Monthly Archives: March 2014
You are sitting back letting your friend tell the assembled group of friends about an incident that happened to the two of you. Everyone is laughing at a particular funny part of the story. As you are following along with your friend’s narrative, you suddenly hear something that clashes with your memory of the event. While still listening to your friend you are quickly going over the chain of events you remember, wondering if your memory is starting to fail you. As your friend continues to veer off from the way you remembered the story, the group of friends haven’t a clue and are enjoying the tale even more. The first opportunity to talk to your friend the narrator was not until the two of you were riding home from the restaurant. When you asked them why they changed the story, making it a more elaborate less truthful scenario, they replied a story is not worth telling if you cannot exaggerate it and provide better entertainment value. I can understand the point they were making since I have been known to tell a tale or two, with something called creative license. In this adventure drama, writer and director Darren Aronofsky (The Fountain, Black Swan) used artistic license to put his own spin on the biblical tale of Noah. Russell Crowe (Man of Steel, A Beautiful Mind) and Jennifer Connelly (Blood Diamonds, Winter’s Tale) played Noah and his wife Naameh. Upon receiving visions of impending doom for the Earth, Noah set out to build an ark that would save all that was good about the planet. This movie was utterly bizarre to me, taking on a science fiction aspect that I found totally ridiculous. Who knew there were prehistoric Transformers in biblical times?! Not only did I find the story silly, but I found it boring as well. The acting was nothing special and I am saying this even with Emma Watson (The Bling Ring, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock, The Rite) being part of the cast. I especially felt the story line of Ham, played by Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson franchise, 3:10 to Yuma) was poorly done. The only redeeming quality to this film was the visual aspect. Though none of the animals were real I did enjoy their scenes along with the start of the flooding. In the case of this disaster film or should I say disastrous film, elaborating the story did nothing to make it a more entertaining experience.
1 3/4 stars
Even though it may have been painful to learn some of these relationship rules, I hold all of them close to my heart: No one can go to bed angry; Never raise your voice; Remember to talk about how you feel; If something is bothering you discuss it immediately, not months later; Realize there will be some things you will have to do that you will not like; Show your love. This is not a complete list and I realize each person has their own rules; but it is safe to say relationships require constant input as they evolve in time. I have seen couples that have grown distant from each other because they did not take into account that each of them was growing at a different pace and they did not talk about it. Communication is vital in my opinion and when I have met someone who never used the words “I” and “feel” in the same sentence, it immediately sent up a red flag for me. If you want to see a couple dealing with their changes in an adult, real and raw way then follow Nick and Meg, played by Jim Broadbent (Another Year, The Iron Lady) and Lindsay Duncan (About Time, Alice in Wonderland), in this award winning comedic drama. For their 30th wedding anniversary Meg and Nick decided to spend it in Paris, the place where it all began for them years ago. The beauty of the city remained the same but things looked different with older eyes. I do not think this movie would have worked if they had used any other actors besides Jim and Lindsay. They blended so well together that I was experiencing a nervous anticipation during some of their conversations. For his small role I thought Jeff Goldblum (The Switch, The Fly) was wonderful as Morgan, one of Nick’s former proteges. When I say this was an adult film, it is meant to express the real issues this couple was experiencing. Though I believe younger adults would find this film boring, I think the movie honestly shows what people go through in their relationships. I did find times where I was becoming bored with some of the bickering; it felt like the same subject was being rehashed. There will be some of you that will find the script too wordy. I know it is early in the season, but I can see Jim Broadbent being nominated for this role. When it comes to relationships, if you want to make them bloom you sometimes have to get your hands dirty.
I have always had a fascination with famous people. Not an obsession or wanting to learn everything I can about them, I just want to be near them. It is not because I think their good fortune will magically flake off and land on me, turning my life into a charmed existence. Basically I get a kick when I see or hear in the news something about the celebrity and I can say I saw them or was at the same place they visited. Growing up the closest I came to being near someone famous was a classmate in high school, whose family owned a yogurt company. Whenever I was at the grocery store and passed by his family’s products I would get a smile on my face, knowing I went to high school with their son. Yes, so I am a bit goofy; but I have to tell you, if I had gone to the same school with Veronica Mars it would have been so cool. Unfortunately watching this crime dramedy was my first time seeing Veronica Mars, played by Kristen Bell (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Big Miracle). After viewing this film I wished I had seen the television show. Besides the enjoyment, I feel I would have understood more in this picture. The story took place after the TV show, where Veronica had attended law school and was on the verge of landing a job at a prestigious New York law firm. Before finding out if she was hired, Veronica traveled back home to visit her dad Keith, played by Enrico Colantoni (Galaxy Quest, Just Shoot Me!-TV). While there she would help her former boyfriend Logan Echolls, played by Jason Dohring (Deep Impact, Searching for Sonny), who was the prime suspect in the murder of his girlfriend. Even with her new calling, Veronica would soon find out old habits were hard to break. What sold me on this film was the snappy dialog and Kristen Bell. As I mentioned there were times I felt I was out of the loop, like there were inside jokes I was missing. The directing was consistently tight. I do not know if it is because I knew this came out of a television show, but I felt I was watching a TV series. The way the scenes changed seemed like they were timed to insert a commercial break. The writers did their best to include the cast’s back story without getting bogged down in voice over explanations. If I have one criticism of this movie it would be the lack of intensity to the story. It needed more drama and intensity for the characters; with a bigger screen one needs a bigger story. Now that I have experienced the charm of Veronica Mars I hope there will be another movie.
3 stars for Veronica Mars fans 2 2/3 stars for everyone else
Laughter is the safety valve to life’s daily pressures. Bubbling up from the pit of the stomach, laughter purges tension and stress, replacing it with a euphoric effervescence. Humor comes in multiple shades since each person has their own unique form of funniness. Some people enjoy practical jokes while others prefer cerebral comedy. The former IT director of my company was an odd fellow. Disheveled with improper fitting clothes, he stuck out from the general population already besides his over 6 foot tall frame. One day at the office while working on an account, I heard him calling out for help from his workplace. When I came to his office door I found him wedged underneath his desk with only his head visible on his desktop, his chin resting on the rim. He tended to sit on the edge of his chair and it had flipped up behind him, causing him to fall down to the floor with his legs underneath the desk. The top of the chair came down and pressed up against his back while the chair bass was stuck into the wall behind him. He could not move since his arms were on his lap below the desk, with no room to maneuver them down to the floor for leverage. Now if your immediate reaction to this story was to laugh, then you will enjoy this comedy. This film was so inappropriate but oh so funny to me and the rest of the audience in the theater. Jason Bateman (Disconnect, Arrested Development-TV) was utterly outrageous playing Guy Trilby, an adult man who exploited a loophole to enter a children’s spelling bee contest. With news reporter Jenny Widgeon, played by Katherine Hahn (We’re the Millers, Wanderlust), in tow; Guy was out to prove a point, stopping at nothing to make sure it came across loud and clear. This being Jason’s directorial debut, he did a wonderful job keeping up a steady pace while fitting in a multitude of wicked moments. Allison Janney (The Way Way Back, Juno) was perfect playing Dr. Bernice Deagan, who was determined to stop Guy from ruining her competition. The script was tight, constantly balancing itself on the edge of funny and inappropriate. I think some people would find a few of the jokes and strong language offensive. I will say the first time Guy threw down off-color verbiage to a child I cringed; however, it was that unexpectedness that made me laugh in shock. If Jason Bateman had not been so skilled to pull off this role, I feel the movie would have not been as enjoyable or funny. From the amount of laughing I did during the film, I should be living stress free for at least a few weeks now.
The sting from the punch lingered on my arm. He had done it before but it hurt just as much this time. There was a difference though because I decided to get back at him. I had a knack for quietly cracking pumpkin seeds in my mouth and discreetly keeping the shells in my school desk until I could dispose of them. As the class prepared to go outside for recess I stayed behind, allowing myself just enough time to place some of the empty shells under his school desk. I took the rest of the shells with me, tossing them into a garbage can in the hallway before joining up with my class as it was exiting out the playground door. When we returned to class, it did not take long for the teacher to notice the empty shells below his desk. Sure he denied they were his when the teacher asked him. She questioned each of us who sat around him but their look of confused denial was matched by mine. The boy that hit me was forced to sweep up the entire floor while we continued on with our history lesson. As an adult I can look back and criticize my actions; but back then, I relished the revenge. At least I did not plan the identity switch for criminal reasons like the one that was done to poor Kermit in this comedy caper. While the Muppets were on an international tour the world’s most evil frog Constantine, a dead ringer for Kermit, switched identities with him. While Kermit was imprisoned in a Russian prison headed by Nadya, played by Tina Fey (Admission, 30 Rock-TV), Constantine used the Muppets as a cover for his audacious plot. Seeing the Muppets on the big screen again just brings a smile to one’s face. For the duration they have been around, multiple generations have some type of fond memory about the Muppets. This adventure film had its moments with sight gags, Muppets humor, songs and a cavalcade of celebrity cameo appearances. I enjoyed the performances from Tina Fey and Ty Burrell (The Incredible Hulk, Modern Family-TV) as Jean Pierre Napoleon. As for Ricky Gervais (The Invention of Lying, The Office-TV) as Constantine’s associate, I found him forgettable for the most part. Overall this film was okay but it was lacking the fun, I want to say oomph, I usually feel for the Muppets. The story was, dare I say, somewhat predictable. There was however a creative flair throughout the film and credits, even to the very end. With the Muppets under a new owner I hope this movie is not the start of a string of films based on marketing results instead of fun creativity.
2 1/2 stars
There is a certain comfort in eating the same thing for lunch each business day. Working in a chaotic environment, I find stability in having a meal that is both dependable and made up with comforting foods that I can count on. Growing up in a neighborhood where the majority of people came from the same political, socioeconomic and religious background provided a built-in shorthand to everyone’s conversations. A single word could explain everything without having to go into details. I do not find fault with people being similar, but what about the person who appears not to fit in with the majority? In my own observations it seems there is less conformity but also less tolerance; or maybe it is the less tolerant are louder. Personally, I am comfortable with variety in my life; even with my lunch I change it up on the weekends. The way I describe it is by saying life is like a massive mansion where each person provides a different window that lets me see something new from its vantage point. By now you have probably guessed I was tuned in with the plot in this action adventure film. Set in the future, society was broken down into 5 factions based on virtues. Once a child reached a certain age they were tested to determine which faction would be most suitable for them. Shailene Woodley (The Descendants, The Spectacular Now) played Beatrice “Tris” Prior who did not fit into one convenient category. According to the policies in place and enforced by Jeanine, played by Kate Winslet (Titanic, Revolutionary Road); people like Tris would be considered a threat to society. If Tris was going to survive she would have to pretend to fit in with her faction. From what I have heard, moviegoers who have read Veronica Roth’s book which this film was based on were disappointed. Since I have not read the trilogy my comments are strictly based on the entertainment value of this movie. The best part of this picture comes down to two people: Shailene Woodley and Theo James (The Inbetweeners Movie, Underworld: Awakening) as her group leader named Four. I thought they worked well together and his acting was almost as good as Shailene’s. Filmed in Chicago, the outdoor scenes and sets constantly kept my attention. Extra points go to the 2 actors for actually climbing up the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier. I found the beginning of the movie was slow and dry. Maybe if I had read the book I would have had a better understanding of Tris’ relationships with her fellow inductees. The last hour of the movie was more exciting to me. Based on my personality I would be honored to be considered a Divergent, but then again I like being different.
2 3/4 stars
As each of the year’s fully read pages of my life turn over, I notice that my mind and body do not always play nice together. There are things my mind tells me I can still do but my body now groans with disapproval. I know a trip to an amusement park these days means instead of ordering a snow cone I will be asking for a glass of water to accompany my 2 pills of ibuprofen. After the trees around my property release all of their leaves I can still climb up a ladder perched on the side of my house to clean out the gutters; however, my mind now recoils to the back of my head, screaming at me that I am going to fall. Sure there are some things I used to do years ago that I now wish I had the stamina to undertake; but realistically I know it would not be prudent on my part. Damn, don’t I sound so mature and adult? It was a similar dilemma that former art thief Crunch Calhoun, played by Kurt Russell (Death Proof, The Thing), was going through in this comedic crime film. After spending time in prison Crunch was coaxed into one last scheme by his half-brother Nicky, played by Matt Dillon (Crash, The Outsiders), to steal a rare book. However when two people have different motivations, no matter how good the plans were thought out, the outcome will not necessarily meet up with their expectations. The cast was made up with some decent solid actors. Seeing Kurt Russell back on the big screen produced a nostalgic feeling inside of me. It seemed to me Matt keeps playing the same type of roles, the darker edgier character of the cast. Yet with the actor Terrance Stamp (Unfinished Song, Wanted) playing Samuel Winter, I never tire of his performances; he always puts his best into each of his characters. The issue I had with this film was the lack of excitement; it came across as a typical heist movie with nothing special in it. I think listing it as a comedy was a bit of a stretch since I do not recall laughing at anything. Maybe it was because I found some of the characters were stereotypical. The other reason was the script did not give the actors much to build on to their characters. Too bad, because I felt the assembled cast would have gelled better with each other. Hopefully the actors did not feel they were too old to take risks with their roles and were only going through the motions.
With wide open eyes that look almost too big for their head and their body shivering, how can one not feel sorry for their skittish pet? There are some pets that are afraid of lightning and thunder while others get freaked out by a running vacuum cleaner. All one can do is hold and comfort their scared pet if they let them. In the human species there are some people who have a predisposition to be easily scared or high-strung. They get frightened being a passenger in a car. I am sure there are times where they have a legitimate reason to jump in their seat; but sometimes it is just a different style of driving from their way. I tend to be a quiet walker and I am always amazed when I walk up to an employee. If they did not see of hear me they jump with a start. I always wonder who they think would be coming into their office in the middle of our department. Lastly there are some individuals who fall into the intense or high maintenance category. Now there is a difference between the two; with intense people one has to exert effort to try and maintain the relationship, to keep it satisfying for both parties. As for people who are high-strung, one needs only to accept and love them. In this Sundance Film Festival winning movie, it will take a whole lot of love and patience to maintain a civil relationship with this intense family. Ellen Barkin (Sea of Love, Ocean’s Thirteen) played high-strung Lynn who was traveling with her family to the Annapolis home of her parents Doris and Joe Baker, played by Ellen Burstyn (The Exorcist, The Fountain) and George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke, Naked Gun franchise). The occasion was to attend her estranged son’s wedding who was raised by Lynn’s ex-husband Paul, played by Thomas Haden Church (Sideways, Easy A) and his 2nd wife Patty, played by Demi Moore (Ghost, Margin Call). Mix in dysfunctional relatives, money, addiction, hurt feelings and what could possibly go wrong? I really enjoyed this comedic drama in the beginning. The cast was excellent and Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Perks of Being a Wallflower), who has cornered the market in playing a teenager in distress, played Lynn’s addictive son Elliot. As the movie played out I felt overloaded by the yelling and crying to the point I lost interest in the characters. It was too much which is exactly what I say when having to deal with someone who is high maintenance.
2 stars — DVD
Without some type of support system in place one can begin listening to their inner voice with doubtful ears. I am quite familiar with doubt; if left unchecked, it is an invasive weed that chokes the bloom off of my ideas. If I did not have supportive friends and family in place I do not think I would have had the courage to publicly post my movie reviews. Prior to starting my website I would email individual people my thoughts on a film. From my 1st public review to current ones I can see a big difference in the way I write them. I now find the earlier ones to be sterile and impersonal, none of my feelings were blended into the words. The evolution of my writing took place thanks to the positive responses I have received from so many different people. A kind word is one of the best ways to stop the spread of doubt. I thought the concept for this comedic drama was a wonderful idea. Any single parent could use a supportive group of individuals around them and I was curious to see how writer/director Tyler Perry (The Family That Preys, Madea franchise) would handle the situation. The answer would be with a heavy hand and humor at the lowest level on the comedy scale. I was actually surprised on how bad this film was on so many levels. It followed such a formula that I cannot imagine much time was devoted in the making of this picture. Let us start with individuals from multiple ethnic groups so the movie could attract a wide audience, check this off the list. Next make sure you have moms from a low to high economic status so we could see how poor and wealthy people have the same problems. Now throw in male characters as some type of love or former love interest so we could observe the challenges a single mom has when it comes to relationships and there you have it: a boring, lackluster, trite and lazy movie. I felt sad for the cast that included Nia Long (The Best Man Holiday, Boiler Room) as May, Wendi McLendon (Bridesmaids, Rules of Engagement-TV) as Jan and Amy Smart (The Butterfly Effect, Crank franchise) as Hilary. After sitting through this movie, where the best part was the outtakes during the ending credits, if I could have found a support group for traumatized film goers of poor quality films I would have signed up.
1 1/2 stars
It was a time where the words “please” and “thank you” were freely given in a sentence. Kind gestures were evident everywhere we went throughout the building. With passports in hand, a group of us went out of the country for a convention being held in a regal old hotel. Wide and majestic with its granite facade and elongated windows, the hotel had several flags waving above the doorway as if they were greeting every hotel guest. Inside the floor was fitted with a combination of huddled polished gold edged tiles that looked like reflective pools surrounded by the plush, deep red carpeting that swallowed up noises from everyone’s shoes. The lobby had an ample crystal chandelier that cast just enough light to make the room glow as if the sun was setting behind the woven tapestry that hung across the far western wall. For the duration of the convention no matter how loud or rowdy the guests became, the hotel staff never once judged or showed a disapproving face. It was when the Grand Budapest Hotel first appeared on the movie screen in this comedic drama that I recalled my memory of that trip. The difference between the two hotels was that mine sat in the heart of a large city and it did not have a murder occur within its walls. From writer and director Wes Anderson (Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom), this visually stimulating film grabbed me from the very beginning. No need to worry if visuals are not your cup of tea because the story had a creative zaniness that was elevated by the fine acting from the cast. Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter franchise, Skyfall) was outstanding as the famous hotel concierge Gustave H. Adrien Brody (The Pianist, Cadillac Records) as Dmitri, Willem Dafoe (Out of the Furnance, The Walker) as Jopling and relative newcomer Tony Revolori (The Perfect Game) as Zero Moustafa were only part of the wonderful cast that Wes assembled for this fun film. The story was a story within a story that was easy to follow. When a wealthy guest of the hotel was found murdered, the authorities believed Gustave H was to blame. What took place after were a series of screwball chases and plot twists that hearkened back to the madcap comedy movies made in the 1930s and 40s. Each scene had its own unique individualized detailing where I felt I was looking through a series of paintings. If you are not a fan of Wes Anderson, I think the cast could still win you over. As far as I was concerned I was willing to book a room at the hotel in this film festival winner.
3 2/3 stars