Those who are waiting to catch up with Julianne Moore’s heartfelt, Oscar-winning performance in “Still Alice” won’t have to hold on anymore. In the film, Moore’s character struggles with early onset familial Alzheimer’s disease with “Still Alice” chronicling the effects of a debilitating disease not only on the victim but the victim’s family as well. Though Moore has given much more interesting performances earlier in her career, such as Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts,” Todd Haynes’ “Safe,” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights,” it’s nice to see the Academy finally recognize her immense and unique talent, even if it’s for somewhat of an Oscar-bait role. For those not interested in a film about a person slowly losing her mind to disease, there’s always Michael Mann’s action thriller “Blackhat,” a critical favorite and a box office bomb. Though “Blackhat’s” script leaves a little to be desired, Mann’s singular direction is as dynamic as ever, and it’s worth it just to see Chris Hemsworth play a computer hacker who also looks like Chris Hemsworth.
The other new releases this week are half duds and half foreign films: First, there’s Johnny Depp’s “Mortdecai,” a film based upon a series of English comic novels about, according to Wikipedia, “the picaresque adventures of a dissolute aristocratic art dealer…[and] his manservant Jock,” because that’s what gets the kids excited these days. Then, there’s the Adam Sandler vehicle “The Cobbler,” a film so terrible and ludicrous that it has to be seen to be believed. Hint: you know the saying, “You can’t understand a person’s experience unless you’ve walked a mile in their shoes?” Yeah, imagine that idiom taken to its logical, dramatic conclusion, but starring Adam Sandler, Dustin Hoffman, and Method Man. Finally, there’s director Dominik Graf’s “Beloved Sisters,” a biographical film based on the life German poet Friedrich Schiller, and Serge Bozon’s “Tip Top,” a detective film about two female internal affairs inspectors investigating the murder of an Algerian informant.
However, things look a little better on the classic front. Criterion is releasing Leo McCarey’s heartbreaking “Make Way for Tomorrow,” a film about an elderly couple who are forced to separate after they lose their home and none of their selfish children want to take them in. It inspired Yasujiro Ozu’s “Tokyo Story” and provoked Orson Welles to comment, “It would make a stone cry.” Cohen Films have the 75th anniversary Blu-ray of Hitchcock’s “Jamaica Inn,” starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara. Finally, Twilight Time has three films on the docket: Fred Zinnemann’s Oscar-sweeping “A Man for All Seasons,” Alan Parker’s thriller “Mississippi Burning,” and Ken Loach’s “Carla’s Song.”
More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:
Criticwire Average: B
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, The A.V. Club
Though shot in the stolidly inconspicuous style of a low-rated cable drama, “Still Alice” is rarely anything short of compelling, in part because its sense of progression and scale offers such a distinctively unsentimental take on the terminal-countdown tearjerker. The title character (Julianne Moore) is a linguistics professor slowly dissolving into the haze of early-onset Alzheimer’s, dogged by guilt over having passed her rare form of the disease on to her three grown children. Her world shrinks and shrinks and shrinks, until it’s reduced to a corner of the living room and whatever fleeting moments of connection she might have with the people she only occasionally recognizes as her famil.. Read more.
Criticwire Average: C+
Jason Bailey, Flavorwire
Complaints about narrative clichés — and seriously, a movie is not defined by its clichés, but what it does with them — and visual crutches miss the point; this is not a film about tight plotting or slam-bang action, but about style. Pure, hypnotic, mesmerizing style. Read more.
Criticwire Average: D
Nicole Gallo, Archon Cinema
Bad, Mortdecai is just bad. The characters are boring and uninteresting and impossible to care about, despite their eccentricities – a considerably marvelous feat for writer Eric Aronson, and that is decidedly not a compliment. Aronson manages to make one of the least funny comedies out there, I don’t even know where the humor was intended. Read more.
Criticwire Average: C
Kevin Jagernauth, The Playlist
It boggles the mind that McCarthy managed to get the cast he did—which also includes Steven Buscemi, Dustin Hoffman and Dan Stevens—only to waste them on something as featherweight as this. Granted, they are only as good as the material they get, but the ensemble is mostly adrift here, with only the continually underrated Diaz, whose turn as a slightly over-passionate advocate for the neighborhood, registers something near the tenor we’ve seen in previous McCarthy films. Read more.