‘English ‘Anatomy’ and ‘Scandal;’ slam-bang bank heist

| April 28, 2022 | 0 Comments

ANATOMY of a Scandal stars Michelle Dockery.

Anatomy of a Scandal (10/10): Six one-hour episodes. TV-MA. I prefer to read a good book before I see a good film. Alas, I did not read this book (by Sarah Vaughn), but this is a series I could not turn off. Sienna Miller gives a boffo performance as the wife of a British MP, Rupert Friend. Rupert is accused of rape and put on trial, prosecuted by Michelle Dockery. Friend and Dockery also give fine performances in this brilliantly written series, as this trial winds through their lifetimes, shown in flashbacks, threatening them all, and the British government itself. Six hours and not one slow minute. Netflix.

A Very English Scandal (9/10): Three one-hour episodes. TV-14. Unlike “Anatomy…,” supra, this is a true story. Hugh Grant plays notorious Jeremy Thorpe, the leader of the British Liberal Party from 1967-76, who was undone by a homosexual scandal. This is told in a comedic fashion and is a treat to watch. Grant gives his usual charming performance, but the rest of the cast is outstanding, especially Ben Whishaw, playing his gay lover / nemesis, Norman Scott. Prime.

Ambulance (8/10): 136 minutes. R. One thing about director Michael Bay — he knows action, even if one must suspend disbelief. This is a slam-bang, nonstop bank heist film with bullets flying everywhere and ridiculous car chases that doesn’t let up until the last five minutes. There’s a saying on Broadway that you should never end a musical with a ballad. You want your audience to exit the theater on a lively, uplifting song that makes them happy and feel good. Bay should have followed this advice because he ends this snappy, involving film with five (approximately; I didn’t actually time it, but it seemed like an eternity) of the slowest minutes one will ever experience in a theater. Up until then, though, it’s silly Hollywood fun.

Father Stu (8/10): 125 minutes. R. While this is “based on a true story,” it gets enough of it right to be a remarkable tale of surprising faith — an uncouth amateur boxer who gets a remarkable vocation (akin to St. Paul on the road to Damascus), only Father Stu was pursuing an enchanting woman (Teresa Ruiz) when the lightning struck. In a normal time, Mark Wahlberg would be an odds-on favorite for an Oscar for his performance, but this is not a normal time, and the movie is a sympathetic tale about a Catholic priest. If you can be that un-woke, this is a surprising tale of a remarkable man, aided by fine supporting performances by Mel Gibson, Jackie Weaver and Malcolm McDowell. The film closes with pictures of the real Father Stu.

Aline (7/10): 128 minutes. PG-13. Claiming to be “freely inspired” by the life of Celine Dion, this is a nonetheless enjoyable tale of a young woman, the last child of fourteen, born into genteel and happy poverty in Quebec of a musically-inclined family. Aline Dieu (two-time César Award winner Valérie Lemercier, who also directed and wrote) exhibits unusual ability at an early age. The film tracks her from extreme youth (5 years old), through her meeting with manager Guy-Claude Kamar (Sylvain Marcel), to stardom. Along the way Aline falls in love with Kamar, even though he is several decades older. Her mother is in stern opposition, due to the age differential, but Aline knows what she wants.

There isn’t a lot of music. What there is — parts of songs like “My Heart Will Go On,” “River Deep, Mountain High” and “What a Wonderful World,” voiced by award-winning French singer Victoria Sio (not Lemercier, but she does as good a job of lip syncing as Larry Parks did in 1946’s “The Jolson Story”) — is enjoyable.

Although the film shows some lows, this is basically a happy, feel-good tale.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (6/10): 105 minutes. R. Sometimes you wonder how some people come to be an actor. Epitomizing that is Nicholas Cage. He is not movie-star handsome; as Dorothy Parker was alleged to have said about Katharine Hepburn, his expression of emotions runs the gamut from A to B. (Parker said it was a joke and that she admired Hepburn’s acting; further, some allege that the aphorism could be attributed to critic William Winter in the 19th century or to Jonathan Swift in the 18th century.) But I digress. Cage plays himself and also his alter ego in this parody of his career. One has to be a Cage connoisseur to get some of the in-jokes. Fortunately (well, not really, because they were sitting right behind me and that is enormously annoying) my screening was also a sneak preview and had laugh shills who laughed on cue when there were some personal references which most normal people would not get. Still, this is light-hearted nonsense involving the mob that some might find enjoyable. The cinematography of Dubrovnik is gorgeous. Kudos to Cage for being able to poke fun at himself.

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Category: Entertainment

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