Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Movie Reviews: 3 More Grades

This flick based on Steve Moore's comic book treatment of the ancient myth stars none other than the Rock himself, the amazingly buff Dwayne Johnson, as the titular hero.  The flick really should have had more humor and campy fun, especially since the Rock has so much personal charisma.  If you want to humanize Herc, then humanize Herc: sometimes humor does a better job than only rehashing a tragic past. The movie does have a few other things going for it, including the always watchable Ian McShane and Rufus Sewell as two of Herc's comrades in arms (these two, by the way, deserve far more attention than they've gotten lately in their careers).  The storyline doesn't involve Herc's canonical Twelve Labors per se, but I found the departure rather refreshing, along with its take on the power of storytelling.  Yes, it's a bit revisionist, but here's still plenty of action, though we soon find that we don't need monsters to fight when certain men are just as bad.  Overall: Is the flick just a little ridiculous?  Wouldn't you kind of be disappointed if it weren't?  It's also more entertaining than it has the right to be.  (Oh, and it runs absolute circles around The Legend of Hercules from earlier this year, a laughably awful flick that was an object lesson in how not to do a Hercules movie ... or any movie.)  Grade: B.

The Hundred-Foot Journey
British national treasure Helen Mirren is back as Madame Mallory, the frosty owner of a Michelin-starred classical French haute cuisine restaurant who does not take kindly to an Indian eatery opening up across the street.  In all honesty, I liked Jon Favreau's wonderful Chef better as a story about food and humanity (besides, I'm more a food truck girl than a Michelin foodie, and anyway - sorry - I don't much like Indian food), but The Hundred-Foot Journey is still an engagingly good time at the theatre that will make you hungry.  The culture clash plot is a little familiar and cliched, but there's a redeeming amount of heart, humor, and actual character development (not to mention tons of scrumptious-looking slo-mo food porn).  Mirren is charming, Manash Dayal is emphathetic as Hassan, the young aspiring cook across the way, and established character actor Om Puri is his occasionally frustrating father.   Charlotte Le Bon is Marguerite, a sous-chef in Mallory's restaurant who is the obligatory love interest for Hassan, but the relationship only got interesting for me when they become rivals in the kitchen.  In the end, though, Mirren and Puri basically own the movie; there were moments when I forgot about Hassan and Marguerite entirely.  Grade: B.

A Most Wanted Man
For being a movie about terrorism, surveillance, and intelligence gathering based on a John Le Carre novel, this thing moves more slowly than molasses on a winter day.  When the credits finally rolled, I said, "Is that it?!"  Other complaints: I absolutely could not take Rachel McAdams seriously in her role as a lawyer, and the movie wastes Daniel Brühl. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman is always worth watching, but he looked terrible, and I couldn't tell if it was the character or the actor.  At least Willem Dafoe brings some spark and energy to this boring exercise as an impeccably dressed but corrupt German banker.  I honestly don't know why this flick is being as well reviewed as it is.  Maybe the whole thing was just too subtle and ambiguous for a yahoo like me, because I went home and watched Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit on DVD to get the international action thriller I hadn't gotten in the theatre.  As for A Most Wanted Man?  I appreciate the points it was trying to make about the gray areas of counterterrorism, but this dreary, soggy, tedious slog of a movie did not engage me personally; it didn't make me care about what happened next to anybody, and in movie narrative terms, that's unforgivable.  Grade: D.

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