Movie-O-Meter: One of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Final Films, the Philly-Set God’s Pocket, Opens at Ritz Five
Capsule reviews of the weekend’s new movies. Should you see it, wait for DVD, or skit it altogether? We lay it out below.
SEE IT NOW!
God’s Pocket: A surprisingly assured debut from first-time director John Slattery, whom you know as the white-haired, incorrigibly charming Roger Sterling from Mad Men. Not so surprisingly, the film features great performances from his actors (including Philip Seymour Hoffman, in one of his last roles), but it’s really the carefully sardonic writing that sets it apart. Based on the low Rotten Tomatoes score, I’m apparently in the distinct minority on this one. Bonus: It’s based on former Daily News columnist Pete Dexter’s novel, and is set in a dingy Philly neighborhood. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 33%
Palo Alto: In keeping with the theme of surprise, there are about a million ways this film by Gia Coppola (of the venerable Family Coppola) could have gone wrong — for Cripes’ sake, it’s based on a book of short stories by James freaking Franco! — but the film is actually pretty sharp in its observations of a group of forlorn and troubled teens in the affluent Northern California neighborhood. Franco himself is in it, along with talented youngsters like Emma Roberts and Nat Wolf, but perhaps not so surprisingly, he’s easily the weakest link in the cast. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%
Godzilla: We give it this lofty designation ONLY if what you are in the mood for is a giant monster beat-down. The film is essentially pretty silly (though we did appreciate its uncharacteristic restraint in its first hour) but if the thought of a 350-foot alpha-predator with radioactive flame breath doing battle with what appears to be an enormous mosquito over a crumbling San Francisco sounds appealing, you should certainly get to watch it on the big screen. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%
WAIT FOR DVD
Million Dollar Arm: It’s certainly amusing and amiable enough, but Craig Gillespie’s film, about a failed sports agent (another Mad Men star Jon Hamm), who travels to India in order to find young baseball pitchers, is so tightly packed into Disney’s “uplifting sports product” shoebox, it feels a good deal less than genuine — based upon a real story or not. It’s clearly going to be a crowd-pleaser, but its treatment of its foreign characters is more than a little condescending. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 55%
Chef: Speaking of crowd-pleasin’, Jon Favreau’s comeback vehicle, which he stars in as a talented chef who gets booted out of his restaurant by a boorish owner and starts a food truck in an attempt to reclaim his integrity and love of cooking, is so desperate to please, it literally doesn’t have a conflict for him to solve. There are, however, a lot of vaguely amusing scenes involving the chef and his 10-year-old son, and a great deal of close-up shots of sizzling meat in various forms. Vegetarians would be advised to find an alternative that won’t leave them feeling as if they’d been soaked in bacon grease for two hours. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
For No Good Reason: A fascinating doc about the enigmatic British artist Ralph Steadman, known primarily as the brilliant illustrator of both gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s madcap travelogues and Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Hosted by Thompson acolyte Johnny Depp, it’s an engaging portrait of an artist who managed to persevere under the watery eyes of several mad geniuses and lived to tell the tale. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 57%