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Posts Tagged ‘Felicity Jones’

Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsberg

“ON THE BASIS OF SEX” My rating: B

120 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

“RBG,” last year’s documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, was so encyclopedic and emotionally engaging that at first flush a fiction film based on the same material seems superfluous.

Of course, “RBG” didn’t feature an eager and mildly acrobatic bedroom encounter between the young Ruth and her husband Marty. So there’s that.

Directed by Mimi Leder, “On the Basis of Sex” concentrates on the early years of Ginsberg’s legal career and culminates with her arguing a landmark legal case that forced the government to end discrimination based on sex.

If the film follows a predictable David-vs-Goliath path, it is nevertheless informative, accurate (RBG has given it her stamp of approval) and inspiring.

And it succeeds in making its heroine wildly appealing not for her looks or her ability to elicit warm fuzzies but because of her towering intellect and fierce determination. A different kind of leading lady, indeed.

We join Ruth Bader Ginsberg (Felicity Jones) at the 1956 orientation session for Harvard Law School.  She’s one of only nine women in a class of 500; at a special luncheon for the ladies, the dean (Sam Waterston) asks each woman to explain why she deserves a slot that could have gone to a man.

Ooookay, then.

Ruth is clearly p.o.-ed by the numerous displays of chauvinism she encounters, but her style is to buckle down and beat the guys at their own game.  Which she does on a regular basis.

She’s supported in all this by her husband, Marty (Armie Hammer), on his way to becoming a wildly successful tax lawyer but more than happy to be the family’s cook and primary childcare provider while the Missus buckles down with the books.  Not only is Marty a good-natured saint, he looks (in this film, anyway) exactly like Armie Hammer.  The whole package. Which makes his early diagnosis of testicular cancer even more unsettling.

Like the documentary “RBG,” this film alternates between two aspects of its subject’s life. There’s the Ginsbergs’ personal story — by most accounts Marty and Ruth had one of the century’s great marriages. But not all is copacetic. Ruth is excoriated by her teenage daughter as “a bully…and she wants everyone to know how smart she is.”

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Lewis McDougall

Lewis MacDougall

“A MONSTER CALLS” My rating: B- 

108 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

The makers of “A Monster Calls” work so hard to avoid anything resembling sentimental manipulation that the film runs the risk of being emotionally bland.

Blending psychological insight, fantastic images and the most painful of human conditions, this Spanish/U.K. production is nothing if not ambitious.

In describing how a 12-year-old British boy copes with the looming death of his single mother, this film from Spanish director J.A. Bayona wades into some serious territory. But despite a late-breaking emotional crescendo that will have all but the coolest viewers reaching for a hankie, I found much of the film to be curiously detached.

Conor (Lewis McDougall) — described early on as “too old to be a kid, too young to be a man” — has some of the usual adolescent problems, including a trio of schoolyard thugs who revel in beating him up every day.

Things are no better at home where his loving Mum (Felicity Jones) is sinking into chemo-misery while his brittle granny (Sigourney Weaver, attempting but not really mastering an English accent) exudes about as much warmth and sympathy as a prickly pear.

Small wonder that Conor finds refuge in his own imagination. “You’re always off in your own little dream world,” observes one of his classroom tormentors. “What’s there that’s so interesting?”

A lot actually. Every night Conor is visited by a monster, a giant tree creature that uproots itself from a hilltop churchyard and comes stomping to his bedroom window.

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rogue-one-at-act“ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY” My rating: C+

133 minutes | MPAA rating: R

After nearly 40 years of Wookies, Jedis and Imperial storm troopers, am I finally over the whole “Star Wars” thing?

The sad truth is that I was underwhelmed — sometimes flat-out bored — by “Rogue One,” the latest addition to the “SW” universe.

And here’s the thing…it’s  not a bad movie.  Certainly not bad like the three George Lucas-driven prequels were.

“Rogue One” is reasonably well acted and technically flawless. Moreover, it’s an attempt to make a more adult, racially-diverse “Star Wars” film, a stand-alone tale that is darker both thematically (it’s like an intergalactic Alamo where everyone goes down fighting) and visually.

Nevertheless, “Rogue One” is emotionally lifeless. I didn’t care.

Director Gareth Edwards and the producers and writers have worked so hard to hit familiar buttons of “Star Wars” mythology that the resulting film feels generic, as if it were directed by a committee rather than a single visionary individual.

The plot, for those who have been living in the spice mines of Kessel, follows the efforts of a team of rebel spies to steal the plans for the Death Star, an enterprise that will result in the destruction of said moon-sized weapon by Luke Skywalker in the original “Star Wars” movie.

Our heroine is Jyn (Felicity Jones), whose scientist father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) was taken from her to develop the Death Star.  After years of crime and imprisonment, Jyn is given an opportunity by the Rebel Alliance. She will be part of a team tasked with finding Galen and getting those precious plans.

They’re a mixed bag of idealists and pragmatic warriors.

Foremost among them is Cassian (Diego Luna), the ostensible head of the team who, unbeknownst to Jyn, as been secretly ordered to assassinate her father, lest his genius bring the Death Star to completion.

Chirrut (Donnie Yen) is a blind swordsman who relies on The Force to battle enemies. A pretty obvious nod to a subgenre of samurai films, he’s got a grouchy partner (Wen Jiang) who fights with a monstrous hand cannon.

Bodhi (Riz Ahmed) is a pilot who knows his way around the Empire’s military outposts.

Best of the bunch is  K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk), a towering droid made by the Empire but reprogrammed to serve the Rebel Alliance.  Apparently K-2SO also was given a microchip for sarcasm and irony, which he exercises regularly at the expense of his human cohorts. (more…)

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Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones

“LIKE CRAZY” My rating: B- 

90 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

A great screen romance makes those of us in the audience feel that we’re falling in love, too.

By that criteria “Like Crazy” is a just-OK romance that dishes up two hugely attractive young performers, a frustrating dilemma and a big question mark of an ending that is a lot more honest about love than 99 percent of the romance movies you’ve ever encountered.

That was enough for Sundance audiences, who gave the film top jury honors and laid a best actress award on newcomer Felicity Jones.

Well, I can certainly get behind the green-eyed, rosebud-lipped Jones. But I’m not nearly so enthusiastic about Drake Doremus’ film. It’s fun while its young protagonists are falling in love. And then they started acting stupid and much of my sympathy waved bye-bye.

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