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Thumbnails Jul 14

by Tony Medley

Jersey Boys (10/10): Director Clint Eastwood is a musician who loves music and pays it the deference it is due by playing each song in full, filmed live with no lip-syncing. The result is a Four Seasons concert combined with no-holds-barred story of the rise and travails of the group, three of whom were small time criminals.

Life Itself (10/10): This gives a little-appreciated view of film critic Roger Ebert, graphically showing him courageously living the last days of his life unable to speak and without a jaw. It shows the aid of a saintly wife, as well as most of his life before his illness, including the antagonistic relationship with TV co-host Gene Siskel with revealing clips of them carping at each other between takes shooting trailers for their show.

Beyond the Edge: (9/10): With magnificent cinematography and stunningly beautiful scenery, Edmund Hillary and others tell in their own words from recorded interviews of his conquest of Mount Everest with archival color films of the actual climb and some recreations; rating as one of the best mountain-climbing movies.

Edge of Tomorrow (9/10): This gripping, humorous time-travel movie starts out on a high note with a fine confrontation between Major Tom Cruise, a smarmy PR man, and General Brendan Gleeson that lets Tom know what the army is all about. Thoroughly engrossing, it’s extremely well-directed with humor and pace by Doug Liman, who doesn’t allow the special effects to overshadow the story. Cruise does a terrific job of acting and his comedic talent makes the film something totally unexpected.

Blended (8/10): Despite good performances by leads Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, the biggest star of the movie is The Palace Hotel of the Lost City, the biggest hotel in the Sun City Resort, South Africa. It’s so eye-poppingly spectacular that I originally thought it must be movie magic through green screen, but apparently it’s real. Filled a wonderful amalgam of African music, old favorites, and a few new songs, this is a movie that makes one leave feeling good and wanting more.

Third Person (8/10): Writer/director Paul Haggis used Michelangelo Antonioni’s germinal 1966 “Blow Up” as a touchstone in making this film, because both provide an exposition of the relationship of reality to illusion. The finale is exceptionally thought-provoking for those who have not been lost by the almost two and a half hour runtime. Mila Kunis sparkles above the outstanding ensemble cast, all of whom give fine performances.

Le Chef (8/10): Among the delights is aspiring chef Michaël Young’s pregnant girlfriend, Raphaëlle Agogue, one of the most beautiful actresses extant. But the film belongs to Young who gives a tour-de-force as the ambitious, perfectionist chef. His scene with Three Star chef Jean Reno when they invade a competitor’s restaurant dressed as a Japanese and his geisha works because of Young’s performance and his makeup which makes him astonishingly believable as a geisha.

Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger (7/10):  Surprisingly, this shocking documentary is as much an indictment of the FBI and law enforcement as it is of notorious crime boss and murderer, James “Whitey” Bulger.

Venus in Fur (4/10): Oscar®-winner Roman Polanski’s two-person film so overemphasizes Emmanuelle Seigner’s (Polanski’s wife) voluptuous breasts they constantly upstage both actors, detracting from her fine performance as someone who is clearly not what she seemed when she walked into the theater late to audition for a part.

 22 Jump Street (0/10): Reminiscent of John McEnroe’s memorable rant, “You cannot be serious!,” some might claim that this is a really subtle “inside baseball” satire mocking buddy movies and male bonding, that Channing Tatum’s typically wooden performance is brilliantly camp, and that it’s all a big joke. That’s a meager excuse for a film that is inexcusably coarse, philistine, and excruciatingly unfunny.