Monday, April 21, 2014
Directed by Jonathan Glazer
Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA April 10, 2014 2:40PM
It's most certain far more people will check out Scarlett Johansson strutting her stuff in a skin-tight bodysuit as she kicks some serious ass in the latest installment of the super-hero adventure "Captain America: The Winter Solider" than her appearance in "Under The Skin", an offbeat art-house experience from director Jonathan Glazer. The actress is all these two films share in common as "Skin" is a confounding but highly mesmerizing sci-fi puzzle. The shapely figure of Ms Johansson is also on display here yet nothing is left to the imagination as she plays an alien being that uses it's quite appealing human form to lure lustful men in to an otherworldly trap. There isn't much of a clear explanation for the actual purpose of their capture although we do learn that the outcome ain't gonna be great. Based loosely on the novel by Michel Faber, Mr. Glazer, who impressed and challenged with his previous films "Sexy Beast" and "Birth", creates an eerie atmosphere with minimal dialogue as the story is seen mostly through the eyes of this sexy extraterrestrial.
A motorcycle-riding male accomplice delivers a recently deceased female body to the nude alien (Johansson) who promptly removes her clothes. Now prepared with a wild mane of raven hair, painted red lips and the name of "Laura", she scours the streets of Glasgow in a large van, searching only for men who are unattached and generally won't be missed. No real effort is required to get them back to her place since the implication that sex would be a sure thing. With eyes focused only on Laura, the men fail to notice the dark, empty surroundings .She slowly walks backwards, peeling away her clothing, waiting for them to do the same. Naked and aroused, the male moves forward before sinking in to a liquid-like prison, sealed to await their fate as Laura casually retrieves her clothes to find another victim.
After delivering a facially disfigured man to her lair, Laura catches a glance at her own outer image. This changes something in the visitor, setting her off to discover what it actually means to be a human. Distracted from her true mission, the alien attempts to comprehend the simple pleasures of life, like a slice a cake or tender intimacy with a man with the results ending to be far from rewarding.
Although "Under The Skin" comes across as an extreme warning of what can happen when you get in a car with strangers but maybe, in a vague way, the film is attempting to examine humanity from an outsider's perspective. Or since only men are selected and a female is the seductress/captor, perhaps it's a commentary on the age-old battle between the sexes? Who really knows as nothing is made apparent on what it all means with the heavy Scottish brogues hardly helping matters. Regardless, the film manages to draw you in with unsettling and haunting images that will equally fascinate and horrify. Ms Johansson gives a fully committed performance, revealing herself emotionally as well as physically. Even before the alien goes rogue, the actress is able to connect with very few words or even a blank stare.
Guided by an effectively creepy score by Mica Levi, "Under The Skin" merges experimental film-making and visionary science-fiction along with a sense of hair-raising dread found in a horror flick. For viewers seeking the usual escapist entertainment, stick with the popular movie featuring the Stars and Stripes-wearing hero to witness Ms Johansson in action. But if you want an unexpected, unnerving and unclear cinematic adventure then "Under the Skin" is the perfect destination.
Saturday, April 19, 2014
The Cannes Film Festival had released the official poster earlier this year for the upcoming event with the iconic image of Italian screen heartthrob (and two-time "Best Actor" winner), Marcello Mastroianni. Now the time has come to finally announce the films selected to be screened at the 67th edition of the festival. There had been plenty of speculation of what would be picked with some coming to fruition while others were left disappointed.
In addition to the previously announced opening night film, "Grace of Monaco", starring Nicole Kidman as film legend, Grace Kelly and directed by Olivier Dahan ("La Vie En Rose"), there are nineteen films selected for competition of the top prizes.
Many selections are from internationally acclaimed film makers who have made previous appearances at Cannes including Olivier Assayas ("Clouds of Sils Maria"), Mike Leigh ("Mr. Turner"), Ken Loach ("Jimmy’s Hall"), David Cronenberg ("Maps to the Stars"), Michel Hazanavicius ("The Search"), Xavier Dolan ("Mommy") Jean-Luc Godard ("Goodbye to Language") and representing the U S of A, Bennett Miller ("Foxcatcher") and Tommy Lee Jones ("The Homesman"). Among the eighteen films selected for Un Certain Regard which recognizes innovative new works is "Lost River", the directorial debut from Ryan Gosling. Director Jane Campion ("The Piano") heads the jury with the festival beginning on May 14th and concluding on May 25th.
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Where & When: Laemmle's Music Hall, Beverly Hills, CA. March 26. 2014 5:10PM
What would be appealing about watching a documentary on a self-absorbed, self-centered and self-possessed actor? While this may seem to be common personality traits among many performers however, Elaine Stritch elevates it to a whole new level. And it makes you love her even more. This fascinating film, "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me" follows the complicated and unfiltered Broadway legend as she prepares to enter in to her eighty-seventh year of life. Stritch is in fragile health due to diabetes and simple aging yet she remains determined to follow through with her busy life and work commitments. Realizing she is no longer able to give her very best, Stritch is at a loss as she knows it's time to wrap up her time on stage yet is fearful of a life without thunderous applause. We witness the frustration and panic early on during a rehearsal for her final shows at the Caryle with her very patient musical director, Rob Bowman as she's having difficulties remembering lyrics. Although this is partially due to a spike in her blood sugar, the ordeal has left her confidence shaken.
As a young woman, Stritch left her comfortable suburban life in Detroit to venture out to the Big Apple to try her luck as an actress. It didn't take long and soon found herself on the professional stage. At one point, she was the understudy for Ethel Merman in "Call Me Madam" while headlining in a revival of "Pal Joey". During the less than stellar run of "Goldilocks", Noel Coward caught a performance. While he didn't think much of the musical, Coward was quite impressed with Elaine Stritch and created a part for her in "Sail Away". Her career took off and later found herself in the orbit of Stephen Sondheim. After originating the role of Joanne in "Company" and introducing the classic song, "The Ladies Who Lunch", Stritch became known as a great interpreter of the composer's work.
This is the first film for director Chiemi Karasawa and she's fortunate enough to have such a riveting and unpredictable subject. All she has to do is point the camera in Stritch's direction and wait for the magic to happen. The ballsy Stritch even reprimands a cameraman when she deems him too close to her and gives him directions on how to properly capture a shot.
After the great loss of her beloved husband, actor John Bay in 1982, Stritch never found love again although she still had her career and drink to keep her company. She is upfront about her problem with alcohol and had stopped drinking for over twenty years yet, at this point of her life, she allows one drink a day. What we learn is that despite all of Stritch's blustery bravado, deep down she's just another flawed and insecure individual still searching for love and acceptance. Elaine Stritch quotes another hard-hitting actress, Bette Davis with "Aging isn't for sissies" and it's clear that she intends to get through her remaining days with true grit, the occasional cocktail and very good humor.
Many fellow actors who have either worked with Stritch or are simply fans appear to sing her praises but Tina Fey, who performed with the actress on "30 Rock" sums her up best. She says that while Elaine Stritch may be a handful and you don't know what you're gonna get but it's all worth it in the end.