Arts & Culture

Movies: "Blue Jasmine"

Movies: "Blue Jasmine"

After his disappointing “To Rome with Love,” Woody Allen is back in top form with this heartbreaking comedy, loosely based on “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

 

Our modern-day Blanche DuBois is Jasmine (she changed it from Jeanette), played to perfection by Cate Blanchette.  We first see her prattling on to an unlucky seatmate aboard a plane landing in San Francisco, where she will seek the kindness of strangers and her estranged sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins, always wonderful).

 

Movies: "Lee Daniels' The Butler"

Movies: "Lee Daniels' The Butler"

 

“Lee Daniels’ The Butler” (they had to add the director’s name to the title to avoid conflict with an earlier movie titled “The Butler”) is a heartfelt and often moving story about an African-American White House butler who served eight presidents -- and about the civil rights struggle that he and the nation witnessed during his tenure.

 

It also features an all-star cast, with some of Hollywood’s biggest names in the roles of assorted presidents, plus Oprah Winfrey.

 

Movies: "2 Guns"

Movies: "2 Guns"

 

Actually, there are a lot more than two guns in this slickly-made action movie.  

 

There are a couple of direct references to the work of the late, great action director Sam Peckinpah (“The Wild Bunch”):  a scene in which a band of Mexican banditos do some target practice on chickens buried in the desert sand (“Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid”) and another bandito’s lopped-off head glimpsed in a satchel (“Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia”).  But Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur (“Contraband”) amps up the action even more than Peckinpah did.  (The screenplay by Blake Masters is based on the appropriately-named Boom!

Movies: "Fruitvale Station"

Movies: "Fruitvale Station"

Arriving on the heels of the George Zimmerman trial, this is a fact-based movie about another horrific incident: the fatal shooting of an unarmed, young black man by an Oakland, California transit cop.  It happened on the morning of New Year’s Day, 2009, and sparked protests and violence around the San Francisco area. 

Michael B. Jordan (who played Wallace in “The Wire”) is Oscar Grant, a 22-year old with a loving girlfriend, Sophina (Melonie Diaz) and a cherubic daughter, Tatiana (7-year old Ariana Neal).  But Oscar is no saint.  When we first encounter him, Sophina is furious over an affair he’s had with another woman.  He’s just lost his job at a supermarket for chronic lateness, and (speaking of chronic) he’s got an ounce of marijuana to peddle.

Movies: "The To Do List"

Movies: "The To Do List"

 

What’s not to like about Aubrey Plaza?  Her deadpan role as April Ludgate on “Parks & Recreation” is second only to Nick Offerman’s meat chomping Ron Swanson among the supporting players of that great cast.  She was also good in last year’s quirky time-travel movie, “Safety Not Guaranteed.”

 

But unfortunately, she just doesn’t have the chops to carry this teen sex comedy to a higher level than most others.