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Michael Bay explains Benghazi, Charlie Kaufman does Anomalisa and the Macbeths reveal what made them do it

Also Ingrid Bergman’s own story, a tour of Renaissance masterpieces and weak films for kids and voyeurs

Now that the Oscar nominations are out, a lot of movie fans are going to be catching up on the films they’ve not seen yet. Another one has just arrived and is included here and two more come next week. Busy times.

These are all of today’s new ones:

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi:  3 stars

Anomalisa:  4

Norm of the North:  1 ½

Macbeth:  2 ½

Ingrid Bergman In Her Own Words:  4

Florence and the Uffizi Gallery:  4 ½

Love:  2

Ride Along 2:  not reviewed

 

13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI: Hillary Clinton needn’t worry.  It’s just weeks before the Iowa caucuses and this film isn’t going to hurt by bringing back a pesky controversy. Some Fox News fans may expect it to revive one, but I don’t see it. Michael Bay’s film doesn’t push politics; just a band of brothers yarn. As you know, guys like that do gripe a lot about their superiors and that’s the thrust here. There’s a job that needs to be done; helps isn’t coming and a small group of “contractors” (aka mercenaries) have to defy orders and just do it. Bay choreographs the firefights, explosions and mayhem with his usual visceral energy but also with some restraint this time. Not like his Transformers movies.

John Krasinski, James Badge Dale and Pablo Schreiber play the lead mercenaries (of six) doing security work for two American compounds in Libya in 2012, one a secret a secret CIA base. Gaddafi’s been overthrown; rival militias are fighting each other with his guns and what do you know, the U.S. ambassador comes for a visit. Before you know it swarms of shadowy characters with guns are edging close in the dim evening light. The CIA chief says it’s not a problem. When it does turn into one, air support is summoned, but never arrives. Our guys have to take charge. Bay swells the tension, brings along his usual gun fetishism but also shows real sentiment in the quite moments. Most of all he celebrates can-do spirit and camaraderie.  While some Republicans tried to blame Clinton for the mess (she was Secretary of State at the time) the film never mentions her. (Scotiabank and a few suburban theatres) 3 out of 5

ANOMALISA: Here’s an animated film that’s not for children at all. Not only does it deal with existential angst, alienation and hanky panky during a business trip but there’s a sex scene that’s more direct than most you see in the movies. It, and the entire film, is performed by stop-motion puppets. Charlie Kaufman is the writer-director and it has a dry, quirky tone much like his best-known works: Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It also has an Oscar nomination this year.

 

An expert and author on customer service (voiced by David Thewlis) arrives in Cincinnati, Ohio to speak at a conference and meets an adoring fan (Jennifer Jason Leigh). She’s a team leader in a phone room where his book has helped raise productivity by 90%. The movie revels in such mundane details. She’s from Akron and says things like “scrambled is my favorite egg style.” She’s also insecure and sheepish but chatty. They spend the night together. He gets a brief break from his psychological problems, basically ennui, it seems. Exceptionally naturalistic dialogue brings all this to fascinating, slightly surreal life. It’s a fun movie that started out as a radio play performed on stage. Tom Noonan does all the other voices which explains why the women sound a little too mannish.  (5th Avenue Cinemas)  4 out of 5 

NORM OF THE NORTH: This animated film is for children only but it’s not very good for them. I mean do you really want to teach your child that what is threatening  polar bears, you know global warming and all that, is a crazy developer in New York City who wants to build condos in the Arctic? Or that one bear is able to speak “human” and can go to try and talk him out of it? Or in an interlude, that said polar bear does break dancing and even twerking?

 

That’s what you get in this weak film starring the voices of Rob Schneider, where’s he been recently? Heather Graham, as a publicity woman, and Ken Jeong as the developer. Oh and  Bill Nighy, what’s he doing in here? Playing a wise seagull, that’s what. Rob, as Norm, has a trio of lemmings along on his New York trip, apparently an attempt to match those popular Minions in those other movies.  The animation is OK; the story, of Norm as a mascot in the big city, is not. (International Village and many suburban theatres) 1 ½ out of 5   

MACBETH: I never learned this about my favorite Shakespeare play. Macbeth was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from all that war making. Simple guilt over ambition isn’t enough motivation these days, I guess. And Lady Macbeth was suffering the loss of a child not just ambition when she prodded her husband to kill the king. There’s only slim evidence--one line in the play and some academic debate-- that can back that motivation but it’s used here to both humanize Lady M and modernize the play.

More in New Movies

Melissa’s forgeries, Rami’s dead-on Freddie Mercury and a cult classic re-imagined

Also: a bit of opera (real with Maria Callas and fictional in Bel Canto) and an ode to BC’s chief geographical feature in This Mountain Life

A touching drama about dementia, a daredevil rock climb and another 007 spoof

Also a teen’s life lessons from skateboarders and a cold war anachronism with submarines
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