If you're willing to accept that people can travel back and forth in time, we have "Looper," one exciting movie for you in theaters and in home video, Johnny Depp and Tim Burton bring their special skills to “Dark Shadows,” which revisits a classic television show.
As a filmmaker, Tim Burton (“Beetlejuice,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Alice in Wonderland”) sets the bar pretty high. So even when he is not at the top of his game, which is the case here, his reboot of the “Dark Shadows” television series from the late ’60s is lots of fun.
Once again Burton collaborates with the great Johnny Depp, who as Barnabas, was turned into a vampire and buried after his family immigrated to America.
Flash forward to 1972. Barnabas’s family has fallen on hard times and he’s accidentally disinterred. Depp is joined by Michelle Pfeiffer and Chloe Grace Moretz (most recently seen in “Hugo).
Burton is one of our most gifted filmmakers and always provides a unique treat for the eye and for the mind. Enjoy. Recommended
Parents should take note of the movie’s PG-13 for comic horror violence, sexual content, some drug use, language and smoking.
People Like Us
The premise of this movie is unpleasant and dishonest: When Sam’s father dies, he left instructions that Sam deliver $150,000 to a daughter he fathered out of wedlock. Sam finds the woman, Frankie, and then can’t tell her the truth.
I realize that if he told her the truth right away, it would be a really short movie, but it’s still a distasteful concept.
Besides lacking the moral compass to do the right thing with his half sister, Sam is in trouble at his job, deeply in debt and lies almost every time he opens his mouth. While he’s charming in his encounters with Frankie and her son (if you don’t count the fact that he won’t tell her the truth), it’s hard to understand what his fiancé sees in him or what we, as the audience, are supposed to think of this guy. He’s not likeable.
Besides, the movie is not very well done. It was directed in a halting style, with jerky shifts in mood (sometimes within a scene) by Alex Kurtzman (who also co-wrote the script). Kurtzman has an impressive resume as a writer and producer. But after a crackling opening sequence that establishes Sam’s questionable business and personal ethics, the movie bogs down.
Some very good actors Chris Pine (Sam), Elizabeth Banks (Frankie) and Michelle Pfeiffer are wasted in “People Like Us.” Not Recommended.
Magic City-Season 1
“Magic City” is an original series created for the Starz cable network. In 1959 Miami, Ike Evans, owner of Miami’s most glamorous and luxurious hotel, must deal with the mob to make sure his hotel survives. Set in Miami just after the Cuban Revolution, “Magic City” has a rich texture of big cars, men and women dressed in their best, enjoying Sinatra in the big show room and gambling behind the scenes. Jeffrey Dean Morgan stars as Ike, who will do anything to keep his hotel. If you want some back-in-the-day style (think “Mad Men’) in contrast to the darker side of organized crime, this is for you. Recommended.
IN THE THEATERS
In the hands of Disney animation, “The Lion King” tells the story of the circle of life in a warm and fuzzy way. In the hands of writer-director Rian Johnson and his sleek, powerful thriller “Looper,” not so much. In “Looper,” when you close the circle of life, you set the date of your own death.
This is a movie about time-travel and it’s also set in the future. So if you try to apply too much logic to the time-travel principles set out in the movie, the whole thing will collapse. However, if you accept these “movie laws,” this is exciting, unpredictable and emotional.
The movie is set in 2044. From farther into the future in 2074, organized crime uses time travel to send people back to 2044 where they are killed by loopers, so the bad guys don’t have to deal with them later on.
Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one of the loopers who is successful in a rough, drug-fueled profession until one day he finds his target to be the older version of himself: Old Joe, played by Bruce Willis. Old Joe gets away and threatens to upset the entire time continuum.
With me so far?
While it’s a little hard to follow with all this back and forth in time, the story is extremely compelling as Joe and Old Joe face off in the underworld of 2044. Joe’s boss, Abe (Jeff Daniels) who is low-key but nonetheless frightening, is very angry at Joe’s mistake and sends out a series of henchman to find Old Joe and Joe.
Sophisticated, complex, involving and thought-provoking. Four Palm Trees.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
From the trailer, you might think this is a comedy. It’s not.
It’s an outstanding movie about Charlie, teen-ager recovering from some serious emotional problems (the kind that put you in an institution for a while) while trying to carve out a place in the cruel environment of a high school freshman. A couple of seniors provide him with acceptance and understanding while helping on the path to adulthood.
With a premise as common as this, the writing, acting and directing have to be spot-on and that’s the case here. Stephen Chbosky directed and wrote the script based on his novel. He has the touch as a writer and a director and this movie is heartbreaking in his realism from beginning to end.
Charlie, played by Logan Lerman, began his acting career at age of 4 (he’s 20) now, brings depth and believability to his role. His friends, played by Ezra Miller and Emma Watson (from the Harry Potter series) are spot-on. And several actors who usually star in their own TV shows or movies show up big time in small but important roles. Paul Rudd (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) is Charlie’s teacher. Kate Walsh (“Private Practice”) and Dylan McDermott (“The Practice” and “American Horror Story”) have brief but finely tuned parts as Charlie’s parents, who are so believable as people with flaws who love their son.
This is a profoundly moving, well-crafted motion picture. See it. Five Palm Trees.
Fast paced, non-stop laughs.
The whole thing has kind of an old school feel, in story and animation. It’s very smooth and sophisticated but it doesn’t have the same slickness as “Ice Age” or “Cars,” which are outstanding in their own way.
This is good premise and a touching story. For years, Dracula has run the Hotel Transylvania where all the monsters can come and hang out without any interference from those pesky humans. The monsters are all here, too: Frankenstein, the Invisible Man and the Wolfman, his wife and their dozens of nasty wolf-children.
Dracula (his friends and customers call him “Drac”) has raised his daughter Mavis by himself and now that she’s reached the age of 18 (make that 118), she wants to see the world. Like any other movie or television father, he’s frightened at the thought of his daughter growing up and goes to great lengths to keep her safe. Featuring voices of Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James and Steve Buscemi.
This is warm, funny, entertaining and suitable for all ages children and adults alike. Three Palm Trees.
FROM THE VAULT
Stop-Loss and 50/50
Joseph Gordon-Levitt started acting at the age of 7 and initial made his mark in the aliens-on-earth situation comedy “Third Rock from the Sun,” which was a hit show during its 1993-2001 run. He has continued to work, including roles in two movies this year, “Premium Rush” and “The Dark Knight Returns.” For some of his excellent earlier roles, check out “Stop-Loss,” about soldiers fighting the Iraq war who have their tours unexpected extended, and “50-50,” a comedy drama with Gordon-Levitt, as a young Public Radio journalist dealing with cancer, and his friend Seth Rogan, who thinks that they should exploit the cancer to elicit sympathy and affection from young, attractive women.
HOW WE RATE THE MOVIES
Home videos are simply rated recommended or not recommended.
New Releases are rated as follows:
Five Palm Trees: Must see
Four Palm Trees: Worth seeing on the big screen
Three Palm Trees: Recommended for home viewing or on the big screen
Two Palm Trees: OK if you’re not paying
One Palm Tree: Save your money and your time.