Tag: 2012


Hitchcock

January 14th, 2014 — 7:02am

***Hitchcock

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 Quartet

August 19th, 2013 — 6:08am

The Quartet***
The Quartet-nf The setting is a home for retired musicians in Great Britain which apparently does exist in some form there. Many of the retirees are well known opera singers as well as other types of musicians. Three of the main protagonists played by Billy Connolly, Tom Courtenay, and Pauline Collins are joined by the fourth (Maggie Smith) who makes a grand entrance befitting the diva that she must have been. It turns out that many years ago she had been married to one of the men (Courtenay’s character),for nine hours, but he has never gotten over their romance and being jilted. He thus is quite unhappy about her arrival. Life in the home seems meaningful to the residents who interact with each other, reminisce about times gone by and sometimes play their instruments and also do some singing. Director Dustin Hoffman in an extra clip on Netflix declares that this is a film about life and (older people) enjoying it and living to their fullest. There was no dialog in the film which indicated that any of these residents had meaningful relationships with their families (although some small children were seen visiting and even being given music lessons). It may be that many very successful professional musicians have traveled a great deal and never have time to develop such connections and that such a retirement home serves this very special purpose. It is also of note that aside from the 4 main stars many of the other musicians seen doing small bits of performing from opera to comedy were actual retired professional musicians. This was demonstrated also in the closing credits where they were identified with a picture of them in his or her prime. It becomes clear early on in the film that the issue, which must be resolved, is whether the four main characters will perform the Quartet from Rigaletto in a benefit show to keep the home open. It will not spoil this movie experience to learn in the end they do it and we hear what have to be recordings of the rich voices of the real opera stars in their prime. Dustin Hoffman’s goal is achieved as we have a feel good experience about the ability to find meaning and satisfaction late in life. (2012)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Celeste and Jesse Forever

June 3rd, 2013 — 6:06pm

Celeste and Jesse Forever***

Celeste and Jesse Forever-nf  Two best friends Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg)  get married and although they are still good buddies, after a little while decide to get divorced. Maybe it is because he can’t get his art career going and she is a successful trend forecaster. He lives in the garage studio behind the house and eventually moves out but they still feel very close as they evolve to the singles scene. Even when one of them finds someone that seem right for him, the old feelings are still there.  In many ways this theme reflects what sometimes happens when first loves feel they need to move on  (hopefully even before they have tied the knot). Sometimes the separation is easier for one than the other and sometimes it goes back and forth. Maybe they will always love each other. Andy Samberg conveys the exuberance and youthfulness of the character he plays and only in subtle manner does he draw upon his comedic skills. Rashida Jones seems very comfortable in her role (perhaps because she co-wrote the script with Will McCormack who has a secondary role as one of her friends in the film). She seems a tad older and more mature than the Jesse character  but she struggles as she realizes what  is ultimately happening to her relationship with her soon to be divorced husband and best friend.  This film directed by Lee Toland Krieger is filled with an almost continuous musical wallpaper of  the contemporary setting which it portrays. It successfully highlights the theme of lovers forever even if they may have to move on. (2012)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Romance

The East

May 30th, 2013 — 7:17am

 

The East****

The East- sp – This is a dark espionage thriller with an attractive secret agent going under cover to find and infiltrate the terrorists. This has vibes similar to the hit TV series Homeland. Instead of Claire Danes we have Brit Marling. Instead of a government agency we have our heroine working for a private security agency that does work for the some of major corporations. (We, in fact, did learn that in reality there are these very sophisticated FBI/CIA like operations that do this type of cloak and dagger work) Instead of terrorists striking the homeland being from Al Queda, the terrorists in this movie are all home grown American eco-terrorists who are bent on giving the corporations which poison the environment a piece of their own medicine. As for example a pharmaceutical company that might produce a drug with known serious side effects, which they down play or another company that knowingly, pollutes waters that give people cancer. So we have an exciting, suspenseful movie with social issues, ethical conflicts and a few surprising twists and turns. There was surgical operation on a kitchen table that didn’t ring true to us and a quick reveal that we would like to have had more of a set up but overall this was a very skillfully written film  by the female lead Brit Marling along with the Director Zal Batmanglij who previously collaborated together  on the screenplay of the well received film Sound of My Voice . The movie was very exciting and entertaining as well as stimulating in getting us to think about some important issues that maybe are being put out of sight. We recommend that you do see this one. (2013)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Thriller

The Perks of Being A Wallflower

April 13th, 2013 — 7:53pm

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - review****

The Perks of Being a Wallflower-nf.  Stephen  Chobosky wrote  the book in 1999 and it became #1 New York Times Best Seller for Children’s Paperback Books. 3 years later in September 2012 this PG- 13 movie was released with Chobsky as Director and Screenwriter with ensemble of young actors including Logan Lerman, Emma Watson (fresh out of Harry Potter ), Mae Whitman (from the TV hit Parenthood), Ezra Miller, Johnny Simmons along with some veteran grownups such as Paul Rudd, Dylan McDermott and Joan Cussick. They all seem to hit it out of the ballpark and come through with a very successful movie. It certainly is a film that appeals to teens and beyond. In fact, anyone who can remember his or her high school life or even more important appreciates the serious struggles, and at times traumas that young people may go through, will relate to this film on many levels. It would  be over simplifying to describe this as a coming of age film which of course it is . However, it captures the ability of young people to connect with each other, understand, empathize and help each other through the  normal traumas of life as well as the some real bad ones that nobody should have to experience. The storyline on one hand is not typical. Charlie (Logan Lerman), a high school freshman with more baggage than most, is dreading the four years in front of him. He befriends  two high school seniors  Pat and Sam ( Ezra Miller and Emma Watson, who completely loses her British accent for this movie) and hangs around mostly with them and their friends. The setting is a high school in Pittsburgh (the author, screenwriter and Director’s town) and the time would seem to be early or mid 1980s as judged by the music, type of telephone and cars and even the typewriter on which the main character writes his story. There is the requisite lonely time in the lunch room, going to your first party, getting high on a marijuana brownie, truth or dare game, first kiss, the struggle of a gay friend, a lunchroom fight, applications to college etc,. But at the same time these milestones of high school are shown, there is a painful plot and character development with meaningful relationships, which you know, are never forgotten no matter how and where we grow up. Chobosky is writing and directing a film about the 1980s and the music will help bring those of that generation back to their high school days. However, the themes are universal enough to attract today’s youth ( as indicated by the success of the book and movie today) Even us old timers give it a “thumbs up” (with a nod to the movie critic Roger Ebert who died last week.) It would not surprise us if the movie moves towards a cult status and as these young actors make names for themselves, it will be especially interesting to look back at these youthful performances. Any such retrospective should include the Netflix commentary special feature where the actors comment on how it felt making this film about typical teenagers when they admit their teenage life was far from typical. (2012)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance

War Witch

February 22nd, 2013 — 1:41am

itunes_warwitch***

War Witch sp – We saw this  Oscar nominated movie for best foreign film a few days before the Academy Award ceremony. It is the Canadian entry since that is the home country of Director Kim Nguyen who also wrote the screenplay which he told our screening audience in a post film interview that he has been writing on and off for 10 years. It is set somewhere in the African Congo where a rebel army abducts children and makes them soldiers. The movie, which was primarily filmed in the  Democratic Republic of the Congo, appears to be quite authentic. It  follows Komono, a  12 year old girl, for two years, starting with the point where she is captured, made to shoot her parents and become a soldier. Circumstances lead her captors to believe that she has special powers, can see things that are going to happen and therefore protect them. She is played by a first time local actress Rachel Mwanza, who actually grew up in the streets without a family and was chosen by Kim Nguyen after auditioning over 2000 young girls.  She is on the screen just about all the time and expresses clearly her inner pain and emotions  well as her  own thoughts and images with a little help from the visual effects of the film and the voiceover  in French by another actress (with English subtitles of course). It also has a great soundtrack of  what appeared to be African folk music which captured the atmosphere and mood  of the film. Mwanza for her first film has already won the the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this month and also won the award for the Best Actress in the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. In the film she is accompanied most of the time by another child soldier who is an Albino known as the Magician, also very well  played by a local actor Serge Kanyinda. This movie presents us with a glimpse at a lesser known atrocity  which has occurred in modern times. It is also a simple and beautiful, if not,  sad love story . It well deserves the recognition which it is receiving. (2012)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Foreign, History, Romance, War

Flight

February 5th, 2013 — 9:16pm

images-11**

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

No

January 24th, 2013 — 8:44pm

****

No- spimages-9

This Chilean movie was one of 90 foreign films  submitted by various countries as an entry for an Academy Award. It is the first film from Chile to become one of the five  finalist for an Oscar in this category which will be awarded in about one month from the date that this review is being written. This is the second film directed by Pablo Larrain to be entered by Chile for an Academy Award. The other film was Tony Mannero in 2008.  No is a dramatization of a very important event that happened Chile 1988 , about which we would guess most Americans might only have the vaguest notion. That was the plebiscite in which the Chilean people were given the opportunity, because of international pressure put on long term President and dictator Augusto Pinochet, to vote whether they wanted him to continue for another 8 years. Pinochet had been an army general who was part of the coup d’etat that had overthrown the government of Salvadore Allende in 1973 and subsequently ruled the country as an appointed dictator President. His government was known for killing, interning and torturing thousands of Chilean citizens who resisted his rule. Therefore it was a big event when this election, which was under international scrutiny, was scheduled to take place where a yes or no vote would determine whether Pinochet would stay in place. The story line follows Rene Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal) who is a skilled advertising executive who becomes one of the masterminds behind the “ No “ campaign. Each side is given 15 minutes per day on television to make its case  and the actual 1980s commercials  from each side which were shown in that  election were used in the film. In fact 1/3 of the movie is actual archival tapes which is weaved into the scripted segments. This probably included some of the brutal street scenes where Pinochet’s thugs and police were roughing up protesters. 1980 cameras were used to shoot the movie to capture the texture of the times. The movie showed  the anxiety, drama and fear of the NO advertising team as they made their decision to emphasize what they thought would be a new day for Chile (with song and dance) as compared to all out attack on the existing government (although they did some of that also). On one hand this was an exciting battle with a dramatic ending but it also highlighted the subtle emotions with which these people struggled. We learned that many of the small but powerful  roles of the characters on both sides of this struggle were played by the actual people who had been part of the No supporters  25 years ago . This gave our movie experience an added touch of authenticity. (2012)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign, History

Moonrise Kingdom

January 20th, 2013 — 6:01am

****

Moonrise Kingdom-nfmoonrise-kingdom-international-poster

This PG-13 film would seem to be the perfect movie for a 12 year old boy or girl who feels misunderstood by most of the world, still enjoys child adventure stories and is interested how it might feel to be in love for the first time. Perhaps there is a little bit of this still left in everyone which gives this movie great universal appeal.  The setting is an island off the coast of New England in 1965  where a kid (Jared Gilman) attending scouting camp meets a local girl (Kara Wayward) his age . He is “picked on” at camp and unbeknownst to the camp is about to be rejected by his latest foster parents. She, lives on the big house at the end of the island with her sibs and parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand)  who clearly don’t  understand her or each other. These two peas in a pod make a plan to meet and run away together. He is the skilled little scout with his all purpose backpack and a trusty map . She has her suitcase filled with her favorite books and her kitten. They romp across beautiful fields, climb steep, curvy mountains and overlook beautiful water which they forge. They even allow themselves to have an experimental romantic kiss.  We then see the slightly nerdy but loveable scout leader (Ed Norton) realize one of his charges is missing and he mobilizes his scouts to find them Of course the parents of the missing girl are frantic and get after the island police chief (Bruce Willis) with whom mom previously has had a little hanky panky, to track them down. The chase on the island is somewhat like the keystone cops with ups and downs and back and forth. It is definitely a comedy but is also a young person’s romantic adventure but at the same time it  is a painful satire of how grownups make life painful for children. The screenplay by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola is outstanding and extra credit has to be given to Mr. Anderson not only for pulling together his unlikely story but for directing a band of kids throughout most the film. We can’t quite describe the original music background by Alexandre Desplat which helped carry the film mixed in with an exposition about the meaning of the instruments of the orchestra which we are sure had symbolism which we may have unconsciously appreciated. We did understand the meaning of a brewing of a big storm which was known to be on it’s way to threaten this island and it’s inhabitants. (2012)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama, Romance

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