Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Bad Santa 2, Miss Sloane, Allied, Lion, Rules Don't Apply, On the Map, Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened

Bad Santa 2
Miss Sloane


Rules Don't Apply
On the Map

Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened 

Quick capsules on a mostly quite good week of movies:

What says holiday season like "Bad Santa 2" - the coarsely commercial title itself a perfect fit. Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox and Brett Kelly reprise their roles as Willie, Marcus and Thurman Merman, but Kathy Bates steals the picture as Willie's junkyard dog of a mother, Sunny. So foul-mouthed she makes Willie sound like a choir boy, Sunny is (along with Kate McKinnon's Jandice in "Masterminds") one of the great comic creations of the movie year.

The Jessica Chastain vehicle "Miss Sloane" plays like a season of an expensive and well-made television series - it's eminently watchable - but director John Madden so stacks the deck in favor of her gun-control lobbyist - paying lip service to the arguments for gun rights - that you're left crying "RIGGED!"

Robert Zemeckis' is-she-or-isn't-she spy saga "Allied" owes its modest success to the raving beauty of the she (Marion Cotillard) and the he (Brad Pitt as her husband), and the Moroccan and London settings. They're so lovely to look at that we can look past the silliness of individual scenes and a 124-minute runtime that can charitably be called unhurried. Simon McBurney stands out as the S.O.E. officer who gives Pitt an ultimatum: if she is a spy, kill her yourself or you'll be hanged.

The true story behind "Lion" - an Indian boy accidentally separated from his older brother and family, adopted by affluent Aussies, and decades later able to track his mother and sister down with the help of Google Earth - is a touching one. At two hours, though, it's awfully thin, and not particularly cinematic to watch (a somewhat scuzzy-looking) Dev Patel zooming in on images on his laptop. Sunny Pawar is a stunner as the 5-year-old Saroo.

I had much more fun than I'd expected at "Rules Don't Apply," with Warren Beatty hilarious as Howard Hughes. As his chauffeur and eventual confidant, Alden Ehrenreich (who stole "Hail, Caesar!" as Hobie Doyle) shows movie star magnetism and sex appeal. A star-studded supporting cast - Lily Collins as a freshly arrived contract actress, the great Annette Bening as her mother, Candice Bergen as Hughes' long-suffering secretary, Matthew Broderick as his valet, Martin Sheen as a business advisor - keeps the jaunty enterprise rolling.

Finally, enthusiastic recommendations for a pair of feel-good documentaries at the Royal: "Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened," about Stephen Sondheim's and Harold Prince's legendary 1981 flop "Merrily We Roll Along," and the kids (including Jason Alexander) who saw their dreams die after 16 shows; and "On the Map," about Tal Brody and the Maccabi Tel Aviv team that shocked the world by winning the 1977 European Cup basketball championship. A great moment for Israel and the world.

Lots of big releases left for December. Here we go…

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