Opening in New York, February 7, 2014

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This week we have the first significant 2014 release, and an animated film that is getting surprisingly good reviews.

Monuments Men (53), was pushed back from a late 2013 release. The tepid reviews would seem to indicate why. It’s a good cast, but most reviews say it’s nothing special. George Clooney, as a director, has never matched his success with Good Night, and Good Luck.  Louis Black: “Ultimately, however, this film is a collection of vignettes in search of a narrative center. Although it’s enjoyable, the film never coheres into a whole. Instead, it resembles a pile of ill-fitting jigsaw-puzzle pieces rather than a fully formed picture.”

This week’s surprise is The LEGO Movie (81). What could have easily been a long commercial for the toy, the Danish company tried to make an actual good movie, and appears to have succeeded. Matt Maytum: “Ridiculously funny and meticulously detailed, The LEGO Movie is far better than a toy tie-in movie has any right to be. Despite a couple of dips, you’ll be grinning throughout.”

Also in wide release today is The Vampire Academy (tbd), not screened for critics. This movie seems way behind the curve on youthful vampires, and I imagine even teen girls, the target audience, are done with this by now. Of course, dirty old men, the other target, may show up in their raincoats.

And Nurse 3D (21), which James is very excited about. Robert Abele: “Co-writer and director David Aarniokoski’s clunky, crude blotch of prurience and bloodletting is too self-satisfied with its wink-wink naughtiness to be either fun-dumb or scary-sexy.” Sounds like a rental.

There are also a host of indie films opening this week. The highest number goes to the one sounding the most intriguing: A Field in England (75), about soldiers during 17th century England who are imprisoned by an alchemist looking for buried treasure. David Lee Dallas: “Ben Wheatley’s film is a reckless combination of period piece, war drama, broad comedy, psychedelic fever dream, and occult horror-scape.”

We also get Love & Air Sex (57)–just what is “air sex;” The Pretty One (55), with Zoe Kazan playing a set of twins; The Last of the Unjust (nr), the new documentary from Claude Lanzmann, the director of Shoah; and Cavemen (19), a romantic comedy. Neil Genzlinger: “The only reason to watch “Cavemen,” a terrible movie about a bland, morose young man’s search for love, is to contrast it with “Ground Floor,” a TBS sitcom about a smart, funny young man’s search for love. The young man in both cases is played by Skylar Astin. The TV show, which has recently completed its first season, makes fine use of his limited skills. The movie just makes you want to slap him.”

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.

10 responses »

  1. Ben Wheatley (A Field in England’s director) is on the verge of being the next big thing. Kill List and Sightseers were both flawed, but filled with brilliant moments. He’s going to deliver a classic eventually.

  2. Of course, dirty old men, the other target, may show up in their raincoats.

    I assume you’ll be at a matinee tomorrow?

  3. BadassDigest on Nurse 3D:

    The key to the film’s wonderful badness is de la Huerta. She delivers what is surely the worst lead performance in a studio movie in decades, if not ever. There is not a line that comes out of her mouth that sounds natural; she’s constantly speaking as if she’s an alien who has no understanding of humanity. The best part of that is every character interacts with her like she’s a real human being, never seeming to notice her stilted, bizarre line deliveries or the static, glowering look that passes for emotions….

    There is no way to claim Nurse 3D is a good movie, but it’s exactly the right sort of bad movie. It’s sleazy, but often without being sexy (de la Huerta walks around naked from the waist down so often it loses any impact). Still, it’s truly sleazy, and it’s ridiculous, and it’s occasionally so well shot that you’re actually jarred by the transition to a shitty set-up in a generic alley, lit like garbage. It’s the kind of bad movie that a certain type of discerning connoisseur longs to discover.

    Good lord I can’t wait!

  4. The LEGO movie trailer(s) held no appeal for me. While I do enjoy the video games and humor found within them, the feature length movie has an air of LCD (lowest common denominator) to it all.

  5. It doesn’t sound like it’s that way at all, though.

    I’m just thrilled to see other studios really stepping up their game. Disney with Frozen, Warners with Lego, FOX with The Croods – all these great surprises filling the void left by Pixar’s implosion.

    Edit: Of course exaggerating “implosion”. Pixar is just making movies “as good” as their competitors now, rather than setting the standard.

  6. George Clooney’s career feels like it’s heading down the Robert Redford path. His early effort ‘Good Night… And Good Luck’ was so good that I thought a top career awaited (as with Redford’s ‘Ordinary People’). But 9 years on after so-so or outright misfires (as this film seems to be) that anticipation has dissipated.

  7. Frankly, I found Good Night…And Good Luck pretty average. I thought he started off terribly with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (fun script that Clooney basically sucked all the life out of).

  8. Agree about Confessions – there was the elements of a top-notch take on TV culture but Clooney’s direction was irritatingly flashy & incoherent, detracting from the film. I thought he’d learnt a lot from that for GNAGL but maybe that was the exception to the rule.

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