a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Frida Pinto’

“Rise of Planet of Apes” & “Friends W/Benefits” -Good Summer Fun, but no Oscars

I liked both “The Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and “Friends With Benefits.” They’re good, solid summer fare, popcorn movies, but Oscar won’t be awarding any grand prizes for films that are just, well, fun. Entertaining for sure, in that good ole fashioned way that movies USED to be. But which Hollywood seems to have forgotten how to do in recent years.

Yes, yes, I broke my pre-festival rule, and went to see two movies that AREN’T going to be in any of upcoming three festivals that I’m attending(Toronto, Montreal and then New York). I can’t believe it did it, but I did. I had accomplished enough pre-festival prepping-wise, so I went.

The critical hullabaloo that “Apes” was causing made me go, quite frankly. I skipped all the earlier Ape re-incarnations years back. Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans and Roddy MacDowell in monkey masks was an insulting, belittling of great, talented actors to my then teenaged mind. So no. I didn’t go. I’m not a fan of acting with masks in any case.

But the reviews for “Rise of the Planet…” were so ecstatic I just HAD to go. And I had to see if James Franco, whom I did once interview, and whom I’ve always liked, a lot, would recover from his Oscar debacle and his dissing of my BFF Anne Hathaway. And the answer to both questions is yes, and yes

Yes, ROTPOTA works and yes, James is just FINE, in this, his comeback movie, as it were, the first big one post-Oscar hosting…He, and his girlfriend in the film, the lovely Frida Pinto both throw themselves whole-heartedly into acting opposite the performance-capture performance of Andy Serkis as the ape instigator Caesar. And his Oscar fuck-up becomes a mere hiccup in what is obviously going to be a very long and very popular career.

And Andy Serkis’ unseen performance is extraordinary. It’s on a par with his Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Tower” and “Return of the King.” He once again was mesmerizing, and particularly so in the early parts of the movie as the young chimpanzee who is adopted by humans.His Caesar is smart and gifted and so much like Nim, the subject of “Project Nim”(which I reviewed for www.awardsdaily.com when I was at the Provincetown Film Festival earlier this year.)

Nim was also a very smart chimp who was being raised by humans as an experiment…which goes awry as the wild animal within him begins to assert himself and he is eventually shipped off to a chimp “sanctuary” just like Caesar is in “Rise…” with tragic results in Nim’s case, but triumphant ones for Caesar as he begins his vengeful quest for world domination, which of course is the “third act” as they now call it of this movie.

It works. Serkis’ Caesar and Franco and Pinto all work and are involving. And John Lithgow is compelling as Franco’s Alzheimer’s riddled father and Brian Cox does great hefty work as the proprietor of the Chimp Hotel that Caesar gets sent to.

It’s good for what it is. Which is an old-fashioned SciFi Horror Movie spruced up and made new with all these CGI effects. AND Andy Serkis scoring yet again, sight unseen, as the wordless chimp.

But one of the Best Pictures of the Year? I don’t think so. But then accept for “Harry Potter”s finale and the magnificent “Midnight in Paris” it’s been a pretty dismal year so far.

And Oscar isn’t going to reward this. But who cares? It’s just good popcorn fun.

The exact same thing can be said about “Friends with Benefits” which I liked A LOT. And more than I liked “Rise…” actually. Why? Well, for starts, it has PEOPLE in it. And Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis give great star-making turns, revealing flairs for light comedy that is going to propel them into many, many rom-coms in the future, which is fine with me.

They are both VERY watchable on screen and are both revelations and fun, fun, fun.

Again, Oscar doesn’t take comedy seriously.

BUT I DO.

And I know how difficult it is to pull off this light-as-air genre. And Timberlake and Kunis, both new to starring roles in this genre, do it just fine, thank you very much.

They are two young execs in New York(which never looked hipper or more fun in a LONNNNNNG time) who after a lot of preliminary blah-blah-blah decide to have sex, but not any kind of “relationship, just sex” and as they say, hilarity ensues. AND lots of sex scenes. LOTS of them. And he’s more nude more often than she is. Which is refreshing.

And yes, he does sing a few notes and busts a few moves, both in and out of his clothes. And his sense of comic timing is just masterful. They were both delights to watch.

And no one was more surprised than I that I liked them both so much. And I liked “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, too.

Two enjoyable movies. I guess I’m on a roll.

Woody Allen’s “You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger”

While we await with baited (Oscar bait-ed) breath to see who will win tonight at the DGA Awards out in LA-LA land, I’ve been catching up on a few DVDs that have been coming my way in the snail mail.

While I attended Woody Allen’s press conference at TIFF for “You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger”( look it up back in Sept. ’10), I hadn’t seen the movie until just now.

The DVD is coming out soon, and if you’re a die-hard Woody fan, like I am, I guess, EVERY Woody Allen is a must-see. Even his not-so-good ones, like this.

I thought he sounded a tad desperate with that personal TIFF appearance, and I had heard that YWMATDS, was not one of his best. And everyone was right, but there is still SOMEthing about Woody, even at his worst, that grabs you in the end if you stay with it. The press conference was much more entertaining than this film.

No Scarlett Johansson in this one. And I sort of missed her. Again, it is set in London, and more than ever, it seems like he wishes he was shooting it in New York. You can almost hear him sigh with nostaligia…but all his financing is coming from Europe, so in Europe he stays. He’s shot one coming up in Paris, and another London romp, and also a return to Spain where he did seem inspried with the marvelous “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” that won Penelope Cruz her Oscar three years ago…

I don’t think Woody likes the British very much. He doesn’t really GET them, like he gets New Yawkers. He loves New York. He seems to miss it, and so this film’s characters are very superficially observed. And they all seem like neurotic New Yorkers ANYway.

Naomi Watts is Sally in the ScarJo role, I think. But a little older, a little wiser, and much more serious. In fact, this film is hardly funny at all. I barely laughed at all. But I did find myself LISTENING. This is his most serious film since “Interiors”, but I THINK he meant it to  be a comedy…

The title “You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger” comes from what a Cockney fortune teller named Cristal (the always wonderful Pauline Collins) is constantly telling the hapless Helena, Gemma Jones, who is SORT OF the central character, or one of the main characters…A HUGE star in England, ever since she was a beautiful young blonde in the ’60s. Now, Gemma is IN her 60s and playing a daffy, tipsomaniac, an abandoned wife, who is seeking help from the beyond through this soothsayer, who is patently a phony, who mainly serves tea and biscuits and acts as a cheaper psycho-therapist to Jones.

Naomi Watts is her daughter, who is having marital problems, with her blocked novelist of an American husband, Rory, Josh Brolin. EVERY body is cheating on every body else here, per usual in Woody land.

Sir Anthony Hopkins as the desperately exercising ex-husband Alfie of the dumped Gemma Jones, and Naomi Watt’s father, begins by being very pale and wan,a milquetoast ghost of his former robust self, but Hopkins grows in power and force as the film progresses.

I really thought it was VERY bottom draw Woody, but even at that level, Woody grabs you, as you become more and more involved, first with Brolin’s desperate writer, then Hopkins’ desperate older exec. He, OF COURSE, chases after and ultimately bags a hooker, ANOTHER favorite Woody plot, who is decades younger than him, and totally his social inferior…And THEN he marries her…Judy Punch punches it up here as the hooker with a heart of lead.

And the press conference, Punch was there as was Hopkins, Brolin, Jones and Frieda Pinto, who is just sort of generally playing Brolin’s newest muse. Not much depth to this character.

And well, you see where this is going from here…

You can almost predict this film. It’s so by-the-numbers Woody, but then, he hits you with a confounding ending a la the Coen Brothers and suddenly…well, once again, you have to re-think your preceptions about Woody Allen. He DOES get you finally, even if he’s dealing from the bottom of his deck.

I guess I’d rather watch  any mediocre Woody movie than most the other films I, as a critic, am forced to watch throughout the year…Even grade C Woody is still something to see. I’m still a fan. After all these yeas and all these movies. He makes too many movies, and sometimes he seems to be just going through the motions, but…one does cherish those motions…

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