Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Secret Life of Bees

Posted By on Wed, Oct 22, 2008 at 12:00 AM

On the eve of her 14th birthday, Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning) is watching President Lyndon Johnson on television with her family’s housekeeper Rosaleen Daise (Jennifer Hudson) as he announces the signing of the Civil Rights Act. For that moment, it feels like institutionalized oppression might be lifted overnight, but that euphoria will be short-lived. As much as Secret Life is about individual bravery, Kidd’s tale swiftly punishes anyone who dares openly challenge the powers that be. The film opens with Lily’s unhappy life at a peach farm with her loutish father T. Ray (Paul Bettany), the bond she’s formed with Rosaleen, and her longing for a mother whose death she feels responsible for. When Rosaleen is beaten by a group of white men for trying to register to vote, the overlooked, undervalued Lily takes action, fleeing Georgia with her best friend and heading for Tiburon, S.C. There, they find an Eden in the soothing hot pink residence of the Boatwright sisters, surrounded by 28 acres of sun-drenched woodland where an apiary is situated. The coolly commanding August (Queen Latifah) runs the honey business and takes in these two strays — to the chagrin of the strident June (Alicia Keys), a cellist and music teacher. The childlike May (Sophie Okonedo) eagerly accepts these new companions, and her immense empathy makes her aware that they may be traveling light, but they carry heavy baggage.

Continue reading »

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Old Picturehouse

Posted on Thu, Oct 16, 2008 at 6:19 PM

I don't know if you feel as I do, but when I walk into a place like the Fox Theatre or the Detroit Film Theatre, I'm struck with a sense of awe. It's just amazing that these places were made for film. They don't make 'em like that anymore and...

Continue reading »

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

City of Ember

Posted By on Wed, Oct 15, 2008 at 12:00 AM

An underground marvel of decaying brick, twisted wire, rusting metal and assorted scraps, the City of Ember is like a clever mash-up of distopian cinematic playgrounds. But underneath the patina of industrial waste, grime and fading propaganda posters there beats a heart of pure progressive, eco-conscious uplift. This subterranean enclave is the only home its residents have ever known, with several generations trapped inside its cozy biosphere, and terrified of the darkness that surrounds its borders. The adults of Ember are mostly apathetic or resigned to fate, playing out life until the dwindling resources dry up and the central generator finally gives out, but the kids are alright and still hold out hope of an exit. Director Gil Kenan lands the coup of casting Bill Murray as an incompetent, vainglorious politician, and then fails to make the most of him. Murray’s a hoot, when he’s around as the city’s ineffectual, corrupt mayor, faking smiles and dropping platitudes with the best of ’em, while hoarding food and fretting about the painting of his portrait. If you’ve got Murray on board, then, for the love of Pete, let him rip, as he does here during a ceremony assigning jobs to young people — hilariously soft-selling drudgery — but he pops up too sparingly. Murray may put in but a few days’ work, but he becomes a specter in a story he should’ve dominated. Meanwhile, crusty old pro Martin Landau makes the most of his screen time as a doddering sewer drone who keeps spouting the traditional workingman’s catch phrase: “It’s not my job.” The presence of trusty hippie Tim Robbins pretty much tips the movie’s hand politically; he’s a tinker who makes tools and knows that the children are the future. Anyway, the giant mole attack is, you know, undeniably cool.

Continue reading »

Body of Lies

Posted By on Wed, Oct 15, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Based on veteran journalist and Washington Post columnist David Ignatius’ 2007 novel about a CIA operative working in the Middle East, the film bounces with Bourne-like aplomb from Iraq to Jordan to England to Dubai, as Agent Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) pursues a slippery terrorist leader. Lethal but earnest, Ferris is connected by satellites and surveillance to his guardian dark angel Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe), a gone-to-pot CIA manipulator who makes life-and-death decisions via cell phone during his kids’ soccer game. Despite its timely political sheen, Scott’s movie is little more than a solid B-thriller. Complicated but tightly drawn, it does a good job of illustrating the paradoxes of asymmetrical warfare and the disconnection between those who call the shots and the fighters on the ground. While it brings with it the requisite humorless air of seriousness — similar to last year’s stupider but more energetic The Kingdom — Scott’s movie boils down to a heavily armed version of Syriana meets Dilbert, as boss Hoffman repeatedly screws up Ferris’ plans because he’s an impatient arrogant twit.

Continue reading »

The Express

Posted By on Wed, Oct 15, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Rob Brown (Finding Forrester) gets the start as Ernie Davis, a humble, hard-working kid asked to fill the cleats and No. 44 jersey of his idol Jim Brown (Darrin Dewitt Henson). Davis succeeds beyond all expectations. In three short years at Syracuse, Ernie Davis racked up 2,386 yards, MVP honors, a National Championship and became the first African American Heisman trophy winner. Yet, fast as he was he couldn’t outrun history. An early death from leukemia (at 23) largely erased him from memory, an injustice this earnest sports bio aims to correct. There’s also the greater injustice of segregation to attack, which should have made this a great movie. Unfortunately, director Gary Fleder seizes upon every cliché in the sports-flick playbook. We get brief scenes of romance at a school dance, bone crunching on-field action and plenty of on-the-road team bonding, all set to a standard-issue, period R&B soundtrack, topped with requisite Ray Charles numbers. There's also an especially weathered-looking Dennis Quaid playing head coach Ben Schwartzwalder, an old-school hardass, not entirely comfortable with his reluctant role as a civil rights pioneer. Despite the attendant headaches, coach stands by his black players, because he can’t ignore their talent or their basic decency.

Continue reading »

XXY

Posted By on Wed, Oct 15, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Alex (Inés Efron) asks her father, Kraken (Ricardo Darín), why he’s so intensely protective. After all, this marine biologist with a passionate streak for preserving endangered species has always made his daughter feel that she’s "perfect," regardless of how others may perceive her. Alex was born with intersex conditions — female and male reproductive organs as well as the chromosomes of both genders — he declined the recommended surgery. Kraken and wife Suli (Valeria Bertuccelli) opted to raise the child as a girl, but left the ultimate decision up to Alex. Now Suli has doubts about their approach, contacting their old friend Ramiro (Germán Palacios), a renowned plastic surgeon in Buenos Aires, and inviting his family for a visit to their isolated beach house in Uruguay. She believes the time for willful ambiguity has come to an end, and presses for gender assignment surgery, especially after learning that Alex stopped taking the hormones that suppress her male characteristics. The most radical aspect of XXY isn’t the frank adolescent sexuality or even the question of intersex identity. It’s the idea that gender isn’t fixed but fluid, and that for someone like Alex, the most shocking choice may be not choosing at all.

Continue reading »

Insightful and sensitive

Fatih Akin creates real-world characters we can care about

Posted By on Wed, Oct 15, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Fatih Akin, the Turkish-born German filmmaker, can effortlessly glide between the gutter romance of vintage Alex Cox and divine narrative choreography of Krzysztof Kieslowski. Constructed like a novel this film’s complicated plot begins with lonely widower Ali (Tuncel Kurtiz) propositioning middle-aged hooker Yeter (Nursel Kose) to be his paid live-in concubine. The two move in together and calamity quickly ensues, inspiring Ali’s son Nejat (Baki Davrak), a university professor, to travel to Istanbul to find Yeter’s estranged daughter and make amends. Meanwhile, the daughter, Ayten (Nurgul Yesilçay), is a political activist who flees Turkish authorities to Germany in search of her mother. Instead she finds and falls in love with Lotte (Patrycia Ziolkowska), a student at university. Distrusted by her new girlfriend’s mother (famed German actress Hanna Schygulla) and discovered by the police during a routine traffic stop, Yeter’s budding romance is cut short as she’s deported to and imprisoned in Turkey. Family bonds crumble, more connections are missed and, tragically, someone dies. Akin’s terrific cast elicits tremendous empathy, pulling you into their everyday lives and letting you experience both their grief and muted joy. It’s intensely poignant and never maudlin, daring you forget about how we connect as human beings and simply focus on that, despite a world of differences, there is, indeed, a connection.

Continue reading »

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Blindness

Posted By on Wed, Oct 8, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Taken from José Saramago’s allegorical novel, the film imagines the end of civilization as caused by an epidemic outbreak of blindness. Set in an unnamed city, the opening starts promisingly enough as we watch the illness spread from a Japanese businessman to a thief to a physician to everyone in his office and on and on. Before long the authorities round up the infected urbanites and quarantine them in a dingy prison-like facility. Then the real “fun” begins. There’s an ophthalmologist (Mark Ruffalo), his wife (Julianne Moore), a call girl (Alicia Braga), a one-eyed Danny Glover and a vicious thug (Gael Garcia Bernal) are tossed in with dozens of other sightless character actors. None of them are given names and all of them discover that the outside world has abandoned them to their own devices. The crux is that Moore, unaffected by the disease but determined to stay by her husband’s side, can see. Unfortunately, she can’t stop things from descending into Lord of the Flies-style brutality, as the family of man shows its true miserable colors. Blindness spares the audience nothing as garbage and human waste pile up in the hallways and its Hollywood actors shun makeup and hair products. Food is stolen and stragglers are shot, as might-makes-right anarchy settles in. It all culminates in an obscured and horrifying orgy of rape that tests the boundaries of cinematic taste. Despite the film's dreary and earnest stoicism, Blindness is absorbing at times, offering a crude but effective metaphor for modern human isolation. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the inevitable failings of humanity when faced with real-life disaster — and the hope that decency will win out.

Continue reading »

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

Posted By on Wed, Oct 8, 2008 at 12:00 AM

They say you can’t put lipstick on a pig, and that roughly applies to screenplays too, a point made clear by this dumbed-down adaptation of British writer Toby Young’s scathing 2001 memoir and entertainment media kiss-off. Oh, and there’s an actual pig here, one the hero attempts to pass off as the star of Babe to land backstage at a movie awards show — and the film’s fortunes head south the moment porky piddles on a celeb’s leg. Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz) is Sidney Young, a Toby stand-in, who in real life turned his success as snarky, underground flame-thrower into a disastrous, bridge-burning, five-year run atop New York’s glossy publishing glitterati. On screen, the fictional Sharps is Vanity Fair and Jeff Bridges’ eccentric Clayton Harding is a thin disguise for flamboyant VF editor Graydon Carter — who hires Young because he reminds him of himself when he had balls — and put out the brilliantly bitchy Spy, here called Snipe. The other names have been changed to protect the guilty, but the supporting stereotypes include Danny Huston as the vain, deceitful rival, and Kirsten Dunst as the brainy cynic and a closet romantic with whom Sidney falls hopelessly in love.

Continue reading »

Beverly Hills Chihuahua

Posted By on Wed, Oct 8, 2008 at 12:00 AM

While long, intricate conversations between dogs now appear perfectly normal, BH Chihuahua is at heart a farcical comedy of heightened reality. So while the dogs are grounded, the humans are flighty, especially cosmetics magnate Vivian Ashe (Jamie Lee Curtis), whose prized pooch receives more attention, affection and designer duds than a spoiled child. Chloe (Drew Barrymore’s baby-doll voice is a perfect fit) has come to expect nothing less than being carted around to spa appointments and hosting poolside playdates. Vivian’s outlandish spending on Chloe’s over the top outfits (and diamond necklace) is woefully out of step with our recessionista era, but director Raja Gosnell gleefully makes his point, portraying a canine princess who doesn’t realize the price she’s paying for being a lap dog. She not only snubs love-struck Papi (George Lopez), the Mexican Chihuahua owned by landscaper Sam Cortez (Manolo Cardona), but when Vivian’s irresponsible niece, Rachel (Piper Perabo), takes Chloe along on her Baja California vacation, the petulant pup wanders away from their beachside hotel and is promptly dog-napped. High jinks ensue.

Continue reading »

Best Things to Do In Detroit

Most Popular

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation