(Reporting by Dan Kois, Karina Longworth, Robert Wilonsky, Nick Pinkerton & J. Hoberman.)
Did I say "Awww" at Babies? I did. Did I giggle at the adorable things babies do in Babies? Oh my, yes. Did I ovulate like a dozen times during Babies? You better believe it. Is Babies a good movie? Of course not. But that's missing the point--like asking if a porn video is a good movie. Babies gets the job done. A canny exercise in feature-length YouTube, Babies follows four international infants from birth to toddling. Cutting from rural Mongolia to Tokyo and from the Namibian desert to San Francisco, director Thomas Balmes shows us little Bayar, Mari, Ponijao, and Hattie as they nurse, sleep, poop, eat, crawl, and play. Baby Bayar is a particular star, a sort of Mongolian Ben Stiller who endures countless indignities at the hands of his mischievous older brother, a yurt-invading rooster, and a thirsty goat. (The audience also really loved it when he peed all over himself.) Other than the passage of time, there's not much of an organizing principle to Babies, and it offers little in the way of context. It's pretty much just straight-up babies, all the way through. This makes it easy to determine who will like Babies. If you're expecting a baby, you'll like Babies. If you once had a baby who is now grown, you'll like Babies. If you have a baby right now, you would like Babies, although, obviously, you'll never be able to leave the house to see it. (D.K.)
Directed by Thomas Balmes. Featuring Bayar, Mari, Ponijao, and Hattie.
79 minutes Rated PG
Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky
Coco Chanel. Igor Stravinsky. Two iconoclasts whose contributions to their respective artistic fields left an indelible mark on the 20th century. Did you know they used to bone? After a lengthy staging of the disastrous 1913 premiere of "The Rite of Spring" (the sole sympathetic set of ears in the audience belonging to the youngish Chanel), Stravinsky jumps ahead a decade. Lacking love, hot shot Coco (Anna Mouglalis) turns workaholic like a proper rom-com heroine; Igor (Mads Mikkelsen), an unpopular genius, is living in squalid exile. She invites him, his sickly wife, and offspring to move in to her country estate, and soon the two artists are furiously humping on the piano. "Your music has more passion," sneers Mrs. Stravinsky, willing to accept the dalliance if it's good for the canon--up to a point. Lit like a David Fincher music video and shot with a gliding camera approximating a wandering eye, Stravinsky strains to convince that its lascivious pleasures have historical import. In the film's 1:1 correlation between erotic indulgence and creative innovation, hot, home-wrecking sex is justifiable only if it directly leads to the invention of Chanel No. 5. Stravinsky is the second corset-ripping French-language romance about the legendary fashion designer to hit American screens in seven months. Here, Coco is cast as a femme fatale who preys on a helpless nebbish--the Audrey Tautou-starring Coco Avant Chanel was much more fun. (K.L.)
115 minutes Rated R
Get Him to the Greek
The roller-coaster spinoff to Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek often feels as if it'll jump the tracks and smash to the ground in a thousand pieces of what-in-the-fuck. It's a complete and utter mess from the big-loud-dumb start to the awwww-that's-so-sweet finish, less a narrative than a loosely-stitched-together hodgepodge of scenes starring the same characters as they hurl toward the titular venue but not before making myriad soused and sentimental pit stops along the way in London, New York, and Las Vegas--all in three days' time, tops. Which is not to suggest that it's not entertaining--far from it. In fact, it's quite the amiable mess and it's occasionally uproarious, mostly due to Russell Brand reprising his role as Aldous Snow, frontman for Infant Sorrow, a sort of Spinal Tap redux. Jonah Hill plays the lower-rung record-label lackey who pitches an Infant Sorrow comeback concert to his boss, Sergio (Sean Combs, never more Puff Daddy than here), and is charged with getting an off-the-wagon Aldous to the show. Hill isn't reprising his role from Forgetting Sarah Marshall--the Hawaiian resort waiter with the creepy crush on Aldous--but a tempered version of said role (and, consequently, most of Hill's stable of outsize characters). Judd Apatow produced--and can't you smell the man-on-man love affair? (R.W.)
Written and directed by Nicholas Stoller. Starring Russell Brand, Jonah Hill, Sean Combs, Elisabeth Moss, and Rose Byrne.
109 minutes Rated R
Iron Man 2
As Iron Man 2 begins, Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark--mechanical genius, Forbes 400 perennial, the pop-star CEO of Stark Industries--has dropped any pretense of a secret identity, dealing now with the murderous envy created by conspicuous success. Enter Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), a rogue Russian physicist whose lifelong grudge against the Stark family inspires him to weld together his own knockoff suit. He'll find a sponsor in CEO Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), a Tony Stark imitator whose Hammer Industries finishes a consistent second place to Stark. The screenplay, by Justin Theroux, trusts that More Is More. There's techie lifestyle porn, hot cars, hot guns, establishing shots jetting from Moscow to Malibu to Monaco, and three dozen comic books' worth of exposition girdled into two straining hours. The elements that made the first Iron Man a rather likable blockbuster have not entirely evaporated. Director Jon Favreau brings together interesting American movie stars and lets them actually play through scenes (even though Rourke and Rockwell play theirs together as if in two different--both interesting--movies). But the only reason Sam Jackson's Agent Nick Fury shows up is, essentially, to do press for the upcoming Avengers movie. This sub-subplot is symptomatic of the franchise-first mindset in the era of the $200M "Episode," where films are constructed less as freestanding edifices than as elements in superstructures. The idea is that we learn to trust that any extraneous-seeming thread will connect to something in another couple of summers and pay off, assuming the movie does. (N.P.)
Directed by Jon Favreau. Written by Justin Theroux. Based on the character created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Don Heck, and Larry Lieber. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Scarlett Johansson.
124 minutes Rated PG-13
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The Killer Inside Me
The premise of The Killer Inside Me--directed by Michael Winterbottom from Jim Thompson's 1952 crime novel--could be summed up in a classified ad: Texas cop with pleasant boyish demeanor seeks compliant dames for sadistic sex games culminating in murder. Thompson's fearsome tale is recounted in the first-person by a blatantly unreliable narrator. Foisting himself on the world as a gentlemanly, platitude-spouting Jimmy Stewart type, Lou Ford is less a character than an act. The ease with which the killer-cop outwits the other characters is matched only by the apparent rationality with which this self-conscious psychopath explicates his increasingly brutal crimes. The Killer Inside Me isn't even so much a novel, let alone a thriller, as a vacuum that inexorably sucks the reader into a moral black hole. Perhaps this malign fiction could have been filmed in the manner of Isidore Isou's notorious Venom and Eternity--a black screen and an unending rant. Winterbottom's version is Classic Comics. The characters are stiffly drawn, the action is fastidiously staged, the production design is self-consciously retro. No shortage of cheap thrills, though: Lou (Casey Affleck) smiles affably as he stubs out his cigarette in a derelict's outstretched palm or sets about beating his adoring punching-bags--a hot little hooker (Jessica Alba) and a hard-faced school teacher (Kate Hudson)--until they're black and blue or (much, much) worse. Winterbottom's greatest asset is Affleck, convincing enough to keep The Killer Inside Me from being just a steamy, stylish, punishing bloodbath. (J.H.)
Directed by Michael Winterbottom. Written by John Curran. Based on the novel by Jim Thompson. Starring Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba, Ned Beatty, and Elias Koteas.
108 minutes Rated R