DVD Releases: J. Edgar, Drive, & Puss in Boots (online only)
By Mark Glass
J. Edgar **½ (R) Anyone who remembers
J. Edgar Hoover’s reign as America’s “top cop” for about half of the past
century is unlikely to associate him with Leo DiCaprio. So the idea of the
romantic hero from Titanic portraying this human bulldog (looks and demeanor -
no offense intended to our canine compadres) seems pretty outlandish. Yet
director Clint Eastwood seems to have nailed the casting with his selection.
The film is long and melodramatic,
covering Hoover’s and the FBIs origins in 1919, through his death during the
Nixon years. Some of the historical context is interesting. The depiction of
the man and his times sparks plenty of controversy across the political
spectrum. Hoover’s fans will be upset about the presentation of his dark
side (raging paranoia, gaining and keeping power by coercion and intimidation
of presidents and congressmen, mother issues, closeted homosexual tendencies).
His detractors will claim that the screenplay glosses over many believed abuses
and excesses, while underplaying those psychological determinants of who he
was, and all that drove him. Everyone curious enough to watch will find
something to gripe about, reaching the hallmark of success for biopics. As in
most dispute settlements, if everyone winds up somewhat dissatisfied, the deal
was probably fair.
Answering the most likely questions -
yes, the cross-dressing and presumably intimate relationship with Clyde Tolson
are addressed, though minimally; his dogged pursuit of Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr., and clashes with the Kennedys are also covered. DiCaprio’s
performance is remarkable, regardless of how one feels about the man he’s
representing, or the perspective on him and his legacy offered in the script.
Drive *** (R) This crime drama
opens as if it will be a home-grown, blue-collar version of Jason Statham’s
high-octane Transporter flicks, with Ryan Gosling calmly managing all sorts of
evasive actions behind the wheel for some robbers during their getaway through
the streets of Los Angeles. We next learn that he moonlights such gigs between
chances to do stunt driving for movies and working as a mechanic for a minor
criminal (Bryan Cranston) with ties to the Big Boys.
Mark Glass is an officer and director of the St. Louis Film Critics Association
But the story slows down into more of
a noirish tease between romance and more crimes when Gosling starts spending
time with his lovely neighbor (Carey Mulligan) and her kid. Her ex returns from
jail, hoping to go straight, but unable to sever the old ties. Gosling tries to
help, running afoul of those Big Boys - notably Ron Pearlman and, in a
surprisingly effective stretch from his norm, Albert Brooks. No kidding.
That Albert Brooks. The funny, brainy one.
Once you adjust your adrenaline levels
for the somber tone shift with long pensive stretches for its principals, you
can savor a moody, compelling suspense yarn that defies more conventions than
casting Brooks so far against type. The number of plot twists requires more
concentration than usual, but most should feel rewarded for the effort.
Puss in Boots ***½ (PG) Sequels are
often disappointing. Spinoffs are relatively rare in movies, compared to TV
series, and also hard to predict. Here’s one of the good ones. The
swashbuckling cat from the animated Shrek franchise, voiced by Antonio
Banderas, gets his own vehicle, and thrives in the process. This adventure
bonds him with childhood pal Humpty Dumpty, giving both a fanciful backstory
that sets up a superbly drawn escapade, with plenty of punch lines to keep
adult viewers as entertained as the kids in the house.
Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis and
several other stars add their vocal skills to this quest for redemption by
climbing Jack’s beanstalk to repay an old debt with the goose and/or its golden
eggs. Jack and Jill are portrayed quite differently than what you’d expect from
their nursery rhyme.