Michael Bay’s latest toy advert is poised to do monster business at the box office this long weekend, but don’t let that stop you from checking out a smaller release. According to what our critics have to say, you’d be well advised to do so. Below find all the reviews published this week on indieWIRE and the Blog Network.
indieWIRE – A-
Azazel Jacobs’s 2008 drama “Momma’s Man” centered on an adult retreating to his parents’ house and yearning for the innocence of his teenage years. The director’s latest feature, “Terri,” centers on a teen fearing adulthood. Jacobs, working from a script by Patrick de Witt, takes a conventional coming-of-age story and does it proud, enlivening the plot with an almost experimental portrait of alienation and despair.
Wysocki hits just the right notes as Terri, who is utterly guileless but not stupid. An oddball whose manner and behavior are off-putting at first, he gradually wins us over with his good-hearted nature, just as he brings out the best in his principal. Reilly’s part is especially well written, with several speeches that linger in my memory for their earthy wisdom and honesty. (If only we were all lucky enough to meet someone like that principal during our adolescence.)
“The Perfect Host”
indieWIRE – C
The American thriller with a twist has been done so many times that it rarely manages to surprise. In the years following “The Usual Suspects,” few movies have successfully altered the relationships between various main characters in a way that’s both dramatically satisfying and unexpected. Rare exceptions, including “Memento” and the undervalued “A Perfect Getaway,” assume that audiences have active imaginations, and so their scripts contain valuable efforts to remain a step ahead of an intelligent viewership. Generally, however, forehead-slapping predictability abounds, “The Perfect Host” being the latest example.
This strategy comes together in “Aurora” with Viorel’s rambling confession, a finale that inspires laughter for the sheer matter-of-factness of Puiu’s deadpan performance. By offering context on the tail end of a story where a conventional version would have it at the beginning, Puiu invites repeat viewings—although his unhurried style is certain to turn some viewers off for the same reason it will turn others on.
Whether you find the film too self-consciously cute is a matter of personal taste; there are definitely times that its whimsy seems forced. On the other hand, after several weeks of summer-movie bombast, it’s not so bad to sit back and relax with a harmless piece of fluff like this.
The Playlist – C-
The movie is rudderless and despite its relatively swift 99 minute running time feels longer than “Roots.” It’s so shapeless, in dramatic terms, so free of both conflict and motivation, that when something even mildly important happens towards the end of the movie, you have to wonder if it’s the climax simply because it’s the only thing that’s really happened in the last twenty minutes. There’s also a heavy reliance on coincidence and happenstance that is absolutely absurd – characters keep running into each other simply “because.” It’s the worst of lazy screenwriting shortcuts and it hurts the movie’s credibility as any kind of realistic, slice-of-life comedy, instead jutting it, once again, into the kind of overblown farce it’s trying so desperately to avoid.
Finally, the jokes are bad in and of themselves. So much of the humor is of the amused, tech-illiterate New Yorker variety, the “look! It’s a dog texting! How droll!” school of comedy. Crowne gets his phone confiscated for texting in class, Dean’s blogging is equated with laziness and incessant masturbation, and the failure of today’s students is attributed to Facebook and Twitter. There are countless awkward moments in which the film pauses for a laugh, but the room is deadly silent. Without enough successful jokes to even push things toward comedy, “Larry Crowne” seems to prove pretty clearly that nothing this earnest or optimistic can succeed.
“Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon”
I almost never look at my watch during a movie, but I became so bored that I checked in at the two-hour mark, fearing that there was still more to come. Ironically, just around that time there is a massive action set-piece involving a damaged Chicago building that in any other context—in almost any other movie—would be a highpoint. Here it’s just another scene, very skillfully executed, in a monotonous parade of nonstop action.
The Playlist – C-
So what about that 3D? We frankly could have done without it. Given that the first 2/3rds of the film is mostly given to lots and lots and lots of plotting with intermittent bursts of action (a highway chase sequence is a highlight that elicited a cheer from the audience we were with) we didn’t find the three dimensions added anything to the experience, and we would have loved to enjoy the final act without those clunky glasses. The 3D is well rendered, but as soon as the credits began to roll, we didn’t remember a thing about it. And a word about the soundtrack—it’s awful, as you might expect. Bay has always had atrocious taste in music, but his prevalence for the most milquetoast, generic, MOR, FM-radio crap is tough to stomach. Meanwhile, Steve Jablonsky‘s score is efficient, though during the big finale he rips far too hard from Hans Zimmer‘s “Half Remembered Dream” from “Inception.”
Actually, it’s just a silly, nonsensical movie with some good and some bad. It’s also, as much as I thought “X-Men: First Class” was going here, the real movie “Watchmen” wanted to be. At least in the way the Autobots are set up as unstoppable superheroes at the start of the movie. They’re shown as working with the government and assisting in covert missions to places like the very generically yet also quite inclusively labeled “The Middle East,” where they eliminate the possibility of American enemies developing WMDs. If only the robots had made it here in the 1960s rather than crashing on the Moon, we could have won Vietnam and continued the Nixon Administration through the ‘80s.