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Charlize Theron is uncanny as Megyn Kelly in Bombshell, a hit-and-miss take on the sexual-harassment scandals that plagued Fox News thanks to the deplorable Roger Ailes, played here by John Lithgow under a lot of makeup.

The movie is propped up by terrific work from Theron, Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson, and Margot Robbie as a composite character representing the many women who were assaulted or harassed by the likes of Ailes and Bill O’Reilly.

Director Jay Roach is all over the place with his tone, with the film veering back and forth between dark comedy and serious drama. It never finds a balance, but the film has some good moments, especially thanks to Theron, who is amazing in every second she spends onscreen (and the makeup work is Oscar-worthy as well). Roach blows it with his portrayals of Bill O’Reilly (Kevin Dorff) and Rudy Giuliani (Richard Kind); they come off as bad impersonations rather than true characters.

What should’ve been an important film comes off as a partial failure. Still, Bombshell is worth watching for Theron, Kidman and Robbie.

Bombshell opens Thursday, Dec. 19, at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

The original cinematic take on Stephen King’s supposed scariest novel was a camp-horror hoot—a strange mixture of gore and satire that holds up pretty well today. The new take on Pet Sematary offers more of a straightforward approach to King’s story about humans who can’t deal with death, especially when it comes to pets and family members.

Jason Clarke steps in as Louis Creed, big-city doctor moving to the country, where his wonderful new house is unfortunately bordered by a pet cemetery/Indian burial ground in the back, and a road full of speeding trucks in the front. The death of the family cat leads to an ill-advised burial in the cemetery … which leads to a zombie return of the beloved cat. The cat is followed by a family member, and King fans will be surprised to see who that family member is (as long as you haven’t seen the commercials).

This remake lacks the sense of humor that made the original twisted in a solid, King sort of way. The behavior of everybody in this movie is so stupid that when things are played straight, the story comes off as moronic rather than scary.

Jete Laurence is very good as the young daughter, and John Lithgow is OK with a more serious take on neighbor Jud (played by the late, great Fred Gwynne in the original). The movie drifts away from the original book too much in the end; again, it could’ve used a few more sick laughs.

It’s admirable that the filmmakers were shooting for something other than a note-by-note remake of the original—but by going off-book too much, they lost some of the cruel sting of King’s intentions.

Pet Sematary is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

The Accountant is a ridiculous, implausible thriller, in some ways even more ridiculous than the recent, somewhat weak film The Girl on the Train.

So why did I end up liking it?

I don’t know. Maybe it was because I was super-high on weed and mescaline, and I got an extra check in the mail from an employer goof-up that gave me all the money I needed to buy a new couch and lots of snacks.

No, wait … I don’t do drugs, and I only dreamt that I got that check. My couch still sucks ass. Instead, I liked The Accountant because it has a fantastic Ben Affleck, and the movie sort of plays out like a deranged Batman pic—with calculator action!

Affleck plays Christian Wolff, a high-functioning autistic man who has managed to harness his extreme intelligence with numbers and physical tics—into the strangest of professions. By day, he’s an accountant who, for example, helps a farm owner find tax loopholes to save a few thousand bucks. By night, he’s some sort of accountant ninja who can take out a room full of mob guys with a dinner knife and some Batman-style forearm blasts to the face.

Yes, Christian takes jobs fixing the books for dirty folks the world over, and while he does have a modest, sparsely decorated home, he also has a mobile man cave (or, should I say … Batcave!) that keeps all the spoils of his riches (like money, gold, Jackson Pollock paintings and, yes, collectors’ items like Batman comic books).

During one job, he is tasked with finding missing money for a prosthetics company led by John Lithgow, and he takes a liking to fellow accountant Dana (the invaluable Anna Kendrick). They conspire to find the missing money … something that, of course, some people don’t want to see happen. Christian and Dana find themselves in loads of trouble, which eventually leads to shootouts and more Batman-style forearms to the face.

Director Gavin O’Connor balances out all of the craziness and outrageous turns of events to deliver a film that, despite a few sleepy parts, is thoroughly entertaining. Affleck is good here, basically playing a dude with repressed rage and childhood trauma issues, minus a cowl.

Kendrick offers up a capable “WTF is going on?!” performance in her fifth movie this year. (She’s busy.) The rest of the supporting cast includes an excellent Jon Bernthal a bad guy much worse than Affleck’s kind-of-bad guy. (Bernthal is essentially this movie’s Joker.) J.K. Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson are good as two Treasury Department agents who combine to create the movie’s Commissioner Gordon. And Jeffrey Tambor plays a father figure who rooms with Christian and amounts to this film’s Uncle Ben. Oh, wait … wrong superhero.

Maybe I’m the only one who sees this movie as Batman doing taxes. Maybe that makes me some sort of amateurish idiot who likes movies that are actually kind of lame, just because they play out in a weird way in his overreaching mind. But then again, maybe I am not alone.

Maybe The Accountant will have a sequel in which Christian battles with an even stronger, out-of-town accountant whose mother has the same name as his mother, and who mopes a lot because his dad, the guy from Field of Dreams, died in a tornado accident. Oh, god, please … no.

The Accountant is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd reprise their awesome married couple from Knocked Up in This Is 40, director Judd Apatow’s latest, which will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray this Friday, March 22. The duo prove their characters are worthy of full attention.

Apatow loves to make long movies, and this one is no exception, clocking in at 134 minutes. Most of those minutes are entertaining, although I would concur that this is a bit long for a comedy. Doesn’t somebody have to be getting shot or tortured for a movie to go longer than two hours?

While the main characters from Knocked Up (played by Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl) are not back for the almost-sequel, other characters, including those played by Jason Segel and Charlyne Yi, do make it. That’s kind of cute.

The film has fun with the whole midlife-crisis thing, adding Albert Brooks and John Lithgow as much welcomed granddads. Megan Fox gets her best screen role yet as a clothing-store employee who may or may not be a hooker on the side.

Mann is especially good in the film, and both she and Rudd were deserving of Golden Globe nominations, at the least. Alas, both were snubbed.

Special Features: If you plan on taking in both versions of this film (you get both the theatrical and unrated versions) and the many special features, you had better break a foot or something so you can call in sick to work. You get an Apatow commentary, deleted and extended scenes, four documentaries, two gag reels, and more. It’s a big package. 

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Nepotism pays off in a big way as Leslie Mann stars in husband Judd Apatow's hilarious This Is 40 reprising her role of Debbie from Apatow's Knocked Up.

Also returning are Paul Rudd as Debbie's husband, Pete; Maude and Iris Apatow (Mann and Apatow's kids) as Pete and Debbie's daughters; and Jason Segel as, well, a strange variation on Jason Segel.

Spinning off Knocked Up to further explore the characters of Debbie and Pete sounded like a strange enterprise. (Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl are nowhere to be seen.) Fear not, for This Is 40 is as smart and funny as the film that spawned it. And who needs Heigl, anyway? (As for Rogen, I can never get enough of the guy ... was hoping for a cameo, but no dice.)

The film opens with Debbie in denial of her 40th birthday, a worn-out movie cliché, for sure. No matter, because Apatow and Mann make it all fresh, funny and, at times, wonderfully vulgar.

Debbie sneaks smokes, chastises her husband for taking Viagra and pretends she's 38 on her 40th birthday. Mann just pulled down a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical. (Rudd is nominated as well.) They both deserve the noms.

And then there's the ever-reliable Rudd. His Pete secretly devours cupcakes, tries to get his wife to like the Pixies, and steals private time with his iPad through extended, unnecessary bathroom breaks. He also attempts to revive Graham Parker's fledgling music career with his small record company so he can make the mortgage payment.

Rudd and Mann play a married couple with stunning reality, efficiency and humor. They throw lethal verbal daggers at one another, and even fantasize about each other dying. Yet, there seems to be a strange sort of everlasting love at play. Rudd is essentially channeling Apatow here, surely getting plenty of hints from his director on how to deal with the wife.

Adding to the authenticity are Maude and Iris Apatow, realistically sparring with their real-life matriarch. Maude is especially good, capturing the shrieking frustration of a teen girl who is having her Wi-Fi restricted. One of the movie's running gags is her obsession with watching Lost, a joke that is funnier than it sounds. Little Iris is obviously the daughter of Mann and Apatow; she possesses killer comic timing.

As for supporting casts, you won't find one much better in 2012. Albert Brooks plays Rudd's dad, getting more laughs than he has in years. John Lithgow plays Mann's pop, a stick-in-the-mud who has a moving change of heart by film's end.

There's more! Megan Fox is actually really funny (something she proved when she hosted Saturday Night Live a couple of years back) as Debbie and Pete's employee at their clothing boutique. She's capable of playing more than Michael Bay eye candy, for sure. Chris O'Dowd, who got a lot of laughs playing Kristen Wiig's love interest in Bridesmaids, gets many again as one of Pete's record-label employees.

If that's not enough for you, there's Melissa McCarthy stealing her few scenes as a parent who gets into a feud with Debbie and Pete regarding their children. The aforementioned Segel shines as Debbie's trainer, and Charlyne Yi is her usual deadpan funny as another of Debbie's employees. The list goes on, but I'll stop now. (Actually, I will tell you that Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day makes an awesome cameo.)

Apatow seems to have carved out a nice niche for himself. He's sort of like James L. Brooks at his best, with a little bit of Adam Sandler when he was good, finished off with just a pinch of Woody Allen from back when he didn't suck.

This is one of the year's best comedies, featuring stellar, barnburning screen arguments. Mann and Rudd have fights for the cinematic ages on many occasions. They're actually quite despicable, yet lovable at the same time. It should also be noted that when Rudd and McCarthy square off, you should hold on to your butts.

Stick around for the credits for outtakes of McCarthy's principal office meltdown. It is laugh-until-you-cough-up-blood funny. If there were an award for credit outtakes, McCarthy would win it without contest. Seeing Rudd and Mann unsuccessfully trying to keep a straight face while McCarthy goes off counts as a 2012 cinematic highlight for me.

This Is 40 is a long one at an epic 133 minutes. (That's just 25 minutes shorter than Les Miserables, and 33 minutes shorter than The Hobbit!) Trust me that this is time well spent. Apatow and company know how to put a comedy together, and Mann and Rudd are beyond competent at delivering it.

This Is 40 is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews