CHICAGO – If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between a director and a producer, let “47 Ronin” explain how the hierarchy of creativity hinders the evolution of even the most straightforward-sounding pitches. “47 Ronin” is the type of samurai movie set in Japan that features native actors speaking only English, while Keanu Reeves stars as an outsider clearly plunked into the picture for stateside star power.
CHICAGO – Take this with a giant grain of salt but FX’s “American Horror Story: Coven” shows incredible promise in its premiere episode tonight, setting a number of creative plates spinning in directions that could be fascinating. Why the salt? Well, “American Horror Story: Asylum” started with similar promise and quickly became cluttered and unfocused.
CHICAGO – Antoine Fuqua’s “Olympus Has Fallen” (or “Die Hard in the White House”) is a stupid, exploitative movie that wants to be “Call of Duty: Black Ops” in film form but ends up more like one of its countless, ineffective rip-offs. There are moments of goofy, B-movie fun (certainly more of them than in the much-worse “A Good Day to Die Hard”) but not enough to get over the brutal nonsense that makes up most of this action flick.
CHICAGO – The upcoming political action thriller “Olympus Has Fallen” has a familiar director behind it, the inventive Antoine Fuqua. Known best for “Training Day,” which won the Best Actor Oscar for Denzel Washington, he also directed ‘The Replacement Killers” (1998), “Shooter” (2007) and “Brooklyn’s Finest” (2009).
CHICAGO – McG’s “This Means War” with Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, and Reese Witherspoon is an aggressively annoying movie. It isn’t just bad. It grates. It frustrates. It baffles with its incompetence.
CHICAGO – Spike Lee has been getting national buzz again after the Sundance premiere of his controversial “Red Hook Summer” and the ageless Denzel Washington is back in the spotlight as his latest action vehicle, “Safe House,” premieres in theaters on Friday. It seems a perfect time for a Blu-ray release to bring audiences back to one of their career highlights. Over twenty years ago, the two collaborated on their most artistically rewarding venture, the epic “Malcolm X,” a fantastic film that has held up remarkably well, in no small part due to the excellent HD transfer from Warner Bros.
CHICAGO – After the abysmal theatrical reviews, I thought it would be easier to completely dismiss “Green Lantern,” the least-acclaimed and least-profitable of the Summer 2011 Superhero Quartet (which also included “X-Men: First Class,” “Thor,” and “Captain America: The First Avenger” — and I would rank them in that order in terms of quality with “GL” bringing up the rear). The fact is that this is not an “Elektra” or “Ghost Rider”-level mess. There are things about Martin Campbell’s film that work, especially in the first half, but a goofy story and aesthetic ultimately sink the film to cartoonish levels.
CHICAGO – Salim Akil’s “Jumping the Broom” is the sort of sociological comedy so hell-bent on smothering the audience in a sentimental love-fest that it quickly softens its potentially biting premise. Akil’s background in television (“The Game,” “Girlfriends”) may explain why the film feels like an uneasy melding of sitcom and soap opera clichés. Any time the film threatens to become interesting, it instantly goes into autopilot.
CHICAGO – The tipping point is close approaching in the super hero movie aura, especially as the B-list get their moment in the projection machine. “Green Lantern,” featuring Ryan Reynolds, stays true to its comic book roots, but lacks any cohesive passion within the main story.
CHICAGO – There is a tradition within the African American community during weddings. It stems from the past, when marriage was deemed illegal for the race, and provides the title for a new film, “Jumping the Broom.” The now symbolic gesture is the basis for a clash between families and social classses in one seriocomic marriage weekend.
CHICAGO – Angela Bassett has a quiet sophistication, when combined with her movie star presence only enhances her unique beauty. She is also a superior actor, taking on an intriguing role as a matriarch in the upcoming film “Jumping the Broom.”