Category: 3 Stars


Face of Love

March 26th, 2014 — 8:23pm

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Face of Love- rm- This movie stands out because of it’s very unique storyline. Niki’s  (Annette Bening) deeply loved husband (Ed Harris) drowns while they are celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary in a lovely resort in Mexico.  5 years later the long grieving wife sees a man, Tom (also Ed Harris of course) who looks exactly like her husband and manages to meet him and develop a relationship. To her, it is reuniting with her deceased husband but to him it is an opportunity to fall in love which he has not felt since his wife left him 10 years before. The mood of this film written by Matthew McDuffie and Director Arie Posin  hovers between a spooky supernatural tale and a story of crazed woman holding on to her fantasy. Bening does a magnificent job of the conflicted wife torn apart by her struggle with reality. The potential of art and painting to convey emotion and the symbolic nature of water as being deadly but also eternal are the backdrops of the plot. Will the widowed neighbor (Robin Williams) who has a crush on the widow next door recognize the appearance of her new boyfriend ? What will happen when the daughter returns from college and confronts the spitting image of her deceased father? A haunting musical score by Marcelo Zarvos carries the film and has the potential to bring out those primitive emotions in the audience as we try to imagine the resolution of the story. (2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Bad Words

March 13th, 2014 — 6:37pm

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Bad Words-sp  This is  Jason Bateman’s directorial debut starring Jason Bateman. It can be described as a mean or subversive comedy. The main character says and does cruel things to other people including a bunch of preteen kids which although they are “funny” they are not very nice.We meet Guy Trilby (Bateman) as a 40 year old guy who is entering the national spelling bee contest which he is determined to win and claims the right to be in it since he meets the criteria of never completing the 8th grade.He is accompanied by a reporter (Kathryn Hahn)  doing a story about his endeavor for a web site. He overcomes the objections of Dr. Bernice Deagan  (Allison Janney), one of the administrators, and confronts the founder of the contest, Dr. Bowman(Phillip Baker Hall), who are both furious at him, as are all the parents of the young other contestants. Trilby plays distracting mean tricks on some of the kids to get them eliminated from the competition. He does befriend one of the kids, 10 year old Indian boy Chaitanya Chopra with whom there is a hint that he identifies with him. We see terrific chemistry between the two and a great acting job by a young boy by the name of Rohan Chand. And now for an announcement SPOILER ALERT which is necessary although we probably knew the secret for 1/5 of the film and still enjoyed it. The question, of course, is why would a 40 year old man undertake this mission? The answer has something to do with the fact that we learn that the founder of the contest, Dr. Bowman, actually once as a traveling salesman met Philby’s  mother and became his biological father but never stayed around and of course does not know this fact. Philby had found this out recently just before  his mother died and now is on the mission to screw up the good doctor’s prestigious spelling contest. In the end this makes for an interesting, funny and ultimately a feel good movie that many people will enjoy seeing.  But his film fascinated once of us (MB)  because we have observed some variation of this theme is numerous movies played out in different ways, as well as having seen it in several real life situations. But in each case the motivation and the actions of the person searching for his or her biological parent or child is different. It certainly is not always vindictive as in this story and sometimes it is to establish a meaningful connection. Here are some films and our reviews where this was the main theme:

Philomena -Elderly British woman who had child out of wedlock in convent goes to US to find out what happened to him. Stars Oscar nominated Judy Dench

The Kids Are All Right- Two lesbian parents are raising two teenage kids who decide to search out their sperm donor biological dad. Annette Bening, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo

People Like Us – A man and woman never realized they were from the same parent Elizabeth Banks , Chris Pine and Michelle Pfeiffer

Stories We Tell – Documentary by a woman  who uncovers secrets of her family and that she was not her father’s child. Sarah Polley

Admission- Assistant Dean of Admissions realizes an applicant is her child given up at birth- Tina Fey, Lily Tomlin and Pail Rudd

Mother and Child   Mother child relationships . Children given up for adoption and fantasies of children who want  to reunite with their mother. Annette Bening and Noemi Watts

I have also written about three cases from real life in my PsychiatryTalk.com blog  (http://www.psychiatrytalk.com/2012/07/discussion-of-the-phenomena-of-unknown-family-members/)       (2014)

 

 

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy

Tim’s Vermeer

February 17th, 2014 — 3:40am

 

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Tim’s Vermeer- rm- Johannes Vermeer is a Dutch painter who lived 350 years ago. He is known for his magnificent paintings of mostly indoor scenes with exquisite photo like detail capturing shadows and variations in light as good if not better than any of the master painters of that time. Tim Jenison is a successful businessman and inventor who develops the idea that Vermeer may have been using a little ”magic” in creating his paintings. He did this by using some tricky optics with a mirror and a variation of camera obscura. Jenison postulated that Vermeer was reflecting the light from the subject through a small hole on to a mirror and then to the canvas where he could perfectly match the color paint over the reflection, which resulted in the unusual realism which the painter achieved. Jenison’s best friend is Penn Jilette the well know magician showman who collaborates with Jenison along with Penn’s performing partner Teller who directs the film as they team up to make this documentary. Jension, only using the technology of the painter’s time period, not only constructs the optic device that he believes Vermeer must have used but he recreates the studio where he painted in the exact dimensions as possible. He then builds a setup to copy and reconstruct the detailed background including the costumes of the subjects in Vermeer’s classic painting The Music Lesson using models to pose as they were in the painting. Now here is the amazing part, Mr. Jenison, who notes that he is not an artist, but using brushes and paints that were around 350 years ago meticulously matches the exact colors and paints them on the images being reflected on his canvas. It takes him over 4 months of almost continuous painstaking work but this non artist creates a painting which seems to very closely resemble Vermeer’s masterpiece and his unusual realistic style. The entire procedure was documented by a film crew, with Penn narrating and Teller directing the movie. They also bring in the well known British painter David Hockney who acknowledges that on the basis of the picture which Tim Jenison has created, he has made the case that he has discovered the secret to Vermeer’s success. This in one sense would seem to discredit this master although he should be credited at least for his composition. There is no known record of the artist being familiar or experimenting with optical devices that were available at the time. Apparently there are also no known writings about any other artist at that time or subsequently who use this technique, which makes this all more remarkable. To further support this theory, Jenison discovered a very faint blue outline on some object in the Vermeer painting which would have no reason to be there but could have been created by a chromatic abnormality of the mirror. We would imagine that if the nobles of the time had discovered that an artist could paint such realistic perfect reproductions, they might be in quite demand (although maybe an artist who produces more creatively flattering portraits would be chosen). We know that some artists today will paint over photographs but we believe that x-ray techniques would uncover the underlying picture if they claimed them to be original paintings. We wonder if a devious contemporary would-be artist might be able promote himself as a master when he was only secretly using this technique? In conclusion, perhaps it is fitting and perhaps ironic that the magician showmen Penn and Teller have produced a documentary film, which may have discovered an important magic trick that has gone undiscovered for more than 3 centuries! It took them 80 minutes to demonstrate how they believe Vermeer pulled it off.  Perhaps they could have done it with a short twenty-minute documentary but nevertheless it is sure to make big ripples in the art world. (2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary

Like Father, Like Son

January 24th, 2014 — 6:03am

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Like Father, Like Son- sp  This Japanese film with subtitles was an extremely successful in Japan earning so far more than 30 million dollars and is about to be released in the United States. It won a major award at the Cannes Film Festival where Steven Spielberg was the Chair of the committee that gave the award. Spielberg then optioned the rights to it and plans to make an English version. What is it about this movie that seems so captivating? In Japan it helps that the male lead is played by one of most popular singers and actors currently in Japan and that is Fukuyama Masahuro. Just as important is the screenplay written by the director Kore-Eda Hirokazu which presents a fascinating human dilemma which rarely happens in modern times but one to which just about everyone can relate. Early in the film, a young married couple with a six year old son, who is a bright, very delightful boy, learn that their son was switched at birth with another child born in the same hospital on the same day. They meet the other family and the differences between them, especially the fathers become very apparent. They must decide what will they do (in addition to suing the hospital). Will they switch children and how will they come to this decision? As we try to relate to the dilemma and see how the parents and children react to this situation, we get the impression that some of the responses seem to be culture bound. Of particular note was the depiction of the passivity of the women and the obedience of the 6 year-olds. In a post film discussion, we learned that in the 1970s when hospital practices in Japan in labeling newborn children were not as exacting as they are today, there were incidences such as the one depicted in the movie. Interestingly, we were told that 100% of the children were returned to the biological parent even in cases of 6 year olds! Director Hirokazu did a sensitive job of showing us the evolution in the thinking of one of the fathers as he leads us to the ultimate outcome of this dilemma. He also brought to the screen two delightful children who played the kids who were switched at birth.

The theme of this movie is a variation of the successful 2013 film Philomenaas well as other movies which we have reviewed and discussed this interesting psychological variable . These include The Kids Are All Right, People Like Us Stories We TellAdmissions, and Mother and Child. One of us (MB)has also discussed this elsewhere with real life case examples (Psychiatrytalk.com). Each of these movie reviews and the psychiatry blog can be reached directly by clicking the words in this paragraph. (2013)

 

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

The Invisible Woman

January 20th, 2014 — 12:02am

***large_INvisPOSTER The Invisible Woman- rm.  The poster for this movie tries to summarize the story as follows:  Charles Dickens was the most famous writer in the world. His greatest story was the one he could never tell.  This is a story of Nelly, an 18 year old actress (Felicity Jones) who is in love with everything Dickens has ever written, produced and acted in and becomes completely smitten with this brilliant and charming man himself. Charles Dickens (played by Ralph Fiennes who also directed the movie), the renowned, author, actor who is married with 10 children and is 2 ½ times the age of the young actress and has a son who is at least her age. He is drawn to the young woman seemingly because she is so into him and his work. The setting is Victorian England so apparently Dickens would never want to besmirch the young woman’s reputation with whom he is now having an affair even after he announces in the newspaper that he has separated from his wife and denies all rumors that Nelly is his love. She is expected to live in the outskirts of the city, alone, content with visits from the great author. The story obviously is based on fact from a book by Claire Tomain and was made into a screenplay by Abi Morgan. It is attractively filmed, showing the magnificent countryside of Margate, England, the period dress of the main characters and the actors and actresses of the time who are shown acting in Dickens’ plays, the expressive face of Fiennes as Dickens with a subtly graying beard with time and the close-ups of the sensitive beautiful face of his young lover. We are being shown a socially minded Mr. Dickens who on one hand was devoted to trying to help the downtrodden social class of his time by raising money for a children’s hospital and we know also how he exposed the inequities and poverty in his writings. But on the other hand we see a narcissistic man who cared mostly about his own writing and seemed to be quite insensitive to the most important women in his life.  It has to be a special accomplishment when the star of the movie is also the director, which was the case here. However, that might account for not editing the 111 minutes little tighter, as the lingering facial studies may have lingered longer than necessary for effect. (2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography, Drama

Hitchcock

January 14th, 2014 — 7:02am

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Hitchcock- nf   As we anticipate this year’s Academy Awards nite, we were in the mood for a movie about making movies. We chose to view this   biopic about the great Alfred Hitchcock. We can’t imagine two better choices for the stars than fellow Brits Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock and Helen Mirin as his wife, Alma. While Hopkins seems to channel Hitchcock in appearance and mannerism, director Sacha Gervasi added to the impersonation by showing the iconic director’s profile numerous times. This is the story of a crisis in the life of the “Master of Suspense” as he is wondering if he is past his prime and won’t ever be able to match his last success North by Northwest. Perhaps driven by some demons in his own head he decides that he wants to make a movie of a book he has just read titled, Psycho. Lew Wasserman (Michael Stuhlbarg) head of Paramount Studios, where Hitchcock has a contract doesn’t think it will go over with the public and won’t provide the funding. Hitch makes a deal with them to do it if he provides the finances, which he does by mortgaging his own house. The screenplay by John J McLaughlin based on a book by Stephen Rebello shows us a man who realizes that he is at a crucial point in his life and with his marriage. He seems to have the confidence to make a great movie but he has to reach much deeper to try to save his marriage. As a movie fan it is fun to see a depiction of the making of Psycho. In this case it is Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh, James D’Arcy as Anthony Perkins and Jessica Biel as Vera Miles who we see might have been the “other woman” in the grand master’s life. While there is some attempt   to remind us of the magic of a Hitchcock film, in the end it is just a snapshot of a one of film-lovers great heroes. (2012)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography, Drama

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

January 3rd, 2014 — 8:10pm

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty -rm

There is a little bit of Walter Mitty in all of us. Who hasn’t had a daydream of being a hero, flying in a plane or a helicopter on some mission, jumping through some dangerous obstacle, defeating the villain and winning over the object of your affection? This ability to fantasize at any time, any place, can carry us out of any mundane situation and temporarily put us on top of the world. It is the universality of this state of mind, which made the skillfully penned short story by James Thurber written in 1939, endure and become one of the most frequently anthologized stories in American literature. The derivative word “Mittyesque “ lives on in the English language meaning an ineffectual person who spends time in heroic daydreams rather than dealing with reality. The first Walter Mitty movie, which didn’t follow the plot of the Thurber short story, starred Danny Kaye and came out in 1947. Nor does the current movie with the screenplay by Steve Conrad, although the theme does befit Walter Mitty. In this story Life Magazine is closing and  converting to an all online media. Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a behind the scenes negative analyst (meaning he analyzes and fixes up negatives of photographs of pictures, which appear in this iconic publication.) There is to be one last issue of the magazine before it closes and Mitty has taken on the responsibility of tracking down a lost negative sent in by a great photojournalist (Sean Penn) who travels the world to capture magnificent pictures. Mitty has a secret crush on co-worker Cheryl Melhoff  (Kristen Wiig) with whom he timidly interacts with in real life and of course is quite dashing in his secret daydreams. In his quest of the missing negative  Mitty travels the world, ends up in Greenland and then Iceland, takes dangerous helicopter rides, climbs gigantic magnificent mountains and skateboards down them, faces man made dangers well as the perils of nature including a shark. At times it may be a little disconcerting as a there is a blur between whether we are seeing the real actions of Mitty or his fantasy life. This is not a movie about another superhero. The attempt here is to make Mitty possibly be anyone or everyone. Stiller’s face, his acting along with his outstanding directing, with a full, well thought out sound track, a 90 million dollar budget including shooting in Iceland as well as generous very effective CGIs, achieves this goal. An added bonus is Shirley MacLaine as Walter’s mother. In the end, we are moved and touched by the film so it is probably worth the budget and what may be the longest end of movie credits that we have seen in a long time (2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy

Anchorman 2

December 25th, 2013 — 1:16am

 ***rl-rF1gfu1pP7doSJN1xCaFPSCJmcBNk2gTeMqj49s-eXivW2XOC3aaT0ykujIS_wMZW=s85 Anchorman 2 : The Legend Continues –rm  Nobody should be surprised by this movie. Either you have seen the first version of Anchorman or you have seen the massive publicity and the trailers about this movie. If you haven’t, feel free to take a moment and watch one of them which has a good many of the film’s “funny” lines and bits: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Elczv0ghqw0 The jokes are juvenile, slapstick with a lot of screaming along with racial, antigay, sexist jokes and even makes fun of people who are blind. Of course the characters are also making fun of themselves and they will make you gasp and /or laugh, sometimes. Adam McKay, who co-wrote it with Will Ferrell, directs it. MacKay also co-wrote the first Anchorman. The movie opens with Ron Burgundy (Will Farrell) being fired by the retiring veteran anchorman (Harrison Ford) who at the same time names his own replacement to be Ron’s co-anchor and wife (Christine Applegate). A new 24-hour/day-television news station subsequently hires Ron and he rounds up some of his previous colleagues from the old days who are played by Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner. They have lots of interactions with the television station people especially one tough, sexy boss played by Linda Jackson. The storyline is thin, disjointed and flows in order to allow the jokes and comic routines. There are bit to middling roles by Kristen Wiig, Sacha Baron Cohen, Steve Coulter, Kanye West, Tina Fey, Greg Kinnear, Liam Neeson and Amy Poehler to name a few. They really don’t change the level of the comedy, which comes mainly from Ferrell. With so many great films out at this time of the season, if you don’t see a large number, we don’t know why you would choose this one. But on the other hand, we realize that there are a lot of folks who go for this type of comedy so after some discussion we decided that it might fit our criteria for three stars. (2013) 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy

American Hustle

December 22nd, 2013 — 11:29pm

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American Hustle- rm   The opening words on the screen states something like “Some of this actually happened”.  This refers to what is known as the Abscam Scandal, which occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s when the FBI ran a sting operation where several members of the House of Representatives and a US Senator were offered bribes from a fake Arab sheikh. Most of the story in this movie probably didn’t actually happen but it is somewhat entertaining, has very good acting, but is arguably overdone. The wide span that the title suggests is quite fitting because just about all the characters are hustling each other in some manner. We initially meet Irving Rosenfeld (played by a slightly overweight balding Christian Bale with a glued on comb over) who is a con man who owns a bunch of dry cleaning stores and runs a scheme where he extracts a non refundable fee of about  $5000 from people looking for a deal by promising to put them in touch with a way to make several times that amount of money but the deals never materialize. He also sells phony art to people eager to own what they think are originals. He meets his match in a young woman with a moniker of Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) who assumes the persona of a sexy British aristocrat. Although she was a down and out American girl, she wins him over and they become a team. They were “busted” by an eager FBI agent (Bradley Cooper), who then enlisted them in running scams to catch bigger fish, in order to save their own skins. The plot thickens and the other characters complicate the situation including Rosenfeld’s unhappy sexy wife (Jennifer Lawrence), Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Remmer), a really good honest caring person who truly wants rebuild Atlantic City but gets ensnarled in the sting and there is Victor Tellegio (Robert di Niro) the most feared gangster who when he kills, he never hides the body in order to intimidate everyone else. Everybody is conning everyone else. The FBI is carrying on like a bunch of keystone cops fighting among each other. The maestro here was the director David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) who co-wrote the script with Eric Singer. Yes, there were unexpected twists and turns. However, the characters and situations didn’t seem very real to us and we didn’t really care about most of them. The comedy and action may have held our attention most of the time but in the end we felt that we were hustled. (2013)    

Comment » | 3 Stars, Crime

Nebraska

December 7th, 2013 — 8:38am

 ****KjVyXLVBE8Pv2M0hKRSnVhOpeWe543_O4ucfYjQ1gytKeSSxvuiy9a-L_Z-WXKnuk1UCY8U=s142 Nebraska-rm You might say that this is a “road movie.” However, the guys who go traveling on an adventure here are father and son. The Dad is Woody Grant (Bruce Dern), a not quite with it, aging alcoholic Korean War Veteran, probably in his 80s who his family thinks is ready for a nursing home. His traveling companion is his younger son David (Will Forte) a not very successful television and audio component salesman who has just separated from his long-term girl friend. The purpose of their trip is to go from Montana to Nebraska to claim the million dollars mentioned in the letter that Woody has received which makes him thinks he has won the money  but is clearly just another worthless magazine sweepstakes advertisement. Prior to their departure we meet his older son Ross (Bob Odenkirk), a local “wannabe” TV anchor and Kate (June Squibb) Woody’s feisty, outspoken wife. On the way, they stop in Woody’s old hometown where there is a family reunion of sorts. While we could understand Woody as a taciturn man who has lost some of his mental prowess with age and drinking, we were not sure of what to think of all his relatives and old friends most of whom didn’t seem very bright, barely said a word to a close relative or friend they haven’t seen in years and could have dinner and watch a football game on TV without talking and one who was content to sit in front of his house just to watch the occasional car go by. We would hope there might be some blow back of these depictions from the folks in Nebraska and Montana or maybe we just aren’t familiar with the lifestyle out there. The real essence of this movie is the father son relationship as we appreciate David’s tender caring for his Dad. The subtle connection between these two is conveyed by the sensitive acting of both Forte and Dern, who say a great deal with non-verbal communications. Whereas June Squibb, as the wife, delivers her dialogue in clear and times a humorous manner but the content also helps us understand the underlying character of old Woody. The reaction of old friends and family to Woody when they believe he may have won a million dollars is another sad commentary on human nature, which this screenplay by Bob Nelson effectively delivers. Director Alexander Payne (Sideways) was born in Nebraska so we will assume that he is bringing a certain authenticity to the setting and the people. He also chose to shoot the film in black and white, which set the tone and nudged us to appreciate the starkness of the setting and the characters. (2013)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

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