Kicks! Quick reviews of ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and ‘The Following’

January 23, 2013 

‘Silver Linings Playbook’

•  In theaters now; nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Director

Romantic comedies, with very few exceptions, are painful to sit through.

They’re stuffed full of cliché after cliché, and anyone with just a passing knowledge of Matthew McConaughey movies knows how they’ll end.

So, how do you shake up this stale, tired formula? Add bipolar disorder, promiscuity, superstition and the Philadelphia Eagles.

“Silver Linings Playbook” is the first romantic comedy since “When Harry Met Sally” that really works for this reviewer. That’s because, in both cases, the filmmakers and the cast show us slices of real life, not the fairy tale version.

Bradley Cooper moves back in with parents Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro following his release from a mental institution after hitting rock bottom when he finds his wife in the shower with another man.

He’s on a quest to better himself and reunite with his wife, even though it’s frustratingly apparent there’s no chance for reconciliation. It can be a little irksome to watch a character reach for the unattainable, but hey, doesn’t love make us all a little nuts?

Cooper is given the best role of his career so far, and it’s nice to see De Niro, playing an Eagles fanatic who uses the game as a way to bond with his son, remind us why he’s considered one of the best actors alive. Plus, that’s Chris Tucker and he‘s not in a “Rush Hour“ movie.

But there are two words for why this film reaches greatness: Jennifer Lawrence.

There are no shades of Katniss Everdeen in Tiffany, the young widow suffering from depression after the loss of her husband, who drowns her sorrows in the beds of pretty much anyone.

Tiffany is also brutally honest and unfiltered, and Lawrence brings insanity, vulnerability and brashness to the part. She’s crazy good.

Cooper and Lawrence have amazing chemistry together, and you root for this couple to end up together. Director David O. Russell, of “The Fighter” fame, for the most part keeps their courtship on an unconventional path.

Yes, the climax has the two competing in a dance competition and a cliché’ or two enters into the mix. But at this point, you don’t care. It’s the nutty, bumpy journey to this end that sets “Silver Linings Playbook” apart from the junk that’s classified as romantic comedy. Embrace the lunacy.

Brad Dickerson, bdickerson@thesunnews.com


‘The Following’

• TV series shows Monday nights at 9 p.m. on Fox.

• Note | This review contains spoilers.

“The Following” is a new thriller from Fox that features prominent star power in Kevin Bacon, who plays Ryan Hardy, an ex-FBI agent responsible for the pursuit and capture of notorious serial killer Joe Carroll, played by James Purefoy. But when Carroll escapes from prison several years later, Hardy is called to bring him to justice once again.

The pilot leads off with the escape. But it’s not the desperate kind seen in the FOX thriller “Prison Break.” This escape leaves blood, carnage and bodies in its wake and Carroll is casually driving away as the prison guards realize too late what’s happened. Carroll instantly makes for an intriguing villain because even though almost every escapee looks over their shoulder at least once to see if they’re being pursued, he never shows a single sign of concern.

We’re then introduced to Carroll’s opposite number and the man responsible for his capture, Hardy. However, it’s clear Hardy has seen better days, as evidenced by the bottle of water he gulps down, disposes of in a bin with an empty bottle of liquor, then retrieves and fills with vodka when he agrees to help recapture Carroll. We also see a scar on his chest, later revealed to have come from Carroll’s knife. It’s clear Carroll put Hardy through a lot in the first round, and one has to question whether or not he’ll be able to stand the tests Carroll puts in front of him as the series goes on.

The scene then shifts to the house of Sarah Fuller, played by Maggie Grace of “Lost” and “Taken” fame, as she is informed of Carroll’s escape. Here we get our first of several flashbacks, each of which serves to show how killer, victim and pursuer all knew each other in some way. This particular flashback is of a courtroom where Sarah is describing her encounter with Carroll, covering in vivid detail how he stabbed her and she “just wanted it to be over.”

The camera focuses once again on Hardy as he views the crime scene. However, it’s obvious not everyone is thrilled to have Hardy back in their presence, though why isn’t wholly clear after just one episode. In his search of Carroll’s cell, Hardy discovers that Carroll was allowed access to literature, including a book written by Hardy about Carroll. Inside is a note from Carroll in which he looks forward to the “sequel.”

Several secondary characters, all of whom it seems will be playing a larger role in the series, are introduced during this time as well. Among those introduced are Sarah Fuller’s neighbors, a couple she’s known for a few years, Claire Matthews, the ex-wife of the murderous Carroll, her son Joey, and his babysitter whose name isn’t given.

A literature professor at Winslow University, Hardy revealed that the reason Carroll wasn’t just brutally murdering women. He was “creating art” as homage to his favorite author, Edgar Allen Poe.

While agents scramble to get the Internet records they inexplicably didn’t get before Hardy brought it up, one of the woman stands up, removes her clothes, and utters the phrase “Lord, help my poor soul,” before fatally stabbing herself in the eye. She also has a disposable cellphone with a message saying “Do it now,” and we’ve got our first “follower” of Carroll.

Soon after, one of Carroll’s guards is revealed to have aided in his escape and received first-hand training in the art of murder from Carroll. The question is: how many of Carroll’s 100-plus visitors did he convert to help him kill? What did he teach them? How brutal will the crimes become?

After more work than it probably should have taken, Hardy and his team finally realize that Carroll intends to finish off Sarah Fuller, but by the time they arrive she’s been taken, but not by any of the police guarding her. Hardy figures out where she’ been taken and slips away. But he’s no spring chicken anymore and Carroll easily gets the drop on him before revealing that Sarah Fuller has already been brutally murdered. Next, he does something unexpected. He surrenders.

In the show’s final scene, we are given the showdown: Hardy versus Carroll. Carroll promises the sequel will be a collaboration between the two. Then, he goes for the knockout punch. Actually, it’s fair to say he goes for several. Carroll knows that Hardy slept with his wife, which is easy enough for the audience to have pieced together already. He wants Hardy to be his flawed hero, claiming he insured that by killing Sarah.

The first episode of “The Following” contained more intrigue in one hour than some shows muster in an entire season, and it’s everything you want in a thriller. After one episode, we’ve got a high body count, a kidnapped child, and a network of people prepared to do whatever Carroll has ordained for them to do. Based on what we’ve seen so far, this show should have quite the following itself when all is said and done.

Kyle Drapeau, For The Sun News

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