Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Movies: Recent Release Roundup

Toy Story 3. It’s a Pixar movie. What do you think I’m going to say? I don’t know what’s more impressive, introducing a complex philosophical thought about life and death in what is ostensibly a children’s movie without a line of dialogue, or following it with a plot twist that was set up in the first movie fifteen years ago.

The Extra Man. This adaptation of Jonathan Ames’ novel was the opening night film at SIFF last month. It’s now available via on demand prior to a limited theatrical release. Paul Dano plays a disgraced prep school teacher, detached from the modern era and his own desires, who moves to New York to find himself. But first he finds Henry Harrison (Kevin Kline), asexual academic, justly forgotten playwright, and escort to moneyed women of a certain age. It’s a slight movie but an enjoyable one thanks to the two leads; Kline has his best film role in decades. The directors of American Splendor capture the real Manhattan, where abject squalor is cheek-by-jowl with wild excess and you barely notice either because you’re too focused on what’s in front of you.

Winter’s Bone. Seventeen year old Ree Dolly (the astonishing Jennifer Lawrence) riles up her extended Ozark family in order to save her immediate one when her no-good daddy jumps bail and disappears. You’ll find no thriller more low-key than this one based on Daniel Woodrell’s spare novel, but bet your ass that it thrills. Its every casual act of violence has more impact than an entire summer’s worth of blockbuster explosions and fireballs. A movie packed with formidable women, and no scene of late has rocked me like Ree’s conversation with an Army recruiter.