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Capsule reviews of `Puss in Boots,' `Like Crazy'

The Associated Press, Wednesday, October 26, 2011, 8:33am (PDT)

"Anonymous" — A funny, showy, sexy performance from Rhys Ifans livens up what is often a heavy-handed and needlessly complicated exploration of the theory that maybe William Shakespeare didn't really write all those plays and sonnets after all. Instead, the film suggests, Ifans' Earl of Oxford was the true author but he had to disguise his identity because his writing so often provided pointed criticism of royal scandals and foibles. Roland Emmerich works from his meatiest and most sophisticated script yet, the work of John Orloff — then again, we are talking about the director of "Independence Day," "The Day After Tomorrow" and "2012." And all the rich period detail is in place, alongside the kind of big, sweeping aerial shots you'd expect from the maker of blockbusters. But the script jumps back and forth in time so quickly, it convolutes the narrative rather than propelling it forward; you'll have to stop frequently to remind yourself who is who. At the same time, "Anonymous" is too often on-the-nose, quoting Shakespeare's most famous words: the "To be or not to be" speech from "Hamlet," or the "Now is the winter of our discontent" soliloquy that opens "Richard III." Perhaps that seemed necessary to make this type of specific, academic material accessible to the widest possible audience, but it also seems too obvious. Still, "Anonymous" has its moments. In a bit of stunt casting that pays off beautifully, Vanessa Redgrave and her daughter, Joely Richardson, both play Queen Elizabeth I at different times, and both infuse the figure with vibrancy and quick wit. And it is sort of an amusing thought that the actual person whose name was William Shakespeare was a drunk, lascivious, illiterate lout. PG-13 for some violence and sexual content. 129 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Like Crazy" — This doomed romance creates an increasing sense of tension, a tightening in your gut. It makes you squirm in your seat — not because the angst of the young love depicted on screen is so vivid and relatable, but because these two people are so incredibly annoying together, you'd much rather see them apart. Actually, the scenes in which Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones are living separate lives in different cities make more sense. Sure, they had their fun, but clearly it's not going to work, so it's time to move on. But no, this is supposed to be a cosmic first love that transcends all reason, so writer-director Drake Doremus keeps shoving them back together, keeps finding strained ways for their lives to intertwine. Yelchin and Jones do have some chemistry early on, though, in the halcyon glow of their blossoming relationship. He's a Los Angeles college student; she's a British classmate of his who's here on a student visa. They fall hard and fast and in no time they're reciting poetry and making scrapbooks and furniture for each other. But then the morning she's supposed to fly back to London because her visa has run out, she decides she'll just stay. She knows she's supposed to return, if only for a couple of months, but that's too long for them to be apart. They're young and in love — the rules shouldn't apply! So she sticks around for one more blissful summer, with some serious consequences. From here, "Like Crazy" traces the various text messages and terse conversations, missed connections and misplaced anger that plague these two as they try to navigate the complicated immigration system. PG-13 for sexual content and brief strong language. 89 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Puss in Boots" — A spinoff of the "Shrek" franchise, this is actually a prequel, providing the origin story of the diminutive, swashbuckling kitty voiced with great charisma, as always, by Antonio Banderas. The "Shrek" movies may not even exist as far we're concerned here, which is fine, because they just kept getting worse (last year's "Shrek Forever After," in 3-D, felt especially flat). But the franchise reboots anew, if you'll pardon the pun, with great energy, creativity and aplomb. At the film's start, Puss is an outlaw in his own small, Spanish hometown. Flashbacks take us to his childhood at an orphanage, where he was best friends with a brainy, ambitious Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis). Together, the two dreamed of stealing the magic beans, climbing the beanstalk and getting rich off some golden eggs. Now, that crime has become Humpty's obsession. His partner in this caper is the dangerous master thief Kitty Softpaws, voiced with slinky seduction by Banderas' frequent co-star, Salma Hayek. But since Puss is a lover as much as he's a fighter, you know he'll find a way to win her over. The Puss in Boots character eventually felt like the best part of the "Shrek" movies, but a little of him goes a long way. Giving him an entire movie of his own would seem like a stretch, and really, he has trouble sustaining his shtick for the film's 90-minute running time. But for quick, lively, family entertainment, "Puss in Boots" works just fine, even in 3-D, which is actually integrated thoughtfully into the narrative and doesn't just feel like a gimmick. PG for some adventure action and mild rude humor. 90 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"The Rum Diary" — If Batman and the X-Men get prequels, why not Hunter S. Thompson? The film is based on Thompson's heavily autobiographical novel that he wrote as a 22-year-old in the early 1960s after a stint as a newspaper reporter in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This is Thompson pre-Gonzo, just a young novelist-reporter (technically an alter ego named Paul Kemp, played by Johnny Depp) trying to find his voice as a writer. Director Bruce Robinson ("Withnail & I"), to his credit, keeps the film grounded, giving a more realistic, less cartoonish picture of Thompson. Kemp finds his identity in Puerto Rico, where he's pulled between a dying newspaper (Richard Jenkins plays the exasperated editor-in-chief) and the allure of a sleazy but wealthy American businessman (Aaron Eckhart), who's building a giant resort development. This builds slowly for Kemp into a moral crisis and, finally, an artistic tipping point. "I don't know how to write like me," he says, but by the end of the film, it's clear Kemp/Thompson has found his legs. Still, "The Rum Diary," entertaining and well-intended, comes just shy of discovering its own voice. Amber Heard nearly steals the movie as Eckhart's fiancee. With Michael Rispoli and Giovanni Ribisi. R for language, brief drug use and sexuality. 120 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

— Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer

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