Posts Tagged ‘Orlando Bloom’

Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr.

“NEEDLE IN A TIMESTACK” My rating: C (VOD on Oct. 15)

111 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Time travel love stories — the ones that work, anyway — convince us of the inevitability of two souls finding each other across temporal and spacial eternities.

Basically you’ve got to leave one of these flicks feeling that the love relationship depicted is so earth-shakingly right that it must have been preordained by the fates.

John Ridley’s “Needle in a Timestack” aims for that sort of certainty in love…but comes up short.

It’s not for want of trying. The film has been very well cast; the performances are solid.

And yet it never quite works. Mainly, I think, because it doesn’t believe it’s own line of b.s.

Ridley’s screenplay (based on Robert Silverberg’s short story) unfolds in a near future that looks pretty much like ours. The big difference is that the world now is plagued with “time shifts,” waves of distortion that move across the landscape like a liquid wall.

In their wake some people’s realities are altered. They now have different spouses or jobs…and they have no memory of their previous lives.

Moreover, time travel is now a luxury available to the very wealthy. Despite rules to prevent the retro-retooling of the present, some of these high-tech vacationers do go into the past in order to fiddle with the future.

How did these “time shifts” come to be? Experiment gone bad? Interplanetary collision? COVID vaccine side effects?

The film doesn’t explain. Which is the first strike against it.

Anyway, Nick and Janine (Leslie Odom Jr., Cynthia Erivo) are deeply in love. So they tell us…I never once felt it.

But in the wake of a particularly disruptive time shift, Nick becomes uneasy, convinced that Janine’s ex, the fabulously wealthy tech industrialist Tommy (Orlando Bloom), is using time travel to alter the past so as to reclaim Janine.

Maybe Nick is just paranoid. Or maybe not…his own sister (Jadyn Wang) has gone deep into debt in order to travel back in time to prevent the accidental death of her best friend.

In flashbacks (are they flashbacks, really, or an alternative reality depicting a different time line?) we witness Nick’s doomed romance with Alex (Freida Pinto)…doomed because without him realizing it, he’s fated to end up with Janine.”Fated” may be the wrong word. As Ridley’s dialogue insists on telling us at every opportunity, time is a circle. No beginning, no end, just an eternal round and round and round.

Now that’s a nifty concept, one thoroughly examined in countless pot-fueled late-night sessions in college dorm rooms. But “Needle in a Timestack” never makes its case emotionally. It’s more like a schematic for a Ted Talk.

Ridley, a cinematic jack of all trades (numerous producing credits, a mess of screenplays — “Three Kings,” “Red Tails,” “12 Years a Slave” — and a ton of TV) gets props for eschewing the usual fx-heavy trappings (when late in the film Nick becomes a time traveler, the tech is absurdly low) and concentrating instead on the human issues.

But something has gone wrong. At film’s end my reaction was less “aaaahhhhhh” than “uuuuuuuhhhh?”

| Robert W. Butler

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Noomi Rapace

“UNLOCKED” My rating: C

98 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Despite a “name” director and an impressive cast of solid B-listers, the spy drama “Unlocked” feels terribly generic.

Viewers may be forgiven for thinking they’ve seen it all before.

CIA interrogator Alice Racine (Noomi Rapace), on the rebound from a disastrous assignment that led to mass civilian casualties, is now posing as a London social worker, collecting evidence on possible terrorist activities within the Islamic community.

When the agency snatches a courier carrying messages between a radical imam and a terrorist developing a biological bomb, Alice is called in to break the captive’s will and get details on the impending attack.

Except that the CIA dudes running the interrogation seem a bit dicey…in fact, Alice finds  herself a pawn in a rogue operation. Marked for death by her own people, she barely escapes and goes on the run.

Among her supposed allies are a CIA bigwig back in the States (John Malkovich) and her agency mentor (Michael Douglas). Unsure who to trust among her own colleagues, Alice turns to a Brit intelligence master (Toni Collette) and at one point teams up with a petty crook (Orlando Bloom) whom she discovers burglarizing an apartment where she has taken refuge.

Peter O’Brien’s screenplay keeps us guessing; almost nobody in this movie is what they first seem.

There is much running around and the bodies pile up, but nothing about “Unlocked” is particularly compelling.  Director Michael Apted (whose impressive resume includes “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Gorillas in the Mist,” lots of first-rate HBO and Showtime offerings  and the brilliant multi-decade “7 Up” documentary series) keeps things moving but never makes us care.

| Robert W. Butler

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Johnny Depp


129 minutes  | MPAA rating: PG-13

At this late stage audiences for “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” should know better than to expect any surprises.

Like all of its predecessors, “Dead Men” is as shiny and polished as a hand-blown glass Christmas ornament — and just as empty.

The plot (the screenplay is credited to Jeff Nathanson) is predictably incomprehensible.

Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the grown son of series regular Will Turner (Orlando Bloom, who has maybe 90 seconds of screen time), is determined to save his father from eternal enslavement on the sunken ship the Flying Dutchman. (Thwaites is such a bland screen presence that he achieves the near impossible by making Bloom seem dynamic.)

To break that spell Henry will have to obtain several powerful talismans:  a pirate diary containing a hidden map, a compass with mystical properties,  Poseidon’s trident.

He bickers with a young woman, Carina (Kaya Scodelario), who is so much smarter than the oafish and superstitious men around her that she’s repeatedly condemned as a witch. Wanna bet they’re going to move past bickering and fall in love?

The series regulars — among them Geoffrey Rush as the dour Captain Barbossa and the crew members of the Black Pearl — give their usual one-note performances. Most of these characters were set in stone four movies ago and haven’t evolved one whit.

That goes especially for star Johnny Depp, whose Captain Jack Sparrow remains an unchanging and buffoonish blend of swash and swish. For this viewer, anyway, the charm wore off several films back. (more…)

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Martin Freeman as Bilbo (left), and Richards Armitage as Thorin (right)

Martin Freeman as Bilbo (left), and Richards Armitage as Thorin (right)


144 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

I am so over Peter Jackson’s Tolkein obsession.

It’s not that “The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies” is incompetent filmmaking. Rather, it’s empty filmmaking.

It’s got plenty of spectacle — beginning with a dragon and ending with an hour of uninterrupted combat — but it seems not to be inhabited. The characters are paper thin, and even those with whom we’ve developed some an affinity aren’t on the screen enough for genuine emotions to emerge.

Maybe this is what comes of taking a simple children’s adventure and ballooning it into a 9-hour trilogy.

Perhaps Jackson long ago emptied his quiver of tricks and is now reduced to repeating himself.

And the stuff that once wowed us — the CG that made the original Ring Trilogy such a technological marvel — now seems rather old hat.  So many of the effects on display here look patently artificial rather than real.

For hardcore fans, of course, none of this matters.  Having invested at least 15 hours in the first five Tolkein-inspired films, they’re not about to bail on the big conclusion. They’d probably stick around to watch Bilbo read from the White Pages.

Basically “Battle of the Five Armies” can be broken down into three segments.


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Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins

“THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG” My rating: C+ (Opens wide on Dec. 13)

161 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

I am happy to report that “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is a better movie than last year’s interminable “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”

Of course, this is a bit like congratulating grandma for outrunning great grandma.

Both movies are overpadded, meandering, and infuriating in their insistence on turning a whimsical  book for children into a lumbering behemoth of narrative and economic overkill.

Against their dramatic shortcomings, one must balance the undeniable technical creativity behind director Peter Jackson’s vision.

“Smaug” finds our Hobbit hero Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and his band of waddling dwarves drawing ever closer to the mountain beneath which the dragon Smaug lurks with his vast treasure of stolen riches.

There are moments here that I recognize from my long-ago reading of “The Hobbit,” like the gigantic spiders that  wrap up the adventurers in the forest of Mirkwood, putting them into storage for future meals. Or Bilbo’s figuring out of a an ancient riddle that will open that secret mountainside doorway to Smaug’s vast underground realm.

But Jackson and his co-writers (Fran Walsh, Philipa Boyens) have tossed in a lot of stuff that never appeared  in the book. Foremost among these is the reappearance of Orlando Bloom’s Legolas (a character from the “Lord of the Rings”) and the introduction of a lady elf, Tauriel (Evangeline Lily), who has been cut from whole cloth.

Tauriel and Legolas are an item, sort of, but she is inexplicably taken with Kili (Aidan Turner), the least grotesque of the dwarfs … could a bit of Middle Earth miscegination be our future? Stay tuned.


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