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Steve Carell

Review: Café Society

Café Society

In Annie Hall, Los Angeles is “a city where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light.” That was 40 years and 40 Woody Allen movies ago, and the humor that worked back then—L.A.’s mind-set summed up thus: “I’m going to have the alfalfa sprouts and plate of mashed yeast”—has mellowed with time. For Café Society, Allen remains skeptical about La-La Land, but this portrait of a New York lad trying his luck in 1930s Hollywood is sticky with nostalgia: wrapped in lush costuming, honeyed by golden California light, and scored to the vintage toe-tappers that Allen continues to love. Satirical arrows are dutifully aimed, but the overall gorgeousness makes the target a soft one.

The lad is Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg), whose Uncle Phil (Steve Carell in a good turn) has become a successful movie agent. Bobby gets stuck with menial jobs, but he’s able to observe chic pool parties and meet movers and shakers.

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Blu-ray / DVD: Oscar winner ‘The Big Short’ and Guy Maddin’s ‘Forbidden Room’

Big ShortThe Big Short (Paramount, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD) – Adam McKay is not necessarily the guy you look to for dramatic outrage at the greed and failure behind the economic collapse of the last decade. He is, after all, the director who guided Will Ferrell through such comedies as Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and The Other Guys. Yet here he is, adapting Michael Lewis’ nonfiction book on the reasons behind the financial collapse and coming away with a hit movie, five Academy Award nominations, and an Oscar win for Best Adapted Screenplay (shared with Charles Randolph).

The Big Short is serious and angry. It’s also very funny, which is its secret weapon. What’s a subprime mortgage? Here’s Margot Robbie in a bubble bath to explain it to you. Need to explain what a CBO is without driving audiences away? How about Selena Gomez at a casino?

In the hands of McKay and his co-conspirators, the financial fraud of the 2000s is nothing short of a criminal farce with dire consequences. For us, that is, not the folks who perpetrated the crisis out of greed, criminal neglect, and reckless abandon. In this company of thieves and accomplices, the heroes of this story are a few men who saw through the façade and proceeded to bet against the house. They are, of course, outliers with idiosyncrasies.

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Film Review: ‘Foxcatcher’

Channing Tatum and Steve Carell

In the decidedly non-comedic Foxcatcher, Steve Carell plays a guy so obviously bizarro that his success in life as a public figure could only have happened for one reason. He was filthy rich. Throughout this movie, there’s a sense that people are looking at John du Pont and just barely holding it together. Their body language says “Can you believe how weird this guy is?”, but their behavior says, “Hey, as long as he’s writing the checks …”

Du Pont inherited fabulous wealth, and toward the end of his life decided to spend a lot of it on wrestling. He built a state-of-the-art practice facility at his Pennsylvania estate, Foxcatcher, and acted as a figurehead coach for Olympic athletes there. The story culminated in violence, but as the movie tells it, there was plenty of strange behavior even before the tragic end. Director Bennett Miller (Capote) has created a film that exists almost entirely as a single, sustained, skin-crawling mood.

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Film review: ‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’

Ed Oxenbould

A relatively simple children’s book gets pumped up into epic mayhem in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Apparently the filmmakers felt it necessary to live up to the humongous title. Published in 1972, Judith Viorst’s Alexander has charmed readers ever since. It’s about the travails of a kid who wakes up with chewing gum stuck in his hair — an early sign that everything is going to go wrong for him on this particular day.

Alexander (played by Ed Oxenbould) is having his birthday today, not that anybody else in his family seems overly interested — as usual. His unemployed dad (Steve Carell) has a job interview, mom (Jennifer Garner) has a big presentation at work.

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‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues’ lampoons TV news idiocy

Will Ferrell and Christina Applegate

The one moment I cherished above all others in 2004’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was the newscaster rumble: a hand-to-hand fight between San Diego’s competing news teams. It brought the movie’s scattered dopiness to a fine point.

Without giving away any celebrity cameos, let’s just say that the long-awaited sequel, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, also builds to an epic news team throw-down. This one is also hilarious, and some of the new faces are amazing indeed. The sequence even has a point: that in the world of the 24-hour news cycle, there’s way, way too much useless faux-news filling the air. In this big fight, there are so many competing teams you pretty much want them all to lose.

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