SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

Expectations for this movie were set early on when everyone involved touted this to be a minor breakthrough when it came to illustrating mental illness to the masses. “Bradley Cooper met with VP Biden to discuss mental illness, must be important.” The first half does a good job of showing the manic and highs that come with being bipolar…but then something happens in the second half of the movie and beyond. Bradley Cooper never suffers the lows…no depression, no withdrawal from his family. He takes his pills and poof! Problem solved. Strike one. He runs into his shrink outside an Eagles game, they booze it up together. Alcohol is always recommended by most doctors prescribing meds to keep their patients balanced. And the movie plays it as a cute funny moment…the doc is cool because he painted his face and isn’t a buzzkill outside those therapy sessions. Strike two. All you need is Jennifer Lawrence to come into your life, teach you to dance, and fall in love to beat those pesky “mental” problems. The heart heals the mind. Strike three. I get this is only a movie but when a film touts itself to be this all important yet sweet lesson about big issues, it had better deliver. Instead people with no understanding of mental illness feel like they may understand it more because “you know the director’s son is bipolar so it must be accurate.” Bullshit. Fairy tales like this are far more dangerous than any Stallone or Schwarzenegger shoot em up that Hollywood cranks out. The lessons doled out are as realistic as The Avengers and far more insulting. The movie raises big issues and then ignores them (DeNiro has issues of his own, so does Lawrence) but they’re used only as plot devices for the sake of a feel good happy ending. I’m even cool with that…just don’t act like this movie is anything more than what it is: a fantasy. Tell me that, I’m more forgiving. Do what was done here? F-off David O. Russell. You either don’t understand your son, don’t understand the illness, or don’t care. No wonder Clooney wanted to knock you on your ass.

Stormy Curry

IDENTITY THIEF

Some movies get killed by critics for no reason. A movie like Identity Thief exists for one reason: to ENTERTAIN! And for those of us who pay for our tickets and watch with a regular audience, that’s all we ask for. Critics on the other hand apparently want more out of a silly comedy..and that’s a shame. Melissa McCarthy proves she has a future by delivering laughs with a little bit of heart and Jason Bateman proves he is one of the best funnymen around. Anyone who has ever seen a road comedy (Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Tommy Boy) has seen this one before…but a least with this one what you see is what you get. The ads do not lie…this one is funny. See it and enjoy.

Stormy Curry

PLANES, TRAINS & DUE DATE, only this time with a guy and a girl. A sweet, funny comedy that would have gone from a B+ to an A if a half hour had been lopped from it. But even if it’s as flabby in spots as — ok, I won’t say Melissa McCarthy because that’s what got Rex Reed in trouble (except he wasn’t joking) — even if the road trip has one or two stops too many, McCarthy and Jason Bateman keep you liking them and wanting the story to end well. That it only partially does gives a dash of bitters to a movie that at its heart is a real softie, but which doesn’t come off as sappy. — Jeff Schultz

SIDE EFFECTS

I went into this not knowing at all what it was about. And that’s the best way to watch this twisty mystery in the style of Hitchcock, which hinges on whether or not its damsel is really in distress. Or something deadly different. Or deadly in a different way. Believability may fade if you start asking questions, but it’s played with the right tone by its starring trio. (Not quartet: Channing Tatum is handsomely in place for what turns out to be a short ride.) Jude Law holds himself in reserve until the tables turn, as does Catherine Zeta-Jones, but once they do, it’s fun to watch the glow grow in Law’s eyes as he sniffs advantage, and maybe even more fun to watch Z-J’s long, dirty kiss that moistens the screen. Rooney Mara’s take on clinical depression seemed at first to be a bit actress-y, but turns out that was just the right choice. At the beginning, I thought Soderbergh was making a polemic about Big Pharma, and in fact there are issues of medical ethics raised and discussed. But this is an entertainment first, with plot reversals and black hearts and lust and murder. Noir nirvana! — Jeff Schultz

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD

I guess I should have known this wasn’t going to be a great experience even before the previews began. The “host” at the Arclight in Sherman Oaks said.. “Enjoy Live Free or Die Hard”. I asked, “Isn’t this A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD?” He replied, “Yeah, I guess.” When even the theater host can’t remember the name of the movie, you are in trouble. Ok, it wasn’t as bad as all that. Lots of action. Lots of cool set pieces (especially near the end). And Bruce Willis trying his best to make us remember the best of John McClane. But the pieces never seem to fit together right. The writing is hacky. The dialog seems forced, like Willis is in search of his next great one-liner that never comes. At the end he falls back on the old reliable “Yipee kai yay, mother#$%er”. By that point you’ve almost lost interest. Jai Courtney, who was so good as the bad guy/enforcer in Jack Reacher, doesn’t seem will used here. He plays McClane’s son Jack, who is a CIA operative trying to get a Russian dissident out of Moscow with an important file that will keep the world safe from the next Russian leader. There are a couple of moments where the two connect, but their distance as father and son results in almost zero chemistry on screen. As the plot unravels there’s a pretty interesting twist that I didn’t see coming. The rest of the cast is populated by a bunch of no-names or Russian actors I have never heard of or seen before. Most notable is Sergey Kolesnikov, who plays the powerful politician with bad intentions. He’s horrible. No one is THIS bad an actor. He is indescribably awful. I wasn’t that disappointed, because I had relatively low expectations. In the end, it failed to deliver what you want out of a “Die Hard” movie, great action, witty banter and Willis kicking butt. Maybe it’s time to retire the DIE HARD series and let John McClane rest. — Alan Yudman

EVEN MORE BETTER THAN EVER!

What? What happened? Where’s my Critexts?

It’s still here, just with a new name. HOLLYWOOD AND WHINE.
Why the change?
Well, we have reached nearly 800 movie/TV/theater reviews. It is our goal to grow this site that has so many fans (at least that is what we’d like to believe). Part of growth is change. And frankly, while CRITEXTS was clever. It reminded me of the name of the band in THAT THING YOU DO. 
They wanted to be the Wonders. But Jimmy was an “artiste” and thought he’d be clever and name the band the ONEDERS. Everyone who saw the name called the band the “OH-KNEE-DERS”. So, when they meet Tom Hanks’ record executive the first thing he does is change the name to WONDERS, because no one know what ONEDERS is. 
We’ve come to feel the same way about CRITEXTS. Clever, but really, it was TOO clever. No one could remember it. And the name doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. 
So, the change is here. HOLLYWOOD AND WHINE. Because aren’t all movie reviews just the reviewer complaining they could have done it better?
Stick with us, more exciting changes are in the works!!
Alan, Jeff and Stormy

SOUND CITY

Love comes in all shapes and sizes. And people love the strangest things. Dogs, cats, flowers, their first car. But is it possible to love a piece of audio equipment. The answer we discover in SOUND CITY is yes. Former Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl loves an audio board. More importantly, he loves the music it produced over a period of about 30 years. The board was the featured piece at the Sound City recording studios in Van Nuys. A custom designed monster that the owners paid about $76,000 for in the early 1970’s. That board and the studio created a specific sound that was heard on albums recorded by artists as diverse as Neil Young, Barry Manilow, Rick Springfield, Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana, Tom Petty, Pat Benatar and maybe most famously, Fleetwood Mac (Rumours was recorded there). But SOUND CITY is more than just a history lesson. It’s a celebration of that music and the people who made it possible. It’s also an indictment of the technology that forced the studio to shut its doors in 2011. Grohl’s love for this Neve Board was so deep, he couldn’t let it be scrapped. So he bought it. More on that in a moment. This is Grohl’s first shot at directing. In an interview he revealed he thought the project would result in about a 10 minute short. Instead when he began calling people associated with the studio, they all said they would love to be a part of it. Also because of their love for the dumpy studio located in a Van Nuys industrial park. So his small project turned into an 105 minute movie. Sure it’s got some “flab” in it, but Grohl’s love for his subject makes it all worth while. The documentary is more than a simple ode to a bygone era. Grohl moved that board to his own studio, set it up and recorded a CD of new music featuring among others, Stevie Nicks and Paul McCartney. The last quarter of the movie tells that story, of how even though technology killed SOUND CITY, it’s memory doesn’t have to be relegated to the used CD bins at Amoeba Music. Those are memories worth preserving and that is the point of this fabulous documentary. — Alan Yudman

STAND UP GUYS

Amiable, but B-grade (sometimes C-grade) material worth seeing for maybe five or six exquisite scenes of Pacino or Walken or both. Each actor seems more relaxed (or at least less intense) than usual, so comfortable in their roles they sometimes seem about to wrap themselves up in them and fall asleep. There’s a definite emphasis on the comedy side of this comedy/drama, which comes off as a mash-up of Elaine May’s MIKEY & NICKY (two gangster pals, one about to kill the other) and Martin Brest’s GOING IN STYLE (aging criminal cronies). Pacino, especially, puts on the brakes and disappears into his lovable loser character. And if Walken’s delivery by now is almost self-parody, I still couldn’t take my eyes and ears off him. Late in, Alan Arkin enters the picture with the least credible schtick in the movie. (He’s kidnapped half-dead from a nursing home but can burn patch in a stolen Dodge Challenger during a police chase skillfully enough to get away.) You can’t separate Arkin’s performance from the guy he played in ARGO. Or LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE; he’s always Irascible Old Guy. Nice blues on the soundtrack. But the ambiguous, RESERVOIR DOGS-style ending takes the cheap way out. — Jeff Schultz