4/28/16

Keanu

Have you been tempted by the silly trailers?

Director Peter Atencio ("Key and Peele") is sticking with what he does best: comedy. This time it's R-rated (language, nudity and violence). Working with actor/writer Jordan Peele ("Key and Peele") and writer Alex Rubens ("Key and Peele" - are we seeing a pattern here?) our screening audience howled as we watched a pair of hapless cat lovers (cousins) try to retrieve a kidnapped (kittynapped?) kitten from a street gang by posing as drug dealers. This quickly turns into a profane, violent, and ultimately up-beat outing for Key and Peele.

We enjoyed:
  • Jordan Peele ("Bob's Burgers") Rell Williams/Techtonic shows us a broken heart mended by the miraculous appearance of a darling little kitten who needs a home. The kitten is hiding out from a shootout between rival gangs. Rell's a photographer.
  • Keegan-Michael Key ("Tomorrowland") Clarence Goobril/Shark Tank is way out of his comfort zone. His buddy Rell says he talks like Richard Pryor trying to sound like a white guy. Clarence is a buttoned-down nerd who can't seem to assert himself, even when his wife TELLS him to!
  • Will Forte ("Nebraska") Hulka is Rell's next-door neighbor. He is a drug dealer.
  • Tiffany Haddish ("The Carmichael Show") Hi-C is a pretty gal capable of unexpected violence. She is the gatekeeper for Cheddar.
  • Method Man ("Trainwreck") Cheddar makes the rules. No one argues... particularly when his pet python is in the room.
  • Darrell Britt-Gibson ("Californication") Trunk never expected to wait in a getaway car singing a George Michael tune. (Shark Tank convinced him that George Michael is black!)
  • Luis Guzm├ín ("Code Black") Bacon usually goes with Cheddar (...smile...) but what he REALLY wants back in his palatial estate, is his sister's beloved kitten.
As you might expect, much of the acting credit goes to an unnamed actor, that irresistible CAT, working anonymously. I know. I looked, but because several tabbies played him, he remained nameless. By the way, the voice is provided by Keanu Reeves himself!

Watch for that kitty calendar in the final credits, it's brilliant!
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I hope these previews work:
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4/22/16

Green Room

The press synopsis calls this a "wickedly fun horror-thriller." I have to agree as I watch a punk rock band try to flee the scene of horrific violence only to land in a desperate fight for survival with some white-supremacy skinheads. This is done in the same spirit as "Tucker and Dale vs Evil," only with not as much humor...smile... By the way, a green room is a place where performers wait before and after an appearance. In this movie, our eponymous room is, in turns, a waiting room, a prison and a sanctuary.

This R-rated actioner, written and directed by Jeremy Saultnier ("Blue Ruin") had our packed-house screening audience on the edge of our seats, holding our collective breath even as we laughed at the lengths our frantic heroes go to in order to survive. They aren't always successful...

The cast:
  • Patrick Stewart (Avery in "American Dad") Darcy Banker is in charge of every one and every thing at that neo-Nazi punk bar. His thugs are briskly obedient, sort of efficient, and ultimately terrified.
  • Imogen Poots ("That Awkward Moment") Amber must get past a horrifying event and figure out where to hide the ammo.
  • Alia Shawkat ("Arrested Development") Sam is the only female member of this band, but she is also their booking agent and directs their gasoline-siphoning excursions (it's the only way they can afford to travel). I LOVE what she can do with a fire extinguisher!
  • Anton Yelchin (Chekov in "Star Trek") Baby-faced Pat is caught up in a situation to which his only reference is a recent paint-ball contest. Duct tape becomes an important item for his survival.
  • Callum Turner ("Victor Frankenstein") Green-haired Tiger is the most resourceful, always looking for an escape route or a weakness.
  • Joe Cole (Lots of TV) Reese never lets us forget his wrestling skills, but it's nip and tuck sometimes.
Expect profanity plus gruesome violence with guns, knives, fluorescent light bulbs, metal rods, attack dogs, and deadliest of all, a utility knife. At no time do we see those people on screen as anything less than real flesh and blood who can be mutilated, gutted or killed. I was exhausted when it was over.
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See what I mean!
http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi2701767961
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4/14/16

The Jungle Book

Art+Science=Animatronics, which makes it possible to create a film with fierce life-like animals who interrelate with a human child and no creature is harmed! After all, this Disney production is rated PG, so even though some of the effects may scare the piddle out of a youngster, it will still be family fare. As Rudyard Kipling's classic tale of a boy raised in the jungle comes to life once again, I can't help but smile as I imagine his amazement if he could see what stunning things can be done with his stories these days.

Director Jon Favreau ("Iron Man"), working with Justin Marks who adapted Kipling's book, has stayed reasonably true to the original as the quest for fire becomes a central issue. His blending of CGI and real life is seamless and the involving story sweeps us along at a break-neck speed.

Here are some of the voices:
  • Neel Sethi (in his first feature-length film) is Mowgli, the man cub raised by a pack of wolves, a black panther, and a bear. The motto of the wolf pack is important!
  • Ben Kinglsey ("Exodus: Gods and Kings") Bageera is one of Mowgli's foster parents. In fact, this panther is who brought a frightened little orphan to the shelter of the wolf pack.
  • Bill Murray ("Fantastic Mr. Fox") We all love Baloo and are glad to see this happy soul again. The animation is terrific, his dialogue is very funny and he has a good, good heart.
  • Lupita Nyong'o ("Star Wars") Raksha is a gentle mother, but do NOT threaten her cubs!
  • Scarlett Johansson ("Lucy") Kaa is a silky-voiced python who can hypnotize Mowgli. She wants to be his close, close friend....
  • Idris Elba ("Zootopia") Shere Kahn, scarred and half blinded by Man's fire, vows to rid the jungle of humans, particularly Mowgli. His passion for revenge leaps off the screen.
  • Christopher Walken ("Eddie the Eagle") I thought King Louie would always be associated with Louie Prima, but Walken steps into those iconic shoes and I am impressed!.
All in all, we loved the animals: the porcupine ("It's MINE!"), the elephants in all their majesty, the snoopy armadillo-like critter, the slow-moving tortoises, the darling wolf cubs, the ever-alert meerkat, the lumbering rhinos and the cape buffalo (although their stampede was pretty scary!). I found the monkeys to be upsetting, so to me, that scene lasted a bit too long.

The 3D only made me jump once, although there are several "Gotcha!" moments. This movie is a wonder! The story is intelligent, some of the situations are very funny, and Shere Kahn is genuinely terrifying. The children in the audience were riveted! (So was I...)
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See what you think:
http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi1075360537
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Barbershop: The Next Cut

We all know that Ice Cube likes his movies to contain a message. This one is no exception. In fact it does it extremely well... This PG-13 outing (language and sexual situations) shows us how important Community is to our society, as first shown in Calvin's Barbershop, 10 years ago.

So what has happened in the 10 years since last we visited our friends? Director Malcolm D. Lee ("The Best Man Holiday") is happy to show us. Now half of our favorite gathering place is devoted to the girls! It's no longer an all-male sanctuary where the guys can relax, gossip and shoot the breeze, but a shared space where weaves, wigs and women also find one another (AND chime in on some of the guys' gossip!).

Here is part of the cast:
  • Ice Cube ("Ride Along") is Calvin, worried about his testy teenage son and thinking about moving his family and relocating his shop to a safer part of Chicago.
  • Jasmin Lewis ("Barbershop") Jennifer shares her husband's concerns but wants to give their boy time to grow up a bit before they yank him away from his classmates and move to a new part of town.
  • Regina Hall ("Vacation") Angie understands Calvin's concern, but her beauty shop is half of their business and this business partner isn't ready to move.
  • Nicki Minaj ("The Other Woman") Draya can't help but flirt, and it's obvious that she has Rashad in her sights
  • Common ("The Wiz Live!") Rashad tries to stay out of Draya's clutches. The bigger challenge is convincing his wife that he HAS stayed out of Draya's clutches!
  • Eve ("With This Ring") Terri is even more successful than ever and doing a lot of traveling. Problem is, she can tell Draya is eying her man...
  • Cedric the Entertainer ("The Soul Man") Eddie never shuts up. He is the Grand Old Man in that little community and he gets upset every time he sees baggy pants and dreadlocks or hears guns.
  • Anthony Anderson ("Black-ish") J.D. claims the revenue from his business is for the Boys and Girls Clubs in their part of Chicago... Ummm.... Uh oh.....
A barbershop is the unofficial community club of the neighborhood. We have a chance to hear all sides of today's issues, delivered with insight, conviction, and heart. These are good people, trying to do what's right. We liked it.
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Here is a trailer:
http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi1402647833
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4/7/16

The Boss

I have never been a fan of insult humor. Clearly I am out of step or Don Rickles would NEVER have had such a successful career; furthermore, many in our screening audience laughed all the way through, including the rude fellow who sat next to me! So there is still an audience out there who wants to see one character verbally (and physically!) trash another.

Having said that, remember Martha Stewart's little stretch in the clink? It's obvious that writer/director Ben Falcone ("Tammy") and his screen-writing collaborators Steve Mallory and Melissa McCarthy (Ben's wife) were inspired by this real-life situation. Of course being comedy writers, they not only ran with it, they took it over the top...waaaay over the top....

Here is part of the cast:
  • Melissa McCarthy ("Identity Thief") is Michelle Darnell, the doyenne of the business world, ready to come back with a vengeance, now that she's paid her debt to society. Problem is, nobody likes her.
  • Kristen Bell ("Frozen") Claire's first responsibility (after getting a new bra) will be to help her former boss get back on her feet. Those brownies might help...
  • Peter Dinklage ("Game of Thrones") Renault can see Michelle will never change. His desire to humiliate and destroy her is not business...it's personal.
  • Kristen Schaal ("A Walk in the Woods") Sandy will never regain control of her Dandelion troop, no matter how hard she tries.
  • Kathy Bates ("American Horror Story") Ida knows a good thing when she sees it. I just wish there had been more screen time for her, and I wish I knew if my suspicions were right about Little Orphan Michelle.
This is a McCarthy/Falcone collaboration so expect it to be an outrageous, R-rated romp. Brace yourself for extremely vile language, slapstick humor, and realize that if a situation is funny, Ben and Melissa will milk it and milk it and milk it until it loses its punch. At least to me.

Both of these people are talented and funny, I just wish they had a trusted friend who could rein them in. Melissa McCarthy's screen presence is hot right now; I don't want to see her burn out.

Side note: I'm still bummed about Martha Stewart serving time for her penny-ante insider trading. Half of Wall Street deserves to be locked up RIGHT NOW for their egregious crimes which crippled the world economy! Aarghhh!
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Take a look:
http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi2214048281
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4/3/16

I Saw the Light

If ever you doubt the versatility of British actor Tom Hiddleston ("Thor") take a gander at this little gem. In it, he plays American Country-Western music superstar, the late Hank Williams AND he does his own singing. When the movie starts, he quietly sings Williams' classic, "Cold, Cold Heart" a cappella: no echo chamber, no backup instruments or anything to hide behind. Raw courage AND talent!

Written and directed by Marc Abraham based on Colin Escott's book, "Hank Williams: The Biography," I only wish HIS work had been on par with the actor's. The movie lags in spots and dwells on dreary, uninteresting conversations. Williams' spina bifida (an imperfect closure of the spinal chord), caused chronic pain which, in my opinion, resulted in self-medication: alcohol, sex and drugs (this is R-rated). We see him in rehab one time, but it doesn't last very long.

We watch his life slowly unravel after he achieves his life-long dream: to be accepted on the Grand Ole Opry. The look on his face when applause washes over him is exalted!

Part of the cast:
  • Tom Hiddleston ("The Avengers") Hiddleston's Hank Williams sings "Lovesick Blues," "I Saw the Light," "Walking the Floor," "Move it on Over," "Hey, Good Lookin'," "Why Don'cha Love Me Like You Used to Do?" "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," and "Your Cheatin' Heart." And he made it look easy.
  • Elizabeth Olsen ("Avengers: Age of Ultron") is his wife Audrey, source of his heartburn and his muse for many songs, for good or ill. She too, wants to be a singer, but Oh my ears, that VOICE!
  • Bradley Whitford ("Saving Mr. Banks") is Williams' manager Fred Rose, who has to witness the rise and fall of a tragic icon.
  • Cherry Jones ("Whiskey Tango Foxtrot") Lillie Williams is sure there is NO woman good enough for her boy Hank!
Of course we are treated to a list of familiar names and places, but none of them really registered with me because they were given short shrift in the script. Williams' woman problems took center stage, while personally, I would have been happy to hear more familiar songs. Hank Williams, after all, delivered 36 hits and sold 11 million records before his untimely death in 1953 at age 29.
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Here is a sample:
http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi4008358425
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4/2/16

Esio Trot

The full title is "Roald Dahl's Esio Trot" but that's such a cumbersome name for such a tidy, satisfying little film. It's unrated but let me assure you, there are no sweaty bodies, no guns, no vehicular mayhem or blowie uppie stuff. Just a sweet little character study and (we hope) a love story.

Directed by Dearbhla Walsh ("Little Dorrit") and adapted from Mr. Dahl's story by Richard Curtis ("Love Actually") and Paul Mayhew-Archer ("Mrs. Brown's Boys"), this sweet romance for seniors is just the ticket for a quiet summer evening. I bought my Region 2 DVD from Amazon a few weeks ago, so we can always hope it will be in Region 1 format very soon.

We see an apartment building that has its share of retired people as well as families, but we become most involved with an American retired in England, who tends the flowers blooming on his balcony and casts longing looks at a the lovely widow who lives below with her tortoise.

Our cast:
  • Dustin Hoffman ("Last Chance Harvey") is Mr. Hoppy, shy, tongue-tied and awkward. Also lonely.
  • Judi Dench ("Philomena") Lavinia is his gregarious neighbor; she may not be the brightest bulb in the box, but she is always upbeat and positive. Also lonely.
  • Richard Cordery ("Mr. Turner") Mr. Pringle is a pushy neighbor who invites himself to Mr. Hoppy's apartment for dinner. He is boorish, rude and always interrupts. Also lonely.
  • James Corden ("Into the Woods") is our narrator. He is on his way across town, catching trams, dodging traffic and getting on the wrong bus, but he drops the fourth wall to explain what is going on and why our characters do what they do. He isn't lonely.
Several things set this delicious little story apart, but to me the thing that first comes to mind is the sound track. Louis Armstrong sings, "In My Solitude," "A Kiss to Build a Dream On," "Hello Dolly," and "Kiss Me Once (and Kiss Me Twice)" to keep us people of a certain age smiling all the way.

I found the plethora of turtles (yes, I said TURTLES!) to be a bit disconcerting, but they are appropriate to the story. Well, given the title of the movie, I concede that Spartacus is actually a tortoise.... You'll see...
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No trailer, sorry...
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