What has become of movie stars? I just saw Ready Player One for the second time, this time in 3D IMAX, and really enjoyed T.J. Miller as the only actor who is totally virtual reality, in contrast to the other actors who are real life and VR within the same film. And then earlier this week, Miller gets arrested for phoning in a fake bomb threat.
The previously mentioned charge far exceeds drunk texting or leaving rude comments on Facebook. Seems like Miller is in deep doo doo and will need more than the backing of the Kennedy clan in Chappaquiddick to skate away free.
But real life always eclipses the staged reality of movies based on real life.
Then you get a historical biopic that demands reality and animates same. Although it’s basically a PG cartoon feature film aimed at kids, Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero tells the true story of the most decorated animal during the first World War, a.k.a. The War to End All Wars.
Sgt. Stubby was a stray Boston Terrier that started hanging out with the 102nd Infantry Division as they trained on the campus of Yale University prior to their assignment in WWI. One of the soldiers (voiced by Logan Lerman) smuggles Stubby on board the troop transport ship taking them to France. When the commanding officer discovers the canine, Stubby salutes him. Once in the trenches, it’s reported that Stubby with his superior hearing skills would warn soldiers of incoming artillery strikes and that he even captured a German by grasping onto his trousers until his fellow troops arrived.
Sgt. Stubby the movie plays loose with some of the four-legged warrior’s legend by adding a friendly French soldier (Gerard Depardieu) as comic relief. Helena Bonham Carter also lends voice talent as Lerman’s sister who narrates based on his letters to home.
The animation itself rates on the middle of the cartoon scale, while not actually full of fluffy detail like a Pixar film yet far from primitive in its style. Stubby will likely appeal specifically to adult history buffs who can appreciate his contribution to folklore. In the end Sgt. Stubby was welcomed home as a war hero, led parades, met multiple Presidents and after his passing in 1926 was “skinned and mounted on a plaster cast” in the Smithsonian Institute.
Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero opens wide this weekend.
Finding Your Feet proves that the grey hairs can still feel romance and passion and occasionally rock and roll with the best of them. An uppercrust wife with a title leaves her husband of decades after discovering he’s been shagging her best friend for years. The British comedy stars a lovable ensemble that includes Imelda Stauton, Timothy Spall, Joanna Lumley and Celia Imrie.
Moving in with her more sensible sister, the siblings immediately resume their one-time rivalry, which consists of pro-war and anti-war attitudes that defined their youthful idealistic behavior.
What elevates Finding Your Feet above an average film is the way director Richard Loncraine manipulates events to make the audience at first hiss and then root for the betrayed wife. The sisters and their friends enter a dance contest, which takes place in Italy and sets the stage for some apt food fetish shots. At this point, Finding Your Feet becomes Pitch Perfect for the senior set.
Finding Your Feet opens exclusively at the River Oaks Theatre this weekend.
Michelle Pfeiffer reminds audiences what a fantastic actress she always has been with her stunning performance in Where Is Kyra?
Kitchen sink realism meets gritty poverty as Kyra deals with her mother’s death simultaneously with an eviction notice. Perhaps as a diversion, or maybe because he buys the drinks, she takes up with a younger tenant in her apartment building played by Kiefer Sutherland.
Forced by circumstance to illegally cash her mothers’s pension checks (still arriving in the mail as poor people are not afforded the dignity of having their demise noted officially), Pfeiffer dons a wig, sunglasses and shabby clothes and heads down to the bank aided by a cane and a raspy voice.
Pfeiffer, to her credit, allows the camera to capture all of her facial wrinkles with the same candidness with which she undresses in the course of the film. Director Andrew Dosunmu literally uses such low light levels that most of the film is shaded in what can only be described as a darkness of destitution.
Where Is Kyra? opens exclusively at the Premiere Renaissance Theatre (I-45 and Beltway 8).
Fans of Elvis may think they know all there is to know about The King but the HBO documentary Elvis Presley: The Searcher may shine a light on a few salient facts that were previously obscured by the clouds of his memory.
Elvis Presley: The Searcher is only concerned with Elvis the entertainer and as such focuses specifically on his movies and live performances. If you’ve ever wondered at the chronology of Elvis’ induction into the Army, wonder no more.
Elvis was given a deferment after he was drafted so he could finish filming King Creole (helmed by Casablanca director Michael Curtiz) in 1958. During basic training, Elvis was granted a leave of absence to attend the funeral of his beloved mother. If you’ve read “Last Train to Memphis” by Peter Guralnick (which is not mentioned in the HBO doc), you know that Elvis cried inconsolably at the funeral. After serving two years with a regiment in Germany, also where Elvis met Pricilla, Elvis returned to movies but not to the stage.
The Searcher keeps returning to Elvis’ 1968 network television special, which was literally his first live performance in a decade.
Current rock luminaries like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, as well as members of his original 1950s band like Scotty Moore, and of course Priscilla Presley, lend their voice-over commentaries to the proceedings.
Perhaps not oddly, the one fact that blew me away was that Elvis’ manager Colonel Tom Parker was not an American citizen. As such, Col. Parker never allowed Elvis to tour overseas as he was worried that he himself would not be allowed back into the United States. Yet Parker orchestrated the first live worldwide satellite broadcast of Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii to theaters around the globe.
Elvis Presley: The Searcher premieres on HBO the night of Saturday, April 14.