Monthly Archives: March 2013
The sun was about to open its eyes, sending the first ray of light into the softening blue sky. Enemy soldiers were perched strategically around waiting for the signal to begin their assault against the base. What the enemy forces did not know was the soldiers on base were prepared and had a secret weapon. The Roller Blaster was prepped for maximum coverage to drive a wedge through the enemy. Its design was simple; made of the cardboard tube from a roll of paper towels and marbles for ammunition. I came up with the design one day while I was playing with my toy soldiers as a little boy. You should have seen how the marbles would roll out of the partially lifted tube and knock down the enemy soldiers. Not that I want to brag, but this action movie could have used some of my imagination. The G.I. Joes had to battle an evil plot that not only threatened their very existence but could bring down the government of the United States. Channing Tatum (The Vow, Magic Mike) and Dwayne Johnson (Snitch, Race to Witch Mountain) played G. I. Joe commanders Duke and Roadblock. The bantering between the two of them was pitiful; in fact, the entire movie was filled with every cliche you have heard from every action movie. And can someone tell me when Bruce Willis (Looper, Die Hard franchise) became the godfather of the testosterone thriller movies? Playing General Joe Colton, Bruce was no different then he had been in his past several films. I could have forgiven the cheesy script and crazy plot if the fight scenes had been creative. Except for one fight scene, the rest were lackluster. The problem was director Jon M. Chu, known for the Step Up movies. Filming dancers and ninjas should not necessarily be different, but the fighting was confusing here. If it would have helped make a better film, I could have offered the G.I. Joes my Roller Blaster.
1 3/4 stars
I wondered what their parents would do if they really knew what their daughters were doing during spring break. Not only the parents in this outrageous film, but I thought about the actors’ parents in real life. I took the antics of the four female co-stars as a sad commentary on what happens to these young children who are thrust into the limelight at such an early age. A majority of them grow up with a warped sense of reality in my opinion. Without a sense of structure or parameters of what is acceptable behavior, these young adults act out in extreme ways, as they did in this film. Best friends Faith, Candy, Brit and Cotty; played by Selema Gomez (Monte Carlo, Ramona and Beezus), Vanessa Hudgens (Sucker Punch, Thirteen), Ashley Benson (13 Going on 30, Bart Got a Room) and Rachael Korine (Mister Lonely, Septien), wanted to experience a life different from their lives back home. Making their way to Florida for spring break, the girls immersed themselves into a hedonistic non-stop frenzy of hard partying. Having kept his eye on the wild friends; an opportunity presented itself where drug dealer Allen, played by James Franco (127 Hours, Oz the Great and Powerful), was able to bail the girls out of a tough predicament. The allure of Allen’s money and power challenged the bond between the four girls, putting into question their desire to go back to the lives they led back home. This was a movie filled with extremes; from excessive drugs to random nudity to swearing to slow motion vomiting, it had everything. For a majority of the film I was bored, finding the repetitive antics tiresome. The filming style had a unique edge that I found interesting, however. Finally James Franco gave a committed, solid performance with his drug dealing character; I wished there had been more story about him. Even with an avant-garde manner to the story and filming, this movie needed to take a break from its excessiveness or at least be forced with a curfew.
1 3/4 stars
There was a time when one would see children playing outside. From a group of pretend space explorers to an afternoon tea party on the front lawn, a child’s imagination had no limits. I can remember playing in the alley behind the building I grew up in, with its high 3rd floor. Behind it there was a tall oak tree that I would climb up, to the height of the 2nd floor apartments. There I would sit and be the lookout for evil ghosts coming after my friends playing below in the alley. Today I rarely see children playing outside and I think it is because of all the pressures that are placed on them. With my family and friends who have children, there are so many activities they have signed their kids up for that there is no down time. I understand the thinking behind all these activities; creating opportunities for the child to excel, becoming well rounded, helping them on their path to becoming successful. Imagine the pressures that some children feel these days and may not have the tools to cope. In this poignant film from the writing duo of Ryan Fleck and Anna Buden (Half Nelson, Sugar) the story was about hight school student Craig, played by Keir Gilchrist (A Lobster Tale, Dead Silence). Unable to cope with the pressures placed on him, Craig admitted himself into a psychiatric ward of a hospital. Due to renovations in the juvenile ward, he had to be placed with the adult patients. With fellow patient Bobby, played by Zach Galifianakis (The Campaign, The Hangover franchise) as his guide; Craig discovered a world that appeared to be more normal than the one he left. I thought the topic of mental illness was gently handled in this dramatic comedy. The cast which also included Viola Davis (Beautiful Creatures, Won’t Back Down) as Dr. Eden Minerva and Emma Roberts (Nancy Drew, Hotel for Dogs) as Noelle did a beautiful job with their characters. There was a respect given to their maladies as they tried coping as best as they could. This was a stress free viewing experience, giving me the opportunity to sit back and relax.
2 2/3 stars — DVD
“Do not judge a book by its cover” are words that I try to live by every day. I have been surprised with individuals who gave no outside clue to the amazing feats they had accomplished. In turn, I cannot tell you how many times a member from my class has seen me eating at a restaurant and was surprised I was eating a pizza or dessert. Jokingly I tell them I do not live on broccoli and tofu just because I am a fitness instructor. During the week I am strict with my food intake; on the weekends I allow myself to have fun with my meals. Another example of judging; in one of my literature classes in college the professor wrote, “I would have never guessed you knew the class content,” on the midterm exam I aced. The reason was I never participated in the discussion portion of the class. In this comedy I had to wonder if that is really how students get accepted into college. Tina Fey (Mean Girls, 30 Rock-TV) played Princeton Univeristy admissions officer Portia Nathan. Seeking exceptional candidates for her school, Portia agreed to visit an alternative school headed by John Pressman, played by Paul Rudd (This is 40, Wanderlust). While at the school John surprised Portia with one particular gifted young man who could possibly have a special connection to her. If I were to judge this movie based on the cast, including Lily Tomlin (Nine to Five, I Heart Huckabees) as Portia’s mother Susannah, I would assume the movie was going to be funny. I would be wrong; there was so little humor, I kept wondering why the studio did not let Tina write the screenplay. Lily’s performance was fine and I have yet seen Paul do a bad job. He is always an affable character. Surprisingly Tina was the weak one, though the poorly written script did her no favors. This film was a waste of the actors’ true talent. With several scenes showing students’ applications being denied, you would have thought someone in the studio would have denied this script from being allowed to become a movie.
1 3/4 stars
The amount of money spent on marketing political candidates these days is obscene to me. There are countries that do not come close to having such amounts in their treasury. It seems to me that the only people who can run for office are wealthy individuals. This concerns me because in my experience some wealthy people have a hard time relating to the average person. For example, the man who bought Princess Diana’s dress that she wore when she was dancing at the White House with John Travolta. At a winning bid of $360,000.00, a gentleman bought it to surprise and cheer up his wife. How many of us can do such a thing? Where I find this excessive, I have the same feeling about the money needed to fund a campaign. It seems the issues are not enough to determine whether a person will vote for a candidate; it also depends on who does a better job of marketing the politician. One of the reasons I grew to enjoy this historical drama was seeing what a grassroots advertising campaign can accomplish. Nominated for best foreign language film with the Academy Awards, this film took place in Chile, 1988. Military dictator Augusta Pinochet had been in power for fifteen years and needed to show the world that his government was legitimate. A referendum was scheduled, but would anybody opposing Pinochet survive the election? Gael Garcia Bernal (Bad Education, Y Tu Mama Tamben) played young advertising executive Rene Saavedra, who had the task of creating a campaign that would not get censored. He created the “No” campaign. Starring Alfredo Castro (It was the Son, Tony Manero) as Lucho Guzman and Antonia Zegers (Post Mortem, The Life of Fish) as Veronica Carvajal; the story used humor, actual footage and a faux 1980’s style of filming to draw the viewer into a fascinating time in Chile’s history. I had a hard time getting into the story at first; it felt slow to me. Once the campaign started to come together I was enthralled with the genius of it. With excellent acting, the movie became inspirational for me. The question was could creativity, strong beliefs and dedication triumph over money. Spanish with English subtitles.
Around the globe there are iconic structures that mean something to a variety of individuals. From the Grand Canyon to the Eiffel Tower, their fame becomes part of our memories, whether we have seen them with our own eyes or not. The first time I saw the White House I was standing outside of it as a peaceful rally was taking place. Suddenly there was a whirling sound that increased in tempo. The president’s helicopter rose above the White House and began to head towards us. I remember the helicopter moving higher above our heads as if it was floating on the breeze from our waving hands. With this memory I already had an investment in this action film. Transferred to a different department job after a tragic accident; secret service agent Mike Banning’s, played by Gerard Butler (Law Abiding Citizen, Playing for Keeps), training kicked in when the White House came under attack. If it meant taking a bullet; Mike’s conditioning prepared him to do so in order to protect the president. The cast had a roster of fine actors to tackle the task of portraying powerful political figures. Aaron Eckhart (Rabbit Hole, Thank You for Smoking) as President Benjamin Asher, Morgan Freeman (Invictus, Million Dollar Baby) as Speaker Trumbull and Melissa Leo (The Fighter, Frozen River) as Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillan to name a few. Gerard was no-nonsense in his character; he handled his wisecracks as well as his killings. What bothered me was a majority of the fight scenes were cloaked in shadows, making it hard to see the action. Granted this would be an advantage for those who cannot watch bloody violence. The thing I found most annoying was the soundtrack. It was made of cloying dramatic musical swells that took tension away from the scenes. The story was standard good guy/bad guy fare with a couple of surprises and a few unrealistic notions. All the movie needed was the opportunity for the President to say at some point, “Not in my house!” Scenes filled with graphic blood and violence.
2 1/2 stars
Change within a person, if they so choose, usually happens over time. There are some people who make it look almost effortless; I am not one of those folks. The pace it takes me to set myself on a course for change barely can be measured with a pedometer. Keep in mind I have eaten the same thing for lunch at work every day, five days a week, for 20 years. In some unexplainable way I take pride in it because it was the same thing my mother did when she worked, as did her father my grandfather. Little did I know I would get a lesson about change from the prehistoric family in this animated comedy. By following the same exact rules every day Crug Crood, voiced by Nicolas Cage (Adaptation, Season of the Witch), had kept his family alive. Everyone knew when it started to get dark outside they had to retreat to the safety of their cave. Well, almost everyone knew except for his adventurous daughter Esp, voiced by Emma Stone (The Help, Zombieland). The family would have no choice however when disaster struck and the rules had to be changed, if they were going to survive. Catherine Keener (A Late Quartet, Into the Wild) voiced Ugla, Crug’s wife who was the peace maker of the family. Cloris Leachman (Young Frankenstein, The Beverly Hillbillies) voiced Gran, the thorn in Crug’s side. I enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would and part of the reason was the cast. Having been in some dreadful films lately, I thought Nicolas did a fine job as the father. The humor was predominantly slapstick, but not in an overpowering way. Ryan Reynolds (Buried, The Proposal) was perfect as the inventive Guy, letting his pet handle the majority of comedy between the two. It did not bother me that the story was formulaic, it was easily figured out. However, due to the pacing and excellent animation; I found myself going along for the exciting ride. This film was appropriate for the entire family; there was a little for everyone. I think the film had a positive effect on me because I was able to tune out the noisy children sitting near me. Is it possible that I am changing?
Trying to live one’s life up to other people’s expectations is like having a pencil handed to you and being told to go hit a home run with a baseball. It will never happen. I learned to live my life by my own expectations, but it took a long time to get there. When unrealistic expectations are placed within a family, the landscape can only be paved with resentment. I have been to enough family dysfunctions where tension has its own place setting at the table, where I can only sit there quietly and observe how people pretend everything is normal. Trust me, there is no such thing as a normal family. I invite you to be a guest at Toshiko and Doctor Kyohei Yokoyama’s house on the fifteenth anniversary of their 1st born son Junpei’s accidental death. You will be among some uninvited guests named resentment, disappointment and guilt. This multiple film festival winner presented a powerful drama in a very subtle way. Kirin Kiki (Returner, Chronicle of my Mother)and Yosio Harada (Then Summer Came, Dororo) were wonderful as the doctor and his wife. Hiroshi Abe (Chocolate, Memories Corner) played the 2nd son Ryoto and I do mean 2nd son in all its meaning. I especially liked his physical presence in the scenes; his exceptional height added to the idea of his character’s growth despite his parents. It was a marvel to watch how the director used a gentle hand in having the characters convey their true feelings with a gesture, a word or a look. This dramatic film had all the elements of a classic case study about family dynamics. Do not get fooled by the polite appearances kept up by the family members; there were raw feelings just below the surface. The more I thought about this film after viewing it, the more I realized how much I enjoyed it. And the best part was I did not have to be a guest at this celebration. Japanese with English subtitles.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
Residing in a peaceful alcove of your mind is your first love. The memories of the favorite things you shared keep that love alive. There have been stories about people who have traveled all over the world looking for that one special person, only to have discovered it had been waiting for them all this time back home. In this romantic fantasy Adam and Eden, played by Jim Sturgess (One Day, Across the Universe) and Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia, Spider-Man franchise) were young and in love, despite living in opposite worlds of twinned planets. Years after thinking he had lost her from a fatal fall, Adam discovered Eden was still alive. Could Adam overcome the laws of physics and the laws of the land to find his love from long ago? This movie was a mind bending visual production. Two opposite worlds sharing similar space created several satisfying space shifting scenes (say that fast ten times). Adding to the drama was the use of visual cues to separate the two planets socially, politically and economically. The story was a cross of the movies Metropolis with Romeo and Juliet. To make the story work, one had to forget about science and logic; this movie was made to speak to the heart. Kirsten and Jim were only passable in their roles. Part of the reason was their acting and the other part was the poorly written script. I found it odd to have dynamic visuals but dull dialog. The character I found most interesting was corporate worker Bob Boruchowitz, played by Timothy Spall (Enchanted, Harry Potter franchise). Fans of science fiction may be disappointed with this movie; there were no futuristic devices or costumes. This was a romantic story nestled inside of a fantasy. I really wished the movie had been better; but I guess like some fantasies, they are better off left alone than becoming reality.
2 1/2 stars
In one of my creative writing classes in college, we had to read “For Colored Girls Who Had Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” by Ntozake Shange, which this movie was based on. The professor led us in a discussion about minorities and discrimination. The purpose was to teach us to make our story characters believable by tapping into our emotions of feeling different or discriminated. We went around the room taking turns talking about a time when we felt discriminated against or like an outsider. It was a powerful lesson for each of us that day. Director and writer Tyler Perry (Madea franchise, The Family That Preys) assembled a stellar cast for this dramatic film. Kerry Washington (Ray, Django Unchained) as Kelly/Blue, Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls, Company) as Yasmine/Yellow, Whoopi Goldberg (Clara’s Heart, Ghost) as Alice/White and Loretta Devine (I Am Sam, Death at a Funeral) as Juanita/Green were some of the standouts in the cast. I understood what Tyler was trying to create with this movie. With multiple stories that intersected, they each conveyed aspects on issues females face everyday in the world. I venture to say several of the issues would be universal to almost anyone. The problem I had with the movie was Tyler’s over dramatic flair written into the screenplay. No disrespect to soap operas, but this film played more like a series of episodes than a complete story line. In what was supposed to have been a powerful character in business executive Jo/Red, instead turned out flat due to the casting of Janet Jackson (Poetic Justice, Good Times-TV) in the role. She was not able to convey the complex emotions of the character. With her small role as Gilda, Phylicia Rashad (Just Wright, The Cosby Show-TV) was able to convey more feelings than Janet. There were several scenes that worked well enough to keep me interested despite the melodrama. Reading the book was just more powerful of an experience for me than watching this film.
2 stars — DVD