Movie Reviews 3/13

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A Good Day To Die Hard
Twentieth Century Fox
In Theaters: 02.14
It’s scary to think that when Bruce Willis had his first adventure as John McClane, Ronald Reagan was still in the White House and Cheap Trick’s “The Flame” was the Number One single on Billboard Magazine’s Hot 100. Four Presidents and a few wars later, many things about the world have changed, but the level of destruction found in the Die Hard series certainly has not. In this father-son bonding venture, John McClane travels to Moscow to rescue his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), from police custody, but unexpectedly finds himself in the center for an international C.I.A. operation involving political corruption and weapons of mass destruction. No one walks into a screening for a Die Hard film expecting much from the screenplay, but when the dialogue and storyline are as eye-catching (and not in a good way) as the explosions, there is an issue at hand. Director John Moore effectively helms the explosive charge with action sequences that shatter the city landscape to mere rubble, but it’s Skip Woods’ screenplay that delivers an overindulgence of redundant sentimentality between Willis and Courtney that is force fed down our throats when all anyone wants is simply another explosion. The McClane family doesn’t hug it out. Killing people is their family’s knack. So wipe the tears away, pick up a gun and follow the family motto, which is “Go out there and kill all the scumbags.” When the chaos and gunfire are occurring, there is absolutely nothing to worry about, but when Daddy feels the need to reminisce between reloads, it’s Yippee-ki-ya-nobody-cares. –Jimmy Martin

Identity Thief
Universal
In Theaters: 02.08
With two powerhouse comedians (Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy) leading the raunchy charge in this R-rated road trip flick, you would think you’d have nothing to worry about, but such is not the case in Seth Gordon’s misdirected follow up to Horrible Bosses. Bateman stars as Sandy Patterson, an uptight and hardworking middle-class husband/father. Sound familiar? However, this time around, he has his identity stolen and life ruined by lonely criminal Diana (McCarthy), who loves to splurge on useless crap in order to give her miserable life meaning. In order to set the wrongs right, Sandy travels from Colorado to Florida to apprehend his culprit and bring her back to the Centennial State for prosecution, but, as you can imagine, all does not go so well in the transport. Craig Mazin’s unbalanced screenplay attempts to force unmerited sentimental moments while cramming entirely too many unnecessary characters and action scenarios in what should be a simple odd-couple tale resembling John Hughes’ Planes, Trains & Automobiles. The saving grace is the hilariously filthy improvisational skills of McCarthy and Bateman, but these moments are few and far between to salvage the whole project. As for Bateman, you would think he had a punch card for playing these types of roles where, on the 10th one, he gets a free sandwich, because it’s all we ever see of the poor guy. –Jimmy Martin

Sound City
Variance Films
Available Online: 02.01
At first glimpse, the booths and offices at Sound City, a recording studio in San Fernando Valley, look like an absolute pit of despair, but the recorded history of musicians who have laid down some of the most recognizable tracks within its walls is astonishing. Foo Fighters frontman and former drummer of Nirvana, Dave Grohl takes audiences on a wild journey of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll as he energetically recounts the origins of one of the most influential recording studios of all time. Grohl, never too ashamed to poke fun at his own lack of knowledge, sits with rock legends like Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks, Neil Young and Trent Reznor as they enlighten viewers of their own encounters with Sound City and its charismatic owners, Tom Skeeter and Joe Gottfried. In the style of a wild Stacy Peralta sports documentary with an explosive soundtrack, outspoken interviews and wild visuals, Grohl and friends explain how significant a soundboard, The Neve Console, was in the history of music. Half Behind the Music and half intimate jam-session recordings, Grohl proves music is not his only talent as he delivers a heartfelt cinematic memoir to the building and individuals who changed his life forever, and raises a balanced debate between old-school and new-school techniques of creating and developing music in modern times. You can purchase the entire film online for only $12.99 at buy.soundcitymovie.com. –Jimmy Martin

Stoker
Fox Searchlight Pictures
In Theaters: 03.01
It’s about time South Korean director Chan-wook Park made his way across the Pacific Ocean to make his English-language debut with a top-notch cast that should bring the clever filmmaker a wave of new audiences in the horror genre. Fans of Chan-wook’s previous endeavors won’t be surprised by the devilishly taboo subject matter found in this tale about a peculiar teenage girl, India (played by an almost unrecognizable Mia Wasikowska), whose father suddenly passed away on her 18th birthday. With only her detached mother, Evie (Nicole Kidman), to provide her a stale sense of comfort, India becomes suspiciously intrigued with the arrival of her estranged uncle, Charlie (Matthew Goode), who’s been traveling the globe and decides to stay with the two grieving females. As friends, loved ones and neighbors start to disappear around their small community, inquiries about the past begin to surface and the truth may not be all that it seems. Chan-wook and his longtime cinematographer, Chung-hoon Chung, use the camera and its movements to present much more than a simple image. They artistically paint a blended canvas of horror and beauty that initially makes viewers want to instinctively turn away, but their innovation and polished artistry combat the impulse. The same can be said for the film’s editor, Nicolas De Toth, who seamlessly weaves together scenes of intensified terror with calming grace. Kidman and Goode are first-class, as usual, but it’s the rising Wasikowska who certainly steps outside her comfort zone to offer a performance that is sure to raise an eyebrow or two. –Jimmy Martin

West of Memphis
Sony Pictures Classics
In Theaters: 03.08
If you’ve watched Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s Paradise Lost series revolving around the West Memphis Three for the past 15 years, you already know the atrocities and prejudices that were involved in the triple homicide trial. For those who haven’t seen the three films (change that fact), director Amy Berg and producer Peter Jackson have decided to deliver their summarized interpretation and unbelievable discoveries of the events with West of Memphis. In 1993, three young boys were found viciously beaten and murdered in the small town of West Memphis, Ark. Less than a year later, Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin were convicted of the crime, even though the prosecutions’ evidence was feeble and speculative. Almost two decades later, the three wrongfully convicted men still claim their innocence and fight to overturn the injustices that have destroyed the larger part of their lives, and with the financial backing of Jackson to possibly uncover new evidence, they may have their day to reveal the truth. While Berlinger and Sinofsky balanced their films’ focus on the case as well as the sensationalism of the events (think of the Michael Jackson or O.J. Simpson trials), Berg focuses solely on the investigation and the potentially undiscovered evidence that may be lurking in the shadows, which brings a fresh perspective on the case. At times, it does feel as though Berg is stepping on Berlinger and Sinofsky’s toes, since the two have been dancing with this case since the beginning (especially when identical footage is presented), but the insider’s look at the investigative team’s construction of new theories and dramatizations does boggle the mind and reminds viewers that everyone involved are only there to restore the definition of justice and rescue three innocent men. –Jimmy Martin