Average User Score: 5.4Nov 27, 2015In keeping with the spy theme, and having in recent months seen Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation, The Man from U.N.C.L.E, and Spectre, it isIn keeping with the spy theme, and having in recent months seen Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation, The Man from U.N.C.L.E, and Spectre, it is high time to review the film that spoofs them all—Spy, with Melissa McCarthy and Jude Law. Maybe spy spoofs have been done before, but McCarthy makes this one unique, because she is so screwball that you either sit there in dismayed disbelief or keep a box of tissues on hand to wipe tears of laughter from your eyes.
Jude Law is the blond-haired, blue-eyed CIA spy, Bradley Fine, who is so suave and elegant, he could easily stand in for Daniel Craig. Unlike the British 007, however, he cannot make a move without his backup, Susan Cooper, played by Melissa McCarthy, who sits at a CIA office computer with an earpiece, GPS tracking, and surveillance cameras. A trained spy herself, she is deskbound, and her job is to support Fine and give him a heads up whenever he is in danger. Fine is attached to Cooper at his end with his own earpiece, and she directs his every move. She is understatedly brilliant, and he can't function without her.
At the start Fine is acting like the American answer to James Bond, in attendance at a garden party for the filthy rich, wearing a tuxedo, and bent on a dangerous mission. He sniffs out the criminal he is seeking in the basement, the only man who can tell Fine where to find a suitcase nuclear bomb that will cause devastation in the wrong hands. The evil gangster scornfully dismisses the gun Fine aims at him, noting that if Fine kills him, he'll never find the bomb. Fine is equally scornful but before he can adequately reply, he sneezes, accidentally pulling the trigger and killing the mobster. After Fine's WTF outburst, he consults with Cooper via earpiece, who takes the blame for forgetting to pack his antihistamines. Shortly after, Fine breaks into the home of the mobster's daughter, where Cooper, back at the office, is shocked and devastated to see Fine killed on camera. After that, she convinces her boss to send her out into the field to find the suitcase nuke, since she knows who all the players are while she remains unknown to the criminal mobsters.
Thus begins the slapstick world tour of Susan Cooper. Her bosses insist on giving her disguises that make her look even plainer and dumpier than she really is. One frumpy wig and T-shirt ensemble is such that Cooper complains, “I look like someone's homophobic aunt.” In Rome, the Italian men drive around in Ferraris obnoxiously shouting out admiring remarks to beautiful women on the street; Cooper gets passed over without comment. She is not unaware of the fact that she is overweight and considered to be drab and baggy, but she relies on her sharp intellect and self-deprecating wit to openly confront society with their ambivalence about her appearance. (In real life, McCarthy is overweight but actually very pretty.) The silly plot is about a different kind of superhero—the timid, tubby female understudy who is lucky to be even peripherally associated with such glamorous spy activity becomes the chief operative. And she prevails.
(Tiny spoiler—Jude Law's character doesn't really get killed.)… Expand
Average User Score: 6.8Nov 24, 2015Spectre is uneven to say the least. There are scenes that are everything Bond fans could wish for, and there are scenes that are borderlineSpectre is uneven to say the least. There are scenes that are everything Bond fans could wish for, and there are scenes that are borderline absurd. The most brilliant thing about Spectre is the pairing of Daniel Craig and the glamorous Léa Seydoux. Those two make a beautiful couple with the most intense romantic chemistry, and if Craig were not already married, one would swear that he fell in love on the set. Seydoux brings out the best in Craig.
Be that as it may, Spectre has glaring flaws. It would seem the producers, director, and writers had plenty of time to develop the script; nevertheless, the script is half-baked, and Craig does most of his acting during chase scenes and rescue scenes. His lines are terse and laconic, if not positively epigrammatic. Director Sam Mendes must have read the criticism about the female roles in Skyfall, because every Bond girl in Spectre (there are four of them!) is intelligent, fearless, and undeniably strong. Seydoux plays the main love interest in the role of Madeleine Swann, and although she fiercely denies being a damsel in distress, Bond has to rescue her at least three times (possibly four, if you count the train scene, where there is a question mark about who rescued whom). The first rescue scene in the Austrian Alps, where Swann is abducted by the bad guys, brings back the Bond of yore. Bond not only shows up on the tail of the bad guys who escape in their Range Rovers, but he is skillfully piloting a BN-2 Islander military plane commandeered on very short notice. Nothing in the script explains how he absconded so quickly with an airplane borrowed from the British Army. He simply shows up in the cockpit, and he proceeds to rescue Swann by crashing the plane. Unfortunately, it is precisely that kind of illogical plot with its preposterous premises that got Pierce Brosnan replaced by Craig in the Bond franchise.
Naomie Harris is back with a strong supporting role as Moneypenny. Ben Whishaw as Q has an improved persona, and he is no longer just the kid who still has “spots.” Ralph Fiennes continues as M, a role which he had just taken over at the end of Skyfall. He’s been rehearsing at home, it seems, because he has developed his M to perfection. Fiennes has turned M into a force to be reckoned with, at almost Oscar-level intensity and nearly out of place in a Bond film. We do not get to see enough of Monica Bellucci, now on record as the oldest Bond girl (age 50 at filming). She is dark, mysterious, and quintessentially beautiful, but her presence in Spectre is too brief. The fourth Bond girl is Stephanie Sigman, who hails from Mexico, and one suspects she nearly ended up on the cutting room floor. She shares an opening scene with Craig, who then leads her into a hotel room ostensibly to make love. Next thing she knows, he’s climbing out the window. She has one line for the entire film: “Where are you going?” And then she’s out. Christoph Waltz is not quite as evil as he was in Inglorious Bastards, but he gets scarier toward the end.
Mendes tries to pay homage to classic Bond, but his directorial heart is not in it. Bond mistakenly asks for a martini, shaken not stirred, at a health bar where he is instead served a green smoothie for vegans only. The classic Bond car shows up as a brand new Aston Martin DB10 intended for Agent 009, but Bond steals it and trashes the magnificent vehicle in a canal in Rome. When Bellucci’s character asks him his name, he doesn’t say it with his usual austerity because he is too busy kissing her, so he is still panting when he says, “Bond. James Bond.” Not the same effect.
Nevertheless, Craig is still handsome, dynamic, and charismatic. He’s good to go for another round, as long as he publicly apologizes for saying he would rather slit his wrists than play Bond again.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.6Sep 9, 2015There is an explosion of spy movies making the rounds—The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (Tom Cruise), Kingsman: TheThere is an explosion of spy movies making the rounds—The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (Tom Cruise), Kingsman: The Secret Service (Colin Firth), not to mention the trailers for Spectre (Daniel Craig), which are now on YouTube. In addition, we are between Jason Bourne installments (Matt Damon/Jeremy Renner), as well as between Taken installments (Liam Neeson). I won't even mention Bill Nighy in the recent Johnny Worricker TV series. Or Red, for that matter (Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, et al).
You would have thought spying had gone out of style when the Cold War ended, but U.N.C.L.E. (which is an acronym for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) is set in the 1960's when the Cold War is still in full swing. Strangely enough, the principal spies, who represent the United States, England and Russia, are working together on this one. Someone has acquired a nuclear bomb, but the evil perpetrator is an independent operator who wants to give the bomb and related classified information to someone who could use it— the chief culprit being a vicious blond whose name is Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki). The original U.N.C.L.E. television show, which I used to watch slavishly as a child, featured two suave and blasé characters named Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, played originally by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. Now they are played by Henry Cavill, fresh from his Man of Steel role and acting very American as a CIA spy, and Armie Hammer, who is acting very Russian as a KGB spy. (The official formation of the spy network called U.N.C.L.E. only occurs at the end of the film.) To this has been added a female spy and a love interest for Kuryakin in the form of Gaby (Alicia Vikander), a double agent who reports to her British boss Waverly (Hugh Grant). Except for Grant, they are all extremely young, going against the recent tide flowing in the direction of aging spies who can still dazzle when they are truly provoked.
In this film the CIA and KGB agents start out trying to kill each other and end up having to work with each other, which is an amusing cause for friction and rivalry between the two. In the meantime, Gaby and Kuryakin have to pretend to be engaged, when in reality she can't stand him although she slowly warms up to him. This leads to a comical scene when the two are bored to death in a luxurious hotel room, and Gaby puts on loud music and sunglasses, while she dances around rather eccentrically in her pajamas hoping to kick some life into the extremely serious and dedicated Kuryakin. Solo, in the meantime, emerges as the primary catalyst throughout the movie, and Cavill is very endearing in this role, displaying a youthful and very American ability to be optimistic and cheerful, even when the enemy captures him, drugs him, and ties him up for torture.
With so many spy movies on all the silver screens, the spy genre has to keep inventing spies that break the mold and are appealingly unique. In U.N.C.L.E., the mold had to be broken with respect to three spies, not just one, and the results are entertaining and successful. Although the plot line is sometimes a little confusing, and one could stop and ask who is Victoria working for, and she wants to give the bomb to whom? And who is Gaby working for and how did she triple-cross everyone? It doesn't matter. The film is a humorous and absorbing caper, almost irresistibly lively, the kind that was a lot of fun back in the 1960's.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.8Aug 19, 2015Tom Cruise really does risk his life in the opening scene of this movie. It is not an optical illusion or a stunt man. It is Cruise himselfTom Cruise really does risk his life in the opening scene of this movie. It is not an optical illusion or a stunt man. It is Cruise himself hanging on for dear life to the side of an airplane that has taken off and become airborne. However, he has been harnessed so that if he had slipped in the filming, he would have presumably survived, falling only a few feet before being secured. But how many actors could perform that stunt even with a harness? One gets the impression that Daniel Craig takes an island vacation when it's time to film the stunts—he relies on a professional double to do the risky stuff.
This film may at times be a little overwhelmed by the many chase scenes, but the plot keeps the audience guessing about which double agent is betraying whom. Cruise's character, the indefatigable Ethan Hunt, is a man who has a guardian angel sitting on his shoulder so that no real harm can ever befall him. He is a strict purist, a defender of the peace, a human superhero, and as the CIA head (Alec Baldwin) puts it, “the living manifestation of destiny.” (A few critics commented on the guffaws provoked by this line—nobody laughed at my showing in Montreal, but oddly enough, at the end of the film there was a round of applause.) In short, Hunt is to spies as the Dalai Lama is to Buddhist monks.
The IMF (Impossible Mission Force) is trying to stop the latest incarnation of evil, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), from assassinating all the heads of state as part of a master plan conducted by the Syndicate, an international crime network. Lane is an insanely criminal mastermind, and in no time at all, he has Hunt captured and hanging by his wrists in a torture chamber. Even Hunt cannot escape from this dilemma until a beautiful double agent, Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) enters the room and miraculously releases him. Like Hunt, she is unflappable, invincible, and incorrigible. She is neither Bond girl, nor Bourne girl, nor any kind of girl. Ilsa Faust defies categorization. She is unique.
Thus begins a bizarre relationship between the two spies based on mutual respect, mutual desire for self-preservation, and mutual attraction, although consummate professionals that they are, they keep their distance from each other. Romance is clearly for mere mortals, a weakness that disciplined ninja-like warriors cannot afford to indulge. For them being impassioned means that you would do anything to save the world, whereas more carnal inclinations are to be derided as juvenile distractions.
In the end we have what has been termed the American answer to James Bond, and though Ethan Hunt is somewhat lacking in that droll British elegance, our roll-up-your-sleeves kind of folksy spy is actually more appealing. In a world where everyone has been speculating for years about who is going to replace Daniel Craig as the next 007, no one ever asks who is going to replace Tom Cruise. There's a reason for that—he is incontestably irreplaceable. Fortunately, Liam Neeson has set a new precedent with the Taken series, where aging spies who just want to retire are forced back into action because they are simply too good to hang out their gone fishin' sign. Neeson still inspires admiration at 63. Cruise is only 53, and like the character of Ethan Hunt, he can only get better with age.… Expand
Average User Score: 6.5Aug 14, 2015The Rewrite is a romantic comedy that sometimes flirts dangerously with being appallingly mediocre, and just when you think the film is aboutThe Rewrite is a romantic comedy that sometimes flirts dangerously with being appallingly mediocre, and just when you think the film is about to go off the deep end and graduate from being mundane to being simply awful, Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei yank it back from the brink and set it straight again. There is also some support from J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney, and Chris Elliott with respect to the yanking effort.
Grant is playing Keith Michaels, an Oscar-winnng screenplay writer who has not written anything of substance for at least fifteen years. In the interim he has had a few box-office turkeys, a divorce (his wife left him for the man who directed his best movie), and he is alienated from his grown-up son. His agent (Caroline Aaron) still loves him but can’t get him arrested, and she finally suggests that he take a temporary job as writer-in-residence at a college in upstate New York, where he will teach screenplay writing. Michaels balks at the idea, his philosophy being “those who can do, those who can’t teach,” until the electric company shuts off his lights, at which point any kind of employment starts looking attractive.
Michaels arrives in Binghamton, New York with a bad attitude and a chip on his shoulder. He’s a Hollywood snob who has no use for the Home of the Spiedie Sandwich. He has his first supper at Wendy’s where he meets a student who has already signed up for his course (Bella Heathcote). He immediately sleeps with her apparently because he’s an incurable cad which means there he stands, and he can do no other. She is not his true love, however, and he comes close to being fired for cavorting with an undergraduate. His true love turns out to be an older student named Holly (Marisa Tomei), a single mom who works two jobs and believes she can still establish herself as a writer in her late 40’s, whereas Michaels has given up on hope and optimism, even though he secretly admires Holly for being so positive. Slowly, she and a handful of associates pull Michaels out of his low-level despair and force him to respond to humanity once again.
There are quirky but lovable characters—J.K. Simmons is the English department head who is obsessively devoted to his wife and four daughters; Allsion Janney is a hard-hearted, toughened bird who wants to fire Michaels for violating ethical principles but who can be easily seduced by her love for all things Jane Austen, and Chris Elliott is a Shakespeare expert who prides himself on having the perfect quote for every situation. The film actually gives a fairly realistic view of eccentric and idiosyncratic literature professors who may like their students but often hate each other, and who have trouble understanding that their professorships have locked them up in an Ivory Tower where they have a rather distorted perception of reality. In other words, they have no idea how weird they are. Michaels, however, turns out to be the genuine article. He finds his true calling by teaching others, and he seeks to inspire, encourage, and advise. He ignores department politics to the best of his ability, and as an outsider, he brings out the best in his colleagues. He falls in love with Holly, who is an age-appropriate student, but will not proceed until the writing course ends and the relationship can be deemed kosher.
The surprise in this was not the ending, which was highly predictable, but in the understated performance of Hugh Grant, who has lost his playboy handsomeness and has acquired a steely grit that he never had before. His sarcasm in past roles was always charming and superficial; now his caustic wit denotes toughness, fortitude, and an elaborate defense system for facing a hostile world. Tomei has also evolved into a character with more depth and complexity. It would appear that Tomei and Grant, ages 50 and 54 respectively, are now fully formed grown-ups.… Expand
Average User Score: 6.1Jun 21, 2015In December 1987, I saw Into the Woods on Broadway with Bernadette Peters. The musical had just opened the month before, and it was charming,In December 1987, I saw Into the Woods on Broadway with Bernadette Peters. The musical had just opened the month before, and it was charming, original, and entertaining. Translating the musical and stage format to the screen expands the spatial representation to the world of reality, or pseudo-reality, given that the story is a fairy tale, and that expansion is problematic for it dilutes the concentrated power of the original format.
The most innovative aspect of the original effort was the clever intertwining of several prominent fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm. A baker (James Corden) and his young wife (Emily Blunt), who cannot conceive, live next door to a nasty, old lady (Meryl Streep), who looks exactly like a witch and turns out to be a real one—she has a vegetable garden that grows magic beans, and she cursed the couple long ago when the baker’s father stole some of the beans from her. In order to lift the curse, the couple has to provide the witch with a milky-white cow, a golden slipper, a red cape, and corn-yellow hair in three days before midnight. In the meantime, the old witch visits her adopted daughter, who has very long hair and lives in a tower. That would be Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy). The magic beans, of course, grow a giant stalk that is climbed by a young boy named Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), and the kingdom is ruled by a handsome prince (Chris Pine) who is seeking a wife and who meets a young woman named Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) at the ball. The woods of the small kingdom contain wolves and a hut occupied by a grandmother—a little girl visits granny wearing a red cape with a hood (Lilla Crawford).
As per the original story, there are dilemmas and scenarios that would have shocked the Grimm Brothers. For example, the baker’s wife has a one-night stand with Prince Charming, and that takes place after he has had his happily-ever-after wedding with Cinderella. And Cinderella is very frustrated about life with the prince because everything is too perfect. The witch is actually just an overprotective mother who can’t accept that her daughter’s childhood has ended. They all come together in the last act to fight a common foe, which is a giant who has descended by way of the stalk and wants revenge upon little Jack for stealing from her and accidentally killing her husband.
Live theatre creates its own microcosmic reality; thus, the stage version is not as jarring when the characters are constantly breaking out into song. Generally speaking, in a musical stage production the singing is well integrated. On film, the integration of the singing has to be more nuanced, and it is very difficult to achieve just the right timing in a film setting that appears to occupy a realistic landscape. There is a constant air of “I feel a song coming on...” that can weary the audience.
Streep makes for a good witch, albeit maybe a bit too exaggerated if one is to believe she is also a loving mother. Blunt has the strongest role as the baker’s wife. All the actors seem to be desperately seeking their character, including Anna Kendrick as a petite, brunette Cinderella, a description which doesn’t quite fit the profile. (Blunt’s plaintive line, “I’m in the wrong story,” strikes a chord in more ways than one.) The two princes, Cinderella’s prince and Rapunzel’s prince (Billy Magnussen) are as handsome as princes can be, but they are overly fickle and shallow. If the reasons behind their fickleness are complex, that complexity is never explored. And the film is overly long.
Although the visual representation of the fairy-tale kingdom is brilliantly magical, if not positively supernatural, it is not clear that this is the fairy-tale version that the children want to see. The Broadway version was more openly cynical, and it was also strictly for grown-ups.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.1May 28, 2015The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences must have a soft spot for films that are about their own industry, for how else do you explainThe Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences must have a soft spot for films that are about their own industry, for how else do you explain that Birdman snatched up the highest honors at the Oscars this year? The cast is filled with veteran actors whose reputation precedes them—Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Andrea Riseborough, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Zach Galifianakis are the featured players, and they are all well-known stars. Keaton plays an actor whose heyday is long over. It has been over twenty years since he was famous for being a comic book character named Birdman. Now determined to make a comeback as a serious actor, Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) has written, produced and is starring in his own Broadway play, based on a short story by Raymond Carver, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”
Broadway is the dream destination for many a serious actor, but director/writer Alejandro Inarritu sees the seedy side of the glamour. The backstage fitting rooms are cluttered, dark, and depressing. Actors are all psychologically damaged. They are obsessed with sexuality; they are angry and frustrated; and they have broken families and broken lives. Riggan himself is functional but psychotic—he thinks he has superpowers, he has auditory hallucinations where he hears the voice of Birdman, his old character, who is constantly berating him. And most dangerously, he thinks he can fly.
As the show’s producer, Riggan is depending on his male lead, Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), to attract large audiences. Shiner is famous but he is an alcoholic who believes that his devotion to his art has elevated him to a priesthood that makes him an untouchable demigod. When Shiner gets drunk on stage in previews and disrupts the show so that the curtain has to come down on a shocked audience, he merely excuses himself with the arrogant belief that previews are not that important. Riggan’s daughter Samantha (Emma Stone) works for her father as his assistant, a job she hates, but she is fresh out of rehab and is lucky to be employed. She is disheveled, lost, and spiritually battered as is every member of the play’s cast.
The theatricality of the stage is a different kind of acting from film acting. One has to exaggerate one’s gestures, project one’s voice, and pretend that you are unaware of the hundreds of people sitting in the audience. We see Keaton and company practicing their craft on stage, but when they leave the stage, they are unable to leave behind the theatricality. We have actors playing actors, who then must be actors playing actors who are acting in a play; then they exit the stage and go back to actors playing actors. There are fifty shades of subtlety involved, and they can’t identify all the hues. They simply keep acting like they are on a stage the whole time. It makes for an eccentric artificiality, which starts to become tedious by the end of the film.
Theater critics do not fare well in this film. The most powerful critic in New York City admits to Riggan that she is going to close down the play with a scathing review, even though the play hasn’t opened yet, and she has not seen a single preview. She is described by Riggan and Shiner as a woman who looks like she just licked the derriere of a homeless person, an imbecile insult that boggles the mind.
In general, magical realism is an interesting genre, but when the “magic” part is actually a manifestation of symptoms of mental illness, it’s not that interesting.… Expand
Average User Score: 6.3May 14, 2015This is a new take on the Count Dracula story, and it gives actor Luke Evans in the title role a good opportunity to carry an entire film,This is a new take on the Count Dracula story, and it gives actor Luke Evans in the title role a good opportunity to carry an entire film, playing a strange admixture of good and evil. Unlike most Faustian types who make a pact with the devil because they lust for power, money and knowledge, this would-be Faust is forced to seek out the devil to protect his countrymen and his family, particularly his son. His motives are noble and lofty—he has to keep the evil Turks out of his Romanian province, where he is a prince, actually Vlad the Impaler, so named because he grew up as a hostage of the Ottoman Empire , where he was trained to be a soldier who was famous for killing thousands pitilessly.
After repenting of such a lifestyle, he becomes a loving husband and father, and comes home to reign in his castle as the prince of Wallachia. Finding out that the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed (Dominic Cooper), to whom Vlad pays taxes, has come to town to recruit a thousand young men from Wallachia, including Vlad’s own young son, causes a crisis of faith. Vlad returns to a cave where he knows there is a monstrous presence, a vampire trapped in the shadows, who awaits someone to discover him, then come back to him willingly and agree to trade places with him in exchange for the powers of darkness.
Vlad returns to the cave willingly after he realizes he cannot defeat the Ottoman Empire without help. He makes a deal with the grotesque vampire—he can enjoy the powers of darkness for three days; if he resists drinking blood for that period, he will be restored to himself; if not, his vampirism will become a permanent state, and he will become the vampire trapped in the shadows. Thus begins Vlad’s challenge. He acquires fantastic strength and the ability to turn himself into a swarm of bats, but like all vampires, he is sensitive to sunlight and pure silver. Single-handedly he walks into a small army of Turkish troops and destroys them, much to the shock of his compatriots. His wife begins to notice some suspicious changes, and he confesses to her the pact that he made. Will the new Dracula win the war in three days?
The landscapes are dramatically dark and eerie, and Luke Evans seems to have mastered this persona, having just played a heroic leader and a protective father in the last Hobbit installment. Dialogue is ridden with clichés and character sketches are weak—self-sacrificing wife, evil sultan, horrific demon, handsome child, trusting associates, and robotic enemy armies. It’s all there, the difference being that this Dracula has to control his thirst for blood, which is the only plot line that lends the story some depth and complexity, since the eternal battle of the soul to choose either good or evil will always generate some interest. Evans is classically handsome and athletically fit, and his charisma alone is enough to make the film, in spite of everything, highly watchable.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.4May 7, 2015It is always entertaining to see a lot of young people on a stage singing and dancing their hearts out, especially when they are always inIt is always entertaining to see a lot of young people on a stage singing and dancing their hearts out, especially when they are always in synchronization and in perfect harmony—as long as one ignores the odd circumstance where the group leader vomits on stage because of nerves. This is a film about a cappella singing, which is group or solo singing without any accompaniment. To compensate, the performers can mimic percussion and other instruments with their voices. In other words, they “make music with their mouths.” It is depicted as a subculture on college campuses, with a series of national competitions that result in a grand prize for the ultimate winners.
All actors can sing, dance, and fence, as well as act, and this movie is a good excuse to let them do all those things (minus the fencing). The film is almost a showcase for Anna Kendrick, who plays Beca, a disgruntled undergraduate who would rather be DJ'ing in LA, but who has promised her professorial dad to at least give higher education a chance. She arrives on campus and the very same day is approached by The Bellas, an all-female a cappella group that desperately needs to beef up their membership and to repair their damaged reputation. Although Beca has expressed no interest in singing and performance art, she joins the group and becomes the star performer almost immediately. A petite brunette, she is physically slender and beautiful, as is the red-headed Chloe (Brittany Snow) and blond Aubrey (Anna Camp). Beca's soulful eyes are always professionally made up with black eyeliner that must be waterproof, because her make-up is perfect even when she's in the shower and when she's crying.
In case this kind of blond, brunette, and red-headed perfection is sending the wrong message to anorexic undergraduates, the group (in desperation) accepts Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) as a new addition. They also welcome an African-American (Ester Dean) to their ensemble. However, these less conventional characters are presented as parodies. Even the one Asian in the group (Hana Mae Lee) has some kind of exaggerated speech defect that renders her almost inaudible when she is speaking; it is not clear how she is able to project her voice as a singer in the group.
It all comes together when the group starts their sassy, sashaying stage numbers, which are all excellent. The producers have forged ahead with Pitch Perfect II, which is opening in another week as of this writing. At this point, the actors who are playing undergraduates are in their late 20's; Kendrick and Snow are 29, and Camp is 32, which is only going to strain credulity even more.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.0Apr 7, 2015The 3-part series concludes with the characters who have become so familiar, they feel like old friends—Gandalf, Bilbo, Thorin, Galadriel,The 3-part series concludes with the characters who have become so familiar, they feel like old friends—Gandalf, Bilbo, Thorin, Galadriel, Tauriel, Legolas, and others. Martin Freeman as Bilbo has to carry the entire film with his dwarvish friends, which are King Thorin (Richard Armitage) and the rest of the motley crew. The third installment wraps up the prequel to The Lord of the Rings film trilogy and just in time, because although as charming as ever, The Hobbit was beginning to wear just a bit thin.
The murderous talking dragon, Smaug, who possesses the baritone voice of none other than a distant relative of Richard III (Benedict Cumberbatch), was awakened at the end of Part II. Now the vile, sadistic, and rather intelligent beastie, who acts suspiciously Norse, is set on death, suffering, and destruction. The fire-breathing creature relishes the helplessness of his victims; nevertheless, he is not immune to a long iron arrow that is bravely aimed at his heart by Bard of Laketown (Luke Evans), thus bringing a long reign of terror to an end. The gold and jewel-filled mountain is no longer guarded by the sleeping monster, and the Dwarves can reclaim their ancient home. The only problem is that news of Smaug’s death spreads, and a lot of creatures feel they have a claim to the pile of gold in the mountain, thus forming five armies—Dwarves, Elves, the good citizens of Laketown, Orcs heralded by Were-worms, and a fusion army of Orcs and goblins from Gundabad.
The influence of Old English is notable but not always consistent, as there is the occasional glaring anachronism, such as “Come on!” and “We’ve got this.” The focus of the plot is on war, with respect to the military logistics and strategy of the final battle. The film is most entertaining when it is not overly centered on the five armies of the title squaring off and vowing to annihilate each other. There are intriguing subplots, such as Smaug’s deadly rampage and Bard’s bravado. Thorin’s temporary insanity and his duel with Azog (Manu Bennett) provide for some tension as well as a classic encounter between good and evil. The Romeo and Juliet dilemma between Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom), son of the Elven King, becomes more complicated when it is clear that Tauriel is in love with Kili the Dwarf (Aidan Turner). If Legolas is off limits to Tauriel because she is a lowly Silvan Elf while Legolas is an Elven prince, there is clearly a conflict when Taureil is tempted to switch species and run off with Kili. Another subplot involves Gandalf the Wizard (Ian McKellen) and the loyalty he inspires in Galadriel (Cate Blanchett).
Azog , like Smaug, is conspicuous for being a brutal incarnation of evil, although Azog is a big dumb lug and lacks Smaug’s eloquence. Subtitles are used to translate his ancient Orkish, where he issues orders that sound something like, “Schmool la boole!”
The uneven but still riveting film takes the viewer up to the spot where the Lord of the Rings trilogy begins.… Expand