Movie Revue is a collection of short but sweet reviews of the week's latest releases in theaters, On Demand, and everywhere in between.
THE WORLD'S END. Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost had already set the bar considerably, nearly impossibly, high with their previous films in the "Cornetto Trilogy": Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. The World's End is just as good as those two, if not better. The chemistry between Pegg and Frost has always been something special, but their characters' relationship in this film has a more mature and emotionally complex bent. Pegg plays an alcoholic living in the glory days of his youth, who decides to head back to his hometown with boyhood friends in tow for a 12-stop pub crawl, ending at The World's End. The title of the last bar is prophetic, as the whole town is invaded by sentient, blue goo-filled robots who threaten to kick start the apocalypse. At that point, once the robots show up, what started as an awkwardly funny comedy about growing up turns into an all-out action extravaganza, with comedy still intact. The action is inventively staged by Wright (who improves upon his already stellar action scenes in Scott Pilgrim), and the plot zigs and zags in directions I didn't expect. In a year full of apocalyptic comedies, The World's End easily takes the cake (and I really liked This is the End). I had a blast watching this movie, and look forward to many more years of doing the same. The first 5-star movie of 2013. ***** out of 5 stars.
YOU'RE NEXT. I didn't know much about this little horror movie going in, other than the fact it had sat on a shelf for two years and was a huge hit with audiences when it toured the festival circuit. The ads have suggested another rote home invasion thriller, like The Purge or The Strangers, but with silly animal masks. And, for the first 45 minutes, that's pretty much what you get. But then - just when I was ready to write off the movie as overhyped and nothing special - it goes and does something crazy good. It turns the tables on the animal masked killers, in ways that are darkly comedic and oddly satisfying. Lead actress Sharni Vinson (of Step Up 3D) is a dynamite action heroine. By the end, I was totally on board. If you enjoy the off-kilter horror comedy sensibilities of old school Sam Raimi and Dead Alive-era Peter Jackson, then this should be the "Next" horror movie you see. *** out of 5 stars.
DRINKING BUDDIES. With a likeable cast that includes Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, and Olivia Wilde, I quickly sought out this movie as soon as it hit On Demand this past weekend. But, despite some nicely observed, improvised moments between Johnson and Wilde, as flirtatious co-workers at a brewery in Chicago, this mumblecore comedy from up-and-comer Joe Swanberg (it's his 12th movie in 5 years) just isn't that interesting or funny. It looks and feels smarter than the average romantic comedy at first, but ultimately doesn't really play much better than what we usually get from the studios. I think the Duplass Brothers had much more success making the leap from mumblecore to mainstream with movies like Cyrus and Jeff, Who Lives at Home. At least those had some laugh-out-loud moments. Drinking Buddies features a great lead performance by Wilde, and . . . not much else. ** out of 5 stars.
BLUE JASMINE. Sitting down to watch any new Woody Allen movie, I always have two thoughts: (1) why is every opening credits the same (jazz music, cast listed all at once in alphabetical order, Windsor font); and (2) once the credits are over, what kind of Woody Allen are we going to get? Good Woody Allen (Match Point, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Midnight in Paris, to name a few of my recent faves) or bad Woody Allen (To Rome with Love, Scoop, Whatever Works). Blue Jasmine falls decidedly on the good spectrum. That's due in large - almost monumental - part to the performance of Cate Blanchett as Jasmine, a formerly rich, psychologically damaged widow of a philandering fraudster (Alec Baldwin). When Jasmine has a panic attack or "episode," which happens frequently, Blanchett is utterly riveting. She's ably backed by a slew of surprisingly great supporting performances from people like Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, and Bobby Canavale. I'm not sure what Allen is ultimately trying to say here, but he never lets Jasmine off the hook for her shortcomings, and Blanchett never plays her as sympathetic, even though the viewer often sympathizes with her. The real question is not whether Blanchett will be nominated for an Oscar, but...can anybody beat her? ***1/2 out of 5 stars.
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