A second opinion, from Motor City Reviewer.
Trouble with the Curve — A nice movie, but not one anybody should rush out to see. The premise is an aging baseball scout (Eastwood) is reunited with his somewhat estranged and emotionally unavailable daughter (a hard charging, big law associate – Amy Adams), and Justin Timberlake plays the love interest (someone Eastwood once scouted who hurt his arm and is now out of baseball). Some mildly amusing moments. Eastwood, Adams and Timberlake have good chemistry. It is a little too formulaic, a little too predictable. If you are paying attention, you should be able to guess the ending a third of the way into the movie.
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Trouble With the Curve (C-). I am not a particularly big Clint Eastwood fan, but I think Amy Adams (The Muppets) is a good actress and as cute as a button. So I went out and saw this new release, fortified by a favorable review in the Dallas Morning News. I was disappointed. Eastwood (Unforgiven) plays Gus, an aging and ailing baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves. Gus has been a widower for like 30 years, and he is not close with his only child, a daughter (Adams) named Mickey after Mickey Mantle. She’s a driven lawyer on the verge of making partner at some big Atlanta law firm. But when Gus’s pal Pete (played by a truly walrus-like John Goodman, O Brother Where Art Thou?) tells Mickey that Gus is having health problems (especially with his eyes), she drops everything to go on one last scouting trip with her old man. As they follow some high-school hotshot through various podunk towns, Mickey attracts some romantic attention from Johnny (Justin Timberlake, The Social Network), a washed-up pitcher turned baseball scout. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but the movie just isn’t very good. The scenes and the dialogue are sort of clunky, and the big reveals that are supposed to explain these characters’ foibles aren’t very convincing. And the romantic subplot feels tacked-on and arbitrary. Sorry, but Trouble With the Curve struck out with me.
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Hope Springs (B). Despite the presence of funnyman Steve Carell (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World), this is no comedy. Tommy Lee Jones (Batman Forever) and Meryl Streep (It’s Complicated) star as Arnold and Kay, a long-married couple out in Omaha, Nebraska. Kay is desperately unhappy, and who can blame her? He’s a gruff old coot who pays way more attention to TV shows about golf than he does to her. Kay picks up a book about improving your marriage by Dr. Bernie Feld (Carell), and before you know it she has signed herself and Arnold up for a week of intensive couples therapy with Dr. Feld in the charming Maine town of Hope Springs. Arnold, of course, fights tooth and nail against it the whole way, but of course he has to relent and go along with the therapy a little or else there’s no movie. I thought it was pretty good, although perhaps a real-life week of intensive couples therapy for two sixty-somethings wouldn’t focus quite so single-mindedly on their sex life.(?) Elizabeth Shue (Adventures in Babysitting) and Tom Cruise’s First Wife (Lost in Space) show up in bit parts.
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The Most Happy Fella, by Irving Lyric Stage. Well, you have missed the two-week run of this musical, and personally I don’t think you have suffered a great loss. To be sure, the Lyric Stage did its usual phenomenal job of staging the show. The actors were splendid, and the leads had great singing voices. The sets and orchestra were better than good. But the show itself, a 1956 piece by Frank Loesser, just didn’t work for my companion or me. The plot is weak. Antonio Esposito is a successful vineyard owner in Napa Valley. No longer young, Tony is smitten with a waitress that he sees while in San Francisco, and he leaves her a love note with an expensive tie pin as a tip. He and “Rosabella” (as he dubs her, not knowing her real name) correspond for a while, then agree to exchange photographs. But Tony chickens out and instead sends Rosabella a photo of Joe, Tony’s handsome foreman. Rosabella agrees to be Tony’s mail-order bride. At the end of Act One, Rosabella finally travels to the vineyard for her wedding and discovers Tony’s deception, while simultaneously Tony is gravely injured in an auto accident. Justifiably furious, Rosabella considers leaving, but then decides to go ahead and marry the real Tony while he is at death’s door—and then falls into Joe’s arms when no one else is around! In Acts Two and Three (it’s a three-hour show), Rosabella falls in love with Tony, but a certain burgeoning consequence of her indiscretion with Joe threatens her future with Tony. And there’s a subplot involving a more straightforward romance between Rosabella’s friend Clio and a farmhand named Herman. Anyhoo, the main plot just doesn’t work. Joe virtually disappears after Act One, and Rosabella takes way too much grief for her indiscretion as compared to Tony, who gets virtually no grief for the fraud he perpetrated on Rosabella. Given the plot flaws, I am not surprised this is a little-seen musical. But again, the Lyric Stage did its usual excellent, professional job putting it on.
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ParaNorman (C-). The trailers for this animated film piqued my curiosity a little bit. It appeared to be about a little kid named Norman who, like a kid in a certain blockbuster movie some years ago, possesses the “gift” of being able to see and talk to ghosts that are invisible to everybody else. His paranormal talent makes him a social misfit, even within his own family, but it may help him save the day when something happens and the dead begin to rise from their graves. Plus, the trailers used that groovy old Donovan song “Season of the Witch.” Anyhoo, the movie turns out to be a pretty bland affair–not very funny, not very creepy, not really much of anything. It kind of reminded me of that movie from some years ago called Monster House, in that the moviemakers seem to try really hard to come up with a fresh, original “scary story,” but the story just isn’t that involving. I will concede that the climactic scene was fairly satisfying, but that little victory was offset by a couple of totally unnecessary sexual references. I didn’t recognize many of the voices, but Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air) voices Norman’s annoying older sister, and John Goodman (O Brother Where Art Thou) voices his weird uncle Prenderghast.
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Toys in the Attic (D). This is one weird movie. I gather it was made in the Czech Republic a few years ago and then somehow this dubbed English version got made. Some beat-up old toys are moldering away in some Czech attic somewhere. Woody and Buzz Lightyear they ain’t; there’s a patched-up old teddy bear (voice of Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland), a freaky Don Quixote-like marionette called Sir Handsome (voice of Cary Elwes, The Princess Bride), a grotesque little dude made of clay called Laurent, and a nice doll named Buttercup who makes cakes for the other three. It turns out that there’s a land of evil toys somewhere nearby, and they kidnap Buttercup while the other three are off at work. For the rest of the movie (which feels long even though the whole thing is only 80 minutes), the good toys (aided in particular by a toy mouse called Madam Curie and voiced by Joan Cusack, School of Rock) try to rescue Buttercup. The stop-motion animation and the visuals in general are nothing short of psychedelic. Nothing makes sense, and every other scene comes out of left field. The evil toys in particular give off a pretty creepy vibe, and this is definitely not a movie for kids. I’m not sure who it is for, really. I do give it some cleverness points for having Cary Elwes voice a character who’s on a quest to rescue someone named Buttercup, and I was startled to discover that Buttercup was voiced, and the English-language version of the film was co-directed by, Vivian Schilling of MST3K fame (Soultaker, to be specific). That said, I cannot recommend that you actually go watch this movie. It’s just too bizarre.
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The Dark Knight Rises (C). I think I may be just about over the whole superhero thing. I remember liking the two previous Batman movies well enough, but for some reason it felt like a chore to drag myself to this two-hour-and-forty-five-minute spectacle. I finally got around to it yesterday, and, as my grade reflects, I wasn’t blown away. When the movie begins, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale, Reign of Fire) has been in virtual seclusion for eight years, and Gotham City has enjoyed a long period of respite from supervillainy. That vacation from reality ends when the city is conquered and sealed off from the outside world by a muscle-bound freak named Bane (Tom Hardy, Inception) and his band of thugs. Secondary villain Catwoman (Anne Hathaway, Get Smart) is much less destructive but much nicer to look at. For me, the whole thing was too much. Subplots involving congressmen and control of Wayne Enterprises were too complicated for me to want to try to follow. The film drags for a while after Bane conquers the city and seems to defeat Batman, and we get umpteen different versions of a particular bit of backstory that I could not have cared less about. Some parts were quite unbelievable, even for a comic-book movie. I hope they let Batman enjoy a lengthy retirement before the next reboot, but I’m not counting on it….