Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Psst See It

Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty

In 1939, James Thurber wrote the short story.
In 1947, Danny Kaye starred in the movie.
Now, Ben Stiller is Walter Mitty in the remake.

It's been said that Thurber hated the first movie. We'll never know what he'd think of the third incarnation of his story about a timid young man who escapes his dreary life by daydreaming about great adventures fraught with danger.

But the Movie Slut loved it.

Stiller is an ideal Mitty. Today we call this daydreaming "zoning out" and there's fun and humor in his transitions from shy, awkward office wonk to swashbuckling adventurer. Kristin Wiig is also right on as his love interest. And Sean Penn, in a cameo, as the true adventurer who lures Walter away from his safe existence, gives an amazing performance.

Some of the modern flourishes in the movie work better than others and the tacked-on editorializing about the treatment of downsized employees belongs in another film.

Still this flight of fancy soars. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street: Hear Him Roar

Debauched. Excessive. Over the top.
That's what critics are saying about this Martin Scorsese flick.

The Movie Slut wonders where they were when Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained was oozing blood all over the multiplexes. Oh, how the critics loved it.

Once again violence is applauded while sex is panned. What does that say about a culture? 

Wolf is long. A minute shy of three hours. And nudity is plentiful. Every scene isn't palatable. But it has Leondardo DiCaprio in the starring role of Jordon Belfort, a real-life sociopathic Wall Street swindler, who drinks, drugs, parties and parades around half dressed for much of the movie.

DiCaprio is riveting, even with his clothes on and, unlike American Hustle, the story is easy to follow.

What's missing from this tour-de-force is an editor who'd have left about sixty minutes on the cutting room floor.
As they say, everyone needs an editor, even Martin Scorsese.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Inside Llewyn Davis: Where Have All the Folk Songs gone?

"Save your money," a guy leaving the theater told the small group waiting to see this flick. You might say he snarled this suggestion.

"Everyone's a critic," a man in the group said sarcastically.
"We didn't ask for his opinion," a woman added.

Happily, the self-anointed critic was wrong. This movie about a struggling folk singer in 1961 was well worth the price of admissions.

It may not be the cheeriest film at the multiplex. But the music is fine, the early-'60s Greenwich Village scene is accurate and the acting is superb. Star Oscar Isaac is joined on screen by Carey Mulligan, John Goodman and Justin Timberlake, who you surely remember, can sing.

The film says a lot about surviving as a creative artist in a world where even real critics aren't any more knowledgeable than the big mouth leaving the theater.

Here's some of what you'll hear.

American Hustle: Don't Get Conned

Do you feel like your life is speeding ahead in fast forward mode? Do you ever wish to slow down time? If you've answered "yes" to these questions, then American Hustle is the movie for you. Its running time is 2 hours and 9 minutes. But you'll feel like you've been stuck in that multiplex seat for twice as long.

Sure there are some clever and funny moments in this flick. Unfortunately most occur before the opening credits.

In a nutshell, this is a movie about a a couple of small-time con artists (Amy Adams and Christian Bale), who get in over their heads. It's 1978, which the costume designer deemed license to create the tackiest wardrobe ever. All those boobs!

But maybe the director is most to blame. The over-acting is enough to crush the most enthusiastic moviegoers.

Bradley Cooper, whose been reliable as a sterling actor BH (Before Hustle), is barely watchable. Ditto for Jeremy Renner. Amy Adams, fares somewhat better, but some grossly unflattering shots of her arms might haunt you for days. Only Jennifer Lawrence, cast as the con man's dimwit wife, is truly fall-off-your-seat funny.

The Movie Slut knows what you're thinking if you've read other reviews. But don't get conned into seeing this dud. Especially during the holiday season when new movies seem to be opening every nanosecond. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Saving Mr. Banks: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Finally, a film that goes down very nicely without a spoon full of sugar, or even a bucket of popcorn, for that matter. It's the story of how the movie musical Mary Poppins made it to the big screen despite its reluctant author.

Emma Thompson plays the humorless and demanding P.L. Travers, who was pursued by Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) for more than twenty years before the movie was finally made in 1961.

Lest you forgot, Mr. Banks was the father in the original movie and what you might not know is that the character was based on Travers' father. The Movie Slut will not give away another fact. She will say that the brilliant original music and a compelling story, which evolves beautifully and is fed by touching flashbacks, makes this a must-see film this holiday season. You'll laugh. You'll cry. What else could a moviegoer want?

Out of the Furnace: Into the Multiplex

In a hardscrabble blue-collar town, there lived two brothers.

Russell (Christain Bale) works in the mill, on the furnace, to be exact. He's the good brother if you ignore some over drinking and vehicular manslaughter that land him in the big house.

 Rodney is the bad brother. He's just returned from his fourth deployment in Afghanistan and is out of work. Lest you think this flick's about the unjust treatment of returning vets, think again. We soon learn that Rodney (Casey Affleck) has always been trouble. He's an issuey guy and one of those issues is gambling.

This is a gritty movie with Woody Harrelson as a drug addicted and selling mountain lowlife adding grime to the grit. The Movie Slut would say, "skip it" unless you're the macho type with a penchant for blood and misplaced guts. But thanks to primo acting (Sam Shepard's also in the cast) and ace photography, she deems it watchable.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Book Thief: Watch, Don't Read

The Movie Slut almost skipped this one.
The book.

She tried to read the novel, but the obnoxious narrator kept interrupting the story to inject his banal observations.

Luckily, he's less intrusive in the flick allowing the captivating narrative to pull her in and keep her interested.

This is a World War II story, which takes place in a small German village. If you've ever wondered how the German people allowed Nazi atrocities to continue, this sheds light on the helplessness of these simple folks, some of whom did manage to help Hitler's victims. But the film is about more than that.

It's also about the magic of words, particularly those sandwiched between two covers. Those who love books are well aware of the transportive nature of reading — the joy of cracking open a book and being swept away by words that spring to life.

And there couldn't be a more timely moment to tell this sorrowful, yet uplifting, tale. We have, after all, entered the era when tablets are replacing tomes.

Ask the Movie Slut how she feels about this digital development and she answers with a question.
"Can you imagine a movie called "The Kindle Thief?"

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Nebraska: Family Ties

Everything comes together in this thoughtful film about the family ties that bind these characters together. Exactly what those ties are made of is open to interpretation. Maybe it's love.

When the movie opens, we see a grisled old man (Bruce Dern) trudging along the road. Beaten down by drink, age and neglect, he appears unable to make it for a block. We soon learn he's on his way from Montana to Nebraska to retrieve the million dollars promised him in a sweepstakes letter.

His son (Will Forte) tries to convince him the letter is a scam. Instead, the father convinces him to make the road trip.

Photographed in black and white, with a soulful score that captures the flatness of the heartland, Nebraska opens a window onto this father/son relationship, the father's secrets, the dynamic between other family members and the old man's need to believe in his supposed windfall.

The Movie Slut appreciates how questions resonate, remain unanswered and provide food for thought.

Philomena: Past Perfect

Judi Dench is a marvel in this movie as an Irish woman who gave birth out of wedlock when she was a teenager in 1952, was forced to give up her son, and sets out to find him 50 years later.

Steve Coogan, a journalist without a job, reluctantly signs on to accompany her in the search and write the human interest story he considers to be below him.

Sadly, this heartbreaking film is based on a true story and one that wasn't unique in 1950s Ireland.

As the journalist, Coogan reveals what it's like to chase a story and stick it out when all his work threatens to go up in smoke.

 But the movie belongs to Dench, whose performance is spot on. She suffers, yet has an inner strength and resilience that, at times, seems super human.

A mother's love has never been portrayed as well.

Delivery Man: Right On Schedule

Vince Vaughn has made a career out of playing a clueless, motor-mouthed man-child whose crusty exterior all but hides an inner sweetness.

In his newest flick, he's still an oversized Peter Pan, driving a delivery truck for his butcher father, but his inner nice guy breaks through and it's delightful to see.

What can the Movie Slut divulge that won't give away the entire plot? Let's just say that about two decades earlier he made some deliveries that now thrust him into a new role in life, one in which he not only faces responsibility but flourishes in it.

Vaughn was made for this part and he's made it his own.