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Flash Movie Review: De Palma

The first time I saw an Alfred Hitchcock (Rear Window, The Birds) movie it was on television. I never made it all the way through because it scared me too much; the film was Psycho. It caused nightmares and made me afraid of the bathroom shower curtain when I was a little kid. Not until I got older did I finally see the movie in its entirety. Back then I did not understand the genius of Alfred Hitchcock. When I got older I started to appreciate the way he directed his pictures. His movies like Vertigo, To Catch a Thief and North by Northwest were a marvel to watch even on the small screen of a television. I remember when I learned Alfred always did a cameo in his films; searching for him added to my enjoyment level. If memory serves me correctly I believe Alfred had a weekly television show. I have a vague memory of him standing on a box or chair with a noose around his neck. His show bordered on the macabre I believe. As my love of movies grew and I was exposed to other directors I never quite found another director who had a similar style to Alfred. Not until I saw a Brian De Palma (Dressed to Kill, The Untouchables) film did I recognize familiar traits and here is the funny thing, no one ever told me Alfred was Brian’s idol. Just from watching one of Brian’s movies I saw such a resemblance to those old Alfred Hitchcock pictures, I immediately became a big fan of Brian. For someone who has admired his work through the years, this documentary provided an oral history to his films. SITTING in front of a fireplace it seemed as if Brian was spending the day telling me about his movies. As the consumer I was thrilled to listen to him talk about the back stories to some of his famous films such as Carrie and Blow Out. Directed by Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Frances Ha) and Jake Paltrow (Young Ones, The Good Night), the two directors for the most part let Brian sit and go through his films in chronological order. There were no actors or other directors doing any tributes or dishing, it was just Brian alone and I have to say he was very entertaining. If one is not a big movie lover I feel this documentary may become tedious after some time, though there were a variety of film clips shown where he explained what they had to do to achieve a certain affect or look in the scene. For me this was a treat and I could appreciate the hard work it must have taken since CGI was not available back then to the standard it is now. I find it amusing that yesterday’s movie review talked about listening and for this film listening would be a requirement. Except for the film examples there was no action or drama, simply a man discussing his passion for making films.

 

3 ½ stars for movie aficionados                        3 stars for the average moviegoer

 

 

Flash Movie Review: While We’re Young

I sat in their front room staring at the VCR with its display flashing 12:00 for the time. It stayed at the same time while I waited for my friend to finish up helping his mother before we were going out to dinner. I was not surprised by the flashing number since I have seen the same thing in houses of other people from the same generation as my friend’s parent. With technology constantly changing, I sat and wondered what people from younger generations would find amusing about some of the things I do. Some of my friends cannot believe I still do not have an ATM card; I just do not care for them. They say change is good and I can see the value in that statement, but sometimes I prefer staying in a place or routine that is already established as being an easy comfort. As we all get older we experience changes not only in material things but in relationships too. I have friends who change when they are in a relationship; one makes adjustments as that common single mentality turns to a couple and single person relationship. Or when friends have kids, a change takes place; it is no longer about going to a late night movie, instead it is getting home in time to take the babysitter home. These are changes all of us face to some degree. The difference is in how one accepts the changes in their life.    CORNELIA and Josh, played by Naomi Watts (Insurgent, St. Vincent) and Ben Stiller (Night at the Museum franchise, The Watch), were a 40 something couple whose friends were settled down having children. Things were not like they used to be; but upon meeting the young couple Darby and Jamie, played by Amanda Seyfried (Dear John, Mamma Mia!) and Adam Driver (What If, Inside Llewyn Davis), Cornelia and Josh felt they found what they were looking for. Written and directed by Noah Baumbach (Francis Ha, Margot at the Wedding), this dramatic comedy had some smart, observant dialog. I thought the cast worked quite well together, coming across as real people. Noah had a good ear in the way he presented the differences between age groups; I could relate to some of these individuals. The first half of the film was stronger for me. As the story played out I found the last part was not as interesting to me. There were more scenes that worked than not; but the more I thought about, those scenes I cared less for were the ones that Ben’s character appeared to be in a crisis mode. This story certainly presented valid points about changes; but at the end of the film I felt like an old man in the theater.

 

2 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Frances Ha

Residing in one of the rooms of my mind are colorful balloons, each one filled with a dream of mine. In my 20’s the room was nearly full with all types of balloons. Some had streamers of anticipation attached while others floated high above on the currents of hope. Through the years I would periodically enter this place to pick up the shriveled balloons of broken dreams, strewn across the floor. Replacing them with new dreams that would inflate fresh balloons, I would sit back to watch them gently rise to the others above me. The room is not as full as it used to be, but I still can recall my past dreams. Young, full of aspirations and dreams was the colorful Frances, played by Greta Gerwig (Greenberg, Lola Versus). In her late 20’s she still had hopes of being a dancer, having a fabulous place in New York City, finding real love and to always have Sophie; played by Mickey Sumner (Last Chance Harvey, Missed Connections), as her best friend. Despite the changes that took place in life, Frances continued to hold onto her optimism. Filmed in black and white, this dramatic comedy showed the perfect slice of Frances’ daily life. Directed by Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg) and written by him and Greta, they really conveyed the essence of life’s ups and downs. This was Greta’s best performance to date; I found her character to be honest and real. Besides her’s and Mickey’s endearing performances, Michael Esper (All Good Things, Loggerheads) as Dan, Adam Driver (Lincoln, J. Edgar) as Lev and Michael Zegen (The Box, Adventureland) as Benji also did justice to the smart script. There was a wonderful style and vibe to this movie; in a way, it had the flavor of a Woody Allen movie but for a younger generation. No matter what reality may bring, dreams are the fuel to propel us forward.

 

3 1/2 stars

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