At The Movies: August: Osage County; Her; Lone Survivor

It’s that time when the last of the awards wannabes come rambling into St. Louis. Which means another big week for reviews. So big, in fact, that I didn’t even make it to the Hercules movie. No big deal, I hear there’s another one coming out later this year.

August: Osage County

I first saw this show as a play at the Fox Theatre back in 2010. My favorite part was the opening monologue delivered by the patriarch of the Weston family. He’s never seen again and when it was over I thought of how lucky he was.

That opinion hasn’t changed after seeing the film version.

August-Osage-County-PosterThe movie opens with Beverly Weston (Sam Shepard) waxing poetic about life with his pill-popping wife Violet (Meryl Streep). He then goes missing.

Beverly’s disappearance forces a reunion of the Weston clan: eldest daughter Barbara and husband Bill (Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor); middle sister Karen  and fiance Steve (Juliette Lewis and Dermot Mulroney); youngest daughter Ivy (Julianne Nicholson); Uncle Charles and Aunt Mattie Fae (Chris Cooper and Margo Martindale); and cousin “Little” Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch).

To say this is a dysfunctional family is to grossly, and I mean grossly, understate the case.  No one is in a happy and healthy relationship. Most of them have dark secrets (that will be revealed before the credits roll).

This is billed as a comedy but I fail to see the humor in watching a family self-destruct at the dinner table while the doped-up matriarch holds court by belittling each relative one by one. Oh, there are some humorous bits here and there but as black comedies go, this is the darkest.

The movie does boast several strong performances, as you’d expect from such a talented cast. Julia Roberts is the real standout, giving one of the finest showings of her career.

But overall it’s just too muddled. Too much melodrama poured on top of melodrama.

Her

If there was a trophy for Most Overhyped Movie of awards season I would be tempted to give the 2013 honor to  Spike Jonze’s science fiction romantic fable “Her.”

Is it a good film? Yes. Is it the best film of the year? I don’t think so.

her-spike-jonze-posterJoaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore Twombly, a lonely introvert who makes a living writing personal letters for other people. His melancholy is exacerbated by his upcoming divorce from childhood sweetheart  Catherine (Rooney Mara).

One day Theodore purchases a new operating system for his computer. Outfitted with artificial intelligence and the voice of Scarlett Johansson, the OS (which names itself Samantha) quickly bonds with its owner. What starts out as friendly banter develops into something more personal for both of them.

You might think that strange, but in the odd world that Jonez has created few people think twice about someone falling in love with their computer. But what will happen to that love as Samantha continues to evolve?

“Her” is an unusual tale filled with quiet emotion and humor. It features the softer side of Joaquin Phoenix and it’s a touching performance. Scarlett Johansson also gives an impressive showing, even more amazing given it’s a strictly vocal performance. She will make you believe a man could fall in love with a computer.

 

Lone Survivor

 

We wrap up this week’s movie roundup with a war film. Based on the 2007 book by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson, “Lone Survivor” tells the story of a failed Navy SEALs mission during the War in Afghanistan.

 

 

 

loneSurvivor_posterA four-man team — Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and Matthew Axelson (Ben Foster) —  is sent into the rugged Afghan territory on a mission to kill or capture a Taliban leader.

 

 

The quartet winds up outgunned, outnumbered and with little hope of assistance. The film’s title should give you an idea how things turn out.

 

Directed by Peter Berg, “Lone Survivor” starts off slow but once the mission kicks into gear it becomes a tense, relentless portrayal of the horror of war. The team gets caught up in a moral dilemma before the firefight begins and by the movie’s end Luttrell finds himself relying on the kindness — and sacrifice — of strangers.

“Lone Survivor” is a grueling and compelling true war story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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