Screening Room: ‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette?’

Cate Blanchett stars in Richard Linklater’s adaptation of Maria Semple’s beloved novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, which opens this week.

My review is at The Playlist:

Once upon a time, Bernadette was a rising ingenue in the architecture world, with a knack for quirky science-fiction designs and looking dazzling in old photographs (the bangs and artfully dangled cigarettes help). Her career was then sidetracked by a catastrophe that the movie withholds until far too late in the process. By the time we catch up with her, she has become a fierce recluse. Living in a damp and vine-riddled hilltop Seattle manse that she keeps up like some horticulturally-minded relative of the Addams Family…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Knight of Cups’

In the newest Terrence Malick indie, Christian Bale is a screenwriter undergoing a romantically attractive existential crisis amidst the Hollywood demimonde.

knight-of-cups-posterKnight of Cups is playing now. My review is at PopMatters:

Like the deck of tarot cards that provides its narrative spine, Knight of Cups is shuffled up and dealt out with a witchy randomness. Making a mockery of Syd Field’s rules of screenwriting (where’s the inciting incident?), the film offers stories of sprawling entropy. Whether that’s enough to sustain an entire movie will be decided by the viewer’s appetite for moony maundering in gorgeous settings…

The trailer is here:

Rewind: Bill Murray’s Moonage Daydream in ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’

LifeAquatic2

As the first in an occasional set of posts that look to some great (or even not so great) films from years or even decades ago that are worth going back to revisit, let’s start off with a real gem: Wes Anderson’s Bowie dream of a Bill Murray acid trip, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

“Bill Murray’s Moonage Daydream in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” is at Medium:

Murray ambles through his performance as oceanographer Steve Zissou, whose longtime partner was just eaten by a rare species of shark (“which may or may not exist”) and is determined to set off on an expedition to find the shark and kill it. When asked what scientific purpose this would satisfy, Zissou gives an almost imperceptible shrug and says, “revenge”…

Here’s Seu Jorge in the film, covering Bowie’s “Life on Mars”:

Screening Room: ‘Carol’

Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett exchange Christmas cheer in 'Carol' (Weinstein)
Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett exchange Christmas cheer in ‘Carol’ (Weinstein)

priceofsalt1In 1952, Patricia Highsmith — riding high after the success of Strangers on a Train but before she started her Ripley series — published her semi-autobiographical novel about a love affair between two women, The Price of Salt, under a pseudonym. It went on to sell over a million copies.

Now, Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven) has adapted it for the big screen as a lush period romance, with Rooney Mara as the inexperienced shopgirl and Cate Blanchett as the older married woman who falls for her.

Carol is playing now in limited release. My review is at PopMatters:

Todd Haynes’ Carol offers two views of the holiday season. In 1952’s New York City, we first see family gatherings, snowy sidewalks, and shopping trips. Just below that surface, two women engage in illicit romance, at every turn reminded of everything they are not allowed to have. Their world doesn’t allow for same-sex attraction, much less the idea that two women could share a life together. As everyone else around them is making merry, their secret turns sharp enough to cut glass…

Here’s the trailer:

New on DVD: ‘The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden’

Dore Strauch and Friedrich Ritter in their Galapagos garden, c. 1932 (Zeitgeist Films)
Dore Strauch and Friedrich Ritter in their Galapagos garden, c. 1932 (Zeitgeist Films)

galapagos affair-dvd coverA Nietszche-loving disgruntled German doctor and his worshipful, sickly wife; a “Baroness” who believes no man can resist her; an isolated island; weaponry and jealousy. How could anything go wrong? The story of how it really, really did is the subject of The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden, one of the year’s curiouser documentaries.

The Galapagos Affair is on DVD and Blu-ray now. My review is at PopMatters:

In 1929, a certain kind of European man apparently thought nothing of packing up and moving himself and his family to a remote cluster of islands far off the coast of Ecuador … The first couple to arrive on the tiny and uninhabited island of Floreana was Friedrich Ritter and Dore Strauch. From his and Dore’s writings, it’s clear that Friedrich was a walking stereotype of the clueless Germanic intellectual, so slavishly devoted to his beloved Nietzsche that reality didn’t stand a chance. A successful doctor who believed society to be “a huge impersonal monster,” Friedrich moved them to Floreana in order to “make an Eden.” That they were both married at the time to other people and didn’t know much of anything about surviving in the wild wasn’t deemed an obstacle…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘The Monuments Men’

Matt Damon and George Clooney in 'The Monuments Men'
Matt Damon and George Clooney in ‘The Monuments Men’

monumentsmenposter1During the latter part of World War II, as the Allies were advancing across Western Europe, special detachments of experts known as the Monuments Men fanned out with lists and a mandate to keep their own soldiers from demolishing cultural artifacts and finding those works that the Nazis had tried to keep for themselves. George Clooney’s attempt at turning that sliver of history into a cool, guys-on-a-mission film sadly falls apart almost before the opening credits begin.

The Monuments Men is playing now. My review is at Short Ends & Leader:

The film assembles a dream assemble and then abandons them without a story to work from. Clooney’s lack of control over his material is evident from the beginning. Playing team leader Frank Stokes, Clooney gets his presidential assignment (a bungled, laughable scene with one of the more comical FDR impressions seen on film since Annie) and starts getting the band together. Chicago architect Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), art restorer James Granger (Matt Damon), sculptor Walter Garfield (John Goodman), and the just generally artsy Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban). (Later on, Hugh Bonneville and Jean Dujardin join the gang for some Continental color.) This should be basic stuff, a few character-establishing moments and team-building quips, plus the easy comedy of watching the academics struggle through basic training before their mission. But Clooney muffs almost everything from the start…

A couple of the actual Monuments Men with a stolen Rembrandt found in a German salt mine.
A couple of the actual Monuments Men with a stolen Rembrandt found in a German salt mine.

The trailer is here:

New in Theaters: ‘Blue Jasmine’

Cate Blanchett teetering on the brink in 'Blue Jasmine'
Cate Blanchett teetering on the brink in ‘Blue Jasmine’

SONY-JUOS-01_Onesheet_Layout 1Woody Allen’s newest comedy of social status and anxiety, Blue Jasmine, had a quiet launch this week, almost as though the studio thought that it would sell itself. It might not be his funniest movie in some time but it does feature the best lead performance that he’s directed in years. That would be Cate Blanchett, stepping out of Galadriel’s diaphanous glow and tackling a real-world character with an almost frightening intensity.

My full review is at Film Racket; here’s part:

Woody Allen knows that sometimes it’s best just to throw characters into the deep end and see if audiences want to swim with them. By the time we meet his newest creation, Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), she’s in full meltdown, barely holding it together with Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and enough self-delusion to power a third-party presidential campaign…

You can see the trailer here: