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Posts Tagged ‘Charlize Theron’

Charlize Theron in "Dark Places"

Charlize Theron in “Dark
Places”

“DARK PLACES”  My rating: C+ 

113 minutes  | MPAA rating: R

“Gone Girl” is a hard act to follow.

That 2014 film — the first to be adapted from the three best-selling mystery novels by Kansas City native Gillian Flynn — offered a surfeit of riches: a gnarly yarn that nastily doubled back on itself, a scathing indictment of modern media and its consumers, and one of the most savage commentaries on marriage ever sold as popular entertainment.

Add to the mix masterful direction by David Fincher (who absolutely nailed the darkly hilarious misanthropy that characterizes Flynn’s best work) and stellar turns by Ben Affleck and Oscar-nominated Rosamund Pike, and you had a film that excelled on numerous levels.

By comparison “Dark Places,” adapted by writer/director Gilles Paquet-Brenner from an earlier Flynn novel, is fairly straightforward and one-dimensional.

The film captures Flynn’s gloomy outlook without offering the antidote of biting humor, and is so single-mindedly bent on building its narrative that there’s little room left to explore other ideas.

Most problematic, the plot relies on mind-boggling coincidence. This was bothersome on the printed page; it feels patently phony on the screen.

Libby Day (Charlize Theron) is an antisocial loner living in hoarder squalor in a Kansas City apartment (though set in Kansas and Missouri, “Dark Places” was filmed in Louisiana).

Nearly 30 years earlier she was the sole survivor of the notorious “Kansas prairie massacre” in which her mother and two older sisters were murdered on the family farm. Based largely on Libby‘s testimony, her teenage brother Ben was convicted and is now serving a life sentence.

For years the emotionally damaged and employment challenged Libby has gotten by on donations from a sympathetic/morbid public. But now her bank account is empty.

So when Lyle (Nicholas Hoult), president of a local society of true-crime groupies, offers to pay to have Libby’s brain picked by the membership, she reluctantly accepts — even though it means a bizarre confrontation with a Bob Berdella role player.

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mad max fury road“MAD MAX: FURY ROAD” My rating: B

120 minutes | MPAA rating: R

There is dialogue in the new Mad Max film — mostly delivered in a nearly indecipherable variety of Aussie English — but it really isn’t necessary.

You could eliminate all the words or replace them with made-up gibberish and this still would be the same movie, still a symphony of speed and violence, still a textbook example of visual storytelling.

It’s been 30 years since director George Miller wrapped up his Mad Max trilogy and moved on to projects like the family-friendly “Babe” and “Happy Feet.”  But he remains fascinated with Max’s post-armageddon comic-book world, a world filled with great deserts, rusty cars and trucks cannibalized into bizarro war machines, and traversed by that lonely warrior, Mad Max.

This “Max” is bigger, badder and noisier than previous entries. There’s never been much room in the series for human concerns, and this time around there’s even less.

Even the character of Max (Tom Hardy replacing Mel Gibson) is little more than a physical presence.

But as a mind-boggling exercise in pure action “Mad Max: Fury Road” is overwhelming, achieving the sort of visual poetry typically ascribed to “Ben-Hur’s” chariot race or one of Sam Peckinpah’s blood ballets.

Max, a prisoner of the despotic desert king Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played the villain Toecutter in the first “Mad Max” back in ’79), finds himself swept along on a mission of vengeance and recovery.

Immortan Joe’s five wives — gorgeous young women apparently free of the diseases afflicting most of surviving mankind — have escaped with the help of Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron, with shaved head and a missing arm), a sort of over-the-road trucker.

Now they’re being pursued across a dusty wasteland (filmed in the sands of Namibia) by the angry husband/king and hundreds of souped up vehicles outfitted with flamethrowers, monstrous crossbows and other jerry-rigged implements of mayhem.

Furiosa’s goal is to find “the green place,” an oasis of water and peace remembered from her childhood. Good luck with that. (more…)

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 Seth MacFarlane


Seth MacFarlane

“A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST” My rating: C (Opens wide on March 30)

116 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Mel Brooks needn’t lose any sleep.

The spirit of 1974’s “Blazing Saddles” hovers tauntingly over “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” Seth MacFarlane’s (he produced it, directed it, co-wrote it and stars in it) new comic Western.

“Saddles” is, of course, the blue chip standard for rude cowboy comedy, as hilarious now as the day it was released.

By comparison “A Million Ways…” is a slog. It’s got a couple of wildly comic moments – but only a couple.

The main problem is not that its humor is overwhelmingly puerile (graphic jokes about sex and bodily functions) but that it isn’t much of a movie. Oh, it looks great, with lots of gorgeous wide-screen cinematography of Monument Valley (John Ford/John Wayne country) and a visual style dishing lots of rising crane shots (MacFarlane must have been studying Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in the West”).

But there’s no there there. And as storytelling it’s a meandering, shapeless affair. It’s not even a particularly good satire of Western movie conventions.

MacFarlane – an astonishingly productive comic force (TV’s “The Family Guy,” “American Dad!” and “The Cleveland Show,” not to mention the 2012 feature “Ted” and hosting the Oscars) – seems most at home in the half-hour (which is to say 22-minute) animated TV format. He struggles to fill this 2-hour film with jokes, and a few hit home. But they’re not in service of a story – or characters – we care about.

And let’s get out in the open MacFarlane’s biggest mistake: Casting himself as the lead character, Albert, a miserable/angry sheep farmer in 1882 Arizona.

MacFarlane has no range. He sports a half-hearted smirk and…and that’s about it. I don’t much like watching him. So there.

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Charlize Theron...sizing up the competition

“YOUNG ADULT” My rating: B

94 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Young Adult” doesn’t always work. But it takes enough chances to be kind of endearing…sort of like a Christmas package with a bomb inside.

For their sophomore effort director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody — who hit indy film gold a couple of years back with their teen pregnancy laugher “Juno” — deliver another comedy, albeit one from a considerably darker place.

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