Marisa Tomei

The New York City skyline is one of the tired titans of American imagery. To put it more charitably, it’s awfully difficult to fill a movie with classic images of Gotham and finish with something original and interesting. In Ira Sachs‘s newest feature, Love Is Strange, one of his characters goes to the trouble of actually painting the view of Manhattan from a Brooklyn roof. This particular canvas becomes one of the most emotionally charged symbols of the film. In the hands of a less assured director, it would be entirely ponderous. Yet Sachs knows his way around the city, so to speak. His last feature, Keep the Lights On, charted the heartbreaking decline of a relationship against the backdrop of a hazy metropolis. Love Is Strange, on the other hand, finds a much clearer and brighter source of light. Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) are an aging couple finally, legally, getting married after almost 40 years. The film begins with their wedding, a lovely outdoor affair followed by a reception in their apartment. There Sachs introduces all of the supporting players, including an adoring novelist niece named Kate (Marisa Tomei) and some neighborly gay policemen (Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez).

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She Said She Said

Why Watch? Equally sharp and absurd, this short film from Stuart Blumberg features Marisa Tomei and Elodie Bouchez as a couple who are close to ending their marriage, David Wain as a high-fiving mediator, and a few ridiculous flashbacks. Each piece of their shared history that they fight over forces them to remember the full spectrum of their relationship while creating some very funny scenarios. Especially if you’re into Aubrey Plaza making “fox babies.” The dialogue is sly, and it’s often difficult to figure out whether a line is meant as an insult or flirtation, and the talent here delivers.  It’s also sleek with smart visuals and seductive — both while sharing the calm power of generosity and when sliding a loose dress slowly up the back of its star’s legs. This comedy is a long, slow pour of whiskey with a smooth finish. What Will It Cost? About 7 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.

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Parental Guidance

Well, hmm. At the very least (like, bare minimum here), Andy Fickman‘s Parental Guidance looks inoffensive. The family film stars Billy Crystal and Bette Midler as a set of grandparents finally getting their big shot with their three grandkiddos, thanks to their daughter (played by Marisa Tomei) and her urgent need to have someone (possibly anyone) look after them for a few days. Suddenly, the “old school” parents must take care of some new wave munchkins who’ve been raised in a sugar-free environment that’s big on feelings and such. Hijinks, misunderstandings, and apparently some sort of overdose on sheet cake ensue. It all seems relatively harmless (and certainly less embarrassing than something like Robert DeNiro’s fall from respectability at the hands of his own family series, the nosedive-y endeavor that is the Meet the Parents franchise), and Parental Guidance will likely be a solid choice come the holidays – at least, when you need to please everyone in your family when it comes to movie-going. Check out a new Parental Guidance trailer after the break, and ponder if Crystal is the new Robert DeNiro.

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If there’s any true horror movie this Halloween, it’s eclectic filmmaker George Clooney‘s The Ides of March. The play adaptation follows a hopeful and naive young hotshot, Stephen Myers, as he loses all of his morals to get ahead, which is apparently what the world of politics requires. If someone in the film sticks to their respectable rules, things most likely won’t turn out too well for them. Like a great paranoia thriller, everyone’s constantly on edge about their place on the political food chain. However, The Ides of March isn’t so much a film about politics, but the downward spiral of a once idealistic campaign runner. Clooney’s fourth directorial feature is a dark and cynical character drama underneath the surface of a low-key thriller. Co-writer/producer Grant Heslov (director of the very underrated The Men Who Stare at Goats) and Clooney delved into the idea of trying to stick to one’s rules in a bloodthirsty world with Good Night and Good Luck, but while that story lent itself to a more optimistic feel, the duo took a far more cynical approach with The Ides of March. Here’s what Heslov had to say about getting this dark character drama made, the film’s idealist-turned-ruthless protagonist, and why he doesn’t wake up dreaming about writing in our spoiler-filled conversation:

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr strips down to his boxers and starts a new training regimen to make him look more like Huge Jackman. He’s got a head start, considering his torso looks almost like Jackman’s… if you turn it upside down. After duking it out with some robots in a boxing ring, Kevin tries his hands at politics because it’s the kind of business where you don’t necessarily have to look like Ryan Gosling to get a young hottie like Evan Rachel Wood. But the primary system leaves him depressed and cold, so he takes a trip to the Sudan to play target practice with some warlords. He hears the Sudan is simply lovely this time of year.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr runs screaming from little blue people invading his life and seeks refuge in the old west, hoping that James Bond and Indiana Jones will protect him. When he returns home, he has a fight with his wife and uses the events of Crazy, Stupid, Love to put his relationship back together. What a godsend Hollywood can be for marriage woes. Finally, Kevin curls up for a long nap after an exhausting summer movie season with many more arrests than he ever thought he’d incur.

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With Crazy, Stupid, Love, writer-director duo Glenn Ficarra and John Requa are coming off of the criminally under-seen I Love You Phillip Morris. Very few saw commercial appeal in their Ewan McGregor and Jim Carrey-starring love story, and the box office numbers were further proof that there was a definite, and very sad, truth to those predictions. It doesn’t appear they have anything to worry about when it comes to their new, star-filled romantic comedy though. I Love You Phillip Morris has a dark and divisive sensibility. Crazy, Stupid, Love is the opposite and shows obvious mass appeal. In making a film for a broader audience, Ficarra and Requa managed to make love stories — it is an ensemble film — that are neither cynical nor dopey. Here’s what Glenn Ficarra and John Requa had to say about taking on the commercial project, their 3-hour version of the film, and their important lessons at film school:

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Let’s just be honest here and admit that George Clooney is one incredibly attractive guy. I’m referring to more than just his roguish charm, unflappable sense of humor, and boyish grin of course as his most appealing characteristic is his professional ethos. He’s popular, wealthy, and capable of being cast in as many big budget films as he could want, but he consistently returns to to smaller, more personal films that tell stories and explore ideals that he values even when it earns him flack. That and his villa on Italy’s Lake Como make him someone that I would not rush to kick out of my hypothetical, friends only, no-touching-unless-we’re-having-a-pillow-fight bed. As an actor he’s balanced studio pics like the Ocean’s Eleven films with smart, adult thrillers like Michael Clayton and The American. As a director he’s countered the brilliant Good Night, and Good Luck with… Leatherheads. Okay, bad example, but the point is the man has range. Check out the trailer for his latest directorial effort below.

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As the classic soul song “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City” plays over the opening credits of The Lincoln Lawyer, the perfect tone is set for the movie. At its core, it’s a classical lawyer procedural thriller, but is smoothly played by its star and large cast so much so that you can’t help but be entertained for two hours. It’s a movie where the title explains it all. Mickey Haller (Matthew McConaughey, looking little older, but still with some breezy cool swagger) is a high profiled LA defense lawyer who works out of his Lincoln Town Car. As he wheels and deals throughout the day with his driver Earl (Laurence Mason), we meet the various lawyers, bail bonds men, private investigators, celebrity drug addicts, and gang members that he works with. Some of them love him, but most have some sort of card to play with him.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr starts a new regimen of drugs that comes in a clear little pill. The guy on the street corner told him that it would unlock the full potential of his mind, and he assured Kevin it was FDA approved. Why would this guy lie to him? While waiting for the drugs to kick in, Kevin decided to take a trip across the American southwest and search for skinny little aliens with fat man voices. He knows he’s safe, even if he’s picked up by the cops, because he’s retained a dead-sexy lawyer who runs his practice out of the back of his Lincoln Town Car.

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To step out of one’s comfort zone can be a wonderful thing, or a gesture fraught with peril. For evidence of the dangers, look no further than the desperate Salvation Boulevard. A comedy with a religious fundamentalist bent, from a director accustomed to serious fare and starring actors not generally known for their comic chops, the film tries so hard to reach heights of absurdist mania that it falls flat.

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It’s that time of the year again: that brief span of time in between Christmas and New Year’s when journalists, critics, and cultural commentators scramble to define an arbitrary block of time even before that block is over with. To speculate on what 2010 will be remembered for is purely that: speculation. But the lists, summaries, and editorials reflecting on the events, accomplishments, failures, and occurrences of 2010 no doubt shape future debate over what January 1-December 31, 2010 will be remembered for personally, nostalgically, and historically. How we refer to the present frames how it is represented in the future, even when contradictions arise over what events should be valued from a given year. In an effort to begin that framing process, what I offer here is not a critical list of great films, but one that points out dominant cultural conversations, shared trends, and intersecting topics (both implicit and explicit) that have occurred either between the films themselves or between films and other notable aspects of American social life in 2010. As this column attempts to establish week in and week out, movies never exist in a vacuum, but instead operate in active conversation with one another. Thus, a movie’s cultural context should never be ignored. So, without further adieu, here is my overview of the Top 10 topics, trends, and events of the year that have nothing to do with the 3D debate.

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Columbus Rejects! Get a chance to see Cyrus before it opens… for free!

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Cyrus

Ignoring the namesake of the film, Cyrus focuses not so much on Jonah Hill’s twenty one year old, socially maladjusted mama’s boy, and more on John C. Reilly’s character John. John is a schlubby, sad-sack forty something with an interestingly amiable relationship with his ex-wife Jamie (Catherine Keener), who after seven years is finally getting remarried.

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Cyrus

I’ve gotten a bit tired of John C. Reilly doing so many comedies recently. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a damn funny man who elevates everything he’s in, but I’ve been increasingly afraid that a man with as strong of dramatic chops as he will continually fall into typecasting through the short-term memory of Hollywood. Enter Cyrus, the first high-profile, star-studded effort by those kooky mumblecore kids Jay and Mark Duplass.

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Long have I been a fan of awkward comedy. Or more specifically, comedy that thrives on situations where two characters quite simply don’t belong together. Enter the Duplass Brothers’ latest film, Cyrus.

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Oscar is naked. So are many of the stars who went home with him. We take a look at just a few who memorably shed their clothes and ended up with nominations and Gold.

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So there I was, watching Isla Fisher’s new film Confessions of a Shopaholic and being a little surprised as how likeable she is on screen in a leading role when it occurred to me… I’m probably never going to see her boobs again

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The Wrestler

You’ve already heard that Mickey Rourke and The Wrestler are phenomenal. Here are a few more reasons why you should see it for yourself.

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FSR

Kevin Carr looks at Yes Man, Seven Pounds, The Tale of Despereaux and The Wrestler, in theaters this week with the FSR Report Card.

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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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