Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Birds, Brains, Bosses at the Movies

If you get Arise TV on your cable channel (Time Warner or Verizon), watch me talk movies on this coming weekend's edition of Arise On Screen hosted by Mike Sargent.  Because of the holiday, some features come out before Friday this week.  Here are my notes on films you can see at the cineplex this week before or after you get your lips on that turkey.

If you've got kids 13 years of age or younger, you can laugh with them at a new animated feature.  Chill out with The Penguins of Madagascar.  Four penguins with a weakness for crunchy cheese-flavored snacks are not the most sophisticated team of elite spies, but they somehow get the job done while fighting a foe and helping fellow penguins.

It's a 3D feature.  The animation of good, colorful and witty on its own.  There really wasn't any need for the added 3D effect.  There's plenty of action to keep the kids interested and it has enough hipster gags to make the grown-ups giggle.  One sly element:  Rico the Penguin seems to be the gay member of the penguin quartet.  Notice the kiss.  I loved the big bear undercover agent who has a fondness for cuddly penguins.  John Malkovich is a hoot as he voices the villain character.

Benedict Cumberbatch supplies the rich voice for the ace wolf, head of the slick and the coordinated undercover unit trying to work with the less-coordinated penguins.

The Penguins of Madagascar is totally cool and fine family fun.

Cumberbatch plays the head of another intellectual team in The Imitation Game.
I wrote about The Imitation Game earlier this month.  Based on the life of war hero Alan Turing, this fascinating thriller has World War II history and gay history that deserve attention.  This 1940s story is relevant today.  Keira Knightley co-stars and does some of the best film work of her career here as Turing's supportive, independent team member.
Nowadays we see entertainers, network journalists and sports stars come out of the closet and get celebrated.  In the 1980s, people like actor Neil Patrick Harris, news anchor Anderson Cooper, and NFL player Michael Sam might have been afraid to come out for fear of never working again.  Things are different now.  Very different.  Gay people are popular celebrities who attend top entertainment functions and pose with their partners on red carpets for press photographs.  Today's young gays and lesbians should never, ever think that this freedom, this embrace of diversity was always present.
Benedict Cumberbatch splendidly plays Alan Turing, a brilliant mathematician who was the godfather of today's computers.  His brain was a great computer.  In his youth, he was ostracized and bullied for being different.  As a man -- a gentleman who saved many lives -- he was ostracized and bullied after he broke Hitler's Enigma code which prevented the evil leader from killing more innocent people during World War II.
Turing was persecuted for revealing that he was homosexual.  The way society was at that time, being openly gay was illegal and his sexual revelation eclipsed this genius' phenomenal contributions to help Britain fight Hitler.  Read my earlier piece about this movie, if you have time.  See this film. The Imitation Game deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Picture of 2014.

Jason Bateman gives us a third movie this year.  His first of 2014 was Bad Words.  That comedy, which he directed and starred in, was followed by This Is Where I Leave You, a comedy/drama about family love and loss.  Horrible Bosses 2 is, obviously, a sequel.  The previous installment was pretty popular at the box office.

The story of a horrible boss is nothing new.  In the 1940s, there was The Devil and Miss Jones starring Jean Arthur as a department store clerk and Charles Coburn as her mean boss.  In the 1980s, there was 9 to 5.  Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton played secretaries who got their revenge on a horrible boss.  There's also the beloved yuletide story of a horrible boss, 1951's A Christmas Carol starring Alastair Sim as Charles Dickens' famed literary character, Ebenezer Scrooge.

All three of those classics are better than this sequel.  The three lead actors are very good.  They have excellent comic acting rhythm and chemistry together.  Unfortunately, they have a screenplay that runs out of steam about 45 minutes into the story.  Horrible Bosses 2 opens as the trio of losers promotes a shower invention on a way-too-perky morning TV news program.  The guys keep pitching their idea to whomever will listen.
The awesomely handsome Chris Pine plays a sleazy corporate exec who takes advantage of them -- and he's really good at playing a real sleaze.
I hear that Chris Pine just about steals the upcoming musical, Into The Woods, as Prince Charming. That's huge when you consider the musical fantasy also stars Meryl Streep.

Two time Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Christoph Waltz also stars as a mean boss.  Best Actor Oscar winner Jamie Foxx plays a tough dude advisor.  Foxx and Waltz starred in Django Unchained, the western drama for which Waltz won his second Oscar.  If you saw Christoph Waltz on Saturday Night Live, you know that he was one of the funniest guest hosts SNL had this year.  He killed in comedy sketches.  He and Foxx have no scenes together in this comedy sequel.  That was a missed opportunity.

Jennifer Aniston is in it.  She's oversexed, she's got dark hair, she talks dirty and she dresses as a dominatrix.  Her role seems like a planned movie move to take a giant step away from her wholesome Friends television image.  Yeah...she's a nasty girl with her kooky X-rated mouth in Horrible Bosses 2.

This is not a "date night" comedy movie.  It's more a "boys night out" movie due to the frat house-like humor.  Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day are sort of a modern day answer to The Three Stooges with Bateman as Moe.
I love the way Bateman does comedy.  Rent his Bad Words.  That summer feature deserved more attention than it got.  There's a nice emotional depth to that movie and a very good performance from Bateman.  There's a reason for the inappropriate language and his character's Scrooge-like verbal behavior.  Bateman was making a smart statement on the power of words and how we choose to use words as power tools.  Like his new sequel, Bad Words is also a revenge comedy -- and a much better one.  In Horrible Bosses 2, the crude language is there just to be crude and to get quick, easy laughs.  There are some laughs but the non-stop stupidity, especially from bearded Charlie Day's character, wears thin into the second hour.  You watch a bunch of talented actors work hard to lift a script that doesn't match their talents.

Happy Thanksgiving Day and have fun at the movies.

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