly violent, meaningless, albeit action-packed, movie
trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator…and succeeding, if
that’s any mark of success.
Casino Jack and the United States of Money
(1/10): When writer/director Alex Gibney can make an entire movie
about Enron and never once mention the name of Steve Peace, the Democrat
California legislator who wrote the law that enabled Enron and caused
the whole mess, he doesn’t have the trustworthiness to be believed.
That’s only the main flaw of this clumsy, convoluted film about
disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He also limits his talking heads
interviews to devoted left-wingers. Prominently featured is Melanie
Sloan, executive director of CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and
Ethics in Washington). Melanie Sloan is hardly unbiased, having worked
for John Conyers, the vitriolic leftwing Democrat from Michigan, and
Charles Shumer, the partisan Democrat Senator from New York. I
wish I could rely on Gibney’s verisimilitude to believe this as shown,
but after what he did with Enron, and because he limited the people he
chose to showcase to those who all share the same tendentious POV, I
can’t. This must be watched with heightened skepticism.