G.I. Joe for the boys; The Host for the girls, and Spring Breakers for party animals of all kinds, 18 years and older
SPRING BREAKERS: It’s an unusual mind that sees this as appropriate fare for Easter. Or Passover. Well, maybe for Lent because it does caution against excess, although it does so by wallowing in it. Four bored college girls (one of them a Sunday school type; three wild enough to rob a restaurant) head to St. Petersburg, Florida for the annual spring bash which we see characterized by continuous drinking, smoking and groping, tush wagging and chest baring. Two of our quartet are played by former Disney stars: Selena Gomez (better known as the Beeb’s sometime girlfriend) is the religious one; Vanessa Hudgens (of the High School Musical films) is the wildest.
When they smoke the wrong stuff at the wrong party they’re arrested, jailed and bailed out by a white rapper and drug dealer played with over the top weirdness by James Franco doing a bizarre counterpoint to his other current gig, the great Oz. Watch him jump on his couch, flail his arms and shout “This is my shit. Look at my shit” referring to his possessions. From them on this becomes a girls with guns movie. He draws them into his battles with another drug dealer who proclaims “You know I own these streets.” The cautionary tale that nicely punctures the myth of the spring break orgy shifts into a low-level exploitation picture and bloody violence. And you know what? It’s mesmerizing to follow its lurid way down. Harmony Korine, the writer-director, even has them sing a Britney Spears song, in case you need more twisted provocation. Note the rating: anybody under 18 has to be accompanied by an adult. (Scotiabank and a few suburban theatres) 3 out of 5
EMPEROR: As a student of history I found this a fascinating true tale of how the Americans dealt with Japan after its surrender in World War 2. As a movie fan I found it sluggish, not compelling. It does raise a question, though. How could the U.S. be so sensitive back then to a country it fought but not much at all by the time of Viet Nam and Iraq? Idle thought. The film doesn’t compare. It concentrates on 1945, not long after two atom bombs and a firestorm in Tokyo, when the Americans were ready to execute Japanese leaders as war criminals. They kept the Prime Minister alive after a suicide attempt so that they could hang him. With Emperor Hirohito, they had a problem. His people revered him as a god but was he a warmonger?
Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the occupation commander, played here by Tommy Lee Jones with his familiar gruff terseness, assigned a Japan expert on his staff, played by Matthew Fox, to get the facts about the old man. Much of the investigation involves him talking to apologetic other old men with little real evidence. Also slowing things down is his own story, a love affair with a Japanese woman who he met at university in the U.S. and again in Japan but can’t find at war’s end. It’s told through many flashbacks of gauzy ambles through bamboo groves and such and a few fiery statements from her uncle about Japan’s strength “because we follow divine will.” Japanese attitudes and culture we get to know, just not in any thrilling way. (5th Avenue Cinema) 2 out of 5
Also now playing …
FRENCH FILMS (DiverCiné 2013): The Cinemathéque’s annual mini-festival of new French language films is back with six titles. Most of them have won awards at major film festivals and one, Sister, about a 12-year-old thief and his irresponsible older sister, was Switzerland’s official submission to this year’s Academy Awards. I’ve only seen the Quebec film, CAMION in which three men deal with the regrets and struggles (both personal and professional) after a truck accident.
It's a stark, well-acted working-class drama, that manages to find a sense of hope. 3 ½ out of 5
For more on it and others included check out the website: thecinematheque.ca
TYLER PERRY’S TEMPTATION: Another domestic drama for Perry’s fans in the black middle class. Usually oriented to family and religion, he sidesteps to the lure of adultery in this one with a cast that includes Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Vanessa Williams and (??) Kim Kardashian. In one sense this one returns to the old days: no previews to let the media judge it. (International Village)
NOTE: All images are movie stills provided by the studios. They are the exclusive property of their copyright owners.