THE GIFT

What a pleasant, creepy surprise. Excellent acting (esp. from Jason Bateman, showing a dark side I didn’t know he had) and good direction. Despite a few implausibilities, the script starts out feeling familiar but then takes a few left turns that rivet your attention. (The trailer makes it seem like it’s going to be some cliched slasher film, but it’s anything but.) I don’t want to say anymore except that karma is a bitch.

FF=0

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AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

I found this both stultifying and stupefying. Some good lines, but if Ultron is the singularity it’s supposed to be, it sure as hell doesn’t even brush its potential for mayhem — like taking over the internet and the power grid and everything connected to them.  But that would not require CGI and hammers and metal suits.  (Yes, Jarvis was supposedly keeping Ultron from the Internet.  Really?  After Ultron dissolved and absorbed him?  How convenient.)  Let’s face it, a singularity that wanted to destroy humanity would not waste its time building other robots.

FF=3 (those interminable fight scenes)

JURASSIC WORLD

“You just went and made a new dinosaur? Probably not a good idea…”

Nope. Not a good idea at all.

I enjoyed the hell out of this movie. The prior sequels were sort of meh for me, but this fires on all cylinders. Well paced, with the obligatory family drama kept to a minimum, and the re-emphasis on Crichton’s original theme about scientific hubris. Plot problems? Yes. Continuity problems? Yes. But still, the perfect YA movie. So contact your inner 13-year old, sit him or her on your lap, and enjoy. Wait for the deus-ex moment at the end: not deus ex machina, but deus ex lacus.

FF=0

SKIN TRADE

This film takes itself seriously. As it should, considering its subject is human trafficking. I can’t think of any fate too awful for the creeps who buy and sell human beings. But at its heart this is a revenge film, with endless chases and exhausting mano-a-mano fights. Nothing new to see here. Keep moving.

FF=3

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.

I’m not sure why this got such bad reviews. Yes, it has a stereotypical Cold-War plot, but that’s just an excuse to put the characters through their paces. It dances along with some laughs here and there and looks gorgeous (so does Alicia Vikander). A popcorn movie, fer sher. If you demand more from all your movie watching, skip this. If you don’t mind a movie that doesn’t take itself seriously, this is for you.

FF=1