Welcome To Marwen

Marwen

Welcome To Marwen is weird. The film’s first trailers hinted at an Oscar push for Steve Carell who portrays a man damaged in many ways by a savage gang beating. The trailers also showed a tiny village the character has created where he depicts scenarios using dolls, including one that looks like him.

The story of the challenges Mark Hogancamp (Carell) faces after the attack dials up audience pity as he flashes back to the encounter with local rednecks. His mental state is fragile but Carell never goes “full retard,” to use the non-PC term coined by character Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.) in the 2008 film Tropic Thunder.

The weirdness comes in those scenarios with the dolls and their depictions in the film as animated narrative episodes in which his attackers become Nazi soldiers. In many of the episodes, several of the women in his life become a gang of voluptuous babes who come to his defense.

On one hand, the dolls provide subject matter for Hogancamp’s artistic photos, which he manages to get booked for a show at an art gallery. On the other hand, they fuel his nightmarish replays of the attack as well as other fantasies. One imagined scenario involves new neighbor Nicol (Leslie Mann) who spurns his romantic intentions.

It’s an ambitious attempt to bring to the screen the mental goings on of this troubled man whose recovery appears doubtful. But it is too much. The doll scenarios occupy huge chunks of screen time and many are redundant. The fantasy world becomes tiresome.

The women, seen as dolls as well as real people, include Gwendoline Christie, Meritt Wever, upcoming R & B singer Janelle Monae, Eiza Gonzalez and Leslie Zemeckis, wife of the film’s director Robert Zemeckis. (Diane Kruger appears only as a doll.)

But… does Carell stand a chance at getting awards love? His performance is good in a flawed film. Carryover from his work in the film Vice and the general good will he seems to convey in real life may go along with Welcome To Marwen to get his name in the mix. Playing a damaged individual is often the path to an acting nomination. As long as one does not go “full retard.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Other Woman

 

Women (and men) who have caught their spouses cheating will enjoy the comeuppance received by deceitful scoundrel Mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) in The Other Woman. Revenge comes in many forms from the trio of women he’s used and the payback is rough.

Carly (Cameron Diaz) is a New York City attorney having a carefree romance with Mark—until she finds out he is married. Dutiful wife Kate King (Leslie Mann) is shocked to find out that hubby is messing around, but she isn’t overly angry at Carly, because Carly didn’t know he was married.

Kate and Carly become chums. Following a night of alcohol-fueled female bonding, the two follow Mark on a weekend trip to the beach. Conveniently, Kate’s brother Phil (Taylor Kenney) has a beach house near the spot where Mark is cheating with a third woman, Amber (Kate Upton). When Amber learns of Mark’s treachery, the getting even begins.

Coster-Waldau’s credibility as a sleazeball is easy to buy, considering that he also plays the amoral Jaime Lannister on HBO’s Game of Thrones. That character fathered two sons with his sister, tried to kill a small child and, on the latest episode, committed a particularly vile act.

Leslie Mann has been funny in movies before—mainly in Judd Apatow films since he’s her real life husband. But The Other Woman may be her funniest performance to date.

Also appearing in the film are a weathered-looking Don Johnson as Carly’s dad and Nicki Minaj as Carly’s secretary.

The film may remind you of 1996’s The First Wives Club in which three ex-wives seek to make life less happy for the husbands who dumped them for younger babes. In The Other Woman the take down is complete and funny.

Nick Cassavetes is the director. His best-known film is The Notebook, a love story that’s a favorite of many romantics. The Other Woman isn’t quite so touching, but its resolution should be satisfying to most women moviegoers.

And for the guys, we get a few seconds of Kate Upton running in slow motion on the beach. (Thanks, Nick!)

Mr. Peabody and Sherman

Mr. Peabody & Sherman is just okay. It looks good. The voice actors are excellent. But the film isn’t clever. And, worse, it’s not particularly funny.

Maybe I expected more because Dreamworks animation has a strong track record (Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, etc.) Maybe it’s because the recent The Lego Movie raised the bar for animated films.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman is based on a segment from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Those bits on the TV show employed primitive animation, but they were well written. They dripped with silly, funny cleverness. And horrible puns. Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell of Modern Family) shares a few bad puns but they’re perfunctory.

Burrell’s voice work is spot on. (An early choice for this voice gig was Robert Downey Jr.) The child who voices Peabody’s adoptive boy Sherman (Max Charles) does a nice job, but often he sounds more like Rocky the Flying Squirrel.

The movie’s story has Sherman starting school and getting into a fight with classmate Penny (another Modern Family cast member, Ariel Winter). To resolve the issue, Peabody invites Penny and her parents (Steven Colbert and Leslie Mann) over for dinner.

When the kids are sent off to visit together, Sherman invites Penny to check out the WABAC machine. After Peabody hypnotizes the parents into a trance, he joins Sherman and Penny on trips back to the French Revolution, ancient Egypt, etc. They also drop in on Leonardo DaVinci. As mentioned, these segments look great, but their content fails to sizzle.

The film’s resolution has to do with the use of some voodoo physics to correct a time travel induced problem. Thankfully, these last few minutes of the movie manage to offer some of its funnier content.

A highlight of Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a sequence on Sherman set to John Lennon’s song “Beautiful Boy.”

For younger generations who may be less familiar with the TV version of Mr. Peabody & Sherman, the movie version may rock. But for me, a boomer who has watched them most of my life, Mr. Peabody & Sherman is okay. But it should’ve been better.

This Is 40

Some really funny lines and situations, some great supporting acting performances and two attractive leads should make for a great movie. Instead, This Is 40 is more of a movie stew.

This Is 40 is like a big, bloated sitcom. An R-rated sitcom with F-bombs liberally sprinkled throughout. There’s enough going on here to provide story frameworks for at least a half-dozen sitcom episodes.

Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann are Pete and Debbie. Both are about to turn 40. Their lives are filled with messy situations. Their sex life is losing sizzle. Pete’s record label is hemorrhaging cash. Debbie’s boutique has an employee stealing money. Their kids are borderline obnoxious. Their fathers load them with more baggage.

Pete and Debbie each have little secrets that they don’t share with one another, like Pete’s obsession with cupcakes and Debbie’s sneaking off to smoke. They also do not fully disclose their respective financial issues.

And Debbie lies about her age. So the climactic 40th birthday party is just Pete’s party (not a joint affair, like they’ve had in past years).

The strongest performances in This Is 40 come from Albert Brooks as Pete’s dad, John Lithgow as Debbie’s dad and Melissa McCarthy as a parent the couple has an issue with. As she did in Bridesmaids, McCarthy steals the show.

Director/writer Judd Apatow delivers a movie that runs 2 hours and fourteen minutes, a bit too long. Judicious use of the editing blade could’ve easily trimmed this into a tighter, more focused movie.

This Is 40 will make you laugh. It may portray situations like some in your own relationship. With the right personnel, This Is 40 could easily transition into a successful TV series. It has a lot of the right stuff, but just a little too much stuff to be as good as it could’ve been.