Open Road Films
R for profanity, sexuality, nudity and violence.
Twists Abound In Labyrinthine Psychological Thriller
Martin Taylor (Channing Tatum) has just been paroled after serving four years in prison for insider trading. His wife, Emily (Rooney Mara), is eagerly anticipating his return, because she’s been depressed since being separated from him and losing the lavish lifestyle to which she’d become accustomed.
However, their long-awaited reunion proves to be bitterly disappointing for her, between the unsatisfying sex and her having to be the family’s breadwinner. After several months, the poor woman is so plunged into the depths of despair that she tries to kill herself by driving her car into a brick wall.
Emily is put on the anti-depressant Zoloft, by Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), a shrink who discharges her from the hospital on the condition that she continue to see him on an outpatient basis. When that medication doesn’t agree with her, at the suggestion of her former psychiatrist (Catherine Zeta-Jones), he decides to switch her over to an experimental drug he will get paid to prescribe.
But Ablixa has even worse side effects, such as causing Emily to sleepwalk. Subsequently, while in somnambulant state, (SPOILER ALERT) she stabs her unsuspecting hubby to death.
Suddenly Dr. Banks finds himself on the griddle, since he got a $50,000 kickback from the pharmaceutical industry to promote Ablixa. It’s not long before his career is hanging in the balance, given that he had good reason to take his patient off the medication.
Not so fast, kemosabe. For, what at first blush looks like an open and shut case of malpractice turns out to be something far more sinister. Might Martin have had an enemy who wanted him dead? Persons of interest soon emerge from the shadows, from his miffed mother-in-law (Ann Dowd), to the former colleague (David Costabile) suspected of snitching on him, to Dr. Banks’ estranged wife (Vinessa Shaw), with a few other red herrings tossed into the mix for good measure.
So unfolds Side Effects, an over-plotted whodunit directed by Steven Soderbergh. The movie marks the Oscar winner’s (for Traffic) final film, unless he can be coaxed out of retirement for a future project.
A tad too complicated for its own good, this headache-inducing brainteaser feels more like taking an SAT test than a mere murder mystery. Still, the picture’s worth the investment just to witness Rooney Mara’s spellbinding performance as a beleaguered mental patient struggling to get her meds right.
The Girl With A Dragon Of A Depression!
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 105 minutes
Bittersweet Biopic Paints Evenhanded Postmortem On Life And Times Of Late NYC Mayor
Ed Koch (1924-2013) was the mayor of New York from 1978 to 1989, a three-term tenure over the course of which the city was beset by everything from racial strife to urban decay to the AIDS epidemic. To some, a feisty leader like Koch was precisely the right remedy for that mix of urban maladies. To others, he was simply too divisive a figure to forge a diverse coalition representative of every ethnicity.
To his credit, Koch did clean up Times Square and bring the city back from the brink of bankruptcy, even if he did irreversibly alienate the black community ab initio by closing Sydenham Hospital in Harlem right after entering office. That controversial move motivated Calvin Butts, pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, to say, “He’s worse than a racist. He’s an opportunist!”
Ever the optimist, Koch was nevertheless fond of always asking his constituents, “How’m I doing?” Although the feedback he received was generally positive, another African-American detractor, Reverend Tim Mitchell, was prompted to respond, “You’re not doing well, you’re racist, and the people know it!”
So unfolds Koch, a warts-and-all documentary directed by Neil Barsky. Overall, the movie might strike the viewer as a bit of a hatchet job, but that’s only because it opened in theaters on the very day he passed away. And when somebody dies, that’s a time for obituaries which tend to focus on the positive, not on “the evil that men do.”
Therefore, fans of the film’s recently deceased subject might be distressed to see their beloved hero posthumously pilloried. For, the tough-talking politician frequently takes it on the chin here, from the gay slurs “Vote for Cuomo, not the homo!” which surfaced during the 1977 campaign to the allegations of corruption which sank his futile attempt to win a fourth term in office.
At one juncture, when asked his sexual preference, Koch sort of loses it, responding, “It’s none of your [bleeping] business!” To deflect rumors from spreading, especially after a longtime associate, Richard Nathan, claimed to be his spurned lover, he began making plenty of public appearances with Bess Myerson, the first Jewish Miss America on his arm.
Ultimately, the coup de grace was delivered to Koch’s career when many Democratic machine bosses holding powerful positions in his administration were exposed as crooks. This forced the voters to face the fact that the man who had originally run as a reformer on a platform promising to clean up City Hall had himself tragically morphed like the characters in Orwell’s Animal Farm into just another hack politician with his hands in the cookie jar.
The rise and fall from grace of a good Jewish boy gone bad who ostensibly sold out the Big Apple but never summoned up the courage to come out of the closet.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 95 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening February 15, 2013
Beautiful Creatures (PG-13 for violence, sexuality and scary images). Supernatural fantasy, set in a sleepy South Carolina town, revolving around the budding romance between a high school sophomore (Alden Ehrenreich) and a mysterious new classmate (Lena Duchannes) who’s identical to the girl of his dreams. Stellar supporting cast includes Oscar winners Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson and nominee Viola Davis, along with Emmy Rossum.
Escape From Planet Earth (PG for action and mild crude humor). Animated sci-fi adventure, set on a planet populated by blue aliens, where a lowly nerd (Rob Corddry) has to rise to the occasion after his superhero sibling (Brendan Fraser) becomes ensnared in the trap of a diabolical villain (William Shatner) bent on world domination. Voice cast includes Ricky Gervais, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sofia Vergara, Jane Lynch and George Lopez.
A Good Day To Die Hard (R for profanity and violence). Fifth installment in the high-octane action franchise finds former NYPD detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) venturing to Russia, where he teams up with his CIA Agent son (Jai Courtney) to crack a terrorist plot threatening the stability of the Free World. With Sebastian Koch, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Cole Hauser.
Safe Haven (PG-13 for violence, sexuality, threatening behavior and mature themes). Lasse Hallström directs this adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks romance novel of the same name about a mysterious newcomer (Julianne Hough) to a tiny North Carolina town who reluctantly comes to trust a widower (Josh Duhamel) with the dark secret that’s been haunting her for years. Featuring Cobie Smulders, Irene Ziegler and Red West.
The Berlin File (Unrated). Intricate espionage thriller about a double-crossed, North Korean spy (Jung-woo Ha) who ends up on the run with his wife (Gianna Jun) as the focus of an international manhunt after an illegal arms trade gone bad. With Seung-beom Ryu, Numan Acar and Werner Daehn. (In Korean and English with subtitles)
The Jeffrey Dahmer Files (Unrated). Docu-dramatic biopic revisiting the events surrounding the arrest of Jeffrey Dahmer (Andrew Swant) in the summer of 1991, ending the cannibalistic necrophiliac/rapist/serial killer’s reign of terror in Milwaukee which claimed the lives of 17 boys and young men.
Like Someone In Love (Unrated). Romance drama, set in Tokyo, about a prostitute with a heart of gold (Rin Takanashi) who develops a love connection with a widower (Tadashi Okuno) over the course of a couple of days. With Ryo Kase and Denden. (In Japanese with subtitles)
No (Unrated). Historical drama, nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Film category, recounting the recall referendum effort spearheaded in Chile in 1988 by an advertising executive (Gael Garcia Bernal) which led to the fall of President Pinochet from power. Co-stars Alfredo Castro, Antonia Zegers and Luis Gnecco. (In Spanish with subtitles)
Saving Lincoln (Unrated). Buddy biopic chronicling Abraham Lincoln’s (Tom Amandes) close relationship with Ward Hill Lamon (Lea Coco), the longtime bodyguard who was conspicuously absent from the president’s box the night Honest Abe was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth (Jonathan Roumie) at Ford’s Theatre. With Penelope Ann Miller as Mary Todd Lincoln, Peter O’Meara as General Ulysses S. Grant and Eamon Hunt as Stephen Douglas.
Shanghai Calling (PG-13 for profanity and sexual references). Romantic dramedy about an ambitious American attorney (Daniel Henney) who falls in love with a relocation specialist (Eliza Coupe) after she finds him a luxury apartment upon his transfer to China. With Zhu Zhu, Geng Le, Alan Ruck & Bill Paxton. (In English and Mandarin with subtitles)