Ben Kingsley as a college professor; Penelope Cruz as the younger woman who seduces him. I think it sagged a bit in the middle, and I found the negative portrayal of men annoying. But the leads were well-cast and the film made good use of classical music. With Dennis Hopper. Based on a novel by Philip Roth.
Inside Llewyn Davis
Oscar Isaac as a struggling folk musician in 1961 NYC. Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake as his friends and colleagues. There are some funny lines and the plot kept my attention. It might be a bit slow-paced for some viewers, but I give it a casual thumb up. With John Goodman and F. Murray Abraham.
McCabe and Mrs. Miller
Warren Beatty and Julie Christie as the title characters. Directed by Robert Altman. Music by Leonard Cohen. A gambler opens a brothel in a mining town, and partners with a madam. A bit boring in parts. The ending was well-played. With Keith Carradine. Based on a novel by Edmund Naughton.
A young computer programmer is invited to the home of tech genius Oscar Isaac, who has been working on an advanced A.I. Not sure what to think of this one. Something seemed off, or missing, or rushed, or whatever. But it's a compelling film.
Sketchy dude (Gyllenhaal) enters the fast-paced world of crime scene / accident scene video documentation for the nightly news. Rene Russo plays the cougar / local news show director who buys his footage. I think that, for a movie that seemed to be trying hard to be bold and edgy, it took the whimpy way out in an important aspect of the story. Also, there are a couple plot points that I don't think are at all realistic. However, it did enough right to deserve a casual thumb up.
This film actually takes place in New York City, in 1981. Oscar Isaac is the owner of a heating oil company. While his truck drivers are being preyed upon by armed thugs, he is trying to close a deal for some valuable property. Also, his company is being investigated by an eager DA. He's got a hot wife though (Jessica Chastain). I give this one a casual thumb up.
To paraphrase Immanuel Kant: We are all interpreters; we humans who are slave to meaning. But I digress. Nicole Kidman is an interpreter at the UN who overhears a plot to assassinate the controversial head of an African nation. Sean Penn is a modern, tech savvy secret service agent whose job it is to prevent the assassination. He uses a flip phone, as modern, tech savvy men do. The leads did well. There's a long thriller-like sequence which was well-executed. Kind of corny near the end. A hesitant thumb up.
Michael Keaton stars as a former movie star who is now trying to make it on Broadway. He deals with hallucinations, hearing the voice of his most notable movie role - Birdman - talking to him, a rebellious daughter, and a high-maintenance co-star. Keaton's excellent. Edward Norton (the co-star) and Emma Stone (daughter) are solid. I think this is a movie that tried to do too much though. Like it tried too hard to be different or make an impression. My thumb is tilted sideways. Perhaps in a certain light it appears to be pointing slightly upward.
Dallas Buyers Club
Jennifer Garner stars as a doctor in 1980's Texas. Matthew McConaughey, as Ron Woodroof, tests positive for HIV. Jared Leto is complicated. Woodroof and Raylon (Leto) found the Dallas Buyers Club, a name they did not get from the movie of the same name. The hospitals and FDA are trying to prevent HIV carriers from choosing what drugs they take. Woodroof finds alternative drugs that aren't totally legal and gives them to people who buy club memberships.
Woodroof was an actual person who founded the Dallas Buyers Club. But Eve (Garner) and Raylon were not real people. So this is kind of a biopic / fictional movie hybrid. The three leads did well. So it's worth watching for the acting. But I'm not a fan of hybrids. As the highway patrolman said the other day: Pick a lane.
It's a movie about a poem, so it's a bit different. Part courtroom drama (Lawrence Ferlinghetti on trial for publishing it), part poetry reading, part animated scenes that represent the content of the poem, part Allen Ginsberg talking, and part scenes of Ginsberg with Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. It moves well; the 84 minutes goes by quickly. Eric Drooker came up with some cool animated scenes. James Franco does a decent job as Ginsberg. With Jon Hamm as Ferlinghetti's defense attorney and David Strathairn as the prosecuting attorney.
Based on the novel by Frank Herbert. Sci-fi that features two powerful families fighting over the only planet that produces a spice that allows prescience and is vital to space travel. It's a mix of interesting ideas and silliness. I wonder how faithful it is to the novel. The movie was not received well by critics and director David Lynch distanced himself from it. The cast includes Kyle MacLachlan (as the main character), Sean Young, Patrick Stewart, Sting (the musician, not the wrestler), Jose Ferrer, and Alicia Witt in her film debut. Narration by Virginia Madsen, who also has a minor on-screen role.
Silver Linings Playbook
Dude gets released from a psych hospital, several months after catching his wife cheating on him and going ballistic on the other guy. He moves back in with his parents in South Philly and commences a plan to get his wife back. A young woman, whose husband was killed, agrees to help the dude, but at a price. Katniss Everdeen is the young woman, and she's much better here than in American Hustle, which I reviewed in a previous Film Friday. The sass is strong with her. A decent amount of feist as well. There are a few holes in the writing, but there are a lot of funny moments. I'll give this one a casual thumb up. With Robert De Niro (dudes' dad), Bradley Cooper (dude), and Chris Tucker (dude's friend).
Based on Karen Silkwood's activism at a nuclear plant in Oklahoma. Merryl Streep as the title character, Cher as friend / roommate / co-worker Dolly Pelliker, and Kurt Russell as boyfriend / co-worker Drew Something. With Craig T. Nelson and Ron Silver. It's a sad film, but I expected it to be, because it's based on some messed-up stuff.
Based on the novel by Bernhard Schlink. A teen-ager has an affair with an older woman in 1958 West Germany. When he encounters her again, in 1966, the circumstances are quite different. Kate Winslet as the woman. David Kross as the teen-ager and then young man. Ralph Fiennes as the man when he's older. It's a well-acted film. But I think the viewer is being asked to accept certain things or believe certain things that don't make sense.
Kevin Costner is the GM of the Browns. The film follows him through the day of the draft as he deals with trade offers, evaluating prospects, personal matters, an annoying owner (Frank Langella), and an unhappy coach (Denis Leary). This is kind of a football movie for people who don't follow football too closely. Some of the stuff that happens just isn't realistic. I could have done without the mother scenes. But I liked Jennifer Garner as the capologist / Costner's girlfriend. The movie moves along at a good pace. Several real-life NFL analysts have cameos, as does Commissioner Roger Goodell and former Browns stars Bernie Kosar and Jim Brown.
Note: The top running back prospect is played by Arian Foster, a real-life NFL running back who went undrafted out of college.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo:
From the novel by Stieg Larsson. A disgraced journalist and a rebellious computer hacker team up to investigate a decades-old disappearance. Rooney Mara, as the title character, has an edge to her that makes her sexy without being pretty. Daniel Craig does a decent job, and for much of the film seems like the main character. Neither of them is without questionable acts, though I was able to root for them still. I didn't like the ending.
Warning: Do not watch this film with children or your parents. Or with nuns.
Hemingway and Gellhorn:
Clive Owen as Ernest Hemingway and Nicole Kidman as Martha Gellhorn, a war correspondent and his third wife. David Strathairn as John Dos Passos. Tony Shalhoub as a Russian. I thought Owen was inconsistent; like sometimes he overdid it. Kidman was excellent, per usual. The ending seemed corny.
Fifty Shades of Grey:
A young woman meets a wealthy man who has a certain interest. Wow. For a movie based on a book (E.L. James), this sure was some crappy writing. Dakota Johnson's Anastasia is pretty, but not really sexy. Mr. Grey reminded me of Dawson's Creek. Anyway, I spent half the movie rolling my eyes. It's wildly popular with women though. :)
Question for Readers: There is something wrong with one of the above pics. What is it? The first person to post the correct answer gets a point.