Jul 042012
 
Hugo (2011): Hardly the Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

These days, I think all Scorsese would have to do is cut a loud fart for the Academy and moviegoers alike to shout “Bravo!” After all, they did so over the Irish gangster flick The Departed, which cussed at them ad nauseam and gave them violence galore while saying next to nothing of value. Albeit Hugo reeks of a Disneyish vibe, shamelessly flaunting its 3-D graphical-clockworks extravaganza while getting all warm and cuddly about how wonderful it is that two young waifs are finding purpose in life. But all the more sickening for Marty, who used to be above merely pandering to the brainless mainstream. Seriously, is this cotton-candy-sweet Hugo helmed by the same iconoclast who spearheaded such gritty yet subtle character exposés as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas?

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Jul 042012
 
My Week With Marilyn (2011): She's Stupendous! Spectacular! And Above All, Sexy! But She Can't Act.

“She’s the greatest piece of ass on earth. With tits like that, you make allowances.” This crude logic proffered by Marilyn Monroe’s (Michele Williams) publicist Arthur Jacobs (Toby Jones) just about sums up how much actual talent it takes to forge an acting career in Hollywood provided that you’ve got the right package of bodily goods to ware. Let’s admit it: Marilyn probably didn’t get her famous role in Some Like It Hot because of her ability to faithfully re-create a character; rather, it was one more fulfillment of the persona Hollywood had created for her: that of a coquette who could get leering men hot in the pants by making kissing gestures at them with her forefinger and doing a little bunny-hop dance number. Sure, it’s shallow, but as the old saying goes, sex sells. Sadly, such shallowness also sums up Simon Curtis’s My Week With Marilyn, a film that I’d expected much more from.

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Jul 042012
 
Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011): Don't Do Anything Crazy or Stupid. Just Love This Film.

At last, an intelligent, well-crafted, and aptly cast romantic comedy—they seem about as rare these days as successful marriages. God knows I’ve watched some clunkers from that genre of late, most recently that aimless, gender-stereotyped piece of PC garbage The Rebound. I’m thankful to have that vile taste out of my mouth. But let’s be positive. I’m really thankful that Crazy, Stupid, Love is not your average, by-the-numbers love story. And it doesn’t just glibly weave a cento of meaningless stock messages that moralize or insult your intelligence. Or cynically mock platonic love, as the title might lead one to believe.

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Jul 042012
 
Miscarriage of Justice in The Conspirator (2010)

Robert Redford’s The Conspirator is an engaging and suspenseful—if at times heavy-handed—historical courtroom docudrama about the trial of Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), a woman accused of aiding and abetting John Wilkes Booth and other Confederate sympathizers in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Representing her is lawyer Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy), an ex-soldier from the Union side. Though Booth will probably be well known to those with even a smattering of U.S. history under their belt, I suspect Surratt’s name will be less familiar (at least so it was for this viewer).

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Jul 042012
 
The Rebound (2009): You, Too, May Need Some Time to Bounce Back After This

When a film-making team needs to resort to poopy-mouth and low-brow sexual humor to get your attention, it means the idea well runneth dry. I guess in the case of The Rebound, it actually makes sense: they needed lots of penis talk and a reference to a texted image of a kid’s two-foot bowel movement to try to distract the viewer from feeling cheated for sitting through banal truisms, stock characterization, and a disjointed, implausible plot.

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Jul 042012
 
Shrooms (2007): A Trip Across the Pond

When’s the last time you saw a talking cow? How about one that said “you’re dead fucked”? If you’re not schizophrenic, an answer other than “never” to these questions would probably mean that, like the steroidal jock Bluto (Robert Hoffman) in Shrooms, you were hallucinating on one of several mind-bending drugs. Well, it’s certainly no secret which one’s at issue here—the title eponymously informs us that “magic mushrooms” are the film’s psychedelic of choice.

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