Review: Going in Style

Director: Zach Braff (Garden State, Wish I Was Here)
Story: Edward Cannon
Screenplay: Theodore Melfi
Producer: Donald De Line
Starring: Joey King, Ann-Margret, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin, Christopher Lloyd, Matt Dillon, John Ortiz, Kenan Thompson
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 96 min.



My original posting of this review can be found on LetterBoxd


Hollywood has truly hit a point now where basically anything is ripe for a remake or reboot or revival, whatever they decide on calling it, with the end result ultimately being dredging up some title from the vault for a new coat of paint on the same old shell. We’ve gotten now to the extreme of seeing remakes of remakes, like last year’s Magnificent Seven and the upcoming Scarface. Instead of using acclaimed, still popular and widely seen sources like those though, which tend to give off the stench of being made primarily for monetary reasons, the more enticing remakes (which is admittedly a bit of an oxymoron) are ones of films that had solid concepts that maybe didn’t reach their full potential, or ones of films that have been long forgotten and aren’t known these days by the large majority of viewers. Going In Style would be an example of the latter, remaking the 1979 Martin Brest film starring George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg, which was a minor hit in its day but has faded from the public awareness in the decades since.

The tale of three down on their luck pensioners who plot to rob a bank, this version stars Oscar winners Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin, and is quite bizarrely directed by Zach Braff of all people, from a script by Hidden Figures writer/director Theodore Melfi. Thankfully, Braff holds off on the whimsy and indie cliches that have defined his previous directing efforts, instead delivering a straightforward and feel good little comedy that banks on the appeal of its starring trio more than anything else. In that regard it works in spades, as all three actors bring a different flavor to the mix that makes for a pleasant concoction, and they have wonderful chemistry with one another. Freeman brings his sage wisdom and gravitas, Caine is the suave gangster with dry British wit, and Arkin (who oddly starred in the similarly themed Stand Up Guys a few years back with Al Pacino and Christopher Walken) is the boisterous wild card who gets all of the biggest laughs.
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Rubbing Is Racing In Kinetic Ben Hur Trailer

I don’t see the resurgence of the sword and sandals film any time soon, so clearly the raison d’etre for remaking the Charleton Heston biblical epic, Ben Hur, is to update the iconic chariot race. And besides some impressive Roman naval warfare, it seems Paramount (a studio on a role lately with upscale entertainment including Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, 10 Cloverfield Lane and The Little Prince) wants to up the bar in the hippodrome.

Plus, Morgan Freeman in white dreadlocks.


(I know that Ben Hur has name value, but Hollywood, please, make a Lord of the Rings Trilogy of Guy Gavriel Kay’s chariot race heavy novel, The Sarantine Mosaic)

Trailer: Last Knights

A pox on all your houses! Or Cancer. Which begs the question: Who in medieval times even knew what Cancer was? Apparently Morgan Freeman does. Along with (after The Knick) a slumming Clive Owen, Noway’s biggest star Askel Hennie (Headhunters) as well as Shohreh Aghdashloo and Cliff Curtis paychecks are cached considerable talents likely wasted on a grim, dour, and ultimately silly looking cash-in of the current Game of Thrones popularity. The Last Knights is directed by Kazuaki Kiriya, the Japanese director responsible a pair of films (Casshern, Goemon) big on ideas but small on execution and written by the guy adapted the Canadian novel Barney’s Version for the screen.

“A fallen warrior rises against a corrupt and sadistic ruler to avenge his dishonored master.”

I dare you to waste your money on this.

Review: “Lucy”



In response to those grumbling about the experience of watching Lucy (Luc Besson’s latest big effects action film – this time with Scarlett Johansson as the kick ass lead), I’m of two minds…Going in to the movie, I was simply hoping it would at least be a somewhat fun trifle of a summer flick on the order of Limitless. On that scale, it hits its target the majority of the time (though you’ll have to decide for yourself if it deserves bonus or penalty points for its rather kooky ending that is part 2001: A Space Odyssey, part Isaac Asimov and part “You’ve gotta be kidding me…”). However, I can’t help but think about what the film could have been…How it could have explored the nature of the brain from Lucy’s perspective and touched on how the organ evolved, continues to do so and manages to have such a vast array of amazing abilities and structural flaws. That probably would have departed drastically from what I hoped for going in, but the possibility is just so tantalizing…

The movie you do get is patently ridiculous. That’s OK though – even though it’s not overly thrilling, has laughable science, is best when no one (except maybe the always menacing Choi Min-sik) is talking and has CGI effects that get in their own way sometimes, I’ll be damned if I wasn’t at least somewhat entertained. Most often that was due to the built-in ridiculousness, but at some point it’s easy enough to roll with the whole thing and realize that it’s just one of “those” movies. As it slowly but surely ramps up the silly, it lets you reset your approach to it, laugh with and/or at it and then settle back with a bit of a grin on your face.

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Trailer: Lucy

What if you combined La Femme Nikita, Crank and Limitless, with a dash of Her and made it a big shoot-em-up action fest? Well, it is just another day, in high-concept Luc Besson land. Lucy has pretty high pedigree though, considering there is American Superstar Scarlett Johansson in the eponymous lead role, Korean superstar Choi Min-sik as the principle villain, the ubiquitous Morgan Freeman on support and the Danish superstar Pilou Asbæk (A Hijacking, Spies & Glistrup) is tucked in there, somewhere, too.

When a woman is used against her will as a drug mule, and the package implanted inside her starts leaking, she goes from sexy blonde tourist to deadly Black Widow, to all powerful Neo in about 90 minutes. Have we seen it all before? You Betcha. A girl has got to pay the bills, I guess – but take a look below.

post-script: Remember that of the other two Scarlett movies opening this weekend, you should be checking out Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin over Marvel Hero-Unit #17.

Cinecast Episode 306 – Shameless Ridiculousness

Are we an effective team? We are arguably more effective than the mediocrity of the Kosinski/Cruise assembly squad insofar as we seem to be in agreement on Oblivion. (SPOILERS!) The popcorn science fiction takes a lot of leaps, but it never really lands on particularly solid (or fertile) ground due to similarities to so many other things. We recap yet another compelling episode of “Game of Thrones” (SPOILERS!) where we praise just about every element of the show, even the Dragon Lady. The Watch List segment hits the highs and lows of our respective local film festivals: HotDocs and Mpls Int’l Festival. After recording an entire commentary track on Twilight, Matt enlightens us with his true feelings on Catherine Hardwicke’s first kick at the can in the the sparkly vampire saga. Early David Mamet comes under question with the last 20 minutes of House of Games. And we have a look at a web reality-series that bucks the trend of meanness and goes for generosity. Nice.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

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Full show notes are under the seats…
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Gerard Butler saves the president in Olympus Has Fallen trailer

Olympus Has Fallen Trailer Still

The white house is under attack. Again. Except this time it isn’t aliens but rather a terrorist group with access to some big ass planes (is that a C-130?!).

Directed by Antoine Fuqua, a man better known for action movies that don’t feature big explosions, though Shooter did have at least one, Olympus Has Fallen seems full of big action sequences, including the blowing up of the White House, code name: Olympus.

Gerard Butler stars as a disgraced secret service agent who finds himself inside the White House when a terrorist takes over and kidnaps the president (Aaron Eckhart). Morgan Freeman stars as the guy who takes over the rescue effort (since the president is MIA), Rick Yune is tasked with playing the terrorist mastermind and the movie also stars Melissa Leo, Ashley Judd, Angela Bassett and Dylan McDermott.

The trailer suggests lots of low budget explosions, lots of shooting and more than a handful of one liners. This feels more like a Die Hard movie than the last and upcoming actual Die Hard movies and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Could go either way but judging from some of these scenes, particularly the burned up American flag falling from the White House, it’s likely to take itself far too seriously to be much fun. And yet, I can’t help but think there could be *something* here.

We’ll find out when the movie opens on March 22nd.

Now You See Me [trailer]

Flashy, exotic, big-budget. These are Louis Leterrier’s movies in a nutshell. I wasn’t a fan of The Incredible Hulk, but I do think the Transporter movies are fun for what they are and Clash of the Titans was unfairly railed upon. All of it high art? No of course not. But now maybe Mr. Leterrier is attempting to turn over a new leaf with Now You See Me. Kinda. It still looks flashy and ridiculous but at least it’s something new:

A high caliber cast who robs a bank. With magic. On the other side of the world. In front of a live audience. I’m sold. Nothing else to say other than that making Jesse Eiesenberg look like somewhat of a badass is a magic feat all in teslef. Check out this flashy trailer starring the following. Ready?
Morgan Freeman, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Michael Caine, Mélanie Laurent and Elias Koteas.

Cinecast Episode 187 – Stop Putting Wings on Paul Bettany!

Are we silly enough to talk about the use of 3D in Jackass 3D whilst watching it in 2D? Yes we are. Indulge us, as we do not spend that much time on it, but hey, this franchise gets crapped on more than it deserves and the boys are creative and energetically subversive enough in their stunt-ery to be worthy of some consideration. And despite what the haters think, it is still funny. We rehash some of the finer details of Knoxville and company over the past decade before switching gears to a second opinion on the seniors-on-a-mission mayhem from Helen Mirren, Bruce Willis and John Malkovich in Red. This leads to a bit of a tangent on all the ‘on-a-mission’ movies released this summer. Meanwhile, Andrew has been managing to keep up with his one-a-day DVD viewings and this week plugs another hole in the Polanski oeuvre with a quite violent take on a Shakespearean classic. Furthermore, the question of why are there not more caveman movies is uttered aloud after we look back at 1981’s Quest for Fire and also the pretty darn swell filmography of Frenchman Jean-Jacques Annaud. Another round of Nolan’s Batman pictures vs. Ang Lee’s Hulk, and the joy of surround sound screenings are all tossed into the conversational mixer. It is a good week for classic and contemporary DVDs and Blurays too. They are considered. If the title (or the truncated runtime of this episode makes little sense to you, that is because some seasonal gremlins ate a discussion on some of the remaining films to be released. Suffice it to say that the segment was out-of-this-world awesome now that it has been sacrificed to the binary demons and no one can hear it, but we are both surprisingly anticipating the Angelina Jolie / Johnny Depp ‘Charade-esque‘ thriller The Tourist amongst other things. Enjoy this exceedingly rare ‘short version’ of the RowThree cinecast!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!



To download the ALTERNATIVE (no music track) version of this episode,
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Full show notes are under the seats…
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“Red.” The Film in Which Dame Helen Mirren Destroys a Car with a Gatling Gun

 This one is riding 100% on the coat tails of its A-list casting. The writing (though hopefully not) seems pretty safe and the action looks a little typical and uninteresting… that is until Ms. Mirren steps out of her A-Team like weapons van with a Gatling gun and turns an oncoming car into Swiss cheese.

Thanks to our buddy Mack over at Twitch for the heads up and for digging up this synopsis:

Frank, Joe, Marvin, and Victoria used to be the CIA’s top agents — but the secrets they know just made them the Agency’s top targets. Now framed for assassination, they must use all of their collective cunning, experience and teamwork to stay one step ahead of their deadly pursuers and stay alive. To stop the operation, the team embarks on an impossible, cross-country mission to break into the top-secret CIA headquarters, where they will uncover one of the biggest conspiracies and cover-ups in government history.

Seemingly along the lines of films like the newly opened Knight and Day or the Pitt/Jolie action comedy, Mr. and Mrs. Smith (or any number of the thousands of similar pictures already in the books), this could end up being either gutless tripe or a guilt-ridden pleasure ride. Or maybe both. Either way, I’m in just for the star power (including Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker (hubba hubba) and Morgan Freeman) and to see Mirren wield her mighty sword.

Check out the trailer under the seats…
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Empire’s 20th Birthday Photo Shoot


From South Africa (Clint Eastwood) to Santa Monica (Governor Schwarzenegger) to Jack Nicholson’s house (um, Jack Nicholson), Empire trotted the globe to deliver you 27 of the planet’s biggest stars, recreating iconic performances from two decades in film, for a unique 20th birthday celebration…


I stuck a few more favorites beneath the seats, but for the full list, head over to Empire online.

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