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Thumbnails Mar 13

by Tony Medley

Identity Thief (9/10):

Women are irrational; that's all there is to that.

Their heads are full of cotton, hay, and rags.

Prof. Henry Higgins.

Cary Grant was Hollywood's master at comedically displaying the frustration a reasonable man has in dealing with an irrational woman. He did it with Irene Dunne, Katharine Hepburn, and other leading ladies of the 30s and 40s. If Grant has a successor in the 21st century, it is Jason Bateman, who finds himself irretrievably involved with Melissa McCarthy. Even if a movie isn't wonderfully terrific throughout, if it contains a line that can make me laugh uncontrollably I will probably give it a good rating. This movie, however, has both. It is wonderfully terrific throughout, and it does contain at least one line (delivered by Genesis Rodriguez) that had me laughing uncontrollably and still has me laughing when I think about it now. McCarthy and Bateman give bravura performances, aided by terrific supporting performances, a talented director, and a good script.

Side Effects (8/10): This is a neat little thriller that reminded me of 1993's Malice, a Nicole Kidman vehicle that presently rests in 1,418th place on the all-time list of domestic grosses. In other words, not a lot of people saw it. And that's unfortunate because, written by Aaron Sorkin, it started out as one thing and completely turned 180 in the middle and became something else, thoroughly entertaining, and so is this. Just about every year one or two films come out with a ballyhoo that they are noir, when they don't have any of the characteristics of real film noir which came into being in the 40s after World War II. This, on the other hand, is a true noir. To write much more would jeopardize being able to watch a story unfold without a clue of what is really going on, which is the best way to watch a movie.

Bullet to the Head (7/10): You want violence? I'll give you some violence. I'll give you Bullet to the Head. That will give you enough violence to last a year. It is filled with cold-blooded murders, knifings, and brutal fights. There is so much violence that I frankly never saw any plot. Even so, director, Walter Hill directs this with admirable pace and humor. Hill is no stranger to a witty, cop-criminal film, having directed the classic 48 Hrs. (1982) starring Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte three decades ago.

Emperor (7/10): Although Tommy Lee Jones gives a good performance as General Douglas MacArthur, it's little more than a cameo as the film is about Brig. Gen. Bonner Fellers' (Matthew Fox), quest to fulfill MacArthur's order to determine whether or not Emperor Hirohito should be executed. Adding a fictional love story adds to the quality of this telling of a little-known, but important historical episode, enhanced by wonderful recreation of the ambience of war-torn, post WWII Japan. Opens March 8.

Lore (5/10): The performance by Saskia Rosendahl is very good, but the story is so unremittingly depressing that it's not the kind of film one would choose for an evening's entertainment. Cate Shortland is a talented director, and this film is well done, but I hope that her next choice is more palatable. Movies are an entertainment. While this presents a stark picture of what life was really like in Germany after the end of fighting, it is not pleasant to watch. In German.

Stand Up Guys (1/10): The only time the movie picks up is when Alan Arkin appears near the end of the film. He breathes a little life into the stale script, but it's too little too late. To say this is "not for children" doesn't do it justice. It's not for anyone.