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Miss Meadows (2014)
One of the Most Effective Black Comedies
Katie Holme's as executive producer stars as a charming but oddly pert, proper, but with a secret that develops into almost fanciful character, one of the most unique in film history. This truly black comedy resonates with the odd character of Renee Zellweger in Nurse Betty (2000) and the wildly dissonance of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002).
The enchanting darkness in this movie is even more edgy and emotional intimate than Pierce Brosnan in The Matador (2005) or Wild Targets (2010). It perhaps comes closest to Kevin Costner in 3 Days to Kill (2014). The Twilight Zone of imagination between light and dark is on full display in this creative and meaningfully deliciously conflicted movie.
The Grand Seduction (2013)
A Nice But Not Great Re-Make
Having seen the original French movie entitled, "Seducing Doctor Lewis (2003)," and talking with its director at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2004, it's difficult to really describe The Grand Seduction as original. The few weaknesses of the remake, include a confusing opening scene, a quick cut away from the doctor's favorite dish being served at the local pub, and the lack of chemistry between the doctor and the local beauty, and the rather unconvincing ending set up.
Nevertheless, Brandan Gleeson offers up a delightful main character, while the doctor played by Taylor Kitsch doesn't quite have the same film persona as say Patrick Wilson who starred in the one television season on A Gifted Man (2011) who played a doctor who see his dead wife. Wilson had a rather sharp, intelligent, interesting persona. Overall, this version of Doctor Lewis is funny, dramatic, and cute with its irony, but doesn't quite have the charm of say The Decoy Bride (2011) where a famous actor attempts to wed on a small, isolated island out the news media spotlight.
Entertaining but not Superlative Comedic Action Thriller
This entertaining wry comedy thriller has plenty of action and mishmash of good and bad guys chasing after Patrick Wilson's character who still obsesses over his ex-girlfriend while finding himself as a limo driver who ends up with a billionaire with strange tastes played by Chris Pine of the rebooted Star Trek fame. The storyline holds together pretty well though some of the logical points are a bit bent out of shape. Apparently this is a movie after all, right? One can find some elements of the comedy spy action movie Red (2010) played by an aging ensemble of A-listed stars, Eddie Murphy's Beverly Hills Cop (1984), and John Cusack in War, Inc (2008).
Stretch beings a masochistic and weird tone into the mainstream as Patrick Wilson's weaves his away around many threats to his life with at times a witty voice over and periodic fateful occurrences. Somehow, the eventual outcome of this movie doesn't quite add up to more than the sum of its parts and offers up a entertaining but nevertheless not quite as substantive and deep a movie as well as completely satisfying a movie as it could have been.
Gone Girl (2014)
I suspect why this movie is getting rave reviews and good box office turnout is due to its sustained measured suspense as a dramatic thriller where the who done it element becomes convoluted and layered with great emotional intensity as the audience is seemingly and subtly manipulated throughout the movie as to Ben Affleck's character and the apparent absence and presumed demise of his wife. Things become extraordinarily complicated that gives the audience a continuous shot of neurological brain transmitters of titillating endorphins.
One other pertinent fact that impacts my own personal experience watching this movie is that living in Utah where Susan Powell disappeared who lived in West Valley City, Utah and whose body was never been found and Josh Powell, her husband, was suspected in her disappearance and who later killed himself along with their two children. There were many parallels between this real event and Gone Girl.
But perhaps I am getting old; and watching this movie I'm reminded of
Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in The War of the Roses (1989). If
the movie had stopped two-thirds of the way through the movie with the
first major twist, I might have really enjoyed this movie in its
totality, but it continued with this odd twist that seemed like a guise
for greatest as a film. Needlessly the audience is forced to watch a
rather predictable sequence of events that seem creatively amazing but
somehow it just seems tacked on with the appearance of genius. I can
understand why this movie would seem innovative and offer up some new
revelation of the human psyche not see before on the big screen.
Perhaps its just I was unfortunately lucky to begin to put the pieces
of this mystery thriller together too soon, but this overly long, in
places overly slow paced movie became too predictable, foreshadowing
its scenes and the ending. For awhile the plot and characters were
fascinating, the plot intriguing but eventually, the movie just seemed
very good. Others might conclude this movie portrays a rather unique,
albeit rarely seen complex characters who diverge from the ordinary two
dimensional personas. While this might be true, there is something
off-balance but not in aesthetic way, but detracting way.
What David Fincher is striving for is one of the most difficult
achievements in film directing. His effort is commendable, if somewhat
unsatisfying for me. If the movie had been shot in the style and tone
of say cerebral spy thriller The Russia House (1990) or Ben Affleck's
The Sum of All Fears (2002), Gone Girl would have come across more in
keeping with the icy, frigid psychologically tension and dramatic tone
of the theme of the movie. One of the best examples of this conflicted
tone might be Brad Pitt's character and performance as scripted in
Interview with A Vampire (1995) or his scripted performance in the
dramatic crime thriller Killing Them Softly (2012) or even Nicholas
Cages scripted portrayal in The Weatherman (2005) or Daniel Day-Lewis
in the drama filled There Will Be Blood (2007). Even the classic bitter
sweet relational drama and alcohol-riddled theme of The Days of Wine
and Roses (1962) has the oil and water imbalance that however is
deliciously sweet and sour tone that this movie might have been well to
have captured. Or take Nicole Kidman's harsh but memorable role in
Margot at the Wedding (2007) or her role in Dogville (2004) or what
happened to Brad Pitt in the superb mystery crime thriller Se7en
Other edgy movie themed and uneasy but dramatic riveting movies that
capture the paradoxical tone of beautiful ugliness include William H.
Macy in Edmond (2006), Sam Rockwell's fascinating character in
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), the dysfunctional family of
American Beauty (2000), or Tom Cruise in Collateral (2004) even whose
title is reflective of the dissonance of a battle where innocence is
destroyed. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in director Stanley Kubrick
seemed to capture both the cinematic beauty and the uneasy alliance
between the unusual, fantastic in an artful and sinfully beautiful way
with characters that sometimes lack in moral turpitude in his Eyes Wide
Shut (1999) or take the sociological business war with its incumbent
cold calculating businessmen of The Social Network (2010). Even Leo
DeCaprio seemed to capture the decadent attractive sleaze character in
The Great Gatsby (2013) or his performance as Howard Hughes in The
Aviator (2004). What seems to be missing is the more balanced
background of the development of the relationship, a better visceral
sense of the characters as they evolve which is conveniently missing
during the movie, except with deliberate shocking sometimes
unflattering flashbacks which was seemingly achieved with one character
played by Christian Slater in He Was A Quiet Man (2007). The real fault
in this very difficult film is that absence of the depiction of the
behind the scenes of the false facades and the real persona essences of
which even the characters themselves are unaware so as to reveal the
hidden pane in Johari Window.
Coming Home for Christmas (2013)
A Decent Feel Good Holiday Movie
This movie is a predictable, holiday movie that doesn't turn into a classic or add much in the way of originality. However, the acting, the storyline, the holiday ambiance are all in evidence. What is nice about this movie is that its about family, sisters, reconciliation, and the holiday spirit meaning its not hard to watch, it doesn't push tragedy into your face.
This is light comedic romantic movie about breakup and a simple, but convoluted plan to bring a family back together again. What this movie offers is a nice movie experience that's entertaining that doesn't require a lot of thought. This is one of those date movies during the Christmas holidays.
The Breakthrough Sci Fi Movie of the Decade
Interstellar (2014). What stands out in this movie is the role of emotion and how the script introduces a fascinating "long-distance" relational component of parent-child interaction unlike those movies with a similar powerful, intense, and emotive impact found in the horror movies of Jennifer Connelly's performance in Dark Water (2005), Radha Mitchell's performance in Silent Hill (2006) or John Cusack's performance in 1408 (2007). Interstellar is today's version of the 1950s sci fi classic Forbidden Planet (1956) in storytelling, big scale, and special effects, perhaps rivaling 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) of the sixties, or the sci fi monster thriller hit of the1970s Alien (1979) in its scale and authenticity or the inspirational, newly presented idea film of the last decade of the super hit Avatar (2009). The interweaving of two story lines in this movie was also a huge editing and script challenge that was well handled and presented on screen. Interstellar is solid story telling with its dramatic but not overly stylish Hollywood gloss and glamour as of say Avatar or Forbidden Planet. Even Ann Hathaway's under-stated surprisingly diminutive performance stands out as a directorial and acting highlight considering Hathaway's bigger than life screen presence and public popularity of the past that enhancing the impact of the movie.
The overall direction and performances in this movie are introspective and authentic in their approach much like that found in the sci fi drama Stranded (2001) or Apollo 18 (2011) that don't rely on big screen stereotypical theatrics to wow its audiences. Somehow this supposedly epic sci fi adventure is as intimate as Cloud Atlas (2012) was as large spanning literally hundreds of years. Unlike a number of other review references comparing Interstellar to the visual style of sci fi action thriller Inception (2010) or some brief resemblance to Gravity (2013), Interstellar seems to take more from the sci fi relational drama Upside Down (2013) and the sci fi space drama Elysium (2013). As for plot outline, one can argue that Interstellar has more in common with the sci fi mystery of Oblivion (2013) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). And in contrast, the minimalist music score is in departure to A Space Odyssey's dominating and sometimes haunting musical score. This mind twisting experience includes pieces of the emotion and twisting, off balance characteristics of Déjà vu (2006).
Some might complain about the extended dialogue, there really is a more satisfying exchange of relevant thoughtful ideas during this movie that are interspersed among amazing special effects that are leading edge for our literal time and space. When it comes to cerebral and emotive impact, Interstellar does so in a more narrative, mystery drama fashion as Ender's Game (2013) hit the similar points using a war action, adventure motif. The sci fi television mini-series The Triangle (2005) brought many of the intriguing and suspense aspects in a lower budgeted, popular mass audience approach, but also indicating how Interstellar was presented in a quality, big budget, high definition big screen format with a corresponding mesmerizing impact. What makes Interstellar so markedly ground breaking is director's Christopher Nolan's leap with this movie in its freshness and significantly different visual presentation, its tight editing and retention of the human relational importance while also presenting to dual track story outline in seamless and meaningful power way. Interstellar recalls the similar breathing mind-bending experiences in Brainstorm (1983) with Natalie Wood and Christopher Walken. Contact (1997) with Jodie Foster and also co-starring Matthew McConaughey, the children's version of A Wrinkle In Time (2002), the otherworldly time altering classic of Slaughter-House Five (1972), the haunting alien ambiance of Solaris (2002).
We Were Soldiers (2002)
A Somber, Whooping, War Drama
Some people might refer to Saving Private Ryan (1998) as one the great classic war films, especially its extended opening scene of the landing on Normandy Beach on D-Day. Others might refer to Black Hawk Down (2001) for its extended failed military mission in Somalia as one of the most gripping battle action films. Still others would cite Apocalypse Now (1979) as the most intense, personal, surrealistic war movie. Other films that people would laud loudly about would include The Hurt Locker (2008)or Dr. Strangelove (1964) for their cynical look at war, Jarhead (2005) for its immersive, ambient experience of long moments of war.
We Were Soldiers, however, is an unabashed look at the terror and fearsome pain and emotional ripping apart of familial bonds and the heat and sorrow and fear and honor and courage of the individual and team effort of battle. Regardless of how might believe, feel of President Obama's reluctance to continue American commitment to Iraq or Afghanistan, even Syria, this movie is a must see before one should reflect on the realities of war and its impact. Perhaps the closest this movie might come or a movie to compare We Were Soldiers to might be the epic Civil War movie Gettysberg (1993). We Were Soldiers is presented in a non-glorified way with an inclusionary experience of the wives of many of the soldiers as well. We see glimpses of the Vietnamese soldier themselves.
The only small weaknesses of this movie might be its imbalance of primarily focusing on the American military experience with a significant but still token view of the emotive backdrop of the Vietnamese and one scene where there is an attempt to local lost American soldiers on the field of battle that doesn't seem quite realistic and perhaps even fool-hearty as well as omission of some of the more graphic hand to hand combat images while at the same time including the bloody bullets ripping through bodies themselves. But none of these weaknesses detract from the overall greatest of this movie.
In sum We Were Soldiers seems to reflect some of the best, if not the best directorial, scripted, and filmed movie about the awfulness of war in a human and compassionate but somber way.
One of the Most Effective Horror Films in Years
Very surprising, this amazing horror movie, against expectations thrills with its tight editing and smart, intelligent plot outline. The details of the rescue attempt, the set up, the tension build-up, the shocking scenes all, the performances based on the believable script all contribute to an fearful, palpable ambiance. The elements of blackness taken from the classic mystery thriller Wait Until Dark (1967) to the unknown killer next door theme of John Carpenter's The Thing (1982), this crime, mystery, occult, horror thriller unfolds in a titillating manner that both the logical chain of events as found in sci-fi thriller The Andromeda Strain (1971) fused with the tense biting action of Speed (1994) in an exclusively confined space or twisting psychological torment of Ann Hathaway's Passengers (2008) or the intensity of Brad Pitt's Se7en (1995) or Leo Decaprio's Shutter Island (201) and the dramatic criminal impact of Gone Baby Gone (2007) or even the eventually creepiness of Nicole Kidman in Dogville (2004) in an occult, horror form can emulate.
Visually Creative Action Thriller
Bunraku brings up similarities in visual style and tone of such movies as an action-thriller version of the Brendan Fraser's comedy Monkeybone (2001), the garishness and surrealism of the early transformed movie version of Batman (1989) using even more of the stark elements of Pulp Fiction (1994) with animation and live action. This movie has more stylization than the contemporary otherworldly, horror movie The Devil's Carnival (2012). The set design at times simple as Dogville (2004) and awkwardly fascinating with its animated fusion like Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1998). There is a playful parody of the update fifties film noir Sin City (2005) as a martial arts film. The plot outline is predictable, with loads of dramatic, extended violence as in Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2004). Perhaps, this movie might be considered unique in its narrative approach and visual technique for telling a typical martial arts movie.
Big Ass Spider! (2013)
An Entertaining Action Black Comedy
In the same mold as Arachnophobia (1990) and Tremors (1990), this sci fi monster action mystery thriller has blacker scenes if not tone than those movies. While not a classic and the special effects not superb, the pacing and the comedic action is pretty decent, even the destruction scenes are adequate for this parody on the monster movie. Greg Grunberg who made his small screen mark on Heroes (2006-2010) stars. Better than expected, the biggest weakness are its death scenes which don't seem consistent with the tone of the movie breaking the parody theme of the movie. The buddy scenes however are some of the strongest, most solid parts of the movie with their humor and fun play and smart witty dialogue.