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New releases: The Great Buck Howard, The Golden Boys 

THE GREAT BUCK HOWARD

***

John Malkovich's greatest performance will probably always remain his turn as, well, John Malkovich in Spike Jonze's Being John Malkovich, but that's not to say this versatile actor isn't always adding memorable bits to an increasingly impressive portfolio. Thanks to writer-director Sean McGinly, Malkovich triumphs again, this time portraying the title role in The Great Buck Howard. A slight yet satisfying show-biz tale that occasionally recalls such similar works as Broadway Danny Rose and My Favorite Year, this focuses on Troy (Colin Hanks), a young man who quits law school in order to find out what he really wants to do with his life. As he tries to figure it out, he takes a job as the road manager for Buck Howard, a temperamental mentalist who's convinced that his comeback rests just around the corner. As portrayed by Malkovich, Buck is a man who's by turns sympathetic, cruel, charming and egotistical. It's a socko piece of acting, and while the likable Hanks is rarely more than adequate, Emily Blunt comes along (playing a no-nonsense publicist) and more than holds her own with a sly, charming performance. From narcissistic entertainers to overzealous fans, The Great Buck Howard has something to say about almost everyone positioned up and down the chain of command. This expose is more congenial than acidic, but it's difficult not to like any movie in which a character states, "My college roommate was managing a multimillion dollar hedge fund, and here I was, helping Buck Howard with his benefit starring Gary Coleman and the guy from the Police Academy movies."

THE GOLDEN BOYS

**1/2

Between them, veteran actors David Carradine, Rip Torn and Bruce Dern have racked up 147 years of screen time, and The Golden Boys capitalizes on that vast pool of experience by allowing these three performers full rein to work their movie mojo. It's impossible to recommend this piffle to anyone who doesn't possess an ounce of interest in these accomplished thespians or the filmic heritage from which they draw, but seniors and cinema buffs might derive some modest measure of pleasure from the end result. Working from a 1904 novel by Joseph C. Lincoln titled Cap'n Eri: A Story of the Coast, The Golden Boys centers on three septuagenerian sea captains sharing a Cape Cod home. Deciding that they need a woman to look after them -- but unwilling to pay for a housekeeper -- the crusty trio decides that one of them must immediately find a wife. Captain Zeb (Carradine) and Captain Perez (Dern) are let off the hook when Captain Jerry (Torn) loses the coin toss, but once the chosen woman -- the sensible, middle-aged Martha (Mariel Hemingway) -- enters their lives and the twice-married Jerry continues to balk at the idea of getting hitched yet again, the other two men find themselves captivated by her charm and intelligence. Charles Durning, looking shockingly frail at 86, turns up as a God-fearing man who believes actions speak louder than words, while John Savage, the spring chicken among the males at the age of 59, appears as a city slicker who wants to introduce (gasp!) rum to this quiet community. Other characters flutter in and out of the story, but really, all that matters here is the triumvirate heading the cast. These three vets are a delight to watch, even if the movie around them remains soggy.

 

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