The trailers for Hope Springs might lead you to believe it's a romantic comedy about a couple trying to jumpstart their sexless marriage but it causes more empathetic cringing than chuckles. Audiences will be drawn to Hope Springs by its stars Meryl Streep Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell and Streep's track record of pleasing summer movies like Julie & Julia and Mamma Mia! that offer a respite from the blockbusters flooding theaters. Despite what its marketing might have you believe Hope Springs isn't a rom-com. The film is a disarming mixture of deeply intimate confessions by a married couple in the sanctuary of a therapist's office awkwardly honest attempts by that couple to physically reconnect and incredibly sappy scenes underscored by intrusive music. Boldly addressing female desire especially in older women it's hard not to give the movie extra credit for what writer Vanessa Taylor's script is trying to convey and its rarity in mainstream film. The ebb and flow of intimacy and desire in a long-term relationship is what drives Hope Springs and while there are plenty contrived moments and unresolved issues it is frankly surprising and surprisingly frank. It's a summer release from a major studio with high caliber stars aimed squarely at the generally underserved 50+ audience addressing the even more taboo topic of that audience's sex life.
Streep plays Kay a suburban wife who's deeply unsatisfied emotionally and sexually by her marriage to Arnold. Arnold who is played by Tommy Lee Jones as his craggiest sleeps in a separate bedroom now that their kids have left the nest; he's like a stone cold robot emotionally and physically and Kay tiptoes around trying to make him happy even as he ignores her every gesture. One of the most striking scenes in the movie is at the very beginning when Kay primps and fusses over her modest sleepwear in the hopes of seducing her husband. Streep makes it obvious that this isn't an easy thing for Kay; it takes all her guts to try and wordlessly suggest sex to her husband and when she's shot down it hurts to watch. This isn't a one time disconnect between their libidos; this is an ongoing problem that leaves Kay feeling insecure and undesirable.
After a foray into the self-help section of her bookstore Kay finds a therapist who holds week-long intensive couples' therapy sessions in Good Hope Springs ME and in a seemingly unprecedented moment of decisiveness she books a trip for the couple. Arnold of course is having none of it but he eventually comes along for the ride. That doesn't mean he's up for answering any of Dr. Feld's questions though. To be fair Dr. Feld (Carell) is asking the couple deeply intimate questions so if Arnold is comfortable foisting his amorous wife off with the excuse he had pork for lunch it's not so far-fetched to believe he'd be angry when Feld asks him about his fantasy life or masturbation habits.
Although Arnold gets a pass on some of his issues Kay is forthright about why and how she's dissatisfied. When Dr. Feld asks her if she masturbates she says she doesn't because it makes her too sad. Kay offers similar revelations; she's willing to bare it all to revive her marriage while Arnold thinks the fact that they're married at all means they must be happy. Carell's Dr. Feld is soothing and kind (even a bit bland) but it's always a pleasure to see him play it straight.
It's subversive for a mega-watt star to play a character that talks about how sexually unsatisfied she is and how unsexy she feels with the man she loves most in the world. The added taboo of Kay and Arnold's age adds that much more to the conversation. Kay and Arnold's attempts at intimacy are emotionally raw and hard to watch. Even when things get funny they're mostly awkward funny not ha-ha funny.
The rest of the movie is a little uneven wrapped up tightly and happily by the end. Their time spent soul-searching alone is a little cheesy especially when Kay ends up in a local bar where she gets a little dizzy on white wine while dishing about her problems to the bartender (Elisabeth Shue). Somewhere along the line what probably started out as a character study ended up as a wobbly drama that pushes some boundaries but eventually lets everyone off the emotional hook in favor of a smoothed-over happy ending. Still its disarming moments and performances almost balance it out. Although its target audience might be dismayed to find it's not as light-hearted as it would seem Hope Springs offers up the opportunity for discussion about sexuality and aging at a time when books and films like 50 Shades of Grey and Magic Mike are perking up similar conversations. In the end that's a good thing.
A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
You’ve got to hand it to Colin Farrell: his cinematic rebirth gets better and better with each successive performance. After bursting onto the scene early last decade in Minority Report Phone Booth and S.W.A.T. a string of big-budget misses (remember Alexander?) made him nearly irrelevant as he became infamous for bad choices on and off the set. He then made a complete 180 opting for smaller more personal films like Cassandra’s Dream In Bruges and Pride and Glory – all of which allowed him to demonstrate his range and uncanny abilities. He’s now one of the most intriguing actors in the industry as he jumps from genre to genre making the work look easy while enthralling his audience at the same time.
His winning streak continues in writer/director Neil Jordan’s Ondine a splendid motion picture that blurs the lines between fantasy and drama. As the Irish fisherman Syracuse Farrell is a world-weary working class hero who relishes the time he gets to spend with his sick daughter Annie during his time ashore. On one particularly grey afternoon at sea he makes the most significant catch of his life - a barely clothed beautiful woman with no recollection of who she is or why she was in the water. As the film progresses we find out that there may be more to her story than she has told her rescuer.
In plain terms Ondine is essentially a live action Disney Renaissance picture without the vibrant colors or exuberant song and dance numbers. It is a simple story that isn’t entirely original and may be a bit predictable but is also infused with just enough mystery and charm to make it fulfilling. Though it is a “fantasy” don’t expect to find mermaids and magicians running rampant throughout the movie; this is a romantic drama with a splash of fairy tale mythology on top. I gave a welcome sigh of relief when the films climactic revelation spared me from a storybook cliché and instead presented a tidy rational answer to the question that the narrative proposes.
Farrell headlines the film but is surrounded by a capable cast of foreign actors including Jordan’s regular collaborator Stephen Rea who plays a priest who consoles Farrell’s recovering alcoholic. The one to watch however is Alicja Bachleda a stunning creature with an angelic presence who gives her ethereal title character a touch of vulnerability that makes her all the more believable. At the coveted-by-Hollywood age of 26 expect to see more of her in future films as a result of her lovely vocals grace and beauty. Also noteworthy is young Alison Barry who plays Farrell’s adorably fragile daughter Annie. She provides much needed lightheartedness to the film which teeters at times on the brink of being too serious.
Still being serious is what sets Ondine apart from similar fantasies like Splash Practical Magic and The Preacher’s Wife. It’s a touching tale but never gets soapy or melodramatic like some of those other titles. Jordan is to be commended for having a firm understanding of what he could and couldn’t accomplish with a narrative like this and he paints a pretty picture by working within the lines that define the genres that his script cross through. Taking unnecessary risks with the characters or conclusion would’ve just complicated a story that is quite lovely and pure as is.
Yes Tim Burton has covered this milieu before in animated ‘toons like The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride but there’s a certain hip-factor to this amusing flick set in the world of creepy science labs as an homage to the Frankenstein and Dracula films of the ‘30s. The film’s central character Igor (of course) is a frustrated assistant who is dying to become a scientist in his own right and knows he has the smarts for it. Finally when his very mean mad scientist dies just before the annual Evil Science Fair the humpbacked little guy gets his big moment--with the help of sidekicks Brain (in a jar--and not too brainy at that) and Scamper a bunny with a death wish after Igor saves him from the brink of becoming permanent road kill but makes him immortal. Igor unveils his piece de resistance a creation that unfortunately turns out to be less monster and more uh like Annie. She’s a gigantic aspiring actress named Eva who would rather belt out show tunes than do the things lab-created monsters are supposed to do. But there’s a lot more in store for this crazy quilt group of misfits as they uncover an evil plot that threatens the world of Malaria--unless they can use all their ingenuity to save the day. Blessed with a superior vocal cast Igor works in large part due to appealing characterizations. John Cusack brings fun and recognizable human frustration to the title role while his sidekicks are hilarious including Steve Buscemi’s nifty vocal calisthenics as the cynical rabbit and Sean Hayes as the sweet but dumb Brain relegated to life in a jar mislabeled “Brian ” the butt of a few too many jokes. The mad scientists are played to the hilt by a couple of perfectly cast English vets: John Cleese as Dr. Glickenstein and especially silly work from Eddie Izzard as Dr. Schadenfreude. Christian Slater is along for the ride as the latter’s own Igor while SNL vet Molly Shannon seems to be having a great time bringing the Broadway-bound Eva to life perfectly awful as she sings ditties like “Tomorrow” while dwarfing everyone else with her plus PLUS-sized frame. Listen also for former late night talk show rivals Jay Leno and Arsenio Hall in bit roles. Relative newcomer Tony Leondis has directed with an eye toward over-the-top humor and atmospheric surroundings making this animation entry always a pleasure to watch. He brings Chris McKenna’s smart sassy script to life in ways that won’t just appeal to kids but also their parents who may even find themselves laughing out loud a couple of times. In fact much of the dialogue is so referenced with pop culture tidbits that a lot of it will probably sail right over the young tykes heads. McKenna who cut his teeth as writer and producer of the sophisticated FOX series American Dad brings the wit with Igor. Even though iconic animation wizards like Tim Burton and Pixar (with Monsters Inc.) have been down this road before Igor feels fresh and original and that’s certainly no easy task.
Two-time Oscar winner and all-around nice guy Tom Hanks will be receiving the American Film Institute's 30th Life Achievement Award. Hanks' friend Steven Spielberg will present him the award at the ceremonies on June 12. Some coming to the show at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood include Steve Martin, Tim Allen, Jim Carrey and Helen Hunt. The tribute will air June 24 on USA Network.
Singer Wyclef Jean and 10 others were arrested for disorderly conduct during a protest against school funding cuts on New York's City Hall on Tuesday. Thousands of teachers, students and politicians turned out to denounce the proposed funding cuts, The Associated Press reports.
A federal judge has ruled that actress Jennifer Aniston's lawsuit against the publishers of the magazines Celebrity Skin and High Society may go forward. The Friends star is suing them for publishing a photo of her sunbathing topless in her backyard. The trial date is set for July 2.
Didier Fischer, a left-wing French politician, called for a ban on the Scream trilogy Wednesday after a 17-year-old boy said the violent teen-slasher films inspired him to stab a 15-year-old girl to death. Reuters reported that Fischer, who is a candidate in next week's parliamentary elections, said in a statement, "I call for the immediate withdrawal from sale and public rental across the national territory of any videotape, DVD disc and any other form of distribution, including on the Internet, of the film Scream."
Here we go again. ABC Family has picked up a new reality show for the summer, The Last Resort. Four couples on the brink of separation go to a Hawaiian resort to work with relationship coaches to try to resolve their differences. By the final episode, they'll decide whether to stay together or not. Oh, goody.
British musician Dave Stewart, who formed the '80s band The Eurythmics with pal Annie Lennox, has decided to create his own record label. Called Artists' Network, the label will nuture acts that don't fit into the traditional mass-produced pop culture mold. "I remember in 1986, the head of our record company changed in America, and this man came in from Hertz rent-a-car and that was a sign of...the way things have become: a corporate face to a creative business," Stewart told Reuters.
First the Osbournes, then Anna Nicole Smith, now...Oasis? The famously foul-mouthed Brit poppers Oasis are the latest to want to jump on the celebrity reality show bandwagon. Singer Noel Gallagher has told the Web site mne.com that he'd like cameras to film his life at home. An Oasis spokesperson says footage of the band on the tour bus has already been released on DVD and there would be more to come.