Never Let Me Go, Legend of the Guardians, You Again, Catfish, Jack Goes Boating, and Wall Street 2
JACK GOES BOATING: A shy man meets a shy woman and a simple character study breaks out. And progresses quietly, except when Jack burns the pork chops. That’s when he loses it. It’s a standout scene because we’re pulling for him and we’re on edge, afraid something will go wrong. He’s been learning to cook but a brief diversion with a hookah sets up the dangerous scenario. This is quirky stuff based on a hit play.
This is the first directing effort by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who also stars. He’s a limo driver (which brings lots of New York flavor into the film), a self-proclaimed optimist and a loner. When he’s introduced to an awkward woman (Amy Ryan) who works as a telemarketer for a funeral home, he wants to impress her. Cooking is one route; learning to swim is another because she dreams of going boating. The film watches their relationship grow and both characters fight the shell they’ve put themselves in. Two friends also figure in the story both to encourage and offer some contrast. They’re needed because not a lot happens. The pleasures of this movie are in the fine acting and the subtle portraits of two drifting personalities. (5th Avenue Cinemas) 3 out of 5
CATFISH: While you’re waiting for next week’s Facebook movie (The Social Network), you can think of this as the anti-Facebook movie. It deals thoroughly with something that can go wrong. Who knows if it’s all true, but it takes you on a highly involving search. A New York photographer befriends a young girl on line after she sends him a hand-drawn copy of a picture of his that she saw in the newspaper. She lives in a small town in Michigan. He also starts up a correspondence with her mother and her older sister Megan.
He sees lots of pictures on line, gets phone calls and reads letters. Two pals video tape him almost constantly and eventually they all decide to take a detour on a trip west and visit their Facebook friends. What they find is not what they expected. It would spoil things to tell you more, but rest assured this is a good-natured and not a cynical film. It’s done in a rough documentary style and draws you in firmly. The title is explained only at the very end. (Tinseltown) 3 ½ out of 5.
A WOMAN, A GUN AND A NOODLE SHOP: Here's a far-out idea. The Coen Brothers' Blood Simple from 1984 is transplanted from Texas to imperial China. The persistent grey of the original is now changed into vibrant color and set in a sensual desert landscape. It's a remake by Zhang Yimou, China's best known director (he created the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics) and looks more like his House of Flying Daggers than a film noir. The story is the same but now plays out in a noodle shop, not a bar.
The owner is old and bitter that his wife hasn't borne him a son. When a police officer informs him that she's also having an affair, he's enraged and hires him to kill her. The cop has other ideas though, as does she. We saw her buy a gun early in the film. Twists and turn arounds and deceptions pile up, just like in the original. This new film tosses in some pure Chinese slapstick along with the beautiful pictures and terrific soundscapes. There's a great scene in the kitchen as a cook juggles and twirls the dough that will become noodles. It's flashy and rather like the film, good-looking and a hit in China but not necessary. In Mandarin with English subtitles. (Tinseltown) 3 out of 5
YOU AGAIN: This a pretty funny comedy, for a while. Then it loses its way, stumbles around and struggles to an OK ending. The main draw is some good work by three generations of women actors. They are Betty White, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver, Odette Yustman, and Kristen Bell, as seen in this picture.
Bell was tormented in high school by supreme bitch Yustman. Now she finds her brother is about to marry her. Curtis is Bell’s mother; White is her grandmother and Weaver is Yustman’s aunt, but by a bit of screenplay magic was also a rival with Curtis in their high school days. Now she’s rich and takes pleasure in lording it over everyone. There are lots of awkward discoveries and embarrassing flashbacks and they’re funny. The film runs out of them, though, and turns to contrived situations, even the old chestnut of two women arriving at an event wearing the same dress. If you’re not too demanding, you can have a good time, like the cast who are all seen dancing after the story concludes. (Tinseltown and several suburban theatres) 2 out of 5
NOTE The photos were supplied by the movie studios and are therefore the exclusive property of their copyright owners.