To this day I still experience an amusing delight when I receive a positive reinforcement of one of my beliefs. The one I am referring to is my belief that there are no accidents; there is a reason for everything. As I was working on today’s movie review I came across the following quote on one of my social media sites. It comes from the Irish writer Oscar Wilde and it reads: “You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes, or for their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear.” This quote resonated deeply with me because in my own words I have always said the same thing. The surface of a person never influenced me unless there was an issue with their hygiene. The important stuff for me lies below, deep inside of them. I have no care about what car they drive or what they wear or what they do; who they are as a human being is what matters most to me. This quote came at the perfect time, for I was only in the beginning of writing my review. I am discarding it because this quote is the ideal way to lead off with today’s post of a classic film. Cary Grant (North by Northwest, His Girl Friday) played Johnny Case, a young man who fell in love with Julia, played by Doris Nolan (Moon Over Burma, Irene), who came from the wealthy Seton family. Looking to the future, Julia and her father could not understand why Johnny wanted to travel the world while he was still young, instead of settling down to work and make money. The only family member who seemed to understand what Johnny wanted to do was Julia’s sister Linda, played by Katherine Hepburn (Bringing Up Baby, On Golden Pond), the black sheep of the family. Directed by George Cukor (My Fair Lady, A Star is Born), this Oscar award nominated romantic comedy may be from a different era but the message it conveys is still relevant today. I do not think I need to tell you about the acting, directing or anything else about this movie. All you have to do is see how many stars I rated it below to know how much I enjoyed watching it. After viewing this film and seeing the quote, I feel everything fell into place to make this an extra enjoyable movie watching experience.
4 stars — DVD
The usual way we learned about extraordinary, historical individuals was at home, school or in books. We may have been taught about these larger than life people due to the country we lived in, the religion we practiced or the affect they had on the general population where we resided; though there could be many other reasons. Already aware of the importance of these people, if one wants to make a film about them, they would need to do their due diligence in getting all the facts straight before documenting events onto the screen. There are a couple of films that come to mind that achieved this, such as Charlton Heston (Ben-Hur, Planet of the Apes franchise) as Moses in The Ten Commandments and Ben Kingsley (Hugo, Schindler’s List) as Mahatma Gandhi in Gandhi. So now here is this dramatic film about Jesus Christ that was produced by Mark Burnett, known for the reality television shows Survivor and Shark Tank. I discovered after watching this movie that it was born out of the History Channel’s mini-series The Bible. It says a great deal about this piece of work; Jesus Christ getting spun off, how pathetically sad. Diogo Morgado (Star Crossed, Mami Blue) had the challenge of portraying Jesus and he failed miserably. I found him to be a dull, unenlightened caricature who wandered from place to place for two hours. Darwin Shaw (Casino Royale, The Bible-TV) was only a tad better with his character Peter. The script was offensive to me. I am not an expert on biblical quotes but some of the things that people were saying in this film did not sound right to me. The sets were uninspired and the long shot repeatedly used of the city looked like a bad computer graphic made by a Commodore 64 computer. (You older folks may get this analogy.) If one is going to invest the time and money into a movie project of this magnitude, then they need to take the time to do it right. While watching this dull movie I felt it looked like it was just thrown together without much thought. I cannot even say this film would have been better as a TV movie or mini-series; it would make no difference. I think I can accurately say most people have heard of Jesus Christ and probably know more about his story than this film. There were a few scenes where blood was shown.
1 1/2 stars
As you may know I am not a major fan of the horror film genre. Part of the reason has to do with the characters that are employed for the story. I do not find zombies, mutants, vampires or any other such fictional beings to be inherently frightening. Sure their actions may make me squirm in my seat; however, I find reality can be scarier than fiction. When riding public transportation I no longer have my cell phone or MP3 player visible. When there is snow and ice on the road I am scared of aggressive drivers who cut in front or tailgate me, making no allowances for winter conditions. There is another group of people that truly frighten me. Individuals with fanatical, extreme views make me uncomfortable. I have witnessed their hateful actions. As far as they are concerned if you do not follow their beliefs then you are damned. For me this is scarier than any horror movie I have seen until now. In this film festival winning movie, writer and director Kevin Smith (Clerks franchise, Chasing Amy) put his own spin in creating this horror tale. After setting up an online date to meet Sara, played by Melissa Leo (Prisoners, The Fighter); friends Travis, Jarod and Billy Ray, played by Michael Angarano (Almost Famous, Sky High), Kyle Gallner (Jennifer’s Body, Beautiful Creatures) and Nicholas Braun (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Watch), headed out to meet her for a good time. The boys did not know Sara was part of a radical fundamentalist group that was on the radar of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. This action thriller surprised me with the way it took something that could have easily been in the news and twisted it to a bigger extreme. Besides having the very capable Melissa Leo easily handling her character, I felt the movie received a boost by the presence of John Goodman (Argo, Inside Llewyn Davis) as federal agent Joseph Keenan. If you believe people could not be so extreme with their beliefs then you might not enjoy this action thriller. I found the story credible and could see it taking place, though maybe not to the level it reached; at least I hope so. As a complete film I found a few parts that did not make much sense; maybe it was trying to be satirical and I was not sure. For the fact this was a different take on the horror genre, it kept my interest even with several bloody scenes. Putting the idea for this story in proper perspective, one only has to take a look at our history of the past several decades. I cannot think of any recent horror film that would be scarier than encountering some of the characters in this bloody movie.
2 1/4 stars — DVD
My face was pressed against the glass window as I saw the airplane being pushed away from its accordion pleated, collapsable walkway. There was an emptiness inside of me as my visiting family members were flying back home. I imagined them settling into their seats and wondered if any of them were looking out of the jet’s windows back at me. Once the plane taxied out of sight I turned and headed out of the gate area. Walking through the terminal I noticed the massive flow of arriving and departing human beings streaming everywhere. One of my little mind games I played when I was a kid was to make up stories about the different people who were walking past me. With the amount of people that travel through an airport, it is an ideal venue to play this game. Where this was an innocent creative outlook for me, back when one could accompany their guests all the way to their gate, these days a majority of people play this game but for totally different reasons. The writers and director used people’s stereotyping and fears to add a charged dimension to this action thriller. Liam Neeson (The A-Team, Kinsey) played former policeman turned air marshal Bill Marks. During a transatlantic flight Bill received a text message demanding $150 million dollars be transferred to an offshore bank account; otherwise, one passenger every 20 minutes would be killed. Added to the mystery was the fact that the bank account was opened in the name of Bill Marks. Liam gave it his all, committing himself to the role and doing a great job as a broken, alcoholic air marshal. If you think this sounds familiar you would be right; it reminded me of Denzel Washington in the movie Flight. The difference however was Denzel’s film made sense; this one had several implausible scenes that defied logic. Putting that aside, I will say there were some tight, tense scenes that kept the viewer guessing on who was the real villain. Personally, I thought the villain was not strong enough. Among the cast was the terrific Julianne Moore (Carrie, Hannibal) as frequent flyer Jen Summers. I found it surprising that relative newcomer, Oscar nominee and winner Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) had such a small role as flight attendant Gwen. She had maybe a paragraph’s worth of dialog; I can only assume this film was made before 12 Years a Slave. Rounding out the main characters was Michelle Dockery (Hanna, Downton Abbey-TV) as flight attendant Nancy. I have to hand it to Liam; at his age to still be an action hero and maneuver through the aisles of an airplane, he would be the main reason to see this thriller.
2 2/3 stars
There are a multitude of actions and reactions that can be attributed to love. The warmth that rises up to the surface of your skin when your significant other engulfs your hand with their hand is due to love. Saddened as you look at the remnants of your love’s face outlined on their pillow while they are away on a business trip, slows your heart rate for the duration of their time away. I remember spending weeks driving around the city and suburbs, taking photographs of places we had been to that were associated with happy moments, to create a memory photo album for their birthday. Yep, due to the love I had for them. Love can overrule the mind’s practical side and make us do some things that can be embarrassing, odd or even scary. For me, I cringe when I think about the time I went to meet them at the airport, dressed up as a shirtless cowboy. Please excuse me for a moment as I clear the taste of bile from my mouth. Most of us associate being in love with joyful thoughts, but in this dramatic thriller love revealed a darker side. Elizabeth Olsen (Oldboy, Liberal Arts) played Therese Raquin who was sent to stay with her aunt Madame Raquin, played by Jessica Lange (The Vow, Big Fish). She was to become a companion and caretaker for her sickly cousin Camille, played by Tom Felton (Harry Potter franchise, The Apparition). As time passed Therese was taken by surprise the day her aunt decided that she would be marrying her cousin and the three of them would live happily ever after. That was until one day Camille brought home his old friend Laurent, played by Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis, Drive). The sets in this period piece were excellent, depicting France in the 1860s. Already fond of Elizabeth Olsen, I thought her and Jessica’s performances were outstanding. Actually I enjoyed the entire cast; the acting level was of a high caliber. The problems with this film have to do with the script and the directing. There were slow dry scenes where I felt the story sagging. It was sad because the potential for a highly dramatic, powerful film was there but it never reached it. The only love I felt for this film was for Jessica Lange and Elizabeth Olsen.
2 1/2 stars
This past Oscar season I have discovered new things about myself. From the nearby couple who kept talking during the movie I learned restraint; instead of asking them to look around and notice they are not sitting at home in their living room, I quietly whispered the “shhh” sound. During a particularly tedious film I realized I could do several yoga poses if I lifted up the armrests of my seat. Due to my keen observations I figured out to never sit near anyone who is carrying a large bag, purse or backpack; they inevitably have food in them, from candy to full size meals and cannot help but make munching, slurping or crunching noises. There is one other thing I learned and that is realizing how strong my determination can be. No matter how awful the film, I refused to nap or get up and walk out of the theater. As a result I have seen a whole bunch of movies I would normally never bother seeing. So I am going to try something new here and predict the Golden Raspberry Awards, also known as the Razzies. These awards for the worst performances and picture were started in 1980 by the American copywriter and publicist J.B. Wilson. If nothing else consider this my little gift to you in the form of a cheat sheet on what to avoid, thereby saving yourself time and money. Without further ado please find below the winners for the worst of last year.
Worst Actor: Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger
This was close since Johnny was up against Sylvester Stallone who was nominated worst actor in three different movies. I chose Johnny because he coasted through this role, bringing nothing of value. Sylvester was simply trying not to act his age in boring movies.
Worst Actress: Halle Berry in The Call and Movie 43
With Naomi Watts being nominated for Diana and Movie 43, this could easily go her way. Both women were awful in their films. I did not see nominee Lindsay Lohan in The Canyons.
Worst Supporting Actor: Chris Brown in Battle of the Year
A pathetic performance for a silly film.
Worst Supporting Actress: Kim Kardashian in Tyler Perry’s Temptation
All my classes know not to mention the “K” word; not one family member’s name shall ever be uttered during class. So it kills me that Kim gets the award.
Worst Picture: Movie 43
I was torn here between this film and The Lone Ranger. Both would be suitable for worst film of the year; however, I went with Movie 43 because I found it offensive. The Lone Ranger was simply dumb.
May you avoid these lame movies unless you have a white elephant movie party, where everyone sits around and makes fun of the film.
There are some things in life worth fighting for, metaphorically speaking. If I believe something is the right thing to do, I will argue the point without any time limit. I am willing to fight traffic if it means I get to spend quality time with a friend. (I bet you thought I was going to say a movie.) Love is certainly worth fighting for, wouldn’t you agree? There was someone I dated where I was wiling to make sacrifices or more accurately compromises because I felt it would help the relationship continue to grow. You may think it is silly, but one of my strongest self-imposed rules is my last meal cannot start later than 6pm, for dietary reasons. They liked eating at 8pm, feeling my time was too early. Luckily we both wanted to keep investing in our relationship so we negotiated times and made adjustments to help each other. In this situation it was worth it to me, to fight myself in the name of love. This fighting for love was one of the things I admired about this dramatic action film. Kit Harington (Games of Thrones-TV, Silent Hill: Revelation 3D) played Milo, who witnessed his parents’ death at a young age. Orphaned and alone he grew up a slave until he was old enough to become a gladiator. None of his fights meant anything to him until one day he saw Princess Cassia of Pompeii, played by Emily Browning (Sucker Punch, The Uninvited). I enjoy watching a movie that includes a historic setting or reenactment. It allows me to add a visual to what I have learned in school and books. Unfortunately the story for this film was pretty much a cheap knockoff of the movie Titanic, except there was fire instead of water. Kiefer Sutherland (Phone Booth, 24-TV) was forgettable as Corvus. I actually felt bad for Kit; with all the work he did to sculpt his body, he should have devoted some time to polishing his acting abilities for the big screen. He was one dimensional throughout the film. The only actor who did decent acting was Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Oz-TV) as fellow gladiator Atticus. I saw this film in 3D and it did nothing for me except cost me more money and made the picture look darker. The concept for this movie was silly to start with, add in the weak script and there really is no reason to fight your way to the movie theater to see this film. There were brief scenes that included blood.
1 2/3 stars
In a few days the big event will be upon us. I know it will be worth everything I endured the past year. There was the teen movie where the audience looked like it was separated into different groups, huddled by the campfire glow from their cell phones, texting away. I recall the small cluster of elderly people behind me who I assumed were addicted to hard candies based on the crackling, unwrapping noises that pierced the still air throughout most of the movie. All of these things will melt from my memories as the flood of winning Oscar nominees settle into fresh impressions. This was a tough year for me with a few of the categories because the competition was so close. I have my pre-Oscar meal planned, washed my soft cozy afghan and dusted the big screened television; so, I am ready for my favorite day of the year. I really do not have a bucket list but one day I want to be part of the audience sitting at the Oscar telecast. Better yet, I would do almost anything to be a seat filler. If the chance ever comes I already know I would leave behind a tastefully wrapped chocolate candy on each celebrity’s seat upon my departure. Please find below my choices for who I feel should receive the Oscar this year.
BEST ACTOR: Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club
This was a tough call because I feel Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave deserves it just as much as Matthew. I would prefer a tie here; however, I feel the academy will choose Matthew based on his recent body of work.
BEST ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine
If anyone can grab this from Cate it will be Judi Dench for Philomena. This is tough but I decided on Cate for her different moods on display.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club
His role was more complicated to pull off and he was brilliant with his performance.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave
I actually was leaning towards Jennifer Lawrence for the longest time but the more I thought about it I decided Lupita was extra special. The dark horse here would be June Squibb for Nebraska, but Lupita deserves the win.
BEST DIRECTOR: Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave
This was the hardest one for me to make a decision. Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity deserves this just as much as Steve McQueen. The new technology he created for the cameras, the difficulty in pushing actors who were alone in many scenes; it was amazing work. However, I am choosing Steve based on the variety of cast and scenes in this film. He kept me absolutely engaged throughout the film.
BEST PICTURE: 12 Years a Slave
Since the beginning I have been telling everyone that this film needs to be shown in every classroom. Being based on a true story only made this movie more incredible for me.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Gravity
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: Frozen
I only saw 3 out of the 5 nominees and if I had seen The Wind Rises my answer may have been different.
VISUAL EFFECTS: Gravity
So another year comes to a close and I want to thank each of you for your encouragement, support, comments and total acceptance of me; a part neurotic, obsessive, film lover.
If one is not careful they will find their job has taken over their life. There are some people who define themselves by what they do for a living: I am not one of those individuals. I cannot tell you how many times people have assumed I adhere to a strict, proper diet because I teach fitness classes or that I must be a tough SOB since I am a credit manager. These are my professions, what I do for a living; however, they do not represent all of me. I am aware my multiple jobs have had an effect on my personal life; some relationships did not last due to my frequent unavailability. Now with the addition of movie reviewing, I have quite the hectic schedule. Here is one example from this past Saturday: I taught a cycle class from 8 to 9am; changed and ran out of the club to make a 10:15am movie; stopped for groceries afterwards then on to home for lunch; out the door for a 2:30pm matinee; came home to change clothes and make a banquet reception from 6 to 11pm; returned home and collapsed into bed. This is a day in my life but at least I do not have to kill people for a living like they did in this action film. Kevin Costner (Man of Steel, The Guardsman) played international spy Ethan Renner who was recently diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Having stayed a safe distance away from his wife Christine and daughter Zoey, played by Connie Nielsen (One Hour Photo, Gladiator) and Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Romeo and Juliet), for their protection, Ethan wanted to reconnect with them before it was too late. There was only one problem; to receive an experimental drug that could extend his life expectancy, Ethan would have to take on one more job. How could he be a father and a spy at the same time? From an early start into the movie I did not find the story credible. The character of Vivi Delay, played by Amber Heard (Never Back Down, Drive Angry), made no sense to me. If she was a superior of Ethan’s, I did not understand the whole car and wardrobe look to her character. Kevin and Hailee did a decent job of acting but the script was dull and often times ridiculous. The fight and chase scenes were decent though. Maybe instead of taking 3 days to kill they could have done it in two. There were a few scenes that had blood shown.
There is a saying, “curiosity killed the cat,” that is used to remind us that there are some things we should not be sticking our noses in, such as someone’s personal affairs or condemned buildings. There certainly is some validity to that; however, there are times where curiosity is a healthy trait. With all the wonders this earth has to offer, I cannot imagine someone not having curiosity about something. It is like being on a date and the person never asks you any questions; I find that so odd and would have to assume the person is not interested. When I was little I went through a period, some would say obsession, where I was taking things apart to see how they worked. It did not matter that I could not put them back together. One day my parents came home to discover I removed the doorknob and lock from the front door. At least I used a screwdriver because I will admit there were times I would break an item to see what was inside–especially if it was not working correctly. A healthy portion of curiosity can reveal many magical things around us. The extent the individual went in this documentary to satisfy his curiosity was both fascinating and amusing to observe. Texas based inventor Tim Jenison was not an artist but was intrigued with 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. Tim wanted to know why the artist’s works stood out from all other artists’ pieces during the same time period. Part mystery, part detective story; I enjoyed the way this award winning movie played out. A portion of it was due to the director Teller, half of the comical magic act known as Penn & Teller. Another part was both the narration by Penn Jillette and the subject himself, Tim Jenison. There was a light playful humor throughout the film as Tim devoted a portion of his life to find the answers to his questions. Some of those queries even led him to England to visit the British artist David Hockney. Depending on your frame of mind, some viewers may find this film a bit repetitive; I could have easily seen this on public television or DVD. Surprisingly, I rather enjoyed seeing this at the movie theater. The reason was due to the crowd’s reactions after the film. It was funny to hear all these strangers being curious about a variety of topics that came up for them during the film. Now aren’t you curious to find out for yourself?