The highly anticipated Jennifer Lopez feature “Hustlers” misses the mark in theaters this week. In home video, “Dark Phoenix” fails to do the job in bringing the Marvel X-Men series to a conclusion
It’s Viewing the Videos.
“Dark Phoenix” was supposed to wrap up the Marvel “X-Men” series.
It’s a weak effort compared to the stellar work in “Avengers: Endgame,” also released this year, which provided a satisfying end to the Avengers cycle.
The vast majority of this movie is fighting, on the ground, in the air or in outer space. The stunts are spectacular even though confusing and sometimes simply tiresome. The last 45 minutes is almost continuous battles, and frankly, video games are more interesting, usually with better production values.
This is a very expensive movie, with a heavyweight cast including James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult and Jessica Chastain. But the money was not well spent.
All the major characters, whether they’re X-Men or something else, are pretty much impervious to destruction. It’s kind of fun seeing them absorb a fusillade of machine gun bullets and then the reconstitute their body in about 10 seconds, but when the effect is repeated over and over, it’s just boring
This is a time in history where it’s desirable to have movies with tough female leads. They might be villains, but it’s their turn.
While “Hustlers” might be the right movie for the times, unfortunately, it’s not very good.
Outstanding acting by Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu goes to waste in a movie that feels like it’s someone’s first effort as a movie maker in high school.
The movie is filled with jerky camerawork and trite dialogue (“motherhood is a mental illness.”).
Described as “Inspired by a true story,” “Hustlers” is based on a famous New York Magazine article about a group of dancers from strip clubs.
As Wall Street boomed in the early 2000s, so did the strip clubs in New York City. After the economic crash in 2008, the strip club business fell apart.
A group of dancers started drugging men and running up huge charges on their credit cards.
Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) was the ringleader, who justified their actions by saying no one went to jail for all the people who lost their homes and 401K money when the economy tanked. So it was all right for these dancers to make a living by fleecing these guys.
Lopez’s character is everything audiences want in a tough leading character and this time it’s a female.
Wu (Destiny) is riding a hot streak ,starring in the ABC series “Fresh Off The Boat” and last year’s smash hit “Crazy, Rich Asians.”
And here, she shows another dimension as an actor, as Destiny, who just wants to take care of her grandmother. Destiny (like all the characters) knows that what they’re doing is wrong, but they can rationalize their actions.
The female characters are strong and well developed with unique personalities.
But the male characters are pretty much all stereotypes
The cast of dancers is inspired and includes singers Keke Palmer, Lizzo and Cardi B and Lili Renhart (“Riverdale” on the CW network),
The movie has a very high gloss and the dancers are spectacular, but the quality production values and above average acting can’t disguise the weaknesses in the script.
Two Palm Trees.
There’s enough material in “The Goldfinch” for at least two full length movies, but as presented, “The Goldfinch” is over long, rambling and confusing.
A young boy survives an explosion at a New York museum that kills his mother. He steals an incredibly valuable small painting (The Goldfinch). That act controls his destiny and the movie.
The film is exquisitely photographed by Roger Deakins (Oscar winner for “Blade Runner 2049”), but it’s yet another movie that is hindered by dialogue that is suitable for reading but not right for actors.
For example, the lead character says “I wear bespoke suits. I swim twice a week. I spend time with people I find unpleasant.” Okay for print, but not so good for the screen.
Part of the problem is the central character of Theo.
We feel sorry for Theo. He blames himself for the death of his mother in the explosion. But he turns to drugs and then becomes a dealer in fake antiques as an adult.
So he’s not especially sympathetic.
As an adult, Theo is played by Ansel Elgort in a nuanced performance that is better than the material.
Nicole Kidman is strong is the matriarch of the high society New York City family who takes in Theo after the bombing.
Kidman presides over a wealthy functional family. Even though her character seems somewhat cold on the surface, she provides Theo with a welcome landing place after his mother is killed. His father deserted the family, but eventually shows up to drag Theo to an isolated Las Vegas neighborhood where he’s introduced to drugs.
He escapes and ends up with antiques dealer Hobie (Jeffrey Wright), who is only other good person in the film besides Kidman.
The story has plenty to think about: friendship, destiny, knowing right from wrong and the foundation of the story offer possibilities.
But there’s so much of mess to sit through.
The running time of 2 hours and 29 minutes is more appropriate to an explosion-packed super hero movie than one that tries to comment on the greater mysteries of life.
For profound observations on life, read the book.
One Palm Tree.
FROM THE VAULT
John Crowley (“The Goldfinch”) provided a minor masterpiece in 2015’s “Brooklyn,” starring Saoirse Ronan. Like “The Goldfinch,” this was an adaption of a best-selling novel that provided flawless presentation of a story that took unexpected turns.
HOW WE RATE THE FILMS
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: Skip it. Save your money and your time.