Wednesday, April 01, 2015

March 2015

There’s wasn’t a great deal to truly distinguish this month—no fun plays or travel or other notable events to speak of, at least that spring to memory. I’m only a couple of episodes away from finishing the full run of Frasier, and then it’ll be on to something new…not sure what. In addition to the movies listed below, I continued to enjoy the first excellent season of Better Call Saul, along with the other shows I watch. Here were the movies I enjoyed:

BLACK OR WHITE (2015)—Kevin Costner stars in a family drama that eventually morphs into a courtroom drama when a custody dispute turns ugly. Although it occasionally veers off into melodrama, the film is always watchable and makes some good points about race relations. The entire cast is excellent. (9)

KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (2015)—I’m not a spy movie fan, per se, but this Colin Firth action flick is a deliciously entertaining diversion, especially with bad-guy Samuel L. Jackson chewing the scenery (with a weird speech impediment, yet) and Michael Caine on hand as well. The gag at the very end—lampooning double-entendre James Bond quotes and involving a Swedish princess’s bum—is a classic for the ages. (9)

GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF (2015)—I view most religions as insidious, but Scientology is a special case. Even more than most other religions, it's brainwashing of the highest order, and comes with the most preposterous backstory you could imagine (a bad science-fiction story written by former pulp author L. Ron Hubbard). But having big movie stars like Tom Cruise and John Travolta attached somehow lends the cult more credibility than usual. The filmmakers demonstrate how the cult leaders take over people's lives and, in the case of Travolta, may be blackmailing him into remaining in the fold. This HBO documentary played in theaters prior to being shown on cable. It's not really riveting, but it's very interesting and often compelling. (8)

WHILE WE’RE YOUNG (2015)—A couple coasting in their 40s (Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts) meet a young, vibrant couple in their 20s (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried), and a spark of life briefly rubs off on the older married pair. Director Noah Baumbach attempts a Woody Allen-esque comedy-drama about the generation gap and mostly succeeds. Seyfried is outstanding (and extremely cute). (8)

CINDERELLA (2015)—Joan and I agreed that whatever else the live-action Disney remake of Cinderella might be, it’s an exceptionally beautiful one. Exquisitely directed (by Kenneth Branaugh) and filled with gorgeous scenery and starring drop-dead gorgeous Lily James (from Downton Abbey), the remake won’t make anybody forget about the 1950 Disney original—especially since they play several of the songs from that movie—but it’s an agreeable time-killer, like any ride at Disneyland. (8)