“Devil’s Due” – A contempo twist on “Rosemary’s Baby” done in the hokey found footage style already beaten to death by the seen-better-days “Paranormal Activity” series. Not incompetent, just rote and kind of dull. (C).
“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” – While not the best entry in Paramount’s on again/off again Jack Ryan franchise (that would be 1992’s “Patriot Games” with Harrison Ford), this Kenneth Branagh-directed outing is slickly efficient and gets the job done in expeditious fashion. Helping matters immeasurably is a first-rate cast (including Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner and Branagh himself as a dastardly Russian villain) and some nifty action setpieces, including one in a Moscow hotel bathroom that’s worthy of a 007 or Jason Bourne film. (B).
“The Nut Job” – Cheesy CGI/3-D animated feature about rascally squirrels plotting a heist of a winter’s supply of nuts (hence the title) is depressingly bereft of both charm and wit. The baffling references to 1950’s film noir will completely go over the heads of kiddies–and probably most of their parents, too. (D).
“Ride Along” – In this sub-mediocre cop buddy movie starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart, the comedy isn’t funny (I didn’t laugh once), the plot is recycled TV cop show boilerplate and the action setpieces are clumsily executed. In other words, it’s the male, African-American version of “The Heat,” only marginally less insufferable because (a) it’s shorter, and (b) Melissa McCarthy is nowhere to be found. (D+).
New on DVD:
“Blue Jasmine” – Woody Allen’s saddest movie ever, and one of his best. The Academy might as well give Cate Blanchett the Oscar now since it’s doubtful that anyone else will come down the pike in the next four months who gives a more impressive performance by an actress in a leading role. The killer–and wildly eclectic–supporting cast includes everyone from Sally Hawkins to Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K. and (no kidding, he’s really great) Andrew Dice Clay. (A).
“Captain Phillips” – Based on the true-life story of Somali pirates who hijacked a U.S. cargo vessel in 2009, Paul (“United 93”) Greengrass’ overpraised docudrama is curiously lacking in tension and even drama. Tom Hanks is merely serviceable as the titular captain, and the film doesn’t truly come alive until the climactic rescue by a team of Navy Seals. (C).
“In a World” – Intermittently amusing, but strictly surface look at the folks who do voiceover work (for commercials, film trailers, etc.) on the fringes of Hollywood. Written and directed by Lake Bell (who also stars), it’s a semi missed opportunity whose surface charms can’t disguise the fact that it should have been a lot better. (C+).
“Instructions Not Included” – The acting and script were strictly amateur hour in this ineptly-made Spanish-language clunker. Absolutely nothing works here. Not the cretinous comedy; not the cringe-inducing sentimentality; nada. How sad that Hispanic-American audiences were so starved for a movie in their native tongue they helped turn it into a grassroots phenomenon. (D-).
“Machete Kills” – Goofy, totally unnecessary yet mildly likable sequel to the so-so 2010 actioner features director Robert Rodriguez’s best work in years. As the titular action hero, 69-year-old Danny Trejo remains an inexplicable force of nature. Fun supporting performances from Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen. (C +).