Happiness! Can it be bought in the form of a pill? On today’s entry, I’m not going to wax poetic on the life of Robin Williams or anything of that nature. After all, there is so much happening in the world of current events that it almost seems trite to do so. I will say though that suicide and drug overdoses are becoming quite the norm again amongst the celebrities and star people of our time. And it has always been thus, frankly. But I will miss Flubber. Again, though…maybe not.
Now then, where were the Guardians of the Galaxy when Mr. Williams was at his lowest just over a week or so ago? Well, I’ll tell you where they were…they were debuting at your local cinema and yes, the show is truly, very funny AND completely formulaic…and the majority of men aged 12 to retirement will love the film as it is quite entertaining. As for its plot…ahem…not so much. Good grief if it’s not a bit Saturday morning cartoonish, in all sincerity. It actually commences in 1988 (am loving the Walkman and music moments throughout the film, btw!) and segues into the modern age with Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) attempting to sell a revered orb that possesses tremendous power. Now, how he got that orb or while everyone else got involved to take it from him remains a mystery…but if you can suspend your disbelief (and if you use whatsApp or any social app for that matter, you probably can) you will thoroughly enjoy the silliness of this film. The spectacle is naturally a cinematic mind-bomb and extra kudos to Bradley Cooper who voices the hilarious raccoon Rocket. Okay, okay I admit it…it IS decent action, so mos def check it out. ###
And now…let’s get somber…in fact, let’s get somber together. The recent passing/suicide of Philip Seymour Hoffman ALSO raises some sadness when one thinks about artistic lives taken too early. In the early winter/spring of 2010, the film Jack Goes Boating (Una Cita para el Verano) was released to quiet aplomb amongst the arthouse/indie circuit and quietly ran the gamut of film fests, screenings, and some cinematic distribution before quietly grazing out to pasture in DVD land. Now, more than four years later, voila! It’s having a cinematic debut across movie houses in Spain. Posthumous love no doubt. The film tells the story of friendly if forced loner Jack, a limo driver who is struggling to find his place in the world. In the cast we have Amy Ryan as his love interest to be, plus Daphne Rubin-Vega and John Ortiz as his best friends, a couple whose own relationship is coasting the Up-and-Down Highway. What strikes me here is how completely blown Hoffman is throughout the film’s duration. In a way, he seems almost stricken with a mental handicap in certain scenes and it does make this reviewer wonder just how heavy his drug use was whilst filming. The story is emotionally present but the actors with the exception of Rubin-Vega and Ortiz seemed lost in their roles. In the end, what we have is a posthumous piece that may have been best served on a weepy, cold night via DVD. ##
I became a fervent peaceful (okay, often not) warrior for racial/civil rights after studying for my Bachelor’s in History. As a Mexican from the U.S. with mixed Spanish Jew and Native American blood, there was a strong sense of self that I had to learn to build. In many parts of the U.S., I simply wasn’t “white enough” but with my family in Mexico, I was never “Mejicano” enough. And, when I was older, going to synagogue (as I never learnt Hebrew) often made me feel like a right putz. As for the Native American side, there is much of the Yaqui tribe I must acquire through some research. What that ultimately forced me to do (still does, in a way) was create my own identity in my own world…not some insane What Dreams May Come or Inception alternate reality, but in a manner that was both true to myself and unique for those in the world around me.
As one watches Belle, especially if you’re a history or civil rights buff…and honestly why else would you go see this film…you get a sense of understanding where the white Puritan struggle against racist tendencies began. Inherently (mostly), if you are white in the U.S. or in a slightly less and perhaps calmer sense, the U.K., many people grow up with a tiny tinge of hidden “white guilt” when an obvious racial situation is presented. It may be a quiet tug in the heart, a louder kick in the gut, or something that makes others reactionary. In whichever manner it presents itself, it comes from a place of knowing, although what is known is rarely, fully expressed. Upcoming actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s eyes slay me. They express the exact idea of what I believe Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsey must have felt as a rightful but coloured member of the prestigious Mansfield family. She creates a reality within a reality while experiencing first-hand the steps that would eventually outlaw slavery in the UK. What the film depicts is the changes in Belle while she enters adulthood and the process of abolishing slavery is occurring. Her great-uncle (and “Papa” in a way) is the judge whose ruling eventually banned the trade of humans in England. I could go on and on about the intricacies of this movie, but I will instead end by saying “Go see this film…ara mateix!” ####
Now, moving onto less emotional things…22 Jump Street (Infiltrados en la Universidad). Oh my nerves! What can be said about this film? What can’t, frankly? You probably know that it’s the sequel to 21 Jump Street, the cinematic take on the famous TV series that launched Johnny Depp’s career (and a newly-launched FOX network at the time).
As I watched the film, which is not really my cup of tea, something dawned on me. Even with two skilled comedians like Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, the Bad Boys series can in no way comically compete with the insane, stupid brilliance of the shtick in this slapstick comedy/action thriller.
Again, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum take on the roles of Morton Schmidt and Greg Jenko, two undercover cops investigating a new drug craze affecting uni students called whyphy (pronounced ‘wi-fi’…in English, mind you), a powerful hallucinogenic upper that has resulted in the death of a young college girl and baffled police as to who is spreading the drug.
As the Spanish title would suggest, the twosome detectives have a Never Been Kissed moment and go back to university to find the drug dealers. What ensues is hilarity on a scale that is not intellectual at all but incredibly socio-cultural, and the writers, actors and director have hit this one out of the park. It really does take the piss out of the U.S.-American campus mentality while simultaneously poking fun at the crime work done by police forces in the States. What with Ferguson drama happening right now, it seems like nary a stretch that police work could use some light touches and a reality check right about now. While this film will not do that, it stands alone as a funny, well-timed, easy-to-swallow summer comedy. Take a break and have a hundred laughs. ###-1/2
Now, in keeping with a drug theme, Luc Besson’s latest cinematic foray Lucy is a thriller that grabs your attention within minutes of its start and keeps you there for 75 more. Yes, this is certainly a shorter film than most, but that wisely gives movie theatres more time to show it per day, as well…and judging by the success of its global box office take, the trick has worked.
Guess what the protagonist’s name is. The film Salt came to mind at one point except in this film, Scarlett Johansson is a young student in Taiwan, not a D.C.-special agent and she actually has a figure that makes her a tad more believable as someone who can kick a man’s ass.
And that’s when the fun is already in action. A naïve favor for a fling boyfriend sends her on what turns out to be the worst decision she could make, and leads to her captivity and a powerful drug CPH4 being placed in her so as to make her a carrier, a mule. Even after forcibly having a doctor extract the drug, what it creates in her system is an access to the furthest reaches of her cerebrum, complete brain power. I’m a sucker for Scarlett that much is true, so I laughed at one point when she’s talking to her captor and sounds exactly like Daria from the MTV cartoon. What a great cartoon that was.
And without giving away too much, the usage of Morgan Freeman makes the film’s science fiction edge seem utterly believable. This film will almost certainly be polarizing to audiences and critics alike because Besson is asking us to journey through this heroine’s drama while pushing the audience to think about a possible higher purpose to Life. And I’m going to ask you to give the film a summer blockbuster chance. The film is a sleeper that has set off the box office the world over…and with good reason. ###-1/2
The Fiestas de Gracia just wound down. The summer season is rather particular with its weather patterns and also winding down. Take these final moments, these final weeks before the fall comes to just…simply…be. Breathe. See you next week!