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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Roundup for May 2015

Quite a bit to talk about (however briefly) so let's get right to it.

The Age of Adeline. (7/10) Despite some overbearing narration, some hilariously daft pseudo-science and a none-too-interesting male love interest for our titular character, the Age of Adeline is a surprisingly charming and moving romantic fantasy. Its story of a woman who can never age because of a freak accident and can't really live because of it, is never as fully explored as it could be but it does raise some interesting themes, the characters are largely sympathetic and it features terrific performances from three of its main stars, Blake Lively (with a very well played "transatlantic" accent), Ellen Burstyn and, most especially, Harrison Ford at the absolute top of his game. It's both kind of silly and kind of wonderful at the same time..

Hot Pursuit. (4/10) A largely laugh-free action comedy that seems to think that the mere act of teaming up such diametrically opposed actresses as Sophia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon would be enough to generate sufficient laughter, but its lazy jokes and even lazier Mindnight Run knockoff script only drive home just how much that is not the case. Its fast pace and committed comic performance from Reese Witherspoon saves it from the bottom of the trash heap but it's certainly not worth a trip to the cinema.

Accidental Love. (4/10) A truly terrible bit of Universal Healthcare propaganda disguised as a lame comedy, featuring a cadre of top-notch acting talent doing their best to ruin every theoretically funny gag in the film. I certainly don't have a problem with its message, which I agree with entirely, but it's so leadenly handled that even I was pissed off by its political hectoring. Worse, this story of a woman who has to live her life with a nail embedded in her head because she can't afford to get it extracted is the perfect setting for sharp satire and crazy comedy but damn near every single joke it attempts just falls horribly flat. No wonder it took eight years to be released, and without its director's (David O Russel, no less) name attached at that. However, it is such a horrible misfire of a movie that it's actually a fairly interesting study in just how badly wrong a potentially great movie can go. Check it out for that, if absolutely nothing else.

You're Not You. (8/10) What could so easily have been an exploitative tearjerker about a horrifying disease is transformed, singlehandedly, into something pretty special by Emmy Rossum. The script and direction are fine, if sometimes quite heavy handed, and Hillary Swank is dependably excellent as an ALS sufferer but the film could so easily have tipped over into mawkish schmaltz had it not been for a lively, vivacious and sparky performance from Ms. Rossum as Swank's character's woefully under-qualified nurse. It's an awards-worthy performance, just on its own, but, more importantly, it's the kind of performance that can elevate everything around it - which it very much does here. It's not overall as impressive as something like Still Alice but it's well worth seeing for Emmy Rossum alone.

A Little Chaos. (4/10) Alan Rickman is among my all-time favourite actor's but his second time in the director's chair is sadly underwhelming. This frankly dull story of gardening and French royalty is obviously about much more than that (loss, creativity, feminism, yada yada yada) but it's so unengaging that it's pretty hard to notice. It's a pity because it has some terrific set- and art-designs, some witty dialogue and killer performances from Stanley Tucci and Rickman himself. Even the usually brilliant Kate Winslet seems largely disinterested throughout, only really coming alive when she shares a brief but wonderful few minutes on screen with her director. The biggest problem by far though, is that the male lead of the film, Matthias Schoeinaerts, though a perfectly good actor elsewhere, is eclipsed by damn near every other member of the cast - no doubt because his character is so unbearably boring. I wanted to love this, but it just didn't work for me at all.

Child 44. (5/10) A relentlessly bleak cold war thriller that features a strong lead performance from Tom Hardy and its depiction of Soviet Russia at its most tyrannical and paranoid is powerfully evocative. Unfortunately, it is entirely let down by a surprisingly arbitrary murder mystery, far too many subplots, an under-used supporting cast (don't cast Gary Oldman if you're going to forget about him for huge stretches of time), plodding pacing and badly under-developed characters. The novel on which it is based, clocks in at 480 pages and is only the first part of the trilogy so, without having read it, I can only assume that the film struggled valiantly but vainly to cram a fairly complex novel into a single two-hour film.

Lullaby. (4/10) This very contained story of a dysfunctional family gathering around the death bed of its dying patriarch could have been great had it matched its excellent cast with more sympathetic and significantly less annoying characters. As it stands, it's pretty much a pain in the ass that not even the likes of Richard Jenkins from save from insufferability.

The Duff. (8/10) Aside for alerting me to the horrifying and still frankly unbelievable existence of the concept of the Designated Ugly Fat Friend, the Duff offers little new to the teen-comedy genre. What it does offer though, are loads of laughs, plenty heart, a good (if obvious) message and a lead role for Mae Whitman (her?) to showcase just how gifted and likeable a comic actress she is. She's so good that I almost feel bad from dredging up that old Arrested Development joke. Almost. Maybe I'm inflating its rating slightly as it really does offer little we haven't seen before in a million other teen comedies, but considering the sorry state of comedy movies right now, you'll excuse me if I'm extra charitable to one that actually had me laughing all the way through.

I still need to catch up on a few movies, including The Last Five Years and A Most Violent Year, but that's about it for what was, frankly, a less than sterling month at the movies. 

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