Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Summerflix, Part 2

Continuing the capsule reviews of the summer's films on Netflix:

3 Days to Kill - In his old(er) age, Kevin Costner definitely seems to have gotten his second wind.  A few years back the notion that he was once the nation's biggest box office draw seemed almost comical, but looking at him now it doesn't seem so unreasonable.  "Grizzled," I guess you could call him.  Not taking himself too seriously.  And in the process, making it all look pretty darn easy.  "3 Days to Kill" won't go down in the annals as an all-time classic, but it's a perfectly entertaining spy flick in the usual Luc Besson (who wrote the screenplay) mode.  McG is the director, and usually that's not a positive sign, but even though the premise teeters between unrealistic and laughable, a good time was had by all.  Hailee Steinfeld does the best she can in the role of the annoying daughter, which takes some doing, so I guess that means she proves that her performance in "True Grit" wasn't a fluke.  The Amber Heard character (who made me think of the old "Black Canary" comic book character) is a little hard to figure out (teetering between realism and outright absurdity), but that's almost to be expected in a film like this.

August: Osage County - I wasn't even sure if I really wanted to see this - the trailers just looked too painful.  And while the movie has more than its share of overwrought drama and melodrama, it is definitely worth seeing.  Meryl Streep was a little too much, but I thought Julia Roberts nailed it - which I think puts me at odds with most critics.  Margo Martindale and Chris Cooper are outstanding, Ewan McGregor is pretty much a non-entity, and Benedict Cumberbatch isn't really given enough to do.  Julianne Nicholson is particularly effective.  This is the kind of movie that makes one feel better about their own family dramas, and I can see where it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but there's no disputing the amount of talent doing good work for the cause.

Tim's Vermeer - Fascinating documentary directed by Teller (of Penn and Teller fame) about a guy (Tim) who creates a way to replicate a Vermeer painting (or more accurately, paint a painting in the style of Vermeer).   A little slow in parts, but always interesting.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - It's OK, but if this is the best they could do for a reboot, I'm not really sure it was worth the trouble.  I guess I expected more given that Kenneth Branagh directed (and plays the villain).

The Monuments Men - When the trailers for this first came out about a year ago, the movie was slated for release in the prestigious holiday period, which usually means the studio feels that it has an Oscar contender on its hands.  Then it was moved to February, and seeing it over the summer it's easy to understand why.  The premise is great and the movie is fine and the cast is sterling, but in the end it doesn't really add up to much.  It's OK, but I think everyone was expecting more than just OK.

The Spectacular Now - Well done movies with a focus on high schools students should be cherished, because they occur so infrequently.  This one succeeds, in no small part due to the terrific and believable performances from Miles Teller (who was so good in "Rabbit Hole") and Shailene Woodley (who was so good in "The Descendants").  The story is a bit of a cliche - hard-drinking, smart aleck boy meets down-to-earth smart girl and they try to make it work - but the strength of the story and the acting pulls it through.  We root for both of them, and we care about what happens to them.  And the movie doesn't cheat by pretending that they will live happily ever after - that is just one of many different possibilities.

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