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Romantic comedy falling squarely on both straight and Lesbian friends., 1 September 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

We found this movie, apparently only shown at film festivals, on Netflix streaming. My wife and I both enjoyed it, while it has many funny elements it comes across as very true to life. Set and filmed in Minneapolis.

Leighton Meester is Sasha, a Lesbian seemingly caught up in a series of dead-end shallow relationships. She has been working in different receptionist jobs for about 8 years while she figures out where her musical career should go. Her right brain rules her life.

Gillian Jacobs is Paige, Sasha's close friend for many years. She is not a Lesbian and has a job as a high-powered attorney. Her left brain rules her life. But she and Sasha get on like best friends should.

Things start to change when Paige gets fixed up with a date, Adam Brody (Meester's real-life husband) as Tim, a dermatologist. Tim is a nice guy but prefers slogan T-shirts and has a few other quirks which Paige gets to work on. She pretty much molds him into exactly what she wants. While he cooperates eventually it comes to a head and friction results.

The core of the story however is how this man causes the old friendship to crumble. It is never presented as a dastardly thing, just the inevitable result of two close friends moving apart as new life situations arise.

My favorite scene was when Paige and Tim are out at a park, he casually mentions "this thing on my back" that needs to be looked at. Paige gets worried, is it a cancerous mole, she insists he raise his shirt so she can look at it. Then she finds written on his back in large letters "Will you marry me?"

Things all work out well in the end, Paige and Tim seem very suited for each other and Sasha reexamines her goals and makes adjustments. All the actors are fine.

In the clothing fashion world, roughly derived from Cinderella., 31 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

We found this Canadian movie on Netflix streaming movies. It is entertaining enough once it gets past the first third or so. It seems to be inspired by the classic Cinderella story, with a wicked step- mom and two wicked stepsisters, but dad is still alive as the head of the clothing company.

Cute Portia Doubleday, reminding us a lot of Amanda Seyfried, is recent fashion graduate Kate Kassell. She is trying to branch out on her own but eventually looks to her dad's company for a job.

The wicked step-mom mostly runs the business, she is played by Lauren Holly as Elise , and right away we see that she and her evil but not bright daughters will try to run Kate off, first by giving her a trash assignment sorting buttons and other odds and ends in a large storage area.

Kate is in fact driven off through mistreatment and lies about her, but she returns, in disguise, as Nate an upcoming designer. Of course this brings to the fore all those situations done so many times in movies where Kate and Nate have to be at the same place and dealing with others alternately as Kate and Nate. Some of that is entertaining.

This is just a so-so movie but entertaining if you are in the right mood. "Mr. Big", Chris Noth is Kate's dad and the head of the company. The two evil stepsisters are played by Natalie Krill as Tannis and Anna Hopkins as Simone.

Portia Doubleday is the best thing going on here.

SPOILERS: It turns out the evil step-mom and her daughters were conspiring with a competitor to get the Kassell company to go bankrupt and be taken over by the competitor. Kate and her Nate, with the help of friends at work, and some crafty computer programming, expose all of it and Kate becomes chief designer while patching up her relationship with her dad.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Might be entertaining for the teenage crowd., 31 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

We came across this movie on Netflix streaming. My wife especially likes the movies where young dancers perform so we tried this one. Frankly it is so "camp" that we were not able to stay awake to finish it before bedtime. So the next morning I put it back on to finish. The main story, of a new transfer to a high school who then gets mistreated by the mean girls clique has been done so many times there isn't really anything new here. Plus the actors are all trying to start a career so they really do come across as dancers trying to act. Some are better than others.

The star is cute Lexi Giovagnoli, age range totally unknown, as Gabby Colussi. She is from California, she hopes to go to medical school, but for some reason transfers to a high school in S. Carolina. She finds out about a dance club and an upcoming competition and since dance is her first love is easily talked into joining them.

There is a vain mean girl, who envisions herself as God's gift to dancing, she and her mean mother, the school Principal, try to see to it that Gabby fails. But a nice young man, also age range totally unknown, is Justin Ray as Brad McBride who desperately needs tutoring, that is how he gets hooked up with Gabby. But we find out he is also a former dancer and Gabby bargains with him, she will keep tutoring him if he agrees to be her dance partner.

There is nothing particularly interesting or surprising in the resolution to the overall story. The nice and worthy students get what they seek while the lying, cheating students get their comeuppance. Some of the young actors may have futures in the business but they need better roles.

An art-house film that may or may not engage the average viewer., 31 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There's a place in the Swiss Alps where the clouds seep between two peaks and pour, serpentine, into an adjoining valley. The "Maloja snake" is the title weather phenomenon in "Clouds of Sils Maria." Also the title of the stage play that is being cast is "Maloja Snake."

With that as an introduction, Juliette Binoche plays experienced international stage and film star Maria Enders. As a young actress she had gotten her big break playing a 20-yr-old in that play some years ago, now she is being asked to play the older woman in a re-staging of the play.

Her assistant and constant companion is Kristen Stewart as Val. They read lines together, they hike together, that discuss deeper concepts. My wife and I decoded that there was sexual tension, mainly because Maria seemed to want something closer. In one scene the two go swimming in a secluded spot, Maria takes off all her clothes while Val keeps her underwear on, to us a sign that Maria was hoping for more but Val wasn't.

As the story progresses and Maria reluctantly gives in a new actress is introduced, she will play the role that Maria did years earlier. She is Chloë Grace Moretz as Jo-Ann Ellis. She too gets into some disagreements with Maria, mainly on how to interpret the character.

This is not a light movie worth a straightforward story. When it is over it leaves more questions than it provides answers. My wife didn't care for it much, I enjoyed it a bit more but still will never go down as one of my favorites. Maria is a very annoying character, none of the characters are easy to identify with, nor their individual plights.

Very nicely acted and filmed 19th century period story of a headstrong woman., 31 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was able to see this on DVD from my public library.

I have enjoyed British actress Carey Mulligan in all of her roles, not only is she great to look at she is also one of the finest actresses of her generation. She is in the lead role as Bathsheba Everdene, a headstrong young woman in 1800s England. Her neighbor is Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts as Gabriel Oak. He is a strong and serious man, with a small farm and a herd of sheep. He has one experienced dog and is training a younger one.

Near the same time that Bathsheba is inheriting a large farm Gabriel is losing his. His dog in training makes a very serious mistake, at night he drives the sheep out of the pen and eventually over a cliff to their death. So Gabriel is ruined and eventually ends up working for Bathsheba.

He and other men are attracted to her, they want her as their wife. There wasn't much courting back then, they simply ask her to be their wife but she isn't easily wooed. Until young soldier, pretty face Tom Sturridge as Sergeant Francis Troy, get her eye.

This is of course fiction but considering the author of the book I suspect it fairly well represented life back then. It is a very worthwhile movie, entertaining while serious, and the cinematography is great.

It is also nice to see young British actress Jessica Barden developing her career, she was the British girl who on a road trip with her parents befriended Hanna in "Hanna". Here she has a minor but nice role as Liddy.

Overview of Lance Armstrong's strong-arm tactics to win fame and fortune., 26 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

By now any of us who pay any attention at all to cycling know the end game here. We know that after years of in-your-face denials Armstrong has admitting that he lied all those years, admitted that he indeed was on a number of performance-enhancing drugs while he was winning several consecutive Tour de France individual championships. Many if not most of us at least saw clips from the interview he did with Oprah.

This is a good documentary, it is over 90 minutes, it has lots of clips from competitions, lots of interviews with teammates and close associates of Armstrong during those years, lots of snippets of Armstrong declaring his innocence. It shows his ruthlessness at going after others and trying to defame them if he thought they had turned on him.

By any measure Armstrong is a dastardly, untrustworthy person and he brought it all on himself. He wasn't an easily-led victim, he was the ringleader. But what I miss from this presentation is more from Armstrong after the Oprah event. What were his feelings now about turning on his friends and trying to destroy them? Does he just look at it as a "business decision" that failed? Or has he come to realize how wrong his behavior was?

I was one of the avid TV spectators as Armstrong won those Tour de France titles. Armstrong was such a convincing fraud and liar I became angry at the French for continually accusing Armstrong of something he assured us was false. I was duped and if I ever happened to encounter Armstrong face-to-face I'd just tell him, "You cheated, you lied, you let all your fans down, how dare you!"

'I'm not done, I will now recite the entire poem in Mandarin.' (Sophia), 25 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a hard movie to get into, mostly because it has a very dark and ugly beginning. It is the bathroom of a night spot and the main character, Richie, is inspecting each one to see toilets filled with urine and feces, even on the toilet seat, it must represent the filthiest toilet in all of Manhattan. And then he finds a pretty dead young lady on the final toilet, a victim of an overdose.

The next scenes aren't much better, Richie is an his bathtub with a razor blade, intending to kill himself. So for me the rest of the movie was an uphill exercise to see if there was any redeeming value in watching it. I actually skipped to the last third of the movie and after seeing that I went back and viewed the parts I had skipped.

Written, directed, and starring Shawn Christensen as Richie, it is about a 30-something guy with a job at a bowling alley, in debt to some gangsters, and still in grief over his beloved Vista who had recently taken her own life. The only thing he can see is ending it all and joining Vista. Until his younger sister, a single mom, calls him after years of estrangement with an urgent need for Richie to meet her 11-yr-old daughter at her school and get her home safely.

That cute and smart daughter is Fatima Ptacek as Sophia, and she is the main reason to watch the entire movie. In real life she is studying Mandarin, and also appears to be in gymnastics. She plays her role perfectly and in the end she warms up to Richie. His having a niece that cares about him just might give him some reason to live.

The sister and mother of Sophia is played well by New Yorker Emmy Rossum. She is also a mess of sorts and when she gets brought into central lockup after an altercation it prolongs the time Richie has to stay with Sophia, and for him to consider his options.

Not for every taste, much of it is at night and shows the seedy underbelly of New York, but for those in the right frame of mind can be a worthwhile viewing. I found it on Netflix streaming movies.

SPOILERS: Sis got into trouble because she was having an affair with a married man and the wife got involved. One of Richie's friends came to the rescue, asking a lawyer to help out. She was grateful for Richie's help but when he got home he resumed his interrupted suicide mission. But then the phone rings again. At first he disconnects it, determined to not be sidetracked again, but is curious and plugs the phone back in. It is his sis inviting him to dinner in a few days with her and Sophia, he pauses, thinks, and says "I'll be there."

If your parents never had sex chances are you'll never get it either., 24 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I came across this movie on Netflix streaming movies. I took a chance and it is well worth the 90 minutes. Good story and good characters.

It is a discouraging movie in many ways but has a hopeful ending. Set and filmed in New Mexico, Sarah Bolger, doing a believable American teen accent, is 16-yr-old high school sophomore Lucy Diamond. Her dad, James Marsden as Chuck Diamond, has some sort of job that requires him to be away for weeks at a time. Her mom is Claire Danes as Lainee Diamond who had Sarah when she was only 17. Chuck is old-fashioned, he is the bread winner so Lainee doesn't tell him she has a telemarketing job when he is away.

The story is centered on Sarah, she is smart and responsible but her dad and mom probably should have never married. They don't have a loving relationship and mom strays when she meets what seems to be a nice guy. There is an interesting scene in a supermarket when one of those "nice guys" courting her is seen shopping with his two children and his wife.

So how does Sarah avoid that same trap? And how can she pursue her love of cooking, perhaps becoming a successful chef, and writing a bestselling cookbook? Her best friend since they were 6 is Thomas Mann as neighbor Kenny Crauder and after Sarah and Kenny start to realize maybe they are meant for much more together, and begin experimenting, Kenny gets sent away to live with his father.

The movie never pretends there are easy answers for all these issues. In the end mom finds yet another old boyfriend, she desperately needs to be "saved". In the process Sarah has to fend for herself again.

The movie ends with a sweet scene, with a Peter Fonda cameo as the owner of a popular local restaurant. After his son and Lainee run off to Mexico Sarah finds ingredients in the kitchen of the now closed for the evening restaurant and makes eggs in a red sauce. She serves herself and Fonda's character, they taste and compare notes as Sarah's voice-over indicates she will be OK, she has a plan.

From 'Here' (1941 Pearl Harbor) to 'Eternity' (war and death)., 24 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This was the darling of 1953, winning a whole slew of Oscars and several more nominations. One of the Oscars went to Sinatra for Best Supporting Actor. Most of us remember Sinatra for his singing but he was a fine actor with 64 roles credited to him.

This story takes place in Hawaii in 1941 on an Army base, just a few months before the eventual December 7th surprise attack of Pearl Harbor, the event that got the USA into WW2 against the Japanese. There is a boxing theme running through it, with the military championships scheduled for December 15th, and we know that will be upstaged.

Burt Lancaster in his early 40s is the lead as Sgt. Milton Warden. He is confident and runs a tight ship, but he also has his eye on the pretty girls, one in particular, the wife of his commanding officer. It seems pretty well known that the officer routinely cheats on his wife so that makes the pursuit somewhat logical. Deborah Kerr in her early 30s plays that woman, Karen Holmes.

The second main story involves Montgomery Clift as Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt, a former boxer who quit after a man he knocked over was badly injured and lost his sight. So he was transferred to Hawaii and ceaselessly harassed by men in his platoon trying to get him to change his mind and fight on the team.

In his Oscar role Frank Sinatra was Angelo Maggio, a little guy with a big heart but who drank too much. In a bar another man, Ernest Borgnine as Sgt. 'Fatso' Judson, insulted Angelo's mother so Angelo hit Fatso over the head with a chair. The fight was broken up but later when Angelo was thrown in the brig for deserting his guard post, under the 'care' of Fatso, it eventually led to Angelo's death.

The last scenes in the movie depict the attack of December 7th and it appears that some real news footage of the attack was used.

Several good stories are woven in and while I haven't seen the movies this was competing against I can understand why it was then and still is considered such a timeless movie.

The two sisters who should have had each-other's children., 23 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Even though it is almost 20 years old I only managed to see this movie now. It is mainly notable for DiCaprio's performance as a troubled teen right about the time he was in 'Romeo + Juliet', a movie I didn't care for, and about a year before 'Titanic' a movie I like very much.

Meryl Streep is Lee, a hair dresser and not a very caring mother. She has two sons, Leonardo DiCaprio as 18-yr-old Hank and his younger brother Charlie. It is clear early that Hank does not like his mother and misses his dad. To the point that he takes a box of photos, dumps them on the upstairs bedroom floor, douses the pile with lighter fluid, and burns the pile.

Unfortunately the whole house burns down so Hank ends up in a mental hospital to deal with his anger and poor decision-making.

The movie's primary story really gets going when Lee's sister down in Florida, Diane Keaton as Bessie, lets her know that she was diagnosed with a form of leukemia and her only hope might be to get a marrow transplant from a suitable, compatible family member. So Lee, Hank, and Charlie make a road trip.

The dad of the two sisters is Marvin, he is very sick and barely lucid, Bessie is his caregiver. He has his room he mostly stays in "Marvin's Room", which seems a rather arbitrary title to choose.

The story is about family dynamics, including Hank's anger, Aunt Bessie seems to understand him and deals with him in a productive manner, something Lee can't quite seem to grasp. Bessie has no regrets, "there has been so much love in her live." When Lee agrees that people loves her she corrects that, it is the love Bessie has been able to give to others, something Lee had never understood before.

Good, interesting movie but not great nor memorable.

Robert De Niro has a nice supporting role as Bessie's physician, Dr. Wally. Old veteran Hume Cronyn, just a few years before he died, is Marvin.

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