Monday Movie Reviews: Spring Breakers and G.I. Joe Retaliation

Girls gone wild ... very wild. Ex-Disney child stars add a layer of irony to Spring Breakers

Ex-Disney stars add an element of irony to Spring Breakers.

Spring Breakers

 

Writer-director Harmony Korine (Kids, Gummo) makes art films that are interesting but often weird and disconcerting to watch. He is being very provocative with Spring Breakers, a lurid boobs-and-booze portrait of collegiate party animals. This may be a serious examination of how young females willingly participate in their own degradation while mistaking it for “empowerment.” Or maybe Breakers is just a con job that does little more than wallow in the shallow and sexualized hedonism it purports to deconstruct. The fact that three of the four female leads  — including Selena Gomez, until recently Justin Bieber’s girlfriend — are ex-Disney child and teen stars adds an obvious layer of irony to this carnival of flesh and frenzy.

The storyline involves four college students who are too poor to head to Florida with all their classmates for spring break. So they rob a restaurant with fake guns and catch the next bus to the sunny south. Their boozy bacchanal goes awry when they are rounded up in a police sweep, only to be bailed out of jail by a drug dealer and rapper named Alien (James Franco, with corn rows, a pound of shiny metal in his mouth, and snakes in his brain). Equipped with a large arsenal and delusions of grandeur, Alien and his ‘pussy posse’ are soon on a collision course with a nastier and better-armed rival dealer who doesn’t like competition. This is a party that may not end well.

There is a surprisingly dreamy and surreal quality to much of the filmmaking, notwithstanding the raw and raunchy content (imagine a highlights real from Girls Gone Wild as shot by a gifted cinematographer who has just taken LSD). Resolutely amoral, Breakers is artfully made and has serious intentions. But the plotting is so flimsy and the characterizations so lacking in insight that it is hard to take the film itself seriously. Loved the soundtrack, though.

Spring Breakers ★★★

Directed by Harmony Korine

Starring James Franco, Selena Gomez

R – 94 minutes

Continues at Empire 6 and SilverCity

 

 

 

Blowed Up Real Bad

 

Adolescent Xboxers should be delighted by the newest entry in the latest G.I. Joe series, which is a particularly cartoonish portrait of yet another global threat at the hands of an all-powerful megalomaniac.

Early on, a diabolical plot to kill the elite fighting squad of good guys (and one gal) known as the G.I. Joes doesn’t quite succeed — leaving just a few of them alive to pursue vengeance while once again making the planet safe for democracy.

The plotting for Retaliation is predictable, the pacing is so breakneck as to quickly become stultifying, the dialogue is corny, and the acting only functional. Dwayne Johnson is newly arrived to the series and brings his customary heroic solidity to a vapid role. Things pick up a bit when Bruce Willis arrives on the scene, playing a retired general and the one man that the surviving Joes can trust now that their own government has been infiltrated by traitors. The movie has a mix of brutally modern militarism and centuries-old ninja acrobatics and swordplay that at least adds some variety to the mix. And to be fair, there is an extended aerial sequence up in the mountains with dozens of swordsmen swinging about on ropes that is imaginative and rather dazzling. It’s also utterly preposterous, but in movies this mediocre one takes one’s pleasures where one can.

 

G.I. Joe Retaliation ★★

Directed by Jon M. Chu

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Jonathan Pryce

R – 94 minutes

Continues at the Odeon, Westshore and SilverCity

 

 

 

Perfectly Potable:

Barone Montalto, a blend of Nero D’Avola and Cabernet Sauvignon, hails from Sicily. This pleasingly smooth and spicy easy-drinker has notes of red fruit, licorice and cedar, and a surprisingly long finish. At $10 this could easily be anyone’s house pour. M

 

 

Film Listings:

 

Opening

 

★★★½ NO -(Odeon) Oscar nominated and a big hit at the recent Victoria Film Fest, this is a fact-based account of a young, hipster ad man in Chile who came up with a cheeky, seemingly apolitical campaign for the plebescite that cost dictator Augusto Pinochet his presidency in 1990. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal. Starts Fri.

EVIL DEAD -(Empire 6/SilverCity/Westshore) This 1981 “splatter” classic by horror maven Sam Raimi gets a remake for a new millennium, as five hapless 20somethings head to a remote cabin where they inadvertently summon a bunch of demons that proceed to torment and slaughter them with shocking enthusiasm. The screams start Fri.

★★★★ JURASSIC PARK 3D -(Odeon/Empire Uni 4/SilverCity/Westshore) Steven Spielberg’s classic 1993 tale of a dinosaur theme park where the toothy critters unexpectedly run amok gets a re-release in 3D. Starts Fri.

★★★★ LINCOLN -(Caprice) Stephen Spielberg directs award-winning playwright Tony (Angels in America) Kushner’s account of Abraham Lincoln’s dark days as he fights the Civil War and also fights political battles in his cabinet over plans to free America’s slaves. The superb cast includes Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field.

 

 

Continuing

★★½ ADMISSION -(Odeon/SilverCity) Tina Fey and Paul Rudd star in a likable but meandering comedy about an Ivy League admissions officer who takes a very unprofessional risk after meeting an unusual alternative-schooling kid. Lily Tomlin steals the show.

THE CROODS -(Empire 6/SilverCity/Empire Uni 4/Westshore) A prehistoric family taking an unexpected “road trip” into a magical land is the plot of this whimsical animated charmer (which has been getting great reviews). With the vocal talents of Emma Stone, Nicolas Cage, and Ryan Reynolds.

★★★ DJANGO UNCHAINED -(Roxy, 9:00) Quentin Tarantino’s latest is a gory tale about a freed slave-turned-bounty-hunter (Jamie Foxx) tracking down the brutal plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio) who has bought his wife. This mash-up of spaghetti western and blaxploitation flick is clever, but many people will find the idea of Tarantino riffing on a holocaust for his own movie-making amusement rather offensive.

ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH -(Caprice) This animated adventure tale features a brave astronaut in peril because of inter-galactic bad guys. With the vocal talents of Brendan Fraser, Jessica Sarah Parker, and Jessica Alba.

★★ G.I. JOE: RETALIATION -(Odeon/SilverCity/Westshore) This cartoonish action series gets really amped up in a sequel where the good guys are not only battling arch enemy Cobra but also struggling against dark forces lurking within their own goverment. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Jonathan Pryce and Channing Tatum. See review.

★ A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD -(Caprice) In this tedious turd of a would-be thriller,  Bruce Willis once again reprises his role as supercop John McClane, this time mixing it up with Russian mobsters who have nasty nuclear ambitions.

THE HOST -(Empire 6/Westshore/SilverCity) The latest from Twilight author Stephanie Meyers is a sci-fi tale where aliens inhabit human bodies and erase their memories. But will true love be strong enough to help a hero and heroine fight back? I’m guessing the answer is yes.

★½ IDENTITY THIEF -(Caprice) The considerable talents of Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) are wasted in this witless and often mean-spirited would-be comedy about a mild-mannered businessman who makes the grave mistake of tracking down the seemingly gentle woman who has stolen his identity.

★½ THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE -(Odeon/Caprice) Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi don’t bring much joy to this uninspired comedy about a pair of Vegas magicians whose act has gone stale. Jim Carrey steals what little show there is as a Criss Angel-style “mind rapist” who specializes in extravagant displays of self-mutilation. Note: opens at the Caprice on Friday.

★★ JACK THE GIANT SLAYER-(SilverCity/Caprice) This is a disappointing, rather joyless variation on the Jack and the Beanstalk tale. Directed by Bryan Singer (Usual Suspects, X-Men) and starring Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, and Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies). Note: opens at the Caprice on Friday

★★★½ LIFE OF PI -(Odeon) Oscar winning director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) added a new golden statuette to his collection with this visually gorgeous adaptation of Yann Martel’s magical and spiritual novel about a young man’s epic adventures while lost at sea — most of which are shared with a terrifying Bengal tiger.

★★★ OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN -(Odeon/SilverCity/Westshore/Empire Uni 4) The White House has been invaded by terrorists and it is up to a disgraced former Presidential guard to use his skills and insider knowledge to try and free the President from his captors. As brainless popcorn movies go, this one is sleekly directed, well acted, and offers mayhem on an epic scale. Starring Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, and Aaron Eckhart.

★★½ OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL -(Empire 6/SilverCity/Empire Uni 4/Westshore) Sam Raimi directs an extravgant rendering of L. Frank Baum’s Oz novel, a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, about a small-time magician (James Franco) who ends up in a fantastical land where he can achieve true greatness if he becomes a hero by battling a terrible witch. Basically, there are too many special effects and not enough heart. With Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz.

★★★ QUARTET -(Empire 6) Dustin Hoffman turns in his directorial debut with this fluffy but droll and heartfelt comedy about a retirement home for classical musicians where the annual concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday is disrupted by the arrival of a diva’s diva (Maggie Smith). The great cast includes Billy Connolly, Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay, and Pauline Collins.

★★★ RISE OF THE GUARDIANS -(Caprice) Jack Frost, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and other mythical characters come together to save childhood innocence after a very evil spirit named Pitch starts making trouble. This animated lark is voiced by Hugh Jackman and Alec Baldwin.

SAFE HAVEN -(Roxy, 7:00) Just in time for Valentine’s comes this romance/drama/mystery about a young woman with a secret past who is forced to confront some dark personal baggage after falling for a sexy widower. Moves here from the Caprice on Friday.

★★★ SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK -(Odeon) A bi-polar man (Bradley Cooper, The Hangover) is trying to put his life — and his marriage — back together when he meets a fascinating woman (Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games) with problems of her own. This quirky (and over-rated) romantic comedy is directed by David O. Russell (Three Kings, The Fighter)

★★★ SPRING BREAKERS -(Empire 6/SilverCity) It’s girls gone really wild, as four criminally inclined co-eds in need of spring break money start working for a drug and arms dealer. This is getting mostly great reviews, but it’s not clear if the movie is really satirizing teen-culture excess or merely wallowing in its most grotesque qualities. See review.

 

Leaving Thurs.

★★★½ SIDE EFFECTS -(Roxy, 7:00)

★★★★ ZERO DARK THIRTY -(Caprice)

★★★½ STOKER -(Odeon)

★★★ WRECK­–IT RALPH -(Caprice)

★★½ THE CALL -(Odeon/Westshore)

★★★ THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY -(Caprice)

 

IMAX

FLIGHT OF THE BUTTERFLIES -(10 am [except Fri., April 5], noon, 2 pm, 4 pm)

★★★ THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY -(7 pm, Fri.-Sat. only)

THE LAST REEF -(1 pm, 5 pm)

★★★½ MYSTERIES OF THE GREAT LAKES -(11 am, 3 pm, 6 pm)

TO THE ARCTIC -(10 am, Fri., April 5 only)

 

SCREENINGS

 

MOVIE MONDAY – Screening Modra, a gentle story about 17-year-old Toronto girl who deals with a recent breakup by inviting a fellow she hardly knows to accompany to her ancestral homeland in Slovakia. 6:30 pm MONDAY in the 1900-block Fort. By donation. 595-FLIC. moviemonday.ca.

AWARENESS FILM NIGHT -screens Salmon Confidential, a disturbing account of how our government seems to be ignoring the eco-threat of our declining wild salmon stocks. Renowned biologist Alexandra Morton will also be speaking. WEDNESDAY, April 10, 7 pm, at Edward Milne Community School Theatre, 6218 Sooke Rd.

 

 

Cinecenta

 

Cinecenta at UVic screens its films in the Student Union Building. Info: 721-8365. cinecenta.com.

 

★★★½ RUST AND BONE -(Wed.-Thurs., April 2-4: 7:00, 9:20) Marion Cotillard (Oscar winner for La Vie en Rose) stars in this unusual, sometimes raw, and rather bleak romantic drama from France.

★★★★ ZERO DARK THIRTY -(Fri.-Sat., April 5-6: 3:00, 7:00, 10:00) Unfairly snubbed at the Oscars, this is an absorbing, well-directed “CIA procedural” about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.

★★★★ THE IRON GIANT -(Sat.-Sun., April 6-7: 1:00 matinee) The friendship between a young boy and a giant alien robot (who is being pursued by paranoid government forces) is the subject of this marvelous animated tale.

CHASING ICE -(Sun., April 7: 3:00, 7:15, 9:00 & Mon., April 8: 7:15, 9:00) Back by popular demand — again! — this documentary profiles a National Geographic photographer who uses time-lapse photography to portray glaciers melting, thereby illustrating the reality and threat of climate change.

★★★★ AMOUR -(Tues.-Thurs., April 9-11: 7:00 only) Nominated for five Academy Awards, the latest drama from Michael Haneke (Caché) features a French couple in their 80s. After the wife has a stroke and begins a sharp decline, the husband takes on the immense burden of caring for her at home. This is an emotionally powerful and devasting film.

★★★ WARM BODIES -(Tues.-Thurs., April 9-11: 9:30 only) Zombie love is the subject of this charming, clever and very unusual romcom, as a zombie with a heart saves a human girl . . . and sets unusual events in motion.

 

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