Posts Tagged ‘Corey Stahl’

Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart

Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart

“CAFE SOCIETY” My rating: B-

96 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

It’s tough getting a handle on Woody Allen’s “Cafe Society.”

It’s not a drama, certainly. Its approach is too tangential and distant for any sort of emotional intensity.

But it’s not exactly a comedy, either. Despite a few chuckles there’s a noted paucity of laugh lines, and those bits of dialogue that do register are noteworthy not for their hilarity but rather for their weary resignation. (“Life is a comedy written by a sadistic comedy writer.”)

And despite being set in 1930s Hollywood, it has none of the nostalgic warmth of “Radio Days,” Allen’s memorable reverie about growing up in NYC in the glory days of radio.

So what does “Cafe Society” have going for it?

Well, good performances from Kristen Stewart and Blake Lively, spectacularly good cinematography from Vittorio Storaro (“Apocalypse Now,” “The Last Emperor”) and detailed production design courtesy of Allen’s frequent collaborator Santo Loquasto.

As the picture begins young Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) has fled his suffocating home in the Bronx (Jeannie Berlin and Ken Stott are his bickering parents) to tackle life in wide-open Los Angeles. He hopes to get a job from his uncle Phil (Steve Carell), a Hollywood agent who drops celebrity names with the frequency with which the rest of us use words like “a” and “the.”

Phil is so busy (or self centered) that he keeps Bobby cooling his heels for weeks. (It must be noted that unlike your usual Allen protagonist, someone who’s hugely clever and bent on a career in the arts, Bobby is pretty much an average guy.)

Finally Phil sees the kid and assigns his girl Friday, Vonnie (Stewart), to show his nephew around Tinsel Town.

Between gawking at the homes of the stars the two youngsters hit it off. But unbeknownst to Bobby, Vonnie is having an affair with a married man. This is no small roadblock to their relationship.


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Charlize Theron in "Dark Places"

Charlize Theron in “Dark

“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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