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Thu04092020

Last updateFri, 03 Apr 2020 5pm

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

Oh, those marketing people can be so deceiving.

From the previews, Youth looks like Cocoon minus the glowing aliens—a goofy-old-coot movie with Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel leering at ladies in the swimming pool and complaining about their prostates.

Actually, Youth is far from being anything like Cocoon, and with the exception of some darkly humorous laughs—and, yes, a couple of prostate jokes—it’s not something I would classify as a comedy.

Writer-director Paolo Sorrentino isn’t interested in pleasantries or pulling punches. His movie is a brutal, almost dangerously honest take on artists growing old. It’s also a little bit crazy at times—to the point where I wouldn’t have been all that surprised if crazy aliens sprang up from the bottom of the swimming pool.

Caine, in one of the best and most quietly understated performances of his career, plays retired composer Fred Ballinger. Fred is on holiday at a dreamy Switzerland resort with his daughter and assistant, Lena (Rachel Weisz, delivering the goods), and his film-director friend, Mick Boyle (Keitel, reminding you that he is still awesome).

Lena’s husband dumps her for a vacuous pop star who performs miracles in bed, sending her into a tailspin and giving Fred something else to worry about besides the miniscule level of pee traveling through his urethra. Mick, working on a film that doesn’t yet have an ending, remains a positive force for Fred, even though he’s become forgetful.

Representing the younger side of the artistic trade would be Jimmy Tree (the great Paul Dano), a popular actor preparing for a big role. Jimmy has done his share of art films, but most people remember him for his role as a robot—something about which people remind him during nearly every instance of human contact.

I used the word “brutal” up above, and I’m going to use the word again: This movie is bru-tal. When Fred finally lets an emissary for the queen know what he really thinks about her offer of knighthood, it’s one nasty exchange. When Lena gives her dad the what-for during a mud bath, the world stops. When Jimmy meets Miss Universe, and she brings up that damned robot, watch out. As far all-time screamers, the revelation of the role for which Jimmy is preparing is quite the shocker.

The beauty of Sorrentino’s film is that these brutal moments are handled in nuanced, subdued fashion. His script is eloquent, intelligent and often heartbreaking. Many of these characters will not have happy endings.

As an aging actress who has a caustic message for Mick, Jane Fonda shows up late in the movie and delivers one of the greatest scenes of her career. Fonda and Keitel sparring is as scary and punishing as anything in Creed.

Adding to the wonderful dialogue is the score by David Lang that is every ounce as beautiful as the stunning camerawork by Luca Bigazzi. Sorrentino is apparently a big Fellini fan, something evident in the film’s finale.

Paolo Sorrentino is only 45 years old. This meditation on aging seems to be coming from somebody who has logged at least 75 years on the planet—but he’s not even 50. That makes his achievement all the more impressive—although there are many 75-year-olds who might tell Sorrentino to cheer up a little bit, and that getting older isn’t always as dour as this film makes it out to be.

As for the finale, Youth finishes with either a crowning moment for Fred, or his worst nightmare, depending upon how you choose to take it in. The final look in Caine’s eyes says it all for me.

Youth is now playing at the Cinémas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0430).

Published in Reviews

Kingsman: The Secret Service evaded me when it played theaters—and it’s a humdinger of a movie, that’s for sure.

In this film based on a comic-book series, Colin Firth plays Harry, a member of a secret order of agents that saves the world from all kinds of bad guys. When a fellow agent dies (the agents are named after the Knights of the Round Table), Harry recruits Lee (Jonno Davies), the young son of a former agent and friend, to be the replacement.

Unlike James Bond movies, this one isn’t afraid of bad words and gory violence. One scene in which Harry executes an entire church full of hateful rednecks (set to the tune of “Free Bird”) has more gore than three average R-rated movies combined.

Firth is great here, as are Mark Strong and Michael Caine as fellow agents. Mark Hamill shows up briefly in a pivotal role, and Samuel L. Jackson gets a meaty part as the strangest of terrorists.

The film is loaded with surprises, as well as some fine action directed by Matthew Vaughn. It’s one of the best action films of the year.

Special Features: There are numerous featurettes on the making of the movie and some photo galleries.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

The latest from writer-director Christopher Nolan is a triumphant piece of movie-making, a science-fiction film that travels outside the lines.

In the future, Earth is getting swallowed up by dust; all the crops are dying; and the Yankees really suck. (Wait…that’s true now!) Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a farmer and former test pilot, is raising his two children after the death of his wife. He and his young daughter, Murph (Mackenzie Foy), discover a strange site that just happens to be the remnants of NASA, where an old scientist (Michael Caine) is in the middle of a plan to save the human race.

Cooper eventually winds up on a mission to enter a wormhole and explore distant planets, looking for their ability to sustain life. However, there’s a major drawback: Time gets all warped during space travel, and the slightest delay will cost him many years back on Earth.

The movie gets a little crazy and farfetched, and possesses more than its share of plot holes. I don’t care. It’s a terrific viewing experience that made me think, even if it is a little crazy.

Nolan wrote the film with his brother Jonathan, and they came up with some ideas that seem quite impossible, perhaps illogical. Yet within the context of this sprawling, great movie, it all works just fine. The film offers many great surprises, performances and brain-teasing concepts. It’s also weird and insane, and I love it for that. The result: Interstellar is an all-time-great science-fiction film.

Interstellar is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

For those of you hankering for another magician movie after The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, here it is!

A Las Vegas magician act called the Four Horsemen (Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco) concludes a show by seemingly robbing a bank in France through teleportation. An FBI agent (Mark Ruffalo) and an Interpol detective (Mélanie Laurent) investigate—and we snore.

Morgan Freeman is on hand as a man who makes a living debunking magic, as is Michael Caine as a millionaire bankrolling the Horsemen. It all amounts to nonsense, with the a lot of swirling cameras and stupid fights involving playing cards and paper cuts.

The big reveals are silly, and much of what happens on the magic side is never explained. Meanwhile, Eisenberg delivers one of the year’s more annoying performances.

Now You See Me is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews