REVIEW: The Counselor

25 10 2015

Ever wondered what it would look and sound like if Aaron Sorkin took a pass at adapting “No Country for Old Men?” It might resemble Ridley Scott’s “The Counselor,” a film taken from a script by great novelist Cormac McCarthy himself. For someone so sparse and minimalistic in prose, his first screenplay sure feels bombastic.

It’s hard to fathom that someone so widely lauded as one of the most significant writers of our time could turn in a work full of fortune-cookie dialogue and overwrought, self-serious drama. (Wait, maybe this was the blueprint for season 2 of “True Detective.”) At times, it even feels like McCarthy has to be pulling some kind of elaborate prank on his audience. How else could anyone possibly explain why “The Counselor” goes on a bizarre tangent to depict Cameron Diaz’s Malkina sexually pleasuring herself on the windshield of a Ferrari?

Or perhaps McCarthy needs a strong authorial buffer like the Coen Brothers to translate into the medium of cinema. (John Hillcoat really just didn’t cut it on “The Road.”) Ridley Scott assembled quite the cast to bring the writer’s vision to life, but none of these talented thespians can transcend the schlock of the script. It even renders Michael Fassbender almost ineffective, and that’s really saying something.

In somewhat of a change of pace, McCarthy goes heavy on conversation and light on characterization. His saga of greed, money and jealousy set along the U.S.-Mexico border plays as little more than a collection of connected events since the various personalities involved never get explored in much depth. There’s at once too much and not enough happening in “The Counselor.” Rather than trying to resolve these contradictions, I’d rather just forget that all involved even spent their time on this.  C2stars





REVIEW: Chef

13 07 2014

Summer 2014 might host the documentary “Life Itself” that exalts critics, yet it also boasts Jon Favreau’s “Chef” that tears them down.  In the film, director Jon Favreau steps in front of the camera as Carl Casper, a chef whose meteoric rise in the culinary world has coasted to a plateau preparing dishes for the elite by the time we meet up with him.  Critics help build his reputation, but they are also apparently responsible for tearing it down.

Forced by his boss to prepare a rather formulaic meal when an influential foodie blogger Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) stops by and subsequently receives a write-up indicating disappointment.  In his eyes, however, Casper might as well have received a review similar to that one of Guy Fieri’s restaurant penned by Pete Wells of The New York Times.  The now-notorious lambasting featured the critic mercilessly hurling rhetorical questions at the chef to the point where it seems like a personal vendetta.

Favreau bakes his opinions on the critical establishment following the roasting of his 2011 film “Cowboys & Aliens” into “Chef,” indicating an almost personal affront to the negative notices.  His attitude towards reviewers resembles that of a petulant child refusing to believe he can do anything wrong.  And despite a slapped-on ending to redeem the critics, Favreau never seems to acknowledge that he might just share a common goal with them – that of promoting and advancing a craft.

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REVIEW: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

9 08 2009

There is nothing particularly special about “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.”  I can’t think of anything horrifyingly wrong about it, but there isn’t anything notably right about it either.  The third installment of the “Ice Age” series doesn’t offer up any antics that we haven’t seen in its two predecessors.  But overall, it is still fairly enjoyable to watch.

Parenthood is the theme of the movie as wooly mammoths Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) are expecting some little ones.  The hardened sabertooth tiger Diego (Denis Leary) considers abandoning the pack because he feels unfit to be around kids.  And the crazy sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) feels the need to be a parent too, so he grabs three eggs and raises them as his own offspring.  Unfortunately, the eggs belong to a tyrannosaurus rex who drags her children along with Sid underground to where all the dinosaurs are.  The rest of the gang goes down to rescue Sid, enlisting the help of some sort of rodent (Simon Pegg) to help them navigate the perilous terrain.  Meanwhile, the squirrel, Scrat, continues to provide an enjoyable sideshow in his quest to gather acorns, this time finding a female counterpart.

There really isn’t much I can say about the movie.  There are no glaring errors other than its historical accuracy.  The animation is no Pixar, but it is still easy to watch.  All the “Ice Age” movies include a good family message, but I don’t think this one packs as good of a punch.  It provides decent entertainment for an hour and a half.  You can get a few good chuckles or giggles out of it, kid or adult.  B- / 2stars