Monthly Archives: February 2013
The words have stayed with me ever since I first heard someone say, “Just because you love them doesn’t mean you always have to like them.” At the time it did not make much sense; but the more I thought about it, the more I started to understand it. There have been people who did something that I felt was hurtful. Before I understood those words, I would take that person’s actions to heart, coloring our whole relationship. Now when a person does something that I may not like, I do not take it as a personal attack on my relationship with them. In a similar line of thought, how does a parent deal with a child that is not being likable? One answer can be found in this twisted dark comedy by writer and director Bobcat Goldthwait (God Bless America, Stay). Private school student Kyle Clayton, played by Daryl Sabara (Spy Kids, John Carter), was a miserable kid. Offensive, crude and rude; he was an unlikeable character. His father Lance, played by Robin Williams (August Rush, Man of the Year), was a poetry teacher at the same school. When Kyle wound up in an embarrassing incident, Lance created a story of explanation that took a life of is own. With the strong language used and its dark humor, this dramatic comedy may not be enjoyable for some of you. It was hard to tell if Robin was really acting or just being himself; I notice that in a lot of his roles. However, with this character he did an admirable job. Some scenes were outrageous to the point of disbelief, but they still were able to bring across the underlying satire. I loved the whole idea of the student body and teachers having a quick change of attitude, coming together in a take up the cause type of mentality. Personally, I never understood how people could suddenly become loving to someone who was simply nasty. Talk about having false idols; this was a fractured family in a crazy comedy.
2 3/4 stars — DVD
At home, it is easier to turn up the music volume than to figure out the unexplained noises. This also works when I am driving my car. I think it is due to my imagination. When I hear an unfamiliar sound, my mind comes up with creative reasons to explain it that may not be based in reality. These days when I am home I either have the television on for background noise or I have music playing throughout the house. Unfortunately the suburban family in this suspenseful movie did not have such an option. Keri Russell (August Rush, Waitress) and Josh Hamilton (J. Edgar, Outsourced) played Lacy and Daniel Barrett, parents to two young boys. When a series of unexplained events began taking place in their home, Lacy and Daniel would eventually have to take extreme measures to protect their family. This scary film caught my attention right from the beginning. I liked the way the director built up the suspense, starting out slow with some creative ways of displaying the unexplained occurrences. As with Keri’s past performances which I have always enjoyed, I found her convincing in this role. What was a letdown for me was her chemistry with Josh. For some reason it seemed slightly restrained; I felt they could have been more dramatic as a couple. The use of J.K. Simmons (Juno, The Words) as Edwin Pollard was a lost opportunity. With his acting skills his role should have been bigger. As the story progressed in the last half of the film, I became disappointed with the way the suspense never increased. Based on the beginning of the movie I thought there would have been at least a couple of jump out of your seat type of scenes–it never happened. This film may not make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, but it was entertaining as a mystery. Two brief scenes with blood.
2 1/2 stars
There is no age limit when it comes to making a good impression on a date. How many of us have done things out of our comfort zone, with the intent to show our willingness and flexibility in being an accommodating person? I remember going on a date where I agreed to a night of country two stepping. Borrowing a cowboy hat from a friend, I spent the night never showing my misery with my awkward dance steps. By the end of the evening I was hoping for a 2nd date, so we could go to a dance club and I prove I at least had rhythm. These are the things that one does to cast a positive light on themselves and in this dramatic movie we see a beautiful example of someone trying his best to make a good impression. This film adaptation of the stage play was the directorial debut of Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master, A Late Quartet). Reprising his role as limousine driver Jack, Philip was comfortable with his role. After being fixed up on a blind date by his friends Lucy and Clyde, played by Daphne Robin-Vega (Life on the Ledge, Flawless) and John Ortiz (Silver Linings Playbook, American Gangster), Jack decided he would learn how to swim and cook. He wanted to make a good impression on Connie, played by Amy Ryan (Win Win, Gone Baby Gone). The only problem in his plan was getting advice from his friends who were having martial issues. Though the pacing seemed slow at times, I was impressed with Philip’s directing. The scenes where his character was visualizing himself swimming and cooking had a delicate sweetness. I could see this movie as a play, feeling it was an easy transition to film since it was more actor driven than action. The things one does for romance; Jack got an “A” for effort and Philip made a good impression on me with his capable directing of this good film.
2 3/4 stars — DVD
Throughout the animal kingdom there are numerous examples of the mother and father protecting their young. A docile animal turns into a ferocious killer when her or his child is being threatened. Among humans, how many of us have heard amazing stories of a parent’s sudden super human strength to save their child? Though I am not a parent, I can understand that protective instinct. When my niece and nephew were little, whenever we were out in public, I usually walked behind them and their parents. It was something that instinctively occurred in me; looking out for any potential danger that might bring harm to them. Starting out with the similar premise of a parent protecting their child, this action film had everything in place to create a tense story inspired by true events. With his son jailed for possession of drugs, it would take something creative for John Matthews, played by Dwayne Johnson (Tooth Fairy, The Rundown), to get his son out before the hardcore inmates would beat his son to death. Striking an unusual deal with district attorney Joanne Keeghan, played by Susan Sarandon (Arbitrage, Mr. Woodcock), John would go undercover to set up a sting operation for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Let us do a quick review here: we have a parent willing to do anything for their child, dangerous inmates and drug dealers. Sounds like an exciting movie to me; I was completely wrong. It seemed as if all the actors had the life sucked out of them, going through their motions in a deflated state. I gave credit to Dwayne Johnson for taking on a serious role, but his inexperience in a dramatic role led to a poor performance. Besides Susan Sarandon getting a badly written role, I was stunned with Benjamin Bratt (Miss Congeniality, Love in the Time of Cholera) as drug kingpin Juan Carlos “El Topo” Pintera. There was zero depth to his character. The only thing that resembled excitement was the car/truck chase scene and Barry Pepper (Broken City, True Grit) as Agent Cooper. I can only imagine what the parents of the writers and director must feel about their children’s work after seeing this dull film. Brief scenes with blood.
1 3/4 stars
There are not words to describe the feeling I had as I stood near the edge and peered across the Grand Canyon. Nothing in my mind could be found to use as a reference point to compare the experience. The entire day was spent hiking; noticing how the light and shadows transformed the chiseled walls of the canyon from deep wrinkles to a blushing expanse. At the end of the day, returning to the hotel room, I discovered I had burnt the top of my head. My mind had been so preoccuppied with the extraordinary stimulation from the day that I forgot to put on a hat. It was worth it based on the memories I had gained that day. Seeing the Grand Canyon was the best part of this movie. Unfortunately, it was pretty much the only part I enjoyed. Eion Bailey (Fight Club, Almost Famous) and Yvonne Strahovski (Killer Elite, Chuck-TV) played newlyweds Nick and Lori Conway, who decided to honeymoon at the Grand Canyon. When their guide Henry, played by Will Patton (Remember the Titans, Armageddon) had an accident; the couple would need to muster up surviving skills if they wanted to get out alive. The action followed a standard template without any originality. I did not find the acting very good. For example, the honeymoon couple did not display the emotions one would expect from two people in love. If it was not for the setting, I would have fast forwarded some of the innocuous scenes. If you cannot find a travelogue to watch on the Grand Canyon, then you may want to rent this film. No one would fault you if you decided to watch it with the sound off. A few scenes with blood.
1 2/3 stars — DVD
The first time it happened was when I was in 5th grade. An older boy yelled a derogatory remark at me about my religion. When I told the teacher, she looked at me and asked if I saw any dirt on me. Replying no to her, she said I should not pay attention to something that is not true. That was it; however, it would not be the only time I heard a religious slur. When I hear children say hateful things to other children, I wonder how someone so young can be prejudiced, let alone even know what they are actually saying sometimes. More times than not, one only has to look at their home life. Words could not be truer in this dramatic movie set near the end of World War II. Eldest child Lore, played by relative newcomer Saskia Rosendahl, must take her siblings to their grandmother when her German officer father and mother were summoned away from their home, as Allied forces were sweeping the country. To navigate the dangerous route; Lore would have to depend on Thomas, played by Kai-Peter Malina (The White Ribbon, To Faro), the kind of person she was taught not to trust. This unhurried thriller did a wonderful job in the way it told its compelling story. I also felt the cinematography and soundtrack only enhanced the emotional depth of this film. For the actors who played the siblings, it was surprising how good they were since they were all relatively new to acting. If we are to believe that we come into this world pure and innocent, then it is certainly amazing what can be taught to us as children. You may have heard that saying “out of the mouths of babes.” I just wonder how many times are those children echoing someone else. German with English subtitles.
3 1/2 stars
Early into this fantasy film it occurred to me that I may be watching descendants of Samantha and Darrin Stephens. I am referring to the television show not the movie with Nicole Kidman. Before Lena Duchannes from this movie, Bella Swan from Twilight or Hermione Granger from Harry Potter; there was Samantha and her mother Endora. Darrin and Samantha represented one of the earliest interspecies marriages between a human and a witch. So you see with today’s movies and books about witches and humans, we can trace a path back to Samantha. That is why I was not too terribly surprised with this film. Relative newcomer Alice Englert played Lena Duchannes, a young witch on the verge of celebrating a special birthday. For on that day Lena would choose whether to practice on the dark side of casting or the light side. Her path would become complicated when she fell in love with Ethan Wate, played by Alden Ehrenreich (Tetro, Twixt). The two teenagers had more in common than they realized at first. Could Ethan’s love of Lena alter the choices laid out before her? What really made this dramatic fantasy were the older cast members. Jeremy Irons (The Words, Margin Call) and Emma Thompson (Last Chance Harvey, Nanny McPhee franchise) were excellent as Lena’s uncle Macon Ravenwood and powerful evil witch Sarafine. As I expected, Viola Davis did a fine job as librarian Amma. A surprise was the enthusiastic performance from Emmy Rossum (The Phantom of the Opera, The Day After Tomorrow) as Lena’s cousin Ridley Duchannes. The movie felt a bit rushed for me as if the film studio and all involved wanted to get this story out quickly. If they would have taken their time, I believe they would have made a better looking and deeper movie experience. Having knowledge of past tales about witches and humans, this movie had more of a “been there, done that” type of feeling. Like the first time you heard about an interspecies relationship, it may have surprised you; hearing about it now was no big deal.
2 1/2 stars
One of my first bosses thought he inherited a kingdom instead of a business from his father. I had an inkling of this during my first week at the job. The owner came into the warehouse, took off his shoes, handed them and a shoe shining kit he was carrying to an employee and told the worker to go shine them. I was flabbergasted by the owner’s behavior. Later in the week another incident left me shocked and disgusted. My boss came into the warehouse, walked up to a different employee and handed him his hairbrush, telling the man to take it into the bathroom and clean it. I was prepared to quit if I was ever asked to clean something of his. As it turned out, because I was a good driver, the owner would give me the keys to his expensive luxury car to do errands for him and his mother. I was agreeable to this type of task. This was my introduction into the work world. Luckily I never experienced the bosses that were in this wild comedy. Jason Bateman (Identity Thief, Up in the Air), Jason Sudeikis (The Campaign, Hall Pass) and Charlie Day (Going the Distance, A Quiet Little Marriage) played best friends Nick Hendricks, Kurt Buckman and Dale Arbus. During a night of drinking and commiserating about their vile bosses, the trio plotted a way to do away with their evil superiors. Though the premise was over the top, the cast really made this film fun to watch. I was stunned by Jennifer Aniston’s (Wanderlust, The Bounty Hunter) performance as Dr. Julia Harris, D.D.S.; not her usual type of role and she nailed it. Along with Kevin Spacey (Moon, The Usual Suspects) and Colin Farrell (Total Recall, Seven Psychopaths), these actors were wickedly contemptuous in their roles. A fast paced, joke laced, crazy caper movie; you may find it totally unbelievable. Before you judge this film because you cannot believe there can be such bosses in the real world, remind me to tell you about another boss I worked for who would steal our customer’s eye glasses. Some scenes with strong language.
2 3/4 stars — DVD
More times than not, the body can heal quicker from a physical attack than from an emotional one. The body immediately works at repairing itself where the mind tends to absorb the emotional abuse, letting it settle close enough to always be heard. It takes much effort to overcome that strange voice talking from the inner mind. Running away is usually only a temporary option. Such was the case for the main character Katie, played by Julianne Hough (Footloose, Burlesque), who found herself one day in the small coastal town of Southport, North Carolina. Deciding to settle down and leave her past behind, Katie tried to keep to herself even when widowed shop owner Alex, played by Josh Duhamel (Transformers franchise, When in Rome), tried to help her out. Could Katie really leave her old life behind and find happiness in this peaceful place? Adapted from the Nicholas Sparks (The Lucky One, The Notebook) novel that I did not read; I was surprised by the suspenseful opening scenes. Beautifully filmed, Julianne and Josh were okay in their roles as they made a handsome couple. I thought David Lyons (Eat Pray Love, Storm Warning) as Tierney did a better job of acting; his character was creepy. It was possible the script made his role easier, since the rest of the formulaic story was syrupy and rushed in places. The scenes felt forced to me, as if the goal was to get a reaction out of the audience instead of the actors. I found one of the twists in the story to be utterly unnecessary which made me angry enough to lower my rating of this dramatic film. Before I am asked, this movie worked as a date movie. By the end of the film I was physically tired from sitting and unsatisfied emotionally.
As the final days up to the Oscar telecast turn like the last pages of an engaging, voluminous novel; I look back at the past year with a sense of joyful pride. There have been some amazing movies that lingered with me like a comfortable old sweater on a cool day. I have also seen a variety of dreadful films that weighed me down to the point where I felt my seat was swallowing me up alive. No matter which type of film it may have been, what has heightened my movie watching experience has been my ability to share these films with each of you. Thank you for your likes, opinions and sharing your personal stories. Now if I can only get asked to be a seat filler at the Oscar telecast, my life would be complete. So, before the biggest holiday of the year takes place this Sunday; here are my picks for what I feel deserve the Oscar.
Best Picture: Argo
Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz
Best Actress: Emmanuelle Riva
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway
Best Director: David O. Russell
Best Animated Feature: Wreck-It Ralph
Best Foreign Language Film: Amour
To everyone I wish you an Oscar night filled with fun and excitement, before we all get a good night’s sleep to begin a new year in search of that perfect 4 star movie. Happy Oscar Day!