Joaquinn Phoenix, Emma Stone
“IRRATIONAL MAN” My rating: C+
96 minutes | MPAA rating:R
Even the most devoted Woody Allen fan now approaches his new pictures with caution.
Which Woody will we get this time? The classic comedian who blends big laughs with serious themes? Or the dour dramatist who dishes joyless Scandinavian gloom?
“Irrational Man” falls mostly into the latter category. At its most basic level it is, like 2005’s “Match Point,” a murder drama. This time around, though, the satisfactions are relatively few.
Abe (an excellent Joaquin Phoenix) is an academic superstar and a miserable human being. Revered in philosophy circles, he’s a provocative teacher (“Much of philosophy is verbal masturbation”) and a rather seedy alcoholic who carries a hip flask and isn’t afraid to pull a stiff one while trudging across the quadrangle.
Having burned many bridges, Abe shows up for the summer session at a New England college and immediately draws the attention of two dissimilar women — even though he’s obviously a weary depressive with a substantial middle-age gut.
Abe begins an affair with the vaguely pathetic Rita (Parker Posey), a married colleague in the philosophy department. Initially he’s impotent (“I was hoping it would come back as mysteriously as it left”), but Rita sees that as only a slight handicap, reasoning that after her boring husband “it’s interesting to be around someone complicated.”
Meanwhile Abe launches an intellectual relationship with Jill (Emma Stone), a bright student who clearly idolizes him. Give him points for keeping his relationship with Jill platonic — at least until it isn’t.
Read Full Post »
Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone
“ALOHA” My rating: C (Opens wide on June 5)
105 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13
“Aloha” can mean either hello or goodbye. Thus it’s an appropriate title for a movie that doesn’t know if it’s coming or going.
That the latest from writer/director Cameron Crowe isn’t a total disaster can be credited to players whose charisma helps paper over the screaming holes and loopy notions marring the doddering screenplay.
These performers are just good enough to wrest a few memorable moments from the general chaos of an eccentric romantic comedy that isn’t particularly romantic or funny.
Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) is a near-legendary former Air Force officer who was deeply involved in the U.S. space program. But after a long career decline and injuries incurred while a contractor in Afghanistan, he’s now a mere shadow of his former self.
He’s returned to his old stomping grounds in Hawaii as an employee of multi-billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray), who has invested heavily in a private rocket program and needs the blessing of native Hawaiian leaders to pave over some public relations potholes.
Brian’s assignment is too look up his old friend, the king of the nativist Nation of Hawaii (Dennis Bumpy Kanahele, playing himself), and secure said blessing.
Meanwhile Brian is torn between two women. First there’s Tracy (Rachel McAdams), the love he unceremoniously dumped 13 years earlier. She’s now married to an Air Force Officer (John Krasinski) and the mother of two.
The arrival of her old flame — even in his semi-decrepit condition — exacerbates Tracy’s doubts about her marriage and a husband whose verbal communications are painfully limited.
The other woman is Allison Ng (Emma Stone), a hotshot fighter pilot and one-quarter Hawaiian who is assigned as Brian’s military escort. Allison starts out all spit and polish with a salute so sharp it snaps air molecules — but after a few days as Brian’s wingman her military bearing turns all gee-whiz girly.
Read Full Post »
Michael Keaton and Edward Norton…exploring artistic differences
“BIRDMAN” My rating: B+
119 minutes | MPAA rating: R
“Birdman” is a tour de force, a heady mix of dark comedy and psychic meltdown with energy vibrating from every frame.
Writer/director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Babel”), star Michael Keaton (in a bravura performance) and a terrific supporting cast deliver a movie unlike anything we’ve seen before.
If the film, full name: “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” isn’t as deep as it thinks it is, there’s no arguing with the jaw-dropping creativity on display — technical, dramatic and thespian.
The setup: One-time movie box office champ Riggan Thomson (Keaton) — who earned worldwide fame portraying a feathered superhero called Birdman — has come to Broadway to write, direct and star in a stage adaptation of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”
Riggan has personally financed the production in hopes of restarting his moribund career (“I’m the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question”) and affirming his artistic credentials.
Turns out his sanity is on the line as well.
Read Full Post »
Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis in "The Help"
“THE HELP” My rating: B+ (Now playing wide)
137 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13
You can’t throw a rock at “The Help” without hitting an Oscar-worthy performance, making this adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s best-seller one of the best-acted films since, well, “The King’s Speech.”
All that thespian power comes in handy in diverting our attention from some of the story’s more Hollywood-ish plotting and an unimaginative visual style.
OK, maybe I’m being too much of a critic here. There may be a few pedestrian elements in this sure-fire box office smash, but there’s no ignoring the pure emotional power of this story set in the Jim Crow South.
This is a movie that will set audiences to laughing, then bawling, then laughing and bawling all over again.
Read Full Post »
“CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE” My rating: B- (Opens wide on July 29)
118 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13
“Crazy, Stupid, Love” isn’t just about cheating. It IS a cheat.
But if you can buy its improbable premise, its jarring and sudden shifts in tone and its desperate desire to be all things to all people, you may find moments of real substance here.
It helps that this romantic comedy from directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (“I Love You Phillip Morris”) features an astonishingly strong cast with several breakout performances.
Suburban husband/dad Cal (Steve Carell) is blindsided when Emily (Julianne Moore), his wife of 24 years, announces she’s been having an affair with a co-worker and wants a divorce.
Sad sack Cal finds himself sitting night after night in a bar bemoaning his fate and watching other people score. An expert in that pursuit is the suave, slick, self-assured Jacob (Ryan Gosling), who goes home every night with a different woman. (more…)
Read Full Post »