Arrival — A Movie Review

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Dec 072016

arrivalmovieposterWhen mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe, an elite team – led by expert linguist Louise Banks – is brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers – and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity.

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer: Eric Heisserer (screenplay), Ted Chiang (based on the short story “Story of Your Life” written by)
Stars: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Michael Stuhlbarg, Forest Whitaker

Runtime: 116 min; Rated: PG-13; Genre: Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi; Released: 11 Nov 2016

Veteran’s Day was a holiday for me, but not Lay, so I went to watch this movie. It was well worth the ticket price. Continue reading »

American Hustle-A Movie Review

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May 312014

We both really wanted to like this movie, but we both hated it. I remember some of the news coverage of the events, and was really disappointed. It just never seem to grab my attention.

First of all David O. Russell is one of my favorite directors. I’ve enjoyed his films and absolutely loved “The Fighter” and “Flirting with Disaster”. This film also boasts an incredibly talented cast including Christian Vale, Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams. The problem is with the story, the film’s pacing and length. Of course if I was enjoying the film the length would not be an issue. This movie is a classic case in amateurish, dialogue-heavy scenes. Constant, ceaseless dialogue really bogged down the film for me. This film didn’t have a single bone of subtlety in its entire body. Continue reading »

Julie and Julia – A Movie Review

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Feb 222010

Click here to watch the trailer for this movie at Yahoo Movies.Based on two true stories, “Julie & Julia” intertwines the lives of two women who, though separated by time and space, are both at loose ends until they discover that with the right combination of passion, fearlessness and butter, anything is possible.

Genres: Comedy and Adaptation; Running Time: 2 hr. 3 min.; Release Date: August 7th, 2009 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language and some sensuality.

Starring: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Jane Lynch

Directed by: Nora Ephron

I watched this as an Amazon On-Demand movie one evening last week while Lay was at work. He was not interested in seeing this movie, but I was. And I found myself enjoying the experience.

Nora Ephron likes to observe how two people meet and bond with each other, ultimately forming a relationship that we hope will transcend time, and like in her previous films, she manages to nuance both characters seamlessly and bind them in our eyes to a point where we can’t care for one without wondering what will happen to the other. It is a rare accomplishment.

The film is based on two true stories. First there’s the story of the world-renowned Julia Child, who wrote the American classic “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” It is the story of Julia’s arrival on France in 1949, how she learned to cook, and how she went about co-writing the book with two of her friends. The other story happens in 2002. It follows Julie Powell, a government worker who lives atop a Pizzeria with her husband, and who decides that to find some meaning in life she’ll cook all of Julia Child’s recipes in a maximum of one year, and write about the experience in a blog. The film seamlessly interweaves these two stories, with Julia’s life experiences going into her cookbook, and those experiences wafting through the years to Julie’s kitchen.

The film may seem, at first, unimpressive…and it is, to a point. It’s a biopic, and we must admit that lives are seldom as impressive as Hollywood makes them out to be, so don’t be expecting ingenious plot twists or the characters coming full circle at the end. The film portrays the life of America’s most beloved cook and of a woman following in her footsteps. Just that. But it is amazing how the lives of these completely different women are similar, even though they live in different centuries and countries. They’re both: happily married, they both experience an important move at the beginning of the film, both take up cooking to fill up an emptiness in their life and both harvest so much passion and art from what they cook; both are writers, but find almost the same hardships when looking for publishers, both have similar marital problems, and at the end they both understand how life works for them.

Ephron knows how to relate two characters. These two women have never met, but they’re so similar and share so much that we wonder whether they may be family. And notice how Julie adores and reveres Julia, even though she’s never met her, and how Julia is the motivation and spark behind Julie’s life even if she’s not aware of her existence. Meryl Streep as Julia Child takes over what could be an uninteresting story and injects it with glee and joy with a powerful and entrancing performance, an Oscar-worthy one. Amy Adams as Julie Powell is very good too, depicting a typical struggling American woman and bearing her heart for the audience. Her story is a bit uninvolving too, but her performance does wonders for what could otherwise be a stale film.

“Julie & Julia” has two seamlessly intertwined story lines and two superb leading ladies. The cinematography and editing are very well done, but not spectacular. The production design is very good, actually, especially on the Julia storyline, recreating bourgeois France in 1949 and seeping us into the charming and infectiously fun lifestyle she led.

It’s not the movie of the year, but Streep and Adams and outstanding, and all the supporting characters are excellent. The screen play is very interesting, and the two stories are woven together nicely. This is is a movie well worth watching.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (1 votes, average: 7.00 out of 10)

Sunshine Cleaning – A Movie Review

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Aug 312009

Sunshine Cleaning PosterOnce the high school cheerleading captain who dated the quarterback, Rose Lorkowski now finds herself a thirty something single mother working as a maid. Her sister Norah is still living at home with their dad Joe, a salesman with a lifelong history of ill-fated get rich quick schemes. Desperate to get her son into a better school, Rose persuades Norah to go into the crime scene clean-up business with her to make some quick cash. In no time, the girls are up to their elbows in murders, suicides and other…specialized situations. As they climb the ranks in a very dirty job, the sisters find a true respect for one another and the closeness they have always craved finally blossoms. By building their own improbable business, Rose and Norah open the door to the joys and challenges of being there for one another — no matter what — while creating a brighter future for the entire Lorkowski family.

Genres: Comedy and Drama; Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.; Release Date: March 13th, 2009; MPAA Rating: R for language, disturbing images, some sexuality and drug use.

Starring: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin, Steve Zahn, Clifton Collins Jr.

Directed by: Christine Jeffs

I had wanted to see this movie while it was in theaters, but we just never made it. So we watched it Saturday night now that it is out on DVD. It was a very good movie.

This is one of those little films with heart. Amy Adams (most recently seen in the superb ‘Doubt’),and Emily Blunt (currently seen in ‘The Great Buck Howard’)are sisters who form a business,cleaning up crime scenes. Their characters differ some what. One is a single Mother of a challenging 8 year old,having an affair with now-married ex-high school boyfriend. The other is a rootless,drifting from one crappy job to another,slacker. Veteran actor,Alan Arkin is their father,who is involved in one failed “get rich quick” scheme after another. This is quality,quirky film making at it’s best. Fraternal bonds seem to be the central theme here. This film was produced last year,but seems to be getting a late (but most welcome)distribution just now.

It is about emotional survival in rough times. Rose needs to raise tuition to get her son out of a public school. In a pinch, she starts cleaning crime scenes and out of that grows a business of which she is pretty proud.

The emotional pathos of cleaning up the bloody mess gives them release of emotions pent up by the tragic death of their Mother and also a sense of purpose and contribution.

From all this Rose gains the strength to tell her married boyfriend that she “doesn’t want it anymore.” Amy Adams’ face, when she blurts this out, is such a mess her eyes aren’t even focused, and it comes through. Both as a character and as an actor she is not merely mouthing lines. Her sister Nora is unprofessional enough to deliberately get involved with a crime victim’s kin, with predictably bad results. She is also devoted to the sport of “trestling”–hanging from underneath passing trains on railroad trestles.

The trailer would lead one to believe it’s a comedy, and there is humor. It’s subtle and often just under the sufrace. It is always there. It is there in a sense of irony and wry observation of life. The point is: see it. You will not be disappointed. Lay and I both agreed it is probably the best film we’ve seen recently.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Dec 292008

It’s 1964, St. Nicholas in the Bronx. A vibrant, charismatic priest, Father Flynn, is trying to upend the school’s strict customs, which have long been fiercely guarded by Sister Aloysius Beauvier, the iron-gloved Principal who believes in the power of fear and discipline. The winds of political change are sweeping through the country, and, indeed, the school has just accepted its first black student, Donald Miller. But when Sister James, a hopeful innocent, shares with Sister Aloysius her suspicion that Father Flynn is paying too much personal attention to Donald, Sister Aloysius is galvanized to begin a crusade to both unearth the truth and expunge Flynn from the school. Now, without a shred of proof or evidence except her moral certainty, Sister Aloysius locks into a battle of wills with Father Flynn, a battle that threatens to tear apart the Church and school with devastating consequences.

Genres: Drama, Adaptation and Politics/Religion; Running Time: 1 hr. 44 min.; Release Date: December 12th, 2008 (limited); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material.

Starring: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Alice Drummond

Directed by: John Patrick Shanley

This is an excellent movie. While I never saw the play, I think the movie maintained the qualities of a play because of John Patrick Shanley. I felt pulled into the movie, not as a passive observer, but more like someone uncomfortably over-hearing conversations to which one should not be listening.

Hoffman pulls off one his top performances here (and think of cannon of work that comes from). He has such conviction as this priest, moments of tenderness and (possibly) righteous anger… and then those little moments, like when he suddenly asks Sister Aloysius (Streep) in the heat of their climactic argument “Have you never done wrong?” that suddenly really makes things interesting. This isn’t just bombast between two heavyweights like Hoffman and Streep, but a master’s class in subtlety, tone, the way a face looks when it tries to look controlled. This is a big performance for Streep as well, and she is perfect in the part. I am not a product of Catholic eduction, but from what I’ve heard, Streep must have some experience with it. Amy Adams has shown herself to be an excellent actress, and pulls off her part perfectly. Viola Davis has a very short part in the film, but it is critical to the story, and she teals her scene practically and goes head-to-head with Streep in one of those revelatory scenes that works on multiple levels.

Doubt will certainly be an Oscar contender, and it deserves to be there. It is an excellent drama, filmed and acted in a way that keeps the audience attention completely centered on the movie.

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