People Like Us, Magic Mike, Ted and new films by Sarah Polley and Tyler Perry reviewed
An errant wife, a cursing teddy bear and male strippers draw the attention this week. But a heart tugger about a man’s second family is the new one to see and for students or film as art, there’s a Fassbinder retrospective.
Here's the list:
Take This Waltz: 3 stars
People Like Us: 3 ½
Magic Mike: 2 ½
Ted: 2 ½
Madea's Witness Protection: 2
Films by Fassbinder: --
TAKE THIS WALTZ: Sarah Polley undercuts her second directing effort, which she also wrote, by allowing too many coincidences in. Imagine this. A restless young wife from Toronto meets a self-assured man in Louisburg, Nova Scotia, finds he’s got the seat beside her on the plane going back and then, get this, discovers he lives right across the street from her. Why she’s never noticed him is a mystery since he leaves home every morning pulling a rickshaw to earn money carrying tourists around. That illogic nags and the film never really recovers. Too bad because it does a very good job of developing a relationship between the two and precisely detailing the emptiness in her life that leads to it.
Michelle Williams is the wife who describes her husband (Seth Rogen) as perfectly sweet and kind. Dull, though, always frying chicken for a cookbook he’s writing. Luke Kirby plays the neighbor, a would-be artist, interesting conversationalist and proponent of doing things “hard.” The film sets up a pull-and- draw-away ballet to bring the lovers together (in a swimming pool in one scene) and then goes much further than we ever expected or were prepared for. Sarah Silverman, as an alcoholic friend, seems to represent a warning about excess but intentions get fuzzy near the end. The actors are fine; the film is bright and colorful; the story is uneven. (5th Avenue, International Village and a couple of suburban theatres) 3 out of 5
PEOPLE LIKE US: We haven’t had a movie with this strong an emotional payoff in a while. But you’ll have to wait to the very end. You won’t need a hanky before that. You will though get a highly involving and apparently true story delivered with good writing and very good acting.
Chris Pine plays a fast-talking wheeler dealer in New York who is being investigated for breaking federal trade rules just as he gets word his dad has died in Los Angeles. He hated his father, misses the funeral, gets a slap from his mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) and then a discreet assignment from the family lawyer. His father wanted him to deliver $150,000 to a woman and her son, no reason given. Chris holds on to the money, insinuates himself into their lives and finds out she’s a single mother struggling with a job and a brat of a son and, more importantly, that she (Elizabeth Banks) is his half sister. His father had secretly kept two families. Chris doesn’t tell her, though, which we know from hundreds of movies is not a good idea. The inevitable revelations and recriminations come as scheduled but lead to a satisfying outcome. (International Village and many suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5
MAGIC MIKE: You wouldn’t want to venture in here if you have anything of a prude in your psyche. Not because these male strippers go full-frontally nude. In fact, they keep the package well inside their thongs. It’s because of the simulated sex they play out; by themselves on stage, with women in the audience and on top of a few they bring up on stage. All that with a club full of women cheering ecstatically. Even at the preview screening the other night they cheered the first time Channing Tatum showed off his rear. All he did was get up out of bed and walk to the bathroom. Many more tushes get flashed in this comedy directed with great style and quite a few snickers by Steven Soderbergh.
Tatum wrote the story from back when he worked as a stripper in Florida. He says it was simply for “women, money and a good time” but the movie adds a dose of caution. He plays Mike, who meets a college drop-out (Alex Pettyfer) on a roofing job, shows him how to talk to women in a bar and then takes him to the strip club where he’s a star, introduces him to the emcee-owner (Matthew McConaughey) and before you know it has him on stage too, enjoying “freedom” and, before long, drugs. Mike meanwhile, falls for his sister who disapproves of the whole scene. Good times eventually go sour, a common story arc, but with humor, brightly-staged dance routines and McConaughey gleefully stealing the movie, this is shallow, raunchy fun for non-blushing types. (International Village and suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5
TED: Alright, the movies have made old people utter obscenities, then young children, so naturally toys are next. Not in a horror story like Chucky either. Ted is a cuddly teddy bear given to a young boy at Christmas and accepted by him as his only friend. When they boy wishes he could also talk, he does and when the media find him, he becomes a short-term celebrity.
Flash forward a couple of decades. The boy is now an adult, played by Mark Wahlberg, and living with Mila Kunis. Ted is still around too, spouting salty language, hanging with hookers, driving wildly and enjoying regular marijuana hits off a bong. The interactions between Ted and various humans is a technical marvel. He’s a creation of Seth MacFarlane, the man behind TV’s Family Guy and three other animated series, and who in this often juvenile film only touches on the big theme of growing up and dropping childish things. He puts them secondary to the jokes, which are a generally funny , too sparse in spots and often about pop culture, gays and farts. Ryan Reynolds has a couple of amusing cameos. (The Ridge, Scotiabank and many suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5
MADEA’S WITNESS PROTECTION: This is my first exposure to the films of Tyler Perry, and Madea, the no-nonsense Southern grandmother he writes, directs and plays, in drag. The experience wasn’t horrible. I can see why black audiences in the U.S. take to these films. They’re light, as easy to take as a casual TV show and stuffed with both common sense wisdom and opportunities for black characters to conduct themselves better than whites.
Eugene Levy is the somewhat buffoonish central target here as a financier unwittingly taking the rap for a Ponzi scheme fraud. When he agrees to testify, he has to be hidden from the mob. He, his wife and two kids are placed with Madea, who promptly straightens out a petulant teen, motivates Levy to develop some backbone and teaches his wife (Denise Richards) to be a better mother. On the side, she inspires a nephew to save the church from his own bad investment decisions. That’s all done with broad humor and plenty of overacting by the whole cast. Perry, by the way, not only plays ever-positive Madea, but also her ever-grumbling husband and her district attorney’s office son. (Granville Theatre) 2 out of 5
FILMS BY FASSBINDER: If you’re craving something more sophisticated check out this 17-film retrospective on Rainer Werner Fassbinder at the Pacific Cinémathèque. He was one of Germany’s leading directors through the 1970s, and is now recognized as a true auteur. He was also a workaholic whose drug abuse drove him to an early death in 1982. This series includes his first film, the badly-received Love Is Colder Than Death, some rarely-screened TV films and his masterworks, like The Marriage of Maria Braun.
That’s his most famous film. Hanna Schygulla stars as a woman who does what she has to do to survive in Germany after the war. It’s praised as “a heartbreaking study of a woman picking herself up from the ruins of her own life, as well as a pointed metaphorical attack on a society determined to forget its past.”
It starts the series on Sunday and screens three more times next week. The other films play on various dates between now and mid-August. Better visit http://www.cinematheque.bc.ca/ for all the times and descriptions.
NOTE: All images are movie stills provided the studios and are therefore the exclusive property of their copyright owners