of nature: Streep in Julie & Julia.
by Norah Ephron
least according to Michael Pollan—has become more of a spectator
sport than something one actually does. So it’s refreshing
to be reminded that at least in some quarters, said activity
represents more than an Iron Chef challenge or simply
opening a can. Julie & Julia is about a Queens
office worker named Julie Powell who, over the course of one
year, cooks all of the recipes in Julia Child’s famous Mastering
the Art of French Cooking—and blogs about her experiences.
It celebrates cooking as an act of creation and reinvention,
that thing we do not just to fill our stomachs, but to feed
seesaws between the life, circa 2002, of Powell (Amy Adams)
and that of Child (Meryl Streep), as imagined by Julie after
having read her cookbooks and the letters between the future
French chef and her husband Paul (Stanley Tucci). Julie, about
to turn 30, is in crisis, stuck in a dingy apartment, working
in a drab cubicle, and forced to bear witness to her former
schoolmates’ financial successes. When one such friend begins
a blog to describe her mile-high-club exploits, Julie is spurred
to act, and on the suggestion of her husband Eric (Chris Messina),
comes up with the Julie/Julia project. Meanwhile, in 1950s
Paris, Julia struggles to find something to do with her time,
although, as she laughingly admits to her husband, all she
really likes to do is to eat. Indeed, one of the best aspects
of Julie & Julia are the scenes showing the Childs’
absolute and utter enjoyment of food and wine. The convivial
aspect of gourmet food is extremely important, and director
Norah Ephron deftly conveys this, not just in the European
scenes, but in moments when Julie and Eric are enjoying bruschetta
in their second-floor walkup.
movie progresses, Julie has the inevitable crises, wondering
if anybody’s out there in blogland, or arguing with Eric when
she burns a beef bourguignon. While Eric is justified in feeling
vulnerable when all of their conversations and activities
end up on Julie’s blog, he is eating pretty high off the hog.
is appealing, and works hard to rein in her natural twinkliness.
There is a sweet vulnerability to Julie Powell that makes
her adoration of Child more palatable and less freaky. However,
the movie zings into the stratosphere when Streep is onscreen.
She channels Child’s joie de vivre, as can be attested by
anybody who ever watched Child’s show on PBS. Her delight
beguiles the most Gallic of French tradespeople, and her natural
good humor saves the day on more than one occasion. Tucci
provides peerless support, basking in the love of this force
of nature, and providing moral support and unflinching devotion.
the film is a tad overlong, one can’t blame Ephron for falling
in love with her subject: great food. I saw this movie at
the Spectrum, and can only imagine, when the credits roll,
the number of moviegoers who will sprint next door to the
New World Bistro Bar to capture something of the feeling they
had in the theater. However, the film’s end conceit, voiced
by Julie, that cooking brought Julia a joy that was perhaps
missing beforehand, doesn’t ring true based on the Julia that
we’ve watched for two hours; one never gets the idea that
cooking for Child was a substitute, something to fill the
void of being, for example, childless. Julie’s conclusion
seems more like the effort of somebody writing a term paper
and knowing she’s got to end the thing somehow.
Joe: The Rise of Cobra
by Stephen Sommers
has been said before, and surely with more eloquence, but
it bears repeating: Please, Hollywood, stop raping our childhood.
For the sake of those who still maintain some halfway decent
memories of growing up in the 1980s, the next time a toy company
pitches a film based on a line of action figures, just say
no. Unless it’s Voltron, because that might actually
be so bad it’s good.
of so bad it’s good, here’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
Stephen Sommers, director of the first two Mummy films,
helms the picture like a kid playing with action figures;
it’s a video game in all but name. Which means a lot of ugly
CGI (the landscape scenes don’t look finished), outlandish
and hard-to-follow action sequences, and nearly as many explosions
as Transformers 2. (To be fair, it’s a half-hour shorter;
they’ll make up the difference with the sequel.) Welcome to
the new action-fantasy paradigm: Throw as much shit at the
audience as possible, and they might not realize it’s shit.
(Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans, in his best role
since Requiem for a Dream, which isn’t saying much
considering his last two pictures were Norbit and Dance
Flick) are a pair of Army dudes taxed with transporting
a set of high-security nanotechnology-based warheads created
by Scottish weapons guru James McCullen (Christopher Eccleston).
Their convoy is attacked by a mysterious team of bandits led
by the Baroness (Sienna Miller), who just so happens to be
Duke’s ex-fiancee. Tangled webs, and so forth.
an elite team of soldiers rescue the young men and the warheads
and they all go back to some mysterious place called the Pit,
where they meet up with General Hawk (Dennis Quaid). “Can
we be part of your elite team?” the two newbies ask. Hawk
says, “Sure you can, but you have to be in our training montage
first.” Brendan Fraser shows up on a motorcycle to watch the
dudes get beat up. (What?) Everyone runs off, except Hawk,
because Quaid seems to have shot all his scenes in one afternoon.
There are some cool ninja fights between good guy Snake Eyes
(Ray Park) and bad guy Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun), and some
cooler girl fights between Baroness and Scarlett (Rachel Nichols,
last seen as a green-skinned redhead in Star Trek).
We meet a “master of disguise” called Zartan (Arnold Vosloo)
and a nefarious scientist (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Paris gets
blown to smithereens.
cherry-picks ideas from like-minded action flicks: underwater
sequences and good-guy/bad-girl romance, straight from a James
Bond picture; Iron Man’s evil arms dealer and kickass
super-suit; the oft-copied airborne stuff from The
Matrix; Transformers’ dateline font. The film
seems to revel in its own badness: It’s tempting to chalk
it up as self- parody, particularly during the Paris scene,
which plays out like a live-action version of the opening
sequence from Team America: World Police. But the film
only occasionally smirks at the viewer; there’s little here
to suggest intentional camp. The one dead giveaway comes after
the action, as the one song as big and dumb as the film preceding
it blares over the end credits: Black Eyed Peas’ smash hit
“Boom Boom Pow.” So bad it’s good, indeed.