Ricki and the Flash
Meryl Streep is an acknowledged great, usually able to make any film she appears in something better than it might have otherwise been. Emphasis on the usually: some films are irretrievable, and even Streep can’t rescue them. Consider the film adaptation of August: Osage County, which tried to shoehorn a sprawling, three-act Southern Gothic stage work into a fairly compact movie with Streep as the aging matriarch at its center. Even Streep couldn’t make up for the lack of buildup, for the inability of the audience to decipher the complications of a large, dysfunctional family in such a short period of time. In Ricki and the Flash, Streep plays Ricki, an aging rock-and-roller—a rebel who left her husband and children a long time ago in favor of life on the road—who returns to her family to try to be a mother for her struggling, grown-up daughter. As Ricki, Streep is all leather and spikes, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that except that it’s very…’80s. Back home in Indiana, the people all stare at her as if it were…the ’50s. If you want to see a very tame film about rock and roll, this is the one for you.
Shaun the Sheep
We’re all familiar with wordless cartoons—Tom and Jerry, Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, etc. They’re usually only five minutes apiece, though—whenever they get extended, their characters miraculously develop powers of speech. Now Aardman, who brought the world such treasures as Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run, brings us Shaun the Sheep, a feature-length animated film with no talking. Based on their popular TV show of the same name, this Aardman film is obviously designed to appeal to pre-lingual children, although their parents will surely enjoy being along for the ride. Older children might find the film a little condescending.
Jason Bateman stars as Simon in The Gift, a suspense thriller in the manner of Hitchcock that, at 108 minutes, happily clocks in at a Hitchockian length. Moving back to his hometown, Simon and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) bump into Gordo (Joel Edgerton) who, claiming to be a high school acquaintance of Simon’s, is creepily desirous of friendship with the couple. Naturally, all of Gordo’s friendly gestures towards Simon and Robyn are somehow edgy—he leaves a very expensive bottle of wine on their front stoop, he populates their small pond with koi. Familiar as we are with the conventions of thrillers, we know Gordo is bad news—but how will it play out? Hint: Bateman, who is best known for his comedy roles, is here cast against type.