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        2014-2015 edition
     filmfilms we've seen in the past few years

                   
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movies

film
FILMS
of 2015
12.26.15
  
THE BIG SHORT

big short
   A fine cast who gives their best in an inventive film that makes entertainment, a rather cruel entertainment, out of the collapse of the US housing market and economy. 
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12.5.15
   TRUMBO

   trumbo   gun
      I really wanted to see this, as I was such a fan of Trumbo's novel, Johnny Got His Gun, way back in junior high, and I knew quite a bit about Trumbo and our country's dark period of blacklisting in America. I wasn't disappointed by the story (even if some of the facts got turned around or glossed over) and the acting was very good. Bryan Cranston is onscreen for most all of the film and pulls off an excellent portrayal of an intelligent man in a very bad situation. By the time all this shit was coming down with our "protectors" fighting off the mighty RED MENACE, Trumbo was a very wealthy and talented screenwriter. He believed in the higher ideals of the country, even if some small-minded people were on a ridiculous crusade against a nonexistent threat.
   Diane Lane is spot on as Trumbo's wife, Helen Mirren obviously had a great time playing the ultimate creep, Hedda Hopper, Louis CK was really very believable as Arlen Hird, one of Trumbo's fellow members of the Hollywood Ten, men who were convicted of contempt of Congress and spent eleven months in jail. John Goodman is another bigger-than-life character, as the head of King Pictures. There are lots of famous Hollywood people throughout the movie who are played by actors who make no mistake about who they are playing, like: Edward G. Robinson by Michael Stuhlburg, Kirk Douglas by Dean O'Garman, the wonderful Otto Preminger by Christian Berkel, and John Wayne by David James Elliot. 
   There are a lot of reviews out there that are taking shots left and right at the films choices, but I would have to say this film worked for me in just about every way. As for a timely film, it couldn't be better, with our fear levels rising from a menace to the country, ISIS, not communists this time. How does a democracy fight a threat without limiting the very freedoms that those self-proclaimed protectors claim to be saving.
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11.23.15
   SPOTLIGHT

   spotlight
   A fine film about a very dark side of the many members of the Catholic clergy involved in child abuse. The kicker of the story is that it was exposed in Boston, pretty much a company town when it comes to the Catholic Church. The star power of the actors working this film is most impressive. There have been many comparisons to All the President's Men in reviews of this film, personally I put Spotlight on top. 

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11.15.15
   SPECTRE

   spectre

   James Bond may be shifting to another actor by the next movie, but I felt that Daniel Craig did another fine job with this go-round. 
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10.24.15
   BRIDGE OF SPIES

   bridge

   Spielberg, Hanks, together again. While that has not always worked out in previous films, this was an almost perfect film.
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10.9.15
   THE MARTIAN

   martian

   Can a movie have too much science for its own good?  YES!
   Could a big time, well-reviewed film not appeal to every moviegoer? YES!
   By the time the closing credits ran, I was certain that at least ten or eleven hours of my life had drained away with one of the most boring films I've seen in my life.
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9.19.15
   BLACK MASS
      
black mass



 









   Johnny Depp captures a serious killer look, a look that he holds for about 95% of his screen time, one of a dead-eyed, ready-to-kill James "Whitey" Bulger. He looked like a cadaver and I waited for his sunken, darken eyes to flash red, or for him to take a nap in a casket. He does a fine job, but the film seems lacking something most of the time. Vicky says it was lacking for any character to like or care about. At one point, Whitey had one of his crew murdered simply for calling him by his nickname (Whitey), a name he never liked.
   The story revolves around Bulger's Boston criminal activities and the FBI who thought it was using Bulger as an informant. At the same time, their "informant" was gaining much more information and protection to keep on running book, girls, and drugs in South Boston. John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) was his FBI contact, and also a long-time neighborhood friend, who looked out for his friend, at the same time he played his prize informant for all manner of promotions and raises within the FBI. .
   The cast was made up of street thugs and crooked cops, who all turned on each other when the heat came down because of a tough new boss for the local unit of the FBI.
   Bulger's brother William (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) was a big-time state politician for most of the time that Whitey was taking over more and more of Boston's crime riches. When everything closed in on Whitey, his brother lost his positions of power as well. Whitey disappeared for years, until he was discovered and arrested in June of 2014, while living with his girlfriend in Santa Monica, California. He apartment was found to contain lots of guns, books on organized crime, and around $800,000.
   As characterized in Black Mass, he was basically the personification of the term evil fuck.
   The movie seemed more like that cartoonish version of Dick Tracy they did years ago with Al Pacino, that was directed by Warren Beatty, than Goodfellas or any of the Godfather movies. Evil and double-crossing was the style, more than friends and family.
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9.12.15
   MAN FROM UNCLE

   uncle
   When you make a movie based loosely on an old TV show, it's tough when most of a young audience sitting in the multiplexes of the world have never even HEARD of the TV show. Then, they make the film so different that the old folks "in the know" don't have much to relate to. Hope I don't sound bitter ... it was alright if you didn't think about any of this ... some nice acting and action.  
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9.5.15
   A WALK IN THE WOODS

   walk
   Here's a film that's been pigeonholed by the reviewers and audiences as the perfect film for those of us hitting the 60s, 70s, 80s, and more. What the hell, the film was entertaining and Robert Redford and Nick Kolte were great fun to watch. It's one of those films that telegraphs through it's music and storyline just how to feel about what's coming up. I always wonder how brain-dead they think their target audience really is.
   Kolte's voice is always gruff and gravely, and Redford's skin looks a little like it's not not only seen a lot of sunshine over the years, but maybe he has visited the surface of the sun itself. Bitch, bitch, bitch. They are both playing nicely-drawn characters who are taken from travel writer Bill Bryson's excellent book, A Walk in the Woods. The story reunites two men, Redford, as Bryson, and Kolte's character as someone who Bryson's been avoiding for several decades. Nolte's character contacts Bryson when he hears about his desire to hike all of the Appalachian Trail. The trail is not a simple "walk in the woods," but a trip that expects much from those who attempt the trail's 2,000 miles between Georgia and Maine.
   There is some beautiful footage of the trail and its overviews, and all the film has a good look. This wasn't a great film, but one that I enjoyed watching its two characters make their way through.
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8.24.15
   SHAUN THE SHEEP

   shaun
   Rather like Minions, giving Shaun the sheep and his friends a full-length animated film to star in, was something designed only for their true fans. Minions only made they're odd little sounds in their film, and here the audience is left with no dialogue at all in Shaun. Seven or nine minutes is a good length for a Shaun the Sheep clip, this hour and a half film was just more than non-diehard fans could be expect to love.
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8.17.15
   MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - ROGUE NATION

   mission
   I was won over from that first great scene. There has not been such an exciting start to a movie, in my limited world of viewing, since Casino Royale. What more does a movie need when a plane is about to get away, than Tom Cruise running and jumping ... nothing. The world of big time action films is all about amazing visuals and massive sound, and Rogue had all that in spades, but it also included plot development, believable characters, and people involved in conversations.

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7.24.15
   AMY

   amy
   On the strength of some stellar reviews, we headed off to a movie that featured the music of a performer that we weren't all that familiar with, and was partially taken from some dubious smartphone and amateur film.
   So we headed in wondering and coming out WOWED.
   I don't think many could deny the power of her voice, or the fascinating and painful story of her life, and this film showcased these to the max. The film was an emotional ride that clearly showed the relatives and others who used Winehouse as a source of fame and fortune, but also what a true original she was as a performer and a person. Her dad and her husband were very good at capitalizing on her career.     
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7.16.15
   MINIONS

   minion
   Sure, they're so very yellow, and so very funny, but what if they were the focus of an entire film ... could it just be too much for a discerning moviegoer? For this discerning moviegoer - YES.
   Many animation films are like all those action films out there that can't find the money to buy a good plot to tie all their explosions together. Those banana-loving minions don't command the screen, they're limited, as if by their name, which is defined as a follower or underling of a powerful person, especially a servile or unimportant one. There are many very funny scenes, but after awhile it's not enough. But the kids all around us were soaking it all up.
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7.11.15
   ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL

   me
   Here was a clever and fresh film that hit the spot.
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7.4.15
   INSIDE OUT

   INSIDE
   Here Pixar reduces how our brains work to nicely-colored animated figures and their humorous and stressed-out world. There were some very thought-provoking touches contained in the storyline, but it had a weak screenplay at many junctures. I did find myself thinking about these emotions (the film's characters) for several days after seeing it, whenever I had an emotion. Animated films may be wearing me down.
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5.24.15
  
FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD

   far
   This has got to be one of the best uses of those giant screen that are available in our modern theaters. Several wide shots of beautiful landscapes are just held still, as a lone figure travels from one side of the screen to the other ... perfection. All of the outside shots were magically making the setting into a key character in the story. The look of the land, the people, the animals, and every tool and building, just seemed so very real, alive with each one possessing a texture of its own. 
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5.9.15
  
EL MACHINA

   EX
   Clever, sexy, provocative and frightening from an artificial intelligence point of view, and the interior shots and rooms were very distinctive ... it was a great look. The acting was well done and the three main (and just about only) characters created a wonderful tension, Maybe the plot's twists was easy enough to see coming, but I just enjoyed going with it.
   I'm still creeped out about electronic device in my life doing any sort of "thinking" ... yet, as I continue into my doddering old age, I may have to depend upon that thinking, or I just won't be able to discern when it happens.
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4.18.15
  
TRUE STORY

   true
   Just a tad creepy – maybe to be expected when focused on a convicted killer in prison – but these two acted the hell out of this story. It fun to watch people this good at their craft.
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4.7.15
  
CINDERELLA

   cinder
   There are some nicely done effects in this film, and the story seemed comfortably familiar
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1.31.15
  
THE IMITATION GAME

   game
   Acting is a wonderful profession and I'm so glad that the people involved in acting out this story chose it. This was a very moving story.
   1/16/16 update: Just watched the film again, and liked it even more
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film
FILMS of 2014
Our movie going in 2014 was very light, and many of the films we saw were animated and seen with our granddaughter. As we got near the end of 2014, we got the chance to see quite a few more films, all right holidays.
 

12.26.14
BIG EYES
big
   Traveling back into a time when men were men, and more women did what they were told to do. In the present day, it's practically impossible to comprehend a woman allowing her husband to take all of the credit for her career's work. Yet, this man was a talker, a promoter, and pretty much a snake.
   My experience with those painting was after the fame. I first saw them as really cheap knockoffs at Woolworth's and the like, marked way down. Understand I did grow up in a small town in northern Vermont in the 1950s and 60s.
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12.1.14
INTERSTELLAR
interstellar
Disclaimer: I haven't liked many movies that involve beings jetting around in outer space ... 2001, Galaxy Quest, Time Bandits, Solaris, and Forbidden Planet.

That out of the way, this movie has a fantastic visual element to it, explores a number of extremely thought-provoking and interesting scientific theories, has some good acting, but suffers from a clunky soundtrack, and a plot that wanders around too long ... almost 3, 4 or 5 hours, I think, my watch battery seemingly ran out during the film. Because this film is a space movie junkie's wet dream, there is a lot to explain (wormholes, relativity, black holes, long-distance space travel, climate degradation, and the possibility of gravity as a five dimension) and unfortunately the movie chooses to use some lengthy sequences of big-head, close-up science lectures to bring us laypeople up to speed. That method really needed to be toned down.

Christopher Nolan loves these bigger-than-life movies, and he has assembled an impressive cast to fill this space story. Matthew McConaughey (Cooper) starts in the film as a farmer, but he had been the best pilot NASA ever had. These end up being two very important jobs in a world that is shutting down, slowly being buried under dust and dirt, as the world's crops do worse and worse. Cooper leaves his kids and sets off piloting a NASA mission to find a new home for the Earth's people using a wormhole located near Saturn. Part of his crew included Anne Hathaway, playing Brand, the daughter of Professor Brand (Michael Caine), the head of NASA, and Bill Irwin playing TARS, a robot with some pretty clever lines. Back on Earth, Jessica Chastain plays Cooper's brilliant and intense grownup daughter (Murph), and Casey Affleck is Tom, his still-farming son. Everybody does a good job, even if Ellen Burstyn was practically unrecognizable as an old and withered Murph later in the movie. Mackenzie Foy is very good as young Murphy, and Matt Damon is a predictable and massive dick as Dr. Mann, a demented, previous explorer exploring for a possible planetary replacement for Earth.

This is a HUGE movie that fills the screen with glorious scenery and plenty of inventive, conceptual science fiction. Some of the science and supposition around gravity is very clever, and the scenes behind the walls (I will explain no more about this) are just wonderful visual treats ... this way and that. Another favorite scene of mine is when a spaceship is cruising along under a seemingly "regular" cloud, and then the ship bumps it with a crunch and large chunks of ice fall off. One of the characters says most casually, something like, "Oh, frozen cloud." I loved that!

The movie gets your mind going with its mind-stretching scientific what-ifs, and your butt going with its extreme bass sound system – is Sensurround still around? Once again I'm left with my theory about it being almost impossible to make a good move containing great special effects with lots of action AND a good plot that makes sense. Interstellar didn't combine them successfully either, but with some massive editing, it could have come so much closer.
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11.22.14
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
theory of everything
First off, I must say that the acting was very good, but the screenplay was so heavy on emotions, and then the movie's overwhelming soundtrack beat you over the head – are you ready, now, FEEL THIS. Too bad, because with some good editing, I'm pretty sure that there was quite a good movie within.

Our star (get it STAR, as in space, black holes, red dwarfs, etc.) Stephen Hawking is played by Eddie Remayne – he was excellent in My Week with Marilyn – and he does a fine job here ... considering the screenplay. The movie is taken from a book about their courtship and marriage, written by Jane Wilde Hawking (Hawking's first wife), who is played by Felicity Jones, who shows a lot of talent in this role.

We follow the young man as a graduate student at Cambridge University in 1963, through his discoveries, his courting of Jane (who's studying the arts), their marriage, his fame, their kids, and the cruel development of his ALS. Over the years (years he was told as a young man would only number two more), he loses his ability to walk, eat by himself, and talk without his famous computer voice. The strain on their relationship caused by his loss of motor function is shown for the huge struggle that it was, and in the end, they move away from each other and find others.

It's a very moving story, but I feel that the director and the music gave the viewers just too many cues on how to feel. Stop swelling the music for every important scene, we're thinking, feeling adults here.
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11.22.14
BIG HERO 6
big hero 6
The big, innocent, inflated character, Baymax, was just a wonderful creation. This air-filled robot was created as a health care worker and could not do harm. He ends up a hero. I'm still smiling whenever I think about how the 10 foot tall robot squeaked and made odd balloon noises whenever he had to maneuver human-sized spaces. There's a scene where he has to just get around in a small bedroom that still slays me. The robot is always very polite and well-mannered, he even sacrifices his air to fit some places and spaces. What a gentleman.   

Unfortunately for me, but great for my granddaughter, the movie geared up into people with cool suits and super powers battling the really bad guys. There was also a vast array of geeky science for many of our present day nerds to get off on.

There is a fine example of a evil big tech business cutting corners and doing great harm ... we surely need real-world truth in our animation. Also, much of the plot revolves around friendship and working together, but I would have easily given up all that goodie-two-shoes stuff, for some more squeaking Baymax scenes. Give me Baymax ... I think we bonded.  
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11.11.14
BOOK OF LIFE
book of life
Not my favorite animation style, but the cultural elements and all the bright colors were a pleasure. The animation is all done such that most of the characters look like wooden puppets, and that worked all right for me. There is so much life in this movie, all in a movie that is focused on the Day of the Dead, and everyone's dead relatives. It is hard not to think that Tim Burton had something to do with the movie, but he didn't. The culture is richly portrayed and the humor is fairly smart and ever present.

The plotline is sweet, about two boys/men striving and fighting for the love of a girl/woman, as well as for their hometown, and even more. That over-richness became a problem for me as it seemed the moviemakers wanted to put everything into the movie ... even if some of it detracted and didn't belong.

The pure joy for life was my favorite aspect of the film, but the soundtrack was a real close second. It had some great songs done with a real Mexican sense of style and humor. There was a great version of Marcus Mumford's
I Will Wait and Plácido Domingo actually does Cielito Lindo with some great "Ay, Yai, Yai, Yais" and Rod Stewart's Do Ya Think I'm Sexy was simply perfect, and my last mention is Cheech Marin doing Just a Friend. Several times I was caught off guard, not really paying attention to the music, and then I would catch on to what in the hell it was ... that was a good time.

Not a top animated film for the year, but it had some major John-pleasing moments. 
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11.4.14
BIRDMAN
birdman
Here's a movie experience that was the very best in the realm of the Strange and Bizarre, Original and Intelligent, Humor and Despair, Thought-Provoking and Emotional. The entire thing was extremely well-acted and very clever, as it explores what we mean by the words art, fame, family, power, and love. 

Our lead character is Riggan Thomson, played by Michael Keaton, who many reviewers have thought was perfect for the part as the role was so close to Keaton's actual career – an actor who became a big deal playing a comic book character (be it Birdman or Batman) and then hasn't been noticed for some time for any film work. In "Birdman", the character has decided to mount, write, produce, and star in a near-Broadway play that is based on a Raymond Carver work, "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." It is not going well, so he decides to bring a new actor, Mike Shiner, played by Edward Norton, who is extremely talented, but a real pain-in-the-ass to work with. The play improves, but the group dynamics between the actors becomes incredibly stressed.

In Riggan's corner, we have his friend and lawyer, Jake, played fairly straight by Zach Galifianakis. Concerns about money and newspaper reviews abound in their conversations. A real gem of a role is Riggan's daughter, Sam, played by the fabulous Emma Stone, who's character is fresh out of drug rehab, and seems to be drifting in life. Her relationship with her father has never been close – too much of the air in the room was taken up by his career – but at least they're in the same room here, attempting to care about each other.

Now, I seem to have made this sound like a tedious soap opera, but it's a masterful bit of film-making. The filming is practically seamless, in that there don't seem to be any breaks between scenes, as if it was all done in one long take, cameras rolling. But way beyond that, there is so much going on in this film – so much that I'm not going to tell you about – that makes it so special.

Sam's role brings so many of the other characters together, where they are forced to adapt to each other and relate. And when it comes to Keaton, there's a wonderful feeling oozing from his character that I was spellbound by. His acting and appearance, be it in just jockey shorts strutting down Broadway, or holding a gun to his head on stage, kept my eyes on him. Simply studying the lines in his face was an enjoyable trip for me.

The use of the music, to, at first, move the credits in a most original way, and then to give so much life to so many scenes, even when, at times,  the camera would dart around a corner, and there would be the drummer working his drum set for the soundtrack that continue before, during, and after his appearances.

There are many incredibly funny scenes, and the ending is a major what-was-that-all-about did-he-really-do-that masterpiece. More than a month later, as I get around to writing this, I still find myself thinking about that last scene, and so many others.

Many aspects of the film were so very fresh and original. I will resist ruining the experience of this superb film by spilling more of these rich beans here. Go, experience something fresh and different. See an original movie before you see some standard and stale action flick, or some holiday star-studded piece of Hollywood crap. Give yourself a treat, take your mind and heart to a great movie.

This is my favorite film of the year, hands down. No contest.
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11.3.14
NIGHTCRAWLER
nightcrawler
Creepy, creepy, creepy ... oh, so good. I felt just so dirty after I watched this excellent movie.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a young man looking to make some money, and stealing scrap metal isn't doing it for him. After seeing Bill Paxton's character making some good bucks using a police scanner and chasing down and filming bloody car wrecks and threatening race killings for local L.A. television stations, he up for trying that. His freelance film crew starts as himself, a cheap camera and police scanner, and his beater of a car racing all over Los Angeles in search of those scenes that promise TV ratings because of the age-old concept of "if it bleeds, it leads."

As an audience member, I soon started having doubts about Lou Bloom's ethics and character. You wonder how far he would go to impress, Nina, the late night manager at a struggling TV station, who is played by Rene Russo. What are the rules, if any, for these freelancers of the night? I won't site specifics, but know it is a major slippery slope.

Gyllenhaal has said he lost thirty pounds to give himself a lean and hungry look, like a roving coyote. He also seems to have mastered controlling his eyes, as they were bugged-eyed and he never seem to blink for long periods of time ... like the whole movie. I couldn't take my eyes off him and he seemed perfectly capable of doing anything to impress and get bigger and bigger money from Nina's station. Russo was perfect in her portrayal of an aging, heavily made-up woman who sexiest days are in her past, and she's doing the best she can in a shitty situation. The relationship between them is definitely warped. 

Another character to feel bad for, was Ric (played by Riz Ahmed), the unemployed young, homeless guy he takes on as an intern to watch the scanner an get him to the bloody scenes before their competing freelancers. His was a great role, as he had to please Lou – who had a hilarious way of parroting all types of business and self-help "rules" – as they chased scum around the city.

This movie kept me focused on it at all times, while at the same time it was was repellent. Sometimes you just can't help yourself from loving what you hate. The movie is almost constantly in movement, or getting ready to take off. Every actor in it pulls their weight and the whole thing comes together tight and pulsating. It's a fine bit of film-making.
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10.25.14
GONE GIRL
gone girl
A sense of manipulation overwhelmed me as I left the theater after watching this movie. Big time American movie-making manipulation. It's not like I didn't really like several things about this movie – much of the acting, the look of the film, and the plotline certainly kept moving – but I hate feeling that I've been forced to feel each and every emotion, at the exact moment I'm scripted to.

So Ben Affleck gets most of the screen time, no surprise there, and he does a good job, but he has that awkward arms-forced-out-from-the-body walk of a bodybuilder ... appears the movie was looking for a buff Popeye feel. Rosamund Pike plays Ben's wife, who disappears in the film (dead?, missing?), and she's an interesting actress to watch on screen, attractive and she has a unique range of looks.

The movie is a thriller in all definitions of that term. The story has so many twists and turns that I could actually feel my mind get tired ... and after a while though, I still thought things were clever, but it was getting tedious.

Now I could explain the plot, but that would quickly ruin the movie for you, and I don't want to go through that again.

Easily my worst film of the year. Oh, it feels good to vent.
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9.1.14
CHEF
chef

I have an all new respect for Jon Favreau, after seeing Chef, the comedy that he wrote, and produced, and directed, and starred in. This movie knew not to rush the action, it allows scenes to play out naturally, the way life happens. I love a smart film that knows how to entertain without being too cute or clever for its own good. I was very pleasantly surprised that this movie didn't go for cheap laughs with actors like Oliver Platt, Sofia Vergara, Bobby Cannavale, and John Leguizamo, who all have been known to take scenes too far and play stereotypical characters. All the actors were very good in this movie, with Favreau, Leguizamo, Cannavale, and the young actor, Emjay Anthony, who plays the son, really shining in their key roles. Scarlett Johansson does a fine bit of work as the old restaurant's hostess, but Robert Downy Jr. is "creep city" as Favreau's wife's previous husband...surely any scene only gets better when sanitary booties are required over everyone's shoes. Oh, one last shout out to the always-odd Amy Sedaris playing a semi-normal publicist.

The movie has a strong heart, as it follows the story of our chef, Favreau, leaving his chef position after disagreements with the restaurant owner, Dustin Hoffman (a prick) and making a fool out of himself with his tweets and a YouTube-captured video of himself screaming at a L.A. food critic, Oliver Platt. With few career choices available to him, he gets himself an old food truck in Miami and takes his former line cook (Leguizamo) and young son on the road to relearn to cook with his heart. He rediscovers the joy of cooking his own way, at the same time he gets the time to work with, and discover he can develop a relationship with his son, and even his ex-wife.

Working for himself, without anyone telling him how to cook, life becomes great fun again. As the little moments of his life get better, he finds his whole life vastly improves. Another major player in the film is the great collection of music that drives many scenes, and gives a great deal of life to the movie.

This is a good-feeling film that is very funny and doesn't insult your intelligence...what more can you ask for? I know the film has been out for a while, and their aren't many sophisticated films out there, but is that enough to explain why we were some of the youngest people in this lightly-filled theater and like 95% of the crowd got in with a senior fare??  
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5.30.14
MALEFICENT
mal


Angelina Jolie is just about perfect in her dark role of Maleficent, the villain from Sleeping Beauty, who is central to this inventive version of the film classic. So much about this film is about capturing a foreboding fairy tale image with an over-the-top dark look. Scenes from the movie stayed in my head for days—so many of them were just so spot-on visually.  I couldn’t imagine how many of the scenes could have looked any better. CGI was obviously everywhere, but it seemed to flow and enhance the movie, and, except for a few battle scenes, it wasn’t the awkward distraction that it is in so many other movies.

Elle Fanning was fine as Princess Aurora. The prince was “there” but nothing to write home about. But it was Jolie who stole every scene she was in—her incredibly sharp cheekbones and horns sliced through the movie. Let’s face it, with her striking body dressed all in black, her face displaying such positively threatening looks, and her versatile voice, she was very impressive as the very embodiment of evil. Yet, the movie was about her large heart and a spark of the innocence from her idyllic youth living in the forest, and not her powerful rage, evil spells, and special powers. I tend to laugh and sigh when I’m impressed at a film, and I couldn’t stop myself while watching this treat of a film.

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3.26.14
MUPPETS: MOST WANTED
muppet

The Muppets hit the road again. This time they’re taking a world tour, but after traveling all those miles, the film comes up short when compared to the much more endearing predecessor, The Muppets.

It’s hard to dislike a Muppet movie; you get all those celebrity voices, some catchy songs, and the Muppets are undeniably damn cute. And certainly with Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Ty Burrel, Ray Liotta, Stanley Tucci, Tony Bennett, and so many more celebs, you get the big names, but the songs weren’t nearly as strong, and the plot line was weak enough to become noticeable. Gervais is good as the face of evil in his role of Dominic aka Number Two, and Tina Fey is suitably silly as the prison guard Nadya. They’re both fine, if a little tiresome at times, yet, Ty Burrell shines as one of my favorite characters, Jean Pierre Napoleon, an Interpol agent who’s constantly squeezed into one very tiny little car. I came out of the theater smiling, but I wasn’t laughing or singing a catchy song. Just not the Muppets at their best.

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3.8.14
MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN
ps

Why did they feel it was time for Mt. Peabody and Sherman to get their own movie, even in 3-D, the studio must have simply thought, why not, we’ve done everything else? So, we saw it, as I was always a fan of the TV version, and the granddaughter was up for it. The figures looked like them, there was a version of the WABAC time machine, but everything had to be hyped and jazzed up to take a subtle and rather silly feature on a cartoon series, into a Major Motion Picture. That would have been sadly understandable, and forgivable, if they had gotten the humor right, but they didn’t, and the film just had to have awesome effectsthey must be cheaper in animation—to distract from the lack of laughs and a storyline.

Ty Burrell supplied the voice of Mr. Peabody, and a young Max Charles did Sherman. They were good, and I could easily imagine Burrell’s face as he did the different inflections of Mr. Peabody’s voice.

I laughed at times, the granddaughter and Vicky thought it was fine, but, as I think more about it, what they did to “sex up” a low-key and clever little cartoon, one that had a special little place in my heart, it saddens me, and just made me wish that I had missed the whole thing.

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2.14.14
her

her

This clever and very funny film was directed and written by Spike Jonze and tells the story of a troubled man who’s primary personal relationship isn’t with a person at all—it’s with a web application, his new OS. The movie stars Joaquin Phoenix (onscreen about 98% of the time, or was it 100%), Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, and the sexy and provocative voice of Scarlett Johansson. Jonze came up with the plotline in the early 2000s, after reading an article about a web application that used an artificial intelligence algorithm to have conversations with humans. Is it possible these services haven’t been with us since the beginning of time? Personal note: Is everyone else as sick of the word algorithm as I am?

Joaquin’s role as Theo has him working at his computer as a writer at a business named ‘Beautifully Handwritten Letters’ where he constantly creates intimate letters for those unable to do it for themselves. He is very good at his job and in control there. But when it comes to his own life, he’s left wondering about what’s going on. What was it that went wrong with his marriage to Catherine, played deftly by Rooney Mara? What’s going on with his blind date with Olivia Wilde’s character? How strange is it that his friend, Amy (Amy Adams), starts a relationship with the OS left behind by her now-absent husband? How troubling is that?

Then, when his OS acquires a new persona, Samantha, his life becomes more pleasing, funnier, and much easier to take. He has love in his life, and Samantha only wants to please him. Men can look very simple at times, but I’m not taking that thought any further.

I do have to give a shout-out, and a curse, to the costume designers who came up with the bizarrely high-waisted trousers that men are wearing all through this near future world of Los Angeles.

This is a provocative film that gets you thinking about where our lives and society are headed to because of the ever-increasing role that virtual technology has in many of our lives. I have my thoughts about it, but after seeing this movie, I’m more terrified by the possibility that it could lead to those giant pants.






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