Chemistry is everything.
This is a pretty slight romantic comedy—except for the chemistry between two of the characters. I’m not talking about the always winning Jason Bateman and the rarely more than serviceable Jennifer Aniston. What keeps the film’s head above water is the touching relationship between Bateman and 6-year-old Thomas Robinson. It’s their film from start to finish and that’s enough to make The Switch worth seeing, at least on an airplane or Netflix.
√ Bob Certified
Christopher Nolan, whose past triumphs include “The Dark Knight” and “Memento,” adds to his reputation as one of our most valuable and original filmmakers in years. Just as you can find new delights in the opening bank sequence of “The Dark Knight” even if you’re seen it two dozen times, there are moments in this frequently brilliant science-fiction tale that will remain forever fascinating. The knock is that it is sometimes baffling, but many of the greatest movies, including several of the Fellini masterpieces, were at times baffling. What works is the way Nolan, drawing yet another marvelous performance from Leonardo DiCaprio, takes your imagination on a magic carpet ride, dazzling you with the screen wonders, while slowly making you wonder about the underlying issue involved—mind control. The film is a frightening reminder of what may be ahead.
SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD
√ Bob Certified
Edgar Wright knows how to make witty, entertaining movies that also tell us more about ourselves than you’d think from the lighthearted way he approaches his subjects. Following up the gems “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” the director gives us a film that is very much for the young at heart. The imagery comes from comic books, rock ‘n’ roll, video games and cult movies. Not a bad combination. It’s a simple tale: nerdy guy wants a girl who is clearly out of his league, but he doesn’t let that stop him. He even assumes superhero skills in fighting to win her affection. It’s a witty, sweet, smart and entertaining fun zone ride. None of it really makes sense, but when does young love ever make sense?
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED
Things start off great, but….
The opening scenes in this film debut by British director J. Blakeson match the documentary-style set-up of an ambitious criminal plot that made Stanley Kubrick’s “The Killing” such a winning work. We see a couple of guys on a shopping spree and gradually realize they are blue collar criminals (former jailbirds in fact) buying equipment needed to turn an apartment bedroom into a cell for a female hostage. But once the scene is set, the psychological drama embarks on such a series of twists and turns that it quickly loses its grip on you. Some of the surprises do add to the tension, but the real lesson here is a simple one: not every plot twist is guaranteed to work.
ARCADE FIRE’S “THE SUBURBS”
√ Bob Certified
This is the third Arcade Fire album and it’s the third time the Montreal band has shown us that it is still possible to make rock ‘n’ roll music that is bold, heartfelt, illuminating and inspirational even in an age when the commercial pulse of pop music has been kidnapped by spectacle and American Idol. At a time when thousands of young rock bands seem to have given up on trying to dominate the cultural landscape the way groups from the Beatles to U2 once did, the Fire continues to burn with ambition and purpose, making music that is both thrilling sonically and smart lyrically. Where suburban life is a topic that invites cliché and ham-fisted declarations, Win Butler (and cohorts) not only sidesteps the dangers, but challenges the usual rock assumptions about suburban life. In these songs, there is a sense of times wasted, but also lessons learned from the past and even a hint of sweet affection for the memories of home. This is a brilliant album that challenges your notions about where you’ve been and where you are headed.