Monday, October 14, 2013

Super-Quick Reviews of Movies I’ve Seen Recently (9/18 to 10/14)


ENOUGH SAID -- Had a big smile on my face throughout this hilarious, touching, smart, ridiculously likeable pleasure of a film. Amazing chemistry between Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who is great, and James Gandolfini, who nails his final and perhaps unlikeliest role. Sad that we'll never see him take his career to the next level hinted at here.

DRINKING BUDDIES -- Funny, heartfelt & beer-soaked comedy from Joe Swanberg about love and friendship (and drinking beer). Great performances from a great cast including Jake Johnson, Ron Livingston, Anna Kendrick and Olivia Wilde, who is just a perfect specimen.

BLUE CAPRICE -- This reconstruction of the 2002 D.C. sniper killings is a quietly chilling, character-driven portrait of evil. Constant, heavy sense of dread -- the film even looks bleak. Excellent performances abound (though it is jarring to see Joey Lauren Adams so far removed from the View Askewniverse).

PRISONERS -- Intense, enthralling, unsettling, unexpected. Hugh Jackman is at the top of his game (and Oscar-worthy once again). While this slow-boiling mystery-thriller doesn’t quite reach the heights of such classics as THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, SE7EN and ZODIAC, it definitely deserves to be part of the conversation.

A.C.O.D. -- This comedy about an "Adult Child of Divorce" still reeling from his parents' feud features a powerhouse comedy cast including Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O'Hara, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clark Duke, Amy Poehler, Jessica Alba and Jane Lynch -- but somehow only generates mild laughs and is ultimately forgettable.

THANKS FOR SHARING -- Listless comedy/drama about sex addiction. Decent performances from Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins and others, and I guess it means well, but constant tonal shifts are awkward and it’s just generally lame. Kudos to Gwyneth Paltrow, though, for continuing 2013’s trend of fit forty-something actresses showing off their bangin’ bods.

DON JON -- Bold, raunchy, funny success for writer/director/star Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Scarlett Johansson is at her bombshell best. Tony Danza steals some scenes. Brie Larson continues to impress (see also: SHORT TERM 12). Also serves as further proof that Julianne Moore should just be in every movie.

THE SECRET LIVES OF DORKS -- Biggest problem with this movie is that there's zero reason for it to exist at this point. Utterly inept script, direction, acting and tiresome “cinematic comic book” gimmick are just diarrhea icing on the turd cake.

THE YOUNG AND PRODIGIOUS T.S. SPIVET -- This story of a young genius who runs away from his eccentric family and treks to the Smithsonian Institute to accept a science award is wonderfully offbeat, emotional, funny, imaginative, occasionally dark and a visual feast -- in other words, vintage Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Looks great in 3D (thanks to a dude named Demetri Portelli, the same stereographer who worked on HUGO).

GRAVITY -- One of the most harrowing, thrilling movie-watching experiences in recent memory. Alfonso Cuaron is a master craftsman and undisputed king of the long take. By far the best work of Sandra Bullock's career and George Clooney is a man among men. A perfect mix of great acting, brilliant filmmaking, groundbreaking visuals to complement a refreshingly simple, human story. Arguably the best film of the year so far and an absolute must-see on the biggest screen possible.

RUNNER RUNNER -- Can't help but think that this movie was a practical joke that Ben Affleck, Anthony Mackie & Gemma Arterton played on Justin Timberlake and he just never figured it out. They all seem to realize that the movie is dumb and (over)act accordingly, but JT takes it so seriously. Poor guy. (Oh, it’s about the wacky world of online poker. Yawn.)

CONCUSSION -- Lesbian housewife gets hit in head, develops midlife crisis, becomes prostitute for kicks. Robin Weigert shines in this smart, well-written drama/semi-satire from first-time writer/director Stacie Passon.

I USED TO BE DARKER -- Engaging, low-key and contemplative look at a family in various stages of disarray. Potent, honest performances (especially Irish cutie Deragh Campbell in her first film) and excellent use of live music performances to advance plot & feelings.

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS -- Shaky-cam maestro Paul Greengrass delivers 133 minutes of expertly-crafted intensity, grounded by Tom Hanks' best live-action work in over a decade. A tremendous procedural that digs into the 2009 Somali pirate situation from various angles and results in a memorable cinematic experience.

WADJDA -- The first feature film shot entirely in Saudia Arabia (made by a female Saudi filmmaker, no less) is the story of a young girl who is determined to earn enough money, defy society and buy a bike so she can race against her friend. A wonderful triumph about the power of the human spirit and worthy of its current Oscar short-listed status.