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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

I recently bitched about the Beauty and the Beast remake being unnecessary. However, the movie was enjoyable and sweet on some levels. Then came the Ghost in the Shell remake; while it was a letdown, it looked good and had decent performances.

Now comes another remake, Going in Style—and there are no redeeming qualities: It’s a total disaster.

The original “old guys rob a bank wearing rubber noses” comedy from back in 1979 starred George Burns and Art Carney. The original was directed by Martin Brest, the guy who would go on to direct Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run and, uh oh, Gigli. Martin Brest … where are you? Yes, Gigli sucked an awful lot, but you had a decent batting average until then. You haven’t done anything since bombing with Gigli, but that film didn’t kill Ben Affleck’s career, so why did it knock you off?

Back on point … this Going in Style remake loses all of the charm of that fun and slightly dark Burns vehicle. Instead, the film is super heavy on schmaltz, and it asks a lot of beloved actors to basically embarrass themselves for 90-plus minutes.

Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin replace Burns, Carney and Lee Strasberg in the updated story, and that setup probably looked pretty good on paper. Unfortunately, they handed the film to Zach Braff, the guy from Scrubs, to direct. Braff does so with all the subtlety and nuance of an M80 going off in a candlelight-yoga class.

The comedic moments demand that you laugh … yet you don’t. The touching moments grab you by the collar and scream, “Cry for me!” … yet you don’t. The heist itself insists that it is clever; it’s actually rather rote and mundane. The payoff involves a little girl doing something totally wrong, and it feels weird.

Michael Caine replaces Burns as Joe, the brains of the group. Joe, during a visit to a bank to complain about his upcoming foreclosure, witnesses a bank robbery. So, naturally, when he and his pals’ pensions go away, he decides to rob a bank.

After some gentle persuading of Willie (Freeman) and Albert (Arkin), off they go to rob a bank. The big twist here is that they wear Rat Pack masks instead of the rubber-nose glasses from the original. Yes, that’s the biggest twist the film has to offer.

The heist itself just sort of happens. Braff shows some of the planning and execution in flashbacks, but the technique doesn’t reveal as anything ingenious. The whole beauty of Going in Style 1979 was that three old men simply robbed a bank—rather sloppily. Trying to make them seasoned, crafty pros in this one is a major misstep.

Ann-Margret is around to sleep with Albert (the grumpy one) and make him feel young again. That’s Ann-Margret’s job these days: She gets the “sleep with the old guy” roles, like she had in Grumpy Old Men. The way her character aggressively pursues Albert while she’s on the clock in the produce aisle should have gotten her character fired. It’s hard watching a great, fun actress being reduced to a stereotype—that stereotype being the older lady who tries to grab your junk by the avocados.

All of the dark, twisted fun has been taken out of the premise, and replaced by mawkish sentimentality. Caine, Freeman, Arkin and Ann-Margret are lost in a screenplay that doesn’t have any inventiveness; the film simply tries to get by on their star power. It’s not befitting of their legendary statuses.

The movie is a real bummer—a blue paint bomb in a bag full of money. The year 2017 is shaping up as the Year of the Unnecessary Remakes … and so far, this is the most unnecessary of them all.

Going in Style is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Movie studios are getting ready to release big holiday products like sequels to The Hunger Games and Star Wars, as well as surefire Oscar contenders such as Spotlight and The Revenant.

Still, there will be a week or two when studios try to squeak by with meager offerings. Well, this is one of those weeks, and Love the Coopers is one of those meager offerings.

I’ll say this for the movie: It is jam-packed with talent. Diane Keaton, Marisa Tomei, John Goodman, Anthony Mackie, Alan Arkin, Amanda Seyfried, Ed Helms and even the voice of Steve Martin all show up in this holiday film. However, if you are looking for a Christmas movie to add a little joy to your holiday season, this will not do the trick. If you are looking for something weird, dark and unfunny, this one might please you.

Love the Coopers obviously has a lot of characters played by those aforementioned performers, and a lot of plot lines to go with them. It gets a bit tiresome trying to follow all that is going on.

Charlotte (Keaton) and Sam (Goodman) have been married for more than 40 years. Their marriage has hit the skids, and Christmas looks like it could totally suck. Charlotte has been refusing to travel to Africa with Sam for many years—and that’s the final straw: As the family gathers for Christmas Eve, Sam is planning to leave his wife shortly thereafter. All cups of eggnog will be tainted with that sour taste of despair.

One of the more prominent subplots involves Charlotte’s sister Emma (Tomei) being arrested for shoplifting and getting a stoic police officer (Mackie) as her escort to the police station. Of course, Emma manages to successfully decipher all of the officer’s life issues from the back seat; perhaps she learns a little about herself, too.

Another storyline has Charlotte’s wayward daughter Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) meeting some Army dude (Jake Lacy) at an airport on her way home. She invites him to be her boyfriend for the weekend to trick her mom, even though the two can’t stand each other. It’s the sort of thing that only happens in stupid movies like this. Still, Wilde and Lacy are cute enough to make their screen time almost tolerable. Will they eventually make out? I think so!

The dumbest of the subplots involves be Charlotte’s dad, Bucky (Arkin), having an odd relationship with a diner waitress (Seyfried). They aren’t screwing or anything, but he does lend her movies, and she serves him coffee with sad, forlorn eyes. Developments later in the film suggest Seyfried’s character could wind up with Bucky’s son (Helms). It’s all a little creepy and uncomfortable.

Throw in a crazy aunt who doesn’t remember anything (June Squibb) and farts a lot, and a gangly teenage boy learning to kiss his girlfriend under the mistletoe, and you have just the right ingredients to make a movie-goer violently throw up.

Director Jessie Nelson, whose last directorial effort was the assault on humanity that was I Am Sam some 14 years ago, sabotages her own movie with crazy left turns and wild moments. It’s actually a shock that Seyfried and Arkin don’t make out, because that sort of weirdness would be right at home in this flick. Nelson seems determined to make this an anti-holiday holiday movie. I can respect the effort to be different, but she messes it up—in a big way.

The final twist, involving the origin of Martin’s voice, is probably the best thing in the movie. Since that final twist is sort of lame, that does not saying much for Love the Coopers.

Love the Coopers is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Talk about your blown cinematic opportunities. Man, this should’ve been fun: Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro, riffing on their iconic boxing characters Rocky Balboa and Jake LaMotta, have one last boxing match. It sounds to me like the setup for something great, nostalgic and even funny.

Instead, director Peter Segal managed to make this undertaking a morose, unfunny slog. Stallone plays an unhappy character, while De Niro plays a total jackass. Their characters wind up in a scenario that gets their almost 70-year-old bodies into the ring for a rematch 30 years after their last fight. Alan Arkin and Kevin Hart are wasted in supporting roles.

The fight itself is OK, with both men looking fit for their age. However, everything leading up to that fight is oddly paced, and sometimes painful to watch, especially when Kim Basinger is on screen as a confused love interest.

Stallone and De Niro show the more negative, unappealing aspects of their once-great characters. While they aren’t named Rocky and Jake in this movie, those characters are certainly on the brain. De Niro should’ve allowed his character to be a little more punchy, and Stallone should’ve shot for something a little more lovable and virtuous. Both performers seem truly lost, as if they signed up for a fun movie and discovered it was depressing.

This seemed like a sure thing, but Segal blew it. This counts as one of 2013’s biggest movie disappointments.

Special Features: You get an alternate opening and some alternate endings; some extras with Stallone, De Niro and Hart; and some fun with Mike Tyson, Larry Holmes and Evander Holyfield. The extras are much better than the movie.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Grudge Match should’ve been really fun. Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro—riffing on their iconic boxing characters Rocky Balboa and Jake LaMotta—have one last boxing match. It’s a setup for something great, nostalgic and even funny. Instead, director Peter Segal manages to make this undertaking a morose, unfunny slog.

Stallone plays a generally unhappy character, while De Niro plays a total asshole. Their characters wind up in a scenario that gets their near-70-year-old bodies into the ring for a rematch 30 years after their last fight. The fight itself is OK, with both men looking pretty fit for their age. However, everything leading up to the fight is oddly paced, and sometimes painful to watch, especially when Kim Basinger is onscreen as a confused love interest. Alan Arkin and Kevin Hart are wasted in supporting roles.

This seemed like a sure thing, but Segal blew it. The film takes itself too seriously, and it doesn’t know when to smile.

Grudge Match is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Ben Affleck wasn’t nominated as best director for the movie that eventually went on to win the Best Picture award at the Oscars. We all know this by now.

However, surprisingly few people have made a big stink about Affleck’s failure to receive a nomination for best actor in Argo. He is the one who spends the most time, by far, onscreen, so wouldn’t it stand to reason that he should’ve been nominated for his performance? That performance was the driving force behind the best picture, right?

I don’t think Argo should’ve been nominated in any of the major categories, including picture, director and actor. It’s a fine film, and Affleck continues to make very good movies, but this wasn’t the year’s best picture. Heck, it didn’t even make my personal Top 20.

The movie has a nice retro feel, and features great work from Affleck, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston and, to a lesser extent, Alan Arkin. Arkin received a Best Supporting Actor nomination, another nom the film didn’t deserve.

I was about 11 years old when the Iran hostage crisis went down; Affleck was around 7. So some of his earliest memories probably involve how embarrassing and frustrating this time in American history was.

Argo is very good movie, but it isn’t a great one. That said, I think Affleck has some great movies in his future.

Special Features: This is a Blu-ray package in which the special features are actually better than the movie. A director’s commentary with Affleck is highly informative and entertaining, as is a picture-in-picture feature you can run for the entire film. This feature includes many of the actual hostages and participants in the rescue. Some other decent behind-the-scenes featurettes and an archival documentary on the rescue mission round things out to make this a great disc. 

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

In Stand Up Guys, a bunch of great actors get together and do their best with middling material.

Al Pacino plays a criminal released from a long prison haul, and Christopher Walken plays the guy who is supposed to pick him up—and take his life soon thereafter. I have a hard time with this premise: If you are a crime boss with any brains, and you want somebody smoked, you don’t hire the dude’s best friend to do the gig. Don’t you think there’s a chance the dude won’t follow through?

Anyway, Pacino and Walken hang out for a night that includes stealing cars, snorting prescription drugs and hanging out with another old guy (Alan Arkin). The trio makes most of this watchable, but with this cast, you want something more than just watchable. Pacino works hard to get credibility back after a string of loser movies, and he redeems himself just fine. Walken is good here, playing a character with more depth than his usual parts. Arkin is just doing his shtick.

Nothing all that surprising happens, and that's a shame.

Stand Up Guys is playing in theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews