This Weekend @ The Movies: A Golden Girl, a Tortured Toon

Helen Mirren reigns onscreen this weekend. That’s the predictable play. If you’re in a more adventurous mood, check out a quirky new cartoon from the legendary Bill Plympton. Otherwise, the post-Oscar parade of big-screen blockbusters hitting home video continues apace.

Woman in Gold
Helen Mirren is the real golden girl in this true story of Maria Altmann, the woman who sued the Austrian government to recover a painting the Nazis stole from her family. Wide-eyed with exasperation and naïveté, Mirren’s Altmann pursues justice with charming determination, assisted by a young L. A. attorney (Ryan Reynolds). At first he merely humors his client, but soon he’s as blindly driven as she is to bring home the painting, Glustav Klimt’s “Woman in Gold.” (FULL REVIEW)

Watch AARP's Bill Newcott interview Director Simon Curtis and the real-life Randol Schoenberg, played by Ryan Reynolds.


Effie Gray
Writer/costar Emma Thompson ( Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice) has dipped into Britain’s bonneted past one time too many, producing this lifeless account of the loveless “marriage,” if you want to call it that, between Victorian artist John Ruskin (Greg Wise) and his decade-younger bride, Effie Gray (Dakota Fanning). Thompson pops up briefly as Effie’s confidante, but you can almost hear her thinking, “Where’s the nearest exit?” (FULL REVIEW)


Renegade animator Bill Plympton has created a true toon for grownups — a darkly engaging fantasy about the wife of a helpless philanderer who finds a way to magically become each and every one her husband’s lovers. Plympton’s trademark hand-drawn images, resembling the scribblings of a latter-day (and somewhat demented) Da Vinci, have a stream-of-consciousness quality that draws you ever deeper into his narrative. Opening in limited theaters and available this month on Video on Demand.


Furious 7
“What’s that?! Sorry, but you’re going to have to scream louder over all these revving engines!” Seriously, Vin Diesel: Put a muffler on it.


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Still out there:

5 to 7
Embedded in this disarming comedy about a young New York novelist ( Star Trek’s Anton Yelchin) having an affair with a married Frenchwoman (Bérénice Marlohe) are sparkling, don’t-miss performances by Glenn Close and Frank Langella as the guy’s quirky but devoted parents.

50 Shades of Grey
We’re not supposed to laugh out loud at a movie that features beautiful young people having kinky sex, right? Yet that’s precisely what happens almost from the moment we meet billionaire bondage boy Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and his oh-so-willing submissive partner (Dakota Johnson).

Disney’s live-action adaptation of the animated classic keeps the most charming elements of the original’s damsel-in-distress scenario and transforms the central character into a strong-willed young woman determined to overcome her dismal plight at the hands of a truly wicked stepmother ( Cate Blanchett).

Danny Collins
Al Pacino triumphs in this joyful story of a legendary pop-music star who faces a late-midlife crisis when he discovers that, way back in 1971, John Lennon had written him a letter urging him not to sell out as an artist. The superb cast includes Annette Bening, Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Garner and Bobby Cannavale (FULL REVIEW)

The Divergent Series: Insurgent
Even after watching the trailer, we have no idea what this movie is about, but the first installment ( Divergent, natch) made $260 million. It looks a little bit like The Hunger Games, so there’s that. If nothing else, director Robert Schwentke’s name is fun to say.

Get Hard
This comedy about a convicted exec ( Will Ferrell) who hires a streetwise guy who owns a car wash (Kevin Hart) to help him prepare for prison commits any number of offenses. The worst? It reminds us how desperately we miss Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, who played the same gag to untouchable perfection in Stir Crazy.

The Gunman
Perhaps hoping to carve out a Liam Neeson–like action-movie career, another great screen actor,  Sean Penn, picks up a sidearm and leaps into the abyss. Here he’s a retired hit man trying to turn his life around — but, of course, his past catches up with him. Mayhem ensues.

Maps to the Stars
Despite a great cast — including  Julianne Moore, John Cusack and Robert Pattinson — director David Cronenberg’s satire of Hollywood is as phony as the culture he attempts to skewer. ( FULL REVIEW)

Run All Night
Liam Neeson’s got a gun. His son is threatened by the mob. Silent Night it’s not. FULL REVIEW

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
In this sequel the original stars (including  Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy) prove to be just as delightful the second time around. Regrettably, the script adds precious little to the  first installment. Yes, Richard Gere is charming as a new guest, but young Dev Patel wins Actor We’d Most Like to Defenestrate.

While We’re Young
A middle-aged documentary maker ( Ben Stiller) and his wife ( Naomi Watts) add some spark to their humdrum lives when they befriend a couple nearly half their age (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried). Writer-director Noah Baumbach makes poignant observations about midlife’s inherent QQ (Queasiness Quotient). Bonus points for Charles Grodin as Stiller’s father, resplendent in a tux.

New on DVD, Blu-Ray and Video on Demand:

The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch is brilliant as Alan Turing, whose peculiar genius helped the Allies crack the Nazi Enigma Code. His Turing is a humorless, literal-minded university professor who grates on the nerves of his fellow code crackers: Allen Leech ( Downton Abbey), Matthew Goode ( The Good Wife) and, as a barrier-smashing female mathematician, Keira Knightley.

As he transports his intrepid crew of space explorers (including Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway) to a distant black hole, writer-director Christopher Nolan ( Inception) nods to sci-fi classics from 2001 to Ziggy Stardust. The results are spectacular, but we’ve grown to expect more originality from this screen visionary. (FULL REVIEW)

The Rewrite
Isn’t it nice to see Hugh Grant back in a lighter-than-air rom-com? His has-been Hollywood screenwriter takes a job teaching screenwriting at an upstate New York college; Marisa Tomei is the single-mom student who, we suspect, will capture the handsome professor’s heart. Wandering around blue-collar Binghamton, N.Y., Grant resembles Mr. Darcy lost at the London docks.

Reese Witherspoon gets down and dirty as Cheryl Strayed, the troubled young woman whose solo 1,100-mile trek along the Pacific Crest Trail became the subject of her bestselling memoir. In what could have been a thankless role, Laura Dern etches a tragic portrait as Strayed’s abused mother. FULL REVIEW

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