Dumb movies aren't always bad movies as long as something worth seeing is going on. Case in point: "Street Kings," which is an extraordinarily dumb film about potentially slimy cops (Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Jay Mohr) who, while sorting out a mess that could bring the department down, say extraordinarily dumb things. Presumably, "Kings"' dialogue is meant to provide a layer of wit to a story that presumably doubles as some sort of sharp social commentary. It doesn't, and not just because the story is nowhere near as smart as it thinks it is. But that's OK. "Kings" is silly, but it's a high-octane kind of silly that, predictable conclusion aside, entertains at a consistent clip right up to and past the ending. Your intelligence might be insulted and your eyes may roll, but if you're hungry for some mindless entertainment that absolutely aims to please, you probably won't be bored.
'The Life Before Her Eyes'
"The Life Before Her Eyes" is the story of Diana - both as a seemingly invincible high school student (Evan Rachel Wood) who can't wait for the rest of her life to begin, and as a considerably more vulnerable adult (Uma Thurman) who, 15 years later, remains haunted by an event that permanently altered the course of that life. What that event is won't be spoiled here, even if the film's marketing materials give it away too freely. The impact is that much more pronounced if you know nothing going in, but either way, "Eyes" offers a powerful new perspective on a storytelling device that has become increasingly formulaic over recent time. "Eyes" illustrates Diana's story on three separate chronological tracks, jumping rather sensibly between her life before the event, her life beyond it, and, most infrequently, the few long moments in which the event is actually happening. The device works beautifully, even if "Eyes" feels excessively and almost cruelly downbeat during some of Thurman's scenes. That moodiness is validated once the complete truth of story reveals itself, and it never overstays its welcome before the film jerks you back into the present and continues the dark, scary march toward that single scene's conclusion. When that moment finally reaches its end, the payoff is immense. "Eyes"' final wrinkle is brilliant even if you see it coming, and it ranks among the best of the year if you don't - especially when you realize the answer was in front of you the entire time.
The Texas Hold 'em Hollywood cash cow gravy train is officially running on vapors with the release of "Deal," a film about a washed-up, not-quite poker legend (Burt Reynolds) who flirts with his demons after taking a rising star (Bret Harrison) under his wing. If that sounds at all familiar, it's because the plot of "Deal" is one of approximately three possible plot outlines for the glut of poker films that have spawned over the last four years. Sure enough, "Deal" also flashes some shameless product placement while trotting out the usual crop of poker stars for their awkward cameos. And yet, so much formula aside, "Deal" actually isn't such a bad little film. Reynolds is fun to watch in spite of the creative restrictions cast upon his character, and the film avoids the impossibly fantastical poker scenarios that so many of its peers cluelessly dole out.
Juneau Empire ©2013. All Rights Reserved.