Opening in U.S., June 20, 2014


A lackluster week for the multiplexes, but some interesting offerings in the art houses.

I’ll start there, with Roman Polanski’s Venus in Fur (68), based on a play by David Ives that I saw on Broadway. The location has been moved to Paris, but the plot seems to remain the same–a director is auditioning actresses for his play based on Masoch’s Venus in Fur. A blousy woman blows in, but she may not be who she seems to be.  Scott Foundas: “A delightfully intricate battle of wits and wills in which the question of who’s directing/seducing/torturing whom remains constantly shifting open to interpretation.”

Coherence (64) is a low-budget sci-fi/horror film. A.A. Dowd: “The result is an uncommonly clever genre movie, reliant not on special effects — of which there are basically none — but on heavy doses of paranoia.”

How far Paul Haggis has fallen! After his award-winning Crash, he’s been in a death spiral. His latest is Third Person (32), getting vicious reviews. Kevin Jagernauth: “Third Person is an audacious failure, one that even its starry cast can’t save. With a trite script, and an even more glib thematic undercurrent, Third Person is nothing short of an outright embarrassment.

From Sweden comes a World War II drama, The Last Sentence (57) directed by Jan Troell. Farran Smith Nehme: “This is a handsome movie, rich in period detail, but the stately pace slows to a crawl in the second half.” Nick?

Now for the multiplex trash. The most promising is Jersey Boys (54), based on the broadway jukebox musical, directed by of all people Clint Eastwood. Eastwood hasn’t made a good film since Letters from Iwo Jima, and word is he’s either too old or too lazy, and his films have a casual feel, almost as if they weren’t directed at all. Steve Persall: “Eastwood’s unvarnished storytelling style, usually his strength as a filmmaker, is terribly out of place here. If ever a movie needed flashbacks, dream sequences, any attempt no matter how cliche to goose the narrative, it’s this one.”

Think Like a Man Too (37), a sequel to the infomercial for Steve Harvey’s book, reminds us that it’s great that there are films marketed to African-Americans, it’s just a shame they are uniformly terrible. Sara Stewart: “If Think Like a Man Too was a man, he would be the world’s worst date: humorless, shrill, speaking primarily in clichés (“what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!”) and absolutely terrified of women.”

Also this week: Code Black (77), a doc about an emergency room; Fonzy (55), which is not a Happy Days update but instead about a man who finds out he’s fathered 533 children (didn’t we see this already in The Delivery Man?); and Northern Light (84), a doc about a snowmobile race.



About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

8 responses »

  1. I had a discussion with someone at one point wherein he posited that “Hollywood” doesn’t make films for African-Americans because the only kinds of movies they accept are only the ones a man who dresses in drag can really corner.
    Being absurd on the face of it, I somewhat feel he had a point. This is the product that continually pulls African-Americans into the theater, taps into some zeitgeist that dictates these movies are all popular. And then an African American movie is made by an African-American, that is serious, and dealing with issues that need more African-Americans, well…it does nothing at the box office. What’s the recent one? Belle?
    The only thing I can think that worked was the Angela Basset vehicle some time ago.
    Now, I’m not saying African-Americans don’t go to “Hollywood” movies, but the idea that a movie can’t simply be made where a superhero is African-American or even a woman for christ’s sake, but they can pump out idiotic Kevin Hart vehicles like they’re factory hot dogs is a curious thing indeed.

    And Steve Harvey and his zealous chirstian stance that atheists aren’t even human and he wouldn’t let his family talk to an atheist can go suck a fuck.

  2. Clint Eastwood directing a musical seems the most awkward fit for the format since John Huston directed ‘Annie’ or when Sidney Lumet directed ‘The Wiz’.

  3. As for Haggis: I never understood the early acclaim for Crash and thought the backlash was well-justified. The man cut his teeth working on things like The Love Boat and creating Walker Texas Ranger. He’s always been a b-level television guy – just one who happened to get lucky with one hokey racial drama and Oscar gold.

    I will say he’s got to be worth obscene amounts of cash. I never realized how many shows he created or wrote for going back to the late 70’s.

  4. Saw Venus in Fur the other day and liked it well enough. It’s amusingly perverse and generally unpredictable, and I still don’t think there’s anyone who directs in confined spaces like Polanski does.

    Anyway, got to thinking about Polanski’s career. This is something I used to do, but haven’t in a while, so here it is: the IMDb ratings for all of his films:

    The Pianist 8.5 (#41)
    Chinatown 8.3 (#111)
    Rosemary’s Baby 8.0
    Repulsion 7.8
    The Tenant 7.8
    Knife in the Water 7.6
    Macbeth 7.4
    The Ghost Writer 7.3
    The Fearless Vampire Killers 7.3
    Death and the Maiden 7.3
    Tess 7.3
    Venus in Fur 7.3
    Carnage 7.2
    Cul-de-sac 7.2
    Bitter Moon 7.1
    Frantic 6.9
    Oliver Twist 6.9
    The Ninth Gate 6.7
    Pirates 6.1
    What? 5.9

    That’s a fairly consistent and varied career. I’d actually never heard of What? before compiling this list, and it seems mostly unavailable. I’ve seen each of the top 6 and a few others, and overall I’ve long thought of him as nearly unmatched from a technical standpoint. Even his recent films are distinctive in this regard.

    Of the ones I’ve seen, I’ve liked some more than others – for my money, Chinatown is basically a perfect film – but only The Tenant really seemed like a dud to me. It has its following, as the rating above shows, but I thought it was just downright obnoxious.Criterion has a new edition of Tess out, and Macbeth on the way, so I hope to see those soon.

  5. I’ve got some glaring gaps on this list. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Rosemary’s Baby all the way through–if I saw any of it it was when it aired on network TV, probably edited within an inch of its life. And here’s a sign of old age–I may have seen Repulsion back in college, but I can’t remember if I did or not. Haven’t seen The Tenant or Knife in the Water. Definitely have seen Chinatown–don’t know how The Pianist can be ranked ahead of it. I saw Venus in Fur, too. Reviewed it on Go-Go-Rama.

  6. Saw ‘Jersey Boys’. It has a lot of problems with it, most of them one would expect from a musical directed by Clint Eastwood. It not only lacks the joie de vivrie that seemed to define the stage show it’s rather glum and drab-looking.

    Characters like band member Tommy DeVito are relentlessly predictable (and unpleasant) and it needlessly jumbles real-life events of The Four Seasons and Valli around from what actually happened.

    Having said that, I was mildly entertained by it. As ill-suited as Eastwood is to this type of film, his efficient professionalism lifts this up from being unwatchable sludge it could’ve been.

    I’m curious as to why Eastwood was attracted to this work; I’m guessing the individiualism and can-do attitude of the band members to get themselves out from their battling upbringing appealed to Eastwood’s mindset as he seems more interested in that than analysing the appeal of their music in detail.

    Overall I thought this was a passable but totally inessential film. As well, the old-age makeup they employ on the band at the end is the worst I’ve seen since Biff Tannen in Back To The Future Part 2.

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