Movie Revue: Gravity, Cloudy 2, Rush, Don Jon, Enough Said, Runner Runner

Movie Revue: Gravity, Cloudy 2, Rush, Don Jon, Enough Said, Runner Runner

Movie Revue is a collection of capsule reviews of the week's latest releases in theaters, On Demand, and everywhere in between.


GRAVITY.  Director Alfonso Cuaron hasn't made a movie since 2007's Children of Men.  I called that film the best of the last decade.  With Gravity, he may have made one of the best movies of this decade.  Utilizing groundbreaking special effects and an arsenal of filmmaking tools that other directors can't even dream of possessing, this is a spectacular exercise in tension that never lets up for one second of its remarkably taut and focused 90 minutes.  Sandra Bullock is phenomenal as medical engineer Ryan Stone, and will surely give Cate Blanchett a run for the Best Actress Oscar this year.  The film consists of one jaw-dropping sequence after another, with the opening 20 minutes being a single, how-did-they-do-that(?) long take.  See this on the biggest and best screen possible, and in 3D.  Gravity is a pulse-pounding, eye-popping masterpiece.  A giant Wow of a film.  Highest of recommendations.  ***** out of 5 stars.


CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2. I was a big fan of the first Cloudy, so I had no problem taking the kids to the sequel.  Unfortunately, Cloudy 2 played out as most sequels do: less original, less funny, and not quite as clever.  All of the voice cast (which includes Bill Hader and Anna Faris) is back, and the core idea is fun - the food that fell from the sky in the first movie has now taken on a life of its own and started morphing into animals (shrimpanzees, watermelaphants, etc.).  But, those assets are stymied by a plot that keeps tripping over itself, and a villain (voiced by Will Forte) who comes across as an ill-conceived Steve Jobs parody.  The absence of the first Cloudy's talented writer-directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller - currently at work on The Lego Movie, is felt here.  The kids will probably like this just fine (mine did), but my interest in a Cloudy 3 has definitely waned.  **1/2 out of 5 stars.


RUSH.  A sports drama built around Formula 1 racing may not be everyone's cup of tea in theory, but darn it if director Ron Howard and screenwriter Peter Morgan didn't make a film that anyone can enjoy.  Based on the true life 1970s rivalry between Brit racer James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and German racer Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), Rush is superior mainstream filmmaking.  It's smart and sexy, with some thrilling race sequences and a pair of performances that stand out as some of the year's best.  Hemsworth gives a rich, confident portrayal of Hunt, and Bruhl is equally magnetic in the more interesting and nuanced role of Lauda.  The cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle is handsome and striking.  Great musical score by Hans Zimmer.  Between this and Frost/Nixon, Howard is proving himself a master of '70s-set drama.  In a directing career spanning nearly three decades now, Rush is one of Howard's best.  **** out of 5 stars.


DON JON.  I loved the trailer for Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut about a New Jersey lothario addicted to porn, and that might explain why I was so taken with the first hour of Don Jon, which basically plays like an extended version of the trailer.  JGL shows real confidence behind the camera, and his editor does a great job of cutting Jon's lifestyle into a series of repetitive, routine moments.  The chemistry between JGL and Scarlett Johansson (the "most beautiful thing" Jon has ever seen) is electric, especially in a dry humping scene outside Johansson's apartment.  It's nice to see Tony Danza get a juicy supporting role as Jon's dad.  That being said, the movie lost my interest in the second half.  I don't think JGL gets a grip on what he wants to ultimately say about love, pornography, and media manipulation.  The Julianne Moore character is misconceived and underwritten, which is problematic given how big a role she plays down the stretch.   JGL has promise as a writer-director, but he's not quite there yet.  **1/2 out of 5 stars.


ENOUGH SAID.  This is a relaxed, warm romantic comedy about two divorced people forging a connection.  It's funny, low-key and sweet, and manages to make an impression on audiences without ever breaking a sweat.  Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, who's been so good on TV for so long, earns her stripes as a film leading lady, and makes the most out of every line gifted to her by writer-director Nicole Holofcener.  She has winning chemistry opposite James Gandolfini, who, in one of his last roles, plays a tender teddy bear of a man who knows his shortcomings and embraces them.  Actually, the whole cast is great.  Holofcener's script is one of the best of the year - witty, humane and relatable.  Even when the plot threatens to lapse into sitcom territory, Holofcener and her cast make it work.  ***1/2 out of 5 stars.


RUNNER RUNNER.  Already a bomb at the box office, this dimwitted thriller about a gambler (Justin Timberlake) in over his head doesn't have much going for it.  Timberlake, so effortlessly charming on SNL and in Friends with Benefits, seems lost here, unable to play to any of his strengths.  The movie, directed by Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer), has the look and feel of a straight-to-dvd flick from the '90s.  The "gritty" cinematography, meant to evoke the exotic atmosphere of the film's Costa Rica location, comes across as cheap and amateurish.  There are no stakes and the tension barely rises to the level of a simmer.  Perhaps the most disappointing part is Ben Affleck's involvement.  He has done such a fine job lately of avoiding this kind of forgettable junk that it hurts to see him stumble into it again.  ** out of 5 stars.

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