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A Decent Bar Setting Air Disaster Movie, 31 March 2015

While the collaboration of Ernest Gann who wrote the novel (1953) and screenplay that inspired The High and Mighty movie (1954) along with its director William Wellman, some might argue that this movie was more of a spin off of their earlier collaboration a year earlier of their first air disaster genre movie, Island in The Sky (1953). While these films are considered ground-breaking and setting the bar for future air disaster movies such as Airport (1970) the purportedly mainstream blockbuster of the 70s, a few airplane movies have moved on since in their cinematography and substantive character/relational presentation.

While The High and Mighty has become dated, unlike say 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), there a moments, particularly the human elements that remain special even through to this day by their emotional impact and their amazing brevity that still somehow captured mini-stories of importance, perhaps due to the talent of both Gann and Wellman. Overall, the movie feels more like a transitional movie from the theatrical stage to the big screen, where obvious artificial set designs are periodically used and the acting at times seems to be slighted artificially forced, but in instance, much more muted and refined than the overly dramatized standard of the era.

Perhaps a more gripping and thrilling recreation of an air disaster of the same era comes in the form of a story inspired by Ernest Gann from a 1961 memoir he wrote but eventually distanced himself the movie script that was the basis of Glenn Ford's air disaster movie Fate Is The Hunter (1964), or Sidney Lumet's nuclear cold war movie Fail Save (1964). Or extending the genre into more contemporary transportation/space disaster genre, one might even consider Gravity (2013) to be the ultimate in disaster movies. Or extending the air disaster genre in the psychological thriller subgenre, one might consider the eerie performance of Ann Hathaway in Passengers (2008). Yet the most closely related, quality movies that might be considered true successors to The High and Mighty would be the remarkable docudrama of Air Disasters (2011) or United 93 (2006).

Magical Romance, 29 March 2015

I'm reminded of Sarah Michelle Gellar in "Simply Irresistible" (1999). The experience of love seems magical, ever since the classic romantic movie Three Coins in the Fountain (1954) which was nominated for Best Oscar. As impractical as it seems, love seems to defy reason and mathematical precision and probability, from Practical Magic (1998) and witchcraft to love as impractical and worldly crazy as Sandra Bullock in All About Steve (2009).

This movie is enchanting, entertaining, and perhaps ridiculous, but it is fun, and a feel-good date movie that is mysteriously predictable, but mostly stress-free, get one's mind off of everyday "crap." A get away fantasy movie. A good time with Kristen Bell of Frozen (2013) fame.

An Entertaining Thriller that Misses, 19 March 2015

Michael Caine headlines this light crime thriller with its underplayed comedy. The movie contains one of the most extended chase scenes with a variety of action stunts as part of a rather convoluted crime caper. While the main story backbone remains intact, a number of the subplots seem to get short shrift and underdeveloped: the involvement of the Mafia, Caine's relational encounters, and the ended seems intriguing, but unsatisfying.

The car chase was amazing and yet distracting as the persistent Italian police seem to some how pop up in an unbelievable way that only highlighted how manipulative without thought this sequence was. The movie has a Blue Brothers (1980) feel to it while it doesn't quite have the amazing lighter of say It's Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) slapstick fun factor nor the nicely concluded The Great Escape ending (1963).

Overall, the original Italian Job was interesting, appealing, but nevertheless, less than stellar.

Cinderella (2015)
5 out of 34 people found the following review useful:
An Uneven But Lavish Spectacular Fiary Tale, 17 March 2015

Oddly enough, this visually epic, lusciously presented live action version of Cinderella has its amazing moments but at the same time inconsistent tonal qualities. Without the traditional musical accompaniments, this famous fairy tale of the movie must depend on a superb script and directorial expertise to maintain a grand fairy tale extravaganza quality. Yet at the beginning of the movie there is more is presented more as a period piece than a fairy tale and the tempo slows way down with lumbering exposition and dramatic license that takes some of the magic away from the movie. The fusion of both substantive live action drama along with the lighter fantasy elements are uneasily blended together.

It is the amazing magical moments between the lead characters, Cinderella and the Prince that the true inspirational fireworks explode into a compelling experience. The opportunity to flesh out the evil stepmother and stepsisters is sidestepped which would have been more consistent with a more dramatic and fully developed fairy tale. Johnny Depp in Finding Neverland (2004) offers up the nicely balanced serious but lighter tones that would have provided the solid foundation on which to present this more lively version of Cinderella or to have gone with a musical live version that would have allowed the music to enhance the fairy tale experience like Craig Ferguson's created in his written, directed, and starred in "I'll Be There" family drama that included both fine humor and music.

In some ways the magic of the fairy tale nature wasn't there as the live action family drama at times became more pervasive even as the overly heavy use of the narrator attempted to keep that storyteller flavor intact. The movie might have also been better if it had been structured more like dramatic and seemingly magical ambiance of The Secret Garden (1993) a period movie about a young British girl who is forced to live his uncle or Hugo (2011) rich visually period piece of historical fiction about a boy who lives in a railway station. Of course a live action version of Frozen (2013) about two princesses one who has apparently magical powers approach would have been intriguing to attempt. Personally Drew Barrymore's Ever After (1998) retains the strongest presentation of the live action fairy tale.

An Edgy Final Tribute to Robin Williams, 17 March 2015

It's really hard to distinguish Robin William's character from is own real life persona in this movie. It will be interesting to see how this movie is experienced in the future when the immediacy of William's own real suicide has faded in memory for audience members. One fascinating question will be how Peter Dinklage's character as a "small person" is experienced. Was it William's suicide that distracted focus on Dinklage's "small person" presence in the movie that allow this "small person" to be cast and scripted and acted without any "smallness" attributed to him? His character and how others behaved around him, presented one of the few, if only, movie where size was absolutely not even noticed.

Robin William's character was edgy and raw, Robins wasn't a singularly bad or nice character, yet his personal legacy of the end of his life and his redemptive spirit seem to echo throughout the movie. The movie is necessarily a drama with humor incorporated into it and William's humor as a person continues to color it. This is a message movie, a morality tale, an emotional thriller running against time. Unlike Michael Douglas's character who beings to fall apart in Falling Down (1993) or Christian Slater's pent up psychotic experience in He Was a Quiet Man (2007), Robin portrays an angry man with a terminal illness who will die in a short time. As such, such life transforming experiences vary, but in this movie, there is a lasting tribute and morality tone that is apt for being one of Robin's last movies.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Real Mystery Thriller Better Than Fiction, 16 March 2015

With so many mystery thrillers out there along with reality television, it becomes pretty crowded and nauseating to watch it all. But here comes a docudrama that is firmly rooted in re-creations based on authentic presentation and in doing so, makes this television series among the most engaging and thrilling that the medium of film can offer out there. Each episodes contains documentary like precision with the reenactments carefully following dialogue that captures the reality of the moment making each episode vicariously compelling. The storyline is well explained and executed, the human element well presented along with an emotional connection, and the scientific road to discovery all make this CSI-like experience all the more intriguingly better than fiction. Highly rated for its appealing performances and substantive content that pulls the audience directly into the storm.

A Difficult But Nicely Balanced Dramatically Edited Movie, 9 March 2015

With all the characters, the emotive comedic and dramatic plots, and multi-generational time periods to be captured on film, this movie is a result of a remarkable editing and directorial job to make it enjoyable, balanced, and appealing watchable. The interweaving comedy offered up by the characters along with some fairly emotionally violent scenes is made possible by well executed editing and timing. This movie looks at the connections of family dynamics through time, the dysfunctional impact of differences is memory perception and recall, the horrors substance abuse, family violence, and neglect. This movie is about facing the past, talking, and resolving family problems instead of allowing them to fester and tear a family and current relationships apart. It is facing up to problems through openness even though it hurts.

Other powerful familial stories are presenting in the more youthful and serious focus in Where the Lilies Bloom (1974), the family serio-comedy Uptown Girls (2003), the family drama with ethnic humor Lost in Yonkers (1993). Ya Ya Sisterhood is less consistently dramatically intense than say the dysfunctional mental family issues of Proof (2005) but much less silly and delightfully ridiculous than the insightful family comedy of Paddington (2015). This movie is more in the vein of the generational depiction found in Drew Barrymore's experience in Riding In Cars with Boys (2001) or less raw seriousness of Nicole Kidman's experience in Margot at the Wedding (2007) or similar to the depiction of the consequences of abuse and neglect in The Human Stain (2003). Perhaps, Ya, Ya Sisterhood might be closely compared to the multi-generational performances found in Georgia Rule (2007) and even more entertaining than the classic depiction of American dysfunction found in American Beauty (2000) or less epic and substantively dense than the gorgeously depicted ethnic generational piece of The Joy Luck Club (1993).

In short this entertaining movie has something valuable to say about family and secrets.

2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
A Truly Strange Black Comedy Action Movie?, 21 February 2015

It's uncertain whether or not Kingsman reflects the best of the evolving black comedy trend in movies or not and whether such a trend is a passing or permanent element of a classic movie. Whichever it is, Kingsman currently is a superior film with its finely honed balance of black, dark murderous content being portrayed alongside British, gentlemanly wit. This film is a Colin Firth's best actor Oscar high English version of the The King's Speech (2010) meets the comedic spy romp of James Coburn's Our Man Flint (1966) meets the hard edged, raw espionage of the refurbished, rebranded James Bond in the form of Daniel Craig in Casino Royale (2006). Dark comedy in the spy genre has been gaining more prominent film focus as they have evolved from the more entertaining comedy action motif of the popular and zany Wild, Wild West (1999) or the romantic interplay of Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) taking on the more darker and serious ambiance of the action crime thriller, The Dark Knight (2008) as Sam Rockwell in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002) and Pierce Brosnan in The Matador (2005) seemed to make be some of the first forays into this gumbo of movie genres that began with the classic Pulp Fiction (1994), Kingsman appears to take its basic thematic tone from the blackest of action comedy of Uma Thurman's Kill Bill 1 & 2 (2003, 2004) and incorporating a culturally off-balance brush stroke of the military black comedy war movie Tropic Thunder (2008). Recently a number of movies have taken murderous death and blended these atrocious acts with a finely balanced hue of comedic overtones such as Bill Nighy's Wild Target (2009), Violet & Daisy (2011), Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly (2012), Kevin Costner in 3 Days to Kill (2014) and Katie Holme's very proper but fatalistic Miss Meadows (2014). Kingsman includes the added bonus of a strong performance as a villain in the form of a fascinatingly speech impeded Samuel L. Jackson. This dark comedic action thriller comes across as something, fresh, new, and bold while sustaining an especially emotional intensity throughout and grabbing the audience refusing to let them go until the end. Whether or not this whole creatively new comedic frenzied experience is a passing endorphin high or some established benchmark of greatest remains to be seen.

The Prince (2014)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A Pretty Good Action Thriller That Misses, 12 February 2015

With a new and brilliant overall directorial and script approach, The Prince almost avoids the typical, traditional action thriller motif. Unfortunately along the way, it misses a few key elements, as this movie stumbles a bit from being perhaps the first action thriller classic since The Bourne Identity (2002). There is a special charm and distinctive plot flavor that permeates this movie. It is rich with humaneness and there is a pungent odor of unwritten honor in the script's characters. Even the "pick something up" from a pawnshop scene is radically different from traditional shoot'm up, bang, bang scenario. Like Bourne Identity, The Prince doesn't become a lurid sexual exploitation film and the role of the girlfriend is fascinating in its depiction in the movie. While John Cusack's secondary role might be considered underdeveloped and underused, his role as a supporting character might actually add to the integrity of this more divergent version of an action movie.

An energized, pounding rhythmic musical beat paces along with the movie. The movie moves slowly at first, but continually building at its own speed. There is a later shoot out, and it's a puzzling question of believability and yet there is also something about the rapid pacing and quick action of the scene that makes it more effective in its way, instead of the traditional drawn out, over-stylized special effects action scene.

The two major problems with this movie is its less than convincing protagonist. His intellectual and fighting skills aren't really displayed with much more than a Terminator-like ferocity. About a little more than a third of the way into the movie there is a chase, one that offers a stark difference with Jason Bourne's film, Bourne Identity. Instead of some almost supernatural telegraphed ability In the to evade and elude and instead a dependence on what up until now was a much more performance-based, rough but authentic build up to a very classy espionage, taking movie. The climatic ending also doesn't end at the level of satisfaction or completeness that the movie has been building up to. The director had a choice between a startling more surprising ending that might include a more human element or the full display of the protagonist's abilities and talents which were missing.

In short, The Prince was decent but more of a big missed opportunity.

Fury (2014)
0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Solid, 9 February 2015

Fury has nice pacing, engaging, and a balanced action drama of the tank warfare of World War II. This movie excels in its presentation of war that is both shocking as it is penetrating in its intensity and different perspective of military shells. There is a surprising, almost a futuristic laser blasters visual in the action scenes.

This what is an essentially coming of age movie for one young new recruit at the end of the war exposing him to the horrors and delicate negotiation between war's insanity and human propriety. Fury, though doesn't quite have the intricate touch of comedic subtlety and cultural imbalance of Tropic Thunder (2008), nor the epic presentation of Saving Private Ryan (1998), the intimacy and continuous singular battle event focus and intensity of Black Hawk Down (2001) or We Were Soldiers (2002), the comprehensive nature of a predominate war struggle of survival of The Great Escape (1963), the darkness and totality insanity of Apocalypse Now (1979), or the raw, authenticity of Jarhead (2005).

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