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All is Lost

All is Lost strands superstar Robert Redford in a sinking yacht far from the shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean. His survival pits some dark humor against the fury of Mother Nature. This is a serious film that, without a star like Redford in the tile role, would probably sink.

Apologies for the pun. The audience in our screening was gasping and nervously shifting on the edge of their seats so we guess it works . . .

Armstrong Lie

As angry as the world of fandom was after it was revealed that Lance Armstrong lied about taking enhancements, there's more to the story inadvertently caught by a doc filmmaker who was supposed to be recording Armstrong's comeback. We rarely recommend documentaries but The Armstrong Lie (ltd) is an exception. For those with just a bit of knowledge, it is quite a good sit.

homefront

A fractured family is reunited by the Christmas spirit... which may or may not be a good thing in Black Nativity, stuffed with name brand stars Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson with Nas and Luke James from the musical side of the street. Jacob Latimore stars as a street punk teen, whose single mom (Jennifer Hudson) ships him from Baltimore to Harlem to meet grandparents -- for the first time -- and learn the New York streets, at Christmas. A story that relies so heavily on faith excludes those of us not of that faith; as a story of (potential) family reconciliation, we left the film not 100% sure why the fracture was so deep. Start with a teenage pregnancy, years in the past, and see if you can figure it out.

book thief

The Book Thief, stars Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson as the adoptive parents of a young girl (Sophie Nélisse) in an ever evolving Nazi Germany. The film fails to build tension and suspense when plenty of tension and suspense is built into the screenplay -- think "Jew hiding in the basement that the Gestapo wants to search..." Nevertheless, Cranky was crying like a baby when the film hit its conclusion. Those seeking a serious film, seek here.

Captain Phillips

If Captain Phillips doesn't take nomination for actor Tom Hanks and Best Picture; let alone writing (Billy Ray), directing (Paul Greengrass) and supporting actor Barkhad Abdi something is very wrong. We apologize that our disabilities kept us from seeing this film -- recreating the 2009 hijacking of a US merchant freighter by Somali pirates -- until three weeks post opening.

Find it. See it. Period.

The Company You Keep

The Company You Keep, from director/ star Robert Redford, features a smart as a whip reporter discovering the whereabouts of a long underground anti-Vietnam war protestor . . . kids have your parents explain Abbie Hoffman to you. Redford's character is way more serious and the complexity of the film was a wee bit much for our feeble brain pan. Still, grown-ups looking for a serious film to watch should, well, wait and rent.

The Conjuring

Seen, and heartily endorsed is The Conjuringwhich we saw in a packed screening room. By the time it was done, everyone in the room had been screaming . . . a lot. It has been decades since we've had the junk scared out of us by a non-slice 'n' dice scareflick. This is absolutely one of the scariest flicks ever made. Ever.

escape plan

Escape Plan stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, both of whom phone in their performances -- as did the writer and director -- of this terrible, god awful action-movie template on a big screen. See if if you must.

gravity

Gravity stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. For those of us old enough to remember, it's Liberty Belle 7 (the second Mercury spaceflight with Gus Grissom at the controls) crossed with Apollo 13... which probably tells you way too much (but then, we're not the targeted movie ticket buying audience, either). Given that just about every minute of the film is set in space, the effects work is phenomenal and the 3D is exceptional. You can grab wallpaper images here . . . What should have had us on the edge of our seats from the word "go" just didn't.

Great Expectations

Charles Dickens masterpiece Great Expectations has now been adapted in under two hours. Thankfully we haven't read the book in thirty years nor seen a big screen adaptation in ten or fifteen years. Not that we didn't remember where the story goes once our brain pan went fishing for all that old memory. Viewers in our audience dedicated to the book complained that this adaptation moved too quickly. We didn't suffer that problem (which may just mean that what we did remember of the book filled in any gaps that the rest of our brain may have wondered about).

the heat

The Heat stars Sandra Bullock as a strait-laced FBI agent bucking for promotion, forced to team with a foul-mouthed Boston police officer (Melissa McCarthy). Have no doubt, this is a very funny movie . . .

That said, after 20 years of reviewing it also marks the point where we, as a critic, have got to say enough with the f-word already.

hobbit

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first of three prequel movies to the Lord of the Rings trilogy of films. Attempting to expand one novel to equal the content of three turns out to be a terrible idea.

The Primary Rule of this site is that you shouldn't need to know the Source Material. Even without the rule, which The Hobbit fails miserably, our reaction is identical to that of the guest we brought to the screening. The film is:

Terrible.

Hyde Park on Hudson

Hyde Park on Hudson stars Bill Murray as FDR, about to welcome the newest King and Queen of England to his digs in Hyde Park, New York. The film is built to get Murray an Oscar nomination. Bill is good enough to get noticed but you'll be bored senseless. Pass it by.

kick ass 2

Kick Ass 2 brings back all those lovable geeks in costumes from 2010's Kick Ass. One kid goes bad. Jim Carrey signs up for a small role and ABSOLUTELY DO NOT BRING SMALL KIDS to this comic book movie. OTT it is funny and bloody and really well written. Cranky's movie review

Last Vegas

Last Vegas stars Michael Douglas as the last confirmed bachelor on the planet <g> who succumbs to a lovely woman half his age. His bestest friends of 60 years -- Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline join him in Vegas for the final blowout. Rarely does a preview audience cheer and applaud a film, but this comedy / tug at your heart romance got all that and more. We had a great time despite the fact that our legs stopped working in the middle of our screening. The film is highly recommended despite the fact that Cranky fall down go boom.

Mr. Nobody

Jared Leto stars in Mr. Nobody, a film so confusing we are almost at a loss, trying to summarize it. But... all humans make decisions that leave them wondering "what if I had chosen something else?" Leto's character gets to live out every possible path (and lives to be 118 years old in the process). Film students only.

Oblivion

We arrived at a theater at 6:45 for a 7pm screening that started at 6:30pm. We didn't get a notice of a change in the start time. But there's really no need to review Oblivion since Tom Cruise is in it. We suggest that you not miss the first ten minutes since, if you mess up as Cranky did, the rest of the film will be incomprehensible. Then again, we read the press notes and theoretically know what we missed so, who knows? The whole thing may be incomprehensible. We can report that there wasn't any cheering when the film was done.  We apologize for dropping the ball.

Phantom

One of the he  best serious films seen this year is Phantom, recapping the events which almost led to World War III, back in 1968. Ed Harris captains a Soviet sub on its final mission and David Duchovny is the KGB agent on a mission of his own. If we could find what we did with the review, you would be reading a rave. SO... you grown up folks out there go find and see this film.

Promised Land

Farmers built this country. Now, many barely scratch out a living from the Promised Land that has been in family hands for centuries. Enter natural gas developers (Matt Damon and Francis MacDormand) who offer the prospect of big bucks to be made by "frakking," a kind of mining. They offer cold hard cash for rights to dig deep beneath the old farms. John Krasinski is an eco-protestor who tries to gum up the works. Hal Holbrook is a local teacher who warns about irreparable damage the mining will bring. Promised Land is a serious film, and just as dull as this description reads

Quartet

For the non-teenagers, Dustin Hoffman's Quartet offers up retired Brit opera singers not exactly welcoming a new resident to their castle in the country. Maggie Smith and Tom Courtenay share a  history that should have been revealed in the First Act. Comedian Billy Connelly is the only spark of life in an otherwise sedate (meaning: close to dull) film. Rent.

R.I.P.D.

R.I.P.D. is the second flick for which this nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn thanks Catholic theosophy for creating an after world -- here the spirits of dead cops pursue other criminal souls that would break the lines between Heaven and Earth. Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds star in a mix of Ghostbusters and Men in Black. The younger you are (teens and up) the better.

The Sweeney

Once your ears manage to decipher the incredibly thick Brit accents, you'll get to watch The Sweeney, about a super-secret and totally rogue  group of Brit police operatives  who beat the crap out of anyone who gets in their way. Pass.

This is 40

This is 40 from writer/director Judd Apatow is very funny movie that will be even funnier if you see it in a packed theater. So go now. For those of parenting age, "This is 40" is exactly what is sounds like. Hell on earth. . . and in marriage. . . . and with raising your kidlets. Have a good time.

12-12-12

"Superstorm" Sandy wreaked havoc on the east coast. Unlike the aftermath of Katrina's attack on New Orleans, Congress sat on its hands and wouldn't release emergency funds to aid the area. So Paul McCartney called some friends: The Rolling Stones, Roger Waters, Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and they called their friends; Michael Stipe and Eddie Vedder and two hours of rock music masterworks kept us happy while 12-12-12 uses its down time and other musical pauses and segues to remind all of us of the damage that was done. This is a glorious sit, if just for the music.

  the wolverine

The Wolverine is Hugh Jackman's second solo outing as the title character (with 3 X-Men films down, one yet to come and an X-cameo elsewhere, this guy really loves the role...) There is a Wolverine vs. Yakuza fight staged on a Japanese bullet train that makes the film worth the ticket price. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) still haunts the man. A freelance gig in Japan, nicely connected to some stuff that happened in WWII, opens the hero to a whole mess o' bad guys he really doesn't want to deal with. But he will. What? Like we have to spill it out? You know you're going. Downloads here

 

 

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The Cranky Critic® is a Registered Trademark of, and his website is  Copyright © 1995-2017 by, Chuck Schwartz. Articles and interviews by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All Rights Reserved. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of and ©, ®, ™ their respective studios. Used by permission. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award™(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.