Red 2

Helen Mirren takes aim.

Helen Mirren takes aim.

(2013) Spy Comedy (Summit) Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Byung Hun Lee, Neal McDonough, Catherine Zeta-Jones, David Thewlis, Brian Cox, Tim Pigott-Smith, Garrick Hagon, Jong Kun Lee, Steven Berkoff, Philip Arditti, Mitchell Mullen, Martin Sims, Tristan D. Lalla, Nathalie Buscombe. Directed by Dean Parisot

That pesky Internet. Just when you think you’ve found peace and quiet in a suburban retirement far from the stresses of your job, WikiLeaks goes and publishes a document that links you to a CIA plot back in ’79 to smuggle a WMD into Moscow. Now you can’t even shop at Costco without having wackos taking a shot at you.

That’s just what happens to Frank Moses (Willis), once the CIA’s most skilled assassin but now enjoying his golden years with his new lady Sarah (Parker). In fact, he is shopping at Costco with his somewhat bored Sarah when they are accosted by Marvin (Malkovich), Frank’s twitchy partner (you’d be twitchy too if you were fed LSD every day for several years) in the power tools aisle.

He lets Frank know that the two of them have been linked to some operation called Nightshade that neither one of them can remember and now it looks like there’s a big nasty storm headed in their direction. Turns out he’s right.

It also turns out going on the run with assassins – including Han (Lee), the world’s best – after them is just the kick in the pants Frank and Sarah’s relationship needs. Of course having homicidal Victoria (Mirren), one of the finest killers-for-hire there is – on your side doesn’t hurt. Frank and his crew will need to break Dr. Bailey (Hopkins) out of jail, never mind that he’s supposed to be dead. Oh, and the CIA has sent Jack Horton (McDonough) to see that Frank is captured and interrogated none to gently and it turns out Han has a personal grudge against Han and all Frank wanted to do was get a new barbecue grill.

Movies like this need to be lighthearted and Parisot uses an undeniably light touch. Maybe too light – the movie is almost devoid of weight like it was filmed on the International Space Station using elaborate sets to make the audience think it was completely earthbound. There’s no substance here – and there isn’t required to be – but the lack of it might turn those who want a little meat with their mousse off.

Willis excels at these kind of roles these days, the weary hero. If you’ve seen his last three Die Hard movies you’ll know what I mean. He is a bit grumpy and a bit smart alecky but when the rubber hits the road the man is still one of the best action stars in Hollywood. Some might sniff that he’s playing the same part he has for 30 years but then again that’s true for most of the actors in Hollywood in one way or another.

Mirren steals the show though. She’s got that patrician look and accent and when she pulls out a big effin’ gun, she looks so gleeful it’s hard not to feel a surge of the same emotion yourself. She has some interesting byplay with Parker, who is a lot better here than she was in the first movie where she was a bit overwrought. She goes more subtle here and it works better.

Lee is impressive; I’m hoping that we see more of him in similar roles. With most of the great martial arts action stars aging, it’s nice to know that there are some guys ready to step in and fill the void. Malkovich, of course, is Malkovich. He does what he does

The first Red was fun, unusual and unexpected. While its sequel retains much of the first quality, it lacks the second two. Still, there’s enough of that one quality to allow the audience to have a pretty good time at the movies. It may be disposable, but sometimes that’s just what you need.  

REASONS TO GO: Mind-numbing fun. The cast is a hoot.

REASONS TO STAY: Exceedingly lightweight. Has lost its novelty.

FAMILY VALUES:  Plenty of action of the gunplay variety, some car chase property destruction, a little crude language and some drug use.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Both Hopkins and Cox have played Hannibal Lecter in the movies.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 8/2/13: Rotten Tomatoes: 41% positive reviews. Metacritic: 48/100; the critics weren’t so enamored of this one but at least they didn’t hate it.



NEXT: Back to the Future Part III


New Releases for the Week of July 19, 2013

The Conjuring


(New Line) Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lily Taylor, Ron Livingston, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Kyla Deaver. Directed by James Wan

When a family is terrorized by unexplainable phenomenon in an isolated Pennsylvania farmhouse, they call in world-renowned husband-wife paranormal investigators Ed and Leslie Warren who made their bones on the Amityville house. What they discover there is something so frightening and violent that they’ve kept that case secret…until now.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (Opens Thursday)

Genre: Supernatural Horror

Rating: R (for sequences of disturbing violence and terror)

The East

(Fox Searchlight) Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Patricia Clarkson. An ambitious young operative for a private security firm goes undercover in an anarchist group that’s targeting major corporations that it finds guilty of covering up criminal activity. The deeper she gets, the more she finds her own moral compass beginning to point East.

See the trailer, clips and featurettes here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements, violence, some disturbing images, sexual content and partial nudity)


(RLJ/Image) Stephen Moyer, Radha Mitchell, Torrey DeVitto, Caitlin Stasey. Detectives investigating a massacre find a number of recording devices found at the crime scene. The footage reveals survivors of a bus crash fighting for their lives after a mysterious killer picks them off one by one.

See the trailer and stream the full movie on Amazon here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Horror

Rating: NR

Girl Most Likely

(Roadside Attractions) Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, Matt Dillon, Natasha Lyonne. When a New York playwright finds her career swirling down the toilet bowl after a crisis in confidence, she fakes a suicide attempt to win back her boyfriend who is dumping her. However, things don’t turn out as planned when she is put in the custody of her estranged mother, a gambling and drug addict, and leaving her Manhattan society circle for the Jersey Shore.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content and language) 


(Universal) Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon, Mary-Louise Parker. When a tough-as-nails cop is killed in the line of duty, he discovers that his duty doesn’t end with his mortal life; instead he is brought aboard the R.I.P.D., a next-life law enforcement team that tracks monstrous spirits on Earth who aren’t supposed to be there. Teamed up with a cynical Wild West lawman, the rookie is about to come face-to-face with a threat that could mean Armageddon…or at the very least Hell on Earth.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D (Opens Thursday)

Genre: Supernatural Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for violence, sci-fi/fantasy action, some sensuality, and language including sex references)

Ramaiya Vastavaiya

(Tips Industries) Girish Taurani, Shruti K. Haasan, Randhir Kapoor, Vinod Khanna. A young man, Indian of descent but raised in Australia and a young woman from a beautiful village in the north of India. They meet at his cousin’s wedding and become instant friends, which deepens into an intense love. Circumstances force them to return to their homes. The man wants to woo his lady love but her protective family want him to prove himself. Will love triumph over all?

See the trailer, clips, featurettes and a promo here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Bollywood

Rating: NR


(Summit) Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins. After re-retiring, the AARP superspies are called back to active duty to thwart a plot to detonate a nuclear device in Russia. The guy who created the device is crazy as a loon however and only one guy can actually get him to fork over the information they need – and I can bet you can guess who that is!

See the trailer, clips, promos and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (Opens Thursday)

Genre: Action Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for pervasive action and violence including frenetic gunplay, and for some language and drug material)


(DreamWorks) Starring the voices of Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Samuel L. Jackson, Maya Rudolph. What could be more ridiculous than a snail that dreams of going fast. I’m not talking about crossing the sidewalk in five hours fast, I’m talking Indy 500 fast. Yeah, right…but this is an animated feature so anything is possible. Heck if snails can talk, why not have them go 200 MPH?

See the trailer, featurettes and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D (Opened Wednesday)

Genre: Animated Feature

Rating: PG (for mild action and thematic elements)

The Way, Way Back

(Fox Searchlight) Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, Liam James.  A 14-year-old boy’s summer is being ruined by his mom’s overbearing boyfriend. Retreating into a shell, he finds an unlikely friend in the owner of a water park. As he is coaxed into a less introverted state, he finds his own two feet to stand on – and a sense of who he is becoming in the summer of his life.

See the trailer, a promo, a clip and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Coming of Age Dramedy

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements, language, some sexual content and brief drug material)  

Four-Warned: July 2013

The WolverineEvery month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

1. RED 2 (1.3)

1. THE HUNT (1.1)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

JULY 3,2013



BIG STAR: NOTHING CAN HURT ME (Magnolia) Genre: Documentary. The career of the seminal and influential power pop band Big Star is profiled. Release Strategy: Limited . RATING: 1.5 One of the best documentaries at this year’s Florida Film Festival, you can read my review of it here.
DESPICABLE ME 2 (Universal) Genre: Animated Feature. Supervillain Gru is called upon to save the world from an even more despicable bad guy. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 I really liked the original Despicable Meand the trailers have been uniformly funny for the new one.
KEVIN HART: LET ME EXPLAIN (Summit) Genre: Stand-Up Performance. Hart, one of the most successful stand-ups out there, approaches his first two appearances at Madison Square Garden with anxiety and eagerness. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Not sure how this stacks up with his last stand-up movie but hopefully he hasn’t worn out his welcome yet.
THE LONE RANGER (Disney) Genre: Western. A Texas lawman, betrayed by treasonous elements in his own government, allies with a Native American as an outlaw to bring justice in a situation where justice doesn’t seem possible. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 From the makers of the Pirates of the Caribbeanfranchise, although the buzz here has largely been negative.
THE LOOK OF LOVE (IFC) Genre: Dramedy. The King of Soho amasses a fortune of billions based on an empire of nightclubs and porn. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (expanding July 12). RATING: 2.0 Loosely based on the life of Paul Raymond, Steve Coogan will be playing the lead character which is never a bad thing.

JULY 5,2013



ABSENCE (Cinedigm) Genre: Sci-Fi Horror. When a young mother-to-be’s pregnancy mysteriously disappears, her story is viewed with suspicion and mistrust – until it becomes clear her experience is just the tip of the iceberg. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Another found footage film – I think we’ve definitely reached the saturation point.
HAMMER OF THE GODS (Magnet) Genre: Adventure. A young Viking prince is sent out to find his older brother who had disappeared years earlier. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Worth a look, but unlikely to be as good as the excellent History Channel show Vikings.
JUST LIKE A WOMAN (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Drama. Two women, each with her own reasons, head to Santa Fe for a competition for a spot in a famous belly dancing troupe and form a lasting friendship. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Kind of in the vein of Thelma and Louise and kinda not.
STUCK IN LOVE (Millennium) Genre: Drama. A family of writers, all deeply affected when the mother leaves their novelist dad for a younger man, deal with the complexities of love over the course of a tumultuous year. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Not sure about this one yet, but stars Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Connelly so outlook is good.
THE WAY, WAY BACK (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Dramedy. A teen whose mom’s overbearing boyfriend is making his summer miserable finds an unlikely friendship with the manager of a water park. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Nice trailer, terrific cast including Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Sam Rockwell.

JULY 9,2013



COFFEE TOWN (FilmBuff) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A slacker who uses an Internet coffee house to conduct his business attempts to thwart the owner’s plans to convert it into a bar. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 The trailer really didn’t inspire any confidence that I’d find anything to like in the movie.

JULY 10,2013



ISRAEL: A HOME MOVIE (Alma) Genre: Documentary. Through the home movies of citizens and immigrants over the last 50 years, we observe the change in the nature of Israel and her people. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 An interesting concept but do I really want to watch the home movies of other people for 90 minutes?

JULY 12,2013



CRYSTAL FAIRY (IFC) Genre: Comedy. A pair of mismatched American tourists go on a Chilean road trip in search of a legendary hallucinogen. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 Looks a bit like an acid film for the 21st century which wouldn’t be a bad thing but Michael Cera’s in it.
FRUITVALE STATION (Weinstein) Genre: True Life Drama. A shooting on New Year’s Eve in a BART station in Oakland galvanizes the community. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Given recent events it seems fitting to take another look at how the African-American community is viewed and treated.
GROWN UPS 2 (Columbia) Genre: Comedy. After moving with his family back to his childhood home town, a rich Hollywood agent teams up with his boyhood buddies to take on some arrogant frat boy types. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 First movie was decent. Not sure that even Sandler, Rock, James and Spade can save this one.
HOT FLASHES (Vertical) Genre: Comedy. A group of middle aged women challenge the state girls high school basketball champs in order to keep their mobile breast cancer screening truck rolling. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Yes, we get it; gals can be crude too. Can we all move on now?
THE HUNT (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. When a substitute teacher is accused of inappropriate behavior with a child, the whole town turns against him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.1 One of the most gripping films to come out of the Florida Film Festival, you can read my review of it here.
KILLING SEASON (Millennium) Genre: Action Thriller. An American hunter and a European tourist make unlikely friends but when the tourist’s true intentions comes to light the two will face off in a one-on-one war. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 With a cast that includes Travolta and De Niro this is certainly worth a look..
PACIFIC RIM (Warner Brothers) Genre: Science Fiction. When the Earth is invaded by gigantic monsters from beneath the sea, our last remaining hope lies in…giant robots. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX). RATING: 1.4 Yeah, I know – sounds awful but it is a Guillermo del Toro movie so ya gotta have faith it’s gonna be good.
PAWN SHOP CHRONICLES (Anchor Bay) Genre: Action. An anthology of tales revolving around a Southern pawn shop and the people who go there to change their lives.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Looks like Pulp Fiction meets The Dukes of Hazzard and if it’s more the former than the latter could be a big winner.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS MAY APPLY (Variance) Genre: Documentary. How big corporations and the government are eroding your civil rights – with your own permission. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 This may well be the most important documentary you ever watch.
V/H/S 2 (Magnet) Genre: Horror. Two private investigators searching for a missing student break into his abandoned house and find a pile of videotapes, each more horrific than the last. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Looks even better than the first one, and that first one wasn’t all that bad.

JULY 17,2013



COMPUTER CHESS (Kino-Lorber) Genre: Comedy. A group of computer chess game programmers in 1980 gather in a shabby hotel for a conference and tournament. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 In glorious black and white, looks a little bit out there but actually kind of intriguing.
DEALIN’ WITH IDIOTS (IFC) Genre: Comedy. A comedian, fascinated with the ultra-competitive environment of his son’s Little League team, decides to get more involved in order to find material for his next movie. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles July 19). RATING: 3.0 Fascinatin’ idea; not so sure about the execution.
TURBO (DreamWorks) Genre: Animated Feature. Dreaming of being faster, a snail is transformed into a turbo-charged racer who might well challenge for the Indy 500. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 2.2 Doesn’t really excite me all that much, a cross between Cars and Ratatouille.

JULY 19,2013



THE ACT OF KILLING (Drafthouse) Genre: Documentary. Indonesian mass murderers, revered as heroes, re-enact their crimes on film. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Shocking and surreal, will change your entire view of life and the world.
BLACKFISH (Magnolia) Genre: Documentary. The story of Tilikum, the Orca who tragically killer his trainer at Sea World last year – and how keeping these animals in captivity may be driving them into psychosis. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Of very much interest particularly here in the Orlando area.
THE CONJURING (New Line) Genre: Supernatural Horror. One of the earliest cases of renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Leslie Warren may be even more terrifying than the Amityville Horror which they also were involved with. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.4 Could well be one of the scariest movies this summer.
EVIDENCE (RLJ/Image) Genre: Horror. After a bus crashes in the desert, the survivors are forced to fight for their lives as a sadistic killer picks them off one by one – all caught on a myriad of recording devices left behind for detectives to puzzle over. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 A different means of utilizing found footage; might be worth a look.
GIRL MOST LIKELY (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Comedy. A once-promising playwright whose career and relationship has fizzled is put in the custody of her estranged party-hearty mother after a faked suicide attempt is mistaken for the real thing. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Pretty good cast (including Kristen Wiig and Annette Bening) but pretty lame premise.
GRABBERS (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror Comedy. An idyllic Irish fishing village is beset by a terrifying undersea monster which of course means everybody in the village must get blotto. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Umm…I know the Irish love to drink (reputedly) but I’m not sure what being drunk has to do with the sea monsters here.
ICEBERG SLIM: PORTRAIT OF A PIMP (Phase 4) Genre: Documentary. The story of author and former pimp Iceberg Slim whose work was the basis for street literature. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Played at the recent Florida Film Festival but I have to say the art form depicted here doesn’t really do much for me..
ONLY GOD FORGIVES (Radius) Genre: Action. A former gangster and kickboxer living in Bangkok must seek revenge for his brother’s murder or be murdered himself. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 From the director and star of Drive comes a movie that may be even better than that.
R.I.P.D. (Universal) Genre: Supernatural Action. Cops who have passed on to the other side police souls who refuse to abide by the rules of the afterlife discover a threat to the world of the living that only they can stop. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.5 Based on the Dark Horse comic, stars Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds and looks both funny and frightening – all pluses in my book.
RED 2 (Summit) Genre: Action. Retired CIA field operatives must once again come out of retirement, this time to track down a portable nuclear device that may threaten world stability. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 Great cast and looks to have the same elements that I loved about the first film.
WAYS TO LIVE FOREVER (World Wide Motion Pictures) Genre: Family Drama. A 12-year-old leukemia patient confronts his own mortality and chooses to live life on his own terms. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 I was surprised at how the trailer doesn’t appear to be maudlin or manipulative – oh right, it’s a British film. They don’t do that sort of thing over there.

JULY 25,2013



APARTMENT 1303 3D (Gravitas) Genre: Supernatural Thriller. When a young woman falls to her death from a high rise apartment building, her sister moves in to find out the truth about the incident. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Decent cast but doesn’t seem to add anything new to the mix.

JULY 26,2013



BLUE JASMINE (Sony Classics) Genre: Comedy. A fashionable New York City housewife suffers through the end stages of an acute crisis. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Woody Allen’s latest is more of a return to form, set in Manhattan and San Francisco.
DRUG WAR (Variance) Genre: Martial Arts. A meth lab cooker is captured by the Chinese military police an forced to inform on his bosses, but as things get more savage and brutal it’s hard to tell who is who. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles August 2). RATING: 2.9 Looks kind of like the stereotype of Chinese martial arts films – lots of great action, zero plot.
FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY (MPI) Genre: Sci-Fi Horror. Russian soldiers attempt to foil a Nazi plot to use Victor von Frankenstein’s research to create an army of the undead. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 Genius idea; looks like genuine Nazi zombie horror goodness.
STRANDED (RLJ) Genre: Sci-Fi Horror. The moon base is cut off from Earth by a meteor shower which also included shape-shifting killer alien spores. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 How many more different ways are we going to remake The Thing?
THE TIME BEING (Tribeca) Genre: Thriller. A struggling artist hoping a rich man will become his benefactor instead gets increasingly bizarre surveillance assignments from him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Didn’t get a feeling one way or the other from the trailer; not at the top of my list, not at the bottom either.
THE TO-DO LIST (CBS) Genre: Comedy. High-achieving all through high school, an uptight grad wants to change her image the summer before heading off to a prestigious university. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.0 Loosely based on the writer-director’s own experiences.
THE WOLVERINE (20th Century Fox) Genre: Superhero. The ageless X-Man with the mutant healing factor discovers that his mutant ability can be removed, giving him a normal lifespan. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.3 One of the more moving films from this year’s Florida Film Festival.

JULY 31,2013



SMASH & GRAB: THE STORY OF THE PINK PANTHERS (Goldcrest) Genre: Documentary. Brazen thieves known for lightning-fast jewel heists around the world are profiled here. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Unable to watch trailer so I’m not sure how good this one is.
THE SMURFS 2 (Columbia) Genre: Family. Gargamel blah blah blah Smurfs blah blah blah Neil Patrick Harris blah blah blah.. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 4.0 Couldn’t stand the first one; won’t even see this one.

Despicable Me 2, The Lone Ranger, Grown Ups 2, Pacific Rim, Turbo, Blackfish, R.I.P.D., Red 2, The Wolverine