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Posts Tagged ‘noah baumbach’

Brian De Palma...with "little friend"

Brian De Palma…with “little friend”

“DE PALMA” My rating: B (Now on DVD)

107 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Is Brian DePalma a giant of American filmmaking?  Or just a moderately successful journeyman?

It’s pretty clear from their documentary “DePalma” that filmmakers Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow believe in the first analysis.

In this  two-hour journey through the director’s mind and career we mostly get the 75-year-old DePalma seated in front of a camera and in more or less chronological order discussing the films he has made over more than a half century.

These range from the off-the-cuff craziness of “Greetings” to boxoffice champs like the first “Mission: Impossible” and “The Untouchables” to genuinely provocative works like “Scarface,” “Carrie,”  “Casualties of War” and “Carlito’s Way.”

Of course there are flops, too: “Bonfire of the Vanities” (he maintains that if no one had read the book they’d like the film), “Mission to Mars” (he was a last-minute replacement who joined a production that already had left the station) and the politically-drenched war-on-terror spasm “Redacted.”

The film makes extensive use of film clips, not only from DePalma’s resume but from other filmmakers who have influenced him (Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” is a major touchstone).

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Greta Gerwig, ***

Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke

“MISTRESS AMERICA”  My rating: B (Opens Aug. 28 at the Glenwood Arts)

84 minutes | MPAA rating: R

My appreciation of the filmic collaborations of director Noah Baumbach and comic actress Greta Gerwig (“Greenberg,” “Frances Ha”) has been an on-and-off affair. Their latest, “Mistress America,” is definitely an on.

It is, in fact, about as close to a classic screwball comedy as we’re likely to witness in this era of “duh” cinema — wonderfully acted and impeccably timed.

The film begins with an insightful five-minute montage depicting the early days on an NYC campus of Tracy (Lola Kirke), a freshman who dreams of a career as a writer. Instead of life-changing experiences, Tracy finds herself lonely and isolated.

Relief arrives in the form of Brooke (Gerwig), a 32-year-old whirling dervish of energy and ambition who introduces Tracy to the odder corners of the Big Apple.  Tracy’s mother and Brooke’s father are engaged; the two women will soon be stepsisters.

Brooke immediately begins introducing Tracy to her bohemian pals as “my baby sister, Tracy.”

Here’s the thing about Brooke:  She’s all fervent ideas and no followthrough. Her current project is a restaurant that would be a bizarro amalgam of eatery, community center and hair salon.

Brooke has a motormouth that is several blocks ahead of her brain; she converses in a form of East Coast Valley Girl-ese with a stream-of-consciousness style worthy of James Joyce. She’s exhausting, but oddly delightful.

One acquaintance says of her: “I don’t know if you’re a Zen master or just a sociopath.”

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Naomi Watts, Ben Stiller

Naomi Watts, Ben Stiller

“WHILE WE’RE YOUNG”  My rating: C+

97 minutes | MPAA rating: R

There may have been a time when we aged — if not gracefully — at least appropriately.

But in a society where youth is worshipped and Botox is a household word, how does one come to terms with getting older?

That question is at the heart of “While We’re Young,” writer/director Noah Baumbach’s latest comedy — albeit a dour comedy that could have used a lot more more laughs.

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts star as Josh and Cornelia, 40-something New Yorkers out of sync not just with youth but with their own peers. While their friends are now fully invested in parenthood and career paths, Josh and Cornelia have managed to avoid most of the trappings of middle age.

Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried

Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried

He’s a documentary filmmaker who has spent the last decade futzing around with a project about a grizzled philosopher (Peter Yarrow of folk music fame) that he’ll probably never finish and that nobody will want to see. She’s the producer for her father, a legendary grand old man of documentaries.

They’ve no children, no car, no mortgage.

But their biological clocks are accelerating — he’s got arthritis and she’s conflicted over her inability to have a baby. Mortality is rearing its ugly head.

Enter Jamie and Darby (Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried), a young married couple auditing Josh’s documentary film class at a New York City university. Jamie endears himself to the filmmaker by claiming his life was changed by Josh’s early (and only successful) documentary.

TO READ THE REST OF THIS REVIEW VISIT THE KANSAS CITY STAR‘s WEBSITE AT http://www.kansascity.com/entertainment/movies-news-reviews/article17831633.html

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frances“FRANCES HA” My rating: B-  (Opens May 31 at the Glenwood Arts, Cinemark Plaza)

86 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Frances Ha” finally won me over. But it took a while.

The latest from director Noah Baumbach (“The Squid and the Whale”) finds him reunited with Greta Gerwig, the vaguely daft co-star of his 2010 “Greenberg.”

Gerwig was about the only thing about that uber-dry Ben Stiller comedy that I enjoyed, and since then she’s appeared in a rash of indie and mainstream films (“No Strings Attached,” “Arthur,” “Damsels in Distress,” “To Rome with Love”)  and become an item with Baumbach.

Gerwig co-wrote and plays the title role in “Frances Ha,” which was shot in crisp black and white in a style that is hugely reminiscent of Woody Allen’s masterful “Manhattan.”  For the first hour or so I was very much on the fence. This is one of those comedies that is more funny strange than funny ha-ha

The twentysomething Frances lives in New York City where she struggles with relationships and employment and making ends meet.

She’s an apprentice with a professional dance company and wants to move up the ladder there, but she’s kind of clumsy and dorky, certainly not prima ballerina material.  She’s much better at leading a dance class for the small fry, where her childlike persona melds effortlessly with those of her students.

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