You’re kidding me, right? This is the slasher movie the critics talk up as though it were heads and tails above the “garden variety” gorefests they always trash, if they don’t ignore altogether? Here’s the biggest problem: the kills utterly lack the gushing madness of the best bloodspillers; they are rote and uncreative. Next, the attempts to weave humor into the screenplay fall completely flat, taking out what little steam there is by making the characters ridiculous. Third, the explanation for the killings is more than a stretch, it’s nonsense, and it takes away from the thing that makes these home invasion horror flicks effective: the terrifying randomness of evil. In THE STRANGERS, for example, one of the victims asks “Why us?”. And the answer is simply, “You were home.” In FUNNY GAMES, the perps are psychopaths. In THE PURGE, they’re insane racists. But here (and maybe this is a spoiler alert, but nobody should give a damn), it’s an inheritance scam, carried out by a group of gang-that-couldn’t-shoot-straight incompetents made worse by truly awful acting. There is one satisfying and unexpected startle at the very end, finished off by a final shot right out of the first FINAL DESTINATION. But it’s way too late by then. — Jeff Schultz
How many ways can Sutter Keely completely screw up his life and still come back for more. That should be an alternate subtitle for THE SPECTACULAR NOW. Miles Teller is Sutter. Sutter drinks. A lot. Sutter drinks for all the normal teenaged reasons. He’s a senior, he thinks it makes him cool, it makes him more fun and it makes he and his girlfriend (Brie Larson) an awesome couple. Besides, Sutter is too drunk to realize how he is completely screwing up. Losing that awesome girlfriend is the first hint. Waking up drunk in someone’s front yard could be another, but that’s when he meets Aimee (Shailene Woodley). So hey, booze got me another great girl.. whoo hooo!! The title of the movie is ironic. THE SPECTACULAR NOW is definitely about the now, but it is only spectacular when viewed through Miles beer goggles. He worms his way into Aimee’s heart and even his best friend is wondering why, because he knows Sutter will only disappoint her. Eventually through a series of disappointments (including meeting his estranged father in a totally against type performance by Kyle Chandler) and one near tragedy, Sutter wakes up and realizes what he is doing and more importantly, isn’t doing. Teller is fantastic and captivates as he brings some humanity to a character that could easily have been a total jerk-off. The script by the writers of (500) DAYS OF SUMMER is smart and funny without being preachy. The supporting players (Chandler, Brie Larson and Andre Royo) turn in tone perfect performances. This film has been in theaters for almost a month, so go see THE SPECTACULAR NOW. NOW!!! — Alan Yudman
The original KICK-ASS was both criticized and lauded for its outrageous violence and language. Mostly because it came out of the mouth of the then 12-year old “Hit Girl”. Now Mindy Macready is 15 and in high school with her fellow superhero Dave/Kick-Ass. But she’s having none of it. She sneaks out every day to rid New York City of bad guys. Dave catches her and proposes a partnership. She trains him, or tries to, and that leads to Mindy being caught by her guardian and promising to retire Hit Girl forever. Dave takes Kick-Ass to Justice Forever and joins forces with other not so super heroes and hooks up with Colonel Stars & Stripes (the outrageously good Jim Carrey). Then there’s the evel villain.. Christopher Mintz-Plasse is back but not as Red Mist. Now he’s The Motherfucker, trying to be a super villain. His sole purpose is to kill Kick-Ass. There are twists and turns and lost of fights including one that convinces Mindy that she cannot leave Hit Girl behind. There’s also a decent subplot about Mindy trying to fit in with the cool girls, only to be left behind “Mean Girls” style. But her revenge is absolutely hysterical and gross. A lot of the material is elevated by the chops of Carrey and Chloe Grace Moretz. Some of the action sequences are shot with too much “shaky-cam” but KICK-ASS 2 stays faithful to the original’s love of extreme violence. If a studio executive told the producers to “tone it down”, I’m glad they didn’t listen. There was a lot I liked about the movie, but it’s not quite as good as the original. Read the next line in the basso profundo trailer voice: But in a world where sequels are mere shadows of their original, KICK-ASS 2 doesn’t disappoint. — Alan Yudman
Rapturous! Magical! Maybe the most enjoyable movie I’ve seen all year! OK, now that my newspaper quotes are out of the way, I mean it: this is a joyously satisfying Saturday matinee experience. It has monsters, it has witches, and it has effects that, instead of hyper-realism or high-techery, harken back to the storybook-like creations of Ray Harryhausen, so appropriate for fantasy. At one point the backstory is narrated over a wondrously unique animation style that’s like stained glass windows come to dazzling life. And the backstory is well and clearly told, with just enough information to make what subsequently happens understandable (not to mention the kiss blown to the next installment at the end). Plus, it has Logan Lerman, who, while shading more to the sensitive side than what we expect of a sword-wielding warrior (call it LADYHAWKE Syndrome), at least only has to play half a god. There are a whole bunch of thrilling scenes, from a steampunk-ish metal monster fish to the whirlpool Charybdis to the rebirth of Kronos to the giant Cyclops Polyphemus — and worthy of special note: the boy Cyclops Tyson, played by Douglas Smith with both one eye and two at various points, and always engagingly. — Jeff Schultz
It’s a little like SOUR GRAPES, but more like a feature-length “Curb” episode, with a definite improv style that opens up the door and lets a comedy breeze blow through, among many others, Danny McBride, J. B. Smoove, Bill Hader and of course Larry David himself. Cynical but loose-limbed, it’s a set of riffs that either feature Larry on a rant — his take on birthday e-mails is a high note — or give the others in the cast (Michael Keaton, why are your appearances so rare these days?) room to breathe. There’s a funny running gag about the band Chicago, punctuated throughout by their catchy hits and including a stage door cameo. This is the kind of comedy for adults that used to play at theaters. More proof that original cable programming is keeping quality alive. — Jeff Schultz
When onscreen chemistry works, you get the “Lethal Weapons”, “Bad Boys”, “Rush Hours” and “The Hangovers”…you can now add “The Heat” to that list. Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock rock it as the typical mismatched partners trying to crack a case. What’s refreshing is the way these two mine comedic gold from certain situations and also the female perspective. Director Paul Fieg said it blows his mind that some people and movie studios think women can’t be funny in comedies like this because they’re women…and he’s right. Unlike the abortion that was “Cop Out” and a million other alleged comedies starring bankable male stars, this one works. The best sign that a comedy delivers is when you laugh through the entire thing and can’t remember all of the funny lines because there were so many! Hilarious one liners, outrageous situations, and a three minute “Who’s on First” type bit involving Bullock trying to understand a Bostonian and his accent asking her “Are you a narc”? This would be the highlight of any other typical comedy, instead it’s one of a hundred bits you’ll find yourself remembering hours after the fact. Do yourself a favor: see this movie!