Tag Archives: C

THANKS FOR SHARING

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C

Sexual addiction has suddenly become a fashionable topic for films. The ground was broken by Steve McQueen’s 2011 “Shame,” which presented an unflinching portrait of a man caught up in the condition, told in a sleek, arty and quite explicit way. Now Stuart Blumberg goes the earnest, hopeful route in “Thanks for Sharing,” a dramedy that means well but feels forced and unconvincing at virtually every turn. And that despite a capable cast.

The script centers on three guys in a support group. The senior member is Mike (Tim Robbins), the owner of a small construction firm, a genial but intense fellow who’s always on call for those who need his help in resisting their urges. He’s sponsor to Adam (Mark Ruffalo), a hard-driving environmental consultant who’s celebrating a long run of sobriety. The newcomer is Neil (Gad), a young emergency-room doctor who’s lost his job for trying to add sneakily-filmed up-the-skirt workplace shots to the large collection of porno he keeps at home. Adam agrees to be his sponsor, but it quickly becomes apparent that Neil’s in the group only because of a court order, and initially he’s not serious about taking the mandated steps.

Each man goes through an obligatory crisis as the plot proceeds. Mike is confronted by the return of his estranged son Danny (Patrick Fugit), who comes home claiming to have overcome his addiction to drugs on his own (something that his father seriously doubts)—a situation that causes friction with his supportive wife Katie (Joely Richardson). Meanwhile Adam, encouraged by Mike to start dating again, strikes up a romance with intelligent, beautiful, athletic Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow), but fails to reveal his condition to her despite knowing that she’s shell-shocked as the result of a previous relationship to an addict and doesn’t want a similar experience. And Neil, who’s still under the thumb of his mother (Carol Kane), appears headed for disaster until he intervenes to help another group member, ebullient hairdresser Dede (Alecia Moore), and for the first time experiences romantic feelings with another real person.

“Thanks for Sharing” veers wildly between intense dramatic sequences and broadly comic ones, most of the latter involving Neil’s efforts to get around New York City without using the subway—a place rife with temptation. (His solution, of course, is to take up bicycling, and the sight of a chubby guy desperately trying to maneuver a bike around crowded streets is supposed to be a scream.) And there are sequences that, whatever the intent, come across as positively weird—like the one in which Phoebe, who’s supposed to be a fairly sensitive person, decides to perform a virtual strip-tease routine in front of Adam to turn him on. (You might also roll your eyes over the suggestion that her devotion to physical fitness is a sort of addiction too, even if you’re the positively sedentary type.)

Under the circumstances the cast do all they can to sell the material, but they’re all far from their best. Robbins outshines the others, largely because Mike has the greatest number of obstacles to address—his domestic affairs, his support of Adam, his attempt to help another member of the group by giving him a job—and some of his scenes with Fugit and Richardson have a soap operatic effectiveness. Ruffalo employs his capacity to scrunch up his face in an expression of intense suffering overmuch—it sometimes looks as though he’s just experiencing a stomachache—and the last-act sequence in which he takes up again with a needy former one-night stand turns into pure melodrama. Gad’s efforts at comic relief reek more of desperation than of real humor, but he does manage to add a touch of pathos to Neil along the way. Pop star Moore, aka “Pink,” does not impress in her first film role, and Kane’s drippy shtick has outlived its usefulness. On the technical side, the picture is just as mediocre as it is on the narrative one, with nondescript cinematography by Yaron Orbach.

“Thanks for Sharing” is clearly may be heartfelt and well-intentioned, but it comes across like an adult version of an afterschool special.

RIDDICK

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C

One franchise is apparently insufficient for a star as awesome as Vin Diesel, so in addition to the “Fast and Furious” series he continues to treat us to episodes in the history of antihero Richard B. Riddick, whom he and writer-director David Twohy introduced in “Pitch Black” and then brought back in the larger but lumbering “The Riddick Chronicles.” Taken together, the trilogy might make you wish he had decided to continue with “The Pacifier” instead.

Actually, “Riddick”—the very direct title given to this third installment—could pass muster as a brainless action flick if its throwaway laugh lines weren’t so terrible and it weren’t unconscionably overlong at a full two hours. Certainly it won’t get any points for originality. Following the pattern of “Pitch Black,” which really wasn’t much more than a bargain-basement “Aliens” clone, it situates the brawny protagonist—after a perfunctory introduction that slides over the outcome of the second picture—on a planet populated only by hostile creatures (big, ravenous canines and huge scorpion snakes that ooze out of muddy ponds). But when he sets off an emergency beacon, it immediately brings two shiploads of well-armed mercenaries, all looking forward to bagging the universe’s most-wanted criminal and taking him back to civilization dead or alive for a substantial reward (doubled, in fact, if he’s dead).

The remainder of the movie consists of cat-and-mouse games—between the humans and the native beasts, between the two groups of mercenaries, and of course between Riddick and the mercs, as they’re called—before those who’ve survived the initial attacks of nasty creatures must band together to get the ships back in the air and themselves out of harm’s way. Much of what passes for plot centers on Riddick’s manipulation of the situation to insure that he’ll not only come out of it alive but go free. But he’s also given the illusion of depth in a half-hour sequence before the mercenaries arrive, during which he frees himself from the rubble in which he’s buried, resets his own broken leg, confronts the snake monsters and the canines (even adopting one of their pups, which becomes his pet), and generally shows us what it really means to be macho.

Part of the problem with “Riddick” is that as played monochromatically by Diesel, the title character is just a smug thug with a basso profundo voice and ultra-sensitive eyes that glow when they see in the dark. His prophetic pronouncements—usually threats against somebody or other—are supposed to be darkly humorous, but they come across instead as silly; there have been glum action heroes before, but Ruddick’s presumed charisma is an acquired taste it’s definitely easy to resist. The rest of the ensemble isn’t any more interesting. One group of mercenaries is led by Santana (over-the-top Jordi Malla), a wild, reckless, and as it turns out thoroughly inept loudmouth who suffers an end Riddick predicts well in advance (and his fans in the audience will cheer). The other is commanded by Johns (bland Matt Nable), who has a very personal interest in confronting Riddick that those who’ve seen previous installments in the series will especially appreciate.

Otherwise the mercenary crews are a bunch of largely pro-forma figures. The only ones that stand out from the pack of rough, stubble-wearing, burly types are the sole female, sharpshooter Dahl (Katee Sackhoff), who kicks butt with the best of them while managing to look positively seductive in her tight leather outfit, and Luna (Nolan Gerard Funk), the nervous rookie who spouts prayers at every tense moment (though what such a wet-behind-the-ears kid is doing among a pack of cutthroats is never explained). It must be admitted, though, that as Diaz former pro wrestler Dave Bautista does outdo the others in bulk alone, and the inevitable face-off between him and Diesel challenges the brontosaurus-tyrannosaurus rex battle in “The Lost World” for grandiosity.

Twohy manages some sudden shocks (helped by Tracy Adams’ editing and Graeme Revell’s big-bang score), and by and large proves more than adequate directing the action scenes, though his handling of the dialogue-driven interludes is pretty ham-fisted, and he and Diesel have a hard time wringing any emotion from an “Old Yeller” moment tossed into the mix. The visual effects are adequate on what would appear to be a pretty tight budget, though neither the vast landscapes nor the alien creatures are state-of-the-art. The fact that a 3D conversion was eschewed is a point in the movie’s favor.

By going back to basics after the goofy excesses of “Chronicles,” this installment will prove popular with fans of brainless action movies and/or the massively inexpressive Diesel. But there’s nothing special about “Riddick,” which is no more than a mostly competent but utterly mediocre exercise in outer-space mayhem.