Category: 2 Stars


A Most Wanted Man

July 24th, 2014 — 6:30am

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A Most Wanted Man- sp- When you have Phillip Seymour Hoffman in one of his last movies (we understand there are few unreleased ones still in the can) and a John LeCarre spy story, you expect a sure hit. However, in our opinion this movie doesn’t make the grade. From the very beginning, we weren’t sure what was going on and who were the good guys. Maybe this was deliberate ambiguity but it didn’t quite work for us. We are told early on that the movie is set in Hamburg, Germany the locale where the 9/11 plot was hatched and surveillance is very high. We meet the cast of characters which included roles by William Dafoe and Robin Wright. Director Anton Corbin and cinematographer Benoit Delhomme were very creative with their dramatic shots from high above or through reflections in glass or through train windows. The cuts and the scenes are often quite short and we felt we never got a good bead on the back story of the characters. There wasn’t overwhelming action and most of the time and the spy thriller tension just wasn’t there for us. Phillip Seymour Hoffman did do a great job and carried the movie. His chain smoking, ruffled character showed the full range of emotions from a subtle intellectuality to a very believable rage. He certainly was a great actor (2014)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama, Thriller

Happy Christmas

July 18th, 2014 — 7:43am

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**

Happy Christmas –sp This is a Joe Swanberg independent low budget production, for which he also wrote the screenplay, directed it , played a leading role and had his under two year old son play his son in the film. The story opens as we meet Jeff (Joe Swanberg) and his wife Kelly (Melanie Lynskey) who seem happy enough with their young son (Jade Swanberg- who actually gives a great performance)). Kelly is a stay at home mom who is a novelist and has had a book published. Their happy abode is interrupted by a visit for a undetermined duration by Jenny, Jeff’s sister (Anna Kendrick) who just broke up with her boyfriend. She is “a piece of work” as she develops a quick sexual relationship with young neighborhood guy (Mark Webber) who sells her pot. She smokes and drinks her self repeatedly to near oblivion and almost burns down the house. In between there is lots of interesting women’s talk with her good friend Carson (Lena Dunham of Girls fame) and Kelly. In fact Kelly is convinced by Jenny in a sober moment that she should try to become financially well off by putting aside her serious attempt to write another novel and instead write a popular novel ,best seller type, based on life style information that Jenny will provide. The point would seem to be that there could be a pathway for a bright woman other than by “just being a full time housewife.” The fact is that the movie doesn’t really go anyplace and never intends to go anyplace. It is a study of these characters with a minimal story and much dialogue that we learned from a post film interview with two of the actors was improvised for much of the time and was achieved on film in one or two takes for each scene. It seems to be part of the new “Mumblecore” genre which attempts to achieve naturalistic performances, without a clear narrative structure often using a great deal of improvisation. We tried to consider if it was successful by one of us acknowledging that the action did hold one’s attention but we both agreed that we really couldn’t recommend the film to anyone to spend 78 minutes with it. Maybe the film could be used in a teaching setting to demonstrate the devastating trajectory of a young woman with a Borderline Personality although we really didn’t have very much backstory on her to fully understand her. We did get the feeling that the story did not convey the potential grave prognosis for a character such as Jenny unless she were to get some serious therapy. But that is another story. (2014)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama

The Galapagos Affair

April 11th, 2014 — 6:07am

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The Galapagos Affair- sp- This documentary film takes place on the Galapagos Islands which are a group of 19 small islands in the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles from the coast of Ecuador. In the early 1930s a handful of people decided they wanted to get away from civilization and live on one of most deserted and smaller islands of this group named Floreana Island. The first couple to settle there was a young physician from Berlin, Friedrick Ritter who was a student of the writings of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. He was accompanied by his girlfriend Dore Strauch who had multiple sclerosis but seemed quite fit as they both worked the land. They were joined on the island by Margaret and Heinz Wittmer who raised a family there. The other important people  that we see on the island are the so-called Baroness Eloise von Wagner who is flamboyant woman who settles there with her two lovers with the plan to build a hotel. All of the inhabitants are mostly off to themselves but occasionally interact as for example when Dr. Ritter delivers one of the Wittmer’s children. There are occasional brief visits by various ships, which included scientists and naturalists who studied the beautiful natural vegetation and wildlife on the island. Although not discussed in the film one of these visitors was Captain Alan Hancock, a wealthy philanthropist who financed research expeditions to the Galapagos Islands. He also was an early user of 8mm movie film and he photographed the inhabitants of the island doing various activities over a period of a few years. He also photographed a fictionalized short silent film starring the Baroness titled the Empress of Floreana. It was the availability of these archived movie footage that allowed filmmakers Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine  to put together this documentary film. They chose to present this film as an unsolved mystery since there were two unexplained disappearances and one death under unusual circumstances. It appeared that most of the people on the island were writers of sorts and many recorded their day-to-day observations and feelings Therefore the screenplay written by Geller and Goldfine included dialogue written by the various inhabitants. This was read by actors and actress while we mostly watched the old movies that have been dug out from the archives and skillfully weaved to match the dialogue or vice versa. This included the voices of   Cate Blanchett as Dore Strauch, Thomas Kretschmann as Dr. Ritter, Sebastain Koch as Mr. Wittmer, Diane Kruger as Margret Wittmer and Connie Nielsen as the Baroness. Josh Radnor and Gustav Skarsgard were the voices of the two men in the Baroness’ life. There were too many details put out for us to digest and not enough focus on the individual characters for us to care very much about them. There were also too many additional contemporary interviews with the children and relatives as well as with some surviving main characters. We never got a good feel for the murder mystery, which they were trying to unfold.  This was despite taking two hours to play out the movie. Perhaps this is a film that you might want to see prior to a tourist trip to these islands but it is not one we can recommend for your movie entertainment. (2014)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Documentary, Mystery

Double Indemnity

July 1st, 2013 — 10:43pm

Double Indemnity**

Double Indemnity- nf- The main thing that we can say about this classic film is that it reflects the state of the art of the time  and demonstrates what would have been a thrilling mystery in the 1940s. (It is set in 1938 probably to avoid any wartime issues) Other than an historical film document, there is no way that a modern  filmgoer would view this movie other than as a unsophisticated black and white  film noir drama. It is hard to believe that it was co-written by the  premier mystery crime writer of his time,  Raymond Chandler, along with the premier filmmaker, Billy Wilder who directed it. Fred MacMurray played the slick insurance salesman, cocked hat and all, who gets drawn in by beautiful, unblinking ,sparkling eyes,  glossy lips, sexy voice  Barbara Stanwyck who also wore an enticing ankle bracelet. Edward G Robinson who has a voice and a tone just like everyone who has ever imitated him,  plays the tough, all wise insurance adjuster who is in the process of sniffing out out the plot to kill the Stanwyck  character’s husband and make it look like an accident to collect double indemnity !! The music background is as you would have expected it. The crime has to be solved without any  CSI techniques. Hardly anything in the film was believable but it held our interest. This was partly because of the twists and turns of the thin plot and partly because we were thrilled to be watching the ancestors of the some of the great crime movies and TV shows that we can see today. (1944)

 

Comment » | 2 Stars, Crime, Mystery

Now You See Me

June 10th, 2013 — 5:59am

**Now You See Me

Now You See Me- rm – The opening scene is a great magic trick which you in the movie audience can participate if you pick a card, any card from the deck being shown to you. It is the first 40 seconds of this trailer for the movie- after the commercial . What comes next is a thriller caper with lots of magic. The first trick was people at a gigantic Las Vegas show robbing a bank in Paris . Everything seemed to get more grandiose from there. The screenplay by Ed Solomon and Boaz Yakin and directed by Louis Leterer built one preposterous gimmick after another. The key magicians Jesse Eisneberg, Isla Fischer and Woody Harrelson seemed to be one step ahead of the FBI and Interpol led by Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent. What might have been a great car chase through Manhattan’s highways and bridges was known to anyone from New York as unrealistic as the cops never weave in and out of traffic dangerously risking innocent people’s lives – especially just to catch a potential money thief. Michael Caine of course is always great as some rich guy entwined with tricky magicians seemingly getting away with lots of money. Morgan Freeman is intriguing as usual, this time as the ex-magician who exposes other magicians (perhaps based on the real life “ Randy, the Magician ”). Do we have very clever magicians, an inside job, get rich quick artists or a bunch of robin hoods?? In the end there is a good chance you are not going to care that much. Now that we have seen it, you don’t have to. (2013)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Thriller

Stories We Tell

May 26th, 2013 — 7:46pm

Stories We Tell**

Stories We Tell rm- What if you found out that the man you thought was your father was really not your father? This is part of the complicated journey that Sarah Polley experiences as she uncovers the secrets of her family. Being a filmmaker, an Academy Award nominated one (Away From Her) Ms Polley decides to make this documentary film so all characters in her family story can tell their version of the truth. All that is except the central and most interesting player, her mother who has died of cancer when Ms. Polley was still a young girl. Her siblings, other relatives and friends add to the picture that is mainly painted by the two main men in her mother’s life both of whom have been writers/producers/actors, so they express themselves quite vividly. There is something fascinating in seeing hidden family secrets being unearthed and being laid out before us. One of us has explored this very theme in the blog PsychiatryTalk.com and it has remained the most visited entry in the almost four year history of this blog. One of the main ideas highlighted in this film, that a father would still love a child even if he found out  when she was a grown young woman that he did not plant the seed, seems not to be a great revelation. In fact, the interviews and the emerging insights were quite repetitive which should not be surprising when the filmmaker who is a central object of the film had to have directed the editing. However the film was not without it’s redeeming moments, one of which included a foreshadowing movie clip of the mother as a young woman performing the song “Ain’t Misbehaving.” Another memorable snippet was when one of siblings seems to have an epiphany that perhaps the fact that three children became divorced shortly after learning of their mother’s unfaithfulness to their father, might be significant. This movie has to have been cathartic for the filmmaker and some of her family. It may even live on as an example of how to use the in depth interview as a search for the  truth of hidden family secrets. We don’t think it makes the grade as top notch entertainment for the rest of us. (2013)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Documentary

Arthur Newman

April 18th, 2013 — 7:27pm

Arthur Newman**

Arthur Newman –sp  Despite excellent performances by Colin Firth and Emily Blunt who play two people trying to find themselves, we didn’t feel this movie moved us to the point where we would recommend it. First time feature film director Dante Ariola  was attracted to the story written by Becky Johnson, of a man who wasn’t there for his son once he himself felt he was a failure in life. He takes Firth’s character, a newly invented Arthur Newman, on a journey as he tries to leave his old life behind. He meets “Mike”(Blunt)  a young woman who is trying to escape from what she feels is inevitable mental illness that is the fate of  her mother and her twin sister. They embark on a kind of road trip where they try to briefly inhabit the lives of people they meet along the way. In the course of experiencing other people’s lives they are supposed to come to terms with their own. British actors Firth and Blunt both speak and act like the all American Ford Thunderbird convertible that they travel in. The photography by Eduard Grau is quite good, There are supporting roles by Ann Heche as the old girl friend and Sterling Beaumon as the son who is struggling to figure out his missing father. The film held our interest but this road trip didn’t take us any place. (2012)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama

Flight

February 5th, 2013 — 9:16pm

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Flight- nf  When an actor who is on the screen all the time, holds your attention and clearly shows the problem which his character is suffering, that actor deserves kudos for that performance. In this case it is Denzel Washington who plays Whit Whitaker, an airline pilot who is an alcoholic and cocaine user who on a routine flight finds himself on plane with a mechanical failure. He does an unbelievably tricky maneuver where he flies the  plane upside down to slow it down and make an emergency landing on a open field saving all “souls onboard” except 2  crew and a few passengers. You probably know all this from the coming attractions. Will he be found out to have been drinking or will  he ever admit his alcohol and drug problem which we all know is necessary to get over it?  That is just about the essence of this movie. There is a lot of drinking and some drugs with small supporting roles by John Goodman as your happy, friendly cocaine dealer, Don Cheadle as the lawyer who is supposed to defend Whit and Melissa Leo as the opposing lawyer. There really aren’t any dramatic unpredictable courtroom scenes. There is no fascinating back-story or a plot that got pulled together in a fantastic ending. If anything, the conclusion is one of a few that you would have predicted. It isn’t very believable but I am sure that the star’s name and all the hype that the movie has received will probably make it a box office success. (2012)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama

Lovely, Still

January 27th, 2013 — 8:33am

**images-10

Lovely, Still  nf- We find it very difficult to discuss this movie without revealing the entire story which we will warn you when we do. We are presented with Robert Malone, an old lonely man (Martin Landau ) who lives alone but still is working everyday in a supermarket. (This Oscar winning veteran actor was about 80 at the time he made the film  but he was made to look on the older side of  his age.) It is Christmas season and we see him place a present under his  tree for himself. Mary, an  equally older woman (Ellen Burstyn) who looks much more attractive for her age moves next door with her daughter (Elizabeth Banks). The moving truck has barely pulled away when she presents herself to his door (actually, she walks in  since it was open) and within a few minutes has asked him out for a “date”  He is smitten  with her and she seemingly with him. He doesn’t know what he should do for a date and his store manager (Adam Scott) arranges a great place to dine and his co-workers give him advice how to act. We got the feeling that the writers Tim Kasher and writer /director Nicholas Facker were giving us their version of  how they imagine older folks would respond when they fall in love. They declare their love for each other after knowing each other for two days  They  go sled riding down a hill together and take a ride through the city streets in a horse drawn carriage. They are shown to be totally preoccupied with each other . They call each other as soon as they wake up and in a few days they are sleeping in the same bed. When they exchanged Christmas presents she accidentally opened the present that he was planning to give himself and it was gun. He tearfully acknowledged he was going to kill himself because he was so lonely , but of course not any more.  All we can say is that despite the skill of these actors it certainly didn’t look real to us ! Spoiler Alert !! Don’t read further if you plan to see this movie which we don’t really recommend. There was a clue. In between scenes there was this spidery, fluffy, stringy material  of a reddish color that would occupy the screen –with “strange music“ in the background when it was shown. There were some confusing incidents where Mary  accidentally spilled her own medicine down the drain and couldn’t get her prescription filled right away because her doctor was out of town (this was to mislead us) We then see her fill her prescription and sneak in and  put it  in Robert’s  medicine cabinet. He never takes the pills but gets to Mary’s house. We see the pictures on the wall are of him as the store owner/manager, his wife and his children. He collapses and goes to the hospital. There it becomes clear that his girl friend is his wife, the present store manager is his son and Mary’s daughter is his daughter. The spidery fluffy stuff must have been the interweaving cells of the brain that were in trouble with this man. We figure that  it must be some weird brain disease (we were never told) where he can’t remember his past but yet his short  term memory is o.k.  We can appreciate that this movie worked for some people and it received some decent reviews. It used this storyline to show a love that had been lost by a ravishing brain  disease was able to be rekindled and experienced as a first love. This is tender, touching and is a wonderful thought. We never heard of such a case  but anything can happen in the movies! ( 2010)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama, Romance

Lorax

March 6th, 2012 — 8:10am

**

Lorax: This is a well publicized  blockbuster movie of  a Dr. Seuss book which was just released on the author’s birthday. It is a high tech computer animated film directed by Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda  starring the  voices of Zac Efron, Taylor Swift , Danny DeVito and Betty White.  When we arrived at our local multiplex with two grandchildren ages 8 & 10 to see this movie, ½ hour before show time  we found that the 5pm show was soldout so we got tickets to the 7:40pm ( this was the regular HD –not the Imax or the 3D. )When we came back 40 minutes before show time we still had to wait on long line that snaked around the mall and had to sit up close and a little to the side. Both kids had read the book recently and knew the story, which was ancient history to us. Us  grown ups found the movie, fair, not at all compelling as we recalled feeling about the Disney classics. The 10 year old agreed but said she didn’t expect more. The eight year old liked it a lot but agreed that  the music wasn’t particularly appealing (It seemed splashy maybe even grungy to us). There were a lot of younger kids in the theatre who clearly didn’t have the slightest idea what was going on story wise but liked it when someone crashed down or perhaps when there was a nice furry animal but it wasn’t really a movie for those younger kids. The lesson of the movie is that one should not  destroy trees. The young hero( who looks like a young kid-he is suppose to be 12,  but rides a motorbike) of the movie leads us to this conclusion although his motivation is because he wants to please his girl friend so she will kiss him and marry him . It is not because he starts off believing trees are good for this earth and in fact it is only his grandmother who even remembers trees. What Dr. Seuss ever lacked in a plot, he always made up with his  wonderful language and poetry. This movie didn’t use his language although it certainly tried to capture the spirit. It probably is going to be a big hit although we would suggest that you and the kids stick to the book. (2012)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Family / Kids

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