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Posts Tagged ‘Jennifer Lawrence’

Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem

“MOTHER!” My rating: C 

121 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Darren Aronofsky is a master filmmaker whose grasp of movie technology and cinema’s esthetic possibilities has few equals.

But  you’ve got to wonder about his choice of subject matter.

There are moments of pure genius on display in “mother!”,  along with a sustained depiction of madness to equal anything ever seen on the screen.

But they are in the service of an eschatological puzzle that will leave most audience members scratching their heads.  The movie is clever to a fault, but at the risk of emotionally alienating all but the most die-hard theological geeks.

You know we’re in the world of heavy-duty (if not pretentious) metaphor when all the characters are denied names and identified in the credits as Mother, Him, Man, Woman, Younger Brother, etc.

Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in a remote, formerly splendid country home with her husband, the considerably older Him (Javier Bardem). Him is a novelist with a bad case of writer’s block; he can’t make the ideas flow and it’s making him pathetic and cranky.

Mother, meanwhile, busies herself with restoring the old mansion, a job she has taken on singlehandedly.

Michelle Pfeiffer, Ed Harris

Their isolated lives are interrupted by Man (Ed Harris), who claims to be a physician doing research nearby. He’s been misinformed that Mother and Him are running a b&b.  When Him learns that Man is a big fan of his writing, he invites the visitor to move into a guest room.

Mother isn’t thrilled, and is even more upset when Man’s wife, Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer), shows up as well.  They are the guests from hell:  smoking, drinking, acting like they own the joint and making out like horny teens. This part of “mother!”, at least, is wickedly funny.

Woman is a nosy meddler who wants to know the nature of her hosts’ sex lives and presses Mother for an explanation of their childless state.

Mother pleads with her husband to evict the interlopers, but his ego is desperate for their fawning praise. Moreover, Man appears to be dying of lung cancer. What kind of person would toss him out?

The first half of the film climaxes with a murder.

In its wake Him finds inspiration, writes a new novel and impregnates Mother.

All seems copacetic until the night thousands of Him’s fans descend upon the house and begin a riot, holding orgiastic ceremonies, stripping the house for souvenirs and, eventually, turning their attention to the infant  Mother delivers in the midst of these cabalistic reveries. (Shades of “Rosemary’s Baby”!) (more…)

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Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt

Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt

“PASSENGERS”  My rating: C

118 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

The problems plaguing the futuristic “Passengers” can be crystallized in the film’s mutating marketing campaign.

For months the film’s trailer has sold a story about a century-long intergalactic space flight during which two passengers — played by Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt — awaken prematurely from hibernation.

Faced with a lifetime with just each other (their thousands of fellow travelers will slumber on for another 90 years), these two must fashion a new existence for themselves — Adam and Eve in their own mechanical Eden.

This week a new “Passengers” ad campaign hit our TV screens. It’s selling the film as a sci-fi romantic comedy.

Am I the only one who smells desperation?

In truth, “Passengers” is more interesting than either approach suggests. But having established a crushing moral conundrum as its premise, the filmmakers don’t know what to do with it.

Jim (Pratt) is among 5,000 passengers and 250 crew members snoozing their way to a colonized planet on the other side of the galaxy. He awakens from his slumbers to be told by hologram guides that the ship has arrived at its destination.

Except that the arrival is actually 90 years in the future, and Jim has the vast ship to himself. His sole companion is a robot bartender (Michael Sheen) programmed only for small talk.

Like Robinson Crusoe, Jim is overwhelmed by loneliness. His beard and hair grow shaggy. Though he is a mechanical engineer, he cannot put himself back to sleep or interfere with the ship’s automatic functions.

Even an SOS sent back to Earth will require 55 years for a response.

And then, another passenger, the beautiful Aurora (Lawrence) awakens in a way I won’t spoil, but the issues it raises spoil the movie. (more…)

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Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) comforts her daughter, Christy, in JOY.

Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) comforts her daughter, Christy, in JOY.

“JOY”  My rating: B

124 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

The rags-to-riches story, a key element  of American mythology, usually concludes with  dreams realized and a bright future ahead.

Leave it to David O. Russell and his perennial muse Jennifer Lawrence (they collaborated on “The Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle”) to poke around in the dark aftermath of dreams that come true.

“Joy” is inspired by the true story of Joy Mangano, a single mother who rose from poverty to multimillionaire after inventing the self-wringing Miracle Mop.

But Russell uses Mangano’s “inspirational” story as a launchpad for a mostly fictional comedy of dysfunction. Then he follows it up with a near-tragic look at how success brings its own set of difficulties.

Joy (Lawrence) has a spectacularly messed-up family. For starters this young woman is perennially flirting with financial and personal disaster. She works as a ticket clerk for a big airline, a gig that results in daily insults from the flying public. And she’s about to be laid off.

Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper

At home she must deal with two children and a slew of bizarre relations. Her ex husband Tony (Edgar Ramirez), who aspires to be the Latino Tom Jones, lives in the basement where he endlessly plans the big break that will never come.

Joy’s mother Terry (an almost unrecognizable Virginia Madsen) refuses to leave her bedroom and spends most waking hours watching the TV soap operas she has carefully videotaped. (A running gag finds real former soap stars like Susan Lucci and  Donna Mills appearing in the absurdly awful shows to which Terry is addicted.)

Joy’s father Rudy (Robert DeNiro), operator of an auto repair shop and an Archie Bunker-ish racist, is once again on the romance market, his latest marriage having gone belly up. He is reduced to taking up an uneasy residence in Joy’s cellar with his former son-in-law.

Joy’s stepsister Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm) has all sorts of sibling issues.

The only person in the house who seems halfway normal is Grandma Mimi (Diane Ladd), who has always predicted greatness for Joy and narrates the story — even from the grave. (more…)

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Christian Bale...fat, bald, and out of control

Christian Bale…fat, bald, and out of control

“AMERICAN HUSTLE” My rating: C+ (Opens wide on Dec. 18)

138 minutes | MPAA rating: R

David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” is crammed with near-brilliant moments and performances.

Yet the film itself left me cold. More than cold. Alienated.

Granted, mine seems to be a minority opinion. Other scribes are tossing words like “masterpiece” and “great American comedy”  at “Hustle.” Maybe they’re seeing something I missed.

Amy Adams

Amy Adams

Inspired (loosely) by the ABSCAM operation of the late 1970s (when the FBI lured — entrapped? — politicians into taking bribes through an elaborate ruse that involved a phony oil sheik), it’s the story of a couple of con artists who get swept up by the feds and, to avoid prosecution, agree to help the government set up an even bigger con.

The film begins with a superb wordless introduction in which con man/dry cleaning magnate Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) emerges from the shower and gets to work on the face he presents to the world. The normally cut Bale (he’s Batman, fer chrissakes) put on maybe 40 pounds to play the tubby, middle-aged Irving.  Now he stands in front of a mirror creating, strand by strand, spray by spray, the world’s most atrocious comb-over ‘do. It’s awesomely funny, in an I-don’t-believe-what-I’m-seeing way.

Irving is smoking a stogie at a pool party when he gets a glimpse of Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), a young woman on the make both professionally and romantically. He’s ugly, she’s beautiful (unlike every other director in America, Russell looks at Amy Adams and sees rampant sexuality, God love him) and they bond over jazz. Soon he’s teaching her the ropes of financial scamming, and together they’re enjoying an erotic field day.

The catch is that Irving is married to the gold-digging Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), a quintessential Jersey princess. She won’t divorce him and, anyway, Irving is absolutely crazy about her young son, whom he has adopted.

(more…)

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X-MEN: FIRST CLASS  My rating: B-

132 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

There are moments in “X-Men: First Class” that are so good they almost don’t belong in a superhero movie.

This is a backhanded compliment, I know. But that’s how I feel about the genre — the less it’s like a superhero movie, the better.

And before it backslides into the usual cliches, “First Class” delivers some very interesting stuff.

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“THE BEAVER”  My rating: B- 

91 minutes | PG-13

Adore him or abhor him, Mel Gibson is the reason to see Jody Foster’s “The Beaver.”

As Walter Black, a toy company executive sliding into a paralyzing world of depression, Gibson registers a degree of mental anguish that is shocking.

In his eyes there is so much hurt, fear and weary resignation that your first impression is that his recent public humiliations (drunken driving, anti-Semitic remarks, crazy violent telephone rants to the mother of his youngest child) have done a devastating number on the formerly cocky movie heartthrob.

Here’s another explanation: Maybe Gibson is just a really good actor.

(more…)

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