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2006 reviews in total 
Index | Alphabetical | Chronological | Useful

"Tyrant" (2014)
5 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Inside the Middle East Mind, 6 July 2014

TYRANT is a new television series that will doubtless polarize the viewers who tune in to see it. It poses many questions – not only about Middle East government but also an East/West attitude split between members of a Middle Eastern family, a hint about same sex relationships in a country where the topic is taboo (watch close the interplay between the son of the 'American' family and the son of the security chief), and flashbacks that emphasize the manipulative takeovers of regimes that seem to be in constant flux – depending on which order of Muslims are in power and the rest of the Islamic peoples.

The Pasadena, California Al Fayeed family -pediatrician father Barry (Adam Rayner), mother Molly (Jennifer Finnigan), son Sammy (Noah Silver), daughter Emma (Anna Winters) are called back to the unidentified country in the Middle East for a relative's wedding – a demand from Barry's government head father (Raad Rawl) and supported by Barry's evil brother Jamal (Ashraf Barhom). Barry left his country and family at age 16 for reasons of disbelief in his family's conduct and another memory that surfaces. There is fighting, killing, mayhem, sex, nudity, elaborate sets and suspense that keeps the first episode afloat for an opener. Some acting is fine, other barely professional. It will take several more episodes to see how much the show and the audience can tolerate. It seems like an attempt to open windows into the crises in the Middle East, but it leaves the shutters closed for the most part. Keep the subtitles on if you care to identify the names of the characters…. Grady Harp, July 14

Lullaby (2014/II)
'What so you say when everything has been left unsaid?', 5 July 2014

Andrew Levitas makes his screen writing and directing debut in this little film LULLABY and for a first time effort, despite all the rough unfinished edges of the canvas, he gives notice of a man with a fairly keen perception of the complex interrelationships of dysfunctional families.

Jonathan Lowenstein (Garrett Hedlund) lives in Los Angeles attempting to become a singer of note and has been estranged from his wealthy New York family for years, always feeling as though he was unable to live up to his father's expectations. One day, he suddenly receives word that his terminally ill father Robert Lowenstein (Richard Jenkins) wishes to be taken off life support after a 12 year struggle with lung cancer and has 36 hours to live. When he agrees to visit his father, he unintentionally sets up a family conflict with no easy resolution. His mother (Annie Archer) has been caretaker of Robert and is happy to have the family reunited: Karen (Jessica Brown Findlay), the younger sister in law school, struggles with resentment for Jonathan, Jonathan detests the fact that he must observe the dying wishes of Robert (including setting up Seder when Jonathan has a history of disregarding his Jewish heritage), cope with Karen's acerbic flairs, deal with a stranger Meredith (Jessica Barden) who is 17 years old and dying of bone cancer who shares her needs with Jonathan and he with her, and re-encountering his lost love Emily (Amy Adams). Some of the best moments are provided by Jennifer Hudson as the potty mouth bitchy nurse, Terence Howard as the attending physician who is to aids Robert's 'assisted suicide', and Daniel Sunjata as a policeman who joins in the Seder. Though there are funny moments the story hangs on the subject of death and end of life situations, sharing the manner in which we evaluate our lives and our purposes in this life at that transformative moment of death of a loved one.

Though falling frequently into the overplayed anger/grief/sobbing triad the actors are very fine and they make the film worth watching. Grady Harp, July 14

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
"We're losing, Lucifer. One bright star at a time, we're losing.', 4 July 2014

Writer/director/producer Akiva Goldman has adapted Mark Helprin's 1983 novel for the screen and has made it even more a work of magical realism than the book alone. The film is stunning to watch, the story has many levels of meaning that embrace the such topics as immortality, good versus evil, miracles, death and dying and transcendent love, and it is cast with a collection of superb actors who take us with them through this fantasy of time and love and redemption.

There are many meaningful passages of dialogue, but one that Beverly offers is the essence of the story: ''We are all connected. Each baby born carries a miracle inside. A unique purpose and that miracle is promised to one person and one person alone. We are voyagers set on a course towards destiny, to find the one person our miracle is meant for. But be warned: as we seek out the light, darkness gathers and the eternal contest between good and evil is not fought with great armies... But one life at a time.'

One summary is excellent: 'New York City is subsumed in arctic winds, dark nights, and white lights, its life unfolds, for it is an extraordinary hive of the imagination, the greatest house ever built, and nothing exists that can check its vitality. One night in winter, Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), orphan and master-mechanic, attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side. Though he thinks the house is empty, the daughter of the house is home. Thus begins the love between Peter, a middle-aged Irish burglar, and Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), a young girl, who is dying. A burglar falls for an heiress as she dies in his arms. When he learns that he has the gift of reincarnation, he sets out to save her.' The film moves from early 1895 where parents (Matt Bomer and Lucy Griffiths) being refused entry into America set their infant son in a little boat to send him to America. We then are in 1914 when the above action occurs – colored by the shenanigans of Judge/Lucifer (Will Smith) and the evil Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). Later we follow the still living and unchanged Peter Lake to 2014, joined by Virginia Gamely (Jennifer Connelly) as he completes his miracle of saving the life of a younger redhead. A magnificent white horse plays a major role; Eva Marie Saint, William Hurt and other supporting actors are excellent. The musical score concentrates on Brahms, Berlioz, Khachaturian and others during the film – but someone opted to place a pop tune during the credits that is completely devoid of any of the graceful mystery of the film.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
'You are never out of the fight', 22 June 2014

Director/writer Peter Berg has translated Marcus Luttrell's and Patrick Robinson's fact based book into a film that is as spot on accurate as far as the training and extraordinary skills of the Navy Seals. The casting is excellent, the degree of uncomfortable banter is balanced well with the sheer terror of a covert op in a way that few directors and actors have been able to accomplish. This is a bloody, crude, harsh film to watch but the audience must be ready to accept that this is the way things were and remain in the multiple wars in the Middle East. And for what? The film begs the question. It is a story of survival and profound comradeship and it jolts us in just the right way.

The film opens with a training camp for Navy SEALS, a fine way to set the tone for the story. The time is 2005, the place Afghanistan. Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg and his team – Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and Matt 'Axe' Axelson (Ben Foster) set out on a mission to capture or kill notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shah (Yousuf Azami After running into mountain herders and capturing them, they were left with no choice but to follow their rules of engagement or be imprisoned. Now Marcus and his team are left to fight for their lives in one of the most valiant efforts of modern warfare. Cut off from back support team (Eric Bana, Alexander Ludwig, Rich Ting, Jerry Ferrara, Scott Elrod, etc) the four struggle to survive against insurmountable odds. But is many ways the acidic cruelty of war is somewhat offset by the compassionate benevolence (Pashtunwali) by a group of Afghans who offer the lone survivor Luttrell succor and safety. Food for thought after the battle of the film is over.

Non-Stop (2014)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Someone on this flight is threatening to kill someone every 20 minutes...', 21 June 2014

Jaume Collet-Serra directs a story and screenplay by John W. Richardson, Chris Roach and Ryan Engle and makes the audience cringe at the concept of long airplane flights. The pace of the story is harrowing and even if at the ending we are left with the feeling 'I should have figured this out', the action and the acting is first rate and the film proves to be a fine summer evening diversion.

Bill Marks (Liam Neeson), a former cop now an Air Marshall dealing with his daughter's death by drinking, even as he prepares to board a flight that needs his expertise as a law enforcer. Suspicious things begin to happen when there is an argument over a window seat Zack (Nate Parker) and the inquisitive Jen Summers (Julianne Moore), an encounter with a frightened child (Quinn McColgan), a co-dependent relationship between Marks and a stewardess (Michelle Dockery), etc. While on the flight from New York to London, Marks gets a text telling him that unless 150 million dollars is transferred to an offshore account, someone will die every 20 minutes. Everyone becomes a suspect, Marks is called a terrorist, people begin dying in a string of strange occurrences, and ultimately, with craft and cunning and employing the aid of the passengers, Marks finds the truth in the situation.

Supporting actors who offer fine support include Scoot McNairy, Linus Roache, Anson Mount, Corey Stoll, Omar Metwally among others. Fast action, edge of the seat suspense, and fine timing make this a film worthy of viewing (if it doesn't terrify you about booking long flights!).

Life's incidental variations, 19 June 2014

Writer/director Sébastien Betbeder Feels more like a film and a story – if that makes sense. It is the type of film you need to be in the mood to see – a rather extended, and at times tedious, conversation between actors and camera that works for a while and then becomes a distraction. But as with the French, even when bouquet isn't entirely fresh it still has charm.

As fate would have it the bored and distracted early thirties Arman (Vincent Macaigne) inadvertently bumps into Amélie (Maud Wyler) – pretty but not exactly pleased with her life or life in general – while taking a healthy jog in the park. Up pops a problem: Arman's best friend Benjamin (Bastien Bouillon) has a cerebrovascular accident and is hospitalized, impaired but still with eyes for his physical therapist. The stage is then set for an ongoing exchange of life stories, accidents, memories (good and bad) among the three main characters. It is a stage for some philosophical comments – some poignant, others plebeian. And that is all there is to it – a conversation a trois.

Despite the fact that there isn't a lot of substance, there is still that Gallic charm that makes up for many flaws.

1 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Yet another hospital drama trauma, 13 June 2014

Now that General Hospital has faded from view and Grey's Anatomy seems to be finishing up and Nurse Jackie is more concerned with drug addiction than patient care in the ER, in flies NIGHT SHIFT - only one shift to deal with and of course that is when all manner of patients filter through from tree limbs penetrating chests, to near decapitation in a child, to addicts on the prowl for drugs, to emergency heart transplant (!) and on and on. The novelty? A group of Army doctors return to work on the night shift at a hospital in San Antonio. Mixed in with this crew is a young very nervous new doc (Robert Bailey, Jr) who cowers at his assignments of checking a group of senior citizens for STDs, the macho war vet Dr.TC (Eoin Macken) who has a history with the new lead physician Dr. Jordan Alexander (Jill Flint), a female shrink (Daniela Alonzo), an in-the-process-of-going-blind cost conscious CEO (Freddy Rodríguez), the requisite closeted gay army medic (Brendan Fehr), Asian medic (Ken Leung), and African American Medic (JR Lemon) and on it goes.

It is a handsome cast but the medical aspects of what goes on in an ER border on blatant malpractice (open chests without prep or masks, lack of hair coverage for sterile procedures etc). Even more gruesome are the incidents that stretch credibility to the extreme. It will be interesting to see if this show goes beyond its first season - if it makes it that long. Time for some input from medical advisors if the public, after watching this, even dares visits ERs at night!

'You Americans like to think of yourselves as direct. Perhaps you are just rude.', 13 June 2014

Tom Clancy's durable creation Jack Ryan rides again in this well written (Adam Cozad and David Koepp) and well directed (Kenneth Branagh) new version – JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT. Previous actors Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck all contributed their own versions of this bright and clever and strong willed intrigue hero, but Chris Pine steps in now and may be the best choice for future incarnations of the character. He is a solid actor, maintains a boyish innocence beneath his bifurcated roles as a near PhD in Economics and as a CIA analyst. His supporting cast is essentially on target and together they make this one of the better Jack Ryan adventures to date. This is Tom Clancy's last film as a writer before his death on October 1, 2013.

The film begins when Ryan (Chris Pine) was attending the London School of Economics and 9/11 happened. He enlisted in the USMC and was assigned to Afghanistan. His helicopter was shot down and Ryan saved his comrades but suffered severe spinal injuries that would require intense rehab: in rehab he is guided by 3rd year med student Cathy (Keira Knightley) and there is a definite chemistry. While there, he is noted by a man named Harper (Kevin Costner), who works for the CIA and would like him to finish his studies and get a job on Wall Street so he can find out of any terrorist plot through their finances. A few years later, Ryan finds anomalies in the accounts of a Russian named Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh). Jack knows he should go to Russia to investigate his findings and Harper instructs him to tell no one, including his now live-in girlfriend Cathy. Cathy observes situations which make her doubt Jack's fidelity. Jack goes to Russia and Cherevin assigns him a Bodyguard (Nonso Anozie) but upon escorting Jack to his lush hotel room the bodyguard attempts of murder Jack and jack drowns him in the bathtub. Obvious Cherevin is hiding something so Jack goes to meet him, and he says he will bring his fiancé along. But Cathy shows up and Jack has to tell her the truth. Harper says Cathy has to go with Jack when she meets Cherevin. Jack doesn't want her to but Cathy says she's going. So the action begins that leads to the climax – a very fast paced, excellent chase and resolution.

Other fine actors add to the story - Colm Feore, Alec Utgoff, Lenn Kudrjawizki, Mikhail Baryshnikov among many others. The urgent musical score is the work of Patrick Doyle and the cinematography is by Haris Zambarloukos. It is interesting to see how people are mentioning subjects like Keira Knightley's teeth and Chris Pine's complexion. Both are unrelated 'flaws' in this fine little film.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Hide in plain sight, 11 June 2014

Korean writer/director Jung Huh made this fascinating film in 2013 to great critical acclaim. It is a well-sculpted movie and surprisingly is more understated than the usual fare from these films.

Seong-soo (Heyeon-ju Son)), a successful businessman who lives with the perfect family in a luxury apartment, has secrets and mysophobia (pathological fear of contamination and germs) about his one and only brother. One day, he goes to see his brother after a phone call about him being missing and sees weird symbols all over the house and he meets Joo-hee (Jung-Hee Moon) who knows his brother. "Please tell him to stop looking at my daughter. Joo-hee lives alone with her daughter but lives in fear of someone watching them. Seong-soo looks around carefully at the old apartment and realizes the symbols mean gender and numbers of people. Seong-soo returns to his home from his brother's and notices a familiar symbol written next to the doorbell of his house, too. And the mystery thriller sails to a strange conclusion.

In Korean with English subtitles, this is a bizarre little jewel of a film, well worth watching.

Lucky Them (2013)
6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Lost souls, searching, 3 June 2014

Now and again, with patience, a little gem comes across the video on demand that somehow didn't make it in the theaters. This film was made in 2013 and seems to be headed for a re- release. Don't wait. See it now on video on demand courtesy of Amazon. It is a treat. Caroline Sherman has the original idea for the story and it was adapted foe the screen by Huck Botko and Emily Wachtel. Megan Griffiths directs with élan.

Ellie Klug (the very fine Toni Collette) is a music critic for a failing rock magazine, SLAX' in Seattle headed by the pot-smoking Giles (Oliver Platt) in Seattle. She tends to write articles about not so talented music stars, such as street singer Lucas Stone (Ryan Eggold who is proving he can be more than a warped spy on TV's The Blacklist). They have casual sex but the rock around Ellie neck is an article she is forced to write about a famous rock star Matthew Smith who ha been missing since an apparent car wreck some years back, and who Ellie was in love with back in his heyday. She ultimately agrees to do a story (more like investigative journalism) mush at the insistence of her best friend, bar tender Dana (Nina Arianda). Lacking money to make a trip to Matthew Smith country, she borrows form Giles, is ripped off by Lucas, borrows from a very strange wealthy Charlie (Thomas Hayden Church) who wants to make a documentary on Ellie looking for Matthew Smith. How that all ends up is a study of the human psyches as attached to loves of the past and longings of the present but to tell more would be a spoiler. It should be added that Johnny Depp makes a very brief but central appearance….

The cast is exemplary, especially Toni Collette who at last has a role that allows her to show just what a fine comedienne as well as serious actress she is. Tune in to the video on demand offer Amazon presents – no telling when they'll release a DVD of this treasureable film. Highly recommended.

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