Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Written & Directed by Ned Benson

Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. Septemeber 16, 2014 3:10PM

"The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them" starts off with Eleanor (Jessica Chastain) and her husband, Connor (James McAvoy) sneaking out of a New York restaurant after not having money to pay the bill. In the afterglow of that thrilling adventure, this young couple, clearly in love, begin making out in a nearby park. The next moment we see Eleanor throwing herself off a bridge, trying to end her life.

What happened in between these two scenes is explored in this inspired but disjointed film by writer/director Ned Benson. We learn that a horrific event is the catalyst that frayed their once solid relationship. The couple being unable to cope with this tragedy together is what ultimately drives them apart.

After Eleanor is released from the hospital, she leaves her husband and moves back home with her family in the suburbs. The full house includes her French cliché of a mother (Gallic screen legend, Isabelle Huppert), serious Professor father (William Hurt), single-mother sister, Katy (Jess Wexler) and her young son.

Connor has no idea where his wife has ended up but desperate to locate her. Having to give up their apartment, Connor has temporarily moved in with his distant restaurateur father (Ciarán Hinds). He has followed in his father's footsteps but hasn't achieved the same level of success. Connor is struggling to keep his bar/cafe afloat but engaging in physical altercations with customers isn't great for business. His only real friend, Stuart (Bill Hader) works in the kitchen and at a loss on how to help his distressed buddy.

Eleanor (yes, she is named after that Beatles song which is explained in the film) decides to further her education and with her father's pull, enters an important course taught by his former colleague (the great Viola Davis). Connor has tracked down Eleanor and begins stalking her at the campus before getting the courage to approach his estranged wife. The reunion is less than jubilant but does break the ice that has the couple begin tentatively speaking.

The original concept of "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby" is that there were two separate films subtitled "Him" and "Her" which covered the demise of the couple's relationship from each of their point of view. However, when Harvey Weinstein bought the films for distribution, he felt it would be better to combine the two films which lead to "Them". It's unlikely this was a smart move but you can have an opportunity to judge for yourself, if you desire, as "Him" and "Her"will both be released in October.

Back to "Them", we see fragments of  Eleanor and Connor each trying to move forward with their lives while looking back, hopeful, for some sort of reconciliation. While these scenes are well-written and superbly acted, we are left in the dark on a few of the important key events that occurred between these two; their everyday lives together, the actual break-up and dealing with the tragic circumstance. Any of these moments would have helped connect emotionally to what we are given to witness. Perhaps the individual films will shed more light and flesh out the issues between Eleanor and Connor, however this condensed version feels incomplete.

The supporting cast is really terrific and they all, surprisingly, get several opportunities to shine and strut their stuff. But the film belongs to Chastain and McAvoy, two magnetic screen personalities who complement each other quite nicely. The performers expertly capture their character's pain and melancholia as they strive to come out of the darkness and once again, find their light.

The consolidation of two separate stories to make "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them" doesn't seem to have helped improve the film. The elimination of that cinematic experiment only managed to make the film less focused and undistinguished. Despite the setback, this is still an admirable work filled with highly impressive performances.

Monday, September 22, 2014


One of the biggest events of the fall cinema season, The 52nd Annual New York Film Festival kicks off on September 26th and runs through October 12th. The opening night selection is "Gone Girl", the highly anticipated film adaption of the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn. David Fincher ("Sev7n", "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (U.S. Version)") directs this mystery-drama about a man (Ben Affleck) who becomes a suspect after his wife (Rosamund Pike) disappears on the eve of their fifth wedding anniversary. Neil Patrick Harris (?) and Tyler Perry (???) also star.

The centerpiece selection is the world premiere of "Inherent Vice". Paul Thomas Anderson ("Boogie Nights", "The Master") is the first filmmaker to make a movie from the works of Thomas Pynchon. Set in the 70's, Det. "Doc" Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) gets involved in a messy case involving the disappearence of the boyfriend (Eric Roberts) of his ex-girlfriend (Katherine Waterston). With Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Benicio del Toro and Reese Witherspoon.

"Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)", the latest from Alejandro González Iñárritu ("Amores Perros", "Babel"), closes out the festival. Michael Keaton plays an actor who was once famous for playing a super-hero and now struggles to get a Broadway show off the ground while dealing with his complicated family life and bruised ego.This dramedy also features Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Emma Stone.

For more info and the complete slate of films, please click below:

The 2014 NYFF

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Written by Justin Lader

Directed by Charlie McDowell

Where & When: Sundance Sunset Cinemas, West Hollywood, CA. September 2, 2014 2:30PM

"The One I Love" seems like it's going to travel down the predictable marriage-in-crisis-and-what-can-we-do-to-save-it path but this delightful indie comedy veers way off in an unexpected direction. In fact, this film took me completely by surprise with it's clever twist early in the plot (which doesn't happen too often). The imaginative script by Justin Lader expertly blurs fantasy and reality as it humorously examines the everyday reality of their significant other and the person they wish they could actually be. This is the first feature by Charlie McDowell and he delivers the goods that makes "The One I Love" feel original and great fun to watch.

Filmmaker/actor, Mark Duplass ("Jeff, Who Lives At Home") and Elizabeth Moss (TVs "Mad Men") play Ethan and Sophie, a couple whose relationship is in trouble. Their marriage is strained due to no longer properly communicating and further damaged by infidelity. Seeking help from a counselor (Ted Danson), he puts the two through several exercises to try and repair their marriage but without much success. The counselor finally recommends they go away together to a private house out of town to focus on each other and reconnect.

Here's where things get tricky. For as much as I want to reveal the details to what happens once they reach the retreat, I also don't want to spoil the surprise. Let's just say that once Ethan and Sophie explore the guest house in the back, they each experience the ideal partner which also happens to be their current partner. I realize this may be a little too vague but trust me, you will enjoy the film much better not knowing all the specifics.

As we reach the third act, the story drifts too far in to campy science-fiction with the film losing focus and some of it's whimsical charm dampened. The ending is sly but you see it coming. None of this causes any serious damage as the film remains utterly engaging and pleasantly strange.

Moss and Duplass are the whole movie and thankfully have a nice chemistry. They convincingly portray a loving couple who have lost their way and really want to find their way back but a highly unusual obstacle prevents them from easily working things out. Duplass usually only gets the chance to make a big star turn in one of the films he creates which is too bad as he makes a fine leading man. Moss has an opportunity to display her more sunny and softer side than on her television show.

"The One I Love" takes a playful and offbeat approach to exploring the age-old dilemma regarding love, marriage and trust. While it may not be entirely successful, the film is still an admirable and enjoyable attempt at shaking up the age-old romantic-comedy conventions.

Sunday, September 7, 2014


After a dismal and very disappointing summer season, Hollywood is hoping that the fall movies will help bring people back to the theaters. Looking over the upcoming slate of features, I think they may have a good shot. I have put together a list of some of the interesting films that I'm anticipating.

All dates are subject to change:


Release date: September 12, 2014

"The Skeleton Twins" offers a mini-"Saturday Night Live" reunion as Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader star however, this dark comedy is very far from any zany skit they might have performed together. They play long-estranged siblings who come together after each experiences a tragic event and try to figure out what went wrong with their lives. Although the actors deliver the laughs which they're well-known for, Wiig and Hader are also given an opportunity to display their little-seen dramatic chops.


Release date: September 26, 2014

Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith ("The Talented Mr. Ripley"), "The Two Faces of January" is a mystery-thriller set in the 1960's involving Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst as a wealthy American couple traveling to Greece. They unwittingly get involved with a con-man (Oscar Issac) who may or may not be trying to help them after the couple is entangled in a murder.


Release date: October 17, 2014

Winner of a special jury prize for Breakthrough Talent for writer/director, Justin Simien at this year's Sundance Film Festival, "Dear White People" looks at outraged African-American students over white classmates throwing a party with an "African-American" theme at an Ivy League college. This potentially controversial satire deals with the issue of race thoughtfully and with good humor.


Release date: October 24, 2014

Bill Murray heads the impressive cast of "St. Vincent", a dramedy about a drunken war vet who becomes the unlikely baby-sitter to the young son (newcomer Jaeden Lieberher) of a desperate single mother (Melissa McCarthy). This is the feature debut for writer/director, Theodore Melfi and also stars Terrence Howard, Chris O'Dowd and Naomi Watts.


Release date: October 31, 2014

Losing about twenty pounds for the role, Jake Gyllenhaal plays a creepy L.A. videographer providing a local television station with crime footage in "Nightcrawler". The longer this reporter is out on the street, the more he gets too involved in his work. This is the first feature directed by screenwriter, Dan Gilroy and also stars Bill Paxton and Rene Russo (Gilroy's wife).


Release date: November 7, 2014

Christopher Nolan, the director of "The Dark Knight" trilogy and "Inception" is back with an intriguing science-fiction film. The trailer for "Interstellar" doesn't reveal too much plot (thank goodness!) but it seems the world is threatened by a dangerous force out in space. Some astronauts (which include Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway) are sent out to try and save mankind. With Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck and Ellen Burstyn.


Release date: November 7, 2014

Stephen Hawking is a world renowned British theoretical physicist who suffers from ALS and "The Theory of Everything" explores his early life as a student at Cambridge in the 1960's. Eddie Redmayne ("Les Misérables") plays Hawking and Felicity Jones ("The Invisible Woman") is his first love, Jane who becomes his wife and supports him as the illness progresses. Oscar-winner, James Marsh (2008 Best Documentary, "Man On Wire") directs.


Release date: November 21, 2014

"The Imitation Game" reveals the little-known story of Alan Turing (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), a British mathematician who helped defeat the Nazis by breaking their Enigma code. However, instead of becoming a celebrated figure, Turing lived his final years humiliated and imprisoned due to his secret private life. Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode co-star.


Release date: December 25, 2014

The film "Into The Woods" is based on the acclaimed Broadway musical by Stephen Sondheim but you would never know it from the recent trailer. Not one note is sung but this fairy-tale based project is definitely still a musical and directed by Rob Marshall who did wonders for the stage-to-screen adaption, "Chicago". A starry cast has been assembled (with half I didn't know could sing) including Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine and Johnny Depp.


Release date: December 25, 2014

"Unbroken", the second film directed by Angelina Jolie, tells the amazing story of Louis Zamperini, an American who went from competing in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin to fighting against Hitler as a solider in WWII to surviving a plane crash and drifting in the Pacific for almost two months before becoming a POW and held by the Japanese for two years. Jack O'Connell portrays Zamperini who passed away at the age of ninety-seven in July.