Movies, unlike albums, don’t have the luxury of being “growers.” They can’t start with the six-minute ambient piece and work their way to the big hit. They’re constructed like Now! compilations, front-loaded with the biggest hits and designed to bombard the viewer into submission. “30 Minutes or Less,” the new comedy from “Zombieland” director Ruben Fleischer, is built like Radiohead’s Kid A (it’s inferior to Kid A, of course, but go with us on this). The overall experience is a satisfying one, but it will try the patience of a saint along the way. Simply put, the first 30 minutes are brutal.
After watching “28 Weeks Later,” the only thing I wanted to do was take a shower and watch “American Idol.” Granted, it contained all the elements that these movies need to be effective: it was bloody, disturbing and relentless, but not in a thrilling way. Instead, it was exhausting and bleak, and made me feel dirty just watching it. To gore hounds, that may sound like a good thing. I assure you, it’s not. And yet, the movie has its good points. There is some truly frightful stuff here, but it’s not in a boo-eek way as much as a holy-shit-we’re-really-flawed-as-a-species way. If that gets you off, you are not welcome in my house.
One of the most overused expressions when describing a comedy is to say that it’s explosively funny. Most of the time, what that means is someone on screen is merely doing something out of character, which rarely makes sense in context with the rest of the story. It’s the laugh for the sake of a laugh, which is to say it’s a cheap laugh. Good comedy needs to be based, however tenuously, in reality.
Heaven help us if anything resembling “13 Tzameti” (the ‘t’ is silent and the ‘e’ is soft, so it sounds like an Italian dish) takes place in real life. The events in Gela Babluani’s low-budget, grainy black & white thriller may have been shot on the cheap, but few things you’ll ever see come with a steeper price than the one that the lead character pays here.
It’s always nice to see someone make an animated feature that forgoes the toddler set in order to try something more grown-up. However, making a movie that’s not appropriate for kids is not the same as making a movie for adults, and that is where “9” loses its way. It contains some dynamite animation, along with action sequences that make “Jurassic Park” look like, well, child’s play. But who is this movie’s target audience? The story doesn’t have enough meat on its bones to satisfy adults – which makes sense, considering it was originally a short film that its creator Shane Acker has fleshed out to make an equally short full-length feature – and the tone is far too bleak to appeal to teenagers. Goth kids might like it, though. No wonder Tim Burton signed on as producer.
It’s not often – on the big screen, anyway – that director McG traffics in human emotion. His films are mostly about the slam and the bang, so his attachment to a movie like “3 Days to Kill” is a bit surprising at first. This is not to say that the movie doesn’t have some slam-bang moments (it does), but that it operates at a different speed than McG’s other work. The father-daughter relationship comes first, though murder isn’t far behind. The story, by Luc Besson (“The Professional”), bites off more than it can chew, and it requires “Taken” levels of disbelief to excuse carnage that our government would surely have to answer for on a public stage, but the acting performances elevate the material from ‘predictable’ to ‘predictable but fun.’
If you told us that the script for “2 Guns” had been collecting dust in Universal’s vault since 1997, it wouldn’t surprise us in the slightest. Between the reluctant but chatty partners, the non-linear timeline, the quirky but deadly spooks, the unconventional interrogation, the lone female character of importance-turned-hostage, the Mexican standoff, and most importantly the complete disregard for logic, movies don’t get much more ‘90s than this one. Thankfully, it’s also a lot of fun. It may not have an original thought in its head, but it has Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, and they sell the hell out of it.
It’s well established that “Fifty Shades of Grey” began life as fan fiction by a “Twilight” devotee who was frustrated with the lack of sex in the books, and that’s fair; there is but one sex scene in the entire series, after all. However, this married mother of two (!) didn’t just write about Bella and Edward (here named Ana and Christian) having sex: she wrote about them having rough sex, BDSM-type stuff that tries to present itself as a confident woman owning her sexuality, when in fact the sex is completely about him, and he is constantly looking for reasons to “punish” her. Christian Grey is basically the Patrick Bateman (“American Psycho”) of sex, to the point where “American Psycho” author Bret Easton Ellis saw so much of Patrick in Christian that he actually begged “Grey” author E. L. James for the right to write the film’s screenplay. She turned him down. That’s unfortunate; he might have made something watchable out of this.