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Posts Tagged ‘Olivia Wilde’

Olivia Wilde, Oscar Isaac

“LIFE ITSELF” My rating: C- (Opens wide on Sept. 21)

118 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Having conquered the world of episodic television with the emotion-wringing family drama “This is Us,”  writer/director Dan Fogelman turns to the big screen with “Life Itself.”

Things don’t go well.

As the title suggests, Fogelman is here attempting nothing less than a God’s-eye view of human lives, all of them entangled — though at first that’s not obvious.  While “This is Us” appeals directly to big laughs and big tears, “Life Itself” is curiously muted, as if we’re observing the characters across vast distances.  Those looking for a good cry will probably leave looking for something to punch.

The film is perversely curious, for Fogelman has given us nothing less than a humanistic, non-violent parody/homage of Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction.” Like that film, “Life Itself” is broken into specific chapters and employs a time-leaping narrative (something with which Fogelman is familiar…see “This is Us”). At one point characters attend a party dressed like John Travolta and Uma Thurman in “Pulp Fiction’s”  famous dance contest; at least twice in “Life Itself” the movie slows down so that characters can deliver long Tarantino-esque monologues. Tarantino regular Samuel L. Jackson even pops up in an extended cameo so weird it defies description.

So what’s the movie about?  Well, let’s break it down by  chapters.

  • In the opening sequence the bearded, unkempt Will (Oscar Isaac) is getting therapy from a shrink (Annette Bening). We gradually learn that his beloved wife Abby has left him (in flashbacks she’s played by Olivia Wilde).  We see their romantic meeting, their growing love, their relationship with Will’s parents (Mandy Patinkin, Jean Smart), their anticipation of the birth of their child. We discover that Will’s therapy was court-mandated after a suicide attempt and a few months in a mental ward. Eventually we discover what happened to Abby.
  • The next segment follows the childhood of Will and Abby’s daughter, Dylan (Olivia Cooke), who is raised by her widowed grandpa and grows up to be a smart/rebellious punk rocker, though tormented by the loss of the parents she never met. (more…)
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Diane Keaton, John Godoman

Diane Keaton,  farting dog, John Goodman

“LOVE THE COOPERS”  My rating: D+ 

97 minutes  | MPAA rating: PG-13

In “Love the Coopers” the dysfunctional family holiday movie gets big-name treatment. The results are exceedingly unlovely.

It’s not just that director Jessie Nelson’s Christmas-themed comedy tries to shock us with raunch and cynicism before going all squishy soft in the last reel.  Lots of pretty decent films (“Bad Santa,” “Home for the Holidays,” “The Family Stone”) have assumed the same trajectory.

It’s that Steven Rogers’ screenplay is so blatantly unfeeling, cobbling together standard-issue ideas and characters for a sort of Pavlovian-inspired emotional release.

“Love the Coopers” (the title invokes memories of the inexplicably beloved “Love, Actually,” and like that earlier film gives us several interlocking stories) takes place mostly in a picturesque suburb outside Pittsburgh PA.  Here quaint homes, a steady snowfall and lush woodlands evoke a Norman Rockwell atmosphere.

Emotionally, though, there is no peace in the valley.

For starters, after 40-some years of marriage Sam and Charlotte Cooper (John Goodman, Diane Keaton) are calling it quits. They will break the news to their assembled clan after “one last perfect Christmas.”

Happy holidays, everybody.

Several plots eventually meet around the Coopers’ dinner table.

Daughter Eleanor Cooper (Olivia Wilde) is so reluctant to see the rest of her family  that she settles into the airport bar for some fortification. There she meets Joe (Jake Lacy), a soldier on leave who is charming despite being a Republican.

In an agonizing montage Eleanor and soldier boy engage in a comic ballet on an airport moving sidewalk. It is so gosh-awful “cute” theaters should lay in a supply of insulin.

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Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde

Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde

“THIRD PERSON”  My rating: C  (Opens July 11 at the Glenwood at Red Bridge and the Leawood)

137 minutes | MPAA rating: R

 

There are those who would argue that Paul Haggis’ “Crash” was a bucket of heavy-handed melodrama and that it only received the 2004 Oscar for best picture because the Academy was too cowardly or homophobic to give the award to “Brokeback Mountain.”

To those people I can only say this:  You haven’t seen heavy handed until you’ve sat through all two hours of Haggis’ latest, the artsy fartsy “Third Person.”

Taking the template of “Crash” — several intersecting stories centering on the same theme — Haggis has fashioned an emotionally remote, narratively confused yarn that goes through all the motions without ever delivering a payoff.

In Paris, novelist Michael (Liam Neeson) reunites with the fellow writer Anna (Olivia Wilde), with whom he is having a torrid if idiosyncratic affair (their relationship seems to be as much about baiting as boffing). Every now and then Michael gets a call from the wife he left behind (Kim Basinger, looking beaten down by life).

In New York City, perpetually woebegone Julia (Mila Kunis) is in the midst of a custody case.  Her ex (James Franco) won’t let her see their young son…because the last time Julia took care of him the kid almost suffocated in a plastic drycleaning bag. The penniless, luckless Julia is one of those people who can’t get anything right — not even showing up on time for meetings with her busy lawyer (Maria Bello). Mostly she mopes.

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“COWBOYS AND ALIENS”  My rating: C+ (Opening wide on July 29)

118 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Daniel Craig carries himself like vintage Steve McQueen.

Harrison Ford, on the other hand, is starting to carry himself like Lee J. Cobb.

If you’re old enough to recognize those two names, welcome to my world.

In “Cowboys and Aliens” Craig is a resident of the Old West who wakes up in the middle of the desert with a bad case of amnesia and some sort of big honking electronic bracelet on his wrist that cannot be removed.

Ford plays a crusty old cattle baron accustomed to ruling the area like a Medieval lord.

Before you can say “alien abductions in 1870s Arizona” they’re battling high-tech invaders from outer space.

Jon Favreau’s latest is in many ways a conventional cowboy movie — though not always a particularly good one. We’ve all seen the Western in which the Indians raid settlements taking prisoners and the surviving menfolk organize a posse and take off in pursuit.

Same deal here. Just substitute Martians for Indians.

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