By Chris Azzopardi | Q Syndicate
“The Guilt Trip”
Playing down the divadom, Barbra Streisand masticates a mammoth steak and wears mom jeans for her first leading-actress role since 1996’s “The Mirror Has Two Faces.” Babs nags, dotes and hilariously attempts hipness as Joyce Brewster (she’s so “cool” that she has a lesbian Pilates instructor), a brash Jewish mom who’s the tag-along on her grown son’s cross-country trip to hawk his new invention (or so she thinks). Cue the awkwardness: They (her son, Andy, is played by Seth Rogen) wind up at a strip joint, they listen to “Middlesex” in the car and, when they get to the Grand Canyon, they wonder how long they’re required to admire all those … rocks. This tomfoolery is a hoot, sure, but not all of “The Guilt Trip” – directed by Anne Fletcher (“The Proposal”) – just wants you to grin and giggle at the uncomfortable shtick of a mom-and-son road-trip flick. Moments of tenderness (read: old family videos and the “aww” ending) abound. If you hate this, and plenty of critics did, then you also hate puppies. The extras: set interviews, deleted scenes, five minutes of bloopers and a short feature all about Babs. After all, it “is” her movie.
It had to be Quentin Tarantino who turned the spaghetti Westerns your dad loved into this, the savage beast of slavery cinema. In his own sideways style, the uninhibited filmmaker hangs racial intolerance on a cross and tributes the cowboy genre with a classic Ol’ West spirit. Tarantino’s wildly entertaining, blood-soaked satire is his most ambitious work since “Pulp Fiction” (see: anal raping); it’s a pouring of old-school romance, uproarious comedy and “what goes around comes around,” and casts ex-slave Django (Jamie Foxx) as a badass vigilante – later coined “fastest gun in the South” – shooting up oppressors to get back his lady (Kerry Washington). Foxx doesn’t just slay a bunch of white supremacists; he slays the role. So do the other “Django” players: Leonardo DiCaprio as a heinous against-type slave keeper (subtext suggests he’s a little gay), an outrageously game Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz, the Oscar winner who plays the silver-tongued German bounty hunter with a biting sharpness. Features on the art production, costume design and a short doc on the stunt horses are it in the special features department. What’s missing? A Tarantino commentary.
Confession: Never before have I sobbed harder during a movie. I’m talking uncontrollable nose-running, stomach-sinking, a-dam-that-just-broke-open waterworks. Suffice it to say, J.A. Bayona’s harrowing disaster film, “The Impossible”, about the tsunami that devastated Asia in 2004 (Bayona’s replica puts you dead-center), cuts deep. It’s the true story of a family who survived – some barely – while vacationing at a beachside resort when the water swallowed the land. In Bayona’s nail-biter, the most powerful film of last year, that family is played by Naomi Watts (who should have the Oscar) and Ewan McGregor, as Maria and Henry, the parents to three young boys (Tom Holland, as older son Lucas, is remarkable) – all of whom are separated from each other when the tsunami comes crashing in. “The Impossible” is raw, riveting and tough to watch, a gut-wrenching tear duct-drainer that’s about overcoming the odds and finding hope when all hope seems lost. The commentary features Bayona offering scoop on filming, and it’s boasted by real accounts from the woman Watts plays, Maria Belón. A short clip looks at the incredible feat of using actual water to recreate the tsunami.
Craziness masks the rom-com formula percolating in “Silver Linings Playbook”, director David O. Russell’s comic vehicle for Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence’s budding relationship with each other and their respective neuroses. Pat (Cooper) has lost everything except his bipolar disorder and those rage tendencies; Tiffany (Lawrence, who won the Oscar for her role) is an emotionally unstable widow with a sex addiction. Dysfunction is everywhere, for everyone. (Robert de Niro, as Pat’s dad, gets the OCD.) “Silver Linings” uses insanity as a dupe to distract from the inevitability of the happy-ending closing reel. And unless you derive no comic value from seeing people yell feverishly at each other (and then yell some more) and go off the rails every time “My Cherie Amour” plays, the getting-there might be the most fun you’ll ever have experiencing mental illness. The climatic dance scene with Cooper and Lawrence gets two special features: a short glimpse into rehearsals and a how-to for anyone eager to give it a go themselves.
What makes a mustache gay? Besides raising that crucial question, Paul Rudd’s movie – because, let’s face it, even with the great Leslie Mann, every movie with Paul Rudd is a Paul Rudd movie – looks at that point in parenthood when the bathroom becomes a dad’s only escape. Rudd and Mann play a couple experiencing the highs and hiccups – and debating Lady Gaga’s artistry – of that dreaded age when the kids get older, money gets tighter and weird bodily things happen where weird bodily things shouldn’t happen (in this case, on Rudd’s rump, offering an enjoyable spread-eagle shot). Judd Apatow directs this oft-hilarious but 30-minutes-too-long observation on the awfulness of middle age. Filled with more features than you could imagine, this is a buy for fans.
A monster creeps the streets of Paris in this peculiar cinema delight. He’s fangy, he’s not so attractive … he’s a giant flea? He also wouldn’t hurt a fly – or anything else, for that matter. The cloaked insect is the harmless, misunderstood and musically gifted (no, really: He’s Liberace with six legs) creation “conceived” by two nerds in French director Bibo Bergeron’s big-hearted, little-seen razzle-dazzler. The Parisian animation is delicious, and lounge performer Lucille (voiced by Vanessa Paradis) has a Kylie Minogue stage quality that’s purely magical. If Tim Burton did a version of “The Phantom of the Opera”, it’d be something like this: weird, wonderful and charming enough to not make a bug about the shortcomings. The biggest gaffe on the 3D Blu-ray, though, is the complete absence of extras.
Imagine “Bridesmaids” with the meanness of “Mean Girls” and crackheads, and you kind of have Leslye Headland’s dark comedy “Bachelorette”. Bride-to-be Becky (Rebel Wilson) gathers her gal pals for her walk down the aisle. The big day is derailed when the girls – Regan (Kirsten Dunst), Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and Katie (Isla Fisher) – go out on the town and trash Becky’s lily-white gown (blood, semen, whatever comes out of a vagina, you name it) in a hit-or-miss string of crass girls-just-wanna-have-fun gags. Bonus: Andrew Rannells strips. Besides an engaging Headland commentary on the film’s blow-job monologue and the story as an allegory, there are brief interviews with the leading actresses and a humorless gag reel.
To coincide with Barbra Streisand’s silver-screen comeback in “The Guilt Trip”, Sony Pictures gloriously restores the icon’s very first film: the 1968 classic musical-dramedy “Funny Girl”. Babs, who won an Oscar for her buoyant role as stage performer Fanny Brice, was the irresistibly charming presence in William Wyler’s film adaptation of the Broadway hit. Looking at the legend in stunning hi-def still calls for the utterance of Babs’ own famous words: “Hello, gorgeous!” Because this 45th anniversary edition lacks extras, it rains on “everyone’s” parade. All we get are a vintage peek at Barbra shooting the famed scene at the Jersey Central Railroad station and “This Is Streisand,” a minor intro to the then-twentysomething, now-legendary diva.
—Chris Azzopardi is the editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBT wire service. Reach him via his website at chris-azzopardi.com.