Reel Life mini-review: "Hello I Must Be Going"
Melanie Lynskey, a New Zealand actress known mostly for nailing her supporting roles, gets the meatiest lead of her career as Amy, a depressed, pouty, introverted thirty-something divorcee forced to withstand the humiliation of moving back with her parents (Blythe Danner and John Rubenstein) and reverting to a hellish existence of parental dependency.
At a party, she meets a handsome 19-year-old wannabe actor named Jeremy (a beguiling Christopher Abbott). Bam! Her batteries get recharged in a flash. Now she's sneaking around with Jeremy like a teenager back in high school.
Normally, this should be a breakthrough role for Lynskey, but not under the restrained direction of Todd Louiso, who avoids exploiting opportunities for needed humor, plus he tamps down whatever emotional payoffs Lynskey has to offer.
The handsomely photographed but dramatically tepid "Hello I Must be Going" is nearly stolen by newcomer Abbott, who punches through Louiso's low-key social milieu with slow-burn intensity.
"Hello I Must Be Going" opens at the Century Centre Cinema in Chicago and the Renaissance Place Cinema in Highland Park. Rated R for language and sexual situations. 95 minutes. ★ ★ ½
Reel Life mini-review: "Liberal Arts"
Josh Radnor's romantic comedy "Liberal Arts" serves as a small-scale look at the aging process, capped by a wise professor's proclamation that the world's dirtiest secret is that nobody at any age actually feels like a mature adult.
That comes from Peter (DeKalb native Richard Jenkins), a retiring, cheerfully leftist professor at Ohio's Kenyon College where 35-year-old Jesse (Radnor) went to school oh so many years ago.
When Jesse returns to campus for Peter's retirement bash (it's kind of a fizzle), he meets Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), a 19-year-old student totally into improv (the rule is "always say yes!") and older guys, at least Jesse. They begin a slow and lengthy romance by old-fashioned letter writing (no emails!) and give each other quaint mix-tapes.
It's refreshing to see a movie where the guy actually possesses intelligence, sensitivity, a sense of honor and doesn't succumb to easy temptation as do most leads in R-rated high school sex comedies.
But Radnor the director can't shake the sitcom foundation of this pleasant, made-for-TV-looking project. Zac Efron's mysterious perpetual student (or 1960s Kenyon spirit?) pops in from time to time to drop some wacky wisdom on Jesse, who comes to the aid of a super-intellectual manic-depressive student named Dean (John Magaro).
Radnor the writer fills the script with literary frills and deftly sidesteps the ways we think the plot will take us.
The powerhouse performances here belong to Jenkins as the professor who has a tough time finding his identity outside the bubble of college, and the great Allison Janney as Jesse's old lit professor, a perfectly rendered case study in pragmatic bitterness.
"Liberal Arts" opens at the Century Centre in Chicago. Not rated, but recommended for mature audiences for language. 97 minutes. ★ ★ ★
These punks feel lucky
Congratulations to the many Daily Herald readers who took up Tuesday's challenge to find 21 Clint Eastwood movie titles not-so-subtlely embedded in the text of our profile on Rolling Meadows native Robert Lorenz, making his directorial debut with Eastwood's latest movie "Trouble With the Curve."
Kathy Oberfranc of Palatine and Cindi Lamkin are the two big winners who went beyond the call of duty. There were actually 22 Eastwood movie titles in the story (plus sidebar). Kathy and Cindi spotted all 22. (Sorry, contestants, but Eastwood's Man With No Name is not considered a movie title.)
Special thanks to the first 10 readers who submitted (most if not all of) the requested 21 titles: Willie Mills of Roselle, Denny Nicholson of Hoffman Estates, Linda Barrett of Palatine, Lois Seijo of Lombard, Ed Hoskins of Pingree Grove, Nancy Giardina of Libertyville, Sharon Cartwright, Mindy Rutherford of Huntley, Kim Mackey of Lake Zurich and Tom Soerens of St. Charles.
The titles in order: "Trouble With the Curve," "The Rookie," "Absolute Power," "Dirty Harry," "Hereafter," "The Gauntlet," "Magnum Force," "A Perfect World," "Any Which Way You Can," "Sudden Impact," "Breezy," "Tightrope," "The Bridges of Madison County," "The Beguiled," "In the Line of Fire," "Unforgiven," "Million Dollar Baby," "Mystic River," "Blood Work," "Space Cowboys," "True Crime" and "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."
Reel Life critic's notes:
• The fourth annual Elgin Short Film Festival starts at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, at the Hemmens Auditorium, Elgin. Five finalists will be screened, with guest judges choosing the best of the fest. (As I'm one of the judges, I will be there in person. Introduce yourself if you get a chance.) A special People's Choice Award will also be presented, based on the audience's popular vote. Go to hemmens.org/annualfilmfestival.html for tickets and schedules.
• Back on the silver screen for one week! St. Charles native Nick Smith's harrowing 2011 suspense tale "Munger Road," shot over 16 nights in Bartlett, St. Charles, Elburn, Geneva and Sugar Grove. The thriller, starring Oscar nominee Bruce Davison as the police chief, opens at the Charlestowne 18 Theatres, 3740 E. Main Street in St. Charles Sept. 28 when director/writer Smith will appear in person to discuss his movie. Go to classiccinemas.com. FYI: "Munger Road" is also available on DVD and VOD.
•The Naperville Independent Film Festival continues through Saturday at various venues. Go to naperfilmfest.org for tickets.
• As part of the Naperville fest, Chicago's own actor and poet Michael Madsen makes personal appearances at Naperville's Hollywood Palms cinema (352 S. Route 59) from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on both Friday (Sept. 21) and Saturday (Sept. 22). He'll also bolt over to the Hollywood Bvld. cinema in Woodridge from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Madsen's three favorite movies -- "Reservoir Dogs," "Vice" and "Strength and Honour" -- will be shown at the theaters. Go to atriptothemovies.com.
• The Chicago South Asia Film Festival continues at the Showplace Icon Theater, 150 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago, and at Columbia College in Chicago through Sunday. Go to csaff.org for tickets and schedules.
• The United Film Festival continues through Sept. 27 at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. South Port Ave., Chicago. Go to theunitedfest.com/chicago/ for tickets.
• "Sadermania: From Fanship to Friendship," a documentary about the unlikely friendship between Chicagoan Chris Sader and pro wrestling legend Hulk Hogan, plays at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26, at Emmett's Ale House, 110 N. Brockway St., Palatine. Filmmakers will be there to conduct a Q-&-A. It's part of the ongoing Blue Whiskey Film Series supporting the annual Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival at Palatine's Cutting Hall. Tickets cost $5 in advance; $7 at the door. Go to bwiff.com.