Maggie’s Plan
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rated: R for language and brief sexuality.
Theater: Edina.

 

The writing was never a problem in Rebecca Miller’s movies, but it has taken a while for her to become a director. Her earlier films, such as “The Ballad of Jack and Rose,” had many good scenes, but they didn’t cohere with any accumulated impact. She’s a genuine director now, not just a writer who directs. Her achievement in “Maggie’s Plan” has many aspects to it, but they boil down to two — how smooth and easy it all is and how messy and wrong it might have been. At the center of it all is Greta Gerwig. Her character, Maggie, has given up on the idea of finding a lifelong partner, but she knows she wants a baby. She also knows the sperm donor she wants — a mathematician turned pickle entrepreneur (Travis Fimmel). Even as she is planning that, she is trying to fix the life of a professor who aspires to be a novelist. John (Ethan Hawke) is a married man, with a high-powered academic (Julianne Moore) for a wife, and Maggie becomes his chief reader and cheerleader. While the characters onscreen keep insisting that some things can’t be planned, the movie seems to be arguing something else — that making a grand design for your life is possible, but only if you’re able to face what you want and accept the consequences.

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

 

Viva
⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: R for language and brief graphic nudity.
Theater: Lagoon.

 

With most Irish films shot in English, the Emerald Isle hasn’t had many opportunities to compete in best foreign language film Academy Award. There have been only four submissions, to be precise, with two in Irish, one in Serbo-Croatian and the latest, “Viva,” shot entirely in Spanish. Shot in Cuba, an island of a very different sort, and set in Havana’s slums, the film is the story of Jesus (Héctor Medina), an impoverished young hairdresser who wants to be a successful drag queen. Soon, however, Jesus’ estranged father (Jorge Perugorría), an embittered, alcoholic ex-boxer, shows up, moving in with Jesus and making demands. At this point, the film becomes less about the dashed dreams of a would-be drag performer than the repair of a badly damaged relationship. “Viva” — Jesus’ stage name, which comes from the Spanish verb “to live” — is, like its hero, a small, slender thing. But it is also, like Jesus, defiantly alive.

Michael O’Sullivan, Washington Post

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.

 

If you were born in the early ’80s, the best part of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” comes when the end credits morph into the bright cartoon style of the TV show we knew and loved. That’s when you finally recognize the beloved and bizarre turtles that somehow signify childhood. The preceding hour and 50 minutes constitute a loud, befuddling jumble of computer graphics and familiar character names crammed into a story that’s overly busy but also too simple.

This time around, the brothers Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Raphael (Alan Ritchson) and Michaelangelo (Noel Fisher) are struggling with the lack of recognition they get for keeping the streets safe from supervillains. They’d like to come out of the shadows, though they know how unappealing they are to most humans.

But when Shredder (Brian Tee) conspires with the evil Krang (Brad Garrett) to open up a space portal for world domination, turtles gotta go to work. They’re aided by a scrappy journalist (Megan Fox) and a corrections officer gone rogue (Stephen Amell).

The dynamic among the brothers and their struggle over their desire to be “normal” are the most heartfelt and resonant elements of the film, but ultimately, any sass, sentiment and personality are obliterated in the noisy chaos of the climax. It’s more cacophonous than cinematic, and loses the charm of the cartoon in an avalanche of computer-generated violence.

KATIE WALSH, Tribune News Service