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To Be Takei

Oh My!
It must be more than okay to be Tokei, it must be fantastic! Watching George and his husband, Brad, interact with each other and with their crowds of fans was a great way to hide from an oppressively hot August afternoon. Their honest affection for each other and tender regard for each other's friends and family evoked collective sighs and chuckles from a small but appreciative cinema audience.

We see George recount memories of his childhood internment, and then later watch him perform in the new theatrical musical, "Allegiance," bringing those memories to life as he and his collaborators prepare for a Broadway preview later this year. His unmistakable voice, his inimitable laugh, and charismatic presence are beautifully balanced by Brad's more practical and less animated personality.

"To Be Takei" is a must see for Trekkies and others who appreciate the contributions of my favorite starship helmsman. Cameos from Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, and Walter Koenig prove that William Shatner is creepier than a Clingon. And, amazingly enough, I was able to watch Howard Stern without breaking-out in a brain rash. I positively enjoyed this documentary and look forward to sharing it with others once it becomes available through my subscription service.

They Came Together

Effective Sleep Aid
I've been a huge Paul Rudd fan since forever, and I have admired Amy Pohler since her early SNL days....she is as brilliant a sketch comic as Rudd is a cute and accessible mensch. Too bad their talents were totally wasted in "They Came Together." The creative team who collaborated on this film's production have either no respect for the standard rom-com, or way too much respect for trash like Tosh.O. If one is going to parody a specific genre, then one has to understand the recurring tropes and clichés. "They Came Together" is so contemptuous of it's source material that the film just seems obnoxious. Beavis and Butthead might have done a better job than writer-director David Wain.

The Way Way Back

Good News For Smart Film Fans
After waiting weeks and weeks for "The Way Way Back" I worried that the film might not be as worthwhile as I had been hoping. It finally opened here Friday and my anticipation was totally worth the wait.

Directing team, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, have plumbed all those dysfunctional adolescent pipes clogged with the debris of distracted parents, intimidating peers, and sympathetic strangers to deliver a charming coming-of-age story. Whether dealing with Alison Janney's boozy blue shadowed lush, Toni Collette's sad luminosity, or Steve Carell's contemptuous cad, Liam James offers a fourteen-year-old's awkward restlessness as he looks for a comfortable escape. He discovers one in an unlikely alliance with a charismatic Peter Pan played mischievously by Sam Rockwell. Other actors, including Faxon and Rash, add color and dimension to a film that also features a water park that is practically a character of its own.

Clever camera work and lighting also establish and sustain the dopey perspective that enhance believable dialogue. Faxon and Rash's collaboration is neither contrived nor cliché, and I'm looking forward to sharing "The Way Way Back" with others when it becomes available on DVD and on demand. A bonus or two came in the form of memorable lines like "See you next Tuesday," a new phrase that I'm proud to add to my personal lexicon.

The Lone Ranger

I'm a Chump, I Admit It.
For those people who like to mix contemporary vernacular with late 19th Century legends, Disney's Lone Ranger will be an epic entertainment. If you like gruesome images, unimaginative characters, grotesque massacres, and runaway trains, then this is the film for you. Hammer's lackluster Ranger, and Depp's unconvincing Tonto will amuse those people who don't know any better than the mostly adolescent male audience with whom I shared the viewing. They loved it, there is no mistaking that. Even my date, a respectable middle aged man who appreciates Disney and admires Depp, seemed mesmerized by the mayhem. (He owes me a good movie!)

I used to believe I liked Depp, too. But frankly, after reviewing his last ten years of work, I only like the idea of Depp. I shouldn't have expected anything more from the Verbinski/Disney/Bruckheimer triumvirate. Blockbusters, franchises, and product tie-ins will make this a reliable profit recipe for the next ten years after "Lone Ranger" is followed-up with three or four obscene sequels. I'm the chump, though, because I knew better and went anyway.

Much Ado About Nothing

Many Happy Returns, Joss Whedon
If you love Elizabethan comedy and you also admire Joss Whedon, then his Much Ado About Nothing will send you over the moon. The Bard's language, in the hands of a smart director with access to accomplished actors and other film artists, is as lively, lovely and accessible as any contemporary rom-com might be.....Benedict and Beatrice have inspired many screenwriters, but few seem to have as much fun as Whedon does.

The black and white budget makes other over-budgeted mainstream fare seem bloated. From the party scenes to the love scenes to the detective scenes, everything is perfectly pitched with cameras capturing the complexities of Shakespeare's comedy with clever but unobtrusive effort. The staging is simple but imaginative, and the costumes are hip without being too trendy.

I'm delighted to see that today, June 23rd, is Joss Whedon's birthday. How lovely that he shared this pretty package with film lovers like me.

Arthur Newman

Terre Not Quite So Haute
This road movie, featuring solid performances from its main players, doesn't seem to know where it's going. While "Arthur Newman" presents many quirky or compelling tableaux, I was rather frustrated by the filmmaker's (Dante Ariola) detours and dead ends. Or perhaps it was writer Becky Johnston's tepid story that ran out of fuel.

Frankly, I didn't care one way or another if the main characters ever resolved their respective conflicts, and after the first thirty minutes I felt like I was simply watching the same scene over and over again, like an endless roundabout. I was so uninvolved in the relationship(s) that it felt like nothing of any real substance was truly at stake or on the line.

Safety Not Guaranteed

Sweet Summer Sleeper
If you like smart dialogue, an imaginative narrative, and well developed character, SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED is your film. The premise is well articulated with believable relationships portrayed by a talented cast. Audrey Plaza's star turn took the dopey outsider and added her own understated charm that illuminated every frame, especially the campfire scene with Mark Duplass. His performance was perhaps the riskiest.....playing a lonely but driven crusader whose character took a little from FISHER KING, a little from HEROS, a little more from BEAUTIFUL MIND and added a touch of STARMAN.

The ending might have seemed contrived without the sincerity of director Colin Trevorrow. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED was certainly the best film I've seen so far this summer especially after my disappointment with Wes Anderson's most recent effort. It was its last night in Tallahasee attended by perhaps only a dozen people.....surprisingly many stag guys who weren't afraid to laugh out loud. I wonder how many of them were time travelers.

Moonrise Kingdom

Ed Norton, Ed Norton, Ed Norton
I had entertained the notion of leaving my boyfriend, Hugh Jackman, for Ed Norton before I saw "Moonrise Kingdom", but now after seeing Eddie's brilliant Scoutmaster, I'm kicking Jackman to the curb as soon as I post this review.

Quirky is right in my wheelhouse (as we say an awful lot lately)....I get whimsical, I embrace wit and playfulness. So it may surprise people to hear that I'm disappointed with Andersen's latest film. I've been looking forward to it forever, saw it with a favorite person and even snuck in our favorite snacks, but meh.

The artful touches were delightful like set decoration and shot composition. Inspired even. But the whole thing was impossible to hear. The score, basically Benjamin Briton, completely overwhelmed much of the dialogue, especially the mumbling young lovers. It was fun to watch, but torture to hear, or not hear, which is the main point. I needed subtitles, and I am someone who understood almost every syllable in "The Full Monty".

Ed Norton, my next beau, was exceptionally amusing and I can't wait to discuss his fine performance in depth with him. Sorry, Hugh.

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