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Posts Tagged ‘Bobby Cannavale’

Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa; Robert DeNiro as Frank Sheeran

“THE IRISHMAN” My rating: B 

209 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Martin Scorsese’s much-anticipated “The Irishman” is a good movie.

Not a great one.

It’s been described as the filmmaker’s ultimate gangster epic, yet it feels less like a conventional celebration of tough-guy ethos than a slow (3 1/2 hour’s worth), mournful meditation on sins unacknowledged and unforgiven.

In fact, Scorsese seems to have gone out of his way to avoid the sort of eye-catching set pieces (like the long nightclub tracking shot from “GoodFellas”) that marked many of his earlier efforts. “The Irishman” is almost ploddingly straightforward.

Steve Zaillian’s screenplay follows the title character, real-life contract killer Frank Sheehan (Robert DeNiro), from his early days as a truck driver with a taste for theft  to his residency in an old folk’s home.

(Now seems a good time to comment on the much-ballyhooed CG “youthening” of the actors…it’s so good you don’t even think about it. No waxy skin tones or blurry edges — damn near flawless.)

The bulk of the movie, set in the ’50s and ’60s, chronicles Frank’s association with the Teamsters  and his friendship with union president Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), who in a phone call introduces himself to Frank with the statement: “I heard you paint houses.”  That’s code for acting as a hired assassin, a role Frank will perform for Hoffa and others for a quarter century.

The film centers on a long 1975 car trip in which Sheehan and his mentor, crime family boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), and their wives drive from Philadelphia to Detroit, ostensibly to attend the wedding of a colleague’s daughter.  At various stages in the journey Frank’s memory is jogged to recall past exploits. He doesn’t realize until late in the trip that Russell has another agenda — the assassination of Jimmy Hoffa who, after serving a four-year sentence in federal prison, is now upsetting the apple cart by attempting to reclaim the presidency of the Teamsters Union.

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Christopher Plummer, Vera Farminga

“BOUNDARIES” My rating: C+ 

104 minutes | MPAA rating: R

A harried mom, an eccentric child, and a scurrillous grandpa go on a road trip.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

One could argue that “Boundaries,” Shana Feste’s peripatetic comedy, has most everything it needs — save for originality. Despite an exceedingly strong cast there’s an aura of been-there-done-that hanging over the enterprise.

We meet Seattle mom and party planner Laura Jaconi (Vera Farming) at her weekly visit to the shrink.  She’s smart enough to recognize the forces that make her life a comedy of errors, but not smart enough to overcome them.

There are two sources for Laura’s predicament. First there’s her son Henry (Lewis McDougall), a geeky middle schooler who compensates for his outsider status  by drawing nude portraits (from his imagination) of the people in his life. Henry is miserable at his public school and Laura wants to send him to a private operation… but that will take a lot of money.

Then there’s her octogenarian father, Jack (Christopher Plummer), who is being thrown out of his retirement community for secretly operating a marijuana growing business on the premises.

Basically Laura is saddled with two adolescents.

Arrangements are made to move Jack to the Los Angeles home of his youngest daughter, JoJo (Kristen Schaal). But the old man insists that they travel by car.  Laura reluctantly agrees, unaware that the old coot has filled the trunk with weed.  This will be his last delivery run to his long-time customers.

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** and Jon Favreau in  "Chef"

Emjay Anthony and Jon Favreau in “Chef”

“CHEF” My rating: B (Opening wide on May 22)

115 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The title character of “Chef” works in a hugely lucrative but artistically stifling high-end L.A. restaurant. He has a meltdown and goes off looking to regain his muse of cooking.

Interestingly enough, “Chef “ was written, directed by, and stars Jon Favreau, who first burst onto the scene as an indie auteur (“Swingers,” “Made”) before finding mucho money and Tinseltown clout cranking out superhero movies for the Marvel folk (“Iron Man”).

“Chef” can be seen as Favreau’s return to down-home cooking/filmmaking. Despite its impressively deep cast, it’s a relatively simple, modestly budgeted affair, less a banquet than a delicate palate cleanser.

Nothing earthshaking happens here. No deep emotions are plumbed or existential dilemmas explored.

But if  the film is superficial, it is often slyly funny, has a real handle on the restaurant biz and its denizens, genuinely likes its characters, and tries to look on the sunny side. In short,  a pleasant couple of hours at the movies.

Carl Casper (Favreau) is top chef at one of Hollywood’s most in-demand eateries. But he’s hit a creative dead end. The joint’s owner (Dustin Hoffman) doesn’t want to tinker with success and consistently nixes Carl’s attempts at an edgier menu.

When a powerful food blogger (Oliver Platt) pans the place as old hat and unimaginative, Carl has a very public meltdown that is recorded by dozens of customers, making him an Internet sensation.  But while being the raving chef raises Carl’s profile, it gets him fired and makes him unemployable.

He’s got no choice but to start over. (more…)

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blue blanchett“BLUE JASMINE” My rating: B (Now showing wide)

98 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Tragedies require great performances. Otherwise they’d be unbearable.

Lucky for Woody Allen, then, that “Blue Jasmine” stars Cate Blanchett giving a performance with Oscar written all over it.

“Blue Jasmine” is one of Allen’s “straight” movies, though it does have a few moments of bleak humor.  Theater dweebs will immediately recognize it as a modern updating of Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire.”  Our Blanche Dubois stand-in is Jasmine (Blanchett), the former pampered wife of a Wall Street mover-and-shaker who has gone to prison as part of a Bernie Madoff-ish scandal.

Sally Hawkins, Louis C.K.

Sally Hawkins, Louis C.K.

Now the brittle, babbling but still weirdly glamorous Jasmine (real name, Jeanette) has washed up penniless in the San Francisco apartment of her adopted sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins).  She’s dependent on the kindness of strangers (Ginger is kind almost to the point of being a punching bag), and should be groveling with gratitude. But, no, Jasmine puts on airs, complains about having had to sell her furs and jewels, sneers at her now-proletarian living conditions, and winces painfully at the racket generated by her two young nephews.

“Blue Jasmine” is a curious piece. We start out utterly contemptuous of  this fallen trophy wife whose husband’s crooked dealings left hundreds of thousands of investors (among them sister Ginger) high and dry. So now she has to get a job as a dentist’s receptionist and sleep on a couch? Serves her right, right?

But so powerful is Blanchett’s peformance that by the end we are (against our own good moral judgment) practically rooting for her to hook up with a rich, unsuspecting guy who can maintain her in the style to which she has become accustomed.

Which is to say that this is some great acting. (more…)

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