I write screenplays and rarely watch TV but love to go the movie theater. This is the slow season for movies, as major films ramp up launches for the blockbuster holiday season.
Below are one-sentence reviews for eleven recent releases. Most are forgettable but a couple, if you can find them, are a great treat.
I rate movies with a five-finger rating system. Five is a superb film, four is excellent, three is “just a movie,” two is not worth seeing at retail price, and — since dignity prohibits giving a super-bad film a bold 1-finger — the worst of the worst scores a big, fat 0: the Dreaded Fist of Badness. Films scoring a 0 are so bad we should get our ticket money refunded and thump-whump everyone responsible for foisting bad cinema upon unsuspecting patrons.
Let’s raise the curtain on what’s around during the month of May.
Fading Gigolo – 3 fingers. John Turturro’s homage to Jewish New York City features Woody Allen as a pimp with a black family, Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara as horny housewives willing to pay a grand apiece to share a tumble with flower arranger Turturro, and Johnny Depp’s ex (Vanessa Paradis) as a grieving and lonely widow of six.
Million Dollar Arm – 3 fingers. I love baseball and India, so this Disney film’s sanitized blend of fact and fiction about a desperate sports agent’s search for a couple potential pitchers in cricket-mad India is right up my alley, thanks to fine work by Jon Hamm, Lake Bell, and Bill Paxton.
Godzilla [Ishiro Honda’s uncut 1954 Japanese original] – 5 fingers. Have to love a director who hired an entire organization to tediously construct Tokyo in miniature just so he could film a lumbering guy in a mascot costume smashing it to smithereens—all in the name of classic cinema decades before computers ruined a heroic, committed art form.
Please Do Not Disturb – 3 fingers. This Iranian trilogy connects three views of social unhappiness in Tehran, the largest city in a country most Americans know less than zilch about—but should know more.
Godzilla (2014) – 3 fingers. Computers can do a lot of things—like flattening the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu and the Financial District in San Francisco—but it takes a talented human to write a good story.
Hanna Ranch – 3 fingers. A respectful documentary about a Colorado rancher who seemed destined for prominence but suddenly crumbles under the weight of encroaching development and familial friction.
Chef – 3 fingers. This formulaic but fun story about a stubborn chef who ends up driving a food truck benefits from fun cameos by Dustin Hoffman and the always electric Robert Downey Jr.
God’s Pocket – 0 fingers: the Dreaded Fist of Badness. It is a cinematic felony that this rudderless and convoluted mess is the final completed film of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The Immigrant – 4 fingers. Set in New York in 1921, this gritty immigrant drama shows what is possible when a skilled director ( James Gray) leads a team totally committed to crafting a superb film, spearheaded by a the always extraordinary Joaquin Phoenix and equally brilliant Marion Cotillard.
The Amazing Spiderman 2 – 2 fingers. Emotionally flatlining, this computer film proves that regardless of the cast, when more time is invested in fancy, loud explosions than the story—which was developed by three people and written by three others—quality will suffer.
Locke – 2 fingers. “All is Lost” in a BMW, the entire film takes place inside a car as one actor — Tom Hardy — drives from England’s northlands to London while his family life and career implode during an endless chain of Bluetooth telephone calls.
Hopefully June will deliver some great films. See you at the theater!
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