Yes, it’ s that time of year again in the US, when the best of the best are coming out on the big screen; three of the top new films today are reviewed below:
The Judge: 5*****
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton
Director: David Dobkin
Imdb summary: Big city lawyer Hank Palmer returns to his childhood home where his father, the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his estranged family.
Once in a season there comes a story that moves you at the core. This is one of those stories. The plot and the acting are a ten. If you are pulled at your heartstrings by family conflicts that get resolved, not always with a neat little bow, this one’s for you. The dynamics of this southern family rife with trauma and tragedy are played to a tee. RDJ is deliciously deep and Duvall should pull an Oscar for this performance. I’d be surprised if a nomination isn’t in the cards for him or both of them. Even though RDJ is the highest paid actor in film today, he can play serious roles, not just soar in a red metal suit as a cartoonish super hero, but a real life hero for a family in crisis. I loved the ebbing love story as the secondary plot with the very beautiful and sexy yet down to earth Farmina. A good courtroom drama and a heartfelt story of finding the truth. This is one to see!
Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zak Galifianakis, Naomi Watts
Director: Alejandro G. Inarritu
Imdb summary: A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.
I think that Michael Keaton or especially Ed Norton will also hit the jackpot with Oscar nominations for their calibrated and complex roles in this odd film. Part fantasy (or is it madness???) and part uber reality of a play within a play it shows a real superhero figure’s frailties as a human playing one. The tale is set in the Broadway theater world, literally and figuratively, and takes you on a ride into the mind and world of one actor and those surrounding him. It’s part thrilling (no violence), part erotic (Oh, and did I say Norton was sooo sexy yet?), part surreal (flying in the Birdman suit over Manhattan’s skyline), and part gut wrenching drama. Zak Galifianakis plays this one with a solid tone, not silly or anything reminding you of any of the Hangover movies (one of my all time fave laughter machines). I highly recommend this one.
St. Vincent: 5*****
Starring: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher (the son)
Director/writer: Theodore Melfi
Imdb summary: A young boy whose parents have just divorced finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic war veteran who lives next door.
I always thought Bill Murray deserved an Academy Award for his portrayal of the lonely older man who was an international success in TV commercials but a total failure at his marriage; who connected with the then emerging young film sensation, Scarlett Johansson in the delicate and emotionally tugging “Lost in Translation.” Set in Tokyo, this film was one I require for my students to see for understanding loneliness in relationships, the moments of breaking free, and pure eroticism without anything explicit or dirty clouding its power. OK, I digress. This film is another of his dramatic forays into a character with subterranean complexities, reminiscent of Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino. He is gritty, filthy, irascible, mean-spirited and selfish, yet compassion shows up in a surprise place and manner to reveal his humanity. I cried at the climax (no not that kind), and realized once more what a sheer talent Bill Murray possesses. See this one to open your heart and give your soul some sugar. McCarthy plays the mom with depth–and no fart or stupid jokes, for once. Both deserve great praise. Naomi Watts carries the show with her role as a pregnant exotic dancer and a pivotal motivation in Vincent’s evolution, unearthing his softer side and cleaning up his act and house! I really liked this film.