Usually I am met with perplexed looks on friends’ faces when I tell them one of the highlights of my trip was taking public transportation. I do not know if I can explain it, but something connects inside of me when riding public buses or trains in a new city. There is a dual feeling of being an outsider yet fitting in with a group of strangers, going through a similar routine. One of the major benefits of taking public transportation is the opportunity to see multiple sights in an easy and quick fashion. When I was in Rome I remembered waiting for a subway train, standing among a crowd of office workers. Except for the language they were no different from the ones I see on my daily commute to work. I feel like I get a sense of a city’s energy or vibe as I ride around it. Similar to my friends not judging me (or at least I hope not), I do not question the things they insist on doing while on vacation. There is one friend who has to go to at least one museum no matter where he winds up. It could be a major institution or a little shack that is run by an elderly couple who remember the history about the area. I am sure most of us have the need to participate in things that are challenging to explain to others who do not have the same thought process. For that reason I understood why the main character had to do what he needed to do in this adventure comedy. BILL Bryson, played by Robert Redford (All is Lost, The Horse Whisperer), was given one requirement by his wife Catherine, played by Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, Sense and Sensibility), if he insisted on going on this trip that made no sense to her. He could not go alone; he would have to find someone to join him. After going through a list of people, that someone turned out to be Stephen Katz, played by Nick Nolte (Warrior, Cape Fear), who still owed him $600.00. Having been out of touch for so many years, what would be the ultimate cost to have Stephen come with him? Based on Bill Bryson’s popular memoir, the cinematography was gorgeous in this film. I wished there had been even more shots of the landscape. The other thing I wanted was a decent script to match the caliber of the actors. All the story seemed to be was one lame gag after another; it was embarrassing to watch. It appeared as if all the writers wanted to do was provide schtick for Robert and Nick; it took away from the few decent scenes in this dramatic comedy. If the book of this true story has photos of his trip, I should have bought the book instead of watching this film version.
Due to the problems I had in high school, by the time I went to college I learned it was safer to not reveal much about myself. This meant being vague about my religion, my politics, even my taste in music; I did not want to take a chance in providing someone ammunition to pick on me. Going to an out of state college gave me the opportunity to be a different person. However, I had no idea how much energy it took to keep up a facade of total blankness; it made me tired. I can only imagine how much strength it takes for people in the witness protection program. In this thriller you will meet a group of individuals who have been undercover for 30 years. When a bank robbery went terribly wrong, members of the activist group behind the heist went into hiding. Thirty years later radical member Sharon Solarz, played by Susan Sarandon (Robot & Frank, Dead Man Walking), decided to turn herself in to the authorities. Shia LaBeaouf (Transformers franchise, Lawless) as investigative reporter Ben Shepard found it odd when civil rights lawyer Jim Grant, played by Robert Redford (The Sting, The Horse Whisperer), refused to take Sharon’s case. Not willing to take no for an answer, Ben tenaciously searched for answers from the evasive lawyer before the FBI removed any chance for Ben to break a great story. The cast was made up with Academy Award winners and nominees like Julie Christie (Away From Her, Don’t Look Now) as Mimi Lurie and Richard Jenkins (The Visitor, Liberal Arts) as Jed Lewis. Robert Redford was just okay as the director; but I found the idea of him being the father to eleven year old daughter Isabel, played by singing sensation Jackie Evancho, not believable. Though this movie was marketed as a thriller; I found for the most part scenes were somewhat tense, but those were few and far between. I was bored at times and it was a shame. The idea behind the story was great; sadly the execution of it was poor. This film needed the same type of passion that one can find in activists today.
2 1/4 stars
An idyllic setting of a good old fashioned state fair was a wonderful opening to this action crime film. Having been born and raised in a large city, seeing the activities and events at the fair were a bit foreign to me. What I found attractive was the sense of peaceful camaraderie among the people. Not that I would ever go on an amusement ride that would spin me around or enter a pie eating contest. You may be surprised by that but I do not eat food from someone I do not know. As a result I never partake in potluck dinners and absolutely no buffets. I am not eating any food that has been guarded by a sneeze guard. But I can do a whole post on my neuroses; let me get back to the movie. From this opening scene the main character Parker, played by Jason Statham (Safe, The Transporter franchise), was walking through the fair, dressed as a priest. The opening scene was the best this film had to offer. It pretty much is a given what type of movie to expect with Jason as the star. A smattering of witty lines, bloody tough fight scenes and Jason doing the same type of role he has done before in his films. In this movie he was a thief in a gang led by Melander, played by Michael Chiklis (The Shield-TV, Fantastic Four franchise). After being double crossed, Parker followed the group to Palm Beach to take what was rightfully due him. To put his plan in place, Parker would need the help of desperate realtor Leslie Rodgers, played by Jennifer Lopez (Out of Sight, Maid in Manhattan). Seeing Jennifer in this role, all I kept thinking was she left American Idol for this? It was an odd role and I did not think it was anything special. Just as strange was seeing Patti LuPone (Heist, City by the Sea) playing Leslie’s mother. If you enjoy Jason’s other movies, this one will probably satisfy you. For me there was nothing new in this predictable story.
1 3/4 stars
Perched atop my father’s dresser was a chrome figurine of a woman, circa 1940’s. She was my introduction to the art deco era. I found the symmetry used in the architecture, the art, the fashion made perfect sense to my sensibilities. With items that had been handed down in the family, I would try to determine if they came from the art deco period. I found myself doing the same thing as I sat through this beautiful looking movie. Set in Los Angeles in the late 1940’s, the set designs and costumes were perfectly recreated. When the production crews created the gorgeous sets, they probably had no idea their work would be covering up more than the bare walls of the movie studio’s sound stage. For what was behind the sets was a cartoon characterization of a gangster movie. The writers must have used Dick Tracy as a template in forming the screenplay that was inspired by a true story. The plot was about a small group of Los Angeles police officers; who were assigned the task of bringing down feared mob boss Mickey Cohen, played by Sean Penn (All the King’s Men, Fail Game). If I did not know better I would swear Sean Penn was portraying criminal Flat Top or Low Brow from the Dick Tracy cartoons. Yes Sean brought his intensity, but his dialog was so dreadful that it was laughable. Two of my favorite actors Ryan Gosling (Drive, Half Nelson) and Emma Stone (Easy A, The Help) had to have felt abused by the loony lines they were given, as Sgt. Jerry Wooters and Mickey’s girlfriend Grace Farraday. Josh Brolin (Men in Black 3, No Country for Old Men) was stiff as Sgt. John O’Mara. What a shame to have such a capable cast and give them an awful story and direction. I wish there had been a volume switch I could have shut off, because having no sound would have been the best way to watch this pretty foul movie. A note to the parents who brought young children into the theater: if you want your kids exposed to the art deco style, take them to a museum. Scenes of violence and blood.
1 3/4 stars