Film screens at local theatres are filled with summer movie releases
By Skip Sheffield
Tom Cruise is back.
First he made a hilarious appearance as obnoxious producer Les Grossman, dancing with Jennifer Lopez at the MTV awards.
Now he stars with Cameron Diaz in “Knight and Day,” a live-action cartoon that spoofs Cruise’s identity as unflappable action hero.
Cruise is Ron Miller, an invincible super-secret double CIA agent who collides in the Wichita airport with the life of June Havens (Cameron Diaz), a gearhead girl whose pride and joy is the 1967 GTO that belonged to her daddy.
June restores collector cars for a living. She is in Wichita to buy a couple of carburetors. Her next destination is Boston, where she will be a bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding.
Suddenly June’s reservation is cancelled because the plane is allegedly over-booked. At the last minute the flight is back on again. The plane is nearly empty except for a handful of men including Ron Miller (Cruise), the stranger who had collided with June minutes earlier.
Ron and June flirt, and while she is in the ladies room, Ron springs into action and dispatches everyone on the plane, including the pilot. No problem, Ron says, I’ll just crash-land in a cornfield and we’ll be on about our way.
“Knight and Day” is homage to great mystery-man, damsel-in-distress movies like “Charade” and “To Catch a Thief.” Director James Mangold (“3:10 to Yuma”) doesn’t expect us to believe the preposterous plot for a moment. For the record it concerns an infinite power source invented by geeky Simon Feck (Paul Dano), who is in Ron’s protection against a parade of bad guys in Boston, New York, the Azores, Spain and Austria.
Cruise, who turns 48 July 3, appears to be having great fun parodying his fearless Ethan Hunt character in “Mission Impossible.” Cameron Diaz is as beautiful as ever, whether cowering in fear or flashing her sexy million-watt smile. If you want to see beautiful people having fun in exotic locations while smashing cars and dodging imaginary bullets, this is your flick.
Joan Rivers a fearless survivor
Say what you will about Joan Rivers, she is one remarkable, brave and brutally honest woman.
I am not a Rivers basher. I got to see the human side of her 25 years ago, when by a fluke I ended up spending a day with her in a limo ride to Miami and back to speak to a group of students.
“Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” goes to great lengths to humanize a comedian who has become a caricature of herself.
This documentary by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg was filmed over the course of a year, as Rivers was turning 75 (she turned 76 June 8).
Interspersed with contemporary footage are vintage clips from early in her career, before Rivers embarked on all the plastic surgery that would turn her into a smooth-faced, puffy-lipped freak.
Rivers apologizes for nothing; not the face-lifts, the Botox, the filthy mouth, her extravagant lifestyle or her neediness. Joan Rivers is a performance junkie of the first order. Without her bully pulpit of concerts and comedy clubs she would die, quite literally, like her husband Edgar Rosenberg, who committed suicide in 1987, three months after the late night talk show produced by Rosenberg and starring Rivers was cancelled.
It has been said that great comedy comes of pain, and Rivers certainly has had her share of pain. One of her most painful losses was the abandonment of her one-time champion, Johnny Carson, when she launched her own talk show in a competing time slot.
Pity not Joan Rivers. If it weren’t for her, we wouldn’t have such brazen female comics as Kathy Griffin and Sarah Silverman.
“She is the master of sticking in there,” acknowledges Kathy Griffin. No one survives funnier than Joan Rivers.
‘High Rollers’ a fact-based drama
If “Holy Rollers” weren’t based on actual incidents, one might be tempted to dismiss it as too far-fetched.
First-time director Kevin Asch and screenwriter Antonio Macia swear this cautionary tale was based on actual events in 1998, when a small group of Hasidic Jews were busted for smuggling more than 1 million ecstasy pills from Amsterdam to New York City over the course of a year.
How could members of one of the most conservative, Orthodox sects of Judaism be involved in such a crime?, one might ask. The short answer is naivety. A longer answer involves temptation, greed and weakness of spirit.
Sam Gold (Jesse Eisenberg) is a 20-year-old member of Brooklyn’s Hasidic Jewish community. He works in his father’s clothing business, but the family hopes he will be inspired to become a rabbi.
Sam’s best friend Yosef (Justin Bartha) introduces him to a slick operator named Jackie Solomon (Danny A. Abeckaser). Jackie says the guys can make some quick cash simply by transporting “medicine” from Holland to America. Because Hasidic Jews are considered above reproach it would be unlikely they would be troubled too much by customs authorities.
With his innocent, boyish face, Sam certainly doesn’t look like a drug runner, and the fact he is attracted to Jackie’s pretty girlfriend Rachel (Ari Graynor) makes the deal all the more attractive.
It’s a story as old as the Book of Genesis. If you know the Bible or the Torah, you know once a man yields to temptation, there is the devil to pay.
As inevitable as the fate of Sam Gold is, Jesse Eisenberg keeps it interesting by his convincing characterization of a truly naïve, basically good young man who is quickly changed into someone quite unrecognizable, and totally heedless of his peril.
Shot in just 18 days, “Holy Rollers” has a rough documentary feel to it. It is certainly not a feel-good movie. I can’t imagine what niche audience it fits. There are bad apples in every kind of religion. In an increasingly mistrustful world, no one is above suspicion.
Two and a half stars