‘Place Beyond the Pines’ worth visiting, just don’t stay in ‘Room 237’

Of the eight new movies that I reviewed during the April 11, 2013 edition of “Breakthrough Thinking: The Magazine,” “The Place Beyond the Pines” – a drama starring Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper – is well worth not only the price of admission but also the nearly 2-and-half hours of your time. However, the same cannot be said about “Room 237” – a documentary exploring the numerous theories about the hidden meanings within Stanley Kubrick’s film “The Shining.”

‘Evil Dead’

Five friends become holed up in a remote cabin. When they discover a Book of the Dead, they unwittingly summon up dormant demons living in the nearby woods, which possess the youngsters in succession until only one is left intact to fight for survival. (R – 90 minutes)

It is never a good idea to make a promise as audacious as “the most terrifying movie you will ever experience” on your motion picture’s poster. In doing so, TriStar Pictures has robbed “Evil Dead” – writer/director Fede Alvarez’s update of Sam Raimi’s horror classic – of the opportunity to have praise over its spectacular special effects (all of which are practical as opposed to computer-generated, by the way) sit in the spotlight. Instead, criticism over its distinct lack of scares as a result of its razor-thin story and star Jane Levy’s habitually heinous performance take center stage. (Grade: C)

‘Ginger & Rosa’

Elle Fanning and Alice Englert play inseparable friends who, while growing up in 1960s London, finds their relationship redefined as the Cuban Missile Crisis looms. Playing exclusively at Harkins Shea 14. (PG-13 – 89 minutes)

Nearly every actor who appears in writer/director Sally Potter’s new drama “Ginger & Rosa” deserves a standing ovation. However, the only standing that anyone is likely to do for the film itself is the kind that is required when walking out. Although it is always nice when a movie transports viewers to another time and place, this particular motion picture’s purpose in doing so gets somewhat lost along the way. However, if watching characters wander around aimlessly while spouting philosophies that were placed between their lips lacking any finesse from the filmmaker whatsoever sounds like fun to you, then – by all means – have at it. (Grade: D)

‘The Host’

Saoirse Ronan plays a girl who, when an unseen enemy threatens mankind by taking over their bodies and erasing their memories, will risk everything to protect the people she cares most about – proving that love can conquer all in a dangerous new world. (PG-13 – 125 minutes)

“The Host” is really, really robotic – which, as it turns out, is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, writer/director Andrew Niccol’s new cinematic adaptation of “Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer’s novel makes for an engrossingly ethereal experience. On the other hand, the sci-fi romance conducts itself without any of the passion that makes for good melodrama – except for a few small scenes that, in aiming to appeal to the same audiences who consider themselves members of either Team Edward or Team Jacob, seem so out of place that they come across as incredibly corny. (Grade: C)

‘Not Today’

Cody Longo plays a young man who, haunted by the images of a starving man and his daughter he refused to help while traveling through India with his friends, attempts to right his wrong only to discover that the man has been forced to sell the little girl. (PG-13 – 118 minutes)

“Not Today” operates with a substantial sense of urgency, instantly breaking your heart and moving you to take a stand and do something to stop the slavery that sadly still exists in developing countries. And although writer/director Jon Van Dyke uses over-stylization to gloss over plot points that are more complicated and could have provided more dramatic depth had he faced them head-on, his proposal to truly take action as opposed to merely praying about problems is a refreshing real-world approach for faith-based feature films. Creative subtitle delivery and star Cody Longo’s passionate performance elevate an already efficacious entertainment experience. (Grade: B)

‘The Place Beyond the Pines’

Ryan Gosling plays a motorcycle stunt rider who turns to robbing banks as a way to provide for his lover (Eva Mendes) and their newborn child – a decision that puts him on a collision course with an ambitious rookie cop (Bradley Cooper) navigating a department ruled by a corrupt detective (Ray Liotta). Playing exclusively at Harkins Camelview 5. (R – 140 minutes)

“The Place Beyond the Pines” is clandestinely epic. That is to say that writer/director Derek Cianfrance’s new drama is every bit as monumentally entertaining as not only one summer blockbuster but an entire trilogy – except instead of big-budget special effects to astound audiences it utilizes gigantic and genuine emotions. In fact, its story is so intensely arresting that you will not be able to take your eyes off of the screen for the entire duration of its 140-minute runtime while the powerful journey and its compelling consequences will remain with you long after the end credits have rolled. (Grade: A)

‘Room 237’

Filmmaker Rodney Ascher explores the numerous theories about the hidden meanings within Stanley Kubrick’s film “The Shining.” Five very different points of view are illuminated through voice over, film clips, animation and dramatic reenactments. Playing exclusively at Harkins Shea 14. (NR – 102 minutes)

It is difficult to determine what filmmaker Rodney Ascher’s intent was with his new documentary “Room 237,” in which he explores numerous theories about the hidden meanings within Stanley Kubrick’s film “The Shining.” Those theories are so outrageously off the wall that they simply cannot be taken seriously in even the slightest and it instead comes across as comedic albeit accidentally. The experience may be amusing to some – specifically fans of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” – but others will likely be left bewildered. It is similar to becoming stuck in a conversation with a crackpot with no expedient escape. (Grade: D)

‘The Sapphires’

Miranda Tapsell, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy and Shari Sebbens play Australian Aboriginal girls who learn about love, friendship and war when they are discovered by a talent scout (Chris O’Dowd) and their all-girl group entertains the U.S. troops in 1968 Vietnam. Playing exclusively at Harkins Camelview 5. (PG-13 – 99 minutes)

Much like the four female characters whose story it tells, “The Sapphires” is – against seemingly all odds – sensational. The new historical musical dramedy is emotionally manipulative as it travels along a relatively conventional narrative path but it is so exorbitantly lively and gosh-darn likeable that you cannot help but overlook those somewhat sour notes and just enjoy the ride. And even though it is particularly less polished than most motion pictures and comes with accents that are occasionally difficult to decipher, the always charismatic Chris O’Dowd and a stellar soundtrack help to make this low-budget Australian import much easier to swallow. (Grade: B)


Patrick Huard plays a perpetual screw up who, having been a habitual sperm donor in his youth, discovers that he is the biological father of 533 children – 142 of whom are trying to force the fertility clinic to reveal the true identity of the prolific donor code-named Starbuck. Playing exclusively at Harkins Camelview 5. (R – 109 minutes)

Maybe it is just the “My Name is Earl” withdrawals talking, but “Starbuck” would have been a much better television sitcom than a feature-length film. The small screen format would not only make better use of the serial nature of early scenes in writer/director Ken Scott’s new comedy but would also be more forgiving of some of its absurd aspects. After all, it all seems somewhat silly – not to mention outlandish. Still, in spite of that and a premise that comes across as contrived, one cannot help but surrender to the story’s good-intentioned sweetness and sentimentality. (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.

More Posts