Michael Jackson once taught Fred Astaire to Moonwalk. The King of Pop wasn't as good a dancer as the screen legend - he didn't have the inventiveness in the steps, but he did have the grace and naturalness of Astaire.
Jackson's dancing abilities, as well as his other immense talents, are on display in "Michael Jackson's This Is It," a documentary that is a glimpse of what might have been had the pop star lived.
It is taken from more than 100 hours of taped rehearsals for the 50-concert comeback tour that Jackson was preparing for when he died last June from a drug overdose. It's directed by longtime Jackson friend and choreographer Kenny Ortega, known more recently for his success with "High School Musical."
The documentary is deliberately vague about what process in the concert's development it's showing - mostly shot from April to June.
As much as you see him in "This Is It," there no real close-up of Jackson, who appears almost always behind sunglasses and in a full body shot. The footage was meant to be a personal recording for Jackson and not a true documentary.
Still, it is a thrill to see Jackson perform, and what "This Is It" confirms is that the King of Pop was a extraordinary showman and that there is no one who will match him. A triple threat, not only an amazing dancer, but singer and songwriter, and in the film you can see him bringing all his artistic talents to bear - whether telling a bass player how he wants a riff played or the dancers how to hit a mark. (One interesting extra shows how the hoofers were chosen.)
The problem with doing films about poets - especially dying ones - is that they usually don't lead active lives. Jane Campion's stylish "Bright Star" overcomes much of that dilemma in telling the story of British 19th century Romantic poet John Keats and Fanny Bawne, the woman who was both an inspiration and love of his brief life.
While the film's focus is on Keats, the bright star is Fanny, luminously played by Australian actress Abbie Cornish. Her vitality is the counterpoint to the poet (Ben Whishaw) who is suffering from tuberculosis.
When we first meet her, she is an outspoken young woman who designs hats and dresses, but when she meets the poor Keats - both in person and on the page - she loses all sensibleness. The two can never be together, though, he's too impoverished and in ill health.
Campion's genius in "Bright Star" is making Keats' words become a character. They are the go-between in the unresolved sexual tension between Fanny and the poet, and the director, with her insistent camerawork, makes what could have been a staid period piece come alive.
Problems of parenthood
"The Boys Are Back" is based on a memoir of the same name by Simon Carr, a sportswriter who after the death of his second wife finds himself raising a young son and then unexpectedly his older teen boy from his first marriage. Directed by Scott Hicks ("Shine"), "Boys" manages to step around most maudlin impulses associated with such films, but it avoids digging too deeply into the problems of parenthood.
Clive Owen plays Joe Warr, a happy-go-lucky sort. When his wife dies, he suddenly finds himself being a mom and dad to his boy Artie (Nicholas McAnulty). Then his first wife, wanting to restart her own life in a second marriage, asks him to take their son, Harry (George MacKay).
You know Joe - who up until then led a charmed life - will eventually find his way. But there are a few moments that are heart-wrenching, as anyone who has had to deal with an young, angry child knows.
Girl power and rebellion
Drew Barrymore's directorial debut, "Whip It," is a fun - if messy - grrl power dramedy. It stars "Juno's" Ellen Page as Bliss, a Texas teen being shepherded through beauty pageants by her mother who is trying to fulfill her own dreams.
Rebellious at heart but not wanting to disappoint her mother, Bliss finally finds her outlet when she happens on the chaotic world of competitive women's roller derby. It's fairly obvious where "Whip It" is going.
The action scenes are energetic - though I couldn't tell you rules of roller derby after having seen the film. And the squad is peppered with the expected collection of colorful characters.
"Twilight's " Robert Pattinson plays Salvador Dali in "Little Ashes," a film that explores the relationship between the Spanish surrealist painter, the filmmaker Luis Bunueland the poet Federico Garcia Lorca early in their careers. Directed by Paul Morrison, the film doesn't have much bite or the vividness that the three had in their art.