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Posts Tagged ‘Anna Kendrick’

Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck

“THE ACCOUNTANT”  My rating: C+

128 minutes | MPAA rating: R

A killer with autism.

How has it taken Hollywood this long to glom onto such an awesome concept?

Consider: An efficient, ruthless assassin whose Asperger-ish condition guarantees that he won’t empathize with his targets no matter how much they beg. A stoic largely immune to crippling emotions like guilt, fear and panic. A wrecking machine who can pass for civil but at heart cannot create lasting attachments. An obsessive who, once he’s started a job, is driven to finish it.

I’d pay to see that movie.

Unfortunately, that movie isn’t “The Accountant.”

Oh, Ben Affleck’s latest makes noises like it’s heading that direction before deteriorating into silliness and mayhem. But the pieces never add up.

Affleck plays Christian Wolff, a CPA with an office in a south Chicago strip mall and a roster of mom-and-pop clients. But that’s only his cover.

In reality Christian is a mathematical savant and emotional cipher whose clients include drug cartels, mobsters, international arms dealers and other nasty folk. Whenever these crooks suspect that someone has been pilfering cash or cooking the books, they call in Christian to do a little forensic sleuthing.

With a mind like a mainframe computer, he always finds the culprit — who usually ends up in a landfill.

It’s dangerous work but pays well. In a rented storage facility Christian keeps an Airstream trailer packed with cash, weapons and authentic Renoir and Pollack canvases (which he has accepted from grateful clients in lieu of cash).

And as flashbacks reveal, he’s also deadly, having been trained by his military father in martial arts, ordnance, sniping and other skills that might be useful for a kid who is always being bullied.

The plot is set in motion when Christian is called in to audit a robotics firm where a lowly bean counter (Anna Kendrick) has stumbled across a bookkeeping anomaly. What our man finds puts both Christian and his gal pal in the crosshairs of an international criminal conspiracy. (more…)

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John Krasinski, Margo Martindale

John Krasinski, Margo Martindale

“THE HOLLARS” My rating: C+

98 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

John Krasicki’s strengths as an actor — a sly sense of humor, emotional openess, a charitable view toward his own and other actors’ characters — are also on display in his feature film directing debut.

But despite a cast to die for and some heartfelt sentiment, “The Hollars” is a near miss, a movie in which everything seems just a degree or two out of whack.

Jim Strauss’s screenplay is yet another dysfunctional family dramedy.

Illness in the family brings NYC office drone John Hollar (Krasinksi) back to his middle American hometown. He leaves behind his pregnant girlfriend Rebecca (Anna Kendrick) and a dead-end job — what he really wants to do is write and illustrate graphic novels.

Ma Hollar (Margo Martindale) has been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Even with that against her she shows more common sense than the menfolk of her clan, who are more or less eccentric idiots.

Dad Hollar (Richard Jenkins) lives in an emotional bubble of denial. Whenever he steps out of that bubble he collapses in tears. And he’s run the family’s plumbing business into the ground, forcing him to fire his oldest son Ron (Shallot Copley), who now lives in the basement.

Ron is a near-moron who is stalking the ex-wife with whom he has two little girls. And he harbors some absurd notions about minorities (he assumes that his mother’s surgeon, an Asian American, must be a master of at least one martial art).

(more…)

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James Cordern, Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep

James Corden, Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep

 

“INTO THE WOODS”  My rating: B-

124 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

“Into the Woods” is a terrific big-screen musical right up to the point when it suddenly stops being great and turns disheartening and annoying.

In this it is exactly like the stage version of this Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine collaboration, which I saw in previews in New York just before its 1987 debut.  I’m talking 90 minutes of wonderful followed by 30 minutes of meh. So meh, in fact, that it damn near ruins all the good stuff.

Director Rob Marshall, who more or less singlehandedly resurrected the movie musical with 2002’s “Chicago,” comes charging out of the gate here, delivering a movie that works musically and  cinematically and which strikes just the right tongue-in-cheek tone in revisiting the fairy tale cliches of our childhoods.

In a village just outside the woods the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) yearn for a child.  Their cronish neighbor (a gleefully scenery-chawing Meryl Streep), widely believed to be a witch, reveals that in his childhood she put a curse of infertility on the Baker.  Now she offers to lift the hex if the couple will obtain for her several items needed for an incantation that will restore her youth and beauty.

Among the things sought in this scavenger hunt: a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold.

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Lena Dunham, Anna Kendrick and Jude Swanberg

Lena Dunham, Anna Kendrick and Jude Swanberg

“HAPPY CHRISTMAS”  My rating: B (Now at the Screenland Armour)

minutes | MPAA rating: R

 

Either indie auteur Joe Swanberg is hitting his groove or I’ve finally warmed to his low-keyed style .

Whatever the case, “Happy Christmas” is a genuinely good family comedy/drama that unfolds without either sitcomish excess or melodramatic improbabilities.

“Happy Christmas” is the 18th feature  Swanberg has directed in the last nine years, which may be some sort of American record. I’ve found much of his work underwhelming.

In the last couple of years he gave us “24 Exposures,” an erotic thriller about a sleep-around photographer that made my skin crawl, and “Drinking Buddies,” a modest dramady about two brewery workers (Olivia Wilde, Jake Johannson) who can’t quite admit they mean more to one another than just a few friendly after-work beers. “Drinking Buddies” now feels like a dry run for “Happy Christmas.”

The set up is ridiculously simple. Young marrieds Kelly and Kevin (Melanie Lynskey, Mark Webber) are preparing to take in his younger sister Jenny (Anna Kendrick), who is no the rebound from unspecified bad luck which most likely involves failures in both the man and career departments.

Jenny isn’t a bad person, but she has self-destructive tendencies. On her first night in town she goes to a party with her childhood friend Carson (Lena Dunham) and gets so blotto that Kevin must drive over in the middle of the night to retrieve her.

Well, anyone can have a bad night, right?  Except that Jenny makes a habit of it. She drinks, smokes pot and lolls around with a guy she’s met (played by writer/director Swanberg). It’s not like she’s mean or cruel — just thoughtless in a way that suggests either narcissism or, more likely, really low self esteem.

Trouble is, Kelly and Kevin have been counting on Jenny to care for their year-old son Jude (Jude Swanberg, the director’s child) and it becomes increasingly obvious that she cannot be trusted  with something so precious.

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen

“50 / 50” My rating: B+ (Opening wide Sept. 30)

99 minutes | MPAA rating: R

It’s one thing to make a raunchy comedy.

It’s another to tell a serious story about someone coping with a life-threatening disease.

But in a category all by itself is the ability to put those two seemingly contradictory genres together so that they complement each other rather than cancelling each other.

That’s the small miracle of “50/50,” based on screenwriter Will Reiser’s own bout with cancer.

(more…)

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