‘Guns’ befuddles, ‘Smurfs’ beguiles and ‘Time’ bemoans in theaters

Among the new movies that were released Friday, Aug. 2 in theaters throughout the Valley are a an actioner starring Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington, a live-action/animated hybrid starring Hank Azaria and a bunch of blue creatures and a drama starring Wes Bentley and Frank Langella.

2 Guns

Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington play a DEA agent and an undercover Naval Intelligence officer who, having been tasked with investigating one another, find that they have been set up by the mob – the very organization the two men believe they have been stealing money from. (R – 109 minutes)

“2 Guns” is exactly as generic as its title suggests. The new actioner is incredibly nondescript, leading one to believe that if it were not for stars Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington this film would have been destined for direct-to-disc status. Having said that, at least most direct-to-disc titles are easy to follow whereas this movie is a jumbled mess from the very beginning, making it exceptionally difficult for the audience to retain a firm grasp on who is good, who is bad, who is working for whom and why we should care enough to even try to keep up with its preposterous plot twists. (Thumbs Down!)

Cockneys vs. Zombies

A bunch of east-enders fight their way out of a zombie infested London, lead by an unlikely gang of amateur banks robbers and foul-mouthed plucky pensioners. Stars include Michelle Ryan, Honor Blackman and Harry Treadaway. Playing exclusively at Harkins Valley Art. (NR – 88 minutes)

Half of “Cockneys vs. Zombies” is charming, clever and incredibly fresh. However, the other half is loud, obnoxious and somewhat stale. Director Matthias Hoene divides his new zom-com into two separate storylines. One, which features amateur bank robbers, treads ground that is familiar to anyone who has ever seen “Shaun of the Dead” or “Attack the Block.” The other, which features tenants of an old-folks home, is much more amusing. After all, seeing the same old gags resurrected for what feels like the 400th time is tiresome, But seeing not-so-spry senior citizens try to outrun… rather, outwalk… the unhurried undead is entertainment at its very best. (Thumbs Down!)


Xavier Samuel and Myles Pollard play brothers who, in the 1970s, battle killer waves, conservative society and ruthless bikers to kick-start the modern surf industry. Sam Worthington also stars. Playing exclusively at AMC Arizona Center 24. (R – 113 minutes)

If the purpose of “Drift” were to showcase some “primo” wave-riding skills and “gnarly” Australian landscapes, then the new drama would undoubtedly be a resounding success. However, there are plenty of other places that viewers looking for that kind of thing can “hang ten,” so to speak – namely documentaries, in which case they would not be as burdened by the distinct deficiency of plot that plagues this motion picture. And although the 1970s atmosphere in this movie is as authentic as it gets, the cardboard characters and lack of any structural story other than simply striving to “shoot the curl” make this a “wipe out.” (Thumbs Down!)

The Smurfs 2

Neil Patrick Harris reprises his role as a human that once again teams up with the Smurfs to rescue Smurfette (Katy Perry), who has been kidnapped by Gargamel (Hank Azaria) since she knows a secret spell involving the evil sorcerer’s newest creation – the Naughties. (PG – 105 minutes)

After its pop-culture-reference- and product-placement-laden predecessor, the fun that is afforded by “The Smurfs 2” may seem as though it has come completely out of the “blue.” The new sequel inspired by Peyo’s classic cartoons is certain to satisfy young viewers and may even win over a few parents in the process by promoting an excellent message about acknowledging, accepting and reciprocating unconditional love. By heightening the heart, adding a subplot starring a duck and showcasing more of star Hank Azaria’s pitch-perfect portrayal of Gargamel in a real-world setting, this family film franchise has finally found the “blue”-print for success. (Thumbs Up!)

The Time Being

Wes Bentley plays a struggling young artist who is approached by a reclusive millionaire (Frank Langella) to complete a series of increasingly bizarre surveillance assignments. As he starts to unravel the secrets behind the requests, he must determine if the old man is out to further his career or ruin his life. Playing exclusively at Harkins Shea 14. (NR – 88 minutes)

What begins as a monopolizing mystery quickly reveals itself to be something not so special and a story that we have seen time and time again in “The Time Being.” Writer/director Nenad Cicin-Sain’s new drama certainly has its heart in the right place, trying its best to manipulate our emotions in order to teach us a lesson about balancing our family life and our creative ambitions. But it is simply too typical of a tale to make us feel anything other than our time being wasted. Having said that, stars Wes Bentley and Frank Lengella turn in terrific performances, as usual. (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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