Monthly Archives: August 2012
Though it is a painful and sad time, experiencing the loss of a loved one comes with a certain finality to it. The healing process for those remaining begins as their lives continue on. With regards to family members, in the natural order of things; a parent never wants to see their child die. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to have a child go missing. When I see stories on the news of missing family members, I am saddened to see the torture the relatives go through with such a tragedy. Going into the movie theater, with no prior knowledge of this mind-blowing true story about Nicholas Barclay’s disappearance, I sat in disbelief as the events unfolded. After a few years had passed regarding NIcholas’ disappearance, the family received a call that a boy was found in Spain, claiming he was Nicholas. Imagine what the family was experiencing from the news. What followed, I thought, could not be really happening; but with the family members’ interviews and the reenactments of scenes, all I could assume was the power of belief was stronger than reason. The filming of this story was well done as it went back and forth between interviews and the playback of particular events; I felt I was watching a psychological thriller. Portraying Frederic Bourdin was newcomer Adam O’Brian and Nicholas’ sister Carey Gibson was played by Anna Ruben (Wrong Number, Eternal). This was a movie one had to see to believe. Also, the less one knows about the story, the more incredulous they will be while watching this jaw-dropping film. There is nothing more to be said about this tragedy within a tragedy.
3 1/4 stars
Ultimately one must lead the life they choose for themselves, not the one someone has chosen for them. I remember years ago when I was between jobs, I received a great piece of advice: Do what you love and the money will follow. My mother always wanted me to be an accountant; yet, I knew I could never be one. The creative side of my mind would have shriveled up. Even when it comes to one’s personal tastes; do not let people impose their tastes on you. It is funny, no matter what length my hair was, my dad would always tell me to wear it differently. If it was long, he would tell me to cut it and if it was short, he would tell me to grow it out. It was maddening at times. Based on a true story; Chris McCandles, played by Emile Hirsch (Killer Joe, Speed Racer), had to live life the way he felt it was meant to be lived. Seeing the life his parents Billie and Walt McCandles, played by Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River, The Mist) and William Hurt (The Incredible Hulk, Vantage Point), were living; Chris did not want any part of it. After graduating from Emory University, Chris decided to get rid of his material possessions and hitchhike to Alaska, to live with nature. His journey would lead him to unexpected adventures. Written and directed by Sean Penn (Milk, 21 Grams), this was a stunning movie. Sean slowly brought out an amazing performance from Emile; both in acting and with the incredible physical transformation that took place. The supporting cast never felt out of place; they added shading to the adventures. Some viewers may think Chris McCandles was crazy to do what he did. I felt it was better to try something, even if it were to fail; than go through life wondering what would have happened, if I had only tried.
3 1/3 stars — DVD
Imagine the possibility that there was something more to those people who had an imaginary friend as a child, or possibly as an adult. What if our imaginary friends were actual people from the past? I, for one, wish I could talk to deceased relatives or historic famous people; what an incredible opportunity it would be. Norman Babcock, voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In, The Road), talks to dead people. His deceased grandmother, voiced by Elaine Stritch (Monster-in-Law, Autumn in New York), could be found seated on the family sofa knitting away, but only Norman could see her. It was this ability that made Norman stand out, but not in a good way. His schoolmates made fun of him, he had no friends; even his sister Courtney, voiced by Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air, 50/50), considered him a nerd. Norman pretty much was a loner except to the dead people around him. I was immediately drawn to the story due to Norman being different and a loner, a kindred spirit. The tale was about whether Norman could prevent the destruction of his town by zombies, ghosts and a witch’s curse. I do not know if it had to do with the wonderful stop motion filming used for this exciting movie, but I enjoyed everything about it. From the quick humorous one-liners, to the great visuals; seeing this film was absolute fun. I believe an entire family would enjoy this creative movie, with the exception of very young children below the age of five. And for those of you, who still have imaginary friends, feel free to bring them along for a a wildly good time.
3 1 4/ stars
With many stories that have scenarios filled with horror and terror, one can find individuals that shine with an amazing heartbeat. For me, it was a music teacher who became my savior; when the bullying in school was overwhelming me. She would stand outside her classroom, watching for me as I walked down the hallway towards class, making sure I was safe. There are people in the world who can make all the difference to a victim. One of these remarkable individuals was Paul Rusesabagina. Based on a true story, Paul was the house manager of a luxury hotel in Rwanda, back in the 1990’s. Played by Don Cheadle (Brooklyn’s Finest, Reign Over Me), Paul put his life in jeopardy by housing Tutsi refugees in the hotel; away from the Hutu militia, who were determined to slaughter any and all Tutsi civilians. This was a hard movie to watch due to the brutal and bloody violence on display; it was pure genocide. Besides telling myself this was only a movie, the flawless acting from Don Cheadle kept me riveted to my seat. There was a scene with Paul’s wife Tatiana, played by Sophie Okonedo (The Secret Life of Bees, Martian Child) that brought tears to my eyes. Another great performance was given by Nick Nolte (Warrior, The Thin Red Line) as Colonel Oliver. There are so many times where we come across the tagline: It only takes one person to make a difference. In regards to Paul Rusesabagina, he made 1000 differences. It was an incredible experience watching this moving movie about a special soul, surviving in the middle of man’s ugliness.
3 2/3 stars — DVD
The more money a person acquires, it seems to me, the less they maintain a grasp on the real world. When I see examples of obscene amounts of money being spent on outrageous objects, such as 24 carat bathroom fixtures or a bedroom set carved out of a rare, exotic wood in the shape of a venetian gondola; I think, is that really necessary? As the division between the have and have nots widens, we have here a movie that depicts a time of chaos. With life spiraling out of control; young billionaire Eric Packer, played by Robert Pattinson (Twilight franchise, Water for Elephants), decided to go outside to get a haircut. In a decked out limousine and accompanied by tough security man Torval, played by Kevin Durand (Real Steel, Legion), Eric became a witness to life outside of himself. Here was an instance where I had wished I read the book before seeing this film. It was hard figuring out what was happening at times. For example, why couldn’t Eric have his barber come to his limo like his doctor? I was hoping to see Robert stretch himself in this role, due to a majority of the movie was filmed of him inside the limo. Unfortunately, I found Robert falling back into his character Edward from Twilight, minus the pale, sparkly skin. The division of the classes was something I could pick up on; however, I thought the script was utterly wrong, providing me with nothing to sustain my interest. I was bored out of my mind and did not care about the various characters that popped in and out of the limousine, during this slow moving movie. Even casting Paul Giamatti (Sideways, The Illusionist) as Benno Levin was not enough to save this poor film. Maybe if the studio did not spend so much money for the actors and director, they could have gone more for quality, making this film understandable for the masses. Brief scenes with blood.
1 2/3 stars
Within our daily lives, think about the amount of objects we come in contact with, barely giving them a thought. From cell phones to computers to shoes to watches; all are just stuff. I have complained that most things these days are built to be disposable; nothing lasts as long as I remember. An example would be my portable CD player. I have gone through 3 of them in the past year; something breaks and I discard it for a new one. Talk about a movie that gave me a large reality check; who knew a piece of chalk could be so priceless. From the director who brought us Raise the Red Lantern and House of Flying Daggers, Yimou Zhang created a sparse film based on simple emotions. When teacher Gao, played by Enman Gao, had to leave his class for 1 month, the mayor of the small rural village could only get Wei Minzhi, played by Minzhi Wei, to substitute teach the class. Barely out of school herself with no teaching experience, she was told there would be a bonus in pay if she kept the same amount of students in the classroom until the teacher returned. All that was given to her were 30 pieces of chalk, one for each day. The first part of this movie was set at a slow pace, as the students tried to take advantage of teacher Wei. I bet we can all relate to that from our school days. Just on the verge of me questioning my reason to see this DVD, the story really began to unfold. When a student went missing, taking off for the city, Wei was determined to bring him back. Here was where the magic unfolded in this wonderful film; when Wei incorporated the students into her plan, teaching them without really trying. Showing a barren life, simply letting the actors tell the story; this was a moving experience for me. Notice the cast credits at the end of the movie. Mandarin with English subtitles.
3 stars — DVD
Everything I tried did not eradicate the image searing in my brain of Meryl Streep in a compromising position. I am not a prude; but, I do not want to see the woman who portrayed Margaret Thatcher and Julia Child doing such a thing–it was just wrong! In this comedic drama, Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady, It’s Complicated) played Kay, a wife of 31 years to her husband Arnold, played by Tommy Lee Jones (The Fugitive, No Country for Old Men). Empty nesters who lost their intimacy, Kay and Arnold were drifting apart, acting more like roommates than a married couple. Burdened with sadness, a lonely Kay was determined to try and save the marriage by enrolling in Dr. Feld’s, played by Steve Carell (Dinner for Schmucks, Get Smart), intensive couples counseling program; with or without Arnold. This was a different type of role for Meryl, playing a more muted character than her recent characters. I thought Tommy Lee was quite good as a cantankerous curmudgeon, quite surprised to see him bring such vulnerability to the role. What sold this film was the stars’ acting, they were quite believable. Even though Steve Carell played totally straight in his role, I was continually waiting for him to do something humorous. The weaknesses in the movie came from the script and directing. Everything seemed to be stuck in a middle range of feelings, no dramatic highs or lows to make me care more about the characters. A stronger ending was needed; not the sudden way things ended without explanation. Based on the audience seated at the theater, it appears the film attracts an older crowd. I just wonder how they felt about some of the ways Meryl tried to improve her marriage.
2 1/2 stars
To get the rich flavor out of certain foods, one must coddle and fuss over them. Think of your mother’s homemade spaghetti sauce sitting on the stove for hours; where it would simmer and bubble, emitting small puffs of steam into the air. Similar to that, this mystery slowly simmered as the various actors blended together into a rich, thrilling story. Watching this movie was a nostalgic experience for me; a throwback to a different time where the actors told the story, not the special effects or locales. This film slowly drew me into its story with its twists and turns. Joseph A. “Joe” Ross, played by Campbell Scott (Music and Lyrics, The Dying Gaul), created a formula that would bring millions to his company; run by Mr. Klein, played by Ben Gazzara (The Big Lebowski, Looking for Palladin). Altered attitudes and issues of trust came into play after Joe befriended the mysterious Julian “Jimmy” Dell, played by Steve Martin (Shopgirl, The Jerk), who warned Joe about taking steps to protect his creation. Written and directed by David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross, Hannibal), the driving force to this film came from the dialog. Filmed in 1997, the pacing took its time in revealing the story, allowing the actors to shine in their craft. It was fun to see a young Felicity Huffman (Trasamerica, Desperate Housewives-TV) and Ed O’Neill (Married with Children-TV, Modern Family-TV) who had small roles in this layered movie. Set in a past time, the wordy script took pleasure in reeling me into its web of intrigue and I went willingly. One brief scene with blood.
3 stars — DVD
Welcome to Madame Trudeau’s new interactive wax (or maybe plastic) action figures show. See them get up out of their seats, shoot a gun, light up a cigar and even say the wildest things; it will blow your mind. Can you count how many stunt doubles are in this movie? I was not expecting much when I went to see this action film. Not only was there an abundance of testosterone on the movie screen, there was a strong presence of it spread among the theater seats. In this sequel Barney Ross, played by Sylvester Stallone (Cop Land, Demolition Man) returns with his Botoxed band of buddies, along with a few extra surprises. At the start of the film, we see the group battling their way out of their latest job, with explosions and blazing gunfire. There was a constant stream of things blowing up and bullets flying throughout the adventures in the film. I noticed every bullet that struck a person created a spray of blood; it was almost cartoonish to me. The story centered on a job that went wrong. A member of the gang was needlessly killed by the sinister Vilain, played by Jean-Claude Van Damme (Universal Soldier, Double Impact). Yes, Jean-Claude was the bad guy in this film. And to his credit, it appeared he did his own leg kicks. Barney and his band were determined to get revenge. No matter how outnumbered they were or how unlikely the scenario, nothing would stop them. Adding extra muscle, Barney received help from Trench, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger (True Lies, Last Action Hero). There was such campiness with Arnold on the scene. The script took liberties with some of the former action heroes’ famous lines, giving the viewer a smug, tongue-in-cheek pattering of dialog. This is the type of movie you would see if you just want total action, little plot and character development. A straight forward, simple story with aging movie stars trying to remain tough and young. It ain’t pretty. Scenes of blood and violence.
1 3/4 stars