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Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer

“FINAL PORTRAIT” My rating: B (Opens April 20 at the Tivoli and Glenwood Arts)

90 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Genius marches to its own drummer, expecting mere mortals to keep time. And if we can’t maintain the pace, genius will  blithely leave us behind.

Stanley Tucci’s droll “Final Portrait” depicts a real-life encounter between genius in the form of artist Alberto Giacometti and a young man whose idol worship will come back to bite him in the posterior.

Based on James Lord’s 1965 memoir A Giacometti Portrait, the terse film, punctuated by deadpan comedic moments, depicts a 1964  incident in which Lord, an American journalist who often wrote about the art scene, agreed to pose for Giacometti in his Paris studio.  At the time the artist — known worldwide for his elongated sculptures — was concentrating on painting.

Lord is played by Armie Hammer as a handsome but bland young man, probably gay, who jumps at the chance to spent time in the presence of greatness. Giacometti, portrayed with rumpled self-absorption by Geoffrey Rush, says the sittings will take only a couple of days.

Maybe he honestly believes that. In any case, the three-day sitting turns into a three-week slog, with Lord dutifully showing up every day to sit while Giacometti paints, chain smokes, curses, repeatedly starts over and finds numerous opportunities to lay down his brush for alcoholic and sexual diversions. What started out as an art fan’s thrill turns into an existential dilemma.

Time after time Lord must cancel the plane tickets for his return to New York. He detects a recurring pattern in the artist’s  reluctance — refusal even — to finish a work, and begins playing mind games to nudge Giacometti toward completing the portrait.

All this unfolds in the artist’s studio, a cellar-like dustbin right out of “La Boheme” filmed in desaturated hues that cloak everything save human flesh in a gray pall.

And there are other players here. Like Giacometti’s brother Diego (Tony Shalhoub, almost unrecognizable), an artist in his own right who spends most of his time puttering around the edges of his older sibling’s environment and vaguely commiserating with Lord.

There’s Mrs. Giocametti (Sylvie Testud), who is not thrilled that her husband has become so obsessed with a local prostitute (Clemence Poesy) that he buys her a spiffy sports car.

 

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Johnny Depp

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES”  My rating: C- 

129 minutes  | MPAA rating: PG-13

At this late stage audiences for “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” should know better than to expect any surprises.

Like all of its predecessors, “Dead Men” is as shiny and polished as a hand-blown glass Christmas ornament — and just as empty.

The plot (the screenplay is credited to Jeff Nathanson) is predictably incomprehensible.

Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the grown son of series regular Will Turner (Orlando Bloom, who has maybe 90 seconds of screen time), is determined to save his father from eternal enslavement on the sunken ship the Flying Dutchman. (Thwaites is such a bland screen presence that he achieves the near impossible by making Bloom seem dynamic.)

To break that spell Henry will have to obtain several powerful talismans:  a pirate diary containing a hidden map, a compass with mystical properties,  Poseidon’s trident.

He bickers with a young woman, Carina (Kaya Scodelario), who is so much smarter than the oafish and superstitious men around her that she’s repeatedly condemned as a witch. Wanna bet they’re going to move past bickering and fall in love?

The series regulars — among them Geoffrey Rush as the dour Captain Barbossa and the crew members of the Black Pearl — give their usual one-note performances. Most of these characters were set in stone four movies ago and haven’t evolved one whit.

That goes especially for star Johnny Depp, whose Captain Jack Sparrow remains an unchanging and buffoonish blend of swash and swish. For this viewer, anyway, the charm wore off several films back. (more…)

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“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES”  My rating: C

137 minutes | PG-13

“On Stranger Tides,” the fourth entry in Disney’s phenomenally profitable “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, is at least an improvement over the last two sequels.

It’s still not a particularly good movie (though it remains hugely impressive from a technical standpoint) but at least it didn’t make me want to pound a handspike into my forehead.

“Pirates” 2 and 3 were runaround movies in which the principal players would first run over here, then run over there without a whole lot of reason. Basically director Gore Verbinski was mounting special effects extravaganzas in which plot and characters were a distant afterthought.

Now helmed by Rob Marshall (who followed up on his smash “Chicago” with the dismal “Memoirs of a Giesha” and “Nine” and badly needs a commercial hit), the franchise has jettisoned (more…)

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