Posts Tagged ‘Julianne Moore’

Ben Platt

“DEAR EVAN HANSEN”  My rating: B-

137 minutes | MPAA rating PG-13

“Dear Evan Hansen” is a heartfelt humanist statement about teen suicide.

“Dear Evan Hansen” is an exercise in cynicism.

Which statement is true?  Having just watched the new film based on the Tony-winning Broadway musical, I’d have to say that both are.

Which is a problem.

Ben Platt reprises his stage performance as the title character, a troubled teen whose life is turned upside down by a classmate’s suicide. 

Platt brings to the performance a spectacularly good singing voice (what range! what a way with lyrics!).  He also is called upon to play a character a good decade younger than himself, and while it may have worked in the vastness of a Broadway theater, the cinematic closeup is his enemy.

The film begins with young Evan being pushed by his overworked single mom (Julianne Moore) to stay on his meds (he’s chronically depressed) and make some friends.  The kid is a high school senior but is painfully shy and withdrawn, utterly uncertain about himself.  

He has a kind-of cohort in the tech dweeb Jared (Nik Dodani), who seems to keep Evan around because he’s the one person he can feel superior to.  And Evan has a kinda crush on Zoe (Kaitlyn Dever), a couple of years behind him.

A hallway encounter with Zoe’s moody older brother Connor (Colton Ryan) sets the plot in motion. As part of his mental health therapy, Evan is supposed to write encouraging letters to  himself (“Dear Evan Hansen…”) and in an episode of near-bullying, Connor makes off with a printout of one of these self-addressed missives.

Next day it is announced that Connor has killed himself.  His mom (Amy Adams) and stepfather (Danny Pino) have found the Dear Evan note among Connor’s effects and wrongly conclude that Connor had written it to Evan, that in fact the two were best friends.

Rather than tell the hurtful truth that Connor was virtually a total stranger, Evan goes along with the deception, using Jared to create a backlog of phony emails between Evan and Connor chronicling their relationship.

Mom and Dad are relieved that their dead kid had a hidden life in which he wasn’t perennially miserable. Sister Zoe isn’t so sure;  she thinks her older brother was an SOB to the end.

Not only does Evan find himself being adopted by Connor’s family, he becomes the focus of a kickstarter campaign to honor the late student by establishing a park in an orchard that plays a key role in the fictional relationship Evan is promulgating.  Classmate Alana (Amandla Stenberg) is the driving force; she attempts to assuage her own unhappiness by organizing for various charities and causes.

Kaitlyn Dever, Ben Platt

At some point, of course, this house of cards will collapse.  Evan will emerge older and a bit wiser, but this is definitely NOT a feel-good experience.

Screenwriter Steven Levenson (adapting his book for the stage musical) and director Stephen Chbosky (a specialist in tormented youth, i.e. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and “Wonder”) have done an effective job of opening up the stage show, delivering rapid-fire montages of teen life and angst (like “Bye Bye Birdie” for pessimists) and employing judiciously selected cutaway shots to flesh out what otherwise would be one guy standing alone and singing.

The handful of musical numbers provided by Justin Paul and Benj Pasek effectively peel away the layers of the characters’ anxieties. But none had a tune that stuck with me, with most falling into a sort of Sondheim-esque esoterica. There is only one dance number, a fantasy celebration of friendship between Evan and the now-dead Connor that is almost jarring in its upbeat chirpiness.

That said, Moore, Adams, Pino, Dever, Stenberg and Ryan all do their own singing and they’re perfectly adequate.  Top vocal honors, though, go to Platt, who really ought to do an album of classic Broadway show tunes. 

In the end “Dear Evan Hansen” finds itself stranded between sympathizing with teen angst and satirizing it.  In particular there are the sardonic observations of Evan’s pal Jared, who looks at his fellow teens with a jaundiced eye that colors the whole experience.  

Perhaps the film will have the same sort of social impact as the stage show, which concluded with info about teen suicide prevention projected on the stage. If so, great.

But as someone well past his teens, I found “Dear Evan Hansen” a deeply ambivalent experience.

| Robert W. Butler

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Julianne Moore, John Turturro

“GLORIA BELL” My rating: B-

102 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Julianne Moore elevates every film she’s in, and she’s pretty much the reason to see “Gloria Bell,” an American remake by Sebastian Lelio of his 2013 Chilean drama “Gloria.”

As the title character — a middle-aged divorcee whose main pleasure is hanging around L.A.’s retro disco dance clubs with other folk her age   — Moore hides behind outsized glasses and a semi-mousey makeup job…neither of which begin to hide her star quality.

Gloria’s fixation on ’80s dance music — she’s in constant singalong mode whenever cruising with the car radio — softens the hard edges of her life.

She’s been single for a dozen years. Her son (Michael Cera) is currently a solo dad (his wife apparently has abandoned the family);  her daughter (Caren Pistorius) is in a long-distance romance with an extreme surfer from Sweden.  Neither offspring seems particularly warm toward her.

She works at an insurance company where her specialty is coddling customers shaken by auto accidents.

The script by Lelio and Alice Johnson Boher is a love story…sorta.  Alice meets newly divorced Arnold (John Tuturro) at a dance club where he stares at her from afar and defuses her sullen mood by asking if she’s always so happy.

He woos Alice with  paintball (he owns a paintball preserve; she turns out to be a dead shot) and their shared love of boogying down on the dance floor. And he reads funny/romantic poetry to her.

But there’s a problem. Arnold cannot break away from his needy ex and their even more needy daughters.  He’s at their mercy day and night, and it doesn’t take Alice long to figure out she’s always going to be a runner up in the race for his affections.

“Grow a pair,” she tells him.


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Colin Firth, Taron Egerton


141 minutes | MPAA rating: R

For a movie that isn’t actually about anything, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is ridiculously diverting.

Those who saw the original “Kingsman: The Secret Service” a few years back will be treated to more of the same, only on steroids.  This sequel is bigger, faster, noisier and funnier than the original.

Plus, this time around writer/director Matthew Vaughn shows a surer hand at balancing the movie’s over-the-top violence with a refined comic sensibility.

Things begin with our hero Eggsy (Taron Egerton) trying to juggle his duties as a member of the super-secret Kingsman security apparatus against his romance with Tilde (Hanna Alström), an honest-to-God Swedish princess.  For a former car thief with a taste for a white rapper wardrobe (sweats, ball caps), Eggsy has come a long way in a brief time.

But it all comes crashing down when the entire Kingsman operation is destroyed in one fell swoop.  The only survivors are Eggsy (who was having dinner with the King of Sweden when it all happened) and the bald, tech-savvy Merlin (Mark Strong).

What happened? Well, an international drug lord named Poppy (Julianne Moore) and her Golden Circle gang are clearing the deck prior to a big push for world domination.  A nostalgia freak, Poppy lives in seclusion in the Cambodian jungle in her own private theme park…imagine Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A. redone with a “Happy Days” theme.

She’s even kidnapped Elton John (playing himself) so that he can perform her favorite hits at will. (This year’s best bit of celebrity casting.)

Seeking allies, Eggsy and Merlin travel to Kentucky where they encounter the Statesmen, their Yank counterparts, a band of American free agents posing as a distilling concern.  These cowboys — literally…we’re talking Stetsons, boots and electric bullwhips capable of slicing steel — have names like Champagne (Jeff Bridges), Tequila (Channing Tatum), Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) and Ginger (Halle Berry).

Oh yes…the Statesmen have been providing shelter to an amnesiac who has suffered a rather nasty bullet wound in the noggin.  He is, of course, Harry Hart aka Galahad (Colin Firth), Eggsy’s mentor and a fatality (or so we thought) in the first film. (I’m not giving anything away here…Firth is all over the ads.)


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Julianne Moore, Ellen Page

Julianne Moore, Ellen Page


“FREEHELD” My rating: B-

103 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

A great tale trumps — just barely — mediocre delivery in “Freeheld,” a fictional version of the same story told in the 2007 Oscar-winning documentary of the same name.

Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore) is a police detective in Ocean County, NJ. She’s a tough, creative and much-honored cop, admired by her peers and especially her womanizing (so we’re told) partner, Dane Wells (Michael Shannon).

Laurel is also a closeted lesbian, so worried that her career will stall if her sexual orientation becomes public that she has virtually no personal life.

Then she meets tomboyish Stacie Andree (Ellen Page).  Love blossoms, although the very out Stacie has a hard time dealing with Laurel’s secretive ways.

When Laurel is diagnosed with late stage cancer, she goes public with her sexuality by asking the Ocean County Board of Freeholders (basically the county commission, which runs the local police) to assign her pension benefits to her partner Stacie, who will at least be able to keep the house they have purchased and rennovated.

But all this takes place a decade ago, at a time when local pols weren’t about to set a precedent by giving a gay employee rights normally reserved for married heterosexuals.  So begins a long and painful legal and public relations process as Laurel becomes ever more frail.



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Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore

“MAP TO THE STARS” My rating: C

111 minutes | MPAA rating: R

There have been plenty of great movies about Hollywood.

“Sunset Boulevard.”

“The Bad and the Beautiful.”

“The Player.”

David Cronenberg’s “Map to the Stars” is not one of them.

It’s got a terrific cast (including recent Oscar winner Julianne Moore) and offers many observations about the pathetically fragile egos of those caught up in the celebrity/career cycle, and of the moral vacuum in which the entertainment industry operates.

What it hasn’t got is one character — just one — who isn’t either homicidal, mental, or otherwise set apart from the rest of us average folk. Now this may be a perfectly accurate reflection of life in LaLa Land,  but it makes for an uninvolving movie experience.

The screenplay by Bruce Wagner (“Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills”) follows the template of a classic Robert Altman film.  Take an evocative setting (Hollywood, Nashville, a wedding, a health food convention) and toss into it a dozen or so characters whose trajectories intersect at various points.

It begins with the arrival in L.A. of Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), a fresh face from Middle America seeking her future and fortune in the city of angels. Did I say she had a fresh face? Not pecisely. Agatha has a huge scar on her left cheek and wears old-fashioned over-the-elbow lady’s gloves to hide what she says are burn marks.

She hires a limousine driver (Robert Pattinson, late of the “Twilight” franchise) to give her a tour of the sights and of celebrity residences. He’s actually an actor, he says, and is contemplating Scientology. “I was thinking about converting. Be a good career move.”


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Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore

“STILL ALICE” My rating: B+

101 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

“Still Alice” deals with such a disturbing topic — early-onset Alzheimer’s — that most of us will decline to watch it, and those who do will take their seats with the butterflies of trepidation in full flight.

It is well, then, that a big reward awaits those who take the plunge.

Julianne Moore has won the best actress Oscar for her performance in Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland’s drama, and it takes only about 10 minutes to see why. She delivers a brilliant turn that buoys “Still Alice” just when it seems too much to bear.

Moore plays Alice, who at age 50 seems to have it all. She’s a professor of linguistics at Columbia University and the author of a respected book. She has a husband (Alec Baldwin, doing a 180 from his frequent sleazeball portrayals) who clearly adores her.

The couple have two overachieving offspring: a lawyer (Kate Bosworth) and a doctor (Hunter Parrish). Their third (Kristen Stewart) blew off college to become an actress — not that anyone is paying her to act.

It is while guest-lecturing at a West Coast university that Alice suddenly loses her train of thought. After a tense moment she recovers nicely (“I knew I shouldn’t have had that Champagne”) and continues.

A moment of forgetfulness, nothing more.


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Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johanssen

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johanssen

“DON JON” My rating: B+ (Opening wide of Sept. 27)

90 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Former child actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt has displayed his grown-up chops in recent years in everything from big-budget sci-fi tent pole pictures to edgy indie fare.

His feature writing/directing debut, “Don Jon,” falls into the latter category if only because of the subject matter.  Basically, it’s a comedy about masturbation.

It’s raunchy.  Also very, very funny. And beneath the lewdness, “Don Jon” has something like a heart of gold.

Gordon-Levitt appears in just about every shot as Jon, a cocky Jersey Shore Guido with a formidable reputation with the women. He’s got the look made famous by MTV – ripped torso and a ‘do that’s borderline skinhead on the sides, while the hair on top is combed straight back and gelled into a tornado-proof finish.

You might view Jon as this generation’s Tony Manero (the John Travolta character in “Saturday Night Fever”) with one major exception:  Jon has access to the internet, which means he can watch porn any time he likes. Which is pretty much all the time.

As Jon explains early on in voiceover narration – and he’s just being honest here – while he loves doin’ the ladies, he’s never quite at ease in the sack. He’s too conscious of the need to please, too uptight about the stuff he doesn’t want to do (cunnilingus, which disgusts him) and too disappointed about the stuff many girls won’t do (fellatio).

Which is where porn comes in. Snuggled all warm and naked in front of his computer, Jon can get his rocks off to just about any sexual scenario he can think of, and he doesn’t have to cuddle afterward. This guy buys Kleenex in bulk.


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“CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE” My rating: B- (Opens wide on July 29)

118 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13 

“Crazy, Stupid, Love” isn’t just about cheating. It IS  a cheat.

But if you can buy its improbable premise, its jarring and sudden shifts in tone and its desperate desire to be all things to all people, you may find moments of real substance here.

It helps that this romantic comedy from directors Glenn Ficarra and John  Requa (“I Love You Phillip Morris”) features an astonishingly strong cast with several breakout performances.

Suburban husband/dad Cal (Steve Carell) is blindsided when Emily (Julianne Moore), his wife of 24 years, announces she’s been having an affair with a co-worker and wants a divorce.

Sad sack Cal finds himself sitting night after night in a bar bemoaning his fate and watching other people score. An expert in that pursuit is the suave, slick, self-assured Jacob (Ryan Gosling), who goes home every night with a different woman. (more…)

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Carla Gugino and Timothy Olyphant in "Elektra Luxx"

“ELEKTRA LUXX” (Now available)

I’ll watch Carla Gugino in anything (“Spy Kids” movies excepted); apparently I’m not alone in this.

Which may account for the straight-to-video success of 2009’s “Women in Trouble” and now this sequel, “Elektra Luxx.”

Both comedies feature Gugina — ravishing in blond wig and cleavage-challenging fashions — as Elektra Luxx, a legendary porn star. This new entry finds Elektra retired from the skin game and pregnant with the baby of a recently deceased rock star.

The films — both directed by Sebastian Gutierrez — are story thin and smarm rich. Basically they’re a series of loosely-related comic episodes (more…)

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