2014’s First Mini-Review Collection

Posted on January 8, 2014


It’s that time again. I’m looking at my list of movies, and seeing a bunch that I remember, but not in great detail. Clearing them off the list let’s me focus on those that I remember more clearly, and that connect to points that I want to make.

So here are half a dozen mini-reviews.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans (2009)

How much you can enjoy this movie comes entirely from how much you can tolerate Nicolas Cage, and how much you can tolerate antiheroes. I thought the script did a good job of showing how circumstance and personality traits can combine to drag someone deeper and deeper into addiction, until he’s walking the razor’s edge of losing control. The script does a good job of showing you why you might care about Cage’s character, but as tough and bleak as it gets, it wimps out at the end. You spend the whole movie waiting for him to implode, and then he doesn’t.

Verdict: Entertaining, but could have been better.

The Good Heart (2009)

I have become a big fan of both Brian Cox and Paul Dano, so a chance to watch them work together was too good to pass up. Cox’s character is a dying bar owner looking to do one good thing before he dies. Dano plays a homeless young man who Cox’s character adopts, trying to teach him how to run the bar. This movie doesn’t shy away from personality clashes, but that just makes it feel more real. I am glad that Netflix recommended this to me.

Verdict: Definitely worth seeing.

Contraband (2012)

I like Mark Wahlberg. I really didn’t care about this movie. I just couldn’t be bothered with the plot. From what little I can recall, it’s basically the same plot as Nic Cage’s Gone in 60 Seconds. Ex-con, trying to go straight, gets pulled back into the life when a family member gets in over his head. What is great about it is the combination of Giovanni Ribisi and Wahlberg. The film really crackles during their escalating scenes together. Unfortunately, that’s just not enough. It almost makes me want to watch the original, to see if something got cut out.

Verdict: Overall, skip this one.

Man on a Ledge (2012)

I have seen Sam Worthington act. As much crap as I’ve flung at him for Avatar, Clash of the Titans, and Terminator Salvation, I liked him in Bootmen and The Texas Killing Fields. Frankly, this movie is not much of an acting challenge for him, but he does very well in every scene. I thought the movie did a good job with the protagonists (including Jamie Bell, Genesis Rodriguez, and Elizabeth Banks), with roller-coaster plot structure, and with plot twists. Oh, and if you have vertigo or agoraphobia or something, don’t worry. They don’t spend the whole movie with him, on the ledge, looking down at the street.

It’s a shame that it didn’t make more money, because instead of getting more work like this, Sam is doing Avatar 2.

Verdict: See this instead of that.

One for the Money (2012)

Apparently, the world is not ready to see Katherine Heigl as a down-and-out Jersey girl. That’s too bad, because I thought she did the best job she could as a woman so desperate for financial independence that she takes a job as a bounty hunter. I mean, she’s gorgeous, so you can’t really buy her as a working class schlub, but her accent and her acting were terrific. I really felt for her character, and wanted her to succeed. I thought this was a fun, fast, action-comedy-romance. If Heigl doesn’t do anything for you, you can always ogle Jason O’Mara.

Verdict: See this one.

This Means War (2012)

We like Reese Witherspoon. I am learning that Tom Hardy is a huge talent. Chris Pine, on the other hand, I’m less sure about. Yeah, yeah, he’s the current Captain Kirk. I’m not thrilled. So this movie was a chance to see what he could do. Hardy and Pine play adopted brothers who are both intelligence agents. They have different styles as agents, and as people. Hardy’s character is divorced, with a kid, and is looking for a long-term relationship. Pine’s character is single, and loving it. He is completely surprised to find himself falling for Witherspoon’s character, who is dating his brother.

You know what would have made this better? If Reese Witherspoon’s character was a single mother, who turned out to be tougher than either of the spies. It would also have been nice if her job had played a bigger role in the plot.

Verdict: There are better romantic comedies, but this one isn’t horrible.

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Posted in: Movies