By Rebecca Kelley
As most of the country enjoys a February that feels like April, what is your best bet for entertainment this weekend? Should you curl up on your couch with On Demand or head to your local theater? Luckily for you, there are lots of good choices this week. “Ticket or Click It” is here to break down the options. Click on the movie titles for more information about ordering On Demand or saving time by buying your tickets through Fandango. Enjoy Spring-u-ary.
What’s On Demand?
Ryan Gosling stars as the Driver, a reserved tough guy who drives cars for a living, as both a movie stunt man and a criminal get-away driver. When he meets a young mother played by Carey Mulligan, his resolve to keep himself aloof from the world begins to crumble. To protect her, he has to take on the shadowy underground of Los Angeles. And by “take on,” I mean beat the heck out of.
Our take: This fantastic movie should have been nominated for an Academy Award. Gosling is dazzling with his still-waters-run-deep, seething anger. It’s highly stylized, which makes it very cool, and the story is gripping, tense and surprisingly moving. Be aware, it is extremely violent and gory for this kind of movie. You might be shocked. But the violence works. The Driver is a man of violence who finally finds something to fight for.
Three bird-crazy birdwatchers set out to break the record for the most species seen in North America in a calendar year. They’re driven by the same passion, but each has a different story. One is a rich executive (Steve Martin) wanting to move on from his vocation and into retirement. One is a poor schlub (Jack Black) who just wants to succeed at something in life. And one is a power-hungry celebrity (Owen Wilson) defending his title. Also starring a lot of birds.
Our take: How can you go wrong with Martin, Black and Wilson? This film didn’t do well in the theaters, but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s more of a quietly goofy film than outright slapstick. At its core, the flick is about any passion that people pursue and the cost of chasing a dream. Some people find it worth the price, while some people find achieving their dream strangely empty. The film is much better than you’d expect and, also, appropriate for watching with children.
Giant robots from outer space battle each other and pretty much destroy Chicago in this third installment of the “Transformers” franchise. Rosie Huntington-Whitely replaces Megan Fox as scantily clad eye-candy in the rare moments when things aren’t blowing up.
Our take: Look, we know “Transformers” isn’t “The Descendants” or “The Artist,” but it would be nice to have a bit more coherence in the plot. Still, explosions are fun. Fights are even more fun. It’s a great escape. The thing that bothered me the most, frankly, was that Rosie Huntington-Whitely pretty much screamed throughout the entire movie. Pick up a gun, girl, and blow some gears off a robot. I don’t get what y’all see in her.
In the future, time is currency. Minutes buy lunch or a newspaper. Days pay rent. If you’re poor, you’re always down to your last few hours. When you run out of time, you die. The rich have millennia stored away and aren’t above arbitrarily raising prices on things like bus fare or bread, just to kill off a segment of the poor working folk who keep the system going. Justin Timberlake is a poor kid made good. Amanda Seyfried is a bored heiress. Together, they form a Bonnie and Clyde team that robs from the rich to give to the poor.
Our take: If the communist manifesto was a movie, this would be it. The normal laws of supply and demand are suspended. In fact, all free market economic principles are suspended. Timberlake and Seyfried work well together and some of the action sequences have some oomph. But, mostly, the movie is just preaching. You know you’re in trouble when you wish the rich would just kill off all the poor so the movie could end. I bet it played well at #OccupyWallStreet, assuming they took a break from drum circles to go to the theater.
Vera Farmiga directs (for the first time) and stars in this movie about a tight-knit group of Christian “Jesus People” in the ’70s and ’80s. Farmiga is a wife and mother whose love for Jesus is all-consuming, until she starts asking questions the faith just doesn’t answer.
Our take: Unusually respectful of faith, this movie plays as more wistful than scornful. The main character wants to believe and admires those who do, but finds faith slipping away from her. The most moving part has little to do with faith and everything to do with lost love. Still, much of the film tries to be neutral – so much so that, at times, it feels like a documentary than a fictional story. It’s a noble and laudable effort by a moviemaker to understand and explore faith, but it ultimately leaves you wanting more.
What’s In Theaters?
Three high school kids – a loner, a nerdish kid and a popular kid – find a strange rock that gives them the power to move things with their minds. As they learn and expand their new powers, initial glee gives way to something darker and more terrifying.
Our take: With great power comes great responsibility, as Spidey would say, but these are just three fairly ordinary high school kids. The powers don’t make them good, but bring out and amplify whatever was already inside. In one case, what was inside ain’t pretty. This film is fantastic. The acting, especially by Michael B. Jordan and Dane DeHaan, is top notch. The film is presented “found footage”-style, which starts with some shaky camera moments, but evolves as director Josh Trake plays with the concept and turns it into something very cool indeed. We’ve seen plenty of superhero movies and TV shows, but this one feels like the first time. It’s fresh. It’s also “Smallville” meets “Carrie.”
Harry Potter – um, I mean, Daniel Radcliffe, stars in this horror spook-fest. He is a lawyer who has to investigate weird happenings in a village in the olden days. Turns out, there’s a crabby ghost-woman who feels she must take her annoyance out on the populace.
Our take: I didn’t get to screen this movie, but have heard from colleagues that it’s a slow-paced film that gradually builds to pretty significant scares. Other colleagues were bored. Take your pick.
In this true story, some whales are trapped in encroaching ice in Alaska. A reporter (John Krasinski) sets off on a quest with his ex-girlfriend (Drew Barrymore) to save them.
Our take: It’s cheesy and hokey and not so well done, but it feels good. And you can watch it with your kids. What’s so bad about that?
Ticket or Click It?
Ticket! Check out “Chronicle.” It’s excellent.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.