Movie Revue is a collection of capsule reviews of the week's latest releases in theaters, On Demand, and everywhere in between.
THE COUNSELOR. Few things seem as sure a bet as a new movie starring Javier Bardem, Michael Fassbender & Brad Pitt, directed by Ridley Scott, and written by No Country for Old Men's Cormac McCarthy. Here is proof that there is no such thing as a sure bet. Scott has always been more focused on visuals than the written word, so one can't entirely fault him for the glacially paced script. No, that fault lies with McCarthy who seems way out of his element here. He's going for the kind of lurid potboiler that Oliver Stone would have tackled in the late '90s - think U-Turn - but what he delivers is a limp, overly articulate mess. There are two memorable sequences - the first involves Cameron Diaz humping the windshield of a car (won't forget that anytime soon), and the other involves a grisly death for one of the lead actors at the end. Everything in between is handsomely-shot nonsense. *1/2 out of 5 stars.
CARRIE. There is no such thing as a "necessary" remake, but this one strikes me as particularly unnecessary. Especially when it mimics Brian De Palma's brilliant original (itself based on Stephen King's bestseller) almost scene-for-scene, but to largely diminishing returns. This new Carrie, starring Julianne Moore and Chloe Grace-Moretz, lacks the novelty and visual mischief of the original. Director Kimberly Pierce (Boys Don't Cry, Stop-Loss) is no De Palma. And, Moretz, as talented as she may be, is miscast in the lead role. Hit Girl can't play Carrie! If you're a fan of the original, this will only piss you off. If you haven't seen the original, you'll probably leave underwhelmed, wondering why this supposed "horror" movie has more teenage melodrama than genuine scares. *1/2 out of 5 stars.
ESCAPE PLAN. This Stallone-Schwarzenegger vehicle is so rusty, I find it hard to believe it qualifies as a new release. It feels like something straight out of the bargain VHS bin from 1992. If you can imagine a mash-up of the Ben Affleck bomb, Paycheck, and the underrated Robert Redford flop, The Last Castle, then you probably have a good sense of how Escape Plan plays out. The acting sucks, the one-liners are cheesy ("you hit like a vegetarian"), and the action is unimaginative. Rather than devise a clever way for Stallone's break-out expert to get out of prison, the screenwriters are content to just resort to repetitive gunfire and anonymous explosions. I love the idea of seeing these two veterans ham it up together, but we've already got The Expendables franchise for that. ** out of 5 stars.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. It's awfully hard for a modern Shakespeare adaptation to stand out from the countless other iterations that have come before it, but darn it if writer-director Joss Whedon doesn't manage to do just that with his take on Much Ado. The movie is shot in beautiful black-and-white, and populated with many of the Whedon stable of actors from the various TV shows and movies he's made over the years. Surprisingly, all of the actors do quite well, and manage to find new and interesting line readings that made me feel like I was hearing them for the first time. Slight and inconsequential, sure, but it's better than the Kenneth Branagh version from 1993, for what that's worth. *** out of 5 stars.
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