|Zoolander No. 2|
|How to Be Single|
|Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom|
|Boy and the World|
|Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong|
A foreign language Oscar nominee to seek out caps an otherwise middling movie week. Here are the quick capsules:
Kristen Wiig scores most of the laughs in “Zoolander No. 2” as fashion empress Alexanya Atoz, whose appearance, manner of speaking and method of movement are all fresh and funny. There’s also a bizarrely amusing appearance by Benedict Cumberbatch as the ambiguous supermodel All - and all manner of celebrity cameos in a hit-and-miss 100 minutes that, while not great, never allows any thread to wear out its welcome… A similarly affectionate thumbs down for the gal-pal comedy “How to be Single,” with winning turns by Dakota Johnson and Alison Brie. The highlight is Leslie Mann, who in “This is 40” and “The Other Woman” demonstrated a unique and frequently hilarious comic sensibility that elevates the standard material here. As for Rebel Wilson, a little goes a long way. Anders Holm provides eye candy as a hunky barkeep, but among the guys, it’s the too-cute-for-words Jake Lacy who cries out for a leading role. The camera (and every woman in my audience) loves him… The clear pick of the week is the Danish Oscar nominee “A War,” from Tobias Lindholm, director of the thrilling “A Hijacking,” which put similarly themed same-year release “Captain Phillips” to shame. He reunites with co-lead Pilou Asbæk, who plays Claus Pedersen, a company commander on the ground in Afghanistan. After one of his men is killed while on a patrol, Claus undertakes regular patrols, even though commanders typically leave that duty to subordinates. Meanwhile, back home, his wife Maria (Tuva Novotny, first-rate) has her hands full with a daughter and two sons, the older of whom has begun acting out at school. (The child actors are terrific.) When Claus makes a decision in the heat of battle that saves a soldier’s life, his men exalt him as a hero, but the brass second-guess him and bring him home to face trial for the murder of Afghan civilians. The proceedings pit Søren Malling (the other co-lead of “A Hijacking) as Claus’ attorney against Charlotte Munck as the formidable judge advocate prosecuting him. Both actors are superb. “A War” is so intense that in each of its three fora – the war theater, the household awaiting Claus’ return, and the tribunal – there are scenes after which I had to exhale. It has that wonderful quality we saw in 2014’s “Force Majeure” of putting you in a series of ethical dilemmas and asking what you would do in the moment. It’s the kind of movie you can see with friends and then talk about all through dinner. Sad to say, the Holocaust-themed “Son of Saul” has a lock on the Oscar, but that shouldn’t stop you from seeking out the first great film of the year, “A War”… The story of “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” is a heroic one, but I found this Oscar documentary nominee flat and redundant. Every minute of it plays the same as every other minute of it… Even worse is the Oscar animation nominee “Boy and the World,” a deadly dull piece of communist agitprop masquerading as a cute and colorful children’s story… Emily Ting’s “Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong” strives earnestly to be an Asian update on Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise,” but leads Jamie Chung and Bryan Greenberg, while appealing, lack the movie-star quality of Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. Still, the city looks beautiful; if nothing else, the movie makes you want to run out and book a trip… Finally, no to Pablo Lorraín’s “The Club,” about a house for defrocked Catholic priests in a Chilean seaside town. Its intriguing premise goes nowhere interesting, while there are multiple scenes of violence to dogs.