Wednesday, September 02, 2015

August 2015

August will be remembered as the month I tried to get my car fixed by Pep Boys, and ran afoul of the company's attempts to repeatedly defraud me. (The case in ongoing.) On the television front, I finished binge-watching American Horror Story (wrapping up the third-season's story arc, Coven) and started binging on Justified (completing three of six total seasons). Miraculously, I also got a chance to see a few movies:

SOUTHPAW (2015)—When Jake Gyllenhaal commits to a character, he goes all in. This time out, he plays a champion boxer who is challenged by competitor who is hungrier and fiercer. Sound familiar? It should. Though admittedly entertaining, Southpaw is a by-the-numbers boxing picture that gathers familiar tropes and cliches and shamelessly regurgitates them. Thankfully, Gyllenhaal is the kind of actor who can make this kind of standard boxing movie into something truly worthwhile. The always lovely Rachel McAdams costars. (9)

THE GIFT (2015)—Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall are a suburban couple menaced by a weirdo (Joel Edgerton) from his past in this Fatal Attraction-style thriller. What makes it slightly more Hitchcockian than other mystery movies is that writer/director/costar Edgerton throws the occasional twist into the tale. It may not make anybody’s “classic” list 10 years from now, but it does its job reasonably well. Bateman is outstanding, as always. (8)

ANT-MAN (2015)—The latest Marvel superhero franchise features Paul Rudd as a guy whose suit (invented by Michael Douglas) allows him to shrink down and rub elbows with the insect world. One or two of the Avengers characters make a cameo in a story that has to do with taking down a particularly insidious guy (Corey Stoll); like Iron Man, it’s one of the funniest entries in the Marvel canon, and scores greatly by not destroying major cities and jeopardizing the world’s population in the process, as tends to happen in most of these superhero flicks. Excellent popcorn entertainment. (9)

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE—ROGUE NATION (2015)—Tom Cruise headlines the fifth big-screen outing in the franchise about missions that somehow always get completed despite their "impossibility." It’s a nonstop suspenser with plenty of action and adventure. It’s only been a few weeks since I’ve seen it, and most of the plot details have evaporated from my mind…but like a roller-coaster ride, I do remember that it was great fun while it lasted! Rebecca Ferguson, as a mysterious agent who could either be good or evil, is a true standout, and she’s set to headline the film adaptation of a great book I read recently called The Girl on the Train. (10)

MISTRESS AMERICA (2015)—Greta Gerwig stars in the second movie to be written and directed by her boyfriend, Noah Baumbach. As with their previous effort, Frances Ha—and, let’s face it, every other movie she appears in—Gerwig plays a lovably daffy young woman with big dreams. Here she plays Brooke, a woman befriending and mentoring her future sister-in-law Tracy (Lola Kirke), and the film plays on their generational and personality differences against a hipsterish NYC backdrop. Brooke is positively bursting with ideas and goals and plans, and it’s a joy to watch Gerwig explore the character. There’s a fair amount of amusing and well-written dialogue as the film careens toward a climax that throws them in a house together with Brooke’s ex-boyfriend, his new wife, and several other people, and we watch Brooke’s dreams begin to unravel. The movie’s big problem is that no other characters come close to capturing even a fraction of the affection we feel for Brooke, and the film’s interminable final third tested my patience after a delightful and promising start. (The film sat on the shelf for a couple of years before finally being released.) Still, Gerwig continues to be a truly amazing performer, and I’m already excited to see her next movie, Maggie’s Plan, set to hit the film-festival circuit in September. (8)

DARK PLACES (2015)—Gillian Flynn’s suspenseful 2009 novel (published three years before her mega-hit Gone Girl) has been adapted into a so-so movie starring Charlize Theron as a woman haunted by her family’s massacre as a child. The movie is marred by awkward direction—Gilles Paquet-Brenner throws in questionable zoom shots that feel totally inappropriate. It’s not a bad thriller; just much less effective than the book—like Gone Girl. And, like Mistress America, this one gathered dust on the shelves prior to release. (7)

GRANDMA (2015)—Lily Tomlin is the grandma and Julia Garner is her pregnant granddaughter, whom she tries to help get an abortion while acting as a better role model than mom Marcia Gay Harden. When Tomlin’s on screen, the movie is wonderful; Harden is a bit of a caricature, and Garner just looks weird, with her unsightly curly hair and ever-present scowl. But Tomlin makes this family-oriented comedy-drama worth seeing. (8)

1 comment:

Helen said...

I totally agree with you about Rebecca Ferguson. She was amazing in MI: Rogue Nation...glad to hear she's already got something else coming out.