Bad Teacher creates just about the right atmosphere for a pot-smoking, heavy-drinking, self-centered, superficial middle school teacher to run amok. She is Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz), who’s also a gold-digger. Her plan in life is to meet Mr. Right-Salary and keep public perception of her as a flawless prospect. It has some amusing moments, and director Jake Kasdan prevents it from becoming outright misanthropic. The major problem is that too many of the supporting players, who become more and more important as the movie progresses, are underwhelming. My review is here. Available on DVD, Blu-ray, and DVD/Blu-ray Combo.
A topical subject (irregular immigration) and a fine lead performance from Demián Bichir help elevate the melodramatic and ironic turns of A Better Life. It concerns Carlos (Bichir) and his son Luis (José Julián) as they try to get by on the father’s gardening work while avoiding the police. Most of the movie follows the two as they hunt down Carlos’ truck, stolen after he shows kindness to another struggling immigrant. The search keeps the movie focused on a narrative level but also loses most of the drama of the day-to-day grind. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
You know exactly what you’re going to get early on in Monte Carlo, and that’s both a blessing and a curse. Grace (Selena Gomez), her friend Emma (Katie Cassidy), and stepsister Meg (Leighton Meester) travel to Paris, where the first is mistaken for and pretends to be a spoiled heiress. Every character arc is preordained, but at least they do change along the way. The fraudulent behavior of the three is questionable, but there is something rebellious in it. Even the climax understands the basics of farce, but, like the rest of the movie, the execution falls short. My review is here. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
The series has passed its sell-by date. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a half-hearted attempt to recover some of the joviality of the first and most of the second films, and even Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow doesn’t have much to do here. He’s searching for the Fountain of Youth, the villain is Blackbeard (Ian McShane), and the screenplay forgets it’s established Penélope Cruz as Sparrow’s verbal jousting partner until the final scene. My review is here. Available on DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D.