Showing posts with label Spirit of the Beehive (Movie Review). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spirit of the Beehive (Movie Review). Show all posts

Friday, February 20, 2015

"Fifty Shades of Grey" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Fifty Shades of Grey" and the DVDs "Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic," the James Brown Biopic"Get On Up," and "Laggies."  The Book of the Week is "Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America" and I get you caught up on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project:" "The Burmese Harp" and "The Spirit of the Beehive."]

Fifty Shades of Grey

The best-selling book by E L James about billionaire Christian Grey and his seduction of the virginal Anastasia Steele and her initiation into his world of BDSM brought to the screen. 
College girl Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) meets Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) when she goes to interview him for the college newspaper. It's a chance encounter because Anastasia's roommate (Eloise Mumford) is the journalism major and was supposed to do the interview, but had the flu, so she asked Anastasia to go in her stead. Christian is going to be giving the commencement address at their college, because he is a young billionaire, and I guess has stuff to say to our grads about making lots of money. 
Anastasia trips walking into his office, is awkward and shy, but when she tells him she is an English literature major, that does something to him and he holds all of his calls. Seems like he has been waiting for someone like her. Not sure what being an English literature major has to do with BDSM, but, hey, what do I know?
Christian admits to "singular tastes," so when he locks eyes on our heroine, instead of what a man would usually do - undress her with his eyes - he was probably imagining her hanging from the ceiling by chains. He later tells her he doesn't like to be touched, doesn't sleep in the same bed with anyone and doesn't believe in love.  He also turns up everywhere she is (doesn't this guy have to work?), which kind of makes him a stalker. You would think those would be some red flags for you Anastasia, right?  Nope. No red flags for our girl.  She likes him too.
Christian introduces Anastasia to his "playroom" and the world of BDSM.  She is a virgin so that probably helps, because, hey, if you have never had sex, who's to say it doesn't involve a cat 'o nine tails and nipple clips?

Christian Grey is an intense, controlling man.  I never liked intense, controlling men.  Now I know why.  I must have envisioned a riding crop in my future. At the very least, I don't like men telling me what to do, so being a submissive is not on my agenda, especially if it involves wearing my hair in a braid and kneeling by the door naked to await whatever unspeakable acts are in store. At my age, not a pretty sight.  But even when I was young and nubile, sounds boring.  I would rather be watching TV.

Jamie Dornan is a handsome hunk of a guy, but he has these black eyes that look a little crazy. If a guy like Christian Grey had put moves on me when I was in college like he puts on Anastasia, I would have been creeped out beyond belief.  He is a creepy guy and everything he says is very dramatic.  Some of the dialogue actually made me laugh which was probably more the fault of the script than of Dornan. Dakota Johnson has an expressive face which is a good thing because this film was just filled with close ups - and not just of faces.

Marcia Gay Harden plays Christian's mother but really doesn't have much to do here, because what's a mother to do in a movie about BDSM?

I did not read the book, so I am not hamstrung by that old saw, "The movie wasn't as good as the book."  I can review it strictly on its merits as a film.  And in general, that is what I would do anyway as I don't believe in comparing the two artistic mediums. 

So here it is.  In general, after all of the hype, the movie is a snooze fest.  I was squirming in my seat, but not for the reason you might think. I was bored.  After all of the hype about the book and the movie, this was pretty tame stuff.  And it took forever to get to what sex there was and when we got to it, not one bit of full frontal nudity either. Darn it. It's not a good thing when the things I enjoyed most were the Seattle exteriors and Christian's apartment in the Escala. This film also has one of those maddening endings that leaves you hanging so you can pay to see the sequel.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a soft porn Lifetime movie featuring boobs and butts.  Zzzzzzzzz


You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)
A documentary on the life of comedian Richard Pryor.
Richard Pryor is acknowledged as one of the most influential comedians in history. No comedian had ever talked about race to mainstream audiences the way Pryor did. Director Marina Zenovich has put together interviews with fellow comedians and celebrities, friends and ex-wives and film footage to present this portrait of the comic legend.
The film begins with his infamous burn incident, then flashbacks to his early career starting in 1963.  He worked "blue," like most stand-up comics so if Pryor wanted to go mainstream, the first thing that had to be done was to get him to work clean.  So then he started to do his version of Bill Cosby, which he thought he needed to do to get famous. But he just couldn't keep that up and eventually had an epiphany that he needed to be true to himself.  He was fired from a Las Vegas gig for being too abrasive and using 4-letter words and then he disappeared from the scene for awhile.  He headed to San Francisco where he became a hippie, worked the small clubs, started using the "N" word and lots of four letter words and finally found his comic identity.
In 1972 he went to Hollywood and like Lenny Bruce, riffed on taboo topics that especially spoke to black audiences.  His first movie break came in "Lady Sings the Blues."  He almost had the lead in "Blazing Saddles" but he was already exhibiting unreliable behavior and Warner Brothers nixed it.  But he went on to star in "Car Wash," "Silver Streak" and "Stir Crazy," with the latter two becoming huge hits and establishing him as a star in "interracial buddy comedies."  Hollywood loves to put a label on things.
He landed a TV variety show, but again, he didn't like being told what to do and "The Richard Pryor Show" only lasted four episodes.
Pryor came by his attitude through experience.  He was raised in a brothel in Peoria by his grandmother. Both his uncle and Dad were pimps.  When his grandmother died, he broke down and went to Africa to find himself. While there he said he was so moved by the people that he stopped using the "N" word in his act and he never used it again.
Several stars are interviewed about their experiences with Pryor.  Whoopi Goldberg said Pryor was a very sensitive soul and often those are the types who self medicate.  During the filming of "Stir Crazy," Pryor discovered freebasing which in turn led to his setting himself on fire.  At first the party line was that it was an accident and that he was drinking 100+ proof rum that caught on fire but later he said he had tried to kill himself.
Pryor moved to Hawaii to recuperate and later starred in a live stand-up movie, "Richard Pryor, Live on the Sunset Strip" where he made some very funny jokes about his "accident."  This was followed up by several films, none of which did well.  He started using again and later discovered he had MS.  He spent 15 years in a wheelchair and never recovered.
If you are familiar with Pryor's life (and he documented much of it in his autobiographical film "Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling,") you won't find much new here, but it's a reminder of what a superstar and pioneering influence Pryor was on the world of comedy.
Rosy the Reviewer says...A moving tribute to a comedy pioneer.

Get On Up (2014)
A docudrama on the life and career of singer James Brown.
The film begins in Augusta, Georgia in 1988.  James is on a tear and goes into one of his offices where a meeting is taking place. When he discovers someone is using his bathroom, he goes out and gets a rifle and shoots the meeting up.  Clearly he is having a bad day.
Flashback to 1968, a USO tour to Vietnam where Brown's plane gets hit by enemy fire.  He is unflappable and already demonstrating diva behavior.
Flashback even further to his early childhood with his mother (Viola Davis).  The father is an abusive gambler and James witnesses their physical fights and makeup sex.
Now it's 1964 and James is in a group called The Famous Flames, and I am dizzy from all of this jumping around. 

Despite a bravura performance by Chadwick Boseman ("42") as James, the main weakness of this film is all that jumping around.  And then sometimes he talks directly to the camera, breaking that fourth wall.  The use of every kind of cinematic device you can think of including the kitchen sink makes the film feel disjointed and schizoid.  It makes it difficult to get into the film and to care about Brown.
Octavia Spencer plays his sister, a madam of a brothel where James ends up after his parents split. He sings and does dance moves to get GIs to come to the brothel.  Later he is caught stealing a jacket and gets 5-13 years in prison.  But it's there that he meets Bobby (Nelsan Ellis), who is part of a gospel group and Bobby provides James with a place to stay outside so he can make parole. This gospel group becomes The Famous Flames and then James Brown and the Famous Flames.  His fame catapults from there, but his diva ways eventually chases everyone away, and when his son dies in a car accident, he starts using drugs and the downhill spiral begins.
Boseman does a good job channeling Brown, "The Godfather of Soul" and "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business," but the script lets him down by exploiting the melodramatic and the usual biopic cliches. There was more than one time I knew what the next character was going to say. However, the film had its moments. The scene with James and his mother toward the end was very good, but you had Viola Davis, so there you go.
Dan Ackroyd plays Brown's manager and it's like he is channeling the sleazy Irwin Mainway from the "Consumer Probe" sketch on early SNL.
Brown was a perfectionist, a hard task master, an abuser of women and paranoid. There is some exploration of the racism he endured while at the same time being criticized by the black community for not being radical enough, but in general this film only seems to touch the surface of those issues and of Brown, and there are no real explanations for his behavior and his eventual breakdown.
Biopics like this all seem to have the same storyline: poor beginnings, triumph, then derailment, then redemption.  Redemption by talent and the music. We seem to always forgive artists for their bad behavior.
Rosy the Reviewer says...See it for Boseman's powerful performance.
Laggies  (2014)

Megan (Keira Knightly) is almost 30 and while her friends are all getting married and having children, Megan remains in a kind of bubble of adolescence, lying around her father's house putting off the inevitable, like, what she's going to do with her life.  Then she meets a teenager (Chloe Grace Moretz) and regresses even more.
Megan has a long-term boyfriend and when he finally proposes, she says yes but freaks out.  And when she sees her beloved Dad (Jeff Garlin) kissing a woman who is not her mother at a wedding, she freaks out even more and does a runner.  She leaves the wedding to go get rose petals for the bride and ends up buying beer for some teens hanging around outside the store.  She befriends one of them, 16-year-old Anika (Moretz), who lets Megan stay at her house so she can hide away from her life.  She hangs with the kids and gets involved in their lives.  She takes Anika to see her mother in Portland, Anika unbelievably invites her to go to the Prom and Megan bonds with Anika's Dad (Sam Rockwell) who eventually asks her out.  They get it on, so to speak, which in turn freaks Anika out.  Neither Anika nor her Dad know that Megan is engaged and when this comes to light Megan realizes that this time out she is taking is selfish and has messed up a bunch of lives.  Naturally she ends up at Prom to make things right with Anika and she realizes she has to cut ties with the past and forge a new "adult" life.

Directed by Lynn Shelton ("Your Sister's Sister") with music by Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), this is a coming of age story of a sort except where those kinds of films usually involve teens, Megan is almost 30. I think I must have been mature beyond my years as a teen because even then I didn't act as irresponsibly as Megan does in this film.  She is annoying and irresponsible beyond belief and, even though the story is far-fetched (I mean, what teenager would ask a 30-something to come live with her and ask her to her prom?) and rather predictable, it's Megan's character that just ruins the film. I'm not sure if it's Knightley's fault or the fault of the script, but it's not worth seeing this to decide, even though Rockwell and Moretz are appealing characters. 
This is Shelton's first directorial turn where she didn't write the script.  I think she needs to write the next one.

 Rosy the Reviewer says...Annoying.

***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***
 277 to go!
Have YOU seen these?
At the end of WW II, a Japanese soldier disguises himself as a monk and stays behind in Burma to bury the dead.
Private Mizushima, a Japanese soldier, plays the harp in a Japanese regiment in WWII composed of soldiers who fight and sing to raise morale.  When the war ends, they surrender to the Australian Army but there is still a group of Japanese soldiers up in the mountains who have not yet surrendered.  Mizushima is sent to try to get them to surrender. They won't and are all killed, except Mizushima who disguises himself as a monk and never returns to Japan, instead devoting the rest of his life to honoring and burying the dead Japanese soldiers left behind.
Why it's a Must See: "Although Akira Kurosawa may be the most famous Japanese filmmaker in the West, his contemporary Kon Ichikawa has displayed equal artistry in literally dozens of films...A breath of warm sentiment inserted over a macabre scenario, The Burmese Harp retains every bit of dignity associated with gentility and kindness.  Burma itself becomes a passive supporting character, but the idea of a spiritual renewal, presented without dogma or propagandistic impulses, proves a likable epilogue to the horrors of World War II in this, Ichikawa's early masterpiece."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"
Rosy the Reviewer Says...a beautiful, inspirational and haunting anti-war film.
(b & w, in Japanese with English subtitles)
Ana, a sensitive little girl living in a small Castilian town in 1940, is profoundly affected after viewing a traveling movie show of "Frankenstein."
Why it's a Must See: "This is a mysterious, unforgettable film...[Director] Erice evokes with breathtaking delicacy the ambience of this small Castilian town."
---"1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die"

Widely regarded as the greatest Spanish film of the 1970's, this film was produced nearing the end of dictator Franco's long regime and depicts the inner life of a young child as she witnesses the ordered "beehive" lives that people had to live under the Franco regime and the lack of connection and emotion among the family members. In Anna's family, her mother longs for a distant lover; her father spends his time with his beehives; her older sister likes to tease her and wind her up. There is some similarity to "Whistle Down the Wind" here when a wounded Republican soldier appears and little Ana helps him. When the film ends, the family starts to come together again and there is hope that an emotional connection for the people of Spain will begin again as well.
Rosy the Reviewer says...Slow moving and artistic.  The real star here is the gorgeous cinematography.
(In Spanish with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***
What it's really like to be poor in the United States.
In the fall of 2013, Tirado was married, in school and working two jobs.  She ran across a question from someone in an online forum. The question asked was "Why do poor people do things that seem so self-destructive?"  She, being a poor person herself, replied to the question with an essay: "Why I make terrible decisions, or, poverty thoughts."  The next day she discovered her post had gone viral.  Before she knew it, "The Huffington Post," "Forbes" and "The Nation" all picked it up.  This book is an expanded version of her Internet post (the book also includes that), a collection of emotions and experiences about what it feels like to be poor and why poor people often don't act the way middle class people and the rich think they should. 
Tirado talks about how difficult it is to not only live on a minimum wage but to keep a job if you don't have a car; how she is judged because she has bad teeth and can't afford to fix them (the dentist accuses her of being a meth addict); why someone working a minimum wage job might not have the best customer service; why it seems poor people have more children than they can afford; and why being poor is actually really expensive. 

She ends the book with "An Open Letter to Rich People" where she tells them to get off their high horses when they have no idea what poor people have to cope with.
Those who have not experienced poverty have preconceived ideas about people who are poor.  Tirado smashes those stereotypes in a bold and humorous way.
Rosy the Reviewer honest look inside the real lives of the poor.  If you think you are a compassionate person, read this and see if you measure up.


Thanks for Reading!

That's it for this week.

See you Tuesday for

"Let's Dish about the Oscars: Who Did it Best and Who Flopped?" 


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