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  • Parental Guidance

    We should have seen it coming. Parental Guidance director Andy Fickman's previous family farce was You Again, which this writer called "totally, inanely, numbingly awful.... From the evidence on screen, [Fickman's] directorial skills might serve to mount a mediocre high school play." Now this hack is back, gifting us with another DOA comedy.
          Pity anyone who heads out on Christmas Day to take in Parental Guidance, billed as cheery comedy about the clash between old-school and contemporary child-rearing, with heartwarming lessons to be learned by three generations of one fractured family. Parents and children blessed with an iota of gray matter or taste will storm the ticket booth demanding refunds. The only people sitting still for this overlong ordeal will be those brainwashed by bad TV sitcoms into yukking on cue at lowbrow comedy and cardboard clowns.

    Your cue is http://movies.msn.com/movies/movie-critic-reviews/parental-guidance.3/#Review_0

  • Deadfall

    is a nifty little noir thriller that showcases solid acting and potent action, all within strikingly visualized winterscapes and interiors. Director Stefan Ruzowitzky (The Counterfeiters) gets that when you transplant noir from rain-slicked urban streets to lonely northern snowfields, the change of venue often adds a special frisson to this stylized genre.
  • Jack & Diane

    Don't be looking for any link to John Mellencamp's anthem about angsty Heartland lovers here. This movie's Jack and Diane are urban teens of the same sex, blitzed by true love the instant their eyes meet. That muffled implosion sets off nearly two hours of soulful staring and sporadic, barely audible small talk.
  • End of Watch

    Commandeering yet another police car to exploit dangerous days and ways in L.A.'s South Central badlands, David Ayer (Training Day) drives deep in End of Watch. Sadly, deep for Ayer is pretty shallow. What saves this cop show from its predictable tropes and clichés are terrific performances by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena, who've got each other's backs as actors and as "brothers" in law enforcement.

  • Robot & Frank

    Yet another late-in-life triumph for Frank Langella, and a promising directorial debut for young Jake Schreier. Kathleen Murphy testifies ... and wishes she'd had the wordcount leeway to salute Langella's world-class, shamefully Oscar-neglected turn in Starting Out in the Evening a few years ago.
  • Hope Springs

    Kathleen Murphy asks:

          Did the gutsy co-stars of Hope Springs simply hijack this safe little comedy of marital errors?
  • Easy Money

    Kathleen Murphy writes:

    From the start, you can see why Martin Scorsese championed Easy Money (Snabba Cash, from the 2006 best-selling novel by Jens Lapidus). This Swedish gangster flick blasts out from under you like a high-octane muscle car, swerving through prison breakout to thug violence in a john to rich kids at play in an upscale club.......
  • Magic Mike

    Now let me get this straight. You say that Magic Mike is pretty good? And so is Channing Tatum?...
  • Safety Not Guaranteed
    Another waft of indie milkweed, Safety Not Guaranteed won't stay with you much longer than it takes to walk out of the theater. Only audiences hooked on quirky romantic comedy unruffled by grown-up passion or personality will sink happily into the warm bathwater that is Safety.  (At left: Aubrey Plaza)
  • Chernobyl Diaries
    We hadn't spent five minutes with three of the eminently forgettable 20somethings cast as obligatory mutant fodder in Chernobyl Diaries when my friend hissed, "I already want all these people to die." Unfortunately, we had an hour or so to wait before that wish was granted.
  • The Intouchables

    Kathleen Murphy writes:

    A feel-good flick that broke box-office records in France, The Intouchables boasts a natural-born movie star in Omar Sy, who's gifted with the kind of charisma and physical grace the camera loves and audiences are helplessly seduced by. That may account for his walking away with France's Best Actor César in a year when Jean Dujardin of The Artist won big everywhere else.
          Sy's ebullient warmth plays well with the more contained but no less charming François Cluzet, best known outside France for his own César-winning performance in 2006's twisted Hitchcockian thriller Tell No One. The two generate such fun and good will in this Gallic Driving Miss Daisy (or Trading Places, Scent of a Woman, ad nauseam) that you can almost forgive the film's breezy racial stereotyping, cheap comedy and phony-baloney attitudes toward art, culture, class, and quadriplegia. Almost.

    Stay in touch at http://movies.msn.com/movies/movie-critic-reviews/the-intouchables/#Review_0

  • The Eye of the Storm

    Bringing The Eye of the Storm to the screen involved the reunion of a filmmaking "family," a brilliant bevy of old Oz hands from that heady era of filmmaking hailed as the Australian New Wave.
  • I Wish
    Kathleen Murphy writes:

    Japanese Railways commissioned writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda to make I Wish as publicity for the Shinkansen bullet train. In response, the director of Still Walking, one of 2010's best, delivered a cinematic poem.
    Click below to...
  • The Raven

    Kathleen Murphy also got to review The Raven. Oh joy.

    Click to read the beginning.

  • The Moth Diaries

    Kathleen Murphy writes:

    The Moth Diaries closets a clutch of Lolitas in an all-girls' boarding school, the only male within hailing distance a lit prof (Scott Speedman) who gets off on teaching vampire fiction—"sex, blood and death"—to his itchy charges. Then a new student, affectless, pale as a ghost, strangely lacking any appetite for institutional food, arrives to pour fuel on this hotbed. Seems like Mary Harron, ballsy helmer of American Psycho and The Notorious Bettie Page, ought to be the perfect chef for what could be a tasty stew of female libido, liberally sauced with the supernatural.
          Sadly, Diaries never really steams up the screen with any psychosexual hijinks, and it falls way short of successfully mining vampirism as fertile metaphor for Sapphic love, Oedipal attachment, menses and wrist-slitting suicide! Surprisingly, Harron seems indifferent to any potential ambiguities in Rachel Klein's YA vampire/teen awakening tale: Are we following the diary of sad-sack adolescent, obsessed vampire-hunter—or is our narrator a nutcase projecting her dark side onto a handy doppelganger? Truth be told, it's hard to care one way or another. Drained dry of tension and energy, erotic or otherwise, The Moth Diaries fails to frighten, titillate, or otherwise engage the imagination.

    Stay engaged at http://movies.msn.com/movies/movie-critic-reviews/the-moth-diaries/#Review_0

  • The Lady

    Kathleen Murphy writes:

    The Lady, Luc Besson's handsome biopic about Aung San Suu Kiy (Michelle Yeoh), may be largely a dramatic dud, but there are a couple compelling reasons to watch it. The saga of Burma's Joan of Arc (recently triumphant) transcends pedestrian filmmaking, and one is grateful for Besson's honorable, if undistinguished, effort to commemorate this Nobel Peace Prize winner's decades-long stand against her homeland's brutal military regime. What impact The Lady has comes mostly from the Zen-like beauty and radiance of Yeoh, and the dotty authenticity of David Thewlis, playing Suu Kiy's steadfast British husband Michael Aris.
          The movie opens with Suu Kiy's dad, who has just helped free his country from British rule, regaling his 3-year-old daughter with magical stories about the golden land that once was Burma, resplendent with tigers, elephants and sunshine. Then Aung San drives off to hammer out plans for democratizing the newly independent nation. When pistol-brandishing soldiers crash the party, Aung San closes his eyes and leans into his death, armored in a martyr's calm. Many years later, in a very similar crisis, his daughter will reprise that expression of unyielding tranquility.

    Tranquility continues at http://movies.msn.com/movies/movie-critic-reviews/the-lady.1/

  • Goon

    Kathleen Murphy writes:

    Boy, was I not looking forward to Goon! The Great White North’s favorite gladiatorial sport, Jason-masked hosers wielding hockey sticks, slo-mo arcs of ketchup … not to mention Stifler (Seann William Scott) on steroids? But it turns out this little movie’s a charmer, perfectly calibrated as a sweet, slow-cooking sports comedy (and love story), chock-full of colorful characters who score, on and off the ice, by consistently breaking out of cookie-cutter caricature. (Exception that proves the rule: the fall-down-funny ditz who screeches a pregame “O Canada” so awful the rinkside commentator wonders if it might be “borderline treasonous.”)
    Goon is 100 percent Canuck, eh? That authenticity comes courtesy of FUBAR director Michael Dowse, hailing from Ontario, and Montreal-born Jay Baruchel (Knocked Up), who co-adapted (with Evan Superbad Goldberg) Doug Smith’s memoir about the ribald adventures of a minor-league hockey player. Baruchel also acts out as Ryan, the titular goon’s manic, pottymouthed best bud.

    Continue, at your peril, with http://movies.msn.com/movies/movie-critic-reviews/goon/


  • The Hunger Games

    Kathleen Murphy writes: 

    What if some redblooded filmmaker had brought real passion and style to the adaptation of Suzanne Collins' megahit The Hunger Games? Then this hero's journey—starring a distaff warrior, for a change!—might have taken fire and captured our imaginations, signifying something beyond an industry jackpot. What we've got instead is a glossy entertainment sufficiently bland and sanitized that it will offend no one. Director Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit) slavishly illustrates Collins' YA novel (she co-wrote the screenplay), turning the "pages" with such singleminded rapidity it's like cinematic speed-reading. ADD auds won't mind that there's no time to get to know anybody, or watch a relationship unfold, or ride the dramatic rise and swell of a compelling narrative.

    Let the games resume at http://movies.msn.com/movies/movie-critic-reviews/the-hunger-games/#Review_0

  • Jeff, Who Lives at Home

    The Duplass brothers (The Puffy Chair, Cyrus) are at it again, whipping up quirk and whimsy into a sweet, insubstantial meringue. There’s hardly a moment that Jeff, Who Lives at Homedoesn’t work hard to warm the cockles and charm us into rueful chuckles, yet a rising odor of twee contrivance taints the fun. Lonely, screwed-up souls flounder about in verging-on-sitcom silliness until magically rescued, redeemed, reunited. The kind of arch indie comedy that likes looking at itself, Jeff wears thin, all surface and not that much heart.

  • Silent House

    Kathleen Murphy writes:

    A remake of La casa muda, Uruguay's 2010 Oscar nominee for foreign language film, Silent House surpasses its source thanks to Elizabeth Olsen's powerful performance and Igor Martinovic's strikingly imaginative camerawork. Written and directed by husband-and-wife duo Chris Kentis and Laura Lau (Open Water), Silent House opens on a small figure hunched atop a lakeside rock. From a God's-eye POV the camera lowers to follow Sarah (Olsen) across a field to an old house, where her father drives up as though conjured by her very presence. Could be that our girl never leaves that rock, but stays still to loose the single, unbroken, real-time camera movement that comprises Silent House. That movement unreels a young woman's dream or fantasy, one long slip-slide from normalcy into nightmare and out again. (There are subliminal cuts somewhere in Silent House. Knock yourself out looking for them. The rest of us will go with the movie's very scary flow.)

    Continue that long take at  

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