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Posts Tagged ‘kristen stewart’

Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams

“CERTAIN WOMEN” My rating: B-

107 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The cinematic minimalism practiced by writer/director Kelly Reichardt can be deceiving. Films like “Old Joy” and “Wendy and Lucy” creep up on you slowly…sometimes a bit of time has to pass before they set up shop inside a viewer’s head and a movie’s little moments coalesce into an overall feeling.

“Certain Women” is based on three Maile Meloy short stories, all set in a small burg in the Pacific Northwest and each concentrating on a woman struggling for a degree of independence and recognition. The stories  stand alone, but characters from one might pop up in a cameo role in another.

In the first a lawyer (Laura Dern) is called to help negotiate with a client (Jared Harris) whose workman’s compensation case is going nowhere. Now the poor schlub has taken extreme measures. He’s armed himself and invaded the offices of his former employer, taking a security guard hostage. The local sheriff wants the lawyer to get him to surrender.

In the second story a wife and mother (Michelle Williams) is pushing her foot-dragging husband (James Le Gros) to build a new family home on a few acres out in the woods. Much of the running time is devoted to her negotiations with a crusty old local (Rene Auberjonois) to acquire a pile of sandst0ne rocks that have been sitting in his rural front yard for at least 50 years.

In the third episode a loner stablehand (Lily Gladstone) becomes quietly obsessed with the new law school grad (Kristen Stewart) who weekly drives four hours each way to hold evening training sessions on education law for local public school teachers and administrators.

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eqmaxresdefault“EQUALS” My rating: B-

101 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

The dystopian future depicted in Drake Doremus’ “Equals” is on one level pretty attractive.

The people are mostly young, well fed and moderately good looking. Everyone wears white clothing and works and lives in uber-modern buildings of glass, plastic and concrete. There appears to be no crime.

Also, no joy. This civilization — formed after a war that left most of the Earth a smoking ruin — views emotion as a sickness or perhaps a crime. Citizens are bombarded with public service announcements alerting them to the symptoms of SOS — “switched-on syndrome” — in which they will begin to be overcome by emotions.

It’s like a being told you have AIDS…as the disease progresses the sufferers will become ever more unstable. Eventually they will be institutionalized and destroyed. Many choose suicide.

Early in “Equals” Silas (Nicholas Hoult) is diagnosed with an early stage of the disease. His coworkers are understanding but cautious…he won’t be required to wear a face mask, but his work station will be set apart from theirs.

He senses that a co-worker, Nia (Kristen Stewart), may also have SOS. Slowly they are drawn to commit the ultimate sin: A love affair.

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Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart

Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart

“CAFE SOCIETY” My rating: B-

96 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

It’s tough getting a handle on Woody Allen’s “Cafe Society.”

It’s not a drama, certainly. Its approach is too tangential and distant for any sort of emotional intensity.

But it’s not exactly a comedy, either. Despite a few chuckles there’s a noted paucity of laugh lines, and those bits of dialogue that do register are noteworthy not for their hilarity but rather for their weary resignation. (“Life is a comedy written by a sadistic comedy writer.”)

And despite being set in 1930s Hollywood, it has none of the nostalgic warmth of “Radio Days,” Allen’s memorable reverie about growing up in NYC in the glory days of radio.

So what does “Cafe Society” have going for it?

Well, good performances from Kristen Stewart and Blake Lively, spectacularly good cinematography from Vittorio Storaro (“Apocalypse Now,” “The Last Emperor”) and detailed production design courtesy of Allen’s frequent collaborator Santo Loquasto.

As the picture begins young Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) has fled his suffocating home in the Bronx (Jeannie Berlin and Ken Stott are his bickering parents) to tackle life in wide-open Los Angeles. He hopes to get a job from his uncle Phil (Steve Carell), a Hollywood agent who drops celebrity names with the frequency with which the rest of us use words like “a” and “the.”

Phil is so busy (or self centered) that he keeps Bobby cooling his heels for weeks. (It must be noted that unlike your usual Allen protagonist, someone who’s hugely clever and bent on a career in the arts, Bobby is pretty much an average guy.)

Finally Phil sees the kid and assigns his girl Friday, Vonnie (Stewart), to show his nephew around Tinsel Town.

Between gawking at the homes of the stars the two youngsters hit it off. But unbeknownst to Bobby, Vonnie is having an affair with a married man. This is no small roadblock to their relationship.

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Sam Waterston, Kristin Stewart

Sam Waterston, Kristin Stewart

“ANESTHESIA” My rating: B-

90 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Like the Oscar-winning “Crash,” Tim Blake Nelson’s “Anesthesia” delivers a handful of well-known performers in a series of interlocking stories built around a theme.

That theme, as close as I can tell, is about the anesthetizing elements of modern urban life, which tends to isolate us and numb us to our feelings and those of our fellow man.

The film begins with a brutal mugging. In the lobby of a Manhattan apartment building a white-haired man (Sam Waterston) is stabbed, robbed and left for dead. From that traumatic introduction the film then flashes back in time to reveal the victim’s recent past as well as the lives of others involved in the incident.

Waterston plays Walter, an NYU philosophy professor who, only as he nears retirement, realizes how little he actually knows. “I used to believe in nothing,” Walter says. “Now I believe in everything.”

One of the things he believes in is offering a helping hand to students like Sophie (Kristen Stewart), a bright young woman who nevertheless is addicted to burning her own flesh with a hot curling iron.  Only then does she really feel anything.

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Kristen Stewart, Juliette Binoche

Kristen Stewart, Juliette Binoche

“CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA” My rating: B 

124 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Juliette Binoche is just about perfect in “The Clouds of Sils Maria,” playing a middle-aged actress wrestling with issues of aging and art. Of course we expect excellence from Binoche.

What we don’t expect is that Kristen Stewart, the sullen star of the “Twilight” blockbusters,  would more than hold her own with the veteran French actress in an extended battle of one-on-one acting. (If you’ve seen Stewart’s work in indie efforts like “The Cake Eaters,” “Adventureland,” “On the Road”  or “Stil Alice” you know she’s got chops never put to use in her over-inflated vampire saga.)

Stewart — who won a French Cesar Award for her performance — plays Val, the personal assistant to Binoche’s Maria, and from the film’s first frame she is an organizational dervish, simultaneously fielding calls on two cellphones, scheduling appointments and running interference for her famous employer.

Val is more than just a competent social secretary. She is Maria’s confidant, booster, career consultant and, on some level, friend. When Maria has trouble making up her mind or second-guesses her choices — all too common occurrences — Val knows just what buttons to push, what issues to raise to nudge the older woman to a decision.

Writer/director Oliver Assayas’ film centers on a new stage production of the play that made Maria a star at age 18. Back then she was cast as the young office worker who seduces and gradually destroys her boss, a woman 25 years older.

Now, though, Maria will play the older woman. Her cruel young lover is to be portrayed by Jo-Ann (Chloe Grace Moretz), a charismatic young star whose talent is frequently eclipsed by her Lohan-esque bad-girl behavior.

The bulk of the film unfolds in a house on a mountainside in the small Swiss enclave of Sils Maria, where  the low-lying clouds are bizarre and beautiful.

Maria and Val have taken up residence there to prepare for the production. They spend much time running lines from the play — Val reads the younger woman’s role — and dissecting Maria’s conflicted feelings about having to renegotiate the drama from the perspective of a mature but insecure woman. (more…)

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Sam Riley as Sal Paradise/Jack Keroac; Garret Hedlund as Dean Moriarty/Jack Cassady

Sam Riley as Sal Paradise/Jack Keroac; Garrett Hedlund as Dean Moriarty/Neal Cassady

“ON THE ROAD”  My rating: B (Opens March 29 at the Glenwood Arts)

124 minutes | MPAA rating: R

 “That’s not writing. It’s typing.

Such was Truman Capote’s withering critique of Jack Keroac’s “On the Road.”

Having long assumed that Keroac’s stream-of-consciousness beat odyssey was unfilmable, I was pleasantly surprised by Brazilian  director Walter Salles’ intelligent, sensitive and evocative new screen adaptation.

Not that it’s going to please everyone. Like the novel, the film lacks anything like a conventional plot, being a series of episodes experienced over several years and a half-dozen cross-country treks by its protagonist, wannabe writer Sal Paradise.

But Salles, who has given us the Oscar-nominated “Central Station” and “The Motorcycle Diaries” (about the early travels of the young Che Guevera), finds a narrative and visual style that mimics the book’s pleasant ramblings and heartfelt rants. It’s not perfect, but it’s about as good a screen version of this controversial American classic as we’re likely to see.

In large part that’s due to Garrett Hedlund’s superb (I’m tempted to use the word “monumental”) portrayal of Dean Moriarty, the womanizing, overindulging, incredibly charismatic figure based on Keroac’s real-life friend Neal Cassady.

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