Two current films, both of which are dramatically flawed, still are well-worth seeing for two reasons: They feature superb performances by their leading players; and they offer insightful depictions of the plights of women during earlier ages. These women may have completely different backgrounds, but their gender-- and how they are perceived within the world they inhabit-- are central to their stories.
With the release of GODZILLA, the latest of countless mega-budgeted, special effects-laden blockbusters that seem to be dominating movie theaters these days, the original screen version of the story is well-worth recalling. This GODZILLA, of course, was wildly successful in its day. It was produced in Japan and released in 1954, and baby boomers may recall that the U.S. edition included added footage featuring a pre-PERRY MASON Raymond Burr. The full title of this version is GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS, and the monster in question is a giant, apparently unstoppable fire-breathing lizard who, like so many 1950s sci-fi movie creatures, was the byproduct of nuclear weapons testing run amok.
As of the second week in May, the top four moneymaking films released theatrically in the U.S. in 2014 were THE LEGO MOVIE, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, and DIVERGENT. All are big-budget extravaganzas that are fashioned to attract a desired demographic: young people, from grade schoolers to twenty-and-thirtysomethings.
One of the "criticisms," if you will, of the Oscar-winning 12 YEARS A SLAVE is the manner in which the physical abuse of slaves is presented onscreen. In 12 YEARS A SLAVE, the brutality is graphic and in-your-face, which is the style of its director, Steve McQueen. And the question that viewers might have after seeing 12 YEARS A SLAVE is: To emphasize the horror and degradation of slavery, is it necessary to include imagery that is so painful to watch?
These days, Brooklyn is a hot commodity on the American cultural scene. Plenty of films and TV shows not only are set in the New York borough but feature the word "Brooklyn" in their titles. And this, surely, is a smart marketing ploy.
On the surface, two newly-released films are completely different, starting with the personalities and issues of their central characters. Beneath the surface, however, both films are linked in that they effectively deal with the theme of isolation in an impersonal world.
Upon hearing the initial accounts of the recent murder of three people at a Jewish community center and retirement home in a Kansas City suburb, I was shocked and saddened. But senselessly violent acts are such a constant part of our world these days, and so I really should not have been surprised.
Since last month, big-screen viewing has been a mix of awesome and disappointing. The two films I most was looking forward to were Wes Anderson’s THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL and Darren Aronofky’s NOAH. Both were outstanding visually but in need of script doctoring.
How does one reconcile the past when that past is crammed with the worst kind of memories? One way would be to write a memoir. Another would be to make a film. Both approaches apply to THE RAILWAY MAN, a newly-released film that is a screen adaptation of a book by Eric Lomax.
Cesar Chavez is one of American history's legendary union organizers and workers' rights activists. Back in the 1960s, he was at the forefront of the effort to unionize California farmworkers. CESAR CHAVEZ also is the name of a new biopic: a simple, sincere chronicle of a decade in the life of Chavez (who is played by Michael Peña).