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Beginners – With a quiet, humerous and contemplative style Beginners stands out as one of 2011’s finest accomplishments.  It tells the story of Oliver (Ewan McGregor), a 38 year old artist emotionally incapable of maintaining a long term relationship.  Oliver’s reluctance to see a relationship through stems from the complicated marriage of his mother and father (Christopher Plummer).  In three paralleling storylines we see a very endearing relationship possibility arise for Oliver soon after his father has died, we watch as he deals with his fathers’ coming out of the closet several years earlier and we see his atypical goings on with his idiosyncratic mother at the age of 10.  All three of these stories serve each other in deft fashion and with a sublime sense of humor.  Every so often a subtitled dog provides the kind of insight and small laughs Oliver needs.

We gradually come to understand why Oliver fears commitment, how parents who are dysfunctional with themselves can seep their issues into the lives of their children and how it’s never too late to find happiness in ones life.  Veteran actor Christopher Plummer turns in one of the most cheerful and effervescent performances of his career.  Ewan McGregor, in a part which could’ve easily become redundantly glum, gives a lot of understanding and empathy to his distant and lonely young man.  Beginners is an emotionally honest film, never schmaltzy or false, and easy to consider as one of the best efforts of the year.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – Who? What? When? Why?  Unless you go into Tinker with an unrelenting, steel trap of a mind, or maybe you’ve already read the book, you’re likely going to be a little lost, a tad befuddled and possibly bewildered.  I’m no slouch when it comes to following difficult narratives but I felt like a blind man with no cane lead into a garden maze and given no more than a good luck pat on the head to get me going.  Tinker has crucial characters we never meet in person, minimal insight into several characters who are deemed important and an unforgiving flash forward, flash back structure which easily confuses the who’s and when’s of what we’re watching.  On one occasion I found myself wondering why I was watching the unfolding story of a character I thought to be clearly dead and gone from the picture.  In the end there is simply the oppressive sensation that a long, detailed and complicated story is being crammed in to a 2 hour plus run time.  A second viewing could perhaps shed some light on things and maybe make Tinker a winner for this viewer, there are a lot of excellent performances to admire, but confusion or no, performance or no, the most consistent feeling I had about it was ‘Why should I care about any of this?’  I couldn’t answer that question.

 

Point Blank – The style and momentum of a Bourne movie gets applied to this brisk kidnapping flick which moves like a well built rocket for 80+ minutes and then explodes before overstaying its welcome.  An mysterious criminal gets chased down by two dangerous pursuers until he’s hit by a motorcycle and sent to the ER unconscious.  The male nurse on duty has a very pregnant wife kidnapped by the criminals’ partner in crime and is forced to get the guy out of the hospital while he’s under police watch.  The cops involved are heinous a-holes, far more corrupt and deadly than the criminals he’s caught up with.  Things spiral out of control for the poor boob and his wife as a conspiracy unwinds and all kinds of mayhem reign down.  It’s fierce, intense and brisk and the screenplay keeps things on target, never wondering off or reaching too far.  Action fans will have a good time with this one.  It is French and it is subtitled.  Get over that and see it.

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