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2121 reviews in total 
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Self/less (2015)
'Immortality has some side effects.', 27 November 2015

Spanish brothers David and Alex Pastor wrote the story and produced the screenplay for Indian director Tarsem Singh of this a bit off the wall story of shedding – or transfer of consciousness into another body. The idea is fine and the acting is very fine but somehow the telling of the story gets sidetracked into a bit too much back-story to make the film flow smoothly.

The brief synopsis (without all the paraphernalia imposed on it during the telling) is a dying real estate mogul Damien (Ben Kingsley) transfers his consciousness into a healthy young body of an ex-soldier Mark (Ryan Reynolds), but soon finds that neither the procedure nor the company that performed it are quite what they seem. The head of the company is one Albright (Matthew Goode) and imparts a sense of sci-fi feeling that dilutes the plot. As the story unfolds we discover that Mark has a wife (Natalie Martinez) and child for whom he sold his body to Albright's company for funds to aid his ill daughter to use in the act of shedding for Damien. We are able to watch the process of consciousness transfer and the new life that Damien (in Mark's body) and that is well done. But as Albright says to the questioning Damien the younger aka Mark, 'as you slip away, do you feel immortal? We offer humanity's greatest minds more time to fulfill their potential. Designed to offer you the very best of the human experience.' Were it not for Ryan Reynolds' ability to carry off this intellectually absurd role the film would likely fail. He is supported by a fine cast that includes (besides Kingsley, Goode, and Martinez) Victor Garber, Derek Luke, and Michelle Dockery.

Definitely a film for sci-fi fans, but it raises questions about brain manipulation that give us pause to think. Grady Harp, November 15

The Gift (2015/VI)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
'See, you're done with the past, but the past is not done with you.', 22 November 2015

Australian Joel Edgerton is an exceptionally talented man – he is highly regarded as an actor, a writer, and director – and he brings all three of those talents to the screen in this psychological thriller THE GIFT. The dialogue is exceptionally fine, the pacing is excellent and the manner in which the story unfolds holds many surprises as well as a number of fine lessons in interpersonal responses.

Simon (Jason Bateman – so fine to see him step away from the line of brainless comedies in which he was type cast!), and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are a young married couple whose life is going just as planned until a chance encounter with an acquaintance from Simon's high school sends their world into a harrowing tailspin. Simon doesn't recognize Gordo (Joel Edgerton) at first, but after a series of uninvited encounters and mysterious gifts prove troubling, a horrifying secret from the past is uncovered after more than 20 years. As Robyn learns the unsettling truth about what happened between Simon and Gordo, she starts to question: how well do we really know the people closest to us, and are past bygones ever really bygones?

This is a smart, sophisticated film, beautifully photographed by Eduard Grau and with a musical score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans that maintains the suspense. The cast – the three leads as well as the supporting roles - is outstanding. This is a movie that is far better than the usual thriller. Highly Recommended.

Mr. Holmes (2015)
'There seems to be an outbreak of mortality.', 15 November 2015

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would likely be please with this resurfacing of his iconic detective Sherlock Homes at the end of his luminous career. Based on the novel by Mitch Cullin ("A Slight Trick of the Mind'), adapted for the screen by Jeffrey Hatcher, and directed with great sensitivity by Bill Condon, this film is for connoisseurs of detective tales. It is completely satisfying from every angle.

The story is set in 1947, following a long-retired Holmes (Ian McKellen in a brilliant performance) living in a Sussex village with his housekeeper (Laura Linney) and potential detective son Roger (Milo Parker). Holmes, deals with early dementia, as he tries to remember his final case 30 years ago, still unsolved, and a woman, the memory of whom still haunts him. He only remembers fragments of the case: a confrontation with an angry husband (Patrick Kennedy) and a secret bond with his beautiful but unstable wife (Hattie Morahan). Mix that with a trip to Japan ostensibly to find a cure for his dementia in the plan Prickly Ash, Holmes' obsession with his apiary of bees, an encountered with a disgruntle Japanese man (Hiroyuki Sanada), the strange influence of a glass armonica instructor Madame Schirmer (Frances de la tour) and Holmes back and forth characterization between the aged mind and the earlier detective form and the result is a film that is rich in color and nostalgia and very fascinating storyline. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, November 15

Beautiful and heart warming film, 13 November 2015

Writer (with Phillipe Blasband) and Director Jean-Pierre Améris has created a stunning film that speaks about people born with disabilities and how in the case of this character those people often become significant contributors to our understanding of humanity at its most sensitive. Based on a true story the film is radiant in both the acting and the extraordinary setting in which the story is presented.

The synopsis outlines the message very succinctly:' At the turn of the 19th century, a humble artisan and his wife have a daughter, Marie (Ariana Rivoire), who is born deaf and blind and unable to communicate with the world around her. Desperate to find a connection to their daughter and avoid sending her to an asylum, the Heurtins (Gilles Treton and Laure Duthilleul) send fourteen-year-old Marie to the Larnay Institute in central France, where an order of Catholic nuns manage a school for deaf girls. There, the idealistic Sister Marguerite (Isabelle Carré in a luminous performance) sees in Marie a unique potential, and despite her Mother Superior's skepticism, vows to bring the wild young thing out of the darkness into which she was born. The film recounts the courageous journey of a young nun and the lives she would change forever, confronting failures and discouragement with joyous faith and love.'

A sensitive film, rich in message and in visual realization, this is one of those quiet, uplifting films – especially made for those who tire of the deluge of killing/action/crash/apocalyptic/undead films that assault our senses. Highly Recommended.

'Not a lot of the other Klan members could be that articulate.', 7 November 2015

Writer director Mike Binder has created one of more sensitive films dealing with racial issues yet to be made. He has produced a story, directed it with such sensitivity with an outstanding cast that it absolutely serves not only every ward the film industry can give but also the recognition of everyone working for equal rights. The script is brilliant, rich in humor and pathos, and very, very intelligent.

The synopsis is too brief but offers the flavor of the film: 'BLACK OR WHITE is the story of a grandfather Elliot (Kevin Costner) who when his wife Carol (Jennifer Ehle) is killed in an automobile accident is suddenly left to care for his beloved granddaughter Eloise (Jillian Estell) – a child born to their daughter impregnated at age 17 by an African American junkie Reggie (André Holland): the daughter dies in childbirth and who died in childbirth. When her paternal grandmother Rowena (Octavia Spencer) seeks custody with the help of her brother Jeremiah (Anthony Mackie), the little girl is torn between two families who love her deeply. With the best intentions at heart, both families fight for what they feel is right and are soon forced to confront their true feelings about race, forgiveness, and understanding. Anchored by an all-star cast and based on real events, the movie is a look at two seemingly different worlds, in which nothing is as simple as black or white.'

In addition to the brilliant cast listed above there are cameos by some rather extraordinary actors – Paula Newsome (a gifted and rising star who plays the judge), Mpho Koaho who plays Eloise's tutor, and Joe Chrest – Elliot's attorney partner and best friend.

The film belongs to Costner, Spencer and Estell – and it could not be in stronger hands. Highly Recommended.

Southpaw (2015)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
'I can't lose my daughter. I'll give you my everything.', 1 November 2015

How many times can this story be told? The answer is like 'infinite' because we see the same sad boxer film with different twists and casts almost every year. SOUTHPAW was written by television series writer Kurt Sutter and directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Shooter, Equalizer, Olympus Has Fallen, etc). The reason the tired story and slow movie holds together is due to the splendid acting of Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker, Oona Laurence and Naomie Harris. Otherwise it is a predictable, slow moving, same old story rehashed.

The story? – 'As tragedy strikes him in his prime (his beloved wife Maureen – Rachel McAdams – is killed after he has won the title of boxing champion at Madison Square Garden), famed boxer, Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) begins to fall into a great depression. Once the decision regarding the custody of his daughter Leila (Oona Laurence) is under question, Billy decides to get his life back on track by getting back into the ring. He turns to trainer Tick Wills (Forest Whitaker) to help him get his life back on track after losing his wife in a tragic accident and his daughter to child protection services.'

The musical score is James Horner's last and it is sad that it is so weak. There is some fine cinematography by Mauro Fiore – lots of closes ups of boxers beating each other bloody – and some moody lighting. But in the end - no surprises, completely predictable, and very slow. The reason for enduing it is the extraordinarily fine acting by Gyllenhaal et al. Grady Harp, November 15

'Some stories are just too true to tell.', 25 October 2015

Michael Cuesta (Homeland, L.I.E., Dexter, Six Feet Under, 12 and Holding etc) knows well how to balance fact set against the fiction the governments of the world would have us believe. Journalist Peter Landesman wrote the screenplay based on Gary Webb's series 'Dark Alliance' (the true story on which this film is based) and Nick Schou's book 'Kill the Messenger'. The story is shattering as is the cinematic portrayal of this 1990's incident. Gary Webb is now deceased.

The film brings up memories that riveted us to the newspapers as we read the true story of journalist Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner is a quality performance) who as a reporter becomes the target of a vicious smear campaign that drives him to the point of suicide after he exposes the CIA's role in arming Contra rebels in Nicaragua and importing cocaine into California. The film takes place in the mid 1990s, when Webb uncovered the CIA's past role in importing huge amounts of cocaine into the U.S. that was aggressively sold in ghettos across the country to raise money for the Nicaraguan Contras rebel army. Despite enormous pressure not to, Webb chose to pursue the story and went public with his evidence, publishing the series "Dark Alliance". As a result he experienced a vicious smear campaign fueled by the CIA. At that point Webb found himself defending his integrity, his family, and his life.

The fine cast includes excellent cameos by Robert Patrick, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosemarie DeWitt, Barry Pepper, Paz Vega, Tim Blake Nelson Oliver Pratt, Andy Garcia, Ray Liotta and others. The pacing of the film is fast and the tension builds slowly until we are faced with some realities we would rather not believe but must face the fact that they are true. This is an engaging and important film – a heady docudrama that needs to be seen.

'I don't think I'll ever understand why so few people care about history.', 25 October 2015

Writers J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz produced both the story concept and the screenplay for this light film that considers scientific possibilities and makes a case for natural phenomena. It works on many levels – a fine romance in a Dorian Gray sort of manner – largely due to a very competent and engaging cast. The film is directed by Lee Toland Krieger – a new, young director with talent.

Though the film is rather long, the plot can be summarized as follows without giving away the ending which would be considered a spoiler: 'After miraculously remaining 29 years old for almost eight decades, Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively in a strong role) has lived a solitary existence, never allowing herself to get close to anyone who might reveal her secret. But a chance encounter with charismatic philanthropist Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman, the Dutch actor best known for this Game Of Thrones exposure) reignites her passion for life and romance. When a weekend with his parents threatens to uncover the truth, Adaline makes a decision that will change her life forever.'

The supporting cast includes Harrison Ford – in fine fettle as an older father -, Ellen Burstyn as Adaline's daughter (a true stretch of the imagination but carried off very well), Kathy Baker, and Amanda Crew. Suspend belief and this is a fine evening's entertainment.

Targeting (2014)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
How can we explain what we are watching?, 27 September 2015

Tajana Prka has written (with Tarique Qayumi and Alan De la Rosa), produced, directed and stars in one of the more desperately moving films of recent years. While many writers attempt to outdo each other with fantasies of both the fairytale past, the comic book genre, or the terrifying future that awaits us, Tajana instead takes on a story that happens around us daily – the problem of how war affects soldiers. It is not only thought provoking and intensely disturbing, but it is also one of the more moving portrayals of how being deployed to the current collection of wars in the Middle East affects female soldiers as profoundly as the more frequently discussed male counterparts and alters their lives severely.

Attempting to summarize the plot would be to do the viewer an injustice: better to experience this film rather than read reviews about it. Except to say that the film is exceptionally worthy of your attention. Generally speaking the plot revolves around the return of Mattie Ridgeway (Tajana Prka) from Afghanistan, flat affect from PTSD, not relating to her husband Justin (James O'Shea) who was also deployed but not in the same front line activity as Mattie and thus understands her very little – as disconnected from Justin as she is form her daughter. Unable to step away from the trauma of Afghanistan Mattie becomes obsessed with investigating an Afghan person of interest (Bobby Naderi) rumors and other sources suggest that he is living in the same town. The extremes of her reaction and behavior mirror the fractures created by PTSD and rarely has it been developed so well in a film.

Ringing with reality and agony, TARGETING is one of the better films to explore just how severe a problem PTSD is and why we must be aware of the 'other world' in which these victims live – making certain we are supportive and understanding. Tajana Prka deserves some awards for this film, not only for an Indie film, but also form mental health foundations for bringing this problem to the public's attention. See it!

Furious 7 (2015)
0 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
'Dominic Toretto. you don't know me, but you're about to.', 20 September 2015

So we speed up to #7 in this gigantically popular action series. Don't expect much meaningful storyline, but do expect a lot of action form a crew that seems to love blowing up cars and driving them through the air and through the tall buildings of Abu Dabai and other fascinating locales. The film is overly long for the paucity of content, but for F & F fans it will satisfy.

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew thought they'd left the criminal mercenary life behind. They'd defeated international terrorist Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) and went their separate ways. But now, Shaw's brother, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), is out killing the crew one by one for revenge. Worse, a Somalian terrorist called Jakarde (Djimon Hounsou) and a shady government official called "Mr. Nobody" (Kurt Russell) are both competing to steal a computer terrorism program called "God's Eye," that can turn any technological device into a weapon. Torretto must reconvene with his team to stop Shaw and retrieve the God's Eye program while caught in a power struggle between the terrorist and the United States government. The "7' of course are Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Tyrese Gibson, Ludicrous, Michelle Rodriguez, and Lucas Black and the cast is rounded out with some other strong actors.

It is a speed action genre film and if that is your bag you'll love it and likely forgive the shallow content.

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