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Annette Bening

Review: Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

Reviewed by Robert Horton for Seattle Weekly

Gloria Grahame might well have been concocted in a lab experiment to create a classic Hollywood star. She had not only the looks and talent, but also the haunted arc of a screen goddess: early success, an Oscar (1952 Best Supporting Actress for The Bad and the Beautiful), a string of marriages, struggles with body image, scandal, and — after a certain age — a vanishing act.

Watch her movies today, and you can still be amazed at the smart, impudent, altogether new presence she conveys in the noir worlds of Crossfire and In a Lonely Place, to say nothing of her disruptive presence as the bad girl of Bedford Falls in It’s a Wonderful Life.

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Review: 20th Century Women

There’s a talking dog in Beginners, the 2010 movie that won Christopher Plummer a supporting-actor Oscar. To be precise, the dog speaks in subtitles, which might make the premise easier, or possibly harder, to take. As a general rule I am not opposed to talking-canine scenarios; for instance, the title pet of the cult picture A Boy and His Dog makes a strong argument for the idea. But in Beginners, it was one thing too many in a film that already pushed the boundaries of cuteness.

Its writer/director, Mike Mills, returns with 20th Century Women, a movie with an attractive premise and cast. It’s set in 1979—a cool time to be young, despite what you may have heard—and it puts three distinctive actresses at the forefront of a coming-of-age story.

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Review: Rules Don’t Apply

Warren Beatty turns 80 next year, and he’s been talking about directing a film on Howard Hughes for decades. So we’re allowed to assume that Rules Don’t Apply might have the air of a grand opus about it, that it would wear the sobriety suitable to an Oscar-winning filmmaker and elder Hollywood royalty. And that assumption would be wrong. Because whatever else is going on with this movie, it’s quick, jokey, and lively as hell. At times it seems as daffy as the oddball billionaire depicted, but it generally has something thoughtful to say—when it comes to Hughesiana, it’s a more original project than the Scorsese/DiCaprio Aviator.

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Film Review: ‘Danny Collins’

Al Pacino

“The following is kind of based on a true story a little bit.” There is a germ of truth to the opening disclaimer to this simultaneously hackneyed and likable rock-’n’-roll redemption tale. There really was a guy who, 40 years after the fact, discovered that John Lennon had written him a letter telling him to stay true to his art. Danny Collins simply replaces English folk singer Steve Tilston, who never found fame or riches but did remain true to the music, with a fictional American folk-rock sellout with plenty of regrets.

Al Pacino plays Danny as a music celebrity living high on his legacy, doing what looks like a lounge-act version of Mick Jagger on the casino circuit. He’s on showbiz autopilot, performing his greatest hits for the AARP demo with a voice like gravel, numbing the monotony with lines of blow and fifths of booze

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Film Review: ‘The Face of Love’

Ed Harris and Annette Bening

From its impossible title to its tortured plot, The Face of Love sounds like a good candidate for a “Lifetime Movies That Were Never Actually Made” category. A woman sees her late husband’s exact double, starts a romance without telling the new man about the resemblance, and causes woe to all concerned. Because—let’s just note this for the record again—she doesn’t tell him about the resemblance. Tortured.

However. While The Face of Love might well be a failure because of its delayed-revelation contrivance, there is something in this movie that haunts. For one thing, the two actors at the center of its story are well above the level of a cable-TV production and visibly eager for this kind of meaty emotional material.

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