August: Osage County

The Weinstein Company

Rated R for profanity, sexual references and drug use

Streep Heads Stellar Cast In Melodramatic Adaptation Of Pulitzer Prize-Winning Play

In 2008, August: Osage County not only won a Pulitzer Prize, but it also took home a quintet of Tony Awards, including Best Play. However, the screen version of Tracy Letts’ haunting tale about a dysfunctionalOklahoma family is unlikely to be as well received, given the tawdry tale’s relentlessly morose plot. Who goes to the movies to get depressed?

That being said, the picture nevertheless does boast a very impressive, stellar cast headed by Meryl Streep, even if in service of a kitchen sink soap opera. She turns in another Oscar-quality performance as Violet, the substance-abusing, cancer-stricken matriarch of the Weston clan.

The film revolves around the return home of that downer of a character’s three daughters in the wake their suicidal father’s (Sam Shepard) sudden disappearance. As the action unfolds, we find each of her offspring involved in a relationship more bizarre than the next.

Eldest Barbara (Julia Roberts) arrives fromColoradoescorted by her estranged husband, Bill (Ewan McGregor), even though the philandering college professor is dating one of his students. Along for the ride is their 14-year-old daughter, Jean (Abigail Breslin), a sullen stoner ostensibly upset about the state of her parents’ disintegrating marriage.

Youngest sister Karen (Juliette Lewis) shows up with her creepy fiancé, Steve (Dermot Mulroney), a successful businessman whose money has her deep in denial (until he hits on her niece) about his being a pedophile. Meanwhile, middle child Ivy’s (Julianne Nicholson) issue is the incestuous affair she’s carrying on with her first cousin, Charlie, Jr. (Benedict Cumberbatch).

Then there’s Violet’s sister/Charlie’s mom, Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale), a shrew who openly abuses both her son and hubby, Charlie, Sr. (Chris Cooper). She’s has a humdinger of a skeleton hidden in her closet just waiting to trump everybody else’s shocking developments.

A movie featuring so many sensational storylines certainly lends itself to melodrama, which is what August: Osage County proceeds to serve up in spades. Thus, the film frequently feels more like an adaptation of a dime-store romance novel than of an award-winning Broadway production.

An overplotted, feel-bad flick saved by a host of compelling performances, most notably those of Meryl Streep and Margo Martindale.

 

Very Good (3 stars)

Running time: 121 minutes

 

 

Lone Survivor

Universal Pictures

Rated R for graphic violence and pervasive profanity

Mark Wahlberg Stars In Adaptation Of Memoir About Ambush Of Navy SEALs In Afghanistan

On June 28, 2005, a team of Navy SEALs based inAfghanistanwere issued orders in accordance with Operation Red Wings to locate and terminate a Taliban leader whose militia had been targeting coalition troops in theKushMountainsofKunarProvince. The four were then dropped by helicopter line into rugged terrain outside the tiny village suspected of harboring Al Qaeda sympathizers.

Soon, the soldiers crossed paths with several shepherds and, against their better judgment, allowed the seemingly innocuous civilians to continue on their way in accordance with theU.S.military’s rules of engagement. Unfortunately, about an hour later, the SEALs found themselves ambushed by over a hundred Taliban fighters who had apparently been tipped off as to their whereabouts.

The ensuing, epic battle is the subject of Lone Survivor, a gruesome war flick based on Marcus Luttrell’s (Mark Wahlberg) memoir of the high attrition-rate, harrowing ordeal. Adapted and directed by Peter Berg (Battleship), the picture is most reminiscent of Black Hawk Down, another grim film about an American, overseas helicopter operation gone bad.

Given this movie’s title, there isn’t any suspense about how the disastrous misadventure is going to end. Consequently, the viewing experience amounts to little more than squirming in your seat while watching members of Luttrell’s unit perish, as well as over a dozen of the reinforcements sent to try to rescue them.

A practically pornographic tribute to fearless, fallen heroes strictly for patriots with a strong stomach for gratuitous violence, however accurate.

 

Good (2 stars)

Running time: 121 minutes

 

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening January 10, 2014

 

Her (R for profanity, sexuality and brief nudity) Oscar nominee Spike Jonze (for Being John Malkovich) directed this romance drama revolving around a lonely letter writer (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with the voice (Scarlett Johansson) on his computer’s operating system. With Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Bill Hader and Olivia Wilde.

 

The Legend Of Hercules (PG-13 for sensuality and intense violence) Mythological saga, set in ancient Greece, revolving around a demigod (Kellan Lutz) torn between pursuing true love and fulfilling his destiny by toppling a tyrannical king (Scott Adkins). With Gaia Weiss, Roxanne McKee, Liam Garrigan and Luke Newberry.

 

The Adventurer: The Curse Of The Midas Box (PG for violence, adventure, peril and brief smoking) Fantasy adventure about an intrepid teenager (Aneurin Barnard) who follows clues on a perilous trek inside a hidden realm after the members of his family mysteriously disappear. With Ioan Gruffudd, Michael Sheen, Sam Neill,Lena Headey and Keeley Hawes.

 

Banshee Chapter (R for violence, profanity, drug use, brief nudity and disturbing images) Found-footage suspense thriller, purportedly based on actual events, about an investigative journalist’s (Katia Winter) search for a missing friend (Michael McMillian) rumored to have ingested a chemical being tested on civilians by the CIA. With Ted Levine, Monique Candelaria andChad Brummett.

 

Black Coffee (PG for mild epithets, sexual references and mature themes) Romantic comedy revolving around a recently-fired and just-dumped dude (Darrin Dewitt Henson) who subsequently meets his soul mate (Gabrielle Dennis) only to have her ex-husband (Lamman Rucker) and his ex-girlfriend (Erica Hubbard) resurface. Cast includes Tiffany Hines, Christian Keyes and Brely Evans.

 

Cold Comes The Night (R for profanity and violence) Seeing-eye thriller about a blind career criminal (Bryan Cranston) who forces the owner (Alice Eve) of a seedy motel and her daughter (Ursula Parker) to help him retrieve a stash of cash stolen by a crooked cop (Logan Marshall-Green). With Leo Fitzpatrick, Erin Cummings and Robin Taylor.

 

Divorce Corp. (Unrated) Legal system exposé highlighting how more money flows through the divorce courts annually than through all other U.S. courts combined, thereby taking a toll on the litigants in the way of home foreclosures, bankruptcy, suicide and violence. Featuring Gloria Allred, Wendy Archer and Alexandra Borg.

 

Dumbbells (Unrated) Kitchen sink comedy about a former college basketball star (Brian Drolet) who forges an unlikely friendship with a guy (Hoyt Richards) trying to shoot a reality show in the gym where he works. Ensemble cast includes Jaleel “Steve Urkel” White, Tom Arnold, Mircea Monroe, Jay Mohr and Fabio.

 

The Great Flood (Unrated) Historical documentary, featuring black-and-white archival images set to music, revisiting the 1927 flood of theMississippi River which led to the Great Migration north by millions of displaced African-American sharecroppers.

 

The Truth About Emanuel (Unrated) Psychological thriller about a troubled young woman (Kaya Scodelario) who offers to babysit for the mysterious new neighbor (Jessica Biel) that’s a dead ringer for her late mother (Gabriela Dias). Featuring Alfred Molina, Frances O’Connor and Aneurin Barnard.

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