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Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Paulson’

Meryl Streep, Tracy Letts, Tom Hanks

“THE POST” My rating: B+ (Opens wide on Jan. 12)

115 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Steven Spielberg’s powers as a storyteller are so secure that not even the miscasting of one of “The Post’s” two leads can do much damage to the narrative.

This sprawling effort — it begins with a firefight in Vietnam and winds down with a firestorm over the Second Amendment — hits the ground running and rarely slows down for a breath. It’s like a Spielberg master class in taking a complicated story and telling it cleanly and efficiently.

And like other major movies about real-world journalism — “All the President’s Men” and “Spotlight” especially — “The Post” could hardly be more timely.  With a president who shows every indication that he’d love to roll back freedom of the press, this film is so relevant it hurts.

The subject, of course, is the 1971 scandal over the Pentagon Papers.  That massive study, commissioned by LBJ’s Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, looked at American involvement in Vietnam going back to the Truman administration. It revealed that the experts had always known a land war in Vietnam was unwinnable — but had plowed ahead anyway, sacrificing billions of dollars and countless lives on what amounted to political face-saving.

The papers showed that the Johnson administration had systematically lied to the public and to Congress so as to continue the war.

McNamara suppressed the study; the public only learned of its existence when one of its authors, Rand Corporation analyst Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys), made an illegal copy of the top secret document and passed it on to The New York Times.

Today  The Washington Post sits at or near the top of American newspapers (thanks to its reporting on the Watergate Scandal in 1972-’73).  But in 1971 The Post was at best a regional paper…and not a very good one.

Its new editor, Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), was pushing it toward greatness, but still felt himself outclassed by the journalistic aces at The Times. He was particularly concerned about rumors that The Times was about to scoop The Post (and every other news outlet) with a major story.

That big story was the Pentagon Papers. No sooner had the first in a series of articles been published than a federal judge — at the behest of the Nixon administration — enjoined The Times from printing additional material.

Bradley’s Post, however, was under no gag order. Working back channels Bradley got his hands on another copy of the papers and prepared to publish even more revelations on the pages of The Post.

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Nicholas Hoult as author J.D. Salinger

“REBEL IN THE RYE” My rating: B- 

106 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

“Rebel in the Rye,” the new biopic about reclusive author J.D. Salinger, isn’t bad.

Nor is it particularly inspired.

As an overview of Salinger’s early life, his years of frustration and his emergence as a major American voice with Catcher in the Rye, it lays out the facts competently. Director Danny Strong, making his feature debut after a stint with TV’s “Empire,” puts on a decent show with a limited budget.

And former Brit child actor (“About a Boy”) Nicholas Hoult demonstrates  acting chops that could carry him into more leading man roles.

Strong’s screenplay begins with the PTSD-suffering author in a mental institution in the late 1940s, then flashes back a decade to his college years.

At Columbia Jerry Salinger falls under the influence of writing professor Whit Burnett (Kevin Spacey), who sees terrific potential in his student despite the kid’s self-indulgence and an unwillingness to take suggestions from anyone. At the same time  Jerry launches a romance with Oona O’Neill (Zoey Deutch), estranged daughter of acclaimed playwright Eugene O’Neill (and future wife of Charlie Chaplin).

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Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett

Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett

“CAROL” My rating: B+ 

118 minutes | MPAA rating: R

You could describe “Carol” as a lesbian love story.

More accurately, it’s a love story in which the two main characters are women.

That’s an important difference.

The latest from adventurous indie auteur Todd Haynes is one of his most accessible works, a haunting and quietly erotic tale of love that, far from being forbidden, holds the promise of fulfillment.

Adapted by Haynes from Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel The Price of Salt, the film features Oscar-grabbing performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara and perhaps the most realistic evocation of the early 1950s I’ve ever seen in a movie (including movies made in the early 1950s, which somehow seem fantastically unreal).

Therese (Mara) is a quiet young woman who seems to be waiting for something to happen.  Certainly she doesn’t expect much from her job selling toys in a big Manhattan department store during the Christmas season.  She thinks maybe she’d like to try her hand at photography.

Nor does she sense much of a future with Richard (Jake Lacy), the boyfriend who wants to travel with her to France. The two are yet to consummate their relationship (remember, it’s the early 1950s).

Then one day the glamorous, well-heeled Carol (Blanchett) comes into the story to buy a present for her young daughter. The customer and the sales clerk strike up a conversation. Carol leaves her fancy gloves behind and Therese has them delivered to Carol’s posh home in the Jersey ‘burbs.

For this act of kindness Therese receives an invitation to tea. Her fascination with this beautiful and cultured older woman becomes a crush.

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“MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE” My rating: B (Opening Nov. 11 at the )

102 minutes | MPAA rating: R

One of the great thrills of moviegoing is coming across a young performer and realizing, within the space of just a few moments, that this could be a major star.

That’s what happens with Elizabeth Olsen in “Martha Marcy May Marlene,”  writer/director Sean Durkin’s moody, almost unbearably creepy look at a survivor of a Manson-type cult.

Durkin’s tightly-wound feature debut follows our titular protagonist as she surreptitiously slips away from the farm commune where she has lived off the radar for the last couple of years. She phones her older  sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson), who drives three hours to pick her up. Soon she’s living in the guest room of the posh lakeside vacation home of Lucy and her husband Ted (Hugh Darcy).

Martha and Lucy share a troubled history. Lucy is ambitious, well-educated; Martha a  rootless drifter.

But whatever sibling issues they’ve been through, it’s clear that the last few years have done a number on Martha.

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