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LEFTOVER REVIEWS: BIG HERO 6, BEYOND THE LIGHTS & ROSEWATER

year: 2014 rating: ***
BIG HERO 6: It’s about time to be annoyed with TJ Miller… Even more limited than Owen Wilson in the surfer drawl persona, he lethargically voices an annoying character piggybacking onto an otherwise exciting plotline that could have done far better without him…

The setup is extremely intelligent, perhaps too much for the target audience… A young reluctant genius has created a magnet style substance that attracts a lot of smaller pieces building into the host within seconds... or something. 

Unlike many animated features, the main villain isn’t predictable. During a convention of teen scientists you might have another culprit in mind. By the time the real heavy rears his formidable and downright spooky head – a demonic looking kabuki masked monstrosity that grows from the kid’s invention – it’s time for the real hero, an inflatable medical robot with morals and an endearing inclination against violence, to take the reigns, where, sadly, BH6 winds up a standard ensemble with a gang of souped-up hipsters… including the aforementioned Miller… dumbing down an epic INCREDIBLES potential: had there been more structure and way less distractions, this Pretty Good could have been Really Great. 

year: 2014 rating: **
BEYOND THE LIGHTS: In THE BODYGUARD, a romantic thriller originally planned for power couple Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw, it made a lot more sense when, years later, real life singer Whitney Houston, with musical talent and fame already built-in, was protected by everyman Kevin Costner. And now we have another BODYGUARD... this one not so ambitious.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Noni is a music star yet we only see proof during an awards ceremony – she’s part of a lusty video that seems more of a parody than the real thing…

And later that night, on the drunken verge of leaping from a hotel patio, she's protected by a muscular cop… Like Leo to Kate in TITANIC, Nate Parker's Kaz, with an even duller persona than our melancholy starlet, saves the day. In Tom Hanks’ LARRY CROWNE, supporting actress Mbatha-Raw had more spirited energy than anyone else on board. Now, in a leading role, she's merely sleepwalking.

The romance between famous singer and down-to-earth cop, with Obama inspired dreams on becoming a politician with fatherly advice from Danny Glover, lacks genuine passion. And Noni and her pushy stage mom's bickering means little compared to the love story mainline – yet even a “chick flick” audience might be disappointed since neither character has very much to lose. 

2014 rating: ***
ROSEWATER: First time director Jon Stewart creates an idealistic setting in Iran where, according to a group of young men hoping for change during the 2009 election, their once great country can be great again… And they unrealistically speak English, which shouldn’t be held against any Americanized Foreign-based film: it happens all the time.

THE DAILY SHOW host is also the writer, adapting a true story of journalist Maziar Bahari, a Canadian/Iranian visiting his mother in Iran while covering the election.  

Half the movie, as Bahari records the turbulent fallout, is fitfully edgy and suspenseful. Then Bahari, accused of being a spy and thrown into prison, is inflicted with strange mental torture from an antagonistic captor who winds up the supporting role: morphing from pseudo documentary to murky stage play.

Between hectic interrogations, Bahari hallucinates his dead father and sister, two revolutionaries jailed in the past, providing more flesh to a somewhat bland lead role. Ironically enough, it’s when Stewart injects his signature dry wit that most of the tension is lost, blunting sporadic scenes of harsh physical torture. Yet for the most part, Jon makes solitary confinement an interesting place… for a little while.
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