Currently browsing the "crime" tag.

American Ultra

I’m not sure what this movie was trying to be but it’s a hot mess. Here’s how it was pitched:

American Ultra is a fast-paced action comedy about Mike [Jesse Eisenberg], a seemingly hapless and unmotivated stoner whose small-town life with his live-in girlfriend, Phoebe [Kristen Stewart], is suddenly turned upside down. Unbeknownst to him, Mike is actually a highly trained, lethal sleeper agent. In the blink of an eye, as his secret past comes back to haunt him, Mike is thrust into the middle of a deadly government operation and is forced to summon his inner action-hero in order to survive.”

When I read the synopsis, I expected to see something along the lines of the fairly entertaining action-comedy-crime-stoner movie Pineapple Express. Ha! Joke was on me.

Nightcrawler

Movies like Nightcrawler pose a real challenge for me as a frequent film ‘opinionator’ because I simply didn’t like it nearly as much as I’m supposed to, especially considering my ‘day job’ in broadcast news. I guess I wasn’t in the mood for creepy and disturbing. And that’s exactly what Nightcrawler is – a crime thriller that left me feeling more distressed than entertained. I’m sure that’s what the filmmakers were going for. But who needs to PAY for that?

Yes, the performances are excellent. Jake Gyllenhaal got all gaunt and wild-eyed to play Lou Bloom, a smart but psychotic petty thief who stumbles upon a new career as a nightcrawler in Los Angeles – filming and selling grisly accident and crime scene footage to the highest bidder(s). And Rene Russo is chillingly good as Nina, an ethically-challenged news director determined to do whatever it takes to get her struggling TV station out of the ratings cellar.

The Heat

The Heat is a mildly amusing buddy cop movie that breaks formula only in that the two leads are female. It’s like a raunchy version of Beverly Hills Cop meets Miss Congeniality – in Boston. I didn’t love it, but the movie does fill a cinematic void for a mainstream, non-apocalyptic comedy.

Now You See Me

So I had a choice of overlapping screenings: After Earth (a sci-fi adventure with the father-son team of Will and Jaden Smith) or Now You See Me, a heist movie involving a quartet of illusionists. I chose the latter. That was probably a wise choice given the less than stellar buzz I’m hearing about Earth. But Now You See Me isn’t all that great either, despite having a few good tricks up its sleeve. Overall, it’s a decent movie for anyone in the mood for a moderately entertaining mind-bender with a solid cast. Or, if you’re a fan of magic and illusion and need to get The Incredible Burt Wonderstone out of your head. If Wonderstone had gone down a somewhat dark and twisty path, this is where it might have led.

A Good Day to Die Hard

The fifth time is not the charm for the hugely successful Die Hard franchise. A Good Day to Die Hard is, without a doubt, the weakest of the bunch – and I’m not even sure I’ve seen them all. That said, the movie is mindless entertainment that should do well at the box office because, well, it’s Die Hard. Bruce Willis. Action. Good guys. Bad guys. Things going boom. Father-son bonding. Bullets flying. Cars flipping. Helicopters crashing. And more things going boom. Get the picture? If the movie had tried to take itself too seriously, I’d have a much more serious problem with it. Instead, I will simply take exception with the fact that it has no comprehensible plot.

Identity Thief

Identity Thief isn’t terrible. It’s just not very good. Which wouldn’t be so bad, except that the movie could and should be so much better. Make sense? Especially when you factor in the definite appeal of its two stars, Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses, Arrested Development) and Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids, Mike & Molly). The premise starts out decent enough: Bateman plays Sandy Patterson, a mild-mannered corporate accountant whose life begins to implode when an eccentric con-woman (McCarthy) steals his identity and puts him in hot water with the cops and his boss.

Stand Up Guys

Great actors does not a great movie make. Pardon my grammar, but that’s my final answer on Stand Up Guys, a dark comedy starring Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and, to a (much) lesser extent, Alan Arkin. Needs more Arkin! Take these fine actors out of the mix, and you’ve got a pretty boring movie with way too many boner jokes. Maybe that’s why it’s called Stand Up Guys?! I’d rather not know. Anyway, the film looks and feels like a throwback to the gangster movies of the 1970s, only now our wiseguys are firmly in the twilight of their lives and careers. The film is part homage, part satire, and part melancholy. It opens with Walken’s character, Doc, picking up his best friend Val (Pacino) from prison, where’s he’s served 28 years. The reunion is bittersweet, however, because Doc has orders from the mob boss to kill Val – and both men know it. They decide to make those final hours count, and that means plenty of drinking, eating, pill-popping (mostly Viagra and blood pressure meds), brothel visits, and even a bit of gangstering with their old pal and wheelman Hirsch (Arkin).

Man on a Ledge

 Man on a Ledge is one of those movies that holds your attention and ultimately entertains, even if it does fade from memory a short time later. The less you know going into it, the more you’ll get out of it. So if you think you may want to see it, skip the more in-depth reviews and stick with this one!

J. Edgar

What a strange man, that J. Edgar Hoover! And yet – for nearly 50 years – he managed to wield tremendous power and influence as the controversial head of the Federal Bureau of Investigations. This biopic seeks to show us how, and why.

Tower Heist

The trailer for Tower Heist makes it look like an Oceans Eleven-esque comedy ensemble thievery pic. And guess what? That’s exactly what it is, only not as good. On the Oceans scale, I’d give it a six and a half.