‘About a Boy’
Hugh Grant is one of those actors who doesn’t get why people like him, which partially explains why he’s done less than 10 movies since 2002’s “About a Boy.” It’s a shame, not only is Grant retro charming, but this dramedy — about a middle aged rich kid (Grant) bonding with a latchkey actual kid (Nicholas Hoult) — seemed like a watershed moment for an actor who had been typecast as either stammering rom-com heroes or jerks. “Boy” takes some big licenses with the Nick Hornby source, including completely ditching the Kurt Cobain-centered third act, but it’s really all about Grant's deeply felt performance, converying his character's growing self-hatred at the non-life he’s created for himself is touching without being cloying. Ditto the rest of it.
One of the year’s best films, this German drama features plastic surgery, fortune hunting and a transformation right out of “Vertigo.” But “Phoenix” never seems preposterous, and always comes off cool and quietly devastating. Nina Hoss' Nelly is severely disfigured by her time in a concentration camp and finds herself, post-WWII, cozying up to the lover (Ronald Zehrfeld) who betrayed her to the Nazis. He doesn’t recognize her, but he still involves her in a scheme to fleece her old family for an inheritance. Like his star, director Christian Petzold (“Barbara”) keeps everything close to the vest, patiently building to a final scene that blows the lid off, and how.
No one remembers the 2000 remake of this 1967 comedy, right? The one with Brendan Fraser as a palooka who gets some romantic aid by Satan herself (Elizabeth Hurley)? Good. Bad redos can tarnish brands, especially ones as rarified and odd as the first big movie for comedy duo Dudley Moore and Peter Cook, and the only one, alas, of any note. Sprightly and grouchy, “Bedazzled” also sights Stanley Donenas its director, who by the late ’60s had moved from the elegance of “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Royal Wedding” to quasi-experimental, giddily adopting such modern tics as crazy zooms and hyper-cutting. The episode where Cook’s devilish Spiggott transports Moore’s Stanley into a live black-and-white music revue TV show features some of the era’s most dazzling uses of Cinemascope space.