'White House Down' has the disadvantage of being the second 'Die Hard'-in-the-White-House movie of 2013 after 'Olympus Has Fallen,' and the advantage of being superior to its predecessor in every conceivable way. It's better directed, better written, and better acted. The action is better, with more impressive special effects; the production design is better, with a much more convincing replica of the White House; the camerawork is better; with clear, lucid images. Where 'Olympus Has Fallen' was grim and stern, 'White House Down' actually embraces the silliness of its premise. It's more exciting and more faithful to the 'Die Hard' formula. This is still basically a shameless ripoff popcorn movie, but it's a shameless ripoff popcorn movie popped to near-perfection.
College is not an obvious setting for a Pixar movie. For all the vaunted animation studio's reputation for producing mature, adult children's films, college lends itself to a more immature brand of adult humor -- the kind with lots of nudity, profanity, and outrageous drunken antics. Sure enough, Pixar's 'Monsters University' brings new meaning to the phrase "safe school" -- this G-rated riff on 'Revenge of the Nerds' and 'Animal House' (they probably thought about calling it 'Monster House' at some point, right? They had to) doesn't push any envelopes in terms of content or humor. It's basically a formula college comedy, minus the raunch, in the world of 'Monsters Inc.' Nevertheless, it's a formula executed by some very talented animators, who've produced a lively, if mostly forgettable, movie.
The magic of cinema and the magic of magic tend to cancel each other out. Once you convince someone they're seeing alternate realities, alien conquerers, and distant futures, pulling a rabbit out of a hat looks a little underwhelming. It is a cruel, sad truth that a single cut negates all the impact of the greatest act of sleight of hand.
So, a movie about magic needs to be about more than just magic. The silly but not entirely unpleasurable 'Now You See Me' is about showmanship. There are a lot of good actors in this movie, including Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Melanie Laurent, and Mark Ruffalo. They play illusionists, mentalists, hucksters, debunkers, billionaire industrialists, Interpol officers, and FBI agents, respectively(ish). All of them, no matter whether they're wool-pullers or wool-pullees, look like they're having a grand old time misdirecting us through a labyrinthine plot involving magicians, bank heists, and decades-old vendettas. For a while, the fun is infectious. I found myself chuckling at the outrageous character names -- Dylan Rhodes! Jack Wilder! Arthur Tressler! Thaddeus Bradley! J. Daniel Atlas! -- and grinning at the ludicrous twists. Like a mark at a good magic act, I knew I was being worked over and was enjoying every second.
'The Hangover' giveth and 'The Hangover' taketh away.
The first 'Hangover' made Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and especially Zach Galifianakis stars, and it elevated Todd Phillips from middling Hollywood director to name-brand comic auteur. But in the film industry, success that surprising and enormous demands more success; the beast must be fed. But as 'The Hangover Part II' and especially the new 'Hangover Part III' prove, it is very hard to make a good sequel to a truly original idea. 'Part II' went the rehash route, recycling the plot of the first movie so brazenly you almost had to admire its chutzpah. 'Part III' finally breaks with the formula a little (SPOILER ALERT: there is no hangover), but still doesn't produce anything even remotely worthy of the first film.
'Parker' is not Jason Statham's best movie, but it may have his defining onscreen moment, a perfect, succinct summation of everything pleasurable about his onscreen persona. His character, a thief and con man named Parker, has returned to his hotel room in Palm Beach. He's surprised by an assassin; since this is a Jason Statham movie, an elaborately choreographed fight scene ensues.
The assassin's weapon of choice is a knife and after he gets Parker in a headlock, he tries really hard to get Statham's face acquainted with the finer points of his blade. The knife keeps inching closer and closer to his eyeball -- so to save himself, Parker sticks up his hand and willingly lets the assassin stab him through his palm. The sacrifice gives him just enough of breather to gain the upper hand. That is The Cinema of Jason Statham in a nutshell: action and indomitable determination. His characters are all men who'll stop at nothing to win; an echo of Statham's onscreen work ethic -- he'll stop at nothing to entertain you. Even in a vehicle as average as "Parker," Statham still delivers an intensely committed performance.
If he hadn't already used that title for another movie, Tom Cruise could have easily called 'Jack Reacher' 'The Last Samurai.' There's a bit of Toshiro Mifune's Sanjuro in this Reacher guy: the masterless warrior who strides into a corrupt town, answers to no one, rights a few wrongs, busts a few heads, and wanders away to find his next challenge. He has no possessions; he owns exactly two shirts and one jacket. All he carries with him is a roll of $100 bills, a passport, a toothbrush, and his inflexible moral code. He would have fit right in back in feudal Japan. Or the Old West, for that matter. He'd make a hell of a Man With No Name.
Many of Alfred Hitchcock's movies, from 'Psycho' to 'Vertigo' to 'Rear Window,' are about voyeurism, so the idea of peering into Hitchcock's own previously hidden private life does make a certain amount of sense. But if 'Hitchcock' resonates with some of the Master of Suspense's ideas, it's never faithful to his spirit. Hitch would never have put his name on a film so full of lame pop psychology and so bereft of excitement, tension and humor. Which is a shame, since the title of this movie is his name.
The opening credits of 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2' alternate between red and white images; seeping blood, spreading ice crystals. The symbolism couldn't be clearer: bundle up, Twihards, it's going to be a long cold lonely winter. Here comes the sun, dawn is breaking, and with it the end of your beloved franchise. After this, no more sexy vampires and hunky werewolves. It's all over -- and now that it is all over, let's give 'Twilight' its due: as one of the absolute bats--- craziest blockbusters in Hollywood history.
Matt had just typed out the title of his 'Seven Psychopaths' review, his byline, and the rating (seven -- no, make that eight --out of ten?) when his wife Melissa walked into the room.
"How was the movie?" she asked as she flopped down on the couch and flipped on the television.
"Good. Really good," Matt replied. "Interesting."
"Interesting? Why interesting?" Melissa said. She started flipping channels.
"It's about a writer who writes himself into his work. Colin Farrell plays this struggling screenwriter named Martin -- and the movie was written and directed by this guy, Martin McDonagh, who wrote that play we saw on Broadway with Christopher Walken in it."
"Right. That was weird."
"It was," he said, nodding. "Weird but good. So, anyway, Colin Farrell plays this writer named Martin. He's come up with a title he really likes for a screenplay -- 'Seven Psychopaths.' But that's all he has, the title. He doesn't even have the seven psychopaths. But then these people in his life -- or perhaps these characters he's invented -- are all revealed to be psychopaths, and he gets caught in the middle of this elaborate gangster-slash-revenge comedy with them involving a kidnapped dog."
Melissa yawned again. "A writer writing himself into his work? That sounds like a terrible idea."
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