Posts Tagged ‘Emma Stone’

‘The Help’ works with sharp humor, excellent acting

Friday, August 12th, 2011
Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis in "The Help" Skeeter (Emma Stone), left, befriends “The Help” — Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) and Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) — so she can write an expose on the snooty, racist white women in a Southern town during the Civil Rights era.

Set in Mississippi during the violent Civil Rights era, “The Help” uses lots of crisp humor and sharply drawn, well-cast characters to empathize with the plight of black women working as house servants for self-centered, racist white women.

Tate Taylor’s movie, based on Kathryn Stockett’s best-selling novel, focuses on a white, wannabe journalist named Skeeter (played by Emma Stone) who interviews these black women and records their revealing, personal stories in an anonymously written book titled “The Help.”

It doesn’t actually change anything, but it apparently makes everyone feel better.

Adopting a light, comic approach laced with serious turns (“Steel Magnolias” comes to mind), “The Help” comes dangerously close to becoming another one of those white savior movies in which a noble and just white character selflessly fights for the rights and dignity of minorities unable to help themselves.

Here, the black women are quite adept at survival tactics to get through the daily injustices heaped upon them by the South’s continuing slave culture and the childish behavior of their employers, socially elite white ladies.

Although Skeeter serves as the main character who draws together the unheard stories of the invisible help, the real hero is Aibileen Clark, a black woman who puts her income and safety on the line to tell Skeeter the truth about her life and the insensitivity of the Southern culture. (Read more…)

‘Crazy, Stupid, Love.’ a wise, funny rom-com

Thursday, July 28th, 2011
Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell in "Crazy, Stupid, Love." Lady-killer Jacob (Ryan Gosling), left, gives dating advice to a nerdy separated family man (Steve Carell) in the smart and funny comedy “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”

“Crazy, Stupid, Love.” believes in the miraculous power of romance to transform schlubs into studs and reduce cocky Lotharios to puppies.

Yet, it also understands how this unpredictable force can wipe out reason and turn ordinary, sane people into blithering basketcases operating on embarrassing impulses and obsessive whims.

“Crazy, Stupid, Love.” constantly surprises us. Then it surprises us more.

It loves all of its flawed and flailing characters with equal abandon and celebrates the ability of love — we’re talking true love, mind you — to triumph over thoughtless and hurtful actions.

This is a very smart, fresh, funny and endearing comedy that tells us love means you always have to say you’re sorry, because forgiveness is a useful weapon in the fight for personal happiness.

Cal (“The Office” refugee Steve Carell) thinks he’s been happily married to his junior high crush Emily (Julianne Moore) for more than two decades when she blurts out “I want a divorce!”

Now in a single apartment existence, Cal tries the bar scene, but his Velcro-closure wallet, bad haircut and dingy New Balance Model 407 runners (the 700 and 800 series are far superior) prove to be instant chick repellents.

A lady-killer bar denizen named Jacob (Ryan Gosling) watches Cal drink his berry-flavored vodka from a straw and loudly lament how his wife has been seduced by her office mate, David. (Read more…)

Give this teen sex comedy an A for effort, at least

Friday, September 17th, 2010
Emma Stone in "Easy A" Olive (Emma Stone) narrates her own version of how she earned a scarlet letter in the high school comedy “Easy A.”

Emma Stone possesses soft, come-hither eyes that could drink in the oceans, a sexually playful, raw, husky voice that could melt icebergs, and a feminine fragility that summons forth the protector in males.

“Easy A” fulfills the promise that this remarkable young actress showed in the horror/comedy “Zombieland.” She single-handedly carries her sassy new high school sex comedy with crates of confidence, charisma and charm.

In “Easy A” (also one of the smartest, cleverest titles in recent years), Stone tosses out a career-making performance fraught with conflicting emotions, torn loyalties and adolescent confusion, all built upon a foundation of Christ-like good will toward men.

Stone’s seemingly effortless performance does wonders to cover the sins of the movie, such as a weak, tentative use of her character as a Christ symbol, the ridiculous overuse of the word “awesome!” (nine times) and a blatant pandering to 1980s nostalgia at the cost of the story’s unnecessarily sacrificed originality.

Stone plays Olive Pendergast, a high schoolgirl who narrates her story via a streaming broadcast from her computer. She lays out everything that has happened, complete with chapter titles.

One day in the restroom, Olive’s best pal Rhia (Aly Michalka) pushes her hard to find out what she did on the weekend. To shut her up, Olive tells a white lie: She lost her virginity to a college guy.

Faster than you can run around the campus with a super-speeded-up camera lens, rumors spread that Olive has become a woman.

This works well thematically for Olive, who’s studying Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” in English class, taught by the cool Mr. Griffith (Thomas Hayden Church). (Read more…)

Old dog ‘Marmaduke’ needs a few new tricks

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
Marmaduke and Carlos from "Marmaduke" “Marmaduke” (voiced by Owen Wilson) and Carlos the cat (voiced by George Lopez) head to California for stupid pet tricks.

“Wait for it,” the Great Dane tells us. “Wait – for – it!”

Then he passes doggy gas on his human owners, who cough and choke on his bodily discharge.

“Marmaduke” begins this way, and ends the same way with the Great Dane letting his wind rip on his hapless humans again.

“It never gets old!” the dog chuckles.

Sorry, Marmaduke, but it was even old back when Shrek did it in the mud puddle.

“Marmaduke” is the kind of family entertainment that gives family entertainment a bad name.

Its dumbed-down script, woefully shallow story, ridiculous action sequences and cheap bathroom humor might be diverting for extremely young children, but why would most parents want to expose their kids to a movie written way beneath their level?

Marmaduke, of course, is the beloved giant canine from the popular comic strip. In this movie, Owen Wilson provides the dog with his affable, cornpone personality, forced not only to incessantly narrate every detail of the film’s opening scenes, but to deliver moldy, obvious jokes such as “I’m all ears. Literally!”

Apparently, there’s not enough trouble for a dog to get into while living in Kansas, so the screenplay moves Marmaduke’s family, the Winslows, to Los Angeles where Phil the dad (Lee Pace) gets a job with the Bark organic food company run by William H. Macy, who can barely utter his pandering dialogue without wincing with embarrassment. (Read more…)