Coming out in the same year are two movies about two women who thought they could sing. Meryl Streep plays the American, Florence Foster Jenkins, and Catherine Frot plays the French, Marguerite Dumont. Both performers had more money than self-awareness as both singers could peel paint off walls with their voices.

Marguerite well presents the conflict involved in responding to innocence. Is this woman delusional or crazy or just tin-eared? Marguerite Dumont had money and married a man with a title. She loves him with the same vibrancy that she loves classical music. Her money buys her intimate concerts in her home with the Amadeus Club. She wants to sing in Paris though her voice pierces like her peacock's.

Her husband Georges does everything he can to avoid these concerts, which she does not like even to start without him. Her servant Mandelbos honeys around her, shoring her up by photographing her. But he is also selling those pictures to exploit her. Denis Mpunga excels in the role. Also eye-fetching is Michel Fau as her teacher with his Fellini face and pageboy.

Director and writer, Xavier Giannoli, does an excellent job of showing the fine lines between sycophancy and exploitation, comedy and tragedy as those around Marguerite lie to her face with plastered smiles on their faces and cotton balls in their ears. Yet, some, like a music critic, applaud her kindness and innocence. Frot is marvelous as Marguerite.

Glynn Speeckaert, the Belgian cinematographer, recreates theatrical light and shadow in Marguerite's music room, with the swinging chandelier. Giannoli weaves a theme of eyes throughout, starting with a giant eyeball prop and focusing on the eye in a camera.

Marguerite offers pathos bathed in luxury and delusion with a hint of compassion. No one wins.

 

This awkward documentary begins, as it should, with definitions of the title nouns. Both mean, to the filmmaker, Tony Monaghan, a "redneck" is an "uneducated American worker of a rural base," whereas "cultchie" refers to an "unlearned Irish person." Monaghan comes from County Mayo, Ireland, and he considers himself a cultchie.

As the head of Irish Construction in St. Louis, he is all too familiar with local "rednecks." His rednecks are not farm boys or construction workers whose necks are red from working in the sun. His rednecks are druggies and alchies. He hires them to work construction in his independent company. Most of these men could not work for union companies because of the drug tests.

But Monaghan, who wrote and directed the 82-minute film, hires them because he was given a second chance or two when he was young. "After all," he says, "we're all human." He hires them; lends him his truck, which they run off with; settles them on his couch, where they camp; and rehires them after rehab or a toot. American rednecks do not have the work ethic of the culchies he grew up with, very frustrating.

He introduces Annoying Andy, Sandwich, and Johnny D. They are opinionated, entitled, rowdy, drunk, and illiterate. Monaghan plays Irish music in the background of the action. The interstices offer data, such as the fact that 9% of men come to worksites hung over, or 15.1% of construction workers used illicit drugs. "It's madness on top of madness," he says. His film, though uneven, presents a subculture worth considering.

Rednecks + Cultchies will be available on Amazon April 19.

 

For all the good acting on Jake Gyllenhaal's part, for all the directorial efforts on Jean-Marc Vallee's part, and for all the script work on Bryan Sipe's side, Demolition just does not nail the dismount. Its intentions are good in wanting to follow the need to rebuild a demolished life.

Gyllenhaal plays Davis, an investment banker who works for his father-in-law Phil. And, yes, he gets the joke that the initials for "father-in-law," FIL, kind of sound like "Phil" too. Davis expresses this joke in a voice-over telling this story. It proceeds from a couple in a car. She's at the wheel, reminding him that he does have tools and should repair a leak.

She is killed in a car accident soon after. To mention this is not to spoil the movie since this death occurs very early on and since the rest of the plot depends on it. From that moment, Davis is trying to figure out how to be a widower.

He starts, oddly enough, by writing a letter of complaint to the company that supplied the vending machine in the ward where his wife died. The machine ate his money, and he wants it back. Karen, the clerk in the customer-service department falls for that letter and falls, too, for the letter writer. Karen helps him to put his life back, and so does her son but not her husband. Davis' married life has been spent in a steel grey, modern house; Karen's life is in a cozy cottage. The contrast is obvious -- just as obvious as Davis' need to demolish that cold house.

As Davis, Gyllenhaal is excellent, but as Karen the clerk, Watts never clicks, any more than Heather Lind does as the late wife. Gyllenhaal has more clicks with Chris Cooper, who plays his father-in-law, an angry, impatient man. Although Vallee scored big-time with Dallas Buyers' Club and Wild, he wanders afield in Demolition, and it just never quite solidifies, despite its understanding of wild anger at death.

 

Even though you dread seeing Hello, My Name Is Doris from the moment you see the ads and the trailer, you might go, hoping that cooler heads will prevail. They did not. The occasional laugh vomiting forth, does not make up for the downgrading of women of any age.

The writers, director Michael Showalter and Laura Terruso, may have had a good embryo. They may have thought that a film about a woman stunted in life by caring for her mother and working a job no one cares whether she does. They may have thought that watching her come out of her cocoon, getting therapy, finding happiness in a younger man who pays a tad of attention to her, may have been an interesting story. And it may have been if they had not been so hellbent on making Doris so pathetic.

It starts with the outfits, as the star Sally Field has said in interviews. Once she fluffed Doris' hair with a fall and a scarf, she had her. But the outfits just make Doris look pathetic. Add to that the hoarding she does, not wanting to throw away sentimental belongings, shoves the character toward loopy. Placing her in the midst of a family that wants to change and control her gives Stephen Root and Wendy McLendon-Covey a chance to play-act superficially, but they don't help -- not the characters, not the actors. Ditto Beth Behrs and Max Greenfield. Greenfield never rises to the role of the young man intrigued by the older woman; he's not hurtful but he's not believable either. Tyne Daly, as Doris' friend, outshines everyone. Field throws herself into Doris' tantrums but spends more time being fussy-mousy. The script does not support the moments of growth the character aspires to sporadically.

You're left with a largely unfunny movie about a sad sack woman. And where's the good in that?

 

War is hell. No news there. But modern warfare, involving drones instead of trenches, commands especial attention to the law and to ethics, as well as to military objectives. Eye in the Sky hops from place to place, decision to in-decision, from reason to emotion, to create heart-smacking tension.

It takes close to 20 minutes to line up the dramatis personae and the several international settings for the plot, from Kenya to Sussex, England, to Nevada and Pearl Harbor, USA, and British officers in the field and boardroom to Americans in the control rooms, to spies and neophyte pilots, to the enemy, and to a family that includes a girl who's a whiz with a hula hoop but who is not allowed to play or to study her maths while the anti-woman enemy is watching.

Inside a house near hers is a group of people, including a British woman, who was radicalized and might be readying for a suicide mission. Once a drone in the shape of a beetle determines that the heavily hooded woman in that house is the target, the colonel has to get permission from all forces to terminate the target with as little collateral damage as possible.

Eye in the Sky includes deciders and in-deciders, including as prime ministers, who do not want to be judged by YouTube viewers. The cast is outstanding, starting with Helen Mirren, as stalwart here as her character Jane Tennison ever was. Aaron Paul plays a pilot who's never shot a "hellfire" from a drone before. Alan Rickman, in his last role, plays a Lt. General in full exasperation. Barkhad Abdi, the Somali actor from Captain Phillips, plays a determined spy. Director Gavin Hood, who directed Tsotsi 10 years ago, takes a role in his film. Haris Zambarloukos' cinematography and Johnny Breedt's production design make Eye in the Sky more than a movie shot through with tension, framed by coordinates.

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