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Posts Tagged ‘Gary Oldman’

Shia LaBeouf, Jai Courtney...patrolling an a post-apocalyptic wasteland

Shia LaBeouf, Jai Courtney…patrolling a post-apocalyptic wasteland

“MAN DOWN”  My rating: C (Opens wide on Dec. 2)

92 minutes | MPAA rating: R

There’s enough to admire in Dito Montiel’s “Man Down” that the film’s final reveal — a big fat slice of narrative cheese — feels like even more of a con job than it already is.

Montiel’s screenplay (with Adam G. Simon, who came up with the story) offers no fewer than six different “realities” for its Marine protagonist, Cpl. Gabriel Drummer (Shia LaBeouf).

The first of these realities unfolds in a post-apocalyptic near future. Here Gabriel and his Marine buddy and best friend Devin (Jai Courtney) pick their way through the ruins of an American city.  Bearded and dirty, they are looking for Gabriel’s young son John, who may be the captive of a group of feral survivors.

There are flashbacks to Gabriel’s peaceful home life with his wife Natalie (Kate Mara) and little John (Charlie Shotwell).  Gabriel will soon be shipping out, and he spends as much time as possible with his son.  They even come up with their own military-style code words for “I love you”:  Man Down.

Other passages are devoted to Gabriel and Devin’s basic training under the demanding Sergeant Miller (Tory Kittles), a sado-maso experience that will turn them into efficient fighting men.

One of the movie’s realities takes place in a dusty Marine outpost in Afghanistan where Gabriel is being counseled by Peyton (Gary Oldman), a military shrink.  It appears that Gabriel has undergone a  traumatic experience — and yet another “reality” depicts the day that Gabriel and Devin’s unit was ambushed by enemy fighters.

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Jason Clarke and (beneath the CGI) Andy Serkis

Jason Clarke and (beneath the CGI) Andy Serkis

“DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES”  My rating: B (Opening wide on July 11)

130n minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Despite the overwhelming evidence, there is no rule that big summer blockbuster films have to be insufferably dumb.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is actually pretty smart.

Oh, not in its plotting, which is all too familiar. Or in the acting from the “human” cast, which is perfunctory.

But in creating a  world 10 years after the great ape revolution depicted in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,”  director Matt Reeves (“Let Me In,” “Cloverfield”) and his huge team (the closing credits feel as long as the rest of the movie) have given us a vision that is part Eden, part sci-fi dystopia and populated with monkeys who at their best generate real emotions.

The film begins with a thrilling deer hunt by ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his followers through the primordial greenery of Muir Woods.  Screenwriters Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, and Mark Bomback envision the apes as a sort of undiscovered South American tribe living in a sprawling Ewok-ish town of massive “nests.”

These apes eschew the technology of the humans who once persecuted them, but they do make their own weapons of wood and stone.  Most communicate through sign language (we get subtitles), though Caesar and a few other chimps have learned to speak. They create their own versions of totem poles (assemblages of sticks and animal bones) and some of the females even wear rudimentary jewelry.

Most striking of all, the apes have a school, taught by an orangutan who understands human writing. (In the previous film we learned how the simians gained human-like intelligence as subjects in a military experiment.)

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Gary Oldman as George Smiley

“TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY” My rating: B+ (Opening January 6 at the Glenwood Arts)

127 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Gary Oldman is often described as an actor’s actor…which in his case apparently means an incurable ham.

Oldman’s career is heavily weighted toward over-the-top, push-too-far performances. Sometimes this is forgivable, particularly when he’s in a bad movie and his fierce scenery gnawing is the only remotely entertaining thing in sight.

Too often over the years, though, I’ve found him to be a jarring pothole in a movie’s narrative highway.

Now I can happily report that in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” Oldman gives a marvelously restrained, subtle and carefully modulated performance.

He plays British spymaster George Smiley, the owlish Cold War protagonis of several John LeCarre novels — a role essayed by Alec Guinness in the 1979  PBS adaptation of “TTSS.” And he is quietly wonderful.

The movie’s not too shabby, either. (more…)

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“KUNG FU PANDA 2”  My rating: C

minutes | Rating: G

“Kung Fu Panda 2” is one of the most beautiful animated films ever, with fantastic action scenes, astonishingly detailed “sets” and a filmic sense worthy of any live-action epic.

It’s a good thing it’s so gorgeous, because dramatically it’s pretty much a wash.

Not awful. But not memorable.

This sequel assembles most of the voices from the first “Panda,” especially Jack Black (more…)

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