Monday, June 30, 2014

Blue Caprice 2013

     This film is inspired by the true events about the Beltway sniper killers.  They terrorized Washington D.C. and parts of Virginia in 2002.   They killed ten people and wounded three.   John kidnaps his children from their mother after their divorce and they vacation in Antigua.  He doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong.  They are his children, he has the right to see them and it doesn’t matter that their mother has custody.  After the children are returned to their mother, a restraining order is issued against him and he cannot see the children.  John meets Lee in Antigua, his mother has abandoned him and they form a bond.  It’s a dangerous bond because John wants Lee to show his love and loyalty by killing a stranger.
Blue Caprice     I remember when John and Lee were unknown but their crimes were all over the papers.  They were killing everyday people going about their lives.  Answering their door, in the parking lots of store, at a gas station and walking down the street.  They were strangers picked at random and not at all connected to John and Lee.  I didn’t know the background story of the killers until I watched this film.  3* (This movie is OK)    

93 min, Bio directed by Alexandre Moors with Isaiah Washington, Tequan Richmond, Tim Blake Nelson, April Yvette Thompson, Cassandra Freeman.

Note:  Imdb 6.1 out of 10, 83% critic 55% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 2 ½*.
Special Note:  Blue Caprice is the 1990 Chevy sedan driven by the killers.  John made an opening in the trunk to shoot through without being seen.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Nut Job 2014

The Nut Job

     The animals living in a city park are very worried that they won’t have enough food for the winter.  There is a nut vendor selling nuts from a vendor cart and the plan is to steal those nuts.  Everything goes very wrong and Surly the Squirrel has been exiled from the park.  Surly and his rat friend, Buddy find nut store they plan to raid.  Squirrels, Andie and Grayson are charged by Raccoon to find a new source of food.  They run into Surly and they arrange a deal to rob the nut store.  Andie doesn’t know Surly plans to take the nuts for himself.  What they all don’t know is that the nut store is a front for bank robbers. 
     I didn’t find this very new or different but just a run of the mill animation story.  The characters are just OK too.   The premise may have been stolen from the Ice Age franchise.  This may not be the worst but it may be the dullest.  2* (I didn’t like this movie)

85 min, Animation directed by Peter Lepeniotis with the voices of Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl, Stephen Lang, Maya Rudolph, Jeff Dunham, Gabriel Iglesias, Sarah Gadon, James Rankin.

Note:  Imdb 5.8 out of 10, 11% critic 46% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 2*.
Special Note:  This film is a Canadian-South Korean-American production.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

La Sirga (The Towrope) 2012

La Sirga

     Alicia is a teenager living in Colombia with her family but her remote village is burned because of civil war and she loses her parents in the fire.  She journeys to visit her uncle at a rundown guesthouse on the shores of a great lake in the highlands of the Andes.  He allows her to stay and she works with Dona Flora to fix the roof and get the guesthouse ready for the tourist season.  She meets Mirichis, he found her at the side of the river and brought her to her uncle Oscar’s house.  He wants her to go away with him but Alicia doesn’t know what she wants to do.
     This is a very quiet and slow paced film.  The scenery is very beautiful and also the area very rundown.  It’s difficult to make a living and procure basic needs.  Everyone is hoping for the tourists to show up but there has been no word that they are coming.  3* (This movie is OK)

88 min, Drama directed by William Vega with Floralba Achicanoy, Joghis SedinArias, David Fernando Guacas, Julio Cesar Robie, Heraldo Romero.

Note:  Imdb 6.7 out of 10, 60% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Letterboxd 4*.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Gimme Shelter 2013

Gimme Shelter

     This film is based on a true story.  Apple is 16 years old, lives in New York, she’s been in a lot of foster homes and has not had an easy life.  Her mother, June Bailey, is a drug addict, she is verbally and physically abusive.  She runs away from her mother to track down the father she’s never met.  Her father is a Wall Street Broker with a wife and two children living in New Jersey.  Apple completely disrupts this family by her attitude and behavior.  It doesn’t help that she’s pregnant too.  She runs away again, gets in a car accident and is in the hospital with a broken leg.  Father Frank McCarthy arranges for her to stay at a shelter for pregnant teens.
     This is rough and gritty.  Apple can see how her mother’s life has turned out and she’s determined not to live like that.  She wants a better life for herself and her child. 3* (This movie is OK)

101 min, Drama directed by Ron Krauss with Vanessa Hudgens, Rosario Dawson, Brendan Fraser, James Earl Jones, Ann Dowd, Dascha Polanco.

Note:  Imdb 6.5 out of 10, 22% critic 68% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 2 ½*.
Special Note:  Kathy Difiore created shelters that started in her own home for pregnant teens who want to keep their babies.   She establishes a supportive family atmosphere with rules and boundaries but with love.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Stevie 2002


      Steve James was a Big Brother to Stephen Fielding in the early 80’s.  Stevie was 11 at the time and Steve was attending Southern Illinois University.  Stevie had been unwanted as a child and spent his early life in many foster homes.  Steve feels he abandoned Stephen when he left the area in 1985 and he wants to reconnect.  Stevie is now 23 years-old in 1995, he is still having problems with his relatives and his adult criminal behavior.  He is arrested and charged with a very serious crime.  Steve films the family for 4 ½ years.
     There isn’t any way to know if Stevie is innocent or guilty of his charged crime?  He’s had a hard life and can’t seem to stay out of trouble.  He has had counseling but doesn’t want to do this anymore as an adult.  I feel that at some point in a person’s life, they have to step aside from what happened in the past and stop letting it control their present.  His stepsister had better treatment as a child but she got away quickly, married young and kept her distance.  3* (This movie is OK) 

140 min, Doc directed by Steve James with Stephen Fielding, Tonya Gregory, Steve James, Bernice and Verna Hagler, Brenda and Doug Hickam, Judy James.

Note:  Imdb 8.0 out of 10, 91% critic 88% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Evert 3 1/2*.
Special Note:  I found an update from 2012 about Stevie from director Steve James.  Stevie resettled in southern Illinois with help from his stepsister Brenda.  He received funds that had been set-aside for him for his participation in this film. Verna, his elderly grandmother, passed away in 2006, she had moved to a senior home.  Stevie and his girlfriend, Tonya, stopped their relationship a few years after filming.  Tonya, Stevie’s mom Bernice, stepsister Brenda and brother-in-law Doug plus their children also still live in southern Illinois.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Run & Jump 2013

Run and Jump

     Vanetia Casey is working hard to get life back to normal for her family.  Her husband, Conor is 38 years old, he suffered a stroke that has impaired him physically and changed his personality.  An American doctor, Ted Fielding is a neuropsychologist with a research grant to study and film them in their Ireland home for two months.  In the beginning, Vanetia feels more stressed with an extra person in under foot while trying to care her sick husband and two young children.  Over time, she sees that Ted has a calming influence on the family.
     This film is very slow moving and you wonder if you could have a stroke in just the time it takes for each scene?  There is not a lot going on except interaction in the family and it becomes difficult to watch Conor struggle against his disadvantages.  There are a lot of lows but some wonderful times for the family.  3* (This movie is OK)

106 min, Drama directed by Steph Green with Maxine Peake, Edward MacLiam, Will Forte, Sharon Horgan, Clare Barrett, Ciara Gallagher, Brendan Morris.

Note:  Imdb 6.1 out of 10, 86% critic 60% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 3*.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Straight A's 2013

Straight A's

     Scott has been estranged from his family due to drugs and alcohol abuse.  He is pressured by the ghost of his deceased mother to return home to his family.  Scott's father has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease and the family has moved closer to help with his illness.  Scott shows up on a horse he took from a man owing him money.  He can't drive a car because of previous DUI convictions.  He’s supposed to be rehabilitated but he’s fallen back to using drugs and alcohol.  Sister-in-law Katherine, nephew Charles and niece Gracie are very surprised to see Scott and more surprised to see the horse.  William, Scott's brother, is away on business.
     This film is not very good.  Phillippe is the only one with a meaty role and he does a good job but he can’t carry the entire film.  A weak plot and a reunion story told many times before.  2 ½* (This movie is so-so)

91 min, Drama directed by James Cox with Ryan Phillippe, Anna Paquin, Luke Wilson, Riley Thomas Stewart, Ursula Parker, Amparo Garcia-Crow, Augustin Solis, Tess Harper, Powers Boothe, Christa Campbell.

Note:  Imdb 5.6 out of 10, 40% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Letterboxd 2*.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Her 2013


     Theodore works as a letter writer, he’s a loner and he plays video games on his off time.  He has a few friends he does things with but he’s in the final stages of a divorce and usually isn’t dating.  He purchases a new computer operating system that is the first to use artificial intelligence.  Theodore feels drawn right away to the soothing and intuitive voice of Samantha.  They begin to fall in love but Theodore has a lot of conflict with the fact that Samantha is not a human girlfriend.
     There were a lot of times I wanted to stop watching this film.  I see the reviews are good but a lot of this film seemed to veer very close to boring for me.  How could a real human ever compete with a perfect operating system that never ages or get a wrinkle?  3* (This movie is OK)

126 min, Drama directed by Spike Jonze with Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Pratt, Rooney Mara, Matt Letscher.

Note:  Imdb 8.2 out of 10,94% critic 84% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 3 ½*.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Wadjda 2012


     Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia is home for Wadjda, a ten-year-old girl.  Despite the conservative world she lives in, she is fun loving, resourceful about earning money and continually pushing boundaries.  Wadjda saw a beautiful green bicycle being delivered to a local store.  She wants that bicycle even though girls are not supposed to ride in their town.  She wants to beat a local boy in a bicycle race.  Her school is very strict and she is caught in her schemes to earn money.  There will be a $1000 cash prize at school for a Koran recitation competition.  Wadjda is determined to win the money to buy the bicycle.
     This is very good and interesting, it shows the everyday culture of living in Saudi Arabia, especially for women and girls.  They are allowed to be themselves only in their own homes.  In public, they must be completely covered in black except for their eyes.  3 ½* (I liked this movie)

98 min, Drama directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour with Waad Mohammed, Reem Abdullah, Abdullrahman Al Gohani, Ahd, Sultan Al Assaf, Alanoud Sajini, Rafa Al Sanea, Dana Abdullilah, Rehab Ahmed, Nouf Saad.

Note:  Imdb 7.7 out of 10, 99% critic 89% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Metrocritic 81 out of 100 and user score of 7.2 with 20 ratings.
Special Note:  This is the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia.   Also the first feature film made by a female Saudi Filmmaker.  Cinemas are banned and women cannot drive or vote.  Haifaa Al-Mansour could not mix with the men in her crew and she had to communicate with them from the back of a van by walkie-talkie.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ernest & Celestine 2012

Ernest & Celestine

     There is a very special world where bears live above ground in cities and rodents live underground.  The bears hate the rodents and the rodents hate the bears.  Celestine grew up in an orphanage with other mice and she has no relatives.  She is an apprentice mouse dentist.  Her job is to go up above ground and gather teeth from the bears.  She’s having a tough time obtaining teeth and is sent back to gather 50 teeth.  Bears have the strongest teeth and if a rodent loses their teeth they can’t eat.  Their missing teeth are replaced with bear teeth.  Ernest is a poor street musician rejected by the other bears.  Celestine helps him and they begin an unusual friendship.
      This is a good and interesting movie that captures your imagination with a different, simple, creative and heart-warming story of an unusual friendship.  Rodents stealing bear teeth to replace their own teeth?  A very large bear who can be grumpy and a tiny artistic mouse living together?  Not a typical fairy tale?  3 ½* (I liked this movie)

80 min, Animation, directed by Stephane Aubier, Vincent Patar, Benjamin Renner with the voices of Forest Whitaker, Lambert Wilson, Pauline Brunner, Mackenzie Foy, Lauren Bacall, Anne-Marie Loop, Paul Giamatti, Patrice Melennec, William H. Macy, Brigitte Virtudes.

Note:  Imdb 7.9 out of 10, 97% critic 88% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 3 ½*.
Special Note:  This film was originally filmed in France with different actors for the voices of the lead roles.  The animation looks hand drawn and is gently colored more like subtle watercolors. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Birder's Guide to Everything 2013

A Birder's Guide to Everything

     David is 15 years old and he loves bird watching.  He began this interest because of his mother and he’s continued since she died 1 ½ years ago.  He thinks he’s made a discovery of an extinct duck.  He belongs to a birding club at school and they decide to look for the duck on the weekend.  There are problems, David borrows a lens from school and Ellen comes to his house to ask him about the “theft.”  She gets included in their trip in order to use the lens.  They don’t have a car but they “borrow” one from someone who promised to lend them a car.  David’s father is getting married this weekend and David is supposed to be the best man.  David’s not very happy about the marriage since the new bride is his mother’s former nurse. 
     This film seems more suitable for teens.  David is trying to grow up but he has a lot of heavy stuff on his plate.  He feels his Dad and everyone else is forgetting about his mom and he’s worried he’ll never get over the pain.  3* (This movie is OK)

86 min, Comedy directed by Rob Meyer with Ben Kingsley, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Alex Wolff, James Le Gros, Katie Chang, Briana Marin, Ethan Cohn, Adam Barrie Stephen Kunken, Lucas Near-Verbrugghe.

Note:  Imdb 6.3 out of 10, 90% critic 72% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 3*.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Aliyah 2012


     The word Aliyah is a term for Jews emigrating to Israel.  Alex is twenty-seven, a low-level hashish dealer and moneylender, he’s hoping for a new start when his cousin offers him a job in Israel at a restaurant.  In order to leave for Israel, he must take Hebrew lessons and reconnect with his Jewish roots.  Currently, he lives in a working-class neighborhood in Northeast Paris.  His brother is always asking to borrow money that Alex needs for his trip and new start.  He begins dealing coke to cover his travel expenses.  Alex worries about leaving Paris behind, his former girlfriend, a lifelong friend and a woman he has just started seeing. 
     I kept watching this film but I found it a slog to get through and not enjoyable or entertaining.  On top of that, you need to pay attention to read the subtitles.  Alex is making his own choices and he doesn’t seem to see anything as off limits.  He doesn’t care about Israel or Jews.  He only cares about life right now and just changing the scenery.  I don’t see that he can ditch his previous hang-ups and the film offers a cut-off type of ending.  2 ½* (This movie is so-so)

88 min, Drama directed by Elie Wajeman with Pio Marmai, Cedric Kahn, Adele Haenel, Guillaume Gouix, Sarah Lepicard, David Geselson, Olivier Desautel, Jean-Marie Winling, Mar Sodupe.

Note:  Imdb 6.0 out of 10, 83% critic 59% audience on Rotten Tomatoes.

At Middleton 2013

At Middleton

     Edith is taking her daughter Audrey for a tour of Middleton College.  George is also taking his son Conrad.  George is planning to back into a parking space but Edith pulls into it before he can back in.  They meet again at the tour group and they decide to head off on their own tour.  Edith tells her daughter on the phone that the Dean is giving them their own special tour.  Audrey starts to get upset at her mother for leaving the group but they are having a lot of fun on their own without the group.
     Edith likes to break rules, is very outspoken and she confronts people if they speak back to her.  She is also having a difficult time with Audrey leaving home for college.  George likes everything to be correct and he likes to tell Conrad what to do.  Conrad is thinking he might like it at Middleton.  This starts out well but seems to get old as it goes along.  Maybe it’s the overdone laughing by Edith?  3* (This movie is OK)

99 min, Comedy directed by Adam Rodgers with Andy Garcia, Vera Farmiga, Taissa Farmiga, Spencer Lofranco, Nicholas Braun, Tom Skerritt, Peter Riegert, Mirjana Jokovic, Stephen Borrello IV.

Note:  Imdb 6.6 out of 10, 56% critic 46% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert  2*.
Special Note:  Taissa is Vera’s younger sister.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Perfect Man 2013

A Perfect Man

     James and his wife Nina have moved from New York to Amsterdam.  James is moving for a job and Nina wants a new start for their relationship.  She is planning a party to celebrate their anniversary with all their friends.  She accidently discovers James is having an affair with her best friend who is also his best friend’s wife.  This is a terrible blow, not because it’s his first affair, it is one of many but finding out on the day of their party makes it worse.  She determines to continue with the party.  She makes an announcement after a toast to their marriage that this will be their last anniversary party.  She packs a bag and moves in with another friend.  James begins to realize what he is losing because of his behavior.
     The trailer makes this film seem like it would be good but it’s not.  There is nothing new here except for the city of Amsterdam.  At least they are speaking English and there are no subtitles because it’s not worth reading subtitles.  I had hopes but they were dashed.  2* (I didn’t like this movie)

95 min, Drama directed by Kees Van Oostrum with JMeanne Tripplehorn, Live Schreiber, Joelle Carter, Louise Fletcher, Renee Soutenjijk, Huub Stapel Katie Carr.

Note:  Imdb 5.1 out of 10, 20% critic 32% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Film Crave 1.75/4.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Upside Down 2012

Upside Down

     Adam lives in a very unusual universe.  There are two planets with opposite gravity fields that nearly touch each other at their highest mountain peaks.  Adam lives on the poor lower planet and Eden lives on the rich upper planet.  They meet as children but have been separated for ten years.  People are not allowed to travel between the planets except for specific approved purposes.  Adam is inventing a face cream that will turn back time on the skin from special red bee pollen found in both worlds.  He manages to get a job in Eden’s world with a company that wants to manufacture the cream. 
     This film is completely different and it’s slightly difficult to wrap your head around the opposite gravity effects on the people.  There are a lot of unusual computer generated images full of color.  One extra thing I can say about the film is the lighting used on Kirsten Dunst, I’ve never seen her look more beautiful and glowing in a film!!  I would like to be constantly surrounded by that wonderful light!!   Also, I would like the face cream!!  3 ½* (I liked this movie)
109 min, Fantasy directed by Juan Solanas with Jim Sturgess, Kirsten Dunst, Timothy Spall, Blue Mankuma, Nicolas Rose, James Kidnie, Viasta Vrana, Kate Trotter, Holly O’Brien, Elliott Larson, Maurane Arcand.

Note:  Imdb 6.4 out of 10, 28% critic 41% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 3 ½*.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Rocket 2013

The Rocket

     Mali is a young wife who gives birth to twins in Laos.  Their family has the belief that twins are a bad omen and they need to be killed.  One of the babies is stillborn with the cord around the neck.  She convinces her older female relative, Taitok, that they can bury the dead child and not tell anyone that Ahlo was a twin.  Ten years later the family is displaced due to the completion of a huge dam and the flooding of their village.  There is a terrible accident during the hauling of their goods and Mali is killed.  Both Taitok and Ahlo's father, Toma, believe it is Ahol’s fault.  The family faces many more problems when they reach the relocation camp.
     This is a good story with a good conclusion but with a very somber basis.  The poverty, superstition, harshness, shunning by community are heavy burdens.  3* (This movie is OK)

96 min, Drama directed by Kim Mordaunt with Sitthiphon Disamoe, Loungnam Kaosainam, Suthep Po-ngam, Chanthachone Latvongxay.

Note:  Imdb 7.5 out of 10, 98% critic 85% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Film Crave 2.00/4.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit 2014

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

     This film is based on the character Jack Ryan from the Tom Clancy novel series.  Ryan is attending the London School of Economics when 9/11 occurred.  He chooses to enlist in the Marines and his helicopter is shot down over Afghanistan.  He sustained severe injuries requiring intense rehab.  Thomas Harper is a CIA man and he begins to notice Ryan.  Ryan also meets Dr. Cathy Muller at the rehab facility.  He wants to marry her but he can’t tell her anything about his relationship with the CIA.  He finishes his economic studies and takes a Wall Street job to monitor any financial terrorist activity.  He discovers some problems with the accounts of Viktor Cerevin in Russia.
     Initially I questioned the casting of Keira Knightley as Dr. Cathy Muller and I was right as the movie progresses.  She just doesn’t seem to fit with Ryan but she does well alongside Kenneth Branagh as Cerevin. There is a lot going on with the plot but many of the twists seem to be warmed over from other films and insipid.  3* (This movie is OK)

105 min, Action directed by Kenneth Branagh with Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh, Lenn Kudrjawizki, Alec Utgoff.

Note:  Imdb 6.2 out of 10, 55% critic 57% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 3*.