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When the Game Stands Tall (2014)
Simply Good Movie...
There was a local HS water polo team in our audience, attending this movie with their coach, and they were all revved up, animated, and having fun talking about it in front of the theater when the film was over. It's really all about Bob Ladocouer's coaching strategy "the brotherhood of the team" at DeLasalle HS, located in an East Bay suburb near Oakland, California. The school and coach are famous, at least in No. California, for their 151-game winning streak and subsequent regional titles. The movie depicts the true story of a racially and economically diverse bunch of young male athletes being able to overcome differences and personal challenges. Many develop their potential, grow in confidence and maturity, and strive for success in their lives after high school because of lessons learned from being part of a team with a coach and staff who, collectively led them to overcome the odds and become better than they thought they could be. There are scenes of real-life tragedy and triumph that are included as more of a backdrop to the story than a central theme, but aptly illustrate how "victims" in any situation can become "victors". There are a lot of long scenes of football bashing & crunching, which some may find "too long"...the actor who plays Coach Bob is low- key intense, rather than dramatic; dialogue is ordinary vs. Hollywood-ish, but in the end, a tribute to exceptional coaching is made, message received.
The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)
Cliché a La Mode with Topping of Schmaltz
This banal film lacks all the ingredients of a good movie. Its' tragic beginning in India quickly descends into fairy tale mode, with one scene after the other featuring cliché dialogue, events and musical background. Instead of developing the underlying culture clash storyline, the producers choose to make commercial soup which never rises above the superficial. Their recipe? A pretty French town with some computer-generated background, mixed with a few long shots of fireworks and the Eiffel Tower, and throw in a gazillion mind-numbing close-ups of food preparation and drizzled dishes, and voila! You have zee movie! I'm not mentioning the actors because it's not about acting, it's about stereotypes of egotistical chefs, snotty French people, and hard-bargaining Daddies from India. And amazingly, this movie is only half-baked after 2+ hours, by which time, the audience is dozing and wondering, "why didn't I just stay home and watch the Food Channel?"
Get on Up (2014)
More than a Ten!
This movie is so fabulous, I'm definitely going to see it again. The acting is brilliant, with a tour- de-force performance by Chadwick Boseman as James Brown. The singing, the music, the dance moves are all so right and entertaining. Seeing JB way back when made me realize how other artists were influenced by his genius...Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson to name a few. Besides all the on-stage performance thrills, the movie has real heart and makes you care. Through Chadwick Boseman's eyes, expressions and emotional outbursts, you can easily see the boy inside the man James Brown. There are memorable scenes between JB and his Mama (Viola Davis) his Aunt Honey (Octavia Spencer), his muse Bobby Byrd (Nelsan Ellis) and his music agent (Dan Ackroyd). Add in great camera work and sharp editing, and you get to feel like you were actually there for JB's evolution from boy to man, his creative journey from gospel to funk, and all the passion, drive for excellence and energy it took to take him soaring to the top and stay there for so many years!
Overlong Film Puts Audience to Sleep!
Captain America lacks humor, engaging plot and script, relying solely on special effects and promotions to get box office honors! And to make matters worse, it dragged on forever! It was a silent audience for the entire 2 hours, not a chuckle was heard, and when it was finally over, the audience just walked out the door with not a soul staying for credits or musical score.
From start to end, this was just a mish-mash of unengaging computer imagery, with so many scenes of shoot-em-up violence, shattered glass and chaos that it got boring within the first half hour.
Camera work was shaky, editing poor with overly long scenes, and actors either miscast or just reading their lines without impact.And if there was a music score, I sure don't remember it.
And good acting just wasn't there. The CaptainAmerica actor used a faint persona drawn from Tom Cruise, who, with his intensity and charisma, would have raised the movie to a higher level. His strong woman cohort, played by Scarlett Johanson, was especially lackluster, with her only notable expression being frowning occasionally. And, casting an aged Robert Redford as villain was poor casting extraordinaire! Redford lacked energy, intensity, and physical presence as an actor.
If you enjoy watching a Hollywood-style extravaganza with 90% special effects and actors sleep-walking through their lines, Captain America is for you! Even our 14 year-old for whom this movie was probably made, said "we should have gone to Spiderman!"
Heaven Is for Real (2014)
A Film to Inspire
I really enjoyed this sweet, small-scale film with a talented case led by Greg Kinnear! He disappears beautifully into the part of Pastor Todd Burpo, real-life father of the little boy who experienced heaven during an emergency operation. I also appreciated that this was not a typical Hollywood movie in that the focus was on life rather than death. The drama of how Faith and Love empower the human spirit was inspirational, and I left the theater feeling better than when I entered.
The young actor who played Todd's son, Colton Burpo, was absolutely perfect in the portrayal of the awesomeness of his experience combined with the everyday desires of a four- year-old. The look in his eyes, facial expressions, the way he walked were all spot on, and the scenes with his father were touching as the sharing of his experiences helped the dad renew his faith during a time of many obstacles.
Liked, but Didn't Love It
I enjoyed this film mostly because of Judi Dench who quietly conveys the personality of the real Philomena in a believable way. She became victim to the lifelong pain and unresolved guilt caused by getting pregnant in Ireland when she was young, and being dumped on the local convent nuns by her father during the 50's. Lacking the courage and resources to escape and avoid the adoption of her young son to wealthy Americans, she matures and develops curiosity about how her son fared, and whether he ever thought of her. That seems to be the driving force in her quest to engage the journalist in helping her find him in America. For me, the movie contrasts the conflict of strong beliefs: the institutional Catholic belief about sin and atonement in the 50's; Philomena's regret that she was not strong enough to hold on to her son at any cost; and the cynical journalist's blame game and anger that life isn't fair (i.e., an Oxford graduate shouldn't be unemployed and depressed.) I liked that the movie let that conflict just hang out there, but believe it would have been a better movie if there had been more time spent exploring the underbellies of conflicting beliefs, and less time spent on running old flashback footage of her son.
About Time (2013)
It's "About Time" We Have a Fabulous Drama/Comedy
We loved this movie, and definitely see it as PG-13! The "R" rating is wrong, and I would encourage any family with teens to see it. It is beautifully scripted with excellent acting by the entire cast. The dialogue is heartfelt and original, especially between father and son, Bill Nighy and Domnhall Gleeson, who are superb portraying the humor and unabashed love that can exist in a family when there is a core of acceptance and support for each other. The time travel device , or "do-overs" is cleverly used to show how self-confidence and doing the right thing create desired outcomes. As the story evolves, the father/son time travelers discover that do-overs aren't always possible, and ultimately learn to fully engage in enjoying life as it comes, rather than reserving their feelings for another day.
Blue Jasmine (2013)
Much Ado About Nothing
This is just another typical Woody Allen film, full of emotional upheaval and short on anything else. It is a contrived story about two unrelated women, who were adopted by the same parents years ago. One (Jasmine) has "superior" genes to her "sister" (Ginger), but both end up beaten by the game of life. Jasmine from New York comes in to Ginger's life in San Francisco because of her successful husband's downfall. Through flashbacks, we see Jasmine and hubby living "the good life", full of clichéd snobby dialogue, gestures and hammy bad treatment of Ginger and first husband years ago. Fast forward to the present, where all is lost! Superficial Jasmine has become pill-popping, vodka-swilling stress bunny extraordinaire, sighing, moaning, lip-curling over Ginger's orange apartment and her loser boyfriends. Somehow, although the action is San Francisco, everyone we meet has a strong Bronx accent, and of course, the usual Woody Allen New York jazz-style soundtrack follows the action wherever we are. Simplistic and shallow as it is, Cate Blanchett tries very hard to channel Lauren Bacall and make something of her role, but cannot overcome the dumb plot and poor script.
The Internship (2013)
Can I Get My Money Back?
This was one of the worst, most boring, poorly scripted movies I've ever seen. Clearly Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are on the downhill slide as actors, and their attempt to revive the energy in "Wedding Crashers" was a dismal failure. There were so many contrivances to create laughs, and the film failed on every count. When we viewed, there were maybe 20 people in the theater, and not one chuckle or laugh was heard. There was one scene with Vince, Owen and Will Farrell that tried to revive "Wedding Crashers", but was so lacking in humor, it was truly grotesque, and completely mean-spirited. The writing on this film was below sophomoric level, and camera work, editing equally sub-par. If the producers were trying to portray a high tech company, like Google, they failed miserably. If they were trying to parody high tech culture, they also missed it by a mile! Thumbs down, my friends. This is a real dog.
Overblown and Overrated
I kept thinking through this movie that it was expressly created to be a path to the Oscars for Denzel Washington, the formula being put an actor in an unattractive role with fat belly, bad attitude and an addiction, and you're on your way. But, "Flight" doesn't make it because the plot line is too predictable and shallow, the characters are caricatures, lacking believability and connection with each other, and the screen writing amateurish. Especially exaggerated scenes involve John Goodman's dope dealing character, which is so blatantly parodied, it can't be taken seriously. And there is an embarrassingly poor scene that coincidentally introduces "Whip Whitaker", alcoholic pilot extraordinaire to the ferret-like "Nicole" re-habbing heroin addict. As the two meet for the first time in the hospital stairwell for a smoke, they are all of a sudden joined by a dying cancer patient who is dragging his drip-line apparatus up the stairs, looking for a ciggie to mooch. He is given a whole pack by Whip, and in return, he makes a muddled speech about dying, how good it feels to be alive, and retreats back down the stairs. Another contrived interplay occurs when Whip, looking for cover, visits his injured for life, young co-pilot in the hospital, and things really get out of hand when the co-pilot's young wife keeps interrupting them with "Praise Jesus" utterances, until they all join hands, and the screen mercifully fades to black. And here's a good question...why would Whip's crewmates, who all seemed to know about his history of pre-flight cocaine and alcohol shenanigans, ever want to get in an airplane he's piloting? And are airline execs and union bosses really this corrupt and anxious to get old, drug- addicted pilots off without consequences and back up there? Finally, if you're looking for a real movie about addiction and broken relationships, check out "Crazy Heart" with Jeff Bridges in his Oscar-winning role. It has all the heart and soul, and fine performances that "Flight" does not.