Movie Reviews

Kerouac's `On the Road' takes a faithful trip from page to screen

 

Ponder this pontifical pronouncement: In the history of cinema, only three of a thousand great-books-on-film can be called perfect -- "Gone With the Wind," "Slaughterhouse Five" and "The Godfather."

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Voyeuristic 'InContact' connects up until the non-ending

A dark love triangle develops a darker quadrangular twist in the spellbinding -- if ultimately maddening -- "InContact," Israeli-American director Ann Oren's entry, screened tonight only, in CMU's ongoing "Faces of Media" International Film Festival.

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`The We and the I': Less sunshine from the spotless mind of Gondry

The casual cruelty of the teenage pack has filled our headlines and courtrooms of late -- bullying and rape being perversely perennial crimes. Sad to say, there's nothing new about peer-and-sneer group pressure to do awful things collectively that you'd never do one-on-one. What's new is the generation's 21st-century obsessive/compulsive need to record and disseminate its antisocial behavior on so-called social media.

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Israel's Shin Bet spy chiefs recount fatal hits -- and tactics -- in 'The Gatekeepers'

One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. It's "your F-16s versus our suicide bombers," a Palestinian tells an Israeli acquaintance. Innocent people -- delicately known as "collateral damage" -- die either way.  It's just a different choice of device.

 

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Tommy Lee Jones re-interprets MacArthur in 'Emperor'

Tommy Lee Jones re-interprets MacArthur in Emperor

Omitting "the" before "Emperor" is a clever ambiguity on director Peter Webber's part. Military historical films from "Lincoln" and "Argo" to "Zero Dark Thirty" are the rage these days, and Mr. Webber's movie -- on the first days after Japan's surrender in World War II -- is no slouch. The title seems an obvious reference to Hirohito.

But it could equally describe Gen. Douglas MacArthur -- the supreme commander of occupying forces and de facto ruler -- whose powers were every bit as imperial as the defeated Japanese monarch's.

First order of business for MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones, below) is rounding up the major war criminals and deciding whether Japan's emperor is one of them: Did Hirohito himself order, or at least approve, the attack on Pearl Harbor? What to do now with this weird dude dubbed a "deity" by his devastated people -- depose, pardon or hang him? Momentous long- and short-range implications included possibly igniting a revolt.

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'Amour,' a moving love story about life and death, deserves all of its Oscar attention

Jean-Louis Trintignant as Georges and Emmanuelle Riva as Anne in Amour.

It's not the death, it's the dying that's so hard -- and constitutes the ultimate test of love.

That is the somber subject of Austrian director Michael Haneke's profoundly moving "Amour," and the challenge faced by its octogenarian protagonists.

Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are affluent, cultivated Parisian music teachers, married for half a century. At the outset, they're attending a concert, afterward discussing the "incredible semiquavers in the presto."

But next morning, something is wrong. Anne won't answer her husband at breakfast. "Qu'est-ce qu'il y a?" Georges asks. She is taken to the hospital, then returns home -- paralyzed on one side. Stricken in more ways than one, she begs him not to hospitalize her again. He promises and takes sole charge of her care thereafter.

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4.5

Stars have silly fun in 'Stand Up Guys'

Fisher Stevens, left, directs Al Pacino on the set of "Stand Up Guys"

The "Stand Up Guys" at hand consist of a trio, not a quartet. They and their film might better have been called "Grumpy Old Crooks."

Chief among them is Al Pacino as Val, just concluding a 28-year vacation in the penitentiary for taking a rap and refusing to rat on his criminal associates. Now, upon release, he is met and taken home by old pal Doc (Christopher Walken), his diametric opposite comrade-in-crooked-arms, a soft-spoken man who paints landscapes, watches cable TV and otherwise enjoys a calm, cool daily routine.

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Fine 'Quartet' sings of travails of aging

Kerry Brown, Billy Connolly, Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay and Pauline Collins fin

Seems there's a mini-glut of movie quartets these days. A "late" one of the Beethoven string type just opened here a fortnight ago. Now, on its heels, comes the vocal variety -- even later in the lives of its members.

"Quartet" is Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut, at the tender age of 75. It takes place at Beecham House, a home -- a very posh, stately home/former estate -- for retired musicians in idyllic rural England. There, septuagenarian opera singers Reggie (Tom Courtenay), Wilfrid (Billy Connolly) and Cecily (Pauline Collins) are busily engaged in rehearsals for the big annual fundraising concert on Giuseppe Verdi's birthday.

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'Late Quartet': Powerful performances fuel Beethoven's string theory

Christopher Walken and Catherine Keener are half of `A Late Quartet'

Breaking up is so very hard to do, says the song. The only thing harder is staying together, says "A Late Quartet," Yaron Zilberman's beautiful chamber film about the making of chamber music and its creators.

The foursome in focus is the Fugue, an internationally acclaimed string quartet preparing a triumphant 25th anniversary tour with its signature performance of Beethoven's Op. 131 string quartet.

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'Gangster Squad' plot full of bullet holes

From left, Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Michael Pena, Robert Patrick and Anthony M

Some movies are inspired by real past events. "Gangster Squad" is uninspired by them, or anything else, but its level of ultra-violence has a certain dark, trashy fascination and curiosity value in light of real current events.

In this campy yarn of 1949, Los Angeles crime lord Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) is just a rival or two away from taking full control of the town's drug and vice operations. With most city cops on his payroll, the LAPD has largely given up trying to referee the Mob's bloody turf wars, but they're spilling over to the citizenry.

Looks like a job for Honest John O'Mara (Josh Brolin), the sullen sergeant summoned to recruit a secret squad of urban-guerrilla warriors who can be trusted to shut down mighty Mick's enterprise.

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