This heavily theatrical take on the old Russian classic is only a half-success. Directed by Joe Wright, it’s mostly staged inside a lavishly constructed playhouse, except when it’s not. And we watch the drama unfold between Anna (Keira Knightley), her pill of a husband (Jude Law) and her cavalry officer lover (Aaron Johnson). Its well-written script leaps between high comedy and piercing drama, and the film has its moments, but it’s a bit too frantic at times. R (some sexuality and violence).
ARGO. This thriller from director/star Ben Affleck just plain works. Based on unclassified documents, the story is set in 1979 when 52 Americans were taken hostage in Tehran by Iranian revolutionaries. Six U.S. State officials escape and hide at the Canadian ambassador’s home. CIA operative Antonio Mendez (Affleck) concocts a plan: fly into Iran, pose as a film crew scouting locations, fly out again with the six Americans playing the roles of crew members. With a sharp script and deft direction, the movie is tense and entertaining. Oscar buzz is justified. R (language and some violent images). 2:00. 3 1/2 stars.
Filmmaker Robert Zemeckis is back with this exciting and terrific film. Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is a pilot who, after a night of drinking and snorting cocaine, crash lands a routine flight to Atlanta, rescuing most of his passengers and crew. An instant hero, Whitaker knows that other people know what was in his system, and the dynamic dance plays out from there. It’s sophisticated storytelling, with the audience unsure of how to feel about such a conflicted protagonist, but Washington is marvelous, as usual, and it’s a highly entertaining flight. R (drug and alcohol abuse, language, sexuality/nudity and an intense action sequence).
THE GUILT TRIP
Barbra Streisand returns to the big screen here, and the result is not bad. Streisand plays Joyce, the long-widowed mother of inventor Andy (Seth Rogen). Out of guilt, Andy asks Joyce to accompany him on a work trip. The secret mission is to hook up Joyce with a long-lost beau. A tight if formulaic script does well enough, but the performers here do a lot of the lifting. It’s a sweet movie, in its way. PG-13 (language and some risque material).