Movie Review: The Devil Inside (2012)

Insurge Pictures - Paramount Pictures
Runtime: 83 Minutes
Rated: R (for disturbing violent content and grisly images, and for language including some sexual references)
Director: William Brent Bell
Writers: William Brent Bell, Matthew Peterman
Starring: Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman, Evan Helmuth
Horror | Thriller

The Devil Inside is as tormented a movie as its demon-possessed subjects are. It assumes the form of (yet another) mockumentary about a woman named “Maria Rossi” (Suzan Crowley) who committed murders at the end of the 1980s during an exorcism and was institutionalized before being inexplicably sent to Rome and held by the Vatican.

Why are they holding this woman in Rome? That's what her daughter wants to know. An interested “Isabella Rossi” (Fernanda Andrade) sets out to investigate what she has been in the dark about since her early childhood. She travels to Rome and meets two young priests, “Father Ben Rawlings” (Simon Quarterman) and “Father David Keane” (Evan Helmuth).

With the church not agreeing to perform an exorcism or even discuss the Rossi Case, the two priests and Isabella begin to privately investigate matters. Upon doing so, they find that the reality of possession is much less hopeful than churches full of parishioners singing hymns would want to believe.

Even if a demon can be cast out, it's got to go somewhere. Well, where? And is it always a good idea to send an angry demon elsewhere? That is the question behind this entire movie, but the movie never answers it. It just turns a mass religious belief into a cheap dramatic presentation designed to shock us with a look at the dark side. I'm less than shocked, however.

The story does not resist development. One has no problem getting through it, wondering where the time went. The performances we get enough conviction out of to stay with throughout this fairly short mock-chronicling where our three leads occasionally stop and face the camera to more fully elaborate on how they feel (as if we cared).

This would be fine except for the fact that we never feel compelled to consider it justified why they bring the camera along when things start to go possession-crazy. Fact: when everyone just loses their shit, they aren't thinking about packing around a camera!

I said it and it was so easy. And yet, amazingly, no one who makes mockumentaries ever thinks of these things!

And things do really go possession-crazy. The problem is, there is just little else to be explored in exorcism films beyond what we've come to expect: convulsions, very painful-looking body contortions (these were well done), mysterious body-markings of religious significance, the knowing of unknowns by indwelling demons, and unnatural strength—all of which are brought in here, but the film is never scary but for a few blusterous moments of startling realism that combine dialog with some body language that actually – hold the applause – work.

Even when what we're watching manages to ring credible, the whole project never feels convincing or compelling. The film itself is possessed of badness. Its attempt at hiding behind a crudely low budget in a false documentary style is, in this case, blatantly disdainful. We get nothing from it. Well, almost nothing.

Father Rawlings is a little bit arrogant for a priest. Father Keane is worried obsessively about being ex-communicated from the church over conducting an unauthorized exorcism. That is all we get by way of conflict outside of the three's exorcism, which feebly tries to pass as a sort of subplot, but we never find ourselves giving a care.

Since the story focuses on the unwillingness of the church to explore the Maria Rossi Case, you would expect there to be some drama between the two young priests and church officials in the refusal of the hierarchy to see what our main characters see, but the film misses any opportunity to exploit this.

And the film isn't even consistent with itself. A demon-charged Maria has the strength to kill people. She can sling priests up against walls like a creature in some sci-fi movie, but it isn't that hard for two men to restrain her and carry her back to a table and continue an out-of-control exorcism until doctors burst in. I'm not buying.

Movie Review: Contraband (2012)

Universal Pictures
Runtime: 109 minutes
Rated: R (for violence, pervasive language, and drug use)
Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Writers: Aaron Guzikowski, Arnaldur Indriðason
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Giovanni Ribisi, Kate Beckinsale
Action | Crime | Drama | Thriller

In Contraband, “Chris Farraday” (Mark Wahlberg) is a retired top-level smuggler who has put away playing the dangerous game for a life with a wife (Kate Beckinsale) and two kids. His brother-in-law, “Andy” (Caleb Landry Jones) who used to roll with him in those more fun and
dangerous times, is still living wild on his own.

When Andy puts himself $700,000 in debt by a failed cocaine delivery, Chris is compelled to come to his rescue by getting back into the business to square the debt with temperamental drug-dealing psychopathic ex-con, “Tim Briggs” (played very convincingly by new on-screen big name Giovanni Ribisi). 

But even for a pro like Farraday, this smuggling job will prove harder when trying to move foreign currency with the help of recruits in a corrupt circuit of Panama underworld criminals. With the safety of his family threatened, Farraday must look out for his own while delivering the goods in a network full of those who are waiting and ready to catch him.

Contraband is a movie that, by and large, delivers its own goods. We need only dig past some stagnation in the narrative and some minor hang-ups in unraveling plot details to find an intense flick beneath.

As an action star, Wahlberg has proved once again that he is an understated badass. Audiences generally connect with him, and they do so here. And much like this film’s title, nearly every attempt at winning points with the audience is done through a low-profile telling of a rough tale focusing on skill and street-smarts (and other generally bad-ass motifs, like valor, and the consequences of loyalty vs. disloyalty).

Showcased is a gritty and grimy way to live. Contraband brings that dirtiness right to the surface and mixes it with the desire for a much cleaner life. The result is that we want to watch, although that may not always be as easy as we’d like.

The film is only mildly entertaining. We don’t get too many performances that rise to the occasion of what goes on here, but then, we keep watching because we can’t wait to see what Farraday’s next move will be to outsmart those after him. Then we’ll love the fact that we didn’t think of it and he did. Truth be told, we don’t get to enjoy enough of that.

While starting off strong and then tapering off before finally picking up the pace again as we get near the end, not too many will take issue with the challenges in the movie’s ability to tell a story. The same few who will take more of an issue with the narrative might find the rather straight road to the conclusion somewhat uneventful. The story is so straightforward in its delivery that we would welcome something more in the way of plot-twists and surprises.

But Contraband is more concerned with telling a story than providing on-the-edge-of-your-seat action. In the interests of building more back-story, we lose some tempo, but it isn’t until we see how things are wrapped up at the conclusion that we can form a definite opinion as to whether or not we truly liked the film.

Apart from the pacing – which is its biggest problem – there really isn’t much reason to not like this film. J.K. Simmons plays a Louisiana ship captain with some real flare, and along with Wahlberg’s appeal and Ribisi’s unnerving energy, we have some stout elements that form the building blocks of a halfway decent movie.

2011's Top 15 Best Films Round-up

2011 wasn't really a superb year for heart-stopping movies. We were entertained, made to cry and laugh, but we weren't shaken until dizzy from a dazzling array of cinema like we were in the last several years. C- seems to be the most common grade of the year, but we did have some jewels that stood out. Maybe some of your favorites made it here, or maybe they didn't. But good, bad, or indifferent, they break down like so...

#15) 30 Minutes or Less (B+)

A pizza delivery guy is kidnapped by two thugs and made to rob a bank or be blown up. It's not just the story in this old-school tribute to "buddy" comedies that is so darn tasty, but its uniquely picked cast and fine performances that feature great writing and bursting character development.

Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari give us more than a good time in a movie that knows how to serve up a great time.

#14) Horrible Bosses (B+)

Three friends get together and decide to kill their horrible bosses. Anyone who has ever had a job can relate to the frustration, which is why they should see this film as it offers a fiercely well-acted ensemble of super stars in its cast.

Cameo appearances include Ron White as “Detective Samson” (White’s appearance as a detective in any movie is more nearly a laugh by itself) and Jamie Foxx whose portrayal of “MF Jones” is not only funny, but perhaps the best performance in the film.

#13) The Debt (B+)

This film about three Mossad agents seeking to capture a Nazi wartime doctor in a mission teetering on failure is a suspense-driven ride of excitement.

With an impassioned cast and performances strong enough to be memorable -- with a series of big and small twists that further intensify viewing -- The Debt makes us feel what it means to be human and heroic.

#12) Melancholia (B+)

As the most grim and depressing (and certainly unique) psychological thriller of the year, Melancholia is about a large planet in line to swallow up the earth--this in the more immediate context of family drama in a marriage.

Sounds weird, no? Well, it is, but it features some of the best performances all year with Kirsten Dunst as lead. It just about qualifies as a horror film and should be considered a must-see for anyone who can dig the very drawn-out despair of a planet facing extinction. This movie is all sorts of awesome!

#11) Paul (A-)

It looks like a completely crappy movie about an alien named Paul that crash-lands on earth in 1947, but this is the stuff of good parody. Everything – from E.T. to bible-thumping fundamentalists, along with the unsurpassable geekdom of sci-fi nerds and crazy UFOlogists – are given a thoroughly humorous lashing.

Indeed, this goes beyond parody with carefulness and keen direction that its subject matter hardly deserves.

#10) Limitless (A-)

Limitless is about a struggling writer who takes a pill and becomes super-super smart (like, make-Stephen-Hawking-look-really-really-dumb smart). Soon, others want it and they come after him.

Limitless, with the talents of Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro, is one hell of a good time that gives audience members a high of its own.

#9) Kung Fu Panda II (A-)

It may not be as original as the first movie, but Kung Fu Panda II has much of the same magic with loads of humor and Jack Black.

I was worried when I heard this movie was coming out. The chance of messing up such a sublimely animated and awesomely lovable action-adventure – stockpiled with loads and loads of USA-relevant comedy – was too great to risk. Then I saw the second movie and my fears were soothingly put to rest.

#8) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (A-)

This film, which is based on a Swedish novel series by Stieg Larsson, is about a young hacker who is a ward of the state and a rape victim, but who is picked up by a security firm to investigate a political magazine editor. An intense murder-mystery developments.

Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, and Christopher Plummer star in one of the darkest, most insinuating movies of the year.

#7) Source Code (A-)

A train bombing in one dimension is being investigated by a top secret military sect to prevent a similar thing from happening in another in efforts to stop a series of ongoing terrorist attacks. Yes, it's a complex mystery-thriller, but one where unraveling it is an intended part of what becomes frustratingly fun!

This. Is. One. Hell. of. a. Film!

#6) Our Idiot Brother (A+)

Masterfully directed and screechingly funny, Our Idiot Brother is about a screwy hippie uncle who always ends up messing up the lives of his mother and sibblings.

The film possesses the rare quality of having dry, intelligent humor in a story with enough gravity to make it meaningful, and even irresistible. It’s one of the best films of the year and one that doesn’t have to rely on star power or even character charm for its success, but rather, a story fashioned with class, possessing all of the right combination of winning elements.

#5) Jane Eyre (A+)

Brought to life by poet and author Charlotte Brontë, this Gothic novel-made-movie is more than a strong social commentary and feminist statement on women and a social critique of the misogynism of its time (1820s); in this, its present form (which happens to be one in a long line of remakes of the 19th century work), Jane Eyre is a stellar film with brilliant performances.

It feels like Anne of Green Gables in fence-straddling horror/romance settings. Mia Wasikowska (as Jane), was a perfect choice for the role, as a mousy 18-year-old and plain-but-pretty girl who puts her education to use by taking to a governess-ship after a bleak and bitter childhood. Her performance is second to none in a movie that absolutely refuses to stay in the confines of what we'd expect from a romance.

#4) Hugo (A+)

It's pressing humor may not be welcomed by everyone, but damned if Martin Scorsese doesn't press boundaries. In his film Hugo, Scorsese again brings along his bag of talents in giving us a truly enchanting tale.

Hugo is nearly unstoppable as it goes after the imaginations of every kid – and with an innocence rarely equaled in film today – but there are no subclasses of viewers here. Everyone stands to have a heart-to-heart with a movie that will affect adults in the same eye-watering way it affects kids.

#3) The Descendants (A+)

A Hawaiian land baron/attorney (George Clooney) tries to reconnect with his two daughters after his wife is involved in a serious boating accident. Faced with the decision as trustee of signing away the land of his heritage, the deteriorating condition of his wife makes this all the more difficult the more he learns of what happened prior to the accident.

There is no question that this is one of Clooney's very best performances in a film that can be funny when it wants to be before reverting to its main status as a powerfully tear-jerking drama. The grace with which the immediate and remote families are shown to interact is more than impressive, as is the ease by which the film can manipulate the viewer's emotions.

#2) Bridesmaids (A+)

Nearly flawless as a romance and ingenious as a comedy, Bridesmaids can take everything from bathroom humor to girly-girl "cat fights" and cram them into the same movie to the delight of everyone in the audience.

This film hits the sweet spot on so, so many levels as one of the best romance movies that also happens to open its doors as a happening chick-flick and all-round comedy.

#1) A Separation (A+)

The best film of 2011 is not even an American film. It comes to us from Iran and is about a man and a wife trying to get a divorce because the father wants to stay in Iran and care for his aging father while his wife wants to take their daughter away to be raised elsewhere for a better life.

The subtitles may not always be spelled out correctly, and as fast as they appear on screen, are hard to read for the first 1/3 of the film, but that is about as far as criticisms go. It is a must-see, a once-a-year, stand-alone presentation that comes along and makes you ask: “How long has it been since I’ve seen a movie this good?”

2011's Top 15 Worst Films Round-up

No year gets off without its share of stinker flicks...the bad, the really bad, and the ugly, those films that should never have seen the light of day. And while 2011 proved to be a year of average to lesser-than average films, it didn't have too many really big bombs. But the sad truth is that bad films do too often see the light of day, and at the cost of money paid for the tickets. 

So, in the spirit of trying to get that money back, we again pass out the awards for those works of suckitude unequalled in a 365-day period.

Searching meticulously, the list finally came together. We begin the countdown with...

#15) Immortals (D+)

In a perfect world, we wouldn't have movies that try and fail to be anything other than epic. But sometimes, all we have is a movie not quite epically bad, but just really bad. Immortals was one such film. Brought to us by the director of The Cell (1998), this high-budget hope-dasher just wasn't salvageable.

#14) Conan the Barbarian (D+)

Another cheesy sword-and-sandals wonder that may not have been a welcomed remake, but when we tried to make a place in our hearts for it, we were put off by its many shortcomings. This isn't to say it didn't try, but sometimes we need more than a desire to reinvigorate the source material.

#13) Apollo 18 (D+)

There was a reason we didn't go back to the moon, and it had nothing to do with spending or anything like that. This "mockumentary" explains it all. The slow-build, high-suspense approach would have worked had our director known how to orchestrate things to a climax that matched the film's 88-minute runtime, but instead, we get choppy mini-revelations of moving spider rocks seen through flickering cameras, accompanied by unexplained noises on the communication channels that, frankly, begin to annoy the hell out of us. Simply put, Apollo 18 was a mistake.

#12) Transformers: Dark of the Moon (D+)

No one with any sense of what Transformers was will appreciate Michael Bay's grievous mishandling of any in his Transformer series from 2007 onward.

And while, compared to Bay's other Transformer movies, this one was surprisingly better with an actual plot behind the overdone mess of noise and destruction kicked into overdrive, it still sucked hellaciously. It is worse than teen fodder. Our replacement for Megan Fox (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) does nothing but act as a damsel in distress, getting saved from one jackpot and nearly getting killed in another. Pathetic.

#11) Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D (D+)

There really are people who think kids are stupid enough to want this. Just throw together Jessica Alba, some fart gags, and a dumb, poorly put-together spy montage and kids will love it, they say.

No, not they won't love it, not when it is this crapolla. If they are old enough to make sentences, the kids will hate this. Either that, or they're stupid.

#10) Sucker Punch (D+)

Sucker Punch sucks...epically. It has no story at all. What it has is junk CGI art and beautiful helpless girls trapped in a mental institution. This helps the preteens jerk off. And it has fantasized superhero battles between the girls and Nazi skull zombies, giant robots, and other nonsensical BS that only means something to you if you are a mindless, game-addicted loser tard who only has access to these girls to spank off to while using mom's computer where adult content is blocked.

This movie blows! And that should really surprise you because this film was created by Zack Snyder, the guy who brought us The Watchman (2009)!

#9) Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (D-)

Stupid, grating, and patronizing, this boring and unenjoyable kids' movie will only appeal to those who constantly live and walk in nostalgia...but maybe not even them. Way worse than the other Chipmunks movies (which were great compared to this), this was hard to watch.

#8) The Roommate (D-)

The film does generate a mild amount of interest in portraying one thing: psychos simply cannot hide their twisted behavior for long. But this is as far as we can go in compliments. The murder scenes have as little drama as they have blood. There is no sense of terror or concern for anyone. This rather boring, no-boundary-pushing, under-dramatic charade of wannabe college psychodrama should be evicted.

#7) Dream House (D-)

Botched by its own producers, slowly paced, and badly written, this one is a do-over for sure. I don't think anything was done right here. There's a story under this mess somewhere, but don't expect to be any better off for seeing it should you choose to.

#6) Season of the Witch (D-)

The abruptly cut action scenes are an assault on that soft, vulnerable part of our brains that causes us to ask: “What the hell did I just see?” The combat sequences with the swords are a shimmering disappointment. The plague-cursed, attacking monks popping into the action and the subsequent ease by which they are dismembered is next to laughable.

Not much can be said for a movie where the only emotionally moving ordeal is the crossing of a horse-led wagon over an old, dilapidated bridge.

--- And now is that time where we dispense the awards for the top 5 super-stinkers that managed to outshine the competition in audacious badness. And the awards go to... ---

 #5) Priest (D-)

Mishandled from square one, Priest is the type of oddball comic-based movie with nothing to offer any audience, in addition to being yet another example of wasted 3D.

And what good are shown-off powers if we can't stand those who wield them?

It's about ninja-trained priests fighting off vampires while suffering the onslaught of corruption in their ranks in some medieval post-apocalyptic future where the Catholic Church is again becoming fascistic.

No one likes it and no one should because it sucks. It's just wrong.

#4) Jack and Jill (D-)

Another preposterously bad Adam Sandler movie, but what's new, right?

Well, this one is especially bad, and it doesn't come down to whether or not you like Adam Sandler movies. This is Adam Sandler playing his twin sister coming to stay for the holidays in drag. Awful stuff.

The plot and humor are predictable, the jokes are unoriginal, the slapstick is simply not wanted, and the celebrity-in-drag routine is a thing easily done, but not often done well (as it isn’t here).

#3) The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (F)

This one wouldn't have even made the list had it not, as a breakthrough independent film, jumped into the public eye since the infamous first of the series, The Human Centipede: First Sequence. That horrifying, life-altering movie had a story of such beautiful deviance that it topped Most Disturbing lists everywhere.

The second film is nothing but a distorted attempt at shock value that makes you watch diarrhea sprayed onto camera lenses. It is as dumb as its main character - full of rotten performances - in the body of a story that had no idea how to add to the first movie like director Tom Six said he would be doing with this project. It is mindlessly nasty exploitation, mentally substance-less. It has nothing of value in its viewing, even for sickos.

#2) Red Riding Hood (F)

Of all the bad attempts at recreating the teen romance of Twilight, Red Riding Hood comes along and takes the cake.

There really isn't any competition in terms of how solidly this film blows its chances of making good on what it wanted to accomplish. The performances are awwwwwful (all except Gary Oldman's).

Catherine Hardwicke, the director of the first Twilight movie, brings us Red Riding Hood, a lifeless regurgitation of the Twilight films, but way, way worse. Observably lacking in passion or appeal of any kind for even the most sub-par of cheap teen romances, Red Riding Hood is an abomination.

#1) Beastly (F)

And the highest honor in awfulness goes to Beastly, a waste of tape and time about a young man who is cursed with ugliness for sneering at those more symmetrically challenged than him.

Intending to be a teen romance/Goth-EMO take on Beauty and the Beast, the film’s message about spiritual love transcending physical beauty is not only overplayed, but in this overt and unoriginal context, is clichéd. Everything is awash about this ineptly directed and unconvincingly acted excuse for a movie that is a failure from start to finish.

Drive-Thru Review 2011 (August - December)

And finally, we bring 2011 to a welcomed close with the last of the fly-by reviews...

Grade: C- (2 stars)
Rated: PG-13 (for sequences of intense mixed martial arts fighting, some language, and thematic material)

Warrior stars Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy, two brothers who wind up renowned fighters going head to head in mixed martial arts. Their father, “Paddy” (Nick Nolte) is an alcoholic ex-fighter who is approached by his estranged son, “Tom” (Hardy) about being trained in the sport.

Warrior tries in more than a few ways to be Rocky, borrowing whole chapters from Rocky IV with a seemingly unbeatable Russian mixed martial arts champion and grim, street attitude, but a mixed martial arts Rocky movie this is not!

The direction the plot goes at the movie’s end is totally unbelievable. Its characters aren’t to the level of some well-loved sports dramas we’ve come to know, although the lead performances aren’t what is so disappointing.

Aside from Edgerton who puts on a fairly effective performance as Brendan, Nick Nolte is the only really good thing about this badly directed movie. The tiring drama overload with dark tinge might make the film seem more upscale to younger viewers, but there’s really not much here by way of effective storytelling. What it has is scrunched together too tightly.

By way of fights, we get a very narrow range of combat sequences and moves through a constant barrage of CNN clips and news coverage. It was an admirable effort, but the movie has the audience beaten down along with many of its characters. It wants to be like Rocky + Double Dragon, but it does justice to neither.

J. Edgar
Grade: C- (2 stars)
Rated: R (for brief strong language)

Directed by Clint Eastwood, J. Edgar stars Leonardo DiCaprio. The film has its plate full in efforts to tell us about the FBI’s first director, a man of great vision, resolve, and talent, but who the film portrays as a one-dimensional and arrogant man with a secret life his supporters never knew about.

While trying to take on way too much for a 2-hour movie, the film gives us much valuable information – told in a somewhat well-hemmed narrative – about a man worth making a movie of. But much of the dialog borders on sounding scripted and the attitudes tend to exceed 1930’s anti-communist zealot American and get us ready to wait for a “dame” in a black and white movie to come walking into a PI’s office with a special assignment. J. Edgar is so theatrical that it quickly becomes wearisome.

We are made to look down on the simplistic nature of the justice department, like we’re watching ourselves evolve. The stereotypes in politics-of-fear philosophies are well handled, reflecting properly the biases and prejudices of the time. But they can’t help but slip in some biases from our own time.

They should have fired the makeup artist responsible for the atrocious jobs done on Edgar and his number two man, “Clyde Tolson” (Armie Hammer). Both are nothing short of terrible. While shooting for the Oscar, this one makes the mistake of taking on too much hard-hitting drama and content in a stretched runtime. It’s another noticeably flawed Eastwood historical drama.

Sherlock Holmes
Grade: B- (3 stars)
Rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, and some drug material)

As with the last Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes film, we are again treated to a re-ignition of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.

And while part II, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, might not be what the first film was, this one blows us away with an incendiary story, a juicy script, classy wit, and superb character selection/development. The movie combines the rustic appeal of credibility-oozing settings with gravity in a way most films can’t. Curiosity-piquing imagery, abundant humor (and with beautiful timing), and good continuity are an ever-present delight.

“Holmes” (Downey) and “Watson” (Jude Law) (who have a very Dr. House-Dr. Wilson chemistry) are up against “James Moriarty” (Jared Harris), a powerful professor who wants Holmes out of his way and has much more sinister plans behind seemingly ordinary devotion to political interests. Moriarty is the most brilliantly crafted character here, and is, in this critic’s opinion, in the running for one of the more memorable movie villains in recent years.

But aside from some fine performances and great pacing, it is a lack of focus on Holmes himself and his ability to unravel mysteries that is this film’s setback. We get just a few instances in which to see his genius at work and wonder if perhaps he is beyond gifted, but actually has some mystical powers. But the movie doesn’t count on the audience to put together the dots in deduction.

The movie sets up a story, but it doesn’t give us what we want in its supporting characters, either. Some are under-utilized, others irrelevant, and some literally thrown out of the story from a moving train so that they wouldn’t have to be written into the second half. This is a disappointment to those who were won over by certain of these characters in the first movie.

While it may not be a shining achievement, the movie has a lot to offer those who seek another vigorously re-endowed version of Conan Dowell’s classic work.

Midnight in Paris
Grade: C- (2 stars)
Rated: PG-13 (for some sexual references and smoking)

Time travel couldn’t be this emotionless. This is my reaction to the critical acclaimed – but somewhat underwhelming – story of a to-be-married couple visiting Paris on a business trip. “Gil” (Owen Wilson) is to marry “Inez” (Rachel McAdams). Gil loves Paris, but his fiancé doesn’t share his passion—or any of his passions or interests.

Discovering a portal to Paris’ past and meeting the likes of Hemmingway (Corey Stoll) and Zelda Fitzgerald (Alison Pill), Gil begins to see more of a side of life his love doesn’t share. And from here, what starts out as a so-so romance that began with a scenic five-minute showoff of Paris, becomes a rather weak comedy with equally weak performances.

The characters we get to know are distinct, but the writing doesn’t grab. The story does not engage in this, another up-hill-battle of a movie about troubled romances and finding destiny/true love. It’s another Woody Allen movie, but a bit of a dud.

It isn’t until somewhere near the halfway point where things get anywhere close to respectable, but this doesn’t entirely redeem the film. Cutaways are abrupt with the same humor-inspiring background guitar music for the duration of the film.

Midnight in Paris is a revisiting of history in the spirit of innocence/exploration/imagination, but as a romance and/or comedy, it is a near painful misadventure. This is in addition to the already noticeable problem of nobody getting excited when they find themselves walking into freakin’ other dimensions of time. The result is a rather unsatisfying 2 hours.

Puss in Boots
Grade: B- (3 stars)
Rated: PG (for some adventure action and mild rude humor)

Puss n’ Boots is an adorable and highly rated film that gives us the feline charm and challenge of its two main characters, “Puss in Boots” (Antonio Banderas, voice) and “Kitty Softpaws” (Selma Hayek). Joining forces with Puss’ former friend to lift magic beans from two renowned bandits, Puss seeks to regain his honor after “Humpty-Dumpty” (Zach Galifianakis) left his old heroic legacy in ruins.

This film’s biggest strengths are its wonderfully imaginative charm and highly relatable characters. But there is really no depth here, and the humor (when it doesn’t accompany a resilient verbal charm) is nothing to speak of.

The Adventures of TinTin
Grade: C- (2 stars)
Rated: PG (for adventure action violence, some drunkenness, and brief smoking)

The Adventures of TinTin has a title that makes us think of Rin Tin Tin, but we only wish we had something as substantial as that to work with. Instead, we meet TinTin (Jamie Bell), a boy who buys a sailboat and finds himself in the middle of a mystery.

The often cartoonish humor is not always welcome, but this is – in the finality – just a little more than an elite art project with good voice performances designed to tickle the fancies of the makers. There is not much here to chew on for the young, and the old won’t be so easily impressed with the CGI and life-likeness (not in place of a worthy story).

More is required than realistic animation in drawing out a mystery nobody cares about. Even Peter Jackson and Spielberg working together doesn’t make this animated adventure a wanted commodity.

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