Coming Soon

  • This Week: Sep 08
    • No Good Deed (Sep 12)
    • The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them (Sep 12)
    • The Skeleton Twins (Sep 12)
  • Next Week: Sep 15
    • This Is Where I Leave You (Sep 19)
    • A Walk Among the Tombstones (Sep 19)
    • Tracks (Sep 19)
  • Week of: Sep 22
    • The Boxtrolls (Sep 26)
    • Jimi: All Is by My Side (Sep 26)
    • The Equalizer (Sep 26)
    • Maps to the Stars (Sep 27)

This Week: Sep 08

No Good Deed
Opens Sep 12, 2014
Pouring rain. A knock at the door. A stranger asks to use the phone: Car trouble, he explains. What could go wrong? In traditional thriller fashion, everything. Or so Terri (Taraji P. Henson), a wife and mother of two, discovers when she offers aid to an escaped convict (Idris Elba) who enters her home and soon terrorizes her family. Playing the villain is a welcome change for Elba, who was last seen starring in the 2013 biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. ''It's nice to have a contrast in your career,'' he says. ''I've got a very loyal following, and I just like to keep them guessing as to what I'm going to do next.''
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them
Opens Sep 12, 2014

All the lonely people. Where do they all come from? Director Ned Benson has a theory: Early in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, an NYU professor (Viola Davis) lectures about the ''impenetrability of one's thoughts'' and the idea that individuals are ''separate and distinct from the world and from others.'' In other words, we're all alone together. The original version of Benson's film makes that argument through two feature-length companion pieces, Her and Him, which track the dissolution of the marriage of psychology grad student Eleanor (Jessica Chastain) and restaurateur Conor (James McAvoy) from each of their perspectives. (They don't always sync up.) It's easy to understand why producer Harvey Weinstein suggested a shorter cut, Them, that combines the two into a single story, but it undermines Benson's whole thesis. (The 201-minute Her/Him will be available next month in limited release.)

Told in the wake of a Very Bad Thing that unravels the relationship, Disappearance is still a thoughtful meditation on loss, but even the short version is a lot to take. Conversations play like academic dissertations, imparting the emotional impact of a scene instead of just letting us feel it. ''Tragedy is a foreign country,'' Eleanor's father (William Hurt) tells her. ''We don't know how to talk to the natives.'' Characters abruptly explain their own behavior: ''I never wanted to be a mother,'' Eleanor's mom (Isabelle Huppert) confesses, out of nowhere. Themes are spelled out too clearly, from Eleanor's allegorical name to the background movie posters of Masculin/Féminin and A Man and a Woman, two films about subjectivity. Yet Disappearance is worth watching for Chastain's fierce performance as a woman swallowed up by bone-deep grief. If we can feel exactly what Eleanor is feeling, maybe we're not so alone after all. B

The Skeleton Twins
Opens Sep 12, 2014

By all accounts, working as a cast member on Saturday Night Live is like sharing a cramped bedroom with a dozen brothers and sisters who are all competing for the attention of daddy, Lorne Michaels. In the early, druggy seasons of the show, the combustible egos and tight quarters of Studio 8H could result in friction and infighting (just ask Bill Murray and Chevy Chase...but not while they're in the same room). Still, that bond often resulted in on-air magic. More recently, the once-dysfunctional backstage dynamic at SNL has calmed down more than a little. Whether it's Tina Fey and Amy Poehler riffing in what feels like the secret language of twin sisters at the Golden Globes or the big-brother/little-brother vibe of Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers, the show's younger alumni now radiate the back-and-forth familiarity of siblings who actually like one another. Maybe that explains Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader's effortless chemistry in The Skeleton Twins.

Wiig and Hader play a troubled sister and brother grappling with the long-festering emotional fallout of their messed-up family. Their mother (Joanna Gleason) is a dizzy New Age healer with her head in the sand when it comes to her kids' problems. And their father committed suicide when they were children — an exit that's all too understandable for Wiig and Hader's now-grown-up-and-miserable Maggie and Milo. In fact, in the opening moments of the film, Maggie is prevented from swallowing a fistful of pills by a call informing her that Milo has just tried to kill himself by slicing his wrists in the bathtub. Did I mention that The Skeleton Twins is a comedy?

Well, it is and it isn't. Maybe I should also mention that Milo's suicide note reads, ''To whom it may concern, see ya later'' with a smiley face underneath. Or that the ringtone on Maggie's phone when she gets the call from the hospital is the Growing Pains theme. Like Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo in 2000's You Can Count on Me, Wiig and Hader play estranged siblings who haven't spoken for a decade but who reunite and slowly realize that as much as they can't stand one another, they're also the only ones who truly get each other. They're two broken souls secretly hoping the other might have the spiritual Krazy Glue they need.

Milo, a gay, depressed wannabe actor in Los Angeles, returns home to New York's Rockland County and moves in with Maggie and her sunny, frat-boyish husband, Lance (an excellent Luke Wilson). Both Maggie and Milo are masters at keeping secrets and sabotaging whatever happiness they manage to inadvertently bring into their lives. But for a while at least, they fall back into being the same kids who shared confidences, played hers-and-hers dress-up, and finished each other's sarcastic, smart-ass jokes. In the film's funniest scene, Wiig and Hader do a lip-synch duet to Starship's schmaltzy anthem ''Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now.'' As wince-inducing as that reads in print, it's impossible not to smile watching it on screen.

Of course, we know that whatever caused Maggie and Milo to stop talking is bound to resurface. And it does, right on cue. The main problem with the film is that too many of the beats created by director/co-writer Craig Johnson (True Adolescents) feel as programmed as the outline of a screenwriting manual (especially the maddeningly improbable ending). Still, the two costars elevate the film beyond formula. Their onscreen rapport is infectious and believable. Wiig has done this kind of heavy lifting with a light touch before in both Bridesmaids and Friends With Kids. Hader, though, is the film's real surprise. It would have been easy for him to turn Milo into a gay cartoon like his after-hours alter ego Stefon. But he resists the temptation to go for easy laughs and broad strokes and delivers something darker and deeper. It's a shockingly vulnerable performance, one of the best I've seen all year. B+


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