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Into the Storm (2014)
Breathtaking special effects
I think the special effects were even better than in, "The Day After Tomorrow." The storm scenes are unbelievably intense; it felt like it was in 3-D, and I was wedged up against the back of the chair, holding my breath, the whole time. Although I didn't know any of the actors, I thought the casting was excellent.
The one weak spot was the inevitable single mother/drop-dead-gorgeous tornado scientist; I could have done without that cliché. But the movie is so fast-paced, I didn't have time to dwell on negatives; I was completely caught up in the spectacle.
Definitely recommended for those who like disaster movies; may be too scary for those who have lived through a twister.
The Uninvited (1944)
Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey star as siblings who buy a huge, old English house (sans electricity, of course) on a cliff over-looking the sea. They soon feels chills and hear ghostly sounds at night.
This is a wonderful movie, genuinely scary but completely non-violent. The Oscar-nominated, black and white photography in the creepy, dark house is outstanding and the fear of things that go bump in the night is what makes this one to watch with the lights on. Milland and Hussey are witty and urbane and Gail Russell is sweet as a neighbor girl with an interest in the house.
The lovely, "Stella by Starlight" is played several times and the entire soundtrack is excellent. This is a good old-fashioned thriller with a few laughs to break the tension.
The Book Thief (2013)
"But in the end there were no words."
As the story opens, it is 1938, and a young German girl whose mother cannot keep her, is sent to live with strangers. Little Liesel adjusts to her new life with the help of her kindly new Papa and the books she steals, which teach her to read. But life becomes frightening when the war starts and the family decides to hide a Jew in their home.
This is an exquisite movie, the best I've seen a long time. The story is unforgettable and the cast is outstanding. Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson are wonderful as Liesel's foster parents Sophie Nelisse is perfectly cast as Liesel, growing from age 8 to 16. We see the war through her eyes; she is unflinchingly brave and lovable.
There is a small amount of violence, mostly bombing, with just enough good people to show that life is worth living. This is a tear-jerker, but well worth watching.
Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
Excellent acting but forgettable story
When the author of "Mary Poppins" comes to see Walt Disney about making her books into a movie, we learn a lot about her childhood and the inspirations for her characters. She's a rigid sourpuss, immune to the warmth and charms of Mr. Disney, however, and won't even consider the changes he wants.
The constant flashbacks to P.L. Travers' idyllic-then-tragic childhood are quite interesting (although I still don't understand the title). Tom Hanks is utterly lovable as Disney and plays well against Emma Thompson's brittle, control-freak old maid, Travers. It's fun to see the two pros act together.
There is a lot of trivia for fans of the Mary Poppins movie, but this is actually a very lightweight and inconsequential story, more suited as a "extra" on the Mary Poppins DVD, rather than a full-length film. I enjoyed it but have forgotten most of it already.
Liam Neeson stars as troubled air marshal Bill Marks, who is enroute to London. He starts receiving text messages saying someone on board will be killed every 20 minutes unless $150M is sent to a secret bank account. And then people start dying.
In this movie, every character, except for Bill, is set up as a likely suspect; they all look very shifty and fully capable of murder. It's fun to watch everyone look guilty and my mind was racing to figure out the culprit (I couldn't.). Neeson is outstanding as the air marshal, running the gamut of emotions from grief to confusion to terror; he's instantly sympathetic and likable. Julianne Moore is good as Bill's seat mate and it's great to see Michelle Dockery ("Downton Abbey") as a flight attendant.
From the opening moments, I felt uneasy; that quickly turned to paranoia and then fear. The story kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time and I really enjoyed the mystery of it. Recommended.
This should have been a thrillingly romantic, sweetly funny movie that touched on loneliness and following one's heart to find real love. Unfortunately, it turned out to be an unfocused, unfunny, and decidedly unromantic story that is very unsatisfying.
Keri Russell looks like the perfect in-love-with-love Austen fan, but Jennifer Coolidge is coarse and annoying playing her usual dumb blonde. There were two men who could have fulfilled Keri's fantasies, but both of their parts were poorly written. Neither man was heroic enough to match Keri's idealized Mr. Darcy.
The whole set-up of the "amusement park," Austenland, was poorly realized and the rules for guests were confusing. Jane Seymour was unappealing as the Austenland owner; she should have been funny, but she wasn't.
I'm glad the book is better than the movie. But then, it would have to be.
Lo imposible (2012)
Frightening true story
Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor star as parents who take their three sons to Thailand on vacation where they become victims of the deadly tsunami of 2004.
Every minute of this true story is gut-wrenching, from the incredibly realistic recreation of the tsunami to the mass death and devastation afterward. Watts and McGregor are excellent as the suffering and selfless parents and Tom Holland gives a wonderful performance as their brave young son.
I saw videos of the disaster, but putting a personal, family face on the horror makes it all the more real and heartbreaking. Filmed on location in Thailand, the movie is intense and very moving. Highly recommended.
Captain Phillips (2013)
Thrilling and unforgettable
Captain Rich Phillips (Tom Hanks) was taking his American cargo ship on a routine voyage off the coast of Africa, when a small band of armed Somali pirates boarded the ship. While most of the crew stayed hidden, the pirates took Captain Phillips hostage in a lifeboat.
This movie, based on a true story, is extremely intense and exciting, so frightening, I don't think I could have watched it on the big screen, but on DVD, it was riveting and enlightening. There isn't any real violence until the very end, but the drama is kept at a unbearable level by the non-stop yelling of the pirates. Their leader is played by Barkhad Abdi in his first acting role. He is outstanding and deserves his nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Tom Hanks delivers a powerful performance, remaining calm and providing a balance to the pirates' hysteria.
The script manages to elicit sympathy for the pirates because of their miserable lives; they live in abject poverty, forced to hijack ships by their warlords or die. The movie is excellent and highly recommended.
Rock of Ages (2012)
The main plot is about a boy and girl from small towns who meet in at a rock club. The subplot involves an aging rocker (Tom Cruise) who is appearing at the club.
What a terrible movie this is. I was embarrassed for Tom Cruise who is never believable as the stoned, groupie-lovin' rock star, Stacey Jaxx. Oh my, the tattoos, the (un)sexy wardrobe, the mumbling, the singing...it was all too much.
And what can I say about Alec Baldwin who wears a Garth Algar wig and plays the club manager. He must have been paid a ton of money to do this movie - it looked like an SNL sketch.
Paul Giamatti is the only one who actually acts convincingly and his part is small.
Oh, it's a rock opera. Awful.
The Big Wedding (2013)
Robert DeNiro is divorced from Diane Keaton and living with Susan Sarandon. Robert and Diane's adopted son is about to be married and they have to pretend they're still married so as not to offend the son's conservative mother. Their daughter is leaving her husband and their other son is embarrassed to still be a virgin.
A far-fetched plot and a motley collection of completely immoral losers make for a disgusting movie. There are a lot of big names in it, none of whom should be proud of their work. The script is full of profanity.This is altogether without redeeming qualities and recommended only for those with junior high leanings.