This week's new releases may include big-screen heavy-hitters like Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster and Mark Wahlberg, but you should be leery about letting the big-name hype draw you toward the ticket booth. Today, with the help of our critics, we're charting the six new releases from least- to most-worthy of your precious time and hard-earned dollar bills.
Williamstown, N.J. native Dexter Darden has a memorable supporting turn as Queen Latifah’s son Walter in the enjoyable new film Joyful Noise. The 20-year-old musician/actor holds his own on screen against both the Oscar-nominated actress and legendary country singer Dolly Parton. Darden, who grew up singing in church and at Victory Christian School, chatted with City Paper about getting his start from Paul Newman, Dolly Parton’s fried chicken and his favorite one-hit wonder.
City Paper: How did you get started in music and acting?
DD: My mother sent me to Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang camp [where] I did my Michael Jackson impersonation, and Newman saw the tape. He asked me to perform for the camp’s gala fundraiser. I got to perform with Kevin Kline, Whoopi Goldberg, Paul McCartney, Robin Williams and Jerry Seinfeld. Then, when I hit 13, Newman approached me and asked if I was interested in pursuing entertainment. I said it was something I wanted to do, but I was in school, getting good grades and playing basketball. But when I was 13, I took my first professional vocal lesson, and got an agent and manager and the rest took off from there.
Man Cave is a testosterone-laden Monday feature that highlights the weekend haps of a pop culture-loving Philly dude.
I rented Our Idiot Brother from one of those pharmacy Red Box DVD kiosks. Paul Rudd plays a Lebowski-esque family man, beloved to his sisters, mom and nephew. You can check out our review but I'd like to discuss the ensemble cast of hotties that populate the celluloid.
Zooey Dechanell: Enchanting as ever, the banged brunette plays a lesbian/sometimes bisexual who frequents spoken-word open mics. Perpetually rocking the hipster stewardess vibe, Zoey manages to refrain from singing in this one (which is neither here nor there, but I thought you'd like to know in case it comes up at quizzo).
Emily Banks: Blondie Magee fits in with her dark-haired family members by shelving her golden locks for a brunette wig. Normally, one of the most unilaterally smoking chicks in Hollywood, her unique character blend of phoniness and bitchiness in this flick earns her a rare (and temporary) banishment from my mental brothel.
Emily Mortimer: The intriguing beauty from Lars & The Real Girl plays the sheepish wife, unsure as to how to earn her distant hubby's affections, and desperate to be a good mom. Her befuddlement and lack of confidence fluctuates between off-putting and charming.
Got into my first — and last, since the director, actors and crew pretty much wrapped up shooting over the weekend — bit of trouble during a Friday night stroll by The Silver Linings Playbook set. As I was walking across Chestnut at Eighth across from the Ben Franklin Hotel (they were camped in the parking lot on Eighth for days), a pair of signs had been erected for a “Pairs Open Freestyle Dance Competition,” a set piece upon which Bradley Cooper would later film with Jennifer Lawrence in the wee early hours of Saturday morning.
No sooner had I raised my camera to snap the banners than a crew member shouted me down. No worries. I got a decent shot. Yet I wanted Icepack’s usual photographer, Scott Weiner, to get some snaps. He did just that last night, along with a few photos along Sansom Street’s Jewelers’ Row, where it’s Christmas every day. (Geez, could the crew not have bothered to take the banners and the lights down? Lazy bastards.)
Anyway, the cast and the crew did a wrap party at Stephen Starr’s un-used Tangerine space on Market Street, and all is right with the world.
Man Cave is a testosterone-laden Monday feature that highlights the weekend haps of a pop culture-loving Philly dude.
When I first saw Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, I was 18. It was the last time my parents took my little sister and me out to see a movie as a family. I hadn't read the books (still haven't). I wasn't into it. I considered it to be a kid's film and I — probably hungover — slept through most of the matinee. But when I heard that some of my buddies were going to be getting together to nerd out over this shiz, I knew it was time for my Hogwarts reboot.
The truth of the matter is, Harry Potter is very much a kid's film, complete with a pod race and everything. Also, I'm starting to wonder if any fantasy epic can exist without a prophesized "chosen one." Harry is simply the messianic descendant of Frodo, Neo, Luke Skywalker, dude from Dune and that young chick from Narnia. My apologies to the heads if these are out of order. Still, J.K. Rowling's version of Jedi powers are sorta badass in their own right. Harry's naive bravery and his buddies with unique skills are effectively nerdy in a way I can really appreciate.
Man On Wire was a different variety of wizardry. If you're unfamiliar with the British documentary about the French tightrope walker, check out City Paper's 2008 review. There's an encouraging dudeliness to Philippe Petit's patently illegal quests for high-altitude absurdity. Petit is the John Dillinger of high wire walking, and if you haven't seen his clutch appearance on The Colbert Report, cruise over to Colbert Nation. Then, stream the hell out of that docco on webflix.
As far as its placement in the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival is concerned, I Miss You (Te Extrano) is a strange choice. There is one subtle reference to the film’s principal family’s Jewish heritage and involvement in the Holocaust — but if this brief moment of dialogue is missed, one might spend the entire 105 minutes of the film waiting to understand how it is a commentary on the Jewish experience. Set in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the film is instead a fairly stereotypical account of a teenage boy’s struggle with self-understanding.
The protagonist, Javier (Fermin Volcoff), has been shoved into the shadows his entire life by older brother Adrian (Martin Slipak). Javier idolizes his brother’s bravery, electric personality and overall control of his own life decisions. He is frustrated with his own inability to emulate these qualities, he argues with his mother and father, is sexually intimidated around his high school crushes, and socially awkward around his older brother’s friends. If you’re still waiting to hear what separates this film from others about the tender teenage years — you and I both.
When Adrian disappears during a mission with his rebel involvement in the military coup of 1976, Javier is forced to reconsider his previous life aspirations, namely those to precisely fit his older brother’s course, and his character begins to quietly develop. Director Fabian Hofman chose to make this potentially pivotal moment in the film as gradual and passive as growing up typically occurs in real life. So, while this was an interesting structural decision on Hofman’s end, it leaves the film without momentum or climax. Hell, we don’t even get a sneak peek into the big moment during the amateur love scenes.
Ironically, given the predictable nature of the majority of the film, I Miss You ends on an unexpected note — one that may just be the jump-off point for a sequel that follows Javier in a more dynamic account of his dark, rebellious years as a young adult tormented by unresolved identity crises and daddy issues.
Nov. 13, Hiway Theater, gershmany.org/pjff.
If there was ever a relationship to prove the Latin proverb amor vincit omnia, it just might be the one featured in tonight’s Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival spotlight feature, Remembrance.
Director Anna Justice presents a story between two lovers — a Polish partisan, Tomasz (Mateusz Damiecki), and a German Jew, Hannah (Dagmar Manzel) — challenged by every predicament imaginable in 1944 Poland and the post-war years. Violently separated from each other without explanation of the others whereabouts, health or proof of death, the two try to march forward despite the undying torment of what could have been. The film is propelled by the recurring flashbacks to the past from which neither Tomasz or Hannah can seem to unclench their grip.
Unlike other films that are set during the Holocaust, which focus on the high degree of fear and suspense amid concentration camp conditions, Remembrance gets this out of the way within the first 20 minutes. From that point, new, less common challenges arise for the troubled couple. Tomasz’s vindictive mother tries endlessly to remove her son from the dangerous relationship, increasing Hannah’s chances of being recaptured; Hannah is alone, battling pregnancy despite malnutrition and severe illness, and then, after years without communication, both find themselves in tense marriage circumstances that are only further complicated by the inability to part ways with shared memories of the past.
[ C ] Little Rose (Róźyczka) was chosen for the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival for its political and religious commentary on 1968 Poland. The film takes place directly after the Six Days War, a conflict between Israel and Arab forces, which inspired a wave of riots and protests among Polish youth and intellectuals alike. Director Jan Kidawa-Blonski uses this backdrop to present the ways in which Poland’s communist government suppressed academic progress and prosecuted communist dissenters, especially those of Jewish heritage.
The film makes subtle reference to the ignorance of Polish government officials to handle the riots appropriately, as their prosecutions were haphazard, anti-Semitic and without concrete evidence. But aside from this mere glimpse at the historical context for the film, Kidawa-Blonski’s political motive seems to get hidden beneath the steamy triangular love plot among a stern security colonel, Roman Rozek, his girlfriend, and the colonel’s target, Warczewski, a respected Polish intellectual, writer and professor. The historical context gets hidden so well, in fact, that audiences without prior knowledge of communist Polish history might just miss it.
At first, when the colonel decides to use his girlfriend, the irresistible Kamila (Magdalena Boczarska), as a pawn to spy on Warczewski and prove his Zionist loyalty, he does not predict the consequences on both his government office and his bedroom.
In the romantic drama Like Crazy, Felicity Jones plays Anna, an English student at a Los Angeles college who develops a passionate romance with Jacob (Anton Yelchin). Their relationship hits a snag, however, when she willfully disregards her student visa guidelines, and is later unable to return to the States. Like Crazy chronicles this long-distance relationship over the ensuing years. City Paper met with Jones to talk about love, whiskey and crying on cue.
City Paper: You are getting considerable attention for this role — including a Gotham nomination for breakthrough performance. How do feel about all this attention?
Felicity Jones: It’s very surreal. It’s hard to see yourself in that way. I think my natural inclination is to focus on my work and hope that people like it.
CP: What attracted you to playing Anna? She can be very selfish and unsympathetic.
FJ: That’s what I worried when I first watched it. I thought, everyone’s going to hate this person …
CP: But that’s what makes her interesting.
FJ: Exactly! What I liked about her is that she pursues the guy. It’s by her own volition that the relationship happens. There is also an element of insanity about her. I wanted her obsession to be a focus. I’d just watched Breaking the Waves. I liked the idea of this person being completely overwhelmed in every sense by another human being, and willing to make huge sacrifices because of that — almost as if they can’t live without that person.
She was hunted in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, possessed in Zombieland and raped in North Country. Yet sharing the big screen with superstars like Jesse Eisenberg, Nicholas Cage and Seth Rogen (in Pineapple Express, for which she received the 2008 Young Hollywood Award) isn’t daunting for Amber Heard. The Friday Night Lights actress has created quite the name for herself, even co-producing a horror-mystery And Soon the Darkness. Now she’s swimming naked in the ocean as Chenault, a sexy socialite stuck in a materialistic world. She stars opposite Johnny Depp in The Rum Diary, a film based on Hunter S. Thompson’s novel about journalist Paul Kemp. And next year, Heard will star in Syrup, a film about young people viciously clawing their way through the corporate world.
City Paper: How did you prepare for the role of Chenault?
Amber Heard: I did a lot of research on what was going on at that time, what Hunter S. Thompson was living through, and how those around him affected him. There’s a wonderful biography on him that I read, which was very helpful. I’ve also been a Thompson fan for a long time. I’ve read the book before and loved it. So with all of that, I came into the movie as prepared — and yet as open — as I could to be.
CP: What drew you to your character?
AH: I decided to audition for Chenault because it was a project that I believed in, a message that I supported, a novel that I loved, written by an artist I immensely respected, going to be a movie directed by a director I loved, to play opposite one of the best actors alive, and to be in a beautiful place like Puerto Rico. I did it for every reason. And it didn’t hurt that my character gave me room to build as an artist a real character. I always struggle to find three-dimensional roles for women who are just beautiful or sexy and nothing else. The opportunity to really be able to make something out of a blank canvas was interesting. My character appears — at surface level — to be the archetype for the ’50-’60s trophy fiancée. She’s very much a member of this elite class who came to Puerto Rico and saw the beautiful beach and just saw money. She and Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) are very much a part of this system but are also imprisoned by it. She’s in a gilded cage. She’s a commodity that men like Sanderson seek to own. On the surface, she’s the icon of the American Dream, like the Corvette, yet there’s much more to her. She is flawed and slightly broken and troubled on the inside, but also fiercely intelligent and independent and rebellious. In many ways, she’s the opposite of what she looks.
CP: Do you think Chenault is the embodiment of American Dream because people like Sanderson ascribe that to her, or do they worship her because she was already like that?
AH: I think it’s both, one feeds into the other, it’s a cycle. People like Sanderson aren’t forcing any other characters to be one way or another. I believe that Chenault came from a wealthy dad and is expected to marry a wealthy man. The problem is that that lifestyle doesn’t make her happy as we meet her, and in her rebellious nature she learns that there’s a whole lot more to life.
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