DOM HEMINGWAY (2014)

From my perspective, there are two Jude Laws. The first Jude Law broke out in GATTACA and THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY, and he’s made a solid career out of playing handsome, usually somewhat-ignorant cads. Remember when he was in 6, count ‘em, six
movies back in 2004? All but one of those appearances (his offscreen narration for LEMONY SNICKET’S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS) were in that mold. He’s consistently good, if not uber-memorable in these roles, and has transitioned nicely into his 40s by adding a mature knowingness to these performances in movies like THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS, the SHERLOCK HOLMES films, and, most recently, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. But this isn’t the Jude Law we get in DOM HEMINGWAY. Not by a fucking mile. Continue reading

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THE LEGO MOVIE (2014)

I was cynical as all hell about this movie. Even as the esteemed critics I follow heaped praises upon it, I was not onboard the idea of a LEGO MOVIE that was anything other than a corporate shill to get the audience to buy some toys after the credits rolled. Call it franchise fatigue. Also, I am not as big of a fan of Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s last two films, CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS and 21 JUMP STREET, as a lot of my friends and colleagues, so it was easy to write off their enthusiasm as just having a particular affection for their sugar-rush, kinetic visual style. Well, fuck me and that wall of cycnism, because last night, it got crashed through by a clever, fun, and wildly imaginative animated film that knew what it was, what the audience thought it would be, and what it could ultimately become. Continue reading

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Pompeii (2014)

A massive volcano erupts and kills pretty much everyone in the nearby town. Yes, that DOES happen in this movie. Having said that, there’s no question that Mount Vesuvius is not the central preoccupation with POMPEII. This is absolutely not Roland Emmerich’s POMPEII, with a ton of premonitions, destruction, aftermath, and then another climax to boot, all complete with people ever-so-narrowly outrunning the elements. No, it would seem that Paul W.S. Anderson has somewhat cleverly found a way to make POMPEII a MORTAL KOMBAT/DEATH RACE-type movie out of this natural disaster, a MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE by way of the sword-and-sandal B-movie. The trailers have barely hinted at it, but this is pretty much a PG-13 gladiator flick. And then a volcano erupts and kills pretty much everyone in the nearby town. Continue reading

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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, and now Chris Pine have all played Tom Clancy’s famous Jack Ryan over the course of the past 24 years. In the first movie, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, Jack Ryan isn’t even on the poster; Baldwin is credited under Sean Connery’s massive name and mug, and even below the actual title. Now, his name’s right there in the title (and comprised the whole title before that “Shadow Recruit” subtitle was arbitrarily tacked on). However, this may be the least Jack Ryan-y Jack Ryan movie to date. It feels more of a product for the post-HOMELAND/Jason Bourne spy scene than a legit origin story for this enduring literary/cinematic figure. Is it an entertaining flick? Sure, at least for the first two-thirds. But it’s fleeting, and ultimately, fairly rudimentary. We’ve seen this flick before, and even though we liked it the first time(s), the film lacks the originality and freshness to distinguish it against the Jack Ryan flicks (and espionage thrillers) that came before it. Continue reading

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Ip Man: The Final Fight (2013)

There sure are a lotta Ip Man movies out there: within the past five years, we’ve had two Donnie Yen/Wilson Yip films, the Wong Kar-Wai-directed THE GRANDMASTER (which finally hits U.S. screens this weekend), IP MAN: THE LEGEND IS BORN (which starred Dennis To as the titular figure), and now, IP MAN: THE FINAL FIGHT is premiering on VOD, leading up to a theatrical release next month. THE FINAL FIGHT is written and directed by the same team as THE LEGEND IS BORN, Erica Li and Herman Yau, respectively, but they’ve replaced To with Anthony Wong to play the elder version of the legendary martial arts instructor. I have not yet seen THE GRANDMASTER or THE LEGEND IS BORN, but I feel fairly certain that what we get here is a worthy addition to the legacy of Ip Man biopics, and stands out on its own due to its acting, the strength of the traditional craft involved, and, here and there, a stylistic touch or two that adds plenty without calling too much attention to itself. Continue reading

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