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Movie Reviews

Adam

Directed by Max Mayer
Previews for “Adam” make it seem like an awkward romantic comedy of sorts, but it strays from that formula both in narrative and in terms of the lead character. Adam (Hugh Dancy) is a smart and caring young man whose father has just died and who now finds himself living alone in a New York apartment. When a new neighbor moves in, they repeatedly run into each other in the building.

What Beth (Rose Byrne) doesn’t realize at first is that the seemingly socially inept Adam actually has Asperger’s syndrome.  

Managing to “laugh with” more than “laugh at”, “Adam” has the potential to do for high-functioning autism and related conditions what a film like the documentary “Murderball” did for people with spinal cord injuries. Both films and genres managing to put a very personable face on conditions that most in the audience have no direct experience with. The story itself won’t satisfy everybody (few if any do) but this is a movie that manages to balance humor and pathos, with the potential to make audiences laugh and cry.  That it does this while also educating the audience is noteworthy and makes for an affecting and worthwhile experience.  

In the Loop

Directed by Armand Iannucci
Here’s a sleeper movie that took me totally by surprise and had me at risk of laughing off a certain body part (if I hadn’t been sitting on it). “In the Loop” is a bitingly satirical look at politics and decision making in international relations. Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) is a low-level cabinet minister in the UK and a bit of an idiot when faced with a camera or a microphone. He’s not a bad guy, but he mistakenly goes off his talking points with an ambiguous statement about the likelihood of war that becomes a catalyst for hawkish forces in both the UK and the US.  

Meanwhile, a young congressional staffer in the US (Anna Chlumsky of “My Girl”) has written a paper that compares the arguments for and against war, and criticizes the flimsy source of information that supports the hawks’ position. With a limited but hilarious and representative cast of characters, there’s enough here that is close to the mark to be a wonderful parody of out of control and manipulative party politics, where winning the game is at least as important as the underlying issues, even war. Of particular note is Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker, the British Prime Minister’s main advisor, an acerbic attack dog whose foul-mouth stream of consciousness is like an extreme amalgam of every political pundit to grace CNN and/or Fox TV. Probably the most thoughtful fun I’ve had at the theater all summer.

Taking Woodstock

Directed by Ang Lee
This is a fun telling of the story behind 1969’s Woodstock concert, surprisingly faithful to the events and circumstances. “Taking Woodstock” is at its best when it focuses on the people who made the concert happen—and at its weakest when trying to depict the concert itself. The film primarily recounts the events from the perspective of Elliot Tiber (Teichberg in the movie – played by Demetri Martin), a young man who was helping to run his parent’s failing motel and who happened to have a permit for a music festival when the event organizers were kicked out of a nearby town.  

Realistically, an event that drew a half-million people to a dairy farm in upstate New York is harder to recreate than the conversations and arguments that preceded it. I preferred when the concert itself was off-screen. But it’s a worthwhile  way to mark the 40th anniversary and a neat way to spend an evening with a cool cast (including Liev Schreiber, Emile Hirsch, and Eugene Levy) and a great director (Ang Lee: “Brokeback Mountain,” “The Ice Storm”).

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell hard

Directed by Neal Brennan
“The Goods…” has a first act that plays like a funny, extended skit—and a timely one as the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program empties car lots across the country. The basic premise revolves around a colorful team of mercenary-style car sales-people who are brought in to revive the fortunes of a failing used car dealership. It’s an amusing concept that works for about as long as it’s being introduced, and then collapses under the weight of a story that has nowhere to go. The best way to appreciate this one would be to catch the first 30 minutes before ducking out and watching something better (which would include any of the other films described here and just about anything else available at the theater).


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