Recliner Reviews | ‘Focus’ on Will Smith and ‘immigrate’ with Marion Cotillard


Will Smith has been out of the spotlight for a while. In that time, he’s missed his mark on bit parts, starred in the so-so “Men in Black 3” and hammed it up in the disastrous “After Earth.”

But it’s been seven long years since his glory days. Now, Smith returns to Slick Willy status as a con man in this fast-moving movie from the writing/directing team of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (“Crazy, Stupid, Love.”).

As with all the best Smith films, there’s a sprinkle of comedy, a dash of drama and a slice of suspense tossed in to show his range. His supporting cast don’t hold up their end of the bargain. Co-star Margot Robbie does have a surprising moment or two, but Smith carries most of these scenes with pure charisma.

It’s not the best con man movie in the canon, and it doesn’t reconfigure the genre, but it’s fun. Will Smith is back at his sleekest, and it’s worth a watch.

Will Smith stars as Nicky and Margot Robbie as Jess in the heist film “Focus.” HANDOUT THE WASHINGTON POST

“The Immigrant”

Say what you want about Joaquin Phoenix, but the dude does some interesting movies.

This is his fourth with director James Gray (“Two Lovers,” “We Own the Night” and “The Yards”) so there’s a certain comfort level. But this time Gray’s lens is more focused Marion Cotillard, playing a Polish woman trying to get into New York in 1921.

The woman gets trapped in the underbelly of New York’s burlesque and vaudeville scene during the prohibition era. Jeremy Renner is also on board, adding flare to this dark tale. Renner is meant to play the light opposite of Phoenix’s dark persona, but both are nuanced characters, and the actors fill them with life and emotional complexity.

Cotillard’s performance captures the stars of the era – Lillian Gish and Gloria Swanson – It’s both classic and frothing with modernity. Don’t migrate away from this one because it’s worth a watch.

This photo released by the Weinstein Company shows Marion Cotillard, left, and Joaquin Phoenix, in a scene from the film, The Immigrant.” Anne Joyce The Associated Press

“Jupiter Ascending”

Oh boy, so many words come to mind when thinking about the The Wachowskis – sci-fi bombast, special effects geniuses, hack storytellers, over-the-top blockbuster flops – the definers of a career pile up like Wachowskis’ action sequences.

The reality is they haven’t been able to live up to their first major achievement, “The Matrix.” Since then, they’ve released colorful dogs like “Speed Racer” and “Cloud Atlas” – they bark a lot, but know no new tricks. Their careers are beginning to look like one “Waterworld” after another.

Well, flop another “Waterworld” on the heap, because this convoluted space-epic is little more than a confused cartoon.

Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum limp through the storyline like they’re bored. Oscar-winning Eddie Redmayne plays an unconvincing villain, sometimes he whispers ridiculous threats, sometimes he’ll throw in a yell. There are times when this is pretty to look at, but it’s hard to listen to and it’s even harder to watch talented filmmakers descend from bad to worse – pass.

Mila Kunis and Douglas Booth in a scene from the film Jupiter Ascending. Murray Close TNS