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I cried like a damn baby while watching After the Wedding. So, there you go.

After the Wedding has the distinction of having the lion’s share of its dialogue delivered by Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore and Billy Crudup; that’s a solid pedigree. This remake of a 2006 Swedish/Danish film has a soap-opera plot for sure—but you won’t care when it gets a little melodramatic.

Williams does so much with facial expressions in this movie—it’s otherworldly. As Isabel, a woman visiting New York in an effort to raise funds for her charity, she shows the power of simple expressions. She also reminds us that she’s a master at blowing the roof off the house if the script calls for it.

As Theresa—the businesswoman who might find herself cutting a big check for Isabel and her overseas orphanage—Moore doesn’t just match Williams’ power; she blows the shit out of the acting meter, if such a thing exists. (It doesn’t.) Moore is stunning in the role, whether her character is quietly closing a deal or getting super-drunk at lunch. Moore is also good when the script calls for volume.

This is one of those movies where I really can’t tell you much about it. Yes, it has a wedding in it, as the title implies. Grace (Abby Quinn), daughter of Theresa and Oscar (Crudup), a famous artist, is getting married to lame-guy Frank (Will Chase). Circumstances call for Isabel to attend the wedding, and … well, lots of things happen after the wedding, as the title implies.

The movie gets progressively nutty, going off the tracks and into the land of “this only happens in the movies” … yet I couldn’t help but be deeply moved by what transpires, silly as it was. Again, credit Williams, Moore and Crudup for that.

The film bends logic, has plot holes and includes a mystery that seems rather implausible. And, yet … I wept watching this thing. I’m not saying you will weep. You might watch this movie, and say aloud, “Grimm, you are a stupid wuss!” Well, I accept your wuss remark, and I stand proudly by the fact that this movie made me cry like a kid who had his Etch A Sketch taken away. I realize that the toy reference is a bit dated. I was a child of the ’70s. Piss off.

Sorry … after a good cry, I can be a little cranky. I watched this on a home screener, and I am literally writing this while the tears are still drying on my stupid, fat face. My dog is looking at me all like, “Come on, dude. You have to have bigger balls than that. You are a wuss. Give me food.”

Come Oscar time, I’m not too sure After the Wedding will get any attention. While the performances are as good as anything on screens so far this year, the script is straight out of Days of Our Lives. And, yet, cry, I did. Have I told you that this movie made me cry?

OK, I’m almost to the end of my review, and I think I’ve done a damn fine job of not revealing too much about the plot. This is the part where I will talk about the fine camerawork to pad the word count: The camerawork is really good in this movie. Actually, I’m not just saying that to eat up words, even though that is actually what I’m doing. The camerawork really is top notch.

All right, so this is the final paragraph, and I do realize that most of this wasn’t really a review. Go see After the Wedding if you want to cry, or you simply want some extra fuel to make fun of me with in the event that it doesn’t make you cry. Go ahead. Call me names. I’ve had a good cry, and I’m feeling mighty vulnerable.

After the Wedding is now playing at the Palm Desert 10 Cinemas (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-340-0033).

Published in Reviews

Ridley Scott’s third Alien film is an entertaining mashup of the overreaching-but-cool sensibilities of Prometheus and the old-school dread and “Ick!” factor that made the original Alien one of the best horror and science-fiction films of the 20th century.

Alien: Covenant continues the ruminations about the origins of man birthed in Prometheus while injecting a few more Xenomorphs into the mix. It will please fans of the first two films of the franchise who want the shit scared out of them, while also appeasing those who enjoyed the brainy (if somewhat confusing and inconsistent) ways of Prometheus.

While Scott leaned harder on the horror elements here, his budget is $30 million-plus less than what he had for Prometheus. That film constituted one of cinema’s all-time-great usages of 3-D technology, with flawless special effects. Covenant totally abandons 3-D (money saved), and features some CGI in the opening minutes that looks like something you would see in a low-budget Syfy channel offering.

The film more than makes up for that shoddy computer work once the crew members of the Covenant—a stricken colony ship in danger of not reaching its destination—sets down to scout out a new planet as an alternate, closer option. The expedition is led by a new commander (Billy Crudup) after the original captain passed away (in an eyebrow-raising cameo).

Things look encouraging at first: There is fresh water, breathable air and even wheat fields, on the plus side. After a quick search for a transmission they received drawing them to the planet, they discover the horseshoe ship piloted by Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and David the android (Michael Fassbender) at the end of Prometheus. After this discovery, the minus side begins to get a lot of check marks.

They are on the Engineer planet, the origin of Earth’s creation, and the place where they created the bio weapon meant to destroy us. David has been surviving on the planet for more than a decade, but where’s Elizabeth? Where are the Engineers? Only David knows, and David, as you might remember from Prometheus, is a bit dickish.

The film allows for another mind-bending performance by Fassbender: Not only is he playing David, but also Walter, the upgraded android from the new expedition. The two androids are essentially the devil and Jesus in this movie, and they share an interesting flute tutorial that suggests androids can have sexual/incest impulses. Fassbender, as with Prometheus, is the main reason to see Covenant.

That is, he’s the main reason to see Covenant besides the triumphant return of the Xenomorphs. The face-huggers and chest-bursters return, along with some new bad bastards including the back-burster and the face-burster. When they grow up (quite rapidly), they become all forms of H.R. Giger’s inspired creepy madness. Unlike Cameron’s Aliens, these Xenomorphs aren’t interested in cocooning. They are more interested in stuff like popping heads off and doing that claw-between-the-legs move that Veronica Cartwright endured in the original Alien’s most-horrifying moment.

Beyond Crudup and Danny McBride as ship-pilot Tennessee, nobody else in the cast really distinguishes themselves beyond being fodder for the aliens. Katherine Waterston is OK as the film’s main protagonist, Daniels, but her role ultimately feels like a greatest-hits compilation of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and Rapace’s Shaw.

Where does this rank in the Alien franchise? I’d say fourth, behind Alien, Aliens and Prometheus, and just above the unfairly maligned Alien 3. It’s a good time for Ridley Scott and Xenomorph fans, and it continues the existential offerings of Prometheus. Had they taken the time to work a little harder on those early effects, and fleshed out the cast members a little better, it could’ve surpassed Prometheus.

Scott is promising at least two more films leading up to the events of his original Alien, while apparently putting the kibosh on the Aliens sequel that was in the works for director Neil Blomkamp. That’s the one that would’ve brought back Ripley, Hicks (Michael Biehn) and Newt.

Dammit! That would’ve been cool.

Alien: Covenant is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig and Billy Crudup shine in 20th Century Women, Mike Mills’ ode to his unusual mother, who raised him in the late 1970s and tried to like punk music as much as she could.

Bening is terrific as Dorothea. She represents the prototypical late-1970s woman—still cool, but perhaps slowing down a bit due to too many cigarettes and a general disillusionment with the changing culture. Mills uses Dorothea as a sort of narrator from the future who talks about the events of the film while observing from a perch in years ahead. It’s an interesting technique, and Bening’s performance is a career milestone.

Gerwig and Fanning are great as two different women who hang around Dorothea’s apartment, both with their own highly interesting subplots. Cruddup chimes in capably as a local handyman who will sleep with you if you ask him to.

I love the way this film utilizes music on its soundtrack, from Talking Heads to The Buzzcocks. This is a great depiction of the late 1970s, with a vibe that feels authentic.

20th Century Women is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

In Jackie, director Pablo Larrain addresses the terrible times following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy through the eyes of Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman), the closest witness to the gory death of her husband. The film addresses notions never really discussed in film before, such as Jackie’s decision to march in the open air at her husband’s funeral.

Portman, after a little career lull, comes roaring back with an amazingly accurate portrayal. (She nails that beautifully strange accent.) Peter Sarsgaard is excellent as a justifiably angry Bobby Kennedy, as is Billy Crudup as a journalist doing an exclusive interview with Jackie soon after the shooting. The film accurately captures the look of the early 1960s, right down to Jackie’s pillbox hat.

Of all the films made about the assassination of JFK, this one is the most personal, and it does an admirable job of showing what an influence Jackie was while examining her icon status. Portman will most certainly get an Oscar nomination for this one—and it will be deserved.

Jackie is now playing at the Camelot Theatres (2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs; 760-325-6565); the Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 (72777 Dinah Shore Drive, Rancho Mirage; 844-462-7342); and the Palm Desert 10 Cinemas (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-340-0033).

Published in Reviews

Spotlight stands as one of the all-time-great films about newspaper reporting; the story at its center is remarkable.

In 2001, Spotlight, an investigative division of The Boston Globe, gets tasked with investigating child-molesting priests. What starts as a few cases grows to cases involving almost 90 priests in the Boston area alone—none of them criminally prosecuted.

Special kudos go to Mark Ruffalo as Mike Rezendes, the real reporter who helped bring the story to the public. Ruffalo captures the spirit of a hungry reporter without resorting to any clichés. His Rezendes feels like the real thing; a moment when he loses his temper is one of the better screen moments 2015 has to offer.

He’s not alone in the brilliant category. Michael Keaton is terrific as Walter “Robby” Robinson, the Spotlight editor who suddenly finds himself and his staff up against a powerful Catholic Church. Rachel McAdams is totally convincing as reporter Sacha Pfeiffer, while Liev Schreiber gets his best role in years as head editor Marty Baron.

The film also co-stars Stanley Tucci, John Slattery and Billy Crudup. They, and everything about this film, are first rate.

Spotlight is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews