Monday, December 30, 2013

Quick Takes on the Current OSCAR® Bait



August: Osage County (2013) ✭✭✭✭



Southern gothic chamber piece, complete with family dysfunction, bitter recriminations, suicide, incest and, worst of all, occasional over emoting. Set on the airless plains of Oklahoma during a heat wave, Tracy Letts’ script - based on his Pulitzer winning play - owes much to the shades of Tennessee Williams and Faulkner, with a dose of Ken Kesey thrown into the mix. Nominated by SAG and the Golden Globes, with surely more noms to come, “August: Osage County” boasts an impressive collection of actors, with Meryl Steep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard, Ewan McGregor and Juliette Lewis among the long list of notables. In fact, the film’s first half often feels like a sort of All-Star Game for thespians, with each scene adding a new famous face to the proceedings. You can almost hear a PA announcer: “Now batting...Benedict Cumberbatch.”

The story follows a familiar path for these types of dramas, as pill-popping matriarch Meryl - now facing a serious illness - has wrenching knock down drag out arguments with her daughters, in-laws and grandchildren, all of whom she has emotionally damaged in some way. Despite its predictability, the film is well paced and offers several rewarding scenes. Billed as a drama/comedy, overall August: Osage County could have used a bit more of the latter. However, It does have one laugh out loud line: “Ivy, you can’t move to New York. You’re almost 50 years old. You’ll break a hip."









Enough Said (2013) ✭✭✭ 1/2




Perfectly serviceable rom-com, written and directed by Nicole Holofcener who has worked on some of the best TV shows around. Here we find Julia Louis-Dreyfuss as a mobile masseuse in LA, whose floundering love life takes a turn for the better when she meets a fellow divorcee (James Gandolfini). Their budding romance appears to be on the right track until Louis-Dreyfuss receives some inside information about her new boyfriend from an unexpected source (Catherine Keener).

Holofcener has obviously made the rounds of LA's singles scene, and many details here have the ring of authenticity. She keeps the proceedings light and agreeable, even through the inevitable romantic rough patches. The film has received Golden Globe and SAG noms chiefly, I suspect, out of deference to Gandolfini's memory. And that memory makes Enough Said something of a bittersweet experience; the realization that an enormous talent was taken from us way too soon.


American Hustle (2013) ✭✭




Lots of sloppiness in this movie, which tries to make a feel-good story out of the whole ABSCAM mess. Confusing writing, slip-shod directing…Christian Bale, Louis CK and Jeremy Renner were the only ones who seem to have a handle on their characters. I know it's heresey to be the least bit critical of Jennifer Lawrence, but her accent is all over the place. Bradley Cooper is so madly in love with himself it's just plain nauseating. I thought the damn thing would never end. David O. Russell is not good.

Quick Takes on the Current OSCAR® Bait



August: Osage County (2013) ✭✭✭✭



Southern gothic chamber piece, complete with family dysfunction, bitter recriminations, suicide, incest and, worst of all, occasional over emoting. Set on the airless plains of Oklahoma during a heat wave, Tracy Letts’ script - based on his Pulitzer winning play - owes much to the shades of Tennessee Williams and Faulkner, with a dose of Ken Kesey thrown into the mix. Nominated by SAG and the Golden Globes, with surely more noms to come, “August: Osage County” boasts an impressive collection of actors, with Meryl Steep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard, Ewan McGregor and Juliette Lewis among the long list of notables. In fact, the film’s first half often feels like a sort of All-Star Game for thespians, with each scene adding a new famous face to the proceedings. You can almost hear a PA announcer: “Now batting...Benedict Cumberbatch.”

The story follows a familiar path for these types of dramas, as pill-popping matriarch Meryl - now facing a serious illness - has wrenching knock down drag out arguments with her daughters, in-laws and grandchildren, all of whom she has emotionally damaged in some way. Despite its predictability, the film is well paced and offers several rewarding scenes. Billed as a drama/comedy, overall August: Osage County could have used a bit more of the latter. However, It does have one laugh out loud line: “Ivy, you can’t move to New York. You’re almost 50 years old. You’ll break a hip."









Enough Said (2013) ✭✭✭ 1/2




Perfectly serviceable rom-com, written and directed by Nicole Holofcener who has worked on some of the best TV shows around. Here we find Julia Louis-Dreyfuss as a mobile masseuse in LA, whose floundering love life takes a turn for the better when she meets a fellow divorcee (James Gandolfini). Their budding romance appears to be on the right track until Louis-Dreyfuss receives some inside information about her new boyfriend from an unexpected source (Catherine Keener).

Holofcener has obviously made the rounds of LA's singles scene, and many details here have the ring of authenticity. She keeps the proceedings light and agreeable, even through the inevitable romantic rough patches. The film has received Golden Globe and SAG noms chiefly, I suspect, out of deference to Gandolfini's memory. And that memory makes Enough Said something of a bittersweet experience; the realization that an enormous talent was taken from us way too soon.


American Hustle (2013) ✭✭




Lots of sloppiness in this movie, which tries to make a feel-good story out of the whole ABSCAM mess. Confusing writing, slip-shod directing…Christian Bale, Louis CK and Jeremy Renner were the only ones who seem to have a handle on their characters. I know it's heresey to be the least bit critical of Jennifer Lawrence, but her accent is all over the place. Bradley Cooper is so madly in love with himself it's just plain nauseating. I thought the damn thing would never end. David O. Russell is not good.

Friday, December 20, 2013

TCM for January, 2014



TCM kicks off the new year with a batch of interesting obscurities and meat-and-potato classics. Below are my picks. All times Eastern. FULL SCHEDULE HERE.

1/6

9:30 PM
A man's investigation of a friend's death uncovers corruption in post-World War II Vienna.
BW-104 mins, TV-14, CC,

The Third Man. And quit calling it "an Orson Welles film."

1/7

8:45 AM
A newspaperman tracks a runaway heiress on a madcap cross-country tour.
BW-105 mins, TV-PG, CC,

8:00 PM
A young stevedore takes on the mobster who rules the docks.
BW-108 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format

3:45 AM
A proper British butler sacrifices happiness to remain faithful to his position.
C-134 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format

1/9

8:00 PM
Guests at a posh Berlin hotel struggle through scandal and heartache.
BW-113 mins, TV-PG, CC,


You'll never forget Solaris.

1/10

3:00 AM
An alien intelligence infiltrates a space mission.
C-167 mins, TV-14, Letterbox Format


1/12

2:00 AM
This film concentrates on two hours in the life of a French singer waiting on the results of a cancer test.
C-89 mins, TV-14, Letterbox Format

3:45 AM
A young woman turns to prostitution to pay the rent.
BW-83 mins, TV-14,


1/14

8:00 PM
A malicious student tries to destroy the teachers at a girls' school.
BW-108 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format

10:00 PM
A one-armed veteran uncovers small-town secrets when he tries to visit an Asian-American war hero's family.
C-82 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format


12 Angry Men. Henry Fonda at his best.

1/15

2:30 AM
A jury holdout tries to convince his colleagues to vote not guilty.
BW-96 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format

1/18

3:45 AM
LSD almost ruins the life of a former actress and her stepdaughter.
C-98 mins, TV-MA, Letterbox Format

5:30 AM
In this educational short film produced by Sid Davis, the dangers of marijuana are outlined.

C-21 mins, TV-14,


1/19

10:00 PM
A young progressive nun creates headaches for the Mother Superior.
C-94 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format


2:00 AM
An angel of death gives up his wings for love.
C-128 mins, TV-MA, Letterbox Format


Lilies of the Field. Don't touch Sydney's stuff.


1/20

4:15 PM
An itinerant handyman in the Southwest gets a new outlook on life when he helps a group of German nuns build a chapel.
BW-95 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format


6:00 PM
A black police detective from the North forces a bigoted Southern sheriff to accept his help with a murder investigation.
C-110 mins, TV-14, CC, Letterbox Format

1/24

3:15 AM
A rock star's personal appearance turns a small town into a disaster area.
C-112 mins, TV-G, CC, Letterbox Format

More Hank in Welcome to Hard Times.

1/25

2:00 PM
A broken-down sheriff tries to help his town stand against a mysterious outlaw.
C-103 mins, TV-PG, Letterbox Format

4:00 PM
An aging Robin Hood comes home to resume his relationship with Maid Marian and his battles against the Sheriff of Nottingham.
C-107 mins, TV-14, CC, Letterbox Format

6:00 PM
The legendary bank robbers run riot in the South of the 1930s.
C-111 mins, TV-14, CC, Letterbox Format

8:00 PM
The sheriff of an island town takes to the seas when a bloodthirsty shark invades the local waters.
C-124 mins, TV-MA, CC, Letterbox Format


10:15 PM
The crew of a broken down space ship accidentally picks up a deadly alien life form.
C-117 mins, TV-MA, CC, Letterbox Format


Closely Watched Trains proves the Czechs had a New Wave too.


1/26

2:00 AM
A bumbling railroad dispatcher joins the resistance in World War II to impress the girls.
C-93 mins, TV-14,

1/29

6:15 PM
A mysterious inventor passes off an animated doll as his daughter.
C-94 mins, TV-G, CC, Letterbox Format

8:00 PM
A Korean War hero doesn't realize he's been programmed to kill by the enemy.
BW-127 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format

4:15 AM
At the turn of the century exploited textile factory workers fight for better working conditions.
BW-130 mins, TV-MA, Letterbox Format


The Men from U.N.C.L.E. are back in The Karate Killers.


1/30

3:45 AM
The men from U.N.C.L.E. fight off karate-chopping henchmen to track down a secret formula.
C-93 mins, TV-PG,



5:30 AM
A progressive psychiatrist clashes with the conservative head nurse at a state institution.
BW-98 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format


TCM for January, 2014



TCM kicks off the new year with a batch of interesting obscurities and meat-and-potato classics. Below are my picks. All times Eastern. FULL SCHEDULE HERE.

1/6

9:30 PM
A man's investigation of a friend's death uncovers corruption in post-World War II Vienna.
BW-104 mins, TV-14, CC,

The Third Man. And quit calling it "an Orson Welles film."

1/7

8:45 AM
A newspaperman tracks a runaway heiress on a madcap cross-country tour.
BW-105 mins, TV-PG, CC,

8:00 PM
A young stevedore takes on the mobster who rules the docks.
BW-108 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format

3:45 AM
A proper British butler sacrifices happiness to remain faithful to his position.
C-134 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format

1/9

8:00 PM
Guests at a posh Berlin hotel struggle through scandal and heartache.
BW-113 mins, TV-PG, CC,


You'll never forget Solaris.

1/10

3:00 AM
An alien intelligence infiltrates a space mission.
C-167 mins, TV-14, Letterbox Format


1/12

2:00 AM
This film concentrates on two hours in the life of a French singer waiting on the results of a cancer test.
C-89 mins, TV-14, Letterbox Format

3:45 AM
A young woman turns to prostitution to pay the rent.
BW-83 mins, TV-14,


1/14

8:00 PM
A malicious student tries to destroy the teachers at a girls' school.
BW-108 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format

10:00 PM
A one-armed veteran uncovers small-town secrets when he tries to visit an Asian-American war hero's family.
C-82 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format


12 Angry Men. Henry Fonda at his best.

1/15

2:30 AM
A jury holdout tries to convince his colleagues to vote not guilty.
BW-96 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format

1/18

3:45 AM
LSD almost ruins the life of a former actress and her stepdaughter.
C-98 mins, TV-MA, Letterbox Format

5:30 AM
In this educational short film produced by Sid Davis, the dangers of marijuana are outlined.

C-21 mins, TV-14,


1/19

10:00 PM
A young progressive nun creates headaches for the Mother Superior.
C-94 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format


2:00 AM
An angel of death gives up his wings for love.
C-128 mins, TV-MA, Letterbox Format


Lilies of the Field. Don't touch Sydney's stuff.


1/20

4:15 PM
An itinerant handyman in the Southwest gets a new outlook on life when he helps a group of German nuns build a chapel.
BW-95 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format


6:00 PM
A black police detective from the North forces a bigoted Southern sheriff to accept his help with a murder investigation.
C-110 mins, TV-14, CC, Letterbox Format

1/24

3:15 AM
A rock star's personal appearance turns a small town into a disaster area.
C-112 mins, TV-G, CC, Letterbox Format

More Hank in Welcome to Hard Times.

1/25

2:00 PM
A broken-down sheriff tries to help his town stand against a mysterious outlaw.
C-103 mins, TV-PG, Letterbox Format

4:00 PM
An aging Robin Hood comes home to resume his relationship with Maid Marian and his battles against the Sheriff of Nottingham.
C-107 mins, TV-14, CC, Letterbox Format

6:00 PM
The legendary bank robbers run riot in the South of the 1930s.
C-111 mins, TV-14, CC, Letterbox Format

8:00 PM
The sheriff of an island town takes to the seas when a bloodthirsty shark invades the local waters.
C-124 mins, TV-MA, CC, Letterbox Format


10:15 PM
The crew of a broken down space ship accidentally picks up a deadly alien life form.
C-117 mins, TV-MA, CC, Letterbox Format


Closely Watched Trains proves the Czechs had a New Wave too.


1/26

2:00 AM
A bumbling railroad dispatcher joins the resistance in World War II to impress the girls.
C-93 mins, TV-14,

1/29

6:15 PM
A mysterious inventor passes off an animated doll as his daughter.
C-94 mins, TV-G, CC, Letterbox Format

8:00 PM
A Korean War hero doesn't realize he's been programmed to kill by the enemy.
BW-127 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format

4:15 AM
At the turn of the century exploited textile factory workers fight for better working conditions.
BW-130 mins, TV-MA, Letterbox Format


The Men from U.N.C.L.E. are back in The Karate Killers.


1/30

3:45 AM
The men from U.N.C.L.E. fight off karate-chopping henchmen to track down a secret formula.
C-93 mins, TV-PG,



5:30 AM
A progressive psychiatrist clashes with the conservative head nurse at a state institution.
BW-98 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format


80 Years at the Races

Most Marx Brothers aficionados agree that 1937’s A Day at the Races was the last truly great film featuring the zany siblings. Produced by ...