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the current American climate — read Tucson, Aurora, Newtown — this kind of gratuitous violence rings particularly old, outdated and tone deaf.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.