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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 13 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 28
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Visually audacious Beasts wildly uneven
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) is a six-year-old girl who lives with her daddy, Wink (Dwight Henry), in the Bathtub. He is sick, probably dying, and intent on teaching her how to live and thrive without him. She becomes convinced she can somehow find the mother who abandoned them years ago, certain if she does so she'll garner some insight into how to help her daddy in his time of need.

There's a lot more to Sundance and Cannes Film Festival favorite Beasts of the Southern Wild - I'm just not entirely sure how to describe it. The movie plays like myth, moves like fable, and is consumed with showcasing visuals utterly unique in and of themselves. It plays to the deepest, most base human emotions, delivering a family saga of a father and his daughter trying to survive in the bleakest of circumstances and the most barren of locations.

It's hypnotic, that's a certainty. Director and co-writer Benh Zeitlin, working alongside fellow newcomer and scribe Lucy Alibar, deliver as unique a cinematic experience as anything 2012 has offered up so far. But for all its floridly kinetic panache, for all its deeply felt originality, the movie as a whole had my scratching my head wondering what all the fuss has been about. Hushpuppy's story was lost on me, her saga of personal triumph in the midst of massive poverty not one I could ever fully embrace or get behind.

There are plenty of 'wows' here, at least from a technical standpoint. Set somewhere in the middle of the Louisiana delta, in a flooded badland cut off from the rest of the world thanks to massive levies, and on the verge of disappearing under the water for good, Zeitlin manages to unearth sights that boggled my mind. He and cinematographer Ben Richardson are working on another level, capturing images that held me breathless. The camera moves with unhurried grace, and whether pulling back to showcase this barren waterlogged landscape in full or zooming in to examine every nuance of Wallis' angelic face, it's almost as if the duo can do no wrong as far as their compositions are concerned.

But what, ultimately, is the point of it all? What is it that Zeitlin and Alibar wanted me to take away from all this sturm und drang? This is the kind of movie that kept me waiting patiently for that signature moment - that one sequence that would bring all the others into some sort of emotionally symmetrical line. I kept waiting and wanting, dying to explore this world in greater detail and know more about why Wink and Hushpuppy were so intent on remaining in the Bathtub.

There were times when I sort of got an idea of what the filmmakers were going for, most notably a stunning sequence inside a rundown restaurant/brothel in the middle of nowhere. Hushpuppy and a few of her fellow pint-sized compatriots make their way there in search of answers and discover a serenity for both themselves and for the women within that's intimate and soulful. While no answers are given, while nothing is resolved, the strength of spirit this unexpected meeting brings about inside our heroine feels entirely genuine, achieving an ethereal universality.

In the end, though, this saga of finding beauty in poverty, of discovering inner strength in the midst of the most dire of circumstances, left me somewhat exasperated, wanting so much more than the movie apparently was willing to give. The music swells, the visuals become more indulgent, and the hoped for one-on-one meeting between diminutive starlet and prehistoric beast becomes a reality, but none of this ended up meaning anything as far as I could tell. I was left cold, more appreciative of the technical showmanship required to bring it all off and the intense vitality of the performances then I was toward anything more substantive.

I somewhat get all the euphoria directed this film's way. It's different and unique, set inside a landscape unlike any other we've seen in what feels like eons. It's as if Zeitlin has channeled The Road Warrior, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Walkabout, moving the action to an American locale but retaining the otherworldly, surreal dreamscape inherent in those Australian classics.

All of which is fine and dandy, but I wanted more. There is no closure to Beasts of the Southern Wild, nothing to hold on to that was satisfying. I was impressed by this debut and loved the fire and the passion of Zeitlin and Alibar in bringing it to life. But this wasn't enough. The emotional center of the saga seemed just as bewildering and vaporous by the end as it was at the beginning, and my journey into the Bathtub left me feeling anything but clean.


New DVDs highlight Channing Tatum, Sarah Silverman, Whoopi, Madonna
by Chris Azzopardi - SGN Contributing Writer

21 Jump Street
His clothes stay on, but Channing Tatum - aka Magic Mike in his new stripper flick - is still a sight to behold in a comedy that reboots an old TV show and amazingly doesn't screw it up. Tatum plays Greg Jenko, a moronic officer-in-training who pairs with former classmate Morgan Schmidt (Jonah Hill) - whom he bullied in high school - to be badasses of the law. The comedic twist? They suck at their jobs. As the 20-somethings go undercover - totally out of their element among the student body (they two-strap their bags!) - this cop romp becomes a riotous mix of drug gags, pro-Gay hilarity, whip-smart dialogue, and scenes of dry-humping that could only be better if Tatum, who really should do more comedy, got completely naked. EXTRAS: The best gags are in the movie, but more of the duo goofing off in a blooper reel ain't a bad thing. And don't miss the many deleted scenes to catch Tatum engaging in some undercover self-love.

The Sarah Silverman Program: The Complete Series
The crass absurdity of Sarah Silverman's prematurely offed Comedy Central series - one day she's licking her dog's butt to understand what he finds so appealing about it; the next, she's an AIDS activist because she just might have HIV - is what made its genius three seasons a racy rollick. Joined by a neighboring Gay couple and her real-life sister Laura, slacker Silverman finds herself in crazy, exaggerated, and politically incorrect predicaments that teach her all the wrong lessons. (Remember when she tried to be a Lesbian? Or got suckered into joining an anti-abortion group?) Thirty-two episodes of this over-the-top ridiculousness are nowhere near enough, but they'll have to do. EXTRAS: Lots! Commentaries from the crew (including Silverman), behind-the-scenes footage, audition videos, animated shorts, and a fun Q&A from Comic-Con.

Sister Act/Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit
Sister Act doesn't just give me the giggles because one of my best - and Gayest - memories is linked to it: my 12-year-old self draped in a white sheet with a black pillowcase wrapped over my head, reenacting 'I Will Follow Him' with my girl cousins, hitting those high notes while biology was still on my side. No, Marc Shaiman's nuns-on-the-run revelation, now 20 years old (holy cow!), was so much fun it made me wonder why the real Catholic Church couldn't have a Whoopi. If only God's house were as Gay as this movie, which has gotten a fab Blu-ray transfer. Also included is the sequel, with a very young Jennifer Love Hewitt and an awful plot - a sin, for sure. EXTRAS: Almost none, but who cares as long as Lady Soul's music video for 'If My Sister's in Trouble' is included? And it is. God bless them.

Mirror Mirror
Who's the fairest of them all? Certainly not this take on the classic fairy tale Snow White. Julia Roberts camps up the Evil Queen role with sassiness and a smile that's reminiscent of, well, Julia Roberts (her sidekick is Nathan Lane, having a ball). No wonder Snow, played by a fantastic Lily Collins, doesn't seem all that threatened as she gets into girl-power mode, demonstrating that chicks don't need a prince to save the day. But even so, you can't blame her for keeping Armie Hammer (star of J. Edgar) around. Along with the divine visuals and costumes, he's the eye-candy that helps make Mirror Mirror almost worth biting into. EXTRAS: Meh. Just a few extra scenes and cast interviews. Oh, and you can learn how to 'dance like a princess,' if that's your thing.

Evita
Don't cry for her, Argentina - this is still Madonna's best film role. That doesn't mean the 1996 movie did Eva Peron, or her deeply inspiring and tragic story, justice. Besides avoiding political insight, this flawed musical drama, also starring Antonio Banderas, felt like the longest music video ever - over two hours of lip-syncing is just too much. The Andrew Lloyd Webber score, however, ranks high in Madonna's catalog - the Oscar-winning 'You Must Love Me' is easily one of her best ballads. And the Blu-ray re-master looks like a virgin: fresh and new. EXTRAS: A long and thorough look into the making of Evita, including Madonna being as narcissistic as ever.

Chris Azzopardi is the editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBT wire service. Reach him via his website at www.chris-azzopardi.com.


Fourth Ice Age saga is frozenly mundane
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT
Opens July 13


Remember how the original Star Trek movies suffered from the 'even-odd' curse? You know, the idea that all the even-numbered ones - Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, were good, while all the odd-numbered films were horrible? Of course, that meme overlooked Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, which was pretty decent. But because treks II, IV, and VI were so wonderful, the others suffered by comparison.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, I think we can make the case that where the Ice Age series is concerned, we have the exact opposite situation compared to Star Trek. I know, I know, these are different films, different series, having nothing to do with each other thematically, narratively, or structurally. But that doesn't make the premise any less relevant. While Ice Age and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs are pretty darn decent, the middle film, Ice Age: The Meltdown, is forgettable, and while all three were financially successful, I know few who think highly of that second chapter.

The same will likely be thought of the series' latest entry, Ice Age: Continental Drift. Sure, the animation is amazing, but in this day and age one wonders how it couldn't be, and yes, there are still moments, most of them unsurprisingly revolving around the put-upon half-rat, half-squirrel Scrat, but overall this latest prehistoric kid-friendly adventure is a gigantic drag. The story is tired, the characters don't charm nearly as much as they used to, and the whole thing feels uninspired and thrown together in a way that's oddly unappealing. In short, the fourth time isn't a charm, meaning we have an even-odd curse that's the flipside of the Star Trek one.

The basic scenario finds our primary heroes, mammoth Manny (Ray Romano), saber-toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary), and sloth Sid (John Leguizamo), separated from the rest of their heard and literally out to sea when the Teutonic Plates shift and start making their peaceful valley uninhabitable. In the middle of the ocean, the group finds themselves taken captive by pirate ape Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage) and his band of bloodthirsty shipmates. With time running out the trio must find a way to escape from this buccaneer's clutches, steal his ship, and return home, hopefully getting there before calamity befalls Manny's wife Ellie (Queen Latifah), daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer), and the rest of their herd, leaving them all as good as extinct.

In theory, this could be fine, the filmmakers coming up with a solid-enough family-friendly story that should please the series' legions of pint-sized fans. But none of it is connected, none of it feels complete, and the whole movie comes across as a series of disconnected ideas, never fleshed out or melded together. Subplots involving Peaches - her attempts to break away from her father's control and her friendship with prehistoric meerkat Louis (Josh Gad) - go nowhere, while a potentially cute one between Diego and his feline swashbuckling opposite Shira (Jennifer Lopez) starts out fine but quickly runs out of steam.

As vignettes some of this is amusing, most notably an out-of-left-field musical number sung by Dinklage and his crew, as well as a bizarre Braveheart reenactment (the less said about the better), and the sequences with Scrat still have a wickedly Chuck Jones-like charm that's undeniable. But on the whole, Ice Age: Continental Drift moves at a glacial pace. Here's hoping a sure-to-be-forthcoming fifth adventure keeps the up-and-down streak alive.




Soul survivors
Remembering the '90s with a little help from my friends

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Frank Ocean makes waves
Hip-hop sensation's story of same-sex love causes a stir

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Emmys 2012: And the nominees will be...
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Bookmarks: Melissa Scott mixes whodunit, Gay love, fantasy, and speculative fiction
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Breaking Bad star makes pro-marriage video
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SPT's silly summer comedy offers irresistible delight
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A Dyke About Town
k.d. lang creates constant craving

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Frank Ocean review in next week's issue
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APPROVE 74!
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Visually audacious Beasts wildly uneven
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New DVDs highlight Channing Tatum, Sarah Silverman, Whoopi, Madonna
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Fourth Ice Age saga is frozenly mundane
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Q-Scopes by Jack Fertig
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Northwest News
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