Archive for November, 2013


august

When famed poet Beverly Weston disappears, his family all return home to look for him and later discover that he has committed suicide.  Each member of family has their own demons that plague them.  Violet Weston, Beverly’s wife, is a prescription pill addict who definitely does not mind voicing her opinions.  Each daughter has her own special relationship with Violet.  Barbara was Beverly’s favorite, something that does not sit right with Violet, and moved away to Colorado with her husband.  Ivy stayed close to home and bears the brunt of Violet’s toxic and frequent criticism.  Karen is the youngest child who pursues her own happiness at all costs even if it means lying to herself.  Weston family is joined by Violet’s sister, Mattie Fae Aiken, her husband, Charles Aiken, and their some Little Charles.

This ensemble drama had several major actor/actress and you definitely get some major Oscar worthy performances from them.  Meryl Streep’s vile and unapologetic performance as Violet does not inspire mother’s days wishes.  However, I believe it will earn Mrs. Streep yet another Oscar nomination.    Benedict Cumberbatch fans need to be warned that he has limited screen time; however, you will enjoy his brief appearance.  I am not sure that Julia Roberts will be fortunate enough to get an Oscar nomination; however, her performance as embittered Barbara, who is struggling to save her marriage and deal with her hyper-critical mother, shows that Roberts has the same impressive range as Streep.

normal_AugustOsageCounty-Stills-060 (2)August: Osage County is another film that will be battling for dollars on Christmas Day.  If you survive your own family battle during the holiday, you will want to check out this film.

Barbara was released in the US in 2012 and was Germany’s entry in the 85th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language category back in February 2013.  The director, Christian Petzold, is part of the Berlin School of directors and previously collaborated with Nina Hoss on the film Jerichow.

Set in East Germany during the early 1980s, Barbara (Nina Hoss) has been relocated from her previous position at prestigious Charité hospital in East Berlin to a rural hospital near the Baltic Sea.  Barbara wants to leave East Germany and is now under surveillance by the Stasi,  East Germany police force.  However, Barbara is secretly planning to escape aided by her lover Jörg (Mark Waschke).  Slowly Barbara bonds with patients and her colleague Dr. André Reiser (Ronald Zehrfeld), who make her question leaving the simple life she now leads in the country.

Barbara is not an ordinary drama; it has elements of a physiological thriller as she tries to keep the Stasi from learning of her escape plans.  I had not seen any films by Nina Hoss before but I though her performance as the desperate Barbara was captivating.

If you have Netflix streaming, please take the time to watch Barbara.  It is 1:45 long and in German with English subtitles.

philomena-pictureJournalist Martin Sixsmith has recently lost his job within the British government.  He is not sure of what his next career will be when he runs into Jane Lee at a party.  Jane has just learned that her mother Philomena was forced to give up her child while staying at a convent.  Begrudgingly, he meets with Philomena and they travel together first to the convent in Roscrea and eventually to the US in search of information on Philomena’s child.  Through their investigation, they learn of the child’s fate and a surprising connection that Martin shares with him.

The concept of blame and forgiveness are at the center of this film.  Sixsmith, who is still dealing with the public scandal of resignation, can not understand Philomena’s blind acceptance of her child’s abduction nor her inability to blame the nuns of at the convent for theft of her child.  Martin and Philomena also clash over the difference in their personalities.  Martin is more cynical and closed off versus Philomena who pulls people in with her more positive view.

I enjoyed Judi Dench performance as Philomena.  The kindness and compassion that she displays throughout the film will touch you.  The chemistry that she has with Steve Coogan’s Sixsmith is amazing.  For every quick witted barb that Coogan lobs at Dench, she has an equally match response that cuts him sharp.

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Grace Unplugged is another faith-based film in the same vein as October Baby & Courageous.  I wondered if the screenwriters were inspired by the Miley and Billy Ray Cyrus story when developing this film.

Gracie Trey (AJ Michalka) is the daughter of a famous one-hit wonder country star Johnny Trey (James Denton).  She performs with him in the local church band but regularly clashes with her father over the sound and tone of the material.  Grace has dreams of becoming a famous musician.  When her father’s old manager comes to visit, Grace takes a chance to get his attention.  She eventually is flown out to L.A. and starts to work her way through the music business against the wishes her father.

The typical show business excesses are shown: alcohol abuse, fake media relationships, and completely abandoning yourself to pursue fame. The main message that I took from the film was allowing a child to live their own lives, mistakes and all, and knowing that they will find their way eventually.  I like that the religious aspects of the film were not overbearing.

This is a great family film to enjoy with your family.  The DVD is scheduled to be release on February 28th 2014.

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Since I saw the trailer, I have been looking forward to seeing Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  Having seen the original film adaptation starring Danny Kaye and read the short story written by James Thurber when I was in middle school, I was interested to see Stiller’s adaptation, which was to be a slight reinterpretation of the original story.

Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a quiet man who pines for his co-worker, Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig).  Mitty works at Life magazine as a Negative Asset manager in charge of the film stock for the magazine.  He arrives to work to learn that the company has been bought out, there is a new boss (Adam Scott), and that most of the employees will lose their jobs.  The final cover page will be slide 25 from famous photographer, Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn).  However, slide 25 is missing and now Walter journeys around the world to find O’Connell and the missing slide.

There are several situations were Walter jumps into his fantasy world.  Every imaginary sequence is generated by Walter’s fear and need to be more exciting and braver than he is in reality.  His new boss, played by Adam Scott, constantly bullies Walter from the moment they meet and even nicknames him Major Tom after trying to speak to Walter when he zoned out.  It is within the fantasy world that Walter can stand up to him.  My favorite imaginary sequence is Cheryl shows up with a guitar singing Major Tom to help Walter get on a helicopter with a very drunk pilot.  As Walter searches for O’Connell, he learns how stand up for himself and enjoy living in the moment.  Mitty treks across Iceland on long board, scales the Himalayas into Afghanistan on foot, and jumps into the Atlantic Ocean.  The scenery is inspiring and makes you want to get on the next plane anywhere.

The-Secret-Life-of-Walter-Mitty-Trailer5While there were several funny and humorous scenes throughout the film, the film felt a little awkward to me.  The highlight of the film were the brief scenes featuring Todd, the eHarmony customer service representative, portrayed by Patton Oswalt and the few scenes with Adam Scott, who took douchebaggery to a new level.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is coming out on a very crowded Christmas Day but it should be nice break during the holiday.

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After walking away from his career as a DEA agent, Phil Broker takes his daughter, Kit, to the childhood home of his deceased wife.  Kit is bullied by Teddy Klum.  After she defends herself, a chain of unfortunate misunderstandings and the need for justice lead Broker back into the life he thought was over.  Teddy’s mother, Cassie, is also the sister of local low level meth dealer, Gator Bodine.  Cassie demands Gator teach Broker a lesson after embarrassing her family.  Gator soon learns about Broker’s pasts and uses his location as leverage to increase his meth distribution.

The screenplay for the film was written by Sylvester Stallone.  The tone of the movie reminded me of another screenplay written by Stallone, First Blood.  Like Rambo, Broker wants to keep his head down but when he is provoked, he defends himself.  However, self-defense only aggravates the situation; a need for Southern justice starts to brew.  Now Broker’s past pulls him and his daughter into a fight for their lives.  Like Rambo, Broker must fight for his life against mob of people out for his blood.  However, the action in Homefront is limited to few gun battle scenes and a car case through a sleepy trailer park town.  There are no major fight scenes that have made Statham the action star he is today.

The main villain of the film, as setup by the trailer and promos, is lukewarm at best.  Gator Bodine, portrayed by James Franco, is no Walter White – the ultimate level that all Crystal Meth dealers aspire to. I did not get the feeling that Gator actually had any major clout in his hometown, other than a slight mention that the local police chief looks the other way on Gator’s business dealings.  The fact that Gator has to outsource his villainy to the same biker gang chasing Broker, shows that Gator is not ready for the big leagues.  I thought Kate Bosworth “transformation” in to a crystal meth addict was pretty good.  Years ago, there was several articles that criticized her for dramatic weight loss.  In the role of Cassie Bodine, her weight probably helped to add credibility that she can definitely be a redneck meth addict.  Cassie Bodine is a domineering, shrill woman and yet, you do not know where all the entitlement comes from.

With an unneccesary kidnapping and chase scene at the ending, you are left wondering why the movie did not end 15 minutes prior.

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