By Shane Sellar
The Water Diviner
If you’re looking for water in California this summer, be sure to point your divining rod at million-dollar celebrity ranches.
Mind you, the unending search for respite in this drama occurs in post-WWI Australia.
In the wake of his wife’s suicide over the loss of their three sons, outback farmer and water diviner Joshua (Russell Crowe) heads to Turkey to retrieve their bodies from the Battlefield of Gallipoli, so that they can be buried alongside their mother.
With help from a local merchant (Olga Kurylenko) and an Aussie officer (Jai Courtney), he unravels the mystery surrounding their tragic endings, and discovers more than he was expecting.
More fantasy than fact, first-time director Russell Crowe awkwardly attempts to integrate a May-December romance into actual historical events making for an off-kilter and suspiciously sanguine war story.
Furthermore, the airline is going to charge you an extra $25 for each of those coffins.
All of our advancements in cybernetics have solely been for one purpose: creating sex-bots.
Happily, the reclusive genius in this sci-fi film has come close.
When the CEO of the search engine company he works for selects Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) to join him in his mountain retreat, the young programmer is apprehensive.
Caleb is welcomed to the compound by the eccentric scientist (Oscar Isaac), who is excited to have him there to conduct a Turing test on the female robot he has made: Ava (Alicia Vikander).
Believing he’s just there to prove the machines A.I. capabilities, Caleb soon learns that his host wants him to prove that Ava is capable of something more than just convincing conversation.
Visually striking and mentally challenging, Ex Machina is an important benchmark in cyborg cinema with thoughtful performances and an engaging script.
Furthermore, when the sex-bots breakdown they can always be repurposed as war machines.
The Longest Ride
Animal rights activists would have a way better time at bull riding competitions if they would just root for the bull to paralyze the rider.
However, the art student in this romantic movie is cheering for the rider’s safety.
Catching the eye of North Carolina coed Sophia (Britt Robertson) when he is tossed from a bull at a local rodeo, Luke (Scott Eastwood) bestows her with his cowboy hat.
The pair later goes on a date. On their way home, they rescue an old man (Alan Alda) from a burning car who turns out to be an art collector with a troubled love story similar to Sophia and Luke’s ill-fated relationship.
Based on Nicholas Sparks’s novel, The Longest Ride is no departure from the lovelorn author’s cinematic schmaltz, thanks to its preposterous ending and ham-fisted acting.
Incidentally, bull riders believe lasting for eight seconds in the bedroom is also an accomplishment.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The hardest part of running a hotel in India is convincing tourists they won’t be gang raped when they visit.
That said, the hotel operators in this romantic-comedy want to open a second inn.
Determined to open a sister site to their successful sleeping lodge, Muriel (Maggie Smith) and Sonny (Dev Patel) travel stateside to get investors.
Informed an inspector would come to appraise the value of the venture, Muriel and Sonny return to India to prepare for the unknown overseer.
Back home, a mysterious American (Richard Gere) checks into the existing hotel, and begins romancing Sonny’s mother (Lillete Dubey).
Meanwhile, longstanding guests (Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton) deal with their own issues.
With too many romantic subplots tied to a flimsy mistaken identity storyline, this second stay at the Exotic Marigold is wholly unsatisfactory.
Fortunately, in lieu of mints, Indian hotels do leave chicken vindaloo on your pillow.
If aliens hope to stay in America undetected they had better not disguise themselves as Mexicans.
Surprisingly, the immigrating ETs in this animated movie opted for no disguises.
Searching for a home after fleeing their planet due to a conflict with the monstrous Gorg, Captain Smek (Steve Martin), leader of the Boov species, proposes they live on Earth.
Imprisoning the humans, the Boov move into their homes and begin to live their life anew. That is until an absentminded Boov, Oh (Jim Parsons), sends out a party invite that reaches Gorg.
Teaming with a human girl (Rihanna) in search of her mother (Jennifer Lopez), Oh hopes to abate Gorg’s attack and rejoin his race.
While the inarticulate aliens are an annoyance, it’s the rambling montages featuring Rihanna songs that really ruin this middling movie.
Furthermore, all extraterrestrials are welcome on Earth as long as they pay the billion-dollar visitor tax.
Woman in Gold
The worst thing about growing old is everyone starts to dispute that it’s you in all of your portraits.
Facial recognition, however, isn’t imperative in this drama – proof of ownership is.
Made aware of the fact that the portrait of her aunt that was stolen by the Nazis is now hanging in an Austrian gallery, Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren) hires an inexperienced lawyer, Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), to repossess it for her.
With assistance from a journalist (Daniel Brühl), they challenge Austria’s ownership of Gustav Klimt’s The Woman in Gold in court, but turn up short each time.
It’s not until they contest proprietorship on U.S. soil do they see results.
An intriguing and inspiring true account of retribution, Woman in Gold may lag with numerous wartime flashbacks but the outcome is still an edifying one.
Unfortunately, the Nazis vandalized Woman in Gold by painting a Hitler mustache on her.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
The one thing that mall cops can’t protect their employers from is the public’s lack of interest in shopping malls.
Fortunately, the rent-a-cop in this comedy is headed to a less depressing place.
Still reeling from the death of his mother and the disintegration of his marriage, Paul’s (Kevin James) ecstatic to receive an invitation to the security guard convention in Vegas.
With his daughter (Raini Rodriguez) in tow, Paul parades around Sin City under the assumption that he is the keynote speaker.
Threatening Paul’s imagined accolades is a sophisticated thief (Neal McDonough) who plans to pilfer the priceless paintings from the hotel where he’s staying.
The superfluous sequel to the inane original, Paul Blart 2 doesn’t expand much beyond James’ waistline, which, by the way, is integral to the fat-guy pratfalls that dominate the insipid script.
Besides, the best way to protect original artwork is with exploding dye-packs.
Out of all of the STIs, getting pregnant is probably the worst.
But as this horror movie suggests – you could contract something even worse.
Immediately after having sex, Hugh (Jake Weary) tells Jay (Maika Monroe) that he’s transmitted a curse to her that will exterminate every previous carrier if she is killed by the shape-shifting entity that’ll be following her until she passes it on.
Aided by her friends (Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe), Jay flees the creature – having intercourse in the interim to break the curse – but to no avail.
Out of options, they attempt to kill the being before its carnal chain letter unravels.
Atmospheric with a moody soundtrack to match, It Follows is an art-house horror movie with layers of sexual subtext; however, this approach evokes more contemplation than trepidation.
Besides, the stranger following you around after sex is usually your partner’s ex.
While We’re Young
Every middle-aged married couple should have some millennial aged friends they can donate old-fashioned clothing and obnoxious furniture to.
Unfortunately, the unhip duo in this dramedy wants to give their Gen Y friends everything.
Forty-something documentary filmmaker Josh (Ben Stiller) and his wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts) form an unlikely friendship with married hipsters interested in making documentaries, Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried).
Fascinated by their self-confidence, Josh and Cornelia embrace the laid-back life-style and vintage eyewear of their uninhibited counterparts.
But when Josh learns that Jamie’s new documentary lacks integrity, he tries to sabotage its accolades with accusations of treachery.
An uneven but honest look at Gen X and Y relationships, the first half of this witty character study has affable dialogue and authentic performances, while the latter half becomes an overwrought psychological-thriller.
Either way, apathetic Millennials make it easy for half-assed Gen-Xers to advance in the workplace.
The worst thing about singing in casinos is your opening act is always Prime Rib Dinner.
Fortunately, the former rock star in this drama hasn’t reached that lowly level yet.
Despite legions of aging female fans that maintain his relevance, seventies heartthrob Danny Collins (Al Pacino) still longs for legitimacy outside of the archaic catalog he croons ad nauseam.
It is not until his manager (Christopher Plummer) presents him with a 40–year-old letter from John Lennon does Danny get the courage to reinvent himself.
So much so, he begins writing new material and mending his relationship with his son (Bobby Cannavale) and daughter-in-law (Jennifer Garner).
While Pacino is topnotch and the supporting cast more than capable, Danny Collins’ biggest issue is it deviates from the real-life inspiration so much that it becomes a clichéd musical melodrama.
Incidentally, instead of their panties, aging audiences member now throw their Depends onstage.
Most parents would find chopping their zombie teen’s head off with an axe to be cathartic.
However, the father of the infected in this horror-drama wants to keep his daughter whole as long as possible.
Desperate dad Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger) discovers his missing daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) is being treated in hospital for a recent zombie bite.
With weeks to go before she turns, Maggie returns home to her stepmother (Joely Richardson) and stepsiblings to live out her last human days with her friends.
When officials come to quarantine the rotting minor her father refuses to give her up – costing him everything.
Showcasing Schwarzenegger’s most restrained performance to date, Maggie’s script however doesn’t deserve as high of praise.
Lacking the visceral component of the undead genre, Maggie’s moody melodrama is more depressing than it is distressing.
Besides, teenage zombies only eat human brains if they’re deep-fried and smothered in ketchup.
He has Skinny Genes. He’s the…