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Posts Tagged ‘Kodi Smit-McPhee’

Eddy Murphy as Rudy Ray Moore

“DOLEMITE IS MY NAME” My rating: B- 

118 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Aside from setting a cinema record for the number of times “motherf**cker” and its variants are uttered, “Dolemite Is My Name” reminds us of why Eddie Murphy remains one of our comedy treasures.

Murphy slips effortlessly into the skin of Rudy Ray Moore, the struggling singer who in the early ’70s reinvented himself with a series of gleefully lewd party albums, then transferred his alter ego “Dolemite” onto the big screen at the height of the blaxploitation craze.

That said, this comedic slice of entertainment history from director Craig Brewer– a white guy whose Afro-centric films include “Hustle and Flow” and “Blacksnake Moan” —  is so slow out of the gate that more than few viewers will be tempted to bail before the picture hits its stride.

In the waning days of the 1960s the middle-aged Rudy Ray, pot-bellied and jowly, managers a record store and desperately tries to peddle his r&b/funk recordings.  His career is going nowhere (and at this point neither is this movie).

Then Rudy Ray latches onto a vociferous homeless guy (Ron Cephas Jones of TV’s “This Is Us”) who in exchange for a pint or two regales him with tales of the comedic folk hero Dolemite, a sort of ghetto Br’er Rabbit who bombastically outsmarts, outfights and outscrews any and all who get in his way.

Moore develops a comedy act in which he dons Afro wig and colorful pimp regalia to portray Dolemite, telling his self-serving stories in rhymed raps of pyrotechnical profanity. Black audiences go crazy for Dolemite; Rudy Ray is soon making a tour of the chitlin’ circuit, selling his LPs out of his car trunk.

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Robin Wright

Robin Wright

“THE CONGRESS” My rating: B- (Opening Sept. 5 at the Alamo Drafthouse)

122 minutes | No MPAA rating

Masterful and maddening, spectacularly original and hugely frustrating, Ari Folman’s “The Congress” is unlike any other film I can name.  Though it dabbles with elements explored by fantasy epics like “The Matrix,” it has its own distinct personality.

Some of us are going to love it. Some will be irritated by it.  And some — like me — will experience both emotions.

Folman’s film (he was the creator of “Waltz With Bashir,” the brilliant animated effort about PTS among former Israeli soldiers) opens on the aging but still-beautiful face of actress Robin Wright.

Wright is playing herself here — or rather an alternative universe version of herself — and she’s reduced to tears as her long-time agent (Harvey Keitel) tells her that at age 44 her acting career is all but kaput.

She’s made too many bad choices in men, movies, and friends, he says. She’s thrown up too many obstacles about the kind of work she’ll do (no science fiction, no porn, no Holocaust movies) and she has earned a rep for not showing up on the set. Yes, yes, usually it’s because she has to deal with yet another emergency involving her son (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who is slowly going both blind and deaf. But that excuse has gotten old.

A meeting with a bullish exec (Danny Huston) at Miramount Pictures provides a last-ditch solution.

The movie biz has been so changed by digital technology, the desk jockey explains, that  actors are obsolete. Most stars have allowed their faces, bodies, voices and emotions to be scanned into a computer where they can be reanimated by skilled CG artists.

The avatar actors thus created can be made younger or older, fatter or thinner. They’re never late. They make no demands or complaints. They never throw tantrums — unless the script calls for it.

“I need Buttercup from ‘The Princess Bride’,” the exec says. “I don’t need you.”

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