I remember the first time I went to their house. It was nighttime during the winter so it took me some time to get to their place out away from the city. After greeting me at the door they excused themselves for a second to finish up before we were going out for dinner. Standing in the front hallway I looked to see what was around me. There was a darkened room to my left; it had to be a living room or something since there was no doorway. I stood at the edge of the room because I did not want to appear too nosy but quickly jumped back. Something was staring at me. As my eyes started to adjust to the darkness I was wrong, there was a bunch of people looking at me. I was in such shock I had not heard the footsteps on the staircase as they came back downstairs to stand behind me. “You must be looking at my collection,” they said. I told them I was trying to figure out what was staring at me. They walked over to the light switch on the wall and when the room burst into light, what I saw staring at me were porcelain dolls that had been placed all around the room. There were a couple of child sized dolls seated in chairs, smaller ones were placed on bookshelves and in china cabinets. Adult sized ones were hanging up on the walls, posed in different positions. I was speechless; the only time I had seen so many dolls in one place was at a toy store. My next thought was how long did it take to dust all of them? I am not one to judge; it does not matter to me what a person collects. However, I enjoy and want to hear the motivation and reasons why a person collects certain things. LIVING modestly on his postal clerk and her librarian salaries, Dorothy and Herb managed to create what would become a world famous collection. This film festival winning documentary was not only astounding to watch, it was charming to see the lives of this elderly couple. Directed by Megumi Sasaki I was never bored watching this DVD. The variety of interviews, the commentary from Herb and Dorothy, the meetings, their apartment; all of these components put together formed an entertaining movie. Now here is the thing, the works this couple collected are things that I do not usually gravitate towards; they get lost on me. However, I can appreciate their importance and actually learned a few things from some of the commentary segments offered up in the film. Also, I was amused at the juxtaposition between this nondescript elderly couple and the body of work they amassed. One of the messages I took away after seeing this movie was one does not have to limit themselves to fulfill their passion.
3 stars — DVD
I am used to friends and family picking up and moving out of state for either a job opportunity or retirement. As for me I would be willing to do it only on a part-time basis, specifically during wintertime. I never had the courage to even think about this until the past several years as the winter months have been harder on me; but who knows if I will ever get to a point where I could afford to do such a thing. What I find to be more courageous are those individuals and families who emigrate to a different country, especially the ones who hope to become business owners one day. I have known people who were willing to work seven days a week, doing whatever needed to be done, to try and make a go of their new business. Depending on where it is located can add an extra level of difficulty when it involves local or federal government agencies. In fact, I just heard a story from a member from one of my classes who is trying to build a new building. The restrictions and requirements to get and keep a building permit is truly a nightmare. ON the verge of expanding his business Abel Morales, played by Oscar Isaac (Inside Lleywn Davis, Body of Lies), was desperately trying to keep things afloat while trying to find out who was stealing from his company. With all of his finances tied up in the business he was taking these acts of crime personally. This film festival winning crime drama had everything going for it. Written and directed by J.C. Chandor (Margin Call, All is Lost), the movie perfectly balanced the emotional scenes with brilliant film work. One of the main reasons why this worked so well was due to the cast and what a group of actors were chosen. Besides Oscar’s performance which was wonderful, there was Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, The Help) who played his wife Anna, David Oyelowo (Selma, Interstellar) as Lawrence and Albert Brooks (Defending Your Life, Drive) as Andrew Walsh. All of them were amazing to watch; but let me add, Jessica was electric in this role. She was so good that I have to say I think this was her best performance to date. Set in New York during the early 1980s, the whole look of the picture was right on. This action movie was the complete package that was beautifully done with the right amount of emotional investment; I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. There were a couple of scenes where blood and violence was shown.
3 1/2 stars
They are two of the most powerful words one could ever utter in their entire life. Each word represents a profound, deep commitment from an individual; neither should ever be taken lightly. One word is love, the other one is sorry. Though I use both words cautiously, each one represents a deep core value that is permanently embedded inside of my being. The reason I do not freely use these words is because I want them to retain their specialness, so when I say either of them to a person, they know they are getting the true fullness of my heart and soul without any conditions. There is another word that carries almost as much weight as the word love; however, I do not feel it is as strong. The word is hate. It certainly can strike a person as deeply as the word love, but from my experiences I feel it takes less effort to be hateful than loving. Hate to me means one closes themselves off from experiencing feelings, like an old item that one would store up in an attic. A person hates something so they may walk away from it, never allowing themself to explore and see if they can look at it through a different set of eyes. For me love is a full-time commitment that one nourishes, allowing it to continually flourish. TOGETHER nearly 40 years Ben and George, played by John Lithgow (Leap Year, Cliffhanger) and Alfred Molina (An Education, Chocolat), decided to get married. Their celebrating with friends and family did not last long once George’s employer heard about the union; they terminated him. Forced to find cheaper housing the couple would have to live apart after living together for the majority of their adult life. The story in this drama was straight forward without embellishing the situation for dramatic purposes. The acting by John and Alfred was outstanding; in fact, along with Marisa Tomei (Parental Guidance, The Wrestler) as Kate and Charlie Tahan (Blue Jasmine, Charlie St. Cloud) as Joey, the acting was the major force of this movie. What dragged this movie down was the ponderous script. I felt the additional story lines took away from what was the heart of the story. The directing was of no help because there were times where the film seemed to drag a bit for me. With a story that could have been plucked out from current news, this dramatic picture handled the subject matter honestly and with sensitivity. Believing love is one of the most powerful acts a person can commit, it was the underlying theme in bringing this story to life.
2 3/4 stars
It does not take much to have a mundane type of day turn into a happy-go-lucky day. I am not talking about planned events where one is only waiting for the approval before undertaking a new position or some other such thing. I am talking about those things that happen in our daily life that are unexpected and surprise us. For me it can be pulling into a city parking space where there still is available time left on the meter. Opening the game ticket that was handed to me by the waitress and discovering I won a free dessert was enough to turn the rest of my day into a euphoric glow of joy, filled with bright skies and double rainbows. Oh wait maybe that was my sugar high talking now. No matter, these little surprises bring forth a dollop of fun to our lives. For Tommy Uva and Rosie, played by Michael Pitt (Seven Psychopaths, Funny Games) and Nina Arianda (Midnight in Paris, Tower Heist), one small surprise was not only going to make their day, it was going to change their lives. Following the trial of a major crime boss, the couple came up with a plan on how to rob Mafia managed social clubs. It would take some finesse to stay ahead of the FBI and the Mafia for this couple from Queens, New York. The first thing I have to tell you is this film was my surprise for the day. I did not see any advertisements or trailers for it, nor even knew the premise to the story. This picture was a hidden gem; I thought it was good entertainment. Now if that was not enough, to find out this movie was based on a true story blew my mind. I mean the audacity of coming up with the plan, the execution of it and the high stakes; I had to replay film scenes over in my mind afterwards, once I found out there was some truth to the story. Michael and NIna were adorable playing the loving couple; one could not resist the charm they brought to their characters. Andy Garcia (The Untouchables, City Island) who played crime boss Big Al had an easy time making his character work on screen. Ray Romano (The Grand, Everybody Loves Raymond-TV) as news reporter Jerry Cardozo was the weak link just because I did not see much difference in this character compared to Ray playing Ray Barone, minus the humor. There were some parts of the movie that slowed down for me, but not enough to take away my interest in the story. I have to tell you after seeing this film I not only had a good day but a good rest of the week.
A life lived without an honest acknowledgement of one’s history is like living in a 3 walled house; eventually, the weight of reality will come crashing down. I know for I have seen it happen. When a person runs away from their life’s history, taking on a new identity, the facade never lasts long. There was someone I dated a long time ago that never talked about their childhood, parents, or even hobbies. It soon became apparent that my interests were becoming their interests. I saw how they were molding themselves to my way of living and found it unsettling. Essentially they were creating a life for themselves that was dependent on me. The problem they ran into was when there was an issue or crisis, they were ill equipped to handle it; they would implode. The relationship soon ended as I found out later they started a brand new, different life. In a powerful Oscar worthy performance Cate Blanchett (The Lord of the Rings franchise, The Aviator) played wealthy socialite Jasmine, a woman whose life crumbled apart upon the arrest of her crooked businessman husband Hal, played by Alec Baldwin (The Departed, It’s Complicated). With everything lost, Jasmine left New York for San Francisco to stay with her working class sister Ginger, played by Sally Hawkins (Made in Dagenham, Happy-Go-Lucky). Writer and director Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris, Match Point) has a knack for picking an ideal cast and letting them shine with their craft. Everyone in this drama was outstanding. Cate’s over the top brilliant performance was as perfect as it could be; she will be a front runner for the award races this year. I have never seen a poor performance from Sally and she was made to play Ginger. Besides the surprisingly excellent acting by Bobby Cannavale (Win Win, Parker) as Ginger’s boyfriend Chili; do not faint when I tell you comedian Andrew Dice Clay (Pretty in Pink, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane) as Ginger’s ex-husband Augie was living real in his role. I thought the switching of scenes from current to past events would be annoying; but instead, it gave them more intensity. There may not have been a lot of laughs but Woody’s script had a wonderful rhythm to it. This was a fascinating story about the lives people try to create for themselves.
3 1/2 stars
There is an electrified energy felt when sitting with a group of like minded people who share a common interest. The size of the venue does not matter because everyone has the same purpose for coming together–to experience their favorite comedian or musician in the flesh. I sometimes can get that feeling in a movie theater, but it is only if everyone is into the movie. Live music or comedy acts are different because they start out by drawing people who enjoy that type of music or brand of comedy. There is nothing quite like the feeling of sharing laughter with a multitude of people. The laughter feeds on itself, carrying some people to a total release. Music concerts do the same thing; but instead of laughing, people can be transported to a world of magical musical notes and blooming colors floating in the air. Unfortunately not everyone can experience such things due to financial circumstances. For that reason I believe filmed concerts are a valid way for people to experience their favorite artists. With that being said; in reviewing this film I only knew Kevin Hart (Think Like a Man, The Five-Year Engagement) as an actor, not a comedian. I have never seen his act or comedy specials on television; so, I feel I may be at a disadvantage to write about this concert movie filmed at Madison Square Garden. The movie was only 75 minutes long, with the first 15 of it being a weak lead in to the concert. As for the concert I was surprised Kevin’s shows were sold out for such a large arena. So evidently there are people who like his humor. His stories and jokes focused on a more personal level; talking about his kids, divorce and relationships. I found them amusing but not really funny. The use of strong language got old for me; I feel comedians use profanity just for the shock value. There is not much more I can say about this comedy film except the patrons around me were all laughing loudly. If you like Kevin’s style of humor you will like the movie. On the other hand, you may want to see it anyway because a movie ticket is a whole lot cheaper to buy than a concert ticket. Strong language used throughout the movie.
One of the purest forms of innocence can be found in a small child. Without the opinions, prejudices or hatred that can be found in adults; children have the ability to be all inclusive. For that reason it is tragic when a child pays the price for an adult’s war. There is one kind of war that involves bullets and bombs, which is horrifying enough. But there is another type of war and this one involves only two adults–the mother and father of the child. It saddens me when I see one parent using their child as a pawn in a fight against the other parent. I cannot bring to mind anything uglier than a couple sacrificing their child for their own personal gain. Because of the excellent acting in this drama, it made watching this film harder for me. Updating this Henry James story to modern day New York City; the plot was about aging rock star Susanna’s, played by Julianne Moore (Being Flynn, A Single Man) bitter divorce battle with her husband Beale, played by Steve Coogan (Ruby Sparks, Our Idiot Brother). All of this is seen through the eyes of their young daughter Maisie, played by relative newcomer Onata Aprile. For such a young girl, her face easily conveyed the emotions she was feeling. A surprise for me was watching Alexander Skarsgard (Battleship, True Blood-TV) as Lincoln. Familiar with his towering vampire role on True Blood, I was impressed with his acting ability in this film. Alexander’s character was one of the strongest in the cast. I could have used more background information on the characters, but it was a minor complaint. It would be hard not to get involved in the story with the strong emotions playing out on screen. All one could do is hope Maisie does not become another casualty of war.
The challenge in reviewing this movie based on true events was not letting my belief in faithfulness bias my observations. Unfaithfulness is a foreign concept to me. Whether I am called old-fashioned or traditional, I believe loving a person unconditionally incorporates being faithful to them. Once I am in a committed relationship I only have eyes for them, no matter how corny that may sound. I was surprised by this movie; I had no idea one of the story lines was concerned with President Roosevelt’s love affairs. The object of his affection was his distant cousin Margaret “Daisy” Stuckley, played by Laura Linney (The Savages, The Truman Show). From the trailers I thought this film was all about the first visit of a reigning British monarch to America. Samuel West (Van Hesling, Notting Hill) and Olivia Colman (The Iron Lady, Tryannosaur) played the King and Queen of England. In the summer of 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth came to visit President Franklin D. Roosevelt, played by Bill Murray (Lost in Translation, Moonrise Kingdom), at his home in upper state New York. Fearing Britain would be pulled into the war waging across Europe, the King hoped to persuade the President in becoming an ally. If the story would have stayed with this part, the film would have been much better. The scenes with the President and King together were well acted and wonderful. At the start of the movie we were presented Daisy with little back story, as she became the narrator of the film. However, as the story continued she became more of a secondary character, blatantly showing the poor quality of the under developed screenplay. It was a shame because I was curious to see more of the cultural differences between the two countries. Those scenes had a gentle, sweet humor to them. Laura Linney who I have always enjoyed was sadly wasted in this film; granted she did not have much to work with in her role. This movie was like being on a bad date; I was not attracted to it, but did not want to appear rude by leaving early.
I have had the good fortune to be in the presence of charitable individuals throughout my life. Their warmth and kindness spread out to embrace me, like a soft cozy blanket; it truly was a wonderful feeling. My yoga teacher was one such individual. His patience and sweetness were always a comfort as he guided me through our lessons. I credit him for my ability to stay a calm driver, no matter how trite that may sound. My fascination with these giving people has always included their history, the steps they took to become who they are today. In this moving documentary, I was introduced to a selfless man who left a profound effect on everyone he encountered. The story was about the life of Father Mychal Judge. What I especially appreciated was his life story, his determination to go beyond doctrine and do what he felt was the right thing to do–give comfort to anyone and everyone. In my classes I avoid discussions about religion. To me, there are no better or worse religions; everyone has the right to believe what they want without pushing it on someone else. Father Mychal was a New York fire department chaplain. When the twin towers were attacked, he did what he had always done before; suit up and immediately go to the aid of those affected, to comfort them. Listening to the love and admiration throughout the movie for Father Mychal, I only wish I could have met this amazing man. One thing I especially admired was how the filmmakers did not shy away from showing the personal side of Father Mychal. For example, he was a strong advocate of AA; since he himself was a recovering alcoholic. I do not know how such extraordinary humans reach that state of mind to be all giving and accepting. But what I do know is how I was humbled after watching the life of this loving man.
3 1/3 stars — DVD
There is something magical when the lights dim and the audience settles into momentary silence. The heavy curtain purrs as it takes flight and there standing before you is a scene that wakens into life. I love the experience of live theater (such an odd term that suggests there is dead theater) with actors claiming their parcels of stage land. My close friend, who was a theater major, has the most fascinating stories about theater life; I love listening to them whenever the subject comes up. Finding this treasure of a film was sweet, since I backed away from it when I saw Zac Efron’s (The Lucky One, 17 Again) name attached to it. But gratefully the story captured my attention by combining two of my favorite things: movies and theater. Zac played Richard Samuels, a boy who skipped a school day to venture into the heart of New York City and the lights of Broadway. As a 17 year old Mr. Efron was okay for this role, even with his somewhat thin acting abilities. I will cut him some slack here; since he, along with the majority of the cast, had to go up against a tour de force performance by Christian McKay (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Mr. Nice) as Orson Welles. I was riveted to my flat screen by Mr. McKay’s performance. The movie was set in the 1930’s when young Orson was opening up his Mercury Theater, with a modern version of Julius Caesar. There are thousands of stories about Mr. Welles’ ego and character; they all got played out with Christian’s amazing acting. He dominated every scene, every line, every actor; he even looked like the real Orson. Everyone was a pawn to this bombastic man, even Zac’s character who was hired on the spot to be in the opening night production. I will say Claire Danes (Stardust, Temple Grandin) did an admirable job playing Orson’s ambitious assistant, Sonja Jones. This was an excellent movie to watch; that combined my love of theater and movies into one decent production.
2 3/4 stars — DVD