Tag: 2011


Undefeated

February 8th, 2012 — 5:44pm

****

Undefeated- sp  Friday night football is a great American tradition throughout many parts of the United States where families watch their high school boys battle it out for the glory of the their schools . For so many of these football warriors, it is the prelude to moving into the real world and starting their careers which for many will include further training in college. Win or lose their high school football memories should be one of the many experiences, which will add to their development as young adults. However members of the Manassas High School football team in Memphis Tennessee who are black, poor, most without fathers almost all have close relatives who have recently been in jail, don’t have too much to look forward. They certainly might not be inclined to get too much out of their football experience.  That is until Bill Courtney, owner of a nearby lumber factory decides to volunteer his time and knowledge to be the team football coach. Courtney missed growing up with a father and in addition to raising his own kids, he gives of himself to be a father figure to this team. Within 6 years he has instilled in the players who are drawn to the team, a philosophy of teamwork and recognition that it is how you deal with loss and setback that will make the difference in life. Rich Middlemas, a junior movie executive read in a local newspaper about some of the transformations occurring in the team. He convinces filmmakers Daniel Lindsay and T,J Martin to go to Memphis and shoot some film of what is going on there.  They are able to get funding to spend a year with with this team and shoot within a 9-month period 500 hours of film which is boiled down to 113 minutes of an intimate documentary of these young men and their quest for a successful football season. It particularly captures the personal stories of three of them and reveals the inspirational nature of Mr. Courtney. The team does something that no other football team from Manassas has ever done and that is make it to the playoffs. And Mr. Middlemas does something that very few documentary filmmakers have ever done and that is to be nominated for an Oscar. (2011)

P.S. The movie won an Oscar !!

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Sport

Hugo

February 1st, 2012 — 4:32pm

****

Hugo –rm   _ The movie open with a beautiful scene of Paris with snow flakes falling. The 3D effect is fantastic. It actually almost feels as if the snow is falling on the audience. This is followed by a breathtaking run through the railroad station taking full advantage of the three dimensional technique that is being used. However, by the end of the film we concluded that we could have done without the 3D effect and the movie would have been just as good and the glasses were a tad uncomfortable anyway. This film has all the ingredients of a successful movie. First of all it has Martin Scorsese fully behind it as director and a producer. It is a movie about movies which almost always is an attraction to movie goers (and critics and award givers). It has appealing child actors (Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz) and a delightful grandfather figure played by Ben Kinglsey. It also has Sacha Baron Cohen as the railway policeman who is the scary threat on one hand but a humorous injured soul on the other. Oh yes, there is also a dog – a big tough mean  dog but any dog always seems to push up the positive rating  meter especially for young people. There are moving moments when a young boy’s father dies and he is searching for a bond with his lost Dad. He meets a grandfather figure who can’t think about his own lost glorious past because it is too painful to contemplate.  There is clash, suspense, action, resolution and a grand finale. While this certainly is a children’s movie probably for nine and ten year olds and older, it is also made for us adults who are not only young at heart but always want to learn a little history.  The book by Brian Selznick and the screen play by John Logan is telling us the story of Georges Meilies who was a French illusionist and filmmaker who became very famous for many special techniques which he developed during the early days of  cinema. He suffered a decline and tragic losses and was alienated from his earlier great successes. He ultimately became recognized and revered once again in his senior years. The real story of how this came about was not the fairy tale story, which is depicted in this movie, which is quite delightful and resonates with all our fantasies and sentimentality. The bonus treat here is that we  also see lots or real footage of classic French movie clips, many by the real Georges Meilies. So when we toss our 3D glasses in the bin on the way out – the memory and the good feeling of the movie will stay with us. (2011)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Family / Kids

Declaration of War

January 27th, 2012 — 10:53pm

****

Declaration of War- sp– This movie is the French entry, for the best foreign picture in the 2011 Oscar Awards. It is the story of a young couple who fall in love and have  a child who turns out to have a brain tumor.  It almost could have been a documentary as they are relentlessly followed through  every step of their ordeal. We have had a great deal of experience in our professional lives seeing patients and families who go through the very personal issues in and out of the hospital that these two young parents had to deal with. In that respect there were no revealing surprises Also who among us has not personally had to have discussion with family members about serious medical issues that someone close to us is going through? Everything about this movie was authentic. In fact the screen writers and stars of this movie Valerie Donzelli (who also directed)  and Jeremie Elkaim  have been a couple in real life who have had a child with a serious medical problem. They have stated that this film is not an exact mirror of their life experience but they were able to draw upon it to create the emotional experience which they portrayed so well. This was one of love for their child and for each other,  support from their families and for each other as well as optimism and determinism. They were able to cinematically create special moments between them which provided insight into how they were attempting to cope. These are two very appealing persons and it was easy to identify with their youthful exuberance which made it all the more difficult to have to also identify with their  fear and anxiety.  We came away from the film experience  having shared the ordeal of the people in  the film with the hope that we and our loved ones could have strength of character that they showed, should we have to face such a crisis. (2011)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

The Iron Lady

January 22nd, 2012 — 6:42pm

 

***

The Iron Lady- rm–  An alternate name for this movie might be Margaret Thatcher meets Golden Pond but more about that a little later. The take away story of this movie is that Meryl Streep turned in an unbelievable performance as the famed British Prime Minister. The strength, character and the obstinacy of this woman during the height of her career comes across as most authentic as did her  sensitivity, vulnerability and reminiscences in her twilight years.  Streep once again establishes herself as one of the outstanding actresses of our time (in this case helped somewhat by a great makeup job as she ages.) The movie shows the development of the conservative philosophy of Thatcher as the young daughter of a grocer who then with an Oxford education carries forth her social and political beliefs as she becomes a Member of Parliament. We get a sense of  her determination not to be deterred as she takes her place in what is essentially an old boy’s club. The movie drops the audience in the middle of the exciting British  history as we see Thatcher stand up for her philosophical view on economic issues such as trying to balance the budget which triggered violent responses by the masses of people who felt they were being treated unfairly. We see her make the decision to go to war against Argentina in the Falkland Island incident with the loss of hundreds if not thousands of lives although nothing substantial but Britain’s pride was at stake. Certainly these depictions are quite timely as they reflect the political debate going on now as the United States Conservative and Tea Party movements demand balanced financial budgets at the expense taking away services to the needy. The movie also reminds us of the split among various factions on how our own military should react. The movie was at it’s best when it showed Thatcher carrying out her conservative philosophy and dealing with the consequences of it. We wish we could have seen more of this. Instead, a good part of the storyline dealt with the vehicle of viewing Thatcher as an older woman with memory problems who is grieving the death of her husband (Jim Broadbent) and having hallucinatory visions of him.  She is also having flashbacks of her relationship with him and her early life. It is always an unhappy story when a person’s mind fails them in later life and that certainly can happen to anyone. We don’t see how such a sad occurrence was relevant to Thatcher’s story, whether it was actually true and what was the purpose of emphasizing this in the film. There also is a vague suggestion that her dedication to her career has somehow made her distant from her children. If the writer (Abi Morgan) and director (Phyllida Lloyd) were trying to make a point about how this actually happened in Thatcher’s life, this should have been more clearly delineated. While we believe the story leaves something to be desired, the performance by Streep makes the movie quite worthwhile. (2011)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography, History

Water For Elephants

January 19th, 2012 — 7:56am

***

Water for Elephants- nf  – A doddering  old man (Hal Holbrook ) arrives late and misses the last circus show visiting his town. It turns out that many years ago he had a very special relationship with a well known traveling circus and so the tale unfolds . It happened long ago in the depression era when this young man (Robert Pattinson) was just about to graduate from  Cornell Veterinary College and finds himself down on his luck . He jumps on a train heading out of town which turns out to be  traveling circus. So begins this fairy tale of  a heroic young man, a beautiful young woman of the circus (Resse Witherspoon), her husband, the all powerful animal trainer and boss man (Christoher Waltz) and an elephant named Rosie who is very smart and loveable. There is adventure, drama, suspense, humor and lots of circus music. You think you know how it is  going to turn out but you won’t quite figure it out. Getting there will be an enjoyable process with a well crafted movie directed by Francis Lawrence. (2011)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

We Bought a Zoo

January 6th, 2012 — 6:48am

***

We Bought A Zoo– rm  You get exactly what you expect with this movie. We saw it with our grandchildren and we all thought it was a good enjoyable movie. Interestingly enough, it is based on a true story. After his wife dies Benjamin Mee  (Matt Damon) moves his   family which consists of two kids (Colin Ford  and Maggie Elizabeth Jones) to the California countryside (the real life location was in London, England) where he buys a house connected to a dilapidated zoo. There is a crew of variegated zoo keepers trying to fix it up which includes their wise and appealing leader  Kelly  (Scarlett Johansson). There is Mee’s  caring older brother  (Thomas Haden Church) who thinks Mee is clearly doing the wrong thing by spending all is money trying to save this zoo. Then there are the animals who are …well exactly as you would expect them to be. There are a couple of other well done roles including Elle Fanning as the budding teenager who takes a fancy to the budding Mee child and  John Michael Higgins as the mean zoo inspector who could prevent the zoo from reopening.  Cameron Crowe ( of  Jerry McGuire fame) had the directing honors and the movie has all the ingredients for a successful Christmas movie which will live on for children and grown up children of all ages through Netflix. (2011)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Family / Kids

The Artist

December 18th, 2011 — 8:42pm

****

The Artist-rm–  The name of the lead character in this movie in George Valentin. Since the French director and writer Michel Hazanavicius emmersed himself in the study of silent films in preparation for this movie perhaps, in some way, it is an homage to silent screen star Rudolph Valentino who died at the age of 31 in 1926 a year before the time line begins in this film. This certainly is not a story about that film star just as it isn’t a remake of A Star is Born although it resembles the plot of that 1950s movie. French actor Jean Durjardin, who has worked with Hazanavicius in three previous movies,  plays a silent film star whofor whatever reason doesn’t want to try to convert to talkies when they emerge on the scene. Whereas a young budding actress whom he helped along, rises to the top in this new medium. Berenice Bejo, who happens to be the director’s wife, is captivating as Peppy Miller, the new born star. John Goodman plays Al Zimmer, the cigar chomping producer type who supports the story line. The complete  feel of this movie experience is that of watching a  great Hollywood  silent film of the early 1930s when they were the state of the art. The filmmaker not only studied this genre but paid attention to as many details as possible to gain the authentic touch of this movie. He didn’t use a steadicam. He used black and white monitors for his dailies and he chose genuine Los Angeles locations which added to the effect. For example, one ofthe houses used had belonged to silent screen star Mary Pickford. This  is a silent movie about silent movie stars and about the changing movie industry of the 1930s. Hollywood loves movies about Hollywood and especially one that is  extremely well done all around with great acting, a very appropriately matched musical background and even an extraordinary dance sequence.. This all adds up to some well deserved recognition during Oscar time.  (2011)  

Comment » | 4 Stars, Romance

J. Edgar

December 18th, 2011 — 8:25am

***

J Edgar rm-   There are very few Americans who can be recognized without their last name. J. Edgar Hoover is one of them. Clint (Eastwood) is another such name who directed this biopic about the man who served nine US Presidents and is the person most responsible for the establishment of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as we know it today. Enter Leonardo , not DaVinci but DiCaprio who certainly deserves consideration for an Oscar nomination for his magnificent depiction of J. Edgar from his early days in law enforcement until his death as the revered, feared and even despised leader of the FBI. Hoover is shown initially to be a patriot and a sincere crime fighter but his passion and his hate of those he felt were enemies led him ultimately to gather power, overstep his authority, attempt to glorify himself and use his position to blackmail and intimidate anyone who was in his way. Perhaps the most revealing part of this character study was the demonstration of this man to have a stunted emotional growth. He is shown to be completely under the sway of his mother (Judi Dench ) and at least in this version to have an inability to have an adult relationship  with women. His comfort and attachment to Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer ) whom he hired, befriended, made him his Associate Director of the FBI and ultimately lived with,  is a major part of this film. Hammer should be up for a supporting actor award winning performance as he ages from dapper young FBI agent to sickly old man during the course of the film.  It is suggested but never fully clarified wither they had an overt sexual relationship but nevertheless the irony is in your face that J. Edgar sought out other peoples’ secrets which he used against them while he had a very big one himself. This character’s ambivalence and underdeveloped personality makes it hard for us hate him , love him or identify with his persona. If anything we feel sorry for him. Despite the fact that there was nothing in the film to keep us on the edge of our seats, the 2hours and 17 minutes of the film did not seem boring  with credit to Clint’s ability to keep things moving and his skill in telling his story. (2011)

1 comment » | 3 Stars, Biography, Drama

A Separation

December 15th, 2011 — 6:36pm

***

A Separation –sp (with subtitles )   One of the remarkable things about this movie is that Iran chose it be it’s Oscar nominee for the best international film. It shows the conflicting values in Iran today. The focus of the film is on two families who find themselves in a major disagreement. The story addresses Iranian life in regard to divorce, child custody, carrying for an Alzheimer parent, fundamentalism, oppression of women as well as the economic problems and the legal system of this country. It also raises the question of whether given a choice might a family there choose to emigrate to another country. The movie  obviously generated a great deal of interest in Iran as it is on it’s way to being one of the most successful homegrown movies ever made there. The film is written, produced and directed by experienced filmmaker  Ashgar  Farhadi. American filmgoers can identify with particularly the dilemma Termeh, the daughter of one of the couples, who agonizes over what is the truth of  the disagreements between these families and most importantly with which one of her divorcing parents she would choice to live. This key role is played by Sarina Farhadi , daughter of the filmmaker, who was a preteen when the movie was produced. The acting all around was quite good. It is a dialogue driven movie so you must become immersed in the subtitles. You certainly get a feel of what everyday life might be like in an urban city in Iran. You also get an insight into what may be  similarities and  differences of this family crisis in a country about which most of us know very little .

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

My Week With Marilyn

December 13th, 2011 — 8:53am

****

My Week With Marilyn rm– If you grew up in the 50s, you no doubt recall the actress Marilyn Monroe as the ultimate sex symbol. If you know anything about her life you probably know that she was married at least three times to  husbands including Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller. She was rumored to have had an affair with JFK and she died of an apparent accidental overdose of barbiturates although it may have been a suicide. It is also known that she was in psychiatric treatment with the well-known Los Angeles psychoanalyst Ralph Greenson and apparently had a very strong attachment to him. This movie has very little to do with any of these things but nevertheless presents a very realistic picture a beautiful young Monroe (Michelle Williams) who while very talented and able to project her personality effectively on the silver screen, is a very immature and troubled young women. It is based on the diary of Colin Clark who at the time was a 3rd assistant director (meaning a gofor) working  for  actor and director Lawrence Olivier on the set of the movie The Prince and The Show Girl being filmed in England in 1957. Clark (Eddie Redmayne) who ultimately became a successful filmmaker is shown in his  apprentice first job as he develops a short lived relationship with Monroe where she reveals her insecurities, childlike and yet remarkably seductive qualities. All this is in the atmosphere of being surrounded by Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), Vivian Leigh (Julia Ormond) who was Oliviers’ wife and a movie star and other experienced actors and actresses who were there to make this movie. Director Simon Curtis tells this beautiful, fanciful yet apparently true story in a relatively succinct manner (99 minutes). Williams has captured the essence of  Monroe  in a very accomplished performance. She may very well may get those prize winning nominations by the film industry who love it when silver screen legends are brought back to life. Redmayne is quite believable as the young man who cannot resist the playful charms of Monroe who desperately needs reassurance that she is loveable. Branagh who is an Englishman and Shakespearean actor himself fits very well in the Olivier part and is the perfect supporting actor for this movie. A good job is done by all for a very delightful movie experience.(2011)

 

1 comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

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