Screening Room: ‘A Bigger Splash’

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Ralph Fiennes and Dakota Johnson in A Bigger Splash. Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

A rock star on vacation in the Mediterranean with her boyfriend get up to mischief with her old flame and his blonde young tart of a daughter in the newest film from Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love).

A Bigger Splash is playing now in limited release and will probably expand throughout the summer. My review is at PopMatters:

Ralph Fiennes takes A Bigger Splash hostage in much the same way that the late Philip Seymour Hoffman once did, taking over from the likes of Tilda Swinton and Matthias Schoenaerts and even filmmaker Luca Guadagnino. All appear perfectly happy to play along. It’s a game that works beautifully until Fiennes’ motor starts to sputter, and the film’s fragile dramatic structure becomes all too apparent…

Here’s the trailer:

Reader’s Corner: Umberto Eco’s ‘Numero Zero’

9780544635081_hresUmberto Eco’s latest novel Numero Zero goes on sale today. It’s a slim fantasy about crackpot conspiracy theories and journalists who play the game of massaging the truth a little too well.

Eco told NPR that he hopes readers of his novel “will become more suspicious and attentive when reading a newspaper.”

My review is at PopMatters:

Beware of stories by hack journalists who are given a chance at doing something greater and in the process discover that the seemingly too-good-to-be-true offer masks something darker that will test the limits of their conflicted ambition and fraying morality. Fortunately, Umberto Eco’s newest crackpot thriller, Numero Zero, is not one of those stories. His hack journalist doesn’t aspire to much more than he is, and he’s in on the big secret from the get-go. Unfortunately, the novel, for all its intellectual zip and brash erudition, never builds into anything more than a trifle…

Here is an excerpt from Numero Zero.

Now Playing: ‘The Trip to Italy’ is Highly Unnecessary Comedy, But Not in a Bad Way

Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan in 'The Trip to Italy' (IFC Films)
Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan in ‘The Trip to Italy’ (IFC Films)

Two comics playing slightly tweaked versions of themselves, ravishing Italian scenery, phenomenal food, recitations of Shelley’s poetry, Tom Hardy impressions. That’s about all one needs to know about Michael Winterbottom’s nervy, gadabout sequel to the 2010 road comedy The Trip.

The Trip to Italy is playing now in highly limited release. My review is at Film Racket:

The Trip to Italy’s total lack of necessity has little bearing on its enjoyability. There’s nothing wrong with watching a pair of lyrical, spry, and acid-tongued comics lashing each other with barbed commentary while enjoying the operatic grandeur of a foodie junket through Italy’s more salubrious and sun-splashed districts. Does it matter that they’re not bringing much new to the party?…

You can see the trailer here:

Also, here you can check out one of the better clips: Coogan and Brydon on The Dark Knight Rises:

Now Playing: ‘The Great Beauty’

The great Tom Servillo lives it up in 'The Great Beauty'
The great Tom Servillo lives it up in ‘The Great Beauty’

greatbeautyposterEvery now and again, a filmmaker is able to conquer the cinematic world with a work that might not have a lot to say (coherently, at least), but it throws enough at the viewer to send them away impressed and a little dazed. Last year’s version of that film was Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty, a bright and comic variation on Dante’s Inferno that doesn’t hold together in the light of day but seduced enough lovers of Rome and the high life to garner an Oscar nomination.

It’s still playing in arthouses across the land and likely will through the Academy Awards. My review is at PopMatters:

Spectacle is everything in Paolo Sorrentino’s fabulistic Roman candle The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza), and why not? He’s a grand visualist and ringleader of chaos whose talents might remind you of Fellini and Scorsese. Like those directors, however, his films can also suffer for lack of story. It’s almost as though the images come piling up one after another with such rapidity that a framework must be created for them, rather than the other way around. Whatever might have inspired The Great Beauty, it doesn’t come close to sustaining the resulting film. But what a show…

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Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘Love Is All You Need’

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Pierce Brosnan and Trine Dyrholm consider whether ‘Love Is All You Need’

loveisallyouneed-posterThere’s nothing about the premise of Susanne Bier’s Love Is All You Need that sounds promising. A young couple plans their wedding in a sumptuous Italian villa while their newly-single parents strike up a potential romance of their own. Add some comic relief annoyances and the stage is set for wacky misunderstandings and love under the lemon trees. The result, while not spectacular, is fortunately much more satisfying than expected.

Love Is All You Need opens today in limited release. My review is at Film Racket.

Here’s the trailer: