Admission

Admission posterFocus Features (2013) 107 min. PG-13

Director: Paul Weitz

Screenplay: Karen Croner; based on novel Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Cinematography: Declan Quinn; Editing: Joan Sobel

Production Design: Sarah Knowles; Set Decoration: Susan Perlman

Costumes: Aude Bronson-Howard; Score: Stephen Trask

Stars: Tina Fey (Portia Nathan), Paul Rudd (John Pressman), Michael Sheen (Mark), Lily Tomlin (Susannah), Wallace Shawn (Clarence), Nat Wolff (Jeremiah), Gloria Reuben (Corinne), Olek Krupa (Professor Polokov), Travaris Spears (Nelson)

The way I happened across this Tina Fey-Paul Rudd romantic comedy about a Princeton admissions officer whose life turns upside down after the baby she gave up for adoption nineteen years ago reappears as a flaky, alternative undergrad applicant, was by comic mishap itself. I had gone to the movies planning to see the 3D re-release of Jurassic Park, but was handed a ticket for the wrong theater. Rather than rudely walking out when the mistake became apparent, I figured I’d give it a few minutes and make my exit when Admission became too intolerable and the audience too absorbed in proceedings to notice the departure. But fate works in mysterious ways. Once the movie had wrapped I found myself not only having forgotten about T-Rex, but wishing Hollywood had been overrun by a herd of Tina Fey. Continue reading

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Mama

mama-poster01Universal (2013) 100 min. PG-13

Director: Andrés Muschietti

Screenplay: Neil Cross, Andrés Muschietti & Barbara Muschietti; based on short film Mamá (2008)

Cinematography: Antonio Riestra; Editing: Michele Conroy 

Production Design: Anastasia Masaro 

Costumes: Mark Bridges

Score: Fernando Velázquez

Stars: Jessica Chastain (Annabel), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Lucas/Jeffrey), Megan Charpentier (Victoria), Isabelle Nélisse (Lilly), Daniel Kash (Dr. Dreyfuss), Jane Moffat  (Jean Podolski/Mama [Voice]), Javier Botet (Mama)

Jessica Chastain has proven herself a character acting chameleon over the last few years and her ubiquitous presence gives Andrés Muschietti’s feature-length adaptation of his 2008 Spanish-language short Mamá an aura of class that really isn’t warranted. You never know what hair dye the actress is going to be colored from one role to the next, and after her failed previous nomination, Chastain has gotten the Oscar formula down pat. On competing screens in the tony, high-concept, CIA thriller Zero Dark Thirty, for which she’s nominated for the Academy Award, she’s opened wide for more democratic appeal in the audience pleasing shriek fest Mama, about two feral girls whose adoptive parents discover they’ve brought something equally untamed back out of the wilds with them. Continue reading