Source Code is meant to be director Duncan Jones' mainstream follow-up to Moon, 2009's existential sci-fi critical darling, and though it has all the hallmarks of the work of a previously proven director transitioning into blockbuster territory -- plot holes galore, bad dialogue, flimsily supported themes, a sci-fi premise supported by nonexistent science, a crack screenplay written by someone hot off of direct-to-DVD sequel Species III -- the majority of critics are still filing positive reviews for it. Back-handed ones, but still, predominantly positive reviews. Personally, though I liked Moon a great deal and am rooting for Duncan Jones just as much as the next critic, Source Code really didn't work for me. No hard feelings, Mr. Moon-maker.
After breaking out in Rome, Ray Stevenson played thugs in a slew of bad movies, from Punisher: War Zone to Cirque du Freak to The Book of Eli. He'll elevate his tough-guy game slightly in Thor and The Three Musketeers later this year, but anyone looking to see him step outside his goon-shaped box would do well to check out Kill the Irishman. The real-life character he plays is still basically a thug, but he's an intelligent, quirky thug with a fabulous mustache, and he holds his own against a huge cast of some of our greatest crime-movie actors. The film itself isn't great art, but it's a fun way to learn about a little-known period in our history, with a lot of explosions in it.
While Take Me Home Tonight is set in 1988, and constantly reminds you of that fact with its endlessly danceable soundtrack, the real time warp will happen as you look at the faces of the actors and actresses who appear in it. Since the film was shot four years ago, you feel like you're watching archival footage of Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler and the rest, which... actually makes it feel like a real 1980s film. The sense that the movie is old, combined with the film's themes of growing up, the consequence-free gallivanting and the easily pat resolution, cumulatively give the impression of watching a vintage John Hughes movie, with just a hint of Judd Apatow. It likely wasn't intentional, but shelving this movie for so long did wonders for its enjoyability.
When two films come out on the same subject at around the same time, there's usually a clear victor. And although it came out several months ago, and very few people saw it, I have to give the "Best Romans fighting Picts north of Hadrian's Wall Movie" award to Centurion. The Neil Marshall-directed movie starred Michael Fassbender and was a tense action-thriller full of scenic highland chases. Kevin MacDonald's The Eagle is also a tense action-thriller, but it stars Channing Tatum, and while he's believable as an American soldier in... well, every movie he makes, he's less believable as the commander of a Roman legion. Not even giving all the other Romans American accents can cover up the fact that the man's not a terribly dynamic actor. That said, the movie is entertaining, and even occasionally humorous (both intentionally and unintentionally), and you'll definitely never look at Billy Elliot the same way ever again.
No Strings Attached is a really weird movie. It's predicated on a dated and well-answered question -- Can two people have sex without falling love? (Yes, they can. All adults know this, except for the ones who made this movie, apparently) -- while attempting to be aggressively modern, yet clinging steadfastly to 1950s morality at the very same time. It has some of the worst, most clichéd rom-com dialogue I have ever had the displeasure of listening to, while also delivering some of the biggest laughs I've experienced in a while. It stars one of the hottest actors of the moment (Natalie Portman), alongside one of the most irrelevant (Ashton Kutcher), and its screenplay manages to be both topical and passé simultaneously. I have seen worse movies than No Strings Attached, but rarely do I see things this schizophrenic.
I love how inaccurate the definitions "comedy" and "drama" can be. Most films have both, and usually more of one than another, but a good number of them are essentially dramedies, either due to a calculated balance or an inability to commit. (For instance, The Tourist, ostensibly an action thriller, was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Comedy or Musical, presumably due to Depp's lackadaisical commitment to the laughably clichéd storyline.) So when I saw that Paul Giamatti had been nominated for a Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical for Barney's Version, I just knew that this wouldn't be a pure comedy -- despite the trailer's focus on a Heartbreak Kid-style plot point, it also showed some sadly romantic longing. But I had no idea how depressing things would get, since the movie pretty much abandons comedy halfway through, and the romance never lasts.
The studio behind the upcoming alien invasion movie Battle: Los Angeles was supposedly considering suing the directors of Skyline -- who are also special effects technicians on BLA -- because the movies are too similar. But Skyline may be the best advertisement for Battle: Los Angeles anyone could ask for. If there is a good, exciting action movie in Skyline, it takes place outside the apartment complex where all of the action is. The characters are basically watching a legitimately awesome action movie unfold outside their house, and while they're certainly in danger from the aliens, their lives and their actions are pretty much meaningless. Not just because they don't really affect the course of the action at all, but because you don't particularly care about any of them. That, combined with a crummy ending, leaves you hungry for an alien invasion movie you can be in the thick of, and not just watch from the sidelines with a bunch of jerks.
The final Saw movie came out in theaters this past weekend, promising to end the franchise with a giant, 3D explosion of gore and limbs. Unfortunately, the movie ended not with a bang, but with a whimper from Jigsaw's various mutilated victims, as they had their skulls pierced with sawed-off section of pipe and had their appendages torn off by science. There was no real sense of resolution, as the character deaths that were required of the film all felt quick and anti-climactic, and the ending was disappointingly left open for another installment with a new Jigsaw at the helm. Not that I expected The Return of the King, but even getting Jaws IV would have been nice.
The premise for Welcome to the Rileys has been described by some critics as the thinking moviegoer's The Blind Side, and I suppose that's fair. After losing their daughter in a car accident, a married couple (played magnificently by James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo) have grown apart, and have managed to avoid facing and dealing with their crushing grief. Like, completely. They don't speak to each other, he's cheating with a Waffle House waitress, and she's deathly afraid to leave the house, among other issues. But when Gandolfini comes across a teen hooker (played by Kristen Stewart) with more sores than positive role models in her life while on a business trip to New Orleans, he decides she represents a second chance at saving his daughter, gets Melissa Leo on board, and after a bumpy road, emotional healing is had by all.
It's always tough when you come across a movie in which there's no one to root for. Sometimes you find yourself rooting for the least insufferable of all of them, or, more often, hoping that all of the characters die in a bus accident, but usually you tend to gravitate towards the most charismatic and entertainingly cruel of the bunch. And in this particular movie, that's Stone, Edward Norton's cornrowed convict, who displays both willful ignorance and deadly cunning in his attempts to earn himself an early parole. Norton has always loved his accents, and his streets-of-Detroit delivery is funny at first, then sad, then just plain evil. The story of how he gets from here to there doesn't have a lot of twists in it, although it meanders quite a bit, but it serves to show off the new, entertaining character he's created.