Saturday, April 4, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW' FURIOUS SEVEN ...FABULOUS!

Movie Review: Furious Seven ...Fabulous!
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Furious Seven is the best in this franchise. Fresh. Crazy. Riveting. Cars parachuted from an airplane in a sequence that will raise your blood pressure. The team is back! Vin Diesel heads the charge. The sounds of the revving of engines, the double clutching, the down shifting, the brakes screeching become characters onto themselves and make you feel as though you are in the driver's seat. And some seat to be in. These men do it again. Original, imaginative, action scenes never before filmed.
And there is a tender tribute to Paul Walker (Brian O'Connor) at the end that is welcomed by the audience with deferential silence.
Vin Diesel (Dominic Torretto) leads the pack of mercenaries who take on Jason Strathan (Deckard Shaw) who is seeking revenge for the death of his brother. Shaw is killing Torretto's men one by one. Vin Diesel has sex appeal that is raw and refreshing while Jason Strathan has a polished, manicured tough guy look. The one two wallop of these refreshingly macho men keeps you on the edge of your denim as does the courage of Torretto's gang
Kurt Russell (Mr. Nobody) a shady government official contacts Torretto to help him retrieve God's Eye, a computer program that can turn technology into a weapon. A terrorist from Somalia, Jakande (Djimon Hounsou, is also trying to get God's Eye. A woman computer expert, Nathalie Emmanuel, (Ramsey) is the only hacker who can hack into God's Eye and she is held captive by Jakande. Mr. Nobody backs Torretto in his efforts to off killer Shaw, who is out to destroy Torretto's family. Mr. Nobody's deal is if Torretto will retrieve God's Eye for Mr. Nobody, he will give Toretto arms and technology to get Shaw. Dwayne Johnson (Hobbs), Michele Rodriguez (Letty), Tyrese Gibson (Roman), Ludicris (Taj), Elsa Pataky (Elena) Gal Gadot (Gisele), Lucas Black (Sean) round out the cast. Gibson and Ludicris add humor needed to play off the action sequences and Rodriguez is her usual brave, pit bull of a woman whose feisty nature charms. These actors engage in individual fights for survival which criss cross as the tension mounts.
Director James Wan triumphs with his masterful direction. The editing is terrific as Furious 7 is a series of stories with a big cast that is cut in such a way to keep you guessing and guessing as it spirals and builds into one huge thrill. Chris Morgan and Gary Thompson have written this with a gusto and spirit about characters you care about. This franchise has legs and can surely go on to Furious 8. But don't miss Furious 7 and decide for yourself.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW...GET HARD....NOT SURE


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Movie Review: 'Get Hard' ... Not Sure

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Not sure about this one. Kevin Hart is terrific. Will Ferrell starts broad while setting up plot, but his performance is forced. Whereas Hart, who plays it straight, is a delight. Once the plot is in full swing Ferrell's comedic wings take off. Nevertheless it is Hart who -- when he segues into doing characters -- is like lightening. But where was the director? In a magnificent scene in which Hart plays three characters while Ferrell stands dumbfounded, director Etan Cohen was needed by these great talents, but this scene goes on too long which kills the humor. Director Cohen (Men in Black 3) is responsible for the missteps in this clever comedy. The timing is off in several scenes and Get Hard goes on too long.
The plot is unique. Ferrell, James King, is a millionaire airhead who is found to have committed fraud in his investment firm. Hart (Darnell) has washed his cars regularly. King is sentence to San Quentin. Darnell convinces King that within moments of entering prison King will be initiated into being someone's bitch. King believes Darnell who lies that he has been in jail which gives him license to give lessons to King in how not to be sexually assaulted in jail. Craig T. Nelson plays Martin, the head of the investment firm, which employs King. Nelson does so with flair and perfect timing. Jay Martel, Ian Roberts, Adam Mc Kay, and Etan Cohen wrote this story and screenplay in which King is sentenced to San Quentin. Darnell demands $30,000 from King for Darnell to teach him how to protect him from being assaulted and raped by inmates. These lessons include graphic set-ups in which King fakes oral sex with a man in a urinal. These overt attempts at humor fail, but the smooth interaction between members of the hood and King are hilarious and show Ferrell's skills to the max. The leader of the hood, Russell, who is played by T.I., is magnificent. His acting is so real, so natural, that all the shtick going on around him works. T.I. is magic.
As to whether or not King goes to San Quentin, you will have to discover by seeing this film. It is worth a gander, but do not go out of your way to see a cameo by John Mayer and an uneven performance by the beloved Will Ferrell. Ferrell's performance is uneven only due to the poor direction and the ho-hum writing in the screenplay though it is based on a clever story. Kevin Hart steals this one. Your price of admission will be justified just to see Hart.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

RUN, DON'T WALK, TO FINAL DAYS OF NATVAR BHAVSAR EXHIBIT AT TOWER49 GALLERY NYC




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Run, Don't Walk, to Final Days of Natvar Bhavsar Exhibit at Tower49 Gallery N.Y.C.

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Recently, I visited New York to see an exhibition of Natvar Bhavsar's magnificent paintings at the Tower49 Gallery. Natu's wife, Janet, and I had taught art together in suburban Philadelphia when I first met Natu. The enclosed photo of Janet, Natu and me is taken in front of my favorite canvas of his titled,THEER-A-THEER-A.
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Janet, Natu and Carole
Tower 49 Gallery is displaying these splendid works of pure pigments, acrylic and oil mediums on canvas. Rang Rasa (Transcendent Color), is an exhibition of his luminous works shown until March 15. Spanning over forty years, the exhibition comprises seventeen large scale compositions on canvas and six works on paper. His technique of sifting and layering dry pigments over canvases laid on the floor was inspired by Rangoli, a festival ritual in which patterns are designed on the floors of interior and exterior domestic spaces. When Natu describes this process, he recalls memories of Holi, a Hindu holiday in which celebrants douse one another in water infused with brightly colored pigments.
Rang Rasa incorporates two Sanskrit words that express an ecstatic spirituality achieved through color and the practice of one's art -- they also aptly define the aesthetic sensibilities and ethereal aspects of Natvar Bhavsar's work.
Natu recently celebrated his 80th birthday, and upon reflection recalls, "I have engaged my last sixty years in the quest guided by an inner spiritual force and the requisite knowledge of my profession as an artist."
Natu, who was born in Gujurat, India, came to the U.S. in 1962. After a year of undergraduate study in Philadelphia, he was accepted into the graduate art department at the University of Pennsylvania. At this time he met my friend Janet Brosious who today is a skilled photographer and also has had museum shows celebrating her talent.
Today they live in lower Manhattan in a loft.
"Would you like to have lunch near Rockefeller Center," Natu asked as we proceeded to a tiny bistro nearby.
"Congratulations," I said to Natu. "Your work is mesmerizing."
"Thank you, Carole. Good to see you. What brings you to N.Y.?"
"I wanted to see your show and some old friends, Heather Mac Rae and Geraldine Smith."
"Well, we're sure happy to see you. I remember Heather. Wasn't she in Hair," Janet asked.
"That's right."
After lunch, I returned to Geraldine's apartment in Manhattan Plaza where I was staying. A former Warhol superstar, Geraldine and I had a dinner with Heather who was in the midst of packing for a six week stint in Kansas celebrating Hair, in which she will sing her show stopper, "Easy to be Hard." In the middle of dinner another old friend, the author Paul Alexander, known for his biographies on Sylvia Plath, James Dean and Andy Warhol joined us. It felt good to listen to Paul and Geri reminisce about Andy.
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Geri, Heather, Paul and Carole
But it felt better to return to my cozy apartment near the snow covered battlefields of Valley Forge, now home.

MOVIE REVIEW: RUN ALL NIGHT--HERE WE GO AGAIN!

   
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Movie Review: Run All Night -- Here We Go Again!

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Liam Neeson does it again. He not only has you care about his character, but the whole dang movie. Even if he is a retired hit man. Even if the plot is similar to Taken 1, 2 or 300. But this time Neeson is protecting his 'son' from some real bad ass duds. They are so bad they take the whole movie and run all night...did I say that? Yes I did, cause this is the plot. Running, car chasing, evading, hijacking, mauling, shooting, stabbing, bang bang and more people are dead. Yet you care. The camera work is a character onto itself. Stop action, flash, rhythmic, fast paced. Colors splash. Downtrodden areas of NY at night have rarely looked this good. And all the while you are caught up in this high octane chase following Neeson, aka big daddy bear, Jimmy Conlon, protecting his innocent cub, played skillfully by Joel Kinnaman, as Mike Conlon.
Gangster Ed Harris, as Shawn MacGuire, is Neeson's good friend until Neeson offs MacGuire's son, acted with sinister intent and a totally bent M.O. by Boyd Holbrook. Now there is trouble galore in the Big Apple. Big time. But always at night. You want to scream, "Hey, I've seen this all before," but you can't 'cause it's too darn good. Neeson as the protective father is so good that you just want to save his life. Forever. However this is an impossibility. Run for your Life, begins with a Neeson in the woods with a very large wound in his side. Then we back flip to some 16 hours earlier.
Jaume Collet-Serra directs with pistol-like momentum. Once the set up is established between Ed Harris and Liam Neeson, the well-oiled, action packed, machine of a thriller begins to fly. Brad Ingelsby has written some fine dialogue, but Run All Night is a visual film. A don't blink film. A no bathroom or popcorn break or you might miss something film. Genesis Rodriguez plays Gabrielle, the wife of Mike Conlon with sensitivity, but, oh, did I miss some bad ass female cops like the Fast and Furious sagas employ. Please more women in films, please?
With all the macho evil, Vincent D'Onofero as Detective Harding, adds a balance. D'Onofero has a genuine, sincere, delivery that makes you believe there may be some good cops out there. And with the powerful performance by professional killer Common who plays Mr. Price you need some light in this bleak histoire.
Enfin a good time was had --though there were moments where the violence was cringe worthy. Catch Run All Night, but not on an empty stomach.

MOVIE REVIEW: CINDERELLA WILL STEAL YOUR HEART AND THEN SOME

    
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Movie Review: Cinderella Will Steal Your Heart and Then Some

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Magnificent! We all knew the story, yet director Kenneth Branagh still had the audience eager to see it unfold as witnessed by the applause at the end of this masterpiece. The regal sets, bizarre costumes and jaw-dropping special effects make this fairy tale almost a reality. Lily James, the beauty from Downton Abby, is perfect as Cinderella.
Her dark brows juxtaposed against her pale complexion and blonde locks give her expressions heightened impact. She is simply splendid while Cate Blanchett, as the evil Stepmother, terrifies and yet gets the biggest laughs when her delivery is spot on. Richard Madden as the prince has all the right moments, but his pitter-pat appeal is a tad short for a prince of one's fantasies. Kenneth Branagh directs with perfection and gives long moments between the prince and Cinderella. These moments allow them to fall in love in lingering romantic silence.
And how nice that the four mice were spared. I so feared the evil stepmother would do them in with her adorable but evil cat, but the cruelty in this film is kept to a minimum. Perhaps there could have been more. Cinderella does not suffer as much as she did in my memory. Her suffering seems to be replaced by her need to forgive and to be kind. Opposite from a selfless Ella are her stepsisters, Drisella and Anastasia who are played respectively by Sophie McShera and Holiday Grainger with bubbly enthusiasm.
But the highlight of the film is fairy god mother Helen Bonham Carter who steals everyone's thunder when she turns a pumpkin into a gold chariot with the mice as horses and lizards and ducks as Cinderella's entourage. Together they drive her golden pumpkin a la mode to the ball given by the king. The purpose of the ball is to find a bride for the prince whose heart is spent pining for a young lass he met in the woods while hunting. He never learned her name. But as we all know this lass was Ella, who later is dubbed Cinderella due to nights sleeping by the fire while its cinders leave smudges of charcoal on her face.
Branagh's direction begins slow and small and builds to a crescendo and climax guaranteed not to let your fantasies down. The stellar cast is so well coiffed in period fairy garb that some are barely recognizable. Stellan Skarsgard, as the Grand Duke, is a nasty piece of work and good at this, while Derek Jacobi, who plays the king, spreads wisdom and concern with each utterance.
After the palace ball the prince combs the countryside looking for the beauteous spirit who stole his heart, but who left her glass slipper. When, lo and behold, he has been among the palace's caped and masked troops looking for the mysterious Cinderella. As the king's guard searches for her, captain, Nonso Anozie, plays good while the Grand Duke plays bad cop. These two work well together and add gravitas at a moment when the ho hums could have set in.
Writer Chris Weitz keeps the dialogue active and modern, but not cutsie or filled with clichés. My only criticism is that the prince lacked a tad bit of sensuality which could have made him more charming. But leaving the theatre the applause warmed my heart and I left with memories of the goodness and kindness of a Cinderella who never grows old.

MOVIE REVIEW: INSURGENT. WOMEN POWER!

                          

Movie Review: 'Insurgent.' Women Power!


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Women crush it! How wonderful to have women leading the pack in an action flick. Shailene Woodley is refreshing as a woman warrior. Kate Winstlett is refreshingly evil and bad ass. Naomi Watts is stunning as a heroine . Theo James as Four is Shalene's guy but it is the women who run the show. This show is Insurgent. We have the Jason Bourne trilogy with Matt Damon, the Expendables series with Stallone. The Taken franchise with Liam Neeson and now we have Shailene Woodley in part two of the Divergent franchise who is getting to rough it up in a man's world. A woman taking risks. A woman in charge and representing values of love, respect, hope, faith and courage. Above all courage. Shailene Woodley knows how to generate this quality without saying a word. Her expressions are fierce, tender, focused and all caring. Selfless. This is a film about a woman with balls. Insurgent with its IMAx, 3D, special effects of a dysfunctional utopia and electrifying sound track will keep you spellbound. No bathroom breaks in this corker.
Cinderella this isn't. If you're looking for a colorful escape, this is not it. It is bleak, filmed in browns, greys and tattered and torn images. In your face.
Sure we have Jennifer Lawrence in the Hunger Games franchise and Angelina Jolie who was magnificent in Maleficent, and there is always Helen Mirren rearing her white,well-coiffed head as a brave new woman in Reds and her TV police woman saga, so Hollywood please keep these films comin' where women are empowered. And we sell tickets! A boffo one billion for Divergent worldwide!
The plot of this is simple. Tris (Shalene Woodley)is running from the evil Jeanine (Kate Winslet) who is trying to destroy most of the world, but Tris volunteers her beautiful bod and mind to Jeanine to experiment with, but you must see the film to watch this torture done in 3-d and Imax in an all too real special effects creation and understand why Tris has volunteered to be Jeanine's victim. Or is she?
More women warriors, please Hollywood? Raging hormones can match or even beat a box office driven by testosterone. Go for it, Insurgent that is, if you want to wake up on a dull night!



Friday, November 21, 2014

VANITY FAIR. THE NIGHT MIKE NICHOLS TOOK ME TO MEET JACKIE O

Remembrances

The Night Mike Nichols Took Me to Meet Jackie O

Courtesy of Carole Mallory.
In the early 70s, I had the honor of dating Mike Nichols. It was long before he met and fell in love with the beautiful Diane Sawyer, and in no way is my remembrance meant to take away from the love he had for her. But I feel sharing a historic moment about him is important, and, sadly so, newsworthy, after his passing.
At the time I was dating Claude Picasso, Pablo’s son, who had moved into my apartment on our first date. He was going through a divorce and so was I. One day he announced he was going to Paris to do an article on Chagall, and would be staying with his wealthy Grandmother Gilot in Neuilly. “Cherie, I won’t be long. Hold the fort,” he said as he tapped me on the bum.
I was miffed. He did not invite me, and I was not running a hotel. A top model at the time, recently photographed for the covers of Newsweek, Cosmopolitan, New York magazine, I was enjoying life in the fast lane. At a party, I met Buck Henry, who introduced me to Mike Nichols. Claude’s stay in Paris seemed like an eternity, and I had no word from him; meanwhile Mike had invited me to lunch at the Russian Tea Room and to several dinners. Over dinner one night, Mike said, “Would you like to come with me to a party Jackie Onassis is giving for Ari at El Morocco?”
“Of course,” I said. Mike picked me up in his limousine and off we went. I wore a floor-length black gown from Norma Kamali with a Mongolian lamb coat draped over my shoulders. Press lined the entrance and Life magazine snapped our photo. As a cover girl, I was used to being photographed, but not by paparazzi. “They’ll all be here,” Mike said in his slightly edgy tone.
Courtesy of Carole Mallory.
I was nervous. Mike had a calm about him and a presence that reassured me and reassured all who came into his life. He was always most cordial to the waiters, the maître d’, the cab drivers, etc. They all treated him with utmost respect. His wit was his greatest gift, along with his astute observation of life and sense of irony illustrated by his films. My favorite was Charlie Wilson’s War, written by Aaron Sorkin, a 2007 drama based on a Texas congressman Charlie Wilson's covert dealings in Afghanistan. Mike chose material that was important. Had value. Had a message. Even if sometimes that message was only to laugh, which he accomplished with The Graduate.
When I was with him at dinner, he made me feel special, beautiful, and intelligent, not like an object. Given my line of work, many people looked at me and through me, but did not listen to me. Mike Nichols listened to me and made me feel he cared and that I, indeed, had something to say. Mike was the essence of respect. And he was great fun.
When we met Jackie O in the long receiving line, she curtsied and reminded me of a giant swan. When she shook my hand, she looked into my eyes with a laser-beam-like focus that made me feel she cared, though we had never met, and that I was the only one in the room. It was apparent that she was a woman who knew what she wanted and could confront with a calm and a poise that stopped traffic. You did not mess with Jackie O. Or Mike Nichols for that matter. But why would one want to?
After the dinner, Mike invited me to his apartment in the Beresford, where we met Jack Nicholson for a drink. Laughs were shared and a good time was had by all. When I returned to my apartment at 333 East 69th Street, I was happy Claude had stayed in Paris so long, but when he returned, I was also happy to be with him and we became engaged in 1973. He never left me alone in New York again. So much for how to train a Picasso.
Gallery: Mike Nichols’s Life in Photos

MOVIE REVIEW: THE HUNGER GAMES; MOCKINGJAY --PART ONE ENOUGH ALREADY!

Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 1. Enough Already!

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Not sure about this one. Bleak. Lacking in the sparkle-plenty splendor of the glittering self-indulgence of previous films in The Hunger Games series that juxtaposed the grey and the ominous against the vile splendor. Mockingjay is like an ominous one note. Jennifer Lawrence who goes to District 13 after her home District 12 is destroyed carries the film with her sensitive understanding of her role and of the devastation of humanity. Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy) is a highlight in that he livens up a dullness of watching space ships and war torn cities. Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket) adds pizzazz that is much needed, and does not need her many colorful wigs or outrageous make up to make her interesting or to make you care about her. Whereas Julianne Moore who portrays President Alma Coin, a new character to the series, is wooden and arch. She is determined to recruit Katniss to be the Mockingjay symbol to organize the rebellion in the District of Panem. Peeta (Josh Hutchinson) has the greatest transformation and tries to warn Katniss not to be a pawn of the President Alma Coin. Philip Seymour Hoffman, to whom the film is dedicated, is Plutarch Heavensbee's staid, manipulative self, but is directed by director Francis Lawrence pretty much in a vacuum of monotone monotony along with Julianne Moore.
Meanwhile, Liam Hemsworth as Gale does not ignite the screen. His kiss with Katniss is less than passionate as is his performance. The dynamic actors have too small parts and the weight of the film rests on Ms. Lawrence and at times it seems to fall off of her shoulders. Donald Sutherland is such a powerful, mesmerizing and sinister character as President Snow, but, alas, his presence is all too brief.
The costumes and sets are inventive, but, again, bleak and lacking in any color. And while, granted, this is not a remake of The Sound of Music, I longed for relief from the extended suffering. We get that this is a grim situation, but we do not get that we have to sit through a muddied palette of beige, brown, and grey for the entire film. When the Capitol was shown on the screen and broadcast to the throngs, this was the moment and the time to show the contrast of the colorful, repugnant in its opulence Capitol to the severe, poverty-stricken Panem. But this did not happen. Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman) has a few brief appearances, but he does not have the terrifying impact of previous Hunger Games films. Perhaps I am just getting used to the 'No Exit' Camus-like endings in this series.
We have Katniss's sister's cat for some comic relief, but not much else. And when Katniss is warned that she may die if she tries to be the Mockingjay, the symbol of rebellion intent on saving Peeta from the Capitol, she is asked how she would feel about this harsh reality. With her courageous sense of irony, she replies, "Well, get it on film." How long can this fight against the evil Capitol continue? Katniss Everdeen's nerves are shot and so are mine. Enough already!

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW' JOHN WICK....OUCH!

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Movie Review: John Wick...Ouch!

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Lordie, lordie what an ex-hit man won't do for the love of his dog. Keanu Reeves is back in this slam-bam-thank-you-mam kind of violent, IMAX, computer game film with witty dialogue. As bloody as this film is, it is funny. Great dialogue at bizarre moments keeps you on the edge of your neighbor's seat. If there is too much blood, you can always go to the loo for some relief.
This film is about revenge. And after John Wick, who is a retired hit man, witnesses his dog killed by some sod, you just want him to get all of those cruel, sadistic S.O. B.s. His wife is murdered in the opening and she has sent him a dog to remember her by. Well, who knows who sends the dog, but a note from her accompanies the dog even though she is dead.
Now if you think written apologies are the solution for vengeance, this is not your film. John Wick is a wild west, let's put guns, knives, bullet proof vests on our bodies and get the creeps who 'done us wrong' John Wick's motto. He has tried the world in which violence is swept under the anger and does not agree with forgiveness. No. He is going to get 'em. At all costs. And a new dog, too.
And you will root for John Wick who has been trying to lead a clean, normal life after apparently being a premiere world renowned hit man. This is an action, adventure film with a limited plot, but creative visual effects that make the action vivid and visceral.
Directed by David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, the rest of the cast stars Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen and Willem Dafoe who is always menacing, but not always in such a small part. John Wick needed more Dafoe. Derek Kolstad wrote the thinnest story line ever, but hip dialogue. Adrianne Palicki plays hitwoman Ms. Perkins with real gusto and John Leugiziamo and Ian Shane again are in too brief roles as their acting is top notch. Clearly this is a Keanu Reeves vehicle and no other star is going to get in his way. Or else! Basta. End of him, them and the film. If blood, guns, violence is not for you, It is no surprise that John Wick will be a playable character for the game Payday 2, complete with his own perk tree, notably giving the ability to dual wield gun. This film is pure merchandising. So buy the game and skip the film, if knitting is more to your liking. Or a good book.