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Regardless of its cavemen-acquire-brains plot, The Croods is no more evolved than your average kids' film, boasting modern attitude, animal-sidekick comic relief, familial struggles, and roller coaster action. While rife with contemporary lingo... More »
Regardless of its cavemen-acquire-brains plot, The Croods is no more evolved than your average kids' film, boasting modern attitude, animal-sidekick comic relief, familial struggles, and roller coaster action. While rife with contemporary lingo that makes little sense for a story about a prehistoric clan facing extinction, Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders's bouncy CG adventure at least partially offsets its stock formula with passable one-liners and sincere heart. The latter comes from the tense relationship between cro-mag dad Grug (Nicolas Cage), who values survival in dark caves over living in the light, and curious and headstrong daughter Eep (Emma Stone), whose rebelliousness blossoms after meeting creative-thinking, fire-making hunk Guy (Ryan Reynolds). Amid chase sequences set in an Avatar-ish old-Earth of colorful fantasy animals and enormous vegetation, Guy introduces the Croods to inventions like shoes and umbrellas — newfangled ideas that threaten Grug's patriarchal authority and bond with Eep. That these ancient ancestors of ours have superhuman strength and speed is as perplexing as their banter is incessant. Their good-natured tale, however, does sweetly reconfirm that there's life still in the oldest jokes, such as a father's fear of his daughter dating-- or, via a running gag involving Grug and Gran (Cloris Leachman), of a husband's hatred of his mother-in-law. « Less
Picture Zero Dark Thirty with bright pullovers and laser guns and you’ll have Star Trek Into Darkness, whose heavy-handed political parallels just might feel smart in a summer of Vin Diesel crashing cars. In the opening minutes, Khan Noonien... More »
Picture Zero Dark Thirty with bright pullovers and laser guns and you’ll have Star Trek Into Darkness, whose heavy-handed political parallels just might feel smart in a summer of Vin Diesel crashing cars. In the opening minutes, Khan Noonien Singh (Benedict Cumberbatch) terrorizes London, then makes like Osama and flees to the mountains of an enemy planet, causing Starfleet Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) to order his assassination, sans trial. Here justice will be served by the blubbering James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), who so bleeds his humanity across the Enterprise's deck that it's a wonder Chekhov (Anton Yelchin) doesn't slip. Again, the central conflict is between the Captain's swaggering impetuousness and the cold-blooded logic of First Mate Spock (Zachary Quinto). After setting up its War on Terror allusions, Star Trek Into Darkness becomes Paradise Lost in Space: It's a battle for the good captain's soul, as Kirk is torn between Spock's wisdom and Admiral Marcus's war-mongering. Can Khan destroy him simply by smashing his moral code? J.J. Abrams externalizes Kirk's turmoil by making him spend every second scene suffering unsolicited advice about what to do. The character feels neutered, despite an early romp where he beds twin hotties with tails. His only real love is for the Enterprise, that hermaphroditic ship shaped like three phalluses and a flattened boob. Abrams, meanwhile, lifts Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan's climax, thievery that will enrage the devout as it suggests the Star Trek saga is merely a game of Mad Libs in which he plugs characters and catastrophes. « Less
Where has Robert Downey Jr. gone? There's no doubt he’s the star of Iron Man 3; he sprints through the picture like a neurotic panther. And yet he's curiously absent, detached in a Zenlike way from the whole affair. The nakedness that defines his... More »
Where has Robert Downey Jr. gone? There's no doubt he’s the star of Iron Man 3; he sprints through the picture like a neurotic panther. And yet he's curiously absent, detached in a Zenlike way from the whole affair. The nakedness that defines his best performances has become, paradoxically, a kind of mask, not unlike the sleek, airbrushed-looking one he wears as the superhero incarnation of cocky kajillionaire Tony Stark. Today, Downey could play Stark in his sleep. The jittery self-doubt, the look-at-me hubris, the Boy Scout cluelessness about women: He's become so proficient in his believability that you can hardly believe a minute of it. Maybe you don't need to believe much in Iron Man 3. This is the first in the franchise to be directed by Shane Black, and only the second picture the prolific action screenwriter has made. (The first was the marvelously nerve-jangling Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, also starring Downey.) On the plus side, Black has a puckish sense of humor, and shows a healthy resistance to the comic-booky self-seriousness of the Batman movies. The villains in Iron Man 3, for example, include the Mandarin, a pointy-bearded sage who’s half Osama bin Laden, half Ming the Merciless. He's played with bug-eyed hamminess by Ben Kingsley, and the movie is spooky, silly, or both whenever he's onscreen. But the big problems with Iron Man 3 are less specific to the movie itself than they are characteristic of the hypermalaise that's infected so many current mega-blockbusters-- too much plot, too much action, too many characters, too many pseudo-feelings. The mechanics of Iron Man 3 are complex and rambunctious, like Keystone Kops, bouncing off one another and ultimately canceling one another out. « Less
Much more entertaining than you might expect for one with "fast" or "furious" or "six" in the title, director Justin Lin's Fast & Furious 6 offers the series' most resplendent parade of chases and crashes yet, all shot and cut in that radical new... More »
Much more entertaining than you might expect for one with "fast" or "furious" or "six" in the title, director Justin Lin's Fast & Furious 6 offers the series' most resplendent parade of chases and crashes yet, all shot and cut in that radical new style, the one where audiences can apprehend in one viewing just what is supposed to be going on. In the most exciting sequence, there's a tank to be brought down, a hilariously high and long bridge, and winning business with a harpoon. That ridiculousness is topped by the climax, when the franchise's action figures must stop a cargo plane from taking off. Everybody races at what seems to be impossible speeds, for what seems to be 15 minutes, down what certainly is the world's longest runway. There's nothing to laud here in terms of storytelling, and the dialogue is all quips and exposition, but Lin aces something rare: the spirit of freewheeling play. His chases seem to take place in the mind of a 10-year-old, and there are few of the stiff dramatic scenes that in earlier editions suggested that 10-year-old's Hot Wheels had gotten stuck in the sandbox. Tyrese is given more one-liners than he's had since 2 Fast 2 Furious. Warheaded leads Vin Diesel and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson leaven their hulking by making it clear their characters relish the mayhem. And the non-vehicular action is ace, especially an extended womano a womano between Gina Carano and Michelle Rodriguez, and one sublimely dumb bit of tag-team ass-kicking from Diesel and Johnson. « Less
There's a scene in Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby in which Leonardo DiCaprio's hyperrich, super-awkward Jay Gatsby takes it upon himself to redecorate the bachelor pad of his less-prosperous friend, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire). Gatsby's old... More »
There's a scene in Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby in which Leonardo DiCaprio's hyperrich, super-awkward Jay Gatsby takes it upon himself to redecorate the bachelor pad of his less-prosperous friend, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire). Gatsby's old flame, Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), is coming to Nick’s for tea. Eager to impress her, Gatsby has brought in boughs draped with explosive white flowers, macaroons in every color of the paintbox, and tiered cakes straight out of Marie Antoinette's court. "You think it's too much?" he asks Nick. Nick offers the polite answer: "I think it's what you want." The Great Gatsby is both too much and what Luhrmann wants, less a movie version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel than a movie version of Jay Gatsby himself. It’s polished to a handsome sheen and possesses no class or taste beyond the kind you can buy. And those are the reasons to love it. The performers often look lost, but the movie moves, breathes, and has color on its side. Though Fitzgerald couldn't have known it, he wrote a scene tailor-made for 3-D, the one in which Gatsby rummages through his collection of brilliantly colored silk shirts and tosses one after another toward his lady love. In Luhrmann's vision, they float down around Daisy like polychrome snowflakes. It's all so fake. It should all be so horrible. But really, all Luhrmann has done is build a crazy art deco Taj Mahal to the glory of The Great Gatsby. Like Gatsby, Luhrmann is a faker but not a phony. Fitzgerald knew the difference. Can we see it, too? « Less
It's not enough to call this the rare franchise action movie to bring the goods; it's the even rarer one whose creators seem to understand what the goods even are. Your ticket should come with a fight card: squad versus squad, bruiser versus... More »
It's not enough to call this the rare franchise action movie to bring the goods; it's the even rarer one whose creators seem to understand what the goods even are. Your ticket should come with a fight card: squad versus squad, bruiser versus bruiser, ninja versus ninja, second-string ninja versus ancient ninja training lady, jeep-tank versus tank-jeep, bullets versus throwing stars, everyone versus Walton Goggins, dumb pleasures versus your higher brain function. Ninjas swing and zipline through Himalayan peaks, giving dizzier Spider-Man thrills than The Amazing Spider-Man bothered to. A three-soldier escape from deep in a well is more satisfying-- and abbreviated!-- than Bruce Wayne's ponderous pit-climb last summer. Charming Dwayne Johnson declaims Jay-Z as scripture to pump up his Joes before a mission; he's so commanding that nothing pump-uppable in you is likely to languish un-pumped. In short, if you think it's possible you might have a good time at a picture named G.I. Joe: Retaliation, you will almost certainly have a good time, though it's still dumb as catbutt. The script, from Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, is touched with absurdist comedy and some of-the-moment wingnuttery. Here's a movie in which gun-toting lugs become convinced the president is an imposter who they have to take out—not really something we should be encouraging so soon after 2016: Obama's America. But director Jon M. Chu comes to dudes-fighting filmmaking from the most welcome of backgrounds: directing dance. When his characters battle, we see the bodies of accomplished physical performers moving together through space, mostly in shots that the eye can actually track. « Less
The unlikeliest of all the Hangover trilogy's comic implausibilities might be its four pampered, rich-boy leads unironically calling themselves the "Wolf Pack" without anyone ever making fun of them. In the old slobs-versus-snobs comedies, the... More »
The unlikeliest of all the Hangover trilogy's comic implausibilities might be its four pampered, rich-boy leads unironically calling themselves the "Wolf Pack" without anyone ever making fun of them. In the old slobs-versus-snobs comedies, the snooty rich kids were always the antagonists, bullying the nerds and cheating at cross-camp field days. We identified with the slobs because Americans like underdogs, and also because the slobs were so often played by Bill Murray. Now the snobs have seized the cultural momentum, and with The Hangover Part III director Todd Phillips continues casting frat dicks as underdog heroes beset by foreigners, shrewish women, and even animals. "So he killed a giraffe—who gives a fuck?" says Bradley Cooper, in what amounts to a candid articulation of the trilogy's worldview. Cooper's Phil is defending the sub-neurotypical Alan (Zach Galifianakis), who has, indeed, beheaded an adorable giraffe. Unlike its predecessors, The Hangover Part III doesn't open with the aftermath of a substance binge. Alan has quit taking unspecified meds, causing him to behave like an enormous bastard, so the "Apple Dumpling Gang"-- sorry, "Wolf Pack"--agrees to accompany him on a cross-country road trip to an inpatient psych facility. They're intercepted by the first film's crime boss, Black Doug (Mike Epps), and his boss, Marshall (John Goodman), who force the "Special People’s Club"-- sorry, "Wolf Pack"-- to undertake a quest for the psychopathic Leslie Chow (Dr. Ken Jeong), who has stolen $21 million in gold bars. The ensuing plot involves an elaborate housebreaking, Mexican jail, some dead dogs, some dead chickens, base-jumping over Las Vegas, and a lot of punching down at lower-status characters. « Less
A likable hagiography as nuanced as a plaque at the Cooperstown Hall of Fame, Brian Helgeland's Jackie Robinson bio 42 finds a politic solution to the challenge Quentin Tarantino faced last year with Django Unchained: How to craft a... More »
A likable hagiography as nuanced as a plaque at the Cooperstown Hall of Fame, Brian Helgeland's Jackie Robinson bio 42 finds a politic solution to the challenge Quentin Tarantino faced last year with Django Unchained: How to craft a crowd-pleasing multiplex period piece whose villain is, essentially, "all white people"? Helgeland solves this by—to flip a racist phrase of the day—showing us that Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey (a phlegmatic Harrison Ford) is one of the good ones, a white guy who transcended his upbringing to become a credit to his race. In the first half, the big moments of drift past like parade floats: well-crafted, incidentally arresting, but not strung together into a dramatic narrative. Things pick up the closer Robinson gets to Ebbets Field—here a video-game recreation that never quite fools the eye. In the majors, we have a story, one that grows more and more compelling right up until the climax's ridiculously protracted slow-mo baserunning. Some Dodgers revolt against Robinson's arrival, pitchers aim for his face, and a Philadelphia coach shouts "You don't belong here! Get that through your thick monkey skull!" A dusty intimacy distinguishes the baseball scenes, which are excellent, if abbreviated. Robinson's duels with pitchers are especially involving, both at the plate and on base, where he harrows the bastards like Bugs Bunny might Elmer Fudd. Chadwick Boseman (playing Robinson) mostly manages to play a flesh-and-blood man despite 42's attempts to present him as a statue just unveiled. Movingly, as Robinson suffers the white world's abuse, Boseman's eyes moisten, redden, and finally seem to scab over with anger and hurt. « Less
Doesn't America promise riches and luxury to people who deserve it? Daniel Lugo-- the lead in Michael Bay's neon-noir ode to Miami, muscle tone, and the modern American dream-- believes so, but is stuck as an underpaid personal trainer at Miami... More »
Doesn't America promise riches and luxury to people who deserve it? Daniel Lugo-- the lead in Michael Bay's neon-noir ode to Miami, muscle tone, and the modern American dream-- believes so, but is stuck as an underpaid personal trainer at Miami Lakes' Sun Gym, where he boosts the confidence of customers far less chiseled than he and dreams of a better (read: richer) life. So, together with some muscle-bound accomplices, Lugo plots to kidnap his rich and ever-sneering Colombian client Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) and torture him until he gives up everything he owns: his swanky mansion, successful deli, bright orange speedboat, the works. Bay's film is based on, and mostly faithful to, a true story penned by Pete Collins for the Miami New Times in late 1999. The Sun Gym Gang isn't made up of professional mobsters. They’re musclebound egotists with a sense of importance more inflated than their steroid-pumped pecs, and Bay wastes no opportunity for laughs at their bungling. Dressed in military fatigues, they show up at Kershaw's home expecting to catch him alone; he's hosting a Seder. Though this story needs no embellishment, Bay can't help himself. He adds wild shoot-outs, slow-mo effects, Instagram-esque freeze-frames, and B-movie-style gore. (Those who remember the Sun Gym Gang's murdered victims probably won't appreciate seeing one of their heads explode like a pumpkin beneath a falling barbell weight.) When the story crashes into a too-perfect ending, it's because Bay was led astray by the same things that got the Sun Gym Gang into this mess in the first place: superficiality, ambition, and the belief that reality just isn't good enough. « Less
The first of this year's dueling Die Hard in the White House opuses (to be followed in June by Roland "Independence Day" Emmerich's White House Down) begins with a slo-mo Old Glory and the first horns and snare drums of composer Trevor Morris's... More »
The first of this year's dueling Die Hard in the White House opuses (to be followed in June by Roland "Independence Day" Emmerich's White House Down) begins with a slo-mo Old Glory and the first horns and snare drums of composer Trevor Morris's John-Williams-on-steroids score—and, well, things get a lot more "America! Fuck yeah!" from there. Directed at a jingoistic fever pitch by Training Day's Antoine Fuqua, Olympus Has Fallen quickly hurtles through the bare minimum of exposition—a square-jawed, newly widowed POTUS (Aaron Eckhart); a brooding ex–Secret Service hotshot (Gerard Butler) who blames himself for the First Lady's death-- before unleashing a small army of North Korean baddies on Pennsylvania Avenue's most desirable address. What follows is an all-you-can-eat buffet of shlock, from the retro, Robocop-era visual effects to the Delta Force–worthy parade of Oscar winners and nominees in peril (Secretary of State Melissa Leo, Speaker of the House Morgan Freeman, Secret Service Director Angela Bassett, Army Chief of Staff Robert Forster) to the utterly shameless 9/11 imagery (including Beltway tourists crushed by chunks of an imploding Washington Monument). A Red Dawn for the Tea Party era, Olympus Has Fallen is pretty ridiculously entertaining-- or at least entertainingly ridiculous-- for long stretches, dulled only by the realization that there are many parts of the country where this will play as less than total farce. « Less
...and don't forget it's the CURRENT MOVIES (Men in Black III, Dark Shadows, Chernobyl Diaries, Avengers, Battleship, Wrath of Titans, Mirror Mirror, etc.)
If you plan it out right you can see 3 movies for your entrance fee! The kids can watch the early showing (about 8:30pm this time of year) and crash for the 2nd and 3rd showings!
For more info and reviews, see the link for "westwinddriveins" dotcom
I cannot beleive I am the first to write a review and say "what a great thing to do on Memorial Day weekend!" Pack some drinks, chips, kids (no pets last I knew) and head to the Century Drive-In.
If it sounds far, it's not really, and totally worth the effort. Here's why:
1. Tickets are cheaper than the theatre; you can BYO on the specialty items
2. but why bother BYO when . . . the snack bar has EVERYthing you could want, bottled and fountain drinks of many brands, scoop ice cream on demand, glo lights for the munchkins-to-tweens and a nice relaxed atmosphere.
3. Bring your lawn chairs or snuggle up with some cushions in the back of your SUV, truck or in your A/Conditioned car if you want!
4. Sometimes there's even booths and shopping opportunities for trinkets, etc.
5. Plan on using your already-customized vehicle radio or bring a battery-op radio for dialed-in sound with your favorite speaker sound!
6. It's okay to talk during the movie! (within reason of course, you stil have neighbors but they're not breathing down the back of your neck).
7. As retro as it gets! TRY it SOON to beat the heat, though it seems this is a cool spot even now....
Hey, maybe I'll see YOU THERE!
Yes, there's still a drive-in around here. Two, actually. Both locations (in Scottsdale and Glendale) are operated by the same company and both admit children under 11 for free (yes, 16-passenger vans are allowed). If that weren't enough, both drive-ins play double features for only $6.25 per adult.Movie buffs who don't mind a beat-up bathroom and a nearly-abandoned concession stand can save a lot of dough and enjoy the Arizona weather at either drive-in. The screens work great. So does... More »
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