THE QUIET ONES

the quiet onesThe phrase is meaningless other than a line of dialogue that comes out of nowhere toward the end, but if only “the quiet ones” had spoken up! They could have warned me away from this turd. A movie that’s supposed to keep us guessing, it’s also one that we don’t give a shit about either way. Poor Jared Harris. He scowls; he smokes like a movie Nazi; he forces his laughable posse of… scientists? researchers? bad actors? it’s unclear just who the people are who work for him — oh wait, they’re the quiet ones! — to continue mistreating a “patient” who, whether she is truly demonically possessed or mentally ill, is medically, legally, and ethically in need of hospitalization. But so what? Who cares? There’s a red herring involving the young cameraman hired to document the case (In 1974. On film. Which seems to magically develop itself almost instantly sans darkroom) that would have been a lot more interesting than the actual twist. Stay away from this or you’re an idiot. — Jeff Schultz

 

A HAUNTED HOUSE 2

a_haunted_house_2_movie_poster_2The funniest scene in A HAUNTED HOUSE 2 is exactly the same as the funniest scene in A HAUNTED HOUSE — except that instead of Marlon Wayons pleasuring himself sexually in every imaginable way (and a few unimaginable ways) with a stuffed animal, in the new movie it’s an evil doll. Either way, the sheer filthiness of the positions and dirty talk and the brio with which Marlon jams, stuffs, slaps, thrusts, sits on, lies under, rear-ends, front loads and ultimately makes that doll his bitch is a thing to behold. Low comedy is not easy to pull off just because the jokes are easy and crude; for every NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE (sublime) you get ten EPIC MOVIEs (garbage). But here, besides the goofy doll sex, there are also riotous scenes with the great Cedric the Entertainer, who plays “Father Williams”, a pastor who doesn’t hesitate to shiv his superior in church, and stand-up comic Gabriel Iglesias, who continually riffs on Mexican stereotypes and continually gets laughs. And while I wish two of my favorite comedians, Nick Swardson and J. B. Smoove, had returned, Essence Atkins and Affion Crockett are back to add to the fun. — Jeff Schultz

 

DRAFT DAY

draft-day-posterA lot of people might be scared away by DRAFT DAY. Some women because it deals with football. Everyone because it stars Kevin Costner. But, don’t let either keep you from this film. Costner is the general manager of the Cleveland Browns. The team is where the Browns typically reside.. at or near the bottom of the league. In this film, you are reminded why Costner was ever appealing as a movie star. He brings that everyman sensibility to the role. He could be any of us (any of us who has knocked up Jennifer Garner). He’s imperfect in a world that demands perfection. He also is about to get fired if the draft doesn’t go his way. There is one player that everyone thinks should be the number one choice, then there is the player Costner likes. Telling you any more would spoil several plot points, just believe that Costner will do the right thing. Draft Day works because of Costner’s “aw shucks” charm and the skillful direction of Ivan Reitman. This is Reitman’s kind of movie. It makes you feel good, though you may not be able to tell exactly why. For the football geek, it has enough believability to keep you interested without rolling your eyes. There are also a ton of cameos by NFL announcers, Commissioner Roger Goodell and a couple of Hall of Famers. DRAFT DAY is sweet, funny and insightful about real character. With some of the dreck that is in theaters right now, this should be your first round choice. — Alan Yudman

OCULUS

oculus-poster-207x300Oculus Schlockulus. Can anyone even remember the last time they saw a “scary movie” that actually scared them? This movie goes about its business seriously, weaving together two parallel stories 11 years apart. The acting is decent (including Rory Cochrane, star of the far superior RIGHT AT YOUR DOOR). There are no howlers in the dialogue. But scary ghosts in the mirror? Really? That stale device is pretty much the whole point. If a movie like this can’t frighten you, the fallback reason to go see it is for the gore. And here, the movie also disappoints, with only one exception, involving an apparently mistaken snack. And as the movie rolls toward its climax, the what-is-real? what-is-not? twists and turns make less and less sense, so that by the time we get to the final surprise, we’re like, whatever. — Jeff Schultz

 

 

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

Captain America Winter SoldierAfter watching CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER I realize what is wrong with a lot of these comic book movies. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Most are bunch of cool EFX set pieces tied together very loosely by a thin plot. Ok, don’t stop me because it is totally reasonable. I came to that realization because CAPTAIN AMERICA is very different. It is more about the plot and less about its set pieces. There are moral and ethical consequences to the actions of the characters. As in THE AVENGERS The Cap (Steve Rogers), more than capably played by Chris Evans, is having problems adjusting to living in the 21st Century. He fills his life with work, you know like saving the world and doing S.H.E.I.L.D.’s bidding. It’s a running gag between Evans and Scarlett Johansson as she keeps suggesting women for him to date. That serves to humanize the Superhero. All that is subtext for the main plot. S.H.E.I.L.D is under siege. Maybe from within. We really don’t know until later in the movie. Which is a good thing. We discover what is really going on alongside our hero. The dialogue is sharp but not nearly as rapid fire or clever as The Avengers. That’s not bad, just different. Actually it might be better, because CAPTAIN AMERICA is not as impressed with itself as THE AVENGERS. What really sets this apart is the moral dilemmas that Captain America, Black Widow (Johansson) Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) must deal with. How much freedom should we give up for security? Is it wrong to reveal intelligence to the public, even if it is for the right reasons? (Are you paying attention Washington?) There are a ton of spoilers that I refuse to reveal. That would ruin all the fun, wouldn’t it? One small hint in the form of a question: Is Hydra really defunct? Is this better than The Avengers? Not quite. Is it the next best movie to come out of the Marvel Universe? It just might be. — Alan Yudman

Now this is how you make a sequel! Captain America: the Winter Soldier is far better then the last 2 Iron Man movies and both of the Thor flicks. Cap has become the new Superman for this generation because Man of Steel most certainly does not carry that tradition of a hero who believes in what’s right and won’t lower himself morally while fighting the bad guys. The story is smart and timely, the acting fantastic, and the suspense genuine as old school action shoot them up sequences keep us in the audience on the edge of our seats. Aside from the first Iron Man and the Avengers, this is the best marvel movie in the bunch. Simply awesome! — Stormy Curry

 

ALAN PARTRIDGE

ALAN PARTRIDGEFrom the same people who brought you the hilarious, Oscar nominated IN THE LOOP comes a film that is nearly has hysterical. Steve Coogan is Alan Partridge. For those not familiar (and why aren’t you?), Alan hosted the “chat show” “Knowing Me, Knowing You… with Alan Partridge” on British television. He was often inappropriate, clueless or both. He was always funny, even when he didn’t intend to be. The character was created by Coogan and Armando Ianucci (“In the Loop” and “Veep”). Fast forward to current day and Alan is hosting a mid-morning talk and music show in his hometown of Norwich. The station has just been bought by a media conglomerate and that means changes. Alan goes to defend Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) and convince the new bosses not to fire his “friend”. Alan realizes that its either him or Pat and his survival instincts kick in and he campaigns to “Just Sack Pat”. The sacked Pat isn’t happy. He returns during a station party with a shotgun and bad intentions. Alan is forced to act as the liaison between Pat and the police and also realizes this is his opportunity to regain his former celebrity and impress his new bosses. As they say, hilarity ensues. The jokes are fired faster than any shotgun shells. Coogan is great and in full “Partridge”. The pacing is quick and clever. Meaney is great as the aggrieved Pat, but this is all Coogan. If you can find “Knowing Me, Knowing You…” on youtube or anywhere, check it out. It’s brilliant. ALAN PARTRIDGE is just as great.. ha HA! — ALAN YUDMAN

 

Alan Partridge’s “Knowing Me, Knowing You” is a jewel box filled with razors — bright and sharp and pathetically funny. Alan is a clueless loser who intermittently realizes he’s a clueless loser; other times, he’s entirely full of himself. We see his inner torment, but it’s all done through comedy. Alan Partridge’s “I’m Alan Partridge” turns the pathos dial up a notch, showing him reduced to radio talk show host in an English backwater. Now, ALAN PARTRIDGE puts the Norwich DJ on the big screen, and while there are laughs from start to finish, some of them big ones, the movie is a step further for Steve Coogan from comedian to (mostly) comic actor. One dramatic touch is gripping: the physical uglification of Alan, which seems to reflect his inner moral rot. (I did mention this movie is really funny, right?) I would gladly (will gladly) watch this again just to write down all the hilarious lines. Or you can go to imdB, which has (as of this writing) 13 good examples. May Alan and Steve continue their creative bromance for decades to come; I’m dying to know what he’ll be like when he’s old. — Jeff Schultz

This Partridge could have been a turkey but Steve Coogan is smart enough to know a few things about bringing his TV character to the big screen. He doesn’t go for the safe, demographically profitable PG-13 rating, he is all in with the R. He keeps Alan more edgy and unlikeable than ever, and he does whatever is necessary for the laugh. This is the best kind of comedy: one that requires repeated viewings to catch all the jokes. This Partridge lives up to the hype and flies high above any and all expectations.

Stormy Curry

UNDER THE SKIN

under the skinIt got under my skin all right; I was itching for it to be over. No question there are some startlingly creepy-gorgeous sequences, the best of which shows what happens to those trapped in ScarJo’s underwater “graveyard” — it’s claustrophobic and frightening and ultimately just a dazzling use of form and light. Also, a glittering, golden mosaic of thousands of images over which ScarJo is superimposed, as beautiful as a Klimt painting. As for what it’s about, it goes from what-the-fuck to who-gives-a-fuck. Is she an alien? Or is her alienation symbolic, tied to her issues with men. This is one of those dreamlike, opaque, emotionless movies we used to call “foreign films”. It doesn’t work as sci-fi invader. It doesn’t work as psychological thriller. It just crawls along, often repeating itself, punctuated by an occasional creative moment. You’ll scratch your head over an unexplained nemesis on a motorcycle. You’ll wonder why seems to lose her powers at the end. And ultimately why you bothered. — Jeff Schultz

 

 

20 FEET FROM STARDOM / MUSCLE SHOALS

muscle_shoals 20 feet from stardomI have been getting into music documentaries of late. I seen and reviewed Sound City and It Might Get Loud. 20 FEET FROM STARDOM and MUSCLE SHOALS are of the same vein. Documentaries that are not about one band, but about a sound or a time and place that played an iconic part in the history of popular music. 20 FEET FROM STARDOM tells the story of some of the most successful backup singers in history. These are the women who gave rock music its guts, it’s soul and it’s attitude. They are recognizable voices and without them some of Rock and R & B’s most important songs would not be the same. These women are also immensely talented. They are not just window dressing on stage to look good behind the headliner. Some could be stars themselves except for fate or breaks or the cruelty of others. Women with names like Darlene Love, Merry Clayton and Lisa Fischer may be overlooked by pop culture, but their places in history are there in the grooves of your favorite LP. MUSCLE SHOALS is a town in the northwest corner of Alabama. It was an industrial or factory town. But it also was home to one of the most important recording studios ever built. Fame was started by Rick Hall in the late 1950’s. The studio is famous for creating the Muscle Shoals sound. It’s a greasy, dirty awesome sound that you can hear in the songs of Wilson Picket, Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin and Etta James. It’s the story of a bunch of young white crackers (they’re description, not mine) who created the most awesome studio band ever to play. Wilson Pickett heard them and couldn’t believe it when he finally met them. It’s also the story of Rick Hall’s stubborn belief in himself that eventually lead three of his house band members to break off and form Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. That studio is famous for hosting the Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd and countless other bands that created and made Southern Rock popular. Both movies are testament to the stubbornness of an artist with a vision. Also to the unmistakable drive and talent it takes to turn that vision into something special and timeless. If you are fan of any of the music I mentioned, you need to check out both documentaries. They are both fascinating. They lure you in with the music you know and keep you with strong storytelling and revealing facts about the people who made the music. They are history lessons that are also entirely entertaining and stick with you long after the final credits disappear up the screen. — Alan Yudman