‘Hall Pass’ is creators’ funniest, charming comedy since ‘Mary’
Owen Wilson, Larry Joe Campbell, Stephen Merchant and Jason Sudeikis star in “Hall Pass.”
- New films
“Battle: Los Angeles”
Director: Jonathan Liebesman.
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez.
The plot: As a full-scale alien invasion threatens the Earth, in
Los Angeles, a veteran Marine staff sergeant leads his new platoon
into battle with an uncommon enemy.
Director: Carly Fukunaga.
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender.
The plot: A mousy governess who softens the heart of her
employer soon discovers that he's hiding a terrible secret.
Genre: Drama, romance.
- Film roundup
★ (out of four)
Where to begin? For starters, the film takes the deadpan tone of
a serious, old-school epic, making it feel like the most lifeless
and uninspired adventure movie of 1957. (Watching Macdonald’s film,
my mind couldn’t help but wander to Neil Marshall’s similar but
vastly superior “Centurion,” which, in contrast, embraced its
tawdry nature with infectious enthusiasm.) There is no rousing
spirit or good-natured fun to be found in “The Eagle,” which is a
slow-moving, dreary affair that has the attitude of an Old
Hollywood production without any of the actual spectacle.
The film, assembled in nonlinear fashion, tells the “boy meets
girl, boy loses girl, boy doesn’t get girl back” story of Dean and
Cindy (Gosling and Williams, respectively). As the movie opens, the
couple is roughly five years into their tumultuous marriage. He’s a
balding, chain-smoking alcoholic with a dead-end job, but seems
content with a simple existence. She’s a stressed, frigid,
overworked nurse who is not as content. They have a daughter
together (it is soon established that she is not Dean’s biological
child), and seeking a much-needed escape from domestic pressures,
Dean suggests that Cindy accompany him to a “theme motel” for the
night. From here the film delves heavily into flashback as we
witness the couple’s charming, sexually charged courtship intercut
with their significantly less friendly encounters in the
oppressively blue-lit “future room.” It is a night of pain and
humiliation, and it’s the last that they will spend together.
“THE KING’S SPEECH”
I must admit some trepidation when approaching films that rely
on what could be perceived as “gimmick” performances — those
“challenging” roles that Oscar voters love but, in actuality, offer
very little to viewers looking for more than mere exaggerated
caricatures (e.g. Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump,” Sean Penn in “Milk,”
Despite the sustained critical raves for Colin Firth’s
performance as the verbally impaired King George VI of England in
“The King’s Speech,” up until seeing it I remained skeptical that
even an actor as talented as Firth could transcend the limitations
of such a role — could craft a fully formed character and
performance that is defined by more than a stammer.
I responded so strongly to David O. Russell’s “The Fighter,” an
old-fashioned underdog narrative that wears sentimentality on its
The difference between Russell’s film and the dozens of other
similar, less successful sports dramas is that here, the filmmaker
lets emotion develop organically from the characters and their
histories. Instead of attempting to manipulate viewer responses via
swelling music and tearful exchanges and all manner of riffraff,
Russell (most noted for “Three Kings” and “I Heart Huckabees”) has
gone back to basics.
Posted: Friday, March 4, 2011 9:39 am
We’re back to new movies this week with a quick look at “Hall
Pass,” the latest raunchy comedy from Farrelly brothers (it was a
close call between that and the Nic Cage exploitation vehicle
“Drive Angry” — they both got terrible reviews, so I literally
flipped a coin). Next week we’ll take a peek at “Rango,” followed
by “Battle: Los Angeles.” Not the best lineup, but not the worst,
Also, please see below for my obligatory mini-commentary on last
weekend’s Oscar telecast. I didn’t have the best showing when it
came to predicting the races — 16 out of 24, giving me second place
in the office pool behind Heather, who took the whole thing and won
our $20 side-bet with 17 correct guesses. Alas, no readers out-did
me, so there is no winner to announce in the Outguess Jason
Contest. Next year we’ll set it up with more advanced notice and
cooler prizes, and will hopefully have more success. Meantime …
Friday, March 4, 2011 9:39 am.