Movie Review: “Run All Night”

Starring
Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman, Ed Harris, Vincent D’Onofrio, Boyd Holbrook, Common, Genesis Rodriguez
Director
Jaume Collet-Serra

There was a collective cheer among film lovers when Liam Neeson rebooted his career as an action hero, if only because it meant giving the actor a bigger stage on which to ply his trade. But while the “Taken” series has helped raise his stock within Hollywood, even Neeson must realize that his continued involvement in these genre flicks has begun to veer towards parody. His latest movie, “Run All Night,” marks his third collaboration with Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra (“Unknown,” “Non-Stop”), and though it’s not any better or worse than their previous action-thrillers, it’s become so tiresome watching the actor play the same character again and again that the film is even more forgettable than usual.

Neeson stars as Jimmy “The Gravedigger” Conlon, an ex-mob enforcer for childhood friend/crime boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris) who’s become a shadow of his former self, drowning his sorrows in booze to dull the memories of past sins. When he receives word that his estranged son, law-abiding limo driver Michael (Joel Kinnaman), witnessed the murder of some clients by Shawn’s sleazebag son, Danny (Boyd Holbrook), Jimmy is sent to keep Michael quiet. But Danny refuses to listen to his own father’s instructions to stay low and decides to clean up his mess by killing Michael, forcing Jimmy to shoot Danny instead. Though Jimmy is adamant that he was only protecting his son, Shawn swears to kill them both as retribution, and with the cops and Irish mob hunting them down, Jimmy and Michael must go on the run until they can clear Michael’s name.

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Movie Review: “Cinderella”

Starring
Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Stellan Skarsgard, Derek Jacobi
Director
Kenneth Branagh

It seems laughably apologetic to give a studio credit for not royally screwing something up – hey now, that wasn’t completely awful! Well done, gents – but to be fair, there are a number of ways that the live action “Cinderella” could have gone horribly wrong. It could have been directed by one of those ‘that guy’ directors, rather than Kenneth Branagh, who made sure the movie had style and class, by jove. The script, by Chris Weitz (“About a Boy”), could have painted with a broad brush, rendering the wicked Tremaine women cardboard cutouts, and the prince a brain-dead trophy husband. “Cinderella” does none of these things, but more importantly, the movie reinforces the idea that kindness is always the better option, even when it’s not the easiest one. This may still be a fairy tale, but that is a great message for young girls and boys, and even better, the story is crafted in such a way that makes Cinderella not so much a lottery winner as a young woman making smart choices, honoring her family, and taking responsibility for her fate, by being kind. I can’t stress that last part enough.

Ella (Lily James) lives a simple but happy life with her loving, modest parents. Following the death of her mother (Hayley Atwell), though, Ella’s life takes a dreadful turn when her father (Ben Chaplin) marries the widow Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett), and must share the house with her and her awful daughters, Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera). The aspiring social climbers treat Ella like a servant when her father travels, and when Ella receives word that her father has fallen ill and died on his most recent trip, Ella – now dubbed Cinderella by the stepsisters when they see her with soot on her face (cinders on Ella, ha ha) – rides to the forest to escape her misery.

While in the forest, she happens upon a group of royalty hunting an elk, and she shames one of them, a handsome young man named Kit (Richard Madden), for doing so, unaware that Kit is a prince and heir to the throne. The two do that period’s version of the Meet Cute (circling each other on horses, apparently) and are clearly attracted to each other – both mind and body – but Ella doesn’t tell Kit her name or anything about her, out of fear that he will be disappointed once he discovers that she’s a commoner. On the contrary, Kit is so smitten with Ella that he refuses the king’s (Derek Jacobi) insistence that he marry “up” (read: a princess in a larger empire) in order to grow their kingdom. Kit decides to throw a royal ball and opens it to the public with the hope that Ella will attend. Ella plans to, but the Tremaine women see to it that she cannot. Good thing Ella has a fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) to save the day, especially considering that up to that moment, she didn’t know she had one.

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Movie Review: “It Follows”

Starring
Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe, Daniel Zovatto
Director
David Robert Mitchell

Everyone knows that you shouldn’t play with fire, because it’s been ingrained in our heads since we were kids, so might I propose adding “overhype a movie” to the list of things that future children should learn to avoid as well? Though there are obvious benefits to a small indie film building buzz on the festival circuit – and in the case of a movie like “Whiplash,” completely deserved – it can also ruin your experience when the film fails to live up to that hyperbolic praise. David Robert Mitchell’s sophomore effort, “It Follows,” is an excellent example of how misleading hype can be, because while the movie definitely has its merits as an innovative piece of genre filmmaking, it leans too heavily on the unique premise to fully realize its true potential, let alone warrant so much acclaim.

Set in a timeless Detroit where rotary phones and tube TVs coexist with miniature e-readers, the film tells the story of Jay (Maika Monroe), a teenage suburbanite who thinks she’s found the man of her dreams in new boyfriend, Hugh (Jake Leary), only to discover that he’s more like something out of a nightmare. When their sex-filled date ends with Jay chloroformed and bound to a wheelchair, Hugh explains that he’s infected her with a curse – like some kind of sexually transmitted disease – where the victim becomes ruthlessly stalked by a slow-walking entity that can assume any form. Nobody else can see it, but if it catches you, it’ll kill you, and the only way to get rid of it is by having sex with someone else and passing it on. And even then, you’re not completely safe, because if it kills that person, the nightmarish entity will refocus its attention on you until it kills everyone in the chain. Trapped in a constant state of fear and paranoia, Jay must rely on the help of her friends – including younger sister Kelly (Lili Sepe) and childhood crush Paul (Keir Gilchrist) – to stop the monster from claiming any more lives.

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Movie Review: “The Cobbler”

Starring
Adam Sandler, Steve Buscemi, Method Man, Melonie Diaz, Dustin Hoffman, Ellen Barkin, Lynn Cohen
Director
Thomas McCarthy

Adam Sandler’s dramatic career hasn’t been as successful as he probably would have liked, because after earning rave reviews for his work in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Punch-Drunk Love,” he’s failed to replicate that potential in other roles, from “Spanglish” to “Funny People.” So when it was announced that the actor would be teaming up with writer/director Thomas McCarthy for his new film, “The Cobbler,” the stage seemed set for Sandler to prove that it wasn’t just a one-off. Unfortunately, the movie is pretty awful, and though he doesn’t quite reach the same heights that he did with “Punch-Drunk Love,” Sandler isn’t the problem. Instead, it’s the tone deaf script and, to a lesser degree, McCarthy’s muddled direction, which is even more surprising coming from the co-writer of “Up” and the filmmaker behind indie gems like “The Station Agent” and “Win Win.”

Max Simkin (Sandler) is a fourth-generation cobbler who’s taken over his family’s shoe repair store in Manhattan after his father (Dustin Hoffman) abandoned Max and his mother with no explanation. When his equipment breaks one night while fixing the soles on a pair of shoes, Max heads down to the basement to use an antique stitching machine that, unbeknownst to him, has magical powers that transform him into a doppelganger of the shoes’ owner when he puts them on. (As long as that person is a size 10 ½ like Max, of course). Excited by the numerous possibilities that it offers, Max takes advantage of his newfound ability by getting revenge on a particularly rude customer (Method Man), only to get mixed up in a criminal scheme to redevelop the Lower East Side by a corrupt real estate mogul (Ellen Barkin).

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Blu Tuesday: Night at the Museum and R100

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.

“NIght at the Musem: Secret of the Tomb”

WHAT: When the tablet of Ahkmenrah begins to erode, causing the exhibits at the Museum of Natural History to act strangely when they come to life, Larry (Ben Stiller) and his son, Nick (Skyler Gisondo), travel to London to consult Ahkmenrah’s parents at the British Museum about how to fix the tablet before it loses its power forever.

WHY: If there’s one good thing to come out of “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb,” it’s that it marks the end of the adventure-comedy franchise. While the first movie was based on a fairly clever idea that sadly never rose above its broad humor and ridiculous plotting, the first sequel lacked any originality whatsoever, recycling the same jokes and moving the action to a different location to justify the introduction of new characters. “Secret of the Tomb” is basically the exact same movie, but whereas “Battle of the Smithsonian” at least benefitted from the addition of Amy Adams to the cast, the third installment is stuck with the usually charming Dan Stevens playing the utterly annoying Sir Lancelot. (And if you’re wondering what a fictional character is even doing in a museum, it just goes to show how little thought goes into the making of these films.) The “Night at the Museum” movies are kiddie fare, plain and simple, but just because they’re targeted towards children doesn’t mean that they can’t be intelligent, funny or exciting. “Secret of the Tomb” is none of these things, which makes you wonder how it managed to attract the talent that it did.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director Shawn Levy, there are seven featurettes covering things like visuals effects, stunt choreography and comedic shenanigans on the set, as well as seven deleted/extended scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“R100″

WHAT: Lonely furniture salesman Takafumi Katayama (Nao Ohmori) enlists the services of a secret BDSM club that specializes in guerilla acts of public punishment and humiliation. But when one of the dominatrices is killed during a surprise house call, Takafumi must face off against an army of leather-clad women in order to protect his family.

WHY: Proving that there’s no such thing as “too weird” in Japanese cinema, director Hitoshi Matsumoto’s “R100” is a symphony of oddity that doesn’t push the envelope so much as test the viewer’s patience about what exactly they’re watching. A meta-comedy satirizing Japan’s film rating system (in which an R18 is equivalent to the MPAA’s NC-17), the movie proposes that it’s so far out there only people over the age of 100 can fully appreciate its contents. The truth is that “R100” isn’t nearly as risqué as it would like you to believe. Despite the unique premise, Matsumoto doesn’t do enough interesting things with it to warrant a full-length feature, and with the exception of a few elements – including the comical irony of casting “Ichi the Killer” star Nao Ohmori in the lead role (bringing the sadist-masochist relationship full circle) – it’s never as funny as it promises, either. Fans of Matsumoto’s past films (“Big Man Japan,” “Symbol”) and this type of gonzo filmmaking in general will no doubt enjoy his latest effort, but don’t go digging for a deeper artistic meaning, because “R100” is merely weird for the sake of being weird. Nothing more, nothing less.

EXTRAS: There’s an included booklet featuring a short interview with actress Lindsay Kay Hayward, but sadly, that’s the extent of the bonus material.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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