The Grandmaster – 4.5

Not a bad movie, but an absurd mess. I say not bad because there was a lot of beauty, and if you know a lot about kung fu those parts might have been interesting. All I know about kung fu after watching this movie is that it doesn’t make you sweat, it allows you to kill with impunity, and what’s most important are the names you give your hand positions. Oh, and for some reason Buddha is happier if you promise him not to marry or have children.The giving up kung fu part I can understand.

Short Term 12 – 5.5

This movie about troubled youths in…exactly what kind of facility?…exposed my lack of empathy, as I didn’t find myself caring about anyone on-screen. Brie Larson had a Cate Blanchett-type role, but as much as I enjoyed watching her I couldn’t believe her character. First, she was absurdly perfect and self-controlled as a counselor tending to very trying kids; then, of a sudden, we were told of her troubled youth and her struggles became the belated focus. The story itself was right up there with The Spectacular Now for absence of originality.

We’re the Millers – 6.5

Jennifer Anniston was way too good for Jason Sudeikis, let alone this movie, although she was seriously unconvincing as a stripper. Still, as spoofs go, there were plenty of cute, fun moments. I never looked at my watch, or worried that anything bad would actually happen.

The Spectacular Now – 5

I’m not wild for films about losers, and Miles Teller, besides being a 25-year-old high-school senior, was definitely a loser. Shailene Woodley was wonderful in the Molly Ringwald role, but instead of making me happy, their reunion at the end was disappointing: she could do better. All he had done was pick her up to make his former girlfriend jealous, not the basis for a lasting relationship. Overall, it was a “high-school movie” in which none of the kids looked or acted like high-schoolers – or had an original thought in their heads.

Blue Jasmine – 7

Woody Allen looks back, through Tennessee Williams to Shakespeare and the Greeks, to give us a classic tragical heroine. There is no story ‘arc,’ as is the Hollywood norm; instead, we are left to watch the inexorable, inevitable descent of Jasmine French from Hamptons high to homelessness. When she appears to have a chance to escape with an unsuspecting Peter Sarsgaard, the only question is who will expose her and when. We know her doom is ordained. Cate Blanchett is extraordinary and a shoo-in for an Oscar nod. Sallie Hawkins as her slightly goofy sister should get one, too. Then, unfortunately, there is Alec Baldwin, acting no different than in his credit card commercials. Blanchett/Jasmine stands out from her surroundings, good for her but bad for the movie. In sum, it’s a one-character tour de force, but not much more

In A World… – 6

The funniest part of this movie was the way it treated voice-over artists as major players in the Hollywood scene, culminating in the Golden Trailers ceremony. I mean, when was the last time you saw a trailer that even had a voice-over? Maybe it was a metaphor for Hollywood in general? Lake Bell, a better-looking Sandra Bernhard, put together an archetypical “indie” flick on no apparent budget, but she herself wasn’t quite attractive or interesting or believable enough to carry it past its predictability. And how many cuckolded husbands can Rob Corddry play?