Movie reviews

Movie reviews

‘Out of the Furnace’

Woody Harrelson lights his cigarette with a blowtorch in “Out of the Furnace,” so he’s clearly not a nice guy. He also has vividly messed-up teeth — not the usual messed-up teeth you find on the street, but dramatic movie teeth, gray and encrusted. And he likes getting in people’s faces, breathing on them and smiling in his likable-goofy-maniac way that makes you think, “Wait, is this a comedy?” — just before he starts kicking a guy to death.

He plays an evil New Jersey hick -- Sinatra and Chris Christie to the contrary, there are plenty of those — who has a crystal meth business and various other shady operations, not to mention a dozen slightly less intelligent evil hicks working for him. Their houses probably don’t have plumbing, which accounts for the hygiene. Harrelson and his crew make up a colorful bunch, but they’re not the focus of “Out of the Furnace.” In fact, they seem to be part of a different movie, a dumb but lively sideshow in the midst of a long, grim exercise in garden-variety pointlessness, disguised as nihilism.

Directed and co-written by Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart”), “Out of the Furnace” somehow drags in two distinct and almost contradictory ways. It shambles and ambles, seemingly without focus or pattern, from one thing to the next. Yet at the same time, it’s predictable, not from moment to moment, but in its outlines. There’s an older brother, Russ (Christian Bale), and we know within seconds how things will work out with him and his younger more rebellious brother, Rodney (Casey Affleck). We also have a pretty good idea that if Russ and the meth dealer (Harrelson) ever met, they would not hit it off.

— San Francisco Chronicle

‘Delivery Man’

“Delivery Man” is nowhere near the worst film of 2013, but it is definitely the most exhausting.

The main character seems to exist in 36-hour days without any sleep. There appear to be montages within the montages. The sperm-donor-acting-as-guardian angel plot is like watching six seasons of “Highway to Heaven” crammed into one 103-minute sitting.

The biggest problem is a punishing script, piling on so many cliches that reality begins to feel warped. Meanwhile, the actors do little to mask the deficiencies. This a film that a 2000s Will Ferrell or early 1980s Eddie Murphy might have willed into being funny. Present-day Vince Vaughn doesn’t stand a chance.

Vaughn is David, a meat delivery guy who is terrible at his job, but still beloved in the family business because he’s such a nice guy. It says something about the predictability of the screenplay that David owes $80,000 to the mob and has a girlfriend who announces she’s pregnant at his lowest moment.

David donated sperm 18-plus years ago under the pseudonym Starbuck, and now more than 100 of his 533 children want to know who he is. “Delivery Man” is a copy of the 2011 French-Canadian film “Starbuck,” which had the same writer-director, but benefited from an “R” rating and indie sensibility. (“Delivery Man” just barely grazes the lower edges of PG-13, with mild masturbation and drug references. Watching this family-friendly film, it’s hard to imagine that “Jaws” was once a PG movie.)

— San Francisco Chronicle

‘Sweet Dreams’

An uplifting tale from Rwanda? It’s a startling idea, but here it is, in the form of “Sweet Dreams,” a documentary about a group of Rwandan women trying to put the nation’s horrific recent past behind them.

The country remains in shock from the 1994 genocide, in which members of the majority Hutu ethnic group murdered hundreds of thousands of Tutsis. Ten years later, Kiki Katese, a Rwandan theater director, actor and playwright, founded a women’s drumming troupe that brought together Hutus and Tutsis with the aims of reconciliation and empowerment. We see them performing, with great energy and enthusiasm.

Building on this foundation, Katese later cooked up the notion of having the drummers open the nation’s first local ice cream shop. To give an idea of the risk involved, the film shows a man remarking that he’s never tasted the frozen dessert, but has seen it in the movies.

The veteran filmmakers, siblings Lisa and Rob Fruchtman, accentuate the positive, while acknowledging the obstacles. They also realize Rwanda’s trauma can’t be denied — a handful of women recount harrowing stories of their experiences during the genocide and its aftermath.

— San Francisco Chronicle



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