Movie Revue is a collection of short but sweet reviews of the latest releases in theaters, On Demand, and everywhere in between.
THE SPECTACULAR NOW. Ever since John Hughes passed away, the tender, honest teen romance has been M.I.A. In its place? Junk like Twilight. How refreshing then to see the sub-genre come roaring back to life in "Spectacular" fashion here. After making a big splash at Sundance earlier this year, The Spectacular Now is finally getting the release it deserves. James Ponsoldt (of last year's underrated drama, Smashed) directs with subtle, knowing grace and insight. But it's the two leads, Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, who own this movie. Both are captivating, charming personalities on screen, and are equally adept at the lighter and more dramatic moments. This is a film that succeeds largely because it makes the viewer care about its characters and root for them, even if the plot mechanics aren't all that original or surprising. Highly recommended. **** out of 5 stars.
KICK-ASS 2. Here's a sequel that plays strictly by the law of diminishing returns. Not as good as the first Kick-Ass in nearly every respect. Losing co-writer/director Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class) hurts more than it probably should have. New director Jeff Wadlow (Never Back Down) is clearly a fan of the first, and respects its characters and the irreverent tone that Vaughn nailed the last time out, but he's not as adept, and is working from a script (his own, it should be added) that just isn't up to snuff. Regardless, I enjoyed seeing the characters continue on their journey. The whole cast is pretty much back, and Chloe Grace Moretz still rules as Hit Girl. Jim Carrey gives a funny, mannered character performance, but he's not in it that much. Fans of the first need only apply. This isn't going to win the franchise any new ones. **1/2 out of 5 stars.
LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER. There's a lot about Lee Daniels' The Butler (don't you dare just call it The Butler!) that shouldn't work. The voiceover narration. The clumsy use of overplayed pop songs. The Forrest Gump-like parable of one man's encounter with eight different Presidents. The endless parade of distracting, poorly cast celebrity guest appearances (uh, is that Minka Kelly as Jackie O?!). The subplot involving Cecil Gaines' son, Louis, which conveniently allows Daniels to simultaneously track the entire Civil Rights movement. And yet. The movie kinda works. It toes the line, but never becomes unbearably maudlin. Forest Whitaker is tremendous in the lead role, and convincingly plays Cecil over the span of some 50+ years. Oprah Winfrey is surprisingly good as Cecil's wife. Daniels covers a lot of territory here, and the movie definitely has its merits, but I can't shake the feeling that he played it a bit too safe. This is a film that will please a lot of people; it just won't challenge them. *** out of 5 stars.
IN A WORLD... As a big fan of Children's Hospital, and, strangely enough, No Strings Attached, I've known for a while that Lake Bell is one funny lady. Nice to see her get a chance to show everybody else the same with a movie that she wrote, directed, and stars in. She's surrounded herself with a bevy of talented, funny folks like Nick Offerman, Michaela Watkins, Rob Corddry, and Demetri Martin, and they're all great. But it's Bell, and her unique, offbeat comedic rhythms, that sell the film. Set in the cutthroat world of movie trailer voiceovers (who would have guessed?), In a World.. is frequently funny and sweet, with a disarming feminist streak strewn throughout. It will be interesting to see where Bell goes from here. ***1/2 out of 5 stars.
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