During tragic times there are some people who ask themselves what they can do to help. One of the most selfless groups of people I have ever witnessed are those individuals who do hospice care. To me they are a rare breed of humans who give of themselves without expecting something in return. I have a saying I use that goes, “For every plus in life there is a minus.” What I mean by this is the world is made up of people, things or events that can be either a plus or minus, positive or negative, or you can even say good or bad. Here is an example: my car’s windshield got chipped from debris on the highway. The following day my company handed out holiday cash bonuses and the amount covered my deductible. The negative act was cancelled out by the positive act. With that being said it saddens me to say with all the positive folk we have in the world, it appears we have almost as large a group of negative ones. They can prey on others; not only during tragic events but even on those individuals who may be less fortunate. The “criminals” in this crime drama inspired by a true story were utterly despicable. I will tell you it was hard watching this film festival winning movie. Rachel Weisz (The Mummy franchise, The Deep Blue Sea) played American police officer Kathryn Bolkovac, who took a position as a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia. Working on an investigation she discovered young women were being trafficked for the pleasure of men. Though she would encounter obstacles, Kathryn was determined to have her voice be heard for these victims. This certainly was Rachel’s film and she owned it, making an amazing character come to life. She was backed up by some real star power with Vanessa Redgrave (Unfinished Song, Blow-Up) as Madeleine Rees and David Strathairn (Lincoln, L.A. Confidential) as Peter Ward. As I watched the story unfold I really was outraged witnessing the scenes that were filled with such desperation. I was aware the director and writers probably took liberties with the story, focusing more on the cruelty; but it still bothered me. Though there was drama, personally I wanted more back story to the main characters. With this being such a vehicle for Rachel, some of the supporting cast was lost in the frame. At the end of the picture I had to stay seated and thought about the negative people in the story. I just wondered what kind of childhood did these people have to carry out the things they did in this gripping film.
3 stars — DVD
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
There was a time when women could not wear pants. It was not allowed during the period my brothers were in high school. It used to be one could not marry out of their race. Experiencing any type of freedom today, one must look to the past to see who fought for those rights. As a member of the blogosphere, I have read some posts that made me blush. I may not agree with the author of the post, but I would certainly fight for their right to say it. If I am not comfortable reading or seeing something, I simply stop and move on. Being fortunate to live in a country that allows it citizens the freedom of speech, I was curious to see this film about a trailblazer who reinforced that freedom of speech. Poet Allen Ginsberg along with his friend Jack Kerouac were pioneers of what became known as the Beat Generation. Allen’s poem Howl is considered today one of the great works of American literature. When it was first published in the 1950’s, there were many who felt it was obscene. The obscenity trial that ensued was the focus of this film. James Franco (127 Hours, Spiderman franchise) gave an engaging performance portraying the poet Allen Ginsburg. The lawyers at the trial, Jake Ehrlich and Ralph McIntosh, were played by Jon Hamm (The Town, Friends With Kids) and David Strathairn (Lincoln, L.A. Confidential) respectively. I could appreciate the use of three segments to tell this movie; the events that led up to Ginsberg writing his famous piece, the trial itself and the use of animation to enhance the recitation of the poem. But where each segment was interesting, I felt it took away from giving me a fuller story. For example, I would rather have had extra screen time showing more of Allen’s life and his thoughts about the trial. Even having more interaction between Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, who was played by Todd Rotondi (Phileine Says Sorry, The Heartbreaker), would have been interesting. The casting for this film was well done, including the small parts for Mary-Louise Parker (Red, Saved!) as Gail Potter and Jeff Daniels (Looper, Dumb & Dumber) as David Kirk. This movie was a compelling history lesson for me. Strong language and visuals of sexual content.
2 2/3 stars — DVD
Like most young children, I wished I had superpowers. I wanted to fly 6 feet off the ground, skimming over the heads of people. As to why that particular height, I believe it was because I knew no one over 6 feet tall. Another power I wanted was to have the ability to time travel. The capacity to travel back to historical events and meet famous people has always fascinated me. After all these years my wish came true with this amazing movie. I was watching Abraham Lincoln not Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood, My Left Foot), the actor that portrayed Lincoln. His performance was more than outstanding; it was real, causing me to tear up every time he spoke. Daniel will be the one to beat in this year’s Oscar race. Sally Field (Forrest Gump, The Amazing Spider-Man) brought a deep understanding to her character as Mary Todd Lincoln. Honesty there was not a bad performance from any of the cast which included Tommy Lee Jones (Hope Springs, In the Valley of Elah) as Thaddeus Stevens and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) as Robert Lincoln. The story focused on the time surrounding the creation of the 13th amendment to the constitution, which would ban slavery. Tony Kushner (Angels in America, Munich) wrote the rich screenplay, allowing a majority of characters in the movie to have their own special moment. I appreciated the work involved in recreating the sets to exact details, having read director Steven Spielberg (War Horse, Saving Private Ryan), Daniel and Tony each visited the Lincoln Library in Springfield, Illinois for research. For example, Steven recorded the sound from Lincoln’s pocket watch and recreated the exact titles of books for the bookcases in the White House. The only fault I can say about the movie was several scenes seemed implausible to me. I felt they were manipulated to create a more heartwarming experience for the viewer. With that said, this movie was one of Steven Spielberg’s finest creations. When the lights came up in the movie theater, I could finally say I met Abraham Lincoln. I left my seat with a better understanding of our country’s history, feeling uplifted. Brief scenes of blood and violence.
3 1/2 stars
Imagine the possibilities if you were able to swap out your soul for another or just have it removed to avoid some type of distress in your life. For example, maybe you are a lawyer about to go to trial and you want to have the soul of one of the top lawyers in the country. It is an intriguing concept and this dark comedy chose the perfect actor for the role: Paul Giamatti (The Illusionist, Win Win). Playing himself, Paul was struggling in rehearsals for a production of Anton Chekov’s Uncle Vanya. Seeing a magazine article about a storage facility for souls, Paul made an appointment to see Dr. Flintstein, played by David Strathairn (Heavens Fall, The Whistleblower). Mr Giamatti has a gift for quickly changing emotions, going from a humorous point to an intense frantic state with the simple use of his expressive face. The movie with its science fiction vibe had several funny bits throughout it. Paul went from being a soulless actor, much to the director’s chagrin, to a brillant actor with the aid of his temporary soul. I wish the writers would have stayed with this story line instead of bringing in the secondary story involving the Russians. It would have made for a stronger film. Fans of Paul Giamatti will certainly enjoy this movie. For those of you not familiar with his work, this DVD would be one to rent to see his excellent acting skills on display.
2 2/3 stars — DVD