Reviews of Recent Movie Releases

Garfield-Stone chemistry saves ‘Spiderman 2’

Deep into “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” my 11-year-old companion was confused about a certain plot point — justifiably, I’d say — and demanded an immediate and thorough explanation.

“Shh, not now. Later!” I hissed. Because, though I didn’t admit it, I really didn’t want to miss an Andrew Garfield-Emma Stone kiss. And who knew when the next one was coming?

With great chemistry, you see, comes great kissing.

Let’s just say this unequivocally: Whether or not my young Spidey fan would agree, the best thing about the “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” the second installment of director Marc Webb’s series reboot, is that infectious chemistry between Garfield and Stone. In fact, given that this overstuffed, overly long film is a sequel to a sequel, and that it spends a gazillion dollars retelling a story (in 3-D and IMAX) that the world already knows, you could argue that the Garfield-Stone dynamic is the real justification for the whole enterprise.

This isn’t just because the two happen to be real-life partners — though it can’t hurt. Garfield is a sensitive actor who brings a quirky blend of intelligence and goofiness to Peter Parker, and a welcome hipster edge to the role that the wide-eyed Tobey Maguire didn’t have in the earlier incarnation of the Marvel character.

As for Stone, she’s just so darned charming. And though it’s again a stretch to imagine her as a high school student, heck, we’ll take it. (In fact, Stone is 25 and Garfield is 30, so we’re just gonna have to give them a pass on this. At least they get their diplomas this time.)

As for the plot, though, that may have you reaching for a notepad. There are not one, not two, but three villains (at least!) here, and all sorts of backstories — something for everyone, which means too much.

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” a Columbia Pictures release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “sequences of sci-fi action/violence.” Running time: 142 minutes.

— Associated Press

‘Quiet Ones’ more creaky than creepy

LOS ANGELES — Paying homage in style and theme to the vintage horror movies of the 1970s, “The Quiet Ones” is the latest stylish shocker from Hammer, the recently reactivated classic U.K. studio imprint. Mixing creaky haunted-house and exorcism tropes with a nod to the contemporary found-footage subgenre, the film relies on high production values and sense-battering shock tactics to make up for wooden performances and an illogical, silly script. As an exercise in retro pastiche, it impresses. But as a postmodern genre reinvention, it fails to deliver.

The sophomore feature of Washington-born screenwriter-turned-director John Pogue, “The Quiet Ones” boasts the usual vague claims to be “inspired by actual events.” It draws very loosely on the “Philips Experiment” of 1972, in which a group of Toronto academic researchers tried to prove that ghosts and poltergeists are constructs of the human mind. Needless to say, the original trials did not involve satanic cults, paranormal love triangles or high body counts, but reality can be disappointingly mundane like that. Print the legend.

Set in 1974, the film stars “Mad Men” veteran Jared Harris as Joseph Coupland, an Oxford University psychology professor with highly unorthodox methods. Coupland hires amateur cameraman Brian McNeil (“Hunger Games” regular Sam Claflin) to document his controversial experiments on Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke), a mentally unstable young woman who appears to be possessed by a diabolical alter ego named Evey. The professor believes Jane is creating Evey purely through her own telekinetic powers, and thus could hold the key to curing mental illness across the globe. His cutting-edge treatment, bizarrely, involves locking her in a cell-like bedroom and blasting her with loud rock music.

Driven out of Oxford by angry neighbors and nervous university authorities, Coupland and his team relocate to a crumbling country house straight out of the horror-cliche handbook. No other living souls for miles around? Check. Broken phone connection? Check. Spooky attic rooms? Check. Flickering lights that malfunction on an hourly basis? You get the picture. As the obligatory sexual tension begins to crackle between Brian and Jane — or is it Evey? — shocking revelations come to light about several key characters, and Evey’s poltergeist-like antics turn steadily more sinister. A bloody battle between scientific reason and supernatural evil follows.

“The Quiet Ones” is not very original, nor even especially scary, and its title ultimately proves as meaningless as its plot. All the same, this genteel shocker earns its place in Hammer’s campy canon of superior B-movie schlock. Creaky and predictable, it should serve as comfort food to the huge and undemanding global fan base for old-school horror, the heavy metal of movie genres.

“The Quiet Ones,” a Lionsgate release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “intense sequences of violence and terror, sexual content, thematic material, language, and smoking throughout.” Running time: 98 minutes.

— The Hollywood Reporter

Tom Hardy drives ‘Locke,’ in all ways

There are plenty of minimalist films out there. And then there’s the tiny sub-genre of the truly, ultra-minimalist films: One character. In one place.

Think “Buried,” in which Ryan Reynolds spent 94 minutes stuck in a coffin, with a waning cellphone. Or “All is Lost,” in which Robert Redford spent 106 minutes adrift on a stricken sailboat, with waning options.

And now there’s “Locke,” in which Tom Hardy spends 85 minutes in his car, just driving south on a British motorway, toward London. His life isn’t in danger — well, not in the literal sense. And the Bluetooth is working just fine. The only thing waning is, quite simply, his carefully constructed existence. In the course of one car ride, it’s all falling apart.

It sounds almost trite to say that a film like this lives or dies on its central performance (other actors appear here, but only by telephone.) Trite, but true. And luckily, Hardy is compelling enough here to drive — forgive the pun — the action.

That’s not to say “Locke” will work for everyone. Hardy’s performance as an upstanding, tightly controlled family man trying to right a terrible mistake is admirably restrained, in a situation when overacting must have been a constant temptation. But it’s precisely this strength of the film, written and directed by Steven Knight, that makes it heavy lifting for the viewer. It demands a lot of patience — especially when it really sinks in that this car, and Hardy’s face, will be everything you see. And it demands a willingness to absorb countless details on the fascinating subject of concrete pouring.

“Locke,” an A24 Films release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America “for language throughout.” Running time: 85 minutes.

— Associated Press

Walker shines in ‘Mansions’

Adrenaline runs high in the entertaining, action-heavy remake of the 2004 French film “District B13.” Starring the late Paul Walker in one of his last roles, “Brick Mansions” packs gunfights, car chases, acrobatic stunts and humor into one stylized package.

In the urban ghetto of Detroit, which has been surrounded by a containment wall, narcotics officer Damien (Walker) goes undercover and teams with ex-con Lino (David Belle) to infiltrate a crew of criminals and defuse a confiscated bomb.

Originally set for a February release, the film comes five months after Walker’s death in a car accident and it was a bit unsettling to see him running around in the future. But his love for action roles comes through clearly in this movie. From the detailed fight scenes to the subtle humor, Walker was in his element. He’s as gutsy and charming as ever.

Wu-Tang Clan rapper RZA plays crime lord Tremaine. As the ring leader of the slums, RZA looks the part. But rarely do you believe a word he says when he attempts to be threatening. There’s too much hesitation and not enough conviction. Later, Tremaine reveals redeeming qualities, which RZA embodies with more believability.

There’s an element of camp to this movie as well, which allows those who aren’t the best actors — Walker included — to prompt a few laughs.

“Brick Mansions” was directed by newbie Camille Delamarre and written by Luc Besson, who also wrote “District B13.” Like the original, “Mansions” is set in the near future, although there’s really nothing in the film that shows us we’re a few years ahead other than the “2018” that is flashed on the screen.

The many fight sequences were choreographed using a technique called Parkour, which was created by Belle, also a star in the original film. Parkour incorporates vaulting, flipping, swinging, rolling, etc., to move through various obstacles in a scene. The action is frozen for a split second during many of these moves and extreme close-ups put us right in the action.

“Brick Mansions,” a Relativity Media release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “frenetic gunplay, violence and action throughout, language, sexual menace and drug material.” Running time: 89 minutes.

MPAA rating definition for PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

— Associated Press

‘Other Woman’ has zip, that’s it

On its surface, “The Other Woman” is a very welcome thing: A movie starring talented, funny women with their own punch lines and everything. In the movies, this is bizarrely rare.

But what do the stars in “The Other Woman” — Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann, along with a side of model-turned-actress Kate Upton — do the whole movie? Gab about a guy.

“The Other Woman” is a slick hell-hath-no-fury comedy of female revenge, peppered with cheap and unimaginative toilet humor, but it’s elevated somewhat by the fine comic duo of Diaz and Mann.

Its simple concept — the banding together of a wife (Mann) and two of her husband’s unwitting mistresses — is dispiritingly sitcom-y, and its womanly uprising is a farce of female empowerment predicated on the characters’ shallow lives revolving around a man.

But it’s also light and snappy thanks largely to the chemistry between Mann and Diaz. As far as glossy, formulaic comedies with questionable gender politics go, you could do a lot worse.

“The Other Woman,” a 20th Century Fox release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “for mature thematic material, sexual references and language.” Running time: 109 minutes.

— Associated Press



Back to Features || Back To Top

Latest Comments