Anna Karenina

Focus Features

Rated R for sexuality and violence.

Keira Knightley Delivers In Daring Adaptation Of Tolstoy Tale Of Forbidden Love

First published in a literary magazine between 1873 and 1877 in a series of installments, Anna Karenina is a 1,000+ page opus which chronicles the ill-fated affair between a St. Petersburg socialite and a strapping, young soldier. Despite the salacious soap opera at the heart of the story, the dense novel is actually much deeper, as it explores myriad motifs, ranging from feminism to family to forgiveness to fate.

Leo Tolstoy’s tawdry tale of forbidden love has been brought to the screen over 20 times, most notably starring Greta Garbo (1935) and Vivien Leigh (1948) in the title role. Here, Academy Award-nominee Keira Knightley (for Pride & Prejudice) delivers a fresh interpretation of the flawed heroine in a bold adaptation directed by Joe Wright.

The movie marks the pair’s third collaboration, along with the critically-acclaimed Pride & Prejudice (2005) and Atonement (2007), costume dramas which together netted a total of 11 Oscar nominations. End of year accolades are likely in store for this offering as well, primarily as a consequence of Knightley’s powerful performance and Wright’s daring and dazzling reimagining of the Russian classic.

The highly-stylized production has a stagy feel to it rather reminiscent of Moulin Rouge! (2001). In fact, most of the film unfolds in a dingy, dilapidated theater, which might sound at first blush like a disappointing downsizing of the sweeping source material. But this surreal treatment, replete with stampeding horses and a host of other surprises lying in wait in the wings and up in the rafters, proves nothing short of magical without diminishing the Tolstoy epic one iota.

At the point of departure, we find miserably-married Anna selfishly falling in love at first sight with dashing Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a bachelor serving in the cavalry. The two proceed to carry on shamelessly, much to the chagrin of her cuckolded, considerably older hubby, Alexei Karenin (Jude Law), a boring government bureaucrat.

Besides that awkward triangle, the picture devotes its attention to a couple of lesser-developed subplots. One involves Anna’s brother (Matthew Macfadyen), a womanizer who has been cheating on his wife, Dolly (Kelly Macdonald). The other revolves around wealthy Konstantin Levin’s (Domhnall Gleeson) pursuit of Dolly’s teenage sister Kitty (Alicia Vikander), a debutante who harbors hopes of being courted by Vronsky.

Ultimately, Anna’s mind gradually unravels, being tragically undone by a mix of jealousy, bitterness and assorted social pressures. All of the above transpires against an audacious, visually-arresting backdrop as envisioned and brilliantly executed by the gifted Wright.

A sumptuous cinematic feast!

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 130 minutes

 

Deadfall

Magnolia Pictures

Rated R for profanity, sexuality and graphic violence.

Eric Bana And Olivia Wilde Co-Star In High Body-Count Crime Caper

Siblings Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde) are in the midst of making a break for Canada after pulling a casino heist, when they encounter a blinding blizzard in Michigan. Their car careens down an embankment and flips over, leaving their getaway driver dead the second his head hits the windshield.

Soon, a state trooper arrives at the scene, unaware that the accident victims are actually felons on the run. Without hesitation, itchy-fingered Addison pulls out a gun and callously kills the unsuspecting officer.

Figuring that the cops might now be looking for a man and a woman, the brother and sister decide it might be wise for them to separate and reunite north of the border. He heads into the forest; she thumbs a ride with an ex-con (Charlie Hunnam) headed home for Thanksgiving.

And while Addison continues to create major mayhem with his every encounter with people he meets in the woods, Liza uses her womanly wiles to wrap Jay around her little finger. By pure coincidence, Addison’s bloody trail leads to the humble country home of Jay’s parents, June (Sissy Spacek) and Chet (Kris Kristofferson). Of course, Jay and Liza eventually arrive there, too, leading to a big showdown during the turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, Deadfall is a high body-count affair that’s every bit a grisly splatterflick as it is a psychological thriller. What makes the film fascinating is the contrasting approach taken by the picture’s protagonists.

For, Addison is a psychopath inclined to take no prisoners, while his sister’s relatively-subtle style is that of a sultry femme fatale. The question is how long can they keep up the “good perp, bad perp” charade before their luck finally runs out?

An intriguing cat-and-mouse caper featuring both bullets and brains.

 

Very Good (3 stars)

Running time: 95 minutes

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening December 7, 2012

 

Playing For Keeps (PG-13 for profanity, sexual situations and an intense image). Romantic comedy revolving around a retired pro athlete (Gerard Butler) with a checkered past whose effort to woo back his ex-wife (Jessica Biel) by coaching their son’s (Noah Lomax) soccer team goes awry when some of his players’ moms start flirting with him. With Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman, Dennis Quaid and Judy Greer.

 

The Art Of Flight (PG-13 for profanity). Snowboarding documentary showcasing the death-defying exploits of Travis Rice and other daredevils as they risk avalanches and accidents while exploring uncharted mountains all around the world.

 

Bad Kids Go To Hell (R for profanity, sexuality, violence and drug use). Dark comedy about a half-dozen students at an elite prep school who start falling victim to horrible accidents while serving detention. Starring Judd Nelson, Ben Browder, Ali Faulkner and Chanel Ryan.

 

Cheerful Weather For The Wedding (Unrated). Cold feet comedy about a bride-to-be (Felicity Jones) worried that she’s about to marry the wrong man who keeps both her fiancé (James Norton) and her ex (Luke Treadaway) in suspense on her wedding day. With Ellie Kendrick, Mackenzie Crook and Elizabeth McGovern.

 

The Fitzgerald Family Christmas (Unrated). Edward Burns wrote, directed and co-stars in this dysfunctional family drama about the emotional strain experienced by seven siblings when their long-lost father (Malachy McCourt) returns home for the holidays after having walked out on them and their mom (Anita Gillette) a couple of decades earlier. With Connie Britton, Heather Burns, Noah Emmerich and Kerry Bishé.

 

Flying Lessons (R for profanity and sexuality). Prodigal daughter drama about a young woman (Maggie Grace) who returns home for the first time in years to repair relationships with her alcoholic mother (Christine Lahti), an ex-boyfriend (Jonathan Tucker) and an Alzheimer’s patient (Hal Holbrook). With Cary Elwes, Joanna Cassidy and Rick Gonzalez.

 

Honor Flight (Unrated). Greatest generation documentary about a Midwest community that raised $250,000 to fly its surviving WWII veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the war memorials erected in their honor.

 

Hyde Park On Hudson (R for brief sexuality). Tale of illicit love, set over the course of a wild weekend in 1939, chronicling President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (Bill Murray) incestuous affair with his cousin Margaret (Laura Linney) while he was simultaneously entertaining the King (Samuel West) and Queen (Olivia Colman) of England during a Royal visit to the States. With Olivia Williams, Elizabeth Marvel and Blake Ritson.

 

In Our Nature (Unrated). Close quarters drama about the tensions which surface when a guy (Zach Gilford) takes his girlfriend (Jena Malone) to his family’s summer home for a quiet weekend getaway only to have his long-estranged father (John Slattery) show up unexpectedly with his trophy girlfriend (Gabrielle Union). With Lola Cook and David Ilku.

 

Lay The Favorite (R for sexuality, nudity, drug use and pervasive profanity). Screen adaptation of Beth Raymer’s memoir of the same name about a small-town stripper (Rebecca Hall) who moves to Las Vegas where she becomes the protégé of a professional gambler (Bruce Willis), much to the chagrin of his jealous wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Support cast featuring Vince Vaughn, Corbin Bernsen and Joshua Jackson.

 

Waiting For Lightning (PG-13 for sports action, profanity and mature themes). Skateboarding documentary highlighting how Danny Way overcame a disadvantaged childhood to turn pro and eventually jump over the Great Wall Of China.

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