Movie Review: “Accidental Love”

Starring
Jessica Biel, Jake Gyllenhaal, James Marsden, Catherine Keener, Tracy Morgan, James Brolin
Director
Stephen Greene

“Accidental Love” did not have a smooth production process, and it shows in the stitched-together final product. The comedy was initially a David O. Russell film titled “Nailed,” shot all the way back in 2008. But due to funding issues, the movie never completed principal photography, and what was once Russell’s “Nailed” is now being released under the pseudonym Stephen Greene as “Accidental Love.”

The film centers on Alice Eckle (Jessica Biel), a small-town, roller-skating fast food waitress. On a night out with her boyfriend (played by the always reliable James Marsden), Alice not only gets a ring on her finger, but a nail in her head thanks to a freak accident. Making her situation worse, Alice doesn’t have health insurance, meaning she can’t get the nail taken out unless she magically comes up with $150,000. And until her condition is taken care of, she’ll experience uncontrollable emotions and wild thoughts. Ultimately, Alice heads to the nation’s capital and enlists the help of young congressman Howard Birdwell (Jake Gyllenhaal), who, with the assistance of a few friends and familiar faces, will try to change the health care system in order to get the nail removed from Alice’s head.

Anyone expecting a sharp political satire will walk away disappointed. “Accidental Love,” which was co-written by former Vice President Al Gore’s daughter, Kristen, is a hugely broad comedy. The film has more in common with a sitcom than movies like “Bulworth” or “Wag the Dog,” but that doesn’t mean “Accidental Love” isn’t without its laughs. When a cast includes James Marsden, Tracy Morgan, Kurt Fuller and Bill Hader, not all jokes are going to fall flat. Marsden continues to prove he’s one of the most undervalued comedic actors working today. The former “X-Men” star has no shortage of charisma, so it’s baffling that this guy still isn’t a huge movie star. Marsden is a supporting player here, but he comes away stealing the show, even during the redundant and awkward post-credits sequence. As for Biel, it’s impossible to come away from “Accidental Love” without feeling bad for her. She’s charming and funny in a way audiences haven’t seen from her before, fully committing to the lunacy of this story.

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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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