Opening in New York, May 24, 2013

Standard

It’s sequelitis in the multiplexes this Memorial Day weekend. The biggest opening is Fast and Furious 6 (61), which is getting a “dumb but fun” response from critics. It’s a critic-proof movie anyway. I will not see it, as I’ve missed installments 2-5 and would be hopelessly lost. Neil Genzlinger: Hobbs is again played by Dwayne Johnson and his biceps, which get enough camera time that you expect the closing credits to include two arm wranglers, one for each. Mr. Johnson has seemingly been in every movie released in the last two years and has a reality television show, “The Hero,” coming on TNT. But he knows how to deploy his half-dozen expressions — the sly grin, the single-eyebrow arch — and is still a welcome sight, where other actors might by this point be overexposed.”

Butting heads with FF6 is The Hangover III (31). The commercial looked pretty funny, making me think I would see it, despite missing part II. Alas, I guess, as is often the case, everything that was funny is in the commercial. Stephen Holden: “For “The Hangover Part III,” directed by Todd Phillips from a screenplay he wrote with Craig Mazin, is a dull, lazy walkthrough that along with “The Big Wedding” has a claim to be the year’s worst star-driven movie.”

For the kiddies is Epic (54), a sort of Avatar meets Horton Hears a Who, about tiny creatures that live in the forest, or some such. Apparently it is visually stunning while being weak in narrative. Holden: “As you watch its characters zoom through a lush forest on the backs of hummingbirds, the gorgeous 3-D adventure comedy “Epic” suggests a warmer, fuzzier “Avatar,” with a green heart. Directed by Chris Wedge, the movie is a hymn to nature rendered in phantasmagoric detail as refined as anything I’ve seen in a computer-animated family film. But as beautiful as it is, “Epic” is fatally lacking in visceral momentum and dramatic edge.”

In limited release is at least one major film, the every-nine-years story of two lovers in Before Midnight (98!), the third film in the “Before” series. I enjoyed the first two, and I’m sure I’ll get a chance to see this one. A.O. Scott: “Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight” are modest, charming movies that together add up to the great romantic epic of a generation defined, in the popular mind and our therapists’ offices, by hedged bets, easy ironies and perpetual confusion. Mr. Linklater’s shooting style is so graceful and unobtrusive, and Mr. Hawke and Ms. Delpy inhabit their characters with such conviction, that the challenge and originality of the movies are easy to overlook.” Quick story–I played hooky from work and saw Before Sunset. Coming out of the theater, I was interviewed by Entertainment Tonight about my thoughts on the movie, and I guess I was articulate enough–they aired a few seconds of me on the show, which is, I think the only time I have spoken on television.

In addition is The English Teacher (41), a film starring Julianne Moore as a spinster educator who tries to put on a play by an ex-student in her school. Holden: “Although this sad, upsetting story raises serious moral issues, it is treated so lightly that it feels weightless. The acting, especially Ms. Moore’s, is solid. But her strong, sympathetic performance fails to transform “The English Teacher” into anything more than a sitcom devoid of laughs, except for a soupçon of literary humor. It is a movie at odds with itself.”

The biggest find of the weekend may be Fill the Void, (83) the first feature film by an Orthodox Jewish woman. It is set in the Hasidic community, a big mystery to most of us, and is said by many critics to have the structure of a Jane Austen novel. Scott: “The deeper drama of “Fill the Void” has to do with her self-knowledge, and it is this — the sense we have of witnessing a young person figuring herself out in the most challenging circumstances — that makes the film both accessible and thrilling. It is completely unexpected, and entirely believable.”

About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

4 responses »

  1. Fast 6 is really fun, btw. Has there ever been a franchise that didn’t come into it’s own until the 5th + installment?

  2. Hard to think of a film series that’s squandered public (and even critical goodwill) like The Hangover series has. Probably The Matrix series would be the best example.

    Creating a mainstream comic blockbuster with both critical and popular appeal is achieved rarely these days, but with the release of this film there’s a sense of loathing amongst the public and outright hatred from critics that’s made its lackluster box office no surprise at all.

  3. Fast 6 is really fun, btw. Has there ever been a franchise that didn’t come into it’s own until the 5th + installment?

    Leonard. Most people hadn’t even heard of the series until the 6th part. The franchise really showed its true colors then…

  4. I’m no fan of the franchise, but The Hangover 3 is easily one of the worst sequels I’ve seen. It reminded me of Tony Scott’s Beverly Hills Cop 2, in that it’s more of a straight action picture with “humorous” elements than a comedy sequel.

    I did appreciate Bradley Cooper’s performance, in that he turns his complete ambivalence into an art form. It’s like a “I’m contractually obligated to be here…but why the fuck are you watching this?”

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