November 12th, 2016 — 7:47pm
As the title indicates and as we learn early in the film, our planet has been visited by 12 extraterrestrial oval-shaped gigantic spaceships at various locations throughout the world. Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is an outstanding linguist who is recruited by the United States military to try to communicate with the heptatopod-shaped gigantic aliens who are behind a transparent wall on the spaceship that landed in Montana We also learned early in the story line that Louise has suffered the loss of a beloved daughter through illness (or is it that she will suffer the tragic loss of a daughter in the future). The reason for the confusion (and you will be confused) is because one of the themes of the film is that the aliens don’t experience time in a linear fashion as do we earthlings. Obviously, this is reflected in the complicated language which Dr. Banks is trying to decode. We know that other governments are also trying to figure out if the spaceship in their country is dangerous to them. Will this invasion bring the world together?
As you can imagine, the language of the aliens is very complicated and we learned in a post film discussion with Eric Heisserer, the screenwriter, that the filmmaker tried to make some logic in the visuals of the written language that was shown on the screen (although we are quite sure that no viewer could understand it). In fact part of the problem with the film, aside from the non-human way of thinking, was that the dialogue was frequently drowned out by loud special effect sounds supposedly coming from the aliens or perhaps from a weird musical soundtrack. The screenwriter Heisserer confessed to us that he at times couldn’t hear some of the dialogue also but it didn’t bother him because he knew it since he wrote it (thanks a lot). In addition, most of the movie was in the dark, not only on the spacecraft or in the US government tents and buildings surrounding it, but also outside (we seem to recall from a vacation or two out there, that part of the country does have sunshine).
The star and centerpiece of the film is Amy Adams who does her trademark wide eye, thoughtful face as well as an intensity which her role requires. She is surrounded by Oscar nominated Jeremy Renner and Oscar winner Forest Whitaker as well as veteran actor Michael Stuhlbarg, all who really have small minor roles which could have been handled by many no name actors or by people not as well known as them.
The film director Denis Villeneuve worked closely with screenwriter Eric Heisserer who said that he also stayed in close touch with Ted Chiang who wrote the story upon which the film was based. We just are not sure how many viewers will tune in to their wavelength. We know that many science fiction fans will enjoy giving this movie a try (2016).
Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama
May 24th, 2015 — 4:36am
The Master – nf
Despite having two great stars, Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, in one of his last films before his untimely death, we could find very little to recommend this movie.
Freddie Quell (Phoenix) is a World War II veteran and an alcoholic. He wanders on to a boat going on a cruise where Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman) is leading his cult, which believes in past lives and a programming-kind of hypnosis with various nonsensical interactions. Freddie gets drawn into this group perhaps because of his need for family and a father figure. We get the impression that Dodd, the leader, is making up on the spot all his ministrations. He is, with some fanfare, coming out with his second book of his ideas, which do not make any discernable sense. This is satire here of cults, perhaps of Ron Hubbard and Scientology and maybe Paul Thomas Anderson, the director and screenwriter is also making fun of psychotherapy which to the uninformed may look like the “gobbledygook” being depicted in this movie. Yes, we see the poor mixed up soldier yearning for his young girlfriend who he knew before the war. We even see at the end the father figure cult leader expressing a yearning for his young follower. But nothing ties together which probably is the point they are making.
Even though there is great acting, beautiful scenery and very good cinematography, we advise a pass on this movie. (2014)
Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama
June 11th, 2014 — 6:18am
Lullaby-sp– We gave this film our highest rating but we suggest that you think twice before you go to see it. It is about Robert Lowenstein (Richard Jenkins), a very successful wealthy man with lung cancer who has been battling his disease for 12 years and decides he is ready to die. Rachel (Ann Archer) his loving wife is at his side. Jonathan, his cigarette smoking son (Garrett Hedlund), the not so successful musician who hasn’t been around for many years finally comes to town (New York) and his bedside. As does his daughter (Jessica Brown Findlay), the Ivy League law student who soon will try to make a legal brief to convince her father why he should not agree to physician assisted suicide, which she contends is against the constitution. But early on, as soon as they all assembled at his bedside, the father announces that he has given away all his money so they won’t all become dependent on his wealth and not live out their own lives by their own abilities (including his wife). This becomes a story of a sometimes-dysfunctional family who underneath it all had great love for each other. It isn’t difficult to find some issues to identify with as the family conflicts unfold and it will be impossible not feel the emotion as you put your self in the shoes of all the characters as they appreciate the father’s pain and his need to say goodbye. If this were not enough to make this a tissue pack or damp handkerchief movie, there is another element that will tear you apart. Through a chance hospital stairwell meeting, Jonathan meets a 17-year-old girl (Jessica Barden in a perfect wonderful performance) who is dying of bone cancer baldhead and all. She confronts him with his underlying ambivalence about his father. He is drawn to visit her on the children’s ward where he sees many kids who are dying as his father, the difference being that most of then will never experience even adolescence. We don’t think this film despite our top rating is perfect. There are moments, which are played out to an almost gratuitous level to achieve every extra bit of emotion. The introduction of Jonathan’s ex-girlfriend (Amy Adams), while used to show the son’s personal growth, seems unnecessary. Despite this movie being almost 2 hours, it is sure to rivet your attention and take control of your feelings. This must be the reason why this outstanding cast, which also included Jennifer Hudson and Terrance Howard, as the nurse and doctor, as well as the stars previously mentioned, all signed on to this independent production. This film could not have had the budget, which they all usually command. Credit has to be given to Andrew Levitas, who is an established painter and sculptor, as well as a film producer. He directed and wrote this screenplay, stimulated by his experience of his father’s dying and his return home. He creatively broadened his story to encompass the potentially painful and beautiful life defining moments of the end of life. (2014)
Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama
January 5th, 2014 — 11:59pm
Her – rm This movie certainly has to rank as one of the most daring and creative movies of the year. It is founded on a somewhat outrageous premise, which if the audience does not buy into, the film would be a ridiculous flop. The man who had to sell the concept and the execution of this movie is screenwriter/director Spike Jonze who is best known for Adaptation (2002) and Being John Malklovich (1999) both of which produced award winning performances, as well as a large number of short films and many music videos. The premise of Her is that technology has now produced a computer operating system, which can think, learn and even feel as a human being. Theodore ( Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely guy who has a job writing nice romantic letters for a website program. He is going through a divorce after 8 years of marriage with Catherine (Rooney Mara) who he thought had been the love of his life but they have grown apart. He readily connects with his new computer operating system who named herself Samantha (the voice of Scarlett Johansson). She understands him, is clever, funny, warm, sexy and they even have sex together which is a successfully done cinematic accomplishment although she doesn’t have a body. With a small earpiece in his ear, a little video camera sticking out of his front shirt pocket, they are always together. They chat, she does work for him, they discuss personal things, go out to dinner and even join another couple for a social evening out together. There is also Amy (played quite well by the talented Amy Adams) who is a friend and neighbor going through her own domestic issues and has a whirl with her own new operating system. The film is set in a beautiful future Los Angeles. However, what makes this movie a success is that it is much more than a story about a funny gimmick or an advanced Siri. It is a depiction of how lonely a person can be, despite having interactions with lots of people. It also is an examination of what love is and how it can slip away when you think you have it. This is tackling some big issues and you have to be willing to accept the daunting premise of the film, which is a difficult thing to do. But if you do, you will have quite an experience. (2014)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama, Romance
December 22nd, 2013 — 11:29pm
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
September 7th, 2010 — 1:22am
* * * * *
Julie and Julia – rm – Two women on separate continents also separated in time by more than a half of a century are both trying to find themselves. Once they see their goal they pursue it with dedication and determination. One of them is Julia Child (Meryl Shreep), wife of an American diplomat in Paris who becomes passionate about French cooking and becomes involved in trying to write book in English about it. The other is Julie Powell (Amy Adams), a young wife and government worker who becomes passionate about the now famous Julia Child and decides to try out all 524 recipes from her cookbook in 365 days while reporting regularly in a new blog that she has started. The film was directed and produced by Nora Ephrom who also wrote the film script based on a book recently written by Ms. Powell .It moves back and forth in time following the struggles of both of these women. The support and love of both their husbands, played by Stanley Tucci and Chris Messina are an important part of this story. We don’t usually hear the out loud laughter that we heard in the movie theatre several times during the humorous moments. We felt the tug of heart strings in the difficult trials and tribulations along the way of their journeys. The movie also conveyed the jubilation of their ultimate successes. Julia Child’s cookbook is now in its 49th printing and it has found a way on to the bookshelves of a few generations of young households. Many people have had a glimpse into Ms. Child’s personality by her pioneer TV cooking show where she showed everyone that it isn’t so terrible to pick your prize cooking off the floor when it accidentally lands there. This film will further humanize this American icon and give insight into her inspiring story. (2009)
Comment » | 5 Stars, Biography, Comedy, Drama, Romance
September 6th, 2010 — 2:28am
* * * *
Sunshine Cleaning – rm – We had to miss this movie when it was screened in our film course and we are very glad that we caught up with it. It stars Amy Adams, Emily Blount and Alan Arkin who all turn in outstanding performances. It is a quirky, sweet, very well done movie. The premise is that a single mother figures out that her previous skills in the cleaning business can be put to good use in cleaning up crime scenes. It is about hope, perseverance and family dynamics. Definitely worth seeing. 2008
Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama
November 7th, 2009 — 12:49am
* * * *
Doubt – sp – It is so remarkable that Meryl Streep can star in a musical comedy such as Mama Mia and also turn in such a perfect performance as the powerful but yet the ultimately doubting nun in this movie. Phillip Seymour Hoffman does an equally fine performance as the Priest of questionable character. Viola Davis is the supporting actress who plays the mother of a young student and matches these stars in her one moving scene. John Patrick Shanley wrote the Broadway play and the screenplay as well as directing this film version. He brings to us an ethical issue, which has relevance in many situations. 2008
Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Thriller