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CHIPS (review)

CHIPS (review)

Actor Dax Shepard can take most of the credit for this wretched remake…he also wrote and directed it. He and Michael Peña play the cop duo who follow a hackneyed scheme about internal corruption. The typically trite mismatched coupling suffers from dumb exchanges, especially lots of sex-related banter (guess he’s trying to push the shock factor…another common trait to current R-rated comedies). The plot and characters are often confusing, not sure who’s on which side and what’s even happening. The only good thing about the whole mess is that the pace is snappy and the running time is only 100 minutes.

 

1 Stars (1 / 5)

 

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Wilson (review)

Wilson (review)

Woody Harrelson is usually delightful in comic roles, but he’s trying too hard in this one. It’s based on a graphic novel that I didn’t read, but someone who has, told me that his movie character is pretty much like it reads. This makes him an optimistic, neurotic and often inappropriate man who wants to make his misguided life better. This includes re-uniting with his ex (Laura Dern) and the teenage daughter who was given up for adoption (Isabella Amara). His encounters (which feature plenty of his rambling social commentary) are seldom amusing, much less funny and the character isn’t especially sympathetic or comical. The film wanted to be quirky, but it lacked the writing or direction to make it work.

 

2.5 Stars (2.5 / 5)

 

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The Last Word (review)

The Last Word (review)

It seems like the only characters that actors over 70 can play are crusty grumps. Shirley MacLaine is the latest on the bandwagon, as a retired businesswoman with control issues. She’s so concerned about her obit, that she assigns a young writer (Amanda Seyfried) to make it meaningful. Usually, this kind of film thrives on quirky, but this one flails with mediocre eccentricity (she becomes a radio DJ and mentors a sassy young black girl). MacLaine is great as the curmudgeon, but it’s the young AnnJewel Lee Dixon whose personality steals the movie. Even so, they can’t rescue every predictable beat of the story or the lack of emotional depth to add much real warmth to her obit.

 

3 Stars (3 / 5)

 

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Personal Shopper (review)

Personal Shopper (review)

Kristen Stewart lives in Paris, where she works for a famous woman picking up her designer clothes, but it’s not an especially glamorous gig. Meanwhile, she’s a medium waiting for a sign from her recently deceased twin brother. Since this was made by French director Olivier Assayas, (who cast Stewart to play the personal assistant to Juliette Binoche in “Clouds of Sils Maria”) you can expect a slow, observational style that lets scenes play out without much emotion. Stewart rides thru the role with little expression, while the supernatural element only serves to complicate matters in this fragmented screenplay. Some mysterious events added a bit of apprehension and hope for some spooks. Unfortunately, after it was over, I had no idea what had happened or why we were supposed to care.

 

2 Stars (2 / 5)

 

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The Belko Experiment (review)

The Belko Experiment (review)

80 office workers are locked inside their building and told they have to kill 30 of their own…or else. Thus begins a showdown of paranoia, tension and violence. The heated moral discussions help space out the brutal acts, but there’s sufficient stress to keep them compelling (a strong cast helps). Basically, this is a grisly cat-and-mouse game with the audience guessing who’s next to go. It doesn’t break new ground for the genre, but the premise is original and the plentiful kills are sufficiently and skillfully dispatched.

 

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

 

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Beauty and the Beast (review)

Beauty and the Beast (review)

This live action version of the Disney classic stars Emma Watson as the plucky Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast. It’s big and lavish, with sweeping (sometimes almost dizzying) camerawork and extravagant visuals (although more artificial and less sumptuous). Even though it runs a bit too long, there’s plenty of energy. The love story has moments of warmth, but the living props provide the fun, along with Josh Gad’s comic relief (the studio’s first obviously gay character). The songs, the costumes, the sets: all lovely. Still, the film lacks that that extra dazzle quality that made the original so successful.

 

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

 

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The Sense of an Ending (review)

The Sense of an Ending (review)

The title of this movie lends itself to jokes about the film’s indulgent tedium. The script describes Jim Broadbent’s character as a curmudgeon and they’re never especially sympathetic. As he delves the memories and meanings of a long-ago relationship , we see that he’s always been a bit of a dick. Even so, we’re forced to watch the slow revelation of his past, while not particularly caring about the man. Broadbent and the rest of the cast are fine, but the restrained storytelling and tame emotions will only be of interest to those who enjoy a mature character study in the studied manner of a novel (guess what…the film is based on one).(Criterion Cinemas only)

 

2 Stars (2 / 5)

 

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Kong: Skull Island (review)

Kong: Skull Island (review)

This is a complete revision of the King Kong tale. A group of scientists (and their military escorts) goes on an expedition to a mysterious island, where they discover quite a few large, dangerous creatures. It’s less about a raging monster and more about an action-packed adventure. The creatures create a formidable presence and the encounters are full of creative ways to kill. Toss in John C. Reilly for some sweet humor, stunning locations and beautiful cinematography. Combine them with assured filmmaking from 2nd time director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (“The Kings of Summer”) and the result is pure popcorn fun! NOTE: Stay thru the credits for a promising preview.

 

4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

 

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Logan (review)

Logan (review)

  1. Hugh Jackman says this will be his final film as Wolverine. He’s working as a chauffeur (driving a beautiful Chrysler limo) attempting to stay unnoticed in a near future world where most mutants have died out. When a young girl with special powers shows up, he’s forced to take her on the run. This is a more intimate take on the superhero genre. Yes, there are several great claw-slashing scenes, but there’s also a more personal drama and less flashy special effects. Writer/director James Mangold has given the film a bleak personal perspective and managed some nice twists to keep it interesting. While not breaking any new ground for cool visuals, it does break the mold with a more dramatically compelling (yet still action fused) take on the genre. NOTE: Don’t be late. There’s a funny new promo for DEADPOOL 2 right before the film.

 

4 Stars (4 / 5)

 

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Get Out (review)

Get Out (review)

Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams make a cute couple: He’s black and she’s white. When they go to meet her parents, the extremely accommodating family and some weirdly off-kilter help cause concern..and more. Writer/director Jordan Peele has created a slowly mounting sense of fear that’s more about racial tension than cinematic scares. Still, the sinister portent builds with steady apprehension that leads to a brutal outcome. While satirical observations on prejudice add humor (and some plot points strain logic), the overall effect is suitably chilling and completely entertaining.

 

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

 

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John Wick: Chapter 2 (review)

John Wick: Chapter 2 (review)

Keanu Reeves returns as a severe hit man. As with the first movie, this one is more about style (cool locations and blasting music) than story (minimal, hackneyed dialogue). The body count is absurdly high, as Wick dispatches men with direct gunshots and ruthless blows. But that’s what makes it fun: watching what new ways they’ll come up with to inflict pain and death. Even though it’s mindless violence and Reeves’ delivery is as flat as ever, this is a rare sequel that actually seems more inventive and enjoyable than the original.

 

4 Stars (4 / 5)

 

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I Am Not Your Negro (review)

I Am Not Your Negro (review)

James Baldwin was a distinguished black writer and an outspoken critic of race relations in America. There are elements of a traditional doc in this film, but it’s more an artistic treatise using Baldwin’s eloquent words (quietly voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) and charismatic on-screen appearances to delineate his musings on the subject. It’s supported with disturbing historical photos and excerpts from Hollywood films. There is a focus on 3 great leaders of the civil rights movement (Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King), but the extended analysis sometimes becomes repetitive or seems to ramble. Even so, this is a forceful examination that sadly still rings true more than 50 years later.

 

4 Stars (4 / 5)

 

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