Katey Rich
Former Contributor

WRITTEN BY Katey Rich

Casa De Mi Padre

It doesn't really work, with its reliance on deliberately bad production values, awkward silences and the strange sight of Ferrell speaking Spanish, but it also lets the likes of Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna cut loose and be funny in their native language, and for every 10 jokes that bomb, there's usually one that hits. That's a dismal batting average, but hey, it's better than Jack & Jill

21 Jump Street

If you saw the delightfully weird Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, it's less surprising that 21 Jump Street is as light on its feet and funny as it is. But from Tatum's perfect comedic chops to the gonzo drug-use sequence to the well-timed action beats of the finale, 21 Jump Street never runs out of surprises

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

With attractive actors in flattering resort wear, serenely beautiful outdoor locations and romance that never gets much hotter than a literal roll in the sheets, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen sometimes resembles a medication commercial more than the fancy-free romance it's going for. It goes down easy and is mostly very likable, but for both it's actors and it's audience it's about as challenging as a lively round of shuffleboard

Mirror Mirror

This sometimes manic and very straightforward film won't be for everyone, but it does have a surprisingly broad appeal, with clever script from Melissa Wallack and Jason Keller and energetic direction from Tarsem Singh, who leans heavily on his customary impressive visuals but also respects his script and actors enough to let the story take over

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Neveldine and Taylor haven't tamped down their style at all for the 3D or even the film's plot, which leans heavy on mystical history, a surrogate father-son relationship and Johnny Blaze wanting rid of this demon when the audience wants exactly the opposite. The film's tone takes none of this seriously, and Cage cuts loose with such campy abandon when he's supposed to be tormented that even Johnny Blaze seems to get this is going nowhere

Gone

A logic-free, utterly joyless thriller that substitutes a wild goose chase for an actual plot, Gone strands Seyfried in the thankless role as a maybe-crazy, maybe-correct woman hunting down the sister she believes is kidnapped, even while the cops and everyone else arounds her thinks she's nuts. Is Jill on to a killer nobody else believes in? Does she deserve to be locked up again? You'll wish you cared, or even that Gone cared enough to come up with a satisfying answer to any of those questions.

Project X

Like a short-sighted high schooler who thinks his entire life will change if he gets the girl, Project X is in dogged pursuit of a single goal: to film the wildest, most debauched party of all time. It succeeds at this by throwing pretty much everything at the wall, from a violent midget to a mounted policeman to a bevy of naked chicks, and by ignoring all the rules of storytelling

Being Flynn

WIth a richly textured mid-90s New York City setting, and ace performances from Paul Dano and Robert De Niro as they create a supremely complicated father-son relationship, Being Flynn is a low-key drama full of pleasant surprises. Complete with the Badly Drawn Boy soundtrack, director Paul Weitz is back in his About A Boy wheelhouse,

Big Miracle

It's not like Big Miracle is aiming for anything much bigger than childish insights, and the movie's meager laughs probably would only appeal to kids, even though the plot takes you through a labyrinth of bureaucratic interests and the entire concept of a "media blitz." It's ultimately too naive for the tricky grown-up issues it tackles, but not smart or sweet enough to get away with it.

Safe House

Leaving the audience in the dark for the sake of a central mystery that never gets interesting, Safe House is less a thriller than an experiment in confusion, trying to rile up the audience by stranding them in scenes they don't understand, over and over until the climax mercifully sets us free.

The Grey

The Grey has already been labeled "the Liam Neeson wolf-punching movie" when it's trying to be much more than that, a meditation on manhood and survival even against horrifyingly long odds. The wolves are there, and Neeson is indeed fighting against them, but Carnahan is clearly more interested in bringing out the film's spiritual and emotional side

Chronicle

With CGI effects that range from passable to glaring, and a found footage gimmick that eventual hurts more than it helps, Chronicle isn't a low-budget genre masterwork like Attack the Block, but it's also a whole lot better than many of the more traditional superhero movies we've seen. Lean and goal-oriented, with more than a few fresh ideas as well as an innate understanding of the hero's journey storytelling

The Vow

The Vow, even though it's a story about a woman struggling to regain her memory of her entire marriage, isn't interested in anything creative or rich with potential. It's a straight shot down the middle of ooey-gooey romance territory, and as likable as Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum are, their presence is small comfort in a movie with so little else going on.

Red Tails

Wearing its heart and ideals on its sleeve, Red Tails is hard not to root for, but impossible to love all the same. It's bursting with promising young talent on the screen, but behind the camera Hemingway and Lucas are incapable of eking out a story from what ought to be fascinating and revelatory history. The 332nd Fighter Group has long deserved its moment in the spotlight, but they also deserve a movie better than this one.

Magic Mike

Magic Mike isn't exactly the glitter-caked bachelorette party romp promised in the trailers, at least not entirely. But what's probably most impressive about the work Steven Soderbergh does, directing from Reid Carolin's script, is that it's got the glitz and the heavy character study, without sacrificing either

Joyful Noise

It's been 10 years since Parton appeared in any film, all the while Latifah was appearing in a series of modest hits and getting an Oscar nomination, but they're an oddly apt pairing in Joyful Noise, a corny and broad comedy that still wrings some genuine delight out of its superstar leads and their younger co-stars

The Adventures of Tintin

Like a Mission: Impossible or James Bond movie it's really just a story about two guys chasing some pieces of paper across the globe, but like any good adventure, it's not where you wind up but how you get there that counts-- and Tintin makes every minute of that journey worthwhile.

Contraband

Stretching out nearly two hours, Contraband squanders its tiny bit of goodwill with a hotdogging, "gritty" attitude that's never reflected in the actual story. With Wahlberg in dull leading man mode and even the usually reliable Foster failing to cut loose, Contraband is not nearly as fun as it could have been, but not dramatic or realistic enough to get by as an honest thriller either

Haywire

Haywire isn't quite the straightforward fun that the Ocean's movies were, and Soderbergh's commitment to gray, sometimes chilly realism may frustrate viewers who want to be constantly thrilled. But as a new spin on what seemed like an exhausted genre, and an introduction for many of us to the force of nature that is Carano

Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close

Condensed by screenwriter Eric Roth and directed by Stephen Daldry, the movie eschews the novel's emotional complexity and instead chooses to wallow almost entirely in grief, plunging us into Oskar's (Thomas Horn) memories of his father (Tom Hanks, in flashbacks) and painful feelings of loss and never taking us back out

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