4.5 of 5
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Lars (Ryan Gosling) and Gus (Paul Schneider) are the grown children of a father who died recently and a mother who died giving birth to Lars. But as brothers, they couldn’t be more different. While Gus lives in the family home and has a loving wife (Emily Mortimer) and a child on the way, Lars leads a more reclusive existence in the family’s garage, hiding in plain sight of his small, wintry hometown. Painfully shy and eccentric, Lars fails to recognize that his co-worker Margo (Kelli Garner) has a major crush on him, and he picks up on a casual reference made by his cubicle mate, who mentions a website where you can order life-sized, anatomically correct sex dolls. But instead of seeing a sex object, Lars sees in this doll a potential life partner and the only kind of social “peer” he can relate to. So Lars orders a doll, whom he names Bianca, and begins treating her with utmost gentlemanly respect — and as though she’s his real-life, flesh-and-blood girlfriend. As he begins bringing Bianca with him everywhere he goes, the townspeople have to find just the right balance between supporting Lars’ unusual romance and trying to introduce him to a more conventional partner. Lars and the Real Girl was written by Six Feet Under scribe Nancy Oliver and directed by Mr. Woodcock’s Craig Gillespie. ~ Derek Armstrong
I’ve been wanting to see this one for a while, but had a hard time ‘selling’ it to D. After all, “guy falls in love with a sex doll” doesn’t exactly scream quality entertainment. In this case, however, quality entertainment is exactly what we get.
The part of Lars seems written specifically for Ryan Gosling’s delivery; his quiet, quirky, charmingly unsure delivery brings Lars to life for viewers (much as Lars’ affection brings Bianca to life for the townspeople). His pain and growth really come through.
Also particularly well cast is Margo (Kelli Garner, right), whose shy infatuation with Lars has you wishing for his recovery. The lengths to which sister-in-law Karin is willing to go in her attempts to reach Lars in his self-imposed bubble may have been less believably sweet if not for the deft portrayal of Emily Mortimer
The stand out in this very strong cast though was, for me, Patricia Clarkson as Dagmar. She is the doctor who treats “Bianca” in her physical ailments, and Lars in his emotional ones. The role is small and quiet … and absolutely vital. Through her we learn who Lars is and why he is in such pain. Through her (and the other ladies), Lars learns who he is and how to deal with his pain.
So, we have a movie about death, and pain, and sex-dolls…and I am going to recommend it to most of my friends. It is lovely and sweet and explores what relationships mean to us – with family, with friends, and with that special someone (or something?) to whom we give our heart.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 81%; Audience 83%
With the global economy on the brink of collapse, Dagny Taggart discovers what might be the answer to a mounting energy crisis and races against the clock to prevent the motor of the World from being stopped for good.
As I said when I reviewed 2016: When it comes to political movies of the Right, you can generally tell if they hit their mark by the critics’ reaction. The “independent” critics show their true colors by panning the movie for making points with which they disagree, not the quality of the film itself. So it is with the Atlas Shrugged trilogy; both installments released so far have been panned by the film critics, most of whom out themselves by criticizing the “message” rather than the movie. Both installments have rated highly among the audience, however, perhaps also more for the message than the movie.
On that front, Part II does a much better job with the message. It is a cleaner, smoother, more entertaining movie. Though in some ways it suffers by comparison.
Before I bore you with my nit-picks over casting, I should share what is good here.
- The story is better, and could stand on it’s own even without Part I to set the stage.
- The higher budget is definitely in evidence (though some effects are still…iffy).
- The flow is smoother, allowing Rand’s speeches to seem a part of the narrative, rather than a narrative of their own.
- The cliffhanger is more intriguing, leaving me wanting to see what happens next
- The message is tailored more to our current world; whereas Part I gave us a mysterious distant-future-sometime* with cities in ruin, Part II could be happening next year. (Yes, that makes for a continuity issue)
Because it was a better movie, and I will recommend it to the same people in my circle, Atlas Shrugged: Part II gets 4 1/2 on the WOM Scale.
And now, casting. My impression leaving the theater: Stronger movie, weaker cast.
I was disappointed when I initially heard they had reworked the entire cast. I tried to brush it off, hoping that with the increased budget they were bringing in more seasoned actors. Unfortunately, in almost every case, the replacement actor makes a diminished impression. This is most apparent when it comes to Dagny Taggart, our heroine, and Lillian Rearden, the conniving wife of our hero.
Taylor Schilling may have been simply a passable Dagny, but she was at least passably likeable – and relatable. Samantha Mathis is … not. Her Dagny is drawn and rough, conveying every emotion as some odd variation of a pouting grimace. I realize Dagny has the weight of the world on her shoulders, but portraying her as unflinchingly sullen denies us glimpsing the fire & light inside her. I found I was less invested in her and the fight she was waging.
I’m guessing they may have been unable to bring Rebecca Wisocky back as Lillian Rearden; I can think of no other reason to forgo one of the brightest spots from Part I. Wisocky brought a gleeful edge to Mrs Reardon that Kim Rhodes lacks (and let’s face it, a little humor is welcome in a Rand tale).
Grant Bowler was a much better Hank Rearden if only because he was less of a caricature version than his replacement. Our new Hank, Jason Beghe, would have been fine if cast originally. However, as a new edition, his delivery seems just a bit like a gravelly voiced impersonation – and the chemistry between Dagny & Hank is just not there.
The other casting changes mostly created issues with continuity, making it even more difficult to keep track of the plethora of characters.
Please, producers, if you plan on presenting a story in “III” parts, do your best to secure the same talent each time. It makes it so much easier on your audience
* The DVD says “The year is 2016″, but it felt much more distant
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 0%; Audience 84%
Jack Black plays Bernie Tiede, well-loved assistant funeral director in a small Texas town. Shirley MacLaine plays Marjorie Nugent, wealthy, cranky, unpopular widow. The way their paths cross is the meat of Bernie, a dark comedy based on a true story. The movie seems far-fetched, but, according to Marjorie’s nephew, the outlandish details were “ripped from the headlines“.
There are little things in “Bernie” that aren’t exactly true, bits of dialogue, a changed name here and there. But the big things, the weirdest things, the things you’d assume would have to be made up, happened exactly as the movie says they did.
Black gives one of his best performances to date, showing us the melancholy and heart in a man somehow driven to murder. MacLaine is an ideal choice as the cranky, crazy old codger fated to be folded into a freezer. The one weak link in casting is Matthew McConaughey playing a Texas lawyer (shocker, McConaughey cast as a lawyer!) set with the unpopular task of prosecuting the town’s favorite resident.
Interspersed throughout the movie, we get bits of local residents (some of them actual residents who knew the real Tiede & Nugent) talking about the couple and the case. It’s a device that can be cheesy if poorly executed, but it works quite well here.
Despite the subject matter, this movie will appeal to just about everyone in my circle. Even those who you wouldn’t expect to get a chuckle from a murder.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 92%; Audience 76%
I went to see this with a group; we had all levels of interest from “never read the book, no familiarity with Rand or Objectivism” to “read the book several times and have passages memorized” I am in the middle of that spectrum, having read the book 20-some years ago and being “Rand curious”. I am far right enough to embrace many, though not all, of her philosophies.
I’ve been looking forward to this movie almost since I read the book. Through the decades several casting choices were floated, some that seemed promising, some not so much. In the end, the lead roles went to “lesser known” actors (though you will recognize most of their faces).
Overall, I think they did well. I am gratified that Hank Rearden looks the part; truly a rugged individual, a man’s man. Some of the lesser characters were spot on; the sneering Lillian, the sniveling Phil, the snarling Ellis, the snakey Paul.
I was a slightly disappointed by Dagny. Regardless of her obvious hotness, her acting left something to be desired. A bit weak in her portrayal of such a strong woman, a bit wooden in her reactions to triumph & tragedy. The role would be a tough one to cast in the best of circumstances, but for a production with limited funds and even less acceptance by “Hollywood”, the actors willing to take part may have been scarce. Still, she did well and, should they decide to make the future installments, she may grow into the part.
Some worried the production would suffer from a low budget; in fact, many of the pre-opening ‘reviews’ made a great deal of snarky hay about that problem. The issues suffered by the final product seem to have little to do with funding and more to do with a novice director. The scenes involving dialogue are a bit cramped, even awkward on occasion. The scenes involving the great outdoors are beautiful, but those involving the disintegrating cities are not quite gritty enough. And the limos. *drink* Limos driving down the street. Conversations in limos. Limos pulling up to the curb. Limos pulling away from the curb. *drink*
As far as conveying the message, I thought perhaps it was a bit heavy-handed (not a lot, but a bit – and the book was, too). However, I already know big government is bad, I already know how prophetically Rand’s story parallels the path America is on. For someone unfamiliar with the grand ideas of personal responsibility and individual greatness, maybe they will need to be hit with a 2 X 4.
I definitely recommend it, and I recommend you see it in a theater. There is something to be said for seeing an experience film with an enthusiastic crowd. Saturday at the Valley Art brought audiences who waited in long lines before the movie and applauded after. A rare thing, indeed.
*…it’s the Atlas Shrugged drinking game
UPDATE: Danno points out that in all those limo scenes, it is only the business types – not the government fat cats who would clearly be indulging in the luxury, as well.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 10%; Audience 85%
Cross-posted at Vox
A classic Disney fairytale collides with modern-day New York City in a story about a fairytale princess who is sent to our world by an evil queen. Soon after her arrival, Princess Giselle begins to change her views on life and love after meeting a handsome lawyer. Can a storybook view of romance survive in the real world?
This movie is very aptly titled; I was enchanted, indeed.
The casting here was very important, and Amy Adams delivers as Giselle, our heroine. James Marsden, too, is well suited to the role of the bumbling, yet lovable, Prince Edward. Absolutely spot on, I can’t imagine anyone who could have done either of these roles better.
Patrick Dempsey and Susan Sarandon were fine, though nothing special, in their roles as Robert and the evil Queen Narissa. The characters were well written, and well played, but neither actor brought anything extra to the performance. Contrasted to the prince and princess, I can imagine many other performers who could have pulled off these two roles.
I loved seeing Disney gently poking fun at their history, and found it even more touching when I read the trivia and found all the ways they honored the “princesses past”. In fact, it seems they amused themselves finding ways to wink at the audience.
I saw this movie with D, and it took a while to convince him to go. As the movie began, in full on animation mode, I could tell he was not thrilled (I was laughing already, being familiar with the movies they were echoing). He came around, though, and was laughing out loud as the story unfolded.
Definitely something for everyone. Take your kids, take your parents – good, clean, fun.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 93%; Users 91%
Tagline: “Let in the unexpected”
Alan Johnson has everything he needs to get through life: a good job, a beautiful and loving wife, and their wonderful children. Yet he feels isolated because he finds having a hard-working job and managing a family too much to handle and has no one to talk to about it. Charlie Fineman, on the other hand, doesn’t have a job or a family. He used to have both until he lost his family on the fateful day of 9/11, and the grief he felt caused him to quit his job and isolate himself from everyone around him. As it turns out, Alan and Charlie were roommates in college, and a chance encounter one night rekindles the friendship they shared. But when Charlie’s problems become too much to deal with, Alan is determined to help Charlie come out of his emotional abyss.
I am going to point you to the review by babubhaut, an IMDB user, which sums up my feeling of the movie nicely.
I am not quite sure why Sandler went with the Bob Dylan impersonation for this role but, that quirk not-withstanding, his performance is quite moving. Don Cheadle is always great. Jada Pinkett Smith is generally irritating, but her role here is small enough that I didn’t mind her.
Yes, it’s a message film – and it’s predictable. But it is still lovely and I know my family and friends will enjoy it.
Rotten Tomatoes: critics 63%; users 86%
David Wilcox at The Rhythm Room
What a great show, he never disappoints. The Rhythm Room isn’t a great venue for a lot of acts, but for his one-man-with-a-guitar show, it is perfect. Despite the non-functioning AC, the show was very cool.
I met a very nice gentleman, an attorney who has worked in many facets of the law through several decades. A message from the universe, perhaps, as we had a lovely conversation about his work, the joys/challenges he finds everyday, and the path to get there (If there are any Wildcats reading this, he got his JD from U of A).
Many of the song selections, too, seemed to speak directly to me – not hard, David Wilcox songs are just that way – but tonight they hit just the right nerve; Start With The Ending, Inside of My Head, Ask For More….
He had a great turn-out and a very appreciative audience. He was a very appreciative performer, as well, and seemed to be enjoying his job on stage as much as we were enjoying our job in the seats.
I had a bit of an unrelated disappointment after the show, though I expected that it would turn out that way. Life doesn’t always go the way we would like it to, I guess.
I will see if I can put together a David Wilcox playlist in the next few days, I know you will enjoy it. (Yes, I know I have posted his stuff before, but it has been a while)
Upcoming at the Rhythm Room: Over The Rhine Sept 25th
Cross posted at Vox