Monday, May 3, 2010

Film Round-Up for May

In this edition of the Film Round-Up, let's hear it for the foxy older ladies...Aaah, yeah! Mary-Louise Parker, Laura Linney, and Demi Moore have prominent roles in just-released movies.

Too bad those movies range from unwatchable to boring.

The highlight of the month was getting to talk to burgeoning it girl Zoe Kazan, who stars in "The Exploding Girl." Other than, not so good, Al. My interview with Miss Kazan, age 26, should be up next month.

In the meantime, here's a still of an ewok getting plastered! Enjoy!

Again, these reviews were previously published in "ICON" and are reprinted with permission. (Thanks, Trina.)

Solitary Man (Dirs: Brian Koppelman and David Levien). Starring: Michael Douglas, Jenna Fischer, Jesse Eisenberg, Danny DeVito, Mary-Louise Parker, Susan Sarandon. After years plagued by professional scandal and bad personal decisions, once venerable car salesman Ben Kalmen (Douglas) is on the brink of getting back in the game—thanks to the powerful connections of his girlfriend (Parker). However, a runaway libido and a refusal to compromise keep Ben from escaping his rut while wreaking havoc on his family and himself. Douglas happily dusts off the creepy hustler role he's owned since Wall Street, but in-demand screenwriters Levien and Koppelman (Rounders, Oceans 13) cram too many plotlines and characters into their script, making us feel like we're always two scenes behind. Attempts to wax poetic on mortality and monogamy are undercut by the film's preposterous premise (is anyone else buying a one-time Forbes cover subject finding clarity as a deli worker?) and skittish attention span (Sarandon, Ben's ex-wife and moral compass, is barely around). Solitary Man mistakes activity for achievement. [R] *

The City of Your Final Destination (Dir: James Ivory). Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Laura Linney, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Omar Metwally, Alexandra Maria Lara. Hoping to write a career-salvaging autobiography of a deceased literary titan, a young American academic (Metwally) travels to the Uruguay countryside to get approval from his subject's surviving family. At first, the family (bitter widow Linney, gay brother Hopkins, and sexy paramour Gainsbourg) is taken aback by the young man's surprise visit to their rural estate. But the longer he stays, the more feelings he awakens in everyone. At least I think that's the point in this typically snoozy Merchant-Ivory production, which presents us with five boring main characters, gives them non-issues to agonize over, and paces the proceedings with the urgency and energy of a zoning board meeting. The only salvation—and it's not nearly enough—is Hopkins, who adds an ounce of cheeky fun to the high-end ennui. You know a movie is shaky when the talented Linney is rendered useless. Written by Ivory's long-time collaborator Ruth Jhabvala, who adapted from Peter Cameron's novel. [PG-13] *

The Joneses (Dir: Derrick Borte). Starring: David Duchovny, Demi Moore, Amber Heard, Ben Hollingsworth, Gary Cole, Glenne Headly, Lauren Hutton. A picture perfect "family" of salesmen moves into an affluent suburb with one goal in mind—to convince their unknowing neighbors to buy as many products (from cell phones to golf clubs) as possible. New hire Steve (Duchovny) has trouble dealing with his undeniable skill as a covert pitchman and an even harder time keeping things professional with his "wife" (Moore, still ageless), who is more concerned with impressing the higher-ups. Meanwhile, the "kids" (Heard, Hollingsworth) pick the wrong time to express their sexuality in a non-commercial way. Satire is written all over The Joneses, but writer/director Borte never gets dark and nasty with the material, instead settling for romantic yearning and teen confusion. In other words, the movie soon becomes every other family drama you've ever seen. Duchovny, whose cool skepticism is perfect for the lead role, and the forever-reliable Cole, as Steve's gullible new friend/mark, steer the movie away from total blandness. [R] **

The Exploding Girl (Dir: Bradley Rust Gray). Starring: Zoe Kazan, Mark Rendall. An epileptic college student (Kazan, in her first starring role) returns home to New York City for spring break desperate to hear from her boyfriend. As she mopes around town and waits for the phone to ring, she ignores the possibilities offered by her longtime best friend (Rendall), who spends the break at her apartment. Extremely low-key character study borders on unobtrusive, and occasionally lapses into drowsiness, but that prevents the movie from becoming an Eastern version of Beverly Hills 90210. Writer/producer/director Gray effectively shows how burdensome young love is when there's nothing but idle time, and Kazan (Me and Orson Welles) not only looks the part, she nails the self-loathing and self-denial of a mindset convinced that everything hinges on a call from a boy. Not a movie to raise your pulse rate, but the two characters and their issues ring true throughout. [NR] ***

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