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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I’m Richard Roeper and coming up next, an misfit alien and an adorable little girl team up to do amazing animated things! It’s my review of “Home,” next.
The latest animated adventure from Dreamworks has a nifty look and a sweet message, but it feels like we’ve seen this all before in better movies.
The Boovs are proud of their standing as the most cowardly race in all the galaxies. Whenever the evil Gorg determines their location and heads their way, the Boovs run for their lives—this time to the planet Earth, where they relocate nearly all the humans in the world to a brightly colored amusement park in Australia. Let’s it: we’re talking about an alien invasion in which the native populace is relocated to a prison camp. Fun setup for a kids’ movie!
Pop megastar Rihanna does fine work voicing Tip, a seventh-grader who was separated from her mother during the Boovian invasion and will do anything to find her. Tip’s pretty awesome as girl-power role model. She’s smart, funny, sweet and fiercely determined to outmaneuver the Boovs and find her way to her mother.
Tip despises the Boovs, but after a meet-cute with a Boov named Oh in a convenience store, she’s stuck with this particular Boov.
Oh is so named because whenever other Boovians see him, they say “Oh,” as in “Oh,” not him. He’s voiced by Jim Parsons from “The Big Bang Theory.” Parsons is a talent, but every line reading screams, “Hey I’m Jim Parsons!”
Steve Martin is a hoot as the cowardly Captain Smek, leader of the Boovs. He gets some of the movie’s biggest laughs.
One fun feature: the Boovs change colors according tot heir moods. Their “home” color is purple, but they’ll go green or red depending on the situation, while other features shape-shift.
The problem is, the story lacks originality and zest. Tip and Oh banter and bicker and bond and banter and bicker and bond. Anyone over 10 will see the plot twists a mile away. Kids will probably enjoy the goofy Boovs and the rainbows of colors and the music. Call me a traditionalist, but I still say the world was a better place before those darn Boovs invaded. I give “Home” a C.
I’m Richard Roeper and coming up next, Academy Award winners Sean Penn and Javier Bardem star in the international action thriller “The Gunman.” I’m pretty sure it’s not a musical! My review right now.
The most shocking thing in “The Gunman” might be that 54-year-old Sean Penn seems to have taken out a membership at The Sylvester Stallone School of Insanely Rippled and Veiny Muscles. With free bronzing sessions thrown in!
No wait. The most shocking thing: two Oscar winners giving maybe the worst performances of their respective careers in the same movie.
Penn plays Jim Terrier, a military contractor and special ops gunman in strife-torn Congo in 2006. It’s dangerous work, but Jim’s having the time of his life, what with all the male-bonding drinking–plus he’s shacking up with the beautiful and exotic Annie, a saintly doctor at the local clinic.
Ah, but Javier Bardem’s Felix is obsessed with Annie. He arranges for Jim to be the triggerman and take out the country’s Minister of Mining. That means Jim has to leave the continent and Felix can swoop in on Annie! Bahahahaha.
Cut to eight years later. Jim’s trying to make amends by working for a relief organization in the Congo. Some of his former colleagues are now businessman in London. Felix and Annie are married and living in Barcelona. Then someone puts out a hit on Jim, and all hell and violence and muddled intrigue breaks loose.
Shootouts, car chases, “Bourne Identity” combat sequences shot with hand-held cameras in extreme closeups.. Where have we seen this before? I know! In a HUNDRED OTHER MOVIES.
Bardem’s Felix is such a wasted opportunity. Instead of being a worthy adversary, he’s a drunken, insecure fool. And the great Bardem hams it up to the point I thought he might grab his chest and keel over.
Meanwhile, Jim keeps finding excuses to take off his shirt and casually flex his pecs. He’s also suffering from post-concussion syndrome, which Penn portrays by grabbing his head in agony and screaming, as his vision goes blurry and his ears ring while he has horrible flashbacks. It’s a cheap and obvious way to portray a very real and very serious condition.
Filled with gruesome violence in which the camera lingers on victims after they’ve been stabbed in the throat or gored by a bull (I’m not kidding) or shot in the heart, “The Gunman” veers dangerously close to camp in the final scenes. If you make it that far without walking out. I give it a big fat D.
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