‘Detour’ and ‘Olympus’ take brain and heart hostage in theaters

Of the nine new movies that I reviewed during the March 28, 2013 edition of “Breakthrough Thinking: The Magazine,” only two are truly worth your time. If you do not mind the drive to Tucson, “Detour” – a movie about a man trapped inside his car by a mudslide – will leave you with plenty to think about on your way back home. However, if the price at the pump has you hesitant to hoof it out east, there are more than enough thrills to sustain you in “Olympus Has Fallen” – an actioner in which the White House is taken by terrorists.


Tina Fey plays a Princeton admissions officer who, up for a promotion, takes a professional risk when an alternative school teacher (Paul Rudd) introduces her to a college-bound kid who just might be the son she gave up years ago in a secret adoption. (PG-13 – 100 minutes)

If anyone asks you to see “Admission” with them, swiftly reject their offer. If they then see the new comedy without you and say that it was anything other than a complete waste of their time, immediately deny having ever known them. Tina Fey is utterly unfunny as a character who is socially impaired and ultimately unlikeable while Paul Rudd appears as though he is starring in another movie altogether – a movie that may have actually been worth watching. A scene in which the wannabe freshmen’s fates are decided is kind of compelling but the rest should be renounced. (Grade: D)


Neil Hopkins plays a man who, trapped inside his car by a mudslide with no hope of rescue, must defy the odds – battling Mother Nature for his survival. Playing exclusively at Grand Cinemas Crossroads 6. (NR – 87 minutes)

Single-setting thrillers (think elevators ala “Devil” and ski chairlifts ala “Frozen”) are a tough nut to crack. They are even tougher when a single actor is responsible for carrying the entire movie on his shoulders alone (think Ryan Reynolds in “Buried” and James Franco in “127 Hours”). However, writer/director William Dickerson and star Neil Hopkins have done exactly that with “Detour” – and on an indie filmmaker’s production budget no less. The film features all of the claustrophobia, desperation and pure panic that you could possibly want in a motion picture, taking you on an emotional and psychological roller-coaster ride without ever leaving the confines of a car. (Grade: B)

‘The Croods’

Nicolas Cage plays a prehistoric patriarch whose family must embark on a search of a new home when their cave is destroyed. An imaginative nomad (Ryan Reynolds) helps them conquer their fear of the outside world and discover that all they need to survive is each other. (PG – 98 minutes)

Like most recent animated flicks, “The Croods” excels in its visuals – transporting viewers to a colorful and imaginative world – but it can never quite match that creativity when it comes to its story. That is to say that Dreamworks Pictures’ latest effort is sufficient but far from special, failing to flaunt the humongous heart that Pixar appears to have trademarked given the distinct lack thereof in most movies produced by other studios. The result is an action-packed adventure that will charm children but leave adults relatively underwhelmed until the last act at which point the motion picture finally shows creative promise. (Grade: C)

‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’

The G.I. Joes are forced to contend with not only their mortal enemy Cobra but also threats from within the government that jeopardize their very existence. Dwayne Johnson, Channing Tatum and Bruce Willis star. (PG-13 – 110 minutes)

Though seemingly impossible, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” is even worse than 2009’s “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.” Not only does it pool all of its resources into nonstop action thereby robbing viewers of a compelling plot but it also lacks any specificity whatsoever. There is absolutely nothing that makes this movie unique and, as a result, its impression is about as long-lasting as a stick of dollar-store chewing gum. Accompanied by a bait-and-switch in which actors Channing Tatum and Bruce Willis’s screentime consists of less than 10 minutes apiece despite appearing on the motion picture’s poster and you have got a bomb of nuclear proportions. (Grade: F)


Toni Collette plays a charismatic, crazy hothead who transforms a family’s life when she becomes the nanny of five girls whose mother has cracked from her husband’s political ambitions and infidelity. Playing exclusively at Harkins Shea 14. (NR – 116 minutes)

“Mental” begins with plenty of promise, opening with a woman singing and dancing next to a clothesline in a shabby Australian backyard as though she is Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music.” Unfortunately, save for a sprinkle of such eccentric ingenuity here and there throughout its nearly 2-hour runtime, writer/director P.J. Hogan’s new dramedy never again matches said sequence’s creative flair. Moreover, the movie – which, among other things, tackles the topic of mental illness – ironically suffers from a bipolar disorder in which it asks us to laugh one moment and cry the next with nary enough time in between each tonal u-turn. (Grade: D)

‘Olympus Has Fallen’

Gerard Butler plays a disgraced former presidential guard who, when the White House is captured by a terrorist mastermind (Rick Yune) and the President (Aaron Eckhart) is kidnapped, helps retake the White House, save the President and avert an even bigger disaster. (R – 118 minutes)

“Olympus Has Fallen” is explosively exciting, exceptionally suspenseful and has everything that one could possibly want in an entire season of “24” condensed into two intense hours. It is hard to believe that director Antoine Fuqua’s new action-thriller was not initially conceived as an mission for Jack Bauer because it seems tailor-made for him. However, Gerard Butler’s Mike Banning is a spectacular stand-in, single-handedly saving the day in such a way that ensures viewers a really riveting time from the moment the White House comes under crowd attack to the last-ditch effort to protect the president’s life and simultaneously stop America’s apocalypse. (Grade: B)

‘On the Road’

Sam Riley and Garrett Headlund play an aspiring writer and an ex-con who, determined not to get locked into a constricted life, cut their ties and take to the road in search of the world, of other encounters and of themselves. Kristen Stewart also stars. Playing exclusively at Harkins Shea 14. (R – 124 minutes)

Regardless of the company that they might afford you, some road trips should just never be taken. “On the Road” is an one of them. Director Walter Salles’ cinematic adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s novel of the same title is a tedious, overlong and meandering motion picture – which is a shame considering its cast includes the likes of Kristen Stewart, Amy Adams and Viggo Mortensen. Sure, the scenery is sometimes spectacular but you are almost guaranteed to get lost along the way – be it out of sheer boredom or simply out of the strenuously spontaneous nature of the narrative. (Grade: F)

‘Spring Breakers’

Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens, Rachel Korine and Selena Gomez play best friends whose serendipitous encounter with a rapper (James Franco) promises to provide them with all the thrill and excitement they could hope for and a spring break they will never forget. Playing exclusively at Harkins Tempe Marketplace. (R – 92 minutes)

If writer/director Harmony Korine’s intention with his new crime drama “Spring Breakers” was to make viewers feel as though they have been drugged and are experiencing 90 minutes of extremely unpleasant intoxication, he hit that nail square on its head. The movie is artistically incompetent, substituting a structured narrative with something that looks more like a cross between a commercial and a music video. Worst of all, though, Korrine’s project is a direct insult toward young women – exploiting their bodies to pornographic effect and suggesting that the vast majority of them are soulless, money-hungry nymphomaniacs who are completely incapable of self-respecting behavior. (Grade: F)


Jack Plotnick plays a man who, desperate to reunite with his lost dog, embarks on an absurd journey that includes an encounter with an enigmatic pony-tailed guru (William Fichtner) who teaches him how to metaphysically reconnect with his pet. Playing exclusively at Harkins Valley Art. (NR – 94 minutes)

There is one question that will plague your thoughts each and every solitary second while watching “Wrong.” That question is: “Why?” To say that the new comedy from writer/director Quentin Dupieux does not make any sense whatsoever is an unabashed understatement. It is certain to be the most mentally incompetent motion picture that you see all year. However, that pinnacle level of preposterousness is precisely what makes the movie so astonishingly amusing. Having said that, Dupieux does have trouble keeping such a thin story interesting throughout despite a relatively brief runtime – especially compared to his wacky work of genius “Rubber.” (Grade: C)

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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