Curmudgeonly talk show host Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson, essential here) has lost her edge over the years, her ratings have followed. So begins the glow up of “old crone gets new voice” that is Late Night. When amateur “diversity hire” Molly (Mindy Kaling, who also wrote the screenplay) is given a seat on Newbury’s white-male-dominant writing staff, the unlikely pair develop a working relationship that promises professional rebirth and a deeper understanding of modern entertainment tastes – to middling, and often safe, effect. The enjoyable, if forgettable, comedy from director Nisha Ganatra doesn’t have a lot of tooth to bare, nor much bold to its protest, and its dramatic impact is dulled accordingly. The film functions much like late night television, lulling watchers into an amused (if hardly impassioned) trance; momentarily entertaining but rabid for whatever upcoming slice of disposal entertainment. (B-) Read More
The king is dead, long live the queen. With the apparent demise of George Clooney’s smug, square-chinned Danny Ocean, kid sister Debbie (Sandra Bullock) has taken up the family mantle of thievery, having cooked up the perfect jewel heist while locked in a state penitentiary for the past five years. There’s double-crosses, jobs within jobs, slick montages, and a brand new bag of femme fatales to get to know but Ocean’s 8 is very much an offshoot of the popular rebooted franchise brought to life in the early 2000’s. Read More
Ava DuVernay’s well-intentioned adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s popular children’s book of the same name is a tenaciously tedious, psychedelically sloppy slog. Championing a well-meaning message of the bonds of family and acceptance of oneself, the actual movie is a mind-numbing flurry of exposition vomit, hurried character development and drag-show pizzaz. DuVernay’s tale of a brother and sister hunting their lost father (Chris Pine) throughout the galaxy is constantly on the go, relying on bright pops of color and shimmery CGI to cover up the gaping plot holes developed courtesy of its neck-break pace. Characters explain the plot ad nauseum, using in-house lingo sure to leave many skeptical eyes a’rollin’, as the story whirls from one underdeveloped thread to another at light-speed pace. At once too dark for the younger crowd and too childish for true blue teenagers, A Wrinkle in Time really only appeals to the tween ADHD crowd who likes their stories delivered fast and loose and colorful beyond belief.
Mix one part holiday sentiment, two parts 21st century bromance and a healthy teaspoon of bath salts and you’ll have cooked up Jonathan Levine‘s latest comedic vision quest. The Night Before is packaged as a drug-fueled Christmas romp starring such likable actors as Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and works from a script from Levine and frequent Rogen collaborator Evan Goldberg. When the formulaic cocktail of easy chemistry and easier laughs is working, The Night Before is funny bone-shaking good, a zesty melange of manic humor, gross out gags and breezy charisma. At one too many of its Santa’s sleigh stops though, the bromance is invaded by bromides, making for an uneven and inconsistent holiday farce with uncomfortably obvious pacing problems. But, being a comedy, the essential question really boils down to: is The Night Before funny? Read More