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Frost shows he’s light on his feet in ‘Cuban Fury’

Date: 7/31/2014

A fascinating documentary and a feel-good summer comedy are featured in this week’s movie review column.

On Blu-ray: Cuban Fury
Nick Frost is probably best known as part of the comedy team with Simon Pegg featured in films such as “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz” and “The World’s End.” In this new comedy, he is the solo star and the result is a pleasant, but predictable, story with some solid laughs.

Frost plays Bruce, a guy who was a competitive salsa dancer as a kid until a group of bullies beat him up on the eve of what would have been his greatest triumph. He gives up his passion.
Fast forward to the present and he works as an engineer for a firm that makes manufacturing equipment. His life changes when his new boss Julia (Rashida Jones) takes over and he discovers she takes salsa dancing classes.
Smitten, he decides to impress her with his skills, but regaining those talents is more of a challenge than he thought. Complicating his plan is his smarmy co-coworker played by Chris O’Dowd who is intent on making Julia his own.
Frost does his dancing himself and he is quite talented. In the extras, it’s revealed that he trained five hours a day five days a week for five months prior to the film’s production.
The story is a typical romantic comedy with an underdog theme and doesn’t really break any new ground, but that’s OK. Frost’s character is endearing and O’Dowd’s is so annoying that any other outcome than a standard happy ending would have ruined the film.

On DVD: Finding Vivian Maier
I was anxious to see this film as I read about what has turned out to be a significant art discovery: the photographs taken by a woman who worked as a nanny in New York City and Chicago and who never shared them with anyone.

John Maloof, the young man who purchased a truck of her photos in an auction almost on a whim, co-wrote and co-directed this film that is part art appreciation and part detective story.
Not only did he track down much more of Maier’s belongings, but also he discovered her background that she carefully kept hidden and spoke to the families who employed her.
The result is a film with the exhilaration of discovering a major artist and her work as well as having the bittersweet quality of a person who made inexplicable choices.

Maier’s work was largely street photography. As Maloof found out she would go through all sections of New York City and Chicago, snapping photos of people and scenes – frequently with her young charges in tow. One woman remembers being brought to the Chicago stockyard with Maier, a trip of which her parents did not approve.

Maloof’s collection includes more than 100,000 images, which speaks to the obsessive nature of Maier’s personality. She also shot 8mm and 16mm films and made audio recordings.

This film goes along way in explaining why Maier did what she did, but naturally key questions can’t be answered as Maier died in 2009.

Maier’s work is certainly fascinating and thanks to Maloof has found international acclaim. This film is a must see for anyone interested in photography or just a truly compelling human story.

Netflix discovery: Alan Partridge
In 2013, British comedian Steve Coogan made the film that finally gave him some name recognition in the Untied States: “Philomena.” That year he made another film, which made no impact here, but is worthy of the hour and half it will take you to watch it on Netflix.
For years Coogan played “Alan Partridge” on British television. Partridge was a self-absorbed and inept television host. Coogan has taken the character and put him in a new vehicle.

In this film, Partridge is a self-absorbed and inept radio host whose station has been bought by a media conglomerate. The move prompts the firing of one of his colleagues (played by Colm Meaney) who takes the station and its personnel hostage.

The film has a lot of laughs in it, although Partridge also creates a bunch of cringes.
I really liked this film and if you enjoy British comedy, I think you’ll enjoy it as well.