Tag: 2012


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)

2 comments » | 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

Django Unchained

January 12th, 2013 — 8:50pm

Django*****

Django Unchained – rm

This is another  Quentin Tarantino revenge movie but yet it is like nothing that we have ever seen before. The brilliance of Tarantino ,who wrote the screenplay and directed the film, is that the movie is not what it seems to be.  It begins looking  like  fanciful story that is a “shoot em up western” – maybe the so called spaghetti western (because they were made also by filmmakers of Italian background,) where some guys come to town on some mission and all sorts of things happen. The movie is initially set in Texas two years before the Civil War. A German-American dentist turned bounty hunter  (Christopher Waltz) ambushes a transport of a few slaves because there is this one slave, Django (Jamie Foxx)  who can recognize three criminal  brothers who he is trying to track down dead or alive  to collect a bounty on their head put there by  the federal government.  The next thing you know, we are being drawn into the world of plantation slavery and the vicious, cruel, sadistic manner  in which white people in the South were treating the blacks (a word by the way was never used since the “n word” prevailed.) Because the viewer can only take so much of this painful inhuman treatment, the film is laced with clear satire and if you can believe it , humor. Then, when the revenge factor kicks in there are endless shootings of mainly white guys with gushes of blood all over the place to the background of what seemed to be haunting western music. The story has it’s twists and turns and didn’t resolve itself for  2 ¾  hours. In the end we are left with an indelible view of the horrors of this period of our history served up to us in satire. In addition this film was a magnificent showcase for outstanding acting performances. Christopher Waltz may very well get himself a second Oscar as the conniving but sensitive dentist bounty hunter. Jamie Foxx evolved from captured slave to an unforgettable John Wayne type hero wearing a pair of shades. Kerry Washington did a great job as Brunhilda the German speaking slave who didn’t say much but her eyes told her story.  Samuel L. Jackson was not recognizable at first by us but he nailed his role as a true “Uncle Tom” at the plantation who ultimately identified with his masters. Finally, Leonardo Di Caprio as the mean rich  Mississippi plantation slave owner really got into his part and must have done a great job since we hated his character.  We didn’t feel that way about the film. In fact, we felt quite the opposite. (2012)

 

 

Comment » | 5 Stars, Action, Drama

Zero Dark Thirty

January 8th, 2013 — 11:44pm

****

Zero Dark ThirtyZero Dark thiry

The last time Director Katherine Bigelow and Screenwriter Mark Boal collaborated they made the Hurt Locker which was one of the finest war  films we have ever seen. Since the subject matter this time was the story of the tracking down and killing of Osama ben Laden, it seemed like a natural for them to duplicate their great work.  They ended up doing a very good  job but in our opinion it wasn’t a “repeat”. They initially tug on our emotions by starting the film with frantic phone calls coming from the doomed World Trade Center on 9/11. We then are exposed to the United States  waterboarding suspects who might lead us to Osama ben Laden. This element while uncomfortable to watch, may not be telling the complete story in regard to how key this was to what was to come. The film centers around Maya (Jessica Chastain) a CIA agent who doggedly persists when all the other CIA honchos have their doubts including Leon Panetta CIA director (James Gandelfini)  We are told in the credits that she is a real person who can’t be identified since she is still an active agent. It is too bad that we couldn’t know anything substantial about her other than to watch her determination  despite no one believing her. Nevertheless Ms Chastain carries the film with her riveting portrayal of this American heroine. There also was a great deal of mumbo jumbo on the radio, agents talking back and forth, numerous Arab names mentioned as suspects or people who might have known people. You were never really given enough information to appreciate who they were and what role they played. We also never really get to know the numerous CIA agents, Bureau Chiefs, operatives or whatever. Even the Navy Seal team stays a team and they all blend together in their military fatigues and being viewed through night vision goggles. We will admit that the 2 hours and 40 minutes did go by quite quickly and it was exciting to watch the attack on the compound. It was quite authentic and you felt and thought you were there.  If the real Maya ever writes a memoir, we will be sure to read it and get to know what she was really like and how she brought about the slaying of this dragon. (2012)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Action, Drama, History

This is 40

January 5th, 2013 — 9:16pm

***

215px-This_is_40This is Forty-rm.No doubt you have to be just on the other side of 40 or know some people who are there to fully appreciate this movie. We obviously fit the later category. This is vintage Judd Apatow who wrote the screen play, directed and co- produced the movie. It is a sequel to his 2007 hit “Knocked Up” which introduced us to Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie ( Leslie Mann) also known as Judd Apatow’s wife ) We see them now several years later in the house that they can’t quite afford with two kids ( who happened to be the Apatow’s real kids Maude & Iris who play the bickering siblings perfectly because they are real sibs or perhaps because they are two excellent budding actresses  ). The setting is west-coast suburban but the story is the conflict, anger and yet wonderful familiarity that characterizes this marital relationship. It zings and satirizes  modern sexual relationships, the challenges of raising kids  and even visits to the doctor. Only the father’s of Peter and Debbie are shown. Pete’s father (Albert Brooks)  remarried with three young sons who needs to constantly borrow money from Pete is not a stereotype that we know but the duo captures the warmth of their relationship. Debbie’s father (John Lithgow) is also remarried with children and visits his daughter only once  every several years. The pain that she feels in this neglect is communicated quite well. Both of these relationships may play out in somewhat extreme manner but there will be something in them with which most of the audience will be able to identify. In the midst of the exploration of how school impacts the modern preteen there is a great performance by Melissa McCarthy as a mother of one of the kid’s friends who has occasion to sound off and really does quite a job of doing so. Lest you think that this is a serious drama, let me allay your concerns as it is mostly a comedy even if you are laughing at yourself or someone you have been or someone  who you know quite well. (2012).

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama

Arbitrage

January 5th, 2013 — 9:06am

***

Arbitrage -nfimages-12

The wonderful thing about watching a movie on Netflix that has a good reputation but never made the awards, is   that all you need is an interesting subject, a good storyline and some excellent actors. In this case we start with Robert Miller (Richard Gere) hedge fund tycoon who is  about to sell his company. Unbeknown to the buyer and to his daughter Brooke ( Brit Marling) who is one of his closest executives in his  company, he has been cooking the books.. Would you believe he is doing this because Mr Genius business man invested most of his money in a copper mining scheme in Russia that didn’t work out. His wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon) is mainly preoccupied with her husband’s promised 2 million dollar gift to her favorite charity but that will change. Mr. Miller is of course interested in his mistress (Laetitia Casta) But this is not half the story. Soon we meet a “Colombo like” NYPD homicide detective (Tim Roth) working a case which might make a good CSI plot. On top of this we bring forth Jimmy (Nate Parker) a black young man  who is the son  of the deceased loyal chauffer of Mr. Miller and is asked to keep quiet about what he did on a certain evening but possibly take a rap of 10-15 years. You may not like the character Gere portrays but you will feel his pain.  This is 25 year old screenwriter and director Nicloas Jarecki’s first feature film. (2012)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Mystery

Any Day Now

December 25th, 2012 — 1:07am

***
Any Day now

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

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Sessions

December 23rd, 2012 — 6:37am

****

Sessions rmimages-2

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

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance

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