IT WAS THE 2ND WEEK OF high school when I first heard the guitar music filtering into the hallway. I was a freshman and still getting the lay of the land in the large school building, compared to my small elementary school. Making a mental note of my surroundings, I promised myself I would find where the music was coming from. The following week during my study period, I asked for a hall pass and made my way through the school hallways listening for the music. It was faint and unrecognizable, lingering just enough in the air like morning mist to lead me towards it. I soon found myself in an unfamiliar part of the school, in front of a slightly ajar door without a room number. As I slowly pushed the door open the guitar playing stopped. I froze for a moment but decided I could not run away now. Stepping into the room I saw a blonde-haired guy sitting on a desk with one leg crossed over the other and a guitar resting in his lap. He was the first to speak by saying hello to me. I said hi back and told him I had heard the music playing and wanted to find out where it was coming from. He asked if I played an instrument and I told him yes, the piano. From there we started talking all things music, from classical to pop music. HE WAS A SENIOR WHICH TOOK me by surprise because I had heard seniors would not be caught dead talking to lowly freshmen. Music was our connection and I found myself hanging out with him playing music every week, since they did not take attendance in study hall. Having a senior as a friend was fortuitous because it gave me inside access on how to maneuver through the school year. He gave me a rundown of which teachers were cool, what foods to avoid in the lunchroom, what bathrooms were safe to use, among a variety of other tips and warnings. I did not have to go through a typical trial and error period of discovery that was filled with risk, especially for freshman. Little did I know how valuable his info would be for me. My years in high school were traumatic, filled with bullying and abuse; I could only imagine how worse it would have been if I did not know what I already knew due to him. Though we only had one year together in school before he went out of state for college; for all intents and purposes he was a mentor to me, just like the main character in this dramatic crime film. HAVING LOST ALL HIS MONEY, NOT able to even buy a meal John, played by John C. Reilly (Stan & Ollie, The Sisters Brothers), was leery of the stranger who suddenly appeared and offered to buy him a cup of coffee. No one does something for free without wanting something; what did this finely dressed man want with John? With Philip Baker Hall (Boogie Nights, The Last Word) as Sydney, Gwyneth Paltrow (The Avengers franchise, Thanks for Sharing) as Clementine, Samuel L. Jackson (Shaft, The Hateful Eight) as Jimmy and Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Hunger Games franchise, The Master) as a young craps player; this film festival winner was filled with a tour de force of acting. The cast was outstanding as they slowly made their way through the script. Seeped in mystery and emotions, I enjoyed the unintentional retro vibe coming off this over 20-year-old film. Due to the authenticity of the dialog, I stayed engaged with the story; a story that seemed familiar to me from other gambling films, yet still had some surprise to it. I can see where young writers would use this film as a teaching tool on how to write real characters.
3 ¼ stars
Sadly I have seen a person go into shock due to an automobile accident. It looked as if they had been powered by batteries that were quickly losing power as their physical movements were grinding to a halt. There was a numbness that came over them as they became unaware of their surroundings. Gratefully the shock I am referring to today is the kind where you cannot believe what your eyes have just seen. I was rummaging through my memory, looking for a time where I had that reaction of disbelief and what came to mind was the first time I visited Las Vegas, Nevada. One of the shows I saw there was a pseudo circus type of troupe but without the animals. I sat there in disbelief as I watched these human beings performing non-human things; it was a night filled with fanciful magic that continues to stay with me to this day. Since I started posting my movie reviews I cannot recall having such a reaction of shock like I had to this film. I think the best way I could describe it would be to say I was dumbfounded and had a difficult time processing what I was witnessing on the big screen before me. JOHNNY Depp (The Long Ranger, Transcendence) played well known art dealer Mortdecai. When a famous painting was stolen, Mortdecai was brought in by England’s secret service to assist them in retrieving the artwork before it fell into the hands of a hostile group. There was something special about this painting. I literally sat in astonishment as I watched this action comedy. This movie was so bad and I do not mean that in a good way. Someone needs to tell Johnny it is enough already; this is not acting anymore. He just talks with an accent and mimics to the camera; it is utterly tiresome. I would love to know what Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man franchise, Running with Scissors) as Johanna, Ewan McGregor (Big Fish, The Impossible) as Martland and Paul Bettany (Legion, A Beautiful Mind) as Jock were thinking by agreeing to be in this movie. The story, the script and the acting were all awful. I think I am still shellshocked because I can barely type out my thoughts on this review. It seemed as if the producers were trying to create a mashup of Austin Powers and Inspector Jacques Clouseau, with the hope of creating a new franchise. I hope it does not happen because this movie was like an unfinished painting that did not dry and all the colors ran together to form brown. As a side note, the 8 pm Saturday night showing of this film, in an approximately 300 seat theater, had 22 people in attendance, including me.
1 1/3 stars
A love relationship is very much like a tree. With care and affectionate nourishment the love grows, branching out to reach further up into the sky. Your relationship solidifies when the leaves open up to shelter and protect you from any harmful rays. Times of sadness come like changing seasons; shriveled leaves dropping like colorless tears. You gather them up and place them around the base of the tree to protect it like a warm shawl, warding off the cold effects of somber winter. The love and support you show will rekindle life into a new season of love. Like a tree one cannot pick and choose the parts they love and ignore the rest. Relationships go through many season of change; unconditional love is what keeps them strong. Love gets tested in this dramatic comedy about people and their addictions. The story centered around Adam, Mike and Neil; played by Mark Ruffalo (Now You See Me, Shutter Island), Tim Robbins (Mystic River, Jacob’s Ladder) and Josh Gad (Jobs, Love & Other Drugs), and the effect their different stages of recovery from addiction weighed on their relationships. The chemistry between Mark Ruffalo and Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man franchise, Country Strong) as Phoebe was sparkling real; I enjoyed watching both their playful and serious scenes together. There was an even pacing to the story where I never felt it becoming slow. I expected Joely Richardson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Event Horizon) as Katie to give a good acting performance which she did, but I was surprised at the screen presence from Alecia Moore aka Pink (Get HIm to the Greek, Catacombs) as Dede. Some of the humor was obvious, especially around Josh’s character Neil; it came across as cheap shots regarding Josh’s size. The writers did an admirable job for showing the characters’ addiction as a disease without it becoming a joke. That does not mean it was all seriousness; there were light threads of humor that never reached a higher level of laughter. Without saying it in so many words, I liked the way the theme of unconditional love played out in this romantic movie.
2 2/3 stars
Currently there is nothing built strong enough to contain one’s feelings. No matter where they get buried or stuffed, feelings always find a way to get out. Some people use food as a way to keep their feelings at bay; others utilize drugs or alcohol to try and numb the emotions bubbling inside of them. I admit there was a time where I would take my feelings and hide them deep inside of me, where no one could ever find them. They were stored in my heart, where the door was sealed by hatred. To show my true feelings was something I associated with getting hurt. It took a lot of work to realize it was okay to express how I felt; that no one had the right to judge another person’s feelings. When this DVD arrived at my home this week I chuckled since my two previous reviews had to do with the music world and now there was going to be another review of a musical film. In actuality, music played a minor role in this story. Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man franchise, Contagion) played country music star Kelly Canter. Pulled out of rehab early for a concert tour by her manager/husband James, played by Tim McGraw (The Blind Side, The Kingdom); Kelly’s sponsor Beau Hutten, played by Garrett Hedlund (Troy, Four Brothers), locked horns with James. He was concerned the pressure would be too much for Kelly to handle, in her vulnerable condition. I am not a big fan of country music, but I enjoyed the songs in this dramatic film. The surprise came from Garrett and Leightom Meester (Monte Carlo, Gossip Girl-TV) as former beauty queen Chiles Stanton. They were terrific playing two singers trying to break into the music business. Though the acting was solid with everyone, they did not have much help from the cliche ridden script. It was easy to spot each turn of events which did not allow any room for one to be surprised. If you are a fan of country music, you might enjoy seeing this film. For everyone else there is the chance you will become bored. At least that is how I felt about it.
2 stars — DVD
Anticipation builds as the roller coaster climbs to the top where the tracks suddenly vanish. As the coaster car creeps over the top, I take a deep breath just before the wind pushes me against my seat. The next 60 seconds are filled with laughter and yelling from everyone as the roller coaster swoops and soars along the tracks. I enjoyed those older roller coasters, before they started doing corkscrews and flips. When I started taking ibuprofen after riding a roller coaster, I realized it was time to stop going on them. Happily I was able to revisit those same type of thrills while watching this rip-roaring film. After a couple of months sitting through some dismal movies, this 3rd installment of the action series was absolute fun. If it is important to you that the story follows the comic books, you will be disappointed. Since I am not a purist, I thought the story was terrific. Sure there were parts that made no sense to me; but the entertainment value was at such a high level, I just went along for the ride. When the mysterious, ruthless villain known as the Mandarin, played brilliantly by Ben Kingsley (Hugo, The Dictator), struck out at Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr. (The Avengers, Due Date), the ensuing battle no longer was about good versus evil; it was about revenge. Robert was at his best this time around. Pay close attention to his quick one-liners that were flying out from the wonderful script. With the actors being pushed physically, I thought Gwyneth Paltrow (Country Strong, Proof) as Pepper Potts and Guy Pearce (Lawless, Prometheus) as Aldrich Killian were outstanding. The same was true about Don Cheadle (Traitor, Reign Over Me) as Colonel James Rhodes, but I wished he had been given more screen time. The action scenes were perfectly balanced throughout the movie. I never felt the fight scenes were rushed; I was able to distinctly make out each character. Just like those old roller coasters; this film was exciting entertainment. So take the ride of your life; it will be worth the price of admission. Stay through the ending credits.
3 1/3 stars