It’s fall and the Oscar movies are starting to hit the theatres. We’ve already seen some good ones (50/50 and The Ides of March), but along with the good comes the bad. So, what have I seen lately and how did I grade them? Take a look below at these quick take fall movie reviews.
50/50: In this dramedy about a young man diagnosed with cancer, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a revelation. He’s hilarious and heartbreaking in a performance that should be considered at Oscar time. Along with great support from Anna Kendricks (as his bumbling new therapist) and Angelica Huston (as his over-protective mom) not to mention Seth Rogan (as slovenly womanizing best friend) in his best screen performance to date. Somehow this movie (based on the screenwriter’s own experience) blends comedy (even sex jokes) and beautiful honest drama seamlessly. I highly recommend it. Grade: A
Puss In Boots: in this formulaic yet rather entertaining animated caper, Antonio Banderas deftly reprises his role as the swashbuckling kitty from the Shrek franchise, Puss in Boots. He sets out on a caper to right an old wrong and we also get his character’s back story plus appearances by fairy tale faves Jack and Jill, Humpty Dumpty and more. It’s a funny film, if overly long and somewhat obvious. However kids and cat lovers should enjoy. Grade: B
The Ides of March: George Clooney writes, directs and costars in this political thriller that explores the machinations behind the campaign and the people who make them happen. It’s a sturdy and well executed film with vibrant performances from Ryan Gosling as the campaign expert torn between two warring camps, Phillip Seymour Hoffman (brilliant!) as Clooney’s campaign manager, Paul Giamatti as a rival manager, Marisa Tomei as a pushy journalist and a surprisingly fantastic Evan Rachel Wood as the compromised intern. While it may not be the Oscar front-runner, it certainly has a good shot in a number of categories. Grade: A-
In Time: well, this film is just ridiculous. Despite one of the most beautiful casts in film history (Alex Pettyfer, Olivia Wilde, Matthew Bomer, Justin Timberlake, and Amanda Seyfreid to name a few), this sci-fi yarn about people who stop aging at 25 and must steal time to survive is a waste of time. The dialogue is clunky. It’s predictable. The performances are just ok (except Bomer who’s wonderful as a conflicted man who’s living much much longer than the average person) and it doesn’t really make any sense. Grade: C-
Martha Marcy May Marlene: I already reviewed this one a few weeks back, but wanted to include it again because it’s that good. Elizabeth Olsen is an immediate Best Actress Oscar contender in this dark moody thriller playing a woman who escapes a cult. It follows the next few weeks in her life while flashing back to her experiences in the scary commune run by an incredibly effective and creepy John Hawkes (who should also merit Oscar attention). The film leaves you wanting more and is a must see. Grade: A
Tower Heist: with such a great cast and a fun premise, this film should’ve been much better. Alas, it’s just mildly entertaining and takes too long to get going. Eddie Murphy is the standout as crook who helps a bunch of regular joes (Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick, Michael Pena, Casey Affleck and a rather funny Gabourey Sidibe) try to steal back their pensions that were lost by big money magnet criminal Alan Alda. Once the scheme gets under way, the film improves, but it still is a rather rote adventure. Grade: C
That’s it for now. Watch for more movie reviews in the coming weeks including George Clooney’s other Oscar hopeful The Descendants and the theatrical adaptation of Carnage.