Movie Reviews: The Call and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

The Call is an adrenaline rich tale, while Wonderstone is woefully ill-considered and unfunny

Halle Berry stars as Jordean Turner, a veteran 911 operator, in The Call

Halle Berry Has A Calling

 

The Call, an adrenaline-rich tale of a maiden in peril at the hands of a diabolical kidnapper, has been getting decidedly mixed reviews and I’m not sure why. It does exactly what the trailers promise: take the audience on a slick thrill ride with two stops along the way for some brief but memorable carnage.

Oscar-winner Halle Berry stars as Jordan Turner, a veteran 911 operator in Los Angeles who steps away from the front lines after making a mistake that costs a teenage girl her life at the hands of a crazed abductor. The story jumps ahead six months and another girl, Casey (Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine), is grabbed from a mall and chucked into the trunk of a car. She phones 911 on her cell and Jordan, now just a trainer of recruits, takes over the call when a newbie operator panics. The plot does a clever job of building suspense as Jordan coaches Casey in ways of helping track the car she’s travelling in. The kidnapper continues to elude his pursuers, but not before Jordan recognizes his voice as that of the killer from six months ago. And so, quicker than you can say “a shot at redemption,” Jordan makes it her personal mission to save the girl and get the murderous dirtbag.

Sure, this formulaic actioner owes a large debt to Silence of the Lambs. But it also throws some clever plot twists at the audience (as well as an interesting insider’s look at the world of 911). Admittedly, the “insane killer” mostly just looks like he didn’t get enough sleep the night before. On the plus side of the acting ledger, there’s a nice cameo by Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos) as Good Samaritan road kill, and Berry does a great job all the way through. The plotting is plausible, even if the climax is cliched and wobbly — and a bit unsavoury. Overall, though, Call delivers a clear, undistorted entertainment message.

Rating: ★★½

Wonder At The Blunder

Sometime in the future when a historian of cinema writes a book examining the phenomenon of crappy movies by good actors, he/she may well spend a chapter on The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, a woefully ill-considered and unfunny “comedy.” The movie starts with two boyhood nerd-pals who bond over magic and later become superstar Las Vegas magicians. Suddenly it’s 20 years into their career and Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) have seen both their act and their friendship go stale.

The crisis comes when an upstart Criss Angel-style performer (Jim Carrey, with scruffy beard and hair long enough to get him a job with the Allman Brothers Band) appears on the scene: this so-called “mind rapist” consistently upstages them with grotesquely masochistic stunts such as spending the night sleeping on a bed of hot coals or holding his urine for 10 days. Burt and Anton’s attempt to salvage their sputtering act fails, and the two become bitter enemies. Which leaves nearly an hour of screen time for these uninteresting characters to reconcile and relearn the “wonder” at the heart of magic.

The adult Burt is a bitter, womanizing jerk and Carell makes him detestable but hardly ever funny. Buscemi, a talented but narrow-range character actor, mostly looks uncomfortable. Wonderstone also wastes the talents of James Gandolfini and Olivia Wilde; at least Alan Arkin creates genuine sentiment as the legendary magician who inspired Burt and Anton as boys. But the only reason to see this turkey is for the crazed cameo by Carrey, who performs his bizarre antics with an unnerving comic panache. M

Rating: ★½

The Call continues at the Odeon & SilverCity; The Incredible Burt Wonderstone continues at the Odeon, SilverCity, Westshore, & Empire Uni 4.

 

 

Movie Listings:

 

Opening

 

STOKER -(Odeon) In what promises to be a nifty psychological thriller, a teenage girl’s father dies and a creepy but fascinating uncle she never knew she had comes to stay with her and her unstable mother. Starring Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska. Starts Fri.

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. Starring Morgan Freeman, Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart. Starts Fri.

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. With the vocal talents of Emma Stone, Nicolas Cage, and Ryan Reynolds. Starts Fri.

ADMISSION -(Odeon/SilverCity) Tina Fey and Paul Rudd star in a promising comedy about an Ivy League admissions officer who takes a very unprofessional risk after meeting an unusual alternative-schooling kid. Starts Fri.

★★★★ ZERO DARK THIRTY -(Caprice) Unfairly snubbed at theOscars, this is an absorbing, well-directed “CIA procedural” about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Starts Fri.

 

Continuing

★★½ THE CALL -(Odeon/Westshore) Halle Berry stars as a 911 operator who ultimately takes extreme measures to save the life of a girl who has just been kidnapped by the same psycho who killed an earlier 911 client of hers six months earliers. This is a slick, well-acted and (mostly) credible thriller. See review.

★★★ DJANGO UNCHAINED -(Roxy, 7:00) 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.

★ 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 HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY -(Caprice) This long-expected Lord of the Rings prequel has a young Bilbo Baggins head off with a posse of dwarves to reclaim some treasure stolen by a mean old dragon named Smaug. Hobbit fans will love it, people with less of a passion for those with hairy feet should merely be entertained. With Ian McKellen, Ian Holm, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, and Andy Serkis as the perfidious Gollum.

★½ IDENTITY THIEF -(Empire 6) 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. Note: moves here Friday.

★½ THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE -(Odeon/Empire Uni 4/SilverCity/Westshore) 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. See review.

★★ JACK THE GIANT SLAYER-(Empire 6/SilverCity/Westshore) 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).

★★★½ LIFE OF PI -(SilverCity/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.

★★★½ LES MISERABLES -(Empire 6) Victor Hugo’s sweeping tale of love, poverty and an obsessed policeman stalking a reformed criminal in 19th century France inspired the best of the mega-musicals, and now makes a stylish migration to the silver screen. This elegant, emotionally powerful film manages to be both epic and intimate. Starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway

★★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 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. Note: moves here Friday.

★★★ 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 -(Caprice) 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.

★★★½ SIDE EFFECTS -(Roxy, 9:50) What is allegedly Steven Soderbergh’s last film is an edgy psychological thriller about a woman whose life unravels when she’s prescribed a fancy new anti-depressant. Starring Rooney Mara, Jude Law, and Channing Tatum. Slickly directed, with Hitchockian style and a twisty plot.

★★★ SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK -(Odeon/ Caprice) 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)

★★★ WRECK­–IT RALPH -(Caprice) John C. Reilly provides the voice for a video-game villain who tires of being a bad guy and sets out on a quest that throws an entire video arcade into chaos. This occasionally-inspired animation lark includes the voices of Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch.

 

Leaving Thurs.

A ROYAL AFFAIR -(Odeon)

★★★ WARM BODIES -(Caprice)

★★½ 21 & OVER -(Capitol/SilverCity/Westshore)

★★★½ ARGO -(Empire 6)

DEAD MAN DOWN -(Empire 6/SilverCity)

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA -(Caprice)

ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH -(SilverCity/Westshore)

 

 

 

IMAX

★★★★ EVEREST -(6 pm)

★★★ THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY -(7 pm)

THE LAST REEF -(11 am [except Sat., Mar. 23], 2 pm, 4 pm)

★★★½ MYSTERIES OF THE GREAT LAKES -(10 am [except Sat., Mar. 23], noon, 3 pm, 5 pm)

TO THE ARCTIC -(1 pm)

 

SCREENINGS

 

MOVIE MONDAY – Screening Winds of Heaven, a documentary look at the extraordinary life and artistic practices of Emily Carr, the iconic and trailblazing painter who is one of Victoria’s most cherished citizens. 6:30 pm MONDAY in the 1900-block Fort. By donation. 595-FLIC. moviemonday.ca.

OPEN CINEMA -screens Big Boys Gone Bananas: The Price of Free Speech, a celebrated and highly engaging documentary about a classic  battle between noble underdogs and corporate bullies. The post-screening discussion should be very good. WEDNESDAY, 7 pm, Victoria Event Centre, 1415 Broad Street.

SOCIAL JUSTICE FILM NIGHT -presents Monsenor: The Last Journey of Oscar Romero, the beloved Catholic priest who became a martyr for supporting the poor people of El Salvador and standing up to the corrupt government of the 1970s. THURSDAY, 7 pm, 2994 Douglas St. (BCGEU Hall).

 

 

Cinecenta

 

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

 

HOLY MOTORS -(Wed.-Thurs., Mar. 20-21) People who like to challenge themselves with films that are “weird and perplexing” should enjoy this eccentric puzzle-pic from French auteur Léos Carax. “Electrifying” — Washington Post.

★★ HYDE PARK ON HUDSON -(Fri.-Sat., Mar. 22-23: 3:00, 7:00) Bill Murray makes a rather quirky Franklin Roosevelt in this muted comedy of manners that focuses on a 1939 visit from the King and Queen of England and is told from the perspective of a dowdy fifth cousin (a wasted Laura Linney) with whom FDR had a secret affair.

★★★ DJANGO UNCHAINED -(Fri.-Sat., Mar. 22-23: 9:00 only) 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.

A TOWN CALLED PANIC -(Sat.-Sun., Mar. 23-24: 1:00 matinee) An award-winning animated adventure-comedy from France.

56 UP -(Sun., Mar. 24: 3:00, 7:00 & Mon., Mar. 25: 7:00 only) Here is the latest installment of Michael Apted’s unique and utterly fascinating documentary that, beginning in 1964 and continuing every 7 years since, sees how the same group of Britons are doing as they progress through their lives.

LIFE OF BRIAN -(Tues., Mar. 26: 7:10, 9:00) Monty Python’s wacky religious satire is still crazy after all these years.

HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE -(Wed.-Thurs., Mar. 27-28: 7:00, 9:20) This acclaimed American documentary tracks the history of AIDS activism during the many years when neither science nor society were very successful in battling this terrible global disease.

 

 

 

 

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