Monthly Archives: November 2012
Guilt is that off colored shadow that quietly attaches itself to your future decisions. It can be the insidious force that feeds on your insecurities as it devours your organs. There are people who can tame their guilt with the deliverance of forgiveness; I wish it could be that easy. It takes a large amount of work for me to let go of guilt. On the other hand, I have had better success in being forgiving though my percentages are not high. This dramatic film presented an interesting character study on the topic of guilt and forgiveness. The impressive cast swayed me to this DVD. Thomas Kelley’s, played by Steve Buscemi (Fargo, The Big Lebowski), dying wish was to be forgiven. In order for that to happen, Kelley and his old naval buddies would have to break their code of silence and revisit painful memories from over 30 years ago. Jamey Sheridan (The Ice Storm, Syriana) played conflicted naval friend Harry Sweeney, who took Kelley’s wish to heart. Carrying out the wish meant Harry having to locate the others from their group: Peter Reems and Professor Porter, played by John Savage (The Deer Hunter, Hair) and Aidan Quinn (Unknown, Sarah’s Key). For the most part the story was interesting though predictable in places. A series of flashbacks were used to give the viewer hints of the guys’ naval past. The actors performed well with what they were given, though I found a couple of the scenes unrealistic. As for guilt and forgiveness, I felt the writer and director handled it in a believable and even way. When I was done with the DVD I experienced no guilt for spending my time sitting and watching this intriguing film.
2 1/2 stars — DVD
Executives of sanitation and water plants could not explain the sudden drop in water usage. There were many people walking around with a musty smell and slightly unpolished look. Hotel employees were perplexed in the sudden cancellation of room reservations. Well, maybe things were not that bad; however, you cannot tell me there were not a lot of people who thought twice about taking a shower, after they saw the movie Psycho. I remember the first time I saw this movie and how my heart raced. When a film is considered a classic, I enjoy hearing the back story on how forces came together to create such a great movie. This was one of the reasons I wanted to see this film, along with Anthony Hopkins’ (Thor, Proof) performance as famed director Alfred Hitchcock. When the story focused on the birth of Psycho it was fascinating. Even with all the success Hitchcock had with the movie studio, they balked at his plans, refusing to finance the project. I got a kick out of all the tidbits surrounding the filming process. It was fun to see Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, The Avengers) and James D’Arcy (W.E., Cloud Atlas) playing Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. In some scenes Anthony Hopkins was believable as Hitchcock; but at times, it seemed as if he slipped out of character and the makeup was odd. For me, the star of this movie was Helen Mirren (The Last Station, The Debt) as Alfred’s wife Alma Reville. I had no idea, if the story here is true, that she was as influential as she was portrayed. The problem I had was when the story veered off the making of Psycho and delved into the relationship Alma and Alfred had, it did not make for a cohesive story line. I appreciated the things I learned from this interesting movie; I just wished it had been more.
2 3/4 stars
The heart is a resilient muscle. It has the ability to heal from an emotional wound. No matter how many scars it may have, the heart will always let you know how it feels. The one exception would be when the individual does not have closure. Without that closure the heart remains in a wounded state, always reminding the person of its pain. Though I have experienced a broken heart, I never had to deal with the tragic horror the couple in this dramatic mystery were living. It had been several years with police detective Tom Adkins Sr., played by Jon Hamm (The Town, Friends with Kids) and his wife Barbara, played by Rhona Mitra (Shooter, The Number 23), no closer in finding out the circumstances behind the disappearance of their son Tom Jr. With the strain weighing particularly heavy on Officer Adkins, he could not let go and move on. When the remains of a little boy were found from a 50 year old grave, little did Tom know his detective work on the remains would result in a clue to his son’s case. This movie surprised me for a couple of reasons. First, it had a strong cast with the addition of Jessica Chastain (The Help, Lawless) as Sally Ann, Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama, A Beautiful Mind) as Matthew Wakefield and James Van Der Beak (The Rules of Attraction, Dawson’s Creek-TV) as Diploma/Roggiani. Second, the way the director blended the current events into the story behind the 50 year old remains kept my attention. With the older story, the sepia toned scenes made for seamless transitions between past and current time. In spite of several scenes that did not work for me, this film was a moving tale that touched my heart.
2 1/2 stars — DVD
There have been so many times I have heard someone say, “Act normal” and I just want to ask them, “What is normal?” Or when someone remarks, “They are the perfect family” I question them on what that exactly means. Where are these requirements written that describe the perfect family? As far as I am concerned, there is no such thing as acting normal or being a perfect family. To me it seems judgmental to compare one person or family to another. For these reasons I found this movie to be exceptional. The family was real to me; I loved all the characters…and I do mean characters. Bradley Cooper (The Words, Limitless) was outstanding as Pat Solatano, the recently released inmate of a state institution. Jobless and homeless, Pat had to move back in with his parents Dolores and Pat Sr., played by Jackie Weaver (Animal Kingdom, The Five-Year Engagement) and Robert De Niro (Being Flynn, Goodfellas). Spending his time thinking of ways he could get back with his wife; Pat was presented with an opportunity after he was introduced to recently widowed Tiffany, brilliantly played by Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games, Winter’s Bone). I am still processing why I felt these characters were like family to me; each actor was believable with their little neuroses and quirks. Having a well toned, hilarious script was certainly a big plus. Even Chris Tucker (Rush Hour franchise, The Fifth Element) who can be over the top was wonderful playing Pat’s friend Danny. The three performances that stood out for me came from Bradley, Robert and Jennifer. They did some of their best work in this romping good film. After you have spent some time here with the Solatano family, you may have to come up with a whole new definition for the word normal.
3 1/2 stars
Do not let glimpses of the past stop you from going forward. These words could easily pertain to one’s self improvement. I know my past flashes momentarily in my mind before I undertake a new challenge. For the main character in this thrilling movie, her past was something she did not want to ever revisit. At first I was thrown off by the quick cut away scenes that flashed on my television screen. Be prepared for the majority of them were disturbing. As the movie continued, I soon realized the quick scenes were jigsaw puzzle pieces to the unfolding story. Ksenia Rappoport (The Double Hour, Two Days) played Irena, a Ukrainian woman who was trying to escape the life she led. Settling into an Italian town she found employment as a cleaning woman for an apartment building. It was soon after Irena started working her way into helping resident Valeria Adacher with her daughter Tea. Claudia Gerini (Don’t Move, Ex) played Claudia, a jeweler who worked out of her home office. This is all I can tell you; I have already given you enough jigsaw pieces to this riveting tale. Ksenia did an excellent job with her role; at times, I did not know whether to be sympathetic or distrustful towards her character. I was repulsed by the character Moffa, played by Michele Placido (The Caiman, The Ages of Love). There were times I felt the story was predictable and manipulative; however, the suspense and mystery were precisely done that I was not concerned. It has been a while since I have seen a good mystery movie that kept me on my toes, as I tried to put together the puzzle pieces of Irena’s life. Scenes with violence and blood. Italian, Russian with English subtitles.
3 1/4 stars — DVD
My biggest accomplishment in summer camp one year was making a coat hook and a chessboard. The day camp offered a variety of classes for the campers; I chose wood shop. The first time I tried making a chessboard I got frustrated. My colored blocks of wood that I had cut out were not all symmetrical. Yes, even back then I was already a bit obsessive. Wanting to trash the whole idea, it was the camp counselor who took the time to encourage me to try again, after showing me a different way to cut the blocks out. I was not the only one who received help, there were other kids who received the counselor’s help. It was this individual’s patience and encouragement that made this class my favorite that summer. When a child receives positive motivation, the possibilities are endless for what they can achieve. In this inspirational documentary, the teachers of inner city school I.S. 318 are living proof of what a student can accomplish over challenging circumstances. With 70% of the student body coming from homes that were below the poverty level set by the federal government, the school’s chess team were national champions, the best in the country. They had won more championships than any other school in the nation. To hear these students’ personal stories only made their achievement that more impressive to me. This story followed the chess team as it attempted to repeat its past success, despite looming budget cuts that could eliminate them even before the start of competition. The film makers did a wonderful job of filming, giving the viewers a front row seat to the tension, nerves and fears these students experienced during their matches. If anyone has doubts on how much a teacher can influence their students, they need to see this impressive documentary.
3 1/4 stars
When I see advertisements announcing performance dates for any celebrity in their twilight years, my first thought has always been, “Do they really need the money?” I am not a fan who wants to see former headliners trying to maintain their youth as they perform in small clubs, attempting to recapture the good old times. Why don’t they instead do charity work, I have wondered. In this dramatic comedy, a law school dropout found himself becoming the assistant to an illusionist, when he answered an ad in the classifieds. John Malkovich (Con Air, Dangerous Liaisons) played Buck Howard, a long time performer who was trying to stage a comeback. I have had the good fortune to see John perform live on stage, years before he went on to the big screen. Back then I knew he was going to be an intense actor. He could easily switch from a raving, menacing lunatic character to a sweet, kind gentle man, in a heartbeat. As Buck Howard, John did an excellent job going from the pleasant showman to revealing the turmoil behind the facade. Colin Hanks (Looper, Orange County) was just ok for me in his role as assistant Troy Gable. However, I did enjoy the couple of scenes he had with his real life father Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump, The Green Mile), who also played his father in the movie. It was a nice surprise to see Emily Blunt (Looper, The Young Victoria) in the film, playing Valerie Brennan. However, I felt the direction her character took rang false. The actors who had cameo roles were fun. To tell you the truth, after seeing the scenes where Buck was performing in front of his audience, it occurred to me that I have been judgmental. Who am I to say who should perform or not; it does not really matter. If fans want to relive a fond memory they have of their idols and the celebrities are willing to keep the dream alive, then go for it. After I was done watching this DVD I wanted to search the web for The Amazing Kreskin.
2 1/2 stars — DVD
I wish I would have seen the 3D version of this exquisite movie. The fact that I am not a big fan of the 3D fad we have been experiencing, should tell you something about the visual aspect of director Ang Lee’s (Taking Woodstock, Brokeback Mountain) incredible masterpiece. Under his watchful eye both actors and animals commanded their scenes, placed perfectly for optimal effect. Based on Yann Martel’s best selling novel, the story was about the survivor of a shipwreck who found himself in a life boat with 4 animals from his family’s zoo. Newcomer Suraj Sharma was amazing as survivor Pi Patel. I found his ability to emote emotions without the use of his voice to be fresh for someone new to acting. Irrfan Khan (Taking Woodstock, Brokeback Mountain) did a beautiful job in his role, being properly confident yet reserved. Now I must talk about a third actor in this film, the tiger. I read that there were 3-4 Bengal tigers used in the picture except in scenes deemed dangerous. One would not have to take a big leap of faith here to realize a live tiger would not be used in scenes when Pi was in the same boat. The fact that I had read about the use of CGI effects made the computer graphic tiger more astounding to me. The big cat was so real looking I could not take my eyes off the regal animal. There was only one scene where the cat looked computer generated. Truly, the level of realism for all the animals was remarkable. I believe this movie will be a topic of conversation due to the different views the audience will walk away with from the open ended story. A breathtaking piece of work that I plan on seeing again in 3D.
Since today is my favorite holiday of Thanksgiving, I feel this is the perfect movie to review. Do you know that feeling where random variables line up perfectly to make your life easier? For example, when all the traffic lights turn green so you can get to the movie theater on time. You enter the full parking lot just as one car pulls out giving you the only open space. Then you get to the long ticket line just as extra cashiers open up, speeding up the line, so you can get into the theater just as the last preview ends and you see your favorite seat is the last seat open. In a similar vein, I felt everything fell into place to make this movie extra special for me. Recalling fond memories from past Thanksgiving meals with friends and family, as soon as the film started I felt I was that little boy again, filled with wonder and excitement. This wonderful animated movie starred characters we all used to believe were real. When an evil spirit threatened the children of earth, it would take the forces of the Guardians to come together to save the children. The Guardians consisted of Jack Frost, voiced by Chris Pine (Star Trek, This Means War); North aka Santa Claus was voiced by Alec Baldwin (To Rome With Love, 30 Rock-TV); Tooth aka Tooth Fairy was voiced by Isla Fisher (Wedding Crasher, Confessions of a Shopaholic) and Bunny aka Easter Bunny was voiced by Hugh Jackman (Real Steel, X-Men franchise). These actors did a wonderful job of bringing life to their characters. Jude Law’s (Anna Karenia, Hugo) voice was spot on for his character Pitch the evil spirit. The CGI effects were magical to me, adding an extra layer of fun and excitement to the story. As I walked back to my car I tried to remember if I ever believed in these characters when I was a little kid. Honestly, I do not recall ever believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. But because of this movie I believe in them now. As a side note, there is no reason to see this movie in 3D.
3 1/3 stars
My father’s side of the family traces itself back to Russia. I remember my parents had an old shoebox filled with thick postcard sized photographs of my father’s relatives. All of the pictures were sepia toned, showing somber relatives dressed in heavy clothing. I would periodically go through the photos imaging what those relatives’ lives were like back then. There was one picture in particular that I liked of my uncle. He was bundled in a big fur coat and oversized shearling hat that was pulled down low to his eyebrows, as he was standing up in a reindeer drawn sled. While watching this lush looking film I was reminded of those old photographs. Each scene in this movie was presented in such a way that I felt I was paging through an aristocratic family’s photo album. Adding in the beautiful musical score only made the experience more pleasing. Based on Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel, the story set in 19th century Russia was about the life of Anna Karenina, wife of prominent Aleksei Karenin, played by Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes franchise, Enemy at the Gates). High society was spun into a frenzy when Anna, played by Keira Knightly (A Dangerous Method, The Duchess), was swept up into a torrid affair with the well known Count Vronsky, played by Aaron Taylor (The Illusionist, Nowhere Boy). Keira has a gift for portraying emotionally distraught characters. Jude Law was excellent in his role, showing a restrained maturity. As for Aaron playing Count Vronsky, it was not convincing to me. It might have been because he looked too young or just did not have the acting skills to pull off the character. From the trailers I anticipated a classic story blossoming into a breath taking movie experience. Sadly, the movie was a big disappointment for me. Several times I caught myself beginning to nod off; I was bored for a good portion of the film. The theater within a theater filming made for a pretty picture; however, it made the story choppy. I would have had a better time getting that frail shoebox filled with family photos and going through the pictures again.
2 1/2 stars