And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

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Review: The Painted Bird

Based on Jerzy Kosiński’s novel, The Painted Bird is a brutal tale of a young nameless boy’s fight to survive on his own during World War II in the wilds of Eastern Europe. He’s beaten and abused wherever he turns, and all he wants to do is find home, though he doesn’t really know where that is. And as he makes his way towards that imagined home, he grows more and more hardened and more like the people he meets, scared and mistrustful of the world at large. Though it takes place during the war, the conflict is distant even if the effects are all around The Boy. While it’s beautifully shot in black and white, it’s also 169 minutes long and essentially a litany of horrors. It’s not a film for the masses.

Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing. Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing.

The story may be lame as heck, but who cares? Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again delivers exactly what I expected: a groovy movie musical with a simple plot built around lyrics to ABBA songs — just like the first Mamma Mia! nearly a decade ago. In some ways, the sequel is even better, thanks to the singing, dancing and acting chops of Lily James (Baby Driver, Cinderella) as a younger version of free-spirited Donna Sheridan, the role inhabited by Meryl Streep in 2008. Streep is back for the sequel, but only for a brief yet poignant scene in the final minutes of the film (no spoilers). And oh yeah, Cher pops in too – as Donna’s showstopper (and scene-stealer) of a Mom.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Fans of the Avengers – assemble! My guess is they’re already packing the midnight showings and putting this superhero superflick in prime position to knock those Fast and Furious folks from the top of the Box Office. And rightly so. Avengers: Age of Ultron delivers the goods. It’s not as good as the first one, but it serves the purpose of advancing the Marvel mythology and providing pure escapist entertainment by bringing together, once again, the world’s mightiest heroes, including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Eye candy, sarcasm, action. What’s not to like?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Three of the most popular books of 2008-2010 were Stieg Larssen’s Millennium Trilogy. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first book and there is already one great movie of it in the original Swedish. (Here is my review of that one.) But now we have the David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network) prettied-up American version. I could just about recycle my first review for the new one, but there are a few differences. It is in English. Daniel Craig is hotter than Michael Nyqvist. And Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth is a great deal less insular and a lot more one-dimensional than Noomi Rapace’s.

Melancholia

Danish director Lars von Trier is not known for happy movies (Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark) and with Melancholia he keeps true to form. The title clues you in to the mood of the film centered on two sisters Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), which is told in two chapters. The first is Justine’s story – the saga of her wedding reception at her sister’s mansion, in which she has a slow and painful meltdown, revealing herself to be a deeply disturbed, depressed woman, incapable of being in any relationship, much less married. The second part belongs to Claire. It concerns her growing terror that a planet called Melancholia that has been hiding behind the sun is soon going to crash into the earth.