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She's Funny That Way Review

OK

Wacky enough to make us smile but never laugh out loud, this screwball comedy harks back to those nutty 1970s farces Woody Allen used to make about a group of neurotic urbanites. Actually, filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich used to make those kinds of movies too (1972's What's Up Doc is a classic). But he gives this film an oddly muted tone and uneven cast, which leaves it enjoyably silly even though it's never very funny.

It's set in a version of Manhattan where everyone sees the same shrink, eats in the same restaurant and stays at the same hotel, conveniently. Isabella (Imogen Poots) is working as a hooker, and her next john is Arnold (Owen Wilson), who offers her $30,000 if she gives up being a call girl after tonight and pursues her dream of becoming an actress. Then when she goes for her first Broadway audition, she's shocked to discover that Arnold is the director, and her costars would be his wife Delta (Kathryn Hahn) and leery actor Seth (Rhys Ifans), who knows what she used to do for a living. Another ex-client (Austin Pendleton) is obsessing because Isabella has vanished, so he visits the tetchy therapist Jane (Jennifer Aniston), who not only happens to also be counselling Isabella but is dating the playwright Joshua (Will Forte) who fell for Isabella at her audition.

The entanglement between these seven characters is recounted in flashback as Isabella is interviewed by a jaded Hollywood reporter (Illeana Douglas), so the film has a rather episodic structure as it traces each slapstick encounter between these people. With the plot so ludicrously convoluted, it's up to the actors keep us entertained, and they're a mixed bag. Aniston is surprisingly funny as the short-tempered psychologist who really should be in therapy herself, and Hahn gets the balance just right between the manic emotion and the darker comedy. Ifans has his moments as well, creeping around the corners of most scenes. But Poots never quite convinces in the focal role, while Wilson merely recycles his usual hapless routine and Forte gets lost in the shuffle as the token nice guy.

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Between Riverside and Crazy Opening Night Party - Arrivals

Austin Pendleton - Between Riverside and Crazy opening night party at the Atlantiv Theater Company - Arrivals. - New York, New York, United States - Friday 1st August 2014

Austin Pendleton
Stephen McKinley Henderson and Austin Pendleton
Stephen McKinley Henderson, Austin Pendleton and Stephen Adly Guirgis
Stephen McKinley Henderson, Austin Pendleton and Stephen Adly Guirgis

Hair Brained Review


Excellent

Gentle and very smart, this low-key comedy gets under the skin as it follows a smart young kid into the adult world. Without quite becoming either a frat-house comedy or coming-of-age odyssey, the film knowingly avoids cliches while telling a hugely engaging story with so much charm that it's virtually impossible to stop smiling.

The kid is 13-year-old frizzy-haired genius Eli (Wolff), who longs to attend Harvard but is instead stuck with 27-best choice Whittman College. His first friend there is the oldest freshman, 30-something Leo (Fraser), who is trying to reinvent himself and introduces Eli to the campus' party lifestyle. Then after a run-in with three Harvard snobs, Eli decides to teach his desired university a lesson: he joins Whittman's Mastermind team (alongside Bergman, Lee and de Jesus) and swiftly starts turning their losing streak around as they climb through the ranks and head to a showdown with Harvard at the national finals.

While the competition plot follows a fairly standard trajectory, writer Wierzbianski and director Kent refuse to indulge in trite formulaic melodramatics. Even the way Eli falls for a teen (Garner) from the local town feels fresh and unexpected. And while the humour is rarely laugh-out-loud funny, the smiles are earned because they are grounded in the characters rather than cheap jokes. It also helps that each character is a vivid bundle of complex energy and emotion, nicely played by an up-for-it cast.

Continue reading: Hair Brained Review

The premiere of 'Hit The Wall'

Austin Pendleton, Michael Shannon, Tom Wirtshafter, Scott Morfee, Jean Doumanian, Eric Hoff, Ike Holter, Tracy Letts, Mare Winningham, David Cromer and Josh Schmidt - The premiere of 'Hit The Wall', held at the Barrow Street Theatre - New York City, United States - Sunday 10th March 2013

Austin Pendleton
Austin Pendleton
Austin Pendleton

Premiere of 'Hit The Wall'

Blythe Danner and Austin Pendleton - Premiere of 'Hit The Wall' at the Barrow Street Theatre - Departures - New York City, United States - Sunday 10th March 2013

Blythe Danner and Austin Pendleton

Picture - Austin Pendleton New York City, USA, Thursday 27th October 2011

Austin Pendleton Thursday 27th October 2011 Opening night of the Broadway production of 'Chinglish' at the Longacre Theatre - Arrivals New York City, USA

Picture - Austin Pendleton New York City, USA, Monday 16th May 2011

Austin Pendleton Monday 16th May 2011 The 56th Annual 'Village Voice' Obie Awards Ceremony held at Webster Hall - Press Room New York City, USA

Austin Pendleton

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps Review


Good
Michael Douglas returns to his most iconic role for this 20-years-later sequel to Oliver Stone's 1987 hit. Of course it couldn't be much more timely, as it dips into the current financial chaos and the drama behind the scenes.

Jake (LaBeouf) is a rising-star broker working for a Wall Street veteran (Langella). His girlfriend Winnie (Mulligan) is the estranged daughter of the legendary Gordon Gekko (Douglas), who recently completed his prison term for insider trading. But Jake's idea to reunite Winnie and her dad takes a turn when they begin a kind of teacher-student relationship. Jake then takes a job for an archrival investor (Brolin) to orchestrate his downfall. But this is 2008 and banks are starting to collapse around them. And maybe Gekko is up to his old tricks.

Continue reading: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps Review

Lovely by Surprise Review


Good
One of those wilfully quirky movies that we're not quite sure what to do with, this film actually gets under our skin as it goes along, and as its seemingly random elements start to come together in an oddly moving way.

Marian (Preston) is struggling to write a novel, in which she pictures two brothers (Chernus and Roberts) living on a land-locked boat wearing just their underpants. Both of them have an awareness of their fate, and an ability to control it. So when Marian's mentor (Pendleton) tells her she needs to kill off her favourite character in order to find truth in the story, one of the brothers rebels and marches into the real world. He emerges in Marian's past, where as a little girl (Lamer) she's watching her widowed father (Rogers) wage war on his depression.

Continue reading: Lovely by Surprise Review

Short Circuit Review


Grim
I am sure that, back in the mid-1980s, I wasn't alone in believing that we were just a lightning strike away from a robot becoming sentient. I probably wasn't alone in believing Fisher Stevens was a native-born Indian, too, but that's another matter.

You can thank Short Circuit for all of this. Massively successful and influential in its era, it's a story of an evil military corporation vs. one man. Or rather, one robot who thinks he's a man: The now-infamous Number 5.

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Piccadilly Jim Review


Grim
A rather hysterical oddity that can't decide what era it's set in or what mood to play, Piccadilly Jim just chucks it all at the screen and hopes that some wit will come through and generate some laughs. Fortunately for the audience, some of it does - unfortunately for the film, not nearly enough.

Based on P.G. Wodehouse's novel, the film concerns the exploits of one Jim Crocker (Sam Rockwell), a young wastrel whose social-climbing American mother (Allison Janney, sharp as a tack) has forced him and his father (Tom Wilkinson), a failed British actor, to live in London and try and impress the swells there. She does this just to tick off her competitive sister, Nesta (Brenda Blethyn), a fact not wasted on the men of the family. Spoiling his mother's plans is Jim's penchant to booze it up all over town, getting into fistfights and leaving flappers scattered about the house and in his bed. Jim decides to ostensibly reform his wayward ways when he meets Nesta's step-niece Anne (Frances O'Connor), who won't have anything to do with him unless he pretends to be someone else - Jim once wrote a gossip column under the name "Piccadilly Jim", and once someone else writing the column (he hasn't worked on it for years) gave a negative review to a collection of Anne's poems. Jim thusly does the only sensible thing a fellow could do: He pretends to be a teetotaler Christian named Algernon Bayliss. Somehow, along the way, a German spy and some scientific secrets come into play, but one would be well-served to not wonder how.

Continue reading: Piccadilly Jim Review

Manna From Heaven Review


Terrible
The five precocious Burton sisters of Buffalo, NY have given us a precocious film about a group of people so hateful we are forced to try our best to simply ignore them. How's that for skipping the first day of Filmmaking 101?

Manna From Heaven is the story of a Buffalo family who one day discover $20,000 "raining from heaven," wisely decide to split it up, and then go on their merry ways. A decade or so later, every last one of them has grown up to be a loser, having squandered his or her (mostly her) share of the loot. The lone exception is Theresa (Ursula Burton... well of course the good one is going to be played by a Burton sister!) who has become an ash-on-the-forehead nun. In fact, Theresa becomes convinced that the 20 grand of so long ago was not a gift but a loan, and that they must now "pay it back."

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The Muppet Movie Review


Excellent
Like most movies of its year, The Muppet Movie looks (and is) really dated. But it's worth it to willingly suspend disbelief at how dated it is --- to appreciate the good-natured humor and comedic flair of Jim Henson. Henson tried to entertain both kids and adults, and though both audiences were probably easier to please in the days before all comedy became irony-soaked, Henson was one of the first to add sly postmodern touches. And while the movie promotes the annoying myth of Hollywood as the dream factory, magic store, etc. it more than makes up for it by borrowing comedians from several generations, from then-new comics like Steve Martin and Elliott Gould to veterans like Bob Hope and Orson Welles(!), for an endless string of cameo appearances.

The plot loosely follows the odyssey of Kermit the Frog from his swamp home to Hollywood in search of celebrity. The desirability of fame and stardom is never questioned. The Hollywood worship becomes pretty maudlin at the end, thanks mainly to songwriter Paul Williams, whose songs are palatable at first ("Rainbow Connection" was a hit) but become too much before the end of the movie.

Continue reading: The Muppet Movie Review

Trial and Error (1997) Review


OK
Michael Richards can usually do no wrong, but Trial and Error misfires enough to be mostly forgettable, though occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. In this very loose remake of the 1962 Peter Sellers film, we find Richards and Jeff Daniels stuck in Nevada in a mixed-up court case where the actor (Richards) is forced to represent a man (Rip Torn) accused of fraud while the real lawyer (Daniels) sits on the sidelines. Things run smoothly until, oddly, Daniels is tossed out of court, where he spends the remainder of the film nuzzling Charlize Theron and breaking up with his wife-to-be. After about 40 solid minutes, we're left with two lame romances, as Daniels' straight man devolves into a ridiculous hippie loser.

The Front Page Review


Good
Billy Wilder's version of the classic play carries a lot of fond memories for former newspapermen like myself, but I don't expect The Front Page to resonate quite so well with the rest of the populace. Lemmon plays it straight as a reporter bent on getting out of the business in order to get married while Matthau's hilariously over-the-top editor does everything in his power to keep him on the payroll during a fantastic jailbreak in 1920s Chicago. It drags in the middle, but a good first act and a stellar finale make the movie completely worthwhile.
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