Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)
Inside Out (2015)
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
"As this 'Southern' turns up the heat, the sense of sadistic oppression, of being looked down on by 'the man,' swelters and burns. The glowering sun eclipses the convict in its hellfire glow. Newman/Luke's knowing smile, though, burns on. "
United Passions (2015)
"A bloated historical diorama of FIFA office-life highlights. A ghastly, stiff orgy of self-love. It's like watching blank celluloid and hoping a movie will magically appear. Warning: you may consider melon-balling your eyes out. "
"Offers too much one-note character-comedy and grows too concerned with being an action film itself. The feminist subtext is pretty juvenile; the script tries to get a lot of mileage out of a few comic conceits. Jet-sets around Europe but never takes off. "
"A vapid male fantasy scantily clad as a movie, this macho soap-opera is all about cocks and gawks. A fantasy-lifestyle-league Super Bore for Hollywood's coveted male-20-something demographic, all bloated up for the big screen. "
San Andreas (2015)
"By the end--a seismologist told "You did good" as reports come in of California's devastation and corpse-littered cities--it's clear just how tone-deaf, context-insensitive, and death-denying this blockbuster is after all its bombast and bomb-blasts. "
"The movie serves up a taste of genuinely fraught and realistic native Hawaiian concerns, only to smushily sandwich them between thick slices of white people's well-meaning-ness, hokeyness and lovelorn dilemmas. Lei-lei land becomes la-la land. "
"With its wry moments and poetic interludes, this is a film that takes its time, though time is all the old-age home's residents have. But it's the mixture of melancholy, wistfulness, and ennui here that makes the headiest, heartiest cocktail. "
Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)
"But when it's not being cheeky or a bit raunchy or taking its trilling topic lightly, it's overly serious in its underdogs-gotta-win-it storyline or stupidly crossing some ethical ethnic-joke lines. The finale voice-cracks into self-celebratory sentiment. "
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
"A blazing descent into a desert hellscape. Revs on and on as a spectacle best seen on the big screen in all its crazy-as-a-desert-fox, carefully car-choreographed glory. One leering, gibbering, riotous romp of an action-extravaganza. "
Hot Pursuit (2015)
"A textured, elegiac, and deeply plangent music documentary. Brown's film, never exposing Van Zandt to too much harsh light, preserves this enigma just enough that it makes you want to go back to the music after you've caught these glimpses of the man. "
Woman in Gold (2015)
"A movie that can't emerge from its Philomena-like formula (spunky older woman pairs up with younger man advocating for her rights) and emotionally goosesteps its flashbacks to late-1930s Austria, turning history into a heartstring-pulling exercise. "
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (2015)
"The Blart jokes hobble along again here. What's new is an added layer of misjudgment (e.g., tasing someone five times). The only cringe to this comedy comes with the stereotypes: a no-nonsense black woman who drops slang; a snotty young Latino hotshot. "
"The plot's soon dawdling, a stuffy, overheated theatricality creeping in. Its take on transvestism is lurid and basically anti-gay in its anti-sissy-ness. No pulpish curiosity but a mere footnote in the post-Psycho history of slasher movies. "
The Longest Ride (2015)
"The sappiest heartland hokum squeezable from the novelist's formula bottle, this adaptation drip-drip-drips into a well of clichéd sentiment, its last big manufactured teardrop saved for the perfectly ridiculous ending. "
Get Hard (2015)
"It's only got one basic gag, hatefully lazy and stupidly repetitive. Ferrell's man-child just keeps gagging on the stereotype of prison rape. When the end of Get Hard finally arrives, it's 95 minutes too late. "
"Despite nifty re-packaging of the animated-feature formula--seemingly daring premise; casually multicultural, international story that's seldom pandering; memorable hero--Home, for all its snappy colours and crackles of joy, never quite pops. "
"The vampiress is made powerfully, fiercely exotic and erotic in a mesmerizing new way. Still, the film has its longueurs. But what odd, electric energy Amirpour can sometimes generate from an eclectic image-and-sound-mix of cultures and genres. "
The Gunman (2015)
"The pathetic gender politics, so common in dick-flicks like these, seem particularly simplistic and yucky here. Penn never manages the tough-guy shtick and the plot overburdens him with dilemmas. Director Morel can't offer any lights-out action sequences. "
"Divergent hardly made a case for YA fiction and Orwell's 1984 as thrillingly convergent, or the teen-dystopia as either grandly emergent or resurgent, ultimately proving as exciting, for $9.95, as a box of detergent. And now ... Insurgent. "
Stonehearst Asylum (2014)
"This fin-de-siècle tale reveals the nastinesses of Victorian pseudo-sciences and psychiatry, devilishly dwelling on the distinctions between safehouse and jail, cure and torment. It also unveils the era's jittery repression of women and their sexuality. "
"Mami Sunada's documentary, while quite the insider's and fan's film, is also a deeply elegiac portrait of the labour and laboriousness, flecked with uncertainty and doubt, behind some of the finest art- and imagination-fuelled films of the past 30 years. "
Run All Night (2015)
"This iRobot odyssey gets enough brain power and battery energy out of its central-processing idea to make for a rollicking, thought-rousing ride. The story's pursuit of questions about evolving consciousness and struggling conscience is a real rush. "
"Postcard-pretty eldercare-tourism. Exotic-Asian-travel porn alongside faint English condescension. The squirminess of Dev Patel 'Indianing up' his speech for white viewers. And then there's how thinly spread the charm is over so many weak storylines. "
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
"This thriller's horrible fascination lies in watching the strong-willed young lady's admiration of, fondness for, and idealization of a supposed gentleman clot and curdle. The plot's marred only by a slightly rushed and convenient ending. "
"A good con-job movie, unlike a real-life con-job, finds a way to make you enjoy getting taken for a ride. Focus offers some of that giddy pleasure but it can also be, like its lead character, a bit too smooth and slick and sure of itself. "
"An overlong (even at 87 min.), ho-hum affair. The premise is fairly broad and remains fairly silly. It's not that Big News from Grand Rock lacks bigness or grandness--its problem is there's no new-ness or bite or grit to its merely amiable comedy. "
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (2015)
"Proves to be the sequel no one wanted to the comedy that nobody ever gave that much of a steaming-sauna s**t about back in 2010. It's a slumming muck in the bottom of a grungy, nasty old whirlpool. "
Love Streams (1984)
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)
"A lusting addiction to cartoonish carnage drags Kingsman: The Secret Service down. And by the end, the movie's out-sexismed Roger Moore-era 007 at its smarmiest and smuggest. Lesson learned--cock-of-the-walk dickishness knows no class bounds. "
Jupiter Ascending (2015)
"By the time Caine's gone back for the girl for the nth time, smashing through mega-buildings much like the story keeps razing any depth or profundity, you'll feel like telling one of the writer-directors, "Hey, your movie's Descended Into Uranus." "
A Dry White Season (1989)
"This adaptation has its flaws, but what lingers is insulated Ben's inaction so juxtaposed with the persecution of Jonathan and then his father. The white man's willful ignorance doesn't just sustain but perpetuates a systemic, brutal, savage racism. "
Project Almanac (2015)
Black or White (2015)
"A plea-filled, soapish human-interest story that's too sudsy, Black or White can't lather over its basic message-movie-ness, but its moral's hardly Shakespearean in its profundity: "What fools these adults be, bickering over a sweet little girl." "
The Boy Next Door (2015)
"A wonky erotica-thriller where, despite Lopez's efforts and one deft sequence, many spine-tingling or libido-vibrating scenes instead slip scantily towards comedy or B-movieness, while its sociopath's mentality gets way too 1987 Glenn Close-y for comfort. "
"Pleasingly preserves a marmalade-ish Brit-flavour but adds subversive spice. A scrumptious rarity--a film of critical, optimistic patriotism, championing the outsider and his newfound nation-home while taking the stuffing out of its stodgy imperial past. "
The Wedding Ringer (2015)
"Features a touch-football game on a ripped-up field that spirals into a taunt-fest and slug-fest, the two teams mostly just slinging mud and writhing around in sludge for a while. And the other 90 minutes of this washout is even more of a sloppy slog. "
"Mostly jolt-horror. Racks up scores of scare-miles by simply skimming here and there, rather than really rattling skeletons in history's closet or plunging head-first into chilly psychological depths. "
"After its sly opening--meta-jokes about the Annie we expect; a song-and-dance about class divides--the flick mostly gives us a cocky, fully-formed child, broadly shticked-out adults, a musical-ness that seems show-offy, and almost no political savvy. "
Advanced Style (2014)
"Veering away from these women's style-philosophies, witticisms, families, health concerns, or their pasts, the doc becomes promotional and proselytizing. Personalities get camera-brushed into commercial gloss, a simplistic patina of fashionability. "
"Flurries of expressiveness swirl into subtle shifts in style; it's these fiercely elemental illustrations of one girl's forbearance, defiance and longing which mark Takahata's The Tale of The Princess Kaguya as Studio Ghibli's fourth masterpiece. "
Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)
"Yet I say unto thee that this hath many moments which be good-ish and watch-able enough and by-the-Book, and yet smacketh of being too graven and tablet-y in their images. If only this wereth not a moment-y mega-movie but an actual, feeling-filled film... "
Penguins Of Madagascar (2014)
"From its icily satirical start to its madcap end, this is more than a snappy, silly spin-off. It takes those cutest widdle critters, then cannon-fires them through a story cannily undercutting the cuteness factor on which so much animal animation relies. "
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
"Altman, that master of interweaving stories, returned to a makeshift encampment, patched together in the country's quiltwork past. McCabe & Mrs Miller turns the American Dream to so much pipe-smoke and wind-whipped snow, fuming and blown away. "
"What lingers is the Army's sexism. At first it's exposed but the story soon indulges in the humiliation of women. M*A*S*H* remains enjoyably irreverent but falls well short of the counterculture, anti-establishment war-satire it could've been. "
To Be Takei (2014)