Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Longest Ride

Bulls and Brawn
Director: George Tillman, Jr.

Cast: Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Alan Alda, Lolita Davidovich, Oona Chaplin, Jack Huston

Review by James Colt Harrison

Like father, like son so the saying goes. To prove that statement we have Scott Eastwood looking like an exact replica of his Oscar® winning father Clint Eastwood when he was young. Both are handsome, both are striking, and both are knockouts on the screen. A new generation has arrived, and Scott is fully equipped physically and professionally to take over the reigns of his well-loved father. All he has to do is ask.

The Longest Ride is adapted from a book by Nicholas Sparks, the great purveyor of weepies and woes by the gallon. There is no lack of that in this film. Add in the adventure, romance and rodeo action and you have more than two hours of entertainment pleasure. That is, if you go into throes of ecstasy at maudlin situations and tear-invoking scenes.

The tear-duct scenes are only part of the film, so don’t think it is all weeping. There are actually some fun scenes, some laughs (usually provided by scene-stealer Alan Alda) and certainly some thrills at the rodeo.

So where does the rodeo come into the story? Scott, as Luke Collins, is a championship bull rider on the world circuit. A head injury put him out of commission for awhile, but now he is trying to make a comeback. Mom Kate Collins (Lolita Davidovitch) is not happy with the situation because she wants Luke to come home after every ride in one piece. Mom’s who love their sons are like that.

Luke has his fans who scream and yell as he is getting tossed about by the bull like a rag-doll. He survives to great acclaim and the girl fans scream with delight. Among the fans is the most adorable and the prettiest of all of them---Sophie Danko, as played by beautiful newcomer Britt Robertson. Of course, she and Scott “meet cute.” They make for a very eye-pleasing couple; he’s handsome as can be and sweet-natured, and she’s gorgeous and smart and waiting for her internship in New York at an art gallery. Their lifestyles seem at odds with each other as they have nothing in common. Except sexual attraction. That’s enough for sparks to kindle.

On the way home from their first date they find a crashed car that has gone off the road. They act quickly and save an old man—Ira Levinson (Alan Alda) from certain death just moments before the car explodes into flames. Alda plays an old curmudgeon whose heydays were in the 1940s. The two youngsters become attached to him and his stories of his wife Ruth (Oona Chaplin). They find Ira and his stories enchanting. Alda, of course, has been in show business longer than the two lead actors’ ages combined. Having come to prominence in the TV hit show M*A*S*H decades ago, he knows every trick in the acting book to steal scenes right out from under Eastwood and Robertson. No matter---the kids are still cute and are a pleasure to see brightening the screen.

What would a romance be if there weren’t storm clouds every so often? The kids conflict over their opposite lifestyles. Sophie wants to go to New York and be in the Art World; Luke wants to remain on the rodeo circuit amongst the smelly bulls and dirt. She’s high-class and he’s just a regular guy. Can they ever agree? Lots of tears are shed—mostly by the audience--- and resolution to the problem is difficult. Women’s Liberation members would have a fit if Sophie decided to give up her plans and settle down to have babies with Luke. And men would look down on Luke if he traded in his tight jeans for a tuxedo and the fancy world of New York artists.

Nicholas Sparks has the talent to wring all emotions to their limits, and he stops at nothing to grab the audience by the tear ducts at every corner. This gives director George Tillman, Jr. ( Barbershop) the go ahead to put the lead actors in jeopardy every chance he gets. Both Eastwood and Robertson, in their first big leading roles, are attractive enough for the audience to look beyond the pathos and see young love blooming with joy, delight, wonder and awe. The two actors rise above Sparks’ doom and gloom tendencies and make us laugh, cry and jump for joy when things go right.

Both Eastwood and Robertson are destined to become major stars provided they are cast in the proper roles. 

Find ArtsNFashion on FB and Twitter:

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Furious 7

Mayhem, Fast Cars & Bullets
Director:  James Wan

Cast: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Lucas Black, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Kurt Russell, and Jason Statham.

Review by James Colt Harrison

A more ridiculous, but wildly fun, film has not been made. Universal Pictures has put every stunt man in Hollywood to work overtime in this dashingly-made tale of mayhem, speeding cars, and mega-machine guns run amok. Furious 7  takes up where Furious 1 – 6 left off---or whatever they were called--- and outdoes all the crashes, cliff hangers (literally), solid bone-crunching jaw punches, body blows, and impossible-to-get-out-of situations tenfold.

It’s exhilarating to watch a human body survive treatment that would snap a steel bar in half, demolish a locomotive into two or three shredded pieces, or crumple a 747 before your eyes. But the objects of this unceasing bodily harm are Vin Diesel, Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson. We know they can’t be hurt because they are movie stars. So they roll with the punches, the bashings, the explosions and come up with only a few well-placed bandages and a Hollywood make-up artists’ smudge and go on to the next scene with nary a brain concussion or severed leg.

Is there a plot? Well, sort of. It’s used loosely to tie the scenes of extreme mayhem together and as a segue to the next incredible car crash. Baddy Statham’s character Deckard Shaw is out for revenge for his brother’s death (Luke Evans) and effectively uses martial arts terror, Chinese film star Tony Jaa to keep turning up to whack the stars over the head, drill holes in them with rapid fire machine guns, or to immobilize them with strategic between-the-legs high kicks. What a guy, that Tony Jaa !

Never mind the plot, written by Chris Morgan, allegedly with a used set of crayons. All fans of this genre really want to see is what the producers did to have the late Paul Walker appear in the film. We must say with all admiration, they did a very tasteful job of having Walker appear throughout the film using Walker’s two brothers as stand-ins. One brother looks exactly like Paul, complete with the Caribbean-depth sparkling blue eyes. It was a touching send off to the actor who left us all much too early in his life.

Audiences are kept literally out of breath trying to figure out what zany stunts are coming up next, and how will the director and stunt people dream up something that is more bizarre than the last. Expensive cars are dropped from a plane and land in Russia with nary a scrape. The crème de la crème scene is crashing a million dollar sports car out of a high rise condo and flying it into the building next door, only to have the car’s brakes fail and go shooting out the other side, smashing more glass walls, and flying through the glass of that building as well. Incredible, unbelievable, stunning and most of all, thrilling as can be imagined. We almost cheered at it’s conclusion. Oh—that car didn’t suffer any dents or scratches either.

We would like to have seen more of Dwayne Johnson. He’s actually a likeable guy, all smiles and muscles bulging like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. He got waylaid in the beginning of the film, but returns to mop things up at the end. He’s always a welcome sight when he cracks and crunches grown men like nuts in a nutcracker.

What can we say about Vin Diesel? He’s the greatest non-actor actor in films. He grunts, uses his Mariana trench deep voice to shatter glass, and stands there immobile like a lump of Michelangelo marble waiting to be given a personality. Don’t get me wrong—we love the man. His fake name alone is hilarious. He probably doesn’t know it, but he’s more camp than Dame Edna. He’s unique to say the least and adds so much fun to these inane proceedings.

Is Furious 7 Shakespeare? No, it’s more like a high school essay written with a broken hand. But is it fun? You bet! It’s one of the most enjoyable films of the year. It’s full of adrenaline, testosterone and Viagra all in one amazing shot. It’s terrifically entertaining.

Find ArtsNFashion on FB and Twitter:

Danny Collins

Fading Rock Star Finds Salvation
Director: Dan Fogelman

Cast: Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, Bobby Cannavale, Christopher Plummer

Review by James Colt Harrison

In a one-man show, Oscar® winning actor (8 nominations) Al Pacino dominates the screen throughout the comically dramatic film. Turning in a fascinating performance of a self-centered rock star of mega proportions, he has a change of heart and tries to be less selfish with his family and friends. Does it work? Partly, as he uses all his star power to be funny, touching, ashamed, contrite, and a power to be dealt with all at the same time.

As an aging rock performer, he still fills stadiums and concert halls with nostalgia-lovers who have seen more events than can fit on a thousand-year calendar. Collins may be aging, but so are his fans, loyal to (almost) the end. They gum his lyrics and happily sing along. He seems to be a compilation of Neil Diamond, Bruce Springfield, and his idol John Lennon. Pacino has all the swagger and braggadocio of someone who has been catered to all his musical life as a star. It’s not entirely his fault he is spoiled and bowed to like a king. Perks come with the job and he is, in effect, a victim of all that adulation.

Being on the road for years, womanizing every fan who will throw themselves at him, drinking gallons of liver-killing alcohol, and flying in private planes has turned his head and fatefully made him neglect his son back home. He actually has never met his son, played angrily by the handsome Bobby Cannavale, a perfect choice and believable as Collins’ offspring.

A turn of events happens when Collins’ road manager Frank, played smoothly by Christopher Plummer, brings some good news. At a glorious 85 years-old, Plummer seems to be one of the oldest living actors in Hollywood. Good for him---he’s marvelous. There’s not much trace of his Sound of Music days, but still charming nonetheless. Frank presents Danny with a 40 year-old letter from John Lennon that had never been delivered. Lennon was an unabashed fan and sent words of encouragement. This is a revelation to Danny and inspires him to have a change of heart and become a better father. It’s a bit schmaltzy and completely out of character for the self-centered rock star. But, the event helps propel the storyline, written by director Fogelman.

Collins makes a feeble, yet sincere effort to meet his son Tom. After years of neglect and non-contact, Tom wants nothing to do with his father. Cannavale, as Tom, is all grown up with is own family. Jennifer Garner and he have one hyper-active daughter (Giselle Eisenberg) and another baby on the way. They are not rich. They can use some help, but Tom wants nothing to do with his absent dad. Cannavale is one of the best male actors in films today. He always gives a good performance, and in this film he shows just the right amount of hurt, resentment and anger as is warranted.

The treacle flows by the gallon, dad and son make an uneasy peace pact, and they attempt to bring the family together. A twist of an unexpected illness helps to smooth things over, but it is an old Hollywood cliché to bring people closer.

With an uninspiring script to contend with, all the actors do their best with their parts. Pacino and Cannavale excel as well as they can. It’s not all drama and gloom. There are many funny scenes, and Pacino is also a master at comedy. In fact, he’s the entire picture.

Find ArtsNFashion on FB and Twitter:

Woman In Gold

Nazi Art Thieves at Work
Director: Simon Curtis

Cast: Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Allan Corduner, Daniel Bruhl, Katie Holmes, Elizabeth McGovern, Charles Dance, Max Irons, Tatiana Maslany, Jonathan Pryce, Frances Fisher, Moritz Bleibtreu

Review by James Colt Harrison

Woman in Gold, one of the world’s most famous paintings produced by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt (1862 – 1918) was the inspiration for the title of the movie. The correct title of the painting is Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. Based on a true story with a script written by Alexi Kaye Campbell and E. Randol Schoenberg (and his life story as well), the film stars the formidable British actress and Oscar® nominee Helen Mirren. She plays the real-life Jewish refugee Maria Altman who is attempting to get her family’s art work returned that had been stolen by the Nazi’s during World War II.

Klimt’s painting of Ms. Altman’s aunt Adele, which ultimately became the famous Portrait of Adele Boch-Bauer, was part of his Golden Period in which he mixed paint with gold leaf, thus giving the painting the world-reknown glitter effect. Klimt’s style was a mixture of the Art Nouveau period and the Arts & Crafts style. His art was popular in the very early 20th Century when he painted them around 1908.

As Mrs. Altman, we expect no less of Mirren than a stellar acting performance, and she delivers. The wizards in the makeup and costume departments have transformed Mirren into an octogenarian Jewish lady of some substance and education. She plays Altman with some restraint throughout most of the film, but she rises to indignation and strength in the scenes where it is needed. Her determination to right a terrible wrong made during World War II is deftly achieved by the flawless Mirren.

Her story, and subsequently the story of the creation of the painting, is done with the judicial use of flashbacks. Altman is played as a young girl of 19 by the pretty Tatiana Maslany. Maria sees no way out of the inevitable takeover of Austria by the Nazis. She must leave for the United States with her new husband, played by the handsome British actor Max Irons (son of Jeremy Irons).

Maria’s father is played with verve and authority by the wonderful British actor Allan Corduner, who must speak all of his lines in flawless German. Corduner shows just the right amount of love and pride for his daughter. But he knows she must flee to save her life. Corduner is incredibly touching in a silent scene when they must separate. Using only his expressive eyes and slightly quivering lips, Corduner’s performance is heart-breaking and very nearly overwhelmingly sad when he realizes they will never see each other again. Corduner has one of those rare career-moments when he steals the picture.

In order to help her with the authorities who can retrieve her artwork, Altman hires young American attorney E. Randol Schoenberg (author of the script. He is also the grandson of world famous composer Arnold Schoenberg). He is a green young man who is smart and broke. Altman figures his inexperience could be a plus because he knows no boundaries. Ryan Reynolds is correct for the part, being young, handsome, personable, and appears inexperienced and naive as a lawyer. This film will put Reynolds a notch higher in the leading men category in films.

Altman and Schoenberg run into many obstacles, not the least of which is the Belvedere Museum in Vienna holds possession of the famous painting and is reluctant to let it go. Although there is no great mystery in the story, director Simon Curtis guides Mirren to be a formidable and determined woman when she knows she’s right. Reynold’s lawyer Schoenberg gets fired up and unstoppable when he finds clues that are all in their favor. The painting is in plain sight, but the ownership is greatly in question. Therein lies some of the film’s mystery---who owns it and who will inherit it?

Art lovers will enjoy this quest to find the rightful owners of some of the sensational art of the Klimt Art Nouveau period. It may also trigger painful memories of those unfortunate Jewish people who were ravaged by the vicious Nazi regime and stripped of their artifacts. It was a hateful period during World War II. Mirren, Reynolds and Corduner help bring back that period with style, grace and chutzpa!

Find ArtsNFashion on FB and Twitter:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring Fashion Trends 2015: Kimono Style Trench Coats

Neiman Marcus, Real Talk Open-Front Floral Trench Coat

The trench coat has a very utilitarian history, being originally created to be used by soldiers in the trenches of World War I. It is typically a raincoat made of water proof, heavy duty cotton or gabardine. 

Nau, Synfill Kimono Trench Coat
As it was adopted by the world of fashion it often kept its protective, heavy duty material while evolving aesthetically. This spring the trench coat is infused with a kimono style look that adds beauty, delicacy, and the sharp, wide, geometric cuts of traditional Asian fashion.

Find ArtsNFashion on FB and Twitter:

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Grants For Single Moms