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Posts Tagged ‘Daniel Bruhl’

Jessica Chastain

“THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE”  My rating: C (Opens wide on March 28)

124 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

“The Zookeeper’s wife” — destined to be recalled as the-movie-where-Jessica-Chastain-hugs-all-the-cute-baby-animals — is based on a marvelous true story of heroism.

So why does it feel so flat-footed and indifferent, so drained of blood and emotion? How come almost nothing clicks?

Maybe it’s a case of going to the well one too many times.  We’ve seen enough Holocaust-themed movies in recent years that it takes something really special to get our attention.  And this  adaptation of Diane Ackerman’s non-fiction bestseller from screenwriter Angela Workman and director Niki Caro is almost unbearably conventional.

In pre-war Warsaw, Antonina Zabinski (Chastain) and her husband Jan (Johan Heldenbergh) operate the local zoo.  It’s a pretty idyllic life…every morning Antonina hops on her bicycle and pedals around the grounds, calling out good mornings to the various animals. She’s followed by a gangly young camel that views her as an adoptive mother.

But war comes to Poland and parts of the zoo are flattened by Nazi bombs. Pretty soon the place is overrun with Germans, including zoologist Lutz Heck (Daniel Bruhl), who operates the Berlin Zoo and offers to take the Zabinskis’ prime breeding stock to a safe place. Oh, yeah…Heck has a crush on Antonina. That will create problems down the road.

The Zabinskis and their young son watch in dismay as Warsaw’s Jews — including some of their friends — are rounded up and confined to an overcrowded, filthy ghetto. They come up with a daring plan.

They offer to turn the zoo into a breeding center for pigs.  The German army needs fresh meat, right?

At the same time, Antonina and Jan will allow their home to serve as a way station for Jews on the run.  The Germans will never think to look for the fugitives right under their noses.

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Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper

“BURNT” My rating: C+ (Opens wide on Oct. 30)

100 minutes | MPAA rating: R

There’s plenty of gastro porn on display in “Burnt”: fruits and veggies exploding in vibrant colors, lusciously marbled meats, clouds of steam and rings of blue flame, plates of edibles arranged with the precision/happy chaos of a modernist painting.

In most other regards director John Wells’ film about a megalomaniacal chef working his way toward redemption is standard-issue stuff. Yeah, it accurately captures the politics and pecking order of a high-end restaurant kitchen (as did the recent sleeper hit “Chef”).

But the big story, the big drama, never materializes.

The film has an invaluable asset in Bradley Cooper, who even when playing a dick oozes charisma. But this yarn (screenplay by Steven Knight, story by Michael Kalesniko) relies too much on stock characters and time-tested dramatic devices without ever digging deep.

Adam Jones (Cooper) is a once-acclaimed chef at a top Paris restaurant. But his career ran aground on drugs, drink and women (a common-enough narrative among this breed) and he retreated to New Orleans where he got sober, gave up sleeping around, and got a lowly job shucking oysters.  After working his way through exactly 1 million of the mollusks (he kept meticulous records of his shucking activities) Adam walked out the door and caught a flight to London.

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