Reviews written by registered user

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140 reviews in total 
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Helen Mirren Shines, Ryan Reynolds Flounces, 10 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Woman in Gold tells the true story of Maria Altmann's quest, aided heavily by Randol Schoenberg, to retrieve a famed Gustav Klimt painting of her aunt, which was owned by her family before being stolen by the Nazis.

This is a movie that only works at all because of Helen Mirren. She is excellent, and telegraphs all the losses Maria faced in Austria during the Holocaust, and why this painting holds such deep meaning for her. A scene towards the end of the film where she returns to her old Austrian home, and walks through moments in her life as a way of making peace with the past is very moving. The best that can be said for Ryan Reynolds is that he tries, but he is miscast at best in the role of Schoenberg. He is wrong for this movie, and frankly, drags down scenes that are supposed to show his struggles as he tries to move Altmann's court case.

In all, I would say watch this movie for Mirren, and grit your teeth when watching Reynolds.

1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Hello, My Name Is..., 18 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Hello, My Name is Doris is a movie that seemingly has no idea what it wants to say. Doris Miller (Sally Field) is a 60-something woman who spent a good portion of her adult life caring for her recently deceased mother. Doris has a mundane job in Manhattan full of people who largely ignore her. Her remaining family wants to help her break her hoarding habit and sell her mother's home. After she and a friend attend a self-help book reading, Doris decides to romantically pursue her much younger boss, John. Doris goes about this by essentially stalking John via his Facebook page. She creates situations where she can unexpectedly interact with him, and they end up becoming friends. Doris inadvertently causes John's girlfriend to dump him, and John and Doris grow closer. Doris misconstrues John's comments to her, and confesses her actions in causing his break up, leaving John repulsed. Doris then takes this moment, and uses it to take steps to move on with her life. The ending of the movie leaves Doris and John's relationship on a cliffhanger.

I will say this. Sally Field is excellent in this movie. She uses her charm and personality to breathe life into her character that may not have worked with other actresses. The rest of the cast is also excellent, and there are a lot of extremely good actors attached to this movie.

Having now complemented Ms. Field and the cast, I have to say the movie is very uneven. It's suggested during the movie that Doris may be seriously mentally ill. She has a terrible hoarding habit. She stalks her co-worker, and at times seems to have trouble staying in reality. This is all kind of glossed over with a montage. It's suggested during the movie that Doris seriously resents her brother, but again, this is mostly resolved via montage. The ending also leaves us with the idea that cyber-stalking is the best way to get yourself a love interest, which isn't the best message to send. Overall, I really enjoyed the cast of this movie, and would recommend it. I just would warn the viewer not to expect much.

Sextette (1978)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Sunset Boulevard Come to Life, 21 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In the movie Sunset Boulevard, the character of Norma Desmond spends a good portion of the movie hard at work on a script that is eventually described as terrible and un-filmable once it is complete. I like to think Sextette is the film she was working on.

I will say this, even if you are the kind of person who has built a shrine to Mae West in your home, this movie should give you pause. 80-something Mae West plays a version of herself named "Marlo Manners." Ms. Manners is an international film star/sex symbol who has just arrived in London following her marriage to a 30-something Timothy Dalton. International intrigue abounds (Ms. Manners is naturally a skilled diplomat), along with some eye opening "musical numbers" that consist of the cast dancing around Mae West, who barely looks able to sway side to side in a consistent fashion.

Sextette is a campy delight, but it's also just really sad. Watching the movie, I think there is a real question as to how lucid Mae West was at this point in her life. She doesn't seem entirely aware of where she is, and her line readings are, at best, confused. Aside from those issues, the movie itself is just a bizarre vanity project for a faded film star who was still doing the same shtick in 1978 that she had been doing since the early 1900s. Overall, it's an interesting movie to watch, but also serves as a warning about knowing when to say "no" to a project.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Still Alice is stunning and mediocre at the same time., 23 May 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Still Alice tells the story of Alice, a linguistics professor at Columbia who notices that she appears to be losing her memory. This culminates in a moment of panic for her during a run when she seemingly forgets where she is, despite being in a place she regularly frequents. At that point, she visits a neurologist and it is revealed she has early onset Alzheimer's. The rest of the movie shows us her steady loss of self as her memory continues fading at a rapid clip.

This movie lives and dies with Julianne Moore. She is sensational in the role of Alice, and shows us all the little losses Alice suffers as she eventually fades to nothing. Her performance is such that she manages to carry the entire movie. The problem with this film lies with everything else. Alice's husband, played by Alec Baldwin, is essentially an empty vessel. He shows that he cares about Alice, but we are given little insight into him or what he is thinking. Kristen Stewart is slightly more developed as Alice's youngest daughter, with whom Alice has a difficult relationship, but eventually rallies to her mother's side. The other actors are given nothing to do. For example, in one scene we learn that Alice's oldest daughter has the same gene Alice does and will likely develop Alzheimer's at an early age like her mother. This plot point leads nowhere. It's mentioned once and never discussed again. Alice also has a son, but again, he is given nothing to do. He could have been cut from the film, and literally nothing would be different. It's all very disappointing.

Overall, I would say, see this movie for Julianne Moore, and just grit your teeth through the rest.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
An Interesting, Well Acted Film That Almost Works, 3 May 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The One I Love plays out like an extended episode of The Twilight Zone, which is both its strength and weakness. The plot is relatively simple, and plays for the first half of the film like a romantic comedy. A couple whose relationship is slowly breaking down is sent by their therapist for a weekend retreat. On that retreat, they meet idealized versions of themselves, and for a time, it appears they are a bridge to help the couple rekindle their romance. The movie then takes a more sinister turn as it becomes clear the "idealized" version of the couple is not what they seem.

The acting is very well done. Both Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass have a nice chemistry and convincingly play two versions of the same character. The weakness of the movie goes back to what I said about this movie playing like an extended version of a Twilight Zone episode. It feels as though there was simply not enough material here to really sustain the approximately hour and a half running time. There are points where the film drags, and very little happens. The movie could have been sharper as a shorter film. Overall though, it was a decent little film.

Chef (2014)
5 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Male Pattern Optimism, 2 July 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Chef is a movie that reeks of what former Washington Post writer Lisa DeMoraes called "male pattern optimism." Male pattern optimism is when in a TV show or movie, a mostly average looking actor ends up with a ridiculously good looking actress cast as his wife and/or girlfriend. In this case, you have Jon Favreau who gets to be with both Scarlett Johansson and Sofia Vergara over the course of the movie.

The movie itself is nothing spectacular. Favreau plays a chef who is more concerned with his food than his son. A bad review, followed by a social media blunder of epic proportions leads to the chef losing his job. The chef's ex-wife then sets him up to be his own boss with a food truck, and he and his son bond over a road trip from Florida to California. The movie is slow at points, and somewhat contrived, but largely inoffensive. At times, you may feel as if you are watching an ad for a certain social media company.

There are a lot of big names in the cast, but they are mostly wasted in cameos or roles where they are given little to do. This is not by any means a bad movie, it just suffers mostly from wasted potential and the feeling that it is going nowhere.

Admission (2013)
Woman Destroys Life Because She is Too Emotional, 22 January 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Admission is a movie that you wish was better than it actually is. It has a likable, talented cast, but a protagonist that would be described as an emotional wreck whose inability to separate her professional and private life has devastating results.

Tina Fey plays Portia Nathan, a Princeton admissions officer who seemingly has her life together, living happily childless with her long term boyfriend. Things begin to fall apart when said boyfriend dumps Portia for another woman he has impregnated. Portia then meets John Pressman (Paul Rudd) who further upends her life with the news that one of his students, Jeremiah, may be the child Portia gave up for adoption years before, and could she help him with his Princeton admission. John also becomes a love interest for Portia. Portia becomes attached to both John and Jeremiah which leads to an emotionally charged destruction of her professional life.

Admission is not a bad movie. It is not a good movie. It is somewhere on the spectrum between below average and average. At times, it seems like it wants to be a rom-com, at other times, it seems like it is a much more highly charged drama. It also feels like Paul Rudd and Tina Fey should have good chemistry together, but they just do not. Lily Tomlin is pretty good in her role, though, so there is that. Overall, I would say it makes for generally pleasant viewing, just do not go in expecting much.

An Interesting Premise Gets Sidetracked by Romantic Comedy, 29 July 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Friends with Kids is a movie that should be very good, but ends up falling somewhere around slightly above average.

The premise is rather simple. After seeing their friends have children and watching their relationships be seriously tested, two best friends (Scott and Westfeldt) decide to have a baby together to avoid what they see as the destructive force that a baby has on a marriage. At first, they claim the relationship will be strictly platonic, but then the movie turns into a romantic comedy and you know what ends up happening.

There are a few very good moments in Friends with Kids. When Jon Hamm calls out Jason and Julie for what he sees as their not taking having a child seriously, it's a good moment. When you see relationships fall apart and friendships end, those are good moments because there is a realism to them. Further, the movie is well cast, and the actors all work very well together, excepting Megan Fox, but that may be intentional in terms of her character.

The bad moments are when the movie is unwilling to avoid being a silly romantic comedy. You don't need to watch the second half of the movie because you know what is going to happen in terms of the relationship between the two protagonists. It's that predictable, and it ultimately hurts the movie quite a bit. So while I would recommend seeing the film, I would just warn you ahead of time to be ready for where it goes.

3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Love Means Never Apologizing For Your Money., 14 July 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Oliver's Story is a movie in desperate need of a purpose. Oliver, still grieving for Jenny after her death, refuses to move on with his life, despite nearly two years having passed since she died. He throws himself into his work helping the poor and rebuffs his friends' efforts to set him up with new people.

By chance he meets Marcie Bonwit (Candice Bergen), an heiress to the Bonwit Teller Department Store fortune. They get together, he seems to loosen up and enjoy himself, but Oliver is held back by his guilt over Jenny. Eventually Marcie tires of feeling as if she is competing with a dead woman, and breaks things off. In the background, are Oliver's father's efforts to get him to take over the family business and accept the responsibility that comes with being in the family. Somehow the break up of his relationship with Marcie inspires Oliver to finally move on with his life and accept his place as a WASP.

There are so many problems with this movie. The biggest issue is that Bergen and O'Neal have very little chemistry, and their relationship feels forced and pointless. She is like the anti-Jenny to the point she is telling Oliver to revel in his wealth. The other big issue is the total lack of a storyline. Oliver spends most of the movie moping, gets together with Marcie, mopes some more and then reconciles with his father. In between all this, very little happens. Marcie is a poorly developed character, and we are given no reason as to why she would try to invest so heavily in a relationship with Oliver. Overall, it's never clear what we are supposed to get from this movie, and it suffers heavily from that.

Blandly inoffensive, 29 April 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Larry Crowne is mostly a waste of good actors. Tom Hanks plays the titular title character who is fired at the beginning of the movie by his company for not having growth potential, as he has no college degree. Why Larry would not have been told this prior to his firing, as he is portrayed as a model employee, is never said. After Larry is fired he enrolls at community college where he meets a young pixie type who invites him to join a scooter gang. She also proceeds to make over Larry and improve his life.

However, despite this girl positively affecting Larry, Larry's love interest turns out to be his speech teacher, played by Julia Roberts. Robert's character is fairly awful. She's a horrible teacher and generally unpleasant to be around. She's also involved in a bad marriage and appears to drink too much.

The movie proceeds exactly how you would expect it to proceed. The road bumps are fairly minor, the characters don't really seem to learn much and in the end, Larry does find a new love in his teacher.

Overall, this isn't a bad movie, but it isn't a good movie. It's just kind of there. The characters don't seem particularly real, and the story is slightly ridiculous. There really isn't anyone to root for or against. Nothing unexpected happens, and while that is fine, it doesn't make for the most exciting movie.

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