Tag Archives: Christopher Walken

“One More Time”

LOUISA: 2 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

The underwhelming “One More Time” is just another pointless movie about a rich, dysfunctional family with problems that seem far too superficial to the rest of us. Aspiring musician Jude (Amber Heard) is falling apart. She’s addicted to a string of one night stands and pays her rent by recording radio jingles. When Jude is evicted, she moves back home to the Hamptons with her retired singer dad, Paul (Christopher Walken), and his fifth (or is it sixth?) wife, Lucille (Ann Magnuson).

There are some juicy moments in this reunion, from Paul trying to plan a comeback to Jude struggling with her polar opposite sister Corinne (Kelli Garner) and family advisor and agent Alan (Oliver Platt). It’s obviously a very personal movie (written and directed by Robert Edwards), but something is very standoffish about it all. It’s almost like we are invited into someone’s home to share their intimate story but when we get a bit too close, a door is slammed in our face. Instead, we get to listen to affluent people complain about their (for the most part) cushy lives.

No doubt it’s determined, but the film just can’t quite live up to the high bar that it sets for itself. There’s an undeniable chemistry between Heard and Walken, a screen pairing that I wouldn’t mind seeing again. Walken is both perfect yet distracting in a role that his die-hard fans will surely enjoy. He’s a little over the top but it works, and I could see this performance becoming sort of a cult classic among his legion of fans (not saying this is a good film, but his performance delivers). Platt is almost always an asset to any film in which he appears, and Heard is perfectly cast as a struggling musician at a crossroad in her life. The actors are great but would’ve benefited from a much more detailed script to work with. I wanted so much more than the surface glimpses of these characters. Instead of making them complex and relatable, they all come off as privileged whiners.

The real elephant in the room is that there’s far too much singing by folks that, let’s be real here, aren’t at all enjoyable to listen to. I don’t need to listen to actors pretending to be musicians.


Matt was unavailable for review.

“The Family Fang”

LOUISA: 1.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

Jason Bateman‘s latest directorial (and acting) effort is the off-putting, draggy “The Family Fang,” a just so/so movie based on the 2011 Kevin Wilson novel. It’s a cool story that unfortunately doesn’t translate well to the screen. The movie looks and feels ugly, and it’s not much more than an exercise in the ‘blah.’

Baxter (Bateman) and his sister Annie (Nicole Kidman) grew up in a very bizarre household, often finding themselves pawns in the elaborate public hoaxes of their performance art parents Camille and Caleb (Kathryn Hahn / Maryann Plunkett and Jason Butler Harner / Christopher Walken). When mom and dad go missing and a car is found covered in blood, the pair reunite to unravel the truth: was it really foul play or is it just another deception?

The major problem with this movie is that it simply can’t decide on what it wants to be and as a result, it comes across as a half-hearted mess. Is it a comedy? A crime thriller? A family drama? There’s just no focus and the film suffers for it. These kids are now messed up adults, but their dysfunction is no laughing matter. Likewise, the humor provides lots of great set-ups that ultimately yield zero payoffs. None of the performances stand out (Hahn, Walken and Bateman are just being themselves, and Kidman is as unpleasantly cold as ever).

This inconsistent movie doesn’t seem to have anything profound nor important to say and as a result, I just didn’t care.


Matt was unavailable for review. 

“Nine Lives”

LOUISA: 1 STAR


LOUISA SAYS:

It’s awful, but it’s not as awful as you fear it will be. That’s just about the only positive thing I have to say about “Nine Lives,” the new ‘comedy’ from director Barry Sonnenfeld. I wish the film had taken a more ridiculous, tongue-in-cheek approach to amp up its preposterous premise but instead it aims for a sincere, heartwarming tale with just too much stupidity thrown in for it to work on a campy level.

Billionaire businessman Tom Brand (Kevin Spacey) is ruthless in his pursuit of being the biggest and best. When his workaholic ways get in the way of — wait for it — spending quality time with his loving family (Jennifer Garner and Malina Weissman), Tom decides to buy his daughter a cat for her birthday. Felix (Christopher Walken) is a creepy, weird old coot who runs the Purrkins Pet Shop (groan). Some mishaps occur and Tom finds himself in a coma — and his soul trapped in the body of the kitty, Mr. Fuzzypants.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happens next.

Something that really bothered me is that the movie misses a prime opportunity to speak out in favor of animal adoption. Instead of showing Tom going to the local shelter, the cat is purchased at a pet shop. At least he takes an older cat, but the animal is portrayed as a gift and not a truly loved member of the family. Mr. Fuzzypants is ultimately treated as disposable and replaceable, and several little kids were wailing towards the end of the film (no spoilers here but let’s just say the cat makes use of his nine lives).

If you think the story sounds bad, wait ’til you get a load of the dreadful visual effects. Clearly the animation department didn’t care about their craft and slapped the CGI together as half-assed as possible. It’s jarring to see a real animal turn into an animated animal in the span of 3 seconds, and it’s even more awkward when the cats don’t even look the same! The animators couldn’t bother to do a passable job so the ‘fake’ cat looks absolutely terrible in every single frame. In each scene he’s jumping around, making ridiculous faces, and slamming / running / jumping into walls / cabinets / furniture ad nauseam. All of the lunkheads in my audience, from kids to the elderly, responded to these lowbrow pratfalls with roars of laughter. You can’t say the movie doesn’t deliver the goods to its core audience.

I’m embarrassed that I purchased a ticket so I could review this movie because that’s another undeserved $12 sale towards its box office gross, but the actors across the board should especially feel shame for their participation in this mess. Yes, even the ones who are currently surviving in Hollywood only by scraping the bottom of the acting barrel (Jennifer Garner, I’m talking to you). Christopher Walken doesn’t seem to know where he is or what he’s doing half of the time so he’s forgiven due to his age. Garner and Walken I can understand, but Kevin Spacey? Why oh why did you agree to do this?


Matt was unavailable for review.

“The Jungle Book”

LOUISA:   2 STARS  MATT:  2 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

“The Jungle Book” is a film that’s the very definition of a conceptual failure. It tries far too hard to be a real crowd pleaser, adding a little bit of this and a little dash of that in a desperate attempt to have something for everyone. Viewers will quickly realize that the film can’t be everything for everybody, and sadly is not as splashy as its trailers suggest. Instead it’s just dull.

This latest Disney film is at once an intense adult drama and a kid-friendly flick with talking animals; it’s both savage and cheerful. This dramatic, constant shift in focus reeks of trying to be a ‘one size fits all’ adaptation of the story. The fluctuating tone is confusing: is this movie about scary, menacing animals or simply a joyous romp filled with silly songs? The forced musical numbers feel as if they were thrown into the mix to appease die-hard fans of the 1967 animated Disney original just when things start to get a little too dark, resulting in what becomes sort of a commercial break and interruption to the story.

It goes without saying that this movie is weird.

The film was predominantly crafted on computers at it shows. The jungle looks fake and the animals look fake; as a result the entire movie feels fake. Now I know live animals can’t be used to film a movie like this (and I’d never advocate the use of real animals, period), but the movie is more focused on being technical and mechanical instead of enchanting. The animated animals are lifelike to a point, but they speak in modern jargon to keep the youngsters interested. The movie wants its hyper-realistic animals to look and feel authentic yet they talk in slang and sing silly songs. The story is decent enough but the effects are too distracting (especially the minor background animals who don’t look or move like real animals). This mismatch doesn’t work, making the CGI animals more confusing than thrilling.

Adding to the less than enchanting feel of the movie is the mediocre voice talent. It’s fine but none of the voice actors give a particularly memorable nor endearing performance. These are pedigreed actors too, so I know they are capable of much better work. Ben Kingsley is bland and understated as regal black panther Bagheera, while Idris Elba seems to be phoning it in as villainous tiger Shere Khan. There are more disappointing turns from Lupita Nyong’o (Raksha), Scarlett Johansson (Kaa), Christopher Walken (King Louie), Giancarlo Esposito (Akela) and Garry Shandling (who adds zero comic relief as Ikki). Bill Murray as Baloo the bear is the best of the bunch, which isn’t saying much because who doesn’t love Baloo? And why can’t the monkeys or elephants talk?

Both Murray and Walken have strained musical numbers where they both are doing more shout-like riffing than actual singing. I love “The Bare Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You” (I was singing along in my head and tapping my feet to the beat), but the songs have been ruined by these poor excuses for musical ‘performances.’ Johansson actually has a decent singing voice but doesn’t get her own screen time for Kaa’s classic musical number (“Trust In Me” is instead slapped over the end credits).

I saved the worst element of the film for last because I hate to tear apart an acting performance by a little kid (and I don’t want this to come across as some sort of adult critic bullying a child actor), but Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is terribly annoying! His performance almost reaches the badness of Jake Lloyd as young Anakin Skywalker in “The Phantom Menace.” Sethi portrays Mowgli as an awkward, immensely irritating man-cub and a bit of a whiny brat! How has he, after a decade of being raised by wolves, survived in the jungle for so long? The kid pretty much sealed the deal in ruining the movie for me. That’s really the best casting Disney could do?

Too bad Shere Khan didn’t just eat him early in the story, it would’ve saved us all a lot of wasted time.

MATT SAYS:

“The Jungle Book” is a bit of a mixed bag.

First, the good. I was quick to criticize the casting of Bill Murray as Baloo; as a fan of the original hand-drawn animated Disney movie, I always thought of Baloo as having a deep voice fitting of a bear and I wasn’t ready to accept anything but that. I have to admit, however, that he won me over — Murray’s take on Baloo (the ultimate lazy bear) is perfect and Baloo is just as lovable in this version as he was in the original. I also enjoyed Idris Elba’s Shere Khan — intimidating and scary with understandable motivations. The animation of some of the main characters, like Baloo and Bagheera, is also good and I had no problem accepting their inhabiting the same world as the human Mowgli.

Now the bad. First, as Mowgli, Neel Sethi ranges from terrible (shouting all of his lines like he’s playing the Easter bunny in the school play) to grating to merely passable. And before you tell me I’m being unfair because he’s a little kid, I ask you to first check out the performances of kids in other movies like “Demolition” and “Sing Street,” to name some recent movies, and “The Descendants,” “True Grit,” and “Let Me In” / “Let the Right One In” for some older ones, for examples of just how good child actors can be. Amazing that Disney and director Jon Favreau let the fortunes of their new franchise rest partially on the shoulders of this shouty, irritating kid.

And then let’s talk about how the other animals are animated. The smaller the character’s role in the film (and, in the case of the field mice and flying squirrels the smaller the characters), the worse they are animated. Seriously, some of those little creatures in particular looked terrible. It’s as though Disney spent all of its animation budget on the key players and went with bargain-basement effects for the others.

Finally, the story itself is a bit of a drag. While the original clocked in at a neat and tight 78 minutes, this bloated affair takes nearly 30 more minutes to tell the same story, and it shows. Demanding run times of nearly 2 hours must be a thing in Hollywood; it seems like they are de riguer for every big-budget movie that has been released in the past 5 years, regardless of whether the story merits it.

On the whole, “The Jungle Book” is forgettable. Although it has its good points, the film never gets good enough to deserve a recommendation.