Susan Granger’s review of “The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared” (Music Box Films)
Sweden’s highest-grossing film of-all-time revolves around irrepressible, unflappable Allan Karlsson (comedian Robert Gustafsson), who is about to celebrate his 100th birthday when he decides to climb out of the window of the retirement home where he lives and travel around a bit.
Arriving at a nearby transit station, he boards a bus with someone else’s suitcase, not realizing that it belongs to a vicious biker dude (Simon Seppanen) and is stuffed with millions in stolen drug money.
As Allan ambles about, the events of his picaresque life are revealed in surreal flashbacks that show how fanciful misadventures have placed him in the midst of some major historical occasions. It’s an amusing plot device that makes him look like a Scandinavian cousin of “Zelig” or “Forrest Gump.”
Working as an explosives expert, young Allan gets entangled in the Spanish Civil War, the Manhattan Project, and other definitive events of the 20th century, including ludicrous encounters with U.S. Presidents Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan, Russia’s Stalin and Gorbachev, and an elephant named Sonya.
Plus there’s his geezer buddy Julius (Iwar Wiklander), their perpetual student/driver Benny (David Wilberg) and Gunilla (Mia Skaringer), the feisty ex-girlfriend of a biker gang member.
Based on Jonas Jonasson’s international best-selling novel of the same name, it’s been inventively adapted by Hans Ingemansson and director Felix Herngren as a black comedy/road movie, as Allan heeds his mother’s wise advice: “You shouldn’t talk too much,” “One thing leads to another,” and “Life is what it is – and what it does.”
And the ungainly length of the title rivals “The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain” and “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared” is an irreverent, slapstick 6, an absurdist comic fable.
Susan Granger’s review of “Saint Laurent” (Sony Pictures Classics)
There are two cinematic biographies about infamous French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, who died in 2008. Directed by Bertrand Bonello and featuring Gaspard Ulliel in the title role, this version is France’s official submission for the foreign-language Academy Award.
The story opens in Paris in 1974, when depressed, melancholy YSL agreed to a disastrous phone interview in which he admits he has “disorders” before flashing back to 1967, when his fame was at its height, as he prepares an elegant haute couture collection. Lea Seydoux and Aymeline Valade play his emotionally supportive muses Loulou del la Falaise and Betty Catroux, respectively.
That’s also when YSL’s giddy, intoxicating, celebrity lifestyle disintegrated into debilitating drug abuse and dangerous debauchery, particularly his infatuation with Karl Lagerfeld model Jacques de Bascher (Louis Garrel), which deeply wounded YSL’s longtime business partner/lover and friend, Pierre Berge (Jeremie Renier).
Wearing YSL’s signature oversized glasses, Gaspard Ulliel (“Hannibal Rising”) not only bears a strong physical resemblance but also conveys YSL’s self-destructive tendencies, along with his hedonistic sensibility and neurotic sensitivity, including insight into the clash between commerce and culture, as dresses evolve from sketches to the runway.
FYI: YSL was the first major designer to launch a pret-a-porter line, making French fashion accessible to the general public.
The biopic concludes in Saint Laurent’s later years, when he’s played by Helmut Berger, utilizing Ulliel’s ineptly synched voice.
Episodic in structure and lavish in production design, the somewhat cumbersome screenplay was written by Thomas Bidegain (“Rust and Bone,” “Our Children”) and director Bertrand Bonello (“House of Pleasures,” “The Pornographer”).
Curiously, there’s little mention of YSL’s youth in Algeria and early apprenticeship with Christian Dior. And it’s only fair to note that Pierre Berge threw his support behind Jalil Lespert’s rival bio-pic, “Yves Saint Laurent,” granting that production access to YSL’s estates in Paris and Marrakech.
In French and English, with English subtitles, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Saint Laurent” is a shallow, ill-fitting 5. Running 2 ½ hours, it gets truly tedious – unless you’re a fashion junkie.
Susan Granger’s review of “Every Secret Thing” (Hyde Park Entertainment)
When a toddler disappears, two teenage girls are held responsible in this eerie psychological mystery about the consequences of the secrets we keep.
Eight years ago, these troubled 11 year-olds were convicted of kidnapping and murdering the infant granddaughter of their upstate New York town’s first African-American judge.
When they’re released, obese Alice Manning (Danielle Macdonald) becomes a sullen shoplifter, consistently lying to her overbearing, protective schoolteacher mother, Helen (Diane Lane), that she’s searching for a job, while her bitter, socially withdrawn partner-in-crime Ronnie Fuller (Dakota Fanning) works in a bagel shop.
In this small community of Orangetown, they do their best to avoid one another since their incarceration. But when another mixed-race three year-old disappears, these young women become the prime suspects of Detective Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks) and her partner, Detetective Jones (Nate Parker).
Complicating matters, resentful Alice claims that this missing child is actually hers, the bi-racial baby she bore in juvenile detention and gave up for adoption. And there’s little time devoted to the abducted toddler’s distraught mother (Sara Sokolovic) and her boyfriend (Common).
Based on an unsettling 2004 novel by Laura Lippman, it’s adapted by Nicole Holofcener (“Enough Said”), executive produced by Frances McDormand, and directed by documentarian Amy Berg (“West of Memphis,” “Deliver Us From Evil”).
Flawed by under-written subplots and superficiality, this police procedural utilizes flashbacks to delve into the angst of obesity, mother-daughter issues, inter-racial tension and the murky inequities of the criminal justice system, culminating in a twist ending that isn’t conclusive.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Every Secret Thing” is a flimsy, foreboding 5, a female-centric crime thriller.
Susan Granger’s review of “Tomorrowland” (Disney)
If you’ve ever visited Disney World’s EPCOT theme park, you’ve had a glimpse of what Walt Disney and his “imagineers” envisioned as the influence of science and technology on the future of mankind. That’s the basis for this tale, which begins with disillusioned scientist Frank Walker (George Clooney)…
When he was a youngster, Frank (Thomas Robinson) brought a jet pack he’d invented to enter in a contest at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. While he didn’t amaze contemptuous judge David Nix (Hugh Laurie), a young British observer named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) was so impressed by his optimistic ingenuity that she slipped him a small lapel pin marked with the letter “T.”
To his amazement, when Frank touched the pin, he was miraculously transported to an alternative dimension known as Tomorrowland, a shiny, shimmering, serenely futuristic utopia where the impossible becomes possible…
After that prologue, it’s present-day Cape Canaveral, Florida, where too-bright-for-her-own-good Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) lives with her soon-to-be-out-of-work NASA engineer father (Tim McGraw) and little brother (Pierce Gagnon). She, too, mysteriously receives one of those magical “T” pins, catapulting her into Tomorrowland’s hologram.
When Athena, who turns out to be a Tomorrowland recruiter, warns curious, idealistic Casey she’s in great danger, she finds now-pessimistic, paranoid Frank (Clooney), who is living an embittered, hermit-like existence in a secluded farm house. Apparently, he discovered that mankind might not have the bright future he’d envisioned and was banished.
Co-scripted by Damon Lindelof (TV’s “Lost”), Jeff Jensen and director Brad Bird (“The Incredibles,” “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”), it’s a generic condemnation of current social and cultural cynicism, epitomized by our enthusiasm for dystopian, post-apocalyptic entertainment.
There are several surprises (which I will not reveal) and delightfully nostalgic moments, like Casey’s playful visit to “Blast from the Past,” a movie memorabilia store run by Ursula (Kathryn Hahn) and Hugo (Keegan-Michael Key) – with nods to Gustave Eiffel, Jules Verne, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla.
But the film is at least 20 minutes too long with a preachy conclusion – and less wondrous than one might expect.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Tomorrowland” is a spiritually simplistic 7, a family-friendly sci-fi adventure-fantasy.
Susan Granger’s review of “Pitch Perfect 2” (Universal Pictures)
Set three years after its 2012 surprise-hit predecessor, Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and the other Barden University Bellas return for another try at a cappella harmony.
But disaster strikes when Fat Amy’s (Wilson) spandex outfit splits during a ‘live’ television performance at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center in front of President and Mrs. Obama, revealing she’s gone ‘commando,’ resulting in an embarrassing media scandal.
As part of the suspension and punishment handed down by podcast pundits Gail (Elizabeth Banks) and John (John Michael Higgins), the Bellas are barred from holding auditions, but they can recruit ‘legacy’ members, like eager freshman Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), whose mother (Katey Sagal) was a Bella.
So under the leadership of Beca (Kendrick) and Chloe (Brittany Snow), the Bellas seek redemption at the world competition in Copenhagen, Denmark, where they’re awed by the reigning champions, the arrogant Teutonic titans – Das Sound Machine – led by the icy Valkyrie, Kommissar (Brigitte Hjort Sorensen) and Pieter (Flula Borg), duly dubbed “Deutschebags” by scene-stealing Fat Amy.
Along the way, there are several sing-offs, including one sponsored in the mansion of a caftan-clad music enthusiast (David Cross) who rides around on a scooter. But, fittingly, the most memorable is the finale: an original song called “Flashlight,” written by Sia and Sam Smith.
Loosely based on Mickey Rapkin’s non-fiction book “Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory,” it’s scripted by Kay Cannon and directed by co-star/producer Elizabeth Banks, resulting in zany, fast-paced fun, chock-full-of-stereotypical, often snarky, mean-spirited jests. In addition to celebrity cameos, there are too many subplots
Albeit superficially, it even touches on the angst felt by college graduates who must eventually cope with the demands of the job market. And, nearing 30, Anna Kendrick is too old to play a college student.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Pitch Perfect 2” is a silly, sassy 6, going for slicker, sharper sequel sisterhood.
Susan Granger’s review of “Mad Max: Fury Road” (Warner Bros.)
Wow! Director/writer/producer George Miller’s post-apocalyptic action adventure is a blast!
While wearily haunted ex-cop Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is the titular hero, hunted in the toxic, dystopian Wasteland, Charlize Theron delivers a powerhouse performance as Imperator Furiosa, the most exciting sci-fi protagonist since Ellen Ripley (“Alien”).
As George Miller explains, “What looks like testosterone-fueled summer escape is actually a badass feminist action flick. The men do the damage but the women restore humanity.”
Furiosa is a War Rig operator who’s determined to wreak revenge for her past suffering by smuggling the prized Five Wives (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keogh, Zoe Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton) of the tyrannical warlord, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), to safety in the Green Place.
They’ve been enslaved in the Citadel to breed and provide breast milk to the white-painted, tattooed troops, a.k.a. War Boys (including Nicolas Hoult), who dream of an idyllic afterlife in Valhalla.
Since both Max and Furiosa are pursued by Immortan Joe and his crazed son, Corpus Colossus (Quentin Kenihan), they reluctantly team up for mutual survival, battling the Gas Town thugs and Bullet Farmer gang, along with the underground Buzzard tribe and the stealthy Rock Riders.
British actor Tom Hardy (“The Dark Knight Rises,” “Locke”) and Charlize Theron (Oscar-winner for “Monster,” “Prometheus”) are dynamite together, wreaking spectacular vehicular vengeance.
Back in 1979, George Miller created iconic Mad Max, catapulting Mel Gibson to stardom as the righteous, leather-jacketed nomad. But its allegorical antecedents go back to classic Greek mythology (Odysseus), Westerns (“The Man With No Name”), even “Star Wars” Han Solo.
“One of the ideas that drove ‘Mad Max,’ and drives ‘Fury Road,’ was Alfred Hitchcock’s notion about making films that can be watched anywhere in the world without subtitles,” Miller says, explaining how his production team used music to viscerally propel the plot. Miller also recruited playwright Eve Ensler (“Vagina Diaries”) to authenticate the depiction of vulnerable, abused women.
FYI: With her bright red hair, it’s easy to spot Riley Keough, who is Elvis Presley’s granddaughter.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Mad Max: Fury Road” is an assaultive, intense 8, delivering an outrageously relentless adrenaline rush.
Susan Granger’s review of “Hot Pursuit” (Warner Bros.)
It’s truly pathetic when the out-take bloopers during the end credits are more amusing than any scenes in the shoddy film – and they’re not even all that funny.
Petite Reese Witherspoon (“Legally Blonde”) and statuesque Sofia Vergara (TV’s “Modern Family”) are beautiful, gifted comediennes, so why they wasted their energy and talent on this vacuous, buddy/odd couple-comedy is a profound mystery.
Uptight, overly-eager Officer Rose Cooper (Witherspoon) is a by-the-book, second-generation San Antonio cop who has a lot to prove when she gets her first chance in the field after impulsively tasering the mayor’s unarmed teenage son who yelled, “I got shotgun,” because he wanted dibs on the front passenger seat of the car.
She’s assigned to escort feisty Danielle Riva (Vergara), the sassy, soon-to-be-widowed wife of a Colombian drug dealer, to court in Dallas to testify in front of a grand jury against a major drug kingpin (Joaquin Cosio). But before they can leave the Riva home, two different sets of assassins appear: gun-toting mobsters and crooked cops.
So the women ‘borrow’ a nearby convertible and take off. After a Texas APB is issued for their capture, they’re really on-the-lam – with some questionable ‘baking powder’ in the trunk of the car.
Recklessly written by David Feeney (TV’s “2 Broke Girls”) and John Quaintance (TV’s “Ben and Kate”) and sluggishly directed by Anne Fletcher (“The Guilt Trip,” “27 Dresses”), it’s utterly contrived and their bickering is so weak and formulaic that it often comes across as desperate.
Obviously, they were vainly attempting to recreate the combustible chemistry generated in “The Heat” (2013), an action-comedy which teamed Sandra Bullock with Melissa McCarthy. Adding insult to injury, Witherspoon and Vergara cavort, clinch and lip-lock in the un-sexiest lesbian scene in history.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Hot Pursuit” is a lame, tedious 3. It’s cringe-worthy.
Susan Granger’s review of “Far From the Madding Crowd” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s genteel adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s classic 19th century novel is beautiful to look at – filmed in bucolic Dorset, Somerset and Oxfordshire by cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen.
But its defiantly independent, free-spirited heroine, Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan), emerges as capricious, even by Victorian standards, her innate dignity diminished by selfish ambition and her smirking, impetuous thoughtlessness.
On a small farm in southwest England, 200 miles from London, Bathsheba learns that she’s inherited her uncle’s vast estate – making this country lass the reluctant recipient of three marriage proposals.
Bathsheba’s first is from rugged shepherd Gabriel Oaks (Matthias Schoenaerts), who becomes her moral compass and whose name denotes strength and stability, even when she brusquely rejects him, noting, “I have no need for a husband. I don’t want to be some man’s property.”
Then there’s her wealthy, honorable, middle-aged neighbor William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), who offers her financial security – with poignant persistence.
Last and least appealing, there’s mercurial Sgt. Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), a charming cad whom she recklessly marries, a decision she immediately – and understandably – regrets, since he loves another.
As Thomas Hardy states: “When a strong woman recklessly throws away her strength, she is worse than a weak woman who never had any strength to throw away.”
Sturdily scripted by David Nicholls (“One Day”) and melodramatically directed by Vinterberg (“The Hunt,” “The Celebration”), this unimaginative, abbreviated revision eliminates much of the essential character development and pales in comparison with John Schlesinger’s 1967 version, starring Julie Christie, Alan Bates, Terence Stamp and Peter Finch.
FYI: Bathsheba Everdene preceded Katniss Everdeen by 134 years, although “Hunger Games” author Suzanne Collins has admitted she swiped her protagonist’s surname from this Thomas Hardy tale. And Hardy’s title comes from Thomas Gray’s 1751 poem, referencing a quiet country churchyard, far away from London’s chaos.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Far From the Madding Crowd” is a sturdy, somber 7, a sweeping romance, redolent with sheep-dipping, hay-stacking and windswept moors.
Susan Granger’s review of “Iris” (Magnolia Pictures)
This cinematic portrait of indomitable, 93 year-old Manhattan fashionista Iris Apfel is the penultimate film from the late documentarian Albert Maysles; his final film will be “In Transit.” And it’s not unlike his “Grey Gardens” (1975), which profiled reclusive eccentrics who were related to Jacqueline Kennedy.
Born Iris Barrel in 1921 in Astoria, Queens, Iris is the only child of Samuel Barrel, whose family owned a glass-and-mirror business, and his wife Sadye, who ran a fashion boutique. After studying art history, Iris worked for “Women’s Wear Daily,” interior designer Elinor Johnston, and Illustrator Robert Goodman.
After she married Carl Apfel in 1948, they launched the textile firm: Old World Weavers. Having no children, they globe-trotted, acquiring an eclectic collection of exotic souvenirs. During the filming, Carl turned 100. Several years ago, “Architectural Digest” slyly described their luxurious Park Avenue apartment as looking “a little as if the Collyer brothers had moved in with Madame de Pompadour.”
From 1950 to 1993 – from Truman’s administration to Clinton’s – Iris was involved in the White House interior design restoration projects of nine presidents.
Famous for her lament, “There is so much sameness. I hate it!” Iris always wears enormous owl glasses, costume jewelry necklaces, along with a multitude of glittering bracelets and clothing adorned with feathers, prints and bright colors, advising, “It’s better to be happy than well-dressed.”
Curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, Harold Koda cites items from the exhibit, “Rara Avis (Rare Bird): Selections from the Iris Apfel Collection,” which opened in 2005 and has since traveled to other museums.
Unlike other documentarians who prefer to remain in the background, Albert Maysles appears, not only on-camera, but also as an off-camera presence, speaking with Ms. Apfel.
Dispensing wit, charm and wisdom, elderly Iris advocates the values and work ethic she learned as a child: “I feel lucky to be working. If you’re lucky enough to do something you love, everything else follows.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Iris” is a splashy, stylish 7, just like Iris who dubs herself “a geriatric starlet.”
Susan Granger’s review of “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” (Sony/Columbia)
Since Kevin James’ “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” (2009) earned $146 million in the US alone, a slapstick sequel seemed inevitable.
No longer prowling the New Jersey shopping center, roly-poly, buffoonish Paul Blart (James) is now on patrol at the Wynn Las Vegas & Encore Resort. But he’s suffered some hard times.
Less than a week after getting married, his wife (Jayma Mays) filed for divorce. Then his mother (Shirley Knight) was run over by a milk truck. So when he receives an invitation to a security officers’ trade convention in Las Vegas, Paul and his UCLA-bound daughter Maya (Raini Rodriguez) head for Nevada. Seriously delusional Paul is hoping he’ll be asked to be the keynote speaker because of his Mall heroics.
At the Wynn Hotel, he meets the general manager, Davina Martinez (Daniella Alonso), and head of security, Eduardo (Eduardo Verastegui), while Maya becomes friends with the hotel valet, Lane (David Henrie).
At the same time, a wily thief (Neal McDonough) is ready to run off with the Wynn Las Vegas & Encore Resort’s priceless art collection, disguising his goons as members of the hotel staff. Needless to say, boorish Paul is on the job, if not his Segway, recruiting his security-guard buddies (Loni Love, Gary Valentine, Shelly Desai) to join his Taser-toting team for slapstick shenanigans.
Working from a pedestrian script by Kevin James and Nick Bakay, director Andy Fickman (“Parental Guidance”) plugs the Wynn property continually, including a glimpse of the lavish aquatic theater presentation “Le Reve” and a cameo of mogul Steve Wynn emerging from his tanning bed.
FYI: The first commercial film shot on Steve Wynn’s property, it’s also the first movie to qualify for Nevada’s new film tax credit, amounting to $4.3 million.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” is a tacky 2, as the obvious product placement and Kevin James’ buffoonish charm quickly run cold.