A misleading title. This is a "revolution" of immensely talented contemporary dancers, struggling to make their skills known to the world, Miami in particular. Under the sobriquet "The Mob" they stage and film their performances on the streets of Miami, Art Museums, City Hall. They are competing for a grand YouTube prize; they have to garnish the "hits".
The silly, soapy, predictable scenario does not detract from the best choreography seen on today's screen; gifted young dancers whose aerobic liquidity, fluidity, levity defies gravity; every sequence exponentially outshines the previous one; brilliant, stunning moves, tightly, perfectly scripted staging; this "revolution" is awe-inspiring.
Founders of "The Mob": "Sean" (Ryan Guzman) and "Eddy" (Misha Hamilton) poor boys whose neighborhood is targeted for demolition by mega-hotelier (unsurprisingly, the "ugly" capitalist) "Bill Anderson" (Peter Gallagher), wanting the glitzy, glamorous side of Miami to recognize their legitimate contribution to the cultural depth of the city.
Sean meets "Emily" (Kathryn McCormick) unaware that she is the daughter of Mr. Anderson; their first number is a sensual, sinuous, sensational duet; a pairing reminiscent of George Bernard Shaw's statement that "dancing is a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire"; simmering potency, conveying in movement a language, words could never achieve.
Creativity abounds, amazes; all ethnicities dazzle, every solo unique unto the individual; breathless, refreshing entertainment.
Beth Jones says "to dance is to reach for a word that doesn't exist". "Step Up Revolution" speaks volumes about the extraordinary power of dance to convey joy, pain, healing; dance has alchemical properties capable of transforming individuals, communities, continents.
Slick, sophisticated beginning, quickly sinks into mediocrity, partially because director Rodrigo Cortes's ambitious mission and script are too erudite; his preoccupation and ardour of science and the cloudy, empirical world of the paranormal becomes detrimental, confusing; looses its path and the audience.
Sigourney Weaver plays "Dr. Margaret Matheson" a psychologist specializing in debunking, exposing sensational, charlatan psychics. The part was written with her in mind and she owns it completely. She is assisted by "Tom Buckley" (gifted, beautiful Irish actor, Cillian Murphy, at first viable, flounders, fades as a legitimate scientist); the power of the film rests in their relationship; in one classroom scene they demonstrate how the paranormal mystique can be achieved by slight of hand, diversion, chiaroscuro . It was a partnership that, with a rewrite could have earned the film another star.
Robert De Niro, as blind "Simon Silver" the slimiest and most renown of the psychics, emerges after a thirty-year hiatus, to taunt and tempt the disbelievers; mesmerize, followers; his ranting oratories, enhanced by pyrotechnics, gimmicks at the Cirque du Soleil level, veins popping, screaming at a preacher's pitch are laughable annoyances.
Elizabeth Olsen is totally miscast as "Sally" a precocious student, romantically involved with Tom. "Sally", sadly should have been eliminated from the script; her mundane lines, and affected intelligence were an embarrassing distraction; largest sin: the complete lack of chemistry between she and Tom.
In conclusion Cortes should have paid heed to Occam's Razor: "Red Lights" lacked an economy of succinctness; inaccessible, unsatisfying solutions, to the unnatural occurrences of the inexplicable phenomena of the paranormal.
If you have never ventured, but always wondered, lusted for the exotic, compelling mystique of India, "Trishna" dishes up a savory cacophony of sounds, sights, contrasts so vividly realistic, pulsating with polluted, congested, dark, dusky corridors, blinding, sun- scorched fields, man and mammal wedded by culture and necessity; still imbued with a "class" conscious, constricted society; director Michael Winterbottom, without obfuscation, paints the myriad of flaws, fallacies, magical beauty, torturous poverty of this enigmatic world, almost to the point of distraction; the plot is secondary to the seductive, secretive lure of this exhilarating, turbulent, fascinating country.
"Trishna" is an updated version of Thomas Hardy's 1891, "Tess of the d'Urbervilles"; Victorian England, women still hibernating in the "chattel age"; commencement of the Industrial Revolution; beautiful "Tess" of diminished wealth and proper credentials, limited choices, grapples archaic restrictions, interacts with the gentry determining her fate in late nineteenth century. The book is a classic and it was with trepidation that I ventured into "Trishna" , mimicking the bonds of "Tess" in twenty- first century India.
India, still in postpartum turmoil; adjusting to democracy; a burgeoning economy; graft among its leaders; vast explosion of humanity; trying to sever the ancient hubris of "class". India was the perfect venue for the Hardy's scenario; he would have been satisfied with the interpretation.
The heart, core and success of the film rests with the intoxicating performance of Freida Pinto as "Trishna"; quietly, pristinely innocent, oblivious of her beauty, devoid of options she contributes to the survival of her family by working as a hostess in a tourist resort. Enter "Jay" of Indian heritage, raised in England, ignorant of his native tongue but dumbfounded by the virginal, breathtaking, surreal naivety of Trishna; in their first encounters she refers to him as "sir"; his hierarchy (class) untouchable, unattainable. Riz Ahmed as Jay is prodigious as the handsome, spoiled, feckless cad who hires Trishna to work in one of his father's hotels.
As the film progresses from the mighty and feeble in Rajasthan to the elite and sophisticated in Mumbai we witness the transformation of Trishna and Jay, from idyllic to sycophantic to destined. Trishna blossoms from child to sensual maturity, always with a touch of fatalism; control of her future illusive, a mirage of her imagination. Pinto is illuminating in the role.
The pungent pulse of India simmers throughout the predictable plot; enervating heat cloaks the occupants in overcrowded buses; airless huts harboring neglected, partially clothed children; barefoot, colorful, sari-clad, women working in bleak, dungeon-like factories for a few rupees a day; contrasted with the Olympic grandeur, dancing splendor of India's resplendence resorts. Winterbottom grasps the dichotomies, dynamics, dimensions of India and shares his astuteness with the world!
THREE & 1/2 STARS!!!
It is rare, but at times one recognizes a well-made film, beautifully-acted, a tale resonating with verisimilitude but fails to entice, engross or fully entertain ; "Farewell, My Queen" falls into this category.
July 14, 1789, Versailles, France; King Louis XVI, and Queen Marie Antoinette are about to meet their historical fates; the imminent bombarding of the Bastille; luxury interspersed with mewing, starving locals; torrid tension between masters and servants; the stage is set for final farewells. Director Benoit Jacquot's focus is on three women with colossal complexities: Marie Antoinette (faceted, sensitive performance by Diane Kruger) spoiled, sculpted by her title and jewels, agonizing and positively fearful of the demise of her greatest passion, "Gabrielle de Polignac" (blandly, beautiful Virginie Ledoyen); "Sidonie Laborde" lady-in-waiting, the Queen's reader (forceful, intriguing performance by Lea Seydoux), her love and devotion for the Queen (largely unreciprocated, but positively expected) dangerously flirts with the destructive; she is intelligent but defined and refined by her idolatrous, royal obsession. Seydoux grasps the crux of Laborde and never relinquishes her custody of the role.
Jacquot is successful in depicting the foppery and foibles of the monarchy, myopia and sycophancy of those closeted at Versailles (a gilded prison); ironically, their only means of escape, is disguised as the meager citizens they, without conscience had raped for generations, denying them their inalienable rights.
What was extremely problematic and robbed the film of enjoyment was the hand-held camera; the intimacy was annoying to the point of nausea, vertigo; every pore, bead of perspiration, mole, disheveled, powdered wig was nastily shoveled at the viewer; perspective eliminated by bludgeoning, over-exposure, exploitation of the senses, by this popular, but in this instance failed, filming technique. It was also dark to the point of drudgery, with the exception of the shimmering opulence, magnificent halls of Versailles; a resplendent metaphor of why their privileged, entitled world, toppled.
TWO & 1/2 STARS!!
Anyone who has had their first brush with adolescence has fantasized about the perfect partner; the one who completes the puzzle, the conundrum that is "you"; conforms to your ideal; meets and exceeds all your expectations; plainly put, the "love of your life."
"Ruby Sparks" is one of the most compelling, enchanting films of the summer. Created by, and starring Zoe Kazan ("Ruby"), a gifted young woman with an enviable imagination, celestial blue eyes. Ruby's ethereal, luminescent, stunning as the sprite who morphs from the pages of novelist "Calvin" (Paul Dano); a prodigy, who has been wandering in a desert of "wordless" uncertainty. Dano's performance is galvanizing and vulnerable, simultaneously.
I was ambushed emotionally, psychologically, intellectually from the first scene; a lonely, uninspired "genius", Calvin searches for answers on the couch of physiatrist, Dr. Rosenthal , (a small, Freudian role by a wonderfully ageing Elliott Gould); he gives Calvin an assignment and "Ruby" bursts forth, his "Venus", slaughtering writers-block, solitude; loving without boundaries, restrictions. Calvin, a contemporary Pygmalion, with language, sculpts his muse; her lineage, her moods, accomplishments, all that she is, at his creative whim.
"Ruby Sparks" speaks in a myriad of tongues; the simplistic turns complex; enchantment births disenchantment; the adage "be careful what you wish for, â€¦" becomes imperturbable, deleterious.
"Ruby Sparks" is an eloquent, romantic comedy with exhilarating depth; scrutinizing the pathos, turbulence of relationships. How often have we said "if only" he/she were: taller, thinner, brighter, did not snore, smoke, leave hair in the sink, the lights on, interrupt, clean up, etc. If only he/she liked opera/baseball, Indian/French cuisine, fiction/nonfiction; instead of questioning what's missing, discover, unearth what's there.
"Ruby Sparks" elucidates while entertaining, a dynamic duo; a film that surreptitiously enables the viewer to ponder, examine their relationships, exiting, asking not "what you can do for me, but what can I do for you?"
"Ruby Sparks" is about freedom, acceptance; serving a tale of love as refreshing as the quietest breeze on a sweltering summer day!
For "Batman" devotees, if you have not seen it, you must. For the rest of the movie-going crowd be forewarned that it is bleak and massively "dark"; possibly because director Christopher Nolan was astute enough to throw in a heavy dose of reality; daily, we witness the fanatics, armed with nuclear might, threaten world security.
Christian Bale is "Bruce Wayne" ("Batman") suffering from agoraphobia, who can fault him after the vicissitudes he experienced in "The Dark Night". He is cared for by the ubiquitous, faithful "Alfred" (another seasoned performance by Michael Caine); is forced back to the battlefield, as protector, savior of Gotham from the menace of profound annihilation, perpetrated by a demon, an amoral psychopath "Bane" (Tom Hardy) whose face is disguised by a grid resembling a radiator; his voice imbued with the tenor of someone trapped in the bowels of a colossal cave; he was unsatisfying as the horrifying nemesis, the "bane" of Batman's and Gotham's survival.
The film serves gargantuan portions of death, destruction and mayhem; gore enhanced by digitization; viewers lampooned by one gruesome demise after another. Blackness alleviated by the electric levity of "Catwoman"; Anne Hathaway, with quirky panache, gracefully fells the vilest of deviates; with a ballerina's finesse she leaps, flies, laughs as she defies gravity, crumbling buildings, searing pyrotechnics; her immortal feats, a homage to a cat's nine lives.
Minor roles are worthy of mentioning: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is "John Blake" ("Robin") a young police officer, with incredible perspicacity comes to the aid of Batman; Marion Cotillard, "Miranda" Batman's love interest, a philanthropist with an untoward agenda; Gary Oldman, soulful, diminished Police Commissioner "Jim Gordon"; Morgan Freeman with his iconic voice is "Lucius Fox", the wizard behind disabling the fiendish. A teaser: Cillian Murphy has a cameo role; hint, not a trace of his Irish accent can be detected.
The last half hour shines; if you have paid the price, stay; compensates for the mental straying one does to shake the gravitas, suffocating gloom, relentlessly crushing hope. In hindsight "The Dark Knight Rises" should have been titled, "The Dark Night Rises", and never brightens.
TWO & 1/2 STARS!!
Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen star as a couple ("Margot", "Lou") so devoted to each other that their endearments are flavored with untoward, torturous sentiments. She is aimless, rootless, devoid of ambition; he cooks and writes about chicken for a living. Enter Luke Kirby ("Daniel") as the distraction that temporarily stimulates the seemingly drugged, comatose Margot. Many might recognize these doomed couples but with alacrity and insight flee their negative energy.
ONE & 1/2 STARS!
A French film starring the sensually titillating Monica Bullucci as "Angele" an actor married to "Frederic" (Louis Garrel) a mediocre, dissipated artist; chemistry between the two is neither "hot" nor "burning", just boring. Frederick invites his best friend "Paul" (Jerome Robart) and his partner "Elizabeth" (Celine Sallette) to spend the summer with him and Angele; instead of the plot thickening it is diluted, thinned in trying tedium and triteness. I gleefully exited into a real and much more viable "burning hot summer", preferring the heat to this vapid scenario; questioning, puzzling why this film was ever made?
ONE & 1/2 STARS!
If you are a Marvel comic book fan or simply enamored with the "Spider-Man" mystique you will be satisfied with the newest rendition of, to say the least, "The Amazing Spider-Man"!
Andrew Garfield, replacing Toby Maguire, is excellent as the sensitive, seventeen-year-old "Peter Parker/Spider-Man". With misty-eyed sincerity he imbues the duality with likeability, believability; and is galvanizing in his transformation from man to insect.
Emma Stone as love interest "Gwen Stacy", seems a touch too mature, wise, as a high-school-senior prodigy; but she radiates intelligence and garnishes respect with each scene she controls, empowers.
The plot in essence is insect versus reptile; good pitted against malevolent. There are approximately 40,000 species of spiders and Peter, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, is pounced upon and bitten by one that miraculously manifests "amazing" revolutionizing effects; great filming and digitization contribute stunning sequences of wonder.
There is nothing more satisfying than a deliciously evil villain and Rhys Ifans is yummy as "Dr. Curt Connor/Reptilian Rascal"; he leaps buildings with a single bound; Olympian marathon between the forces of Heaven and Hades.
Good fun and "flights" to be had by all.
Oliver Stone's latest flick can be summed up in a brief sentence. Good drug dealers versus bad drug dealers. It is engrossing, more than minimally entertaining; not as bludgeoning with the message as the usual Stone scenario; still in a month's time will be a vague, shadowy memory of a mindless two hours spent in a refrigerated cocoon; a blessed respite from the hellish temperatures, melting minds and bodies on the streets of this major metropolis.
Two boyhood friends run the "good", medicinal side of the equation: "Chon" (Taylor Kitsch) hardened, Iraqi War veteran, and "Ben"(Aaron Johnson) the sensitive, pragmatic partner. They are so intuned to each other that they unselfishly share "O" (Blake Lively, the beautiful, sensually slutty, storyteller; the tenor of her seductive voice is massively effective, reason enough to stay in your seat.)
Enter the evil dealers, powerfully and pivotally depicted by Selma Hayek and Benicio Del Toro. Ms. Hayek plays "La Reina" the cold, calculating diva of the Mexican cartel, attired in designer clothes and a million- dollar- plus diamond necklace; she is immune to guts and gore and callously uses any weapon to maintain control of her insidious, lethal empire. Mr. Del Toro, "Lado", La Reina's consigliore, is deliciously vile, wantonly diabolical, skilled, intuit in the art of interrogation; master of mean and manipulative; cruelty, self- aggrandizement, his only commandments.
John Travolta as the compromised law enforcement officer, "Dennis" is scintillating, sinful as he banters obsequiously with both sides of the drug culture; no matter his deviations, from the moral code of his profession, it is impossible not to root for him.
Frequently predictable but enough curves to hold your interest; WARNING do not leave assuming the film is complete; wait for the "Savages" to reveal themselves.
TWO & 1/2 STARS!! (SOMETIMES IT SUFFICES)