Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Movies’

50 Shades of Harang

February 11, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies, Sex No Comments →

Admittedly, I saw the movie because I expected it to be awful. In fact I wanted it to be terrible, because it’s fun to write reviews of bad movies, especially if they have legions of clueless, sensitive defenders. Now I wish it were awful, not just because it’s deathly boring, but because its core audience will probably agree with me. I am united with the 50 Shades fandom, Noooooo!

Even before the movie opened, media outlets had noted the lack of chemistry between the leads, Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan. Dakota, daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, looks very much like her dad, so if you have a Miami Vice fetish, the movie might work for you. However, she has none of her parents’ rude vitality. Okay, she’s a bit of a clod—Don Johnson as a manang—but that is the point of the book, that a plain-seeming, ordinary girl would have something that a hot billionaire cannot find elsewhere. Don’t ask me what it is, I skipped entire chapters.

Read our review at

“Anastasia” made us think of the Prince song “Anna Stesia”, which is sexier than the entire movie we just saw. (We took out the thing that doesn’t stop playing, but you can listen to it here.)

Holy crap, we enjoyed Jupiter Ascending

February 09, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 1 Comment →

Mila Kunis’s Jupiter in a gown designed by Michael Cinco

The reviews are so terrible, the box-office so bad (The Spongebob movie kicked its ass) that we had to see for ourselves if the Wachowskis’s Jupiter Ascending deserved such general excoriation, and we found ourselves enjoying the movie.

True, we saw it in 4DX and the constant rumbling and shaking of our seats probably made it more fun than the regular cinema experience (Will 50 Shades of Grey be available in 4DX?), and our sister’s screen saver is the Magic Mike XXL trailer so she can’t really comment on Jupiter’s aesthetic qualities. However, we were greatly entertained by the space adventures of cleaning lady Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) who, unbeknownst to herself, is the reincarnation of the queen of the universe.

With the help of disgraced space-cops Caine (Channing Tatum with prosthetic ears) and Stinger (Sean Bean, whose character we expected to get killed any instant because he is played by Sean Bean), she must face the galactic ruling family Abrasax, which has nasty plans for earth. The dynasty is represented by evil capitalists Balem (Eddie Redmayne) and Titus (Douglas Booth) who regard earthlings as a resource to be harvested and sold (Like in the Wachowskis’ The Matrix, where humans are batteries). We know they are evil because they are very pretty, fine-boned Brits, and because Eddie can only speak in a whisper-shout.

The sets are gorgeous and the action sequences are spectacular; it’s a thrilling ride, which in 4DX is literally that. We were delighted to see James D’Arcy and other cast members of the badly-treated Cloud Atlas (We assume that Hugo Weaving played all the spectators), and Terry Gilliam as a bureaucrat in a nod to Brazil.

Douglas Booth engages Mila Kunis in a beauty contest.

Why all the hate for a big, silly spectacle which does not pretend to know the meaning of life? Because the Wachowskis’s movies are expected to answer all the cosmic questions (or at least ask you to choose between a blue pill and a red pill), and because the Matrix movies were over-praised and too successful. Also it doesn’t have that “Yeah! Woo! Who’s the queen of the universe, bitch?” ending that audiences demand.

Whiplash asks: Can talent be tortured into greatness?

January 31, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies, Music 2 Comments →

Read our column at Meanwhile, here’s Buddy Rich.

Into the Woods is pleasant, forgettable fluff

January 29, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies, Music 1 Comment →

Even Sondheim fans suspect that in the Sondheim oeuvre, Into The Woods is a charming bit of fluff with a couple of good songs—No One Is Alone became a kind of anthem in the campaign against AIDS. Nonetheless we recall it with great affection as a funny musical riff on Bruno Bettelheim’s analysis of classic fairy tales. Other than famous stars, the Disney film by Rob Marshall doesn’t add anything to the material: with all the special effects at its disposal the movie actually looks smaller than the stage version.

It is entertaining enough, Emily Blunt is lovely, and Johnny Depp is creepy—who knew he’d be in two Sondheim movies? Chris Pine is hysterical—is he doing an impression of the original James Tiberius Kirk, William Shatner? And of course your Mother Meryl is in it (Our mother is Sigourney). We know the Princes are a joke, but was it really necessary to make them look like Siegfried and Roy? And how come listening to the soundtrack makes us feel things, but watching the movie makes us yearn to scoot outside for more popcorn?

P.S. We thought something was missing, so we checked. It turns out Disney has Disneyfied the musical that was the very opposite of Disney. The deaths are not so distressing, and most of the sex has been taken out, including the Princes Charmings’s affairs with Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Neutered!

Feast on your life: Tom Hiddleston reads Derek Walcott’s Love After Love

January 27, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies 1 Comment →

Every movie we see #10-13: Whiplash is thrilling and Selma should be Best Picture

January 24, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: History, Movies No Comments →

10. Blackhat by Michael Mann. Many filmmakers have taken a crack at making the writing and execution of computer code look thrilling. A bunch of people typing does not make for compelling cinema, unless you Matrix it. Michael Mann tries to liven up proceedings by showing a visual representation of information flowing, which doesn’t work for us, and by casting People’s Sexiest Man Alive as a genius hacker and surrounding him with hot Chinese actors (Leehom Wang from Lust, Caution, Andy On, Archie Kao of CSI), which does. Whenever we heard ourself thinking, “Chris Hemsworth as a computer genius??” Hemsworth would take off his shirt or something and we would forget our reservations. Yeah, parts of the movie are slow—they’re meant to be slow. Michael Mann will not change his pace to suit your attention span.

Blackhat is terrific, a moody thriller set in the new Wild West: the digital frontier, which laughs at national borders. With Viola Davis and Tang Wei, star of Lust, Caution.

If you liked Miami Vice with Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx, which we find woefully misunderstood, you’ll love Blackhat. By the way, every Michael Mann movie is about manhood. Deal with it.

11. Selma by Ava DuVernay. In truth we expected to sleep through it. Movies about important historical moments usually feel like a duty, with their tendency to canonize their subjects. (Confession: We haven’t seen Gandhi and Lincoln in their entirety.) But from the first scene, in which Martin Luther King (the commanding David Oyelowo) is dressing up for the Nobel Prize ceremony, we were riveted. Ava DuVernay has made a powerful film that puts you right there on that bridge with the people marching for Civil Rights in 1964 and the policemen waiting to crack their skulls. It makes us ashamed of our ignorance of recent history.

Critics have torn into Selma for portraying President Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson—why are the major roles played by Brits?) as the villain. We don’t know what movie they saw, but Johnson wasn’t the bad guy in Selma. He was being what he was: a politician.

Which brings us to the Oscars, which many say have been whitewashed. How many times has the Academy’s Best Picture been unquestionably the best picture? It doesn’t have to be. “Best Picture” is a political message: it’s the Academy saying, “This is how we see ourselves, this is what we aspire to.” Boyhood is a worthy contender, and Birdman, and Grand Budapest Hotel, Inherent Vice and Whiplash, but in the year of Ferguson and “I Can’t Breathe”, Selma is both worthy and timely. It captures a moment that continues to impact on today’s America. Just because Barack Obama is African-American doesn’t mean it’s over.

12. The Imitation Game by Morten Tyldum. We are the target audience for this one: Benedict Cumberbatch fans who know how Alan Turing was maltreated by his country and take an interest in the cracking of Enigma. (Polish mathematicians laid the groundwork. They started working on it in the early 30s because they knew the Nazis were coming. Turing built on their work.) And we liked Tyldum’s art crime movie, Headhunters.

We fell asleep at the Merchant-Ivoriness of the first 30 minutes. We’ll take another crack at it next week.

13. Whiplash by Damien Chazelle. Whoa! This is thrilling filmmaking. You know the oft-told story of the teacher who is tough and cranky because he wants his student to be the best he can be, but is really a kind old geezer? J.K. Simmons as the mentor is a monster on the outside, and when you get to know him he’s even more monstrous. Miles Teller is excellent as the aspiring drummer, and their final face-off is so tense we kept forgetting to breathe.

And yet we detect, in the film and in ourselves, a yearning for a mentor who will push us beyond our limits, resulting in either irrepairable breakage or greatness. “But what’s at stake?” some may ask. “No one even listens to jazz anymore. He endures all that torment, and what’s the point?” That IS the point. Greatness is not measured in fame, fortune, or the approbation of award-giving bodies. The public doesn’t care, but you will know.

That said, you do not have the right to be that mentor and condemn mediocrity if you yourself are mediocre. Also, practice is for developing discipline, it’s not a substitute for talent. Without talent, that kind of brutal training will only produce assholes.