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Posts Tagged ‘Robert Downey Jr.’

“THE JUDGE”  My rating: C+ (Opens wide on Oct. 10)

141 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The Judge” has a few good things going for it, particularly the promise of a high-octane acting duel between Robert Duvall and Robert Downey Jr.
What the film doesn’t have is faith that the audience can appreciate solid dramatic acting for more than, oh, three minutes at a stretch.
In this story of an estranged father and son thrown together by a big trial, every  scene that carries a bit of weight immediately goes for a comic coda — often a cheap comic coda. The effect is weirdly mechanical. But we can’t leave the paying customers thinking serious thoughts, right?
The result is an overlong, overstuffed movie at war with itself.Hank Palmer (Downey) is a top Chicago trial lawyer. A maddening mix of intelligence and arrogance, Hank knows how to bend the law to his will. He is not apologetic about this.“Everybody wants Atticus Finch,” he notes, “until there’s a dead hooker in the hot tub.”

It’s a case of perfect casting. Nobody tops Downey in portraying smarmy characters who undergo a redemptive transformation (see “Iron Man”).

The death of Hank’s mother brings him back to the small Indiana town he fled 20 years earlier. Though this idyllic burg seems to have fallen out of a Norman Rockwell painting, Hank  hates the place.

More accurately, he hates his old man, Judge Palmer (Duvall). The two haven’t spoken since forever, and the Judge has never met Hank’s young daughter.

Why these two are always at each other’s throats will be revealed in dribs and drabs over the next two hours.

The Judge is charged with manslaughter in the death by automobile of an ex-con with whom he has had a troubled past.

Being a monstrous egoist, Hank sticks around to represent his father — especially since the Judge’s local attorney (Dax Shepard) is borderline inept. The poor jerk upchucks on the courthouse steps every time he must face Billy Bob Thornton’s steely-eyed prosecutor.

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** and Jon Favreau in  "Chef"

Emjay Anthony and Jon Favreau in “Chef”

“CHEF” My rating: B (Opening wide on May 22)

115 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The title character of “Chef” works in a hugely lucrative but artistically stifling high-end L.A. restaurant. He has a meltdown and goes off looking to regain his muse of cooking.

Interestingly enough, “Chef “ was written, directed by, and stars Jon Favreau, who first burst onto the scene as an indie auteur (“Swingers,” “Made”) before finding mucho money and Tinseltown clout cranking out superhero movies for the Marvel folk (“Iron Man”).

“Chef” can be seen as Favreau’s return to down-home cooking/filmmaking. Despite its impressively deep cast, it’s a relatively simple, modestly budgeted affair, less a banquet than a delicate palate cleanser.

Nothing earthshaking happens here. No deep emotions are plumbed or existential dilemmas explored.

But if  the film is superficial, it is often slyly funny, has a real handle on the restaurant biz and its denizens, genuinely likes its characters, and tries to look on the sunny side. In short,  a pleasant couple of hours at the movies.

Carl Casper (Favreau) is top chef at one of Hollywood’s most in-demand eateries. But he’s hit a creative dead end. The joint’s owner (Dustin Hoffman) doesn’t want to tinker with success and consistently nixes Carl’s attempts at an edgier menu.

When a powerful food blogger (Oliver Platt) pans the place as old hat and unimaginative, Carl has a very public meltdown that is recorded by dozens of customers, making him an Internet sensation.  But while being the raving chef raises Carl’s profile, it gets him fired and makes him unemployable.

He’s got no choice but to start over. (more…)

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Downey as Sherlock...man of 1,000 disguises

“SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS”  My rating: C 

129 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

The Robert Downey Jr.-powered “Sherlock Holmes” franchise, like the “Transformers” franchise, makes me feel very, very old.

Both series are hugely successful. Apparently they make other moviegoers terribly happy.

But they leave me feeling…empty. For all their visual razzle dazzle, there’s no there there. I might as well be beating myself over the head with an inflated pig bladder for all the pleasure these movies provide.

I know, I know. What a disagreeable old man I have become.

It’s not that I cannot appreciate superficial charm.  But these movies aren’t charming. Just superficial.

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