The Debt, Blank City, Beauty Day, Crazy, Stupid Love (again) and three unpreviewed new ones
Late summer and the movie studios are cleaning out the cupboard. Three films this week were not shown to media types (not locally anyway). One, Apollo 18, was even filmed here. The Debt is a different case. It’s a good film and well-promoted but long-delayed because of corporate restructuring. Let’s give a belated nod then to a wonderful comedy, Crazy, Stupid Love.
Here’s the list for this week …
The Debt 3 ½ stars
Crazy, Stupid Love 4
Blank City 3
Beauty Day 3 1/2
Attack the Block --
Apollo 18 --
Shark Night 3D --
THE DEBT: There’s a Holocaust theme here but you won’t be obliged once again to ponder its grim horrors. You’ll be whisked along in a gripping thriller about secret agents, the mission they carried out in 1996 and the repercussions 30 years later. Helen Mirren stars as an ex-agent with Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency and a hero in a new book. At the launch, as she reads, we’re taken back in time to see her as a young woman (and played by Jessica Chastain) struggling with a prisoner, who overpowers her and escapes. As he’s running down the street, she shoots him dead. We see all that clearly, but that’s not what happened.
The film replays the entire mission, correctly this time. Chastain, Sam Worthington and Marton Csokas are sent to capture a Nazi war criminal known as the surgeon of Birkenau. There’s chilling tension as Chastain becomes a patient at his gynecological practice and a sounding board for his racism. There’s fist-clenching suspense in sneaking him across the Berlin wall. There are several set-backs and years later Mirren has to fix the mistakes. With only minimal talk about the shame of living with a lie and the need to pay off the debt, the film grabs you with its strong narrative drive. There’s lots of momentum, good work from the actors who also include Tom Wilkinson and Ciarán Hinds, but also some less-than-credible turns in the story, which put a few dents into an otherwise intelligent film. (5th Avenue, International Village and some suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5
CRAZY, STUPID LOVE: If you haven’t caught this movie yet, you really should. It’s sharply written, very well-acted and blessed with an aura of novelty and innovation. I wouldn’t call it a romantic comedy; it doesn’t follow those rules. It’s about a marriage in trouble and the comedy that flows from that. Steve Carell is the husband; Julianne Moore is the wife who admits to having an affair and demands a divorce.
Carell comes under the sway of a nightclub-cruising lothario played by Ryan Gosling, who has a lot to teach about dressing right and speaking right on the woman hunt but learns a few other lessons when he falls for a trainee lawyer, played with real charm by Emma Stone. (She’s also starring in the season’s big hit The Help). There are two giant coincidences in the plot but they don’t damage the movie at all. It’s strong enough to not get hurt. And there are several sub plots that fit effortlessly into the bigger story. A clever and entertaining film. (5th Avenue, Rio on Broadway, International Village and suburban theatres) 4 out of 5
BEAUTY DAY: Here’s a fellow who will win you over with his boneheaded sincerity, although at first you’d probably want nothing to do with him. Ralph Zavadi was a cable TV star in St. Catherines, Ontario during the 1990s. (Apparently. I had never heard of him but then we don’t get Rogers cable out here anymore). The title is one of his signature expressions, as in “It’s gonna be a beauty day.”