By Steve Greene | Criticwire August 1, 2012 at 10:06AM
When "Celeste and Jesse Forever" had its premiere at Sundance, Criticwire posted a roundup of grades from the festival, where we put the film in a category with some underwhelming performers. Since then, its residual feedback has improved to the point where, given the weekend's sparse batch of new releases, it has risen to become our Criticwire Pick of the Week.
Lee Toland Kreiger’s latest film highlights a recently divorced couple whose relationship maintains its friendliness even after the marriage’s dissolution. Alongside Andy Samberg, actress Rashida Jones serves as both co-star and co-writer of the story, and she’s drawn a majority of the critical attention as a result. For Kim Voynar at Movie City News, Jones’ character was a high point in a consistently solid tale. "The writing of the character of Celeste – this driven, in-control, strong woman who has to be 'right' all the time, who fails to see and nurture the positive things about her relationship with Jesse until it’s too late to go back and fix what’s broken, was wrenching and real," Voynar writes. In a less glowing write-up for Screen Daily, Tim Grierson still gives the film credit for the interplay of the central relationship. "'Celeste and Jesse Forever' is consistently amusing without ever being truly uproarious," Grierson writes, adding, "Consequently, the film is mostly sweet and pleasant, its investigations into matters of the heart engaging, if not particularly poignant."
The latest from "City of God" director Fernando Meirelles seems to be drawing attention for the wrong reasons (there came word last week that one negative review almost drove screenwriter Peter Morgan to retirement). But the tepid response to "360" is not just coming from those who would inspire an early industry exit. The film examines a global series of relationships revolving around various levels of intimacy. Despite an impressive assemblance of actors, the film is being criticized for its lack of substance. Putting "360" in the context of Meirelles’ larger filmography in a post for Thompson on Hollywood, Matt Brennan writes that "the visceral can only take you so far, even when accomplished with Meirelles' efficiency. When you take away the stylistic fireworks, what's left is a penchant for weak, incomplete stories, pieced together with spit and glue, or for 'message' movies, the cinematic equivalent of wheat grass." The Playlist’s Cory Everett argues that "the film gets at some interesting thoughts about people’s capacity for duplicity, but spreads itself thin on too many stories, not all of them as compelling as they need to be." We assembled other assorted feedback to "360" in a previous installment of our VODetails feature, which you can read here.
Comedies surrounding the relative ease or difficulty of conceiving a child seem to have come in a steady stream over the past few years. Where the new film "The Babymakers" seems to have stumbled is by not doing enough to distinguish itself from similar fare. Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar (who also joins the cast in the film’s second half), "Babymakers" stars Paul Schneider and Olivia Munn as a married couple who find that they’re unable to have a child, leading Tommy to resort to drastic measures in order to create a family. In a scathing review at Film School Rejects, Kate Erbland describes the film as "packed with all of the markers that we’ve come to expect from current 'Hangover' and Apatow-inspired comedy – it’s raunchy and dirty and even occasionally offensive – but there’s no bite or originality behind any of it, it just feels tired and wrung out." The Playlist’s Todd Gilchrist points to Chandrashekar’s directorial contributions as a sticking point. "Overall, Chandrasekhar’s first tentative venture towards something slightly more sincere is undermined by, quite frankly, his irresistible urge to take the piss out of every sequence that might have been played even remotely seriously," he writes.
Finally, the reviews are beginning to trickle in for the new “Total Recall” reboot. As you wait for them to proliferate, contextualize the criticism by reading Matt Singer's commentary that takes a look back at the original.