Friday, July 23, 2010

Movie Review: "Salt"

5. "Salt" is the perfect action movie.

4. "Salt" is one of this summer's few original films -- not a sequel, not an adaptation of a novel or comic book nor a remake of a television show -- and because of that has the ability to surprise and thrill unladen with preconceived notions of the characters or plot.

3. Angelina "World's Coolest Mom" Jolie fiercely embodies title character Evelyn Salt, giving her the tenacity to stomp adversaries in action sequences worthy of the "Bourne" films while providing the tender sensitivity that is the hallmark of her best work in "Girl, Interrupted" and "The Changeling."

2. Unlike the "Bourne" films, "Salt" mostly eschews hyper-stylized effects, making the action feel realistic without losing any of its awe-striking specter.

1. "Salt" features the best chase scenes since "The Fugitive" and "Run, Lola, Run," while the added moral ambiguity of Evelyn Salt's allegiances only twists the suspense knob up to "11."

Run Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes
Rated PG-13‎‎
Genre: Suspense-Thriller‎
Director: Phillip Noyce
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alex Pettyfer, Gaius Charles
Finney's Flicks Grade: A

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

DVD Review: "Batman: Under the Red Hood"

5. In 1988, my dad would not let me call the 1-900 number to save Robin's life.

4. Dad's frugality proved powerfully prolific prognostication, not because it saved the family $1 on the phone bill, but because the ruthless lack of creativity on the part of DC Comics would both render fruitless my call and reverse the once-powerful and beautifully told "A Death In The Family" storyline in which the Joker brutally beat Jason Todd, the second Robin, with a crowbar and blew him up in a warehouse.

3. This brings me to "Batman: Under the Red Hood," the latest prostitution of poor, pitiful Jason Todd's one-noble fate, penned by Judd Winick, a man whose unfathomably wretched writing has wrecked a rain forest's worth of comics.

2. So, you could say I come into viewing the latest DC direct-to-DVD release with some baggage -- the storyline itself is another testament to the laziness and money-grubbing of comic creators and publishers -- yet I still found myself enjoying this disc as much as any DC cartoon since "New Frontier," easily the best release of a sordid and shameful lot.

1. Two final knits: If you're going to have an animated Batman just have Kevin Conroy voice him for crying out loud and, finally, DC really needs to refund money to everybody who called that 1-900 number back in 1988.

"Batman: Under the Red Hood"
Run Time: 70 minutes
Genre: Animated-superheroes-DC Comics
Unrated direct-to-DVD release
Director: Brandon Vietti
Cast: Bruce Greenwood, Neil Patrick Harris, Jensen Ackles, John DiMaggio, Jason Isaacs and Wade Williams
Finney's Flicks Grade: B

Friday, July 16, 2010

Movie Review: "Inception"

5. I saw "The Empire Strikes Back" when I was five years old and it blew my mind so thoroughly and left such an indelible, unshakable impression that, in some small way, every movie I've seen since then has been a vague disappointment.

4. "Inception" changed that, surpassing even the most tightly-held moments of whatever shards of a wide-eyed, awestruck kindergartner that dwells in my cynical soul.

3. Leonardo DiCapro leads a powerhouse cast through writer-director Christopher Nolan's mind-bending tale of idea thieves and dream saboteurs.

2. The movie stuns the imagination with visuals that made me feel as if I were personally navigating the live-action recreation of an M.C. Escher drawing while the story twists us through a story that is equal parts action-adventure, heist flick, character-driven drama and romantic tragedy.

1. In the modern multiplex, it is not difficult to rise above the swill released by the creativity-deprived studio system, but "Inception" rockets past that low threshold and manages to move the movie genre forward.

Run Time: 2 hours, 28 minutes
Rated PG-13‎‎
Genre: Action-Adventure-Scifi-Fantasy‎
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page
Finney's Flicks Grade: A+

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Movie Review: "Predators"

5. I'm surprised by how much I liked "Predators" given how silly it is, which is either a sign I'm losing my taste for good movies or the flick reaches that 12-year-old portion of my soul that enjoyed schlock like this at the Iowa Theater in Winterset nearly every summer week of my youth.

4. A bunch of hard-boiled military types are dropped from the sky onto a planet with spike-covered dogs and, of course, Predators, the famed monstrosities of four movies since 1987.

3. What happens next is a lot of stuff blowing up, people getting killed in interesting ways, a Yakuza-Predator sword fight and a twist that is so obvious that if you don't pick it up at the beginning of the film, I will lose some respect for you.

2. There's little point in discussing plot or acting -- their isn't much of either -- and the movie really slows down in the handful of moments the filmmakers waste developing character.

1. The only thing that could have made this movie better is if instead of a variety of human preys the Predators had taken a scoop of pop culture figures -- I'm thinking Wolverine, Optimus Prime, Rorschach from "The Watchman" and maybe Panthro from "Thundercats" -- and you'd have the great action figure team-up this movie was meant to be.

Run time: 1 hour, 47 minutes
Rated R‎‎
Genre: Action/Adventure/Horror/Scifi/Fantasy‎
Director: Nimród Antal
Cast: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov
Finney's Flicks Grade: C

Monday, July 12, 2010

Movie Review: "Despicable Me"

5. This film is something of a conundrum: It's seldom surprising, not nearly as good as this summer's other animated blockbuster, "Toy Story 3," and packed with enough manipulative, doe-eyed cuteness to give me diabetes.

4. Yet, despite every ounce of grouch burned deep within my soul, I like this movie -- not a lot, but enough to be satisfied leaving the theater, a horribly rare feeling this summer.

3. Steve Carrell voices Gru, an aging criminal mastermind who looks like he was ripped out of a Chas Addams cartoon, (Is that you Uncle Fester?), who adopts three orphans in a nefarious scheme to steal a shrink ray from his nemesis, Vector (voiced by Jason Segel, who manages not to show his junk as in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall") and a collection of yellow minions that look like the bastard children of 1970s Weeble Wobbles and those green guys who worship "The Claw" in "Toy Story."

2. Gru, of course, only wants to use the kids but falls in love with cuteness of the children and ends up doing the right thing in the end -- all stuff that's expected from the first poster outside the movie marquee to the final credit.

1. Despite being an obvious collection of derivatives and a ruthlessly predictable plot, "Despicable" is funny enough to have gotten me to laugh out loud a couple times and respect a product that delivers what it promises: a movie that's all heart.

"Despicable Me"
Run time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Rated PG
Genre: Animated-Family
Director: Chris Renaud
Cast: Jason Segel, Steve Carell, Russell Brand, Will Arnett, Julie Andrews
Finney's Flicks Grade: B-

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Movie Review: "Killers"

5. "Killers" seems like the kind of movie a person finds on TBS on a lazy Sunday afternoon sometime between the end of the pro football season and the start of serious college basketball games.

4. You leave it on as you doze in and out while sweat beads roll off your beer bottle and make a ring on the coffee table.

3. Katherine Heigl, playing a hapless single who falls in love with a hot dude while vacationing with her parents in France, does her job playing a wimpy woman-child with scoop-neck outfits to show off her only qualifications as an actress while Iowa's own Ashton Kutcher almost pulls off being a hardcore secret agent killer, until he talks and then you immediately hear, "Oh, it's Michael Kelso from 'That's 70's Show.'"

2. Tom Selleck is in the movie, too, as Heigl's dad, and people talk about his mustache a lot while Catherine O'Hara plays his wife, a lush.

1. I would describe the plot or the action, but it really isn't worth the verbiage because "Killers" is simply so mediocre that it never raises to the level of particularly offensive or interesting ... well, that and it'll be on TBS soon enough.

Run Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Rated PG-13
Genre: Romance-Comedy-Action-Adventure‎
Director: Robert Luketic
Cast: Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Tom Selleck, Catherine O'Hara, Katheryn Winnick
Finney's Flicks Rating: C-

Movie Review: "Solitary Man"

5. Michael Douglas has made a career out of being a sort of anti-Harrison Ford.

4. While Ford's trademark heroes (Han Solo, Indiana Jones and especially John Book in "Witness") tend to be decent men pushed to the edge by circumstance who pull it out in the end, Douglas' roles ("Falling Down," "Wonder Boys" and "King of California") are screw ups who implode their own lives only to seek redemption by the grace of the higher-functioning moral characters around him.

3. Douglas plays Ben Kalmen much the same way: He was a successful guy who gets a scare at the doctor's office and proceeds ruin his successful business, to cheat on his wife (Susan Sarandon), have sex with the 19-year-old daughter (Imogen Poots) of his girlfriend (Marie-Louise Parker) and treat his friends (Danny DeVito and Jesse Eisenberg) and family (Jenna Fischer) poorly.

2. The problem with "Solitary Man" is Ben is neither crazy enough nor charming enough to redeem his jerk behavior and he's not sympathetic enough to cut him slack while he figures out his malfunction.

1. The movie ends on an ambiguous note which, much like Ben and the flick as a whole, I can't decide whether it's brilliant or just a jerk move.

"Solitary Man"
Run Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Rated R
Genre: Drama
Director: David Levien
Cast: Mary-Louise Parker, Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Jesse Eisenberg, Danny DeVito
Finney's Flicks Grade: B-

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