Rockin’ The Jazz World
At the beginning of the ebullient documentary The Girls in the Band the camera pours over the iconic “A Great Day in Harlem” photo taken in 1958 featuring 57 notable jazz musicians from Thelonious Monk to Count Basie. There are only two women included, and that extreme gender imbalance is the jumping off point for a fascinating look at just how hostile the jazz world used to be towards female musicians. Singers were welcome, and sometimes pianists, but if a talented gal wanted to blow a horn or beat the drums, good luck getting a gig with the boys.
Despite such formidable barriers, there were a surprising number of women jazz artists who made some great music at the periphery of the jazz scene, either in all-girl bands or else on those rare occasions when forward-thinking band leaders hired instrumentalists like Billie Rogers or Melba Liston because they were superb players and not just “cute” novelties. As with Ken Burns’ more elaborate Jazz series, this is a mixture of talking heads with lots to say and incredible archival footage — but this time revealing a fascinating and little-known aspect of jazz. It is also a fine slice of social history, whether it involves the International Sweethearts of Rhythm bravely touring the Southern states where Jim Crow laws made it dangerous to be a racially integrated band, or how female jazz artists briefly came to prominence during the Second World War when so many men were fighting overseas.
Sometimes the feminist cheerleading in Girls gets a bit earnest, but most of the commentary — whether it’s by articulate lesser-knowns or stars like Marion McPartland and Herbie Hancock — is informed and engaging and sometimes startling. So, here is a well-made doc that will open lots of eyes . . . and ears. M
The Girls in the Band ★ ★ ★½
Directed by Judy Chaikin
Starring Clora Bryant, Cindy Blackman
NR – 81 minutes
Plays May 15-18 at UVic’s Cinecenta
A Dangerous Passion
Rachel Weisz (Constant Gardener, The Whistleblower) is a great actress and she is in grand form in The Deep Blue Sea, which is adapted from a 60-year-old play by Terence Rattigan that is set in the England of 1950. Weisz plays Hester Collyer, an intelligent woman who has been mired in an emotionally sterile marriage to a High Court judge. When she meets a dashing but feckless RAF pilot named Freddie Page she finds herself electrified by an erotic connection so intense that it takes over her life.
The film starts with an attempted suicide, and then lays on just enough flashbacks to understand why she was disappointed by marriage to a courtly but emotionally muted older man. (The sequence where they stay with his mother for a weekend has some quietly poisonous exchanges between the two women that are quite remarkable.) Before long Hester has moved in with Freddie. And even though she has long realized that she loves him much more than he does her, she is powerless to deny an irrational romantic obsession that her family and society regard with moralistic distaste.
Aptly shot in sepia tones and with melodramatic violin music surging in the background, Blue has a convincingly drab period feel. But despite Weisz’s great ability to convey her character’s vulnerability and desperate unhappiness, the film can feel like a dated chamber piece. The question of whether Hester was a brave individualist or a selfish, immature fool hangs in the air when the story ends. M
The Deep Blue Sea ★ ★ ★
Directed by Terence Davies
Starring Rachel Weisz, Ann Mitchell
R – 98 minutes
Opens Friday at the Odeon
All that toe-tappin’ syncopation got you thirsty? Time for the “Jazz” cocktail, a tasty, gin-based classic. Into an ice-filled shaker pour two ounces of Victoria Gin, one ounce of crème de cassis and a quarter-ounce of fresh-squeezed lime juice. Shake, then strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a lime slice.
Listings May 10-16:
★★★ THE DEEP BLUE SEA -(Odeon) The great Rachel Weisz (Whistleblower) plays a judge’s wife who is caught in a self-destructive love affair with an air force pilot. Based on a play by Terence Rattigan. Starts Fri. See review.
DARK SHADOWS -(Capitol/SilverCity/Uni 4/Westshore) Tim Burton directs Johnny Depp in a big-screen adaptation of the campy 1980s soap opera that featured a family of dysfunctional vampires. Starts Fri.
THINK LIKE A MAN -(Capitol) Four buddies decide to turn the tables on their women after they discover that the ladies have been using a “male psychology” book to get the better of their men. Starts Fri.
★★ AMERICAN REUNION -(Odeon/Caprice) The original American Pie was a raunchy but sweet-natured comedy classic. The sequel is like week-old pastry: crude, crumbly, and tasteless. Note: leaves the Odeon next Tuesday.
★★★ THE AVENGERS -(Capitol/SilverCity/Westshore/Uni 4) A mob of Marvel-ous superheroes comes together to help prevent a global apocalypse in a decent but uninspired orgy of one-liners and special effects. The galaxy of greatness includes Iron Man (Robert Downey), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Captain America (Chris Evans).
★★★½ THE CABIN IN THE
WOODS -(Capitol) Noted screenwriter Joss Wedon (Buffy) has a great deal of fun deconstructing the horror genre in this demented tale about five kids who go to party at a remote cabin and get way more than they bargained for.
★★½ DAMSELS IN DISTRESS -(Odeon) The latest “comedy of manners” from preppy-obsessed Whit Stillman (Last Days of Disco) is a weirdly mannered tale about a quartet of pretty young things who make some some waves at a third-rate university. Funny, yes, but also strangely detached from any form of reality.
★★ DR. SEUSS’ THE LORAX- -(Caprice) This is an over-stuffed, garishly coloured eco-parable that is preachy and only fitfully engaging. Featuring the voices of Danny DeVito, Zac Efron and Taylor Swift.
★★½ THE FIVE–YEAR
ENGAGEMENT -(Odeon/SilverCity/Uni 4/Westshore) Emily Blunt and Jason Siegel star in a sweet but meandering rom-com about a couple who endure an unusually long engagement that causes stress for various family members.
★★½ THE HUNGER GAMES -(Capitol/SilverCity/Uni 4/Westshore) With Twilight fading fast, the latest teen sensation is undoubtedly this fantasy account of a future world where every year 24 young people are selected to fight to the death on live TV. Everyone else seems to love this movie, but other than for the great lead performance by Jennifer Lawrence I found this derivative and a bit cheesy.
JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS
ISLAND -(Caprice) There’s lots of action and adventure in this fantasy tale of a rescue mission to a mysterious island that is home to lots of strange — and dangerous — critters. With Dwayne Johnson and Michael Caine.
THE LUCKY ONE -(SilverCity/Caprice) Sudsy novelist Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook) is back at it with this romantic drama about a young Marine just back from three tours of Iraq who goes looking for the woman he thinks was his “lucky charm” throughout the war.
★★½ MIRROR MIRROR -(Caprice/Roxy) Here’s an over-the-top but still entertaining retelling of the Snow White fairy tale starring Julia Roberts, Nathan Lane, and Armie Hammer. Directed by noted visual stylist Tarsem Singh (The Cell).
★★★ THE PIRATES! BAND
OF MISFITS -(Odeon/SilverCity/Westshore) The Aardman Studios crew (of Wallace and Gromit fame) set sail with this rollicking — and extremely silly — spoof of all things piratical. Featuring the vocal talents of Hugh Grant, Salma Hayak and Jeremy Piven.
★★ SAFE -(Odeon) British bruiser Jason Statham plays a disgraced cop who is protecting a young Chinese girl from most of the mobsters (and corrupt cops) in New York City. With more dead bodies than living brain cells, this crazily-plotted actioner delivers turbo-charged thrills for the hard of thinking.
★★★ SALMON FISHING IN THE
YEMEN -(Odeon) Lasse Hallström (Chocolat) directs Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt in a whimsical tale, part satire and part romantic comedy, about a fisheries expert who becomes a consultant to a sheik who wants to bring the sport of fly fishing to the desert.
★★★ 21 JUMP STREET -(Capitol/Caprice) The TV show about undercover cops in high school jumps to the silver screen, getting a spoofy and raunchy makeover in the process. As guilty pleasures go, this one is pretty darned funny. Starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum.
★ THE RAVEN -(Capitol/SilverCity)
AFRICAN ADVENTURE: SAFARI IN
THE OKAVANGO -(noon, 3 pm, 6 pm)
★★★½ MISSION IMPOSSIBLE:
GHOST PROTOCOL -(8 pm, Fri. and 7 pm Sat.) Tom Cruise is back for a fourth outing with the IMF crew, in a particularly turbo-charged action flick with good performances, a tricky plot and amazing stunts. This is great in IMAX!
★★★½ ROCKY MOUNTAIN
EXPRESS -(10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm, & 7 pm Sun.-Fri.) Here’s a patriotic account of the many daunting challenges behind building the CPR railway: part history lesson, part glorious travelogue. NOTE: no 10 am show on May 14; no 7 pm show on May 15.
★★★★ PULSE: A STOMP
ODYSSEY -(May 10, 10 am only)
TORNADO ALLEY -(11 am, 2 pm, 5 pm, 8 pm Sun.-Thurs.) Take an incredible trip into the violent heart of tornadoes via never-before-seen footage collected by a fearless (crazy?) storm chaser. NOTE: no 8 pm show on May 15.
MOVIE MONDAY – Screening Wish Me Away. In honour of anti-homophobia day, check out this drama about a female country and western star — and Christian — who is struggling with whether to come out as a gay woman, despite the huge backlash she can expect from her conservative fans. 6:30pm MONDAY in the 1900-block Fort. By donation. 595FLIC. moviemonday.ca.
QUOTE–ALONG CLASSICS -is showing Dumb and Dumber, the painfully funny moron-fest starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. SATURDAY, 8 pm, 808 Douglas. Cash only!
Cinecenta at UVic screens its films in the Student Union Building. Info: 721-8365. cinecenta.com.
★★★ DESERT OF FORBIDDEN
ART -(Wed.-Thurs., May 9-10: 7:20, 9:00) Art (and history) lovers should embrace this fascinating documentary about a Russian man who saved literally tens of thousands of pieces of “decadent” art during the decades of Stalinist opppression.
★★★ THE WOMAN IN BLACK -(Fri.-Sat., May 11-12: 7:00, 9:00) The post-Hogwarts Daniel Radcliffe is glumly effective in this deliberately old-fashioned and eminently English ghost story that’s full of gothic mood and eerie goings on in a small village.
TYRANNOSAUR -(Sun.-Mon., May 13-14: 7:10, 9:00) You’ll need a strong stomach to watch this award-winning British film which is a character study of a cruel and thuggish man.
★★★½ THE GIRLS IN THE BAND -(Tues.-Fri., May 15-18: 7:15, 9:00) Jazz fans will love this smart and engaging documentary chronicling the little-known history of female jazz musicians and the struggle they had to achieve recognition in a male-dominated realm. See review.
The Roxy (May 11-17)
Mirror, Mirror (PG) 7:00 pm (Fri-Thur)
Wrath of the Titans (14-A) 8:50 (Fri-Thur)
Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax (G) 2:00 (Sat, Sun)
Mirror, Mirror (PG) 3:45 (Sat, Sun)