Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Homesman: Stay Home

"Why do they make movies like this?" a young man shouted out at the end of this tedious flick. He may have poor impulse control (He also commented loudly during the trailers.), but he asked a great question.

And the only answer the Movie Slut could think of was that Tommy Lee Jones was in need of a vanity project. He not only stars in this dud, but he's also the director and co-writer.

The real question is how the wonderfully talented Hilary Swank got sucked into this clunker.

So what's it about? The nutshell plot: Three pioneer women slide into insanity due to their hardscrabble existences. Mary Bee (Swank) must take them back east. On the way she meets lowlife drifter (Jones) as well as Indians, etc., etc., etc, etc., etc., etc.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Big Hero Six: A Ten

BH6 is the most charming and emotionally involving  animated film to arrive on the big screen since Up. Based on a Marvel comic, it takes place in San Fransokyo and is named for the six characters who team up to fight the bad guys.

Clearly the most lovable, hugable of the six is Baymax, a giant marshmallow of a robot who's programmed to be a health care companion. The job description is a long way from crime fighter and much of the fun in this delightful flick comes from Baymax having to rationalize his actions to conform to his program.

See this movie. If you don't have children, borrow some.

Charlie, 7, "loved" the movie because it had "lots of gadgets and stuff" and is "really funny."
Annie, 9, said, "I like it becuse I liked how the robot was programmed to help people."

You will, too.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Whiplash: All That Jazz

What does it take to be the best?

A ton of talent. Oodles of ambition. More than a sprinkle of sacrifice.  Blood, sweat and tears. Literally. And a healthy dose of OCD.

That's a given in this movie about Andrew, a young drummer (Miles Teller), who's a student at New York City's preeminent music college. (If you can make it there...)

But does he also need a lunatic mentor, who drives his students, particularly Andrew, with the crazed brutality of a marine boot camp sergeant?

Whiplash is one of the most difficult films to watch. Despite some obnoxious behavior (after all, Andrew is still a teen), the Movie Slut worried  her way through this flick. After all, one of the mentor's (J.K. Simmons) former students was driven to his death.

The two most horrible words in the English language, he tells Andrew, are "good job."

Will Andrew survive his mentor? Or will he be crushed in the process? This riveting movie goes back and forth so many times, you're likely to get whiplash

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Imitation Game: Copy That

The Movie Slut will see any flick Benedict Cumberbatch is in. And she's never disappointed. The dude's one fine actor and chooses his projects well.

In this based-on-a-true-life story, he's Alan Turing, the real-life brilliant mathematician who helped to end World War II without stepping onto Normandy Beach or any other battle zone for that matter. It was his job to break the Nazi's Enigma Code, which enabled the Allies to stay one step ahead of the enemy.

As usual, Cumberbatch is sensational in his role and so is Keira Knightly, who's the only female on his crackerjack team and serves as a reminder of the treatment of women in those dark ages.

Sadly, Turing's life ended tragically in 1954. You'll have to see this flick to learn why.


Rosewater: This Movie By Any Other Name...


Yes, this is Jon Stewart's directorial debut.

Now that that's out of the way, we can move on.

Rosewater is the story of an Iranian-born Canadian journalist who was imprisoned in Iran for 118 days in 2009. It's a compelling story well told, based on the memoir, Then They Came for Me, by Maziar Bahari, who was accused of being a spy. 

Stewart, who also wrote the screenplay, has another connection to the story. But you'll have to see the movie to learn what that was. You'll definitely want to see this! Kafka is probably laughing in his grave.

The movie, which takes its name from the cologne liberally sprinkled by Maziar's top interrogator, is not like any other prison flick you've seen. But then it wouldn't be because...well, you know who the director is.

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.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

John Wick: Rhymes With Ick


Some stuff you should know about John.

1. He once killed three men with one pencil. True story.
2. He's a natty dresser, though a bit monochromatic.
3. He used to be called The Boogeyman. Or did he kill the Boogeyman?
4. He's more action figure than human. Which is perfect casting for Keanu Reeves. Not a put down.

Seems like forever since Keanu was in a movie. That's was one reason the Movie Slut was eager to see this flick. And then there was the glowing review in the New York Times. That brings us to
5. Don't listen to the newspaper of record. This movie is a stinker.

The flimsy plot revolves around JW eking out revenge to the guy who stole his car and killed his dog, a gift from his recently decreased wife. It's what catapults him into a killfest that lasts for the rest of the move, one tightly choreographed fight scene after the other and another and another.

This was enough for the NYT reviewer and if it's enough for you, then by all means, rush right over to your multiplex.
As for the Movie Slut, she wants MORE.

Friday, October 24, 2014

St. Vincent: Teresa He's Not


Vincent (Bill Murray) is a drunk, a gambler, a curmudgeon and that's just the beginning of his negatives. If you think that's funny, you may like this flick.

The Movie Slut is not laughing.

But then, St. V is not a comedy. The only funny character is Naomi Watts, who's hysterical as a Russian prostitute and pole dancer with a heart of gold, a potty mouth and a rapidly expanding baby bump.

Melissa McCarthy, playing against type, isn't funny either. But she's not supposed to be and proves her skills surpass her usual repulsive loser-gal roles.

Maybe the problem with St. Vincent is that it tries to be heart-warming and fails. Or maybe the real trouble is that it's just a vehicle for Murray to garner an Oscar nomination. And we, the audience, are collateral damage.

So not funny.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fury: War Is Hell


In 1945, Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) leads his tank crew behind enemy lines in Nazi Germany. The battle-hardened four-man unit, joined by a young soldier trained as an army typist, know they're outnumbered. Facing death, they're determined to take out as many Nazis before the enevitable occurs.

Fury is a raw war movie, but despite some less-than-subtle opening scenes depicting Wardaddy as a consummate killer, who clings to what little humanity remains, the movie moves on to tell a devastating, believable story.

It's a story about the intense relationships between men thrown together during the heat of battle, who have only each other. It's also a movie that reminds us of the insanity of war.

When will we ever learn?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pride: And Prejudice

Talk about strange bedfellows!

In his flick —based on a true story—a group of young gay Londoners takes on the cause of Welch miners.

The time is 1984 and the miners are on strike when a charismatic gay leader realizes the two groups— surprisingly— have much in common.

Pride is an English ensemble comedy that makes the most of the clash of cultures that ensues when the gay group buses to Wales to offer help.

It's a feel-good flick about people helping people and finding a common core of humanity.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Judge: Father & Son Reunion


Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall face off in this Hollywood rarity, a movie about male relationships that don't involve cowpokes bonding in front of a campfire or sophomoric whackaloons drinking themselves into oblivion.

They're an estranged father and son, a judge and a lawyer, who share a common animosity for each other. It's a good plot, which the Movie Slut won't give away, but one with too many twists and turns. Some are necessary to play against predictability and others are unnecessary, and then there are those that are downright disgusting.

This 2-hour and 21-minute flick could have been paired down to an 1-hour and 50-minute gem.

If only.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Kill The Messenger: Crack is Whack

Jeremy Renner as journalist Gary Webb
Never heard this true story?
You're not alone.
It broke during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which ate up all the air in all the newsrooms causing lots of stories to fall through the cracks. (Pun intended.)
So here it is now in a 1-hour and 52-minute gem at your local multiplex.
It follows Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Gary Webb's rocky career trajectory. As a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News in California he broke a story linking crack cocaine to Nicaraguan rebels, information the United States government never wanted to see the light of day.
The Movie Slut won't divulge what happens next. But will say it speaks to the game journalism plays today and is well worth seeing.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Gone Girl: If only they said "I don't"

It's been called the worst first date movie of all time.
But don't forget Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe and War of the Roses.
Whatever happened to marital bliss?

If you're one of the gazillion people who, like the Movie Slut, read the book, you won't be disappointed. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike bring the characters to life. And if you're one of the gazillion readers who got to the end of the book and screamed, "What! Never!" you'll be happy that the movie clarifies (somewhat) the ending.

Supporting actors Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry round out a terrific cast for this movie that provides edge-of-your-seat suspense even if you already know what happens.

The Skeleton Twins: Why this title?????


Comic actors long to be taken seriously. As if being successfully funny isn't enough.

The Movie Slut suspects that's why Bill Hader and Kritsen Wiig signed on to this dud in which they play twins, who've been separated for ten years and unite under sad circumstances only learn how much they have in common.

Too bad what they have in common are "coping" mechanisms that include getting drunk out of  their minds though they're not averse to a little weed now and then. And just so we know these guys can still be funny, some fart jokes are thrown in for good measure. And a vomiting scene, too. So been there, seen that.

Yes, they grew up in a dysfunctional family, but, hey, does that give them license to bore us on the big screen?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Equalizer: Can't Wait for the Sequel


They wear capes and masks and Spandex catsuits.
They weave webs and fly and are faster than speeding bullets.
And in the case of Frank McCall (Denzel Washington) aka The Equalizer, they don home mart aprons and have powers too numerous to list.


 But don't doubt for a nanosecond that you're watching a superhero flick.

There's an epic battle between good and evil on the screen. This time in Boston. The good guys and girls might have stepped out of a Charles Dickens novel. And the bad guys, well, they're as over-the-top evil as Magneto or The Riddler.

Much has been made of the violence in  this movie. (It can't even be mentioned in the same sentence as the bloodshed in the critically, but not Movie Slut, acclaimed Django.)

As always, Denzel Washington is a riveting screen presence, who elevates what might otherwise be a pedestrian revenge movie.

And while we're on the subject of superhero flicks. They've all got sequels. Right?
At the end of The Equalizer, the stage is set for The Equalizer Returns.

Friday, September 26, 2014

My Old Lady: She may be old, but...


And you thought apartment battles were a New York City thing.
Well, think again.
Supposedly, in Paris there's a legality that precludes an owner from selling his property and even forcing him to pay rent to the apartment dweller.
This is the position Kevin Klein's character finds himself in, which is too bad since it's the only asset in his non-existent portfolio.
Maggie Smith occupies the apartment where she lives with her unpleasant daughter, Kristen Scott Thomas.
The biggest surprise about this movie is that despite the sterling cast and promising plot, it falls flatter than je ne sais quoi.
Based on a play by Israel Horovitz, this flick should have remained on stage. It's stagey. And worse. All the way to the tacked on "happy" ending.
If  you want to see a funny and insightful movie about an apartment in contention, rent The Break Up with Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn.

Monday, September 22, 2014

This Is Where I Leave You: Sitting Shiver

Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, Jane Fonda, Jason Bateman, Adam Driver


When Dad dies, the Altman family unites to sit shiva in the Jewish tradition, in the exact spot where their Christmas tree used to be. Which pretty much explains the kind of people they are. A little of this. A little of that.

There's a temptation to call them a dysfunctional clan. But that's not how the Movie Slut sees them. They're thoroughly modern people struggling with an assortment of contemporary issues. And while they could be viewed as self-obsessed whiners — kvetchers is the better word—they could also be seen as striving to get it right.

This Is Where I Leave You is a comedy with pathos. Wendy's (Tina Fey) back story is particularly poignant. And Jane Fonda's Hillary, the matriarch, aptly juggles wisdom and superficiality.

The flick would have benefited from more vigorous editing. A character or two should have been left on the cutting room floor, particularly the cringe-worthy rabbi. Still, there's much here to love.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Love is Strange: Says Who?

John Lithgow & Frank Molina



There's nothing strange about the love shared by Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Frank Molina), unless we time travel back to the 1950s. By now, we all know that men can love men and women can love women. So what else does this perfectly nice movie have to offer?

Precious little, says the Movie Slut.

The plot revolves around the financial difficulties experienced by the couple when, after nearly four decades of living together, they finally get married. Ben is retired and George loses his job teaching at a Catholic school. Little is made of the hypocrisy that allowed him to keep his job as an openly gay unmarried guy. This movie is too nice for that.

This is not an anti-church movie. If anything, it's more about the difficulty of finding affordable housing in New York City.

Critics loved this movie. But the Movie Slut can't get past like.

"Love is Strange" benefits from glorious New York city photography and exquisite Chopin music. You may want to remain in the theater long after Ben and George leave the screen just to listen as the closing credits scroll by.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Drop: It's for you to decide

James Gandolfini and Tom Hardy
In a seedy bar on the wrong side of the tracks, Marv and Bob work together in quiet discomfort. Bad blood has flowed between Uncle Marv, who appears to be a hothead, and his nephew, who could pass for a dimwit. The drop, of course, is money for the mob and the wiseguys are lurking nearby.

The past infests every scene, keeping you at the edge of your seat. Even the girl (Roonie Mara), who Bob meets, is hiding something. And the puppy he finds beaten and left to die has a sad and violent past.

James Gandolfini died before this movie hit theaters, which adds to the haunted feel of this flick. Especially when he delivers the line (paraphrased here), "We're all dead already. We just don't know it."

In the end, moviegoers don't actually see the end,  leaving them to determine how dark this flick really is. So far, the Movie Slut hasn't made up her mind between two possible endings.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Last of Robin Hood: Rich & Poor


Kevin Kline, Dakota Fanning and Susan Sarandon make a silk purse out of a sow's ear in this thin film about the last days of movie legend Erroll Flynn.

It's the 1950s. He's pushing 50 and becomes infatuated with a teenage chorus girl. Her Mom (Sarandon) sees this as an opportunity for her daughter and the illegal relationship takes off.

It's difficult to get your knickers in a bunch over this illicit affair because Kline's Flynn is so immature, charismatic and needy while Fanning's Beverly is so responsible and mature beyond her years. And then there's Sarandon, who, despite her evil Mom behavior, isn't nearly as hateful as she needs to be.

For the Movie Slut, the '50s wardrobe was the highlight of this film. Oh those prim little dresses!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Identical: The King's Brother

Blake Rayne is Ryan Wade & Drexel Hemsley
What if Elvis's twin brother didn't die at birth? What if he were adopted by Ray Liotta (a preacher man)  and Ashley Judd (his pious wife)? What if his real name was Drexel Hemsley?

What if a silly movie was able to gyrate past foolishness and grab you by the heartstrings?

That's what The Identical does by being earnest, loving and ultimately lovable.

Unfortunately, no real Elvis music is played in this film and the substitutes don't come close to the electrifying songs. Still, Blake Rayne's impersonation is first rate.

If I Stay: The Staycation from Hell

Chloƫ Grace Moretz is Mia, a teen wrestling with the big question.

                                                                                                         
"To be or not to be" is the question Mia ponders in this four-tissue YA date flick. And not only does she echo Hamlet, she also sees a ghost. Not her father, the king, but herself, a musically gifted high school girl.

Despite the similarities, this movie is more Sparkian —as in Nicholas— than Shakespearean, even if the protagonist is haunted and conflicted and pondering a life-or-death decision.

It all starts on a winter day. School is called off, which means Mia's dad, who is a teacher, is getting a snow day, too. Her mother calls in sick and the family is together. So what do they do? Despite snow so heavy that schools are closed, they pile in the car and head out for a ride.

The Movie Slut found this stupidity difficult to ignore. Still, the movie had its appeal thanks to Mia's parents, who are grownup hippies, and her love for music, which brings Beethoven to the sidetrack.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

When the Game Stands Tall: Winning isn't Everything


True story. And that's the problem.

This flick about a high school football team on a winning streak should have scored a  touch down. Alas, it's barely a first down.

It stars Jim Caviezel as legendary couch Bob Ladouceur of the Northern California Spartans and judging from Caviezel's performance, Ladouceur must have been a pretty dour character. Still, his values are laudable. He's more concerned with molding future citizens than creating current heroes. The movie suffers from another problem, too. Sometimes reality needs a bunch of tweaking to create the dramatic ark needed for a winning film.

But the message for young people is a fine one. Let's hope they can sit through the dull parts. 

The Trip To Italy: Steve and Rob's Tiepido Adventure


The degree to which you enjoy this lackluster buddy flick depends on how big a fan you are of comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. As a followup to their 2010 flick, The Trip, in which they travel the English Lake District, the friends now tool around the Italian coast, eating, joking and doing impressions of other actors, including Michael Caine, Al Pacino and Marlon Brandow.

For those who find the two eminently yawnable, there is beautiful cinematography, awe inspiring Verdi music and the occasional quote from Keats and Shelly.

The Movie Slut felt like she was on date with the boring guy who orders a zillion courses forcing her to sit and smile unenthusiastically. Yeah. This is a buddy flick about two guys who think they're so much more interesting than they are.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The November Man: He's no 007.

Pierce Brosnan is the November man.

Take James Bond. Now, hold the martinis, tuxedos and nifty gizmos. What do you get?

The November Man, so named because after he moves through, nothing is left alive.

That could also be said about the brain cells of movie-goers. Unless, you lean back, chomp on popcorn and don't try to actually understand what's happening onscreen.

Imagine that you're suffering from a wicked case of  jet lag.

The opening of this high-voltage action flick zooms from Montenegro to Switzerland to Russia to Croatia and on and on.

Where's 007 when you need him?


Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Giver: Get the Message

Brenton Thwaites, as Jonas, the Memory Keeper in training.

You've seen it before. Think Brave New World,  for starters.  A society devoid of bad human characteristics also robs ciizens of the good stuff. Especially memories.

It's a tradeoff the elders are willing to take. As for the young, well, they don't know what they're missing...until.

The Movie Slut almost skipped this one. "Been there, seen that," she mumbled as she forked over her frequent movie-goer's card. She exited the theater singing a different tune.

Excellent performances by Meryl Streep, as the elder-in-charge, and Jeff Bridges, as the sole memory keeper in the community, enrich this flick.

But it's young Jonas's awakening to the horrors and beauty of genuine human existence that makes this movie worth seeing.

If only, as a society, we could react to the senseless murders committed daily the way Jonas experiences them in the movie. Then, maybe we'd see change.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The One Hundred Foot Journey: A Trip Worth Taking

Manish Dayal and Helen Mirren stir up some treats and trouble.

Predictability was never as picturesque.

In this feel-good movie of the summer, which takes place in a vintage French village in the south of France, Helen Mirren is the snooty proprietress of a renown restaurant famous for classical cuisine.

Imagine her consternation when an Indian patriarch purchases the property across the street and opens a restaurant where spice trumps subtlety.

The clash of cultures takes on a romantic note when Papa's son, a brilliantly talented chef, falls for a fetching young sous chef working in Madame Mallory's kitchen.

The One Hundred Foot Journey is like a perfect souffle. It's light and frothy, with just the right amount of spice. And it never falls flat.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Boyhood: To Manhood

Ellar Coltrane: 6-18 years old
No need for special effects makeup to age the characters in Richard Linklater's ambitious new movie. The characters aged naturally over the 12 years he filmed the flick.

It begins when Masson Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) is in first grade and wraps up when he's off to college. Ethan Hawke, as Masson Sr., Patricia Arquette, as mom, and Lorelei Linklater, as the sister (the filmmaker's daughter), are also on board for the dozen-year ride.

Critics adored the movie. But the Movie Slut was skeptical. So many films that breeze through time devolve into hackneyed historical stereotypes. She's happy to report that her doubts were unfounded.

It helps that mom and dad, divorced parents, are both interesting and messy, and able to bestow their children with unconditional love. And despite the absence of vehicular chases and gun violence, all 2 hours and forty minutes of this movie will have you glued to the screen.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Hercules: Chariots For Hire


What's a nice gal like the Movie Slut doing at a flick like this?

You could chalk it up to indiscriminate taste in movies. But you'd only be half right.

Turns out, MS is a fan of Greek mythology. Alas, in this version Herc's paternity is up for grabs. His father might be the god Zeus. But probably not. Say what?#&#!

Other aspects of the mighty warrior's myth are also tampered with in this based-on-a-graphic-novel film, but a sense of humor has been added for chuckles. (But no laughs out loud. )

As expected, lots of battles ensue and Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) is believable as the debunked demigod and strongest mortal dimwit headed for a sequel.
 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Lucy: She's the First

It's a sci-fy flick that wonders what would happen if humans used 100% of their brain capacity.
It's a revenge thriller that would make the Count of Monte Cristo proud.
It's a post-post feminist screed that Helen Reddy could sing about.

Lucy is all that and more. It's also Scarlett Johansson showing us, once again, that she's a riveting actress who can carry a film almost on her own. Remember Under The Skin.

There's plenty of pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo on the screen and lots of mind-blowing special effects. Which is as it should be in a movie that takes us way beyond the possible to the totally improbable. Add exceptional music, flashbacks to the first Lucy, and a spectacular Little Black Dress and what you get is a movie that can be seen again and again. The Movie Slut will.

Wish I Was Here: Oh, No You Don't


Wish I Was Here would be a terrific title for a film about someone with a rabid texting habit.

Alas, none of the characters is this dispiriting com-dram about a contemporary family living above their means in L.A. has such an affliction.

Dad's a struggling (failed?) actor. Mom pays the bills working for the water company. (Suspend with disbelief, here.) Grandpa, who pays tuition at the Orthodox Jewish school, is taken ill.Lots of jokes about rabbis. (So been there seen that.)

"Heartfelt" is a word several critics have used to describe this movie. But somehow Zach Braff, who's the director, co-writer and star, didn't transfer that warm and fuzzy feelings to the Movie Slut. However Gena, her pal and fellow movie junkie, thought the movie was "sweet."

The MS, who must get the last word, after all this is her blog, says,  yeah, sweet like candy corn dunked in molasses and coated with milk chocolate.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Magic in the Moonlight: Do you believe in magic?


Woody Allen's delightful, charming, frothy contribution this summer's movies asks us to believe. And chances are you're going to walk out of the theater obliging him.

He's not talking about religion, though if you choose to believe in a creator, go right ahead. But, whatever side of that issue you're on, you have to admit there is no proof one way or another.

However, if you just take the time to look around, experience the world, really open your eyes, you'll see what he wants you be believe in. Magic is everywhere.

The Movie Slut never gives away a plot. But she will say that this flick takes place in 1928. Oh the clothes! Oh the settings! Colin Firth is a misanthropic, skeptical magician, who believes in nothing. Until he meets Emma Stone, a young woman working as a psychic. He sets out to expose her. But  you know what they say about the best laid plans.

Get On Up: You'll Feel Good

Question 1: How much do you like James Brown's music?
Question 2: Enough to watch a 2-hour and 18-minute bio-pic about the Godfather of soul?

The Movie Slut does and did and,  yeah, she feels real good.

That's not to say this is an upbeat flick. The "hardest working man in show business" had a dismal childhood and because of his lifespan (1933-2006), moviegoers go through some horrible times in U.S. history.

But the music! That hard-driving, frenetic, hectic, heart-thrashing sound!!!

There are those who fault this flick for being a white-guy's project. So, MS will end with one of JB's greatest hits.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Purge: Anarchy: Class Warfare

Frank Grillo leads a ragtag group who are fighting for their lives.


How do you feel about 20% of Americans owning nearly 90% of the country's wealth?
Your answer to this question will determine your reaction to this movie.

It's a sequel to the 2013 film, which was generally dismissed as a "clunker." The Movie Slut missed that one, but heard this year's installment was superior, so she gave it a try. And is happy she did.

The action takes place in 2023. Life is peachy for the wealthy and they're determined to keep it this way. Which brings us to the annual purge— a 24 hour stretch when all crimes can be committed without repercussions. It's a bad guy's paradise and serves to reduce the population. You know, less drain on resources.

Guess who is culled from the year's census? Not the wealthiest 20%, of course. They call themselves the "New Founding Fathers." But they're The Enemy to the rebels determined to change the status quo.

The Purge: Anarchy is an edge-of-your-seat thriller and despite the futuristic time frame, a good old fashioned battle between good and evil.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sex Tape: Digital Disaster

Cameron Diaz and Jason Segal are a married couple trying to spice up their love life.

For better or worse, Sex Tape is not that sexy. And definitely for worse, it's not that funny either.

"Amusing" is as far as the Movie Slut will go.

It's a story about a married couple that decides to spice up their marriage. You know how. But for young thirty-somethings, they are not as computer savvy as you might think.

Part of the humor of this mildly entertaining flick is the incomprehensibility of the Internet. Their cluelessness, however, would be more believable if they were sixty-somethings.

The couple is also clueless about the problems in their marriage and here, actor Jack Black appears as an Internet porn mogul/therapist. What should have been laugh-off-your-seat hilarious falls flat.

Cameron Diaz, proving once again, how facile she is as a comedic actor, lifts this flick out of the snore zone.

Third Person: He, Him, His

From top right to bottom left: Lian Neeson, Olivia Wilde, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Maria Bello, Adien Brody, Kim Basinger, Michele Melega

Michael (Liam Neeson) is the main person in Third Person. He's a writer who writes in third person. If he wrote in first person, this would be an easier movie to understand. But probably not as good.

Michael's story is a tragic one and he's holed up in a Parisian hotel to write it. He has a wife back home (Kim Basinger), and a lover in Paris, (Olivia Wilde.) And then there are a bunch of other characters, also with sad and tragic stories.

Screen writer and director Paul Haggis also gave us the amazing Crash, another movie with interlocking stories. But he's not working with the same mold in this flick. And despite what some critics said, in the end, moviegoers will know what Third Person is all about and why Michael is writing in third person.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Hail Ceasar

Malcolm (James Clarke) and Caesar (Andy Serkis)

If there's anything scarier than a bad guy with a gun, it's a snarling ape with a gun.

And you'll see plenty of them in the the eighth Planet of the Apes movie. (In case you're wondering, the first was in 1968 and starred Charlton Heston.)

This sequel follows the 2011 film in which James Franco is a scientist, who adopts and educates a baby chimp he names Caesar. Now, Caesar is all grown up and the leader of the ape pack.

Alas, a virulent strain of  simian flu decimated the human population. One group of survivors lives in an apocalyptic San Francisco. They must go across the bay to rebuild a power plant. And Eeeeeee, that's where the apes live.

That's all the Movie Slut will give away. But she will say this was a terrific addition to the franchise and she's looking forward to the next installment in 2016.

Chef: More Is Less

Emjay Anthony with Jon Favreau, writer, director & star

Chef is a lot like the Olive Garden. It serves up quantity. Not quality.

Having said that, the flick mixes together a bunch of fine ingredients. Just too many of them.

It's a foodie movie, of course. It's also a family flick. It's also a road trip film. Those are the major ingredients. But then it adds a pinch of this, a sprinkle of that and a few garnishes. Slow cook for one hour and fifty-five minutes and serve with popcorn

There's lots to like in this earnest movie. Too bad you can't tell a waiter to "Hold the schmaltz."

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow: And Tomorrow And Tomorrow

Loyal readers of this blog know the Movie Slut is a sucker for time-travel flicks. The genre grabbed her when she saw H.G. Wells's The Time Machine. And then there was the delightful Groundhog Day. More recently, she enjoyed the dopey Winter's Tale. Yeah, she is a major fan of skidding around the space/time continuum.

And in Edge of Tomorrow, the stakes could not be higher. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt can only save our planet by going back in time to change the past.

Come to think of it, the plot is not unlike Stephen King's inspired 11/22/63, a novel in which the protagonist attempts to alter history by thwarting President Kennedy's assassination.

It's all good fun. And that includes this new summer popcorn flick.

Ida: The Girl in the Gray Wimple

It's 1962 in Poland and a young woman, who grew up in a convent,  is about to take her vows. But before she does, the Mother Superior tells her she must visit her only living relative: her deceased mother's sister.

What Ida learns from her aunt is a startling story about the family she never knew. Will it affect her decision to become a bride of Christ?

You'll have to see this thoughtful, intriguing, heart-wrenching story to discover the answer. And once again, the Movie Slut warns against reading reviews that insist on giving away the whole story.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Words and Pictures: Which Is The Winner?

















Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen are believable as high school teachers, who are battling afflictions and each other. She teaches art. He's an English lit teacher. Both think their subject trumps the other.

Interesting, yes?

But strangely, not so much.

The most fascinating aspect of this movie is watching Binoche, who is an artist in real life, (who knew?) create her dazzling paintings. From there it's downhill.

What about music? The Movie Slut wondered throughout this romance, in which the worthy opponents discover that their love for each other reaches beyond words and pictures.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Immigrant: The Perils of Ewa

Marion Cotillard is The Immigrant
It's 1921 and a naive young woman and her sister arrive at Ellis Island from Poland. They were supposed to be met by her aunt and uncle, but that didn't happen and she was on her own. Making matters worse, her sister was diagnosed with "lung disease" and quarantined in an Ellis Island hospital.

Alone and determined to reunite with her sister, Ewa falls into the clutches of a smarmy pimp (Joaquin Phoenix). And it's downhill from there.

The Movie Slut came away thinking that the movie had something to say and every scene and character was manipulated to deliver that message. But what was it?

She had to read a review in a prestigious newspaper to discover what she was supposed to learn from this movie. Something about survival, the price that has to be paid, and the morality of paying the price. Deep. Right? 

MS didn't think this film worked, however, it was a seemingly accurate account of the underbelly of New York City in the 1920s and what could happen to those seeking a new life in the new world.

The sensational sets add substance and reality to a movie that isn't always believable.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Belle: C'est Si Bon

Gugu Mbatha-Raw is Belle 
It's a romance. It's a British costume drama. It's a slice of history.
And it's the confluence of these genres that made the Movie Slut's friend Deanne call Belle the "best movie I ever saw."

Like the young woman at the center of the story, Belle is both smart and beautiful.

Belle's father was an officer and a gentlemen in late 18th-century England and her mother, whom he loved but never married, was a woman of color. When she died, he took the child to live with his aristocratic uncle and his family.

 The plot, which is based on a true story,  plays out at a time when societal rules were harsh and rigid. But the question of where Belle fits in is not the only concern in this thoughtful, moving flick. It goes a lot deeper than that.

It nothing else, this film is worth seeing for the sets and costumes. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

O-M-G-Zilla

Call her crazy, but the Movie Slut thinks Godzilla is a lot like Lennie in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. They're both big, strong and not the brightest. (Unless, in G's case, he's breathing fire.) Neither means to inflict the damage he creates. (Unless, again in G's case, it's against the enemy.)

In this movie, he has two formidable foes: Ginormous insect-like creatures, not unlike tremendous brown praying mantises, on the verge of spawning countless progeny.

Godzilla to the rescue!

The latest G-flick is only for lovers of monster movies. And you can count MS among them. It  delivers all the bells, whistles and roars she was looking for and some human character development as a bonus. So what if the back story was as murky as the depths from which these monsters emerged. Something about the first submarine activating dormant life forms, which feed on radioactivity.

It's not their fault that they see power plants as fast food restaurants.
McNuke anyone?