As seen in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” it’s an American nightmare: Once a sane person gets locked up in the Academy of Laughter, how can he prove himself sane enough to get out? That well-plowed furrow gets dug a little deeper — with some dark and interesting twists — in “The Jacket.” While it’s a pretty good film with some moments of jarring clarity, more could have been done with the interesting time-travel conceit at its core and the mechanics behind those fantastic goings-on. As it stands, it’s a little disjointed.
Adrien Brody plays Jack Starks. Shot through the head during the first Gulf War, Starks miraculously survives and gets shipped stateside, only to catch a lift from a homicidal driver while hitchhiking across New England. Before long, a cop winds up dead and Starks lands in an institution for the criminally insane, under the care of the kindly Dr. Lorenson (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and the mad scientist Dr. Becker (Kris Kristofferson). As Starks quickly finds out, it seems that Dr. Becker has been attempting some radical therapies, meant to put patients in a “womblike” state to treat their mental illness. That fits only if you consider being pumped full of anti-epileptic drugs, strapped into a full-body straitjacket and stuffed into a tiny morgue locker “womblike.”
The plot really gets rolling when Starks realizes that while he is trussed up like a sausage inside the locker, he can travel physically forward in time, popping up in the year 2007 like a prairie dog popping out of its hole. Once there, with the help of a waitress named Jackie Price (Keira Knightley) who he had crossed paths with before, Starks realizes that he has less than a week to live back in the “real” time of 1992. This sets Starks and Jackie off on a kind of detective story to find out who killed him.
Though there are a lot of holes in the story (we never find out, for instance, what Jack’s head injury in the war has to do with anything, or why — of all the people in the world — he seems cosmically connected to Jackie Price), this is still a better effort than the similarly themed out-of-body time-travel flick “The Butterfly Effect.” In many respects, especially given the subject matter, what I’m calling holes could just as easily be seen as the mystery surrounding the subjects the film deals with: fate, paradox, providence. Too, Brody is pleading and honest in a movie that works on the strength of his performance — though his leading lady comes off a bit too punk for a girl who is supposed to be working as a waitress in some nothing town.
Overall, this is a pretty good time at the movies. Claustrophobics, however, should probably pass this one by.
— By David Koon
Though it seems the plays of William Shakespeare have been slogged through by every high schooler from Adam and Eve on down, one which has lately fallen out of favor (and which has been outright banned in some cases) is the Bard’s most politically disturbing effort: “The Merchant of Venice.” With what many see as a vile symbol of patent anti-Semitism at its heart — the character of Shylock, the Jewish moneylender — “Merchant” is one play that many shy away from in our age.
A new version, premiering in Little Rock this weekend at Market Street Cinema, should serve to help redeem this most troublesome of ol’ Will’s works, however. With a knockout and nuanced performance by Al Pacino in the role of Shylock and an equally brilliant Jeremy Irons in place as his adversary Antonio, this is “Merchant” for a new century, meant to provoke the very discussion that political correctness and censorship of the play have stifled in the past.
In 1596, young Venetian man-about-town Bassanio (Joseph Fiennes) wants desperately to get to far-off Belmont to woo and win the wealthy Portia (Lynn Collins). Down on his luck, however, he comes to his merchant friend Antonio (Irons) for a loan. With several ships at sea and a cash-flow problem, however, Antonio is just as broke. Eager to help his young friend, however — screenwriter/director Michael Radford throws in a bit of homoeroticism here for effect — off they go to the Jewish ghetto, where they seek out Shylock (Pacino) for a loan. During a recent near-riot, Antonio has spit on Shylock and called him a dog. With that insult in mind, Shylock tells Antonio that he will lend him 3,000 ducats without interest — on the condition that if he defaults, Shylock will extract from Antonio the famous “pound of flesh.”
Antonio: “I’ve got cargo coming in, and soon I’ll be rich! What’s the worst that could happen?” You can see where this is headed, right?
Though the outright vileness of Shylock has been toned down a bit by Radford, it’s Pacino who turns literature’s most famous Jew into a human being. This is accomplished mainly by Pacino’s look, gesture and tone, which manages to transform Shylock from a spawn of Satan into a vulnerable and fragile man with a sheen of bitterness that he uses to keep out the world — a downtrodden man who has finally gained an upper hand against just the sort of hypocrite that has kept him down for years, and who intends to squeeze it of every drop of satisfaction.
While not the feel-good performance of the year, it is a powerful and careful thing, worthy of study by Shakespearian actors for decades to come. In the end, with great performances all around, a lavish $30 million production, and some of the best language in all of Elizabethan theater, this is a must-see for fans of Shakespeare, of Pacino and acting in general.
— By David Koon
A wayward Mercedes-Benz careened off Main Street in North Little Rock following a traffic accident Saturday night, with the car smashing through a window and destroying a door at Argenta Bead Co. The impact knocked over shelves and scattered what the owner of the business called "thousands and thousands and thousands" of beads and charms, including several expensive and rare antique glass beads — across the store.
The Governor's office today announced the creation of an "Office of Transformation" along with a new chief officer for the agency, with Gov. Asa Hutchinson saying the goal of the office would be to "drive efficiency" in government and streamline state operations.
Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.
So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.
Before Pearls breaks its brief silent treatment about Razorback basketball's latest bid to shake off listless irrelevance, we'll spend a word or two on the Belk Bowl, where the football team draws a Dec. 29 matchup with Virginia Tech in Charlotte.