Love and Friendship

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 Whit Stillman’s take on Austen’s unpublished novella “Lady Susan” that was written when she was just 14-years-old turns the usual Austen genteel society on its head.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.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: The Angry Birds Movie; The Nice Guys; Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising; Love & Friendship; Sunset Song

The Angry Birds Movie – As one adult commented after watching this flick, “It was lamer than I expected. Awful. Though my 6-year-old daughter thought it was great.” There you have it in a nutshell. The Angry Birds Movie is the “origin story” of the birds that are propelled into all sorts of stuff in the once-popular Angry Birds mobile app, including the pigs, bombs, TNT, slingshots, etc. that appear in the addictive game that became a mindless timesuck for millions of smartphone users. The animated ‘action’ takes place on an island populated almost entirely by happy, flightless birds. One exception is the angry outcast Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) who becomes sort of an accidental hero when he uncovers a nefarious plot by visiting green pigs who aim to steal all the birds’ eggs. The movie has some clever lines and puns and plenty of decent vocal talent. But the story doesn’t add up to much and is likely to bore most anyone over the age of eight. Regardless, the 90-minute, 3D, PG-rated Birds far out-flew the competition at the box office in its opening weekend. So if the kids rule the roost where movies are concerned, don’t be angry if they demand (or ask nicely) to see it.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Money Monster; A Bigger Splash; High-Rise

Money Monster is a satisfying crowd-pleaser that definitely benefits from the established rapport between lead actors George Clooney and Julia Roberts and the solid direction of Jodie Foster. Clooney plays an outlandish, self-centered, Jim-Cramer-Mad-Money-type financial TV host named Lee Gates who shares stock tips with what he thinks is an adoring public. Roberts plays his producer/director Patty. She’s the one who keeps Gates and the show on track from her seat in the Control Room. Their usual routine is disrupted on live television when a disgruntled investor named Kyle (British actor Jack O’Connell looking and sounding as American as apple pie) gets into the studio, straps an explosive vest on Lee, and demands to know the source of a so-called ‘glitch’ that caused a particular stock – and his investment- to implode. The result is a tense conspiracy thriller with enough light moments peppered throughout (including some funky dance moves from Clooney) to boost the overall entertainment factor. Money Monster doesn’t really need to be seen on the big screen, but it’s the best of the week’s new offerings for anyone just looking for a solid, well-paced drama with star power.

Captain America: Civil War

I’ve always considered myself an Iron Man gal in the Avengers universe, but man oh man, Captain America is growing on me! So while I understand the marketing appeal of a #TeamCap v. #TeamIronMan rivalry, I am hereby declaring myself Switzerland in this Civil War! I refuse to choose. And as any Avengers fan is sure to guess, you don’t really have to. The marketing gimmick – like the movie itself – is all in good fun. That’s not to say there isn’t a decent story at the heart of this latest entry in Marvel’s Avengers franchise. There is. And that’s why this movie deserves to crush DC Comics’ Batman vs. Superman at the box office. It’s full of action, drama, Stark snark, superhero banter, a few unexpected twists, and good old-fashioned themes about friendship, conscience, and moral ambiguity. Can you tell I kinda liked it?

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Keanu; Mother’s Day; The Meddler; Dough; Papa: Hemingway in Cuba; Ratchet and Clank

Keanu: I never saw the television series featuring Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele (aka comedy duo Key & Peele) so I wasn’t familiar with their shtick heading into this flick. But I understand their appeal. Keanu is an absurd but entertaining R-rated action comedy that pokes brilliant fun at the action genre. Here’s the premise: Key and Peele play Clarence and Rell, straight-laced cousins who must impersonate ruthless killers in an effort to retrieve Rell’s adorable kitten, Keanu, after he’s cat-napped by members of the Blips gang (rejects from LA’s notorious Bloods and Crips). The kitten is a scene-stealing feline, and there’s a hilarious homage to George Michael’s ‘80s pop icon status. The movie isn’t for everyone, but Key and Peele fans won’t be disappointed, and the duo will likely gain some new fans as well.