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Up in the Air (2009)
Haunting and all too timely
This work of art exposes the disconnect in our modern, fast-paced society in ways that have never been explored. Examples are as follows:
1)George Clooney's main character lives in a motel room with no pretense of being a real home, very sterile and spartan. He is far from his family emotionally and geographically and does not relate well to other people in many cases. 2)Employers don't even talk with their employees, just hiring another company to come in to terminate them. 3)Big Rust Belt companies are dying on the vine. Mr. Clooney has been to Detroit a lot and says so. Their offices are barren with phones strewn all over the floors and carpet with impressions where the desks used to be. 4)Vera Farmiga is an exquisite job with her role as the love interest. I knew something was wrong with her but just couldn't place it. My friends, family, and co-workers are still complaining about the amoral wanton slut. 5)Of course, there is the obligatory smart-girl new grad from a northeastern school who delivers the bad news the all the laid off employees. This must be quite demeaning to a 62 year old grandfather with a high school diploma. That is often how it happens.
Most troubling: All of the people being fired appear to be middle aged, old, fat, African-American, or some other minority. As in real life, they have all been in their positions a long time, earning an above average salary to the point that they are on the radar to be let go. All that vacation, 401k, health care is too expensive for these types of people when you can hire Mayling in China (or Maria in Mexico) for $1 per day.
"I'm here to be fired, aren't I?" "I have plans, there's a bridge near my house, and I gonna jump off it."
All of the main characters, particularly Clooney and Farmiga, do a fantastic job and rattle the viewer to the core with this all too timely work. Just outstanding.
Hawaii Five-0 (2010)
"Get them off my Island"
I can't say enough good about this show and its actors. All four of the major characters were well chosen and show a great range of emotions, allowing for considerable character development. In one episode, we learn more about where all four of them than we did in the original series from 1968-80. Their acting ability and range would allow for big screen versions of the show.
Instead of the squeaky clean and unrealistic, monotone characters of the original series, all of these people have "issues" related to the complexities and problems of modern life: long distance moves, job stress, living away from family members, political problems.
The plots of each episode move very quickly, and I am able to pick up new things watching an episode a second time.
While the pilot and first few episodes didn't take advantage of the beautiful backdrop of Hawaii quite enough, they sure have made up for that over the season. Molokai, Kauai, and rural areas of Oahu have all been displayed in a beautiful radiant fashion. Having been there twice myself, I believe that every American should see this true paradise.
I had never seen Alex O'Loughlin in anything before this series, and he knocks the ball out of the park with his modern, over the top, somewhat Neanderthal McGarrett, who pushes the law to the limit to win. His chemistry with Scott Caan makes the series. They deliver without turning this into Baywatch.
It would be interesting to see Jean Smart, the governor, a bit more, but that might politicize the cases a little too much. The writers and producers have a long way to run with this thing.
"Get them off my island."
The Night of the Iguana (1964)
Okay, Okay. It doesn't take a lot of acting for Richard Burton to play a nearly defrocked minister with a drinking problem who drops out of life to be a tour guide in Mexico. Even so, his brooding and troubled portrayal of the lead character was art in its best possible form. No one else could have inhabited that character and wrap up the viewer to the point that Burton did. His Reverend Shannon was highly flawed but we felt great compassion for him just the same.
The show stealer had to be Grayson Hall with this film being my only experience with her work. Her fiery hostility toward our flawed leading man brought religious hypocrisy to a new level. Tennessee Williams, speaking through Ms. Hall, leveled a serious indictment on the proper social ladies of any southern church group. Many things in life are not what they seem to be, and this character went the distance in accomplishing that goal. For a short time at the beginning, I thought she was Joan Crawford.
Ava Garder was sexy, yet sympathetic, and entirely believable here. Her slinking around the set in those tops that were a little off the shoulder and cavorting with the eye-candy Hispanic boys seemed to come natural for her. Again, this was another example of good casting.
While Deborah Kerr did an excellent job with her phony goody two shoes character, I did not buy her story from her first appearance on screen, but then again, that was the goal for that character.
The film was in black and white but has very nice, clear cinematography and does not lose anything with the lack of color. Its ending is a little different that what you would expect from Tennessee Williams. His usual themes of southern religious hypocrisy and homosexual undercurrents are alive and well in this complex work. WORTH A LONG HARD LOOK.
The Prince of Tides (1991)
It was not too much of a leap for Barbra Streisand to play a liberal, Jewish psychiatrist from New York who is getting divorced and commits adultery with Nick Nolte. Even so, this is an outstanding film on all counts, and it has something for everyone with mass appeal to all types of audiences. Nolte aced this complex part and deserved at least an Oscar nomination for the work.
The scenery of the beautiful coastal South as a backdrop for all types of interwoven family conflicts made for a great film. Tom Wingo's social climbing mother was the classic phony southern hypocrite in every sense of the word, especially in how she treated her first husband (feeding him dog food). Her pickup line "The most handsome men are the most successful" just floored me. We have all met her, worked with her, or had her in our families.
(Excellent Casting) Streisand and Nolte exude raw talent and chemistry that is rare in modern film making. Please do not cast Dolly Parton as the Jewish psychiatrist in New York or Ms. Steisand as a southern country western singer. This film is more than worth a look.
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Great for a Western
In recent years, there have not been many westerns which have been as popular and successful as this one. Russell Crowe is so strong here that he actually makes you like the villain in the film, and the well-grounded features of his co-lead played by Christian Bale rub off on him. Crowe and Bale make the film which would otherwise be set aside as just another western in an era where they have not been so popular.
Crowe plays the gang leader with sympathy, as a lover, artist, Bible quoter who tries to keep the other psychos in line. Bale is so believable as the scrappy war-injured rancher and family man.
I wish that the ending would have been a little different, or more positive for the poor family man just trying to do the right thing. Many things in life are beyond our control, and the major point of this film crystallizes that out all too well.
A Good Year (2006)
Good, not Great Film
Russell Crowe can carry anything. Who would miss the chance watch Crowe inherit a vineyard in the south of France and move there with him. The movie is light and entertaining without very much heavy subject matter, and the scenery alone is worth a look. I kept wanting more substance to the plot or even more outdoor landscapes of the vineyards or lavender fields. Some things were not made totally clear in the storyline at times, but that was not so important. With this film, it's just best to watch and enjoy without asking too many questions or trying to make any more out of the story.
Russell Crowe can do anything: Gladiator, Crazy Professor, Ship Captain, Financier, Police Officer, Criminal. No other actor active in the market today can handle such a broad range of roles with such skill and credibility.
Valley of the Dolls (1967)
Susan Hayward Rocks
Susan Hayward, in one of her last major film roles, sets fire to the screen playing a middle-aged Broadway star full of vanities and insecurities. It's just too bad that she wasn't given more screen time to straighten out the three weakling starlets and feed them to the sharks for good. She was far and away the best part of this otherwise mediocre film.
Barbara Parkins comes across well and grounds the film. It was easy for the audience to be sympathetic to the beautiful, kind-hearted brunette. I could not take my eyes off her.
Patty Duke was just not believable as the "great star" of the group, and I fail to understand her following here. Perhaps, that was the point of the makers, to show how shallow and plastic starlets can be.
Poor Sharon Tate's role may have been a prophecy about her real fate in life, sad and disturbing.
Overall, watch for Susan Hayward. When you see her in action, you will beg for more. Hayward-10, Parkins-7, Tate-6, Duke-obnoxious
Peyton Place (1957)
waters down the book
This 1957 Blockbuster was cutting edge for its time, but is greatly watered down the tawdry nature of the book. Many vicious details presented in Grace Metallious' breakthrough novel were simply set aside for various reasons, likely 1950's censorship. In viewing this today, the film seems more like "Little House on the Prairie." It was just so unseemly that Allison McKenzie and Little Norman Page were under suspicion of skinny dipping even though they did no such thing.
The novel and the movie both brilliantly spell out the underlying motif of New England Puritan hypocrisy. In the novel, Ms. Metallious points out that gossipy old middle aged women castigate against young people, because they themselves are just too old, fat, and ugly to go out and party any more. Since nobody wants them, they point the finger elsewhere to through attention from themselves.
Lana Turner seems to have one mode in this film; that is, to walk around like a frigid bitter ice queen delivering harsh lines at everyone. All in all, quite a good show, but a bit dated.
Good Movie, But The Questions Will Never Be Answered
This work gives great detail about the life and circumstances of George Reeves preceding his premature death in 1959. It appears to me that after so much time has passed, it was impossible to develop or expose new objective facts which could bring our questions to a reasonable conclusion. This film should have been attempted at least 15-20 years ago, but legal issues may have been more problematic while some of the main characters were still alive.
The real star of the show is, of course, Adrien Brody, who was superb in his fictional role. The whole story unfolds as a series of flashbacks while the Brody character investigates the suicide or murder. Diana Lane is excellent in her role as the aging Toni Mannix, and she pulls it off playing a woman at least 15 years older than herself.
Ben Affleck is perfectly cast as a mediocre, down-and-out actor who is approaching middle age with unclear prospects. As in the case of Barbra Streisand playing a Jewish New York Psychiatrist in The Prince of Tides, little acting ability was required for Affleck to master this part. His rendition of George Reeves comes across wooden, pompous, and somewhat unstable. It was hard for me to like this George Reeves, and I have to wonder how accurate the script and screenplay were about his personality and lifestyle.
I learned a great deal from the film and thought it superbly done, but I wish they had presented more of the facts instead of Adrien Brody wandering around in dark rooms without any clear answers.
There were certainly several people in Mr. Reeves' life with the motive, means, and opportunity to murder him, not to mention some who were not covered in the film. Since the investigation was botched, probably intentionally by the authorities, one can conclude that somebody did not want the real answer about the victim's fate to surface. Another poster issued a fitting conclusion: "Hollywood killed Reeves, regardless of who pulled the trigger."
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
There is no way to put into words my feelings about this film--hope, horror, understanding, depression, isolation...The list could go on and on forever. This is not just about a pair of gay cowboys who turn into long term lovers, because it covers facets (money, power, bad in-laws, abusive fathers, abandonment) of many relationships and standards in society. The true themes seem to be poverty and isolation. Regardless of one's personal views and fears, homosexuality has existed since the beginning of time, and it is unlikely that anyone willingly makes that choice. It must be horrible running around in life AC when 90% of the rest of the population is DC. I am a conservative, southern, Christian, straight white male and I believe that it is time for respect and tolerance on this issue.
As for the Academy Awards, they must have bowed to peer pressure granting Best Picture honors to Crash. The incomparable Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall will likely be granted Oscars for later work in lieu of what happened here. They really belted out their roles with sensitivity that grabbed the audience in their seats. These may end up being the two greatest "male" roles in motion picture history. Heath and Jake could melt paint off the walls in this one. I felt a little worse for the Jack Twist character? Could anyone see Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt even attempting this? FAT CHANCE
For the record, this movie is NOT pornographic, but it certainly gets its point across. Some viewers may wish to get popcorn during the infamous "tent scene." While not family entertainment for kids under 12, Brokeback's release is perfectly timed in history and handles the issues with compassion and understanding.
(SPOILERS) The best thing about the whole movie is the ending, leaving the viewers wondering what really happened to Jack Twist (murder or accident). Could it be that Jack faked his death to escape his wife's family and catch up with Ennis later? providing for a sequel "Return to Brokeback Mountain?"
10 out of 10 Stars