Movie Review: “Ted 2″

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The acquired taste that is Seth MacFarlane is harder to acquire and the one joke in his one-joke comedy about the pot-smoking/potty-mouthed teddy bear wears thin in the endless two hours of “Ted 2.”
Really, if you’ve seen one f-bomb dropping child’s toy take a bong hit, you’ve seen them all.
“Ted 2″ finds Ted and his new bride Tami-Lynne (Jessica Barth) trying to save their crumbling marriage the old-fashioned way — by having a kid.
“It’ll teach us how to love each other again!”
Ted’s doing his working class belly-aching to Tami-Lynne in his wife-beater T-shirt and low-class Boston accent, she’s giving as good as she gets. Stuff gets thrown. A kid’ll fix that.
But that opens a whole can of worms about their fertility, with sperm bank gags. And their marital status and Ted’s legal status as a doll that’s come to life are on the table, too. Is he a “thing,” or a person?
Most of the movie is about Ted trying to prove the latter, with the aid of a child-lawyer (Amanda Seyfried) who’s a bit fond of the weed herself. The trial is a non-starter that starts early and goes on for way too much of the movie. Not funny, not moving or profound, either, no matter how much Ted (the voice of MacFarlane) gripes that they’re treating him “just like the homos.”
Several few laughs land, but they’re scattered. The pacing is leaden. MacFarlane’s yen for song and dance gets a workout — a pointlessly elaborate opening number, Ted and a chorus line dancing around a giant cake — MacFarlane’s Ted breaks into song at random points in the picture, Seyfried (“Mamma Mia!”) sings by a campfire and arch-villain Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) covers a little Neil Diamond.
Yeah, Mark Wahlberg is back as Ted’s best bud, Johnny, the one who wished Ted to life as a kid. Tom Brady has a cameo, Patrick Warburton, Dennis Haysbert and Morgan Freeman show up.
Best bit — Ted visiting New York’s Comic Con, a convention where Warburton’s “Guy” gets to dress up as Warburton’s super hero character The Tick. Guy has a new boyfriend who dresses up as Mr. Worf from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The new boyfriend is Michael Dorn who played Worf. Hilarious.
Stoner comedies aren’t for everyone. But with marijuana gaining legal footing in more states, the sky seems to be the limit for movies that pander to that audience. Can “Ted 3″ and a serious attack of the munchies be in the cards in our future? The mind reels.

MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use

Cast: The voice of Seth MacFarlane, Mark Wahlberg, Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Barth, Morgan Freeman, Giovanni Ribisi, Patrick Warburton
Credits: Directed by Seth MacFarlane, script by Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild. A Universal release.

Running time: 1:55

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Movie Review: “Glass Chin”

chinn“Glass Chin” is a boxing picture with very little actual boxing. As the title suggests, putting the ex-fighter (Corey Stoll, in a break-out performance) in the ring wouldn’t be a pretty sight.
Bud “The Saint” Gordon used to be somebody, used to be a contender. He had a restaurant, every pro athlete’s dream. Now that’s all gone.
All he has is s dumpy house in Jersey, his native wit, his girl (Marin Ireland), his dog, Silly, and two choices.
Will he go back to Yellow Bird Gym and help his old corner man train an up-and-comer, Kid Sunshine? Or will he tie his fate to the oily loan shark, J.J., played with sexually ambiguous venom by Billy Crudup?
The first thing you notice about this Noah

Buschel film is that it’s made up entirely of boxing movie archetypes, and that none of them talk in the inarticulate “dese-dem-dose” phrases common to movies set in that gritty milieu. Stoll (“The Good Lie”) suggests intelligence, even in the coarse dialogue of a Jersey boxer.
Crudup just revels in making J.J. a ruthless, faintly effeminate operator determined to muscle his way into Manhattan’s chic set — rolling his money into a restaurant and art gallery.
“This is me, marveling,” he says to the boxers. “I marvel at you lads.”
Yul Vazquez (“American Gangster,””Captain Phillips) is perfectly cast as bad news for Bud, Roberto, the “pick up and delivery guy” J.J. wants Bud to accompany on collections. Even Roberto uses words like “trenchant,” not your every day thug speech.
Kelly Lynch is a dishy, high-mileage ex-model bartender J.J. uses to corrupt Bud. David Johansen is one of the debtors they collect from. He remembers Bud. You were “one smart bruiser.”
There aren’t many new wrinkles to the story. But Buschel keeps things bleak as Bud confronts his past and his ever-narrowing present. And Stoll, nicely underplaying a once-big-man straining to get back to where he was, gives us both the tough guy exterior and the glass chin that could be Bud’s undoing.

3stars2
MPAA Rating: unrated, with violence, profanity, nudity

Cast: Corey Stoll, Billy Crudup, Marin Ireland, Yul Vazquez, Kelly Lynch
Credits: Written and directed by Noah Buschel. An eOne/Phase 4 release.

Running time: 1:28

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Movie Review: “Big Game”

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Fifteen minutes into a serious thriller about shooting down Air Force One and kidnapping the president, “Big Game” turns seriously silly.
But we’re in the hands of the writer-director of the Finnish “Santa Claus is a monster” movie, “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale.” So it’s goofy by design.
Samuel L. Jackson’s the president who survives the crash that turncoat Secret Service agent Morris (Ray Stevenson) has engineered in a presidential “escape pod.” The person who pops him out of the pod, lost in the wilds of Finland, wants to communicate via a paper-cup and string “telephone.”
“From what planet are you from? Do you come in peace?”
Jackson fights back the desire, the NEED, to use his favorite expletives. Very presidential. And prudent. His savior is a boy just turning 13, a Finnish kid (Onni Tommilla) who insists the Prez (whom he doesn’t recognize) call him “Ranger.” The in-over-his-head kid is on a solo bear hunt, a rite of passage among Finland’s Duck Dynasty crowd.
“Big Game” — and as a villain notes, “game doesn’t get any bigger” than a president played by Samuel L. Jackson — is a violent formula actioner stuffed into a PG-13 box. Writer-director Jalmari Helander pulls his punches and goes more goofy than gonzo in this survivalist shootout. The result is a movie that won’t please his fans, or the kids he waters this down for.
“Ranger,” or Oskari, may be so rural that he has more knowledge of driving an offroad four-wheeler than who the U.S. president might be. But he speaks English, spoiling the most promising comic possibilities here — a language barrier. It’s easy to envision a foul-mouthed President Samuel L. trying to make himself understood and respected by a Finnish kid with a bow and arrow.
Instead, Oskari and President Moore set out to finish the boy’s Finnish vision quest, and then rescue the POTUS.
“Tomorrow, I will be a man,” the boy insists.
The president makes little effort to get a sense of urgency into this boy. Even after the people who shot down his plane (Mehmet Kurtulus is their leader) show up and start shooting and chasing.
Meanwhile, Jim Broadbent is the wily old spy brought in to run the government’s efforts to satellite track and bring back the president. Victor Garber is the vice president, Felicity Huffman the CIA chief, Ted Levine a general at a loss for cleaning up this mess.
Jackson’s best acting comes in every moment he plays a passive president in the hands of a wimpy hunter-boy who can’t even draw back his bow.
“Sometimes, you don’t have to be tough, just look tough,” he counsels the kid.
“The forest is a harsh judge,” Mini Mel Gibson hisses back. “It gives each of us what we deserve.”
The production values and high-caliber cast suggest “Big Game” had better intentions than results. Helander may have memorized “Die Hard” and “Air Force One” and “Olympus Has Fallen.” But his version of that formula, given the loopy twist of making a woodsman/kid the hero “with particular skills,” loses most everything in translation.

1half-star

MPAA Rating: PG – 13 for sequences of intense action and violence, and some language

Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Onni Tommila, Ray Stevenson, Felicity Huffman, Victor Garber, Jim Broadbent
Credits: Written and directed by Jalmari Helander. A Relativity release.

Running time: 1:26

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Movie Review: “Felt”

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Amy had a bad breakup, probably the latest of many. She’s an artist, so her post-breakup grief is an unusually deep wallow in self-pity.
But self-pity, in this case, leads to self-expression. After friends have helped her cope with changes in her Facebook status, the feeling that “I’m never safe” and suicidal talk of “Is there a way NOT to dream?”, she starts building alter egos to soothe her wounded psyche.
When one friend won’t agree to her “Let’s go on a killing spree,” Amy starts sewing masks, brassieres and genitally–endowed panties, therapy made from felt. And then, she goes on the warpath in the San Francisco dating scene, trying on these new personae to unsuspecting blind dates.
“Felt” is sort of a mumblecore psychodrama, an exploration of victimhood and one woman’s role-playing to escape it.
Amy Everson stars as the a skinny, sadfaced 20something heroine, Amy, struggling with a descent into madness.
It starts with being rude to assorted blind dates and escalates to showing up for paid “photo sessions” (she wears a nude costume of her own design) and taunting the pervy photographer.
And then Kenny (filmmaker/actor Kentucker Audley) comes into her life. Like a pop starlet who loses her tortured love-gone-wrong ballads, Amy’s attitude turns around. Only her best friend (Roxanne Lauren Knouse) isn’t fooled.
Jason Banker, who directed and co-wrote the script with Everson, makes “Felt” a cloth-covered navel-gazer of a melodrama — doling out Amy’s shocking costumes and “statements” here and there amongst endless scenes of her muddling through her misery. Everson has a mildly disturbed girl-next-door screen presence, here — capable of anything, or anything a feather-weight manic depressive might manage.
For all its shocks, “Felt” doesn’t serve up many surprises, just a lot of moping and talking and talking about moping, dates that go nowhere, men behaving badly, Amy behaving worse. The germ of an idea is here. I’m just not sure it’s worth more than a shorter film than this one, which at 80 minutes is a bit of a drag.

1half-star

MPAA Rating: unrated, with graphic sexual content, profanity, violence

Cast: Amy Everson, Kentucker Audley, Roxanne Lauren Knouse
Credits: Directed by Jason Banker, script Jason Banker and Amy Everson . An Amplify release.

Running time: 1:20

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Movie Review: “A Little Chaos”

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“A Little Chaos” is an overlong ditty of a movie, Alan Rickman’s amusingly fanciful version of how a famous outdoor ballroom in the gardens of Versailles came to be.
He directed and co-stars with his “Sense and Sensibility” love interest, Kate Winslet, in a tale of a woman entering a man’s world, a plucky widowed gardener who carries out design and construction one of the wonders of Versailles for Louis XIV, “The Sun King.”
Louis (Rickman) wants Versailles to “embody the true glory and splendor of France.” The regular court landscapers are letting him down. The royal landscape architect, Andre le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts) is ordered to throw open bids to see who can “order” the “chaos” of the swampy landscape.
But Sabine De Barra (Winslet) sees too much “order” in the place. Her design, with its “abundance of chaos” is her Garden of Eden. She gets the commission.
Sabine is hurled into lightweight court intrigues and rivalries, hated and sabotaged by many, championed by the Duc d’Orleans, playfully played by Stanley Tucci. The Duke is the king’s brother, with the effrontery to speak up to his king, who has a big family, a mistress (Jennifer Ehle) and no appetite.
“If the King does not eat,” the Duke reproaches him, “FRANCE does not eat!”
Le Notre, unhappily married to a feckless courtier, is smitten by the swarthy, earthy Sabine. Their flirtation is earthy — and earth-covered.
Rickman, who co-wrote the script, delivers gardening in the rain and a delightfully unlikely meeting between the unrecognized king and the lady gardener, a woman who “adapts, like a well-trained plant.” His is, of course, regal and marvelous as Louis. But he gives Tucci a blank check and Ehle, famed for TV’s “Pride & Prejudice,” a stunningly tender scene among her ladies in waiting.
It’s all a bit much, adorably so. And yet the love story at its heart is given short shrift. Winslet and Schoenaerts kind of click in those few scenes where that’s allowed. But Rickman and his players have enough witty and winning moments that we don’t mind.
Even in period pieces, overdoing prim and proper “order” can be a drag. A little more chaos might have truly lit this one up.

3stars2

MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality and brief nudity

Cast: Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jennifer Ehle, Stanley Tucci
Credits: Directed by Alan Rickman, script by Jeremy Brock, Alison Deegan and Alan Rickman . A Lionsgate/Focus release.

Running time: 1:57

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Movie Review: “The Little Death”

death“La petite mort,” the French call it — “the little death.” What a colorful and delicate way to describe an orgasm.
But “delicate” isn’t the first word that leaps to mind with the Australian sex comedy that takes its name from that turn of phrase. “The Little Death” is a broad, goofy primer on the not-quite-cutting-edge of consensual adult sexuality. The five inter-connected couples and their assorted fantasies, fetishes and hangups only generate the odd laugh — often at how quaint this material can seem in The Age of Caitlyn Jenner.
Dan and Evie (Damon Herriman and Kate Mulvany) are in counseling, where they’re directed to try a little role playing. That turns into “role fetishism” as Dan takes the “acting” part a little more seriously — costumes, lighting, direction.
Rowena and Richard (Kate Box, Patrick Brammall) are trying to get pregnant. How do you keep the love-making fresh and fun when “How’s your cervical mucus?” counts as pillow talk?
Paul (writer-director Josh Lawson) tries to get his head around significant other Maeve’s “rape fantasy,” in an politically incorrect bit on “sexual masochism.”
“Somnophilia” (sexual arousal at the sight of someone sleeping) is comically taken to its extreme.
Some segments generate a chuckle, and some are comically cringe-worthy, such as the running gag about the new neighbor (Kim Gyngell) who in introduces himself to each couple, in turn, with cookies today regarded as racially offensive in Australia. The nostalgia those generate, and the self-involvement of each couple, means that nobody hears him say he’s required, by law, to tell them he’s a sexual offender.
The one bit to truly work is also the warmest, as a video interpreter/operator for the deaf (Erin James) finds herself called on to mediate a call to a phone sex operator by a lonely young deaf man.
The whole adds up to a movie that generally falls between never quite titillating and titters, which fall somewhat below giggles on the laughter scale.

2stars1
MPAA Rating: unrated, sexual situations, profanity

Cast: Bojana Novakovic, Kate Mulvany, Josh Lawson, Damon Herriman, Kate Box, Patrick Brammall, Alan Dukes, Lisa McCune
Credits: Written and directed by Josh Lawson. A Magnolia release.

Running time: 1:36

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Movie Review: “7 Minutes” is an indie heist picture with nothing new going for it

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Heist pictures don’t come much dumber than “7 Minutes,” an indie thriller about three desperate young guys who attempt their first armed robbery.
That stupidity, evident in both the under-planned caper and its resolution, could have been an asset to writer-director Jay Martin’s movie. But like his characters, he appears to have missed the gaping holes in his plot. And at every pivotal moment in the movie, Martin errs on the side of dull.
You’ve got to be an idiot to plan to make a living, post high school, by selling Ecstasy to the local college kids. But it takes a special degree of dumb to take an expensive pile of pills from a proven killer drug dealer, and then flush them down the toilet at the first loss of nerve. That’s how former high school quarterback Sam (Luke Mitchell of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) gets in over his head.
Robbing a relative, or basically anybody in a town where everybody knows your name and face is clueless.
Dragging brother Mike (Jason Ritter of “Gravity Falls”), a new father and serial womanizer, into it wasn’t smart. Ex-con Owen (Zane Holtz of TV’s “From Dusk Till Dawn”) is no help, either.
The film is framed within the seven minutes of the actual heist — a mortgage office in rural Washington state. Flashbacks tell us how these three came to be in this fix.
Sam’s lost his machine shop job. And his pregnant waitress ex-cheerleader fiance, Kate (Leven Rambin) is burdening him with her optimism.
“Everything’s gonna turn around,” she says. “We just need to get on our feet, get out of this town.”
She’s totally in the dark about the heist, as are the lumpy classmate-turned-lonely cop (Brandon Hardesty) and Sam’s hardcase “Pop” (Kris Kristofferson). But Pop’s thuggish pal (Kevin Gage) senses something’s up.
The cast is game and committed. But Martin, making his directing debut well into a career as a movie storyboard artist, struggles to give all of these characters history and motivation as he ham-fistedly weaves them into the film. They’re never more than stock types, and having no flair for dialogue and a weak grasp of action editing, he fumbles the promising small town milieu and “family” he sets up with a climax built on action beats that bear ever-diminishing returns.
Best thing about it? The plainly-restored classic cars Sam and Kate drive. Put that vintage AMC Javelin and vintage Jeep Cherokee on eBay and you’re “out of this town” in under seven minutes.

1star6

MPAA Rating: unrated, with graphic violence, sex

Cast: Luke Mitchell, Leven Rambin, Jason Ritter, Kris Kristofferson, Joel Murray
Credits: Written and directed by Jay Martin. A Starz release. release.

Running time: 1:29

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Box Office: “Jurassic” wins another weekend, “Inside Out” opens over $83, “Dope” opens wack. Or weak.

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“Jurassic World” is headed towards another weekend over $100 million at the U.S. box office, and appears set to clear $400 million (domestically) in just ten days.

That, coupled with the staggering foreign box office numbers, means Hell yeah we’re doing another sequel.

Will it be a straight-up remake of “Jurassic Park II”? Probably.

Pixar’s “Inside Out” didn’t steal a win at the box office, and isn’t the studio’s best opener ever. But it’s not a sequel, not presold on anything save for the Pixar brand. That alone was enough to ensure a big opening, great reviews pushed it as well. Over $83 million for “Inside Out” as it opens.

“Dope,” also benefiting from all-positive reviews, will only manage $6 million or so this weekend. The 16-20 audience should be all over it, but they’re not putting down the smart phones long enough to see it. Yet. It should do better, long haul, but that’s got to be a disappointment.

Warners has to be encouraged that “Entourage” is closing in on $30 million, with “San Andreas” and “Mad Max” still cleaning up. Universal is still having the best year, turning dross like “Jurassic,” “Fifty Shades” and “Furious Whatever” into blockbusters.

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Movie Review: Joe Dante’s NOT back with limp zombie romance, “Burying the Ex”

ex

“Burying the Ex” is a horror comedy that never frightens and rarely amuses. It’s a zombie breakup movie whose best joke might be its all-the-description-you-need title.
Horror shop clerk Max (Anton Yelchin of the revived “Star Trek”) has this shrill vegan/environmentalist girlfriend, played by Ashley Greene of the “Twilight Saga.” She’s self-righteous, short-tempered and when she gets on roll, funny. Listen to her tear into the sexual conquests of Max’s lump of a half brother, Travis (Oliver Cooper) the morning after, when they’re passed out on Max’s sofa.
Don’t know where you’re going, but you can’t stay here, Evelyn begins, burning daggers at Travis. “I suggest the nearest church, or Planned Parenthood.”
She’s too intense for Max, who doesn’t frighten easily. He spends his days at Bloody Mary’s Boutique, watching old Vincent Price movies, selling horror paraphernalia and costumes.
Meeting the fair “I Scream” for ice cream horror-deserts shop owner Olivia (Alexandra Daddario of “San Andreas”) is the final straw. Max arranges to meet Evelyn in a public park to break up with her. And that’s when he sees her hit and killed by a bus.
Hard to get happy after that. Max’s “We will always be together” promise to the dying Evelyn doesn’t help. And taking Olivia on a date that passes by Evelyn’s grave is just asking for trouble. Ex-girlfriend rises from the dead, and Max is stuck trying to figure out what to do about that and how not to let Olivia know he’s still living with The Living Dead.
Veteran director Joe Dante, who had a nice run from the late-70s to late ’90s with films such as “The Howling,” “Gremlins” and “Matinee,” attracted a decent cast and conjures up a nice milieu for “Burying the Ex” — horror shops, goth dance clubs and the like.
But he can’t skip by or make funny the script’s abrupt need to get rid of Evelyn, and then dispose Zombie Evelyn. The half-brother sidekick is yet another “Jack Black lite.” The funniest one-liners aren’t quotable in polite company, but there’s not much here to merit that R-rating, other than the grisly and touching death that is supposed to amuse us. This is decades removed from the state of the horror comedy art.
Greene does her best with post-mortem jokes such as “Oh come on! My morning face is NOT that bad!”
But “Burying the Ex” is so artless, humorless and lacking in urgency that it’s no surprise realizing that Dante has spent recent years on the quicker/dirtier schedules of TV. But what works on “Hawaii Five-O” and “Splatter” doesn’t add up to anything worth shelling out shekels to see on the big screen.

1half-star
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, partial nudity, some horror violence, and language

Cast: Anton Yelchin, Ashley Greene, Alexandra Daddario
Credits: Directed by Joe Dante, script by Alan Trezza. A Voltage/Image Entertainment release.

Running time: 1:29

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Alan Rickman looks back on Severus Snape

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In talking with Alan Rickman about directing and co-starring in the 17th century period piece “A Little Chaos,” the subject of his Harry Potter work came up. It always does, though in this case, it was within the context of getting his movie financed and filmed.

Investors, Rickman jokes, insisted that he play a part in his film, because they figured “I had all this ‘Harry Potter’ cash, so I wouldn’t need to be paid!” He acted for free, and directed for a song. “Actors,” he notes, “are always subsidizing and supporting their own work.”

Since several friends and commenters on this blog were bubbling over with suggested Snape questions, I bent them into one all-encompassing query about what his greatest satisfaction was in having played the part. He’s not crass enough to suggest the decade of paychecks, or the new level of fame the character brought him. He was already a brand name in the movies before taking on that part.

“You didn’t know what Snape would become, at least I didn’t, when I took the part. Because she’d only written three books, at that point. I didn’t know that I’d be in all the films. I found out, along with everybody else, what he was about. As J.K. told us.

“It was great to confound expectations, and to die a great death. To die a hero, a complicated hero. Very satisfying to play.

“When we started, we worked on location. As we filmed the series, CGI caught up with us and over ten years, it tended to take over. I found it particularly satisfying, after ten years of work, to finish up with just me and Ralph — just a couple of actors doing their job, without much in the line of effects.”

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