‘Playing for Keeps’ is predictable, ‘Killing Them Softly’ is a snore in theaters

There really were not any new movies among those I reviewed during the Dec. 13, 2012, edition of “Breakthrough Thinking: The Magazine” that I would recommend seeing – no, not even “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” However, if I had to choose one that was the least loathsome, it would have to be “Playing for Keeps.” Whatever you do, just be sure to steer clear of “Killing Them Softly” or you will merely be spending money to take a 90-minute nap.


A love story about one of the most influential filmmakers of the last century, Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins), and his wife and partner Alma Reville (Helen Mirren). The film takes place during the making of Hitchcock’s seminal movie “Psycho.” (PG-13 – 98 minutes)

If influential filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock had been alive today to direct his own biopic, it is safe to assume that it would be much more interesting than “Hitchcock.” Director Sacha Gervasi’s new movie based on author Stephen Rebello’s book “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho” is jam-packed with excellent performances – especially that of Anthony Hopkins as the Master of Suspense himself – but it suffers from a sometimes simplistic and often too technical tone. In other words, it is not the least bit consistent much less lively enough to live up to its intriguing star subject. (Grade: D)

‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’

Martin Freeman plays a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which was long ago conquered by the dragon Smaug. (PG-13 – 170 minutes)

Forget “unexpected.” The journey that writer/director Peter Jackson takes viewers on with his first installment of his new prequel to “The Lord of the Rings” would be more accurately be described as “unbearable,” “undesirable” and “unendurable.” “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” simply stretches author J.R.R. Tolkien’s story too thin – covering roughly 100 pages in close to 3 hours. As a result, the film features a tortuously tortoiselike pace. Gollum is the movie’s only saving grace, giving an otherwise mundane migration through Middle Earth some much needed energy. Making matters worse, Jackson’s new 48-frames-per-second technology makes everyone look like they are hopped-up cartoon characters. (Grade: D)

‘Killing Them Softly’

Three dumb guys who think they are smart rob a Mob protected card game, causing the local criminal economy to collapse. Brad Pitt plays the enforcer hired to track them down and restore order. Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta and Sam Shepard also star. (R – 97 minutes)

“Killing Them Softly” tells a story in about an hour and a half that could have been told in less than 10 minutes. Writer/director Andrew Dominik, working from George V. Higgins’ novel, spaces the major plot points at least 20 minutes apart from one another and fills the rest of the runtime with long-winded conversations about nothing. If seeing several slow-motion sequences in which actor Ray Liotta gets used as a human punching bag/shooting target in between naps is your idea of hard-hitting entertainment, then this movie is most definitely for you. Everyone else would do best to avoid this atrocity at all costs. (Grade: F)

‘Playing for Keeps’

Gerard Butler plays a former sports star who, having fallen on hard times, starts coaching his son’s soccer team as a way to get his life together. His attempts to become an adult are met with challenges from the attractive soccer moms (Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Judy Greer) who pursue him at every turn. (PG-13 – 95 minutes)

“Playing for Keeps” is in desperate need of a curve ball. Oops, wrong sport. Regardless, the new romantic comedy plays out in a formulaic fashion, preventing director Gabriele Muccino and screenwriter Robbie Fox from kicking even a single ball into the goal as the audience will always be able to predict their next move. Granted, star Gerard Butler is an incredibly charming actor and it is amusing to watch these wacky women fall over themselves as though he is this holiday season’s hottest Black Friday deal but, beyond that, it is all a little too black and white. Get it? Like a soccer ball… (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.

More Posts