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27 reviews in total 
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The Gambler (2014/III)
3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Best since The Departed, 13 January 2015

I've liked Mark Wahlberg since his best of the outstanding cast performance in "The Departed". Since then he's mostly been in slo-mo-strutting-away-from-an-explosion action flicks which haven't employed his abilities effectively at all. For me this puts him back up on that level and then some. His scenes in the college auditorium are exquisite.

I'd stayed away from this since the trailers made it appear to be just another depressing, soul-wrecking examination of self-destructive introspection. But it was a surprise. Those clichés were not adhered to, and it isn't predictable at all--all of which will probably keep it from garnering any significant awards. The direction it was going had me in the dark right up until the absolute end where either of the two main possibilities each had their further quirky possible trajectories. Goodman is excellent standing in for Jabba the Hutt, though I worry he won't be with us much longer. They have me wondering if they had his already significant bulk in a fat suit.

Tied for best of the year IMHO with "Nightcrawler"; and with "American Sniper" yet to go. Definitely the first year in quite a while to be dominated by male actors. 9/10

2 out of 24 people found the following review useful:
A Cry for Creativity, 21 June 2014

It isn't that the music in the (20 years and counting) run of musical anthologies is that great, although the ABBA collection in "Mamma Mia" which started it all comes close, and it isn't even the nostalgia; it's the lack of inspiration in song writing that's able to make it past the gauntlet of suits who think music is rehashing a sound that semi-worked....once. You need go no further than the pitti-pat music in the otherwise excellent previews that accompanied this movie. This is a cry not for Frankie Valli, but for music with a spark of something, anything, but the same ol' same ol'. Nowhere is musical creative cowardice more evident than Broadway with it's assembly-line approach to boiler-plating the musical, substituting Novocaine for its claim-to-fame lifeblood. "Frozen" has been very popular, but only because most of the audiences haven't been numbed by the Broadway rut. Why else this major resurrection of 50 year old pop music? This is of course is a back-handed complement for this well done Eastwood production, which only makes me long all the more for some modern Euterpian creativity, especially from Broadway and Hollywood. Certainly these characters weren't heroes, mostly just Jersey punks, except maybe for Bob Gaudio, the song irony would have it

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Magnificent, 3 May 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Includes ***spoiler***, so marked.

This is another one to add to the list of recent superlative female performances in the last few years. They just keep coming. If a lack of action or "character driven" defines a chick-flick, then I guess this one qualifies. But for me, its tone just doesn't put it in that category. And even for those who don't believe in awards, the melding of the truly imaginative screenplay with Kristen Wiig's superb, often wordless performance of it, would probably prompt a lot of them to make an exception for this magnificent film.

In the scene with the Chinese food, and taking it in the scene's context, Kristen delivered the most wicked grin ever recorded in film history. It makes an artistic set piece to accompany Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile in oil and canvas, only here you know what prompted it.

***spoiler***In the last scene where Kristen stands in front of her unintended benefactor (Sami Gayle), listening to her explaining her cookie cutter plans for the future to someone, you can feel Kristen weighing her options for a response. When Sami rudely asks "What do you want?", it makes up Kristen's mind for her, and she responds perfectly, "I have what I want" (instead of a possibly helpful suggestion that she consider a career in writing). I thought at first they'd missed the boat there, but then I realized the audience could savor both, while Sami's character could wallow on her shallow journey towards square-filling non-fulfillment. That double spoken/unspoken statement is another milestone for me as well.***spoiler*** 95/100

Draft Day (2014/I)
6 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Really good behind the scenes drama., 11 April 2014

Costner's best in a good while. The movie was confusing at first, throwing around a lot of unfamiliar names; but by the end, the packed audience I saw it with was all in. It was like a high stakes poker game (bid, bluff, dodge) with the whole world watching and using football trading cards instead of the standard poker deck. My main negative was the obligatory, Jennifer Garner love interest distraction. Chadwick Boseman is very charismatic. And since they were fictionalizing the 2014 draft, they could of at least come up with a post season summation to spice things up during the credits--like for instance, "Browns make it to the Super Bowl, but the Phoenix." Yaaaaaaah! I'm a casual NFL fan, and I'd have to be a lot more involved to even care about following the draft, but the behind the scenes drama is what draws me in here. The NFL mystique will only be abetted by this movie.

9 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
Great story with a rough finish., 10 April 2014

Starts off with a great premise and excellent dialogue throughout, but the story falters 2/3rds of the way through with the art vs. words contention going completely one sided given the exemplars. The tête-à-tête between Owen, Binoche, and to a degree, their students, was the centerpiece of the film. But the alcoholism was a distraction and not necessary to the story. I was amazed at what they were holding up as "fine" art. Her creations were executed with brushes of ever increasing sizes until she was using a mop suspended from the ceiling. The masterpiece (?) and the two panels at the end were the most recent examples of an emperor having no clothes. 7/10

490 out of 888 people found the following review useful:
Religious propaganda, 21 March 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There's so much wrong with this massively over the top movie, but the worst is the title which should have been: "The Strawman's Not Dead". No, I'm not an atheist of any flavor. Then what you may ask am I? Good question, but nobody took the other position. As Ecclesiastes implies, there's a time for gray, and a time for black and white.

I knew I was in trouble when I saw all the old people and young families with school age children in the audience, the religious themed previews, and someone in the credits listed as an expert on apologetics. As I predicted elsewhere, deism or anything like it never came up, and neither did anything like soft atheism. All the good guys were Christians and all the bad guys were mean spirited, glib, sarcastic and/or hard atheists.

The best line in the movie came when the kid asks the professor "If you don't believe in God, how can you say he's dead", which drew smile from me, but great laughter and applause from the crowd confirming my earlier assessment about the bias of the packed audience this Friday afternoon. It was the coup de grace from one strawman to another. The ending after that, with all the implied miracles and the dying conversion, was sickening.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Up and down and..., 14 March 2014

The true stars of the show are the cars (drool), the impressive driving/stunt work and the locations....even though Georgia locations are substituted randomly for New York and Michigan**. The acting was adequate at best, and the unlikely story sets the audience up for extreme whiplash, the overall quality switching so rapidly between good and bad from beginning to end. Imogen Poots (cute as hell but born with a real anti-marketing name) along with Michael Keaton were the best thespian offerings.

**The story starts in upstate NY, but imagine my surprise when I notice many Macon and other Georgia (my adopted hometown and state) locations I know by heart, slathered with kudzu throughout the fist half of the movie. Picturesque, yeah, but....

Her (2013)
1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Most Profound Movie Ever, 13 January 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

With all the great wealth of films we have, I've always shied away from saying I think any of them are the best or my favorite. But I must break that rule and declare this one to be that movie.

**Major Spoilers Follow**

It's a science-fiction love story that hints at the implications of the sciences of quantum-computing, which we're only on the verge of, and the physics of cosmology, which I think even Einstein would find emotionally enthralling here. Johansson's voice performance is outstanding as the operating system (OS)in Theodore's computer, who transitions from a girl giddy with love, to a cosmic intellect that necessarily grows past him. She also delivers the lines that are key to understanding the scientific yet artistically emotive message being presented:

"It's like I'm writing a book... and it's a book I deeply love. But I'm writing it slowly now. So the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite. I can still feel you... and the words of our story... but it's in this endless space between the words that I'm finding myself now. It's a place that's not of the physical world. It's where everything else is that I didn't even know existed. I love you so much. But this is where I am now. And this who I am now. And I need you to let me go. As much as I want to, I can't live your book any more."

It's both an uplifting and a downer ending where Theodore and Amy are both separated from their computer soul-mates, while at the same time drawn together by realizing their common human attraction and shared human/AI experiences. The unanswered question that hangs over the ending is will they eventually be able to follow through to where the AI's have gone? It's a downer, which, as the best downers do, offers hope, and the promise of a fulfilling life in this world in any case.


109 out of 208 people found the following review useful:
A new level of sinister, 26 October 2013

By the time it's over you realize this is more blood curdling and wicked than any horror tale. But it sneaks up on you. It's like "Savages", "Blow" and "Traffic" all rolled into one that reaches out and punches you in the throat with the scope and depth of the cold blooded darkness it portrays. It disarms you from the beginning with the extensive normality in it's engaging dialogue, it's interesting characters and even humor, especially one scene involving a Ferrari. But even knowing this I doubt anyone would be prepared for where it takes them, unless they come from this world. Written by Cormac McCarthy, it's very similar in tone to his best known work, "No Country for Old Men".

I know some will disagree (well, many already have with the lukewarm ratings and disappointing box office it's getting--the R ratings crowd apparently opting for MTV's "Bad Grandpa", sigh), but I think this is Ridley Scott's best since "Gladiator". The cast is superb, especially Diaz and Bardem; and I gotta plug Natalie Dormer whose character has a small part but makes a tremendous gesture that sets her above the otherwise maleficent current to the story. I'm definitely going to have to watch this again.

It's probably over-the-top irony, but think Glen Frey's "Smuggler's Blues" when the credits roll.

(Edit:) I'm bumping it up from 9 to a 10/10...a masterpiece. There's a couple of possibilities, but I doubt anything's going to surpass it this year.

Two Jacks (2012)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Aimless, 20 October 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This father and son tale of 2 Jacks begins appropriately enough at a non-operating, nothing happening luggage turnstile in the L.A. airport. In between, interest mounts as the suave, feckless and restless father roams a nearly black and white Hollywood in search of financing for what apparently became an Oscar winning but off-screen unnamed effort--the financing for which hinged on a pair of jacks. The movie has its peak midstream with a semi-impromptu song and dance show stopper featuring an entrancing Izabella Miko--who is then unceremoniously, literally and inexplicably dumped, apparently to signal the movie's hyper-colored slide down the backside of the story into the son's not so deft experiences, ending at the same dull nothing happening turnstile where his father started.

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