12:45 AM EST, December 20, 2012
The Guilt Trip
In "The Guilt Trip," which features Barbra Streisand’s first starring performance in more than 15 years, the definitive diva plays a lighthearted version of a stereotypical Jewish mother, eating candy in bed and endlessly doting on her only son, played by Seth Rogen.
He is an aspiring inventor who has lined up a series of meetings across the country to try to sell his nontoxic household cleaner to box stores and other major retailers. Circumstance and a little affectionate subterfuge on his part lead him to invite her along.
"The Guilt Trip" has little basis in reality — cultural, familial or otherwise. There is something promising about the match-up of an old-school show-biz kid such as Streisand with the modern, anxiously self-aware Rogen, but what could have been the multigenerational Thunderdome of Jewish Humor instead turns out bloodlessly disappointing.
It’s hard to believe that Streisand came back to a leading role after supporting parts in the last two "Fockers" movies so that she could participate in an agonizingly long and unfunny scene in which her character powers through a 50-ounce steak dinner so she can get it for free. (Because, you know, she loves a bargain, etc.) A late story twist exists only to give Streisand a chance to go momentarily self-serious and verklempt.
One could perhaps charitably remark that Streisand has a naturally at-ease screen presence at this point in her storied career (she’s 70), yet the reality of her performance seems to be that she barely showed up. Say what you will about her mugging turns in 1970s comedies such as "The Owl and the Pussycat" and "What’s Up, Doc?" — at least she was making an effort. This leaves Rogen straining harder than Anne Hathaway hosting the Oscars to keep things afloat; notably, Rogen’s biggest laughs come in moments without Streisand. Other capable talents such as Casey Wilson, Adam Scott and Ari Graynor have barely five minutes of screen time between them, unable to offer real support.
Directed by Anne Fletcher, "The Guilt Trip" not only feels fake but looks it too, sets appearing unabashedly as sets. One of the few points of interest in the film is trying to decide which car scenes were done with a towing rig and which were green-screen process shots. Just as one would on a long car ride, during "The Guilt Trip," you look for excitement where you can. (PG-13, 95 minutes)
— Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times
"Monsters, Inc." may have lost the best animated film Oscar to "Shrek." But ask any parent which film is aging better, and which DVD their children wear out, and the real winner emerges. Reason enough for a prequel, "Monsters, University," to go into production. It comes out next June.
And that’s a good excuse for converting the computer-animated "Monsters, Inc." to 3-D for a special holiday release. In 3-D. (G, 92 minutes)
— Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune
You know those people who believe everything they say is super-clever, super-funny, just priceless?
The Jack Reacher played by Tom Cruise in "Jack Reacher" is one of those guys.
"You think?" a woman says, responding to one of his sage observations.
"All the time," Reacher replies. "You should try it."
Whoa, what a put-down! This dude would kill in the seventh grade.
Speaking of killing, "Jack Reacher"— adapted from "One Shot," one of the Lee Child novels starring the ex-Army hotshot investigator — is what brings Reacher to Pittsburgh: A sniper has taken down five strangers walking along the riverfront on a sunny day, and although the shooter’s aim is deadly and his demeanor deathly calm, the evidence he leaves behind is a homicide investigator’s dream. Practically before the opening credits are over, James Mark Barr (Joseph Sikora) has been arrested and charged with the crime.
But instead of signing the confession pushed in front of him in the interrogation room, Barr scrawls "Get Jack Reacher" on the page. And somehow, Reacher, who has been off the grid for two years (he travels by bus, pays in cash, doesn’t carry a change of clothes), answers the call.
I can’t pretend to know what drew Cruise — who, after all, is Ethan Hunt in the thriving "Mission: Impossible franchise — to play this charmless, unironic macho hero. Reacher does get to punch swarms of punks and rev a muscle car over the Steel City hills, and he gets Rosamund Pike to look at him like she’s going to swoon. Maybe that’s enough.
Rosamund Pike is Helen Rodin, the defense attorney picked to represent Barr. Her dad (Richard Jenkins) happens to be the city’s District Attorney, working with Detective Emerson (David Oyelowo, from "The Paperboy") to send Barr to jail for the rest of his life.
But Reacher thinks it’s too perfect a case. When he starts being followed and threatened, seduced in a bar booth and clunked on the head in a bathtub, he’s even more certain. He’s nobody’s fool, this Reacher.
Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who won an Oscar for his wickedly smart "The Usual Suspects” screenplay (and who scripted the Nazi Cruise thriller, "Valkyrie"), "Jack Reacher pushes its formula plot toward a big nighttime shootout in an excavation site. The violence is plenty, and pointless. Robert Duvall shows up as an ornery rifleman who gives Reacher cover as he moves in to deal with the bad guys, and ace documentarian Werner Herzog, in a rare turn as a Hollywood villain, is a one-eyed coot who chewed his fingers off rather than lose them to frostbite.
At least that’s what he says, trying to impress anyone who will listen with his alarming evilness. And his alarming accent. (PG-13, 130 minutes)
— Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer
This is 40
Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprise their bickering couple from "Knocked Up" for director Judd Apatow’s comic exploration of middle-age, parenthood and marriage. (R, 134 minutes)
OPENING DEC. 25
Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Parental Guidance.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Director Peter Jackson ("The Lord of the Rings") returns to Middle Earth with this first installment in a $500 million trilogy of films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel. Martin Freeman is the young Bilbo Baggins who accompanies the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and a gang of dwarves on a series of adventures. Shot in 3D and 48 fps, which essentially doubles the resolution of normal 35mm film. In 2-D and 3-D. (PG-13, 170 minutes)
Playing for Keeps, Wreck-It Ralph.
Skyfall, Life of Pi, Rise of the Guardians.
Lincoln, Flight, Red Dawn.
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