With its mix of action, comedy, and a talented (and older) cast, RED was a slightly surprising minor hit back in 2010. I give credit to the sight of Helen Mirren with a machine gun. The formula doesn’t change much for RED 2, although the comedy is beefed up more in this film. Once again, Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is on the run after a hit is taken out on him, with various figures on his side or out to kill him. After the previous film, Morgan Freeman is out of this film, but in his place are Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta Jones and Byung-hun Lee. If RED 2 doesn’t completely capture the magic of the original, it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable blast. And there’s Helen Mirren with guns. You can’t go wrong with that.
The first three letters say it all. I’ll admit, I had decent hopes for this movie. I shouldn’t have. R.I.P.D. is a bomb of a movie. Based on the Dark Horse comic Rest In Peace Department, R.I.P.D. pairs Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges together as two officers whose jobs consist of capturing Dead-Os, or people who have remained on Earth after death. Reynolds is an actor I generally enjoy (and not just for his body), and Bridges is easily one of the best actors working today. Neither of them, though, can elevate the material here. If there’s one person who escapes this film relatively unscathed, it’s Mary-Louise Parker. Her deadpan quality is on full display here, and her occasional scenes opposite Bridges provide the film with a few watchable moments. If only someone would’ve put these two together for a full film.
Speaking of Ryan Reynolds, he also stars in the latest animated film from DreamWorks. While the studio has produced some great films, Turbo is firmly average. The film follows Turbo, a snail who’s obsessed with racing. One day, Turbo finds himself in a race car, immersed in nitrous oxide and suddenly able to move at breakneck speeds. Thanks to his discovery by Tito, who’s looking for a crazy idea to draw customers to the taco stand he shares with his brother, Turbo finds himself racing against his idol in the Indy 500. Outlandish? Sure, but it’s a kids movie, so go with it. Unfortunately, Turbo arrives mere weeks after the superior Monsters University and Despicable Me 2 have both dominated the box office. Monsters University had Pixar’s trademark heart and a story that aimed for children and adults. Despicable Me 2, meanwhile, had the bonkers comedy and the irresistible Minions. Personally, I’d rather watch either of those films again before rewatching Turbo.
The promotional materials for The Conjuring have played up the whole “Based on a true story” bit, and while there’s always room to speculate where fact and fiction meet in films, The Conjuring gets points for delivering a legitimately scary story. There’s no sex, nudity, drug use, or significant language – The Conjuring‘s R rating comes purely from scares, and it earns that rating. It’s old-school, creepy horror that works thanks to director James Wan’s surprisingly strong work, along with solid performances from Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor. Definitely worth seeing in theaters.
As far as biopics go, Fruitvale Station is largely rather tame. The film largely takes place over the course of one 24-hour period where very little that could be deemed important happens. But Fruitvale Station is less a biopic and more a message movie, as illustrated by the film’s opening scene: real-life cell phone footage of the murder of Oscar Grant by police officers. That scene, recreated as the narrative of the story reaches its climax, is what makes the rest of the film matter. It illustrates how suddenly, and unexpectedly, things can go wrong. The climax wouldn’t hit so hard if the wrong actor was portraying Oscar; fortunately, Michael B. Jordan delivers a deep, rich performance that elevates the material. Going by the script, the film seems to take pains to make Oscar look as good as possible. Jordan’s performance, though, shows a more complex character. He’s assisted by a talented supporting cast, including Octavia Spencer as Oscar’s mother. Since winning an Oscar for her role in The Help, Spencer has impressed me with the range of roles she’s taken. Her take on Wanda in this film is downplayed, even in the face of her son’s death. It’s a remarkably restrained performance. Both Jordan and Spencer are worthy Oscar contenders here.
Girl Most Likely
Oh, Kristen Wiig. This is how you follow up Bridesmaids? Girl Most Likely is a convoluted mess of a film. It’s all over the place tonally, with performances from a talented cast that all seem to be searching for something – anything – to grab onto for stability. Wiig does her best here as Imogene, but this feels like a more depressing version of Bridesmaids‘ Annie. Vets Annette Bening and Matt Dillon are largely phoning in their performances, a shame considering the amount of talent both normally show. The film’s few solid (hell, strong) moments are those that pair Wiig up with Glee‘s Darren Criss, playing a 20-something boarder in Imogene’s mother’s house who develops a romantic relationship with Imogene. Still, a handful of scenes do not make for a film worth watching again. If anything, this may be worth a viewing on Netflix whenever it inevitably ends up there.