BUFFALO, N.Y. — It's not the Long Con, It's not the Short Con. It's the Lame Con. The “Short Con,” is a confidence trick that usually takes only a few moments where the grifter is going for the quick cash. The “Long Con” is a much more involved and longer hustle whereby the victim is induced to give up things of great value. Then, there’s the “Lame Con.” That’s the first film under review here. 

The filmmakers gained this reviewer’s confidence by casting the lovely Anne Hathaway (Ocean’s Eight, Serenity) and the extremely funny Rebel Wilson (Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Isn’t it Romantic).  This leaves the credulous filmgoer with the initial impression that, given the previous quality of the principal actor’s work, the film will be good, perhaps even on the level of Ocean’s Eight, or The Devil Wears Prada.  Alas, after ponying up the price of the ticket and investing the time necessary to watch the film, the viewer realizes he or she has become a victim; that their initial assumptions about the film are wrong, and that The Hustle is just that.

THE HUSTLE
Anne Hathaway stars as Josephine Chesterfield and Rebel Wilson as Penny Rust in THE HUSTLE, a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film
Christian Black

Josephine (Hathaway) and Penny (Wilson), are both grifters, specializing in the Long Con, albeit Josephine is hugely successful at it in her French Riviera home. Penny, not so much. Through a series of unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on your point of view) events, Penny finds Josephine at her tony digs, and, by threatening a call to Interpol, persuades the more successful grifter to mentor her. Well, the mentoring goes very well. The pair pull off several successful long cons. But Josephine refuses to cut Penny in on the profits. Penny’s angry, and vows to seek revenge.  

THE HUSTLE
Alex Sharp stars as Thomas Westerburg and Anne Hathaway as Josephine Chesterfield in THE HUSTLE, a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film.
Christian Black / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures © 2019 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This film has been made twice before: 1964’s Bedtime Story and 1988’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.  There are two major differences. First, the 2019 film is female-centered, and that can be charming. Secondly, it’s not nearly as good as either of its predecessors. See, that gender-flipping is about the only thing that’s new and fresh about this unnecessary remake. Oh, the film has a few moments, most notably involving Hathaway and Wilson, that are laugh out loud funny. However, most of the time the film is predictable and trite. While Wilson is great at physical comedy, after a while, it just gets old. This coupled with the fact that, until the end, both characters are pretty unlikable.

The film becomes tiresome long before the end of its hour-and-a-half runtime. It may be too harsh to say that The Hustle is a long con designed to separate innocent filmgoers from their time and money, but if it is, it’s not by much. The Hustle can only grift this reviewer out of two out of five stars. 

The Hustle is directed by Chris Addison, stars Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson and Alex Sharp, is rated PG-13 on appeal for crude sexual content and language and runs 94 minutes.

While I had high hopes for The Hustle,  I didn’t expect much from our next movie.

POKEMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU
Detective Pikachu (RYAN REYNOLDS) in Legendary Pictures' and Warner Bros. Pictures' comedy adventure "POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Ryan Reynolds (The Hitman's Bodyguard, Deadpool) voices that yellow furball pictured above. He pretty much carries Pokémon: Detective Pikachu, at least for filmgoers who aren’t Pokémon fans. The film is a visually amazing live-action addition to the Pokémon franchise. I should mention that, if you’re not a Pokémon aficionado, you’re gonna feel a little lost in this universe. 

POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU  Copyright: © 2019 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
BILL NIGHY as Howard Clifford in Legendary Pictures' and Warner Bros. Pictures' comedy adventure "POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

A good cast, including the likes of Bill Nighy (The Bookshop, Their Finest) Reynold’s performance, and the relentless CGI based action, make for a reasonably entertaining hour and 40 minutes. It all adds up to 3 and a half out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

KATRHYN NEWTON as Lucy Stevens in Legendary Pictures' and Warner Bros. Pictures' comedy adventure "POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Copyright: © 2019 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
KATRHYN NEWTON as Lucy Stevens in Legendary Pictures' and Warner Bros. Pictures' comedy adventure "POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Giles Keyte

Directed by Rob Letterman (Gulliver's Travels), Pokémon Detective Pikachu is rated PG for action/peril, some rude and suggestive humor, and thematic elements. It might upset sensitive younger members of the audience.

I don’t know how older members of the audience will feel about Poms, but it does have a great cast, what with the likes of Diane Keaton (Book Club, Annie Hall) and Jackie Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook, Widows).  

Poms
Martha (Diane Keaton), her friends and fellow cheerleaders from Sun Springs Retirement Community react to some of the younger cheerleaders performing. Front Row: Alice (Rhea Perlman), Martha (Diane Keaton), Sheryl (Jacki Weaver), Helen (Phyllis Somerville) Back Row: Phyllis (Patricia French), Olive (Pam Grier), Ruby (Carol Sutton), and Evelyn (Ginny Maccoll).
Courtesy of STXfilms; Motion picture Artwork © 2019 STX Financing, LLC. All Rights Reserved

It’s about a group of senior women in a retirement village who decide to enter a cheerleading tournament. Break out the liniment. It looks charming, but the critics aren’t charmed. Directed by Zara Hayes, it’s rated PG-13 for some language/sexual references.  

Our next film is a biopic. J.R.R. Tolkien created some of the greatest heroes and heroic tales in all of Western Literature. But is he the hero of his own story?

Tolkien is the story of the first part of the author and scholars life, and what inspired his tales of heroism, peril, and fellowship.

Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins in the film TOLKIEN.
Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins in the film TOLKIEN.
Fox Searchlight Pictures. © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

It’s got a pretty good cast. Nicholas Holt (Mad Max: Fury Road, The Favourite) does a turn as the young Tolkien and Lili Collins (To the Bone, Priest) plays his lovely young girlfriend. 

Nicholas Hoult and Derek Jacobi in the film TOLKIEN.
Nicholas Hoult and Derek Jacobi in the film TOLKIEN.
Fox Searchlight Pictures. © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights

The redoubtable Derek Jacobi (Dead Again, The King's Speech) plays an English University Professor. Who’da thunk? Anyway, while Tolkien seems to be a good-looking film, many film critics just don’t think the story lives up to the trappings. Ehh, who cares what the critics think, I’m gonna go see it anyway. I’ve been enjoying Tolkien’s tales since I was in sixth grade, so I’ve gotta give this film a chance. Directed by Dome Karukoski (The Grump), it’s rated PG-13 for some sequences of war violence.

That’s what’s opening this week. I’m Larry Haneberg, and I’m taking you 2 the Movies.