‘The Devil’s Advocate’
News is that Al Pacino can no longer remember his lines when on stage, forcing the legend to peek at lines displayed from the wings. (Eerily, he played an actor who couldn’t get through more than a few words of “King Lear” in this year’s “The Humbling.”) At least on film he doesn’t have to remember entire texts at a time. The shoutiest, most over-the-top parts of 1997’s “The Devil’s Advocate” have Pacino using all his energy in bursts, shouting and screaming and quipping as the head of a powerful law firm who’s also the devil, probably. He’s the opposite of a sleepy Keanu Reeves, as a good ol’ country lawyer bewitched into his firm. Though perhaps more magnetic than Pacino is Charlize Theron, as Reeves’ wife, who delivers an achingly sincere portrait of a woman slowly unraveling. It’s a ridiculous movie writ large, but when she’s onscreen she brings it down to earth.
‘A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence’
Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson labored for years in commercials, of which he made hundreds, each a burst of deadpan joy. His last three movies — “Songs from the Second Floor,” “You the Living” and this, his latest — have taken the shtick to feature length, delighting in comedic one-take wonders that out-Wes Anderson Wes Anderson in their complexity and OCD timing. Once again, there’s no real plot, just a series of sketches that sometimes relate or feature the same funny-sadsack characters. From a bit where ship passengers wonder what to do with the meal purchased by a guy who’s just croaked to the misadventures of two depresso novelty gag salesmen to a bar that’s overridden by a army from the past, it’s worth not just a spin but several of them, just to marvel at their density.
This summer Sean Baker made the mainstream (or the indie side of it, anyway) a touch more diverse with “Tangerine,” a rollicking farce that was a) shot on an iPhone and, even more importantly, b) cast with trans actors as trans characters. Pushing the limits of what’s accepted by society runs through his films, including this 2012 dramedy about a young women (Bree Hemingway) and an old woman (Besedka Johnson) who bond. But it’s not what you think, and not only because of the mid-film revelation of what our young hero does for a living — a shock that immediately becomes normalized.