Synopsis: A chronicle of the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II.
Release Date: December 25, 2014
Thoughts: A film with such pedigree comes along once in a blue moon so even if this trailer for Unbroken had been two minutes of orange juice being poured I still would have this on the tippy top of my most anticipated films of 2014. Directed by Oscar winner Angelina Jolie (Maleficent) from a script by Joel and Ethan Coen (Inside Llewyn Davis) adapted from Laura Hillenbrand’s blockbuster bestseller, Unbroken could appear to some as the most tasty of Oscar bait treats. However, seeing that it’s based on the incredible true story of a P.O.W. during World War II and his journey toward forgiveness, I just can’t deny the classic feeling the movie invokes within me. Fingers, toes, and eyes are crossed that this impressively moving trailer is backed up by an equally worthy film.
Synopsis: A self-centered realtor enlists the help of his neighbor when he’s suddenly left in charge of the granddaughter he never knew existed until his estranged son drops her off at his home.
Stars: Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Sterling Jerins, Frankie Valli, Scott Shepherd, Frances Sternhagen, Andy Karl, Annie Parisse
Director: Rob Reiner
Running Length: 94 minutes
TMMM Score: (2/10)
Review: Instead of a straight-forward review, here’s how I imagine Rob Reiner pitched And So It Goes to Diane Keaton:
Rob Reiner: Hey Diane, I have a movie I think you should be in with Michael Douglas. It’s about –
Diane Keaton: Rob, I’m just going to stop you right there. I have some questions.
RR: Um, ok…is it about the movie?
DK: Sure. First things first. Can I wear only cream, taupe, and ivory shirts with large collars?
RR: Well…yes, I think that would work. See, you’d be playing a-
DK: Great! Yes, I love those shirts, they are so comfortable and I really feel I can be myself in them, y’know?
RR: Yes. I know. Now that we have that straightened out –
DK: Ooooo! And skirts! I need to wear skirts that end above the knee and are five times the circumference of my body. At all times. I could maybe go for pants but only in inclement weather.
RR: I’m not sure the skirts would make sense to the character…
DK: Great! And I’ll want to hike the skirts up under my armpits so it looks like I’m being consumed from the waist up. And belts…the bigger the better.
RR: Let’s talk more about that later, I’d like to tell you what the movie is about. You’d be playing a widowed lounge singer living next door to a grumpy old guy played by Michael. The whole plot revolves around him being forced to take care of his granddaughter abandoned by his prison bound son.
DK: I was in the original Broadway cast of Hair…did you know that?
RR: I did…and you were great.
DK: I know, right? I’ll sing torch songs, then?
RR: Yes, and I’d be playing your pianist because I can’t NOT be in a movie I’m directing. I think, however, that I’ll wear a toupee so people won’t recognize me.
DK: Why don’t YOU wear a big skirt and a belt?
RR: No, I think the toupee is enough of a challenge for me.
DK: OK. Y’know Rob, I was thinking.
RR: About the character?
DK: (laughs) No! I don’t think I’m totally sold on your idea of just dressing in beige colors the whole time. I think we need to throw in some reds and polka dots…and red polka dots.
RR: Diane, you suggested the color palette.
DK: (laughs again) Noooo…I think that was your suggestion. So I’m playing a romantic at heart that convinces this old codger next door that you’re never too old to change? Hmmmm…sounds an awful lot like As Good As It Gets with my old Reds costar Jack Nicholson.
RR: Well that’s probably because Mark Andrus wrote the screenplays for both.
DK: Ah…so it’s a sequel?
RR: No, no…just a painfully clumsy re-working of that film, lacking any sort of humor, warmth, or honest emotion.
DK: Yikes…sounds pretty bad. Didn’t you direct Stand By Me, Misery, A Few Good Men, and When Harry Met Sally… those were great films, Rob!
RR: Yeah…I know. I think Sally Struthers put some sort of curse on me.
DK: Is there anything of value in the movie?
RR: I’m thinking of casting Frances Sternhagen in a thankless role that she could do in her sleep. And ever since Frankie Valli was passed over to play himself in the movie version of Jersey Boys…
DK: Ooo…I think that movie is going to bomb…looks terrible.
RR: Totally! Anyway…now Frankie has the acting bug…I’ll just give him one awkward scene and that’ll shut him up.
DK: What about the granddaughter, is she cute at least?
RR: Not really…she has the bad habit of looking directly into the camera…but if I have time after my toupee lessons I’ll try to break her of that.
DK: Well Rob, I gotta tell ya…this sounds like a pretty bad film from the outset. The kind that should go straight to Netflix instead of playing in the theaters. The type of movie that people may say “What are Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton doing in this garbage?” The sort of experience moviegoers young and old will find impossible to relate to filled with characters no one can sympathize with. I’ll just bet that the script is illogical, incoherent, insipid, contradictory, and clichéd at every possible turn. I mean, next thing you’ll tell me is that Michael’s character will deliver a baby with his bare hands and I’ll film a sex scene miraculously wearing more make-up than I did before the humping started two minutes earlier.
RR: Well…what if I promise you can wear a red polka dotted neckerchief in two scenes?
Synopsis: Having endured his legendary twelve labors, Hercules, the Greek demigod, has his life as a sword-for-hire tested when the King of Thrace and his daughter seek his aid in defeating a tyrannical warlord.
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Joseph Fiennes, Peter Mullan, John Hurt, Rebecca Ferguson, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Aksel Hennie, Reece Ritchie
Director: Brett Ratner
Running Length: 98 minutes
TMMM Score: (2/10)
Review: Bound to be best remembered as the second failed Hercules film of 2014 directed by a once hot director, it’s hard to know where to begin a review for something so devoid of meaning. I can’t speak for Renny Harlin’s The Legend of Hercules released in January because I managed to avoid that 3D affair but Brett Ratner’s Hercules, based on the version of the half god/half human brought to life by Radical Comics, is pretty bad stuff.
About halfway through the 98 minute film (which feels twice as long) my companion leaned in and whispered “What’s the point of all this?” and he wasn’t so far off the mark. There’s unfortunately a lot of dialogue in the film and the script from Ryan Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos is so mawkishly hackneyed that it all winds up sounding like Charlie Brown’s teacher wha-wha-wha-ing into your ear.
There’s some semblance of a plot involving mercenary Hercules benefitting from his supposed legendary lineage as he clomps through a ravaged Greece where everyone either speaks with a British or, in the case of its can’t-be-bothered star, an American accent.
Skipping over the more intriguing tales of Hercules moving through an Indiana Jones-like treasure trove of scary beasties and nasty tasks, the screenwriters settle for the musty old plot device of double crosses by power hungry bad guys. This swords and sandals snoozefest is an endurance test for the ages, compounded by a lead performance that even the inhabitants of Hades would turn their noses at.
How Dwayne “The Rock’ Johnson (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Pain and Gain) has managed to becomes a movie star is beyond me. Though he does possess a certain amount of charm when he isn’t taking himself too seriously, as Hercules he’s dead on arrival and no amount of immortal heritage can save him. Wearing one of several wigs from the Johnny Depp collection and a beard that reads more like a piece of felt, Johnson looks like a huge bicep with eyes. Actually, remember those cartoons where an uncooked turkey would get up from the platter and walk around? That’s how he looks.
Though Ian McShane (Snow White and the Huntsman) is the one bright spot in the film as a wise old sage always quick with a one-liner, the rest of the cast is a shamefully mixed bag. I don’t believe John Hurt (Only Lovers Left Alive) looks a day under 200 but that’s nothing compared to the abject horror of seeing Joseph Fiennes sporting a hair system that reminded me of Buttercup from The Princess Bride. Rebecca Ferguson shows some spunk as a busty damsel in distress and the Nicole Kidman lookalike Ingrid Bolsø Berdal outdoes her male counterparts in a throwaway role as an Amazonian archer.
The lousy CGI work is only outdone by the lamest post 3D conversion of the summer. You can only ooo and ahh at a spear being thrust in your face so much before it all gets terribly tiring. Ratner used to be on Hollywood’s A-list until several cinematic stumbles and one off color homophobic remark that sent him packing as producer of the 2012 Oscar’s heralded the decline of his status. He won’t be seeing much love either after this stinker, surely one of the worst efforts of 2014.