‘About Time’ is touching, ‘Diana’ is disappointing and ‘Thor’ is horrible

Among the new movies that were released Friday, Nov. 8 at theaters throughout the Valley are a romantic drama with a time travel twist, a biopic about Princess Diana and a superhero sequel starring the God of Thunder.

About Time

Domhnall Gleeson plays a man who, at the age of 21, discovers that he can travel in time and change what happens and has happened in his own life. His decision to make his world a better place by getting a girlfriend (Rachel McAdams) turns out not to be as easy as you might think. (R – 123 minutes)

“About Time” is positive, uplifting and sincere, encouraging viewers to live each and every day appreciating life’s little victories and free from the rampant worries that will not change anything anyway. Best of all, it may be one of the only time-travel flicks that non-science-fiction fans can watch without cringing. However, the new film from “Love Actually” writer/director Richard Curtis is riddled with plot holes and logical inconsistencies and those seeking sugary sweet romance may be surprised when the tale takes a sharp turn toward sentimental drama. Having said that, Curtis certainly knows how to be the perfect puppeteer of our emotions. (Thumbs Up!)

Ass Backwards

June Diane Raphael and Casey Wilson play best friends who embark on a cross country trip back to their hometown in an attempt to win a beauty pageant that eluded them as children. Playing exclusively at Harkins Valley Art. (NR – 90 minutes)

“Ass Backwards” wants to be “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” so badly that seeing it flail around in desperation is a physically painful experience for the beholder. What stars/screenwriters June Diane Raphael and Casey Wilson seem to be unable to understand is that the characters in that aforementioned 1997 comedy classic were not only stupid; they were also likeable. Whereas Raphael and Wilson’s characters here are not only stupid; they are also disgusting. Moreover, the movie itself is not only unfunny; it is also annoying – not to mention incredibly insulting in its representation of women. (Thumbs Down!)

Best Man Down

Justin Long and Jess Weixler play newlyweds that cancels their honeymoon and return to the snowy Midwest to make funeral arrangements for their best man (Tyler Labine), who died unexpectedly after their ceremony. Playing exclusively at Harkins Shea. (PG-13 – 91 minutes)

“Best Man Down” is a tonal mess. To be fair, the term dramedy implies a mix of both drama and comedy but the trick is to mix the two naturally as opposed to delegating them into two separate storylines that eventually merge into one very awkward one – which is what is done here. The dramatic moments in writer/director Ted Koland’s mostly misguided movie are so serious that you cannot feel comfortable laughing during the comedic ones and the comedic ones are so silly that you never quite feel emotionally connected to the characters during the dramatic ones. (Thumbs Down!)

Diana

Naomi Watts portrays Princess Diana who, in last two years of her life, embarks on a final rite of passage – a secret love affair with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews). (PG-13 – 113 minutes).

If it were not for the presence of star Naomi Watts, one might mistake “Diana” for a made-for-television Lifetime movie. Then again, such a statement gives the wrong impression, evoking ideas about director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s new biopic being some super-scandalous guilty pleasure of a motion picture when it is actually dull-as-dishwater. But the Lifetime comparison still sticks because of the flick’s sickeningly melodramatic dialogue. And it cannot even be enjoyed as a Nicholas Sparks-esque romance because Princess Diana’s relationship with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan was, as it turns out, really not that interesting. Watts and her co-star Naveen Andrews do give great performances, though. (Thumbs Down!)

How I Live Now

Saoirse Ronan plays an American girl who, while on holiday in the English countryside with her family, finds herself in hiding and fighting for her survival as the third world war breaks out. Playing exclusively at Harkins Arizona Mills and Harkins Superstition Springs. (R – 100 minutes)

As far as “third world war” movies go, “How I Live Now” is better than last year’s “Red Dawn” remake but not nearly as good as the Australian import “Tomorrow, When the War Began.” In addition to taking viewers on a compelling survivalist journey, director Kevin Macdonald’s cinematic adaptation of Meg Rosoff’s novel has a strong spiritual message. Unfortunately, said message is not naturally earned. To make matters worse, star Saoirse Ronan’s character suffers from some strange sixth sense that is rather irritating. And I am pretty sure that in such a situation there would be more important issues than a “Twilight-esque” romance. (Thumbs Down!)

Thor: The Dark World

Chris Hemsworth reprises his role as Thor who, faced with an enemy that even his home planet of Asgard cannot withstand, must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet. Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins and Tom Hiddleston also star. (PG-13 – 112 minutes)

“Thor: The Dark World” is easily and without a doubt the worst of the Marvel superhero movies today. The sequel’s only bright spots are the scenes in which Tom Hiddleston’s Loki or Kat Dennings’s Darcy appear. Otherwise, there is too much otherworldly fantasy and not enough down-to-earth relatability. The comic relief that we have come to expect from the series has been replaced with a ridiculous self-seriousness. Between this snooze-fest and the underwhelming “Iron Man 3” that was released earlier this year, Captain America may not only have to save the entire world in next spring’s “The Winter Soldier;” he may also have to save the Marvel superhero film franchise. (Thumbs Down!)

Joseph J. Airdo

Joseph J. Airdo is a film critic, producer and on-air personality for Breakthrough Entertainment, a talk radio show airing 10-11 a.m. Saturdays on KPHX 1480 AM and BreakRadioShow.com that shines a spotlight on the practical perspectives of the topics and themes explored in movies. He has a pet duck named Frozen who is as opinionated about movies as he is. E-mail him at joseph.airdo@gmail.com.

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