.....
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MATT AT
THE
MOVIES
Matt's Ultra-Complicated Rating System:

GO! I can recommend this movie without reservation
CAUTION I liked this movie a lot, but you should check it out before deciding.
STOP! This movie is unworthy of your attention.
YIELD There is merit here;  I just wasn't a big fan--and I'll tell you why.
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Les Miserables I loved it.   I knew I would, and I did.  Les Miserables was not only the first show I ever saw on
Broadway, I still think it's the best.   I was kind of fascinated by the process used to put this show on a screen.  First, the
brains of the outfit made a very good decision not to try just to film the stage show.    A movie of singers singing for
two-and-a-half hours would have been deadly.  Instead, the rounded up a gaggle of movie stars and asked them to "act"
the lyrics.  The result is a soundtrack that serves the movie very well, although it won't be something you'll want to put on
the CD player in the car on a long trip.  Also, the makers of the movie knew what they had, so they were wise to focus
on the stars.   If the movie is two-and-a-half hours, a full two hours of it is spent in very tight head shots of whoever is
singing at the time.  So in addition to discovering that the kid who plays Marius has a lot of freckles, Russell Crowe has
more than a few warts, and Anne Hathaway is indeed a flawless beauty (even with her hair cut off and some of her teeth
yanked out); but you get to see move stars doing what they do best--playing to the camera.  I was not blind to the faults
of the movie--I know that Russell Crowe is not someone whose future in musical theater is assured--you'd think that a
guy who played Gladiator would be able to project more gravitas in the role, but you'd be wrong--and I know that the
computer generated 19th century Paris was
almost as bad as the one generated for The Phantom of the Opera.  Les
Miserables
isn't for everyone--but I thought it was the best movie of the year.  (12/28/2012)

Parental Guidance  This is simple:  If watching Billy Crystal in a movie doesn't make your flesh creep, go see Parental
Guidance
.  It's actually one of his better efforts--and frankly the first time since City Slickers since I liked him in
something.  Bette Midler and Marisa Tomei are largely wasted as his wife and daughter--but they do manage to keep their
dignity.   The plot is as contrived as all get-out, but surely no one is going to
Parental Guidance for the plot. (12/27/2012)

Quartet I find myself having trouble separating a movie from the experience of watching it.  Quartet is an adaptation of a
play about four retired opera singers who have brought lifetimes of personal and professional joys and sorrows into their
retirement.  They are asked to recreate a memorable quartet performance from Rigoletto for a gala fundraiser for the
retirement community.   During the course of convincing the four to do the performance and rehearsing it, all of the old
petty angers and jealousies are brought to the surface.  This movie misses a lot of bets.  It feels as if first-time director
Dustin Hoffman is so determined to be faithful to the play that he forget he's making a movie.   On the other hand, he
knows that his strong suit is that he has at his disposal a couple of dozen brilliant performers who have been plying their
craft since the 1950's.  The chief pleasures of the movie are the moments when the camera eavesdrops on these
wonderful performers as they rehearse for the gala or just sing or play for their own enjoyment.  (12/10/2012)

Hyde Park on Hudson This movie is getting trashed in some places for depictions of sexual encounters--real and
implied--that do not appear in the source material but do turn up in the movie.  Be that as it may, I liked this movie a lot.  
Laura Linney is wonderful as always, and Bill Murray continues amaze.  When he's not given much to do, as in
Moonrise
Kingdo
m, he can blend in to the background.  But when the spotlight turns in his direction, he can shine in movies as
diverse as
The Razor's Edge, Lost in Translation and this one.  It's easy to forget that he once gave noogies to Lisa
Loopner.
Hyde Park on Hudson is a slight but sweet movie.  See it on a rainy day.  (12/9/2012)

Hitchcock   is a hoot.  It's not the story of the great Alfred Hitchcock--it's a story.  Mostly, it's about the making of
Psych
o.  Hitch's eccentric personality is fully formed at the beginning of the movie.  And while Anthony Hopkins is swell
as Hitch, most of the joys of watching the movie come from watching the stellar supporting cast that includes  Helen
Mirren as his long suffering wife, Scarlett Johanssen as Janet Leigh and Jessica Biel as Vera Miles--against whom
Hitchcock holds a grudge because he thought he was making her a star when he offered to cast her in the lead role in

Vertig
o.  Instead, she chooses to start a family.  She's still under contract to him for Psycho, so he puts her in a small role
and gives her an itchy costume to wear.  As might expect, Helen Mirren commands every scene she's in.  This is a good
thing--not only because it's always a pleasure to watch her, a little of Alfred Hitchcock goes a long, long way.  He's fun to
watch in short bursts, but when he's on screen for a longer time, you start to notice things like make-up.   Much less fun
to watch is the character Ed Gein, the actual serial killer on whom the character of Norman Bates is based.  He pops up
from time to time in Hitch's dreams. It's confusing the first few times it happens; then it gets to be irritating.  Otherwise,

Hitchcoc
k is a lot of fun.  Thank you.  Good evening.  (12/8/2012)

Lincoln The character in this movie with whom I identify is Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.  The man is killing himself
trying to prosecute a rather large war.  But in every meeting, his boss, the President interrupts him to tell a seemingly
pointless story that has nothing to do with the war at hand.  Had I been Mr. Stanton, I might have shot  Lincoln myself
and relieved John Wilkes Booth of the job.
Lincoln is full of such moments, and while they might help to reveal the
character of our 16th president, they don't necessarily increase our respect for him.  Daniel Day-Lewis is as good as
advertised; and I think that Sally Field is equally fine as Mary Todd Lincoln--a more difficult role because her character
has been depicted as crazy and/or depressed over the decades.  As the movie unwound, I began to get rankled by some of
the political correctness that was running rampant, but it  was a minor rankling.
Lincoln may or not be great movie (and
personally, I think it's good not great), but it is a great accomplishment. (12/7/2012)

Silver Linings Playbook   Bradley Cooper has been getting a lot of praise for his performance as a bipolar ex-teacher and
ex-husband who has been released into the custody of his parents as he undertakes the impossible task of reclaiming his
former life.   Both his former employer and ex-wife have restraining orders against him.  His family and friends aren't
particularly helpful, but along the way, he finds Jennifer Lawrence.  Lucky him.   Ms. Lawrence is a revelation, and she
takes over the movie as soon as she shows up.  She's amazing.  As a young widow with personality issues and disorders
of her own, she forces Cooper's character out of his one-track mindset and into a life he could scarcely imagine before he
met her.  This is a terrific movie.  (12/6/2012)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower   is a movie John Hughes might have made, if he were still with us.  A fine young
cast, headed by Logan Lerman and Emma Watson tell the story of a teenager "with no friends" who re-enters high school
life after sitting out for a year following a family tragedy.   If you didn't know better, you'd swear you were watching a
hybrid of
Less Than Zero and The Breakfast Club.  I loved The Breakfast Club, so I liked this one--a lot.  (12/5/2012)

Life of Pi Lots of people are wondering how a movie this wonderful ever got made.  I have a theory about that, and I'll
tell you in a minute.  First, I want to make the point that this might be my favorite movie of the year.   Based on the
best-selling novel about an Indian teenager and an adult Bengal tiger who find themselves stranded together in a raft for a
hundred days or so, the movie is an idyll that will stick with you long after you leave the theatre.  At the beginning of the
movie, an adult Pi claims that his story will make you believe in God.  It's an interesting claim, but it's not backed up by
anything that  happens in the ensuing two hours.  You do find yourself contemplating the relationship between man and
nature--and that's a pretty good thing.  But beyond the notion that God's world is a strange and wonderful place, there's
nothing to make you contemplate how it got there.  It's a great movie.  Go see it.  Now, what's my theory about how so
much money got invested in a movie that says it wants to make y in front mot contemplate theology and the Nature of
God?  I think the answer lies partially in the five rows of children under ten who were sitting in front of me in the
theatre.   Someone apparently told them that the movie featured a teenager and lots of animated CGI animals.  Pity that
they weren't informed that most of them get killed an eaten--on screen and horribly.  (11/23/2012)

Rise of the Guardians  Laying aside the way this movie lays waste to several world religions by giving "meaning" to
holidays like Christmas and Easter that would make an evangelical Christian scream like a little girl, this movie is still a
train wreck.  I know that kids are  infinitely more worldly today than I ever was.   I get that.  But there's stuff in this
movie that will give kids nightmares.  ("Just like
Bambi," I hear you say.  OK, OK.)  So maybe it's not that bad.  Like any
train wreck, you can't take your eyes off of it.   It's gorgeous, and the vocal talents of folks like Alec Baldwyn as Santa,
Hugh Jackman as the Easter Bunny (the character's official name is E. Aster Bunny.  I have no idea what that's all about
and don't much care) and Chris Pine as Jack Frost dress it up considerably.  The best effect in the movie are Santa's
elves.   They're abused, disgruntled, and give every appearance of being a class action lawsuit about to happen.  In short,
they're hilarious.  In fact, I would say that overall, this movie needed more elves.  (11/24/2012)

Skyfall  Adele (or is it ADELE), I love you but your song is depressing.  Asa matter of fact, there's a lot in this movie
that's depressing.  And I think the most depressing thing of all is that
Skyfall makes me remember how old I am.  The
Bond movies are much better than they used to be, but they're not nearly as much fun.   Case in point: In Goldfinger,
Bond's Aston-Martin might have been the coolest car of all time.  It looked like something out o
f Mad Magazine's Spy Vs.
Spy.  Sean Connery had a ball driving through the Alps in it, offing bad guys in interesting ways.  It's not giving away too
much to say that the car is back in Skyfall, but this time it's just there to kill people.   Everyone in the movie--except the
villain--is just so damne
d earnest.   And at almost three hours, that's a whole lot of earnestness to have to endure.  I hope
that for the next movie--and there will be another one--I hope they go out and get the James Bond who picked up the
Queen at the palace and took her to the Olympics.  The guy they have now is bringing me down.  (11/13/2012)

The Details In the first minute of the movie, Tobey McGuire (playing a Seattle gynecologist) leaves his pleasant suburban
home, gets in his Prius with the Obama sticker on the back, and heads to work.   Clearly more bad decisions are bound to
follow.  The credits are barely over, and you're already wondering what that body count for the movie is going to be.   
Since you've never heard of this movie, I'm going to assume that you're not going to see it and tell you more about it than
ordinarily I might.  People (and other animals) do die.  Lots of lives get screwed up by Tobey's decision-making process.   
(Along the way, we also find out that he cheated his way through medical school, so who knows what other bad calls are
down the line.)  The gynecologist is responsible for the death of a pregnant woman and her baby, but all he feels about it
afterward is relief.   He's the kind of person who deserves to have a piano dropped on his head for being such a
screw-up.  But along the way, he does a couple of things that are far above and beyond the call of human kindness.   He
helps a friend find a job "that makes his children proud of him;"  he donates a kidney; he steals Ambien from the hospital
to give to a neighbor who has trouble sleeping.  (OK, so maybe that last one is a "moral neutral.")  What the film makers
are trying to say is that we all make good and bad decisions in the course of our lives.   Sometimes those decisions have
consequences; sometimes you skate by.  I don't particularly care for this message, but it wasn't my movie.  If it had been
left up to me, I would have dropped the piano on him. (11/11/2012)

Argo is something special.   (After spending so much time holding Ben Affleck in contempt, it almost hurts to say that.)  
But he has made a movie that will stick with you (and maybe all of us) for a long, long time.   I'll take a leap of faith and
suggest that it's all true.   Six American embassy workers escape the mobs in Tehran in late 1978 and find refuge in the
home of the Canadian ambassador while the other hostages are being held.  Affleck, a CIA operative, hatches a plan to get
them out of the country, posing them as a Canadian film crew.   The plot has as much to do with
Wag the Dog as
anything else, but it's deadly earnest.  It's a great movie, and I'm sure we'll be seeing Mr. Affleck a lot during awards
season.  I just hope he brings Jennifer Garner to the parties.  (10/22/2012)

Atlas Shrugged, Part II   There are two points that have to be made about this movie before it can be discussed
rationally.  One is that it's the second part of a three-part saga.   Has this ever been a good thing?  For every
The Empire
Strikes Bac
k, there have been a dozen Lord of the Rings: Return of the Kings and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood
Prince
s.  These movies start in the middle of a story and take you a little ways along toward but far from a satisfying
conclusion.  So it is here.   And of all the books to make a movie from, Ayn Rand's
Atlas Shrugged--maybe more so even
than Gone With the Wind in the 1930's--is a book that will get your house burned down if you change one little thing
about it to make it  a more compelling movie.  Its fans are rabid, and they
will hurt you if you stray from the author's vibe
in any way.  Having said that, I think the moviemaker's homes are safe, as the movie is slavish in its devotion  to Ms.
Rand's work.   (Come to think of it, I suppose that changing the movie to make it more palatable to a larger audience
proves Ms. Rand's theory of objectivism, or whatever we're calling it this week.)   Anyway, having said all that, I enjoyed
the movie.  The cast members are all people you've seen before, but you can't remember where.  And maybe that's a good
thing.   I'm sure Naomi Watts would have made a great Dagny Taggert, but you'd never get past the fact that she's Naomi
Watts.  A couple of years ago, I was very impressed with a movie called The Last Exorcism, so I was especially pleased
Patrick Fabian from that movie turn up here as Dagny's weak brother.   There is not one single surprise in this entire
movie.  At some level, maybe that's why I liked it as much as I did.  (10/15/2012)

Frankenweenie Tim Burton has done a great job of giving the littlest kids and the most nostalgic adults something to
enjoy for the Halloween season.  Frankenweenie  is a mash-up of every comedy/horror movie ever made, from
Bride of
Frankenstein
and Gremlins to his own Nightmare Before Christmas and Beetlejuice.   It gets really silly really fast, but it's
also fresh, funny and sweet.   If you like your Halloween movies edgy and scary, this isn't it.  Otherwise, you might just
love it.  (10/14/2012)

The Campaign    In the interest of objectivity, I confess I didn't have particularly high expectations for this movie.   A
Hollywood about a Congressional campaign in the South sounds like poison.  Will Ferrell is no big favorite of mine, and a
little Zack Galafinakias goes a long, long way.   Having said all that, I laughed my butt off.   Yes, there was no connection
to reality within a mile of this movie.   In a memorable scene, Will Ferrell punches "America's favorite dog"--Uggi from

The Artist
.  So how did Uggi happen to be sitting in a front row chair at a debate for Congressional candidates in an
obscure part of North Carolina?  If you need to know the answer to this question, this is not a movie for you.   (9/3/2012)

Sparkle

                                                  "Is my life not enough of a cautionary tale for you?"
                                                                                                 -- Whitney Houston,
Sparkle

It's hard to take the rest of the movie too seriously with this big matzo ball hanging over it.   It's a chilling line of dialogue
that Ms. Houston as a mother gives to three talented daughters with show business aspirations.  I had thought about gong
to see the original
Sparkle back in the middle of the last century.   I'd heard that Irene Cara and Otis Day ("Wait'll Otis
sees us!   He
loves us!"  Sorry.) were in it but I never got around to it.   It would be interesting to know if the story was
told in the present tense--or was it set in 1968, as this one is.   While Jordin Sparks is fine in the title role and is
surrounded by a competent cast, it's really Whitney's movie (literally--she's executive producer), and you can't take your
eyes off her.   In her performance in
Sparkle, you feel everything you ever thought of her as a performer--wonder at her
amazing voice,  the warmth of her personality--and sadness that it was all wasted.  (8/23/2012)

Hope Springs   So my fantasy is that someone who is looking for a movie critic for their magazine, website, blog or
whatever will take notice of my little establishment here and want to pay me for what I've been doing on this page for free
for about the past ten years.  As part of the interview process, I imagine that someone will ask, "So Matt, who are the
actor and actress that you would pay to see in
anything?"  Since we're talking about Hope Springs here, clearly Meryl is
the obvious answer to one of those questions.  Even if you were one of the millions who agreed with her when she was
making her acceptance speech at the Academy Awards last winter when she said, "Half the people in America are saying,
''Oh no, not
her again,''" you have to admit that she takes on touch roles and makes them her own.  But what about the
other gender?   While I was watching The Bourne Legacy (below), I was thinking that Matt Damon might be the answer.  
He's been amazing in almost everything, but some of his choices
(The Insider and to a lesser extent the Oceans movies
come to mind) have been projects that may have seemed like fun for him, but not so much for the rest of us.  But in
watching
Hope Springs, I think that Steve Carell might be the choice.  In my recollection, he hasn't made a movie that
wasn't something interesting and something that he made better.  (He brought nothing to
The Anchorman, and Bruce
Almighty
was a mess, but he even made that better.)  In Hope Springs, he is a perfect straight man for Meryl Streep and
Tommy Lee Jones, who get all the good lines.   He takes a thankless part and makes it something pretty swell.  But like I
said, it's Meryl's and Tommy Lee's show.   So dead-on are they that the funniest line in the movie is Meryl's response to a
question about her sex life.  
"Huh?"  Plot-wise, the movie is nothing special (or unexpected), but watching the interplay
among the three leads makes for an enjoyable couple of hours at the movies.  (8/20/2012)

The Bourne Legacy   It was bad enough when somebody else started writing the Bourne series of books.  Now, Jeremy
Runner-a fine actor, by the way-wants us to believe that he's the new face of the
Bourne movies.    Bleach.   The Bourne
Legacy is a perfectly serviceable action thriller and a great summer movie.   But it didn't need the b-word attached to the
title to make it so.  Renner is no Matt Damon, and it's too bad that he was set up to try.   He's fine as a boo-genetically
engineered warrior loose in the world.  And  casting Rachel Weitz as the damsel-in-distress/sidekick was brilliant.   The
movie is fine, but not memorable.  The biggest mystery is whether it will make enough money to justify a sequel.  
(8/16/2012)

The Watch So this nest of space aliens takes over a Cost co in Ohio, and it's up to Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah
Hill to....well, there's just no way to finish this sentence with any dignity.  If any of the preceding hash sounds like
entertainment, go for it.   (8/3/2012)

The Dark Knight Rises "I became what I beheld."  I don't know if I would say it's one of the most memorable movie
lines of all time or not, but I've remembered it from
The Untouchables for the past twenty-five years, so I'd have to say
that it's got some staying power.  Anyway, it's a line that kept coming back to me as I watched the mayhem unfold in
The
Dark Knight Rises.
Watching thugs in commando gear shoot up the Gotham Stock Exchange and other parts of the city
kept bringing my mind back to the horrific events on this movie's  opening night in Colorado.  Will this movie--and  this
movie ever be thought of as just "filmed entertainment?"  Somehow, I don't think so.  Even without its most recent
associations, watching
TAKE is like reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.  It's first two hours are relentlessly depressing
and dark as Gotham slides into chaos.  Is it a metaphor for America in the Obama Administration?  It's hard not to draw
the comparison.  Even with all the light being projected at the screen in the IMAX theater where I saw the movie, it was
still bat cave-dark, literally as well as figuratively.  The bad news about the movie is that Batman/Bruce Wayne/Christian
Bale is curiously AWOL for most of the movie, imprisoned at the bottom of a predictably dark hole.  The good news is
that in his absence, the rest of the cast-cast-notably Joseph Gordon-Hewitt as a young policeman with an interesting
secret, and Anne Hathaway who's just as adorable as Julie Newman and Halle Berry, but a lot more accessible-get a
chance to shine.  I'm not going to miss the Christopher Nolan-era of Batman.  While I appreciate his respect for our
intelligence and restraint from using captions like "Pow!" and "Of!" or bedazzling the Bat suit with nipples, I'm ready to
crawl out of the hole.  (7/26/2012)

The Amazing Spider-Man As I was filing out of the theater, I heard a trio of adolescent boys tell their mom, who had
brought to them to the theater, that they liked the movie, but there was too much romance.  Well, that's probably as good
a place to start as anywhere else.  There IS a lot of romance in
The Amazing Spider-Man, but if you were making the
movie and had Emma Stone available to you, you'd try to think of as many ways to work her into the movie as you could,
too.  She-like Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man--is too damn old to be playing a high school student, but I think we all
moved past that conceit at least as far back as John Revolts and Olivia Newton-John were attending Sydel High.  Stone is
wonderful; Garfield is no Toby McGuire, but he's okay; and it was actually nice to see Sally Field, Martin Sheen and
Denis Leery in a movie where you didn't want to murder them. Rhys Fans is almost interesting as a nice doctor who
wants to turn us all into lizards.  The effects-especially in 3D--are-well, amazing, and there are enough pop cultural
references to keep adults awake.  (My favorite was Police Chief Lear's response to Spider Man's warning that a giant
lizard is attacking the city.  "Do
I look like the mayor of Tokyo?").  The overall effect is an agreeable two-and-a-half
hours at the movies.  Better than the first?  Not better.  Just different.   (7/9/2012)

Beasts of the Southern Wild So when this movie won the Audience Favorite award at the Sun dance Film Festival,
folks in Louisiana were thumping their chests over the fact that the film had been made here in the state on a budget of
something like $12.72.   But now that we're finally getting a chance to see the thing, it's kind of a big
Ruhr Rog moment.  
Call it
Swamp People Meets Mad Max: Thunder dome or Sounder Goes to water world, it's clearly like nothing you've seen
before.  More than anything,
Beasts of the Southern Wild will be remembered as the movie in which Quvenzhane Wallis, a
stunning six-year-old actress in the lead role of Hush puppy and first-time director Bench Caitlin burst upon the
movie-making world.  When they start giving out acting awards early next year, it will be interesting to see where Ms.
Wallis fits into the calculations.  As Hushpuppy--the heart and soul of this movie-movie-she is miraculous.   Mr. Caitlin
will almost certainly be a creative force for a long time as well.   If the movie has a flaw (and it's certainly a minor one),
Mr. Caitlin seems is much too heavy-handed with the allegory.  Yes, we get that Hushpuppy, her father Wink and the
people of "the Bathtub" are the real beasts of the southern wild--not the big tusked pig-like things that we're led to believe
represent Hushpuppy's adolescent fears.    But it is a minor complaint indeed.  This is a terrific movie.  (7/8/2012)

Moonrise Kingdom   If you want to go back and check the record, you'll see that I was not a big fan of Wes Anderson's
earlier movies like
Rushmore and The Royal Tennenbaums.   Generally speaking, I thought they were absurd without
being absurdist, and eccentric for the sake of being eccentric.  Truth be told, I think my greatest grudge against those two
movies is that in them, Mr. Anderson pulled off the seemingly impossible feat of making Bill Murray
not funny. Not so
wit
h Moonrise Kingdom. This is a delightful movie about young love (or something like it), old love and being eccentric
for the sake of
being funny.   I loved it.  A couple of young actors making their first movie are wonderful as the
12-year-old lovers who set out to put some space between themselves and their oppressors.   In typical 12-year-old
fashion, they really haven't thought through their escape plan.  They're on a relatively small island with nothing but a toy
canoe and their own feet for transportation.   Discover was always inevitable.  Happily, the adults are equally fine.   I was
especially impressed with Bruce Willis (as the island police chief) and Edward Norton as Scout Master Randy, who dial
back their typical performances and discover that less is definitely more.   Murray, Frances Dormand and Tilda Swinton
aren't called on to do much, but when they shine when they get the chance.   
Moonrise Kingdom--like Beasts of the
Southern Wil
d--creates an island world unto itself that you would never want to visit yourself--but you're happy that
someone went and brought back video.  (7/7/2012)

Ted is neither is hilarious or as gross as you've probably been led to believe.   The best comment I've heard about it is that
"if you like
The Family Guy, you'll like Ted.  If you don't, you won't."  That sounds right, especially since Seth
MacFarland, creator The Family Guy directs the movie and performs the voice of Ted, the child's teddy bear who
magically comes to life one Christmas morning.  The downside of the premise is that John, the bears owner, has grown
older in the 30 or so intervening years, but not necessarily "up."    Ted has aged badly as well.  Now he's a foul-mouthed,
boozer and user who's standing between his lifelong friend and his becoming an adult.  The nice surprise about
Ted is that
Ted the bear is aware that he's holding John back and seems to want to do what he can to help John keep the love his life
(Mila Kunis).  There's a lot that's hilarious about
Ted.  Just leave the kids at home.  (7/4/2012)

Madea's Witness Protection Program   I didn't ever know this movie was coming out until the day I went to see it at
the theatre.  (I try to keep up, but some things just get past me.)  I was pretty sure Tyler Perry was in it, but I had no idea
who else might be there.  I was a few minutes late getting tot he multi-plex, and when I walked into the movie, i saw
Eugene Levy and Denise Richards on the screen.  I was sure I was in the wrong auditorium, but I was so intrigued by the
bizarre pairing on the screen that I stuck around for a couple of minutes to see what it was.  As it turned out, it was
indeed the latest installment of Tyler Perry's immensely profitable Madea franchise.   In this instance, Eugene Levy is a
particularly clueless member of th 1 percent who doesn't realize that the sham company that he's the CFO of is a gigantic
ponzi scheme  run by Tom Arnold (yes, you read that right).  Richards is his trophy wife (I'm shocked!) who goes with
him and his two kids into the Witness Protection Program in exchange for his cooperation in the prosecution of Mr.
Roseanne Barr.  The safe house to which they are assigned is of course that owned by Madea, who wastes no time in
practices her own version of  tough love in the service of getting Levy and Richards to stand up for what they want, and
getting their bratty kids in line.   There's a couple of subplots that don't go much of anywhere, but it really doesn't
matter.   You're in the theatre to see Perry as Madea and listen to whatever toads might be issuing from her lips.   There's
really nothing to lure you to the multi-plex if you're not already a fan.  But if you are, you won't be disappointed.  
(7/3/2012)

The Angels' Share This movie won the grand jury prize at Cannes a couple of weeks ago, and when I was in Scotland,
everybody said it was a delightful "caper" movie and that I "had" to see it.    Well, almost everybody.  18-year-old
Cameron Hardie knew a lot more than a lot of the rest of us did when he said there was no way he wanted to see this
movie with his parents.  We should have listened.  We loaded up the car with his parents, younger brother, Janice and me
and headed off to the cineplex.   Twenty minutes into the movie, I was thinking that I should check out what was
showing there because this movie is entirely unsuitable for young and/or impressionable people.  Cameron was right.  But
we stayed, and after another half hour or so, the movie did move past the statement that director Ken Loach wanted to
make about the grittiness and violence of the mean streets of Glasgow and did move on to the previously promised
lighthearted caper that had been promised.   I don't know what the folks said the duality of the movie, but back in
Edinburgh, I was tossing around thoughts like"confusing", "bipolar" and "antithetical."  The caper part of the story is
good--you just have to sit through a whole other movie to get there.  Check it out--but leave the kids at home.  (6/27/2012)

Farewell, My Queen  (Les Adieux, a la Reine) I should probably admit in advance that a story set in the early days of
the French Revolution starring Diane Kruger, one of my favorite actresses, as Marie Antoinette was going to be catnip to
me.   Andi it was.  As Tom Hanks said in
Sleepless in Seattle when told of the plot of An Affair to Remember, "that's a
chick's movie!"  And that goes for Farewell, My Queen.   it's plot is something of a Girl Power version o
f A Tale of Two
Citie
s, when a lovely young woman risks her life to protect that of one of the Queen's favorites.   The acting is
fine--although I really would have liked to see more of Ms. Kruger.  The externals are sumptuous, but oddly, the
photography is so hazy and grainy that you wonder if there's something the director is trying to hide--other than the
thinness of his plot.   I'm pretty sure that if you see it in this country, you'll be looking at subtitles, so beware.  Otherwise,
it's fine.  (6/28/2012)

Battleship was sunk at the box office the weekend that The Avengers came out.  (I'll pause for a second while you make
the "sppplllushh"  sound.  Go ahead.  I'll wait.)  It was always going to be a problematic proposition because: a) it's based  
on a board game that is past its prime; and 2) battleships themselves are past their prime.  In fact, to make the premise for
this movie possible, the filmmakers had to throw an impenetrable dome over the Hawaiian islands where the only weapon
at hand for fending off pesky aliens is the USS Missouri, a 70-year-old ship that now serves as a tourist attraction at Pearl
Harbor.  Such warships are labor-itensive at best, so we were lucky that there were plenty of octogenarians who know
how to stoke the boilers and fire the guns.  It's not pretty.  In fact, it kind of reminded me of the crew of zombie
buccaneers fro
m Pirates of the Caribbean.  But beyond that, it's a surprisingly good movie.   Lots of stars of tomorrow  
like Alexander Skaarsgard, Taylor Kitsch, Rihanna and Brooklyn Decker turn up and acquit themselves well.   For an alien
invasion movie, it's not too outlandishly contrived, and the effects are great.   Check it out before Spiderman shows up
again.  (6/20/201
2)

Prometheus   I'm sure it's just me, but I was pretty certain I wasn't going to like this movie when I went to theater.  
Horror really isn't my thing; I wasn't crazy abou
t Alien, which was the progenitor of this film, and I'm sure that Ridley
Scott wasn't going to fool around with his hugely successful formula to cater to my squeamish tastes.  Things began
promisingly on the Isle of Skye, of all  places, and then went downhill quickly.  Apparently, a lottery was held, and the
seventeen stupidest Earthlings were sent into space to investigate what appeared to be an invitation to early civilizations to
come and see them sometime.  About ten minutes after they land on a strange  planet, they're stripping off their helmets
and breathing air than seems to be just fine; they're sticking their unprotected  fingers in primordial goo that mysteriously
materializes as they're looking at it; and interacting with life forms that are clearly intelligent, even if they do look like
earthworms crossed with cobras.   You'll be shocked to learn that many of the crew members die horrible deaths fairly
quickly.   The movie is a technical marvel.   The effects are good, and the creatures are as icky as one could hope for.  
Noomi Rapace is fine as someone who isn't Lisbeth Salander, and Charlize Theron is equally good in a smaller role.  It
goes on to try to make some big statements about life, death and other things like religion and faith.   I've heard some
people say that this movie will make you question your religious beliefs.   My response to that ridiculous assertion is tha
t
Promethe
us will make you question your beliefs only if you don't have any.  Otherwise, for a horror movie, it's not
terrible.  (6/14/2012)

Bernie As a general rule, being told that Jack Black and Matthew McConaughey have made a movie together is enough to
make me start looking to see what else is showing at the multiplex.  However, throwing Shirley MacLaine and the director
o
f Dazed and Confused  into the mix changes the equation.   I was curious, so I checked it out.   You should check it out
as well.  In this summer of superheroes, it's refreshing to see an original, funny and human picture about a funeral
director in Panola County, Texas.   Trust me.  Director Linklater has convinced Black and McConaughey that they're
playing real people--not versions of themselves,and the results are refreshing.  There is a plot--funeral director Black falls
in like with one of his clients--but it's really more a of
a mise en scene than a plot.  This movie reminded me a lot of True
Stori
es from thirty years ago--except that the characters really are based on real people who are still kicking around.   Try
it.  You'll like it.  (6/10/2012)

Men In Black 3   I can't remember the last time I went to a movie with lower expectations.   I thought the first MIB was
mildly amusing, and I seriously could not remember the first thing about the second one.  I don't dislike Will Smith,
Tommy Lee Jones or Josh Brolin, but they're from the top of my list of favorite actors.  And seriously, after 15 years or
so, what is there really left to say about this premise?   As it turned out, more than I imagined.   Where the first two
movies were a series of sight gags about who might or might not be aliens in our midst, MIB 3 turns out to be more
interested in people.   A welcome change indeed.  As it turns out, our two main characters have rather interesting back
stories.   They're also joined by Emma Thompson and Michael Stuhlbarg who bring an added dash of humanity to the
series.   This time,  Boris the Animal (or as he says, "It'
s just Boris!")  breaks out of prison on the moon and leads an alien
attack on Earth.  But first, he wants to go back to 1969 to kill Agent K who had cut off his arm during capture.  Much of
the humor revolves around who might or might not have been an alien (or a Man in Black) in 1969.   It's a great story, and
I enjoyed it a lot.  (5/28/2012)

The Avengers   $200 million in its first weekend says that this movie will be around for a long, long time.  (Although, it's
interesting tha
t Avatar--which was the previous biggest thing ever seems to have vanished from the culture.  But I
digress.)  As the sequel to not one but four huge movies
(Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk and Thor, if you're
interested), you'd think that it would be awfully difficult to find anything in this movie that is fresh or compelling.  But
you'd be wrong.   Chief among the pleasures are Scarlett Johanssen and Jeremy Renner as superhero-types we've seen
only in glimpses previously.  (No doubt, they'll be getting their own movies soon, but there I go again.)   Loki, the
demi-god who was also the baddie in last year'
s Thor is back with a legion of flying monkeys hell-bent on taking over
Earth.  (In one of the movie's better lines, Captain America responds to Thor's assertion that Loki is a god with, "There's
only one God, and He doesn't dress like that!")  It's not clear how "taking over" our planet is best accomplished by
trashing Midtown Manhattan, but that's one of those points that is perhaps not examined too closely.  Except for Iron
Man, all of the Avengers were a little stiff (some a little more stiff than others) in their earlier films, but here, they're all
loose, funny and ready to kick some butt.  Johnanssen, Renner and Samuel L.  Jackson as thei
r eminence grise (look it
up) add to the fun.   Grab some popcorn and check it out.  (5/10/2012)

Jeff, Who Lives at Home At the beginning of this movie, Jeff, a thirty-ish Baton Rouge slacker who does indeed live in
his parents' basement, wonders if all the randomness isn't somehow connected.   The rest of the movie works awfully
hard to convince you that it is--with mixed results.   This movie, which was actually filmed in and around New Orleans
where NOBODY lives in a basement,.  The movie has a great cast.  Jason Segal, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon and others
bust a gut to try to make it work.   But even they can't make this mess work very well.   One morning, Jeff receives a
wrong number call asking for Kevin.   But in Jeff's world, there are no coincidences or "wrong" numbers, so Jeff goes
out into the world (ostensibly to Home Depot to purchase wood glue) looking for Kevin.   And he finds Kevin.  Over and
over and over again.  Meanwhile, his brother (Ed Helms fro
m The Hangover) is having a bad day.  He's just purchased a
Porsche he can't afford, and his wife is so unimpressed that she seeks the company of a friend--at the local Hampton
Inn.  Meanwhile, their mother, Susan Sarandon, is having a perplexing day at work.   The movie comes together in the
most convoluted way you can imagine.   Most people won't be interested, but if you're interested in spending a couple of
offbeat characters, and you don't really care what they do, you might want to check it out. (4/10/2012)

Mirror, Mirror   Yesterday, I couldn't remember the last time I walked out of a movie, but today I can.   Julia Roberts,
Armie Hammer and Nathan Kane, three of the most likeable actors you can imagine, are lost is this miserable mess of a
movie.   You know the story.  Now imagine it being told so badly that you're actually rooting for the evil queen.   You'd
think that the folks who made the movie would be clever enough to figure out that if you make Julia Roberts the bad guy,
you'd better have some pretty convincing good guys.   Instead, we have an insipid Snow White (whose name I can't
remember, and it's not worth looking up) and obnoxious dwarves.  Yikes.   This movie is the first of two movies about
Snow White that are coming out this year.  In the second version, Charlize Theron will play the evil queen and Kristen
Stewart from t
he Twilight movies is Snow White.   Before I saw, Mirror, Mirror, it had never occurred to me that I
might like a movie with Kristen Stewart better than a movie with Julia Roberts.  Now, I'm not so sure.  (4/8/2012)

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a pleasure.   I found myself smiling at the screen throughout the movie, even the
spotty beginning when Ewan McGregor seemed to be trying a bit too had to be a cranky, bookish sort who was immune
to the charms of Emily Blunt.  (Really,  Who did he think he was kidding?)  But, reliable actor that he is, he quickly found
his groove, and he and Blunt developed a smooth, warm chemistry that was charming.   Occasionally, Kristen Scott
Thomas would charge full bore into the movie as the press secretary of the UK's Prime Minister.  On those occasions, my
smiles became guffaws.   Ms. Scott Thomas is--as always--a wonder, and she was clearly enjoying her role as the bull in
the china shop.   The story itself is far-fetched but plausible, but the real story of this movie is that real movie stars know
how to give us what we want in a movie, and when that happens, it's magic.  (4/2/2012)

The Hunger Games   Does it really matter what I think about this movie?  If your answer is yes, thanks for asking.   
Actually, for all its flaws, I rather liked it.   Its special effects are definitely no big deal (especially the chariot entrance);
there are lots of plot points that readers of the book will presumably understand but the rest of us will wonder about
(What's the deal with sponsors?  They seem to be important, but they don't do anything in the movie); Why is Area 12 the
only place where people have last names?  Woody Harrelson and Donald Sutherland?  Really?   I could go on.  But the
show here is Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss.   She holds your attention whenever she's on the screen, and when she's not,
you wonder what she's doing.  Lots of people have a problem with the premise of children killing other children. Yes, it's
grotesque, but a bigger question is "What about the Hunger Games is supposed to give people "hope"?
American Idol gives
people hope.   The Hunger Games?  Not so much.   If it did, people would be more excited about being chosen to
participate.  Ultimately, The Hunger Games raises more questions than it answers, but maybe that's not such a bad thing.  
(3/30/2012)

Wanderlust   In the next paragraph, I complain about the crummy movies I've seen Reese Witherspoon in over the past
few years.   I'm almost ready to add Jennifer Anniston to the category as well.  With the exception of Horrible Bosses,
which I enjoyed and thought Ms. Anniston was hilarious in, I can't think of something she's been in lately that I could
recommend to anyone.   In this movie, she and Paul Rudd are find themselves in what may be the world's last hippie
commune, somewhere in the mountains of North Georgia.  I can't deny that Iaughed helplessly at their first exposure to
the commune, which was being chased down a dark country road by a naked man.   It was wonderful, but sadly the
movie was about fifteen minutes old by this point, and it was all downhill from there.   The name of the commune was
Elysium, but it might as well have been called Apatow-Land, after the writer-producer of the movie whose particular
brand of bathroom humor provided the foundation on which the movie was built.   The day after I saw the movie, I was
waiting to get a haircut and happened to see a review of the movie in People.   Their judgment was that the movie "should
be burnt."  I really can't argue with that.  (3/1/2012)

This Means War   When I driving home from watching this movie, somebody named "Debbie Does Politics" was on the
radio reviewing this movie.  Her assertion was that the two CIA agents in the lead roles in this movie are clearly gay and
would rather be doing each other than doing Reese Witherspoon.  My own surmise was that the writers of the movie
were big fans of the "Spy vs. Spy" feature i
n Mad Magazine as younger persons and were now fighting over Reese as
they had once fought over a bomb or a sandwich in the comic strips.  ( But now that I think about it, maybe they were
gay, too.)  In any event, a movie about which a critic suspects that two men would rather have sex with each other than
have sex with Reese Witherspoon is clearly bad news for Reese Witherspoon.   And this movie
is really bad news for
Reese Witherspoon.
This Means War continues a dismal string of movies  like How Do You Know and Water for
Elephan
ts, which have done nothing to challenge her amazing skills and have done plenty to lower her status as one of our
very best actors.  I think she needs to do lunch with Sandra Bullock, who was going through a similar patch a couple of
years back (remembe
r All About Steve?) and pulled herself out of a rut with The Proposal and The Blind Side.   Do
something, Reese.  Get help.   Meanwhile, you dear movie-goer, should give this hot mess a wide berth.   (2/17/2012)

The Vow About a minute into this movie, there's a scene in which Channing Tatum, playing a New York hipster dude,
wears a straw hat.   Channing Tatum is a large man--I don't know how large, but he's bigger than average.   Anyway, the
sight of a ridiculously small straw hat on such a large bulbous head is so disorientingly absurd that you  know that
everything that will follow it will be equally contrived.   And it is.   In a nutshell, newlyweds Tatum and Rachel McAdams
are in a car accident, and Rachel loses her memory of the last four years of her life--including being married to Tatum.   
(Frankly, losing the memory of the sight of him in the hat might not be a bad thing, but I digress.).  Few actresses are as
effortlessly charming as Rachel McAdams, but even she gets lost in the plot of a movie so stale that you feel as if you
seen it before--several times.   In the movie, Sam Neill and Jessica Lange play thankless roles as Rachel's parents.  I
would so much rather watch this play out with Sam and Jessica in the lead roles.  Yes, it would look a lot lik
e The
Notebo
ok, but I bet no one would try to put a goofy hat on Sam Neill.  (2/15/2011)

Chronicle   This was a nice surprise in the glut of post-holiday features like Haywire and Contraband.  Chronicle is the
story of Seattle teenagers who  stumble into a hole in the ground, lay hands on something that looks like the mother ship
from Close Encounters, and emerge from the hole
--changed.  They have telekinetic powers--and they can fly.  Unlike the
Marvel comic dudes who use their newfound powers to make the world safe for democracy--or whatever--these guys
use their powers to impress girls at parties and get even with their enemies.   In the end, the powers get the better of some
of them, with tragic results.  This is a terrific movie by first-time film-maker Josh Trank looks great--combining the
hand-held vibe with elaborate special effects.  I think you'll like it a lot.  (2/7/2012)

One for the Money   The chief pleasure to be had from this movie is seeing Katherine Heigl, a fine actress, liberated from
the woeful array of romantic comedies which have enslaved her for the past four or five years.  There are lots of
rom-com vibes in this movie--not that there's anything wrong with that--but they're balanced by a good mix of action and
drama.   Ms. Heigl is a former retail therapist in New Jersey who is down on her luck and looking for a job.   Why not be
a bounty hunter?  Well, why not, indeed.   One for the Money may not be fine cinema, but it is good entertainment--and
there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.  (2/3/2012)

The Artist   If you haven't seen this  movie, I'm sorry to report that everything you think you know about this movie is
untrue.  No, it's not a silent movie; and no, it's not one of the best movies of the year.   While I'm at it, the second best
performance in the movie was NOT given by the actress who was nominated for Best Actress.    If you want to pick a
bone with me about the silent part, give me a shout after you've seen it and feel free to vent.   And if you want to claim
that Berenice Bejo, a human actress, gave a better performance than Uggi the dog, you're entitled to your  opinion.  In
regard to the part about being the best movie of the year, the plot is so old it has mold on it, and while the Hollywood
scenes are pretty slick, some of them are just pitiful.   My biggest complaint about the movie is that it's about one and
three-quarters hours, it feels like it's about fifteen minutes too  long.    But having said that, it not unpleasant.   Some if it
is very clever, and I think that Jean Dejardin will deserve all the awards he will receive for the movie.   But Uggi is
awesome.  (1/30/2012)

Haywire   With stars like Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas and Channing
Tatum,  you think that the director of Oceans 11 would find some way to drip some of the panache of the earlier movie
into his current project.   Well, you'd be wrong--and disappointed, as I was.   The conceit of this movie is not the
testosterone-driven name on the marquee, but the female lead who kicks their collective movie star butts.   I have no
problem with that notion, but the female lead in question--martial arts superstar Gina Carano--has the potential to be a fine
action movie actress, but unlike most of the men with whom she shares the screen, she's no movie star and can't hold the
screen with them.  In other words, you find yourself asking your questions like, "Did they really need Antonio Banderas in
this role?" or "I wonder if Ewan McGregor actually read the script before he agreed to appear in this movie."  Here's to
looking forward to better things from everyone.  (1/23/2012)

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close   is a tough call.   It is a case of--as we say here in cliché Town--the whole being
less than the sum of its parts.  The parts in play--most of them, anyway, are fairly remarkable.  There's a wonderful
performance by 13-year-old Thomas Horn as the surviving child of a father who was killed at the World Trade Center.  
There is a very good performance by Max von Sydow as a mysterious neighbor who befriends the boy, and there is a
"merely" good performance by Sandra Bullock who has shockingly little to do until the movie is almost over.   Tom Hanks
and Viola Davis are good in what are little more than cameos.  With all that going for it, you'd think the movie was pretty
terrific.   Well, it's pretty something.   While Mr. Horn gives a first performance that compares favorably with debuts like
12-year-old Christian Bale i
n Empire of the Sun and 10-year-old Henry Thomas in ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, his character
is something of a pill.  You know the child is both traumatized by the loss of his father and may or may not have
Asperger's Syndrome, but that doesn't make spending practically every frame of the movie with him a particularly
pleasurable experience.  Sitting in the audience, you know that the child's profoundly contrived quest is going to end in
disappointment for him, but you get dragged along.  Along the way, you wonder what Sandra Bullock is doing and wish
you could see how she's coping with the loss of her husband instead of the kid.  The movie is a long slog.  I didn't mind
so much because all along, I thought I was watching the beginning of what I expect will be a spectacular career for Mr.
Horn.  Otherwise, it was kind of a drag.  (1/21/2012)

Contraband   They say there aren't any good jobs in Louisiana.    This is the story of a reformed smuggler (Mark
Wahlberg) who reforms and opens a burglar alarm business in New Orleans.   (Sounds like a sure path to success)  His
brother-in-law stays in the business and screws up by tossing a bagful of drugs overboard during a Coast Guard raid on
the container ship he's using to bring the stuff into the country.   To make it up to the scum who were bankrolling his
brother, Marky Mark has to go back into the business and run a deal that will square the brother-in law with the scum.  It
is what it is, and what it is a decent shoot 'em up with enough of a story to sound plausible and enough action to justify
paying $5.25 for a Coke Zero to enjoy as you watch it go down.   (1/18/2012)

The Iron Lady When this movie was announced a  year or two ago, there was some degree of kerfuffle offered by
Baroness Thatcher's children who protested that the picture of their mother presented in the script was not reflective of
the totality of her life.  Having seen the finished product, I can say that I feel their pain, although I'm somewhat surprised
that the children¿¿ ever thought that an even-handed portrait of their mother would ever be presented as popular
entertainment.  Having said that, I will say tha
t The Iron Lady is about as good as they can hope to get.  Meryl Streep is
astonishing in the role, and I'm certain that Oscar will find her this year.  She is surrounded by a host of fine actors as the
people in her life.  If I have a concern, it is filtering the events of her life through her memory as a dementia patient near
the end of her life.   That device essentially gives Ms. Streep an entirely y new character to play, and it provides some
cover for the movie makers who could not have made a straightforward narrative of her biography.   It diminishes the
impact of the movie--and her life--but it's so well, that you can't complain too much when the rest--especially Ms.
Streep--are so fine.  (1/16/2012)

War Horse  Remember While You Were Sleeping?  At the beginning of the movie, Sandra Bullock is doing a voice-over
narrative of her childhood, especially a sun-soaked image of standing on a pastoral bridge over a calm Wisconsin stream.  
"I remember a lot about my childhood," she said.  "I just don't remember it being this orange."  And so it is wit
h War
Hor
se.  There was one scene near the end of this movie that is SO tangerine-tinted that you'd swear that Steven Spielberg
was trying to re-create the burning of Atlanta fro
m Gone With the Wind.  When a movie this big has to score points by
recalling earlier, better movies, it's in trouble.  Spielberg moves mountains to breathe some life into what is reputed to be a
very fine play from the West End and Broadway.  Just as he recreated the D-Day landings for Saving Private Ryan, he
now  reproduces the Battle of the Somme in all its filth, gore and horror.  The biggest problem I have wit
h War Horse is
that its star is a quadruped with a limited acting range.  Most of the humans around him are fine actors doing the best they
can in a difficult situation and a limited opportunity to express themselves.  But they are limited.    And that limits the
movie.  That and being very orange.  (1/15/2012)

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy   If you're planning to see this movie (and you should), the best thing you can take with you
is someone who remembers either reading the book or seeing the seven-hour mini-series.  Director gets mixed results in
trying to condense this very dense story into a two-hour movie.  The style, the look and the pace of cold-war London and
Budapest are there, but on far too many occasions, you'll find yourself wanting to nudge your neighbor and say, "Who's
that?" or "Who was she again?"  I won't say that the movie is impenetrable, but you have to pay attention at all times.  
Gary Oldman gives a fine performance as Smiley, but lots of other fine actors like John Hurt and Colin Firth get lost in the
shuffle.  See the movie--but think about taking notes.  It might help.  (1/10/2012)

Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol   The big movie of the holiday season is a perfect diversion for weary moviegoers
who just want to sit and watch a spectacle without having to think too much about the logic of what is unfolding before
them.  It requires no thought at all.  In fact, it defies thought.  To paraphrase William Hurt's character from The Big Chill
when he was stoned and watching a late night Japanese horror movie, "Sometimes you just have to let art flow over
you."  And that's pretty much what you have to do wit
h MI4.  You sit and watch things blow up and bad people get
what's coming to them.   As an added bonus, you get to be reminded of why Tom Cruise became the biggest star in the
world.  Although he may not be that now, but he certainly reminds you of how he got there in the first place.   (1/1/2012)
2012 MOVIE REVIEWS
Click here to see the list of Matt's Top 10 Movies of 2012!