Sunday Short Reviews

Every Sunday, Gill delves into his archive of over 800 movie reviews and randomly selects three for your enjoyment! Here are this week’s…

In recent years, Kevin Smith has become a confusing filmmaker. He made a name for himself with quippy, sarcastic movies that weren’t afraid to talk about subjects like sex in the ways that real people talk. But after a series of mediocre movies, Smith had a falling out with the studio system and decided to try to strike out on his own, experimenting with self-distribution and new forms of media like podcasting. He had a hit with Red State, and in doing so proved that he could write more than just sex jokes. A few years later, while getting high on one of his podcasts, he came up with the idea for Tusk; a film about a crazy old man who decides to turn Justin Long into a walrus. While I admire Smith’s willingness to step outside his comfort zone and do a full-fledged body horror movie, Tusk comes off as a low-rent version of The Human Centipede. In both movies, the main reason that audiences want to see them is the promise of a bizarro surgical creation. Unfortunate, unlike The Human Centipede, Tusk spends very little time on the transformative surgery and instead decides to focus on an eccentric Québécois detective as he tries to track down Justin Long. I feel like horror fans will be displeased, stoners (who are most certainly Smith’s target audience) won’t find the movie trippy enough, and everyone else will just be put off by the dumb jokes and weirdness. The saddest thing about Tusk is that I know Kevin Smith is capable of so much more.
2 out of 5

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
This film is the very personification of an airport bookstore novel written by Tom Clancy. It is formulaic to the point of being laughable at times, rife with cliches, and is obviously trying to cash in on the Jason Bourne style of action hero that is so popular these days. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit follows Chris Pine in the title role as he is approached by Kevin Costner to become a spy. When Pine is sent to Russia to investigate a villain played by Kenneth Branagh, his tenacious girlfriend played by Kiera Knightley tags along and gets involved in the mission. Then there’s a bunch of action and…that’s about it. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is, ultimately, not a bad movie, but it completely fails to leave an impression, if you want an action spy movie to put on in the background, this is perfect.
2.5 out of 5

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Birdman is a wholly original and interesting comedy that explores everything from the nature of celebrity to issues of identity to mental illness to parenthood and more, all in what appears to be one long, unbroken shot. It may be aided by some digital trickery, but it’s damn impressive, and it says a lot about the performances in this film that the crazy camerawork is easily overshadowed by the characters. Edward Norton is especially great as a hoity-toity Broadway actor, and Michael Keaton gives one of the best performances of his career in the lead role of a washed-up actor who made a name for himself playing a superhero, but now wants to be taken seriously on the stage. All of this is delivered by a director whose previous works give absolutely no indication that he could be capable of such elaborate cinematography, nor that he would excel at directing comedy. Birdman is easily the best film of 2014, and I can’t wait to watch it again, because something tells me it will lend itself to multiple viewings.
5 out of 5

See you next Sunday for more thrilling short reviews!

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