Mike at the Movies

Gloria Bell (R)

Photo | Submitted Julianne Moore stars in “Gloria Bell.”

Photo | Submitted
Julianne Moore stars in “Gloria Bell.”

Julianne Moore is a walking miracle. At 58 she plays a woman in her 50s and looks like a woman in her early 40s. Surrounded by a topnotch supporting cast, she triumphs in the difficult story of Gloria—addicted to youth. She sings all the top songs, she dances with anybody, and often alone, at various clubs and, coming off a divorce from Dustin (Brad Garrett), she is open to new sexual adventures as well. Seriously, her face and figure totally belie her age—and that is largely the point of the film.

She asks target Arnold (John Turturro): “How long divorced?” “One year,” he replies. “Recently,” she says. “Finally,” he answers. It is not long before they are in bed together, and she thinks she may have found love. She also loves his occupation of running a paintball ranch, but it’s a love of convenience, not a deep love. She takes him to a family party for son Peter  (Michael Cera), but she pays too much attention to her family and leaves Arnold in the dark with no one to talk with. He  leaves. Rupture no. 1 in the relationship.

She moves from being a nonsmoker to vaping, then smoking and next marijuana. Her dresses become more daring, and she eventually has her hair done and lightened. She is clearly going to start over in her search for youth.

In addition to Moore’s incredible performance, the music in this film is remarkable. The score is highly varied and, even with Moore’s amateurish singing accompanying it, it rocks the place from time to time.

Among the stars in this film, a number stand out. It’s good to see Jeanne Tripplehorn in a big film again. Sean Astin, Brad Garrett, Holland Taylor and Rita Wilson all have significant parts and strengthen the cast generally.

Perhaps the saddest moment in the film comes when Arnold’s empty eyes greet Gloria’s invitation to go to Spain on an extended vacation. As they say, “It just ain’t goin’ to happen.” It’s his loss.

Dumbo (PG)

An animated feature in 1941, Dumbo comes to real life in this remake, directed by the magical Tim Burton. Colin Farrell stars as Holt Farrier, a one-armed former equestrian star of the Medici Brothers Circus. Max Medici (Danny DeVito) is the owner of the decrepit troupe that, by accident, gains possession of a young elephant nicknamed “Baby Jumbo” after his mother. A mistaken sign re-christens him “Dumbo” and away we go.

The saviors of Dumbo, who is regarded as a freak by the troupe, are two children belonging to widower Holt. Joe and Milly Farrier (Finley Hobbins and Nico Parker—daughter of Thandie Newton) shepherd Dumbo through his early days and comfort him when his mother is taken away from him. (I mention a lot of plot here because, as a father remarked to me leaving the theater, “That sure was a different story than I grew up with!”)

With the introduction of Michael Keaton as the super-rich V.A. Vandevere, the action really takes off. Accompanying Vandevere is the elegant Colette Marchant (Eva Green), an aerialist who does not really like Vandevere though she gives the impression that she does.

Dumbo is greeted by insults and an audience chant: “Dumbo, Dumbo, fake, fake, fake!” The kids discover that, with the application of a feather to his sensitive trunk, Dumbo can fly. He finally appears in public and fails to fly until everything turns to fire around him and he flies out of panic. Sensation!!!

Medici cashes in on the talented pachyderm by agreeing to be a partner with Vandevere. Mistake! Max brings his troupe to a new, splendid corporate location, Wonderland, but they don’t get to do anything. Dumbo, in the midst of wonderful over-acting by Keaton, rehearses with Colette and the first rehearsal is a stitch of a scene.

After an imaginative Busby Berkeley-inspired choreographed bubble dance, Michael Buffer (of boxing introduction fame),  introduces Dumbo who promptly leaves the house in search of his mother and scares the crowd. Mom is ordered killed to “avoid distraction” and all the Good Guys go into panic mode.

The old troupe joins Holt and Colette in a plot to foil Vandevere and to allow Dumbo to escape to find his mother.

Pandemonium breaks loose in a wonderful final scene of destruction, fire and resolution. Made with the usual Disney fine touch, this is an enchanting, through momentarily scary for the youngest audience members, exercise in filmmaking and entertainment. Take the kids and get some cotton candy afterward to complete the day!

Hotel Mumbai (R)

I arrived at the theater prepared for a drama about the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, but this film disappointed. It is a variation on an old theme: lots of ammunition used to kill and destroy but not much character.

A force of 10 Pakistanis, mostly teenagers, attacked specific targets, though most of the casualties were randomly selected by who got in front of the automatic weapons. What we see in this film is four of the attackers, dedicated but not disciplined, who randomly attack and terrorize a whole hotel full of guests. They kill about 174 people and wound another 300, not including the nine of 10 terrorists in the attack.

Mounted from Pakistan, the attack was controlled by “The Bull,” who often ordered killings for public relations purposes only. In fact, Bull wanted the attacks to end with selected victims being shot live on TV.

That doesn’t come to pass but most of the film is the story of the head chef of the Taj Hotel restaurant, Hermant Oberoi (Anupam Kher), as he shepherds his staff and those guests who make it to the supposedly safe Chamber Club from which some of them eventually escape.

The real hero of the film is Dev Patel as Arjun, a Sikh waiter, inept in all things except leadership of hostages. Secondary characters include Armie Hammer as David, an American, his wife, Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi), and their newborn baby. Chief protector of the baby is Sally, the nanny, played by Australian Tilda Cobham-Hervey.

The one creep in the film is Jason Isaacs as Vasili, a more mysterious character than the simple spoiled playboy he appears to be. But his true identity is revealed so late in the film that it really doesn’t make much difference.

We learn very little about the characters in this film, and that is its eventual downfall. The film becomes one long burst of gunfire at hapless and terrified people. At one point, Zahra wails, “Who are these people? What do they want from us?” Good questions yet the film tells us nothing and the suspense tends to fall flat. Any chance to deepen the characters in this long film and make it meaningful is wasted. A major disappointment.

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