Love and Friendship

Genius

Growing up in small town Asheville, North Carolina, we didn’t have many famous people we could claim. But the great writer Thomas Wolfe was ours. So when they made a movie about him, we had to see it. Genius isn’t just about Wolfe (Jude Law) though. Adapted from “Max Perkins: Editor of Genius” by A. Scott Berg, the film looks at Wolfe’s relationship with Perkins (Colin Firth), the editor who had an out-sized role in crafting his masterpieces and was his closest friend. Given the subject matter, the film should have been a lot better.

Marguerite

Every few years two movies come out about the same subject at the same time, and one is lauded, while the other is overlooked. I hope that doesn’t happen with Marguerite, a truly wonderful French film “inspired by” the story of tone-deaf but passionate opera diva wannabe Florence Foster Jenkins. An American film starring Meryl Streep will be covering her story again in a few months time. But it is hard to believe that Meryl can top Catherine Frot’s performance, though if anyone can… And what a character she is! In the French version, she is known as Baroness Marguerite Dumont and she is heart-breakingly delightful!

Central Intelligence

Yes – Central Intelligence is kinda stupid. But in a week dominated by one tragic news story after another, I was happy to take the levity wherever I could find it. And I did get a few decent laughs out of this twisted buddy comedy with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Kevin “perennial sidekick” Hart. It’s the tale of two guys reunited (via Facebook friend request) on the eve of their 20-year high school reunion: Bob Stone, the oft-bullied overweight geek formerly known as Robbie Wierdicht who grew into a lethal CIA agent (Johnson), and Calvin “Golden Jet” Joyner, the popular jock/most-likely-to-succeed prom king who became a mild-mannered accountant leading a stable but staid existence devoid of excitement and drama. See where this is going?

Finding Dory

#JustKeepSwimming I don’t know why I’m suddenly obsessed with that Dory-inspired hashtag, but it’s my new favorite motto. Finding Dory is a worthy sequel to the 2003 Academy-Award winning animation blockbuster, Finding Nemo, about a neurotic clownfish named Marlin who traveled across the ocean to find his son Nemo, who’d gotten trapped in a dentist’s fish tank. In case you didn’t know – all’s well that ended well, with Marlin and Nemo reuniting, with the help of a host of creatures including a blue tang named Dory who suffers from short-term memory loss. Fast-forward a year (in movie time), and Dory, Nemo and Marlin are like family – living comfortably in their underwater corner of the world, respecting the boundaries of the open ocean to avoid becoming fish bait. It’s all going swimmingly until Dory suddenly remembers that she has a biological family – a mother and father, and a home that she’d forgotten about, but now must find. And so another cross-ocean adventure begins.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping; Me Before You; Presenting Princess Shaw

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping – This movie is surprisingly entertaining in a Behind the Music meets Spinal Tap sort of way. It smartly, and sometimes kinda grossly, mocks all those big-screen documentaries we’ve seen in recent years featuring the music and behind-the-scenes drama of stars like Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, and Michael Jackson. The comedy explores the musical journey of singer/rapper Conner4Real (Adam Sandberg), a former boy band member who faces a crisis of popularity after his sophomore album flops. The movie includes a host of amazing cameos from music and comedy superstars, and a spot-on spoof of TMZ (CMZ). It’s just plain fun.

The Conjuring 2

Everything I said and felt about the under-appreciated The Conjuring in July 2013 holds true for The Conjuring 2 – it’s GOOD and scary. Trust me, even if you “don’t like horror movies” (one of my mantras), these merit an exception, thanks largely to a combination of intriguing true story, creepy suspense, and top-notch acting.

Love and Friendship

When you think of Jane Austen, you think of young women in dire straights IF they don’t marry well. You think of a constrained society and English estates where the rich lord it over those who may have come down in the world. Whit Stillman’s take on Austen’s unpublished novella “Lady Susan” that was written when she was just 14-years-old turns the usual Austen genteel society on its head. Love and Friendship‘s protagonist is a beautiful young widow who isn’t the least bit interested in following the dictates of the day and is happy to play her many suitors to her advantage. Played with deep dark humor by Kate Beckinsale, Lady Susan Vernon may be lacking in funds, but she more than makes up for it with her cunning and wit. She’s determined to land herself a rich husband and one for her daughter, too. In any other Austen novel, she’d be the one who is destined to fail, because she is so transparently gold-digging, but here she cannot lose.

The Lobster

Without doubt, The Lobster is one of the most unconventional love stories I’ve seen. The film stars Colin Farrell as David, a recently dumped man in an alternate world where single people are not tolerated. So he must check into a somewhat creepy hotel where he has 45 days to find a new love or be turned into the animal of his choice. Yes, he chooses a lobster.

Hockney

David Hockney has to be one of the most famous living artists. His work is in every major modern art museum and verging on 80 he is still going strong, having embraced the iPad as a new medium for his vast body of work. This latest documentary about him (there have been several others) takes an exhaustive look at his life and work, but failed to pull me in. And at nearly two hours I think the filmmaker included a lot of footage that could easily have been left out and made a more focused film.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Alice Through the Looking Glass; Maggie’s Plan; A Monster with a Thousand Heads

Alice Through the Looking Glass – I didn’t see Tim Burton’s 2010 re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland, but did read up on it a bit before heading into this sequel from director James Bobin (Muppets Most Wanted) featuring the colorful characters created by British author Lewis Carroll. I might otherwise have been quite confused. As with its cinematic predecessor, Alice Through the Looking Glass is not an instant classic by any stretch, but it’s a fine family film that is visually quite stunning and features a strong female lead in Alice, played by the extremely versatile Mia Wasikowska. Mia has a knack for making mediocre movies better than they might otherwise be. In this case, she plays a sassy and headstrong ship’s captain (in 1874 London) struggling to make it in a man’s world. With the fate of her personal and professional life in flux, Alice stumbles across a magical mirror (as opposed to a rabbit hole) that takes her back to the fantastical realm of Underland, where she discovers that her friend the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is literally dying of sadness because he thinks his long-lost family may still be alive, but nobody believes him. Alice is skeptical, but in an effort to save her friend, she steals a device from ‘Time’ (embodied by Sasha Baron Cohen) and heads to the past to see what became of Hatter’s clan. It’s an ill-conceived plot, a bit heavy-handed with the morals (It’s about time—making every second count; you can’t change the past, but you can learn from it; the only thing worth doing is what we do for others; the only way to achieve the impossible is to believe it’s possible…), but in the end, it’s kind of sweet and sappy in a weird, eccentric, whimsical sort of way.