The Skin I Live In (A-)
Spain: Pedro Almodovar, 2011, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Pedro Almodovar, the Spanish past master of kink and perverse soap opera (Matador, Law of Desire, Talk to Her), here plunges into high Gothic melodrama, with Antonio Banderas as a wealthy and reclusive plastic surgeon, who becomes obsessed with implanting the original features of his beautiful, beloved, dead, disfigured wife on the face of a female prisoner (Elena Anaya) whom he keeps hidden away in his posh, isolated home. Also involved: a mysterious housekeeper who knows some dark secrets (Marisa Paredes) and a sexy interloper in a tiger suit (Roberto Alamo).
Not for every taste, of course -- no Almodovar film is -- but a good, creepy elegant old-school horror movie worthy of its obvious influences: Franju's Eyes Without a Face, James Whale's Frankenstein, Buñuel, Hitchcock, and Fritz Lang. And the reunion of Almodovar and star Banderas is a felicitous one. At the very least, this film will give you a different slant on Banderas' Puss in Boots. In Spanish, with English subtitles. (Extras: documentary featurettes; Q&A with Almodovar.)
Jack and Jill (C)
U.S.: Dennis Dugan, 2011, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
In comedy, shamelessness is sometime a virtue, sometimes a vice -- and Adam Sandler hits both in Jack and Jill. In this drag comedy movie, Sandler plays male and female twins Jack and Jill Sadelstein, who live on opposite coasts (and, in many ways, different worlds), but are getting together for Thanksgiving. They have, to put it mildly, a complicated relationship. It's a complicated movie too -- funnier than most recent Sandlers, but also sometimes violently obnoxious. Rich, successful Jack is a good-looking guy and a high-rolling TV commercial director and exec, with lots of dough, a great family (Katie Holmes is his gorgeous, ultra-nicey-nice wife Erin), and connections up the wazoo. (Producer-star Sandler has connections too: Everybody from Johnny Depp to Regis Philbin to Christie Brinkley to Shaquille O'Neal wanders through the picture.)
Jill, on the other hand, still lives alone back in the Bronx, where she took care of their late mom for years and is now alone. She has few prospects, no visible friends (though she's so weirdly extroverted, you figure there must be a pal or two back in the Bronx), no boyfriend, a pet cockatoo who repeats her rude remarks, and mannerisms so annoying that her brother cringes at the sound of her voice. Among Jill's more unfortunate traits: a habit of leaping into Jack's bed and spooning (She calls it part of "twin time"), starting arguments at dinnertime, saying everything in a loud, squeaky Bronx screech of a voice, diarrheic reactions to chimichangas and a tendency to leave huge dark sweat stains on her bed sheets.
Jill is delighted to be coming to L.A. for Thanksgiving; Jack just wants her in and out as fast as possible. He's also in the middle of a job crisis: Unless he gets Al Pacino to star in his company's next Dunkin Donuts TV spot, the doughnut people, his biggest client, are threatening to vamoose. And there's a family problem with Jill: Unless Jack finds some kind of potential mate for his twin, she may crack up and never leave, possibly tripling his laundry bills, besides driving them all crazy.
The solution comes with the breathtaking ease of bad, obvious screenwriting. Al Pacino himself (played by none other than Al Pacino) is tracked down at a Lakers game, meets Jill (whom Jack generously brought along), falls in love with her Bronx accent, and agrees in principal to hawk doughnuts for Jack if he sets things up with Jill. Jill, unfortunately, doesn't like Al, a weird reaction for this lonely woman, but one that writer Steve Koren tries to explain by having her say that she doesn't know or like movies. Instead, Jill seems more drawn to the Sadelsteins' gardener Felipe (Eugenio Dergez), a nice guy with a mean grandma (also Dergez).
They all, or most of them, wind up eventually on a Caribbean cruise liner, where -- I know you must have guessed this -- Jack has to cover Jill's hostility to Al by dressing up as his sister and ramming two cantaloupes into his brassiere.
This all plays about as dumb as it sounds -- though it's also funny at times. A lot of that is thanks to Pacino, who saves the movie over and over again.
Pacino doesn't play comedy all that much, but he should. In Jack and Jill, where his role is basically a protracted in-joke, he gets lots of laughs from a script -- and from the show's mock Dunkin Donut commercial (where he sings the praises of a new treat called the Dunkaccino) -- that really isn't all that funny. But with his manic delivery and pricelessly straight face, he makes it all work like gangbusters.
Now, Sandler. Sometimes good, sometimes awful. But at least he has the guts to carry through on his (or his writer's) sometimes bad, sometimes okay ideas. And some of what he does as Jack (or Jill) is fun. It's not often a comedian can be his own straight man, but here he's Dean Martin to his own Jerry Lewis, George Burns to his own Gracie Allen, John Belushi to his own Danny Aykroyd. And though he's often annoying -- his falsetto can be like a chalk-squeak -- he does get laughs. Guilty ones, sometimes, it's true. But laughs. You try it. It ain't easy. (Extras: featurettes).
U.S.: Craig Brewer, 2011, Paramount
Small-town anti-rock 'n' roll ban-the-ball conservatives, led by a charismatic preacher (Dennis Quaid), are confronted by a rocker from the city (Kenny Wormold), who rallies the teen troops while wooing the preacher's daughter (Julianne Hough) and winning over the preacher's wife (Andie MacDowell). The 1984 original of this movie, from the era of Flashdance and Fame -- starring Kevin Bacon, John Lithgow, Lori Singer and Dianne Wiest, respectively, in the four main roles listed above -- had a silly story, but a good cast and an extremely catchy song score by Jim Steinman, Kenny Loggins, lyricist-scriptwriter Dean Pitchford and others. And it was given a proper gloss by the sometimes underrated musical movie director Herbert Ross (Pennies from Heaven).
Here director Craig Brewer takes over for a remake (Pitchford gets co-credit on the screenplay), and updates and modernizes it all. The song score ("Footloose," "Let's Hear It for the Boy," "Holding out for a Hero") is almost as memorable and infectiously done as it was in 1984. The story is just as silly, though, and the teen revolt, though a crowd-pleaser in both movies (as well as a hit on stage in the Broadway version ) always struck me as a crock. The songs, though, still make you move. Let's hear it for the boy.