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Posts Tagged ‘woody harrelson’

Brie Larson

“THE GLASS CASTLE” My rating: C+

127 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

There are a few moments when “The Glass Castle” threatens to come to emotional life.

But they pass.

Heaven knows there’s a compelling story here.  Based on Jeannette Walls’ best-selling memoir of a wildly unconventional upbringing and a troubled maturity, this film describes a girlhood dominated by fiercely nonconformist parents who are always just a step ahead of the cops and the child services people. (This was a theme explored, with more success, in last year’s “Captain Fantastic.”)

But despite offering a hair-raising depiction of how not to raise children, Destin Daniel Cretton’s film plays more like a freak show — with one display of parental insanity following another — than the deeply moving drama it obviously aims to be.

New York City, 1989.  From a taxi window gossip columnist Jeannette Walls (Brie Larson, an Oscar winner for “Room”) spots a distressing and deeply personal vignette: An unkempt woman scrounges through a dumpster while her man rages at the passing traffic.

They are Rose Mary (Naomi Watts) and Rex (Woody Harrelson), Jeannette’s parents, who are squatting in an abandoned building and living hand to mouth.

This triggers a series of flashbacks to Jeannette’s nomadic and impoverished childhood and especially her relationship with Rex, a possibly brilliant man who is all ideas and no follow-through, a mean alcoholic and a charismatic ranconteur.

Rex is the kind of guy who, lacking money for Christmas presents, takes his kids outside to pick a star for their very own. (Awww.)  He’s also borderline abusive, teaching his terrified daughter to swim by throwing her in the deep end of the pool.

Rose Mary is only marginally more centered. She devotes herself to painting (without ever improving, apparently) and has no time for mundane stuff like feeding her offspring.  (more…)

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Hailee Steinfeld

Hailee Steinfeld

“THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN” My rating: B

204 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Teen angst has always been with us, but it’s rarely been captured on film with the insight  and hilarity on display in “The Edge of Seventeen.”

Hailee Stienfeld, who won an Oscar nomination for her first movie (2010’s “True Grit”), seems likely to snag another one for her performance as  Nadine, a 16-year-old whose emotional wisdom lags way behind her book learning.

“I just had the worse thought,” she confides. “I have to spend the rest of my life with myself.”

Nadine joins a short list of adolescent film heroines (like those of “Juno” and “Ghost World”) who have done heroic battle with the inanities of teenage life. And she has more than little of Catcher in the Rye‘s Holden Caulfield percolating through her bloodstream.

But as with those characters, behind Nadine’s assured bluster there’s an awkward child utterly terrified at the notion of adulthood.

Kelly Fremon Craig’s film starts with a backstory — how Nadine lost her beloved father to a heart attack. She resents his absence every single day, and the injustice of his passing leaves her riding an emotional razor blade.

She has found a substitute of sorts with Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson), her history teacher, whom she engages in combative, provocative banter. He finds Nadine exasperating and self-absorbed, but keeps being drawn back to her sardonic wit. These two could trade verbal punches all day long.

“The Edge of Seventeen” (a generic title that sounds like something generated by a computer program) centers on two major plot lines, neither of which may seem like a big deal to adults but which to Nadine are the alpha and omega of her existence.

The first is a betrayal by her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), who has had the temerity to fall for Nadine’s big brother Darian (Blake Jenner). Darian is a handsome senior jock — probably a Republican for crying out loud. He represents all the things about high school that Nadine despises.

And now Krista has gone over to the enemy.  It’s enough to make a girl act out in inappropriate ways. (more…)

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Liam Helmsworth

Liam Helmsworth

THE DUEL” My rating: C- (Opening June 24 at the Town Center)

118 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Should the revisionist Western “The Duel”  be read as an anti-Trump screed?

Unintentionally, maybe — the film surely was in the works long before the Donald announced his intention of becoming our next president.

But the themes it pursues — a willful strongman, race hatred (especially against Mexicans), an insular world view — sure make it seem like a contemporary political commentary.

As it turns out, how “The Duel” reflects current political currents is its strongest feature.

As a horse opera Kieran Darcy-Smith’s drama is pretentious, overwritten, painfully unsubtle and thoroughly ridiculous.

Texas Ranger David Kingston (Liam Hemsworth) is given an undercover assignment. An alarming number of dead bodies — most of them Mexicans — have been washing downstream from a mysterious and insular border town.

The burg is presided over by The Preacher (Woody Harrelson), a charismatic snake handler and faith healer who totally controls the lives of his congregants.

Buff, bald and over the top, Harrelson might actually be auditioning for the role of  Judge Holden in an upcoming film version of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian.

(more…)

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triple-9-dom-195_192_T9_KA_R34_RV_3_W10_SL_rgb-e1444670190309“TRIPLE 9” My rating: C+

115 minutes |MPAA rating: R

John Hillcoat’s new crime thriller “Triple 9” is only slightly less apocalyptic than his film of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.” And “The Road,” of course, was about the literal end of the world.

With a big cast of fine actors (few of whom, oddly, get to do much acting) and a sprawling urban canvas reminiscent of Michael Mann’s “Heat,” this is the story of one-time good guys who are now bad guys.

Terrell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Russell (Norman Reedus) are former military special forces types now earning a living planning big capers on behalf of the Russian mob.  As the film begins they’re pulling off a daring bank robbery that almost goes south (and leaves them covered in red dye) thanks to Russell’s loser brother, Gabe (Aaron Paul).

Chietol Ejiwifor

Chiwetel Ejiofor

Terrell and Russell are so effective at what they do because they have inside help. Marcus (Anthony Mackie) and Jorge (CliftonCollins Jr.) are police detectives gone rogue. They not only help in planning these crimes, they suit up to participate. And then they help the thieves cover their tracks.

To say that these guys lack a moral compass is an understatement. Matt Cook’s screenplay never asks why or how our protagonists were corrupted; certainly the characters aren’t into soul searching.

But the result is a taut film that feels weirdly uninhabited…as a viewer I’d be at least as interested in how these guys came to this low ethical state as I am in the mechanics of their heists.

Their saving grace is that as bad as they are, they aren’t as bad as the Russian crime tsarina Irina (Kate Winslet), who’s about as hard a lady as you could ever meet.  For this tough cookie pulling the teeth of a couple of miscreants, locking them  in a car trunk and setting the whole thing on fire is all in a day’s work.

(more…)

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Now-You-See-Me-01“NOW YOU SEE ME” My rating: C (Opening wide on May 31)

116 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Big, slick and determined to wow us with its amazingness, the magic-themed caper film “Now You See Me” is less a David Copperfield spectacular than a fumbled bit of sleight-of-hand as performed by “Arrested Development’s” Gob Bluth.

The movie starts falling apart as soon as it begins. “Now You See Me” isn’t about the characters and it certainly isn’t about stage magic. It feels like something the screenwriters (Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, Edward Ricourt) cooked up on a dare, vying to establish the most outlandish, complicated yarn possible.

What they’ve produced is a towering house of cards that any two-year-old could knock over.

At the outset of Louis Leterrier’s film we’re introduced to four struggling street magicians, each of whom has a magic specialty.  Daniel  (Jesse Eisenberg) is a cocky card manipulator and illusionist. Henley (Isla Fisher) is an escape artist. Jack (Dave Franco…James’ brother) is an accomplished pickpocket. Merritt (Woody Harrelson) is a mentalist/hypnotist.

These rivals are recruited by a mysterious, unseen individual to form a big Las Vegas magic act, the Four Horsemen.

On their opening night the Horsemen “teleport” a French vacationer to the vault of his bank in Paris, where millions in Euros are sucked up into an air vent and end up fluttering over the delighted audience back on the Strip.

(more…)

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