Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hyde Park on Hudson: Happy Days?

Music Please

So who was FDR?

Was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, our 32nd president, a charming, charismatic, vibrant leader, who navigated the nation through tumultuous times?

Or was he an arrogant, self-involved weakling, who took advantage of his power to satisfy every whim while being manipulated by his barrel ax of a mother?

Your answer to this question will determine your response to Hyde Park on Hudson. If, like the Movie Slut, you believed the first description of the patrician president, you won't be happy.

On the other hand, if like MS's multiplex companion, you hold to the second image, then you'll think this flick is just fine.

The high point of the film are scenes in which the King and Queen of England take the screen. It's 1939, and George, the stuttering royal from The King's Speech, and wife Elizabeth, visit Hyde Park to curry favor with the president, hoping he'll become an ally in the war that threatens to destroy the British Empire.

The lowest point is FDR's seduction of distant cousin Daisy (Laura Linney), an unworldly spinster, who fell in love with him only to discover that she was the other other woman.

Supposedly based on true accounts, this is a movie that proves fact can seem more fictitious than fiction.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Django Unchained: Only the D is Silent

Remember the pig with lipstick?

It's a perfect metaphor for this grotesque film, which attempts to glamorize its disgusting violence with A-list actors, including Jamie Foxx in the title role.

It's two years before the Civil War and Django, a slave turned freeman turned bounty hunter turned homicidal maniac is combing The South, looking for his beloved wife.

This flick could be called the anti-Gone with the Wind. There's nothing gracious or romantic about the plantations he visits and that's probably more realistic than Scarlett's pre-war South.

The first half of Quentin Tarantino's new film is quite funny, witty and original. But then the deluge, which crescendos into a bloodbath of nauseating proportions.

Tarantino has done this before, though not to this extreme. And in the current American climate — read Tucson, Aurora, Newtown — this kind of gratuitous violence rings particularly old, outdated and tone deaf.

The NRA wants us to believe that movies like this inspire unbalanced young men to grab their guns and take out as many innocent people as possible.

The Movie Slut disagrees. She believes guns kill, not movies, video games or mental illness.

Still, the over-the-top gun violence in this movie is not what she wants to see at the multiplex and she encourages — no begs — you to choose another flick. Send the message that we're sick of this hideous carnage, on and off the screen.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Anna Karenina: A Toast to Tolstoy

Sumptuous. Extravagant. Exquisite. Glorious.

No word is too hyperbolic to capture the grandness of this story of love and lust in the rapidly changing 19th-centuryRussia.

Dostoevsky proclaimed Tolstoy's novel as "flawless as a work of art".  The same can be said of director Joe Wright's film starring Keira Knightley.

The Movie Slut reread the book not long ago and the movie, though an artful recreation, remained close to the plot and the characters. In fact, it reminded her about how much more this story is about than just Anna and her passionate young lover.

This is a movie worthy of several viewings. See it again and again.

This is 40: Well, Maybe a 20

A funny thing happened to the Movie Slut on her way to the multiplex to see Judd Apatow's latest flick.

A movie reviewer weighed in on the radio calling the film, vulgar, infantile and only marginally funny.

But what about the review in the New York Times that convinced her to see the movie? This serious reviewer offered a thoughtful appraisal of the film, calling it more than mere satire.

So what did MS think?

Both reviewers were correct. This comedy about being a certain age at a certain time (now) in a certain place (Southern California) was at times funny and right on about a certain group of smart, educated Americans. Filled with pop culture references, the movie is even more fun for those, like MS, who's a bit of a pop culture junkie.

But hasn't Apatow ever heard of people we call editors?

 Eliminating a good thirty minutes of the sillyest, unfunniest jokes would have enriched the flick immeasurably. Maybe the producer/director was too close to this project. It stars his wife (Leslie Mann) opposite an excellent Mark Rudd, and Apatow's two daughters, good little actresses.

To call it a vanity piece is an understatement. But hey,  that's his perogative. It remains to be seen if moviegoers like him enough to invest two hours and 13 minutes in this ego-massaging project. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

"It's out of the frying pan," says Gandalf the Grey. "And into the fire," adds Dwarf King Thorin.

Which brings us to the question: How many Middle-earth dwellers does it take to utter one cliché?
Obviously, it takes two.

But one truth about clichés is that they hit the nail on the head. Oops, there's another one.

And so, the first of three prequels to J.R.R. Tolkiens "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, zips, zooms, careens and hurdles across the screen with hardly a moment of down time. And, it must be noted, a dearth of female characters, too. Cate Blanchett, in a cameo as the luminous Noldorin Princess Galadriel, is it, if you don't count a harp player and a serving girl or two.

What an unevolved place this Middle-earth is! And yet, it is a fun place to visit.

In a nutshell (cliché alert!) the story is this:

Hobbit Bilbo Baggins is recruited by Wizard Gandalf to help Dwarf Thorin reclaim his mountain kingdom from Smaug, the dragon. It's quite an odyssey from the Shire to Lonely Mountain and along the way Baggins and his bunch encounter Goblins, Orcs, Wargs, giant spiders, Trolls, Shapeshifters, Sorcerers and, not to forget, Gollum, the slimy.

Martin Freeman as Baggins is a sensation. Still, The Movie Slut prefers him as Dr. Watson in "Sherlock," the inspired PBS series.

Playing for Keeps: Winning!

In this just-slightly-more-than-adequate rom-com, George Dryer (Gerard Butler) plays an irresistible former soccer star who's  sidelined — professionally — by an injury and — personally — by his wife.

And there you have it. The appeal of this flick is Butler's irresistibility.

 In the movie, his ex-wife, Jessica Biel, is obviously still stuck on him, and so are the neighborhood women, including Uma Thurman and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Viewers might think it unrealistic how these women hurl themselves at the handsome, strapping, sensitive former jock. But then they would be naive about the state of male-female relations in our post-Lewinsky age.

Off screen, in the audience, it's doubtful that any red-blooded member of the XX set will be able to resist his  charms. (Think of Butler as Matthew McConaughey without the tacky, oily factor.)

As for the XYers, you might want to skip this flick. It sure will be difficult to measure up.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Killing Them Softly: What the F***?

Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini & Richard Jenkins can't elevate this miserable movie. 

If you like f***ing pretentious movies, than this one's for you.

If you like to witness f***ing wasted talent, than go ahead and see this f***ing flick.

If you yearn to hear dialogue laced with the f-bom, rush right over to the multi-plex.

F***! See this one twice.

The action takes place in 2008. We know because the movie opens with a lingering shot of a billboard featuring both candidates, McCain and Obama. Should you be fidgeting with your popcorn and miss that less-than-subtle detail, don't f***ing worry. Every time the low lives are in their f***ing clunker-mobiles or in their f***ing seedy bars, you hear the candidates campaigning on the radio or TV.

Who knew gangsters and wiseguys were so f***ing into American politics.

Beware! The f***ing message of this movie could hit you over the head so hard you'll plunge into a catatonic state. And here it is: f***ing fanfare puh-leze: There is no difference between the US government and a gaggle of gangsters.

"Killing" is one of those movies that thinks it can make an art form out of murder. It doesn't mean to be, but it is so f***ing funny.

Hitchcock: Psycho Revisited

Anthony Hopkins is Alfred Hitchcock.
He has the Master of Suspense down to the slightest tic.
That would be enough to make a success of this film about the making of "Psycho," a movie he couldn't convince the studio to back. But there's much more.

Hitch wasn't alone in this crazy, brave venture. His brilliant and supportive wife Alma (Helen Mirren) was at his portly side.

The movie is as much about their intriguing relationship as it is about how the Thriller King managed to create a movie that no one knew they wanted to see until he brought it to the blood-dripping silver screen.

Think of it as two captivating films in one.

Silver Linings Playbook: So Not Funny

                                  Bradley Cooper is Pat, a bi-polar young man.

The Movie Slut is not amused. She finds no humor in mental illness. When a young man returns home, not from college, but from an institution, well, you won't find her laughing.

But "Silver Linings" is bent on ferreting out the funny in this young man's situation, like in the photo above, when he takes to wearing plastic garbage bags. And when this fawning flick is not chuckling over its own bad taste, it likes to present him as so much more knowing and insightful than mere "normal" people who are actually functioning in the real world.

Many critics loved this movie. Maybe they've never experienced the heartache of seeing a once-promising young person who can't hold a conversation, much less a job.

If there is a silver lining in "Silver Linings," it is Robert De Niro as the young man's father. Though never diagnosed with emotional problems, he teeters on the edge of being, let's just say, a bit off. De Niro captures this character in all his glorious issueyness. It's a performance worth seeing.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Life of Pi: Oscar Calling

To call this magnificent movie an adventure story, a survival epic or a tale of faith is to diminish the film's true purpose. It's about believing — or not believing — and while it doesn't preach and is never ponderous, it makes some very good points. It aims to make the viewer think.

All this is tied up in a tale about a shipwrecked teen, enroute with his family from India to Canada, who's lifeboat, replete with a Bengal tiger (maybe), ultimately winds up on the coast of Mexico. What happened during that long and dangerous voyage is at once frightening and fanciful, breathtakingly beautiful and horrifyingly bestial.

Visually the film is as exquisite as any The Movie Slut has seen. And since she did not see the 3D version, she will be returning for a second screening.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph: No Fixer-Upper

Disney's new kid flick is not high on 5-year-old Charlie's list of movie favorites.

How much did he enjoy this film about a bad-guy video game character, who yearns, not only to be good, but to be a hero?

"Not so much," Charlie said, a deep sigh of ennui edging his voice.

Let's just say this movie is no Shrek, no Mr. Popper's Penguins, no Winnie the Pooh.

Sadly, Charlie's adult companion, The Movie Slut, didn't have a much higher opinion, though she did enjoy the scene in which Wreck-It joins a support group for game show villains.

What wrecked Wreck-It was a meandering plot that took Ralph on an odyssey through several other video games as well as a Grand Central Terminal-like game central. Even the voices of Sarah Silverman and John C. Reilly couldn't save this disappointing flick.

It was all too confusing for a 5 year old. And probably a 7 year old, too.

"Annie wouldn't like this movie," Charlie insisted, speaking for his older sister.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Lincoln: The End Justifies the Means

It was Dec. 1865. President Lincoln knew the Civil War was ending. But he had one more task to accomplish before the men marched off the battlefield.

He yearned to pass the 13th amendment to the constitution, a piece of legislation that would abolish slavery. Alas, not all of Congress agreed.

If a 21st-century politician manipulated the political process as our 16th president did, there would be a great hew and cry. Even shouts for impeachment. But then, there were no videos back then. No proof of what went on in the dark corners and darker side streets of history.

The brilliance of this gripping film is that it spends two and a half hours dealing with the passage of a constitutional amendment and manages to keep us riveted to the screen and wanting more.

We also learn about the president's family life and relationship with his wife. And then there are the characters, in various degrees of shadiness, who helped him end the outrage that was slavery.

Daniel Day Lewis, an Englishman, manages to channel Lincoln in all his gangly homespun grandeur. The Movie Slut had hoped for an American actor, but Lewis won her over, as surely as he'll make you a believer, too.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Sessions: A Rare Gem

There are many kinds of paralysis: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.

Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes) had the kind that was a result of childhood polio. Yet, his mind, soul, and feelings, both physical and emotional, were sharper than most of the people we meet on or off the screen.

This story takes place in 1988, about ten years before his death. He's a 38-year-old virgin, an increasingly reluctant one, who wants to know and  experience what all the fuss is about.

Enter Cheryl, Helen Hunt, a sex surrogate, who embarks on the challenge of her career.

The brilliance of this movie is in the beauty bestowed on the sex act, especially in a medium that usually portrays sexuality as a crass, gymnastic act devoid of intimacy.

O'Brien was a poet and writer, in fact, this movie was based on an article he wrote titled, "On Seeing a Sex Surrogate." The film is sprinkled with his poems, other writings and wit. It's a flick that reminds the Movie Slut why she's in love with the movies.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Skyfall: Classsic with a Twist

Daniel Craig as Bond VI

Fifty years, and five James Bonds ago, Sean Connery starred in "Dr. No," the first Ian Fleming spy novels to hit the big screen.
Those were the digital-free days when suave and daring men fought evil and toyed with leggy beauties.
So, what did Hollywood have to do to bring Bond into the 21st Century?

1. Bring in a computer nerd
                                       2. Supply only one Bond babe, who's quickly killed off to avoid the sticky sexploitation issue.

We've still got the martini that's shaken, not stirred. The Lambourghini whiz-mobile turns up to take a spin. And a few other winks and nods to the past are tucked in for fans who may have seen the other 23 flicks.

What else will we see?

A thrill-a-minute movie with stylishly staged flight and flight scenes that drum up the adrenaline on and off screen. James darts from London to Shanghai to Macau to his native Scotland, where we learn a bit of his back story.

The excitement at the multi-plex was palpable last night and new showings were quickly added. The audience laughed and shouted and it was all part of the fun that is a James Bond movie.

And then there's the plot, which revolves around a stolen...
Oh, who care? It's just an excuse for a new JB film.

                                                                                 Bad Guy Javier Barden had the audience laughing.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Cloud Atlas: Six Stories in Search of Answers

Past, present and future collide in this ambitious 172-minute movie that brings together six stories determined to tackle the biggest questions about human existence.

Does it accomplish this lofty goal?

More less than more in an entertaining fashion.

Cloud Atlas is at its best when each story plays out its message. Less successful when it devolves into speechiness and preachyness.

With actors, including Halle Berry and Tom Hanks figuring in each vignette, the chances of gimmickry were high, but generally avoided.

If you're not a fan of time travel and sci fi, you might skip this one.
The Movie Slut hopes to see it again.
But then, she's the Movie Slut.

Flight: The Days of Wings and 4 Roses

For many, Flight is known as "that movie about an airplane crash." And that's too bad.

Sure, a horrifying fall from the sky does take place in this film about an ace pilot who destroys every other aspect of his life. But moviegoers quickly realize that this story is more about human failure than aeronautical disaster.

Denzel Washington is Whip Whitaker, a deeply flawed human being. And though his story takes on high drama because of his profession, we all know people like him.

Washington loses himself in this character to the extent that the Movie Slut forgot she was watching one of the top actors of his time. Like others in the theater, he was Whip and his every self-destructive act felt like a loved one was descending more deeply into the abyss.

And that is the pull and power of this must-see movie.
When was the last time you became one with the action on the screen?

The Other Son: Big Time Identity Crises

Who are you? A product of your DNA? Or a result of your environment?
This fine Israeli film takes on the old nature/nurture debate and ratchets it up to new heights.

This is the story of two teens who discover startling information that goes to the very core of their beings. Born on the same day, in the same hospital, their lives could not have been more different. One is Jewish and lives in Tel Aviv. The other is an Arab living in the West Bank.

Or so they think.

This thoughtful and thought-provoking movie focuses on the boys and their families as they deal with the shocking reality that the teens are not who everyone thought they were.

The Other Son takes on a subject fraught with emotion, controversy and steeped in a tragic, tangled history. Can all this be accomplished in seventy-five minutes?

The Movie Slut thinks not. But it's an excellent beginning.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Chasing Mavericks: A Bumpy Ride

Once The Maverick was the abominable snowman of surfing. Few believed it existed.

This true story is about a boy who believed in the giant wave and who, with the help of his mentor, learned to ride the big one.

Gerard Butler is the mentor. Jonny Weston the boy, Jay Morarity, a California surfer, whose life was tough and who found joy riding the waves.

It's a touching and —spoiler alert — sad story and not for children. Still the glorious photography and appealing characters make it a fine flick for anyone with even a modicum of interest in this thrilling sport.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Paperboy: Tennessee Williams meets Quentin Tarantino

Deranged characters. A dysfunctional family. Marauding alligators. Buckets and buckets of sweat.

 It's all there in this overheated saga of lust, love, fury, fixation, murder and mayhem that plays out in a long, hot, swampy Florida summer.

Matthew McConaughey, a Pulitzer-winning journalist, returns to his hometown to investigate the incarceration of John Cusack for the murder of a sonabitch sheriff. Spurred on by the vampy, trampy Nicole Kidman, who's engaged to Cusack's character, our would-be hero proves anything but.

Zac Effron is McConaughey's 20-year-old brother. He's quit college and is about to get an education beyond books.

One outrageous, outlandish scene after another exposes these characters for what they are and few are pretty under their handsome veneers. We've got the bigot, the snob, the sexual deviant, the murderer, the thief and, not to forget, the alligator disengorger.

View at your own risk.
The Movie Slut was glad she did.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Seven Psychopaths: There Will Be Blood

Blood squirts, spurts, splatters, streams and gushes in this absurdist comedy about, well, you know what.
Colin Farrell, the lone character whose problem is nothing more pathological than a virulent case of alcoholism, is a screenwriter suffering from  writer's block. When we meet him, he has nothing more than a title for his new play.

Yes, it has to do with the number seven.

Farrell makes a hysterical ( in both senses of the word) violence-adverse straight man in the middle of ricocheting bullets and sloshing blood. He may not be writing about what he knows, but that's where his strange assortment of friends come in. To his surpirse, they know first hand about psychopathic behavior.

This flick is only mildly amusing, but highly entertaining thanks to a stellar cast, which includes  Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson and Tom Waits. Yeah, that Tom Waits.

Seven Psychopaths has earned a reputation as being uber-gory. True. But it's Hollywood blood that's streaming. Which makes it OK to laugh.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Argo: Greatest Story Never Told

Movies based on real-life events, even when those incidents are compelling, can be pale shadows of history.

This is not the case with Argo, which takes us back to 1979 and the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The larger story about the storming of the American embassy, which resulted in a harrowing 444-day standoff, is well known. But Argo focuses on an aspect of that international disaster that most Americans knew nothing about.

And the less you know before you buy your ticket for this excellent, edge-of-your-seat thriller, the more exciting it will be.

This means avoiding tell-all movie trailers and reviews that give away the plot. (You might run out for popcorn when the trailer hits the screen.)

All you need to know about this film directed by Ben Affleck, and staring Affleck, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston and Alan Arkin, is that it's a must see. Do we hear Oscar calling?

You'll thank The Movie Slut for telling you this and nothing more.

Pitch Perfect: "Glee" Meets "Scream"

Sometimes The Movie Slut wonders if professional critics don't even see some of the films they review, especially when the flick is clearly aimed at less discriminating teens.

Why else would a reviewer for a prestigious publication say PP is a clone of other movies about singing competitions?

No. No. And No.

Just as Scream is a parody of horror movies, PP pokes fun at Glee and its clones, both on the big and small screens.

The closer you are to high school, the more you'll laugh at the antics of this all-girl college acapella group. The teens in the audience on a recent afternoon registered a laugh a minute. For The Movie Slut, it was an occasional chuckle.

 Still some of the music made up for some of the lame jokes.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Oranges: Tart & Juicy

Talk about all American movies! This one is about the pursuit of happiness.
But what happens when one person's happiness causes the unhappiness of all those around him?
That question is at the heart of this interesting, thought-provoking, and funny, yes, funny movie.

The Oranges is a story about two New Jersey families living the American dream. (This is possible in the Garden State —really.) But these families, despite lovely homes, healthy grown children and no financial problems, only seem to be happy.

The emotional chaos that erupts when two family members veer onto an unconventional path forces the others to examine their lives and come to some surprising revelations.

Finally, we have a film that's brave enough to question the formulaic beliefs about happiness that mar so many of our movies. 

The Oranges is a comedy. But it will leave you thinking — seriously.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Master: A Masterpiece?

It's obvious that The Master is a big budget film. It's 150-minutes long. The cinematography, whether we're out a sea or trudging through the dusty desert, is exquisite.
  At times the stars, Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, teeter on the edge of over-acting, but they never step over the line. And the soundtrack by Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead is haunting and amazing.
     You might have read that this marathon of a movie is powerful, masterful, a tremendous tour de force.
     "Not so much," says the Movie Slut.
     The problem is the plot.
     Set in 1950, it's the story of a cult leader (Hoffman), a megalomaniac and possibly a charlatan, and his acolyte (Phoenix), a WWII vet whose sociopathic behavior goes beyond PTSD.
     The Master, whose teachings include curing followers of past life disorders (and that's not the wackiest of his ideas), experiences a profound connection to the newbie.
      Maybe they met in Prussia before the First World War. Maybe he recognizes his own animal passions. Maybe it's a homosexual thing.
     Whatever it might be, movie-goers will probably lose interest about 60 minutes after the opening credits. Just ask the Movie Slut's companion. He fell asleep.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower:

A mystery is at the core of this touching coming-of-age flick.

What is troubling Charlie?

He's a much-bullied, friendless high school freshman who spent the previous year in a hospital, but we know it's not a physical ailment. Throughout the movie we get quickie flashbacks and cryptic remarks that don't as much provide clues, as remind us that his problem is deeper than a case of garden variety teenage angst.

Meanwhile, Charlie finds two outcast friends who change his friendless status. These friendships take over the movie. In fact, maybe the Movie Slut was remiss, but she nearly forgot about Charlie's illness, until...

As the movie ends, we learn what's bothering Charlie.
No, the Movie Slut will not give away the ending to this endearing and engrossing film. She'll just say it took her by surprise.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel

Guess who The Movie Slut met at a New York screening of this fascinating doc about one of history's most stylish chicks — ever.

Tim Gunn! Yes, Project Runway's own fashion guru!

And he loved this film.

DV is for fashionistas and if you're one of the chic set, and MS sincerely hopes you are, you will be in heaven at the multiplex.

Brought to us by the fashion doyenne's great-granddaughter-in-law, the film is brimming with photos and videos from Vreeland's days at Harper's Bazaar, Vogue magazine and the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

You'll also hear from Angelica Huston, Ali McGraw, Calivin Klein, Carolina Herrera, the Missoni family and the great photogs of her day. Vreeland passed away in 1989, but her influence on fashion will never die.

Who could forget her bon mots, including: "Pink is the navy blue of India," and "Blue jeans are the most beautiful things since the gondola."

Friday, September 28, 2012

Looper: The End Justifies The Means

Past and present meet in the future in this snappy, time-traveling sci fi thriller. The plot is captivating and often makes sense. But what mars the otherwise smart flick is the monumental body count and the avalanche of Hollywood blood.


Maybe Bruce Willis believes his fans (Die Hard, Die Harder, Die Hardest) demand a mountain of corpses. But here it just dumbs down the plot and takes away from the murders that define his character.

When The Movie Slut left the multiplex she was numbed down. Heaps of violence can have that effect on moviegoers. But after thinking about the totality of this film, she warmed to it. The end, may not exactly justify the means. But it almost made up for them.

Monday, September 24, 2012

For A Good Time Call: 1-800-mmm-hmmm

The Movie Slut wanted a good time at the multiplex. The title of this thoroughly modern movie sounded promising.

It's a tale of two post-college gals trying to make it in the big city, New York, to be exact.

That makes it a bona fide chick flick. Unlike the disappointing "Bridesmaids," this movie had its finger firmly placed on the female pulse. It was raunchy at times but never gross or scatological. (Let's face it girls may want to have fun, but not in the bathroom.)

Good Time feels like a flick for chicks, by chicks and about chicks. It understands what 20-somethings of the XX variety have on their minds.

It's fresh and funny. And yes, The Movie Slut had a good time at the multiplex. A very good time.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Arbitrage: Cynicism as an art form

Does everyone have a price?

If you've answered "yes" to this question, you'll probably like this movie more than those who answered,"no."

Arbitrage is smooth, swift, slick and uber-cynical. It's about a Master of the Universe (Richard Gere), who's made a monumentally bad investment.

The film hinges, to some extent, on movie-goers caring about what happens to this financial schemer. Which isn't difficult for many viewers who've loved Gere unconditionally for 32 years, ever American Gigolo.

And just as this reservoir of good feeling begins evaporating in this dark film, we meet two other characters, who may actually have ethical standards.

The real strength of this edge-of-your-seat flick is the way it moves and feels like a thriller, even though not a firearm finds its way to the screen.

The weakness is the ending, which leaves a bunch of loose threads, allowing viewers to wonder who was really bought.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Trouble With The Curve: A Home Run

Clint Eastwood made the Movie Slut's day. And it had nothing to do with chairs.

Now, MS is not one of those movie goers who worships at the alter of CE. She didn't even love Gran Torino. Or Million Dollar Baby.

But this time around Eastwood, who brings back his role of crusty curmudgeon, is helped by Amy Adams, his daughter, who's as stubborn and angry as he is. And maybe smarter.

Trouble is a hybrid movie, a father/daughter flick, a romance and, most especially, a baseball film (with all the emotions this brings with it). Sure, it's predictable, but the narrative and sub-plots behave like curve balls, keeping the viewer interested and sometimes, even, surprised.

Justin Temberlake, as a young baseball scout learning at the creaky knees of Clint, a well-seasoned scout, elevates every movie he's in.

Trouble my not be a must-see. Still, it's a shouldn't-be-missed movie.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Words: Leaves you with thoughts.

Words is like a Russian nesting doll. It's a story within a story within a story. Which means, dear movie goers, that you get three stories for the price of one ticket.

If that's not enough to get you to the mega-plex, well then, you may not be enough of a movie lover.

The critics — the professional ones — did not write laudatory reviews of this flick. The Movie Slut wonders why. Three good stories! And terrific performances by Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid and Zoe Saldana. What more do they want?

They fussed about the end of the movie, which was a bit wordy and threw out several ideas to think about. And perhaps the movie would have been better if the audience were left to its conclusions.

The movie brings up ideas about ethical judgements, repercussions of poor judgements and moving beyond the past. Lots to think about here.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Searching for Sugar Man: A Musical Mystery

In 1968, a young musician burst on the scene. Like Dylan, he was a poet. Like The Beatles, his music captured the lyrical nature of the times.

Some thought he was the next big thing.
Then he disappeared.

The musician's name is Rodriguez. And before he vanished, he'd become a cult figure in Apartheid South Africa.

And so, it was a small group of South Africans who set out to discover what happened to him.

Searching for Sugarman is a gripping mystery and an auditory delight.

It's a must-see movie and that's all The Movie Slut will say. Oh, one suggestion. Don't read any reviews that might give away the ending.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Frank & Robot: BFFs

The place: Cold Spring, N.Y.
The time: The not so distant future when technology is taking over the planet.

Frank (Frank Langella) has been divorced for 30 years, has memory issues, and lives in an ever-expanding mess. Now his son, an excellent James Marsden, makes him choose. Either he goes to an assisted living facility or he consents to share his life with one of the new health care workers.

Enter Robot. He's glossy white, has no name and speaks with the endearing voice of Peter Sarsgaard. Robot cooks and cleans for Frank. Indeed, everything he does adheres to his basic program. He's technically dedicated to Frank's physical and mental well being.

And that's where the fun begins. Robot lacks, not only emotions and reasoning powers, but also nuance and subtley and long-term thinking. What's good for Frank in the short run, may not work in the long run. But Robot doesn't grasp this.

Langella and Robot are a winning team, but the movie is also helped by the excellent supporting cast: Marsden, as Frank's son; Liv Tyler as his daughter; and Susan Sarandon, who's the last human employee at the library where books are being replaced by DVDs and she has a robot of her own, aptly named Mr. Darcy.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Premium Rush: Surprise of the Summer

The Movie Slut hates chase scenes. Whether they're on foot, in cars, on planes, trains or hover crafts, she finds them an uber-snore.

So why did she see this flick about a bike messenger streaking around a metropolitan area?

Two reasons: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and New York City.

And she was thrilled that she did. Thanks to director David Koepp, the movie managed not to be a brainless zooming-around bore.

Gordon-Levitt is Wilee, the city's fastest and most daring messenger, who rides without brakes, gears or fear. He has only one worry. As a graduate of Columbia Law School, it's a future in a gray flannel suit, driving a desk, that puts him in a panic.

The movie careens into action when he's hired to deliver an envelope from Columbia University, 116th Street, all the way down to Chinatown. During rush hour. And if that's not challenge enough, a raging bull of a guy is determined to prevent this delivery.

If this still sounds like a mindless movie, consider two more enticements. You'll be swept along the magnificent streets of Manhattan, through Central Park, around Columbus Circle and alongside the breathtaking Chrysler Building.

And when you learn why this letter must reach the correct recipient at the right time, you're heart will truly be engaged by this surprisingly excellent film. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sparkle: Yes It Does

There's a short scene at the end of Sparkle in which Whitney Houston, in the audience at her daughter's first solo concert, blows a kiss up to the stage. Movie-goers can be forgiven for interpreting it as a farewell kiss by Houston to her fans.

The flick, a remake of a 1976 movie of the same title, wrapped up filming just three months before Houston's death and serves as a reminder of what a classy gal she was.

Houston stars in the movie and was the executive producer, but she had the grace, humility, generosity and maturity to step back and allow the three young women, who play her daughters, to grab the spotlight for most of this sincere and entertaining strive-and-succeed film.

The plot is simple: It's 1968 —oh the fashions!—and three sisters are trying to make it in the Motown scene. Through ups and downs and more downs, the Movie Slut could not help but cheer them on. The music soars. The emotions are raw. And when Houston sings her one solo in a church, where she began her career, she reminded us of what star power is all about.

And then she passes the baton to the next generation.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Queen of Versailles: A Riches to Rags Story

When we first meet Jackie and David Siegel, they're joyously building the largest single-family dwelling in the country. Fashioned after the palace of Versailles, it's what this Orlando, Florida couple believes their family of eight children, countless canines, and huge staff deserves and needs.

Think of it as the American Dream on steroids.

Jackie is 42 and a former beauty contestant. David, 30 years her senior, is a businessman who built a time-share empire.

At first glance, they're an odd couple. Not so. In fact, they bring to life the old Yiddish expression: "For every pot, there is a lid."

Together, they're the excess express.

Until the 2008 stock market collapse plunges them into relative ruin. Their Versailles remains unfinished. They may even lose their present home, a sprawling McMansion with a pool and Rolls Royce driving chauffeur.

Now the movie becomes more interesting. And infinitely sadder.

Jackie and David are hardly the only Americans who've suffered because of the shenanigans of greedy bankers. And they are certainly not among those most egregiously harmed. Still, they pull at your heartstrings. Not because they're victims of a corrupt economy, but because they're victims of their own issues and insecurities —the very same problems that led them to believe they needed their very own Versailles.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Campaign: Vote No Go

The Campaign starts off promisingly with a quote from Ross Perrot.

"War has rules, mud wrestling has rules - politics has no rules."

So far. So good. But as it lurches forward in fits and spurts, the film forgets to trust in the intelligence of its audience. There are scenes bordering on the clever. And the cast, with Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis as the candidates, and John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd as the manipulating moneybag Motch brothers (sound familiar?), is first rate. Dylan McDermott as the soulless campaign manager is the movie's brightest spot.

But instead of mining the absurdity of modern American politics for satiric humor, the screen writer stooped to fart jokes and other desperate, unfunny stabs at cheap laughs.

The Campaign will go down on The Movie Slut's list of missed opportunites. With a timely topic like candidates gone wild, this flick could have been a gem. Instead it's just cubic zerconia.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Bourne Legacy: Survival of the Fittest

Where's the plot?
In this, the fourth Bourne movie, Jason Bourne isn't the only MIA situation. Though there's tons of mumbo-jumbo about Treadstar and black ops, the situation is rather simple.

Bourne is gone. (We miss you Matt Damon.)
We now have Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner).

He's a chemically enhanced spy/contract killer for the CIA. And not the only one. But now, due to a lapse in security, the program must be disbanded. All operatives are destined for annihilation.

And there you have it. The rest of the movie is about Arron Cross fighting to stay alive. To do this he must bounce around the planet from Alaska to the Philippines, to Chicago, to Pakistan, to Virginia and a bunch of other places. Along the way, he enlists the help of Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weicz), who lights up the screen and brings out the best in Renner and and his character, Cross

The Movie Slut went into the theater with low hopes, which were surpassed. Ever so slightly. Perhaps if she'd done her homework and reviewed the three previous movies. Then again, never underestimate the importance of a good plot.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ruby Sparks: It Sparkles. It Glows. It Glistens.

Falling in love and writing fiction are both magical experiences.

That's what we learn in this brilliant rom-com, which is not as much a boy-meets-girl story as it is a boy-creates-girl tale. Or is it?

Movie-goers can decide for themselves if Ruby is real or the fictional creation of a young writer who reached literary greatness while still a teen and has suffered from writer's block ever since.

With Zoe Kazan in the staring role — she also wrote the screenplay — and her real life romantic interest Paul Dano, playing her movie lover, this flick has the feel and texture of early Woody Allen.

The Movie Slut's interpretation is that this film takes you inside the life and mind of a fiction writer — the agonies and the ecstasies of living with figments of the imagination, who don't always comply with the wishes of those who created them.

But she's also open to other interpretations. See it and let her know what you thing.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Hope Springs: Infernal

HS is an adult flick. And it's about sex.

But now that we've got your attention, we're sorry to say it's not erotic in the least. Doesn't even try to be.

Kay and Arnold (Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones) have been married for 31 years and aren't getting any. They sleep in separate rooms and share about six words a day.

While he seem fine with the arrangement, she wants and needs more.

Enter Dr. Feld (Steve Carrell), a couples therapist. Kay sees him hopefully, Arnold, reluctantly.

Carrell, who plays it straight as the marriage doc, offers little insight into their arctic rift. We never learn why Arnold is so angry, but somehow this marriage is saved so we can have a happy renewal-of-vows scene at the end.

The Movie Slut doesn't know any women like Kay. She's a throwback to the pre-Feminine Mystique days. Obviously, she's never read Cosmo or attended a sex toy party. It's difficult to believe she exists outside the confines of the 1950s or an ultrareligious cult. Still, it's great to spend time with Meryl, whether she's a cookbook writer, a British prime minister or a housewife from the dark ages. She makes the unbelievable seem possible.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Total Recall: Unmemorable

"I may not remember who I was," Colin Farrell says in TR. "But I know who I am."

That promising line reminds us that this hectic, mindless sci-fi thriller began life with a decidedly more cerebral bent.

Based on a Philip K. Dick short story and following in the heels of a 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger flick of the same name, it's a post-apocalyptic story of a restless young man who may or may not be a super spy.

The Earth is now inhabitable in only two places: The Colony and The United Federation of Britain. The former is a soggy slum that supplies workers for the posher Brits. Bored and unhappy, Doug Quaid (Farrell) visits a Rekall center that promises to implant memories that will lift his spirits. The question is whether this takes place or if the interrupted process triggers the reality of who he really is.

Unfortunately, most of the screen time is spent dashing around in various chases: on foot, in hover crafts, in boats, cars, etc. And the more Doug runs, the less we care about who he is. Or was.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Watch: Costco Is For Members Only

The world is made up of two kinds of folks. Ben Stiller fans. And the other jerks.

OK, now you know which side The Movie Slut is on. And please know she's just kidding and has the greatest respect for those who shun the actor and all his movies.

This movie is for Stiller fans only. Once again he's a clueless, obsessive, uber-earnest guy, who never does anything unless it's 110 percent.

When he creates a neighborhood watch (with Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill) in his squeaky clean Ohio neighborhood, he's not fooling around. He means it. Watch out bad guys. And when slimy aliens turn up as the trouble makers, he fights them to the green oozing end.

Stiller, is the manager of a Costco store and he takes the members-only rule as seriously as he takes everything else. And that's all The Movie Slut will say about The Watch.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises: End of the Trilogy

Reviewing this film after the Aurora tragedy is nearly impossible. It's difficult to view it without mourning for those who lost their lives on opening night. It's tough not to worry about those entering and leaving the theater while the movie is showing, and not to wonder what the young man sitting alone next to you is texting so busily.

Having said all that, the Movie Slut and her megaplex companion agreed this was far from the best movie of the summer. Strangely, that enhanced their movie going experience. The lazy plotting and sloppy staging made for some pretty funny moments. This Dark Knight is only for the bat guy's most ardent fans. The ones who love him unconditionally.

Good news. The Movie Slut is not going deaf. The reason she missed many lines in DK is because they were mumbled behind masks and competing with the thundering soundtrack. Thank the New Yorker magazine for confirming this. 

Beasts Of The Southern Wild: Water World

Beasts takes moviegoers into the soggy Louisiana bayou to meet a ragtag community of fiercely independent souls. The film doesn't celebrate their way of life. Indeed, most of us would consider them the underbelly of society, boozing, drugging and existing at the mercy of the elements.

And yet, they are living on their own terms. Is there not glory in that?

The film is elevated by Hushpuppie, the 6-year-old narrator, who never slips into obnoxious movie kid know-it-allness. She's as confused as anyone and just trying to make sense of her world.

The arrival of a ferocious storm upsets the tentative equilibrium of this community. You'll have to see the movie to learn the rest of the story.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Magic Mike: Where The Boys Are

If Magic Mike were Magic Marge, this flick, starring Channing Tatum as a not-so-high-class stripper, would be considered sexploitation.

The double standard lives on.

Guys, you're gonna want to miss this one. As for you gals, well, get your tickets pronto.

That's not just for the beefcake. Magic Mike, who holds down two jobs and a big dream, is an appealing character even with his clothes on. Matthew MacConaughey—with a perm — is also not to be missed as the strip club owner, who's so sleazy that you'll think there's an oil spill every time he appears on screen.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ted: Won't You Be My Teddy Bear

Trailers and critics will have you believing this movie about a man and his childhood plush toy is a one trick teddy bear.

It's more like three or four tricks.

Sure Ted (left) is the kind of potty-mouthed, pot-smoking "best friend" who keeps our Peter Pan of a protagonist (right) from moving on with his life. But, there's more to this flick than that.

Narrated and spun out in a 1950s rom-com style, the movie serves as a spoof of the old Doris Day/Rock Hudson romances. And when the music isn't 1980s (Hootie & the Blowfish, Tiffany) the period in which the action takes place, it echoes the decade three years earlier as well.

Ted also gets a boost from excellent performances by Mark Wahlberg, as John, and his long suffering girlfriend (Mila Kunis), who must compete with the "best friend" her guy can't seem to move past. Enough laughs, here, if you're standards are as low as the Movie Slut's.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

People Like Us: Make that the Best of Us

The less you know about this touching movie before you see it, the better. So, if you happen to be in a theater when the trailer is shown, please close your eyes, place a finger in each ear and mutter, "La, la, la" under your breath.

This is a boy-meets-girl flick, but unlike any you've seen before. It's also a film about family, the strength and resilience of family bonds. And that's all the Movie Slut is going to say about that.

OK, one more fact. You might want to see this movie just because it doesn't fit the hackneyed script with the de rigueur ending that's been played out ad nauseum. (Now that's a mouth full.)