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?