The famous Toho Studios-created creature Gojira, known in the U.S. as Godzilla, is sixty years old this year. To celebrate the big lizard’s birthday, Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures teamed up to make a “Godzilla” movie. This is all well and good in theory, but as far as birthday parties go, this “Godzilla” movie is the equivalent of the birthday guest showing up, disappearing for long stretches of time, showing up and disappearing then showing up again, blowing out the candles, cutting the cake, and heading off for a nap.
This movie would more accurately be called MUTO, which stands for Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism. They have more screen time than Godzilla. There are actually two of them—a male and a female—and their goal is to breed hundreds upon hundreds of new MUTOs to destroy mankind and take over the world. Luckily, Godzilla is Earth and humanity’s protector, on a one reptile quest to destroy the giant MUTO insects for good. The fact that he causes just as much destruction as the MUTOs on his way to battle them is another topic for discussion in and of itself.
Just as much a travelogue for Italy as it is a platform for comedians Steve Coogan (“Philomena”) and Rob Brydon to showcase their talents, “The Trip to Italy” is a joyful romp full of delicious food and deliciously funny jokes.
A sequel to “The Trip” (2010), Rob (playing a version of himself) is once again sent by the “Observer” to review high-end restaurants, and he once again invites Steve (also playing a version of himself) to tag along. This time the destination is beatific Italy, which becomes a character in itself: The lush green pastures of the countryside, glistening waters on the coast and ancient ruins of Rome and Pompeii provide an ideal background for these two clowns to feast, get into trouble, and make us laugh.
Saccharine storytelling and dramatic ineptitude are a dangerous mix. Together, as they are in “Dolphin Tale 2,” they produce an eye-rolling, groan-inducing exercise in frustration and predictability. The odd thing is, there’s a nice story here that’s worth telling. It just needs to be told better.
A sequel to the similarly insufferable “Dolphin Tale” (2011), in which a boy named Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) helped secure a prosthetic tail for a female dolphin that would’ve died without it, this film finds the dolphin, Winter, unhappy. Winter is still treated well at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, but fellow dolphin Panama is dead, and Winter is lonely. If Sawyer, aquarium head Dr. Clay (Harry Connick Jr.) and his daughter Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) can’t find Winter some company, they could lose her.
Comic book movies tend to make for great action movies, when done well, but rarely do they bring much more to the table. This is fine, as little more is expected, but when a film like “Captain America: The Winter Solider” succeeds in being both a great action film and a great spy movie, it should be commended.
Chris Evans is back as Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, and Scarlett Johansson returns as Black Widow. After the pair help SHIELD rescue some hostages on board a ship in an action sequence that howls with excitement, director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is attacked and killed—but not before telling Cap that enemies have infiltrated SHIELD. This leads Cap on a quest to uncover the corruption from within SHIELD, and puts him in a deadly spy game of who can and cannot be trusted. “Winter Soldier” has a lot of great twists to boot, as is expected from the spy genre, and it also does well in broadening the events of the first film and in bringing elements from that film back. Saying too much would spoil the fun, which would be a shame, as “Winter Soldier” unfolds brilliantly and has a lot of treasure in its surprise revelations.
Captain America himself also needs to be singled out for his beliefs. Coming from the 1940s, at a time when America was a super power and Americans were free, he holds on to those ideals in the 2010s. In our modern times, with surveillance cameras on every corner, tracking chips in clothes, and drones flying overhead, it’s refreshing to have a main character who doesn’t buy the official government story that it’s all for our protection, and has the courage to speak out. Or as Cap himself very astutely puts it when Nick Fury is showing him the latest technology for so-called protection: “This isn’t freedom. This is fear.” A profound and thought-provoking statement for this day and age. Buy It.
“Brick Mansions” joins the ranks of the John Carpenter “Escape” movies, “Lockout” with Guy Pearce, and a few others, in a sub-genre I like to call the “containment” movie. This is a movie where our hero is sent behind enemy lines in a closed off, secure area for a mission—usually a rescue mission. Typically, he is given a certain number of hours to complete the mission or bad things will happen.
All of those boxes can be checked for “Brick Mansions.” Paul Walker stars as Damien Collier, an undercover cop for Detroit PD. After getting one sleazy drug kingpin (Carlo Rota) to jail in a very bold and original way, he sets his sights Tremaine Alexander (RZA). Tremaine is the head honcho of a quarantined area of Detroit called Brick Mansions. He has a bomb from a hijacked military truck, and it will explode in ten hours if Damien doesn’t disarm it first.
Helping Damien in his quest is Lino (David Belle), who we first meet in the beginning of the movie during a parkour chase scene that, entertaining though it may be, makes no sense and goes on for way too long. Lino’s girlfriend Lola (Catalina Denis) was kidnapped by Tremaine. It’s up to Damien to help Lino break out of custody, get inside Brick Mansions, disarm the bomb, and save Lola.
It’s a lot to do in 90 minutes, but “Brick Mansions” has a very brisk pace and never drags. The action scenes are entertaining and exciting, on top of which they show off an athleticism and skill rarely seen in movies. Lino in particular is one very nimble man. If only the script were half as nimble. Everything about it from the plot to the characters to the dialogue is assembled from off the shelf parts, taken from much better movies. “Brick Mansions” also out-clevers itself by adding in twists that make no logical sense. Or, in order for them to make sense, certain characters need to get amnesia and forget that prior events never took place. Yes, I believe that people can have a change of heart and are deserving of forgiveness, but that doesn’t mean that the other bad things they are still currently doing (as far as we know) should be overlooked—or forgotten about completely. In the end, “Brick Mansions” is little more than a parkour stunt show with barely anything holding it together. However, since I was entertained by those scenes and I do have a soft spot for these containment movies, plus it’s the late Paul Walker’s last film, I will marginally say Rent It. Just don’t expect too much story-wise, as what little is there makes no sense.
Also out this week: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” comedy musical set in ancient Rome, starring Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers, and Michael Crawford; “A Long Way Down,” starring Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots and Aaron Paul as four strangers who come together and bond over the decision to not kill themselves on New Year’s Eve; “The Addams Family,” big screen version from 1991 of the 1960s TV classic, starring Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston, Christopher Lloyd, and Christina Ricci; “Any Given Sunday,” director Oliver Stone’s pro football expose, starring Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx, and Cameron Diaz; “Fed Up,” a documentary about the food industry—one I am sure they don’t want you to see, so check it out; “Flowers in the Attic,” the watered down version of the VC Andrews novel about children imprisoned by their evil grandmother (Louise Fletcher); “Graduation Day,” middle grade slasher flick from the early ‘80s boom in the genre; “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” about three children whose parents die so they’re put in the care of eccentric Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), who plots to steal their fortunes; “Prom Night,” slow moving ‘80s slasher flick starring Jamie Lee Curtis; “Pumpkinhead,” about a man whose son is accidentally killed by reckless teenagers, so he gets an old witch in the woods to summon the demon Pumpkinhead to take revenge on them—with some very rough consequences for himself; and “Young Frankensein,” 40th anniversary of the Mel Brooks’ classic Frankenstein spoof starring Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Madeline Kahn, Terri Garr, Marty Feldman, Gene Wilder, and Cloris Leachman.
Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday; he also regularly reviews new theatrical releases for Hudak On Hollywood. He lives in Connecticut.
"It ensured that he would remain one of Hollywood's most controversial figures" notes the epilogue of "The Last Of Robin Hood," describing the legacy of Errol Flynn's posthumously published autobiography "My Wicked, Wicked Ways." In no way a work of revelatory reportage itself, this comedic drama by the directorial team of Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland ("Quinceañera" )takes a spirited and light, sometimes daring, approach to the infamous playboy's final months with his final girlfriend, the (quite) young Beverly Aadland.
Perfectly cast, Kevin Kline plays Flynn with an insightful balance of smooth-talking sleaze and subtly comic pathos. His face expresses an easy insincerity when employing self-deprecating humor. Kline seems to take pleasure in the intelligently written dialogue (by Glatzer and Westmoreland), and it's fun to hear his spot-on delivery of the Australian swashbuckler's impeccably old-fashioned language. "And who might you be?" he asks Bev (Dakota Fanning) after introducing himself, later telling her she reminds him of a "wood nymph" (what some might call a fairy from the woods).
Imagine Elvis Presley has a twin brother. They look, talk, sing and dance the same, but the brother, dead ringer as he is, isn’t told he’s Elvis’ twin. He goes through life being told “he looks just like!” yet never achieves the fame and fortune of his genetic other half.
Welcome to “The Identical,” a work of fiction that doesn’t use real names or real songs but does have an uncharismatic lead in the title role, which is one of the worst traits you can have when channeling Elvis. The premise isn’t a terrible idea, it just falters under ho-hum direction.