Blue Jasmine

New review from The Movie Snob.

Blue Jasmine  (B+).  Cate Blanchett (Hanna) shines in the title role of Woody Allen’s latest film.  Jasmine is a New York socialite whose world has been turned upside down.  Her husband Hal (Alec Baldwin, The Cooler) was a high-flying finance guy, but it turned out he was a crook and a philanderer, so now Jasmine is broke, husbandless, and heavily dependent on alcohol and prescription meds to stave off a complete breakdown.  So she flees to the blue-collar home of her blue-collar sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky) in San Francisco.  To say that she clashes with Ginger and Ginger’s mechanic boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale, The Station Agent) would be an understatement.  I haven’t seen A Streetcar Named Desire in a long time, but this movie seems very similar to that one.  Nevertheless, I thought this was a good movie.

Blackfish

A new review by The Movie Snob.

Blackfish (B).  This documentary is a propaganda piece.  The thesis: It is bad to confine killer whales and have them perform in shows in places like Sea World.  It’s bad for the whales because they are immensely intelligent, social, and even emotional beings that belong in the open ocean, not in small concrete pools.  And it’s bad for us because keeping the whales in captivity makes them crazy and dangerous to their human trainers.  Most of the evidence presented in the film focuses on the second point.  You probably remember the incident just a few years ago when a killer whale named Tilikum killed a female Sea World trainer; of course the movie goes into that incident in some detail, and it also provides some facts about Tilikum’s killing of a young trainer twenty years earlier.  The facts are much sketchier about the only other trainer killing discussed in the film, a killing that involved a different whale in a Spanish park in the Canary Islands.  The film also features some footage of a couple of other nonfatal attacks on trainers; it’s pretty amazing those two people survived.  Sea World did not cooperate in the making of the film, but some of its ex-trainers certainly did.  I have heard that Sea World issued a rebuttal, and the filmmakers have issued a response to the rebuttal.  Anyway, I’m sold; Sea World won’t be getting any more of my money unless they stop their killer whale shows.

Prince Avalanche

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Prince Avalanche  (B-).  Blink and you’ll miss this little indie flick, which I believe is showing in a single theater in the Dallas area.  It’s an amiable little movie starring Paul Rudd (This Is 40), who must be one of the hardest working actors in show biz, and Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild), who looks a lot like a young Jack Black (High Fidelity).  The year is 1988.  Alvin and Lance, played by Rudd and Hirsch, are out in the middle of nowhere in central Texas, painting center stripes on some lost highway.  At night, they camp by the side of road.  Alvin catches fish and squirrels for dinner and pines for his girlfriend, who is Lance’s sister.  Lance talks about going to town on the weekends and “partying” with girls.  They bond.  They fight.  They rarely see another soul.  It’s only 94 minutes long, so it doesn’t really wear out its welcome.  I kinda liked it.  Hard to believe it was directed by David Gordon Green (Your Highness).

The Spectacular Now

A new review from the desk of The Movie Snob.

The Spectacular Now  (B+).  This independent flick has been getting good buzz for its authentic take on how teenagers really live nowadays, and I thought it really was quite good.  Miles Teller (Rabbit Hole) plays Sutter Keely, a high school senior whose happy-go-lucky persona and live-for-now philosophy semi-conceal a serious drinking problem.  After one of his benders, he wakes up lying in the front yard of a classmate, Aimee (Shailene Woodley, The Descendants), and she helps him look for his missing car.  Aimee is not part of Sutter’s social network, but she is sweet and pretty, and he is on the rebound, so they gradually become an item, and the movie goes on from there.  I thought the movie seemed fairly realistic in addressing Sutter’s alcoholism and his lingering issues from the fact that his dad walked out on his family when Sutter was a small child.  Interestingly, director James Ponsoldt’s last movie was Smashed, about a young married couple’s struggle with alcoholism (and Smashed star Mary Elizabeth Winstead turns up in this movie as Sutter’s older sister).  Good performances by the young stars, and Jennifer Jason Leigh (Margot at the Wedding) turns in nice supporting work as Sutter’s put-upon mom.  I’d probably have given the movie a higher grade, but I was a little disturbed by the movie’s cavalier attitude towards teenaged sex, which unlike drinking is presented as a positive and consequence-free sort of thing.  Even so, I thought it was a pretty good movie.

Xanadu (stage review)

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Xanadu.  Your time is almost up if you want to catch this show at Addison’s Watertower Theatre.  I believe the last performance is tomorrow afternoon.  Anyway, I saw it last night and thought it was a lot of fun.  Apparently it is based on a fairly ridiculous Olivia Newton-John movie that I have never seen.  The stage version plays it strictly for laughs.  The Greek muses descend on Venice Beach, California in 1980, and head muse Clio decides to lavish inspiration on a brain-dead mural artist named Sonny Malone.  Meanwhile, two of Clio’s sister muses become envious of Clio’s status as favored daughter of Zeus and plot to make her fall in love with Sonny–a big no-no under Zeus’s decree.  It’s pretty silly–Clio spends much of the show in roller skates and leg warmers–but quite entertaining.  The songs are enjoyable and include at least a couple of ELO’s hits, “Evil Woman” and “Strange Magic.”  Check it out–if tickets are still available!

Twenty Feet From Stardom

A movie review from The Movie Snob.

Twenty Feet From Stardom  (B).  You know, you probably can make a good documentary about just about anything.  This aptly named documentary is about back-up singers in the rock era.  They have been mostly black women, and, despite their obvious talent, they are pretty much anonymous.  So this movie gives them a rare leading role, and we get to know quite a bit about a small handful of them.  We learn about their backgrounds (lots of preachers’ daughters) and their experiences in the music industry, especially in the 1960s and 1970s.  A few try to become stars in their own right, and it just doesn’t pan out for them.  Several bona fide rock stars give some interviews about their back-up singers, like Sting (Dune), Bruce Springsteen, and Mick Jagger (Freejack), and though they are all appreciative, Jagger does say something to effect of, “Who wants to spend their whole career singing oohs and ahhs?”  There are some interesting anecdotes, like the time one back-up singer answered a 2 a.m. call to participate in a recording session with the Rolling Stones and wound up getting immortalized in “Gimme Shelter.”  All in all, a very pleasant little movie.  I’d give it a higher grade, but it did start to feel a little long towards the end, even though IMDb says it’s only 91 minutes.

The Walking Dead – Season One

A TV review from The Movie Snob – only a few years late.

The Walking Dead – Season One.  (B).  As usual, I’m a late-comer to this TV series, and I have made my way through only the first season at this point.  As my grade indicates, I thought it was good, but not really great.  The set-up is pretty cool.  A Georgia sheriff named Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln, Love Actually) gets shot in the line of duty and falls into a coma.  Some time later, he wakes up in a deserted hospital to a world that has fallen to a zombie apocalypse.  It’s a pretty effective way to draw the viewer into Rick’s predicament, watching him try to understand and navigate the nightmare world he now inhabits.  Once he gets his feet under him, he sets out to try to find his wife and son.  The zombie special effects are quite well done, and it is an amazingly gory show, even by cable TV standards (I would think; I don’t have cable myself).  I’d give it a higher grade, but occasionally the show did seem a little hokey, a little “TV-ish.”  Explosively tense situations seemed to crop up all the time, only to be defused a little too quickly and easily.  Characters occasionally make choices that are not particularly believable.  And the whole season is only six episodes long—what’s up with that?  The extras on the DVDs are okay, but nothing to write home about.  Still and all, season one was pretty good, if you’re a fan of hungry zombies.