Thumbnails September 2011
by Tony Medley
Crazy, Stupid Love (9/10):
This is a film that restores my faith in romantic comedies. What
makes it tick is the exceptional acting, highlighted by Emma Stone
abetted Ryan Gosling. It's a good, entertaining film for the first hour,
but then when Emma takes center stage, it is drop dead funny. The other
standout is Jonah Bobo, who plays the son of Steve Carell and Julianne
Moore, whose deadpan playing is spot on. On the negative side, the
maudlin ending segued the film from a fine comedy into something
different, breaking the fine comedic pace of the movie up until then.
Rise of the Planet of the
Apes (9/10): The true star of this prequel is the performance
capture technology that enables Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar the
Chimpanzee, to really look like an ape with intelligence. It's told from
the POV of the apes, sort of a modern Call of the Wild, Jack
London's classic story of an Alaskan dogsled dog. There are some good
performances by humans, too; James Franco as Caesar's adoptive father,
and John Lithgow as Franco's father who is suffering from dementia.
Director Rupert Wyatt keeps the pace up throughout the film, aided by a
smart script by Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa.
Brighton Rock (8/10):
On the surface, this might appear to be just another crime film. But
when seen as an allegory of the fight between good and evil, and from
the standpoint of author Graham Greene's Catholicism, it takes on a
completely different appearance. Pinkie (Sam Riley) is a metaphor for
the devil. His hair is even spiked in certain scenes. The girl he
pursues, Rose (Andrea Riseborough), is mankind. The story isn't really
about Pinkie's rise in the criminal world, it's the story of the battle
for Rose's soul between Pinkie and Ida (Helen Mirren in a spectacular
performance), as the Church. This is not an easy film to watch, but if
one accepts the allegory and doesn't mind some deep thinking, it's a
Chasing Madoff (8/10):
This is the story of Harry Markopolos, who figured out Bernie Madoff's
Ponzi scheme a decade before Bernie's fall. Harry gave chapter and verse
to the SEC, headed by Republican Chris Cox, who ignored him. So did The
Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Barron's, and CNBC. Despite low production
values and misguided phony staging of scenes that diminishes its
verisimilitude, I give this a high mark because it's interesting and
enlightening. If any one of these pillars of the industry had listened
to Markopolos' voice crying in the wilderness, a lot of trusting
investors could have avoided being gored by this avaricious sociopath.
The Help (7/10): This
is an entertaining chick flick, even though it's almost unbearably
heavy-handed. Despite a clumsy script totally lacking in subtlety, Emma
Stone gives another magnificent performance. She's aided by good
direction by Tate Taylor and stellar performances by Allison Janney,
Viola Davis, Cicely Tyson, and Bryce Dallas Howard, in an award-quality
rendition as the villainess.
The Change Up (5/10): A
good idea destroyed by abundant sophomoric scenes of people going to the
bathroom, groin jokes, and profanity.
One Day (3/10): An
agonizing ordeal for a guy, but Rachel Portman's music is terrific and
Anne Hathaway gives a fine performance.
Mozart's Sister (0/10):
Writer/producer/director René Féret becomes the poster child for
nepotism by manning the film with every person in his family, including
himself. Unfortunately, none understand the word "emotion," reciting
lines like they are reading them. Worse, this is a costume drama set in
18th Century France, but Féret uses film stock that looks like it was
old washed out Trucolor film discarded by Republic Pictures in the late
'40s. In French.