‘Planet Earth’ is bad, ‘Charlie Swan III’ is worse in theaters

Of the three new movies that I reviewed during the Feb. 21, 2013 edition of “Breakthrough Thinking: The Magazine,” I could not in good conscience pick even one as being worth watching. The worst of the three is “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” – a dramedy starring Charlie Sheen – but the alien-themed animated adventure “Escape from Planet Earth” is an extremely close second runner-up.

‘Escape from Planet Earth’

Brendan Fraser voices a beefcake space hero who defends his planet against a nefarious villain (James Gandolfini). Additional voice talents include Jessica Alba, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, and Sarah Jessica Parker. (PG – 95 minutes)

History has proven that alien-themed animated adventures are almost always failures of out-of-this-world proportions. Be it played for laughs like “Planet 51” or “Space Chimps” or drama akin to “Battle for Terra” or “Delgo,” such movies simply seem destined to implode. Yet, the Weinstein Company chose to ignore the obvious and make “Escape from Planet Earth” anyway. The result is a generic-yet-energetic family flick whose best bits are snippets of social commentary that are momentarily muttered under characters’ breath, barely even audible over the screams of insignificant stupidity that make up most of this monotonously messy motion picture. (Grade: D)

‘A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III’

Charlie Sheen plays a graphic designer whose enviable life slides into despair when his girlfriend breaks up with him. Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray and Patricia Arquette also star. Playing exclusively at Harkins Shea 14. (R – 86 minutes)

I imagine that watching “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” is exactly like actually experiencing a glimpse inside the mind of anybody on the face of this planet – random, fleeting and surreal. Granted, Mr. Swan’s noggin is home to things that are arguably much more bizarre – not to mention perverse – than those found in most other people’s brains, but the stream-of-consciousness-like method with which writer/director Roman Coppola explores said contents does not lend itself to any coherence, purpose or insight whatsoever. The film’s only saving grace is its star Charlie Sheen, who – for better or for worse – was seemingly born to play this particular character. (Grade: D)

‘The Playroom’

Olivia Harris plays one of four siblings in 1970s suburbia who spend the night telling each other stories in the attic while their parents (John Hawkes and Molly Parker) entertain guests downstairs over the course of a gin-soaked evening during which truths are unearthed and betrayals come to light. Playing exclusively at FilmBar. (NR – 83 minutes)

If “The Playroom” would have been a little less interested in imitating 1997’s “The Ice Storm” and much more motivated by weaving its own unique tale of familial dysfunction set in 1970s suburbia, it may have actually been a provocative motion picture. Instead, the new drama must settle for being mildly intriguing. It is also ultimately unsatisfying as it handles the down and dirty details with melodramatic metaphors. However, some may still find it worth watching if only for the profound performances from stars John Hawkes and Molly Parker, the latter of whom played a similar character on CBS’s short-lived series “Swingtown.” (Grade: D)

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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