I write screenplays and much prefer a movie theater to the television. As the calendar slides into the heart of the summer blockbuster big budget season, the quest for a great film continues.
Below are one-sentence reviews for ten recent and current releases. Most are forgettable but several are worth the money. One in particular — Chinese Puzzle — is a real 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 truly bad film an upraised single digit — the worst of the worst scores a big, fat 0. That zero is the Dreaded Fist of Badness and Fist films are so so bad ticket money should be refunded and audience members should be entitled to delivering two-hand wedgies those responsible for foisting such bad cinema upon unsuspecting patrons.
Fortunately we have none of those this month. Instead, here’s what’s around:
Edge of Tomorrow – 4 fingers. Emily Blunt partners perfectly with Tom Cruise to save the world in this fun sci-fi action homage patterned after Groundhog Day.
Words and Pictures – 2 fingers. This film about an alcoholic high school English teacher (Clive Owen) and an arthritic stricken art teacher is an unsatisfying homage to Mr. Holland’s Opus that comes up way short and emotionally unfulfilling.
Jersey Boys – 3 fingers. Director Clint Eastwood does music legend Frankie Valli a disservice by bungling a brilliant songbook and meaty story with a sloppy and disappointing yawner that could easily be surpassed by just about anyone.
Obvious Child – 3 fingers. A stronger cast would have produced a more memorable product in this abortion choice film that starts slowly but steadily strengthens its emotional pull all the way to a satisfying and empathetic conclusion.
22 Jump Street – 3 fingers. Predictable sequel about two dimwitted undercover cops going trying to thwart a college drug ring delivers more of the same as last time but nothing new or noteworthy.
A Coffee in Berlin – 4 fingers. Reminiscent of a male version of Frances Ha, this enjoyable black & white “day in the life” film follows a German slacker meandering through the odd mayhem of what for him is just an ordinary day.
Chinese Puzzle — 5 stars. Great films make you want them to continue rather than end and this perfectly crafted situational comedy about a confused Frenchman who lands in New York leaves us wanting to climb through the screen and hang out with the wonderful ensemble.
Obvious Child — 3 stars. Great concept about a young woman’s accidental pregnancy is not executed with the polish it deserves but is noteworthy in its storyline and how it forces us to contemplate the sudden, unexpected decisions “real life” sometimes forces us to make.
Ida — 4 stars. This dark indy drama about a soon-to-be nun coming to grips with news of her unknown past in post-war Poland is well made, gripping, and tense.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – 3 stars. Nowhere close to the last one as once again (see Godzilla) San Francisco’s financial district and Golden Gate Bridge get monster mashed by angry mutant warriors.
So, until next month, please leave the fifth row center open for me and don’t forget to bring the popcorn. See you at the movies!
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