Sunday, March 30, 2014

Divergent: Not So Different After All

Shailene Woodley and Theo James 

Divergent, based on a series of young adult novels, is a PG-13 movie with its sights set squarely on those in the 12 to 16 age group. Needless to say the Movie Slut is not in the chosen demographic. So, she's channeled her inner 14 year old to write this review. Here goes.

So, like there was a big war or something and everyone in Chicago is in a group. I mean, like high school. You have your goody goodies, your jocks, your geeks, your leaders, like the class president and treasurer types.

When you're like 16, you take this test and you get assigned to a group and you have to be in that group for the rest of your life. Most people fit into a group, but then there are these people, like Tris, (She's the star of the movie.) who is like a goody goody and a jock and a leader, but she can't tell anyone because people like her are called Divergents and the people in power like Kate Winslet (She was like the mother in Labor Day), like don't like them. I mean they'll kill them if they find out.

Anyway, Tris like likes this hunky guy whose in the warrior group, (a jock) and he like likes her too. But they don't tell each other or anyone. Though I don't think they'd get killed for like liking each other.

So, I think this movie is pretty good. I think The Hunger Games was like kinda better and the Twilight movies, too. There are no vampires in Divergent. I guess that would be too divergent.

I overheard my mother saying this was a post-apocalyptic coming-of-age movie.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cesar Chavez: American Hero

Michael Peas Cesar Chavez

In the 1960s, women had Betty Friedan, Blacks had Martin Luther King and American farm workers had Cesar Chavez. The story of how he organized the California farm workers has never been told at the multiplex. Until now.

This biopic suffers from the sanctification of its hero. He never emerges as a fully rounded man. But about twenty minutes into the flick —after a rushed beginning that should have told more about him — moviegoers are likely to get caught up in the story and go with the flow.

The narrative takes us back to a time when the farm workers toiled in the fields for $2 a day and lived in squalor. Bobbie Kennedy, had he survived, was on the verge of championing their cause. But as years passed, they were thwarted by Presidents Reagan and Nixon.

Living up to his sobriquet, Tricky Dick almost defeated them by allowing the export of grapes when the American public boycotted them in solidarity with the workers.

It's an inspiring, triumphant story and one that resonates today as obscenely wealthy CEOs refuse to raise the minimum wage.

When will they ever learn?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel: A Grand Treat

Perched atop a mountain, like a frilly Flamingo pink wedding cake popped onto a pedestal, the hotel at the center of this wondrous Wes Anderson movie is the last bastion of civilization in an increasingly crass world. Or so we are informed by Gustave H, the delightfully prissy and persnickety concierge in this gilded hotel of yore situated in the fictitious village of Zubrovka.

It's the 1930s and World War II threatens. Officers of the ZZ army are already clomping around and examining passports as if they were in 21st-century Arizona . But "Dahling," as Gustave H would say, "this is no way to treat a gentleman."

The Movie Slut hasn't always been a Wes Anderson fan. She loves his whimsical characters and carefully crafted sets, often as artistic as Boy with Apple, the masterful painting at the heart of this wild ride of a film. But plot is also important. And in this movie, we get one.

As customary in Anderson's flicks, the cast is sensational. Here Ralf Fiennes gives us a lovably unconventional Gustave.

At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, the MS compares this treasure of a movie to the Pink Dream diamond.

Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club

Tyler Perry, the director who likes his names in his titles, may be nuance adverse. If you're a movie-goer, and the Movie Slut sure hopes you are, you know this before buying your ticket.

In this film, he sets out to show that single moms, no matter their ethnicity or socioeconomic status, have the same problems. And while sociologists might delve into the phenomenon more deeply, that's not why fans flock to Tyler Perry's flicks.

Here, he brings together five women whose only commonality is being single moms with kids in the same school. When their children get in trouble, they're summoned to the principal's office. Each women has a different reason for her minus-one status, but they soon discover that what unites them is more than what divides them.

And as they say, the rest is a Tyler Perry movie.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bethlehem: Ancient City/Modern Drama

Tsahi Halevi as Razi and Shadi Mar'l as Sanfur

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this Middle Eastern film, is that it's the product of an Israeli director and so similar to Omar, which was directed by a Palestinian. Both are tragic stories of people caught up in an intractable conflict not of their making.

In this movie, Razi is an Israeli Secret Service officer who has developed a caring, fatherly relationship with his young Palestinian informant, Sanfur. It's a bond as star crossed as that between Romeo and Juliet.

As in Omar, viewers are introduced to the warring factions that prevent the characters from leading the lives they long for. For the Movie Slut, the problem with Bethlehem is that the reasons for the strength and depth of the bond between the characters was never made clear, especially on the part of Razi, who comes across as being somewhat weak and naive. Not the usual MO for Israeli agents.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Birder's Guide to Everything: Into the Woods

The birders: Michael Chen; Katherine Chang; Alex Wolff; Kodi Smit-McPhee

Like his mother, who died 18 months ago, David is an avid birder. Needless to say, he doesn't belong to the coolest high school clique. But he does have a few friends, who band together and form the Young Birder's Society.

One day, David sites a duck that resembles an endangered species. And that's what lifts this bittersweet coming-of-age story into flight.

In some ways David is a modern-day Holden Caulfield, whose actions were also informed by the loss of a family member, and whose distrust of the older generation was often justified. (David's dad is marrying his mother's former nurse.)

David, however, does not lose himself in Manhattan, but in the woods where he and his friends hunt for the elusive duck.

Full disclosure: The Movie Slut is also a bird watcher's offspring, who joined her dad traipsing around the woods in search of flying creatures. Maybe this is why she adores this flick. But at the same time, she knows they got it rights. Oh, the wonder of spotting a shy songbird perched high on a branch, hiding between the leaves!

Face of Love: Believe It Or Not

If ever there was a film in which excellent acting triumphs over a dopey plot, here it is.

At the best of moments, the movie evokes memories of Hitchcock's Vertigo, without the acrophobia.
Sadly, those moments are rare.

This is a story of a widow, who— five years after her husband's death— meets a man who's the spitting image of her lost love. We've all heard people say that everyone has a double. But, come on, who believes that?

Unfortunately the premise of this movie is that this ridiculous fantasy is true. So here we are with two excellent actors, Annette Bening and Ed Harris, saddled with a ridiculous conceit, and pretty much pulling it off.

It helps, if as a viewer, you supply more interesting and believable explanations for the on-screen action. Still, chances are, you'll be disappointed at the end.

Veronica Mars: Yay! She's Back

Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars

The Movie Slut was never a huge TV fan, but the neo noir series, Veronica Mars, was a favorite during its run from 2004 to 2007. Imagine how stoked she was to hear it was coming to the big screen!

It seems the script was written about five years ago, but the project stalled when backing went south. So, the Veronica Mars team turned to crowd funding. With the help of Kickstarter, they raised enough money to bring Veronica back. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

For those unfortunate folks who missed the TV show, Veronica was a high school and then a college sleuth. Despite her all-American blond girl good lucks, she was a pariah at school, but had a small circle of loyal pals and sidekicks. She was fearless and fast-talking and a tireless champion of the downtrodden and falsely accused.

In the movie, she remains true to her character, even now that she's moved from Neptune, California,  to New York City, and is a law school graduate.

Luckily for fans, she's called back to Neptune when her old boyfriend (remember Logan?) is accused of murder.

Many of the original cast are back and some new actors up the fun quotient, including Jaimie Lee Curtis and James Franco.

The question is whether this flick will do well enough at the box office to spawn a sequel. The Movie Slut sure hopes it does. You can help.

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

The Movie Slut's great late friend, Jacques le Sourd, who was born too late and died too soon, adored Broadway's legendary Stephen Sondheim singer and cabaret crooner, Elaine Stritch. When he spoke about the brassy blond belter, MS just rolled her eyes. After all, theater is not her passion. It's the movies, of course.

But the sharp-tongued and sharp-witted JLS, was a drama critic and Stritch was a performer who always managed to stay on the good side of his pen. And so, in memory of her dear pal, the Movie Slut bought a ticket to see Stritch at the multiplex.

The documentary unfolds when she's turning 87 (she's now 89), struggling with diabetes, alcohol addiction and fears of aging. Flashbacks provide glimpses into her colorful past, including a date with John F. Kennedy, before Jackie.

It's a touching and sometimes humorous look at a woman who always knew what she wanted and stopped at nothing to get it. Now the Movie Slut understands Jacques admiration.   

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Tim's Vermeer: Life Immitates Art

When it comes to creating, there's the magic and the craft. Tim Jenison seems to have forgotten that when he set out to recreate The Music Lesson, Johannes Vermeer's 17th-century masterpiece.

Not to take away from what he did.

Like others, Tim, a Texas tech inventor—and non-artist—was in awe of the brilliant Dutch master, arguably one of the greatest painters — ever. And, since Vermeer left no sketches, he isn't the first to question how the artist created his luminous paintings.

This led to Tim's creation of a rudimentary device that could have been used four centuries ago to, in effect, mirror an image onto canvas. Then all the "artist" had to do was to fill in the reflection, a la paint by numbers, only without the numbers.

It took about two years for Tim to complete his project, beginning with recreating the room depicted in the famous painting. And he brings viewers along for the entire project. (He even made his own paint to conform to stipulations of the time.) If that sounds tedious, it often was for Tim. But never for the moviegoer who's left wondering if Vermeer used a similar process.

But back to magic and craft. In the end Tim's Vermeer was more Musaq than music. We still don't know why the Dutchman's art is so magical. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Non-Stop: Flakes on a Plane

Is Liam Neeson a rogue air marshal?

Okay, so there are moments in this non-stop thriller that are less lucid than psychobabble. But who cares? Shortly after takeoff you'll be along for the ride, and suspended 300,000 feet, well above disbelief.

So, sit back, fasten your seat belts and thank Liam Neeson for the wild ride. He's the air marshal on a flight threatened by diabolical evil-doers. They even manage to make him look like a rogue marshal. Passengers don't trust him. Neither does the pilot. Still, he must do his job and save their lives.

It's been ages since the Movie Slut has seen such a thrilling thriller, the kind that makes you gasp and jump back in your seat, heart thump-thumping, before smiling at your fear. Hopefully its success at the box office will inspire more of these flicks.

The Wind Rises: Who Has Seen The Wind?

Hayao Miyazaki's 126-minute animated film is a marvel from beginning to end, but don't bring the little kiddies. This is adult entertainment, loosely based on real stories about the development of the Japanese air force between World Wars I and II.

The narrative traces the life of an aeronautics engineer from his childhood obsession with flying to the creation of an exquisite aircraft that flew faster than he'd ever dreamed. He envisioned his plane carrying passengers from one continent to another, but increasingly realized his creation would transport bombs instead.

That's what some find problematic about this movie. Although Jiro addresses his concerns about how his creation will be used, maybe because of the limits of animated characters, this never seems to be a huge concern. And indeed his amazing flying machine was the prototype of the Zero Fighter Aircraft that bombed Pearl Harbor.   

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Son of God: Great Story? Or Greatest Story?

Diogo Morgado as You Know Who
The Movie Slut is no expert on the Bible— old or new. So she recruited one to join her at the multiplex on opening night. The theater was packed for the 7 p.m. performance, with families and children, some barely old enough to walk.

The expert confirmed the veracity of this account of the life of Jesus, from birth to resurrection, but did say the scenes of torture and crucifixion were not child friendly.

Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado, in the leading role, is already a Jesus Christ superstar. He stars in The History Channel series, from which the movie was adapted. Like the prophet he portrays, he has a large and adoring flock of followers.

According to, "No other character, historical or mythical, has inspired as many movies as Jesus Christ has." BTW, the first on hipster's list is a 1905 silent film titled, "The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ."

For the Movie Slut, however, this was a first, if you don't count the musical. And though it sticks to the basics, skirts over many parts of the story, she recommends it for adults into this kind of thing.