If you’re old enough you remember everyone’s favorite comic strip, “Little Orphan Annie.” The title character’s favorite expression was “Leapin’ Lizards!” Nobody expected to take that expression as anything but metaphoric, but now along comes Marc Webb, who directs THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN aka SPIDER-MAN 4,” giving us an actual leaping lizard as Spiderman’s principal villain. Never mind the car thief and one killer: that’s like nothing for the Marvel comic book hero. But defeating a leaping lizard? That takes everything Spiderman has in his repertoire of skills: his ability to thrust out his hand to develop an instant web that can hold his entire weight as he exits from roofs; his strength, which, as we see in the first half of the movie leads to awkward situations including the breakage of his uncle and aunt’s front door; his ability, like Superman’s, to leap tall buildings in single bound.
The incredibly talented writer-director-actor Seth MacFarlane goes where no comedy has ever gone before. Mixing CGI with human characters, MacFarlane–whose tv series “Family Guy” puts together a pair of teens, a cynical dog who is smarter than anyone else, and an evil baby plotting the eradication of his mother–brings a Teddy bear to life, one whose pre-life message “I love you” is virtually blown away by his foul mouth. Ted (voice of MacFarlane) may not be Harvey, the six-foot rabbit created for Mary Chase and who is currently playing on Broadway, but at about a foot and one-half he issues a barrage of words that make him a toy that few moms would give to their eight-year-olds. And unlike Harvey, he can pack a mean punch that would send the taller rabbit reeling.
You don’t need a degree in psychology or history to realize that the past is always with us. You can’t escape its impact. Its memory will leave with feeling of guilt but also haunting regressions of past loves: familial, platonic and romantic. If you’re a filmmaker, whether in the seat of the director or the writer, you need the skill to bring an audience along for the ride, which in the case of UNFORGIVABLE involves the passage of years, even decades. That’s where André Téchiné comes into the picture, so to speak. Téchiné, considered by some to be France’s greatest living director, is remembered by film buffs for telling complex stories in exotic or provincial settings, honing in on the travails of youth as in WILD REEDS, linking two eighteen-year-old friends, the brother of one who marries to escape the war in Algeria, and a bond between one young man and a classmate who wants to marry his brother’s wife.
Adultery is easy; comedy is hard. This is aptly demonstrated in Woody’s Allen’s billet-doux to Rome, formerly titled THE BOP CAMERON. In putting across an expensive production beautifully shot by Darius Khondji amid Rome’s cobblestone streets, the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, and the Spanish Steps, Mr. Allen is in top form showing how delicious is the violation of the Seventh Commandment. As a movie to tickle audience funny bones, the film succeeds sporadically, but when it does, TO ROME WITH LOVE rises to the top.
Rape is unfortunately common enough when soldiers occupy a foreign nation or defeat hostile people of a different clan or tribe. A Bible teacher once told a friend that in ancient times, rape was a normal by-product of war that was expected by the victimized population as, after all, soldiers “are tired and tense and rape provides a relief.” More recently we hear about the Rape of Nanking and countless other atrocities of this nature administered by conquering forces against their enemies.
“What do we want? Fulfillment! When do we want it? Now! What do we want? Fulfillment! When do we want it? Now!” Now there’s a street demonstration that could theoretically bring out more petitioners than a labor dispute would attract since, when you come down to it, most Americans are making a decent living and not working in a Nepalese sweatshop. They do not urgently need a better standard of living but a better standard of life. Exploiting the huge numbers of folks who are not necessarily neurotic but eager to try every means to become fulfilled (again, the major goal in life of most Americans whether they know it or not), we have armies of psychotherapists of every ideology and, in a more exotic vein, Indian gurus.
During one of the golden ages of sci-fi pictures, the 1950s, the principal theme often spoken by scientists at the conclusion was “Maybe we were not meant to tamper with nature.” You’ll find this theme in such (sometimes laughable) films as THE THING, THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, NEANDERTHAL MAN, TARGET EARTH and a few gems from Abbott and Costello.
Simply put, BEL AMI, which means “good friend,” is about a man who rises to the top by, well, rising to the top. An empty-headed fellow in the Paris of 1890 finds that his one and only attribute, his pretty-boy good looks, is the only skill he needs to acquire wealth and celebrity. He does so by manipulating a group of upper-middle-class women, each of who reacts to him in a special way but all of who fall prey to his powers of seduction.
If you’ve ever been dumped (meaning if you’re not a hermit living in a cave in Afghanistan) you already have a “hook” through which you can approach this romantic comedy. Filmed by Swedish cinematographer Jakob Ihre in various New York City neighborhoods including my own area of DUMBO, this urban story involving people who are comfortably middle class and of artistic bent could be mistaken for a Woody Allen project. What’s more its’ star, the lovable Greta Gerwig, will appear in Mr. Allen’s upcoming movie TO ROME WITH LOVE, opening June 22nd.