“The Expendables 3”

Fun with the additions of Antonio Banderas, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson , Wesley Snipes, Kellan Lutz & Klesey Grammer but tooo long at 2-plus hours.

I have to say I was dreading this 3rd in what seems to be a never-ending franchise (there’s talk of an “Expendabelles” all female version) but I was very pleasantly surprised- I laughed a lot and just went along for the silly ride.

In his first role since doing close to 3 years for tax evasion, Wesley Snipes finally gets to join the fun (he was supposed to star in the original but then came that little jail thing). He’s hilarious in the opening scene. Mel Gibson gets to play the bad guy they’re after with Harrison Ford as the biggie calling the shots in the mission. Kelsey Grammer helps Sly Stallone find new expendables when he’s forced to fire the old crew after a botched job. Antonio Banderas steals the movie as a manic new recruit. The franchise gets younged up with the additions of Kellan Lutz, Victor Oritz and for the first time, a woman: Ronda Rousey.

While there’s lots of action and dead bodies, there are just a few dribbles of blood so it’s pretty sanitized when it comes to violence. My major beef- about 45 minutes of “The Expendables 3” was expendable.

2 and a half stars



“Frank”

A quirky satire about the music biz starring Michael Fassbender hiding his best assets: his face and you know what else he’s known for showing.

I love this movie!!! It’s a ridiculously funny satire about music artists who only want to create for the sake of creating- their last wish is to become popular. You know the kind. It’s like the hipster who delights in discovering new music only to reject the music as soon as it becomes a hit.

Michael Fassbender is positively astonishing because til they every end of the movie, you don’t even know it’s the Oscar nominee- he’s hiding under a giant paper machet head, using only his voice and body language. You’d swear the giant head changes expressions. He’s that good.

Fassbender plays Frank, a mentally disturbed highly creative artist leading a group with an unpronounceable name. He’s a perfectionist who spends a year with this group in a country house creating an album that’s never finished. It’s a group of misfit oddballs, including a droll Maggie Gyllenhaal as the keyboardist . Who knew she could sing??? !!! Who knew Fassbender could sing and play guitar? Not only do the actors perform their own music- the music is great!!!

Domhnall Gleeson , who had the lead in the time travel romancer “About Time” with Rachel McAdams, is at the center of the story as a wanna-be whose drive is bigger than his talent. He wrecks the balance of the group when he lands them a high profile gig at the SXSW festival in Austin.

There’s so much of this movie to love. It’s provocative and weird and ultimately touching. My kind of musical!!! What a gem.

4 stars



“Life After Beth”

A zombie rom-com that should have been a lot funnier given a cast including John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Cheryl Hines, Paul Reiser and Aubry Plaza.

“Parks & Recreation’s” queen of sarcasm and droll is the one reason to see “Life After Beth”. Her boyfriend Jeff Baena wrote and directed this ambitios rom-com that has a great premise but ends up falling flat with too much slapstick and jokes that go on too long.

Plaza stars as Beth, who dies of a snakebite while she yaps on her cellphone on a Cali hike. The piercing Huskie-like blue eyed Dane Dehaan (of “Chronicle” and “Beneath The Pines” fame ) is her devastated boyfriend, Zach, who sits shiva with her destroyed parents played by John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon , who laments her lack of photos of her dearly departed daughter. Cheryl Hines and Paul Reiser star as Zach’s parents.

Suddenly, Beth returns , with her parents hiding her away in their home, overjoyed by this inexplicable miracle. Mom follows her everywhere, camera around her neck , shooting her every move. Zach discovers Beth’s return and vows to right everything he wronged in the relationship. But Beth is not the Beth he remembers. It turns out she’s a zombie and is soon joined by more of the undead, leading to absolute mayhem. Also joining the cast, Plaza’s bestie in real life, Anna Kendrick, as her love rival.

Despite the stellar cast, it’s the writing that kills “Life After Beth”.

1-and-a-half stars

 

"The Giver"

The first problem with this film is that when you have a preteen/children's novel, that has been required reading for public schools for the past 20 years, and slap an "R" rating on it, so the fans of the book can't even see it, is a confusing and not so wise choice.

Second problem is when the hero in the novel, who is 12 years old, gets aged up to 18 in the film just so you can add a love story element and then change the ending. Well, that does not serve the author Lois Lowry's intent at all.

"The Giver," is another in a continuing series of futuristic dystopian films recently released. In this story sameness and lack of emotion rule. The town folk can see only in black and white (literally). The question the film asks, "Is life worth living without love?"

Who is "The Giver?" Besides just being actor Jeff Bridges. "The Giver," is the one person who holds all of the world's history, memories, feelings, emotions and love. As "The Giver" gets older they must find a replacement (The Receiver). Imagine a person, devoid of emotions and feelings, suddenly downloading all the memories associated with pain, loss, grief, joy and love all at one time. It would probably stop your heart. You would have to be a special person to do that. Performances are just okay for everyone. Yes, even Meryl Streep. Cinematography is good and I liked the fact that Jeff Bridges bought the rights for this book two decades ago for his father, Lloyd, to play the lead that he now took over.

The third problem is that it is too long and too short (94 minutes) at the same time. How can that be? Because they didn't take enough time telling the back story and took too much time trying to get the point. We have to give it a "2". We think you'll get more out of it of you read the book first. Side note, Taylor Swift did a good job in her cameo appearance as The Receiver who failed. Director Phillip Noyce, has done better work in his previous films like "Salt," "The Patriot Games," "Dead Calm," and "The Bone Collector."

2 stars

Marc Coppola for Shelli Sonstein