April 19, 2015

Catching up on Movie Reviews - Three ****1/2 Films

Too many movies, too little time. Here's what I've seen in the past few weeks:

Danny Collins****1/2
I've grown up with Al Pacino so when I see him on screen now he seems so familiar, as if her were part of my family, that it makes me nostalgic. Weird, I know.
So, I'd be hard-pressed not to love anything he's in. But even if I didn't feel that way I think I'd still love Danny Collins, the story of an aged rock star who learns that John Lennon wrote him a letter when he was a young, rising star. Oh my god. How would you feel if your idol wrote to you and you never knew it? How would his life have been different?
So many wonderful relationships in this film. Bobby Carnivale is his estranged son. I love him. Jennifer Garner plays his daughter-in-law. I love her. Annette Bening is the love interest. I lover her.
I I love this film.
Four and a half stars out of five for Danny Collins.

While We're Young****1/2
Great performances in this film. Ben Stiller has never been one of my favorites, but as he gets older, and chooses less goofy roles, I have to admit he's an excellent actor.
This is an engaging story of Josh (Ben Stiller) who's fast approaching middle-age and who has never lived up to  expectations - his own or those of others.
He's a documentarian, and has been working on his latest film for a decade. His wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts), is supportive but their marriage is on the ho-hum side. Her father is a famous documentary filmmaker, amping up the stakes for Josh, adding to his angst, setting a bar he's sure not to reach.
They meet a young couple who energize them and their marriage, but all isn't as it seems.
Interesting character studies. Engaging film.
Four and a half out of five stars for While We're Young.

Woman in Gold****1/2
Michael Phillips, the movie critic of the Chicago Tribune begins his review of Woman in Gold this way:
In "Woman in Gold," a paint-by-numbers account of a gorgeous Klimt and its tortured history of ownership, there's really no other word for what Helen Mirren is doing in certain reaction shots, out of subtle interpretive desperation: mugging. She's mugging. She is a sublimely talented performer, and this is material with fascinating implications, and I doubt there's a moviegoer in the world who doesn't like Helen Mirren. But even the best actors need a director to tell them to tone it down.
He gives this film two out of four stars.
I couldn't disagree more.
There's a little whimsy in Mirren's performance but I see it as the character's personality, and it's not over-done. Who knows if she was really like that (this is based on a true story) but the humor adds an element of lightness to an otherwise difficult story with the holocaust at its core.
Woman in Gold is the story of Maria Altmann (Helen Mirrin) who escaped Austria in 1945 and who now wants to retrieve artwork that was seized from her family by the Nazis, particularly a piece with great sentimental value, Klimt's iconic painting of her aunt, which was considered the Mona Lisa of Austria.
The story flashes back to her childhood and then adulthood as the Nazis occupy Austria, and those are heart-wrnching segments.
Ryan Reynolds is Randy Schoenberg, the attorney who helps her in her fight for justice (Michael Phillips doesn't like his performance either) who is sweet and appealing as her champion and the chemistry between them feels authentic.
I loved Woman in Gold and give it four and a half out of five stars. Go see it and let me know if you agree with me or Michael Phillips.

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