Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Matthew McConaughey is everywhere in 2013 but underlooked as the titular character Mud. Mud is in Arkansas and is hiding out in the backwaters while being helped by some local boys, Ellis and Neckbone (awesome character name, no?) played by Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland; I mention their names because they are fantastic in this movie and Ellis in particular carries the movie. I like how these tough little independent scrappers actually behave like adolescent boys who try to act tough but really have such a naive view of the world. I was reminded of Great Expectations (maybe it's a kind of retelling?) where a lost little boy encounters and helps a hardened criminal in the marshes. Mud is definitely worth seeing.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Few Others

Originally I was thinking I would write a list of all the other movies that I have seen in the past few months but after checking out my Netflix DVD activity and racking my brain for the movies I saw in the theater, I could only come up with the following few: What's happening to Mary? I'd like to say she is spending more time in contemplation and reading but that would probably not be true.

The Sessions: strange little film that I saw because the lead actors were nominated for a Oscar, so I wanted to see it. It is from the perspective of a poet who is also living in an iron lung and trying to find love. It is nice film and it gets you thinking. As a side note, it also has a rare positive film depiction of a priest.

Enough Said: Another rarity, a romantic movie about oldish people, or maybe that's a trend now? thinking of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Anyway, Enough Said does a good job of depicting the issues people have when after failed marriages and empty nest fears, they struggle to find companionship. I love Julia Louis Dreyfus and she is almost perfect in this movie but was sorry that she was made to behave in a really immature/ insecure way in this movie, and I can't decide if it was realistic or not. No spoilers here, but it is kind of appalling. Also, James Gandolfini is great as the lumpy paramour.

Hello I Must Be Going: another little film about a recently divorced woman in her 30s regaining her confidence in the arms of a 19-year-old. Other the age disparity twist, the movie is pretty conventional. It has though a nice performance from Melanie Lynskey who I was reminded was the young New Zealander opposite Kate Winslet in Heavenly Creatures when she was just 15 years old. That was a great movie!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Catching Fire

Since Winter's Bone (see my blog entry on this movie here) I have been on the Jennifer Lawrence band wagon. I can see why the producers of the Hunger Games chose here for Katniss Everdeen. She has a way of being kick ass and likable at the same time. As in the Hunger Games she stomps through the movie with a righteous fervor sometimes oblivious to what is happening to the people around her. Compared to the books, I thought Catching Fire was better than the book. When reading it I was not happy when she had to reenter the Games. Give me a new plot device Suzanne Collins! It was not quite as irritating to me in Catching Fire (probably because I was prepared) but I actually kind of enjoyed them this time around. I loved the teaming up of the victors, and I enjoyed another female character with moxy, Johanna. I especially liked the electrical ending and the lifting up of our heroine into the clouds. I am excited to see the next one and to see what Jennifer Lawrence is going to do next.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Some Good Ones!

The Way Way Back
I just loved The Way Way Back. It’s a movie from the perspective of a teen-aged boy named Duncan played nicely by Liam James who’s on vacation at a beach town with his mother and her jerky boyfriend (Steve Carrel can play a jerk, who knew?). The girl next door calls it spring break for adults. The adults in his world mainly seem messed up or too self-involved to see Duncan until he makes his way to the water park where he meets the wacky owner Owen played by Sam Rockwell. Owen introduces Duncan to silliness and fun. Maybe The Way Way Back isn’t one of the most original movies there ever was, but it sure is one of the most fun. I can’t remember a movie that I laughed as hard as I did or genuinely rooted for the main character as much as I did.

Blue Jasmine
Blue Jasmine didn’t seem like a typical Woody Allen movie to me. There are comical over the top characters like in most of his films, but I think it is Cat Blanchet’s role as a modern Blanche Dubois that gives the movie more resonance than a typical Woody Allen movie. Blanchet is just plain mesmerizing in this movie. I also liked Sally Hawkins who is the delightful British actress from Happy-Go-Lucky. Some of the other characters, particularly the brutish male clichéd roles kind of bugged me. But overall I really liked Blue Jasmine.

The Spectacular Now

I saw The Spectacular Now today. It’s a sweet movie about a pair of mixed up teenagers who both have mixed up family situations and find solace in the other. Miles Teller plays Sutter, a surprisingly young full blown alcoholic who plays a very sad smiling life of the party. Teller is so good in the movie that I hope he will be nominated for an Oscar. Despite the fact that I left the theater today feeling really sad, I’m glad I saw this movie with great acting and good story telling (although I’m a bit confused by the ending).

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sullivan's Travels

I watched Sullivan’s Travels, a 1941 film that was recommended to me by a learned friend who calls this film one of his favorites. Sullivan's Travels is directed by the highly regarded Preston Sturges who I basically didn't know anything about, but do now!

Sometimes when you watch an old film you have to try not to look at with contemporary eyes; try not to get thrown by the overly dramatic music or the sometimes old fashioned acting. So I was trying to appreciate Sullivan’s Travels
, but I was having some trouble. I found it a bit strange as a matter of fact. This earnest man, Sullivan played by Joel McCrae, is a big Hollywood director who decides to try to see what is like to live as a hobo and then make a film about it. He does this very poorly and ends back at his mansion pretty quickly but gives it a go again and this time with a beautiful ingénue played by Veronica Lake. They dress like bums and ride the rails (this part is all done as a musical montage by the way). Then, as fate would have it, Sullivan ends up indeed suffering and living as a prisoner in a chain gang and, of course, learns some lessons about his experiences. One of those lessons is that the poor need to laugh, so in the end he decides to make a comedy.

The tone of the movie jumps from comic and romantic, to serious, (again is that modern me talking?) not sure. But I’m glad I saw it. It is like no other movie I have seen and seems to want to make a great statement about life for the poor in America. The scene in the black church is particularly moving, more so than the rest of the film I felt, where the preacher shares a theme of the film about the equality of man. So thanks, Bob, for introducing me to this movie. I also watched one of the extras on the DVD about Sturges that is pretty fascinating.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Update on movies with my new ratings' system

bad: just plain bad
Ennh: not bad but not that good
Hmmm: curiously strange and not that likable
Wha?: so weird
It's okay: but not great
It's good: but wish a little fix here and there to make great
It's great!: it's so rare but it happens

Rebecca: Alfred Hitchcock's wonderful adaptation of Du Maurier's book from 1940. It's good or great?
A Dangerous Method: freaky story of Jung and Freud's friendship with a disturbing Keira Knightly role (I can't get her contorted facial expression out of my mind) Hmmm
Hyde Park on the Hudson: Bill Murray as dirty old man/FDR Ennh
The Queen of Versailles: documentary about profligate wealth Wha?
Hope Springs: painful to watch marriage counseling movie Hmmm
The Guard: buddy cop movie of the Irish kind with a dash of Don Cheadle It's good
The Five-Year Engagement: I love Emily Blunt but she could not save this stupid movie Ennh
Liberal Arts: sweet little movie with a strange ending It's okay
Save the Date: really like Lizzy Caplan but this odd movie fell short It's okay
Carol Channing: Larger than Life: documentary about Carol Channing Ennh
Too Big to Fail: can't remember it, bad sign or I'm getting too old It's okay
Your Sister’s Sister: another Emily Blunt movie, she's good but the movie limps along Ennh
Game Change: politcal movie about Sarah Palin played by Julianne Moore (she's great) from the people who brought you Recount another great movie It's good
Trouble with the Curve: romantic comedy of the lamest variety bad:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower: sadly bland Ennh
Celeste and Jesse Forever: another stupid romantic comedy bad:
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: likable movie for the oldsters -- I liked the Indian setting Ennh
Magic Mike: Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey as strippers, surprisingly good It's good
The Avengers: I thought it should see it since it had my favorite Mark Ruffalo who everyone said he was fantastic but I tell you I can not get into a super hero movie no matter how hard I try (I did not try that hard)Ennh

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Two Documentaries

Two nights in a row I watched a couple of documentaries that just happened to be at the library. Both tell the story of brilliant men who dropped out society in very singular ways. The first one is called Surfwise which is the story of the Paskowitz family, 8 boys and one girl, who grew up traveling from surf town to surf town in a 24 foot camper. The father, Dorian Paskowitz, believed that the best education for these children was to learn to surf, read, and basically drop out of regular society. He did not think that his children need be concerned about material things or going to school. In the first part of the documentary you think, while the father is weird, he really seems to be in touch with the elemental qualities of life, and his children seem pretty amazing, their mother saint-like, beautiful, and peaceful, and this way of raising a family is a good one. But then as the story progresses the filmmakers start to reveal the underbelly of family life and you learn that as adults these Paskowitz’s end up pretty screwed up by the father’s controlling and sometimes abusive behavior and that most of the 9 children struggled as adults.

Searching for Sugar Man tells of another man and father who lives simply despite great talent and fame. The 70's musician Rodriguez, never had financial success as an artist and stopped making and performing music (a very talented singer song writer with a sweet voice). Instead he did construction and raised three daughters in poverty in Detroit. Meanwhile, in South Africa, he was a huge success. The movie tells about the story of a handful of South Africans who try to find out the story of Rodriguez even though they believe him to be dead. When we get to know a little bit about the enigmatic Rodriguez, we learn that he still lives in a run-down neighborhood of Detroit in a very modest house even though in the end he finally has resources, and he seems to have raised three lovely daughters who share his diffident and humble manner. If I had to choose between these two fathers, I would definitely pick Rodriguez.