With blond hair extensions, torpedoed jeans, six inch platform sandals, and enough makeup to make Cleopatra or Lady Gaga wince with envy, I unsuccessfully tried to blend with the young, lustful banshees at a screening of "21 Jump Street". Naively unaware that it had been a television series, starring Johnny Depp.
Surprises are often camouflaged and twenty minutes into the movie I found myself enjoying the raunchy silliness: Channing Tatum, "Jenko" and Jonah Hill, "Schmidt" were masterful in their portrayals of "brawn' and "brain" role reversals; high school contemporaries: Schmidt, the brainy, unnoticed nerd; Jenko the handsome, thought -starved hunk; meet seven years later at the police academy, becoming friends; their failures at law enforcement are hilarious and as a last resort they are sent to a High School posing as students and brothers; actually, undercover cops unearthing drug dealers and their sources. Nice performance by Dave Franco (clone of his brother James) as "Eric" the entrepreneur of illegal issue.
What follows is an interesting study of reliving your past in "another boy's shoes"; Jenko's metamorphosis from dumb to not- so- dumb, finalizing in discovered intelligence was revealing; he earns the respect of his fellow chemists. Likewise, Schmidt discovers the aphrodisiac of popularity, overindulges and is penalized.
This movie will appeal massively to the multitudes of twenty and thirty- year- olds; those who loved "The 40 Year Old Virgin", "Hangover", "Knocked Up"; films I left or chose not to see.
The performances of Hill and Tatum resonate with perfect comedic pitch, compelling chemistry, even genuine, convincing sincerity. A lesson in how ephemeral are the rules of "cool"; surprisingly, maturity springs from unlikely fountains at implausible moments.
TWO & 1/2 STARS!!
This film tries desperately to find a balance between three generations and fails miserably.
Jane Fonda is "Grace" a fossil of Woodstock (1969) with salt and peppered tresses flowing, like "Rapunzel", down her back; garbed in kaftans of a bygone era; growing and selling marijuana; an embarrassingly, practicing, septuagenarian "sex goddess"; spewing platitudinous drivel; still protesting war, any war (most likely waving leftover placards from the Vietnam debacle).
Catherine Keener, "Diane" a straight- laced, poker -faced, lawyer, Grace's soon- to -be divorced daughter; is frigidly paralyzed in this dimensionless role; she has not seen her mother in twenty years, (Grace sold marijuana at Diane's wedding, was jailed, unfortunately for the audience, temporarily); their meeting and the predictable outcome is the core of this senseless, idiotic script.
Elizabeth Olsen, "Zoe" (granddaughter/daughter of the above) the last piece of the isosceles triangle; equally dull, vapid but prettier and perpetually spouting intellectual sophisms.
Rent "Woodstock", 1970 Oscar winner for best documentary; starring Joan Baez, Richie Havens, Joe Cocker; they epitomized the "age of Aquarius" and grew up.
An outstanding film, pivotal in addressing the magnetism of the classical world of ballet, is "The Red Shoes" made in 1948 and starring Moira Shearer and Anton Walbrook; why pursue an art form that cripples, deforms, eliminates childhood, loves; rewards: fleeting, ephemeral?
Bess Kargman's "First Position" answers the question as she delves into the the lives and psyches of seven children struggling to compete in the Youth America Grand Prix; five thousand world wide participants, pared down to three hundred; eventually only a handful will garnish trophies and scholarships. Seven disparate children, ranging in age from ten to seventeen are the focus of this insightful, sensitive documentary. Despite their differences, they all possess Olympian dedication, drive, vision to excel; pushing, punishing, demanding from their bodies grotesquely unimaginable feats; defying nature, gravity, commanding their souls to soar, fly with the butterflies, kiss the wind, touch and achieve, even surpass their whimsical, wildest aspirations.
Those who have flirted with the definitive realm of ballet will recognize the torturous hours of practice, mangled toes, deformed arches, pneumatic ankles; falls, stumbles, that murder years of study; fervor, commitment, wills of iron propel them to dismiss the pain and forge forward.
"First Position" examines the families of the gifted, and the inimitable sacrifices they sustain to support their prodigies: "Joan Sebastian" rises from the poverty of Columbia; a visit home is one of the most compelling moments in the film; "Miko" of Asian-American descent, her passion and love of ballet is fed, nurtured by an overly -supportive, driven mother; "Michaela" an orphan from devastated Sierra Leone is given a chance to thrive by her adoptive parents, hers is a contemporary fairy tale; "Aran" divinely endowed, whose military family goes to monumental lengths to cater to their virtuoso son.
Unlike "Black Swan" "First Position" shuns the dark side of this mystical, magical profession; eating disorders, unhealthy rivalries , ruined lives. Instead, Kargman perspicaciously probes the hunger, ambition, tenacity, maturity lurking beneath the surface of these young, aspiring devotees of ballet.
Concluding, with a passage from "The Red Shoes", a conversation between "Vicky" the ballerina, and impresario "Lermontov" :
Lermontov: "Why do you want to dance?"
Vicky: "Why do you want to live?"
Lermontov: "Well I don't know exactly, but....I must."
Vicky: "That is my answer too."
"First Position" touches upon, clarifies the illusive, messianic power that sabotages and monopolizes those individuals who live only to dance and dance only to live!
Jack Black is reason enough to see "Bernie". With subtle nuances he completely and compellingly grasps the depth of assistant mortician, "Bernie Tiede" in 1998 Carthage, Texas; commencing with a devotional master-class on the pristine treatment of a corpse: unwanted hair removal, makeup, creative use of Elmer's Glue in fastening eyelids and lips; his sculptor's hands compassionately, wizardly transform the dead into an object of beauty.
A non-fictional tale about Bernie and his relationship with the contemptible, malicious, spiteful, wealthy widow, "Marjorie Nugent" ( stridently, succinctly depicted by Shirley MacLaine); their unlikely pairing progresses from heady, intrepid world-wide adventures to suffocating sycophancy, slavery. He is thirty-nine; she, eighty-one.
The story unfolds in a series of flashbacks (brilliant ploy by director Richard Linklater); the majority of Carthage, male and female, idolize Bernie: in possession of Marjorie's wealth, mimicking "Dolly Levi" he spreads it, like manure, throughout the community: Church, schools, would- be entrepreneurs. Bernie loves God, humanity; his love requited, unanimously; whereas Marjorie is a thriving misanthrope, despised, called a "snake", universally hated.
The crux of the scenario focuses on the demise of their friendship; in searching for reasons, answers, the viewer is served some delicious, macabre, hilarious scenes.
Matthew McConaughey is the district attorney, "Buck Davidson": the blot, tarnish, bane of Bernie's reputation. His levity is finely balanced with the blindly, over- zealous sentiments of Bernie's devotees.
Black shines, croons ("Love Lifted Me"); riveting in his sincerity; ambiguous in his sexual persuasion; his hours spent with Bernie Tiede, resulting in a prime specimen of "method acting", reminiscent of "Brandoesque" potency.
THREE & 1/2 STARS!!!
Hysteria, a derivative of the Greek word "hystera" meaning uterus, a malady uniquely female; symptoms included fainting, nervous disorders, erratic behavior, in essence a euphemism for sexual frustration.
"Hysteria" addresses the ageless epidemic, and its cure, focusing on women in late nineteenth -century, Victorian England.
Hugh Dancy is "Dr. Mortimer Granville", perpetually fired from hospitals because of his revolutionary ideas (stresses the value of cleanliness in the curative process); after an exhaustive search is hired by "Dr. Dalrymple" (Jonathan Pryce manages to dignify the role of sexual savior with "Prycian" savoir-faire) as an assistant in his vastly expanding, lucrative practice.
The film is saved from silliness by luminous Maggie Gyllenhaal as "Charlotte" a suffragette, precursor of women's liberation, in constant battle with her father, Dr. Dalrymple to finance her "settlement house"; she is fire and brimstone , governing every scene; she is poetic in her justification of women's equality; shattering the shackles of male dominance, she is a majestic tornado, a life -force impossible to restrain, a whirling dervish, breaking the mold of Victorian mores, aka "hysterical"!
Charlotte's counterpart is her sister "Emily" (doll-like, Felicity Jones), archetypical, pristine model of the "male Victorian gaze"; hers is a subtle transformation that matches nicely with her sister's tempestuous, fiery nature.
Rupert Everett, whose handsome countenance is camouflaged by a Freudian beard, is "Edmund" Dr. Granville's entitled, tinkering friend; pivotal in the discovery of the electric gadget that frees women from the waiting rooms of the Drs. Dalrymple/Granville. This discovery is the source of a myriad of "paroxysms", hilarious scenes.
Creativity comes in a variety of genres; inventiveness should be lauded. "Hysteria" is not a great film but courageous in tackling the taboo of sexual inadequacies; appetites, no longer unrequited. "Hysteria" is a reminder of the debt owed to Dr. William Gilbert (1600 English physician) , Benjamin Franklin, Mortimer Granville whose research in electricity continues to "vibrate" throughout history.
TWO & 1/2 STARS!!
Without a doubt the finest film of 2012 ( midway through the year). It conquers, surpasses, breaks the barometer of perfection. Based on a true story combining pathos, pain, humor, levity but primarily a portrait of love, acceptance, inclusiveness; it sings and dances joyously to your spirit; rarely do you leave a film feeling enriched, enhanced, a better person because you have been privy, blessed in witnessing the transformative power of friendship; friendship that gloriously transcends race, class, education.
"Philippe", ( iconic French film star, a Dustin Hoffman lookalike, Francois Cluzet, gives an astounding performance) a member of the French aristocracy is paralyzed from the neck down, hires "Driss" (Omar Sy, a French television notable, flawlessly matched with Cluzet) as his caretaker, a charismatic black man of Senegalese origins. Two disparate individuals, learning to cope and learn from each other, nary a vibe of sycophantism, sensationalism, never sacrificing their individuality but expanding the boundaries of their diametrically contrasting worlds.
Directors Eric Toledano and Oliver Nakache gift audiences an unforgettable, genuine, heart-thrilling study of the human condition; as a viewer you bond, love and most pivotally like these men. Philippe, the philistine, poet, reveling in Revel and Berlioz versus Driss, dancing rhythmically with the style of Fred Astaire, dexterity of Michael Jackson to sinuous lyrics by "Earth, Wind and Fire".
This is a marriage, partnership where both parties flourish. Driss transforms Philippe's existence, exposing his frozen body to the lush landscape of France, the curative power of marijuana, strolling the naked avenues of Paris at 4am. Philippe, with unlimited wealth spreads his largess on this boy from the projects; private jets, art world, opera; all synergistic scenes of uproarious humor and unmitigated glee.
"The Intouchables" touches sensitively on the vicissitudes of being completely dependent on another human being; what most of us take for granted eating, bathing, dressing, Philippe, needs, relies on Driss. Brilliantly depicted, without a fraction of bleeding histrionics , these challenges are met without loss of dignity; acceptance, without whining or ruing one's fate.
I truly loved this rousing, exhilarating, harmonious portrayal of incandescent happiness.
This stunning, exhilarating film based on Norway's most popular fiction writer, Jo Nesbo's novel, of the same name, is gruesome; a feast for cravers of guts and gore will have a gluttonously good time. Squeamish beware, you will be groaning and covering your eyes 25% of the film. "Headhunters" deifies boredom; it is horrific and hilarious simultaneously, and staggeringly well-constructed.
From the slick beginning "Roger" (diminutive, beautiful, immensely talented Aksel Hennie) instructs the viewer on the "art" of the perfect steal; replacing genuine art works with passable fakes; in and out in less then ten minutes; owners unaware of the rape of their masterpieces. This clandestine enterprise supplements a lifestyle mountains above his means, a desire to satiate his wife, "Diana" (luminously lovely, statuesque Synnove Macody Lund) a goddess, a willow of wonder, beauty, refinement and genuine niceness, who is opening her own art gallery.
Roger's day job as an executive "headhunter" for Pathfinders; his masterful skill of manipulation, cutting to the core of the interviewees with salient questions; Napoleonic in his control of the interview process; shattered when he encounters "Clas"(devastating handsome, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. "Game of Thrones" fans will recognize him as "Jamie Lannister"); a mercenary with a mission and a "Rubens"masterpiece. Here are protagonists, brilliantly matched and meteoric in their respective quests; keen action, at times implausible, flawless entertainment at roller- coaster intensity; palpating chases, escapes that will seal you to your seats. Creatively, director Morton Tyldum, elaborates on a scene in "Slumdog Millionaire", unforgettable in its grossness; desperation, survival, drive men to do the unthinkable.
"Headhunters" assiduously, exponentially plummets the viewer with genuine, pulsating pleasure; leaving the theatre lusting for more, knowing the exorbitant price of admission was worth every kroner.
FOUR & 1/2 STARS!!!!
Watching this film, Karl Marx's decree "religion is the opium of the people" kept galloping through my mind; religion can be addictive, controlling, destructive, resulting in anything but perfection.
Kathleen Turner is "Eileen Cleary", nominated for "Catholic Woman of the Year"; her every neurotic breath is informed by her obsessive/compulsive desire to follow the rules of the Church, eventually attaining perpetual forgiveness, cleansing of her tarnished soul. Turner (sadly missing all shades of the siren in "Body Heat") gives a genuine performance of a woman locked in archaic conventions; desperately trying to shape her twenty-first century children into nineteenth century molds of tradition. After the New Testament, running a close second, is the over-indulged mantra of "cleanliness is next to godliness"; unfortunately, no matter how tenaciously she prays or vacuums, her son will not be less- divorced or her daughter less -gay.
A "host" of placid, one-dimensional characters rob the film of any depth or adhesive power.
Devoted, dedicated Catholics will writhe with justified ire, when in a heated argument Eileen screams "I don't have to think, I am a Catholic".
All prayed for a "final conclusion", not caring a hoot whether she wins the Catholic Woman of the Year award; her competition was a vindictive, mean-spirited, snipe of a woman. The hierarchy are painted in beige, barely human hues.
I did like the end of "The Perfect Family" but not enough to redeem the pain of having to view such drivel; on the plus side, in the witnessing process, sins of the past, present and future have been expunged.
ONE & 1/2 STARS!
Caveat: Being self-employed has its advantages, there is not enough money in my zip code to induce me to see "Dark Shadows" or " Whatever Happened to Johnny Depp?"
"THE HUNTER" (On Demand) starring the remarkable, fearless, William DaFoe as "Martin", a mercenary hired by an untoward biotech company to "capture" the last, illusive Tasmanian Tiger; reasons being highly suspect. "Martin" is frigid, calculating, cemented to his mission, his every move honed to perfection, never a misplaced step or unprovoked action; mind, body and temperament conditioned by his trade.
His facade is fissured by the "host" family; husband gone missing, self-medicating wife, two precocious, unattended children. Skillfully, the plot revolves around Martin's matriculation from cold -blooded "hunter", discovering untapped, virginal reservoirs of emotions. The children are the catalyst; the "tiger" completes Martin's metamorphosis.
"The Hunter" is mesmerizing, mysterious, unnerving, disturbing and harbors plenty of "Tasmanian Devils", contributing chillingly to the fear factor.
"MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS", The perfect recipe comprised of every iconic, universal savior: "The Iron Man" (Robert Downey, Jr.; "Captain America" (Chris Evans); "The Incredible Hulk" (Mark Ruffalo); "Thor" (Chris Hemsthorth) the Norse god of thunder and lightening, wields his anvil and fells countless villains. My favorites were "Loki" , the Norse god of fire and trickery (aesthetically, beautifully mendacious portrayal by Tom Hiddleston) and the "Black Widow" (red- headed, buffed, lethal combination of "Lisbeth Salander and "Evelyn Salt", Scarlett Johansson). The 220 million dollars spent on this visual extravaganza guarantees a good time for both audience and actors!