By Armond White
50/50's The buddy comedy genre faces cancer. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is helped through crisis by Seth Rogen. Decent emotions get cheated of depth by blithe, nonspiritual approach. Dir. Jonathan Levine.
The Descendants's George Clooney shakes off the snark, but filmmaker Alexander Payne puts it back on in this Hawaii-set story of how Americans squander their paradise and advantages. Adultery, greed, family dysfunction and death go unenlightened by the film"s stupefying visual banality. Dir. Alexander Payne.
Drive's Fake toughness, fake sentimentality, fake style infected by Michael Mann. Brooding existential stuntman and petty criminal Ryan Gosling is so laconic and cool he"s inadvertently comic. This second-rate actor occasionally drops his Steve McQueen impersonation and lets slip Mickey Rourke"s old smile. Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn.
Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life's An inventive political, cultural, ethnic defense of France"s "60s pop icon and rebel Serge Gainsbourg shows a caricaturist"s whimsy's especially in the Jewish self-consciousness subtext, psychopolitical anime effects and Eric Elmosnino"s lead performance. Laetitia Casta does a worthy, knockout Brigitte Bardot impersonation. Dir. Joann Sfar.
Jack and Jill's Adam Sandler, the least abashed comic actor outside the Borscht Belt, tackles Jewish self-deprecation in this sibling rivalry laff fest. Playing both male and female twins, Sandler show tribal affection by turning bad vibes into good. Al Pacino"s cameo as Jill"s suitor is both crazily romantic and a brilliant professional salute. Dir. Dennis Dugan.
J. Edgar's Using the career of longtime FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to promote a gay sympathy ought to be subversive (that"s the intention of screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who wrote Milk). But despite Leo DiCaprio"s eager-beaver empathetic performance, this grim, humorless exercise, featuring lousy old-age makeup, turns out ghoulish and self-congratulatory's just like Milk. Dir. Clint Eastwood.
Melancholia's Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg play Eurotrash sisters waiting for the end of world's literally: A planet named Melancholia, symbolizing their depression, comes crashing toward Earth. Another Lars von Trier prank, this is apocalypse for nihilists. Dir. Lars von Trier.
Puss in Boots's More Shrek dreck, this time losing what little appeal the Puss in Boots character (voiced by Antonio Bandera) brought to previous episodes of the franchise. At least there are fewer human facile grotesques, but all the fairy tale/pop culture satire (from Humpty Dumpty to Jack and Jill) and feline cuteness becomes a jumbled-up overload. Dir. Chris Miller.
Real Steel's Hugh Jackman"s Lost Father and his Estranged Son (Dakota Goyo) come together in the near future of robot boxing's a metaphor for mankind"s displaced emotions in the digital age. This surprisingly touching footnote to producer Steven Spielberg"s A.I. is a fairytale of archetypes. Dir. Shawn Levy.
The Rum Diary's Another try-and-miss attempt at putting Hunter Thompson"s fevered journalism on screen. Although Johnny Depp"s too old to play the young Gonzo writer, the dissolute story ignores optimism and innocence. It is dully cynical. Dir. Bruce Robinson.
The Skin I Live In's A fairy tale using sexual anxiety as identity crisis. Mad scientist Antonio Banderas falls in love with his human guinea pig (Elena Anaya) in a narrative as convoluted as it is engrossing. Twisted yet ultimately humane, it gloriously refutes Lady Gaga. Dir. Pedro AlmodÃ³var.
Take Shelter's Midwestern laborer (Michael Shannon) becomes unstable, sensing apocalypse in the changed wind (as Bob Dylan would put it). Political paranoia takes elemental, eschatological form, driving wife (Jessica Chastain) and blue-collar buddy (Shea Whigham) to the edge. Tipping into horror movie clichÃ©, the political tension gets unbearably overwrought. Dir. Jeff Nichols.
Tower Heist's Eddie Murphy"s sharp, profane delivery can"t save this witless high-concept heist movie about a team of luxury apartment workers (led by Ben Stiller) seeking revenge on their Madoff-Trump boss. Dir. Brett Ratner.
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