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Posts Tagged ‘Laura Linney’

(Left to right) Steve Coogan, Laura Linney, Richard Gere, Rebecca Hall

“THE DINNER”  My rating: C+ 

120 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Few things are quite as frustrating as watching great actors knock themselves out on material that’s not nearly as good as they are.

“The Dinner,” based on Herman Koch’s best-selling novel (it’s already been dramatized in Dutch and Italian versions), certainly has its moments, most of them provided in killer perfs by Richard Gere, Steve Coogan, Rebecca  Hall and especially Laura Linney.

But the film, set mostly in a restaurant so pretentious that the unctuous maitre’d announces each dish’s ingredients practically down to the molecular level, is itself off-puttingly  pretentious. Plus, the characters’ attitudes and behavior are so sleazy that you really can’t find anyone to root for.

In the first scene Paul Loman (Coogan), a former history teacher now working (abortively) on a book about the Civil War, and his wife Claire (Linney) are preparing for a family dinner at a posh eatery.

Paul isn’t keen on the gathering.  It’s the idea of his brother Stan (Gere), a U.S. Congressman now running for governor of their home state, and it’s obvious that the siblings don’t get along. Paul takes a fierce anti-establishment attitude, oozing sneering comments about his politician brother. The awesomely patient Claire somehow gets him into his clothes and out the door.

Once at the restaurant civility rapidly evaporates.  Paul is in a bitchy mood and it’s up to the wives, Claire and Katelyn (Hall), to smooth over the rough patches.

Why has Stan called this conclave?  Well, there’s a family crisis, though writer/director Owen Moverman (“Rampart,” “The Messenger”) takes his sweet time in giving us the details, relying heavily on convoluted flashbacks that almost send the narrative spinning out of control.

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Aaron Eckhart, Tom Hanks

Aaron Eckhart, Tom Hanks

“SULLY”  My rating: B  

96 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Clint Eastwood is not a film stylist. No fancy camera angles. No innovative editing. No signature flourishes.
What he is is a terrific and seemingly effortless storyteller, one of the best now making movies.
Exhibit A is “Sully,” Eastwood’s recreation of 2009’s “Miracle on the Hudson,”  in which a crippled jetliner landed on the Hudson River without the loss of one of the 155 souls aboard.
Tom Hanks stars as Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, the 40-year aviation veteran who within seconds of losing both engines to a flock of Canada geese realized a return to La Guardia Airport was impossible…that the only chance of salvation was a water landing.
Todd Komarnicki’s screenplay (based on the memoir by the real Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger) devotes half of the film’s 96-minute running time to the brief flight and the crash itself.  
The near-disaster is experienced from several vantage points (pilots and crew, passengers, first responders, witnesses), with each iteration providing new insights and not a few thrills.
This is absorbing, shocking, logic-defying stuff.
Now we all know that nobody died on US Airways Flight 1549. Still, the film generates tension by revealing that  NTSB investigators were all but prepared to pin the blame on Sully and first mate Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart). (The film takes dramatic license by launching the hearings immediately after the incident; in reality, they came 18 months later.)
Computer simulations suggested that the damaged aircraft could have returned to the airport. Did Sully make a bad call that put everyone on board at risk?

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Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes

Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes

“MR. HOLMES” My raing: B- 

  104 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

 

Sherlock Holmes is one of fiction’s most enduring characters because of his fascinating idiosyncracies.  But smooth down those oddball edges and what’s left?

A bit of a bore, actually.

Less mystery than meditation, “Mr. Holmes” gives us Conan Doyle’s great detective in his dotage, retired for 35 years and living in solitude in a farmhouse on the Dover coast.

As envisioned by director Bill Condon, screenwriter Mitch Cullin (adapting his novel A Slight Trick of the Mind) and the great actor Ian McKellen, this is not the Holmes of the popular stories penned by his colleague Dr. Watson.

Indeed, Holmes has little regard for Watson’s fictions, which he dismisses as “absolute rubbish… penny dreadfuls with elevated prose.” This Holmes — aged 83 — maintains that he never wore a deerstalker hat — “an embellishment of the illustrator” — and was a cigar man, not a pipe puffer.

The fictional Holmes and the real man do have a couple of things in common. Both are deductive geniuses. And neither has any use for emotion, which only clouds the rational mind.  Facts may be strike us as pleasant or not, but at least they are neutral; cruelty and betrayal, on the other hand, are exclusively the result of human interaction.

But now Holmes’ life of the mind is failing him.  His memory is going. He may spend minutes staring aimlessly into space.

He’s tended to by his housekeeper (Laura Linney), a war widow — the year is 1947 — and her young son Roger (Milo Parker). As the film begins Holmes views these two as irritants.  Slowly, though, he and the boy hit it off, mostly over their shared enthusiasm for beekeeping.

The mother’s frustration that now she’s losing her boy to the old man isn’t eased by Holmes’ thoughtless observation that “Exceptional children are often the result of unremarkable parents.”

“Mr. Holmes” is about a case, but not a new one. Rather the film is filled with flashbacks to 1910 when Holmes was hired by a husband worried that his wife (Hattie Morahan) — distraught after repeated miscarriages — was maintaining a secret life. The erudite Holmes sleuthed out the facts of the matter but shrugged off the wife’s emotional advances, leading to consequences so disastrous he ended his career.

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