" No daughter of mine would shoot so wide. "
— John Travolta, Face/Off

MRQE Top Critic

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Pic of the Week

Each week we pick a recommended "Pic" from our archives. Below are our most recent picks.

Confidence

***2003, James Foley

So fun and well paced that you’ll be caught in its web before long

A good con movie is like an optical illusion. The moment when the cube pops out instead of in and the moment when the con is revealed are accompanied by a laugh of amazement. We know our brains have been fooled by a careful designer, but our senses don’t quite believe it.

The Tempest

***1/2Julie Taymor

The impeccable cast alone makes this version of The Tempest a pleasure well worth watching.

The impeccable cast alone makes this version of The Tempest a pleasure well worth watching.

Despicable Me 3

***

The story’s decent enough, but it carries a slight sense of being rushed.

It’s as light and fluffy as one of Agnes’ stuffed unicorns, but Despicable Me 3 still packs enough goofy charm to earn a modest recommendation.

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

***1/2Chad Stahelski

The fight sequences are relentless. Brutal. Beautiful.

Chapter 3 is an exhilarating ride through John Wick’s ever-expanding world of gritty action.

Toy Story 2

***1/21999, John Lasseter

Easy to forget how good it was. Features are just good enough to justify the purchase price

Disney has a tradition of re-releasing its movies every seven years. That tradition seems intact, as proved by the new “Woody’s Roundup Edition” of Toy Story 2, recently released on DVD.

The Emperor’s Naked Army

****1987, Kazuo Hara

The protagonist goes from an amiable, possibly pitiable crank, to dangerous monomaniac

What do you do with someone whom you know to be righteous; who shows all the virtues of a man determined to see justice done, no matter how long it takes; who sacrifices his own selfish pleasure for his cause; yet who is obviously quite mad? And what do you make of a documentary about that man, made by a filmmaker who controversially adheres to a show-everything-as-it-happens philosophy? Is this a match made in heaven or a recipe for disaster?

Taxi

****2015, Jafar Panahi

Jafar Panahi keeps culture circulating in repressive Iran

Jafar Panahi has been making feature films in Iran since the 1990s. He got on the wrong side of Iranian censors after the contentious Iranian presidential election in 2009. He was convicted on political charges and sentenced to six years in jail, much of which was served under house arrest. He was also banned from making films for 20 years.

Hard Goodbyes: My Father

***2005, Penny Panayotopoulou

Not perfect, exciting, fresh, but well crafted, well acted, and very well directed

“International” cinema lately has been dominated by action-dramas from China, lush films from Mexico, and dry comedies from Scandinavia (as well as the usual French and English imports).

Happiness

***1998, Todd Solondz

Deep Blue Sea

***1999, Renny Harlin

Deep Blue Sea is a shark movie with teeth!”

Yes, I’m trying to be quoted in ad copy. It’s every unpaid critics’ dream.

In the Heart of the Sea

***1/22015, Ron Howard

A well-crafted yarn documenting the true-life disaster that inspired Moby Dick.

In the Heart of the Sea is a well-crafted yarn documenting the true-life disaster that inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

Funny Bones

***1/21995, Peter Chelsom

Not wacky or hilarious, but a great drama about comedy

Whatever you do, don’t believe the copy on the box for this movie. (“Wacky! Hilarious!”) Whoever wrote it obviously never saw the film. When they do see it they’re going to be very disappointed. In fact, a character neatly sums up one of the movie’s main themes when he says “I never saw anything funny that wasn’t terrible — that didn’t cause pain.” That’s not exactly what you’d call “Wacky!”

Funny Bones is a drama about comedians. Tommy Fawkes (Oliver Platt, in his best role to date) is a comic who bombs at his Las Vegas debut. His father (Jerry Lewis, playing a fictional copy of himself) knows that Tommy’s not funny, but he is nevertheless very supportive, smotheringly supportive.

Tommy’s self-doubt and a premonition of his own death drive him out of the country to seek refuge. He heads to Blackpool, England, in search of his roots, and in search of fresh new comedic material. He does find funny material for his show, it is no match for the leaden weight of his father’s past. He must first come to terms with who his father really was when they lived in England. Then he must find his own way to be funny, to step out from his father’s shadow, if his career is to survive.

The subject matter and its accompanying themes are food for thought. For example, the correlation between pain and comedy seems to have some substance to it. But the real reason this movie is outstanding is the performances. Platt and Lewis are great as father and son. Their family squabbles about comedy are unusual, but they feel honest and lifelike. The supporting cast is also very good, in particular, Lee Evans (recently in There’s Something About Mary, as the pizza deliverer). Evans is very funny when he wants to be, and he’s not half bad as an actor.

Batman Begins

****2005, Christopher Nolan

Batman Begins, now on DVD, stands cape and cowl above the previous Batflicks

Batman Begins is a batastrophic success.

When British director Christopher Nolan (Memento) set out to make a new Batman movie he faced countless choices and possibilities. Across the board, the man chose wisely.