Beneath Bruce Garrett’s under-confident, overweight exterior, the passionate heart of a salsa king lies dormant. Now, one woman is about to reignite his Latin fire.
Running Time: 1hr 38min
MPAA Rating: R
by Leba Hertz – San Francisco Chronicle
There’s nothing groundbreaking in “Cuban Fury,” but it’s a pleasant diversion starring the always amiable Nick Frost, with Chris O’Dowd relishing his role as a slime ball.
As a youngster, Bruce (Frost) was a champion salsa dancer until a gang of bullies “destroyed the fire in his heels.” Flash forward 20-plus years to the overweight shlub who now has an office job. When the lovely Julia (Rashida Jones) becomes his boss, he’s smitten, but has to compete for her attentions with Drew (O’Dowd), who will do anything to steal her affections.
Julia also takes salsa lessons, so yes, our hero decides to get back into shape (of sorts) and asks for help from his former tyrannical mentor (the always amazing Ian McShane).
We know what will happen: a dance off, of course. And the lessons learned are not only on the dance floor, but about himself. After all, Frost has that underdog quality we always root for.
By the way, Frost is mostly known for his work with Simon Pegg (“Shaun of the Dead,” etc.) and he goes it alone quite well – but do look out for a Pegg cameo.
Jerry Lundegaard’s inept crime falls apart due to his and his henchmen’s bungling and the persistent police work of the quite pregnant Marge Gunderson.
Running Time: 1hr 38min
MPAA Rating: R
Actors Have Roles Of A Lifetime In Daring Comedy `Fargo’
Our Flick of the Week is “Fargo,” the first great American movie of the year. It’s another daring black comedy by one of the most consistently inventive moviemaking teams of the last decade, brothers Joel and Ethan Coen. The fans of their best work — “Blood Simple, “Raising Arizona,” “Barton Fink” — now can add “Fargo” to the list, pushing the Coens to the first rank of contemporary American filmmakers.
In a way, “Fargo” is sort of a ’90s riff on “Bonnie and Clyde.” The romance of crime has faded, the killers are anything but stylish, the leading lady is pregnant, and the failed finances of a car salesman — rather than a merciless banking system — trigger the story. Aimlessness rules.
In a performance that will finally gain him the respect he deserves, Chicago actor William H. Macy plays the Minneapolis car salesman whose life is in ruins. He’s got huge debts — for reasons refreshingly never identified — and he wants his wife kidnapped and his wealthy father-in-law to pay him the ransom, most of which he’ll pocket himself before paying off a couple of a thugs.
The whole plot goes terribly wrong, violently and comically. And the less I tell you about it, the more you will enjoy this masterpiece. There are murder, low comedy, bad Midwestern accents and a crippling tension between the haves and have nots. And standing above it all is the most unlikely looking heroine, played beautifully by Frances McDormand (“Mississippi Burning”).
I’ve credited Macy and McDormand with fine work, but I’m sure they would be the first to admit that these are the roles of a lifetime.
A spelling bee loser sets out to exact revenge by finding a loophole and attempting to win as an adult.
Running Time: 1hr 29min
MPAA Rating: R
Content written by Tony Macklin. Originally published on April 3, 2014 on tonymacklin.net.
After seeing Bad Words, I’m trying to set up a swearing bee between Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Bateman.
Louis-Dreyfus (Selina Meyer in HBO’s Veep) and Bateman (Guy Trilby in Bad Words) both take cursing to a vibrant new level. They’re incorrigible, master swearers.
In Bad Words, Guy Trilby (Bateman) competes in a national spelling bee, although he is 40-years old. He has found a loophole in the rules and is on a mission to compete and destroy the young contestants.
Guy is a scalawag, who delivers obscene lines of dialogue with matter-of-fact aplomb.
Chaitanya Chopra (Rohan Chard), an Indian-American lad from Cleveland, tries to bond with him, but Guy is totally dismissive. The intrepid, ebullient Chaitanya will not be dissuaded as he pursues Guy to be his friend.
The screenplay by Andrew Dodge actually features language. What a concept. And, not all of the multisyllabic words begin “mother-.”
Generally, Dodge offers an intelligence in his language. One lapse is the letter Guy writes, which is read at the end. He writes, “They’re just words.” No, they’re not. And he misuses “hopefully.” But most of the film is nicely literate.
Bateman, in his initial directing stint, uses his cast to great advantage. Especially himself.
The movie only becomes slapstick in a scene which rivals the breakdown of a woman played by Madeline Kahn in What’s Up, Doc? (1972). The addled mother (Rachael Harris) of one of the spellers becomes a wreak. And, in this case, she’s an obscene wreck.
Rohan Chard is wide-eyed and adorable as Chaitanya.
Kathryn Hahn is pleasantly horny as the online journalist who aids Guy. Philip Baker Hall plays the crusty founder of The Golden Quill Spelling Bee. And Allison Janney is the authoritative – and therefore doomed – director of the Bee.
Bad Words could be a nasty concept. Some reviewers want it to be nastier; others want it to be less nasty. Nasty or not, it winds up to be a feel-good movie. Bad Words is an offbeat, sly romp.
It’s a bombardment of spicy words.
Now, Julia and Jason, take your places.
A mysterious seductress preys upon the population of Scotland.
Running Time: 1hr 48min
MPAA Rating: R
by CJ Johnson
Unquestionably the boldest feature film to be released into the mainstream cinema thus far this year, Jonathan Glazer’s third feature Under The Skin borders on “experimental”. Combining relentlessly precise sequences with those shot surreptitiously – ensnaring people on the street into the story – this science fiction / horror hybrid manages the seemingly hopeless task of telling a very clear story in a completely oblique manner.
Scarlett Johansson plays an alien being wearing the skin – or at least the likeness – of a dead (and extremely attractive) woman as she drives around Glasgow picking up random men on their own (played mainly by real random men walking on their own, who entered Johansson’s van of their own accord). These men are driven around by her (as she speaks in a perfect upper-class British accent) and engage with her blatant, child-like flirtation (only to have the ultimate cock-blocking candid camera move played on them when told that they were actually in a movie). The alien is pursuing certain vague goals on earth, but, while here, as aliens often do, she begins to find humanity curious rather than simply expendable.
Glazer’s Sexy Beast and Birth were idiosyncratic but Under The Skin trumps them triumphantly, being compelling, weird, intensely disturbing and ultimately bizarrely moving. Many of its images are shockingly vivid for me two weeks after having seen it – of how many films can you say that? Johansson is perfect, the unknowing Glasgow lads fit seamlessly into the strange rhythms and tone of the whole, and the more experimental sequences, obviously and unashamedly constructed in the style of Kubrick, are deeply fascinating. This is a film that is going to be referenced for decades to come (as Sexy Beast already is) and if you miss it at the cinema, you’re missing out. Excellent.
Academy Award Nominee Jake Gyllenhaal reteams with his PRISONERS director, Academy Award Nominee Denis Villeneuve, in this sexy and hypnotically surreal psychological thriller that breathes new life into the doppleganger tradition. Adam Bell (Gyllenhaal) is a glum, disheveled history professor, who seems disinterested even in his beautiful girlfriend, Mary (Laurent). Watching a movie on the recommendation of a colleague, Adam spots his double, a bit-part actor named Anthony Clair, and decides to track him down. The identical men meet and their lives become bizarrely and irrevocably intertwined.
Running Time: 1hr 30min
MPAA Rating: R
Creepy ‘Enemy’ puts lookalikes into ‘uh-oh’ land
by Colin Covert
Jake Gyllenhaal gives two excellent performances in “Enemy.” He stars as Adam, a bearded, rumpled Toronto history professor sleepwalking his way through life. He stars as Daniel, a slick, self-absorbed actor who is Adam’s physical duplicate. Each has a loveless, but not sexless, relationship with physically similar, emotionally distant blondes. Adam and Daniel trespass on each other’s life, and for a time it looks as if this will be a suspenseful tale of swapped identities and adultery. Then it verges into not-quite-real territory on its way to a madhouse.
This creepshow comes by its eccentricity honestly. It’s based on a doppelgänger novel by José Saramago, the only fantasy writer to win a Nobel Prize in literature. If you laid Roman Polanski, Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka and David Cronenberg end to end, you might get something like this. It imagines what would happen to a humdrum man’s life if suddenly a hatch should open and something viscerally disturbing appeared in his living room.
The film nimbly plays with themes of identity and voyeurism. Daniel goes by the stage name Anthony, another layer of false identity. In an aside that says everything about his character, he insolently reminds his wife that his blueberries must be organic. When Adam visits his mother (Isabella Rossellini) to ask if he has any hidden siblings, she offers him blueberries and advises him, seemingly out of nowhere, to drop his dream of becoming an actor. Adam is our identification figure, but there are portents suggesting that his consciousness is somehow damaged. Slipping deftly between characters, Gyllenhaal gradually reveals them as individuals carrying similar burdens of frustration and resentment, but warped in different ways.
“Enemy” is a bewilderingly skillful metaphysical thriller combining Swiss-watch engineering and surrealism, like one of Dali’s melted timepieces. I watched each gripping scene in a continuous state of “uh-oh.”
Director Denis Villeneuve (of the spellbinding “Prisoners”) pushes tension and nausea into our very pores. He uses a yellow diffusion filter to give the surfaces and atmospheres of a big-city summer an oppressive, humid texture. Watching the movie makes you want to wipe the sweat off your brow. Mysterious imagery related to spiders skitters across the screen — symbolic webs in streetcar cables and shattered glass, along with jarring insectoid apparitions. Arachnophobes, be advised. And those with weak hearts might want to slip out before the climax, which belongs on any serious list of staggering cinematic sucker punches.
A pair of young lovers flee their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out and find them.
Running Time: 1hr 34min
MPAA Rating: PG-13
By Rene Rodriguez
In Moonrise Kingdom, Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) run away from home. They live on an island, so they can’t get far. But still, they run, because they are in love, and they are 12 years old, but their parents say they are too young and there is just no way.
Fortunately, Sam is a decorated Khaki Scout with many badges in camping and foraging. He makes great, comfortable tents for Suzy and himself. She brings books — she loves adventure stories the best — and her binoculars, which always hang around her neck.
One day, in the woods, Suzy spots a deer. “He knows someone’s watching,” she says about the animal as it stares back. “He can feel us.”
The same could be said of the characters in Moonrise Kingdom: They know we’re watching them, and they’re OK with it, but they’re not going to put on a show for us. Like the rest of Wes Anderson’s films (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox), the movie has a deliberate archness, a sense of theatricality that makes you want to hang a frame around the edges of the screen. In the past, that aesthetic sometimes led to cold, fussy pictures (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited). But Moonrise Kingdom is different, because it feels personal and earnest, its situations drawn from real life instead of art, its emotions honest, its affection genuine.
Most importantly, Anderson — who wrote the screenplay with Roman Coppola — has an actual story to tell. Moonrise Kingdom is set in a fictional world in 1965 — which the director seems to have imagined from the ground up, from the covers of the books Suzy reads to the jackets of record albums to the indelible colors of rotary telephones. The opening credits put the names of the actors in the extreme corners of the screen, as if to let you know to search every frame of the movie, because there are little treasures everywhere.
Anderson’s precise attention to detail doesn’t get in the way of the story: It heightens the pleasures of Moonrise Kingdom, which features Bruce Willis as the world’s saddest sheriff; Bill Murray and Frances McDormand as a pair of husband-and-wife attorneys headed for divorce; Edward Norton as a fastidious scout leader who tasks his charges with unusual, hilariously dangerous missions; Bob Balaban as a narrator who keeps warning us about an approaching storm; and Tilda Swinton as a bureaucratic social-services worker named Social Services.
But the true stars of the movie are Gilman and Hayward, who look and talk like real kids, and whose sweet, awkward, endearing romance will remind you of your first true love, regardless of how old you were when it happened. Moonrise Kingdom isn’t a movie about childhood: It’s a movie about how we remember childhood, when confrontations with other kids seemed to have life-or-death stakes, grown-ups spoke about things we didn’t understand or care about, and it really was possible to run away and go on a wild adventure, as long as you brought the proper supplies. The film is precious and adorable, but it isn’t naïve (these kids are becoming sexually aware), and the movie breathes so deep that Anderson even gets a real performance out of Willis (this is his best work in years). Most of Anderson’s previous pictures came from the head; Moonrise Kingdom is one from the heart.