Short reviews of 'The Brothers Bloom,' 'Every Little Step' 'The Girlfriend Experience' 'Gigantic' and 'Three Monkeys'
★ out of four stars
Rating: PG-13, violence, some sensuality and brief strong language.
Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody play swindling siblings in this affected, emo caper movie. Their mark is Rachel Weisz, a madcap heiress living alone in poor-little-rich-girl splendor. Their plan is to whisk her away on a kooky adventure that will give her the illusion of participating in a smuggling operation while separating her from a large chunk of her inheritance. Then love rears its pretty head, Brody suffers a paralyzing conscience attack and the carefully prepared triple-crosses snarl like tangled shoelaces. Writer/director Rian Johnson's movie is a throwback to mod, madcap con man movies of the -- where am I? I fell asleep typing. The leads have zero comedic skills, but you can tell they're being funny because they all wear sarcastic hats. The plotting aims to play on our expectations from films like "The Sting," but the references just remind us of other, more interesting movies. Robbie Coltrane lumbers through a few scenes as a character whose entire comic identity comes from the fact that he's Belgian. Rinko Kikucho is essentially a dress extra as the brothers' silent henchwoman Bang Bang, "an artist with nitroglycerine." Isn't that quirky? From the opening chapter -- narrated in rhymed verse --- you watch shaking your head, wondering how a hairball like this made it past the producers' quality filters.
★★★ out of four stars
Rating: PG-13, some strong language including sexual references.
A film about dancers auditioning for a play about dancers auditioning for a play. The 2006 Broadway revival of "A Chorus Line" is the frame for this observant documentary. Hopefuls literally line up around the block to try out for the producers, many of whom have poignant memories of the original show and its creator, dancer/choreographer/director Michael Bennett. The setup has much in common with "American Idol's" recipe of hope and heartbreak. What puts this film on a higher level is the fact that the actors singing "Please, God, I need this job!" really do need the job. We follow the winnowing process from the first massive cattle call to the semifinalist elimination rounds, and there are heart-wrenching passages when veteran hoofers tilt their chins up and announce they know their day will come. They want the recognition we all want, and the film persuades you that almost every one of them deserves it.
★★★ out of four stars
Rating: R, sexual content and violence.
If you can't wait for the next Wes Anderson movie, "Gigantic" might tide you over. Set in a Manhattan of well-heeled eccentrics, incongruous love affairs and complicated family dynamics, it gives us Paul Dano as a shoe-gazing mattress salesman in love with Zooey Deschanel's trust-fund girl. The hero is a twerp -- women keep seeing attractive qualities in him that we can't see -- but he's big-hearted and kind. He's eager to adopt a Chinese baby, even though 28-year-old single men are low on the list. Deschanel throws herself at him, thickening the plot, and a homeless man is stalking him with ill intent. Trying to reconstruct this movie in your mind afterward is like trying to remember a party where the people were interesting and everyone drank too much. But the characters are richly layered and well acted. John Goodman is a standout as Deschanel's dad, a rich blowhard with a sweet candy center. Substance 3, style 8.
★★ 1/2 out of four stars
Rating: R, sexual content, nudity and language.
An agonizing portrait of angry, lonely people with their emotions bottled up and turned to vinegar. Steven Soderbergh's story of New York anomie follows a high-class escort (played quite modestly by porn star Sasha Grey) as she moves between her customers and her boyfriend. Clients treat "Chelsea" like a date, buying her attention the way others might buy psychotherapy. What they are not getting is her understanding. She seems oblivious to the world outside herself. After each encounter she itemizes the designer wardrobe she wore in a diary, scarcely mentioning the clients. Her connection to her boyfriend (Chris Santos), an excruciatingly handsome gym instructor who tolerates her profession, is only marginally deeper. One day a client enters her life, stirring up emotions that threaten to upend her relationship and her career. Grey delivers a cool, withdrawn performance; whether this reflects her limitations as an actress or the character's emotional armor is a tossup. Everyone in the film is seeking a cathartic release, but it never arrives. Soderbergh doesn't allow any emotional payoffs. The photography is chill, austere. The bedrooms are frigid minimalism. The people we meet are so isolated they seem to have forgotten what human connection means. Nobody listens in this film; everyone's just waiting for their turn to talk. At the end of the movie, everyone is alone and you have the feeling they'll stay that way.
★★★★ out of four stars
Unrated by the MPAA.
Theater: Oak Street.
Turkey's Nuri Bilge Ceylan won the best director prize at Cannes last year for this tense, poetic neo-noir. A politician kills a pedestrian in a hit-and-run accident. He bribes his chauffeur to take the rap and the man goes to prison for a year. The driver hopes this pact with the devil will benefit his overworked wife and his teenage son, who is running with a rough crowd. Instead, he has placed a noose of guilt around all their necks. He returns to a family with guilty secrets piled high in his absence. Stunningly shot on the outskirts of Istanbul -- Ceylan is an ex-photographer -- "Three Monkeys" is a brooding examination of grief and repression. It concerns not lurid crimes -- acts of violence occur off-camera -- but the moral and emotional consequences of betrayal. A single lie sets catastrophe in motion. The family plays deaf, dumb and blind to their own hypocrisy until they stand at the edge of the abyss. Dishonesty and secrecy scatter mustard seeds of bad faith everywhere and soon the family is in free fall. Dialogue is sparse; somber, eloquent faces framed against enormous black clouds articulate what we need to know about the characters' despair. The framing suffuses every scene with anticipation. The ominous, desaturated color scheme traps the players in airless confinement even when they are outdoors. The pace is deliberate, sometimes slow, but the whirlpool pull of this tragic psychological thriller is irresistible.