_ Spring Breakers has been getting a lot of press lately for being the “rebellious” choice of Disney channel starlets Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez, and it is indeed a ridiculous and over the top sleaze-fest. It is also not a typical college spring break movie. The plot follows four girls who desperately want to get to Spring Break in the Florida Keys, but have not been able to save enough money. Three of them decide to rob a diner to finance the trip and do so without much of an issue. Then through various circumstances they end up indebted to Alien (James Franco), a rapper/drug dealer/Keys local who is in the early stages of a war with his former best friend over street territory.
This is a pretty straightforward story, but not a straightforward film. Harmony Korine is an unquestionably stylish filmmaker – but there is a question of whether or not you enjoy that style. Conversations don’t happen here. For the most part, there will be a set-up for a long monologue by one character that is then used as a voice-over to a montage of other images of scenes (sometimes flashbacks). I have no doubts that some will enjoy this, but it sacrificed the one thing I find most central to a good film – character. The best scene in the film, the first robbery, is actually shot in a consistent way that is out of character for the rest of the movie and just lets you see how this could have been interesting if told in a normal way. So many images and monologues are repeated that I wonder if on the whole, there was only 45 minutes of film actually produced.
_ The Sapphires is inspired by the true story of a soul sister group made up of Aboriginal Australians group formed in 1968. The plot is fairly typical: a failed alcoholic musician sees them sing while he is MC’ing an open mic night in Melbourne, and immediately recognizing talent, he then bonds with them over being kicked out of the bar and decides to help them get ready to audition for a spot entertaining the troops in Vietnam. From there, they run into various problems both internal and external and form stronger bonds through trials and triumphs. Don’t let the well-worn structure of the plot fool you though, this is a very well written, often hysterical film led by two very strong performances. Oh, and it has some fantastic soul performances as well.
_ “Top of the Lake” was a great surprise for me. I had completely forgotten about it since the trailer showed up a while ago, so I was looking forward to “Bates Motel” more. It was great to see another great show pop up before the onslaught of “Game of Thrones” and “Mad Men” in the coming weeks, plus Mondays (Tuesdays for me) have always been low on good original dramas (sorry fans of “The Following”). “Top of the Lake” is a finite miniseries that is currently airing on The Sundance Channel on Monday nights. Two episodes aired this week, there will be one a week for the next three weeks, concluding with a two-part finale after that. The format is centered around one police investigation that is given enough - hopefully not too much - time to breathe.
The series is centered on Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss), a detective from the city back in her small hometown in New Zealand to help her mom, who has been recovering from some health issues. When the first episode begins, a young girl is discovered walking into a freezing lake with seemingly no intent to stop. The 12-year-old girl, Tui (Jacqueline Joe), is pregnant, and Robin just happens to be an expert on sexual abuse, so the local authorities quickly call her in after Tui is brought to them. When Robin gets there, she begins to notice some reluctance on the other (read: male) officers’ parts to give this case the attention it deserves, so she becomes very invested in giving this case as much time as she can. Immediately proving her adeptness by getting Tui to talk to her – to an extent – she is allowed to keep working on the investigation.
We also meet Tui’s father and brothers who are not exactly the best family to have around, as well as an interesting group of women - headed by the enigmatic GJ (Holly Hunter) - recovering from various traumas on a piece of land known as Paradise. Paradise just so happens to be right next to Tui’s family home, and her father, Matt Mitcham (Peter Mullan), is not happy that these women have moved in. From there the investigation quickly grows to include the whole town beyond the easy suspects
A few more words before I get into spoilers, after the break.
_ Spoiler Warning: This will spoil everything through the sixth episode of season 3, “Cascading Failures.” (It aired last Sunday, February 24)
I’ve been a fan of ‘Shameless’ since it began a couple years ago, but it’s not a show where it is easy to react to each episode outside of the whole season. There are so many crazy things that may work in context and be very funny, but will prove to just be a large diversion in the show trying to go too far. I’ve decided to check-in anyways, as it’s almost halfway through this season, and there could be a major turning point coming up (let’s hope).