CGI ACTION CAN’T MATCH STAN & OLLIE’S ANTICS
Gigantic effects can’t trump simple stories that are well-crafted or even retro comedy that’s pure, anarchic and weirdly healing of all the ills that vex the soul.
Big, loud, repetitive, derivative and finally kind of boring. We’ve seen all this before. It’s TRANSFORMERS at sea. Aliens from a distant planet attempt a take-over of earth. Even though they can travel vast distances — apparently beyond the speed of light — their weapons are not so advanced that we earthlings can’t fight back. And yes, that’s relatively unknown Taylor Kitsch (TV’s FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS) up there on the giant screen in his second tent-pole fail of the summer. (Who can forget the embarrassment of Disney’s misguided epic fail JOHN CARTER?) But it’s not just the unfortunately named Kitsch, it’s the entire Hasbro mind-set that assumes there’s a movie in a game nearly everyone recalls or has played as a kid. But just because investors bank on the familiarity of the board game’s name, that’s no guarantee that there’s a good movie buried within. I love action, effects and aliens. A part of me is still a 12-year-old boy. But this extravaganza is an insult to movie fans that may still to desire a core story that’s fresh and engaging. Peter Berg helmed this mutation and I await with trepidation the next board game that’s waiting in the wings to reincarnate on the big screen. Are you ready for MONOPOLY the movie? Didn’t we already have that in WALL STREET and its sequel? What’s next – “Candy Land” or “Chutes & Ladders”? Universal.
BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
A powerhouse Brit cast that includes Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith infuse this delayed coming-of-age story with a vibrancy that is almost palpable. Tag along with a group of retirees who seek a discount retirement in India where the weather and everyday expenses are an enticement to the high cost and dreary dampness of England. But when they arrive at the Marigold Hotel, they find it is not as advertised. However, their shared adventure not only transforms their new residence but also themselves and reminds that life and love are always available to those who choose surrender the past in order to discover life in the moment. This comedy-drama-romance may be predictable, but with its exotic locale, witty script, fine direction and extraordinary cast it feels fresh. Fox Searchlight.
Another coming-of-age drama, but this time it’s about two twelve-year-olds who fall in love, make a secret pact and run away. Wes Anderson’s whimsical, poignant, at times surreal drama takes place in 1965 and is set on a New England island as a storm approaches. The search for the kids turns the otherwise peaceful island upside down in unexpected ways. The local sheriff is Bruce Willis. Ed Norton is a khaki clad Scout leader. Best of all are Bill Murray and Frances McDormand as the missing girl’s parents. Tilda Swinton and Jason Schwartzman co star and the run-away lovebirds are wonderfully played by Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. Don’t miss this quirky and tremendously entertaining film from a master of droll visuals and dubious but authentic human behavior. Focus Features.
FOR THE HOME THEATER
LAUREL AND HARDY: THE ESSENTIAL COLLECTION
It’s been said that every second of every day, all over the world, someone is laughing aloud at a Laurel & Hardy movie. That’s not a bad legacy. Here’s a wonderful 10-disc collection – that’s more than 50 films — of their better sound era comedies. The collection has been transferred from the very best nitrate elements from the old Hal Roach Studio vaults and digitally restored in high definition (not Blu-ray) for surprisingly sharp prints.
Here are over 32 hours of silly delight, anarchy, mayhem and love that defines our collective human condition. There are too many titles to mention here — some of the best: BERTH MARKS, ANOTHER FINE MESS, COUNTY HOSPITAL, THE MUSIC BOX, SONS OF THE DESERT and BLOCKHEADS. But for shear audacity and daring, the Spanish version of POLITIQUEROS must be seen to be believed if only for the astonishing performance of the dignified vaudevillian Hadji Ali – a professional “regurgitator.” RHI. DVD.