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 clich├ęs. 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!