Margot at the Wedding
Margot (Nicole Kidman, or someone who looks just like her) is a fiction
writer whose tales are based, uncomfortably and unkindly, on the real-life
family for whom she seems to care very little. Hence, sister Pauline’s
(Jennifer Jason Leigh) late discovery that Margot’s a “monster”—late to her,
not to the audience, which gets glimpses of her cruelty early and often.
Noah Baumbach reunites the siblings in a gray, dreary Hamptons, where
Pauline’s about to marry sour slacker Malcolm (Jack Black, tamped-down and
ill-tempered); Margot has in tow the son she’s close to ruining, unless he
makes his escape. Sharp, funny, and painful—that’s Baumbach’s signature of
late, and it’s writ large in this overlooked dramedy, absent extras except
for a chat with the filmmaker and Jason Leigh, worth another glance.
American Gangster: Unrated Extended Edition
Director Ridley Scott’s take on the true-life tale of Harlem heroin kingpin
Frank Lucas didn’t need to be 18 minutes longer; sounds more like a threat
than a selling point, though the theatrical take’s available here as well.
The movie plays in either state like a cross between Superfly (or
Scarface) and Munich, with Denzel Washington as the
high-livin’, mother-lovin’ dope dealer and Russell Crowe as the rumpled
super copper, ringleading other officers charged with taking down Lucas and
his killer kinfolk. Occasionally thrilling but also TV-show familiar,
American Gangster’s a flashy procedural as tragic epic—and Scott’s
damned proud of his accomplishment, down to the detail of the period garb,
as evidenced in the lengthy making-of starring the real-life Lucas his own
sorta-repentant self. —Robert Wilonsky
Ang Lee has always liked taking movie genres—say, kung-fu flicks or westerns
—and turning them on their ear. Here he’s tackled the erotic thriller, but
those looking for Body Heat will be as disappointed as those who
expected gunplay from Lee’s Brokeback Mountain. Oh, there’s sex all
right— sex as graphic as anything your nephew can find on Google. (Prudes:
There’s also an R-rated version, in addition to the original NC-17 cut.)
Slow but rarely dull, Lust, Caution revolves around political
machinations in 1940s China. Western viewers might feel they’re lacking
context, especially as the line between good and bad grows ever more blurry.
But at the center of the film is the relationship between Tony Leung and
Tang Wei, whose sex scenes reveal what their lie-filled dialogue can’t.
— Jordan Harper
Here in America, the Mafia is dead in both fact and fiction: The Sopranos
are finished, and RICO beat the New York boys like a goombah on a snitch.
But in Palermo, it’s the prosecutors who took the hit, as this poorly made
but fascinating documentary illustrates. Covering the brave battles and
tragic end of an anti-mob lawyer in Sicily, Excellent Cadavers is
grim, full of grainy footage of streets strewn with corpses and interviews
with marked men. Bad news is, the film’s based on a book and narrated by its
author, who reads with all the brio of Laurence Olivier (post death). A note
to journalists and documentary makers: Unless your name is Hunter S.
Thompson, you aren’t the story. Get out of the way and hire an old British
guy to read the narration.— Harper