With Toronto wrapping, the first long leg of the fall festival season has been run. Following Venice, Telluride and TIFF, we’ll have a bit of a breather before New York opens on September 26. With a possible exception or two in the coming days, the films that have warranted entries of their own, the ones that are of most interest and have garnered enough reviews to constitute a general sense of the first round of critical reaction, now have those entries—indexed here.
What follows, then, is an overview of other films that call out for at least some sort of honorable mention—for whatever reason. But first, James Kang’s been tracking coverage of the coverage as well at Critics Round Up; the numbers that follow the titles here are the CRU ratings as of this writing:
- Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young. 67. With Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver and Charles Grodin. Let’s also make note of the reviews from Sam Adams (Criticwire), A.A. Dowd (AV Club, B+), Tim Robey (Telegraph, 4/5) and Catherine Shoard (Guardian, 5/5).
- Pascale Ferran‘s Bird People. 77. See, too, Richard Brody (New Yorker). Earlier: Reviews from Cannes.
- Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler. 67. With Jake Gyllenhaal.
- David Oelhoffen’s Far From Men. 83. With Viggo Mortensen.
- Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children. 9. With Adam Sandler, Emma Thompson, Rosemarie DeWitt and Jennifer Garner.
- Chris Rock’s Top Five. 92. With Rosario Dawson. See, too, Catherine Shoard (Guardian, 4/5) and Scott Tobias (Dissolve).
- Michaël R. Roskam’s The Drop. 67. With the late James Gandolfini, Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace. See, too, Sean Burns, Richard Corliss (Time), David Edelstein (New York), Ray Pride (Newcity Film), Tim Robey (Telegraph, 4/5), Tasha Robinson (Dissolve, 3.5/5), A.O. Scott (New York Times) and Chuck Wilson (Voice).
- Kevin Smith’s Tusk. 50. With Justin Long. See, too, Henry Barnes (Guardian, 4/5), A.A. Dowd (AV Club, C-) and Alison Willmore (Buzzfeed).
- Matthew Warchus’s Pride. 92. With Bill Nighy.
- Adam Wingard’s The Guest. 67. With Dan Stevens. See, too, Ed Gonzalez (Slant, 3/4).
“Quebecois auteur Denys Arcand shows that he still has An Eye for Beauty in his latest dramatic feature,” grants Jordan Mintzer in the Hollywood Reporter, “but he doesn’t have much of a knack for storytelling in this extremely benign tale of a dashing young architect whose extramarital affair causes quiet havoc in his household. Set in the eye-popping hills overlooking Quebec City, and starring an eye-popping cast that includes Eric Bruneau, Melanie Thierry and Melanie Merkosky, the film feels at once incredulous and strangely inept, with the director resorting to facile plot twists or heavy-handed pathos whereas a little subtlety and sense would have went a long way.” More from Andrew Barker (Variety) and Angelo Muredda (Cinema Scope).
Jay Kuehner for Cinema Scope on Madame Bovary: “Renoir, Chabrol, Oliveira and Minnelli, among a host of others, have all taken a cinematic crack at Flaubert’s realist chef d’oeuvre, but surprisingly, the young French director Sophie Barthes—for whom the book is part of an inherited cultural DNA—is the first woman to adapt the original ‘modern realist’ novel, and not for nothing. Barthes exhumes the intrinsically proto-feminist appeal of Emma B’s solutions to the stifling inertia of a sensually enervating marriage… As channelled through Mia Wasikowska’s ambiguous embodiment, Barthes’s Emma is both reluctant and unrepentant in her adulterous affairs. It’s a sympathetic rather than critical treatment, but none the less cautionary for conflating Emma’s self- actualization with her further disillusionment and inevitable entrapment.” More from Justin Chang (Variety), Todd McCarthy (THR), Rodrigo Perez (Playlist, C) and Catherine Shoard (Guardian, 3/5).
“A divorced couple has to face the horror of their child’s abduction together” in Peter Ho-Sun Chan’s Dearest, notes Boyd van Hoeij in the Hollywood Reporter. “Less a thriller than a drama with melodramatic flourishes, the film’s main aim is to tug at the heartstrings with its true-story premise of people separated from, and then desperately searching for, those they love most. But an unfocused screenplay too often keeps the film’s solid performances from becoming thematically relevant.” Notebook editor Daniel Kasman suggests that Ann Hui “would have been a far better choice to direct such a film clearly intended more as a social message based on case histories with flairs of exaggerated sentiment than any kind of story for the cinema revealing the complexities of the grief of losing and looking for missing children, or those of the crimes that cause such sorrow.” More from Mary Corliss (Time), Peter Debruge (Variety) and Derek Elley (Film Business Asia).
“Adapted from the literate, gently sardonic graphic novel by Guardian cartoonist Posy Simmonds, Anne Fontaine’s Gemma Bovery retains little of the source material’s Renoirian humanism and none of its murky thematic and visual greytones, but regrettably most of its plot,” writes Sean Rogers for Cinema Scope. “Since the outlines of Simmonds’s Gemma were themselves lifted from Flaubert’s Bovary—in which a bourgeois housewife (Gemma Arterton) becomes bored with her dutiful but tedious husband (Jason Flemyng) and carries on a foredoomed affair with a scion of the local gentry (Niels Schneider)—the motions that Fontaine’s film goes through feel doubly rehearsed and entirely pointless.” More from Kevin Jagnernauth (Playlist, C), Jordan Mintzer (THR) and Brian Roan (Film Stage, B+).
Paul MacInnes, who interviews director and star James Franco for the Guardian, on The Sound and the Fury: “William Faulkner’s profound, intricate masterpiece has been rendered both trite and insipid in this adaptation.” More from Celluloid Liberation Front (Cinema Scope), Robbie Collin (Telegraph, 2/5) and Jessica Kiang (Playlist, C).
The Dissolve‘s Scott Tobias: “If nothing else, the straightforward Alzheimer’s drama Still Alice affirms [Julianne Moore’s] range and vitality, casting her as a celebrated linguistics professor who’s beset by a genetic strain of the disease in her early 50s. Her comfortable life, with a supportive husband (Alec Baldwin) and three adult-age children (Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, and Hunter Parrish), slips from her along with her memory, and her innovative ways of coping don’t slow her deterioration so much as cover it up. The writer-director team of Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland keep it simple—she gets the diagnosis, loses control of her mind and body, and that’s that—and do well to balance her personal difficulties with the fallout in the rest of the family.” More from David Acacia (International Cinephile Society), Peter Debruge (Variety), Kevin Jagernauth (Playlist, C), Tim Robey (Telegraph, 5/5), Catherine Shoard (Guardian, 4/5) and Deborah Young (THR). Filmmaker’s Scott Macaulay has five questions for Glatzer and Westmoreland.
“For the first forty minutes or so, My Old Lady, the film directorial debut of respected playwright Israel Horowitz, adapting his own play, is a ‘no problem’ proposition.” Glenn Kenny explains at RogerEbert.com that, first, “the writing’s no problem. And because the cast is topped by Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith, and Kristen Scott-Thomas, the acting is no problem. And because the movie is set in Paris, specifically the extremely-suffused-with-conventional-Gallic-charm Marais section of the city, the views are no problem.” Eventually, the film transforms “from a comedy of manners and errors into a domestic drama of not inconsiderable depth.” More from Nicholas Bell (Ioncinema, 2.5/5), Jen Chaney (Dissolve, 3/5), Stephen Holden (NYT), Kevin Jagernauth (Playlist, C) and Elise Nakhnikian (Slant, 1.5/4). Horovitz and Kline are guests on the Leonard Lopate Show and Susan Wloszczyna interviews Kline for RogerEbert.com.
Andrew Lau and Andrew Loo’s Revenge of the Green Dragons “is set in the Flatbush section of Queens during the 1980s, when Mainland Chinese immigrants flocked there and young gangs flourished,” writes Bart Testa for Cinema Scope. “Despite the prestige boost of that Scorsese imprimatur [as producer], Green Dragons smacks of a certain desperation. It crams too many plot lines into too small a space, and then takes more screen time than it should with undermotivated, hyper-violent but essentially static set pieces.” More from Nikola Grozdanovic (Playlist, D-) and Deborah Young (THR).
“With the Bobby Fischer film, Pawn Sacrifice, the Alan Turing film, The Imitation Game, and the Stephen Hawking film, The Theory of Everything, all playing in Toronto, it’s a bumper year for a certain type of earnest, pedigreed prestige biopic,” writes the Telegraph‘s Tim Robey. “All three of these men are intellectual giants of the 20th century; all had serious physical and psychological hurdles to overcome…. Professor Hawking, naturally, faced the most extreme disadvantage of the three—the onset of motor neurone disease in his early twenties. Which shouldn’t automatically mean his film is the most affecting. But it is. Without really straying for a moment outside the rigid formulae for this genre, [James Marsh’s] The Theory of Everything just handles its task the best, harmonises its story the best. It’s a respectable and moving effort.” More from David Ansen (Thompson on Hollywood), Kyle Buchanan (Vulture), Justin Chang (Variety), Alonso Duralde (TheWrap), Chaz Ebert (RogerEbert.com), Leslie Felperin (THR), Ed Gonzalez (Slant, 2/4), Nikola Grozdanovic (Playlist, B), Eric Kohn (Indiewire, B-), Angelo Murreda (Cinema Scope), Catherine Shoard (Guardian, 4/5) and Scott Tobias (Dissolve).
The Guardian‘s Catherine Shoard on Theodore Melfi’s St. Vincent starring Bill Murray: “Rarely has a movie been quite so reliant on the popular affection in which its leading actor is help. Rarely has it been lit almost exclusively by their star wattage, fuelled by their charisma. It plays out like a best-of album: safe, fun, but inessential if you’re already familiar with the back catalogue.” More from Peter Debruge (Variety), Owen Gleiberman (BBC), Tomas Hachard (House Next Door), Kevin Jagernauth (Playlist, B), Eric Kohn (Indiewire, B), Todd McCarthy (THR) and Susan Wloszczyna (RogerEbert.com).
“Ethan Hawke spends most of the preachy Good Kill in a lethargic funk,” writes the AV Club‘s A.A. Dowd. “He’s playing a Las Vegas drone pilot who wants to get back in the cockpit of an actual jet, both because he misses the element of real danger and because he’s increasingly haunted by the collateral damage he routinely causes. Keeping the debate about UAVs alive is a noble goal, but this airless screed from Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, Lord of War) is heavy on speeches and light on actual drama.” More from Robbie Collin (Telegraph, 3/5), Richard Corliss (Time), David Ehrlich (Little White Lies), Jessica Kiang (Playlist, B-), Tommaso Tocci (Film Stage, C-) and Stephanie Zacharek (Voice).
In Welcome to Me, “Kristen Wiig tears into a role that plays to her deadpan gifts as a woman who wins the lottery and starts her own talkshow, where she proceeds to work through her deep-seated emotional and psychological wounds on live TV,” writes Variety‘s Justin Chang. “Bill Murray agrees with me,” writes Vulture‘s Jada Yuan, “that the movie, which is produced by Will Ferrell, among others, and directed by Shira Piven—sister of Jeremy Piven, wife of Adam McKay, and director of 2011’s Fully Loaded—is something special. ‘It’s one of the strangest movies I’ve ever seen,’ he said at a Q&A the day of the premiere. ‘The bravery to make this movie is pretty impressive. It’s quite a piece of work. I mean, the funny stuff is maybe bolder than anything we’ve seen in a very, very long time.'” More from John DeFore (THR), Nikola Grozdanovic (Playlist, B), Jared Mobarak (Film Stage, C+), Mark Olsen (Los Angeles Times), Stephen Saito and Brian Tallerico (RogerEbert.com).
Love & Mercy is “a two-tiered biopic of Beach Boys genius Brian Wilson,” writes the Dissolve‘s Noel Murray. “Paul Dano plays Wilson in the 1960s, slowly going crazy as he works on Pet Sounds and Smile, while still fighting old battles with his disapproving father and his more pop-minded bandmate Mike Love. John Cusack plays Wilson in the 1980s, at a time when Wilson had been out of the public eye for years, under the care of micro-managing psychotherapist Dr. Eugene Landy (played by Paul Giamatti at his most cacklingly maniacal). Screenwriter Oren Moverman and producer-director Bill Pohlad have a hard time finding a solid frame for this film, which gradually deteriorates under the usual symptoms of ‘biopicitis’ (shapelessness, corny restagings of eureka moments, distracting imitations of famous folk, whatnot).” More from Andrew Barker (Variety), John DeFore (THR), Kevin Jagernauth (Playlist, B+), Eric Kohn (Indiewire, B+) and Wesley Morris (Grantland).