April 23, 2014

Hollywood Movie Roundup: What a “Dragon” it is getting old

BY KEVIN CRUST

This is the week that “Alice” finally topples from her perch atop the box-office charts and folks in big cities will be paying even more for that third dimension.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON

DreamWorks Animation, which had a big hit this same weekend last year with “Monsters Vs. Aliens,” stakes out the turf once more with this 3D feature that has been getting hyped all winter. Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders (“Lilo & Stitch”) adapt Cressida Cowell’s book about a Viking lad (voiced by Jay Baruchel) who is tasked with the titular act as a rite-of-passage. Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrara and Jonah Hill also lend their voices.

The reviews are solid with most finding the storytelling conventional and workmanlike, but citing the 3D and, especially, the flying sequences, worthy of seeing in a theater (but at what cost?). Owen Glieberman of Entertainment Weekly, Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune, his city rival, Mr. Ebert of the Sun-Times, A.O. Scott of the New York Times, Claudia Puig of USA Today, the Los Angeles Times’  Betsy Sharkey and Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers all come down favorably, while Ella Taylor, writing in the Village Voice, leads the naysayers, calling the film “adequate and unremarkable.”

It will be interesting to see how the bump in admission prices for 3D flicks — to a whopping $17.50 in some venues — will affect “Dragon’s” grosses. Prognosticators put its opening weekend in the $40-45 million range, enough to topple “Alice” but short of the $59.3 million that “Monster” raked in a year ago.

HOT TUB TIME MACHINE

Everything is right there in the title and for audiences of a certain age it screams “Guilty Pleasure.”  John Cusack stars in an homage to the kind of hormone-driven comedies that kicked off his career (“The Sure Thing,” “Better Off Dead”) and re-teams him with frequent collaborator Steve Pink (“Grosse Pointe Blank,” “High Fidelity”), who is making his feature directing debut. Cusack, Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson (“Pineapple Express”) play middle-aged friends who use the liquid temporal portal to try to get their ’80s groove back, such as it was. The movie was written by the trio of Sean Anders & John Morris (“She’s Out of My League”) and Josh Heald.

Critics, for the most part, fall into the age range that might fall prey to the movie’s unabashedly lowbrow time-trippin’. It’s faring surprisingly well at both Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. Full of backhanded compliments and not-always-flattering comparisons to “The Hangover,” reviewers both male (A.O. Scott, Michael Phillips, Roger Ebert) and female (Betsy Sharkey, Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum) are giving it the old thumbs up. A few holdouts, notably Claudia Puig, the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern and Dana Stevens of Slate felt the film wasn’t dumb enough to be fun or didn’t deliver the requisite heart to be endearing.

“Hot Tub” is poised to open at close to $20 million, but with spring break rolling out over the next few weeks and the nostalgia factor extending interest into the upper quadrants, it could prove to be a tidy, little hit for MGM, which sure could use one.

GREENBERG
“Greenberg,” which opened to good reviews in Los Angeles and New York last week, adds nearly 180 screens as it fans out across the country.

About Kevin Crust

KEVIN CRUST is a Southern California-based writer and editor of the Eclectic Odeon Review, an online guide to seeing movies in Los Angeles, launching in March 2010. In 18 years at the Los Angeles Times, he worked as a copy editor, senior researcher and staff writer. For most of the past decade, he was a key part of the Times' award-winning film department, coordinating the Calendar section's popular Sneaks issues, writing columns on alternative cinema and DVDs, and reviewing hundreds of movies. His work has also appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.

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One Comment

  • March 26, 2010 | Permalink |

    i’m interested to see ben stiller in greenberg for a more serious role

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