Review: Jurassic World

Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jake Johnson

Review: Entourage

Starring Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Dillon

Review: San Andreas

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Alexandra Daddario, Carla Gugino

Review: Ex Machina

Starring Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac, and Domhnall Gleeson

Review: Pitch Perfect 2

The Pitch is Back!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review: Act of Valor

Act of Valor is the movie that was marketed as employing active members of the U.S. military in lead roles.  I don’t know about you, but I found this a bit confusing when the movie made its theatrical run.  I wasn’t sure if it was a  pseudo documentary based on real-life ops, a gross example of gimmicky stunt casting, or a glorified infomercial for the U.S. Navy.  It turns out that the film was probably meant to be two of the three.

The  plot of the film follows the deployment of a SEAL team after a smuggler named Christo abducts a CIA operative in Mexico.  The team and other intelligence officers follow this trail, which eventually leads from Christo to a Chechen terrorist named Shubal – a man with designs on unleashing a series of terrorists acts on United States’ soil.

Directors Scott Waugh and Mike McCoy from the outset of the project wanted to cast active Navy SEALs as protagonists because they decided it was the only way they could produce an authentic cinematic experience.  While there may have been some inherent benefits to this kind of stunt casting, the movie ultimately is saddled with the kind of subpar performances one would expect from individuals who have never acted before.  So while the action scenes feel more true-to-life, from a cinematic standpoint the dialogue and character development leave a ton to be desired. 

On the one hand I somewhat enjoyed this movie because knowing that you are watching real SEALs  lends a layer of credibility that doesn’t necessarily exist when you watch Sylvester Stallone and ten other over-the-hill actors wielding semi-automatic weapons.  But on the other hand, there is not necessarily anything in this film action-wise that you have not seen before on screen.  So while you may feel a bump from watching the Real McCoy, the protagonists don’t have the acting chops to flesh out their characters, making it difficult to become invested in the dramatic elements of the movie. 

In some ways, the movie feels more like a feature length promotional video for the United States Navy than a fictitious narrative and I don’t think it would be a stretch to suggest that the powers-that-be were cognizant of this when they agreed to accommodate the filmmakers.  None of this is a bad thing as there are some fantastic visuals and an attention to detail that makes the skirmishes compelling, but at the end of the day, it is a fictitious narrative and there is just not enough going on here performance-wise to truly sell the story.

In regards to the cast, Roselyn Sanchez, Nestor Serrano, and a handful of other professional actors flash on screen from time to time but never long enough to leave much of a mark on the proceeding.  Ultimately, their presence in this film is inconsequential as most of the heavy lifting is left to the SEALs and the merits and shortcomings of this film ultimately rest on their shoulders.

I can’t really recommend this movie, as there is just not enough there to appeal to wide audience.  If you are a hardcore fan of war movies and gun skirmishes, there may be just enough here to provide you with entertainment value.  However, if you require something more than action from a film in order to become invested in the narrative, then you will want to look elsewhere.  While actors may not provide the nuances or the same level of authenticity that active servicemen can, the good ones know how to lift a character from the pages of a script and bring them to life. 

Standout Performance: I’ll give it to Roselyn Sanchez who did was the best of those with limited screen time.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Review: Argo

It’s been an interesting career for Ben Affleck – from Academy Award winning writer (Good Will Hunting) to popcorn action flick movie star (Armageddon) to tabloid whipping boy (his relationship with Jennifer Lopez and their movie Gigli).  Never much of an actor, when the doors to Hollywood shut down to Affleck, he reinvented himself as a director and a pretty good one at that (Gone Baby Gone, The Town).  So it was with great curiosity that I went to see Argo - not only to see if he could maintain his impressive run behind the camera, but also to find out if this film was worth all the Oscar buzz.  Because in case you haven’t noticed, every other movie that gets released during Q4 is touted as an Oscar contender, when really only one or two of them actually has the goods.  Having seen Argo, I can firmly say it’s one of the few that is worthy of the hype.

Argo is based upon the real life events surrounding the raid of the U.S. Embassy during the Iranian Revolution in 1979.  Six staffers were able to avoid capture and found refuge at the Canadian embassy.  The plot of the movie details a formerly classified CIA operation to smuggle those individuals safely from the country by posing as a crew scouting locations for the fictitious production of the movie Argo.

A lot of things go right in the telling of this story, but it all begins and ends with the directing.  Based on a strong script by writer Chris Terrio, Affleck keeps the events of the movie rolling and it is his ability to maintain such pacing throughout the narrative that serves as the strongest aspect of the movie.  The story unfolds briskly while hitting on all the important plot details without ever feeling rushed.  With each frame of the film, it feels as though layers upon layers of tension are added to the proceedings filling each scene with a sense of urgency that crescendoes until the climax of the movie.

Affleck's strong directorial effort is backed by very good cast work.  Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, and John Goodman are three veteran actors who use every ounce of their talents to augment the tone of the film and give motion to the plot even though their characters are for the most part sedentary – relegated to desks and chairs.  Arkin and Goodman are especially great when they bring brief moments of levity to the film, giving the plot a sense of balance and creating a strong contrast between the scenes in the U.S. and those set in Iran.  Also impressive was the work of Tate Donovan, Scott McNairy, Clea DuVall, and Kerry Bishe as embassy escapees.  Much of the tension of the second and third act is derived from their respective abilities to convey the terror, paranoia, and claustrophobia associated with their plight and in this regard they do a great job.

And of course there is Ben Affleck.  He doesn’t have a lot of range in front of the camera – he really only has one gear as an actor, but when he is cast in the right role his performances are very credible.  Fortunately, the role of Tony Mendez is one that falls right in his wheelhouse.  Affleck does a nice job of portraying a grounded, somewhat broken individual with the singular focus to bring his fellow Americans home.  His performance is the final touch on what proves to be a great showing all the way around for this native of Boston. 

By now it should come as no surprise that I absolutely recommend this movie and suggest that you see it in the cinema.  As impressive as the home viewing experience has become, it is hard to replicate the feeling of going into the theater surrounded by fellow members of an audience and watching a very good story unfold.  On paper I can be very critical of movies, but I really do love films and find even the slightest bit of entertainment value in almost everything I see.  Yet I would be the first to tell you that the combination of good story telling and good filmmaking can be hard to find, but that is precisely what Argo is.  And films of this caliber deserve the big picture treatment.

Standout Performance: Ben Affleck for good work in front of the camera and great work behind the camera that should garner plenty of Oscar attention.

Friday, October 26, 2012

November 2012 Movie Guide

NOVEMBER 2, 2012 
Starring: Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Don Cheadle
Why You Should See It: Because at the very least, Denzel Washington always delivers an entertaining movie.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because November is the time of the month when studios role out their Oscar contenders so this one may be long on rhetoric and short on action.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  A complete toss up.

Starring: Russell Crowe, Jamie Chung, Lucy Liu, RZA
Why You Should See It: Stylized over-the-top martial arts choreography and Jamie Chung.
Why You Should Avoid It: Lucy Liu, RZA, Dave Bautista, Rick Yune
And the Magic 8 Ball Says: Definitely a no; not even as a rental.

Starring: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, Jack McBrayer
Why You Should See It: Fun premise and the appearance of some classic video arcade characters.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because it was produced by Disney.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  Despite my long standing dislike for Disney, I begrudgingly say yes.

NOVEMBER 9, 2012 

Starring: Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Helen McCrory
Why You Should See It: Because Daniel Craig’s Bond is the best version of the character to make it on screen.
Why You Should Avoid It: None.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  An absolute yes to the most anticipated movie of Q4.

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones
Why You Should See It: An iconic historic figure, an extremely talented cast, and the beard (Steven Spielberg) at the helm.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter left a bad taste in your mouth when it comes to President #16.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  Yes, but be warned that it will most likely feature that signature Spielberg slow pacing.

Other theatrical releases:  A Royal AffairIn Their SkinNature Calls

NOVEMBER 16, 2012

Starring: Maggie Grace, Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner
Why You Should See It: Because you’re a teen girl with too much time on your hands.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because you're anyone other than a teen girl with too much time on your hands.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says: Avoid, avoid, avoid.  Haven’t seen any of the other movies so why start now.

Starring: Keira Knightley, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Jude Law, Matthew Macfadyen
Why You Should See It: Because there is a lot of buzz surrounding this period piece based on a canonical novel.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because Keira Knightley and Jude Law have delivered more misses than hits these last few years. 
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  Girlfriend Rules apply.

Other theatrical releases: Price Check

NOVEMBER 21, 2012 
Starring: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Gerard Depardieu
Why You Should See It: Based on Yann Martel’s acclaimed novel and directed by Academy Award winning director Ang Lee.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because you already saw the whole survival thing done back when it was called Castaway starring Tom Hanks.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  Tough call.  If you do see it, do so with tempered expectations as this film may not have thoe qualities that appeal to the masses.

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Adrianne Palicki, Josh Hutcherson, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Why You Should See It: Because Thor is taking on North Koreans alongside Adrianne Palicki.
Why You Should Avoid It: Josh Hutcherson.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  Rental all the way.

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Bradley Cooper, Julia Stiles, Chris Tucker
Why You Should See It: Because there is lots of Oscar buzz around this film and Chris Tucker is doing something other than another Rush Hour movie.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because Bradley Cooper has missed in his last few dramatic roles.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  Game time decision – but my guess here is that it’s a yes...or no...or maybe.

Other theatrical releases:  Rise of the Guardians

NOVEMBER 23, 2012 
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Jessica Biel
Why You Should See It: Because Anthony Hopkins is taking on the role of the iconic director.
Why You Should Avoid It: When was the last time you saw a movie with Jessica Biel in it that was actually good?
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  If you love the theatrical arts then this is a yes.

Other theatrical releases:  Rust and BoneThe Central Park Five

NOVEMBER 30, 2012 
Starring: Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta
Why You Should See It: Because it has a good cast to match the gritty premise of the film.
Why You Should Avoid It: Have you not seen Brad Pitt’s Chanel No. 5 commercial?
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  Yes, but mostly because the end of November offers slim pickings at the theater.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review: The Raven

Back when John Cusack was doing pressers for The Raven, he lamented openly about how Hollywood doesn’t make real romantic comedies anymore.  While not all may agree with this sentiment, most would concur that gone are the days of SerendipityAmerica’s Sweethearts, and Say Anything in favor of a more risqué brand of relationship humor.  Having watched Cusack’s performance in The Raven, I now understand why he would lament such a trend.  His portrayal of Edgar Allen Poe is so dreadful that I am convinced that his usefulness as an actor is relegated to roles as a forlorn sad sack looking for love.  The movie and his performance are just that underwhelming.

The movie chronicles a fictionalized version of the final few days of Poe’s life in which a serial killer has begun to terrorize Baltimore by enacting murders based on his writing as a means to draw the beleaguered author into a game of cat and mouse.  Along with Detective Fields (played by Luke Evans), Poe (John Cusack) must find the murderer before his fiancé meets her demise.

The main issue with the movie is that it is supposed to be highly cerebral but the game of cat and mouse is not nearly clever enough to drive the plot.  In a film where nearly everyone is a suspect, director James McTeigue and writer Ben Livingston tip their hands far too early in the film.  This robs the film of the big reveal that is necessary as the payoff to justify all the overly verbose dialogue and hammed up acting that plague the film.  

It doesn’t help the proceedings that John Cusack is brutal as Poe.  His accent, mannerisms, and emoting are so awful that they make Bruce Willis’ performance in Armageddon feel Oscar worthy…really.  Nothing he does in this movie is good.  And unfortunately, he brings down a talented cast with him.  Luke Evans, soon to be more of a household name after The Hobbit and The Fast and Furious 6, is a solid actor but his efforts as the keen Detective Fields  feel futile opposite Cusack.  Likewise the lovely Alice Eve, who normally has good screen presence, seems drab and uninteresting as Poe’s fiancé Emily.  In fact, this mediocrity pervades the rest of the cast from Brendan Gleeson to Kevin McNally and on down the line.

The weak script and poor acting leave very little to latch onto in this film.  Without an investment in the characters and in the manufactured intrigue, what you’re left with is a sequence of events that do not create adequate  suspense and do not add up to a tense compelling narrative.  Thus all the murders, the clues, the pseudo twists barely register but instead come off as mere noise on the way to the closing credits.  Because of this, I cannot recommend this movie.  In fact, I would say The Raven is one that you should probably avoid.  Even the most ardent fans of this genre or of John Cusack would be hard pressed to find entertainment value here.  If suspense is what you crave, there are a plethora of alternatives on the market to turn to.  And if you are looking for a good John Cusack movie, you'll probably have more luck looking for a title from the past than one set for release in the near  future. 

Standout Performance: None.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Ten Movies to Watch for Halloween

Horror movies are hard to rank for a number of reasons.  The first is that most of them are not particularly good.  The second is that contrary to popular belief, the plots are diverse and everyone reacts to them in different ways.  Some people like raw suspense; others like cheap scares; while still others like gore or torture porn.  Of all the different movie genres, horror may be the most subjective within that genre.  So with this in mind, I am sharing a list of 10 movies (released post 2000) that might be worth giving a look should you find yourself wanting to get into that Halloween spirit.  This isn’t a list of best horror movies by any stretch of the imagination but just a set of recommendations.

Not since The Blair Witch Project has a found footage movie so captured the imagination of horror movie enthusiasts.  This one will make you pay attention to when things go bump in the night in your home.

2. The Ring (2002)

Starring Naomi Watts and Martin Henderson, The Ring kicked off the trend of Hollywood remaking Japanese horror films with seemingly all of them coincidentally featuring a long-haired disheveled female antagonist.  This one will make you thankful that we don’t use VCRs anymore.

3. The Strangers (2008)

Cabins in remote woods are bad.  People in masks are bad.  This movie starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman reinforces these two truths.  

4. The Grudge (2004)

On the heels of The Ring, The Grudge starring Sarah Michelle Gellar was another remake of a Japanese horror film that featured a long-haired female antagonist.  While not as good as The Ring, this one was the last of the credible Japanese remakes as subsequent movies involved killer cellphones, digital cameras, and other such gimmicks.

5. 30 Days of Night (2007)

Vampires can only come out at night.  So it only makes sense that they should want to live in a place that is consumed in darkness for weeks at a time (i.e. northern Alaska).  And that is 30 Days of Night starring Josh Hartnett in a nutshell.

6. Insidious (2010)

If you stop this movie starring Rose Byrne about 4/5 of the way through then you have a very solid horror movie on your hands.  If you watch the last 20% of it, well then, not so much.

7. Drag Me to Hell (2009)

Not completely sure what to make of this movie starring Justin Long, but it is suspenseful, a bit gross, and written and directed by Sam Raimi so that’s good enough for me.

8. 28 Days Later (2002)

A quintessential post-apocalyptic zombie movie that is well directed and well acted featuring a (at the time) mostly unknown Cillian Murphy.  A must see for any fan of the zombie genre.

9. Vacancy (2007)

Vacancy starring Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale is not the greatest horror movie in the world, but the premise is a bit unique; it’s set in a rundown motel; and well, it stars Kate Beckinsale.  Those three factors make this one a must see.

10. Final Destination (2000)

This movie starring Devon Sawa is short on depth, but it is visually amusing to watch the way each death scene unfolds.  I recommend that anyone who suffers from OCD avoid this film as it could really mess with your mind.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Review: Sinister

I walked into Sinister expecting a run of the mill horror movie that is thin on wit and plot and long on eerie ghostly images, rapid cuts, and cheap scares.  What I found was a film that is the polar opposite.  When you get past the run-of-the-mill premise of a gothic demon-type Boogieman as an antagonist, the plot of the film unfolds like an investigation narrative as Ethan Hawke’s protagonist tries to piece together the circumstances of an unsolved murder.  Unfortunately, though the film may be more cerebral and character driven than one would initially expect, the need to adhere to the mechanisms of the horror genre ultimately leads to its demise. 

The plot of the movie focuses on Ethan Hawke’s Ellison Oswalt, a novelist who has moved into a murder house with his family in order to investigate the details of those unsolved murders as the topic for his next novel.  When he stumbles upon a box of old home movies, he discovers there may be more to the murders and to the house than he bargained for.

To the credit of writer/director Scott Derrickson, the movie spends a good amount of time developing Hawke’s narcissistic struggling novelist and his effect on his family’s understated dysfunction.  Hawke does a good job of immersing himself into this character and fleshing out his obsessive nature as a vehicle to drive the whodunit portion of the plot.  This aspect of the movie is the part of that works best.  The pace, the framing, and the score come together to create a decent amount of natural tension.

What does not work so well is the gothic paranormal aspect of the movie.  The antagonist – the pagan demon Bughuul – is a shadow relegated to glimpses and images and far too passive a participant to the proceedings to ramp up the thrills in the same way that other horror film antagonists do.  Sure there are few chilling images, a couple of horrific acts, and some loud noises to make you jump in your seat, but the silent antagonist is not present enough to really make a mark in this film. 

Beyond Ethan Hawke, the rest of the cast is a mixed bag.  Juliet Rylance, as Hawke’s wife Tracy, oscillates between good and not-so-good from scene to scene in what can best be described as an uneven performance.  James Ransone, as the Deputy, likewise delivers a mixed bag of a performance though some of his scenes with Hawke are some of the best in the movie.  The two share a nice chemistry and some interesting verbal exchanges, which may or may not have been unintentionally funny.

The cast also features a number of child actors including Michael Hall D’Addario, Clare Foley, and Victoria Leigh and unfortunately, none of their performances really stand out.  For reasons that become apparent while watching the film, the work of the younger members of the cast is paramount to the tone and tenor of the movie and thus their respective lackluster turns truly serve as a detriment to the production

So when you put it all together, what you have is a movie that isn’t suspenseful enough to be a good horror movie and not quite clever enough to be a legitimate whodunit narrative.  With mediocre acting and run-of-the-mill cinematography, there really is nothing in this movie to really latch on to.  Is this the worst horror movie ever made?  No.  But I suspect that if you find yourself looking for a film to get you in the mood for the Halloween season, this one probably won’t make it onto your radar.  When it comes to the horror genre, fans ask for so little.  Sinister obliges by not delivering very much.  So take a pass on this one.

Standout Performance:  If anyone deserves in this film, I guess it’s Ethan Hawke.  He gives it a good effort even though he isn’t given much to work with.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Review: Taken 2

When I look back at the first Taken, what made it great was that Liam Neeson’s grim no nonsense vibe really fit the character and he had enough physicality left in the tanks to back it up.  The result was a resurgence in his career that saw him recast as the kind of total bad ass one might imagine Jason Bourne would become during his AARP years.  In fact, Neeson’s perceived age enhanced both the role and the film as it legitimized his character’s experience and made you believe that his Bryan Mills could remain three steps ahead of his less cerebral European antagonists.  In Taken 2, Neeson’s Mills is still very sharp (perhaps a little too sharp), but seems to have lost a bit in the physicality department and because of this, the film fails to deliver in the same way its predecessor did.

The plot follows Neeson’s Mills as he finds himself in Istanbul for work with Maggie Grace’s Kim and Famke Janssen’s Lenore in tow.  A group of Algerians led by Rade Serbedzija’s Murad plots to capture and murder Neeson and his family to avenge the deaths of the Algerian sex traffickers from the first film.  It’s not a direct rehash the way The Hangover 2 is to The Hangover, but it is in the same neighborhood.

Nuts and bolts action movies must have strong pacing, expertly framed action scenes, good use of foreground and background visuals, and a handful of defining moments to divert attention from what typically tends to be thin plot lines.  Unfortunately, Taken 2 comes up short nearly across the board.  While part of the blame for this has to be heaped on writer Luc Besson, that the movie lacks the pace and urgency of its predecessor ultimately falls on the shoulders of director Olivier Megaton.  Handed the keys to a property featuring an interesting protagonist with a deep fan base, Megaton fails to weave a taut narrative and he frames the action in a way that robs Neeson’s Mills of his well-established physical credibility.

As for Neeson, the four years he’s spent away from the character looks and feels like fourteen years.  Clearly time has taken its toll.  Neeson does not seem up to the challenge of playing the physically imposing former CIA operative and it seems that Megaton and his creative team amp up the use of unsteady cameras to mask Neeson’s hand-to-hand combat deficiencies.  Another issue I had was the increased focus on Neeson’s skills of detection.  Instead of cool filler between action sequences, these scenes are drawn to the fore and are so overblown that they take matters well beyond the breaking point of the suspension of disbelief.  At one point I felt like I was watching a cross between an episode of CSI and Chris Farley’s Haru from Beverly Hills Ninja.

As for the supporting cast, four years ago Maggie Grace looked and acted like a vibrant fresh-faced young woman, but those qualities are sorely missed in this outing.  For the majority of film, she seems drab and disinterested as she goes through the motions.  Famke Janssen is given a more robust role this time out, but Janssen - never known as a strong performer – does little with the opportunity.  Emotional engagement in her Lenore is paramount to the success of the film as much of the tension is tied to her peril, and thus Janssen’s supremely pedestrian performance truly weakens the film.  Rade Serbedzija as Murad Krasniqu and his band of nameless goons also are culpable for much of what is wrong with this movie, as they never seem to represent a legitimate physical or cerebral threat.  A hero is only as good as his villains are bad, and this is a major factor as to why Neeson’s Mills loses much of his luster.

I really wanted to love this movie.  I was ready for a fast paced riveting narrative with action and chase scenes that would capitalize on the old world aesthetic of Istanbul.  Unfortunately, not only is Taken 2 completely void of the fun and panache of the first film, the action sequences are muted and the logic somewhat flawed.  I wouldn’t recommend that you run out to watch this film, because I can’t envision a scenario where one would walk out of the theater fully satisfied, but as a Netflix movie it has some value.  It’s mildly entertaining and utterly forgettable and probably a reasonable way to pass the time in the comfort of your own home.

Standout Performance: D.B. Sweeney.  Not so much for anything he does in this movie, but because I don’t think I have seen him in anything since The Cutting Edge.  Toe pick!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Review: Big Miracle

When people sit down to watch an action movie, they tend to have a certain set of expectations – fighting, chase scenes, pretty women, and gunplay.   Likewise, those who go the romantic comedy route probably expect to see weeping and/or laughter inducing elements involving Katherine Heigl, Dermott Mulroney, or a combination of the two.  And when it comes to movies like Big Miracle, the viewer can expect one thing and one thing only – a warm and fuzzy feel good ending.  No matter how the plot unfolds or how ominous the musical score may turn, by credits end the emotional equivalent of hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day will be experienced by all.  Telegraphed as its ending may be, Big Miracle does not fail to deliver in this regard.

Based on Operation Breakthrough as described by Tom Rose in his novel, Freeing the Whales, Big Miracle chronicles an international effort to free three whales who are trapped by frozen ice in and around the Northern Alaskan shore.  The movie tracks the media’s coverage of the endeavor, the influence of Greenpeace, various political and economic machinations, and the role of the indigenous population, yet somehow manages to keep the plot light and fluffy in a way that would make even the execs at ABC Family feel proud. 

To me, the biggest miracle (pun totally intended) about this movie is that not only did it get greenlighted but also that it received a theatrical release.  It’s not that there is anything egregiously bad about this movie, but more that there is nothing especially good about it.  Despite the presence of some recognizable names, the acting and production value seem more suited for a Lifetime Network movie, which makes a lot of sense when you realize the bulk of director Ken Kwapis’ work is in television.  The way the shots are framed lacks the vision and majesty one expects from the big screen treatment.

The cast is comprised of a fairly long ensemble featuring a plethora of bit players circling around the action, which is primarily driven by John Krasinski’s Adam and Drew Barrymore’s Rachel.  Krasinski has in the past failed to successfully make the leap to the big screen (Leatherheads) and nothing happens in this movie to alter his track record.  Drab and understated, his performance as an aspiring television reporter lacks the gusto to be the focal point of this film.  As for Barrymore, one could easily get the impression that she is trying to be unlikable as acting forlorn and whiney is no way to win over an audience.  Collectively, the chemistry that Krasinski and Barrymore share is dreadful and make some key plot elements feel forced.

The supporting cast does not fare much better.  Everyone from Dermott Mulroney to Kristen BellTed Danson, and Vinessa Shaw all seem to be sleep walking through this film delivering their lines with little-to-no conviction.  The only time the faintest hint of a pulse registers from anyone in the cast is when lines are unintentionally spoken with tongues firmly planted in cheek, leaving one to question whether the actors cast in this movie  actually want to appear in it. 

So what you have in Big Miracle is a movie of made-for-telelvision quality featuring a cast that for the most part is mailing it in.  Oh, and by the way, the plot is about three trapped whales in the arctic; which with all due respect to the fine people at Greenpeace is not the most commercially viable premise.  It is a one trick pony of a film that is lazily put together and ultimately relies on its heart warming climax to make you forget everything that is wrong with the entire production.  I wouldn't go so far as to say it is a crime against cinematography or that it is abusive to the senses, but I would suggest you take a pass on this one.  There’s just not much of anything to latch onto in this film.

Standout Performance: None.