Posted: July 12, 2013 at 2:02 a.m.
Venus and Serena Directed by Maiken Baird and Michelle Major (PG-13, 100 minutes)
Venus and Serena, a bio-pic with music by Wyclef Jean, is a sleekly packaged celebration of the remarkable lives of two sisters born 15 months apart who dominated women’s tennis for more than 10 years.
Filmmakers Maiken Baird and Michelle Major, who followed the sisters for a full year, use vintage (1990s) footage and excellent access to show the then-teenage girls’ competitiveness and determination on the practice court and how their visionary (now divorced) parents Richard and Oracene Williams aided in their rise to the top of their game.
Along with their winnings, success brings the Williams sisters lucrative product endorsements and turns them into trendsetters when Vogue editor Anna Wintour features them in the fashion magazine. But there are challenges as well, such as career-threatening health struggles they face during the uproarious 2011 season: Serena’s hospitalization for a potentially fatal blood clot in her lung and an autoimmune system disorder that gives Venus spells of fatigue and joint pain.
The film includes appearances by Chris Rock, John McEnroe, Bill Clinton and Serena’s ex-boyfriend Common.
“Devoted, protective and domineering, Richard Williams all but steals the film, his personality dimmed not a whit since the days he learned tennis from a book so he could teach his young daughters on the public courts of Compton, Calif.,” says critic Greg Evans of Bloomberg News.
Upside Down (P G-1 3, 107 minutes) Is love stronger than gravity? That’s the question at the core of this bizarre sci-fi fantasy in which Adam (Jim Sturgess) and Eden (Kirsten Dunst) have been in love since they were teenagers despite living on twinned worlds - one poverty-stricken, the other wealthy and exploitative - with gravities that pull in opposite directions.
After 10 years of forced separation, Adam, who’s working in a grubby factory on his depressing planet, sets out on a dangerous quest to infiltrate the corporate Transworld headquarters where Eden works in order to reconnect with his long-lost love, who unfortunately has amnesia and doesn’t remember him.
“Simply put, this is one of the craziest films to come along in a while and I can confidently say that anyone who sees it will either hail it as some kind of crackpot masterpiece or dismiss it as one of the silliest … things they’ve ever seen,” says critic Peter Sobczynski in the Chicago Sun-Times. “And yet, I am often willing to overlook numbskull storytelling if the film in question is bold and stylish enough in other areas to make up for its narrative shortcomings, and this is one of those films.” Written and directed by Juan Diego Solanas.
Gattaca (PG-13, 106 minutes) This 1997 sci-fi drama, now available on Blu-ray, is set in a future where the wealthy can choose the genetic makeup of their descendants, and those who are naturally born are considered inferior. In this world, defective Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) yearns to be a Gattaca Corp. navigator, a job open only to those with superior genetic materials. So he arranges to assume the identity of Jerome Morrow (Jude Law), who, after being paralyzed in an accident, is willing to sell his superior genetics. You’d think his paralysis could be fixed, but don’t expect consistency and logic here. “One of the first Hollywood films about the effects of genetic engineering on human conduct, Andrew Niccol’s directing debut is an intelligent and timely sci-fi that, despite some illogical plot contrivances, is emotionally engaging almost up to the end,” says critic Emanuel Levy in Variety. With Uma Thurman and Gore Vidal.
Spring Breakers (R, 92 minutes) This darkly amoral and beautifully photographed tale, the most cohesive and linear work yet from atypical director Harmony Korine, is about as far as you can get from 1960s fun-in-the-sun Where the Boys Are. It concerns three best friends who break some rules to escape their boring college dorm in order to head out on spring break in Florida.
The exhilaration of freedom and endless partying is amplified when they encounter a rapper/drug dealer named Alien (James Franco, tattooed and braided and not like you’ve ever seen him before) who promises to provide them with all sorts of thrills and excitement, depending on how far they’re willing to go. It turns out there’s no limit to how far they are willing to go. Really. With Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson.
MovieStyle, Pages 29 on 07/12/2013