THE THREE STOOGES (2012) ***1/2 out of 4 The Three Stooges return to the big screen with this contemporary take on the zany trio from Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly. Beginning with their childhood in an orphanage in the 1950s, the film takes Larry, Moe and Curly through their adult years. Three interconnected segments written and directed by the Farrelly brothers contain all-new material but remain true to the classic tone set by the beloved slapstick icons.
My Review: A very pleasant surprise, I'm glad I caught this before it disappeared from theatres. The best Farrelly brothers film since 2003's criminally underrated Stuck on You, their Three Stooges film is cleverly structured as three back-to-back "episodes" with a classically satisfying story arc (the Stooges need $830,000 to save their orphanage! Can they do it?) The film's chief asset is the uniformly awesome performances by Chris Diamontopoulos (Moe), Will Sasso (Curly), and an unrecognizable Sean Hayes as Larry, but they are aided by the Farrellys' unique blend of silly humor and sweet-natured, non-cloying sentiment. Worth checking out if you can still catch it, or certainly on DVD.
THE RAVEN (2012) ** out of 4 After discovering that a string of baffling murders seems to be inspired by the macabre short stories of Edgar Allan Poe, Baltimore cop Emmett Fields turns to the brilliant-but-boozy author to help solve the crimes.
My Review: John Cusack's spirited, campy performance is about the only bright spot in this dreary, dull, not-very-thrilling thriller. It's too bad, because a Sherlock Holmes-style film taking place in the dark world of Poe could have been really awesome.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD (2008) ***1/2 out of 4 On a train crossing the Manchurian desert, an unlikely trio -- good bounty hunter Park Do-won (Woo-sung Jung), bad gangster Park Chang-yi (Byung-hun Lee) and weird train robber Yoon Tae-goo (Kang-ho Song) -- compete to find a treasure map's promised loot. Racing through the unforgiving landscape, they stay one step ahead of rivals and the Japanese army. Ji-woon Kim directs this Sergio Leone-inspired adventure.
My Review: Thrilling, hugely enjoyable action/adventure that plays something like a mash-up of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Kung-Fu Hustle and Raiders of the Lost Ark. For the first 90 minutes, it's just about perfect: entertaining, sympathetic good guys, really-bad bad guys and a story that rolls along at a terrific pace, filled with wildly cinematic action sequences. If the last 30 minutes feels exhausting, it's probably just because it's too much of a good thing (and there are far worse cinematic sins). Highly recommended and available on Netflix streaming.
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