Joe and Oculus is worth the trip to the theater, but Rio 2 may be worth sitting out
Kevin Costner makes a solid football movie with Draft Day, but it’s Nicolas Cage who steals the show with his comeback role in Joe.
Here’s a list of what to see and skip this weekend at the movies.
It’s always nice to discover that you’ve been rooting for someone. Here, in fact, is the Nicolas Cage comeback I didn’t know I wanted – and gosh, does it feel good to write that. Cage summons a rangy, soulful performance to play Joe, an ex-con trying to stay straight with the law. (Well, as straight as one can in his crooked little world.) That becomes significantly harder when drifter Gary (Tye Sheridan) joins onto Joe’s tree-clearing crew, bringing his abusive, alcoholic father, Wade (Gary Poulter), with him. The twisted family dynamic stirs Joe’s moral indignation, and whatever’s left of his heart.
But then, Sheridan is excellent at rousing empathy. If you remember this fine young actor, it’s probably from last year’s Mud, in which is played a boy befriended by a soft-hearted outlaw (Matthew McConaughey). It’s no stretch to think of Joe as a grittier, more violent Mud, in which the kid is slightly older, but not wiser, and far more desperate.
But Gary is hardly Joe’s only problem, in this richly authentic Southern town in which the residents are inert, but the slights and grudges are hard at work. The police, some local maggot named Willie-Russell (Ronnie Gene Blevins) and Joe’s own temper are all dogging him, daring him to step out of line. Cage is a study in contained rage, and it’s a joy to see him relishing the part, as the tension mounts and fuses light. It’s far too early in the year to start hoping for awards-season recognition, so I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that Cage gets his hands on more scripts like this one.
For the love of all that’s unholy, will you stop confronting supernatural evil? Just let it dwell where it wants – old houses, dolls, possessed kids – or in this case, a ridiculously ornate mirror that might have a string of bodies behind the looking glass. Kaylie Russell (Doctor Who‘s Karen Gillan), of course, does not heed my warning. She’s determined to destroy the mirror that she believes drove her parents crazy and led to their deaths, even if it does the same to her and her younger brother, Tim (Brenton Thwaites), who’s just been released from a mental hospital.
But I have to hand it to Kaylie (and director Mike Flanagan, who co-wrote the script): She has a plan. With video cameras running on different power supplies, various timers acting as safeguards, a kill switch and her fiancé calling to check in, Kaylie is convinced she’s got the glass problem cracked. You’ll find out soon enough how naïve she is, as Oculus cuts between scenes of present-day terror and the siblings nightmare childhood. It s all fairly clever, though perhaps not quite scary enough for hardcore psychological horror fans. My fellow wusses, however, will find plenty to shriek about.
If you are a Nick Frost fan (and all indications of sense and taste say you are), then this slight dance movie should be fun, even if it does make you wistful for Frost’s usual costar, Simon Pegg. The star of the Cornetto Trilogy plays Bruce, a former teen salsa champ turned rhythm-free office drone. As luck would have it, Bruce’s new boss, Julia (Rashida Jones) is cute, funny and a huge salsa fan. That prompts Bruce to get back in the swing, er, salsa of things, and take up dance again. Frost isn’t nearly a good enough hoofer to be convincing, but then that is part of the fun. He also doesn’t have much chemistry with Jones, whose part is a touch underwritten. But he does deliver solid jokes, particularly opposite Chris O’Dowd, who makes a wicked villain as Bruce s slimeball coworker, Drew.
Kevin Costner, king of the baseball movie (and occasional dabbler in golf and cycling cinema), tackles football in a largely flat comedy from director Ivan Reitman. Costner stars as Sonny Weaver Jr., general manager of the Cleveland Browns, whose Browns executive girlfriend, Ali (Jennifer Garner), reveals that she’s pregnant just as draft day dawns. Sonny bungles that conversation, but it’s just the first of many, as he makes a highly controversial trade for a first-round pick. As a result, he’s got the team owner (Frank Langella) and coach (Denis Leary) on his back, as he struggles to horse trade with the other team managers.
The disappointment is that all this high-stakes drama is carried by a low-energy script, with few jokes to give the film momentum. (Moneyball this ain’t.) So why bother going at all? Because the supporting cast, including Chadwick Boseman (42) as a low-rated potential draft pick with tons of heart, are worth the investment. That, and somehow Draft Day manages a fourth-quarter comeback that all but resurrects the movie, as Sonny gets to playing the NFL’s version of liars’ poker during the big show. If the whole film had been as sharp and exciting as its last half hour, it could’ve gone on Costner’s highlight reel.
The blue macaws are back, and this time they’re not alone, in a film that bursts with color but offers a tired story you ve seen before. So derivative it should’ve been called Rio 2: Meet the Flockers, the movie reunites Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) with her long-lost dad, Eduardo (Andy Garcia) in the Amazon. You know precisely how this will play out, from the terrible first meeting between the in-laws, to the grudging rapprochement in the end. Still, Jemaine Clement and Kristin Chenoweth add spice as the villains, cockatoo Nigel and poisonous frog Gabi, while the zippy songs will (probably) keep you from snoring too loudly.