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Thumbnails Mar 14

by Tony Medley

Winter’s Tale (8/10): This is an intriguing, metaphysical fantasy highlighted by crackling chemistry between Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay, and a good turn by Russell Crowe as a semi-immortal demon, marred only by a less than lackluster performance by Will Smith as Lucifer, a role that could have been made magical by Jack Cassidy were he still alive. Akiva Goldsman, in his directorial debut, exhibits a deft touch in converting Mark Helprin’s 700 page  romantic novel covering 1895 to 2014 to film, getting a big boost from Caleb Deschanel’s evocative, atmospheric cinematography. The revered Eva Marie Saint makes a noteworthy appearance in a cameo.

Enemy (8/10): From the novel The Double by Nobel laureate José Saramago, this is a brilliantly complex thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal in a dual role that does not let the viewer relax one iota. Director Denis Villeneuve keeps applying constant tension, greatly aided by a wonderful score by Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans. Villeneuve says, “The logical point of view of the film needs to be blurry and daring – a challenge for the mind. But from the emotional point of view it’s very important that there is a clear path.” It’s that path that only became clear to me well after the film had ended.

Rob the Mob (8/10):  Based on a true story, Michael Pitt and Nina Arianda portray a couple of kids who pick on mobsters by holding them up in clumsy, but effective armed robberies. This is a terrifically-acted, well-paced mob comedy up until about the last 15 minutes when it loses all its pace and slows down to a plodathon, complete with Johnny Mathis wailing Dream, Dream, Dream (a pretty 1964 waltz) under a maudlin montage of shots that almost completely destroys what came before. While this continues the old dismaying Hollywood tradition of picturing the mafia as a bunch of loveable, doddering, laughable codgers, it was anything but. Opens March 21

Robocop (7/10): My question, even before I saw this, is why? Why do a remake with a script so similar that the original screenwriters are given almost full credit? Says director José Padilha about the 1987 movie, “I think it’s a brilliant film, an iconic classic.” Maybe it is. If so, why remake it? Would he repaint Mona Lisa or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? “Casablanca” fits his description of a “brilliant film, an iconic classic.” Would he remake that with, maybe, George Clooney as Rick (I shudder at the thought)? Now we have two Robocops that are virtual carbon copies of one another, although this one is less violent and much blander, aided, however, by a sparkling good cast. Take your pick.

Le Week-End (7/10): Maybe the easiest way to describe this is that it’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” for seniors. Jim Broadbent & Lindsay Duncan are celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary by returning to Paris, the place of their honeymoon. This is no honeymoon. It is a film of sharp emotions highlighted by insightful, biting dialogue emotionally delivered by Broadbent and Duncan. Even though this is in English, the audio was so muffled I yearned for subtitles.

The Monuments Men (2/10): The tragedy of this movie isn’t just that it’s appallingly awful; it trivializes the heroic work of the real monuments men. The script by George Clooney and Grant Heslov may stand as one of the worst in the history of Hollywood, filled with lines and situations so trite one shudders in disbelief. Even more dismal is Clooney’s ponderous directing relying on contrived incidents and a tone that would be more appropriate for Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein.