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gregorybnyc

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Costner Flexes His Star Power in a Thriller That is A Lot of Fun, 21 May 2015
8/10

Ouch, some of the responses here are way too harsh. Have you seen the competition lately? Luc Besson, with the collaboration of Adi Hasak has created a star vehicle for Kevin Costner, one of the last big movie stars who can put me in a movie or home theater seat any day of the year. His dying CIA operative is terrific--hitting his action marks with the same expertise he handles the scenes with his wife, and daughter, as well as the amusing and touching family who has squatted in his long-abandoned Paris apartment. The mix of comedy and action works very well while still maintaining the demands of a thriller. Amber Heard is wonderfully over the top as Costner's CIA boss who is handing him perhaps his last assignment. Bailee Seinfeld and Connie Nielsen as his neglected daughter and long-suffering wife, also make fine contributions.

The bad guys here are really bad. Yes there are clichés. At first I worried that Besson was taking too much from his "Taken" franchise, and was relieved he didn't go there. And when the tense moments come, Costner's character too often succumbs to the effects of the experimental drug he's taking to keep him alive. While the comedy never spills into the wonderful absurdity of the "Red" franchise, 3 Days to Kill, is equally entertaining. Costner's other recent foray into the thriller genre, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, is a better film, but for sheer entertainment, this movie grabbed me and never let go. Kevin Costner has sustained a movie-star presence on the screen for more than three decades. He's mastered the art of the movie star, giving his audiences a body of work that will stand the test of time. Is it great art? No. But he's rarely lost his bond with his audience. Glad to see him back in such top form.

78 out of 87 people found the following review useful:
Fonda & Tomlin Are Magic Together, 8 May 2015
9/10

I will always love Lily Tomlin. I always enjoyed Jane Fonda in her youthful movie star mode, but since she came out of retirement, she elevates everything she's in. I think she was the primary reason I kept watching Newsroom for three seasons. I kept waiting for her every appearance. In Grace and Frankie, Tomlin and Fonda have to overcome a rather unbelievable situation--that is to face the fact that they husbands they have been married to for over forty years have somehow falling in love and intend to marry each other. Relegated to a kind of "Odd Couple" status, they end up living in a Malibu beach house their husbands bought years earlier. Each couple used the house on separate weekends. Now Grace and Frankie have to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives and move on. Jane Fonda as Grace is at her brittle comedic best. She delivers in spades, looks stunning in her latish 70s and plays off Lily Tomlin's hippy-esque character with spunk and funny nerve. Grace has to face the fact that she's an uptight, judgmental pain in the ass. And Tomlin's Frankie is just the person to remind her over and over again. The scripts are tightly funny. The interplay between the two ex-couples is expert. Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen have nearly thankless roles as the two spouses who dump their wives, but they handle the dialog ad the romantic banter with dignity. But let's face it, you're waiting for Grace and Frankie to spark off each other. It's not the kind of laugh-out-loud absurdest insults The Golden Girls hurled at each other with such glee, but the humor is key here. There is is just enough drama to remind us of the absurdity of life. I couldn't wait to watch this show when it was announced. Fonda and Tomlin were terrific with Dolly Parton in Nine to Five, but they are even better here. This is a terrific show. I'll stick around as long as these two glorious stars are here to make us laugh and cry.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Hugh Grant Recovers his Movie Mojo in a Redemptive Rom-Com, 27 April 2015

I'm not sure many people went to see The Rewrite. It received such little buzz that I was completely unaware of its existence. I've been hoping that Grant, who really had a long, A-list movie career in romantic comedies such as Four Weddings and A Funeral, Notting Hill, A Boy's Life, and Two Weeks Notice, would eventually rebound in something that required him stretch his talents. Earlier in his career he had done wonderful work before his rom- com success. Loved him Impromptu where he played the neurasthenic Frederic Chopin, and he was truly tragic as the high born British private school student in love with a fellow student who forsakes his homosexuality because it is not acceptable in his society. But I think the actor who charmed us in Love, Actually and was a pleasurable louse in Bridget Jones's Diary, has put his work on auto-pilot of late. Music and Lyric and Did You Hear About the Morgans? were pretty lazy movies, where he seemed to be in a coma. I thought his lack of a film profile of late indicated a desire to withdraw, or maybe he might explore edgier dramatic territory. So here he is, back in rom-com land, but with a bit more substance.

The Rewrite is actually more About a Boy than Four Weddings and a Funeral or Notting Hill. The worn out screenwriter who can't get screen work grabs at a job teaching in Binghamton, New York. He hasn't got a clue what's involved, thinking he can breeze right through it. He chooses his screen writing students based on their photos. He doesn't read their work and is constantly snide and snarky. He a bit of an arrogant chauvinist, offending the school's Jane Austen scholar (Allison Janney, a genius character actor who deserves her wonderful success). The equally wonderful JK Simmons offers one of his sharply observed characters as the head of the department, who is constantly reminding our hero that he is married with four daughters (shades of Jane Austen). Chris Elliott is a fellow teacher and his landlord. All these fine performers are here to gently remind our hero that he's an ass and needs to figure things out.

Enter the glorious Marisa Tomei as a single mother of two daughters who is a sophomore attending his screen writing class. it is her job to make sure our professor sees that his life isn't working. If all this seems a tad predictable, credit director/screenwriter, Marc Lawrence for his light but sure touch with the material. Grant is droll and funny and really engaging here. Tomei is such a wonderful film actress. She continues to offer great work in movies. May she make movies forever.

By all means try to rent or see The Rewrite. Nice to see Mr. Grant in such fine form again. Welcome back.

His agent (played by the wonderful Caroline Aaron),

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Game Cast Tries to Keep a Weak Script Afloat, 8 January 2015
4/10

A wealthy family gathers for a final summer weekend at their beautiful stone home on Lake Tahoe. Mom (played with her patented elegant glow by Patricia Clarkson) and Dad have decided to sell. Things are not boding well for this family gathering. One son has been fired from his job with a financial firm over an expensive clerical error. He arrives in a bad mood and everyone puts up with his insufferable, whiny behavior. The other son, who is gay and works in the film industry, has brought a friend with whom he is forming an attachment that doesn't quite feel like a relationship, and invited a female movie star friend. He is simply embarrassed by his mother's shallow, acquisitive behavior (at one point, Mama plunks down a considerable amount of money on artsy farmer's market things). Nobody is connecting in this family. Mom is a snob. Dad is remote. The kids bicker and look awkward. Throughout the first two-thirds of the film, I wanted to strangle Mom and the kids. But the skill of the actors are what keeps you watching. When there is some sort of sea change in the family, they become a little more likable. But I'm never quite sure why. At the end of the weekend, the son doesn't tell his mother about his work woes, and she doesn't tell either son that she's planning to sell their beloved summer home (though there is some doubt that this will actually happen). I suppose the family games will continue. This is a very well-made film with a strong cast, goo direction, excellent sets, good camera work. Did we need to have the trio from Mozart's COSI FAN TUTTE yet again (this has to be the fourth time I've heard it used on a soundtrack). The film's faults can be directed at a very weak screenplay. I'm not looking for a tidy denouement, but I do rather insist that things make at least a little sense.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Catherine Frot is a Magical Screen Presence, 25 February 2014
7/10

I've only seen Catherine Frot in one other movie--Coline Serreau's stunningly complicated CHAOS and she was marvelous. So when HAUTE CUISINE showed up on Netflix, I jumped at it. I love movies about food--WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CHEFS OF EUROPE?, BIG NIGHT, MOSTLY MARTHA, EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN, BABETTE'S FEAST. They almost always manage to find humanity, absurdity and gently funny moments associated with food. Based on the real story of the first female chef who comes to cook for President Mitterand at the Elysee Palace, HAUTE CUSINE is a sweetly earnest story of Hortense Laborie, a fine French cook who is pulled away from her truffle farm in France to become the personal chef of the French president. Along the way she will encounter the petty and mean-spirited competition from the all-male kitchen that serves the palace, as she works tirelessly to provide the President with the foods he remembers from his childhood. The story is told in flashbacks as Hortense s finishing up a year-long stint as a cook for a research group in Anartica.

What makes the film work is the casting of Catherine Frot as Hortense. This superb actress gives Hortense a tense, focused and convincing believability. Horrtense arouses total loyalty from her sous chef and maitre'd as the palace personalities around her make life often rather difficult. Losing her calm only once, Frot has a confrontation in the movie that is a very satisfying answer to the pettiness she is surrounded by at the Palace. It is in stark contrast to the grateful affection she is shown by the men she cooks for every day in coldly forbidding Anartica.

HAUTE CUISINE is a quiet film of disarming charm. It doesn't break new ground, but it is a very satisfying movie which Catherine Frot at its center. Some have complained here that is a trifle and I'm not entirely disagreeing, but it is a movie worth seeing. I know I'll be seeing it again.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Violent and Over-The-Top, But Good, Game Cast, 23 January 2014
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Thank goodness Bruce Willis and Sarah Jessica Parker have good chemistry because they are not allowed any time for a relationship to develop. In a blink they are smack-dab in a romance. But this police thriller has some funky, operatic and over-the-top moments that show the plot's weaknesses. The clichés keep piling up from the bad-mouthing, trash- talking banter between "Irish" and "Italian" cops, to the endless profanity, and the staginess of the big scenes. It's also pretty violent.

Bruce Willis is almost always a good action hero. Sarah Jessica Parker knows how to do the girl part perfectly. Their scenes have real chemistry. Dennis Farina is always a great cop and he manages to keep you fascinated even when his sons are acting perfectly ridiculous. John Mahoney, Andre Braugher and Timothy Busfield show their talent and professionalism and are captured before bigger roles made them major TV stars. I did find Braugher chewing up the scenery a bit too lustily in the hearing scene.

I save Robert Pastorelli's utterly hammy appearance for last. He's a fine actor and I loved his classically funny house painter, Eldin on Murphy Brown. But he's assigned the psycho role here and the screenplay doesn't give him any depth at all. He's just an insane psychopath. There's not a clue as to why he behaves as he does. Maybe the director should have stepped in more to tone it down. The final confrontation with Willis steals from every thriller you've ever seen, most obviously Fatal Attraction. And it goes on forever.

Rerun on TV it was fun to encounter this movie, which I had not seen when it was first released.

Not a Bad Movie if You Can Take Some Truly Mediocre Singing, 3 September 2013
5/10

I finally screwed up my courage and sat through this on Sunday. I thought the director did a very good job of pacing this dark and gloomy tale. But only Anne Hathaway could truly sing it, and her acting was touching and believable. She deserved her Academy Award. The rest of the cast was pretty miserable, vocally. I suppose Hugh Jackman has yelled himself out of a once truly nice Broadway lyric baritone. "Bring him home," was full or rocky moments, vocally, and he resorted to yelling without a floating lyric line, necessary for this difficult-to-sing role. Besides, asForbidden Broadway waggishly lampooned the song, "it's too high," for his lower-centered voice.

Russell Crowe was a dour Jauvert and his singing was unpleasantly one-dimensional. Samantha Barks' Eponine was sincere, but the singing was uneven. Amanda Seyfried's Cosette twittered in a high, squeaky, unsupported soprano that was unpleasant to listen to. Eddie Redmayne as Marius, sang well enough, but lacked charisma in close-ups. Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen mostly spoke their song lyrics, and "Master of the House" passed by without any impact at all.

Whoever was responsible for the musical side of things on this picture, was undone by camera-ready stars with inadequate voices. This is a sung-through musical, with dialog that requires expressive singing, near operatic singing. Only Marius's doomed revolutionaries had the necessary vocal thrust for their parts.

The reason the movie musical is an endangered species--oh hell, the genre is as dead as a western--is that movie studios put musical matters in the hands of people who don't trust the music to make its affect. The composers of LES MISERABLES intended for this score to be sung by professional singing actors. They had enough star power with Jackman and Hathaway. It didn't need mediocre singing to undermine one's enjoyment.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Compelling TV with A Riveting Star at its Center, 7 August 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've slogged through two full seasons and just about a quarter way through the third and final season of this nearly excellent series. Simon Baker play Nick Fallin, the son/partner of a Pittsburgh law firm. The other Fallin is the always excellent Dabney Coleman. Nick's day job is handling legal work for Pittsburgh's wealthy and powerful elite. But a nasty drug habit nearly derailed his career. To avoid jail, Nick spends a lot of his days working for a cash-strapped children's protection services agency that handles legal issues of the city's poorest, neediest, and in dire straights. Penance comes via helping these kids who have fallen through society's every crack in the system to find them homes, or shelters, or mental facilities, step-families, reunite them with lost relatives. These stories are heartbreakingly real. And the show's writers show no mercy. This is truly a show with virtually no happy endings.

To say Nick has issues is pure understatement. Outwardly glamorous, good-looking, successful, Nick is an emotional basket case, cut off from just about everything. He loves his father, but Burton's macho posturing and sense of his own power entitlement often puts himself at odds with his son. Father and son love each other deeply, but the writers never give them an emotional break from the nearly non-stop tragedy that befalls them in every episode. Worse, Nick's so busy putting our fires at the agency and at the law firm, he has no time to stop and take stock-- ever.

THE GUARDIAN will remind viewers of Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue, two classic Steven Bochco series. They all share that jerky, single camera, technique. The dialog is often gritty and the plots are freighted with tough irony and often senseless tragedy. The writers, sensing the characters of the young black lawyer, kills him off before the end of the second season, even though he was a regular the audience had already invested a lot of emotion behind. Why kill him off? It made no dramatic sense. The character of Jake, a kind of loser lawyer in Nick's firm, is often the brunt of cruelty and why? Because his legal degree is from a lesser college. Suddenly after two seasons, Jack is revealed to be in a homosexual relationship which comes out of nowhere. There was nothing in the character that would indicate he was gay and when it does comes to light, all the viewer can do is say, "huh." Talk about not seeing that coming!

Similarly, Nick's relationship with Lulu is puzzling. Both of them seem incapable of finding emotional balance in the other unless they are snatching a quickie. Then they put on their clothing and we're back in why-are-they-behaving-like-that?-land. Neither one of them ever raise their voices and its frustrating to watch them NOT connect. I agree with another poster who who said they truly lack chemistry. The actress who plays Lulu, is awfully tight lipped.

Alvin, the head of the children's protection services agency, is played by Adam Rosenberg (who had a nice run on Cybil). Alvin is full of Jewish schtick, plus he's a recovered alcoholic. We are asked to believe this deeply flawed character lives for the protection of the kids the lawyers are asked to defend. Yet Alvin's behavior is nuts. He interferes in issues that are none of his business, such as reporting a colleague's violence towards his badly behaved nephew when he decides to discipline him in a boxing match. Frankly the kid need his ass kicked, and Alvin's interference costs the kid his life, and ultimately the life of the young lawyer whom he respects. It's a stupid story line.

What makes THE GUARDIAN WORK is Simon Baker as Nick Fallin. He's not a flashy actor, and he works in a kind of minimalist way. He speaks quietly, and draws the viewer into his dark world of hurt, disappointment, frustrated love, and stress, as well as his ability to be both a shark as a corporate lawyer and a compassionate and empathetic advocate for lost kids You want him to make peace with his father once and for all, the cost on him is emotional distance. Baker shows all this and a lot more. Nick's flaws and complications make for a fascinating anti-hero character. There's ambivalence in the way he can work both sides of the law. You don't dislike this guy because he can be both bad and good. I think Nick is looking for redemption, but temptation is always calling him to err.

Kathleen Chalfont is a semi-regular on the series and should be singled out for praise. She should be working non-stop. Always investing her lines with a believability, Ms. Chalfont compels attention.

Because Simon Baker is so good here, I'll have to start watching episodes of Baker's current series, THE MENTALIST. I found this whole series on Netflix. Worth checking out if you missed it when the show first ran.

Compelling TV with A Riveting Star at its Center, 6 August 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've slogged through two full seasons and just about a quarter way through the third and final season of this nearly excellent series. Simon Baker play Nick Fallin, the son/partner of a Pittsburgh law firm. The other Fallin is the always excellent Dabney Coleman. Nick's day job is handling legal work for Pittsburgh's wealthy and powerful elite. But a nasty drug habit nearly derailed his career. To avoid jail, Nick spends a lot of his days working for a cash-strapped children's protection services agency that handles legal issues of the city's poorest, neediest, and in dire straights. Penance comes via helping these kids who have fallen through society's every crack in the system to find them homes, or shelters, or mental facilities, step-families, reunite them with lost relatives. These stories are heartbreakingly real. And the show's writers show no mercy. This is truly a show with virtually no happy endings.

To say Nick has issues is pure understatement. Outwardly glamorous, good-looking, successful, Nick is an emotional basket case, cut off from just about everything. He loves his father, but Burton's macho posturing and sense of his own power entitlement often puts himself at odds with his son. Father and son love each other deeply, but the writers never give them an emotional break from the nearly non-stop tragedy that befalls them in every episode. Worse, Nick's so busy putting our fires at the agency and at the law firm, he has no time to stop and take stock-- ever.

THE GUARDIAN will remind viewers of Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue, two classic Steven Bochco series. They all share that jerky, single camera, technique. The dialog is often gritty and the plots are freighted with tough irony and often senseless tragedy. The writers, sensing the characters of the young black lawyer, kills him off before the end of the second season, even though he was a regular the audience had already invested a lot of emotion behind. Why kill him off? It made no dramatic sense. The character of Jake, a kind of loser lawyer in Nick's firm, is often the brunt of cruelty and why? Because his legal degree is from a lesser college. Suddenly after two seasons, Jack is revealed to be in a homosexual relationship which comes out of nowhere. There was nothing in the character that would indicate he was gay and when it does comes to light, all the viewer can do is say, "huh." Talk about not seeing that coming!

Similarly, Nick's relationship with Lulu is puzzling. Both of them seem incapable of finding emotional balance in the other unless they are snatching a quickie. Then they put on their clothing and we're back in why-are-they-behaving-like-that?-land. Neither one of them ever raise their voices and its frustrating to watch them NOT connect. I agree with another poster who who said they truly lack chemistry. The actress who plays Lulu, is awfully tight lipped.

Alvin, the head of the children's protection services agency, is played by Adam Rosenberg (who had a nice run on Cybil). Alvin is full of Jewish schtick, plus he's a recovered alcoholic. We are asked to believe this deeply flawed character lives for the protection of the kids the lawyers are asked to defend. Yet Alvin's behavior is nuts. He interferes in issues that are none of his business, such as reporting a colleague's violence towards his badly behaved nephew when he decides to discipline him in a boxing match. Frankly the kid need his ass kicked, and Alvin's interference costs the kid his life, and ultimately the life of the young lawyer whom he respects. It's a stupid story line.

What makes THE GUARDIAN WORK is Simon Baker as Nick Fallin. He's not a flashy actor, and he works in a kind of minimalist way. He speaks quietly, and draws the viewer into his dark world of hurt, disappointment, frustrated love, and stress, as well as his ability to be both a shark as a corporate lawyer and a compassionate and empathetic advocate for lost kids You want him to make peace with his father once and for all, the cost on him is emotional distance. Baker shows all this and a lot more. Nick's flaws and complications make for a fascinating anti-hero character. There's ambivalence in the way he can work both sides of the law. You don't dislike this guy because he can be both bad and good. I think Nick is looking for redemption, but temptation is always calling him to err.

Kathleen Chalfont is a semi-regular on the series and should be singled out for praise. She should be working non-stop. Always investing her lines with a believability, Ms. Chalfont compels attention.

Because Simon Baker is so good here, I'll have to start watching episodes of Baker's current series, THE MENTALIST. I found this whole series on Netflix. Worth checking out if you missed it when the show first ran.

Toast (2010) (TV)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Disappointing Movie Made from a Fine Memoir, 20 June 2012
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I think Nigel Slater is the best writer about food in the English language today, and have read many of his cookbooks as though they are novels. I enjoyed TOAST, his memoir growing up in the drab late 50s and early 60s that was post-war England. Slater, the only child in a marriage of a dying mother and a cold and remote father, just makes you wish for a happy ending. Mother can't cook a lick except for making toast and mince pies. The food subjected to middle-class English households is pretty grim. Once mum is firmly dispatched, father engages a house-keeper, played with delicious relish by the wonderful Helena Bonham- Carter. She's a bit coarse, and determined to snag young Nigel's father. She does so with her superb cooking skills. But Nigel's stepmother isn't quite the monster he would have you believe (nor do I recall her being written quite that way in the memoir). In TOAST young Nigel is a sullen and angry boy (yes, his father is a cold fish), but his life is dull, with bad food. He's not abused, or mistreated, or unloved. That is a typical family of that era. I could understand his resentment of his eventual stepmother, but he is stiff-backed and cruel to her and she is mostly agreeable, holding her ground against this low-wattage brat.

In the movie, Nigel decides to compete with her as a cook, and she's not having it. She pulls out all the stops and she trumps him, until his father dies. Then the older Nigel is off for his culinary career, vowing never to set eyes on his step-mother again.

Frankly, my sympathies were with the stepmother, and not Nigel, as this movie disappointingly droned on. There is much charm and lovely observation in the real Slater's memoir and I wish I had suck to that only.

A young Oscar Kennedy makes an impressive film debut as the younger Nigel with Freddie Highmore stuck trying to give the teenage Nigel some interest. Ken Stott is excellent, but ends up with one-note rage as Nigel's father. Victoria Hamilton imbues the role of the dying mother with a wistful sadness.

The film belongs to Helena Bonham Carter. Always a good actress, even when she fails (she got Mrs. Lovett in SWEENEY TODD nearly right, but ran off the rails for lack of a real voice to sing this tough part). In a career that is now over two-decades long, she's making an indelible impression in nearly every film she takes on these days, which is terrific. Someone has to fill the shoes of Maggie Smith and Judi Dench, and Carter is more than their rightful successor.

Though TOAST sports a good, game cast, it is let down by an ill-conceived approach to this story and a director who lacks a light and sensitive touch to pull it off.


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