"I don't want to be a good man; I want to be a great one." So says Oscar, a humble (read: crummy) magician in a traveling circus circa 1905, just before a magical tornado sweeps him and his hot air balloon away to a land that just so happens to share his nickname: Oz. In 'Oz the Great and Powerful,' Oscar (James Franco) finds exactly what his heart desires; the chance to be a great man, wealthy and powerful, the ruler of a beautiful kingdom. And the kingdom does look damn good, and most of Oz's adventures in it are pretty entertaining as well.
The third row of an IMAX screen is a sufficiently disadvantageous perspective to give you a taste of the way the hero of 'Jack the Giant Slayer' sees the world. From that angle, even regular-sized humans loom ominously overhead; you can imagine how big the giants look. But that's about as impressive as the surprisingly crummy 'Jack' gets.
Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell), the heroine of 'The Last Exorcism,' was a great tragic figure; a sweet, innocent girl inexplicably hounded by a nefarious cult and a vicious demon named Abalam. With 'The Last Exorcism Part II,' Nell's story grows even sadder -- by extending it into this superfluous and perfunctory sequel that casts her as a quivering, helpless victim and strips away almost everything that made the first film such an unexpected delight. Gone is the effective found footage gimmick, gone are the profound questions about faith, gone, most surprisingly, is most of Bell's impressive contortionist act. This time, she does as much contorting on the poster as she does in the film itself.
In 1982, Walter Hill directed '48 Hrs.,' with Nick Nolte as a loose cannon cop and Eddie Murphy as a fast-talking criminal. The oil-and-water chemistry worked, the movie was a hit, and an entire genre -- the buddy cop movie -- was born. Hill has had a long a varied career in Hollywood, directing tough, lean action movies and Westerns and producing the 'Alien' franchise, but '48 Hrs.' and the myriad imitators it birthed will always be his biggest legacy. That fact alone makes his new movie, 'Bullet to the Head,' interesting, since it's Hill imitating himself, with his first return to the genre since 1990's 'Another 48 Hrs.' The mixed results probably won't inspire a resurgence of buddy cop movies, but they're not terrible either, with enough Walter Hill flair to make some moments quite memorable, even if the movie as a whole has its problems.
'Parker' is not Jason Statham's best movie, but it may have his defining onscreen moment, a perfect, succinct summation of everything pleasurable about his onscreen persona. His character, a thief and con man named Parker, has returned to his hotel room in Palm Beach. He's surprised by an assassin; since this is a Jason Statham movie, an elaborately choreographed fight scene ensues.
The assassin's weapon of choice is a knife and after he gets Parker in a headlock, he tries really hard to get Statham's face acquainted with the finer points of his blade. The knife keeps inching closer and closer to his eyeball -- so to save himself, Parker sticks up his hand and willingly lets the assassin stab him through his palm. The sacrifice gives him just enough of breather to gain the upper hand. That is The Cinema of Jason Statham in a nutshell: action and indomitable determination. His characters are all men who'll stop at nothing to win; an echo of Statham's onscreen work ethic -- he'll stop at nothing to entertain you. Even in a vehicle as average as "Parker," Statham still delivers an intensely committed performance.
In his recent autobiography, Arnold Schwarzenegger describes his part in 'The Last Stand' as "a great, great role." He plays Ray Owens, a former LAPD cop who retired to his hometown in Arizona after his partner got crippled in a botched drug raid. Now the local sheriff, he and a few bumbling deputies are all that stands between the Mexican border and a ruthless drug kingpin. "The sheriff knows if he succeeds," Schwarzenegger writes, "it will mean everything to the town. His reputation is on the line. Is he really over the hill or can he do it?"
Dirty Harry would love 'Gangster Squad,' a movie about cops who operate so far outside the law they make Clint Eastwood's signature detective look like a pencil-pushing dweeb. Assembled by LAPD police chief Bill Parker (Nick Nolte), and supposedly inspired by a true story, the members of the so-called Gangster Squad operate as judge, jury, and executioners. They don't arrest their targets; they "wage war" against their enemy, mob boss Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). In their quest to bust up Cohen's rackets, the Gangster Squad brandishes about a billion guns and not a single badge. Hell, even Dirty Harry waited until the end of his movie to toss his away.
His name is Django and as he's quick to point out, the D is silent. It's just about the only quiet part of Quentin Tarantino's 'Django Unchained,' a boisterous, bloody blaxploitation/Western hybrid. What else would you expect from Tarantino, the modern master of genre pastiche, flavorful dialogue, and grossly exaggerated violence? Whatever 'Django''s issues -- and it has a couple -- failing to deliver on its promises isn't one of them. If anything, the issue is the exact opposite.
Bill Westenhofer. Lubo Hristov. David Lauer. Gullaume Rocheron. Depending on your beliefs, you may or may not believe that God created the heavens and earth in seven days -- but I can say with some certainty that those men, a quartet of visual effects supervisors and designers (along with many other talented people) created the wondrous sights of 'Life of Pi.' It took them a lot more than seven days, though.
Many of Alfred Hitchcock's movies, from 'Psycho' to 'Vertigo' to 'Rear Window,' are about voyeurism, so the idea of peering into Hitchcock's own previously hidden private life does make a certain amount of sense. But if 'Hitchcock' resonates with some of the Master of Suspense's ideas, it's never faithful to his spirit. Hitch would never have put his name on a film so full of lame pop psychology and so bereft of excitement, tension and humor. Which is a shame, since the title of this movie is his name.
The opening credits of 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2' alternate between red and white images; seeping blood, spreading ice crystals. The symbolism couldn't be clearer: bundle up, Twihards, it's going to be a long cold lonely winter. Here comes the sun, dawn is breaking, and with it the end of your beloved franchise. After this, no more sexy vampires and hunky werewolves. It's all over -- and now that it is all over, let's give 'Twilight' its due: as one of the absolute bats--- craziest blockbusters in Hollywood history.
If its portrait of him is accurate, then Abraham Lincoln would have loved Steven Spielberg's 'Lincoln.' The film is exactly like the man at its center: thoughtful and talkative, equally adept at spinning tales and navigating the murky waters of backroom politics. It suggests that well before Ronald Reagan, our 16th President was truly our nation's Great Communicator.
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