Our capsule reviews for ‘Dolphin Tale’, ‘The Hedgehog’, ‘If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front’, ‘Killer Elite’, ‘and Moneyball’
The following quotes were pulled from reviews written by AZ Weekly Entertainment Magazine’s Film Section contributors to present readers with a wider perspective about this weekend’s new releases.
At 27 years old, Joseph J. Airdo is a Walter Cronkite School of Journalism graduate with a degree in media analysis and criticism. Randy Montgomery, 34, works in media and marketing and holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling and Education. And, at 64 years old, Stan Robinson is a retired First Assistant Director with more than 22 years of experience in film and media production.
Read their full reviews of these and other movies exclusively online at knotmove.com, AZWeeklyMagazine.com and ScreenScene.org, respectively.
A marine biologist (Harry Connick Jr.), a prosthetics designer (Morgan Freeman) and a boy (Nathan Gamble) try to save a dolphin that lost her tail. Also starring Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson and Cozi Zuehlsdorff. (PG – 113 minutes)
Joseph:“Outdated and old fashioned are two sides of the same coin. And that coin’s name is Winter – which, coincidentally is also the name the animal star of ‘Dolphin Tale.’ Granted, director Charles Martin Smith’s new live-action, family-friendly flick based on a true story is so innocuous that it feels as though it should have been released 20 years earlier. However, its innocence is quite charming. Had screenwriters Karen Janszen and Noam Dromi spent more time illustrating Winter’s impact on human prosthetic programs, ‘Dolphin Tale’ may have made a bigger splash.” Grade: C
Stan:“Director Charles Martin Smith, who most may remember as the accountant/federal agent in ‘The Untouchables’ starring Kevin Costner, delivers an ‘old school’ approach to the story of a dolphin that changes the lives of children, single parents, and war paraplegics. Dolphin Tale’ nicely ties the three elements together while highlighting the advances of prosthetic ideologies, and yes, this reviewer’s eyes were ‘tearfully cloudy’ on a few tender moments as the cast from the very young to the seasoned veteran actors presented a heart warming ‘tale’…” Grade: B
While planning her suicide, a precocious 11-year-old (Garance Le Guillermic) befriends a new neighbor (Togo Igawa) and a prickly recluse (Josiane Balasko). In French with English subtitles. Playing exclusively at Harkins Shea 14. (NR – 100 minutes)
Randy:“Seeking out and trying foreign films is something all moviegoers should do. You get to see an amazing work of art that will never make it to your local multiplex. Such is the case with ‘The Hedgehog.’ This little film proves a bit challenging at first, but ultimately is quite rewarding. It may take a while to warm up to the characters, especially Paloma, but once you do, you will find yourself invested in them. Josaine Balasko is wonderful as Renée Michel.” Grade: A-
Stan:“Quietly and certainly steadily, ‘The Hedgehog’ meticulously define the personality traits of the characters. Reminded of the awarding winning PBS TV series ‘Upstairs/Downstairs’ (1971-75), the current PBS series ‘Downton Abby’, and currently in release ‘The Help’ taking place in the south in the 1960s, ‘The Hedgehog’, taking place in France of today, gives us a contemporary view of the separation of the classes. Moving performances by the cast include Josiane Balaskoas the ‘janitor’ (or superintendent in some countries), Togo Igawa’s understated new upscale tenant, and the young actress Garance Le Guillermic, as the 11 year old who wants to end her life by 12 years old, carries the film. ” Grade: B+
‘If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front’
With the 2005 arrest of Daniel McGowan and 13 others, federal agents crack what is believed to be one of the largest cells of radical environmentalists in the United States. Playing exclusively at Harkins Valley Art. (NR – 85 minutes)
Joseph:“The exceptionally entertaining documentary ‘If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front’ encourages comprehension of a previously misunderstood topic – if known at all – and promotes discussion all while impartially exploring the values and beliefs of people on either side of its core issues. It is impossible to walk away from producer/director Marshall Curry’s documentary without developing an increased interpretation of the consequences of action, reaction and counteraction.” Grade: B
Stan:“With only news sound bites as details of the arrest of environmentalists unfolded at the time, ‘If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front’brings front and center the depth of the phrase ‘One person’s rebel is another’s freedom fighter’ as producer/director Marshall Currypresents the details in an unbiased ‘middle of the road’ style, that leaves one with the ultimate thought to ponder in the back of our minds, ‘How far would one go in support of a belief that we truly believe deep down in our hearts and souls…” Grade: B
A formidable special-ops agent (Jason Statham) must cut his way through a team of assassins to rescue his kidnapped mentor (Robert De Niro). Also starring Clive Owen. (R– 105 minutes)
Joseph:“Bringing together three of Hollywood’s most macho actors, ‘Killer Elite’ is about as masculine as movies get. The flick comes complete with enough explosions, fistfights and shoot-outs to keep action-junkies juiced up. Yet, it is also slightly smarter than most of its genre siblings, making the journey both more intellectually stimulating and emotionally satisfying. However, the feeling is temporary thanks to writer/director Gary McKendry’s dependence on a fatigued formula. In other words, ‘Killer Elite’ is fun but forgettable.” Grade: C
Stan:“Writer/director Gary McKendryreminds us, through all the expertly staged action sequences, that in the worlds of espionage, loyalties, and secrets, there is no black and white, only shades of grey. The veteran actors of Robert De Niro a staple for decades no matter what the genre, Jason Stathama favorite in writer/producer/director’s ‘Transporter’ films, and Clive Owen my choice for James Bond which went to Daniel Craig because of contractual commitments, deliver the depth of their characters while taking us on a global action ride.” Grade: B
Faced with a tight budget, a baseball manager (Brad Pitt) and his partner (Jonah Hill) recruit bargain-bin players that scouts have labeled as flawed, but have game-winning potential. (PG-13 – 133 minutes)
Joseph:“One’s time is better spent standing unarmed in front of a pitching machine than watching ‘Moneyball.’ After all, at least the pitching machine would keep you awake. A strike-out for sure, director Bennett Miller’s movie about the modernized, analytical, sabermetric approach to assembling a competitive baseball team is not even as interesting as watching a hermit manage his fantasy sports roster. Having said that, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue is as biting as ever, offering many insights over the course of the film. Then again, what is the point if the plot has put you to sleep?” Grade: F
Stan:“For those of us who follow baseball, have commented on the need for salary caps to ‘level the playing field’ between big market and small market teams, and based on Michael Lewis’ book ‘Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game’, it takes us to that magical time in 2002 when the Oakland Athletics defied all odds by finishing first in the American League West in spite of being out spent more than three to one for player contracts. Brad Pitt gives one of his best performances as manager Billy Beane and Jonah Hill got my attention as the statistician from Harvard. For fans of the sport, as this reviewer, the excruciatingly day-to-day behind-the-scenes process of assembling and managing a ball club is a delight to watch.” Grade: B