Lifelong con-man Nicky (Will Smith) runs into trouble when an old accomplice and flame(Margot Robbie) shows up and throws a wrench in his latest scheme. Staying in character and never giving up the con are the rules to live by, but doing so could lead to a deadly outcome. How to survive one more heist? Written and Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, this twisting, turning, who done who plot seems to lumber through the motions trying to outsmart the audience, playing them as “the vic” or “the newbie,” slowly letting everyone in on the super secret stuff that con artists do. Which, mind you, is interesting stuff, and the perfected art of pickpocketing with assistants is an impressive orchestration to watch, but then there’s the romance side to the film, and while Smith and Robbie do seem to share on screen spark, their overall story is as dry as the Las Vegas dessert, ho hum. All told, think matinee, but really more of a rental later. Focus is rated R.
Frank and Zoe (Mark Duplass and Olivia Wilde) are two lead medical students with assistants Clay, Niko, and documentarian Eva (Evan Peters, Donald Glover, Sarah Bolger). On a quest to bring people back from the dead and give second chances to the world, the gang stumble upon what might just be the secret of re-animation. Of course there are always the unintended consequences of disrupting nature’s balance, but what if? What if? Based on the name of an actual rare medical condition where the body of a deceased individual flings their arms out to the side upon autopsy (don’t ask how I know these things), Director David Gelb takes his first stab into feature length cinema with this moderately suspenseful thriller. Trouble is, writers Luke Dawson and Jeremy Slater haven’t come up with anything terribly new morphing Flatliners (1990) with Carrie (1976), and once again, with an omnipotent super-villain created, all logic gets shot in the foot and the thrill is gone. So, strong start but repetitive finish makes this a rental later for a few jump scares. The Lazarus Effect is rated PG-13.
Based on the true story of coach Jim White (Kevin Costner), a football coach turned cross country coach in a small California town known as McFarland; this is the story of not only one man’s enlightenment to his new community but a new found respect for the lives of his students, helping them find their potential, and driving them to become championship contenders. Written by Christopher Cleveland (Glory Road) and directed by Niki Caro, this Disney film has all of the hallmarks of the typical feel good sports story, the underdog that wins the fight; and, by all means that might sound un-appealing, especially considering the relative un-sexy nature of cross country running (as a former cross country runner let me tell you, nothing says sexy like racing up and down hills for miles until you puke, yeah, that happens, more than you’d think). Sex appeal aside, what makes this film interesting and compelling is its heart. Even though we already know exactly where this is going from frame two, Costner’s ability to sell the role as “Coach” is second to none, and, the appeal to the audience to root for the little guy works on an emotional level to the point there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself quietly cheering on the runners, applauding their victories. Textbook inspiration for the whole family, and fairly earned, worthy of your time this weekend, McFarland, USA is rated PG.