Movie Reviews

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Arthur
Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 04.08
Arthur Bach (Russell Brand) is an alcoholic celebrity playboy who has no reservations about embarrassing his reputation with one extravagant drunken escapade after another. Essentially, he’s Paris Hilton with testicles. While his nanny (Helen Mirren) does her best to clean up the chaos, his disorderly behavior pushes his overbearing mother over the edge to where an ultimatum is established. If Arthur refuses to marry a cold-blooded businesswoman (Jennifer Garner) who will eventually take over the family’s wealth, he’ll be left penniless. After considering life without an unlimited supply of Cristal, the blitzed billionaire reluctantly accepts the proposition until he meets a smiley tour guide (Greta Gerwig) and instantly falls in love. As a remake of the 1981 classic, Brand neglects to achieve the charm and wit that was so memorable with Dudley Moore’s Oscar-nominated portrayal, and, instead, offers a weak performance that exposes the actor’s mediocre skills. It turns out Brand’s style of humor is more acceptable in smaller doses, as it was in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The actor is incapable of sustaining a lead role. The only endearing moments caught on film are the ones between Mirren and Gerwig as they playfully banter, trying to expose each other’s secrets. Other than brief appearances made by the Batmobile and the Back to the Future DeLorean, which are included in Arthur’s car collection, there are no other laugh-inducing moments. In fact, I wish I could use the latter vehicle to travel back in time to warn my previous self to avoid seeing this terrible remake and stick with the classic. –Jimmy Martin

Bridesmaids
Universal
In Theaters: 05.13
From the trailers, you would think the producers were pushing audiences to experience a female version of The Hangover, but don’t let this unappetizing aspect deter you—the original brilliance of the film is nowhere to be found in these deceiving advertisements. Kristen Wiig stars as Annie, a down-on-her-luck single gal who lost her bakery during the recession and has never been able to be more than a one-night-stand with most men. (A smarmy yet hilarious Jon Hamm certainly takes advantage of this predicament.) When Annie’s lifelong friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) announces her engagement, it’s time to uphold the duties of the maid of honor, but the task quickly becomes excruciatingly unbearable once Lillian’s newest friend, Helen (Rose Byrne), does anything and everything to undermine Annie’s influence. From explosive diarrhea caused by tainted Brazilian food to being removed from a plane for drunk and disorderly conduct, Wiig (who is also a co-writer) never offers the audience a moment to breathe between laughs as she endures the Murphy’s Law of weddings. To make the situation worse (and by “worse” I mean better), Annie must endure Lillian’s three other eclectic acquaintances that include a bitter housewife/mother (Reno 911!’s Wendi McLendon-Covey), a naive Disney fanatic (The Office’s Ellie Kemper) and the incredibly hilarious and offensive sister of the groom (Mike & Molly’s Melissa McCarthy). Along with the wonderfully crude humor, Wiig actually squeezes in a sympathetic romantic side story with a charismatic cop (Chris O’Dowd) that the audience can cheer for. Without a doubt, Wiig has unleashed the surprise comedy of the year that surpasses all others thus far. –Jimmy Martin

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
Sony Pictures Classics
In Theaters: 05.20
The notion of product placement in films is nothing new. Marty McFly repeatedly orders one refreshing Pepsi after another, James Bond races through the streets in a sleek Aston Martin and E.T. enjoys a bag of Reese’s Pieces every now and then. The act has even been parodied in Wayne’s World as Wayne and Garth discuss their promotional morals while stuffing their face with Pizza Hut and being dressed head to toe in Reebok gear. It’s an interesting and entertaining subject that sparks never-ending debates on the creative control price tag that arrives with advertising in cinema, and who better to satirically spotlight the situation than America’s most energetic and charismatic documentarian, Morgan Spurlock. In a stroke of meta-genius, audiences are included in backroom product placement deals and negotiations as Spurlock attempts to secure funding for the documentary they’re currently watching. Promises are made to donating corporations to include commercials and product awareness in the film, and, sure enough, Spurlock meticulously yet playful inserts his hackneyed guarantees without fail. In pure Spurlock tradition, not only does the mastermind attack the manipulation advertising can have in Hollywood, but the effect it has on society as a whole. It’s fascinating to witness his trip to São Paulo, Brazil, where a ban on outdoor advertisements has had a positive and artistic effect on its citizens. While Spurlock does not offer a resolution to the ongoing deception that occurs on the silver screen and off, one isn’t required. His appealing message is signed, sealed and delivered with the humor and direction that only Spurlock can provide. –Jimmy Martin

Hanna
Focus Features
In Theaters: 04.08
When you think of the previous period piece projects executed by Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice and Atonement), you wouldn’t initially think of him as the individual to carry out the suspenseful heart-pounding action adventure that comes with “Hanna,” but by the time the credits roll, you’ll be certainly glad that he did. Granted, the plot line isn’t original in the slightest. Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is a teenage girl who has been raised in the frosty Finland wilderness by her former government agent father, Erik (Eric Bana), since she was a toddler. Taught to perform various lethal martial art forms, speak several foreign languages and memorize the encyclopedia, Hanna still has never experienced the simplicities of the outside world, but, in order to come out of hiding, she must confront and assassinate the FBI agent (Cate Blanchett) who allegedly killed her mother. Ronan captures the innocence of a fish-out-of-water scenario perfectly while maintaining the threatening persona of a merciless killer. As jaw-dropping as it is to see the teen rain strategic death blows upon grown men, it’s beautiful to witness the gifted actress’ facial expressions as she encounters electricity and music for the first time in her sheltered life. Wright continuously increases the pacing’s intensity with rapid edits and a booming soundtrack offered by The Chemical Brothers that’s as necessary to the film as the actors themselves. –Jimmy Martin

Rio
20th Century Fox
In Theaters: 04.15
For years, Disney’s Pixar dominated the cartoon genre with incredible animation surrounded by well-constructed, multi-tiered storylines. While no other studio has matched the excellence of the second facet, it’s optically pleasing to observe everyone rapidly playing catch-up. After being captured in the jungles of Brazil, an exotic blue macaw, Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), luckily finds himself in the caring hands of Linda (Leslie Mann), and the two form an unbreakable friendship. Rather than morphing into the feral fowl he was destined to be, Blu has become a domesticated intellectual who never grasped the art of flight. As the duo lives carefree lives, an ornithologist arrives on the scene to persuade them to join him in Rio de Janeiro in order to have Blu mate with the last female of his species, Jewel (Anne Hathaway). After careful consideration, the two arrive in Brazil just in time for Carnival, but the festivities are set aside when the two unlikely lovebirds are snatched by a smuggler and his bitter cockatoo (Jemaine Clement). Director Carlos Saldanha has secured a pitch-perfect leading cast as Eisenberg’s shaky and anxious vocal patterns are an ideal match for his neurotic animated persona while Hathaway’s confident facade shines through as well, but it’s Clement whose devilish charm and wit rests nicely with his fearsome feathered friend, especially in musical format. However, the same cannot be said with the supporting cast that includes the mind-numbing shrills of George Lopez, Will.i.Am and Tracy Morgan, who offer nothing but stereotypical catchphrases and clichéd gags. Speaking of unoriginality, the entire plot is eerily similar to two other recent “save the species by mating” animated films, (Alpha and Omega and Ice Age: The Meltdown) the latter of which was directed by none other than Saldanha. Here’s to repetitive career choices! –Jimmy Martin

Rubber
Magnet Releasing
In Theaters: 05.06
If your initial reaction to director/musician Quentin Dupieux’s unconventional horror/comedy that centers on an animated telepathic car tire that wreaks havoc in the Californian desert is downright puzzlement, don’t feel alone. The French filmmaker uses every trick in his bag of meta to acknowledge the absurdity that has been placed before the viewer. From a cast of fictional commentating audience members who gaze upon the destruction from afar to a speech delivered by the a local police officer (Stephen Spinella) that shatters the fourth wall regarding the “no reason” aspect of cinema classics (i.e. “Why was E.T. brown? No reason.”), Dupieux is well aware of the eccentric technique he exploits. It’s just a shame his creativity failed to manifest itself on camera as well as he had hoped. Surrounded by gorgeous cinematography and a vigorous soundtrack (scored by the director himself), Dupieux successfully generates intrigue around a 20-pound mound of rubber as it springs to life and discovers its own unusual strengths by killing defenseless animals, but just as this Grind House-esque film begins to set off for gritty maniacal misadventure, the flow is immediately interrupted with redundant cutaways to the argumentative fictional audience members, in which the tone is reset and must be revived again from scratch. Dupieux’s initial gag is a good one, but his joke, as with any, isn’t as funny when the comedian consistently winks at the audience in the middle of the performance. –Jimmy Martin

Scrambled Eggs Toddler Toonz Vol. 1 DVD & CD
Ami Hanna
Street: 01.01
After growing frustrated with all of the crap available for her own tot, Ami Hanna decided to take matters into her own hands and create Scrambled Eggs. Hanna’s video mash-ups blend her own video montages with vintage cartoon reels such as Betty Boop and scenes from Georges Melies’ A Trip to the Moon. Naturally, I had to have my own 10-month-old tot, Alice, help me out with the review. We started with “Bring Back the Boop,” which features upbeat hip hop rhythms by Linus Stubbs that had Alice shaking her change machine like a maraca. Other videos such as “The Wondering Stars,” with a beat by B. Franks, had more obscure video montages, and the music is harmonic and easy going. The majority of the music available to sample on the demo site is more on the soothing nighttime area of kid’s music. I could see myself throwing the DVD on when it is time to start winding down for the night. My wife and I also found ourselves enjoying some of the tunes, which doesn’t ever happen with your typical made-for-kids tunes. There is nothing cornball about it. I wouldn’t go as far as to make any claims about the educational value of the material, but it is definitely entertaining, trippy and pretty fun. Download the episodes at rawxtract.wordpress.com/category/toddler-toonz. –­Ben Trentelman

Scream 4
Dimension Films
In Theaters: 04.15
Dear Mr. Craven,
First, let me begin by saying I am a huge fan of your earlier works. The Last House on the Left, A Nightmare on Elm Street and even The People Under the Stairs scared the bejesus out of me as a child, and I genuinely appreciated your unbelievable contribution to horror films. I was even a fan of the first Scream film when you revitalized the entire genre. Talk about a comeback! There’s no doubt that what you have accomplished in your career is nothing short of remarkable, but I must ask you one question before my head explodes from sheer outrage: What the hell happened to you and your craft? I saw a downturn with Scream 3 and Red Eye, but after the abortion that was My Soul to Take, it would appear the creative man I admired has been ruthlessly torn apart limb from limb by his own creations. If you’re going to have the original band of actors (Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courteney Cox) reprise their once beloved roles for a fourth Scream chapter, make the experience worthy of the congregation and not just an opportunity for everyone to produce unconvincing chemistry while collecting an undeserved paycheck. Not even your next generation of potential victims (Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere and Rory Culkin) added any form of depth or believability to the mix as they jabbered lines from a contrived screenplay. Also, if you’re going to repeatedly rip off the franchise’s first installment, please don’t constantly remind me of your derivative actions by having your actors declare “It’s so meta” time and time again. Every time I was prompted to recall former scenarios, I wanted to exit the theater and view those better and scarier moments at home. By the way, please refrain from mixing cheeseball comedy into your films. It doesn’t work and ruins both genres. It breaks my heart to write this letter, but I must ask that you cease all directing operations until you’ve returned to a productive state of mind, and then, and only then, may you return to the director’s chair. And if that moment never arrives, we’ll always have Shocker. Stabs and kisses. Sincerely, Jimmy Martin

Sucker Punch
Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 03.25
Since its inception, director Zack Snyder has described his fantasy-action escapade as “Alice In Wonderland with machine guns,” so it’s a shame to see his enthralling description morph into such an ostentatious misfire. Emily Browning stars as Baby Doll, a down-on-her-luck orphan who accidently kills her younger sister while attempting to thwart her sadistic stepfather’s sexual advances. Rather than being thrown behind bars, the blonde adolescent is checked into a psychiatric hospital that secretly operates as an underground bordello. As the freshest meat on the market, Baby Doll is instantly loathed by her fellow inmates, but when she receives a mission that could set them all free, the sassy vixens unite to overthrow the corrupt institution. You would think a director would determine whether or not he/she is developing a music video or a feature-length production before setting up shop, but it’s abundantly clear Mr. Snyder neglected to complete this simple task. With a booming literal soundtrack (i.e. the introduction of an insane asylum calls for a dreadful Pixies’ “Where is My Mind?” cover) drowning out the artless dialogue amateurishly spewed out by Hollywood’s cutest working actresses, Snyder has decided to focus on spectacular CGI imagery and scantily clad young females rather than securing an entertaining storyline. Of course, the visual mastermind behind 300 and Watchmen utilizes his signature combination of rapid/slow-motion action sequences, which still initially amuses but gorges on the same magic trick so many times that the ruse eventually loses its uniqueness and ultimately becomes stale and lackluster. Snyder does get creative with the idea that while Browning seduces men with her hypnotic hip shakes, the simple caper antics are represented with alternate world sequences that involve zombie Nazis, beastly ghouls and an overabundance of explosions, but the female cast never seems to fully envelop themselves within the dreary 1950s parallel universe Snyder has created for them. –Jimmy Martin

Super
IFC Films
In Theaters: 04.22
The superhero genre has completely taken over Hollywood with every character comic books have to offer, but it hasn’t forgotten to stick its crime fighting justice in recent smaller-budgeted films such as Defendor and Kick-Ass as well. Now, writer/director James Gunn brings another independent project that revolves around an ordinary individual destined to bring balance to the world with vigilante actions. Frank D’Arbo (Rainn Wilson) is a spiritual diner cook who constantly reminds himself of his life’s two greatest feats: marrying his wife (Liv Tyler) and assisting a police officer in capturing a criminal. However, after losing his bride to a local drug dealer (Kevin Bacon), Frank decides to return order to his soiled town with God’s permission and a skull-crushing pipe wrench under the guise of The Crimson Bolt. As Frank delivers one unrelenting blow after another to thieves, pedophiles and people who cut in lines, he attracts the attention of a local comic book store clerk (Ellen Page) who weasels her way into becoming his overly excited sidekick, Boltie. Gunn has a difficult time balancing the realistic drama that’s connected to the over-the-top campy antics Wilson brings to the screen. Both tones would work well in separate productions, but when paired together, neither can be enjoyed fully. The first half of the film struggles to carry its premise without dragging its feet, but all of that changes with the arrival of Page, who brings a much-needed dose of youthful energy and deviant behavior. –Jimmy Martin

Your Highness
Universal
In Theaters: 04.08
As Robert Zemeckis has with motion-capture projects and Michael Bay with idiotic over-the-top blockbusters, it would appear that director David Gordon Green has found his filmmaking niche in gift-wrapping his movies for absent-minded teenagers and adults who find pleasure in the simplest things. This time around, Green dresses up his former Pineapple Express cronies Danny McBride and James Franco in full-on LARP gear and sets them forth on a medieval adventure that spoofs the majority of 1970s and ‘80s fantasy films. The black sheep son of a royal family, Thadeous (McBride) is presented with the opportunity to redeem his dignity when his noble and beloved brother, Fabious (Franco), requests his assistance to rescue his fiancée (Zooey Deschanel) after she’s kidnapped by an evil sorcerer. Together, the brothers venture on a quest that pits them against slithery monsters, naked tribal women and a ruthless female soldier (Natalie Portman) determined to complete her own vengeful mission. The typical immature male viewer will most likely find humor in the childish schoolboy antics offered by McBride and company. When it’s not drugs or sexual innuendos being discussed, Green fills the screen with an ample amount of breasts and shots of Portman donning nothing but a thong and a smile, which is sure to continue pleasing those male viewers. While the cyclical rotation of stoner and dick jokes does ultimately become redundant, the production value has a surprisingly high-quality element when it comes to special effects and set design, giving any onlooker something to appreciate visually. –Jimmy Martin