By “Cinema” Dave
With the releases of Logan, Kong: Skull Island and Beauty & the Beast, the March 2017 box office has broken records, much like the old summer blockbuster season used to be. Could it be the weather? Uninteresting television? Perhaps all three motion pictures are providing big screen entertainment again.
Of the proceeding mentioned films, Beauty & the Beast is the weakest flick to go see on the big screen. A remake of the 1991 animated version (which was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, losing to Silence of the Lambs), this Beauty & the Beast has exquisite production values, fine performances and music that will ignite sentimental tear ducts. Yet, during the film’s climax, director Bill Condon sacrifices good storytelling for technical splendor.
For a good story and realistic character development, The Last Word expands to more screens this weekend. Shirley MacLaine is garnering her best notices since her Oscar-winning achievement, Terms of Endearment. As Harriet, MacLaine is a control freak facing the twilight of her life.
Reading the obituaries of her contemporaries, Harriet contacts Anne (Amanda Seyfried) to write her obituary for the local newspaper. Given Harriet’s prickly personality and Anne’s naivete, this business proposition seems doomed to failure. Upon closer examination of what makes a good obituary, Harriet creates four goals to achieve before the shadows claim her. Dragging a reluctant Anne along with her, Harriet embarks on a series of escapades.
Under director Mark Pellington’s confident direction, The Last Word unfolds in realistic fashion. Each one of Harriet’s goals is abstract, but the human interaction is humorous and feels true. There are many scenic gems found in this movie. Among the highlights are Harriet’s attempts to be a benefactor to an alternative radio station and be a mentor to an African-American girl of a single mother.
As both producers and actors, MacLaine and Seyfried form a good team. MacLaine is the dominant personality, but Seyfried gives a transitional performance that is endearing. These two veteran actresses develop a fine chemistry with young AnnJewel Lee Dixson, the African American child forced to take in a mentor. MacLaine, Seyfried and Dixson shine during an emotionally tense lunch scene with Harriet’s daughter (Anne Heche).
This weekend, the much hyped Power Rangers and CHiPS start crowding the cineplexes. Don’t let fine movies like Logan, Kong: Skull Island and The Last Word get pushed aside. These three films provide Saturday matinee popcorn-eating fun.