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Quickie Reviews: Glitch in the Matrix, Bliss

There is a lot of talk these days in the scientific world about the scary possibility that we are all living in a computer simulation and aren’t actually real. I have a hard time wrapping my head around that. But I’m not the only one thinking about it. Documentary filmmaker Rodney Ascher’s new film Glitch in the Matrix takes on the question using avatar clad interviewees alongside a famous speech by science fiction author extraordinaire Philip K Dick. Director Mike Cahill fictionalizes the question in his sci-fi flick Bliss. Neither of them really answers the existential question. But Glitch in the Matrix is at least somewhat entertaining. Bliss, not so much.

Quickie Review: Wonder

Wonder is simply a wonderful film for the whole family to watch and enjoy – and sniffle through – as we enter the holiday season. Based on the New York Times best-seller by R.J. Palacio, Wonder tells the inspiring story of August Pullman, a 10-year-old boy with a rare facial deformity whose parents enroll him in school at the start of fifth grade so he can be around other kids and live a more normal life. It’s not an easy transition. Kids will be kids. But Auggie is smart, funny, empathetic and endearing, and he has a close-knit, supportive family that always has his back.

Masterminds

Masterminds is another movie based on a true story. But unlike the intense new action drama Deepwater Horizon, Masterminds plays for laughs. It’s a bizarre comedy directed by Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite; Nacho Libre) that recounts one of the largest bank heists in U.S. history: the 1997 Loomis Fargo robbery in North Carolina. Zach Galifianakis plays David Ghantt, a gullible schlub whose ‘work crush’ Kelly (Kristin Wiig) convinces him to use his position as an armored-car driver to pull off the ultimate inside job. David steals 17 million dollars and turns most of it over to the yahoos who masterminded the heist and set him up to take the fall.

Zoolander 2

Zoolander 2 reminded me a lot of Dumb and Dumber To – a stupidly funny treat for diehard fans of the original. It’s not nearly as good as the first one, because, really, the novelty is gone. You know that former fashion model Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) will ultimately save the day with one of his signature looks, like the classic magnum, or blue steel.

Inherent Vice

I have liked Paul Thomas Anderson’s films a lot in the past (Magnolia, Boogie Nights, There Will be Blood), and Inherent Vice has a lot of the elements he is known for — a great ensemble cast, intertwining story lines, a sense of the world being off kilter. But in this case, it just never seems to come together. By the end of two and a half hours, you are as befuddled as the pothead protagonist, all the while thinking that it has to ultimately make sense. My suspicion is that adapting this (or any other) Thomas Pynchon novel seemed like a great challenge, since no one has done it before. But I think this film should serve as a cautionary tale for future screenwriters who think they’ll be the one who gets it right.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

In his latest fabulously outrageous film The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson introduces us to Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), the concierge to end all concierges who takes enterprising lobby boy Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) under his wing. The movie is visually stunning and laugh out loud hilarious, and what totally sold me was its witty use of language and music to give another layer to its story set in a first class hotel in a fictional eastern European country in that elegant era between the wars. And the chemistry between the older, wiser hotelier and his young protégé is delicious! What begins as a mentoring relationship quickly turns to a zany buddy romp when one of the hotel’s wealthy guests (Tilda Swinton) is murdered and Gustave is thrown in jail. And only Zero can save him.

The Internship

The Internship isn’t bad – or good. It’s just weak. Fans of the Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson classic The Wedding Crashers will recognize the characters and the shtick. So change the title to The Internship Crashers and you’ll surely get the drift. Vaughn and Wilson play Billy and Nick, a couple of luxury-watch salesmen who lose their jobs when the company they work for goes belly-up. After all, who needs a watch when you’ve got a smart phone? For reasons that my cynical job-hunting self had trouble swallowing, the two land a pair of coveted internships at Google, touted as the best place to work in America (Free food! Volleyball! Napping pods!).

Midnight in Paris

I’m not (book) smart enough to fully appreciate Midnight in Paris, but I would certainly encourage fans of the literary and art world of the 1920s to check it out. The movie presents an interesting, somewhat whimsical Woody Allen-ified twist on the time travel genre.

How Do You Know?

How Do You Know a movie just doesn’t work? You look at the people around you as the credits roll and nobody’s saying much of anything – good or bad. The movie is so-so at best. It’s a shame, ‘cause I really wanted to like it. We’re so overdue for a good romantic comedy this holiday season!!! So what happened?

Little Fockers

Little Fockers could very well ride the Focker franchise to a modicum of box office success – despite the fact that it pretty much sucks. I was embarrassed for the likes of Robert De Niro, Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman, though Streisand and Hoffman do appear only briefly in this sequel, as the hippie parents of Stiller’s character, Greg Focker.