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gradyharp

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2142 reviews in total 
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Spectre (2015)
'You are a kite dancing in a hurricane, Mr. Bond.', 13 February 2016
10/10

Though we've been through years and years of James Bond movies and they all have the same basic recipe – impossible action, exceptional photography, superb stunts, beautiful women and a solid cast – this SPECTRE for this viewer beats them all. Sam Mendes directs a committee script (8 writers including Ian Flemming original characters)), uses a fine cast, allows us some of the beautiful views of many countries and the result is a completely satisfying experience – for Bond lovers.

The story line (much like all the others) is as follows: A cryptic message from the past sends James Bond Daniel Craig) on a rogue mission to Mexico City and eventually Rome, where he meets Lucia (Monica Belluci), the beautiful and forbidden widow of an infamous criminal. Bond infiltrates a secret meeting and uncovers the existence of the sinister organization known as SPECTRE. Meanwhile back in London, Max Denbigh , the new head of the Centre of National Security, questions Bond's actions and challenges the relevance of MI6 led by M (Ralph Fiennes). Bond covertly enlists Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) to help him seek out Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), the daughter of his old nemesis Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) who may hold the clue to untangling the web of SPECTRE. As the daughter of the assassin, she understands Bond in a way most others cannot. As Bond ventures towards the heart of SPECTRE, and its head Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) he learns a chilling connection between himself and the enemy he seeks.'

Splendid locations, terrific opening graphics, fine musical score by Thomas Newman, and magnificent cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema all add to this echt James Bond mood. Grady Harp, February 16

Burnt (2015/I)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
'People eat because they are hungry; I want to make food that makes people stop eating.', 7 February 2016
5/10

One of the many memorable lines in this rather odd film is 'If it's not perfect, you throw it away... regardless of time.' Somehow that rather tidily sums up this film. Steven Knight adapted Michael Kalesniko's story in to an overindulgent whine of a movie that despite the presence of some very fine actors, the influence of John Wells' direction (Shameless, ER, etc) shines darkly through.

Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) is a chef who destroyed his career with drugs and diva behavior. He cleans up and returns to London, determined to redeem himself by spearheading a top restaurant that can gain three Michelin stars – a restaurant whose maître'd is Daniel Brühl. Apparently Adam was the former infant terrible of the Paris restaurant scene had earned two Michelin stars and only ever cared about the thrill of creating explosions of taste. To land his own kitchen and that third elusive star though, Jones will need to leave his bad habits behind and get the best of the best on his side, including the beautiful Helene (Sienna Miller). Other cooks fill the endless kitchen screaming tantrums and such fine actors as Alicia Vikander, Emma Thompson, Uma Thurman and Omar Sy try to make it work, but the film just gets tedious – unless you are studying to be a chef. Yawn….Grady Harp, February 16

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
'Never surrender. Never give up the fight.', 6 February 2016
10/10

As we struggle and grapple with contemporary inequality issues – race, the economic divide, gay rights, etc – it is well to see this film, reminding us that it has been less than a century since women's rights were recognized and women made equal to men in voting, parental rights (if not economic equality….) and presence in politics and entertainment. Abi Morgan's script is excellent as is Sarah Gavron's direction, and with the superlative support of a cast of gifted actors this film breathes reality, memory, and reminders of a status struggle of the fairly recent past.

SUFFRAGETTE tracks the story of the foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State in England. These women were not primarily from the genteel educated classes; they were working women who had seen peaceful protest achieve nothing. Radicalized and turning to violence as the only route to change, they were willing to lose everything in their fight for equality - their jobs, their homes, their children and their lives. Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) was one such foot soldier. The opposite side of the feminist movement is well presented by Maud's husband Sonny (Ben Whishaw (on of the more gifted actors on the screen today) who provides a degree of bilateral balance, a man who loves his wife and child and simply does not want to see his family endangered by Maud's growing involvement in the movement.

Other brilliant performances are offered by Anne-Marie Duff, Romola Garai, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleason, Natalie Press and Meryl Streep as the queen of the movement Emmeline Pankhurst.

The story of Maud's fight for dignity is as gripping and visceral as any thriller, it is also heart breaking and inspirational. An altogether brilliant film. Grady Harp, February 16

Carol (2015)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
'I wanna know, I think... I mean, I wanna ask you things, but I'm... I'm not sure that you want that...', 31 January 2016
9/10

Todd Haynes has made some solid films (Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven, I'm Not There, etc) and he manages to move his cast of characters in this sensitive film based on Patricia Highsmith's 2004 novel 'The Price of Salt' to equal the impact and timing of Highsmith's concept in her novel. Phyllis Nagy adapted the novel for the screen. According to Highsmith's story, Therese (Rooney Mara)is nineteen and working in a department store during the Christmas shopping season. She dates men, although not with real enthusiasm. One day a beautiful older woman comes over to her counter and buys a doll. As the purchase is a C.O.D. order, Therese makes a mental note of the customer's address. She is intrigued and drawn to the woman. Although young, inexperienced and shy, she writes a note to the customer, Carol (Cate Blanchett), and is elated and surprised when Carol invites her to meet. Therese realizes she has strong feelings for Carol, but is unsure of what they represent. Carol, in the process of a bitter separation and divorce, is also quite lonely. Soon the two women begin spending a great deal of time together. Before long, they are madly and hopelessly in love. The path is not easy for them, however. Carol also has a child and a very suspicious husband dangerous ground for the lovers. When the women leave New York and travel west together, they discover the choices they've made to be together will have lasting effects on both their lives. Considered to be the first lesbian pulp novel to break the pulp publishing industry- enforced pattern of tragic consequences for its lesbian heroines, The Price of Salt was written under the pseudonym of Claire Morgan by Patricia Highsmith – the author of 'Strangers on a Train' and 'The Talented Mr. Ripley'.

Both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara are brilliant in this delicate story. Sarah Paulson adds depth as Carol's previous lover Abby. The flavor of the 1950s is superb as is the cinematography and musical score. The only casting problem is with the men – blustering insensitive performances especially by Kyle Chandler as Carol's husband-on- the-way-out disrupt the flow of the film distractingly. Otherwise it is a triumph for all concerned. Still highly recommended.

Stonewall (2015)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A young man's political awakening and coming of age during the days and weeks leading up to the Stonewall Riots., 24 January 2016
7/10

Gay themed films are n abundance right now and (lesbian couples, transgender stories, more gay characters in many films) so it seems only natural that yet another film be made about the beginning of gay rights in the US. STONEWALL does that and despite the emphasis on political corruption attempting to steal the thunder from the brave gays who initiated the change to Gay Pride it works for the most part.

Many viewers will avoid the film because of the depiction of gays as being homeless, feminine street hustlers – too much so that it becomes a distraction form the other aspects of the story – but at least the message and the dates and the history are there. The plot revolves around the 1969 Stonewall Riots, the violent clash that kicked off the gay rights movement in New York City. The drama centers on Danny Winters (Jeremy Irvine), who flees to New York after an aborted coming out with Joe (Karl Glusman) and being ousted by his homophobic father (David Cubitt), leaving behind his sister Phoebe (Joey King). He finds his way to the Stonewall Inn, where he meets Trevor (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) before catching the eye of Ed Murphy (Ron Perlman), manager of the Stonewall who colludes with corrupt police and exploits homeless youth. Danny becomes close to a group of Nellie hustlers – especially Ray (Jonny Beauchamp) – and it is his association with this gay element that he eventually joins and fights for gay rights.

The cast is strong, the script by Jon Robin Baitz is less than impressive, but director Roland Emmerich manages to make the blend of history and human tragedy credible. Not a great movie, but the intentions are worthy.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
'Every human being has a basic instinct: to help each other out', 14 January 2016
6/10

'Every human being has a basic instinct: to help each other out' Odd that everyone is raving about the acting in this film. Yes, it is a good idea to watch the survival of a lone man on another planet, but the acting and the dialogue are so flat line and the actors seem so uninvolved with this read-through of a script that after a while all the fancy special effects even get more interesting than the story. Some are remarking how far better Andy Weir's book is in comparison, but even Ridley Scott has slow moments in trying to keep this space venture airborne.

The story (brief as it is) – 'During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring "the Martian" home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible, rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney's safe return.'

The cast includes such winning actors as Michael Peña, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean and others but there is little to no development of their characters until the very end. Jump on if you must see every movie that is nominated for best film/actor but be aware this tale goes on for well past 2 hours in length.

Cinderella (2015/I)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
'I have to tell you a secret that will see you through all the trials that life can offer. Have courage and be kind.', 10 January 2016
8/10

'I have to tell you a secret that will see you through all the trials that life can offer. Have courage and be kind.'

For those with doubts as to whether or not to watch Cinderella, toss the jaundiced eye aside and prepare for an evening of creative melding of a very old fairy tale as enhance by the lasted in cinematic art. Recast into a screen play by Chris Weitz who has the sensitivity to fill in the missing pieces form the original story (how Ella, a young girl from a happy family loses her beloved mother, then lives with her father who finally decides to marry again – to a beautiful but self-centered mother who has just lost her husband and must struggle to survive with her two obnoxious daughters, taking in Ella and treating her as a maid) makes the story come alive. Match that with the creative direction by Kenneth Branagh and the skills of incorporated animation by Disney, anchored by a stellar cast and the whole thing works beautifully.

Cinderella is brought to life by Lily James, her father by Ben Chaplin, her mother by Hayley Atwell, the handsome and kind Prince by Richard Madden, the king by Derek Jacobi and his court by Stellan Skarsgård and Nonso Anozie, the stepmother by Cate Blanchett (strangely overlooked by awards nominations) and her daughters by Sophie McShera and Holly Grainger, and the wondrous fairy godmother by the inimitable Helena Bonham Carter – a dream cast who are obviously have a terrific time recreating one of our favorite fairy tales.

The transformation of the pumpkin into a coach, the mice into horses, and the splendid dresses for both the fairy godmother and Cinderella allow the magic of animation to be subtly used in a manner that seems completely credible – if you can still believe in magic.

In a time where the screens are crowded with apocalyptic, Marvel comic book reincarnations, and noisy corruption and crime films, Cinderella is a little island of happiness.

Sicario (2015)
'Hitman, assassin for hire', 7 January 2016

Written by Taylor Sheridan and directed by Canadian Dennis Villeneuve (Incendies, Prisoners, Enemy), SICARIO is in need of editing and offering some back stories to make it the strong film it is trying to be. The topic of border problems is a prominent one in the media at present and this film does indeed address some of the issues the country is facing.

Strong on action, weak on dialogue the story has been summarized as follows; When drug violence worsens on the USA Mexico border, the FBI sends an idealistic agent, Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) on a mission to eradicate a drug cartel responsible for a bomb that had killed members of her team. To say who is the bad guy(s) and who is the good(s) would ruin the plot, but the characters are well acted by Josh Brolin, Benecio Del Toro, Victor Garber, Daniel Kaluuya, Maximiliano Hernández, Bernardo Saracino, Jon Bernthal and other smaller but significant roles. The surprise is how well Emily Blunt drops her British accent and débutante image and plays a fine FBI agent – hard as nails on the outside and soft on the inside . The films is difficult to watch at times due to some of the gruesome events, but in all it is a worthwhile movie experience.

Has it ever occurred to you that, if you spend your life lying to people about who you are, you never get to know who they are?, 3 January 2016
9/10

Writer/director Mary Agnew Donoghue brings a glowing spotlight on one of the controversies of the day – same sex marriage – and without preaching or showing the sad repercussions many couples feel as they enter the realm of true family she allows her outstanding cast to present all aspects of the concept of not only same sex marriage but also same sex parenting. It works on every level.

Stories such as this depend heavily on the audience's reaction to the cast members in making the experience credible. Every member of this ensemble adds to the success of the film.

Brief synopsis: Jenny Farrell (Katherine Heigl) has led an openly gay life with everyone except her closely knit, middle-class family. And while hiding the truth hasn't stopped Jenny from loving her parents (Tom Wilkinson and Linda Emond) or siblings (Grace Gummer and Seamus Tierney), it hasn't allowed them to really know one another either. So when she announces that she s going to marry the woman (Alexis Bledel) her family thought was just her roommate, the news suddenly lands on them like a depth charge. Now long-suppressed lies, misunderstandings, and rivalries are all brought to the surface as Jenny and her family are forced to face the parts of themselves and each other that they tried to ignore for so long. The event and reactions involve the old time friends of the parents who ultimately are equally accepting. Moving, heartfelt, and brilliantly acted, JENNY'S WEDDING proves that sometimes the love of a family is truly worth fighting for.

A fine movie with excellent writing and acting

Ex Machina (2015)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
'The good deeds a man has done defends him.', 1 January 2016
10/10

'If you've created a conscious machine, it's not the history of man. That's the history of gods.' 'One day the AIs are going to look back on us the same way we look at fossil skeletons on the plains of Africa... an upright ape living in dust with crude language and tools, all set for extinction.' Ava's brain is 'Impulse. Response. Fluid. Imperfect. Patterned. Chaotic.' These are but a few of the thoughts that float through this atmospheric, intelligent, beautifully written EX MACHINA - the jewel in the crown of meaningful films this year written and directed by Alex Garland.

Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) a 26 year old internet programmer and coder at the world's largest internet company BlueBook, wins a competition to spend a week at a private mountain retreat belonging to Nathan (Oscar Isaac), the reclusive CEO of the company. But when Caleb arrives at the remote location he finds that he will have to participate in a strange and fascinating experiment in which he must interact with the world's first true artificial intelligence, housed in the body of a beautiful robot girl named Ava (Alicia Vikander) - 'The Turing Test' - the test to determine if a machine can genuinely pass itself off as human to another human.'

To share more would deprive the viewer form the many discoveries of this very smart film. Each of the actors is in top form and the result is that we actually suspend disbelief about the entire science of Artificial Intelligence and the future of the already present robots. This is not a sci-fi movie – this is a look into the future, and much of it is exciting as well as terrifying. Highly recommended for a very large audience base.


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