Monthly Archives: April 2013
Seated at long tables in front of the stage, I was close enough to see the comic’s eyes. He was not focused on the crowd as much as the imaginary friend standing next to him. Every time he spoke for his friend, his facial expression instantly altered, creating a new image to go with the voice. I remembered while sitting and watching this funny man, he reminded me of my favorite comedian, Jonathan Winters. The comic standing up on stage was Robin Williams. The time was towards the end of his television series Mork & Mindy. I had not seen anyone who could quickly ad lib like Jonathan until I saw Robin. From the articles written recently about Jonathan’s death, I read somewhere that Robin used Jonathan as his role model. It now all makes sense to me. Jonathan was truly gifted; I never saw someone take an everyday household item and turn it into so many different objects. Add to it his pliable face and changing voices; there would be a crowd of his made up characters all around him in a matter of minutes. This action comedy does not do Jonathan justice; however, it is still worth watching. Director Stanley Kramer (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Defiant Ones) assembled a cast of comedy royalty. To name a few there was Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, Buddy Hackett, Terry Thomas; besides Spencer Tracy (Judgement at Nuremberg, Inherit the Wind), Ethel Merman (Call Me Madam, Anything Goes) and Mickey Rooney (National Velvet, Andy Hardy franchise). When a dying driver in a car crash told the rescuers about a buried treasure, it set off a madcap race to see who could get to the loot first. Though the actors were confined to the script, I would love to have been on set to see how many times they had to repeat the scenes due to ad libs and cracking up from laughter. Bear in mind the humor was from a different time when comedians did not use foul language or shock value to get a reaction from the audience. I will say the movie went on too long; however, I did enjoy seeing so many people from a different era. Notice the celebrities who did cameo appearances. Jonathan was a genius as far as I am concerned. I wish there were more comedians who used him as a role model.
3 1/4 stars — DVD
There was a time when I fantasized about running for public office. My platform would have been based on every single citizen getting a decent education. For families that were poor and needed their children to drop out of school to find employment, I wanted to create a fund that would pay the parents to keep their children in school. I have witnessed hateful incidents, where if the opposing parties had a stronger educational foundation, they could have avoided their misconstrued conflict. No matter what type of background a person came from, I felt an education would benefit their life. In this startling documentary a family’s sacrifices had a bigger impact on their children then they realized. In the single largest human migration on the planet, China’s factory workers were able to go home once a year during the Chinese New Year. This film focused on the Zhang family. Married couple Changhua and Suqin Chen were poor, uneducated, from a small rural town. Trying to make a better life for their children, the parents could only find factory work far away from home. The children had to be raised by grandparents since Changhua and Suqin Chen could only come back home once a year. The couple’s yearly trip back home was spent encouraging their children to study hard to get good school grades, so they could have a better life. But how could the children believe two people they barely knew? The first thing that produced a powerful impact on me was watching the hell workers went through in their attempts to travel home. Seeing over 100 million factory workers struggling through an antiquated train system, that could easily collapse from the sheer volume of humanity pressing against it, was mind blowing to me. This doesn’t even include the shock of seeing the workers’ living conditions at the factories. Another aspect of this movie had to do with the cultural changes that were taking place across China. The Zhang’s children were a preview of a more modern China. This film festival and Emmy winning film had an incredible story to tell about sacrifice and hope. Mandarin with English subtitles.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
As soon as the movie was done, all I wanted to do was find someone who grew up in the 1940’s and plead with them to tell me all they knew about baseball player Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers. I wanted to hear about the times, the games and the attitudes that were prevalent among the people and players. Physical strength can be measured by endurance, power or weight. I think mental strength is actually tougher to achieve. Watching the mental strength Jackie Robinson had to have every single moment was infinitely more compelling than anything I have seen from the recently released action movies. Chadwick Boseman (Persons Unknown-TV, The Express) did a solid performance as Jackie Robinson. The verbal cruelty he endured was unbelievable. Harrison Ford (Cowboys & Aliens, Firewall) as Brooklyn Dodgers’ owner Branch Rickey, despite his extra padding, was okay; but I was still reminded that he was Harrison. His character, who came across larger than life, left me wanting to know more about Branch and his motivations. I just could not get over this man’s drive, determination and foresight by bringing in a black baseball player into an all white baseball world at a time when discrimination was the norm in society. The acting from Christopher Meloni (Oz-TV, Runaway Bride) as Leo Durocher, Nicole Beharie (Shame, The Express) as Rachel Robinson and Lucas Black (Jarhead, Get Low) as Pee Wee Reese was strong. Based on a true story, this inspirational dramatic film was geared to wring out the maximum from each heartfelt scene. The music was written to push at the viewer’s heart and I have to tell you I was teary eyed through over 1/2 of the movie. One did not have to have a knowledge of baseball to enjoy this movie; the story was more about civil rights. If for no other reason, it is worth seeing this drama just to see what the ugliness of ignorance looks like; not that we have stamped out ignorance yet. This movie did what I believe a movie should do: take the viewer away to a different time and place and experience the world through someone else’s eyes.
3 1/3 stars
Sudden death is easier than a lingering one. As I get older I have started thinking about death; but not too often. Most people consider death to be a sad occasion; I on the other hand, want my death to be looked at as a cause for celebration. I would want a big party where people could have some of my favorite foods. My cream cheese pound cake was my calling card when I was invited to someone’s house for dinner. It would be a hoot if I could arrange to have a couple of cakes on hand in the freezer for my funeral. Since picture taking has been a big portion of my life, there would be pictures everywhere; from my old photo albums (before there were digital cameras) to framed pictures hanging on the walls of the funeral home. Recently I have toyed around with the idea of leaving a video recording of me talking to my friends and family. In this lush, dramatic mystery; the main character had a better idea than me. Feared hermit Felix Bush, played by Robert Duvall (Deep Impact, Secondhand Lions), wanted to be at his own funeral while he was still alive. Holed up in the backwoods for 40 years; the town folk feared Felix, believing the numerous stories they had heard about him. Felix wanted to hear the stories and set them straight; not only for himself, but for the woman that was in the photograph he had kept close at hand for all these years. Speaking of photographs; this film had such a visual warmth to it, I felt I was looking through an album filled with deep, dark rich photos. It was a joy to watch the cast. Besides Robert’s excellent acting, Sissy Spacek (Carrie, The Help) as the woman Mattie who had a history with Felix and Bill Murray (Moonrise Kingdom, Hyde Park on Hudson) as funeral director Frank Quinn were both wonderful. There were a couple of places where the story was predictable but I enjoyed the mix of folklore, mystery, humor and redemption. I felt a kinship to Felix because when the time should come I only hope I do not have any unfinished business.
3 1/4 stars — DVD
Responsibilities are the little gremlins that come in the middle of the night to slowly steal our youth. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for being responsible. I am reminded of it every day. As a fitness instructor, it is my job to make sure the members of my classes are doing their yoga postures or cycling movements safely. Being a credit manager, it is my responsibility that everything my company sells, we then receive a payment for it. There are certain responsibilities associated with doctors, teachers, lawyers, friends and even relatives. Becoming a parent is the fastest way (I would think) for a cavalier person to become responsible. Parenthood was the focus in this film festival winning comedic film. Polish/Canadian delivery driver David Wozniak, played by Patrick Huard (Funkytown, Cadavres) used the alias “Starbuck” when making his donations to a fertility clinic. In his 40’s now; he was named in a class action lawsuit filed by 142 children, demanding to know the true identity of their biological father named Starbuck. Due to a mix-up at the clinic David/Starbuck was actually the dad to over 500 children. He asked his friend Avocat, played by Antoine Bertrand (The Necessities of Life, Borderline), to be his advocate in court and try to block the release of his real name. It would be better if no one found out, including his family and pregnant girlfriend Valerie, played by Julie LeBreton (The Rocket: The Legend of Rocket Richard, White Skin), or at least that was what David thought. The story took a long time to get started for me; the last half was much better. I thought Patrick and Antoine did a fun job with their characters. The script had several misfires in it; taking away from the touching, thoughtful moments. There was a certain charm overall to this film. As a viewer I have the responsibility of sitting quietly in the theater and not disturbing the other patrons. For the movie studio it is their job to produce the best product possible. I just wish they would have taken that responsibility a little more seriously. French with English subtitles.
2 2/3 stars
From two places one could easily find themselves in the middle of a raging battle in a foreign land, to relaxing at a beach resort on a faraway island. All it takes is either reading a book or watching a movie. Sitting in a comfortable spot, a book will take me out of my home and let my imagination conjure up the places I am reading about. In my mind I can add the sounds, the colors and the inflection of people’s voices; there are no limits on what I can create. When I watch a film my eyes are the first to be stimulated. There is nothing I have to add; when a movie is good it will go beyond the limits of the screen it is projected on and engulf me into its story. I love both experiences. The visual stimulation in this dramatized biography was awesome. From the comfort of my sofa, I was transported back to the Spanish Civil War. From there I wound up in Cuba, the United States and on a fishing boat. It was the incredible filming of this story that immersed me in the tumultuous relationship between Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn. Nicole Kidman (Stoker, The Paperboy) as Martha was wonderful. I want to know how her eyes always had my attention in every one of her scenes. Clive Owen (Children of Men, The Boys are Back) was over the top as Ernest, to the point it was buffoonish for me. However, I cut him some slack since Hemingway was a larger than life character. Adding to the capable cast was David Strathairn (Lincoln, The Whistleblower) as John Dos Passos and Tony Shalhoub (Feed the Fish, Monk-TV) as Mikhail Koltsov. Similar to the filming style of Forrest Gump, I thoroughly enjoyed the intermingling of historic footage with current characters. The gentle shifting from black and white to sepia to color in the film was beautifully done. I am sure this movie took major liberties in regards to historical accuracy, facts about Martha and Ernest, along with the other characters in general; but I did not care. This Emmy award winning film was great to watch and I was able to visit different places around the world from my cozy couch. A few scenes with violence, blood and war casualties.
3 stars — DVD
While the age of 65 is the brass ring the average person strives to reach for retirement, it was not for a majority of my family members. My father worked seven days a week and continued to work beyond retirement age. I had a couple of uncles where one worked every day at a tavern and the other traveled around the country as a manufacturer’s rep. Both worked past the age of 65. The goal was to do whatever was necessary to provide for one’s family. As for myself, I have not given much thought to the idea of retirement. In this powerful drama I was fascinated with the juxtaposition of methods used by two fathers to provide for their families. Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine, Drive) played stunt motorcycle driver Luke, a single man who found out he was the father of a baby boy. Romina, the woman he had the fling with a year ago and now the mother of his child, was played by Eva Mendes (Hitch, We Own the Night). Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, Limitless) played Avery Cross, a police officer who worked in a department riddled with corruption. When Luke chose to rob banks as a way to provide for his son, it would set in motion a series of events that would affect his family and officer Cross’ family for generations. Already being a fan of Ryan’s acting, his part of the story was incredible to watch. From the opening sequence, where we follow Luke as he prepares for his motorcycle stunt, everyone did a great job of acting. Ben Medelsohn (The Dark Knight Rises, Killing Them Softly) as auto repair shop owner Robin was terrific. Because the first part of the film was thrilling for me, Bradley’s story was a slight letdown; but not by much. His acting was excellent as was Ray Liotta (Identity, Smokin’ Aces) as policeman Deluca. With outstanding direction and camera work, the span of years the story covered did not seem long at all. Sometimes choices made cause a ripple effect that last a lifetime. A couple of scenes with violence and blood.
3 1/3 stars
There is a correlation between hopelessness and fantasy. The more I felt my reality was bleak, the more I turned inward. When I was picked on back in school, I turned to martial arts movies to fuel my imagination. In my mind I became a skilled practitioner of the ancient martial arts, able to defend myself with my lightning fast karate chops. Upon reaching the legal age to enter a bar, I would go to nightclubs that had dancing. I could spend hours watching everyone dance while I became more self-conscious of the extra weight I was carrying with me. It was then that I would imagine I was a slender, chiseled go-go dancer who would whip the crowd into a fever pitch; while the disco beats pounded up against the walls. These were the things I did to compensate for feeling hopeless and alone. That sense of bleakness struck me while watching this Cannes Film Festival winning movie. Newcomer Katie Jarvis played Mia, an angry fifteen year old teenager living with her mother Joanne, played by Kierston Wareing (It’s a Free World, Bonded by Blood) and little sister Tyler, played by newcomer Rebecca Griffiths, in the poor area of a British town. With a mother who showed little interest in her and having been kicked out of school; the days blended together for Mia. The only respite she experienced was when she was dancing to music. It was not until her mother brought home the curious stranger named Connor, played by Michael Fassbender (Prometheus, A Dangerous Method), that Mia got her first glimmer of hope. The story was made believable with its excellent directing and dialog. Besides Michael’s well done acting, I was amazed at how good Katie was in her role. It was my understanding the director found Katie by chance at a train station, where Katie was arguing with her boyfriend from across the train tracks. Though I was surprised by certain events, the movie stayed true to its gritty reality. Take if from someone who knows, a single positive remark can store an abundant amount of fuel to propel one’s dream. One brief scene with blood.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
Before I began writing movie reviews here, I had my own rating system for films. It was pretty simple: do I want to spend money to see it on the big screen, wait for it to come out on DVD or catch it one day on cable. After seeing a movie back then, I would email a group of my friends to tell them whether they could see the movie or not. You see I have a couple of friends who cannot see any trace of blood. Then there is one friend who cannot see anything violent, whether it involves humans or animals. These friends were the impetus for me starting this movie review site. As this site has grown, I feel it is necessary for me to cover all genres of movies; so there would be something for everyone. It is for these reasons I went to see this horror film. Five friends met at a remote cabin where they accidentally summoned evil spirits that were hell-bent on possessing the friends until death. The friends were played by Jane Levy (Nobody Walks, Fun Size) as Mia, Shiloh Fernandez (Red Riding Hood, Deadgirl) as David, Lou Taylor Pucci (Beginners, Horsemen) as Eric, Jessica Lucas (Cloverfield, She’s the Man) as Olivia and relative newcomer Elizabeth Blackmore as Natalie. There are times where it can be a fine line between horror and comedy; this film was a joke and I am not sure if that was the movie studio’s intentions. When the gore and blood is so over the top, it just becomes a comical mess. It was amazing to see how the body could keep on going as it was being dismembered. There was absolutely nothing of value in this remake; nothing new, nothing scary, nothing worthwhile. I will say for those who enjoy being grossed out this movie should provide you with enough sickening scenes to fill a vomitorium. Not that my friends would even consider seeing a movie like this; but just in case, multiple scenes of blood and gore throughout the movie.