Monthly Archives: June 2012
If I knew the world was coming to an end, no carb would be safe near me. Having had to spend most of my years thinking about what I was eating, I would consume anything and everything I could get my hands on. It really would be a dream come true. Right at the beginning of this movie we found out the final attempt to destroy the asteroid Matilda had failed. It was still headed on a collision course with earth. Dodge, played by Steve Carell (Date Night, Evan Almighty), and his wife (real life wife Nancy) heard the news while they were in the car. She bolted from the car in a panic, never to be heard from again. Even with such a morose topic, the humor did not seem out of place to me. When back at his apartment, Dodge witnessed his neighbor Penny, played by Keira Knightley (A Dangerous Method, Pride & Prejudice), breaking up with her boyfriend. From this point on I felt the story began to break down. With chaos exploding around them, Penny and Dodge wound up taking a road trip; he to find the first love of his life and her to get back to her family. Keira did a good job with what she was given in the script. She certainly has that single tear rolling down the face thing that Demi Moore used to be known for. My problem with this film was how scattered it came across. Going from funny to sad, improbable to silly; I quickly lost interest. Another reason could have been Steve Carell; he was not strong enough to be the lead in this role. And here again, I blamed the script for most of it. Sitting in my seat I was more preoccupied with seeking relief at the movie ending than the world coming to an end.
After recently watching and reviewing The Cove, I had reservations about seeing this movie. Could I write an unbiased review while I still had disturbing images of helpless dolphins swimming in my brain? With some trepidation, I slipped the DVD into the player and viewed this film that was inspired by a true story. Sawyer Nelson, played by Nathan Gamble (The Dark Knight, Marley & Me), was riding his bicycle by the beach when a man was calling for help. Going up to him Sawyer saw why the call for help; there was a beached dolphin with its tail stuck in a crab trap. Trying to help the poor animal, Sawyer felt a special bond to it. When Dr. Clay Haskett, played by Harry Connick Jr. (New in Town, P.S. I Love You), arrived from the marine animal hospital; it took a group effort to secure the dolphin and transport it back for some needed care. With Sawyer checking in on the animal, a transformation emerged that changed the life of the young boy. I found myself drawn into the story, understanding the reasons why the writers made it schmaltzy. The goal was to pull at the viewers’ heart strings. For me it was too forced and manipulative. Besides being predictable, I felt the movie was way over the top in being cute and heartfelt. All it needed was a swelling of violin music. With that being said, I still shed a couple of tears in the appropriate places. My heart is built to go out to the disadvantaged.
2 1/2 stars — DVD
I do not have children; but if I had, my hope would be that I raised them to be free thinking, independent adults. My parents did, even if that was not their intentions. With that being the case, the story in this Pixar animated movie was a success. Princess Merida, voiced by Kelly MacDonald (No Country For Old Men, Nanny McPhee), was not going to grow up in the traditions of her mother Queen Elinor, voiced by Emma Thompson (Love Actually, Last Chance Harvey). Merida did not want her parents deciding who she could marry or how she should act. If only she could make her parents understand; the young princess was determined to break the traditions of her family. What I found different in this movie was the presence of a strong conflict between mother and daughter. In my opinion it was about time an animated movie dealt with deeper real life issues, yet still have the elements of a funny Disney movie. There was conflict, a challenge and a consequence; but for the broader audience, there were elements of humor, adventure and fantasy. It was like having a smorgasbord of emotions spread out for the viewer to sample. Visually this movie was stunning; the amount of detail was breathtaking. I was mesmerized by Merida’s beautiful, flaming red hair–it looked so real. Overall I felt the film had a split personality. There seemed to be a shift in focus that dulled the story for me, when the witch’s spell came into play. But like any relationship, one could not pick and chose the parts they liked. The entire movie experience for me was good, not great and I almost felt as if I had just been to Scotland.
2 3/4 stars
I think we can all agree that a deceased individual’s wishes listed in their will should be honored. It would be unthinkable for me to not only ignore the person’s wishes but to take contrarian actions. This issue was at the heart of this gripping documentary. From a working class, Philadelphia family; Albert C. Barnes became a successful doctor who had a keen eye for art. He amassed a collection of modern and post-impressionist art before many others realized how important Picasso or Matisse would become in the art world. The established art critics scoffed at his colleciton which was something Dr. Barnes would never forget. What was known as the Barnes collection was a priceless accumulation the doctor had housed in a specially built building in Merion, just outside of Philadelphia. I was shocked when glimpses were shown of the hanging masterpieces. Besides the amazing amount of artwork on display, the pieces were absolutely impressive. I realize anyone who makes a documentary could be biased in regards to their views. However, when this movie presented different aspects of events and what possibly was taking place behind the scenes, I was saddened. The bottom line for me was listed in Dr. Barnes’ will: The artwork was never to be loaned, moved or sold. How could people be so greedy and not respect a dead man’s wishes? What would give them the right? Watch this DVD and decide for yourself.
3 1/3 stars — DVD
Many of Abraham Lincoln’s accomplishments have been well documented. How did historians miss this tasty tidbit about President Lincoln’s skill as a vampire hunter? If it wasn’t for Mr. Lincoln’s special talent, the civil war would have had a different ending. Having not read the popular book this movie was based on, I only had a partial idea on what to expect based on the movie trailers. The story was totally outrageous and laid out to mirror the actual timeline of Abraham Lincoln’s progress from young boy to lawyer to president. This movie was an absolute fun experience. All you need to do is put common sense aside and just go for the thrilling ride as the action was constant and the special effects were great. The movie’s look was immaculate in its presentation and detail to the period of time. Playing Abraham Lincoln, I thought Benjamin Walker (Flags of Our Fathers, Kinsey) was wonderful as the lean, stoic, ax wielding man. His mentor Henry Sturgess, played by Dominic Cooper (The Devil’s Double, The Duchess), was also terrific in his complicated role. This is the type of movie you see when you need some escapism; a fun fantasy lined up along historical markers. Just imagine, if we did not have Abraham Lincoln to save us from being taken over by vampires, humans would have become the new red meat. There were multiple scenes of blood.
3 1/4 stars
I thought the surprise in this movie was seeing Octavia Spencer (The Help, Dinner for Schmucks), Elle Fanning (Super 8, We Bought a Zoo) and Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids, Pretty Ugly People) at an earlier stage of their careers. It is a kick for me to see how actors started out or watch their earlier films before they hit the big time. The other surprise about this film was the outcome from three separate stories and discovering the connection. Without giving too much away, the stories could be broken down into a comedy, drama and a fantasy. This unusual film started with Ryan Reynolds (Safe House, The Proposal) as Gary, a troubled actor who burned his girlfriend’s house down. Under house arrest, he was supervised by sweetly tough publicist Margaret, played by Melissa McCarthy. As the days pass, Gary begins to hear voices, find mysterious notes he does not recall writing and thinks he is seeing glimpses of himself in the large house. By the end of the story I was confused, not sure where this movie on a whole was going to take me. The second segment started out providing me no help in my confusion. All I will tell you is to stick it out in watching this movie. There was some interesting points to the stories and I found myself being drawn in to discover the conclusion. Was it the best acting I have seen in a movie? Certainly not; however, I enjoyed the entertainment value this film provided me.
2 2/3 stars — DVD
Everyone has their own way of dealing with the heartache from a breakup. For me, I lose my appetite, fall into a depression and if you can believe it, watch more movies. It is a real challenge when I still need to be upbeat and motivate the members in my classes. Lola, played by Greta Gerwig (Greenberg, Damsels in Distress), was only a few days from being married when her fiance called off the wedding. The story followed Lola as she free fell into a chaotic life filled with eating, drinking and a whole lot of confusion. I have enjoyed Greta’s performances in the past and though I thought she was okay in this film, I felt she was directed poorly. Her character was not as sympathetic as it could have been; I lost interest within the first half of the movie. Interestingly, I thought her fiance Luke, played by Joel Kinnaman (Safe House, The Darkest Hour) did a sufficent job with his role. I am not comfortable with things that are extreme. With Lola, I felt she was acting out in such a drastic, negative way that it was not likable to me. By the end of the movie I felt ambivalent, just grateful I did not have friends like that around me.
1 3/4 stars
The way the world works these days, there usually is an alternative solution that will get you the same results, albeit not legally. I may believe I have some street smarts, but I would be fooling myself if I did not think there are a lot of undocumented things happening around me. At present one of the hot political topics has to do with immigration. I had a crash course in the legalities of the issue when my niece became engaged to a wonderful man from France. Lorna, played by Arta Dobroshi (Late Bloomers, Magic Eye), worked at a cleaners, but hoped to open a snack shop one day. To get to her goal, she agreed to enter into a sham marriage arranged by local, small time mobster Fabio, played by Fabrizio Rongione (The Kid with a Bike, The Child). Besides the financial gain, Lorna would more importantly obtain Belgian citizenship. Everything was going smoothly until her husband, a junkie, asked for her help in getting clean. At the beginning of this dramatic film, I was not sure where the story was going; I felt out of synch with it. However, I soon realized that is what the directors had in mind. Lorna and her husband were not so dissimilar after all. The range of feelings they displayed felt like I was watching a tennis match; going from dominance to weakness to manipulation. This film did not take a page out of the Hollywood handbook; it was a bare bones story that fully used its actors’ abilities. A raw tense movie, this Cannes and Lumiere winning film gave a glimpse into what I am sure has been a real occurence in life. French, Albanian, Russian with English subtitles.
3 stars — DVD
The bond between a mother and daughter can be a beautiful and loving connection. That was not the case in this comedy. After her husband declared he was divorcing her; high strung Diane, played by Catherine Keener (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Into the Wild), left with the children and reluctantly went to visit her aged, hippie of a mother. It had been 20 years since mother and daughter had last seen each other. Jane Fonda (Monster-in-Law, Agnes of God) was the pot smoking, laid back, free loving mother Grace–a total opposite from her tightly wound, uptight daughter. All staying under one roof; Grace, Diane and the grandchildren needed time not only to adjust to each other, but to heal issues from the past before they could go forward. The bright spot for me in this clunker of a movie was Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Silent House) playing the granddaughter Zoe. I have been so impressed with Elizabeth’s brief career in acting so far; she really has a gift for it. There were parts of the story that interested me; however, what turned me off was Jane Fonda’s character. It was so over the top stereotypical, I was annoyed by it. I would be curious to know why Jane took this role. With no surprises in this movie, it was not long before I started glancing down at my watch–never a good sign. Though Elizabeth and Catherine were good, it was not enough to save this lame movie.
1 3/4 stars
The idea that Flipper could have been the cause for dolphins’ horrific plight today breaks my heart. Remembering a vacation to Sea World with my niece and nephew as I watched this disturbing documentary, I now could never go to a dolphin show again. This Oscar and Sundance winning film played more like a spy thriller. Activist Richard (Ric) O’Barry was the individual who captured and trained the dolphins who played Flipper on the old television series. From that initial introduction; people began to fall in love with these beautiful creatures, spawning the huge industry of dolphin and whale shows around the world. When Ric witnessed what he believed to be a dolphin’s suicide on the show, he changed his beliefs and became the activist and spokesman for dolphins. What is considered the dolphin capital of the world, Ric and his team traveled to Taiji, Japan; hoping to film what really took place in this town. Not only was there the issue of the dolphins’ predicament, there was the environmental issue that was being concealed. With high tech equipment and highly specialized trained individuals, their plan truly played out like a military operation; it was thrilling and exciting for me. Despite the couple of brutal and barbaric scenes filmed, this incredible documentary must be seen. If for nothing else, to become aware how corrupt and vile humans can be towards earth’s animals…and people.
4 stars — DVD