I write screenplays and rarely watch TV but love to go the movies for a very simple reason: All is possible inside a dark theater.
In late summer our local cinemas show little films, niche releases, foreign imports, and blow-’em-up, smash ’em up big budget action films. Viewers should be choosy: the pickings is a lot of fool’s gold among that which glitters.
Below are one-sentence reviews for 13 recent releases. One is dreadful, a few are forgettable, several are good fun, and one — “Jodorowsky’s Dune” — is sensational. Look for it at an art house cinema near you.
I rate movies with a five-finger rating system. Five is a superb film, four means 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 — a truly bad film scores a big, fat 0: the Dreaded Fist of Badness. Films deserving of The Fist are so bad we should get our money refunded and be able to cream pie everyone responsible for foisting bad cinema upon an unsuspecting public.
Let’s raise the curtain on 13 summer features that are still out and about.
The Drop – 3 fingers. A nice plot twist ties together an obese James Gandolfini’s final film about blue-collar underworld bag men, but uneven sound and an inconsistent script mar the hard work of rising stars Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace.
The November Man –2 fingers. Pierce Brosnan is always fun but this instantly forgettable film about CIA baddies brings us absolutely nothing we haven’t seen 100 times before.
If I Stay – 4 fingers. This teen drama about sudden tragedy caused by a winter car accident evolves slowly but maximizes its storyline and allows us to watch the continued growth of young teenage actress Chloe Grace Moritz.
The Expendables 3 – 2 fingers. The only thing Stallone’s latest blow-‘em-up and kill a million bad guys loudfest proves is that they certainly are (as named).
Begin Again – 3 fingers. Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley carry what proves to be a very formulaic music story about bouncing back from breakups and self-destructive life implosions but their work is dragged down by balsa wood performances from Adam Levine and a bad supporting cast.
The Fault in Our Stars – 4 fingers. Shailene Woodley takes a big step forward in this delicate and deftly made book adaptation of a desperate and ill-fated love match between two cancer stricken teenagers.
X-Men: Days of Future Past – 3 fingers. Good entertainment for comic book fans who understand the back story of its many superpower characters determined to save the world against all odds.
The Trip to Italy – 0 fingers, the Dreaded Fist of Badness. This pathetically bad road trip buddy film is two hours of absolute torture and would have been infinitely better if it were a silent film that showed only the scenery and none of the actors.
Jodorowsky’s Dune – 5 fingers. A truly remarkable documentary about a film that was never made by the man who should have (director Alejandro Jodorowsy) but did get made — and pretty much ruined — by a less committed director who tried (David Lynch).
Tim’s Vermeer – 4 fingers. Strong and thorough documentary about oddball San Antonio inventor Tim Jenison, whose determined and relentless passion for figuring out how a 17th century Dutch master painted lifelike, realistic pictures at a time no one else could—and spent five years and a small fortune figuring it out.
The Calling – 2 stars. Only Susan Sarandon’s game effort as a horny boozin’ it up policewoman keeps this bad religious mercy killing murder mystery a venial rather than mortal sin.
For No Good Reason – 2 stars. Johnny Depp’s vanity biopic homage to Hunter S. Thompson’s primary artist Ralph Steadman is nice idea cheaply executed and shoddily made.
Dolphin Tale 2 — 3 stars. This zero profanity, family pleaser is 100 percent schmaltz and lacking in drama but will follow its original and harvest millions despite being boring and predictable.
That’s it for now. I have some meetings of my own to take next week so one of these months maybe we’ll have a picture of our own to celebrate. Until then I will see you at the movies,
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