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One of Bill Murray's better roles, as a misfit with hidden Saintly traits., 28 February 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie has received a lot of buzz the past few months and I can see why. It also has many nominations for various awards. It didn't win many but nominations are a good sign.

This story is in New York City. A rude older man named Vince has some new neighbors moving in next door. It isn't a smooth move, their moving truck hits a tree limb which breaks and falls on Vince's car parked in his driveway. This is the beginning of an unlikely relationship.

Bill Murray is Vincent, a seemingly bitter man who doesn't seem to care about anything but gambling and his booze. But we find out his long-time wife is in a facility suffering with dementia, she doesn't know who he is, she thinks he is a doctor. He is very kind to her, wishes she would recognize him but doesn't. He has been doing her laundry every week for 8 years, and few know about that.

The mother who moves in next door, a single parent getting a divorce from a cheating lawyer husband, is Melissa McCarthy as Maggie. She is a medical care professional and occasionally and without prior notice has to work late, creating a problem with her 10-yr-old son, newcomer Jaeden Lieberher as Oliver , starting over in a new Catholic school. Even though he is sort of Jewish.

(Side note, it is refreshing to see McCarthy playing a good, sincere character instead of those goofy characters she had been playing. She is a fine actress.)

Anyway the unlikely friendship begins with Vince and Oliver as Vince agrees to watch him after school ... for $11 per hour, of course. Vince is just about broke and has gambling debts so always is looking for a little cash!

Vince teaches Oliver things, not all of them good, but they help each other. And along the way, for a school assignment, Oliver finds out Vince is his St Vincent.

Also good are Naomi Watts as the pregnant hooker Daka, who sounds Russian, and who sells Vince his weekly romantic encounters. And Irish actor Chris O'Dowd as Oliver's teacher, Brother Geraghty.

This is a quirky and funny movie with serious themes, and Bill Murray shines. I will see it again.

Jane Eyre (1943)
See it for Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine, a good black & white adaptation., 28 February 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I found this movie on Netflix streaming movies. The novel of the same title has been popular for a long time and there have been a number of movie adaptations. I don't read much fiction and have not read this, but it seems that it must follow the book fairly closely because at various points we see part of a page of the novel.

Jane Eyre is an orphan in 1820s England and has the misfortune of being taken in by her mean aunt, her deceased father's sister. At about 10 she is sent to an orphanage and school for trouble children. But she has a good spirit, she will not be broken, and she learns well. Enough that she is asked to be a teacher when she was about 20.

An interesting small part is Jane's new friend Helen, who gets sick and dies. That part is played by 10-yr-old Elizabeth Taylor, only about a year before she hit it big in National Velvet.

The young adult Jane is played by Joan Fontaine. She refuses the teaching job at the oppressive orphanage and goes out on her own, finding a job as a governess for a wealthy widow. He is Orson Welles as Edward Rochester. He is supposed to be maybe 15 years older than she, but in fact the two actors are only two years apart, but Welles always did look older than his chronological age.

It is the traditional story, playboy Edward comes and goes, has a very rough exterior, but Jane sees something in him that captivates her heart. She would love to be his bride but it seems doomed when it is revealed he is already married, his wife went crazy and is kept in a barricaded room in his castle-like mansion.

The film being 1943 is a throwback to the black and white days when inventive lighting and camera angles heightened the drama and punctuated the suspense. Both Welles and Fontaine are super in their roles. Welles of course is mostly known for his Citizen Kane but this is an opportunity to see him as an actor and he is quite something to watch.

John Wick (2014)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Far too much cheap, point-blank killing for this to be a really good movie., 28 February 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

OK, I know it is a movie, a complete work of fiction, I know actors didn't really die. But this kind of movie glorifies point-blank execution killing justified because the guys being killed work for a Russian mafia in New York. But it still cheapens life and we simply have too much of that in our movies.

In general I like Keanu Reeves and I like his character here, John Wick, who formerly worked as a hit man for the same Russian gang that he has to turn against. He had successfully gotten out, "retired", and had a life with his loving wife. But she had a terminal illness and she died.

Still in grief, he gets a delivery at home, it is a cute puppy that his wife had arranged to be delivered right after her death, so he would have a companion and he could remember her.

Stopped for gasoline in his beautiful 1969 Mustang, puppy in the front seat, a guy walks up and asks "How much?" Shocked Wick simply says it is not for sale. The man says something rude in Russian then is shocked when Wick answers him, in Russian.

That night the dog alerts and Wick gets up to find three men in his house, they must have looked up his address from the Mustang's license plate. They beat him mercilessly, killed his dog, and stole his Mustang. (Sounds like an old western movie, doesn't it?)

Well this "guy" is the frivolous son of the Russian gang leader, and when the dad, Michael Nyqvist as Viggo Tarasov, finds out his son stole John Wick's car, and killed his dog, he knew Wick would hunt all of them down. Which is what he does, and that is mostly what the movie is about.

The other good role is Willem Dafoe as fellow hit-man Marcus, who appears to accept a $4 Million job to kill John Wick, but instead he ends up helping him.

This is just a plain shoot and kill revenge movie, and it could have been so much better but I suppose this is what appeals to movie- goers nowadays.

App (2013)
Are 'apps' for your smart phone all good? Maybe not!, 27 February 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I found this movie on Netflix streaming. An interesting concept, it drew me in and I was rewarded with a quite novel movie. The only difficulty is the Dutch language with English subtitles, sometimes the dialog is quick and it is challenging to both follow the picture and read the words. Also some of the concepts are a bit obscure and require some guessing.

But I enjoyed it as something quite different and entertaining.

The first scene sets the stage but doesn't really give us much clue, until later when she is talked about. A young lady is going home, checking her phone, (hands-free) for messages. She gets a couple, stops her car just over train tracks, then walks back to stand on the tracks and get killed by the commuter train. A sinister warning.

The star is very pretty Hannah Hoekstra (looking a bit like Emma Watson and Natalie Morales of TV) as college student Anna Rijnders. She rides a Honda motorcycle, it looks like it may be one the the classic 4-cylinder models like the CB400.

She gets a mysterious 'app' on her phone that at first appears very useful, you can ask it things and you get answers. But it turns out to have a mind of its own, it videos people in private moments, and those videos appear all over the media, as just one example. Much of the movie is about Anna and others trying to get rid of the app.

At the end it appears they have but, as Anna and a friend board a flight to Spain for holiday, we see a cockpit screen and guess what shows up? Yes, the 'app'. Will they ever make it there?

Neverwas (2005)
'Sometimes the story finds the story teller, not the other way around.', 27 February 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As the story unfolds we wondered if it was a modern day fairy tale. Found it on Netflix streaming movies. Quite a good drama and Brittany Murphy, who met with her untimely death just a few years later, really shines.

In the opening scene we see a flashback of a boy hearing sirens and as he runs down a wooded trail stops when he encounters a man's body, hanging from a tree. We don't see the whole body but as the movie unfolds we conclude it was the boy's father, an author of a famous children's book.

Maybe 25 years later this boy is the adult, Aaron Eckhart as Zach Riley, a psychiatrist. He has a stellar background and a good practice but applies for a job at an out-of-the-way sanitarium. He keeps his motives hidden, but he never came to grips with his father's death and hopes to find some answers there, as his father was a patient there before he wrote his book.

Other key cast members are Nick Nolte as the deceased father, T.L. Pierson. Ian McKellen (who steals the show most of the time) as inmate Gabriel Finch. Brittany Murphy as Maggie Paige, a younger childhood friend of Zach's and who says she is there to do research for her Botany thesis. Jessica Lange as Zack's mom, Katherine Pierson. And always understated and good William Hurt as Dr. Peter Reed, director of the sanitarium.

The title comes from the book the father wrote, a book about a modern kingdom, "Neverwas", right over the mountains that can be seen from the sanitarium. The hero in that children's book is Zachary who goes to free the king who is held in the dungeon. In an old interview Zach is viewing, his dad at one point says to the reporter, "Sometimes the story finds the story teller, not the other way around." And that is what this movie is all about.

SPOILERS: Upon digging Zach finds out that his dad in the early 1960s was in the sanitarium along with old Gabriel Finch who is still there. Gabriel claims he is the King of Neverwas, trapped in the dungeon (the sanitarium) and he knows Zach has come back to free him. Gabriel's story is pretty much identical to dad's book 'Neverwas' which was written in the late 1960s and was basically telling the old man's story. It turns out Maggie is not a Botanist but a reporter there to do a story, but in the end she lets it rest, she and Zach begin a romance. Gabriel does manage to escape to his "kingdom" which is a shelter he built on public lands, he faces eviction, but a court order just in time saves him. For now...

Faulty family dynamics and a free-sex girl., 21 February 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

No other way to say it, this is a very strange movie. But we enjoyed it for the actors, particularly Ms Woodley who leaves not much to the imagination. And it has a sort of a surprise ending.

Shailene Woodley, 21-ish, is Kat Connors in what is a classic dysfunctional family. Her mother and dad don't seem to have any husband-wife chemistry, and Kat herself seems to be a sex-starved brat of 17 when this story starts in 1988.

Her mother is Eva Green (I don't understand all the praise she gets) as Eve Connors who one day disappears. The car is still in the garage, there is no evidence she takes her things, but no one knows where she is.

As time passes her husband, Christopher Meloni as Brock Connors gradually gets over his funk and starts to date a woman. Kat is fine with that, she basically has no feelings for her absent mother, they didn't have a good relationship and she just sees her as an "absent mom" who deserted the family.

When Kat's next door friend loses interest in having frequent sex with her she resorts to visiting the detective working on her mother's case, 45-ish Thomas Jane as Detective Scieziesciez, and they begin an ongoing sexual affair. Towards the end he tells her something which upsets her, but which ultimately leads to the truth.

My biggest issue with this movie is the lack of likable characters. All of them are unlikeable so it is akin to watching a train wreck in slow motion. But it does have interesting elements and Ms Woodley does a fine job with her character.

Netflix streaming movie.

SPOILERS: We only learn what happened at the end in a type of flashback along with exposition. Mom and dad had become estranged and it all came to light when she came home unexpectedly to find her husband and the boy next door in bed together, naked, in a sexual situation. That explained why the boy next door lost interest in sex with the daughter. The wife simply began to laugh hysterically, nonstop, and the husband in a fit of rage at the laughing put his hands on her neck and choked her, probably not intending on killing her, but he did. He stored the body in the freezer in the basement, and that attaches to the dreams Kat had, of being in a blizzard and finding her mother under the snow. Now it is 1991 and Kat is in college at Berkeley, dad in a drunken state confessed to killing his wife, was arrested but he hanged himself in jail. The movie ends as Kat is on a plane back to school and thinking about her mother.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
'Whichever road you choose in life, it will start out uphill,', 18 February 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

We were able to view this movie on Netflix streaming movies. It is based on the real life of a man who spent 17 years in prison and came out to help others follow a better path in life.

Cuba Gooding Jr. is Eugene. While in prison he learned a bit about chess, enough to know that as a board game it can be a metaphor for life. In chess all the other pieces protect the King, and "Life of a King" can represent what each of us goes through.

Jobs are hard to get for convicted felons but he manages to get a job at the neighborhood school in Washington, D.C. as a janitor. On a whim he is asked to watch a group of unruly students in detention after the usual teacher walked out in fear. He got them interested in chess but when it came to light that he had lied on his application, saying he had never been convicted of a felony, he had to be let go.

But he found some property in disrepair that he could rent cheaply and formed the neighborhood chess club. It wasn't without significant obstacles and setbacks, but over the years it has been successful in giving disadvantaged students a better chance at life and has turned out a number of chess competition championships.

Good movie and good job by Gooding, Jr.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Grecian adventures in a film noir style., 16 February 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Set in 1962, a man and his younger wife (his third) are vacationing in Greece. At an outdoor café they meet a young man who is a tour guide but is a displaced American who speaks the local language. They enlist his help right away and we can see the young man is a con artist of sorts, he tells the American couple inflated prices for purchases and keeps the excess for himself.

The young tour guide is 30-ish American actor Oscar Isaac as Rydal. The American couple are 30-ish actress Kirsten Dunst as Colette MacFarland and 50-something American actor Viggo Mortensen as Chester MacFarland.

Their fun is interrupted when a stranger knocks on their hotel room door, it is a man sent by American investors who were bilked out of $$ Millions by Chester and they want it made right.

As the story unfolds it gets darker and darker, but is very well written and acted. It is not a happy, entertaining film but a very good movie in the film noir genre.

SPOILERS: Chester was a WW2 Army veteran and a trained fighter. He gets the best of the intruder, knocks him to the bathroom floor, and the man dies from the injury. He finds the man's room key and decides to drag him there, and hope the eventual discovery cannot be tied to him. But Rydal has returned to give Colette a bracelet she left behind in the cab and he encounters Chester, they both drag the body, witnesses see them, they flee during the night without reclaiming their passports, so the rest of the movie has them on the run to a Greek island, where Colette falls off a stairway and dies, but the two men manage to make it to the airport with fake passports. Chester tries to give the slip to Rydal by giving him a ticket to Frankfurt while he went to Istanbul, and left Colette's fake passport to try to frame Rydal. But they eventually catch up with Chester and in a chase and gunfight he dies in the street at night.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
TV movie, strange rom-com story., 15 February 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

My wife and I caught this movie on Network TV last night, on Valentine's day. The novelty is the main character's wife is Valentine.

Tom and Val seem to have a nice marriage, with a young daughter, but there doesn't seem to be much passion left. While that is pretty common among couple who have been married 20+ years, it is not common among young couples.

He is an artist, who seems "stuck", and she is a chef with a catering business, but she probably could do more. Like have her own restaurant.

One day Tom gets a severe head pain and when he goes to a doctor finds it is a brain tumor, and for purposes of this story's focus, inoperable. He can get chemo, but probably has no more than 9 months or so to live. So he does what anyone else would do, he sets about finding a suitable replacement, to make sure his wife and daughter stay happy and safe. It is a very unusual approach!

We enjoyed the movie as light entertainment, and all the actors are attractive. We asked each other what we would do in a similar circumstance, and neither of us would do what Tom did. But then our lives are not good TV movie stories either. LOL ...

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Older couple in New Orleans., 13 February 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a remake of a 2005 Argentinian movie of the same name in Spanish. I found it on Netflix streaming movies.

Shirley MacLaine is Elsa Hayes, a mid-70s widow living in a condo at 2801 St Charles Avenue in New Orleans. This is a single 3-story building with several condos about 700 to 800 square feet each. A freshly widowed 80-isn man, Christopher Plummer as Fred Barcroft, is moving into the adjacent condo. He seems to just be waiting for life to end, he spends lots of time just lying in his bed, with no interest in getting out of his living space.

Elsa, on the other hand, seems full of life and right away she greets Fred and tries to get him to do things. When his caregiver is absent and his kitchen faucet starts to spray water everywhere, in desperation he gets Elsa to help him and she does. It becomes the catalyst for her to take a greater interest in him.

This is a very nice movie, character studies of two people in the twilight time of their lives. They have issues with adult children, and she has to go to the dialysis clinic weekly. She doesn't seem to have much time left, but they begin to fall in love with each other.

It isn't the kind of movie that can attract decent audiences at theaters against mega-buck blockbusters, but it is a very nice smaller movie with some of the best actors of their times.

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