Susan Sarandon gets a fun vehicle she deserves with this fine directorial effort from Lorene Scafaria (Seeking a Friend at the End of the World), who also wrote the clever and sweet screenplay. Sarandon plays Marnie, a New Jersey widow who has moved to L.A. to be near her daughter, Lorie (Rose Byrne), a screenwriter dealing with the breakup of her latest relationship. Marnie has a bunch of money and a lot of time on her hands, so she calls her daughter constantly, brings her bagels, and basically drives her crazy. When Lorie heads back east to shoot a pilot, Marnie winds up befriending Lorie’s friends and making a few new ones, including Zipper (J.K. Simmons) and his chickens. Sarandon takes what could be a cliché character and makes her an endearing one, imbibing Marnie with a genuine warmness that makes her a welcomed “meddler” rather than a nuisance. Byrne disappears for a good chunk of the movie, but when she’s around, she and Sarandon have convincing mother-daughter chemistry. Simmons, normally the purveyor of brash, harsh and funny characters gets to show off his soft side, and Zipper is a real winner. It’s a cute movie that isn’t too cute, and a must for Sarandon fans. Cecily Strong, Lucy Punch and Michael McKean have small but memorable roles among the strong supporting cast.
4 Captain America: Civil WarThis is a nice blast of superhero fun that finds a diplomatic way to include many Marvel favorites, even introducing a few characters to the modern Marvel Cinematic Universe, without feeling crowded or rushed. Front and center, there’s Steve Rogers (former Human Torch Chris Evans), a.k.a. Captain America, still having bro issues when it comes to the Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). Cap wants to back up his former best friend, but the guy committed some pretty shady acts while brainwashed, some of them very hard to defend. Captain America has to make some hard choices. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) thought Age of Ultron sucked for more than the obvious reasons. On top of being kind of boring, it left death and destruction in its wake, as did the far more exciting original The Avengers. World leaders want to put the Avengers in check, using them as a sort of alternative to nuclear weapons. Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., still owning it) suffering a crisis of conscience, agrees to the proposed accord. Rogers thinks it’s bullshit and won’t sign. This works as a fine setup for an eventual battle between Iron Man and Captain America, where both sides have compelling reasons to fight. It’s actually hard to pick a side in this movie, making the confrontation all the more fun.