September 25, 2015

Nancy Meyers is a brand.

I kind of hate the word brand.


And, in this context, it describes exactly what is good about her latest film (stylish, affirming, happily ever after) and what is not (really predictable).

Robert De Niro (Ben) and Anne Hathaway (Jules) rock their roles as a 70-year-old widower who combats boredom by taking an internship at an online fashion company and the young entrepreneur who’s in a bit over her head until she realizes that Ben can help her.

The Intern

Of course, there’s also a little bit of romance. Less, actually, than in some of Meyers’ other films like It’s Complicated, The Holiday, and Something’s Gotta Give.

Less magic, too.

With those films, I inevitably find myself getting sucked in and wishing and believing even though I’m aware of the manipulation. I engage my willing suspension of disbelief and go along for the ride…then forget about it pretty soon after it’s over.

Except, maybe, the elegant clothes and homes and landscapes…seductive thoughts of those tend to linger…what invisible forces maintain all that comfort and beauty?

Still, even though I won’t be thinking about the film as soon as I finish typing, The Intern is pleasant to watch, and De Niro and Hathaway have great chemistry in their intern (father) / CEO (daughter) roles.

Theirs is the love story that dominates the film and overshadows Ben and Jules’ respective romances, though there is some romance and a few laughs to boot.

After all, Nancy Meyers is a brand.



September 25, 2015

I’ve not read Anne Sophie Brasme’s novel, but Mélanie Laurent’s adaptation of Breathe is clearly a passion project.

“I read it when I was 17 and I always knew I wanted to turn it into a movie. It blew my mind,” says Laurent in the press kit for the film.

So, apparently, did the young woman she cast in the lead role. When it came time to adapt the script, Laurent knew she wanted Joséphine Japy to play Sam from seeing her previous work.

“She is everything I like to see in a movie. A glance and we dive in,” says Laurent. “I wrote the script looking at her picture.”

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September 25, 2015

Grandma is one of my favorite movies of the year.

The plot is straightforward – a teenage girl asks her grandmother for money to get an abortion, and they spend the day trying to pull the funds together – but the relationships among all of the characters are anything but that.

I’ve heard some people say Lilly Tomlin’s character Elle is too profane and too unpleasant at times. I see her as complicated and authentic. (I seriously doubt they make the same comments about Jack Nicholson if you get my point.)

I’m sure other people find the story’s political elements offensive. (There’s no getting around the movie’s unabashed support of abortion rights and absolute acceptance of lesbian relationships and gay families.)

I can’t argue those two points for people with different beliefs than mine because I don’t see Grandma through those lenses. The elements that push away those viewers draw me into the film.

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September 25, 2015

This small, slice of life drama could stand to lose about 15 minutes, but it’s pleasant, occasionally charming, and there are several scenes featuring leads Ben Kingsley and Patricia Clarkson that are beyond exquisite.

The story is simple – an unpleasant writer (let’s face it, she is) is left by her husband for another woman, she reacts badly but decides to try to regain some of her independence by learning to drive from a well-educated Shikh who has political asylum in the United States but few prospects. Clarkson and Kingsley couldn’t be more different in most ways, but they are linked by their love of words and ideas.

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Too Much TV

September 25, 2015

Most years I try to check out all the new TV shows, add the very best into my rotation, and keep up with some old favorites (along with a few series that are so familiar I haven’t quite been able to give them up).

I give up.

This season there will be over 400 scripted dramas and comedies on television. When I first started reading about that a couple of weeks ago, I decided that I wouldn’t stress myself out by trying to watch the series since I’m working on a new film and several big research projects.

Then, I slipped. I did watch the premiere episode of Life in Pieces.

Live in Pieces

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September 12, 2015

If you can juggle your evening plans around to catch Fina Torres’ new film tonight at OUT at the Movies (7 p.m. at the ACE Theatre Complex at the UNCSA campus), you won’t be disappointed.

Torres has adapted Jane Chambers’ classic play Last Summer at Blueflish Cove and set the story in the Carribbean. The lush locations make me yearn for an endless summer retreat, but it’s the love story that really sells the picture.

Chambers’ play brought a lesbian story to a “mainstream” audience in 1980, and the updates to the storyline and the skillfulness of visual storytelling make Liz in September resonate powerfully with viewers.



September 10, 2015

I went into Straight Outta Compton without any preconceptions, only a bit of exposure to the controversies about the film (more on that later), and without much knowledge about the history of NWA.

Net response: I recommend the film, flaws and all, because a wide audience needs the history and context.

What’s good: the first two-thirds or so of the film had me along for the ride. The pacing and energy and story carry the formation and rise of the group. The situations they encounter seem still topical, which is a shame but true. O’Shea Jackson, Jr. is such a deadringer for his dad, Ice Cube, that I had a hard time taking my eyes off of him whenever he was onscreen, which is a lot. Liked all of the performances.

What’s not: the film avoids important elements of the history related to the abuse of women (which diminishes its credibility), it’s a bit long, and the final third or so of the film devolves into clichés and leaves viewers without a sense of the central thesis of the story. What are we supposed to take away aside from obvious? What are the thematic underpinnings that could lift Straight Outta Compton above garden variety musical biopics?

Still, glad I saw it. Should have gotten to it sooner.