Tag Archives: Julianne Moore

“Suburbicon”

LOUISA: 2.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

“Suburbicon” is a politically charged dark satire that fails spectacularly. It longs to be subversive and important but with its heavy-handed helpings of racial commentary and social satire, the film quickly becomes an exercise in extreme frustration.

George Clooney co-writes and directs the story of an idyllic suburban community in the 1950s, complete with manicured lawns and picture-perfect homes. Set in the summer of 1959, we are introduced to the Lodge family. There’s husband and father Gardner (Matt Damon), his wheelchair-bound wife (Julianne Moore) and her twin sister (Moore), and their young boy Nicky (Noah Jupe). Other characters come and go, including uncle Mitch (Gary Basaraba) and a deliciously crooked insurance claims adjustor (Oscar Isaac). But as with most tales set in a picture-perfect landscape, there’s a dark and violent underbelly boiling beneath the surface.

With a few bloody twists and turns along the way, the film becomes a bit of a misfire. There’s just too much shoved at audiences in terms of racially charged storytelling mixed with good intentioned dark political sarcasm. Just when you think the in-your-face white privilege elements are too conspicuous, we get a scene of two boys tearing down fences that by design were intended to keep them apart. If you’re going to make a smart movie, then keep it that way and don’t insult your supposedly intelligent viewers.

The original script was penned by Joel and Ethan Coen in the 1980s and their trademark story elements are all here (murder, absurdity, hypocrisy, and American pulp noir) but when Clooney and Grant Heslov started tinkering with it, they added their own touch of political activism. This is where things started to go South. There are too many ideas at play and juggling them simply doesn’t work within the framework of the story. While individually the murder mystery, racial commentary, and social irony work, they never manage to come together as one.

The film suffers from a confusing identity crisis as it’s trying to do too much. I appreciate and respect the basic idea and the obvious intention, but the message is poorly executed. This isn’t a bad film, it just fails to live up to its potential.

“Kingsman: The Golden Circle”

LOUISA: 3.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

From the moment I first saw “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” I knew it was something truly special. It topped my Top 10 Best Movies of 2015 list in the coveted number one slot and after multiple viewings, cemented itself among my favorite movies of all time. To say my expectations for “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” were high is something of an understatement. The original film was a rare one that begged for a sequel and I’m glad we’ve been handed one, but I really wish it was better than it turned out to be.

I want to be clear that while this film is disappointing and mostly lacking in intelligence, charm and wit, it still has its moments and the glorious, hyper violent end action sequence is a ton of fun. But it’s impossible to overlook what amounts to a relentless dumbing down of the entire “Kingsman” franchise in a lame attempt of desperation to outdo its predecessor.

When the Kingsman HQ is blown up by missiles launched by the drug peddling super villain Poppy (a delightfully psycho, hammy performance from Julianne Moore), our hero Eggsy (Taron Egerton), back-from-the-dead Harry (Colin Firth), and loyal sidekick Merlin (Mark Strong) join up with their American counterpart, the Statesman. Champ (Jeff Bridges) runs the secret organization and heads the team, including Tequila (Channing Tatum), Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) and Ginger (Halle Berry). With their exaggerated Southern accents, ten gallon cowboy hats, and bloated swagger, the filmmakers seem to have mistaken Kentucky with Texas. The Statesman crew is enjoyable (although Tatum is completely wasted), but Pascale becomes the scene stealer with his 1970s macho Burt Reynolds bravado.

The film confuses a string of stunt casting with meaningful humor, and overall the project lacks creativity and the pulsing mean streak that made the first movie feel so original. Instead of another smart and snarky send-up of James Bond movies, audiences are forced into two and a half hours of aggressively tiresome repetition (we see characters dumped into a meat grinder twice and an extended, distracting celebrity cameo that quickly wears out its welcome as it balloons into a supporting role) and callbacks to the first film that serve as reminders of the sequel’s role as a pale imitator. Worst of all, the film is missing its clever, subversive humor. The smart satire is tossed out the window in favor of more slam-bang action sequences and animated spy weapons like an electric lasso. It’s violent fun, but it’s missing that spark that made the original film so beloved by film nerds.

Most disappointing is the film’s opening car chase scene, an awkward, CGI mess through London’s streets. I’m so disappointed that real stunt drivers and practical effects weren’t used, making this the second most frustrating animated car sequence this year since “The Fate of the Furious” and the awful looking parking garage bit. Perhaps I should refer to my disappointment as the “Baby Driver” effect: if you’re going to have cars in your movie, then put actual cars in the frame and talented drivers behind the wheel.

Once the plot delves into a truly irrelevant and weird message about the stigma of drug use, it skids off the rails in a spectacular fashion. Instead of steering itself back on track with a trademark crackerjack smugness, director Matthew Vaughn visually says “screw it” and goes full blown overkill, making the film feel like he was hell bent on trying to outdo himself rather than making a quality film. This sequel tries too hard and the film suffers for it. This doesn’t necessarily make “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” a total dud, but it is very disappointing to those of us who are super fans of the original.

“Maggie’s Plan”

LOUISA: 2 STARS MATT: 2 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

In the latest indie to set itself out as an ‘intelligent’ alternative to the classic formulaic rom-com, “Maggie’s Plan” aims high, makes a strong effort, but sadly fails. It feels like another one of Woody Allen’s more cleverless films, one that has decent enough writing but struggles to elicit any genuine laughs.(This film is written and directed by Rebecca Miller, adapted from the original Karen Rinaldi story).

Everyone’s favorite quirky hipster actress, Greta Gerwig, is perfectly cast at the titular character. Her charming demeanor works and plays well off of Ethan Hawke, who turns in one of his best performances as a professor of ficto-critical anthropology (if you find his title hysterically funny then you, my friend, are the target audience for this movie), and Julianne Moore (as a brilliant yet cold Columbia professor). The cast gives it their all; too bad these actors don’t have a better script to work with.

This messy and uneven film can’t seem to make up its mind regarding the overall tone. It’s part screwball comedy, part hipster philosophy and part family dramedy. There’s a huge emphasis on a toddler (the admittedly cute Ida Rohatyn) that was lost on me as a non-parent. I think the kid stuff is just too much and is completely unnecessary to the story.

Maya Rudolph and Bill Hader are wasted in unremarkable supporting roles; their characters are never developed and seem to exist solely for a few punchlines (that aren’t very funny). There’s only a shell of a plot and not much ever happens in relation to it. The film is just a bunch of talking and a string of cute incidents that are all (sort of) related to Maggie’s big plan. The film is very strained and the big “twist” ending is something that only a true moron couldn’t see coming from a mile away.

I didn’t hate this movie but I also can’t figure out who in the world to recommend it to. Maybe it would make a decent rental if you’re a fan of Gerwig or Hawke.

MATT SAYS:

Indie cinema “it” girl Greta Gerwig stars in the new movie from Rebecca Miller (“The Ballad of Jack and Rose“). While it’s sort of interesting and mildly entertaining, there isn’t a whole lot going on in “Maggie’s Plan.”

Maggie is an educator at a local community college in New York. Maggie becomes smitten with John (Ethan Hawke), a well-liked anthropology professor that is working on a new fiction novel. John is married to and has kids with Columbia professor Georgette (Julianne Moore), but leaves Georgette for the youthful Maggie. After a couple of years with him, Maggie grows tired of John, who is too self-absorbed to ever pay any attention to her. Realizing that Georgette is still in love with John, Maggie plays matchmaker and works to get the two back together so that she can get John out of her life, guilt-free. This is all in the trailer, so I’m not spoiling anything.

These are mildly interesting characters dealing with modern problems in a New York filled with hipsters and intelligentsia (the always-delightful Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph have minor roles as the latter but are, truthfully, wasted in this movie) who are too smart for their own good. Despite their impressive educations, when it comes to relationships they are clearly emotionally stunted, dealing with their problems no better than adolescents. The idea is kinda fun on paper, but in execution it’s not all that compelling.

Gerwig and Hawke turn in reliably solid performances, but neither of them really shine. Moore appears to be channeling Maude, her heavily-accented, odd-duck character from “The Big Lebowski,” which makes her too performance too distracting to appreciate. The movie works okay as a diversion from loud summer spectacles, but is not good enough to make any lasting impression.