It is no easier for me to report this than it is for you to hear it, but we're all adults and let's get real: Robert De Niro's name on a film project is now more a red flag of warning than a sign of quality. For every 'Silver Linings Playbook' there's a 'Big Wedding' or 'Righteous Kill' or a slapped-together piece of tone-deaf dross like 'The Family.'
Whoever said nightmares couldn't also be funny?
Richard Ayoade's 'The Double' is a clever mash-up of Eastern European despair and paranoia against stylized indies of the late 1980s. Its roots are Dostoyevsky's 1846 novella of the same name, but its look and tempo draw heavily from Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil' and Martin Scorsese's 'After Hours.' While it does take a little while to truly get rolling, those who delight in movies where every single shot is art directed within an inch of its life will luxuriate in its craftiness.
If disses were marble, Tracy Letts would be Michelangelo and 'August: Osage County' would be his David. His characters in this film, directed by John Wells and based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, are an extended family of well-off Oklahomans loaded with secrets and festering emotional wounds. They have gathered to bury the patriarch, played by Sam Shepard in one outstanding prologue scene.
Shepard may have been the Dad, but the Mom (Meryl Streep, in peak form, even for her) is the real power. A strong and severe woman who speaks her mind loudly and frequently, and is currently suffering from mouth cancer - an irony not lost on anyone - is facing her winter years by popping pills and settling scores. A major early set piece around a dinner table has Streep sitting like a General, barking humiliating things at her family. Why, you might be thinking, would I ever want to see such a thing? For starters, it is very, very funny.
From the center of a black screen a white dot forms into a sphere. Then, blue discs and then, finally, what looks like tar draining away from pure white. Mixed in with eerie music and some incoherent babble from a female voice. Even though I've seen all of 'Under the Skin' I still only have a vague, gut reaction idea of what these opening moments are meant to represent. And...I think that's exactly the idea?
It would be a lot easier if you could say, "it's just a movie." The sickening thing, the thing that may make it difficult to convince you to buy a ticket, is the opening card that reads, "based on a true story." But facing the cruelty of America's original sin is what '12 Years a Slave' is all about. That's what Solomon Northup did.
Ron Howard's 'Rush' is over two straight hours of lionizing F1 drivers as though they were Gods who ride among us. That aspect is demeaning and insufferable. But the thing is, 'Rush' is a good enough movie on its merits that I pretty much enjoyed it. If you are one who enjoys racing, I can only imagine how you'll react. (Perhaps you should wear a bib for all the drooling.)
Here's a tip. If you don't want people to think you are a child molester, pick out different frames than the ones Paul Dano wears in 'Prisoners.'
When neither Jake Gyllenhaal (as Detective Loki - yeah, you read that right) or his CSI crew can find any evidence that suspected molester Dano abducted two little girls that went for an unsupervised walk through a Pennsylvania suburb after Thanksgiving dinner, it's up to one of the two fathers of the girls - Hugh Jackman - to take matters into his own hand...
It's clear from the start that 'Getaway' is not a good movie. The opening sequence is a mess of different video stocks and flashbacks, an easy tell that a team of editors tore out their hair trying to skip as much boring exposition while leaving the first scenes cogent. But once former race car driver Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke) is behind the wheel of his stolen souped-up vehicle and is receiving crazy, destructive orders from the disembodied voice of Jon Voight, there's at least plenty of smashy-smashy to keep you occupied. The bad guy has some master plan – kidnapping Hawke's wife so that he'll be a mobile slave to his chaotic whims is part of laying the ground work.
But more than seeing traffic destruction on the streets of Sofia, Bulgaria (this month's production location low-bidder) there's a bigger catastrophe. Fifteen minutes into the movie, Selena Gomez shows up.
If you watched the new 'Divergent' trailer this morning and wondered, "Wait, what exactly is this?," don't feel bad. We did too. Despite being based on the insanely popular book series and being touted as "the next 'Hunger Games'," we'll admit to not knowing much about the story or why it's become such a sensation. So, we went to some people who we thought might know: the cast of 'Divergent.'
I'd call it something of a coup that 'The World's End' - sloppy drunk though its plotting may be - so well captures the melancholy essence of men accepting, with varying success, that somehow they got old. Even though Gary King (Simon Pegg) refuses to grow up, he's caught in an early-90s time warp, still listening to mixed tapes of Soup Dragons and Stone Roses and still thinks about his high school guidance counselor. When he spies a gaggle of young punks in his quiet hometown of Letchworth he sees them as a natural threat to his entire way of life.
While subtext, this emotional material "works" in 'The World's End,' mostly due to Pegg's striking performance - a dark turn from him that mixes the sad, antic clown of early Bill Murray with a dash of genuine self-destructive menace. Also, and this is a compliment, the character drama refuses to take a back seat to the lunacy driving the plot.