Friday, July 17, 2015
Let's forgo all of the groaners about good things coming in small packages and so forth. Ant-Man is a pleasing enough take on the superhero movie that it doesn't need any help, tired jokes or otherwise, from a hack like me. Ant-Man is neither overstuffed epic like the recent Avengers sequel, Age of Ultron, nor clever, brooding thriller a la Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Ant-Man is a perfectly modest adventure about a man out of his depth in all levels of life who finally finds his niche in the disorienting world of the sub-atomic.
Friday, July 3, 2015
Kate Winslet adds another to her already long list of costume dramas with A Little Chaos, the second film directed by actor Alan Rickman. Winslet plays Madame Sabine de Barra, an anachronistically liberated gardener hired by Monsieur André le Nôtre (Matthias Schoenaerts), landscaper to King Louis IV (Rickman). De Barra is to work on an outdoor ballroom at the King's gardens in Versailles. Her independence first perturbs Le Nôtre and his male contractors. But eventually his bewilderment gives way to curiosity and then romantic fascination with the confident gardener. Her sureness in herself eventually impresses even the king himself.
Sunday, June 21, 2015
There are Pixar films for kids, and there are Pixar films for grown-ups. Inside Out is definitely one for adults, and that grants it a kind of longevity. See, movies like Monsters, Inc., Cars, and even Toy Story have to depend on cutesy characters and sequels to extend their shelf life because, fun as they are, once you've seen them there isn't much there to revisit. Their concerns are those of children: finding what you're good at, fitting in among new friends, coping with a loss of popularity, etc. Movies like The Incredibles, Wall-E, and Up may still have cute characters but they have a more mature focus: adjusting to middle-age and familial responsibility, overcoming our consumerist tendencies, remembering you're only as young as you feel, and so forth. Inside Out definitely falls into the latter camp.
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Gonzo doesn't even begin to describe Mad Max: Fury Road. The fourth entry in the Mad Max series comes thirty years (!) after the last film, with the broken, post-apocalyptic highway patrolman formerly played by Mel Gibson now re-interpreted by Tom Hardy. And one of the things writer-director (and franchise mainstay) George Miller does with a better actor at the helm is give road warrior Max Rockatansky an inner life. Whereas Gibson's Max was filled with rage at the world of "fire and blood" that took his wife and child, Hardy's Max is literally mad. This Max tries to stay busy to keep the voices in his head at bay, voices belonging to those he has encountered in his travels through the desert that he failed to save. While Max's first inclination is to retreat into himself, Fury Road implies that the only thing that keeps his madness in check is his continuing to help others.
Sunday, May 3, 2015
Avengers: Age of Ultron begins in media res, with the usually fractious superheroes seemingly having evolved into a well-oiled, super-powered machine as demonstrated by a coordinated attack on HYDRA and its new leader Baron Von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann). Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is beating whole flocks of HYDRA soldiers with one swing of his hammer, Mjolnir. Captain America (Chris Evans) uses his motorcycle the way a gymnast would a balance beam, pushing off into acrobatic flips and bowling his enemies over before meeting the cycle again further down the line. The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, or a CGI version of him) simply barrels through the bad guys like a runaway train while the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) follows close behind, prepared to execute a secret "lullaby" protocol that mysteriously calms the green behemoth in nearly an instant. All of this unfolds while Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) is at his most detached, ordering his new Iron Legion of robots to do most of the dirty work while he flies overhead, trying his best to break through an invisible force field surrounding Strucker's castle.
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Who knew that the usually brutish Russell Crowe could be sensitive enough to fashion a film as lyrical as The Water Diviner? By turns epic and intimate, The Water Diviner is a low-key directorial debut for the macho Australian actor who stars as Joshua Connor, a man who lost three sons on the same day in the Battle of Gallipoli. Determined to bring their remains back to Australia, Connor sets out for Çanakkale, Turkey and encounters a larger number of Turks sympathetic to his mission than anyone could imagine. Among them is the beautiful young Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko), a woman who also sacrificed a great deal during the war. As conventional as the story reads on paper, Crowe instills it with an unpredictability and earnestness that seem damn near inventive. From a hauntingly surreal opening through a dewy, personal second act and onto a grand, epic conclusion, The Water Diviner frequently confounds, not just because of who Crowe is and what one expects from the forceful actor. But also because Crowe shows a remarkable self-confidence, letting the film meander in a way one associates most with the most unpretentious classic films.