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Flash Movie Review: Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

I wonder what the results would be if I posed a question on this movie site’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, asking people if they feel they can be themselves at their place of work. Every time I walk up to a teller at my bank I am always told I qualify for some promotion and debit card. After declining their offer several times I finally had to firmly ask them not to ask me anymore, to have it pop up on their computer screen that I do not want a debit card. Do you wonder if they did not have to stay professional what they might have said to me instead? I know with my job I have to endure customers cursing and bad mouthing my company; yet, I have to remain calm without going off on them. Trust me there have been times where I just wanted to tell the person they were acting like a rectum’s orifice (fill in any curse word); however, I contain myself. Even when there was that one customer who threatened to come to my office to beat me up because I would not release their order until they paid us for their past due invoices, I still remained calm. This explains why I teach fitness and yoga after work; it is my way of getting rid of the day’s negativity. Though there have been times where I have seen a member in class being disrespectful to someone and the real me just wants to tell them to knock it off. The persona I wear at the club doesn’t allow such language so I have to adjust what I say. Unlike the star of this documentary who only acts one way, her way.   TONY and Emmy award winning actress Elaine Stritch (Monster-in-Law, Autumn in New York), holds nothing back in this intimate and close-up documentary directed by Chiemi Karasawa (Meet the Midtown Men). I knew only a little about Elaine and her reputation, but watching this film festival winning movie was a real treat for a variety of reasons. Being a big fan of live theater, I enjoyed seeing the backstage doings as well as seeing at her age how she still could command an audience. The attraction for me regarding Elaine is I found her to be authentic. She tells it like it is; which is an attribute that sits high in my plus column for describing a person. Speaking of pluses I found the archival footage used in this movie to be a real bonus in telling Elaine’s story. I do not think one needs to be a fan of Broadway to appreciate the dedication and drive Elaine has inside of her. This documentary also included footage of other actors such as Alec Baldwin (The Departed, 30 Rock-TV) and James Gandolfini (The Drop, The Sopranos-TV) which added to the portrait being painted of Elaine in this picture. Considering her age during the filming some viewers may look at her as being a character; I have seen that type of description used when an older person has dropped their filters. For me I felt I was watching a person who was just being herself at home and at work.

 

3 ½ stars — DVD  

 

 

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Flash Movie Review: The Drop

It can be so hard to watch someone you care about do something that you feel is not in their best interests–or is just plain wrong. Short of restraining and locking them in their home, there is not a lot one can do to persuade them to at least rethink everything before acting upon it. A friend of mine had been in a loving relationship for a couple of years. Unfortunately it did not last and she was completely distraught over it. Within a short time she met someone new, dated briefly and before you knew it she was engaged to him. I was not only stunned with the suddenness; but from the things she told me, I could not understand why in the world she would even be with him. Get this; she was a late sleeper who loved to lounge in bed to mid-morning. She used to tell me how he would wake her up at 5 am because it was time to clean the house, according to him. I kid you not; I was flabbergasted and would always ask her why she did not tell him to go clean the house, just do not wake her up. Long story short, they stayed married for a few years until she could not stand it anymore and divorced him.    SOMETHING did not seem right to cousins Bob and Marv, played by Tom Hardy (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Dark Knight Rises) and James Gandolfini (Enough Said, Killing Them Softly), when the tavern they worked at was held up and robbed. In their small, closely tight neighborhood where everyone knew each other, their employer was not someone you would want to get angry at you. This crime drama was James Gandolfini’s last movie and he left on a high note; it was a memorable and solid performance. As for Tom Hardy, I was blown away by his acting; he was amazing and deserves an Oscar nomination. Along with Noomi Rapace (Prometheus, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo franchise) as Nadia, all the acting melded beautifully into the tense well written story. Based on his short story “Animal Rescue,” Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Bone) wrote the screenplay for this film. There were some memorable scenes that were perfectly directed. I was especially impressed the way the actors only needed a gesture or look to convey the heaviness that was bearing down on them. It truly enhanced the viewing experience for me. I may not have known the characters in this movie, but even I could tell something was not right and wished I had a way to tell them. There were a few scenes that showed blood and violence.

 

3 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Enough Said

Meeting friends is an important component of the dating process, but it is something I prefer holding off from until I see we are getting comfortable with each other. You can say what you want but that first initial meeting with your or their friends will partially be an interview procedure for a 2nd opinion. Do not get me wrong, I do not have a problem with that; however, I prefer having some quality time for the two of us to get some solid footing underneath before bringing in other personalities. I have been in situations where friends were involved too early at the beginning of the dating phase and personalities clashed immediately; it was truly an uncomfortable situation. As one gets older I do not know if it gets easier. If you do not believe me just see what happens in this touching comedy. Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Deconstructing Harry, Veep-TV) played Eva, a middle-aged divorcee with a daughter. When one of her clients Marianne, played by Catherine Keener (Into the Wild, A Late Quartet), began complaining about all the things her former spouse used to do; it started to have a negative affect on Eva’s budding relationship with Albert, played by James Gandolfini (Killing Them Softly, Welcome to the Rileys). There were several reasons why this movie was enjoyable to watch. The acting was wonderful; Julia and James made a real connection with their characters. Also, I had a twinge of sadness while watching James since this was his last movie before he died. The dialog never went over the top; keeping things at an emotive, sweet level. Even when scenes were dramatic the director let the actors use physical communication to convey their feelings. It really worked well in my opinion. Toni Collette (The Way Way Back, Little Miss Sunshine) as Eva’s best friend Sarah was a solid addition to the cast and story. Known more for her comedic skills, I thought Julia did a beautiful job with her character’s full range of emotions. Is the story believable? I believe so, I just hope I will never have to experience something similar. This was a well done film that was a fitting tribute to the illustrious career of James Gandolfini.

 

3 1/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Welcome to the Rileys

When a loved one that was part of your life is no longer there, the unconscious breath becomes a daily chore. The echo of your heartbeat has stopped reverberating in the soft walls of your mind. Each following day, the weight of your body remains rooted in your legs, forcing them to struggle whenever you are in an upright position. Your pristine eyes that were clear and bright, only record blurred moist images now. I have been there and I am sure many of you have been too. That is why I could understand the couple’s pain regarding their loss in this dramatic movie. Married couple Lois and Douglas “Doug” Riley, played by Melissa Leo (The Fighter, Frozen River) and James Gandolfini (Killing Them Softly, The Sopranos-TV), were only going through the motions each and every day after the death of their daughter. The two were not really living anymore. On a business trip to New Orleans, Doug decided he was going to stay after meeting young stripper Allison alias Mallory, played by Kristen Stewart (Twilight franchise, The Runaways). By discovering what he was missing, could Doug begin to live again? Creating such broken characters and then letting James and Melissa delve into them, made for a powerful performance. I could feel how their pain was keeping them stagnant. Though I am not a fan of Kristen’s acting, I will say her style of performing lent itself to making her character believable for me. At times I had to wonder if some of the trio’s acting was being ad libbed because it came across as natural conversation. This Sundance Film Festival nominee was a surprise find for me. I did not have to understand how Doug and Lois dealt with their loss; I just wanted to be there for them.  Strong language.

 

3 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Zero Dark Thirty

An image of my sister-in-law’s deceased cat came to mind while I was thinking about this movie I had just seen. If you had met TC in the house; he was an affectionate, sweet cat. But if you saw him outside; he was a cold, stealthy killer. The reason TC came to mind was due to watching Jessica Chastain (Lawless, Take Shelter) as CIA operative Maya in this tense dramatic movie. She was a slight wisp of a woman in a male dominated arena, whose single focused determination revealed her underlying strength. I found her performance to be one of her best. Since the September 2001 attacks, Maya’s only job was to find Osama Bin Laden. Her single-mindedness would push her to the gray areas of government policy. Whether this movie’s facts were true or not, it was the job of the director to take the story and make it believable to the viewer. In the case of this riveting movie about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Point Break) created a compelling experience. If you have read my explanation of my rating system; you know for me to award 4 stars to a movie, I have to be swept into the movie and leave my world’s reality behind. As I sat in my seat watching the movie; the sounds of crunching popcorn, the clinking of jostled ice cubes in cups of soda and the rustling of winter coats being squeezed into the back of the theater seats all turned into a hushed silence. My peripheral vision latched onto the edges of the movie screen and stretched them all the way beyond me. I had entered into Maya’s world. Because of the experience I just described, I awarded this movie 4 stars. The directing was brilliant; attaining rock solid performances from the actors. Too many to mention, I wanted to at least acknowledge a few of the competent actors such as Jason Clarke as Dan, Joel Edgerton as squadron team leader Patrick and Kyle Chandler as Joseph Bradley. Everything you have heard about this movie is true; it easily could be the frontrunner for this year’s Oscar awards. Brief scenes with blood.

 

4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Killing Them Softly

Here is a film that movie critics can sit down and discuss among themselves into the early hours of dawn. They can debate the merits on using slow motion photography for an execution scene versus the quick kill method or any other such topic. Since I see myself more as a consumer instead of a reviewer; I have to say from where I was sitting no one in the theater cared. We just wanted to be entertained. Judging by the amount of people who kept getting in and out of their seats, I think they were finding better entertainment at the concession stands. Have you ever read a restaurant review that made you immediately go to that place, with bib attached, only to find out the meal was nothing like the review? This is how I felt sitting in the theater. With such a powerful set of actors, I thought I was going to see a rugged intense crime film. Instead I was bored, wondering what kind of black magic was used to turn scenes into lengthy debates that sucked the life out of the actors. In the movie’s favor there were some scenes that shined; but they were few and far between. Based on George V. Higgins’ novel Cogan’s Trade, Brad Pitt (Fight Club, Moneyball) was the enforcer Jackie Cogan, brought in to clean up after a mob controlled gambling place was robbed by a couple of petty thieves. Jackie hired former big time hit man Mickey, played by James Gandolfini (Welcome to the Rileys, The Sopranos-TV), to help him out. If the obscenities were eliminated from James’ lines he would have been speechless. As good as Ray Liotta (Identity, Smokin’ Aces) was as gambling host Markie Trattman, that is how bad Richard Jenkins (The Cabin in the Woods, The Visitor) was as the mob’s spokesman. Sadly, this movie was a waste of good talent and time. Violent scenes with blood.

 

2 stars

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