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World War II drama about Hirohito tops this week's list

September 6, 2013

YellowBrix

Sept. 06--Pick of the week:

"Emperor" (PG-13) Riveting film is based on the true story of Gen. Bonner Fellers, the World War II officer charged by Gen. Douglas MacArthur with determining whether Japan's Emperor Hirohito should be charged with war crimes. The thing was that Fellers may have had sympathies toward the Japanese because the love of his life was a Japanese woman who had been living and studying in the United States before the war and returned to her homeland after Pearl Harbor was attacked. Matthew Fox ups his game as Fellers, giving one of the most emotional performances of his career. Kudos, too, to Tommy Lee Jones, who doesn't portray MacArthur as a caricature save for the unusual way in which MacArthur placed his hands on his hips. If you keep watching through the credits, you'll see why. A-

"Bad Parents" (unrated) A self-described soccer mom becomes obsessed with her daughter's athletic endeavors to the point that her family's life must revolve around the politics of the game. Sometimes funny but mostly snarky to the point of cruel black comedy might reflect some truths about the kind of parent who lives their life through their children. But it's too dark to be appreciated. C

"The Big Wedding" (R) Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton play a divorced couple who must pretend to still be married when their adopted son invites his birth mother -- a devoted Catholic who doesn't believe in divorce -- to come to the event. From a convoluted idea comes a convoluted story. In trying so hard to play it safe because of the talent involved and the budget the film had -- $35 million comedies are few and far between -- the project fails. C+

"The Company You Keep" (R) Robert Redford directed and stars in this adapted story of a former Weather Underground domestic terrorist who has been living a normal life under an alias and is on the lam again after one of his compatriots is captured by the FBI. Taut thriller is a class product from start to finish, but is a bit derivative of another film, "Running on Empty," which dealt with a similar theme from the perspective of a child whose parents are on the run. It also throws in a few of the elements from "Three Days of the Condor," which also starred Redford and is one of the best spy movies ever made. Altogether, one of the best films on DVD yet this year. It just fell in a week when one other film was slightly better. A-

"The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec" (PG) Interesting fare about an early 20th century writer who is so hands on in her research that she travels the world, exploring Egyptian tombs and dealing with a madcap scientist who has hatched a pterodactyl that is terrifying Paris. Based on a series of French comic books from the 1970s, this film -- which you can find tucked away in the children's section -- is not quite as wonderful as the synopsis implies but still loaded with cute, especially when it comes to cranky ancient flying dinosaurs. Includes subtitled and dubbed versions. B-

"Love and Honor" (PG-13) A soldier stationed in Vietnam uses his R&R week to fly home -- accompanied by a friend from his platoon -- after he gets a "Dear John" letter from his girlfriend. The story does a great job of conveying the attitude stateside toward the war and the unfortunate way American troops were treated. It does not do such a great job of making it look like the 1960s. The cars are old enough but the costumes and hairstyles totally miss the mark. And actor Liam Hemsworth's performance kind of bugged me. The guy has a Ryan Reynolds kind of swagger, but Reynolds counters his with a self-deprecating humor that makes his pretty adorable. Hemsworth hasn't tapped into that ability yet and he comes off as aloof in this film. B-

"A Night For Dying Tigers" (unrated) A dysfunctional group of siblings and their significant others assemble at the home of their dead parents and learn the abode has been sold. Dialogue-driven character study lacks two small things: Compelling dialogue and interesting characters. The dialogue can be smart but is positively littered with intellectual offerings that convey very little other that an arrogant air that proves the writer knows how to open a thesaurus. The film tries to convey an "Anniversary Party" or "Big Chill" aura but does so painfully as the main gatherings break up into subgroups of two or three characters whining about how miserable they are. And, of course, there's the obligatory pot-smoking scene in which a couple of the characters whine about how miserable they are while looking for munchies. D

"Olympus has Fallen" (R) In the year's OTHER film about an attack on the White House, Gerard Butler plays a Secret Service agent who was on duty when the first lady was killed -- don't get too attached to Ashley Judd's appearance -- but needs his skills and acumen when terrorists invade the presidential mansion. Typical action fare might not even impress the 15-year-old boy audience it's meant to impress. Oh, it throws in a few aging stars to pacify those of us who might like a little more in our summer movies besides explosions, gunfights and fistfights. Even those are lacking here, though. Not lacking in the sense that there are none but lacking in the sense that they are as stale as week-old unwrapped bread. Everything about the film is formulaic and calculated. F

"The Story of Luke" (not rated) A young man with special needs -- he has a form of autism -- who was raised by his grandparents strives for independence when his grandmother dies and his grandfather moves into a nursing home. Lou Taylor Pucci, who recently stole the show as the stoner Eric in "Evil Dead," shines again in his sensitive but hilarious portrayal of Luke. He does go a bit overboard with his Crispin Glover imitation but his casting was perfect. Cary Elwes and Seth Green also stand out in this nicely written comedy. Film was a darling of the indie and festival circuit. It's not hard to see why. B+

"3 Geezers!" (R) The usually gifted character actor J.K. Simmons plays an actor documenting his research for a role in which he'll play an elderly man by hanging out at a senior center. Although I try to limit my F grades to only one a week, there is simply no excuse for this kind of insult to be foisted on an unknowing audience. And even though friends and family of someone involved in the film tried to up its ranking at IMDb -- 36 very demented individuals out of the 298 who rated the film ranked it a 10 out of 10 -- common sense prevailed and the overall score is a mere 3.2. Heed the warnings, please! I could watch Simmons read the phone book and I couldn't stand this monstrosity. As for the DVD cover prominently featuring Tim Allen, Kevin Pollack and Breckin Meyer? Well, they're the best part of the film but each is only a cameo, with no more than five minutes of screen time combined. F

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(c)2013 the Midland Reporter-Telegram (Midland, Texas)

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