March 23, 2014, - 3:14 pm
My movie reviews are late because my internet service went out for a couple of days (some nebulous “techical issue” BS), and I gave up on the (very) slow connection at Starbucks. Plus my car’s alternator went bad, and I had to get that fixed before I could drive around searching for places with faster connections while my internet service provider worked on fixing whatever tech glitch was happening. Then, the Jewish Sabbath happened. So, please forgive me for this weekend’s delay. It was killing me not being able to put these reviews up earlier. I did not see “Muppets Most Wanted” because it was screened for critics on a Saturday morning, during the Jewish Sabbath.
* “Divergent“: Like “The Hunger Games” movies, this is based on several young adult novels about a dystopian, post-apocalyptic future in America. I found it to be extremely slow, long, and boring, and not nearly as exciting, thrilling, or suspenseful as “The Hunger Games” flicks, even though the story is almost exactly the same. Come on, Hollywood. Come up with something new already. Clocking in at nearly 2.5 hours, they could have lopped off an hour from this and lost nothing. Also, this is yet another one of those movies, in which the diminutive, thin chick is a she-male warrior–far stronger than virtually all of the men. In other words, not believable. It’s also troubling that one of the tests given to the young heroine of the movie is whether or not she will shoot and kill her parents and brother. This is the stuff they are feeding kids. Sad.
The story: it’s the future, and the big city (which looks like New York or downtown Los Angeles) is walled off from the rest of the world, where war and tragedy have struck and danger lurks. The people have been divided into several factions depending upon their skills and chosen path. The movie’s protagonist, Tris, is from a family of the “Abnegation” faction, which is generous, gives charity, and tends to the needs of others. They are the ones in power, running the government, but the “Erudite” faction wants to take over.
It is at the point in life that Tris and many of the kids her age are tested to see which faction they best fit into. Tris’ test results show that she is “divergent,” which means she fits into more than one faction. She is told she must keep this a secret because it makes her an enemy of the state and they will kill her over it (or something). After the young people are tested, they must choose their path in life by picking a faction. Tris chooses “Dauntless,” the faction of the warriors and protectors of everyone else. Thereafter, she goes through a series of tests and competitions to show how brave she is and that she will follow commands. Among these, Tris is given a substance that puts her under, and she imagines a series of situations, while her handlers watch what she chooses in her subconscious. One of those situations is facing her parents and brother. She is ordered to shoot and kill them, which she does in blind obeyance.
Tris and her instructor in the Dauntless group fall in love and fight to save their parents and people in their former Abnegation faction in rebellion against the leader of everyone, who is played by Kate Winslet.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “The Grand Budapest Hotel“: I really enjoyed this amusing, fun, offbeat comedy/thriller movie (even though one of its many stars is the anti-Israel F. Murray Abraham). If you like the other zany, funny, kitschy movies directed by Wes Anderson, you’ll like this one as well. It’s light and relaxing.
Inspired by the writing of the late Austrian Jewish novelist Stefan Zweig, the movie takes place mostly in 1932 at a fabulous European resort hotel, the Grand Budapest Hotel. It centers on the adventures of the hotel’s concierge, Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), and his sidekick/protege, Zero Moustafa, the hotel’s young “lobby boy” (bellboy). And older Zero (Abraham) recounts what happened at that time as he tells it to a hotel guest and writer (Jude Law) in the 1960s.
Gustave gets entangled in the affairs of a wealthy woman who is a frequent guest at the hotel and who dies and leaves him her valuable painting, “Boy With Apple.” The woman’s surviving family members are up in arms and out to get Gustave and disprove the bequest of the painting, while Gustave and Zero try to escape around the country (Gustave is suspected of killing the departed rich lady). What follows is a set of madcap adventures and chases, gags and escapes. It’s a fun movie in every single way–from colorful sets to colorful characters. The large cast of actors also includes Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, both Wilson Brothers (Owen and Luke–who is uncredited), Edward Norton, and many others. Don’t take your kids to see this, though. It’s rated “R” for a reason.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “Bad Words“: Jason Bateman stars in, directed, and produced this comedy, which is very funny for the first quarter and soon runs out of gas. At the beginning, the theme of the movie–a 40-year-old who finagles his way into the national spelling bee on a technicality–is a novel idea. But the film quickly turns into an objectionable, obscene corrupting of a ten-year-old boy and your usual Hollywood attack on fathers and dads.
Bateman is the 40-year-old. He never passed eleventh grade or graduated from high school, and poorly written rules designed to keep adults out of the spelling bee are turned on their head, with Bateman winning local and regional spelling bees and getting into the nationally televised contest. All of the parents and their kid contestants hate Bateman and are out to get rid of him. But no matter what is thrown his way, he continues to spell word after difficult word correctly and outsmart and eliminate opponents through (very) nasty tricks and so on. An obscure news website is sponsoring him and paying his way, and he is accompanied by a nerdy reporter (Kathryn Hahn) from the news site, with whom he has repeated sex romps.
Bateman meets and is befriended by a ten-year-old competitor of Indian (Asian, not Native American) descent. He corrupts the kid, taking him to see a prostitute and paying her to whip out her naked breasts and jiggle them. Yup, that’s what passes for “funny” in movies, these days. Very sad. And, then, we learn that Bateman is doing all of this to embarrass the man who fathered him with a cocktail waitress and abandoned them, refusing to take responsibility for being a father–the intellectual founder and organizer of the national spelling bee. Yes, another Hollywood cinematic urination on America’s dads as either irresponsible losers or, in this case, cold cretins who abandon their kids. Note that, while there is no shortage of evil White fathers who rampantly father ad abandon children in these kinds of movies, Hollywood rarely serves up any depiction of this behavior where it is far more rampant: Black America.
Oh, and one other thing: the ways Bateman embarrasses and beats his fellow spelling bee competitors are disgusting. In one case, for instance, he gets a girl to get up from her seat and squirts ketchup on it, so she sits down on it just before she’s about to be called up for her turn in the bee. He tells he that she has just gotten her period and that all of America will see it live on national TV. So, completely embarrassed, she runs out of the room, rather than continue to compete. What kind of warped Hollywood minds come up with this grotesque, sleazy stuff? Some guy named Andrew Dodge, who wrote the screenplay, and Jason Bateman, who made this horrible movie. That’s who. You stay classy.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “Enemy“: There are two “doppelganger” movies I’ve seen this past week. This one, and the far superior, “The Face of Love” (stay tuned for my review in the coming weeks). By doppelganger movies, I mean movies in which there are two characters that look exactly alike. But there has to be more to it than that. And in this case, there just isn’t. I found this movie to be a total rip-off. It bills itself as a mystery and a thriller, but that’s not truth in advertising. Not even close.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Adam, a college professor in Toronto, who seems kind of bored and unhappy. At the recommendation of one of his colleagues, he rents a movie from the local video store (they still have those?) and notes that the actor who plays “Bellboy #3” looks exactly like him. Soon he becomes obsessed with finding his doppelganger, Anthony, and meeting him. They meet each other, after a lot of spying by Adam. And, then, the shyer Adam and cruel, assertive Anthony switch places toward the end, having interaction with each other’s blonde significant others (who also look similar).
The problem with this movie is that nothing really happens. It’s a great idea, but it’s not exciting, and it’s long, slow, and boring, with silly “something’s about to happen” orchestral music playing constantly in the background, to the point of annoying. No, beyond that point. Plus, at a certain point in the movie, it becomes very difficult to tell which of the two exact lookalikes you are watching. So it’s confusing.
Then, there are the artsy fartsy ambitions of this movie, which are just laugh-out-loud funny and not intended that way. From the very beginning of the movie, there are scenes of men at some live orgy or sex show and women doing something with spiders. It has zero point or relation to anything else in the movie, even though I’m sure plenty of pseudo-intellectual liberals and lefties will tell me I’m just not smart enough to “get” this “monumental symbolism.” Nope, it’s just absurd and pretentious. And stupid. And, at the very end of the movie, when you expect something to happen, you instead are shown one of the characters’ female significant others has turned into a giant spider. The end. Huh? Again, I am apparently not intellectually sophisticated enough to get the “great artistic statement and valuable social commentary” of this giant spider (and the earlier scenes of women putting tarantulas up their vaginas while masturbating before an audience of men). Whatever.
Oy, why did I waste 1.5 hours of my time watching this drivel? So. You. Don’t. Have. To.
You were forewarned.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “On My Way [Elle S’en Va]“: This French movie, with English subtitles, is yet another long, boring waste of time, in which nothing really happens. And I couldn’t care less about what does happen.
Catherine Deneuve plays a senior citizen and aged former French beauty pageant winner, whose life is falling apart in all ways. Her seafood restaurant is struggling to survive, she lives with her annoying, very senior citizen mother, and she’s just learned that her married lover of decades has finally left his wife, but not for her (for a 25-year-old lover he’s gotten pregnant). She is also struggling to keep her house, where she and her mother live. She decides to just drive and go on a road trip, where she gets drunk at a bar, has sex with some young stranger at a motel, and ignores all cell phone calls from her mother and her employees frantic to keep the restaurant going. Soon, she gets a call from her estranged, unemployed, loser daughter, demanding that she watch her grandson, while her daughter travels for a job. But, while on the road with her insolent grandson, she loses him, runs out of money, and encounters other problems. So, desperate for food and lodging, she goes to a reunion of all the French regional beauty pageant winners, something she’d been hoping to avoid. Then, she falls in love with the paternal grandfather of her grandson. The end.
Again, another waste of time that goes nowhere and is extremely pointless.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “Veronica Mars“: I never got into the TV series on which this is based. I found it boring and silly, and not at all thrilling or suspenseful, even though it’s supposed to be a detective show. And it was pretentious, too. The same can be said of this movie, times a thousand. Boring, silly, and you can’t figure out the “whodunnit” . . . even if you cared to. I didn’t care. I struggled to stay awake during this long, slow, boring waste of time. And if you didn’t watch the TV show, you probably won’t get a ton of the dynamics here. This wasn’t screened for critics, and it’s obvious why. The movie is just dumb. No wonder they needed Kickstarter to fund this. Even the studio was smart enough to stay away from throwing money down this black hole, where, according to CNN, you can also find Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
Watch the trailer . . .
Tags: Bad Words, Divergent, Enemy, On My Way, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Veronica Mars, Wes Anderson