Archive for 2012

Any Day Now

December 25th, 2012 — 1:07am

Any Day now

Any Day Now- rm   This film clearly highlights the homophobia.and the discrimination against  gays in the 1970s which unfortunately still lingers in our modern society. The story which supposedly is inspired from a real life situation tells of a gay couple that wants to adopt an abandoned child with Downs Syndrome. The reaction of the legal system , specifically the judges interpretation of the law reflects the cruel bias of much of society which in this case deprived a child, who nobody else wanted from being cared for by a loving responsible couple. The film was a tour  de force for Alan Cumming, currently well known for his role as a political consultant  in the television series The Good Wife. He plays Rudy Donatello a flamboyant female impersonator who displays great sensitivity, anger, a great sense of humor and also shows that he is a talented singer. The film is directed by Travis Fine who co wrote the script with Arthur Bloom. Garrett Dillahunt plays Paul Fleiger, a quiet laid back recently divorced lawyer who works in the DA’s office and falls in love with Rudy during his first outing and their first meeting. Isaac Leyva realistically portrays Marco,   the child with Down’s Syndrome, who says few words and is usually happy except when he realizes he is being abandoned. While the film makes the social and political points that are certainly worth making, there is something to be desired in the contrived story line even if based on reality. We see the unlikely couple falling in love although we don’t really get a glimpse at their chemistry. We also don’t initially see what draws them to this child other than our inference that he is misunderstood and treated unfairly as they are also being treated by society. The film is good enough to stir people up about the injustice portrayed and the variations on it that are still around us. (2012)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama


December 23rd, 2012 — 6:37am


Sessions rmimages-2

A movie with this subject matter has to be done extremely well or it will be a big flop. It seems to us there would be no middle ground and screen writer and director  Ben Lewin amply  succeeded. It is based a true story of Mark O’Brien a young man who had spent most of his life in an “iron lung” since he had polio as a youth (played by John Hawkes). He has full sensations but his  muscles are very weak and he can’t move his arms or legs.He can only breath on his own for a couple of hours before he is exhausted and needs to be in his metal breathing apparatus. He lives his life flat on his back but yet he managed to graduate from UC Berkeley with the help of caretakers. He is a poet and a freelance writer. One day he is asked to do a story about sex therapists who help disabled people. He ends up contemplating going to a sex therapist himself in order to lose his virginity. He begins a series of discussions on this dilemma with a new local Priest (William Macy) who becomes his sounding board, friend and supporter in his new endeavor. The story soon becomes about the relationship with his sexual surrogate (Helen Hunt) who is a married middle aged woman with a teenage son. Hunt is natural and comfortable in this R rated magnificent performance. Through the interaction and relationship of this man and woman we see how emotional attachments can be formed. For the young man it is a desire and fulfillment of his sexual yearning which gets turned into romantic feelings, poetry and all. For the woman,  she was prepared to give herself sexually but she felt more than she expected. For the audience, it is a gratifying, touching experience where most of us are educated about sex among the disabled as well as being given a chance to reflect on the true nature of  romance and sex. ( 2012 )

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance

Les Miserables

December 21st, 2012 — 2:31am


Les Miserables spimages

During the first few minutes of this epic film we were somewhat uncomfortable in that there was almost no talking and it was all singing. Of course this is based on the well known musical show by the same name  but we just were not used to the constant singing of just about every piece of dialogue. Well, for the next two and half hours, we not only were comfortable with this style, but were completely caught up with the story, characters, drama and especially the emotion  which was fueled by the wonderful music. Tom Hooper was chosen to direct this adaptation of  this well known  theatrical musical classic to the screen shortly after he won an Academy Award for The Kings Speech . He had a team of writers and producers who had worked on the original show in both London and on Broadway. In fact the original actor who played Jean Valjean, the thief who turns his life around, more than 25 years ago, Colin Wilkerson, played  a smaller role in this movie as a Bishop ( we are sure as a tribute to the great history of this production.} Hugh Jackman carried this role in the modern film and was in fine voice and in character, as was Russell Crowe as Javert, the inspector who is mostly shown as the villain. Ann Hathway played Fantine a tragic heroine, a role originally played by her mother on the stage  many years previously. She poured her heart into her major song which was an acting and singing triumph. Amanda Seyfried was excellent as Cossette as was Eddie Redmayne who played Marius the object of her love and  one of the young heros. Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen provided some comic relief but also demonstrated that they could sing.  Interestingly, Hooper did full continuous takes of all the singing and did not have the performers mouthing to their previously perfectly recorded  renditions of the songs. This is quite an unusual approach in a musical but it appeared to work quite well allowing many close ups of the actors during these pieces. There were also some great long views of the Paris setting and the barricades which were manned for action.  The setting of the story is 1832 in Paris, post French Revolution but at the time of an  uprising known as the June Rebellion. This is really a morality play which shows how some people have a deep sense of fairness and justice and how one will not forget what has happened in the past . It is also a great love story. Finally it is a story about death. We are reminded what it means to die for the causes which you believe in and also the sadness when a parent has to die and say goodbye to the next generation. When you deal with such themes with characters you have come to know, add poignant and at times powerful music, you end up with a truly emotional experience and a great movie.  (2012)

1 comment » | 5 Stars, Musical


December 13th, 2012 — 8:20am


Barbara- sp This is the 2012 entry from Germany in the Oscar race for best foreign film. It is a throwback to the 1980s and a view of East Germany a little less than 10 years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The story revolves around Barbara (Nina Hoss) a doctor who has been sent to the boonies ( a small hospital in the countryside of East Germany.) Her wish and her goal is to escape from this oppressive country and she has a plan to do it. However, she is constantly under the watchful scrutiny of the secret police as well as that of her colleague Andre (Ronald Fehrfeld).

She also has a keen awareness of the hardship and cruelty which the government causes the people around her especially a few of the young patients at her hospital who we have a chance to meet. This is the 5th movie that Nina Hoss has made with Director Christian Pelzold and the most successful one in Germany. Hoss’ intense depiction of the emotions of her character is done with few words. The storyline is slow to develop but the suspense and the drama are very well done. (2012)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

The Deep

December 9th, 2012 — 10:27pm


The Deep- sp

It is easy to see why this movie is  currently the  #1 film in Iceland and is that country’s entry for the best foreign film. It is a fairly authentic depiction of the frigid North Atlantic Ocean and a man’s survival in it for 6 freezing hours. This true story is well known to inhabitants of this country and especially  those from the off shore island from where this  ill fated fishing trawler departed. It is here that we meet the small crew the night before as they get ready to leave their friends, families and, for some, the usual night out on the town. The viewer is lulled into the boring routine of another fishing excursion in the brutal cold water trawling the nets for fish. Without warning we are thrown into the water with Gulli (Olafur Darri Olafsson) as he creates with the help of director Baltasar Kormakur the journey which defied medical science. Kormakur did not have CGI effects or a large bathtub to film this picture and actually used the real sea, huge waves and all. Credit should go to this team for the realism which they achieved (even though we felt that it  looked like the hero  was treading water most of the time rather than swimming a distance which was documented  (although his rescuers and doctors said they could  not believe was true.) Nevertheless, the overall effect was quite dramatic and knowing that it was a true story, we shared the awe that the doctors had after extensively examining this man after this feat. ( 2012)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign, History


December 1st, 2012 — 9:39pm


Lincoln -rm                                                          

The problem with any movie that gets a lot of hype because it is about two giants in in their respective spheres of influence, Lincoln and Spielberg, is that you expect to be blown away, enthralled , introduced to new ideas that you never thought about before etc. etc.  What we have here is a good movie, a really good movie that provides insight into one of the greatest American Presidents, as well as a lesson in political history that brought about one of the most important pieces of our constitutional history, the 13th Amendment that prohibits slavery. However, in order to appreciate this movie, you have to do more than sit back and enjoy, you really have to concentrate and think about what is going on before you. You are skillfully helped in this task by the screenplay by Tony Kushner based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “ Team of Rivals”, superb acting especially by Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln , Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln and, of course, the brilliant directing of Steven Spielberg.

The portrayal of Lincoln is distinctive and consistent. We have no way of knowing how on the mark it was, but his thoughtful, intense caring persona yet with a  sense of humor makes him appear to be a  person we would like to think that he was. He also was shown to be struggling with a parental dilemma with which we can  easily identify. Imagine if you had a son that wanted to enlist in the military where young soldiers were dying by the thousands. Would you do everything you could to stop him ( and what if you could, since you were the Commander in Chief?). Or, if you understood how he could never forgive himself if he didn’t enlist would you allow him to choose his destiny (despite the protests of your wife). This was just a small side theme of this movie.

Thaddeus Stevens, one of the Republican leaders in the House of Representatives, appears to be a fascinating person, as dedicated as Lincoln to their common cause but quite feisty with a sharp tongue that he wasn’t afraid to use. One of us was moved to read a little bit more about this man who was shown in the film as having a secret that was actually true to life.

The potential pertinence of this film to our modern day political issues was quite apparent. We know that there is a great deal of wheeling and dealing behind the scenes and the cynical among us would say that most politicians can bought if you find the right price. But what if in the end, the goal in this case a constitutional amendment, was actually priceless in human terms. What do you bargain away to get it? It left much to think about regarding compromise and it’s many layers, as well as stopping ”perfect from being the enemy of the good.”

Then there is the “Rocky Factor”. Whenever there is a situation where a good guy has an uphill battle, can the movie send a chill up your spine at the right time. This one did. (2012)

Comment » | 5 Stars, History

A Late Quartet

November 18th, 2012 — 9:37pm


A Late Quartet-rm

 A famous successful string quartet makes great music together for twenty five years but their individual lives are now on the verge of producing some very bad notes. We are introduced to this group as we learn that Peter Mitchell (Christopher Walken) the older, most mature and stable member of the group learns that he has  the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease and will probably have to step down from the group. The possibility of change and perhaps a new member of the group creates a window for Writer /Director Yaron Zilberman to show the audience the vulnerabilities and weaknesses of the other 3 characters. Robert (played magnificently as usual by Phiilip Seymore Hoffman) decides he doesn’t want to play 2nd fiddle anymore and wants to in the future alternate first violin with  Daniel (Mark Ivenir) who now has that role. Robert is devastated when his wife Juliette (Catherine Keener) also a member of the quartet doesn’t agree and has actually talked it over with Daniel. He of course, doesn’t want to share the role of top banana with Robert. In fact Daniel who probably has been a repressed musical genius has an affair with Robert and Catherine’s daughter Alexandra (Imogene Potts) to whom he has been giving violin lessons and who had been flirting with him. He seems devastated when she ultimately rejects him.  In the course of this situation her mother comes down hard on Alexandra’s poor judgment which leads Alexandra to vehemently respond what a failure Juliette has been as a mother especially since she and her father were  not around 7 months of the year, always being on tour. We are led to believe if they can really get into the music especially Beethoven’s opus 131, all be ok. It almost works because the music really carries the movie. When you see them play together (the actors were taught to move their fingers in the correct manner) you believe that everything is going to be back in balance with a new equilibrium. That is the power of music and some very good acting. (2012)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Musical

Silver Linings Playbook

November 16th, 2012 — 3:29am


Silver Linings Playbook-sp

We are always sensitive when there is humor presented at the expense of people with mental illness. This is what seemed to be the case when at the beginning of the film we meet Pat (Bradley Cooper ) who is about to be released from a mental hospital. He is being picked up by his mom ( Jacki Weaver ) and we see that he has Bipolar Disorder , flies off the handle very easily and fools the nurse into thinking that takes his medication when he really cheeks it and throws it away. The humor continues as we meet his father, Pat Sr. (Robert DiNiro) who has an obsessive disorder and is a superstitious gambler who always bets on the  Philadelphia Eagles. From finding ourselves unhappy that we are laughing at these dysfunctional characters, we then become aware of the great pain that they are suffering which early on shows in the sensitive performances of Weaver and DeNiro. The storyline then reveals the circumstances of Pat Jr’s hospitalization and his trauma in regard to his wife’s behavior. Bradley ‘s performance is tremendous as he plays mentally disturbed , determined and very smart. However the real stand out and maybe even Oscar performance is by Jennifer Lawrence who plays Tiffany a beautiful. dysfunctional , quirky , vulnerable and very intense woman. She is  recently widowed, who becomes entwined with Pat as he is trying find a way to recapture his wife. The photography, mostly single camera  fast moving as is the directing by David O. Russell, the editing by Jay Cassidy and the music by Danny Elfman which includes Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mathis at the appropriate times with a little “ dancing with the stars”  thrown in. In the end what makes this movie a winner is that it  is a real love story, complete with sentimentality all around ( think Frank Capra and It’s a Wonderful Life, Christmas lights and all . (2012)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance

Life of Pi

November 10th, 2012 — 4:15pm


 Life of Pi-sp

If you have by some chance read the book, we did not, you probably will be very curious how the story would be told in the film . If you are a big Ang Lee fan(Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film), Hulk (2003), and Brokeback Mountain (2005), for which he won an Academy Award for Best Director,  you most likely will want to see his latest work. If you love 3D movies where everything seems so real and comes right at the audience, this would be on your list to see. Finally if you  are a real big animal lover, you will be drawn to this movie. Since we really don’t fit in any of these categories we were quite neutral when  we found ourselves at the sneak preview showing of this movie. The Life of Pi  was like nothing we have ever seen. The story is quite unique which revolves around one young man from India who as you can see from the movie poster is  shipwrecked in the middle of an ocean with a ferocious tiger. The 3D effects are as realistic as we have ever seen . The CGI ( Computer Generated Imagery) is clearly state of the art or perhaps years ahead itself. In a Q & A after we saw the movie, the  audience actually questioned the  guest at our screening, Elizabeth Gabler,  Fox 2000 President, whether trained animals were being used for most of the complex dramatic scenes because every hair on their bodies was totally realistic as was the fast moving action. The beautiful and powerful  depiction of nature was beyond description and has to be seen to be appreciated. There were essentially 5 people in the film although it revolved around one person Pi Patel . However, there were 14,000 people hired to work on the movie who worked an estimated 600,000 hours in a film that had a budget of around 100 million dollars. This alone should pique your curiosity to see this movie. Pi Patel was played by Suraj Sharma a young man who had no intention of being an actor but showed up with his brother at one of numerous castings held all over the world and was chosen. He had to endure wind, water and much movie trickery to help Director Ang Lee achieve his effects. If there was one shortcoming of the film, it was that we did not respond strongly to  to the intended emotional undercurrent and the twists at the end of the movie as did some of our fellow movie goers. That did not make us sorry in any way that we had spent 127 minutes with this unusual film.(2012)


Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Family / Kids


October 12th, 2012 — 7:47am



If you are old enough to remember the Iran hostage crisis of the late 1970s or are a student of history of such events , this movie will remind you of those turbulent times in vivid detail. On the other hand you just have to recall the horrific details of a short a time ago when our embassy in Libya was stormed and the US ambassador was murdered, to get into the mind set to appreciate this movie. In fact, even if you knew nothing about recent or past history you could very easily get caught up in this exciting, suspenseful, thrilling, heart pounding movie. When the movie audience cheers and claps for joy at certain parts of the film you realize that they are feeling tension that is  is being built up and released. This film stars Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez a CIA agent, who actually in real life was was awarded a secret medal by that agency (everything is a secret in the CIA) for what he did which was depicted in this movie. The task he took on was to try to sneak out of revolutionary Iran,  6 Americans who had fled to the Canadian embassy and were hiding there,  when the Iranians had stormed  their embassy and made hostages of the other Americans . The plan revolved around the making a fake movie which was to be produced and directed by Hollywood mogul types  played respectively by John Goodman and Alan Arkin. This gave the movie a comic relief and a little spoof of Hollywood. This real movie Argo which had the same name as the fake movie, was directed by the star of it, Ben Affleck who also co-produced it with George Clooney and Grant Heslov.  Well deserved credit for this movie should also go to the screen writer Chris Terrio and award winniing editor William Goldenbery, Director of Photography Rodrigo Prieto and music by Alexandre Desplat. The realism that was achieved with this reenactment of those dramatic days was shown at the end of the film as  part of the credits. Photographs torn from the newspapers of that time were put side by side on the screen with still images from  this film and many were nearly identical. This included  a photo of people climbing over the fence and into the embassy grounds, a man being hanged in the street as well as the real faces on the passports of many of the characters. This film may not surprise you but you will come with a away  with a reminder of how easy it can be to become swept away with a thrilling Hollywood  movie.(2012)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History

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