Quick takes on Godzilla, The Double, Fading Gigolo, and more

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While I recently linked to my reviews of Only Lovers Left Alive (4 stars), Neighbors (3 stars), and a few others, and shared opinions on Under the Skin (4 stars) and Enemy (4 stars), I have caught up with some additional films over the past few weeks at home and in the theater. Here are brief thoughts on a few:

  • Godzilla: The buzz that Gareth Edwards’ film was a “stingy” blockbuster is indeed correct, yet it mostly works. Some very interesting actors are stuck with pretty uninteresting roles, but it’s still highly entertaining and very well-made. I must give some credit to a summer tentpole that stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, the lovely and ultra-talented Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, and Juliette Binoche, and features a score by Alexandre Desplat. 3 stars
  • The Double: Wow. I expected to embrace Richard Ayoade’s follow-up to Submarine, but did not expect to be knocked out so strongly. The Double is a darkly comic, unsettling, and visually stunning, with a perfect performance from Jesse Eisenberg. 4 stars
  • Fading Gigolo: John Tuturro’s film is best when Woody Allen is onscreen. When he isn’t … it’s still watchable. But Woody almost makes it great. 3 stars
  • Finding Vivian Maeir: Fascinating, if never more, this is a documentary that succeeds in making the viewer want to learn more about its subject. That’s no small feat. 3 stars
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Good, but not great; I wish the film was as strong as the casting (Redford!). Scarlett Johansson steals every scene she’s in. 3 stars
  • Blood Ties: Great soundtrack (“New York Groove”!), incredible cast (Marion Cotillard, Mila Kunis, Clive Owen, Matthias Schoenaerts), but it’s nothing we have not seen before, and better. Still, it is worth sticking with. 2 ½ stars
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: I know I should severely dislike Ben Stiller’s syrupy failed Christmas hit but … I kind of enjoyed it. Well, some of it. 2 ½ stars  
  • Afterschool: Antonio Campos’s debut was as dark and unsettling as his second, Simon Killer. Disturbing, yes, but undoubtedly compelling. 3 stars      
  • The Invisible Woman: Ralph Fiennes’s film came and went quietly come Oscar time, but I found it extremely underrated. He and Felicity Jones deserved to be in the Oscar conversation. 3 ½ stars      
  • Thor: The Dark World: I enjoy the Marvel films, I do. But the first Thor left me cold, and this absurd sequel bored me to tears. 2 stars     
  • Gloria: A wonderful film with a fabulous lead performance from Paulina García, but co-star Sergio Hernández is also worth recognizing. 3 1/2 stars
  • Saving Mr. Banks: A miss, for me. Strong casting (especially Hanks) and a neat concept, but it simply did not work. 2 stars 
  • Fast & Furious 6: More of the same, but don’t tell me it isn’t fun. 2 ½ stars
  • August: Osage County: I feel like this should have been special, but instead was merely watchable and shout-y. 2 ½ stars
  • Out of the Furnace: Ugh. Major disappointment on all levels. 2 stars      
  • Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues: Also a disappointment, the second chapter in the Ron Burgundy saga still has its share of laughs. 2 ½ stars  
  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom: When seeing this biopic in Toronto, a technical glitch caused the first critics’ screening to end after 45 minutes. I did not make it to the rescheduled screening, but I did not miss a great deal. My initial opinion — that Idris Elba and Naomie Harris shined, and the film did not — was dead on. 2 stars