Emily Blunt, Jason Segel | R | 2 Stars
Here's a conundrum: What happens when you're rooting for the stars of a romantic comedy to break up? To be fair, the newly engaged Tom (Segel) and Violet (Blunt) are terrific-and funny-when times are good. He's a San Francisco sous chef, she's hoping to do her psychology postdoc at Berkeley. But when Violet instead gets a position in frigid Michigan, her career takes off and Tom is the runway. She thrives and grows selfish; he sulks and grows disturbing facial hair. The film's energy tanks along with their romance.
It's frustrating because when Engagement works, it's hilarious without relying on rom-com cliches. But even a great cast, including Alison Brie as Violet's sister Suzie and Chris Pratt as Tom's fratty pal Alex, can't buoy the plot. (With a daunting running time of two-plus hours, there's only so much they can do.) By the fourth flashback of the day Tom and Violet met, I was too exhausted to care whether Engagement leads to a wedding.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Hugh Grant, David Tennant, Imelda Staunton| PG |
Most pirates are big on bling, but the ragtag crew of the Pirate Captain (Grant) is happy to settle for ham. (That's appropriate, given what a vainglorious but likable twit their boss is.) While trying to finally loot enough gold to win Pirate of the Year, the Captain meets the father of evolution, Charles Darwin (Tennant), who spies something special in the pirate's pet Polly and suggests a quick trip to a scientific conference in London. Pirates' plot is odd, and the gags aren't as baldly funny as the studio's Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run. But the Claymation is delightful, as are the actors, with Grant and Tennant heartily trying to out-dweeb each other, while Staunton turns in a fearsome Queen Victoria. As for kids, they'll like the slapstick silliness.
She's tightly wound on Mad Men and Community, but Alison Brie loosens up delightfully in Engagement as Violet's boozier, floozier sister Suzie. She nails a posh London accent-and also does a mean Elmo.
Director Peter Lord knew it was "mischievous" to make Queen Victoria a bad guy. In real life, "she was the opposite of fun," he says. "It was fun to [give her] swords in her bloomers!"
Oscar is cute, but life is hard when the baby chimp's mom dies (and other dangers lurk). In the end, though, the Disney doc is lush, fascinating and uplifting.
Crisp, stunning and maniacally clever, this Norwegian thriller pits a corporate recruiter (Aksel Hennie) against a black-ops baddie (Game of Thrones' Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) in a lethal battle of wits.
SOUND OF MY VOICE
Another Earth's Brit Marling gives a stirring performance as Maggie, a cult leader with secrets. But while Voice expertly reels viewers in, its final act isn't fully realized enough to sustain interest.
ANTHONY HOPKINS PLAYS HITCHCOCK!
Anthony Hopkins first saw Psycho "on a Sunday night in 1960 in Manchester... I don't think I've ever been so scared in my life." Now he's taking on the master director's iconic profile for Hitchcock, a movie about the making of Psycho, costarring Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh. Transformed by makeup artist Howard Berger, Hopkins calls the film "my most exciting project since The Silence of the Lambs."