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Posts Tagged ‘Amy Adams’

Amy Adams

Amy Adams…the ice goddess in her art gallery

“NOCTURNAL ANIMALS” My rating: B-

116 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals” is a fascinating failure.

But even if it doesn’t quite work, it remains so ambitious, so daring that it overshadows other films considered “successful” simply because they aim so much lower.

Ford, the celebrated fashion designer whose first feature directing effort was “A Single Man” back in 2009, wastes no time bitch-slapping his audience. Under the opening titles of “Nocturnal Animals” Ford gives us slo-mo footage of obese women dancing.  They’re naked except for marching band kepis and thigh-high drum majorette boots.

These images are part of the latest exhibit in a trendy LA art gallery operated by Susan (Amy Adams),  a cooly coiffed and clothed woman who lives in a multi-million-dollar minimalist glass house overlooking the city.

Susan is rich — she’d be richer, but her faithless hubby Hutton (Armie Hammer) has managed to blow a big chunk of their nest egg — and her inner life seems about as sterile as her modernist home. After all, what kind of person keeps a bowl of real artichokes on the counter of her spotless, soulless kitchen? It’s not like anyone’s going to grab one up for a quick snack.

“I feel guilty not to be happy,” she laments. Poor little rich girl.

Susan’s outwardly comfy, inwardly anguished world makes up one of three levels of reality explored in Ford’s movie.

Out of the blue she receives a manuscript from her first husband, Edward, whom Susan hasn’t seen in 19 years. It’s a soon-to-be-published novel accompanied by a note that suggests Susan was at least in part the inspiration for the story.

Flattered, Susan takes advantage of a week without her husband (Hutton is off to New York with his latest girlfriend) to dive into Edward’s novel. The story that unfolds becomes “Nocturnal Animals'” second layer of reality.

In this book within a movie we find Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal), his wife (Isla Fisher) and teenage daughter (Ellie Bamber) driving across West Texas in the dead of night. They fall victim to a gang of young rednecks led by the scary Ray (an almost unrecognizable Aaron Taylor-Johnson), and soon the family members are fighting for their lives. (more…)

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Amy Adams

Amy Adams

“ARRIVAL” My rating: B+

116 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

In “Arrival,” space aliens — as they have so often in our cinematic past — come to Earth with questionable intentions.

Only this time their reception is less Ridley Scott than Stanley Kubrick.

“Arrival” may be the most thought-provoking science fiction film since “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Like Kubrick’s cryptic classic, it will leave some viewers puzzled and perhaps dissatisfied. In lieu of ray guns and souped-up space jalopies, director Denis Villeneuve (“Incendies,” “Prisoners,” “Sicario”) depicts massive societal and personal dislocation and ruminates about the very nature of time.

Happily, “Arrival” does all this with a final emotional jolt that will linger in the viewer’s mind for … well, maybe forever. Great movies can do that.

The adventure begins with a dreamy, time-leaping sequence of a mother (Amy Adams) interacting with her daughter from infancy to adolescence. On the soundtrack this woman, Louise, talks about beginnings.

Then we’re taken to the present day where Louise, a world famous linguist, arrives in her college lecture hall to find that practically nobody has come to hear her talk about the Portuguese language. The absences are soon explained — 12 magnificent spaceships (they resemble gigantic elongated eggs, or maybe black mango seeds) are now hovering at various points around the globe.

In just a couple of brilliantly conceived and edited minutes Villeneuve evokes the shock and widespread disruption caused by the realization that we are not alone.

Populations panic. Stock markets tumble. There are runs on bottled water and batteries. Looting and rioting.

Yes. This is exactly what would happen.

For Louise it gets personal when a military bigwig (Forest Whitaker) arrives at her doorstep to announce that her country needs her. Mankind must figure out how to converse with the newcomers. (more…)

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Christophe Waltz, Amy Adams as the Keanes

Christophe Waltz, Amy Adams as the Keanes

“BIG EYES” My rating: B- 

105 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

In “Big Eyes” Tim Burton takes on the  oddball odyssey of Walter and Margaret Keane, who a half century ago launched an art-world/cultural sensation with cartoonish paintings of children with huge, sad eyes.

Despite being savaged as tasteless kitsch by the critics — the eyes were compared to “big stale jelly beans” — these “Keane Kids” became hot commodities. Fame and fortune followed.  Think of it as a pre-Tomas Kinkade display of bad taste.

Eventually the Keane Kids generated a scandal when it was proven in court that Walter Keane, who claimed to be the artist, was in fact no more than a hack taking credit for his wife’s work.

Burton has two very fine actors in Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams. His recreation of ‘60s San Francisco feels authentic. And the subject matter promises something along the lines of “Ed Wood,” for my money the director’s most heartfelt work.

After all, both films are about “artists” who specialize in…well, not art

But whereas “Ed Wood” was a very funny celebration of a tasteless filmmaker — often cited as the worst director of all time yet obsessed with capturing his questionable vision on celluloid — “Big Eyes” is a more conflicted affair.

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Joaquinn Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix…isolated, but not for long

“HER” My rating: A- (Opens wide on Jan. 10)

120 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The sentient computer — the mechanical brain that becomes self aware — has been with us for many years now (perhaps most famously in the person of “2001’s” HAL 9000). But writer/director Spike Jonze’s “Her” pushes that idea in new and wonderful directions.

Along the way it becomes the best film of 2013.

In the near future — so near you can’t categorize the film as science fiction — a computer operating system is developed that so perfectly imitates human thought and emotion as to make the iPhone’s Siri seem like a grunting Neanderthal.

Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely romantic.  Lonely because he and his wife (Rooney Mara) are divorcing — though Tehodore cannot bring himself to sign the papers.  Romantic because his day job is writing heartfelt letters  to strangers.

He works for a company that, for a fee, will compose personal letters to family members, dearly beloveds, friends and acquaintances. Apparently in this near future most personal written correspondence is limited to texting abbreviatons and emoticons. Some folks will pay big bucks for a well-written, sincere and “handwritten” letter (actually, a computer provides the appropriate font and coughs it out of a laser printer).

Theodore is a master of this old-fashioned form of communication — which only makes his sterile personal life all the more ironic.

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Man Steel“MAN OF STEEL” My rating: C  (Opens wide on June 14)

143 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Henry Cavill, our newest Superman, certainly has the look down.  He knows how to fill not only the red-and-blue suit but looks extremely hot in a Royals T-shirt.

He might even be able to act, although you won’t be able to tell from “Man of Steel.”

Zack Snyder’s reboot of the venerable superhero franchise is yet another piercingly loud, atavistically violent affair, albeit one that seems to have been assembled from spare parts left over from other big, noisy summer popcorn flicks.

Superhero origin stories usually benefit from a human dimension lacking in followup films. They’re about a superhero discovering who he is, establishing what his relationship is to the rest of us mere mortals.

Sequels, on the other hand, invariably deteriorate into long, numbing passages of shit being torn up (see “The Avengers,” any “Transformers” film, etc.).

Snyder (“300,” “Dawn of the Dead,” “Watchmen”) and screenwriter David S. Goyer (the Christopher Nolan “Batman” films, the “Blade” movies), want it both ways – and so they have given us a glum, joyless origin story and a whole lot of destruction.

In the process  they inadvertently reconfirm that Christopher Reeve was/is the best movie Superman of all time, thanks to his disarming blend of sincere heroism and an intoxicatingly sly sense of humor.

 “Man of Steel,” on the other hand, occupies an irony-free zone.

(more…)

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