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Posts Tagged ‘Logan Lerman’

Michael Stuhlbarg, Elisabeth Moss

“SHIRLEY” My rating: B- (Now streaming on Hulu)

107 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Shirley” is a fairly unpleasant viewing experience made mandatory by yet another jaw-dropping Elisabeth Moss peformance.

In Josephine Decker’s film (adapted by Sarah Gubbins from Susan Scarf Merrell’s novel) Moss plays Shirley Jackson, the modern American master of the macabre (among her works were the novel The Haunting of Hill House and “The Lottery,” described here by Jackson as “the most reviled short story in the history of The New Yorker” ).

Set in the late 1940s in North Bennington VT, where Jackson’s husband Stanley Hyman was on the faculty of the then all-female Bennington College, the film catches the author in one of her periodic depressive phases, unable to write and terrified to leave her house.  At the time Jackson would have been in her early 30s, but for dramatic purposes (the film is more a fantasia than an historic recreation) she here appears to be in late middle age — bloated, blotchy, hair atangle.

It’s an impressive physical transformation Moss gives us; equally daunting is the personality she offers, a brilliant mind given to moody terrors but still capable of eviscerating anyone who rubs her the wrong way or fits her parameters for intellectual mediocrity.

We explore Jackson through the fictional Rose (Odessa Young), who has come to Vermont with her husband Fred (Logal Lerman). Fred is to be a teaching assistant to Stanley (Michael Stuhlbarg).  The young couple’s arrival coincides with the departure of the Hymans’ latest housekeeper, and Stanley coerces Rose into taking on the job.  The kids will get  room and board; Rose will cook, clean and be Shirley’s companion.

And whipping boy.

“She’s a fucking monster,” Rose protests of her new employer, whose madness most often manifests itself in meanness.

Shirley, meanwhile, is perennially being cajoled by Stanley — the very embodiment of professorial pomposity — to get out of bed and start writing.

“I’m going to get better,” she promises. “Starting tomorrow.”

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Logan Lehman, Sarah Gaddon

Logan Lerman, Sarah Gaddon

“INDIGNATION”  My rating: B

110 minutes | MPAA rating: R

As a producer and/or writer of most of Ang Lee’s films, James Schamus has established a reputation for intelligent —  even intellectual — filmmaking.

Now the CEO of Focus Features has made his directing debut, and as you’d expect from the man who wrote an entire book about one of the most confounding and polarizing films ever — Carl Theodore Dreyer’s emotionally arid “Gertrude” — it is brainy, challenging and not a little perplexing.

“Indignation” is based on Philip Roth’s 2008 novel, and a more faithful adaptation can hardly be imagined. Even to the point of duplicating things in the novel that have little hope of working on film.

Logan Lerman (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “Fury”) is Marcus, a New York Jew who has landed a scholarship to Winesburg College in Ohio.

The year is 1951 and as long as he remains a student in good standing, Marcus can avoid the draft that is gobbling up his childhood friends for Korean cannon fodder. Staying in school is, for all intents, a life insurance policy.

But he finds Winesburg’s middle-American ethos and white Protestant outlook disconcerting. For starters, Marcus is assigned a dorm room with the only other two Jews  on campus who aren’t members of the Jewish fraternity.  These three individualists — one is probably gay, the other antisocial — form their own little ghetto.

And then there’s the weekly chapel requirement, which demands that all students show up to hear the campus chaplain drone on about Jesus.

Here’s the thing about Marcus.  Though he knows relatively little of the real world — he’s a virgin, he’s never worked outside his father’s butcher shop — he’s a borderline genius. And with that comes a degree of arrogance and, well, indignation at the way he’s being treated.

Things look up when he meets blonde coed Olivia (Sarah Gadon), whom he takes to a fancy dinner (Escargot! This son of a kosher butcher has never dreamed of such excess) and who rewards him afterward with a matter-of-fact blow job.

Marcus is so stunned, his moral compass so bent by this experience that he immediately ends the relationship.  Although he can’t resist standing outside her dorm late at night trying to find Olivia’s window.

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Brad Pitt (foreground) and tank crew (left to right): Shia LeBouf, ** , Michael Pena, I*.

Brad Pitt (foreground) and tank crew (left to right): Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal.

“FURY”  My rating: B (Opens wide on Oct. 17)

134 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Fury” is on one level one of the great war/action films, a face-first plunge into the blood, guts and terror of combat.
But writer/director David Ayer (“Training Day,” “End of Watch”) is aiming for more than just a stomach-churning visit to war’s visceral horrors. He wants to show how combat dehumanizes the individuals who must do the dirty work.
It’s impossible to watch the trailers for “Fury” — with a grimy Brad Pitt in charge of a World War II tank crew — and not be reminded of the Nazi-killing good ol’ boy Pitt portrayed in “Inglourious Basterds.”
That 2009 Quentin Tarantino film was an exaggerated, almost hallucinogenic comic fantasy of warfare. Ayer, though, plays it straight, eschewing overtly comic elements and pushing for an unflinching earnestness.
Only trouble is, he may have pushed too hard.
We are introduced to the five-man crew of Fury, a Sherman tank, on a German battlefield in the spring of 1945, during the last gasps of the war. The tank commander, Sgt. Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Pitt), makes short, silent work of a passing German officer (a knife in the eyeball does the trick nicely). He then climbs back into the tank occupied by three living crewmen and the headless corpse of a fourth.
We’re all accustomed to war movies stocked with various American “types”: a Jew, a Hispanic, a black, a college boy, a redneck. We’re meant to identify with them.
Just try identifying with the creeps who live in Fury. The mechanic Grady  Travis (“Walking Dead’s” Jon  Bernthal) seems more mumbling Neanderthal than modern man. The gunner, Boyd “Bible” Swan (a nearly unrecognizable mustachioed Shia LaBeouf), is intensely religious — he abstains from drink and women but seems to find sexual release in blowing Germans all to hell. The driver, Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Pena), is a bit closer to normal — until you realize that he and Travis are most likely brothers-in-rape.
After years of fighting, whatever civilized veneer these guys had has been stripped away. No longer all-American boys, they are more of a renegade biker gang, killing prisoners and then retreating to their Sherman tank like wolves to their lair.

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