Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Love is Blue

Love is Blue and Gray in “3 Hearts”

By Skip Sheffield

“Bleu, bleu, l’amour est bleu.”
So went a French pop song that was a worldwide hit in 1967.
It could be the theme song of “3 Hearts,” the bittersweet story of a love triangle amongst a man and two sisters.
Marc (Benoit Poelvoorde) misses a train one evening in provincial France. He chances to spot Sylvie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a woman who intrigues him.
Marc watches Sylvie buy a pack of Marlboro Lights (she is a chain-smoker) and strikes up a conversation by asking if she knows of a local hotel.
The attraction is mutual and intense. Neither Gainsbourg nor Poelvoorde is conventionally beautiful. Gainsbourg is “interesting,” with a rail-thin physique, high cheekbones and a somber countenance. Poelvoorde has close-set, beady eyes, a recessive chin, thinning hair and a non-buff body.
Evidentally Marc is quite the chick magnet, as Sylvie is so charmed with him she wanders with him until dawn then agrees to meet him the next Friday at 6 p.m. at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
By circumstances beyond his control Marc, a tax inspector, is late for the appointment and just misses Sylvie as she is leaving.
A few weeks later Marc meets Sophie (Chiara Mastroianni), who hires Marc to examine her books. Sophie lives in a country mansion with her elegant mother (Catherine Deneuve). She runs a fine antiques business founded by her mother, and now runs it solo since her sister has left France to go with her husband Christophe to Minneapolis, USA. What Marc doesn’t know is that Sophie is the younger sister of Sylvie.
But Sylvia has been away, and Marc, smitten by Sophie, marries her and they soon have a son.
Can you guess there is unspoken tension when Sylvia returns to France for a joint celebration of her 40th and her mother’s 60th birthday?
The French have a famously blasé attitude about affairs and infidelity. That does not mean there are not consequences. Love is sweet, but it is also blue and gray and sometimes black.

The Lost Key

Speaking of sex, if you are having trouble in the bedroom and are a practicing Jew, you might want to visit your rabbi.
“The Lost Key,” which premieres at Palm Beach International Film Festival, is a collaboration between writer/director Ricardo Adler, who suffered a traumatic divorce, and Rabbi Manis Friedman, an acclaimed author, marriage counselor and lecturer who details ancient Jewish secrets of the Torah on how to find a fulfilling marriage and breed the promise of “oneness.”
As a gentile and scholar of religion, I found “Lost Key” interesting, illuminating and entertaining. If you are a devout Jew you may find it vital.

“It Follows” the Subtle Horror of Teenage Sex

“It Follows” is one of those pseudo-documentary horror films that use suggestion and nuance rather than explicit sex and gross violence to achieve its thrills.
Like nearly all teenage horror flicks, sex is the root of evil. In the case of director David Robert Mitchell, it is the root of all evil that keeps on giving, or infecting.
Jay (Maika Monroe) is a blond, directionless 19-year-old who succumbs to a one-night stand with a guy she didn’t know in the back seat of his car. The sex is joyless and not arousing. At the end Jay is informed she is infected, and will be followed by evil everywhere she goes, until she has sex with another guy and passes on the nasty gene to another unfortunate.
“It Follows” is rife with tributes to horror flicks of yore. We even see Jay and her friends watching 1950s B-movies on a grainy black-and-white television. All the main characters drive huge American cars from the 1960s and 1970s. Though they have cell phones, at home there are old-fashioned dial-up phones.
I thought the fact Jay and her boyfriend took in “Charade” at the Redford Theatre was a salute to Robert Redford and his Sundance Film Festival. Wrong, it is a real vintage theater in a suburb of Detroit, where much of the film was shot.
“It Follows” has gotten a lot of good reviews since it debuted at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival. I don’t get it, but then again I didn’t get “Paranormal Activity” or its sequels either. To each his own.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Magic Comes to Broward Center March 31

John Rubinstein

“Magic To Do” When “Pippin” Hits Broward Center Stage

By Skip Sheffield

They’ve got magic to do starting Tuesday, March 31 and running through April 12 when Broward Center presents the Tony Award-winning Broadway Across America production of “Pippin.”
While “Pippin” is set in the ancient Roman Empire at the time of Charlemagne, its existential dilemma is very contemporary.
This production of “pippin” has two name stars: theater, motion picture and television star Adrienne Barbeau plays Berthe, grandmother of the title character, who is son of Roman Emperor Charlemagne.
Playing Charles, which is the alternate name of Charlemagne, is John Rubinstein.
Rubinstein has quite a lengthy history with “Pippin.” He played the title role when the show opened on Broadway in 1972. It was a time when the Vietnam War was still raging, and the anti-war, anti-authority mood was still prevalent.
“I was 25, playing younger,” Rubinstein revealed in a telephone interview. “I started acting professionally in 1965, so I already had seven years’ experience. I was married and a father, so I was a grownup playing a naïve kid.”
“Pippin” had a lot more satirical and philosophical content as your typical Broadway show, and this 2013 version, directed by Diane Paulus, has a circus theme. Paulus is no stranger to circus. She directed Cirque du Soleil's "Amaluna" earlier this year.
Despite its catchy score by Stephen Schwartz (“Godspell,” “Wicked”) “Pippin” was not a runaway hit. It did not have a conventional musical romantic plot either. Pippin, played by Sam Lips, encounters all manner of obstacles in his quest for maturity and meaning in life.
“It’s a mordant satire on people who killed heathens in the name of Christianity,” Rubinstein explains. “The older version was a lot darker and more cynical. Times have changed, though many of the same problems remain. When I first did the play I realized in 40 years we will be in charge. “Pippin’ is as relevant as ever, even though there are different reactions. It still is good entertainment, with meaning.”
Tickets start at $34.75. Call 800-745-3000 or go to www.browardcenter.org.

Friday, March 20, 2015

20th Palm Beach International Film Festival March 26-April 2


20th Annual Palm Beach International Film Festival Starts March 26

By Skip Sheffield

Palm Beach International Film Festival launches its 20th season Thursday, March 26 with an opening night film and party at the Muvico Parisian at City Place, West Palm Beach.  The darkly humorous film “Welcome to Me” will be screened at 7 p.m. followed by an after party at Revolutions. “Welcome to Me” stars Kristin Wiig, James Marsden, Tom Robbins, Joan Cusack and Linda Cardellini. Director Shira Previn will be present opening night.
The good news for local film fans is the PBIFF has returned to a Boca Raton venue,  Muvico Palace for screenings through April 2, when the closing night film, “While We’re Young,” will be screened at  7 p.m., with a red carpet check-in at 6 p.m.
Headquarters for celebrities, special guests and seminars will be at the Hyatt Place, 104 N.E. Second Ave., Delray Beach. An informal filmmaker and press Meet and Greet will be at 10 a.m. March 27 at the Hyatt.
Actor Tom Arnold will be present at the premiere of “Any Day” at 8 p.m. Friday, March 27 at Muvico CityPlace. Arnold plays a 40-year-old boxer and alcoholic who tries to rebuild his life after being convicted of manslaughter.
A 20th anniversary celebration honoring Tom Arnold and “Boyhood” star Ellar Coltrane will be held at a private waterfront estate 9 p.m. Saturday, March 28. Music will be by TK Records artists George McRae, Jimmy “Bo” Horne and the Derek Mack Band.
Of special interest to locals is a 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 30 screening of “Nat King Cole: Afraid of the Dark.” Attending the opening will be Boca Raton’s Casey and Timolin Cole, twin youngest children of the late Nat King Cole.
In all there will be 12 world and 15 U.S. premieres, plus assorted documentaries, shorts and music videos.
“For our 20th year, we have gone all out to dazzle and surprise our audience, stated PBIFF executive director Randi Emmerman. “This year’s Palm Beach International Film Festival has a sparkling array of fantastic movies and a list of visiting filmmakers and talent that will bring the best of the world to the shores of South Florida.”

For more information, go to www.pbifilmfest.org. For tickets call 561-362-0003.

"71" Chronicles "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland


“71” a Stark Look at “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland

By Skip Sheffield

“71” is the dark side of Erin Go Bragh, St. Patrick and happy leaping leprechauns.
“71” is a movie about “The Troubles” in Ireland. It is set in Belfast in 1971 (hence the title) and told from the point of view of a young British soldier (Jack O’Connell).
A boxing match is the opening scene, followed by footage of young soldiers at training camp.
Northern Ireland was a violent, confusing, unstable place in 1971, and it would just get worse in the ensuing years as partisans of the rebellious Irish Republican Army (IRA) battled loyalists to the British crown.
British soldiers were jeered, spat upon and pelted with rocks and other objects by men, women and children. The children are the most unsettling part of this story, conceived by Angus Lamont, written by playwright Gregory Burke and directed by Yann Demange in his feature film debut.
 In the chaos of street rioting, Jack is beaten by gang of men who would probably have beaten him to death if not for the intervention of a sympathetic woman. As troops retreated, Jack was stranded behind, bloody and afraid. The story continues into a very long night as Jack struggles to survive against all odds. One most excruciating scene is when Jack is taken in by a sympathetic couple and his wounds were sew up without the benefit of anesthesia.

There is no solid, easy conclusion to “71,” just as there is no simple resolution between Protestants and Catholics and loyalists and the IRA. Iraq or Afghanistan could just as well be substituted for Belfast. Through all history young soldiers are called upon to fight dirty wars in which no one wins. It is not a rational situation, but war is rarely rational. “71” is a thoroughly unpleasant, stinging film. If you are looking to be uplifted, this is not your movie.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Lovely "Cinderella" Without the Music


A Lovely “Cinderella” Spectacle from Kenneth Branagh

By Skip Sheffield

Kenneth Branagh has tackled the Cinderella story with all the seriousness of a Shakespearean drama.
Branagh is after all one of the finest Shakespearean actors and directors on the planet, and working with a Walt Disney budget he has produced a stunningly visual “Cinderella.”
Lilly James of “Downton Abbey” won the plum role of Ella, the orphaned girl who becomes Cinderella. The story sticks pretty much with the 1950 animated version, though amped up with gorgeous settings, lavish costumes and nifty special effects. All it is missing is the wonderful music.
The experience is enhanced with a “Frozen” themed animated short before we meet Ella, who has lost her mother but has a most loving father (Ben Chaplin). Unfortunately for Ella, dad marries a woman who will morph into the stepmother from Hell after he dies.
That would be Lady Tremaine, and she is played with great relish and sly wit by Cate Blanchett. Blanchett clearly loves being as selfish and wicked as possible, and in doing so she steals the movie from the title character.
Ella is good, pure, selfless and kind, but that is nowhere near as much fun as Blanchett’s calculating villain.
Ella’s stepsisters are not as butt-ugly as the animated characters, but they are a comic sight in their ridiculous outfits.
Like Ella, her Prince Charming, called Kit here, is as wholesome and exciting as sliced Wonder Bread. At least Richard Madden is quite handsome and dashing.
The all-important Fairy Godmother is played by Helena Bonham Carter with great comic flair.
Mark my words, “Cinderella’s” costumes will be remembered at next year’s Oscars. I may be a fashion-impaired guy, but I was quite dazzled by the frocks.

I am not the target of “Cinderella,” but I found it enjoyable and entertaining just the same. I think you will too, regardless of your sex or age.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

All Aboard Nostalgic "Anything Goes"


Music and Dancing Make “Anything Goes”

By Skip Sheffield

It’s not the play. It’s the music that makes “Anything Goes” such an enduring favorite for 80 years.
A touring production of “Anything Goes” continues through March 15 at Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.
Cole Porter is the man behind the music in “Anything Goes,” which is kind of a parade of Porter’s greatest song hits. The book, by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse, is deliberately light and silly, with a cast of stock characters aboard the ocean liner S.S. American. Essentially “Anything Goes” is a musical romance with three diverse couples who meet their match on the high seas, with satirical side plots centering on events of the post-Depression era.
Couple number one is Billy Crocker (Brian Krinsky) and Hope Harcourt (Rachelle Rose Clark). Billy is a stock broker working for a skirt-chasing tycoon boss (Michael R. Douglass).
Hope is a socialite type whose pushy mother (Tracy Bidleman) wants her to marry up to stuffy British aristocrat Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Richard Lindenfelzer).
In a last ditch attempt to win Hope, Billy stows away on the London-bound S.S. American, where he meets various colorful characters.
The most colorful of all is Reno Sweeny (Emma Stratton), an evangelist-turned nightclub singer, who is an old friend of Billy’s.
Emma Statton steals every scene she is in as vivacious Reno. In fact all the other characters pale before her overpowering presence.
This makes this production a little bit out of balance, as the energy flags whenever Reno is absent the stage. Moonface Martin (Dennis Setteducati), a second-rate gangster who is Public Enemy No. 13, is a role designed for scene-stealing, but not so here.
The sets are minimal to the point of non-existence, but where this show excels is its live music, played by a full band, and lively choreography, featuring a large tap-dancing production on the title song.
So if baby I’m the bottom, “You’re the Top.” This and “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “Easy to Love” and “Blow Gabriel, Blow” are the reason to see this show. On that score it does not disappoint.
Tickets are $25 and up. Call 800-572-8471 or go to www.kravis.org.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A 21st Century Comedy of (Bad) Manners


“Uncertain Terms” a Comedy of Manners for the 21st Century

By Skip Sheffield

Arts Garage of Delray Beach has another “World Premiere:” the 21st century comedy of manners, “Uncertain Terms” through March 29.
Playwright Allison Gregory, who was in the house opening night, has created a satirical look at the fractured state of modern marriage, divorce and real estate. The esteemed Todd Allen Durkin plays Harry Bennyhoff, a blundering but lovable screw-up former husband of the maddeningly perfect Dani Black, played by Erin Joy Schmidt.
The play begins with a break-in by Harry into the house of his former mother-in-law Carol Black. Harry has an unusually, even uncomfortably, close relationship with Carol, who seems to be the only person who understands him. Carol is estranged from daughter Danielle, called Dani. This gives Carol and Harry a common bond.
Carol is not an ideal mom. Her house is always a mess and the most important thing in her life is her unfiltered Camel cigarettes, which probably will kill her.
Barbara Bradshaw has a great time donning various wigs to play the zany, self-destructive Carol. Durkin brings an underlying nobility to Harry, who may be a loser but has more compassion and empathy than anyone else. This quality is underscored by Harry’s “daughter,” Tawnee Faithful (Jody-Ann Henry) is introduced,
The setup for the story is that Carol’s house is on the market (we learn she is deceased) and Dani and her brother Matthew (Matt Stabile) seek to kick Harry out.
In the middle of this conflict is friendly real estate agent Paula Twombly (Elizabeth Dimon), who is just trying to keep all parties happy while dealing with a big problem of her own.
Everyone in “Uncertain Terms” has problems, but isn’t that how it is with life? At least we can laugh at these problems, which aren’t are own but which may resemble some of our own.
Tickets are $30-$40. Call 561-450-6357 or go to www.artsgarage.org.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Hunting Nazis in Uruguay


Stalking Nazis in Uruguay with “Mr. Kaplan”

By Skip Sheffield

There has been a spate of movies recently about elderly Nazi war criminals hiding out or existing in plain sight in South America.
“Mr. Kaplan” is the latest of the crop. It has a doozy of a twist ending that makes you go Hmm.
Director Alvaro Brechner wrote the story, which is both a physical comedy and a solemn meditation on the meaning of life. The film begins with a fully-clothed elderly man on a diving board, looking as if he is contemplating jumping in.
It is 1997 and Jacob Kaplan (Hector Noguera) is nearing 80. Shortly after his 1937 Bar Mitzvah in Poland, Jacob’s family prudently fled the Nazis by immigrating to Montevideo, Uruguay. He has been married to Rebecca (Nada Telles) 50 years. As he thinks back on his life and great things men like Goethe and Churchill did late in life, Jacob feels he doesn’t have much to show for his. Problems of old age are cropping up. Jacob can’t pass the eye test for his driver’s license. He is becoming forgetful and disoriented.
Watching a TV news broadcast from France, Jacob learns officials suspect a former high-ranking SS officer may be living as a civilian in Uruguay. One of his granddaughter’s friends tells Jacob there may be such a character living by the beach, owning a bar. Jacob recruits his screw-up son-in-law Wilson Contreras (Nestor Guzzini) to hatch a scheme to stalk the German (Rolf Becker), who is even called “Nazi’ by kids, to confirm their suspicions. Once that is done they will boldly attempt to drug him, kidnap him, and take him to Israel to face justice.
Let’s just say things don’t go exactly as planned. Try to picture Mr. Magoo as a Nazi hunter, with a fat, often drunken bumbler as a sidekick. “Mr. Kaplan” is at the same time very poignant on the difficulties of aging, and very respectful to observant Jews. It is a completely different kind of Holocaust movie.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Excellent Wick Man of La Mancha


A Most Excellent “Man of La Mancha” at The Wick

By Skip Sheffield

Who doesn’t love Don Quixote?
I sure do. From the first time I read Miguel de Cervantes' 1605 story of a misguided knight-errant I have identified with the idealistic but deluded character.
Boca Raton's Wick Theatre has another winner on its hands with its production of the often-played 1965 classic "Man of La Mancha." This play-within-a-play with music by Mitch Leigh, lyrics by Joe Darion and book by Dale Wasserman is right up there with the best of Rodgers & Hammerstein.
Dom Rugglero’s cast has no weak links. It is anchored by George Dvorsky’s triple play as writer Miguel de Cervantes, his most famous creation Knight-errant Don Quixote, and Alonzo Quijana, the elderly gentleman in a play-within-the play. Robert Anthony Jones gives comic relief and an everyman’s point of view as Cervantes’ loyal manservant and sidekick, Sancho Panza.
Alix Paige is younger and prettier than most Aldonzas I’ve, and she seems somehow more innocent, which makes her fall from the impossibly idealized Dulcinea all the more poignant.
George Dvorsky is also younger than most Quixotes I have seen, and seemingly more virile, which puts some crackle in his relationship with the fiery Aldonza.
Perhaps for reasons of economy The Wick has reverted to pre-recorded music. This creates some problems with timing and tempo, but not enough to take away from the sheer beauty of the music and singing. Musical director Michael Usua performs double duty as the Padre.
This show’s set, designed by Meghan V. LaLonde, is perhaps the best yet at The Wick, transporting us from the Spanish countryside to a dank and dark prison cell to a rowdy roadhouse full of rowdier people. La Mancha is a magical place I would visit again and again. This is one of the better versions I have seen.
Tickets are $63-$67. Call 561-995-2333 or go to www.thewick.org.