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Posts Tagged ‘Cate Blanchett’

Christian Bale, Natalie Portman

Christian Bale, Natalie Portman

“KNIGHT OF CUPS”  My rating: C-

118 minutes | MPAA rating: R

There lurks in “Knight of Cups” the makings of a pretty good travelogue.

But on most other counts the latest feature  from the increasingly irritating Terrence Malick shows him firmly stuck in the same prison of self parody that doomed his last outing, the unromantic romance “To the Wonder.”

Malick, of course, is the low-profile cinematic genius who back in the ’70s gave us “Badlands” and “Days of Heaven,” then moved on to offbeat period pieces (“The Thin Red Line,” “The New World”) before delivering his ultimate statement, 2011’s memorable (for all the right reasons) “The Tree of Life.”

“Knight of Cups” is ostensibly a Hollywood insider tale, a sort of “La Dolce Vida” look at feckless, amoral living among the beautiful people.

In fractured, impressionistic style it follows a screenwriter named Rick (Christian Bale), as he engages in romantic wanderings, professional and family issues, and hedonistic pastimes.

That description makes the film sound coherent. It isn’t.

Malick eschews conventional narrative construction and character development in favor of sweeping, swooning handheld cinematography of Los Angeles, Las Vegas and the desert by frequent collaborator Emmanuel Lubezki (“Gravity,” “Birdman,” “The Revenant”). His characters almost never actually speak lines, except in the form of vacuous party chatter. Instead we hear their innermost thoughts, whispered in voiceover.

As for the story…what story?

Rick goes through a series of lovers, all of them willowy beauties whose personalities are best summed up by their pre-Raphaelite tresses. Presumably he has sex, although there’s nothing remotely romantic or erotic going on here (Malick has never done sexy).

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Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett

Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett

“CAROL” My rating: B+ 

118 minutes | MPAA rating: R

You could describe “Carol” as a lesbian love story.

More accurately, it’s a love story in which the two main characters are women.

That’s an important difference.

The latest from adventurous indie auteur Todd Haynes is one of his most accessible works, a haunting and quietly erotic tale of love that, far from being forbidden, holds the promise of fulfillment.

Adapted by Haynes from Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel The Price of Salt, the film features Oscar-grabbing performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara and perhaps the most realistic evocation of the early 1950s I’ve ever seen in a movie (including movies made in the early 1950s, which somehow seem fantastically unreal).

Therese (Mara) is a quiet young woman who seems to be waiting for something to happen.  Certainly she doesn’t expect much from her job selling toys in a big Manhattan department store during the Christmas season.  She thinks maybe she’d like to try her hand at photography.

Nor does she sense much of a future with Richard (Jake Lacy), the boyfriend who wants to travel with her to France. The two are yet to consummate their relationship (remember, it’s the early 1950s).

Then one day the glamorous, well-heeled Carol (Blanchett) comes into the story to buy a present for her young daughter. The customer and the sales clerk strike up a conversation. Carol leaves her fancy gloves behind and Therese has them delivered to Carol’s posh home in the Jersey ‘burbs.

For this act of kindness Therese receives an invitation to tea. Her fascination with this beautiful and cultured older woman becomes a crush.

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cinderella“CINDERELLA”  My rating: B

112 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

Don’t go to Disney’s new live-action version of “Cinderella” expecting post-modern irony, a feminist perspective, or even psychological realism.

The makers of this movie take their fairy tales straight up and undiluted by any such intellectual folderol.

In last year’s “Maleficent” the Disney Studio reinterpreted its 1959 “Sleeping Beauty” from the evil fairy’s point of view.

But “Cinderella” director Kenneth Branagh and screenwriter Chris Weitz have no use for such revisionism. The fairy tale is enough for them. They aim for the heart, not the head.

Darned if they don’t pull it off.

This isn’t precisely a remake of Disney’s acclaimed 1950 animated version, but fans of the original will see plenty of references, from the evil stepmother’s pampered cat Lucifer to the fat mouse Gus.

(Now if only they’d had Helena Bonham Carter’s Fairy Godmother sing “Bippity Boppity Boo”…well, can’t have everything.)

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monuments_men“THE MONUMENTS MEN” My rating: C+ (Opening wide on Feb. 7)

118 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Most of  the films George Clooney has directed  — “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “The Ides of March” — have found him stretching himself, developing a style that was part indie edgy and part Hollywood classic, with a choice in topics that skewed liberal and humanistic.

His latest, “Monuments Men,” based on the real-life exploits of art experts who recovered masterpieces stolen by the Nazis, hits the Hollywood classic part perfectly. In fact it feels exactly as if it could have been made by a big studio in the early 1960s.

It’s been lushly produced, carefully scripted, tastefully shot. But edgy it isn’t…there’s hardly a moment here that doesn’t seem to have been painstakingly  weighed and thought out in advance.

Clooney — with a trim ‘stache and graying temples that make him look remarkably like a mature Clark Gable — portrays Frank Stokes, an art expert who creates a unit within the U.S. Army with the sole purpose of tracking down and saving art masterpieces looted by  the Germans.

He recruits a decidedly un-military bunch of art specialists, most of them pushing 60, who must undergo the rigors of basic training before they can be deployed to recently-liberated Normandy to begin their search.

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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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