29 July 2011

Cowboys & Aliens

Harrison Ford, left, and Daniel Craig are shown in a scene from "Cowboys & Aliens."

“Cowboys & Aliens”—just saying the title is fun, isn’t it? Too bad that’s the only real joy the movie offers.

How did it go so wrong?

James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) team up. “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau is at the helm. It’s a mash-up of two of the most iconic genres.

Based on its credentials, boring probably is one of the last things one would expect it to be. But that's exactly what it is: a lifeless Western story injected with uninteresting sci-fi elements.

Craig is our hero, a literal man with no name when we meet him, waking as he does in the middle of the desert with no memory of who he is or how he got there, and a strange metal bracelet stuck on his wrist.

22 July 2011

Horrible Bosses/Friends with Benefits

From left, Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis are shown in a scene from "Horrible Bosses."
Much has been made of the glut of R-rated comedies hitting theaters, with this year already seeing the highs of “Bridesmaids” and “Paul;” the lows of “Your Highness,” “No Strings Attached” and “Bad Teacher;” and the middle ground of “The Hangover Part II.”

Add two more to the high category—“Horrible Bosses” and “Friends with Benefits.”

“Horrible Bosses”" easily is the best of the bunch, with an ingenious though not quite original premise, genuine wit and a fantastic cast.

Nick (Jason Bateman, the best comedy straight man we have today) works for a man (Kevin Spacey, at his smarmy best) who all but promises him a big promotion only to later take the job himself. Dale (Charlie Day of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) is a constant victim of sexual harassment by his boss (Jennifer Aniston, cast completely against type). Kurt (Jason Sudeikis of “Saturday Night Live”) actually enjoys his job, but that changes when his kindly boss (Donald Sutherland) dies and his maniacal, cokehead son (Colin Farrell, sporting a wicked combover) takes over.

15 July 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Daniel Radcliffe is shown in a scene from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2."
WARNING: This review may contain spoilers for previous Harry Potter movies.

It all comes down to this.

J.K. Rowling’s book is four years old, so millions already know how the story ends. But many do not, and even if you have that knowledge, it is an entirely different experience to see images and events previously confined to your imagination projected onto the big screen.

With the eighth film, the Harry Potter saga comes to an end, and this final picture assures it will go down as one of the great achievements not just in cinema, but all of popular culture.

Picking up where we left off last fall, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” wastes no time in jumping back into the action, with Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) stealing the all-powerful Elder Wand from the tomb of Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), while Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) continue their quest to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes, the items in which the dark lord placed pieces of his soul to attain his apparent immortality.

Through the years: Harry Potter on the big screen

WARNER BROS. PICTURES From left, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe are shown in a scene from "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban."
 “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (2001)

The adaptation of the first book chronicles year one at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for 11-year-old Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson). Tasked with introducing a boatload of characters and essentially creating the look and setting of the entire film series to come, director Chris Columbus has a lot of grunt work to do. His solution is to stay slavishly loyal to J.K. Rowling’s writing, resulting in a movie that is entertaining in fits but plagued by pacing problems throughout its 152 minutes. Like the book, it is the most kid-friendly entry in the series, even though the child actors are painfully wooden at times. Luckily, an esteemed cadre of British actors (including Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, John Cleese and John Hurt) classes up the entire production, and a typically brassy John Williams score enhances the excitement. Greg's Grade: C+