Man of Steel

(Zack Snyder, 2013)

with Dad, Millerton Moviehouse, 6/23/13

5

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This could have been a really good movie.  It’s kind of maddening to watch it with an awareness of its potential, because the mistakes are so glaringly obvious that it’s hard to imagine any professional making them.  The beginning is an overlong parade of doomed characters we don’t care about.  The climax is mostly a lot of arbitrary nonsense.  And the tornado scene is the most embarrassingly needless piece of “heroism” (qua colossal stupidity) that could possibly be conceived.  And it’s a shame, because Henry Cavill makes a very creditable Superman, some of the superpowered fight scenes are viscerally effective, and Russell Crowe (God bless you, Russell Crowe) lends the proceedings a gravitas that they don’t necessarily deserve.  There’s really quite a lot going for Man of Steel.  I wish it didn’t make so many boneheaded mistakes.

Published in: on June 27, 2013 at 12:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

To Have and Have Not

(Howard Hawks, 1944)

with Dad and Mom, Barn Screening Room, 6/22/13

7

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Basically a breezy Caribbean remake of Casablanca – and who wants to complain about that?  The chemistry between Bogie and Bacall practically drips off the screen; they’re clearly enjoying the hell out of each other, and their real-life love affair comes as no surprise.  Walter Brennan is adorable as Bogart’s stalwart “rummy” pal, and Hoagy Carmichael is delightfully droll as Cricket the pianist.  The only sour note is sounded by Dan Seymour, delivering a downright amateurish performance as the scoundrelly Vichy police captain.  Other than that, To Have and Have Not is pretty much a joy from its beginning to its sunnily inconclusive end.

Published in: on June 27, 2013 at 12:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Stories We Tell

(Sarah Polley, 2013)

with Sarah Chasey, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, 6/21/13

6

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Stories We Tell pretends to be about something intellectual – the slipperiness of memory and the way we use narrative to shape our lives – but it’s really about something emotional – the complicated mixture of chance, love, and disappointment that bonds people together as families.  As a result, there’s a certain coyness, or disingenuousness, about this film, even though it flirts with subjects of real resonance and depth.  On the plus side, almost all of Sarah Polley’s family members make for a compelling interview – especially her father, Michael Polley, a warm, ambivalent, bright, funny, elusive and charismatic man.  It is Michael’s blend of attractiveness and aloofness that forms the basis of his family’s secrets, and of its longing – but also of its existence.  Life can be funny like that.

Published in: on June 27, 2013 at 12:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Frances Ha

(Noah Baumbach, 2013)

with Elyse Moody, Cobble Hill Cinemas, 6/12/13

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Although Frances Ha is a gratingly precious piece of hipster navel-gazing, that’s not really its core problem.  Its core problem is, it doesn’t go anywhere.  Frances is one of the most irritating film heroes in recent memory, but if she were actually trying to accomplish something, I think we could find ourselves rooting for her.  No such luck.

Published in: on June 15, 2013 at 11:59 am  Comments (2)  

Men in Black 3

(Barry Sonenfeld, 2012)

with Devin and Dad, Barn Screening Room, 6/10/13

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This is that rare sequel that takes chances and breaks new ground.  It’s deft and clever and often goofy, but it also flirts with tragedy, addresses themes of loss, longing, and destiny, and dares to reinterpret – nay, redefine – the by now iconic relationship between its two main characters.  Plus, who knew Josh Brolin would make such a dynamite Tommy Lee Jones?  It’s a pleasure to see a Hollywood entertainment so lovingly crafted, so consummately well-acted, so richly infused with a sense of play and imagination.  It also contains a great joke about race, and a great joke about Andy Warhol.  What more could you want?

Published in: on June 11, 2013 at 7:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mud

(Jeff Nichols, 2013)

with Darcy, Brooklyn Heights Cinema, 5/12/13

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A bit on the slow side for my taste, but artful, wise, and warm.  Matthew McConaughey has never been better, or better cast.  Mud strikes a deft balance between fairytale and bittersweet truth, and the character of Mud works on both levels – mythic and cool on the one hand, and at the same time undeniably screwed up.  In its setting and themes, Mud feels a bit like a companion piece to Beasts of the Southern Wild, and while it’s not as distinctive and strange as that film, I think its pleasures are ultimately deeper.

Published in: on June 11, 2013 at 7:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Iron Man 3

(Shane Black, 2013)

with Robb Stey, Zachary Clark, Ryan Nicolls, Laurie Hymes, Greg Taubman, and many others, Lincoln Square AMC, 5/2/13

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Lots of clever dialogue, but no focus, no reason for being, no discernible heart or conviction or spark of urgency.  The villains are some kind of weird lava-men made of bad CGI; with sixty years of comic-book history to draw from, I’m pretty sure Shane Black and his team could have done better than that.  The action is frenetic and meaningless; the humor is often good, but it undermines the story.  Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is still compelling, and Ben Kingsley is a scene-stealer, but they’re both stuck in a movie that’s kind of a smug mess.

Published in: on June 11, 2013 at 6:43 pm  Comments (2)