When the best movie here is about a pack of roughnecks being chased by wild wolves, you know you're in for a rough month. I will say that one of the pleasures this month was recognizing what an expressive, vivacious presence Eva Green is.
The reviews appeared in the February issue of ICON and are reprinted with permission. (Thanks, Trina.)
The Innkeepers (Dir: Ti West). Starring: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis. It's the last weekend for the Yankee Pedlar Inn, a creaky New England hotel that has fallen into disrepair and irrelevancy. The owner is long gone, leaving staff members Claire (Paxton) and Luke (Healy) to close up shop and pursue other interests, namely observing the building's celebrated paranormal activity. What starts as a nighttime lark soon turns into something far more dangerous as Claire uncovers sights far more dangerous than things that go bump in the night. West's script establishes a sarcastic rapport between Claire and Luke, two young adults now starting to realize how much potential they've wasted. Aside from that refreshing maneuver, The Innkeepers is a straightforward, contemporary haunted house (or rather hotel) tale that offers some scares amidst the indie-flavored substance. West, who also edited and produced the film, is a Wilmington, DE native. And yes, that's '80s leading lady McGillis of Witness and Top Gun fame as a hotel guest with hidden motives. [R] **
Perfect Sense (Dir: David Mackenzie). Starring: Ewan McGregor, Eva Green, Connie Nielsen, Ewen Bremner, Stephen Dillane. A bike-riding, womanizing chef (McGregor) and a self-centered, intense epidemiologist (Green, Casino Royale) take a fancy to each other in modern-day Belfast. Their burgeoning relationship occurs amidst a worldwide catastrophe: people are mysteriously losing their senses, leading to a scary, uncertain future. The movie's best assets are McGregor and Green, who make us care about two narcissistic souls learning to love in a time of catastrophe. The actors also elevate the film above apocalyptic gimmickry. In these times of social, environmental, and geo-political uncertainty, directors and writers have repeatedly gone the world-is-coming-undone route. Sometimes it works. Here, Mackenzie (Mister Foe) nearly breaks his arms in his forceful embrace of that perspective. He has Green deliver a somber, pretentious narration and eagerly presents people freaking out a la The Happening, leading to scenes that are more amusing than arresting. Perfect Sense proves that some stories are best served straight up. Also available On Demand. [NR] **
Albert Nobbs (Dir: Rodrigo Garcia). Starring: Glenn Close, Janet McTeer, Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Johnson, Brendan Gleeson, Brenda Fricker, Pauline Collins. Close, in the title role, portrays a woman who disguises herself as a man in 1890s Ireland. Nobbs' life as a hotel waiter is all stoic professionalism until she meets a fellow gender disguiser (McTeer), who proves that the good life (i.e., house, wife, business) is attainable. Inspired and flush with cash, Nobbs sets her socially awkward sights on a beautiful, uninterested coworker (Wasikowska), a pursuit that guarantees heartbreak. Terrific cast and a promising concept can't overcome the fact that Nobbs is—forgive the lack of poetry here—boring. She's mopey and meek, and her humanity remains disguised during the entire film. That's your central protagonist, folks. And she's featured in a plot with zero drama, thanks to a script crammed with clichéd supporting characters (daft elderly waiters, gossipy kitchen help, hard-drinking doctors), each one painted in the same shade of bland. All take away from Nobbs' internal struggle, which is never clearly defined. Close also served as a producer and writer. [R] **
The Grey (Dir: Joe Carnahan). Starring: Liam Neeson, James Badge Dale, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts, Nonso Anozie, Joe Anderson. A plane carrying a ragtag group of oil drillers crashes into the snowy Alaskan unknown, leaving seven survivors with limited provisions and no chance of being found. If that doesn’t qualify as bad luck, there's this: The men's unscheduled destination is home to a pack of vicious wolves that doesn't appreciate outsiders. Ottway (Neeson), the stoic sniper who picks off these predators on the drilling sites, becomes the leader of these ornery men. His plan is to have them reach the forest—and possible safety—before the wolves get them. Carnahan's jumpy, gritty approach fits well with the hunter vs. hunted storyline, and he slows the movie down so we see the humanity behind this scruffy pack of misfits. The Grey is the latest installment in Neeson's quest to become the symbol of senior, self-tortured virility. The plan is working. Neeson brings the macho in this entertaining outing that lets your mind drift while keeping your eyes open. [R] ***