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THE WEEKEND MARQUEE: ‘Joe’ and ‘Julia’

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“Before she changed the world, Julia Child was just an American living in France.” So says Amy Adams in the trailer for Julie & Julia, which opens today. And even though in the clips I’ve seen so far, Meryl Streep‘s portrayal of Child looks like it could be classified one notch below “chewing the scenery” critics are eating it up. David Edelstein of New York Magazine writes,

Julie & Julia is full of holes, but you don’t even care when Streep is onscreen. When actors like these are cooking, it’s better than haute cuisine.”

As for Amy Adams. Not so much.

Owen Gleiberman, writing for Entertainment Weekly, says,

The Julia half of Julie & Julia is irresistible, the Julie half less so.”

A.O. Scott echoes that sentiment in his review. He says,

Ms. Adams is a lovely and subtle performer, but she is overmatched by her co-star and handicapped by the material. Julia Child could whip up a navarin of lamb for lunch, but Meryl Streep eats young actresses for breakfast. Remember Anne Hathaway in “The Devil Wears Prada”? Amanda Seyfried in Mamma Mia? Neither do I.”

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Lets face it. We’re nearing the dog days of summer, which means the studio’s are unleashing their own dogs, in the form of left-over summer movies. And so we have G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, which Paramount didn’t even screen for critics, lest they put a damper on what they’re hoping will be a blockbuster weekend.

Richard Corliss, in Time, writes,

Now that I’ve seen the movie, I understand the Paramount bosses’ urge to suppress it. G.I. Joe has plenty of narrative strands, most of them taken from the ’80s TV cartoon show and Marvel comic version of the antique Hasbro soldier figures, but they are woven clumsily.”

Richard Kuippers in his Variety review, singles out movie’s plot for grudging respect.

Edited as if the audience wouldn’t watch unless every scene were switched to overdrive, the not-bad basic plot never gets much of a chance to be anything more. Not helping is the way in which uninspired flashbacks to the characters’ pasts arrive like commercial breaks slotted into what seems to one long setpiece.”

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The ads for Cold Souls are making it look like a Charlie Kaufman movie not written by Charlie Kaufman. Paul Giamatti plays himself starring in a Checkhov play, all of which eventually leads to a very literal existential crisis of the soul. And the director Sophie Barthes actually seems to have pulled off the the feat of not having it come across as a poor man’s Adaptation.

Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly, says,

The inventiveness of Barthes’ story is matched by a sense of visual fluidity that’s especially striking in a first feature.

Anthony Lane, writes,  in a review that, as usual, tries to out-New Yorker, the New-Yorker:

To take a big, bewildering concept and treat it as a small, scuffed item of everyday use demands the kind of wit—literate and levelling—with which recent movies have all but dispensed.”

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Paper Heart starring Judd Apatow upstart Charlene Yi and Michael Cera seems to have worked its charm on critics. Peter Travers, writing for Rolling Stone, says,

Enjoying this wondrous wisp of a something is easy, describing it is hard. Luckily, Charlyne Yi is an enchantress.” And Lisa Schwarzbaum was pleasantly surprised by the movie’s depth, “The movie’s hide-and-seek attitude toward truth mirrors the intricacies of one lover getting to know another — an arresting notion of the heart that’s much more than paper-deep.”

Not everyone was buying the movie’s cute mix of real and fake documentary footage though. Robert Wilonsky says in The Village Voice,

It’s entertaining for a  moment, but hardly as enlightening or endearing as the from-the-heart moments surrounding it. Yet again, real people are more interesting than fake ones.”

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Opening in limited release is A Perfect Getaway, which has gotten close to perfect reviews. Roger Ebert writes,

So here’s a thriller that worked for me. I didn’t see revelations approaching, because I didn’t expect any.”

He also singles out the actors in the movie for praise.

Steve Zahn is at last being liberated from the doofus characters he specialized in, and allowed into the IQ. mainstream. Milla Jovovich sure does a mighty fine rural Georgia accent for a girl from the Ukraine. Timothy Olyphant is convincing as a man who is impossible to kill, as is Kiele Sanchez as a woman who likes that aspect of his character.”

Manohla Dargis, in her review for The New York Times also reccommends it.

This is nice, tense work from Mr. Twohy, a genre veteran with a patchy record of screenwriting hits, misses and demi-successes, like the tight Harrison Ford vehicle The Fugitive and the tasty supernatural flick Warlock“.

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Beeswax is the latest movie by Andrew Bujalski, whose films have been at the forefront of the independent film movement known as “mumble-core”, a genre of low-budget movies that usually focus on personal relationships and not on production values like lighting or set design.

Andrew O’Hier, writing for Salon.com, says,

From his 2002 debut with Funny Ha Ha Bujalski’s eloquent technique has drawn comparisons to Rohmer, Ozu and Chantal Akerman (who was his advisor at Harvard), and for the first time those reference points don’t seem unbearably pretentious. This warm, graceful and fundamentally optimistic movie snuck up on me, in the best possible way. For the first half-hour or so, I wasn’t sure what I thought. And then, very suddenly, I realized that I had fallen in love with Jeannie and Merrill, dicklike moments and all, and that if the future of our republic was in their hands we could do a lot worse.”

A.O. Scott was also taken by Bujalski’s movie. He says,

Beeswax, at first glance a modest, ragged slice of contemporary life, turns out to be a remarkably subtle, even elegant movie. Its leisurely scenes and hesitant, circling conversations conceal both an ingenious comic structure and a rich emotional subtext.”

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Last but not least is I Sell The Dead, an homage to the kind of movie you might find on a local TV station flipping channels at 2 am. That is, it’s a no-budget, indepedently made horror cheapie. It was directed by first time filmmaker Glenn McQuaid and based on the reviews, it seems like he may have some room to improve.

Dennis Harvey, writing for Variety, says,

Mcquaid’s feature writing-directing debut doesn’t build much narrative steam. Still, droll perfs, diverting f/x and handsome B-pic atmospherics ensure a good time for horror fans with a memory past last weekend’s slasher remake.”

Manohla Dargis in the New York Times, says,

The jokes do wear thin, and the setup does too, but it’s nonetheless worth noting what a couple of crafty thieves can do with elbow grease, some spare change and the kind of deep movie love that never dies.”

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