Friday, October 14, 2022

Blanchett soars in 'TÁR,' 'Rosaline' charms, and 'Halloween' (gulp!) ends?

"TÁR" -- all caps, please -- seriously becomes the perfect title for a film about a self-possessed "Maestra" such as Lydia Tár, even if that isn't her real name (and we're never told if it really is or not).

I mean, so-called "diacritical mark" expertly placed over the rather conspicuous Á and all, "TÁR" just rings of pretentiousness and, depending on one's point of view, so does everything about the character, who neither wears the cape or ever carries the resulting humor of the so-called "Maestro" on that classically funny "Seinfeld" episode.

No, the only classic arrangements in a mostly terrific film directed by the long-absent Todd Field, arrive with the glorious music from the Berlin Philharmonic that this world-famous Lydia conducts, AND a legitimate world-class performance, delivered by an outrageously brilliant Cate Blanchett in giving such memorable life to a fictional character for the ages.

Of course, her writer/director has a little something to do with it, too. After all, Field screenplays earned Oscar nods for his only other films, Best Picture contender "In the Bedroom" and the startling "Little Children." 

Certainly "TÁR" will receive at least a few nominations this year as well, all possible because of this richly complicated genius and some other smart and devoted women in her life. They include the violinist/wife (Nina Hoss, herself significantly memorable from Showtime's "Homeland" a few seasons ago) and the "aspiring" assistant/protege (Noémie Merlant, who was equally fine in "Portrait of a Lady on Fire," itself a 2019 BAFTA nominee).

Rated "R" by MPAA: some language and brief nudity; 2:38; $ $ $ $ out of $5 (and only in theaters)

Another smart gal both helps and disrupts the relationship of fabled lovers Romeo and Juliet in the sarcastically charming "Rosaline," ready for streaming today exclusively on Hulu. 

In fact, the titled player, nicely portrayed by a brightly mischievous Kaitlyn Dever, is not only a modern girl, dressed and set in Shakespeare-inspired medieval times but, in fact, also the first woman in the young life of poetically inclined Romeo (Kyle Allen, also now in "The Greatest Beer Run Ever"). 

Actually, Rosaline adores the lovely way Romeo spews sweet somethings on her balcony more than she does him. Still, when he goes ga-ga over Juliet at the same masquerade ball where he expected a "secret" rendezvous with Rosaline, our heroine uncorks a plot to win him back.

Along the way to fruition, though, it goes more than a bit awry, thanks to an assortment of witty contrivances, not the least of which becomes a meeting with the handsome suitor (big-screen newcomer Sean Teale) Rosaline meets through a dad (Bradley Whitford) eager to marry her off to the highest bidder.

Credit debut feature director Karen Maine with niftily managing more clever writing from the team of Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber ("The Disaster Artist," "500 Days of Summer"), adapting here from the Rebecca Servel novel, "When You Were Mine."

By the way, Maine's nimble supporting cast includes sparkling work from Cleveland's own Isabela Merced, as a cute and bubbly Juliet, and the good-to-see Minnie Driver, as Rosaline's medically trained -- and very funny -- "Nurse."

Rated "PG-13" by MPAA: some suggestive material and brief strong language; 1:36; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

Finally today still two more strong women help pull down the curtain on a 44-year-old slasher franchise in the appropriately titled "Halloween Ends," that is, if it really does happens that way. Naturally, everyone knows leading lady Jamie Lee Curtis, back once more time as rough-and-tumble Laurie Strode, and ever-prepared to dispose of lifelong nemesis and knife-wielding maniac, Michael Myers.

Also returning (at least from the last two "Halloween" chillers) is Andi Matichak, again as Laurie's formidable granddaughter, now also finding a potential main squeeze (Rohan Campbell from Hulu's "Hardy Boys") with plenty of nightmarish dreams to call his own. 

Those come from an intriguingly creepy, babysitting beginning to "Ends," which also gives the good if mentally tortured citizenry of Haddonfield, Ill., more to stew and/or gossip about (as if five decades of bloody butchery isn't enough). Looks likes director David Gordon Greene and a trio of co-writers, including comic-actor Danny McBride, have found some vengefully imaginative and gruesome ways to get into the minds of many of them. 

But will their cinematic tricks, as silly as some are, remain enough of a "Halloween" treat for serious fans? Maybe decide for yourself at your local theater or via streaming on Peacock.

Rated "R" by MPAA: bloody horror violence and gore, language throughout, and some sexual references; 1:49; $ $ $ out of $5 

(Also opening in theaters: "Old Man" and "Terrifier 2." Streaming: "The Curse of Bridge Hollow," on Netfllix)

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