Monthly Archives: May 2016

Spending two hours in a darkened theater

They only come out at night.

Dirtbags, lowlifes, predators — they’re just some of the dangerous beasts that “Nocturnal Animals” focuses on.

But there are other things that live in the dark, too: self-doubt, nagging regret, the sense that somehow, somewhere, things went wrong.

And those can be even scarier monsters.

“Nocturnal Animals” is directed by the fashion designer Tom Ford and it looks beautiful in a way that glossy ads are. Jake Gyllenhaal is hunky (and, as usual, briefly shirtless). Amy Adams is as pretty and perfect as a doll.

She’s just as cold, though. And so is the film.

Because this is a movie about all the ways we hurt each other. And although sometimes it’s through vicious violence, sometimes it’s in subtler, nastier, icier ways.

The idea is that Adams’ Susan and Gyllenhaal’s Edward were married once, a long time ago. He was a struggling novelist. She wanted a safer, softer life. They divorced, and she married some rich jerk.

And now Edward has a novel coming out, which he wants Susan to read. It’s a gruesome thriller about a too-nice guy who gets caught up in a carjacking, and sees his wife and child brutally abducted.

But why, after almost 20 years, did Edward send Susan this book? And why is it really dedicated to her?

Those are Susan’s first questions and they’ll be answered, eventually — although not in the way she wants.

But first we have to make our way through three interwoven stories — flashbacks of Susan and Edward’s life together, snapshots of Susan’s life now as she’s reading, and Edward’s book, acted out as a sort of movie-inside-the-movie, with rangy Michael Shannon as a Texas lawman.

Moviegoers rush to Doctor Strange

Moviegoers drained by the drama of the presidential election sought refuge at the movies over the weekend, where ticket sales were robust for just about everything.

Marvel’s “Doctor Strange” led the North American box office for the second week with $43 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. That was an especially strong hold for the Benedict Cumberbatch-led superhero blockbuster, which is now nearing $500 million globally. “Trolls,” the musical animated release from 20th Century Fox with Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake, also held well in its second week with $35.1 million, bringing its cumulative domestic total to $94 million.

Denis Villeneuve’s science-fiction thriller “Arrival,” starring Amy Adams, scored the weekend’s top debut with a better-than-expected $24 million for Paramount Pictures. Opening in fourth was Universal Pictures’ “Almost Christmas,” the first holiday-themed release to hit theaters. The family gathering comedy, starring Danny Glover and Gabrielle Union, debuted with $15.6 million.

The weekend box office was up about 47 percent from last year, according to comScore. The Friday holiday of Veteran’s Day also helped stoke business. Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore, said the wide variety of releases gave moviegoers plenty of choice for escapism over the postelection weekend.

“In the first weekend after the election, I think it’s clear that people find being able to go to the movie theater is the perfect antidote to the election coverage,” said Dergarabedian. “There’s almost nowhere else that you can unplug the way you can when you go to the movie theater.”

Boxing movie with knockout performances

If you really want to see two hours of Miles Teller getting trash-talked, knocked around and finally, firmly punched out – well then, you’re probably still bitter over “Fantastic Four.”

But “Bleed for This” offers more than just revenge for film fans who feel they got sucker-punched.

The boxing movie also serves up the fascinating, maybe half-forgotten story of Vinny Pazienza, a tough kid from Providence who brawled his way to a couple of championships.

And then had to fight his way back into the ring after a car crash left him with a broken neck.

The good one comes from Teller who bulked up to play the proud puncher. He does his best to wring every emotion from this bare-knuckled comeback story, and it’s had some people buzzing about Oscars.

Except the great performance here – and the really worthy one – is courtesy of Aaron Eckhart, as tenacious trainer Kevin Rooney. Gruff and bullet-headed, Eckhart’s unrecognizable. He’s also terrific as a mug’s mug who knows how to win — if his fighters will only listen.

Both actors are clearly having fun in the kind of roles they’re rarely cast in.

It’s the other casting that seems slap-happy.

Like hiring the lively Katey Sagal to play Vinny’s mother – and giving her nothing to do but say novenas. Or asking the incredibly Celtic Ciaran Hinds to impersonate Vinny’s Italian poppa. The whole thing’s an acting split-decision.

The script pulls some punches, too. It ignores the uglier moments in the life of “Vinny Paz.” It leaves out a lot of his fights, too, and the controversy over some of them. (Although watching “Bleed for This” after this year’s “Hands of Stone,” which told the Roberto Duran match-up from Duran’s side, would make for an interesting double-feature.)

And the movie is very happy to stick to the oldest, laziest boxing-movie combination of all – success, failure, comeback. Sure, Vinnie’s story is all true. The problem is, the movie never makes it feel real.

There’s some nice footwork here from Teller, and Eckhart’s got plenty of heart. But in the end, “Bleed for This” is strictly rope-a-dope – and never goes the distance.