Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Weekend Movie Guide

Jaeden Lieberher stars in The Book of Henry

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - 3½ Stars. Delightful follow-up  to the original summer blockbuster action movie starring Chris Pratt. Funny, ironic, and a lot of fun.

Wonder Woman - 3 Stars. Gal Gadot makes a thrilling debut as the iconic superhero. A super script combines origin story, humor, and superhero action.

Beatriz at Dinner - 3 Stars. Healer/therapist Salma Hayek winds up at a dinner party for the one percent, and exposes the ugly side of wealth & privilege, in unexpected and even otherworldly ways.

The Book of Henry - 3 Stars. Impressive story about a genius kid, his single mom & brother, the bad guy next door, and directions from beyond the grave. Excellent!

Norman - 3 Stars. Richard Gere as a New York sharpie. A brilliant character study in the style of "Being There," about a guy who just has to be in the action, and the price he pays once he gets in it.

My Cousin Rachel - 3 Stars. Old school thriller romance. Rachel Weitz plays the widow of a young man's guardian. Did she do him in? The plot thickens, as the kid falls for the older woman.

Paris Can Wait - 2 Stars. Diane Lane travels the French countryside with Arnaud Viard, while her husband (Alec Baldwin) goes to Budapest for business. Will she or won't she?

Cars 3 - 2 Stars. Great animation and voice work in a totally unnecessary sequel.

Rough Night - 1 Star. Girls gone wild in Miami, with Scarlett Johansson looking very uncomfortable.

Transformers: The Last Knight - Zero Stars. Long, loud and lousy.

Transformers: The Last Knight Review - Zero Stars

The latest movie in the "Transformers" series, "The Last Knight" offers more than two hours of loud noise, mind-numbing special effects, and an impossible-to-follow plot. Each of the movies in this series tries to convince us these cars that turn into beings, love the Earth, except when they don't. Michael Bay conducts this circus. Likable Mark Wahlberg plays the hero, watching over the remaining transformers hiding in a junk yard, as they're no longer considered friendly, but Mark knows better. The story begins in Medieval times, when Merlin the magician makes contact and uses the Transformers to bring magic in service to the Round Table, King Arthur and Sir Lancelot. The beginning looks like leftovers from this summer's quite bad "King Arthur." Wahlberg winds up in London, where Sir Anthony Hopkins pairs him with Laura Haddock (who looks a lot like Meagan Fox in the original film.) I'm sure Sir Anthony will enjoy the big check from this role, but it doesn't do much for his career. The middle feels like a lift from "The Da Vinci Code," another less-than-stellar movie. The robot voices sound fake. John Goodman is especially annoying as a John Goodman Transformer. Jim Carter, who played the head butler on "Downton Abby," voices a Transformer/butler and feels out of place. It all adds up to headache-inducing waste of time, made in unspectacular 3D. "Transformers: The Last Knight," zero stars, rated PG-13. Does it deliver what it promises? Loud, long and lousy. Is it entertaining? A waste of time. Is it worth the price of admission? No thanks. One of the worst of the summer.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Beatriz at Dinner Review - 3 Stars

Salma Hayek practically floats through "Beatrix at Dinner." Called to the gated Newport Beach estate of Connie Britton, she massages and calms her client late in the day of an important dinner. Her husband has closed a big deal with billionaire developer John Lithgow, and everything must fall into place. Fate intervenes. A cranky Volkswagen refuses to start, and Connie graciously tells Salma to stay for dinner, and even the night if necessary. Salma has a close relationship with the family whose daughter she helped withstand chemo treatment during a nasty cancer. Soon, the guests arrive, and the uncomfortableness begins. Lithgow mistakes Salma for a waitress and orders a drink. Her presence explained, the guests inquire about Salma's profession, while giggling to themselves. She drinks too much wine, and feels comfortable enough to speak her mind on the subject of saving the Earth, over development and big game animal hunting. "Beatrix at Dinner" sounds on the surface like a predictable culture clash. Hayek rises above, taking Beatrix beyond fish out of water, into spirit hovering the Earth. John Lithgow captures the essence of a businessman bully, while subtly implying he may understand Beatrix's world. She's a healer, in a room full of takers. Her insight into her once-beloved client and her world adds comedy & sadness, leading to an ending that shocks, disappoints, satisfies, and stays with you. "Beatrix at Dinner," 3 stars and rated R. Does it deliver what it promises? Culture clash with a jolt. Is it entertaining? Only 83 minutes, and they fly by. Is it worth the price of admission? This reminds me of the kind of jolt, Hollywood used to make in the 1970s. I thought "Beatrix at Dinner" was terrific.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Book of Henry Review - 3 Stars

In "The Book of Henry," single mom Naomi Watts has surrendered control of her family to 11-year-old Jaeden Lieberher; but that's OK, because the kid's a genius, who trades stocks on the side and is truly the grownup in the room. The first third of the story creates a mostly fun universe, as the plot turns into a puzzle. Jaeden's younger brother is played by Jacob Tremblay, the kid who was so good in "Room." Sarah Silverman plays one of Naomi's best friends, a fellow waitress at the diner where Naomi really doesn't need to work. The family goes along, until a plot twist changes everything. Dark tones surround the harsh man next door, played by Dean Norris of "Breaking Bad," who may or may not be abusing his stepdaughter. The book referred to in the title, is a set of instructions from Henry. It leads into a finale full of tension and unsettling turns, concluding with a sigh of relief. Don't bother overthinking this story. It's more enjoyable, if you just go with it. "The Book of Henry" is rated PG-13 and earns 3 stars. Does it deliver what it promises? Unusual family story. Is it entertaining? Great twists & turns and unexpected events. Is it worth the price of admission? Worth it.

Rough Night Review - 1 Star

Scarlett Johansson's getting married in "Rough Night." Her college roommates insist she join them in Miami for a bachelorette party. Sound familiar? Well it should, because "Bridesmaids" had the same plot. Once in Miami, the girls drink too much, binge cocaine, and hire a male prostitute. Sound familiar? Well it should, because "The Hangover" had the same plot. When the girls hire the male prostitute, one of them jumps on top of him, causing him to hit his head and die in a freak accident. What to do with the body? Sound familiar? Well it should, since that's the setup of "Weekend at Bernie's." In spite of, or probably because it lifts these setups from successful comedies, "Rough Night" feels forced. Comedy is not Scarlett Johansson's strong suit. Sure, there are some laughs, but "Rough Night" simply tries too hard. Speaking of trying too hard, Demi Moore shows up in a cameo as a sex-addicted neighbor in search of a threesome. That's not funny, it's desperate. "Rough Night," rated R, 1 star. Does it deliver what it promises? Girls gone wild comedy. Is it entertaining? Occasionally funny. It is worth the price of admission? Skip it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Cars 3 Review - 2 Stars

The original "Cars" delighted audiences, as Paul Newman voiced a 1951 Hudson Hornet named "Hud" (get it?) who takes speed racer "Speedy" McQueen voiced by Owen Wilson under his (ahem) fender. "Cars 2" fell short of the original. Now "Cars 3" adds a completely unnecessary third installment. The hot race car "Speedy McQueen" isn't quite so hot anymore, compared to the new models on the track. "Speedy" goes in search of his mojo, and finds new friends including a training car named "Cruz," voiced by Cristela Alonzo. Ultimately, the training car strikes a blow for girl power, but I don't want to give anything away. "Speedy" gets a few new life lessons from "Hud," thanks to outtakes from the original voiced by Paul Newman. In spite of the less-than-great plot, "Cars 3" features Pixar's usual amazing computer animation. The manner in which the cars move and talk continues to impress. "Cars 3" also showcases wonderful voice work, particularly from Chris Cooper and my favorite Margo Martindale, who plays a 1950 Nash. Fans of the original will be happy to see Larry the Cable Guy's tow truck "Tow Mater," a character who continues to steal every scene in which he appears. I think the message of "Cars 3" is Pixar had to put something on screens this summer, and this is it. "Cars 3," rated G, 2 stars. Does it deliver what it promises? Pixar animation of familiar characters. Is it entertaining? Great animation, weak story. Is it worth the price of admission? For kids.