Saturday, August 10, 2013
Friday, August 9, 2013
|A scene from Pacific Rim, now in theatres|
The late science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon (More than Human) once opined, in defense against critics who said all science was bad, that "ninety percent of science fiction is crud, but then, ninety percent of everything is crud." That dictum, now known as Sturgeons' Law and usually stated as "90% of everything is crap," is actually true, though there are times in certain art forms – sixties rock, seventies American cinema – when the over-all high quality belies that statistic. Of course the 10% that isn't crud isn't necessarily stellar, either. Great art, be it a film like Richard Linklater's Before Midnight or an album like The Allman Brothers' Live at the Fillmore East, isn't easily made, but there is enough out there that is at least worth your time, even if it falls short of what it could have been. Here are some recent efforts worth checking out.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
The first time Hugh Jackman played Wolverine, in his first American movie (and only the third movie his career), Bryan Singer’s X-Men (2000), a star was born. The character of Wolverine – an endlessly regenerating Canadian wild man who can sprout razor-sharp claws from his knuckles, and who has a three-note emotional range, brooding, seething, and full explosion – was a product of a period in the mid-70s when Marvel comics writers were trying to adjust to a changing pop culture landscape in which movie stars like Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson were playing judge-jury-and-executioner types as righteous heroes. Comics fan were hungry to see him on the screen, but comics fans and lots of other people are always hungry to see things on screen that would probably look pretty silly if almost anyone tried to create a reasonably plausible, live-action version of them.
Somehow, Jackman managed to make everything about Logan – that’s the superhero equivalent of his slave name, what people call Wolverine when he’s not bounding through the air eviscerating people – seem both believable and attractive, from the redwood-sized chip on his shoulder to his inherent nobility to his lupine-rockabilly hairdo and facial hair. It was the kind of performance that makes you eager to see what else the actor can do, and at the same time makes you want to know when you can see him play that character again. The Wolverine, directed by James Mangold from a script written by Mark Bombeck, Scott Frank, and the uncredited Christopher McQuarrie, marks Jackman’s fifth time out wearing Logan’s spiked claws and gelled hair horns. He was 31 when X-Men came out, and he’s 44 now, which, given the fact that Logan doesn’t visibly age, might have been a problem at an earlier point in our history. It’s a funny thing that people, or at least some movie stars, age so much slower than they used to, but it’s also a lucky thing, since it now takes so many lifetimes to get a movie made. In four fewer years that it’s taken Jackman to play Wolverine in three X-Men movies and two solo outings, Sean Connery had played James Bond five times, walked away from the franchise, come back to play him one more time, and walked away again.
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
|Cate Blanchett in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine|
Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen’s 45th movie as director, is also surprisingly one of his most memorable, largely but not only because of Cate Blanchett’s powerful lead performance as a mentally ill socialite fallen upon hard times. Allen’s track record for most of the last 20 years has been pretty mediocre, with the majority of his movies scanning at best as irrelevant. Even the few good films, Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993), Bullets Over Broadway (1994) and Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), seemed less fresh or creative than earlier Allen movies like Zelig (1983), Broadway Danny Rose (1985), and Radio Days (1987), not to mention classics like Annie Hall (1977) and Manhattan (1979). So who would have expected Blue Jasmine to be as unique, disturbing and honest as it is?
Monday, August 5, 2013
The Two-Character Play, which shows the heavy influence of Beckett and especially of Waiting for Godot, certainly sounds like Williams, but it isn’t very good; it’s both rambling and strained. You don’t get drawn into the hermetic world of Clare and Felice the way you get pulled into the run-down motel-room existence of The Man and The Woman in Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen, another two-hander and one of the playwright’s early one-acts. Here we hardly need to be told that the play is a metaphor for life or that at the end, after the (invisible) audience has departed, the characters are going to be locked in the theatre, holding onto each other for dear life as the last special fades. Yet you can understand why a couple of adventurous, unconventional actors like Dourif and Plummer (who proposed the project to Dourif) would want to explore it, and it’s worth seeing the production, which Gene David Kirk directed, for their performances.
Sunday, August 4, 2013
|Susie Burnett as Edith and Seana McKenna as Madame Arcati (Photo by David Hou)|