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Movie Review: JACKIE

December 1, 2016 – 9:58 pm | One Comment

 

Jackie Kennedy is such an iconic figure, what hasn’t already been said about her? Well, Pablo Larraín’s Jackie tries to give us a different portrait of her by imagining how she was in the private moments …

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Capsule Movie Reviews: ALLIED, RULES DON’T APPLY, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA & LION

November 22, 2016 – 11:17 pm | 2 Comments

If you celebrate Thanksgiving, then I imagine your weekend will include not only turkey and stuffing but also football and movie viewing. I can’t help you with the first three items, seeing as how I can injure myself just opening a bag of chips, but with several new movies out this week, perhaps I can help you decide which one(s) you should spend your money on.

Allied

allied-cotillard-pittBrad Pitt and Marion Cotillard star as WWII spies who go undercover as husband and wife to assassinate a German ambassador. Afterward, they become husband and wife for real…until a huge conflict arises that might make it impossible for them to remain allied.

This Robert Zemeckis-directed film is all about old-Hollywood glamor and style. Though the plot is hardly groundbreaking, Cotillard and Pitt are gorgeously lit and attired (costume designer Joanna Johnston had better be nominated for an Oscar) and they do generate some heat. Their collective star power charges the film.

If you’re the type who often thinks, “They sure don’t make movies like they used to,” Allied might be the ticket for you.

Rules Don’t Apply

rulesdontapplyWarren Beatty’s latest directorial effort also travels back in time, starting in 1964 and then going back five years earlier, with Beatty playing Howard Hughes.

But it’s not just about Hughes; the story centers on a young couple, a starlet (Lily Collins) Hughes brings out to Hollywood for a screen test, and the starlet’s driver (Alden Ehrenreich).

Peppered throughout are lots of name actors, including Annette Bening, Candice Bergen, Matthew Broderick, Martin Sheen, Ed Harris. But except for the always riveting Bening, the stars are given nothing to do, and some are practically background actors. I can only speculate they took the gig because they’re Friends of Warren.

Instead, the most screen time goes to the least interesting actors of the bunch: Collins and Ehrenreich, with Collins the bigger problem. She looks good in period costumes but it’s all surface and no depth, and every line out of her mouth is unconvincing. Ehrenreich doesn’t have much to play with, but he has a kind of stillness that hints at something interesting. I guess we’ll see if he’s got any swagger when he suits up as the young Han Solo.

Beatty’s rambling script is problematic, too. It can’t decide if it’s about Hughes or the young couple or aeronautics or Hollywood or all of the above or what. Characters say random lines and talk at not with each other, creating a disconnect like they’re doing different scenes while in the same one. I’m calling this a turkey, though not the delicious kind.

Manchester by the Sea

manchester-by-the-seaCasey Affleck and Lucas Hedges play uncle and nephew bonding in the aftermath of a family member’s death. Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler costar as Affleck’s ex-wife and brother.

If you’ve followed Williams’s and/or director/writer Kenneth Lonergan’s (You Can Count on Me) career, you know neither makes happy movies. It’s as if Williams only wants to explore the depths of grief in her work. But she’s so good at it, and her scene near the end of Manchester is devastating.

It’s not all sad, though; the movie does have moments of humor and Affleck makes emotional numbness compelling. Manchester will likely get multiple nominations for acting and/or writing and directing, so check it out to see what the buzz is about.

Lion

lion-sunny-pawarI’ve saved my favorite for last.

Lion is based on A Long Way Home, Saroo Brierley’s 2014 memoir, and tells the tale of how 5-year-old Saroo got lost in 1986 on a train in India, ending up on the streets for more than a month, with no money and only a vague idea of the name of his hometown. He’s eventually taken to an adoption agency and is adopted by Sue and John Brierly (Nicole Kidman, David Wenham) of Tasmania, Australia.

Saroo never stops searching for home, however, and 25 years later, while using Google Earth, he sees an image that fits his hazy memories of where he lived as a boy. But is his family still there?

It’s incredible that Sunny Prewar, who plays the young Saroo (Dev Patel takes over in the later years), has never acted before. The boy is a natural, effortlessly carrying the first half of the movie on his tiny shoulders. The rest of the cast is strong, too; Kidman shows the kindly Sue could also be fierce with just a look.

I was a sobbing mess by the time this movie ended, but they were emotional, life-affirming tears. Even if crying at the movies is not your thing, Lion inspires hope that however far away from home you might find yourself, you don’t have to remain lost forever.

Which movie(s) are you looking to see this week? If you’re considering Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, that review is here.

I’ve also seen a bunch of other top award contenders, including La La Land, Jackie, and Hidden Figures, and will post reviews in the next couple of weeks.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photos: Allied/Paramount, Rules Don’t Apply/Twentieth Century Fox, Manchester by the Sea/Amazon Studios, Lion/The Weinstein Company

Book Review: WHERE AM I NOW? by Mara Wilson

October 17, 2016 – 7:36 pm | One Comment
mara-wilson-where-am-i-now

Mara Wilson shot to fame when she was five years old, after playing Robin Williams and Sally Field’s daughter in Mrs. Doubtfire. That led to her stepping into Natalie Wood’s shoes in the remake of …

Squirrels and Kittens and Gators—Oh, My!

October 10, 2016 – 10:48 pm | 10 Comments
kittens

Today is pub day for Laura Benedict‘s The Abandoned Heart, and I’m happy to welcome her back to PCN. She’s the nicest twisted person I know, as evidenced by the creepy post she wrote for me …

Nerdy Special List October 2016

October 9, 2016 – 9:30 pm | 3 Comments
tell-the-truth

Need something to take your mind off all the ugliness in the news these days? How about checking out the books on this month’s Nerdy Special List? Our contributors have diverse and excellent taste so I hope …

Movie Review: THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

October 6, 2016 – 6:44 pm | 8 Comments
gott

Though I was less than impressed with The Girl on the Train in book form, I like the talent associated with the movie, especially Emily Blunt, who plays Rachel, the titular character. So I went …

Nerdy Special List September 2016

September 11, 2016 – 11:04 pm | 4 Comments
daisy-in-chains

I’ve seen many fall-books list in the last couple of weeks, but they all seem to have the same five books on them. Well, WE’RE RECOMMENDING ALL DIFFERENT BOOKS.
(I’m not punchy, just hungry. And tired …

Movie Review: SULLY

September 8, 2016 – 9:36 pm | 2 Comments
sully-hanks-eckhart

 

Like many people, I thought I knew what happened on January 15, 2009 with US Airways Flight 1549, which Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed on the Hudson River about 3 minutes after takeoff from La Guardia Airport. A bird …

Book Review: THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR by Shari Lapena

August 28, 2016 – 6:20 pm | One Comment
couple next door

At the outset of Shari Lapena’s first novel, Anne and Marco Conti are enjoying a rare night out at a dinner party next door. Their babysitter canceled at the last minute, so the Contis have …

Nerdy Special List August 2016

August 4, 2016 – 9:25 pm | 4 Comments
last days of night

Happy Friday, everyone! At least, I think it’s Friday. I’ve locked myself in the den this entire week because it’s too hot to go outside, and—wait, wasn’t I wearing these same shorts yester…anyway, my point is, …

Movie Review: SUICIDE SQUAD

August 2, 2016 – 8:55 pm | One Comment
suicide-squad

I didn’t know much about the squad when I went to the screening, and had avoided all the trailers, so I was open to whatever. I just wanted to be entertained.
And I was, by some of it, …

Book Review: MISSING, PRESUMED by Susie Steiner

July 28, 2016 – 9:48 pm | 4 Comments
missing, presumed

Beautiful Cambridge grad student Edith Hind goes missing, leaving behind her belongings, including her passport and phone. There’s also blood at her home, and the door wide is open.
Investigating Edith’s disappearance, Cambridgeshire Detective Sergeant Manon …

Book Review: COLLECTING THE DEAD by Spencer Kope

July 21, 2016 – 9:33 pm | 2 Comments
collecting the dead

Spencer Kope’s Collecting the Dead introduces Magnus “Steps” Craig, who works in the FBI Special Tracking Unit as the “human bloodhound.”
Steps has the synesthetic ability to see touch, i.e., he can spot the traces people …

Movie Review: GHOSTBUSTERS

July 15, 2016 – 6:17 pm | No Comment
ghostbusters_2016

The first things you probably want to know are: Is it as good as the original? Is it funny?
No, and yes.
I wanted to be fair to this version and not compare it to the 1984 …

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