Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Green Prince: An Odd Couple

  Mosab Hassan Yousef stares into the camera. His father is a founder of Hamas, the radical Palestinian group responsible for terrorist attacks on Israel.

The camera shifts and Gonen ben Yitzhak appears on the screen. He's an operative with Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service.

By all rights, the two should be sworn enemies bent on mutual destruction. But that is not the story that unfolds in The Green Prince, a remarkable documentary from Israeli filmmaker Nadav Schirman.

Without giving away the entire movie, which should be seen by everyone, these two men rise above the angry politics and brutality that surrounds them in Israel and Gaza to reveal what can happen when people break the cycle of hate and brutality, which threatens to destroy them and generations to come.

The Green Prince isn't a film about Israelis and Palestinians. It's a movie about two men and celebrates the bravery of intelligent individuals who think and act outside the crushing boxes to which they've been assigned.  

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Citizenfour: Traiter? Wistleblower? Patriot? Spy?

Who is Edward Snowden? A whistleblower? A spy? A traitor? A patriot?

You can make up your own mind after seeing this riveting documentary.

The story begins when documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras receives an encrypted email. In Hong Kong, she meets the sender, Edward Snowden, a computer professional working as a National Security Agency contractor. He not only talks about a massive surveillance program that's secretly spying on citizens at home and abroad, he has thousands of classified documents to back this up.

Journalist Glen Greenwald joins the team and they discuss publishing some of this information.
As you know, the rest is recent history.

We learn that the surveillance program was begun after 9/11. It's understandable that the country would beef up its efforts to find terrorists before they strike again. But it's now more than a decade later and the overreach is enormous.

The Movie Slut remembers the smear campaign that erupted when Snowden's identity was revealed. He's nothing like the dimwit he was portrayed to be. Whether you approve or disapprove of what he did, this film reveals him as a thoughtful, intelligent young man who believes that privacy is an inalienable right for those living in a democracy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Interstellar: Out Of This World

If you're looking for a post-apocalyptic, intergalactic, space travel, time travel, sci fi flick that's 2 hours and 49-minutes, then this is the movie for you.

The Movie Slut adores all those genres. She wanted to love this film. But she can't get past like.
And that's too bad because it did so many things right.

The character development is above par for this kind of movie. Matthew McConaughey is a scientist and astronaut and family guy. You feel for him when he has to leave his kids to enter a worn hole that serves as a short cut to another galaxy where, hopefully, other planets habitable by humans exist.

So far, so good.

Also receiving an A+ are the special effects and outer space simulations. 

But the movie takes too long to get to the exciting parts and the dialogue is mumbo jumbo heavy, wantonly flinging around the terms "gravity," "relativity," and "time."

Yeah. Yeah. It's sci fi. But still you don't want to annoy the audience.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Before I Go To Sleep: Brush Teeth & Remember

Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman) has a wicked case of amnesia. When she wakes up in the morning her mind is a tabula rasa. Notes and photos around the house fill her in on her condition and the people in her life. There are surprisingly few.

She wakes up next to Ben (Colin Firth.) There are photos of their wedding tacked to the wall. One day she receives a phone call from a doctor who wants to help her retrieve the past.

Should she trust him? Should she trust Ben? Or Claire, an old friend who resurfaces?

Yeah, it's that kind of flick.

Unfortunately, even with terrific acting from Kidman and Firth, the Movie Slut never got freaked out enough about Christine's situation. Why? She could write a list. But won't.

 The movie is already headed for DVD Land.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance

Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), the former Birdman superhero in three Hollywood blockbusters, has come to New York and Broadway seeking relevancy. Toward that end, he's the writer, star and director of a play based on a Raymond Chandler story.

Question No. 1: Is it only Riggan who needs to be relevant? Or is that what all of us are looking for? On the street outside the theater, a man recites Shakespeare's soliloquy, "All the world's a stage; and we are merely players."

The Chandler play is about love. But does being relevant trump being loved?

Birdman is a stunning movie, visually, aurally and intellectually. It asks a lot of questions but never crosses over to pretension.

Remember the old philosophy question: If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Birdman, which gives us much to ponder about our digital age, updates that inquiry. If you achieve a feat and it's not mentioned on social media, did you really accomplish anything?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Nightcrawler: No Smiles For His Camera

At the risk of sounding cynical, the Movie Slut thinks this flick, like St. Vincent, which is reviewed below, had one goal: To place the lead actors on the short list for Oscar nominations.

The plot is thin and at times left hanging, unnecessarily. But like the main character's camera, the focus is narrow.

That's not to say that Nightcrawler should be skipped. Jake Gyllenhaal is sensational as Louis Bloom, a sociopath with autistic tendencies. He communicates like an alien that studied human behavior but just can't pull it off. No doubt, he's obsessive, too. When he decides to become a crime photographer, nothing can stop him. He's without ethics or empathy. And so is the local news director who buys his video. No questions asked.

 At times Gyllenhaal is amusing. At other times, he's chilling. He's always riveting on. Worth seeing.

Dear White People: Listen Up

On this ivy-league campus students of color have their own dorm and dining room and lots to say about the white majority. Especially Samantha, whose radio show gives this archly funny movie its title.

Sam's talk show is the best part of this film, which unfortunately branches out to tackle everything else that's wrong with college life in our allegedly post-racial society. The college president is nothing more than a fund raiser and the dean of students, an Uncle Tom.

But it's the tone deaf white students and the super-sensitive black students who make this flick stand out from the pack. To its credit, the film is pretty even-handed when dishing out the dirt. No one is blameless and no one completely to blame.