Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ted 2, A Little Chaos, Infinitely Polar Bear, Eden, Glass Chin, 3 ½ Minutes 10 Bullets, Batkid Begins

Ted 2
A Little Chaos

Infinitely Polar Bear

Glass Chin
3 ½ Minutes 10 Bullets

Batkid Begins
Ted 2 (Scruffies' rating)

Ultra-quick capsules (sounds like an antihistamine ad) on a mostly poor week of movies:

"Ted 2" throws everything on hand against the wall: gross-out humor (such as a scene involving Mark Wahlberg giving a sleeping Tom Brady a hand job, and another in which Wahlberg ends up covered in semen at a sperm bank); a satiric trial (and appeal, yet) of Ted's "personhood"; a couple of old-school musical numbers (Ted in white tux and tails for "Stepping Out with My Baby," Amanda Seyfried strumming guitar and singing "Mean Old Moon" before an appreciative crowd of forest animals); and every cuss word known to man. What sticks? Jessica Barth's gum-chewing performance as Ted's bride, Tami-Lynn (a screaming fight six months into their marriage is the movie's comic apex); big-eyed Seyfried's good humor in allowing her appearance to be likened to that of Gollum; and a series of jokes denigrating her character's alma mater, Arizona State (surely included at the behest of producer Scott Stuber, an Arizona grad): "Did you write your dissertation on Red Bull?" "What's the school mascot, a used condom?"

The entire court of Louis XIV speaks the Queen's English - in Kate Winslet's case, coated with a layer of 20th-century feminism - in the horticultural wigs-and-corsets trifle "A Little Chaos." Winslet plays Sabine de Barra, a landscape designer chosen by the roi's project manager, Andre Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts). He's been cuckolded by his social-climbing wife (Helen McCrory, bringing grace notes to her villainous character not found in the script) and walks the exquisite grounds morosely, as if waiting for Bruce Weber to pop by for a photo shoot. Schoenaerts, who showed such fierce vitality in "Rust and Bone," is so wooden here he's in greater danger of Sabine planting him than bedding him. Winslet strains to find gravitas in this comedown part, without avail. Stanley Tucci lends comic support as Louis' bisexual brother, Philippe; best is Alan Rickman (who also directed) as a soft-spoken king who on one occasion tries to pass himself off as a mere gardener.

Seeing, 30 minutes into "Infinitely Polar Bear," that a full hour remained, I had some idea how a prisoner might feel one year into a three-year sentence. There's not a minute of truth - or a minute of peace and quiet - in this bleary reminiscence of two girls, Amelia and Faith, growing up with a manic depressive father, Cam (Mark Ruffalo). He's like a friend's annoying child who won't leave you alone when you're over; you want to hide in a bedroom, lock the door, and put on a baseball game. The mother, Maggie, holds greater interest; she earns a scholarship to Columbia Business School and later a job at EF Hutton and leaves Cam and the girls in Boston. But Zoe Saldana (who dates white men almost exclusively in her movies) can't do much with the part; she's not the most empathetic actress around. The child actors (Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide) sound a little over-prepared when they deliver their line readings; they're a beat off. And what a shame to see the gifted Ruffalo succumb to the temptation to play this kind of character, a universal signal for an Oscar bid that will go nowhere. As for Maya Forbes, a musical montage is a surefire way for a director to announce, "I have no clue how to tell this story." I stopped counting the musical montages in "Infinitely Polar Bear" at five.

Its soundtrack - an annotated bibliography of French house (though with more vocals than you might expect) - is the best part of Mia Hansen-Løve's 20-year odyssey "Eden." I'd have admired the film more had it adopted the same disaffected pose as its music. Instead, Hansen-Løve tries to make us care about dozens of underdeveloped and too-much-alike characters, and we don't…Another picture with a 40-point drop from its Tomatometer to its audience score is Noah Buschel's "Glass Chin," a broke man's "The Drop," with Corey Stoll as a recently retired boxer living with his fiancée in Jersey. Billy Crudup is the slick Manhattan restaurateur who entices him with promises of co-ownership, then puts him to work as his debt collector's (Brendan Sexton III) muscle. Made so cheaply it's unintelligible in parts, overwritten several-fold, and featuring repeated scenes of animals threatened with grave injury or death, it's unpleasant enough that a friend and I walked out halfway through…Marc Silver's documentary "3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets" recounts the trial of Michael Dunn, a white man, for the murder of Jordan Davis, a black man, in the parking lot of a Jacksonville gas station, after a confrontation about the loud rap music coming from the car in which Davis was a passenger. Silver offers little more insight than a Court TV recap of the case, although his access to Davis' family yields a few powerful moments. The film adverts to issues of race and Florida's widely misunderstood "stand your ground" law, but in reality it's a simple case of a man committing a crime and lying about the circumstances to escape culpability. (Dunn was eventually convicted of all charges and is serving life without parole.) The most compelling figure is Dunn's then-fiancée, who through a fountain of tears upheld her duty to tell the whole truth even though it sealed his doom.

The week's sole saving grace comes in the form of "Batkid Begins," Dana Nachman's supremely sweet chronicle of November 15, 2013, when San Francisco became Gotham City for a day and a young leukemia survivor named Miles Scott became Batkid. As the Make-a-Wish Foundation's plans for the event grew, the story went viral, attracting volunteers and donors from around the globe. Here's a feel-good movie brimming with heroes, from Make-a-Wish CEO Patricia Wilson to Eric Johnston, the video game programmer who trained Miles for duty and served as Batman to his Batkid, to the mayor, police chief and others who acted as villains or damsels in distress. It shows the best side of social media and never loses sight of the joyful purpose and camaraderie of the day. Anyone who doesn't get a lump in the throat is someone I don't want to know.

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