The French thriller Point Blank concerns an ordinary man (Gilles Lellouche) who, while on his shift as a nurse at a hospital, saves the life of a man wanted for murder (Roschdy Zem). His thanks: His wife (Elena Anaya) is kidnapped. The nurse and the criminal must form an uneasy alliance as a conspiracy of corruption unfolds around them. The screenplay twists and turns like a skillful gymnastics routine, and while it may do nothing new, what it does is executed with dexterity. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
It’s really very simple: The Help undermines the impact of exploring the sinister, racist forces at work in the Deep South during the early 1960s with its odd emphasis on bodily functions and the facilities necessary for them. The movie has its mind in the toilet. The balance between the protagonists of different classes is handled well by writer/director Tate Taylor, but when a movie about the Civil Rights Movement bypasses the assassination of Medgar Evers to move on to a plot point about a pie made of human feces, one has to question the story’s priorities. My review is here. Available on DVD, Blu-ray, and DVD/Blu-ray Combo with Digital Copy.
Moving between the present and the past, The Debt follows a trio of former Mossad agents who hunted down and killed a Nazi war criminal and have become legends in their homeland of Israel. The movie’s primary concern is creating an unnecessarily labyrinthine plot in which the secrets of the past affect their lives. There’s perhaps too much time spent in the flashback, which reveals how the official story of their mission is incorrect (The very existence of the flashback essentially wrecks its purpose of planting doubt), and the result is an outline of events that lacks any genuine depth of ideas or characterization.. My review is here. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Cowboys & Aliens has cowboys and, indeed, it has aliens. That seems to be all the screenwriters (five of them) believed it needed. The movie works fine enough as a straightforward Western as a man with no name (Daniel Craig) and a strange, heavy bracelet walks into a town. Then the aliens show up and the movie loses not only its grip on reality (which is to be expected) but also its sense of purpose. There’s hardly a sense of humor here, and the screenwriters seem to rely entirely on the ridiculous nature of the concept, which is hardly ridiculous enough to carry an entire movie. My review is here. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Jim Carrey stars as a workaholic who inherits a waddle of penguins, creates a winter wonderland in his apartment for them, and uses them to restart his relationships with his ex-wife (Carla Gugino) and kids (Madeline Carroll and Maxwell Perry Cotton). This could work in the realm of slapstick comedy, but Mr. Popper’s Penguins falls into the trap of unfettered sentimentality. My review is here. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
If it’s broken, keep using it. That’s the philosophy of The Hangover: Part II, which is less a sequel than a second version of its predecessor. The “wolf pack” (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis) returns, as unlikeable as ever, and have yet another drunken adventure followed by a hungover attempt to retrace what happened. “I can’t believe this is happening again,” becomes a far too suitable refrain. My review is here. Available on DVD, Blu-ray, and DVD/Blu-ray Combo.