Recliner Reviews for May 15, 2014

Sometimes it’s a dilemma: what DVD should you rent or what movie should you stream or order-on-demand? Do you want a date flick, an action caper, or a goofy comedy? Weekly Surge is here to help with our reviews of recent at-home movie releases, which we’ve watched from the comfort of that favorite recliner.


This movie will change the way you look at Siri (the helpful voice on Apple devices). OK, so you can’t actually look at Siri. How about – this movie may make you talk dirty to Siri? This movie may also send you spiraling into an existential crisis with Siri. But what this movie definitely does is ask about our relationships with electronic devices as a culture. It investigates our obsessions and misplaced devotions. In 15 years, writer/director Spike Jonze has made four movies. His previous – “Being John Malkovich,” “Adaptation” and “Where the Wild Things Are” – are thoughtful explorations into ego, alter egos, the creation of art, escapism and these just chip at his associated themes. Joaquin Phoenix continues to astound people with new levels of brilliant acting and creepiness. Amy Adams and Chris Pratt co-star among a small, poignant cast. But the real star here is the voice of Scarlett Johansson. Her tone somehow captures the fragility of humanness and the coldness of automation – worth a watch.

“I, Frankenstein”

OK, it’s a sci-fi flick about Frankenstein fighting evil, but let’s start with this instead – this film makes no fucking sense. It’s like a bunch of Hollywood execs with Dungeons and Dragons backgrounds sat down at a table and said, “Let’s make a movie about Frankenstein being a superhero caught in the middle of a war between gargoyles and demons.” Then they all toasted with Mr. Pibbs and went about making this monstrosity. The premise, cinematography, set design, computer effects and costumes are all ripped from the “Underworld” series. “Underworld” wasn’t good enough to be pilfered from in such a heavy-handed way. Hell, even “Underworld” staple Bill Nighy shows up here to parody himself. But this dialogue displays a new level of terribleness – a level so terrible it feels intentional. The usually tremendous Aaron Eckhart has done two horrible movies in a row counting this one with 2013’s “Olympus Has Fallen.” But this one may redeem itself by being so bad it’s good to make fun of – pass.

“The Bag Man”

John Cusack’s career has had ups and downs. For some reason, he has a soft spot for two types of roles – the hitman and the gritty neo-noir. He gets both here, and it’s hit and miss. First-time director David Grovic really put together an aged but capable cast. Cusack is joined by Robert De Niro as a crime boss and Crispin Glover, proving he can still out-creep even the creepiest of creepy. Brazilian actress Rebecca Da Costa is a splash of new blood in the femme fatale role. But in the end – Cusack looks annoyed throughout the film. De Niro acts like it’s work. Glover is reduced to a caricature of himself. And though Da Costa is stunning, her delivery is flat and without conviction. The dark twists and all the shadows are here, but it’s just not enough. Put this one in a paper bag, set it ablaze, put it on a porch, ring the doorbell and run…in other words, pass.

Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge