Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Raven: Forevermore

When the Movie-Slut-to-be was in fourth grade, she was blown away by Edgar Allan Poe's most famous poem. It was recited —most dramatically—by a not-very-tall, but very dark and handsome classmate with a theatrical flourish.

In middle school the great writer's short story, "The Fall of the House of Usher," had a similar affect on the future movie blogger.

Then in college, "Annabel lee" in the kingdom by the sea, sent her swooning.

And so it was with great trepidation that she purchased a ticket for "The Raven." What kind of treatment would Hollywood give to the granddad of horror? Would it be a horrible afternoon at the multiplex?

The answer is an unequivocal "No!"

In fact Poe might relish the movie plot, which supplies a fictional account of his last days and an imaginative explanation for his mysterious death in 1849, at the age of 40. It weaves together many of his stories and poems in quite an ingenious way.

This flick is goth, gripping and gory with some giggles thrown in for good measure.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

We Have A Pope: An Answered Prayer

We've already seen singing/dancing nuns, so why not vollyball-playing Cardinals? Well, you'll see them now in this gem of a dramedy from Nanni Moretti, the Italian director, who also co-wrote and co-stars in this answered prayer. (That's if your prayers include a funny/thought-provoking flick you won't soon forget.)

The smoke above Vatican Square was white. The Faithful were assembled. And then... Let's just say the centuries-old tradition takes a most surprising turn.

What happens after the Conclave of Cardinals elects the next pope unfolds like giggles from heaven. And the jokes are not all aimed at The Church. Moretti is a psychoanalyst in the film and Freud's ideas and methods also come under friendly fire.

This is a movie that does not take sides. Instead, it reveals some of the absurdities in our midst and reminds us that they are deeply, truly funny. And it does not stop there. Most of us will identify with the new pope's plight. And that's God's honest truth.

Damsels in Distress: Ditto for the Audience

The main problem with "Damsels," a flick about a quartet of coeds who try to elevate life on their college campus, is that we rarely see the need for their ministrations and when we do the movie is at least half over.

In a sense, we're dropped into their universe, the fictitious Seven Oaks College, to meet the girls who run the campus suicide prevention center where tap dancing and doughnut downing are the preferred therapies.

If this sounds funny, well, somehow it isn't. In fact alpha damsel, Violet (Greta Gerwig) is so brittle that she brings to mind that proverbial squeaky chalk on the blackboard. Cringe. Cringe.

"Damsels" feels more like a series of semi-amusing scenes thrown against a wall to see what will stick, rather than a well-integrated film.

Why see this movie? Violet's prissy 1950s wardrobe made it worthwhile for the Movie Slut.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

American Reunion: From Pie to Piffle

Thirteen years ago, they were high school jerks. Funny jerks. But jerks nonetheless. Now, more than a decade after "American Pie" hit theaters, they're still jerks but a lot less funny.
Too bad.
What could have been a hysterical romp down memory lane is a lame limp along the highway to nowhere.
All the guys are back, and once again Jim Levenstein, (Jason Biggs), is the glue that holds the buds together. He still has the sweetness and confusion that elevated him above his horny circumstances, but here he can't get beyond the tiresome plot and tone-deaf dialogue.

Eugene Levy, as Jim's lumberingly obtuse Dad, and Jennifer Coolidge as Stiffler's sexually predatory Mom, almost save this yawn-a-thon from jettisoning viewers into a narcoleptic torpor. But not quite.

If you miss this one, count yourself among the blessed. The bad news is that a sequel has been threatened.
How about "American Finale?"

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Deep Blue Sea: Between The Devil &...

Here's a movie that should be required viewing for all women who refuse to call themselves Feminists. It will force them to see what it was like to be a gal back in 1950, before Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and their ilk saved us from situations like this.

It's 1950, post-war England and Hester (Rachel Weisz) has two choices: Her boring, unattractive older husband with money and a mommy complex or a natty, penniless fighter pilot back from the war with a drinking problem and commitment phobia. (Which, of course, wasn't defined back then.)

We're supposed to think this flick, a remake of a 1955 movie based on a 1952 play, is about love and lust and the aftermath of devastating war. But for those with 20/20 hindsight, it's shouting about the lack of opportunities for women.

No wonder Hester was depressed. She suffered from the problem that had no name until "The Feminine Mystique" was written 13 years later.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Kid With A Bike: An Incredible Ride

Sometimes at the movies, as in life, it's easy to forget that fundamental human decency is all around us. This elevating movie from Belgian filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne will remind you that psychos and other sickos aren't the only ones inhabiting our planet.

It's a stirring movie in the way that the Beethoven music that brackets the film sends you soaring above the baser elements of our world. A mere 11 notes separate the action into chapters in a way that cannot be more wondrous.

Cyril, the kid of the title, is a survivor. We figure that out right away. Instinctively, he does what he must to deal with circumstances that might crush a less resilient child. Often, his behavior isn't pretty. He's muddling through.

And so are the other characters in this heartfelt film. These adults are lost,too, but are not villainized. "Kid" is a big-hearted movie that let's us know that sometimes it's not about good and evil. It's about the imperfection in the middle.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen: Faith, Fish, Folly

What the Brits do best at the movies is to poke fun at themselves. Eccentric characters in absurd situations is their bread — better make that popcorn — and butter.

In this inspirational rom-com, Dr. Alfred Jones, (Ewan McGregor) a British fisheries expert, is one of these lovable loons. Still, when he's approached to carry out mega-rich Sheikh Muhammed's quixotic plan, even he's struck by the ridiculousity of the project.

Don't worry, he's soon on board, along with the sheikh's assistant (love-interest-to-be) Emily Blunt, and the British Prime minister's press secretary, the hysterically cynical Kristin Scott Thomas. It was she who glommed onto the sheikh's impossible dream to help her boss offset bad news from that part of the world.

And so the stage is set and the preposterous plan unfolds in a way that would make Kafka smile. After all, it was he who said, "Don Quixote's misfortune is not his imagination, but Sancho Panza."
Just listen.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Jeff, Who Lives At Home: Not just another slacker pot-head flick

Jeff is 30 years old and, as the title implies, still lives with Mommy. He has no job and apparently no hobbies other than smoking illegal drugs. But what pushes this movie beyond the others of this genre are two facts. One, he's not the only member of his family who hasn't moved on and, two, he's a gentle giant with a big, wonderful heart, played by the Teddy Bearish Jason Segel.
Jeff's mother, the brilliant Susan Sarandon, and his brother, a deadpan Ed Helms, are stuck in a rut, too. Ever since Jeff's dad died about 15 years ago.

Now, Jeff searches for signs to illuminate the path he should take. The first appears while he's flopping on the couch at home. Where else? Is it a false sign or the beginning of a journey that propels him beyond his stasis?
Jeff's childlike belief in signs, his generosity of spirit and his acceptance of differences is what elevates this flick above some mundane writing and questionable plotting.

As she was leaving the theater, the Movie Slut asked a fellow moviegoer what she thought of the film.

"About halfway through, I thought I'd thrown out my $10," the woman said. "Then it all came together and I really liked this movie."

The MS cheers, "Ditto."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mirror Mirror: A Reflexion of the Times

If only the wicked queen had lived in the here and now instead of the once upon a time. She would have visited her friendly plastic surgeon and that would have been that.
Alas. This new adaptation of the old Grimm fairy tale is a grim affair despite all that it has going for it. And that includes: Julia Roberts as the evil royal (and she does evil brilliantly; Nathan Lane as her unctuous lackey (and he's unctuous personified); seven frightfully funny warrior dwarfs; enchanting music by Alan Menken; over-the-top sets and scenery.
So why is "Mirror Mirror" less than the sum of its parts?
Let's just say it's like a fun house mirror that's no fun at all.
OK, maybe it's a little fun. The author of this review is, after all, the Movie Slut.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

21 Jump Street: You Could Skip This One

Whether you take a hop, skip and jump to this flick or whether you run the other way probably depends on your affinity for the 1987-1991 TV show of the same name.

The Movie Slut suggests you bring fresh eyes to the movie. No, it's not a must-see, but she's happy she did see it.

As on TV, you'll find undercover cops investigating youth crime. Here, they infiltrate a high school where a new killer drug is being sold.

"Oh, another high school movie," you may say. But this flick approaches the tired genre with fresh energy. The teens no longer fit into the hackneyed stereotypes we've grown accustomed to. And that's where the fun is found.

Add to that a surprising and enriching cameo performance by an undercover star and "21 Jump Street" had enough to please the undiscriminating Movie Slut and maybe you.