In theaters this weekend
Essentially a Paris couture fashion show with some historical names and details tossed in as a feeble attempt at significance. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the entire movie consists of Cate Blanchett trying on various ornate, richly hued dresses with increasingly intricate wigs and headdresses, until one day when the Spanish Armada shows up.
Blanchett being Blanchett, she finds some opportunities for subtle, deliciously regal condescension as she returns to the role of Queen Elizabeth I, which made her a star and earned her an Oscar nomination nearly a decade ago. But more often she vamps it up mightily under the over-the-top direction of Shekhar Kapur, who also made 1998’s “Elizabeth.”
Despite its lofty aspirations, this one belongs right up there with “Showgirls” in the high-camp section of your local video store. Clive Owen wears puffy shirts and dangles from a pirate ship as the devilishly handsome and flirty Sir Walter Raleigh, while Geoffrey Rush returns from the first film and is sadly squandered as Elizabeth’s right-hand man.
PG-13 for violence, some sexuality and nudity. 115 min. One and a half stars out of four.
It may sound like a contradiction in terms to say that a movie about a guy in love with a sex doll is bursting with humanity, but that’s really the most apt way to describe this warm, wonderful little film.
Ryan Gosling, who earned an Oscar nomination this year as a drug-addicted junior high school teacher in “Half Nelson” and played a cocky prosecutor in “Fracture,” proves he can do pretty much anything. His Lars Lindstrom is an awkward, fiercely anti-social twentysomething who orders a life-size doll online and truly believes she’s a real woman ” the first “person” who gets him, who makes him feel comfortable.
Everyone in his small, snow-covered Midwestern town, from his brother (Paul Schneider) and pregnant sister-in-law (Emily Mortimer) to the family doctor (Patricia Clarkson) and the local priest, plays along out of respect for his obviously fragile mental state, and because they love him too much to burst his bubble. Plus, he’s happy ” deeply, radiantly happy ” for the first time in his life.
Director Craig Gillespie shows a surprisingly delicate touch following his last film, the alleged comedy “Mr. Woodcock.” Of course there are the obligatory sight gags involving the ridiculousness of the doll at the dinner table, but the humor remains deadpan and slyly absurd throughout ” never condescending, never mean.
PG-13 for some sex-related content. 105 min. Three and a half stars out of four. Playing at the Galaxy Theatre at Casino Fandango, go to http://www.galaxytheatres.com for showtimes.
You could think of this as an erudite episode of “The Itchy and Scratchy Show,” Michael Caine and Jude Law fight, and fight, and fight and fight and fight, only they have Harold Pinter’s increasingly explosive words to lob at each other instead of hand grenades and sticks of dynamite. Just don’t think of it as a remake.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh from a script by Pinter, based on the Anthony Shaffer play, this “Sleuth” shares a title with the original 1972 film and the presence of Caine, and that’s about it. (Pinter, the Nobel Prize-winning British playwright, hadn’t seen Shaffer’s play or the Joseph L. Mankiewicz film it inspired beforehand.)
Back then, Caine played young Milo Tindle, a hairdresser who was having an affair with the wife of the successful and much older mystery writer Andrew Wyke, played by Laurence Olivier. This time, Caine takes the Olivier role with Law stepping into Caine’s shoes for the second time, following 2004’s “Alfie.”
These brash men battle over Andrew’s wife with unpredictable, violent results in what is essentially a two-character play on film. You have to allow yourself to succumb to the intentional artificiality of the structure to enjoy it.
You really should ” Caine and Law chew up the severely modern scenery and bounce off each other with great wit, style and energy.
R for strong language. 86 min. Three stars out of four.
In James Gray’s “The Yards,” Mark Wahlberg was an ex-con drawn back into crime by buddy Joaquin Phoenix. In this new thriller from writer-director Gray, Phoenix is a club manager with shady associates who’s coaxed toward the right side of the law by his cop-brother Wahlberg.
You can’t quite say Gray’s repeating himself, but close enough. Like “The Yards,” the new movie is broody to the point of anesthesia and operatic to the verge of bombast. And like its predecessor, Gray’s latest takes itself far too seriously.
Phoenix plays a black-sheep brother from a family of policemen who runs a night spot from which Russians operate their drug business in 1980s New York. His cop-brother (Wahlberg) and cop-dad (Robert Duvall) try to enlist him to spy on his clientele, forcing Phoenix’s prodigal son to choose between crime and justice.
Earnest performances all around somewhat salvage an otherwise by-the-numbers police story.
R for strong violence, drug material, language, some sexual content and brief nudity. 117 min. Two stars out of four. Playing at the Galaxy Theatre at Casino Fandango, go to http://www.galaxytheatres.com for showtimes.