Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench is a jazz-inflected song-and-dance musical about the minor-key vicissitudes of urban romance. What a good idea for a movie, we might think at first, as if it were just a matter of originality.
Blue Valentine is preceded by the automatic buzz of indie golden-boy director Derek Cianfrance who returned from documentaries to narrative features, with a film reportedly a dozen years in the making.
Imagine this: It’s Poland in 1940. Under duress of unspecified torture, a young guy’s wife rats him out to cruel Soviet authorities, who call him a spy and send him to the gulag. For a while, the guy languishes there. Then, gathering his inner reserves of fortitude and a few pals, he breaks out.
It takes a special kind of mainstream mush to waste Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly and your money all at once. Screenwriter Alan Loeb and director Ron Howard have found the formula. They’ve made a movie so mediocre that it’s completely self-neutralizing.
Should the academy care to inaugurate a new award category this year, for Achievement in Being So Much Less Annoying Than We Expected Given All the Hype, and then fail to bestow it upon Lena Dunham for her film Tiny Furniture, a great opportunity will have been missed.
Of what does true grit consist? Grit, presumably, but also something else, something that makes it easy to distinguish from false grit. True Grit the film consists of a young teenage girl in 1880 Arkansas who hires an old, fat, drunk, half-blind marshal to help her track down her father’s killer.
Nobody wants to say a disparaging word about an experimental reverie on Allen Ginsberg from the filmmaker who hit The Times of Harvey Milk out of the park. But just as directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s not-quite-docudrama thrills us with Ginsberg’s brilliance, so does it manifest the peculiar difficulty of trying to make a movie about same.
As man-against-nature stories go, 127 Hours is a bit of a detour: no fending off wolves or grizzlies, flash floods or blizzards. Aron Ralston’s foe is, instead, the inert but somehow malevolent boulder that falls—along with Aron—into a narrow crevice in the earth, pinning his arm and Aron himself.