Club Indigo to feature Strictly Ballroom
HOUGHTON -- Mu Beta Psi music fraternity presents the June Club Indigo at the
Calumet Theatre Friday, June 21, with a light-hearted romantic comedy from Australia.
Strictly Ballroom is the 1992 multi-award winning first movie from Baz Luhrmann
(Romeo & Juliet and Moulin Rouge). It's an offbeat, cheerfully tacky dance/romance that amusingly turns every
movie cliché slightly askew. The hero rejects the usual rules for ballroom dancing to the horror of his parents and all the
traditionally oriented dancers. He finds new techniques and love, thanks to the daughter of Latin parents. A Romeo and Juliet
conflict emerges, culminating at the BIG dance contest, when all goes well with parents and judges alike.
It's a spirited, allegorical musical -- a definite crowd-pleaser that emerges a sure-fire winner.
To augment the Aussie film, an all-Australian buffet, catered by Chef Chris of Northern Lights in Houghton, will be served at 6 p.m.,
the movie following at 7:15 p.m. Cost is still $13 for both, $3.50 for the film alone. Reservations for the buffet: call the theatre
More movies in town
WINDTALKERS (Rated R for graphic violence and army language): Except for the novelty of a plot based on the use of Navajo "code talkers" during the Second World War and the splashy but vividly impressive use of color, this is standard war film fare dating back to
Sands of Iwo Jima et al.
There's a little bit of everything from the 40s war flicks: the blood and guts bravado of men being tested under fire, the buddy bonding in lulls between the battles, the women left behind, a touch of racism overcome, and even John Wayne dialog, like "Ya done good, real good."
But there are plusses here, making the movie well worth the time spent on it. To begin with, director John Woo puts his talent for raging action to good use, particularly in the battle scenes; he makes them come to life almost too realistically (and almost too frequently), but always powerfully. His familiarity with the old war films is evident; he carries out all the
clichés smoothly enough to make the director of Iwo Jima -- Allan Dwan -- proud.
He also brings out the best in his lead actors. Nicholas Cage is strong as the guilt-ridden, hardened soldier, and newcomer Adam Beach is believable as the gentle Navajo whom Cage is ordered to protect. Roger Willie as the other Navajo in the communication system is also surprisingly good. The rest are cast pretty much as traditional, recognizable types -- the taunting racist, the brave guy under fire turning coward, cowards becoming heroes, etc. They are equally well portrayed, and because we instantly recognize them as "types," there is little need to flesh them out. For a couple of hours of retro-war-film excitement, frighteningly realistic battle sequence and the introduction of a moral dilemma (military obedience over the value of life), this movie will suffice. (Grade: B+)
THE BOURNE IDENTITY (PG-13 for mild violence and profanity): The only original addition to this fairly traditional spy thriller is the fact that our hero operates with a loss of
memory, though retains sufficient awareness of a former role as a CIA employee on a mission.
He finds himself ironically no longer the hunter, but the hunted, and must battle his way through a host of CIA allies-turned-enemies now that he becomes a threat rather than a useful accomplice.
So we have a traditional hero fleeing -- with the ubiquitous, adventurous woman as romantic
interest -- between Paris and Zurich. Using his recalled prowess and spy talents,
he slips in and out of the grasp of the ubiquitous men always hot in pursuit, out to eliminate them.
The action is a bit far-fetched, and the confrontations occasionally are implausible enough to be unintentionally amusing rather than suspenseful, but it moves at a pace rapid enough to sustain interest -- at least while it's being watched. There is one truly thrilling sequence -- a car chase through the narrow streets of Paris and along the Seine; more of the same would at least provide more excitement to the film.
Matt Damon fares better as a spy than does his old pal Afleck in his recent thriller, but at times even he seems out of water when required to perform with a maturity and depth beyond his ken. Franka Potente, on the other hand, in the role of his free-spirited friend, proves that her previous role in
Run Lola Run is not just accidentally good; with greater presence she often outshines her
co-star; and it is she, not Damon, who makes the romance between them something of interest.
Robert Ludlum's 1980 novel, from which the movie is broadly taken, likely provides more than the stereotypical situations found here. What we
have -- instead of a truly suspenseful, novel bit of entertainment -- becomes nothing more than an updated relic made interesting by the introduction of contemporary electronic devices to give it a modern spy thriller
touch. (Grade: B-)
SCOOBY-DOO (PG for some gross-out humor): brings with it all the trappings of the original TV animated series that ran for ages, gathering thousands of fans along the way -- fans who might find this barely updated version a happy throw-back to weekend morning memories.
Its humor is still based on thrilling escapes from one silly situation to another, improbable non-stop action and insipid dialog from relatively mindless people. It's also another flick about saving the world, in this case from ugly demons. The major change is that, except for a digitally animated Scooby and the ferocious demons, the multi-million dollar sets are real and the rest of the cast is still inane, but also real. The mix often is not smoothly created, but who cares -- the kids will love it anyway.
Taking the film on its own juvenile terms, it's strictly kid stuff, though it must be admitted the sets alone are extravagantly constructed and are more interesting to watch than the helter-skelter show itself. Of course, for the very young in the head (and that includes anyone who thinks, for example, a flatulence contest that goes on forever is funny), this movie could be considered entertaining. (Grade: C-)
DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD (rated PG-13 for mature themes
and profanity): No doubt about it, this is a chick-flick, to be relished by sisterhoods and despised by brotherhoods.*
(See Note below.)
Adapted from a pair of feminist novels by Rebecca Wells and brought to the screen by writer/director Callie Khouri (already known for her
Thelma and Louise), the comedy/drama runs back and forth over three periods of time in the lives of a quartet of women (the Ya-Ya sisterhood) and their offspring.
The focus is on the daughter of one of these Southern "Golden Girls" and her mother, who early in the film have an outing of gigantic proportions over a mis-written article about the two of them in
Time Magazine and the resultant unasked-for aid from the other three "Girls."
How the spat is resolved how the daughter develops an insight to her fear of growing up married with children of her own is a Hollywood-styled solution, and that includes a tear-jerker ending that satisfies anyone willing to swallow it.
The leaps in time are sometimes confusing; one must figure out which period is which, where they are, and who is who without much help. At least the fact that they are Southern belles is obvious by their drawl, their drinking bouts and their chivalric meddling.
This All-Girl Production is measured out to reach all-girl audiences, and it should succeed if they ignore the choppiness of sequences and the confusing lapses in editing (well, that's the only explanation I have for the fact that people appear and disappear without being defined in the leaps through childhood, adolescence and adulthood scenes) to appreciate what is truly wonderful about the film.
When the Ya-Ya sisters are on center stage, bickering and plotting, the film is grand farce. The robust portrayals of the older women spout the best lines in the film, like, "Ever since you stopped drinking you haven't been able to think clearly," or "Don't look at me in that tone of voice!"
On the other hand, when the serious conflicts butt in, melodrama takes over, thick as country sorghum.
It is obvious, too, that this first direct by Ms. Khouri is incapable of developing rich characterizations; instead she relies on them to mold their own characters with their respective talents; that means it works best with the old pros, with the older women and with an aging James Garner as one husband, while others,
including Sandra Bullock, lack that ability to bring much depth to theirs. The one exception might be Ashley Judd, who appears in flashbacks to the girls' adolescent period.
In the main, while there's just too much left out and too little time spent on clear development of plot and characters, this is one chick-flick* that is guaranteed to please any woman willing to forgive its faults -- and almost worth sitting through to enjoy the redeeming talents of the older actresses -- Ellen Burstyn, Fionnula Flanagan, Maggie Smith and Shirley Knight. (Grade: C+)
BAD COMPANY (PG-13 for violence, profanity and sexual situations -- all rather mild): The opening scene to this James Bondish look-alike spy thriller gives some indication of the film's only pleasurable surprise -- the magnificent camera work of cinematographer Daiusz Wolski. Lovingly beautiful glimpses of Prague and its environs, starkly dramatic shots in seedy portions of New Jersey, and moodily lit action shots everywhere bring a certain enjoyment, an appreciation, that at least something here is worth looking at.
Well, that and the surprisingly controlled acting of Chris Rock -- whose portrayal of a guy caught in a spy plot so
clichéd one feels that sequence after sequence have been lifted directly from past spy thrillers.
The bad in the title refers, I'm afraid, to that plot as well as to the incongruity of Rock's comic portrayal which, however nicely subdued, is oddly juxtaposed with the sobering spy thriller
clichés. In fact, what happens is that one can't help but chuckle at the stereotypical action scenes -- the shoot-em-outs with the counter-spies, the street chases, etc. -- all so familiar in lesser films they become farcical rather than suspenseful.
Even the characters are stereotypes, with the good spies in black suits, white shirts and dark ties, while the bad guys are easily spotted with their ubiquitous guns of fashion, their swarthy skin, unshaven faces, black leather jackets, heavy accents and darkly menacing vans.
The plot? Oh, the usual: the good guys recruit an unwilling, simple street guy to help them save the world from a pack of Eastern Europeans with a powerful nuclear bomb. He performs that miracle with the aid of a chief agent (played by Anthony Hopkins with casual ease) -- in less than a fortnight. Yeah, sure. (Grade: C-)
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