Consider this: In three weeks, an asteroid will strike earth, ending all life on the planet. Everyone in the world has three weeks to live. What to do? I’d probably try to travel if I could, see Japan and Egypt and Vienna. Of course, time with loved ones would also be a priority, and watching every movie and reading every book I could. Lorene Scafaria’s characters in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World react to this news in a variety of ways: suicide, drugs, orgies, riots, relentless optimism, and the like. After his wife literally runs away from him, hypochondriac insurance agent Dodge (Steve Carrell) comes to the realization that his entire life has been meaningless.
It cannot be denied that Tim Burton’s career has petered out in the last decade, with a string of uninspired features that transmogrify known properties into predictable, insipid fantasies. That being said, I do stand by many of his earlier films, and I was happy to recently catch one of my favorites, Edward Scissorhands, a film I hadn’t seen in at least five years. Made between Batman and Batman Returns, it shows Burton at his height, his most imaginative and quixotic. Johnny Depp stars as the titular character, a scientist’s creation who has lived alone in an isolated castle for most of his existence, an incomplete construction with sharp knives in place of hands.
Wanting a night away from their super hot wives for some reason, blue-collar workers Steve Jackson (Sidney Poitier) and Wardell Franklin (Bill Cosby) decide to sneak out to a fancy, secret nightclub/casino. Unfortunately for them, the place is held up and their possessions are stolen, with Steve waking up the next morning to realize his purloined wallet held a winning lottery ticket. He and Wardell skulk around Chicago trying to find the robbers, falling into a dangerous criminal turf war in the process.
Weirdly, I haven’t caught up with the Marx Brothers. I saw Duck Soup years ago, that one episode of I Love Lucy when I was a kid, and that’s about it. An unexpectedly free night and some Marx Brothers screenings at the Brattle lined up perfectly to make my first film of 2014: A Night at the Opera. A wacky musical farce, the film stars Groucho Marx as Otis B Driftwood, a fast-talking business manager who worms his way into the opera scene, making some enemies along the way. He teams up with theater agent Fiorello (Chico Marx) and stage assistant Tomasso (Harpo Marx) on a cruise from Italy to New York, all in a wild gamble to make down-on-his-luck singer Ricardo (Allan Jones) an opera star and reunite him with his love Rosa (Kitty Carlisle).
Loosely based on the real-life singing group (and written by the lead singer’s son), The Sapphires follows four musical Koori women- three sisters and their cousin- who tour Vietnam in 1968 to perform for American troops. They are accompanied by their drunken manager, Dave Lovelace (Chris O’Dowd), who is generally useless but seriously believes in their talent. While traveling the young women experience various ups and downs: the oldest, Gail (Deborah Mailman), fights to protect everyone else in an unfriendly environment; her sister Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) embarks on an affair with a handsome soldier; Julie (Jessica Mauboy), the youngest, suddenly finds herself in the spotlight…