May 02--"PAIN AND GAIN" (R)
2 out of 4 stars
MARK WAHLBERG, DWAYNE JOHNSON, ANTHONY MACKIE, TONY SHALHOUB, REBEL WILSON, ED HARRIS
With a trio of actors who succeed at making dumb weight-lifters funny as they plan a kidnapping, the first half of this film based on a real event is a hoot.
But when bodies start piling up and the pumped-up boys start running over people with cars and chopping corpses into pieces with a chain saw, humor and the film's appeal fades fast.
In fact, the whole thing begins to feel tawdry and more than a little wrong.
Why try and make a humorous movie about three knuckleheads who commit these sorts of heinous acts?
And why glorify guys like this, making them offbeat heroes by featuring them in a big-budget movie?
All of this is related to the way director Michael Bay who's made a career making stuff blow up on the big screen overdoes way too much of this film.
What will really turn off many viewers is the nasty turn this thing takes after the talented Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson convince you to root for their muscle-bound characters.
It's one thing to make a sympathetic movie about a con man or a gangster who struggles to leave his life of crime. It's another to make a sappy tale about guys who kidnap and try to kill a rich client, then actually do kill two other people they're trying to rob.
This film, like that plot, was a bad idea from the get-go.
Rated R for language. 121 min. [MC, PV, RA]
"THE COMPANY YOU KEEP" (R)
2.75 out of 4 stars
ROBERT REDFORD, SHIA LABEOUF, SUSAN SARANDON, RICHARD JENKINS, CHRIS COOPER, NICK NOLTE, JULIE CHRISTIE
Not every little plot detail works in this story of a Weather Underground activist forced into the public eye.
With a cast heavy with Academy Award winners including the steady Robert Redford (who also directs), it's a hidden gem.
The film also serves to shine a light on a controversial and turbulent time in our nation's history, when young people's protests against the Vietnam War turned to violence and bombings in a few cases.
The interesting angle that drives this story: What happened to those bombers and protestors as they grew older and became adults?
In the case of the character Redford plays, lawyer Jim Grant, he "grew up" and joined the establishment, working as a lawyer to represent people fighting the system.
And he had a child, something that he admits changed his perspective.
When a young reporter (Shia LaBeouf, perfectly obnoxious for the role) uses an arrest of a key Weather Underground member to find Grant, things are set into motion that reconnect him with several of his former conspirators.
Some have joined the business world, others are still fighting the fight. The reunion raises the central question of the movie and allows the audience to explore whether Grant took part in the killing of a security guard in a bank robbery.
The way that's resolved does feel a bit forced, but with great actors showing up every 10 minutes and a deft hand behind the camera, it works.
Rated R for language. 121 min. [RF]
"THE BIG WEDDING" (R)
2.24 out of 4 stars
ROBERT DE NIRO, KATHERINE HEIGL, DIANE KEATON, AMANDA SEYFRIED, SUSAN SARANDON, ROBIN WILLIAMS
A great cast injects some occasional fun into the proceedings, but even they can't totally overcome a script that takes the low road with lewd language, jokes and sketchy plot twists that demean the whole effort.
Nevertheless, there are still fun moments in this tale of a divorced couple who pretend to be married when their adopted son decides to tie the knot himself.
Especially good are Topher Grace and Katherine Heigl as siblings battling very different challenges.
Rated R for language, sexual content and brief nudity. 90 min. [MC, PV, RA]
"ARTHUR NEWMAN" (NR)
2 out of 4 stars
COLIN FIRTH, EMILY BLUNT, ANNE HECHE, STERLING BEAUMON
If you like offbeat and moody, you'll love this tale of a man trying to recreate his life by faking his own death.
Firth makes him somewhat interesting, but when he meets a woman (Emily Blunt) coping with mental illness in her DNA, things take a strange turn.
The pair can't connect as themselves, but can when they steal identities and break into houses to hook up as other people.
Unfortunately, viewers will be left with the same question that applies to the whole film: Why?
Not Rated. 101 min. [RF]
(c)2013 The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Va.)
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