I’m Richard Roeper and coming up next, “Silver Linings Playbook” stars Bradley Cooper reunite for “Serena.” My review right now.
Fresh off the triumph of “Silver Linings Playbook,” Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence filmed “Serena” in 2012. It languished in limbo for more than a year and a half, and was made available on Video on Demand before this weekend’s theatrical release. In other words, a lot of people realized they had an epic clunker on their hands.
After a string of fine performances, Cooper is utterly unbelievable as George, a ruthless, Depression-era timber baron who has little regard for his men, is cooking the books and won’t stop short of murder if it means saving his business.
His new bride Serena, on the other hand, is clearly bonkers. Ah, but poor, clueless George thinks she’s a “real pistol,” so she becomes his wife and his business partner.
Meanwhile, a local brute named Galloway (Rhys Ifans) credits Serena with saving his life after his hand is chopped off. Now he’s beholden to her. He’ll do anything for Serena. Even …MURDER.
Cooper never once conveys a man of his era. He looks like he just stepped off a GQ photo shoot. Lawrence, obviously a talented actress, is monumentally bad here. There’s no nuance to her performance as Serena, no gradual descent for the character.
Another fine actor, Toby Jones, is comically miscast as the local sheriff. Jones was great as Truman Capote. Playing a North Carolina lawman in rough-and-tumble times, he doesn’t look like he could solve a crossword puzzle or have the strength to detain a kid for skipping school.
This is “Cold Mountain” meets “Heaven’s Gate.” A monumental disaster. I give “Serena” a D-.
I’m Richard Roeper and coming up next, Academy Award winner Al Pacino and Academy Award nominee Annette Bening star in “Danny Collins.” My review…right now!
The great Al Pacino isn’t the first actor I’d think of to play an aging pop star who still fills mid-sized arenas some 40 years after he last charted a hit single. Yet Al Pacino sells the heck out of his performance as Danny Collins. He’s a Neil Diamond-esque icon with a signature hit called “Hey Baby Doll.”
Once upon a time, Danny was a singer-songwriter with great promise. But he sold out, stopped writing his own music and churned out dozens of sugary pop hits. Now he’s filthy rich, globally famous, adored by one and all—and miserable.
Christopher Plummer is Danny’s manager and best friend, who finds a letter John Lennon wrote to Danny some 40 years ago—a letter Danny never knew about it until now.
It’s a game-changer. Danny cuts short his tour, leaves his cheating girlfriend and bids Los Angeles goodbye for the Woodcliff Lake Hilton in New Jersey.
Pacino, who has been famous for about as long as the character he’s been playing has been famous, is perfect in the many scenes in which valets and hotel clerks and customers in the bar realize he’s Danny Collins. He delights in delighting them, turning on the charm in the blink of an eye.
Annette Bening provides screwball romantic comedy relief as Mary Sinclair, the manager of the hotel.
Bobby Canavale is excellent as Danny’s 40-year-old son Tom, the product of a one-night stand in the 1970s. They’ve never met until now. Jennifer Garner sparkles as Tom’s pregnant wife, who nudges the bitter Tom into at least talking with Danny.
Danny stumbles and screws up along the way, but even the darkest moments in “Danny Collins” are predictable speed bumps. Just like “Sweet Baby Doll,” this is supposed to be a feel-good number, and as such it works just fine. I give it a B.
I’m Richard Roeper and coming up next, Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart star in the comedy, “Get Hard.” How come nobody told me about this movie? They should have advertised it on TV or something.
From its juvenile double entendre title to its fascination with prison rape and homophobic humor, “Get Hard” practically announces itself as an offensive, tired and unimaginative comedy in nearly every scene.
And yet I didn’t hate it because Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart had such terrific comedic chemistry.
That said, it almost defies belief that in 2015, we’re still getting comedies that rely so heavily on racial and gay stereotypes, not to mention an endless barrage of jokes about what happens to men who go to prison. They get raped. Isn’t that hilarious?
Ferrell is in prime dimwit blowhard mode as James King, a wealthy financial analyst who has it all. Or so it seems.
Kevin Hart plays Darnell, the hardworking and ambitious operator of a local car wash. Darnell lives in Crenshaw. He has a dreams of making a better life for his family.
After James is convicted of fraud and sentenced to 10 years hard time in San Quentin, he turns to the only black man he knows: Darnell. Darnell’s black, so James assumes Darnell has been in prison. James will pay Darnell to teach him how to toughen up for prison.
So basically, James is a racist and Darnell plays into the stereotype. Great.
Every once in a while, “Get Hard” produces a big laugh, almost in spite of itself. The best moments come when there’s an attempt at turning Darnell and James into real characters, e.g., a silly but sweet dinner scene at Darnell’s house. And I have to admit I laughed at some of the slapstick fight scenes, with Ferrell and Hart (and their stunt doubles) giving it 100 percent in the name of getting stupid laughs.
Those were isolated moments in a sea of cheap jokes that indulge racial and gay stereotypes more often than they mock such outdated thinking. “Get Hard” has the feel of something that was written 20 years ago. Let’s find a better vehicle for these two hilarious guys! I give “Get Hard” a C-.
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