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10/10
Climate Change Has Even More Fallout Than Initially Thought
27 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Jared P. Scott's film "The Age of Consequences" is simply riveting and completely eye-opening as we hear from high level retired military personnel and authors, and see the ever-increasing extreme weather conditions forcing entire areas into fleeing their homeland. These "climate change refugees" are increasing as our world is changing. In addition, the film points out that climate change creates situations of global instability. Never before has a film connected all the dots to paint such a clear, and disturbing picture.

The film is broken down into segments such as "poverty" and "adaptation" to delve more deeply into how climate change impacts these particular areas. Archival footage of respected and informed government officials such as Madeleine Albright and Stephen Cheney is also used to hammer home the concepts and the consequences. And Michael Breen, a young veteran, succinctly gives us analogies that you can't argue.

"The Age of Consequences" is an eloquent and intelligent look inside the global instability that climate change is creating. The film will open your eyes and your mind and while it is disturbing, we need to wake up and do something. There is hope. See this film and be a part of the equation of hope.
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Resilience (III) (2016)
10/10
"Resilience" Documentary Gives Insight and Hope
3 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Think back to your childhood. Memories of ice cream cones, skipping rope, making mud pies and climbing trees come flooding back. But not all children have such wonderful experiences and memories. Many are subjected to repeated and never-ending stress. This "toxic stress" as documentary filmmaker James Redford has found, effects these children's biology leading to adult disorders such as heart disease, cancer, and obesity and potentially decreasing life expectancy by as much as 20 years. His new film, "Resilience," educates and enlightens the viewer not only to the well-documented science behind the problem, but also to the easy solutions that work.

"Resilience" correlates high ACE's (Adverse Childhood Experiences) scores to increased medical problems in adulthood. With in-depth interviews with doctors, educators, and community advocates, Redford succinctly brings us not only the facts and figures about ACE's, but also the solutions to help children and prevent serious medical consequences later in life. The information could have easily been overwhelming in "Resilience," but with graphic art conveying the science and math that supports the concepts and well-balanced interviews, the film is entertaining too.

"Resilience" is a fascinating documentary that eloquently explains the health-care issues that confront us directly and indirectly on a daily basis. But more than that, "Resilience" gives us the solution to this problem. Rarely do you find a documentary that highlights a problem and gives a solution. It's a film every educator, health-care provider, and lawmaker should see.
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Maudie (2016)
10/10
"Maudie" An Unusual and Brilliant Love Story
17 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Maud (Sally Hawkins) is different...and she's been treated as someone who is not only different, but not capable. Having had enough of this, she ventures out on her own and takes a job as a housekeeper for a local fish monger (Ethan Hawke). The two have an unusual relationship, but like knots in a rope, they work themselves out and they find a strong bond. Her artistic skills are allowed to flourish and thanks to the keen eye of a summer resident, her popularity grows.

"Maudie" is one of those films that just makes you feel good throughout its entirety. Even with the harsh realities that seem to be inflicted upon Maud, nothing can quell the light that shines so brightly from within this effervescent woman. She's smart, witty, and talented, all blanketed by her shyness and humble attitude.

This is a beautiful film, from the style to the narrative, creating what we love about going to the movies...it pulls you into the story, allowing you to truly care, connect, and love the characters, and in the end, have knowledge about a remarkable artist.

I haven't been this emotionally connected to and moved by a film since "Philomena." With exceptional performances and a well-told story, this is a film not to be missed.
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10/10
"Star Wars The Force Awakens" a bold and brilliant continuation
16 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
The Force is with J.J. Abrahms. Star Wars fans, especially those of us who grew up with episodes IV, V, and VI, are going to be absolutely thrilled with Episode VII, aka "The Force Awakens." As the familiar music blasts through the speakers, the bold letters roll past you in space to get you up to speed as to where we are in the story...just like old times. The epic scale scenery, reminding you not only of past Star Wars episodes, but also of the vastness of space, wonderfully overloads your senses as the ships glide effortlessly through the galaxy in the foreground as they shadow the planets.

Without giving too much away, suffice it to say that you will thoroughly enjoy everything that is referenced and brought back to the silver screen. But there are plenty of new aspects in this film too. We have a new droid, BB8, that is adorable with a personality making him as lovable as a puppy. And Chewbacca is so expressively charming that he almost steals the scenes from Han Solo. But can the new characters possibly rise up to the high bar that Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Darth Vader set? The answer is a plain and simple "yes."

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" keeps you on the edge of your seat, glued to every word so that you don't miss any surprises (and there are a few!) With an unbelievably tight script and amazing action scenes that don't overload the movie with CGI, this is filmmaking at its best. When is a sequel as good as the original? The answer is: When you have JJ Abrams at the helm.

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is everything it promised us it would be. The script is fun and full of adventure and action. The acting is superb with not a weak link in the chain. Incorporating old and new concepts and characters together, blends as wonderfully as a chocolate and peanut butter. The style feels like George Lucas' golden touch. I wonder if he might be thinking, "This is the film I wished I could have made back in 1977."
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9/10
"A Light Beneath Their Feet" Shines Brightly
26 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
"A Light Beneath Their Feet" is an insightful, beautiful, and enlightening film about bipolar disorder, relationships, belonging, and the need for independence.

It's tough enough being 17, but imagine being 17 and having a mother with bipolar disorder.  Now, imagine this 17 year old, like any other senior in high school, wanting to branch out and go to college half way across the country, but feels obligated to stay nearby and care for her mother.  Beth's own inner demons of obligation and the need for independence are eloquently portrayed in "The Light Beneath Their Feet."

Taryn Manning (Gloria) and Madison Davenport (Beth) star in this engaging coming of age film where the roles of care-giving seem to be reversed. With realistic performances by Manning and Davenport that truly capture this cruel disorder and its effects, "A Light Beneath Their Feet" allows you to see inside the life and mind of a woman and a family battling to "be normal."

Portraying emotion that is honest and true is credited to not only the writer, actors, and the talented director of photography, but also to a perceptive director. In coordinating every aspect of filmmaking, "Light" is not only a sensitive piece, it is also an intelligent one.
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Z For Zachariah A Psychological Thriller of Epic Proportions
24 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
"Z For Zachariah," is not your stereotypical post-apocalyptic film. It's a study of the psychology of survival, religion, and love. This complicated and multifaceted tale is not only intriguing, but thought-provoking.

Although the movie differs from the book, the additional character brings a level of complexity that truly typifies human nature at its best and at its worst. The intensity as the three plunge into stressful situations, not showing all their cards to reveal their morals and values, allows each character to slowly bubble from within until they each explode. This, in part, is due not only to the talents of the cast but of the deft direction of the director and the articulate writing skills of Nissar Modi.

With only three actors in a 95 minute film, you have to have some amazing performances from each of them for this film to succeed. Pine, Ejiofor, and Robbie each have spectacular performances, but this is by far is one of Pine and Robbie's best. All three talented actors pull from within to demonstrate the innermost heart and soul of each and everyone of us.

"Z for Zachariah" will captivate you as you are transformed into a world that scarily could be ours in a not so distant future. Beautifully shot in the Eastern States, the tranquility is immediately overwhelming, but quickly becomes frightening and stifling. What is most meaningful about this film is the fact that it will stay with you as you try to decipher and interpret their situation and decisions, stimulating a multitude of conversations later.
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Druid Peak (2014)
9/10
'Druid Peak'
29 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
"Druid Peak" beautifully captures the struggle of a teenage boy and his way back to life through a connection with nature. Owen's continuous poor decisions in life and high school finally catch up with him and he must now live with the guilt of a best friend's death. At her wit's end, Owen's mother ships him off to live with his estranged father in Yellowstone National Park. Owen and his father connect in a very subtle way, but it is Owen's intrinsic ability to connect with nature that eventually allows him to grow.

The cinematography alone makes this film worth watching, but the heart of the story is so meaningful and rich that the backdrop just augments the film. Relationships are difficult to portray, especially of a teen and a parent, but "Druid Peak" skillfully and delicately shows us all the elements necessary to do so.

With this film, less is definitely more as we learn more from the reactions from the characters and the carefully selected dialogue that is used. This film pulls you in, finding a way to give you empathy for both Owen and his father. The emotional power of both these characters is intensely wonderful; especially as we see such realistic changes in each of them.

The characters are complex, yet real. The writing is succinct and the actors' ability to convey the story, not only with words, but with their actions and expressions is absolutely stunning. Spencer Treat Clark who plays Owen embodies his character perfectly. It's obvious that the director and actors synced harmoniously to give us this remarkable film.

"Druid Peak" is simply beautiful on all levels: it's a compelling and realistic story which is enhanced by stellar cinematography. On the surface, it's a story about a troubled teen, but there are so many layers that it becomes much more than that. It is a story about life.
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Ratter (2015)
9/10
Ratter Intense Thriller
6 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Using genuinely unique filming techniques and a story line that sets up an increasingly intense thriller, RATTER will bring you to your knees as you watch the story unfold. Written and directed by Branden Kramer, this intense film expresses what today's technology and those with ill will could possibly be capable of doing. How safe is our iPhone or our tablet and laptop? Today's generation is in constant contact with these technological devices, but what if someone could stalk you using them?

RATTER is a mesmerizing film that brings you into the world where you have no control and your fate is determined by someone else. The overall feeling of impending doom with the hope of justification, is the extreme emotional tug of war that occurs throughout the entire film. It's simply superb in its execution of this intriguing story. Ashley Benson as the young grad student, Emma, carries the film as she exhibits ever increasing paranoia and fear.

RATTER harnesses fear in today's technology, portraying a believable story-line with creative filming techniques, solid writing, and precision acting. It's one of the best psychological (and realistic) thrillers I have seen in a long time.
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Body (I) (2015)
9/10
BODY An Intense Thriller
29 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Written, produced and directed by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, this ever-increasingly intense psychological thriller will make you question your own morals and values. Starring Helen Rogers, Alexandra Turshen, and Lauren Molina these three older college aged kids are home on vacation. Finding themselves a bit bored and feeling "pathetic" for not having anything to do on the weekend, they go out to have a bit of fun. The fun, seemingly innocuous, turns horribly wrong and with every wrong turn, there's another one just ahead of them. Each girl has a different perspective and as each decision is made, the waters become muddier and muddier until those waters are completely black. "Body" is an amazingly intense film. The situation at hand becomes realistically horrific and the true personalities of each of the girls becomes more apparent. It's truly a gripping and disturbing psychological analysis of what happens to people in a dire situation. You'll be on the edge of your seat and talking to the screen (even if you aren't a "screen talker") trying to convince someone to make a different decision. "Body" will impact you long after you see it and you'll be asking yourself what you would do or perhaps what would your own daughter do in a situation like this. "Body" is a gem of a find if you enjoy intense psychological thrillers! With superb acting, clear writing and directing, this film is a success in its genre!
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9/10
The "Silver Tsunami" Is About to Strike
13 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
"Silver Tsunami" covers everything you need to know about the upcoming epidemic of aging.  Using researchers, scientists, and statistics, this film provides accurate and mind boggling information that everyone needs to know.  The costs will be astronomical, but not only will the upcoming problem hurt us financially, it will also devastate us emotionally.  We have the tools to help combat this, yet we are sitting back, just waiting for that 'wave' to wash us away.   "Silver Tsunami" is a wake up call for the world.  This is the documentary film to see.  Aging and its related diseases, financial and emotional costs, and the science behind it all is creatively told in this film.  We can't afford to ignore this issue and Cynthia Harrison and her film enlighten us about this issue.  We can do something about this problem.  Education and awareness are the first steps.
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Lucky Them (2013)
8/10
"Lucky Them' Indeed
13 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Toni Collette truly has a thousand faces. She can be the insecure divorcée or the frumpy mum in A LONG WAY DOWN. And now she is this character of the hip music critic who is still gorgeous at 40-something and can shag a twenty-something with a just a flash of her smile as bait. I'm not sure who has had more fun in the roles she has had recently: Toni Collette or Julianne Moore. Ms. Moore starred in THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT with Mark Ruffalo and in DON JON with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Whew! Let's hear it for women my age snagging awesome, fun, and sexy roles that are still emotionally intelligent with depth of character.

Collette's character, Ellie, is a music critic who has been in the business for a lifetime. As a youngster, she met and fell in love with an up and coming rock star, Matthew Smith, who made a significant impact upon the music scene. Unfortunately, he disappeared; an apparent suicide, but never found. Ellie, a good decade later, still trying to find the next upcoming star, is floundering in her job. She is assigned to investigate and find Matthew Smith who has been "spotted" performing not far from her location. Reluctantly, and under the "promise" of getting fired if she didn't conform, Ellie takes on this assignment with the a little help from her friends.

Ellie is a very complex character who wants nothing more than to be loved and to give love in return, but she has been burned too badly by Matthew. In her bar hopping search, she happens upon someone with promise, but her want of love supersedes her intellectual side. She begins a relationship with the unplugged guitar hero Lucas. But Ellie is Ellie: older, not necessarily wiser. And we watch as she makes one decision after another that are not necessarily good ones. With an old acquaintance who has more time and money on his hands than the Elton John, Ellie receives a bit of help with strings attached: Charlie is allowed to begin his documentary filmmaking career with the search for Matthew Smith. As Ellie is at her rope's end, she agrees. The story follows Ellie along this path of discovery with interesting side stories of love for herself as well as Charles' eccentricities.

This is a very entertaining film with such depth and creativity that I was captivated from the very beginning. Collette is wonderful. She is rock-solid gorgeous and believable as the hip music critic who has been jaded by love. Thomas Haden Church is a character I've not seen before. He is a pretentious, rich nerd who is rather desperate in the love department. In fact, he is rather blinded by love, but so innocent about it that his pretentiousness becomes endearing. Throw into the mix, Oliver Platt as the ever-loving editor and the film is perfectly set. With the self- discovery of our two main characters this film is completely satisfying.

The film, co-written by Huck Botko and Emily Wachtel with the original idea by Caroline Sherman, is directed by Megan Griffiths. It's a bit of a quirky film, tackling a familiar story in a unique and interesting way. Collette is an extremely versatile actress who continues to show her range of abilities and I'm guessing, is having a lot of fun doing so! The music is enticing and even enchanting at times to match the mood and fluctuations of the movie perfectly.

LUCKY THEM is a movie that will appeal to music lovers and film lovers alike. It's a strong cast with an equally powerful story. This film is recommended for over 20′s as I don't think the teen population would understand or relate to the topics. And if you're my age (40's) and female, you are going to love it! Cheers to Toni Collette!
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9/10
Arlo & Julie an Entertaining Enigma
23 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"Arlo & Julie" is an entertaining look at a typical couple, caught up in the mystery and intrigue of putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Each day, the young pair receives a few pieces of a puzzle in the mail. When the number of pieces in each envelope doubles every day, the two find themselves obsessed with not only solving the puzzle but determining the meaning behind it.

As they begin to piece the puzzle together, their work and social lives begin to unravel. Will solving this puzzle be the end of them or will there be a pot of gold for them? Arlo and Julie are hardworking young adults with money issues. Their jobs get them by, but that's about it. As Arlo learns of a valuable painting of Julie's hanging on their wall, his curiosity gets the better of him. Adding the pieces of the puzzle to mix as well as several interesting characters, the film takes on a life of its own. Their snoopy mailman, with his need to know what's in the envelopes and the dysfunctional couple who have answers for everyone but themselves, take up precious puzzle-solving time. The clever conversation, quick-paced with off-beat comments interspersed, keeps you on your toes. Throw in some historical stories about Grant and the film has everything you could want. If only there actually was a college course called "Whiskey & War!" "Arlo & Julie" is a truly creative film with its quick banter, striking camera angles, intriguing use of lighting, and old-time music accentuating each dramatic scene. With a feel of the 1920′s, each day is depicted with a black screen and simple writing of "Day 1." As the old Victrola plays songs from by-gone eras, this film captures and successfully blends the old with the new for a beautiful result. The attention to detail is extraordinary as this film had me believing there was an artist by the name of Comstock.

Alex Dobrenko and Ashley Spillers carry this film with the deft skill of seasoned actors. The subtleties in their expressions and body language make their characters completely believable. Mallory Culbert and Chris Doubek have stellar performances bringing their own quirky characters to life. The remainder of the cast augmented the overall feel of eccentricity with an outstanding sense of comedic timing.

"Arlo & Julie" is an unusually funny film that will entertain you on every level. With its ingenious writing and outstanding acting execution, "Arlo & Julie" can't miss. Don't be the missing piece of the puzzle be sure to see "Arlo & Julie!"
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9/10
Alive Inside Changes Lives
21 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
ALIVE INSIDE: A STORY OF MUSIC AND MEMORY is a scientifically emotional film about our basic abilities as humans:  communication and connections.  Over a three year period, filmmaker Michael Rosatto-Bennett followed Dan Cohen as he visited various nursing facilities.  What takes place on the screen seems almost impossible.  It is truly magical.  Patients with little connection to people and their environment, some with no recognition of their own adult children, put a set of headphones on, plug into an iPod programmed with songs of their generation and PRESTO! they come to life.  They talk about what they are listening to; they reminisce about the time period; and they talk about their feelings. But most importantly, they are connected to people.  With music, they come back to the world around them and are living again.

I know this sounds like magic, but neurology actually supports this observation.  With the disease of dementia, the hippocampus or memory area of our brains, is affected.  It looks a bit like a bunch of spider webs throwing off the pathways in our brain, making it impossible for proper connections to take place. But music memory isn't stored here.  Music reaches all the different areas of our brain and stimulates synapses or fireworks of communication so that we "wake up!"  Music touches us all on so many different levels, and Dan Cohen with his endeavors has helped to bring life back into these older folks who had given up and recoiled within themselves.

We baby-boomers will be inhabiting this earth, growing exponentially over the next 2 decades.  Don't we want to help our own parents age more gracefully as well as set the precedent for our own care in the coming years?  See this film and empower yourself.
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9/10
Finding Neighbors an Absolute Gem
13 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Rarely do you find a film that captures the essence of life and love---in middle age. "Finding Neighbors" does just that. This uniquely created film focuses upon the Sam, a formerly very successful graphic novelist who has a bad case of writers block with a past due deadline for his next creation. With his wife supporting him, Sam's interest pulls him into the lives of his neighbors. Little does he realize that looking outside of himself actually helps him look within himself. Sam not only finds neighbors, he finds himself.

Middle Age. It's a phenomenon. And marriage within that time period is a stage all to its own. "Finding Neighbors" hits the nail on the head with thoughts, feelings, and self-doubt at that age. Sam's marriage has suffered with lack of communication and his lack of motivation just compounds the difficulties. Sam is also facing aging accompanied by a waning physique, but even with these issues, this outwardly appearing slacker is still very endearing. You see, his new-found neighborly relationships give the viewer insight into not just what makes Sam tick, but prods us to look within ourselves at our own progression in and through Middle Age.

Even with the seriousness of Sam's situation and the conversations that awkwardly ensue, there is quite a bit of humor. The comedic situations are realistic and relatable. The story develops utilizing the art of graphic novel techniques interspersed with just adds to the level of entertainment.

Middle age and marriage is a rough topic to handle with precision, accuracy, and humor. "Finding Neighbors'" writer and director, Ron Judkins, polishes this diamond into a sparkling story of life.

If you're married and in your mid-life, you are going to enjoy this honest portrayal of life.
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Violet (I) (2013)
8/10
Violet Has Heart
8 February 2014
Warning: Spoilers
VIOLET is a sweet story of serendipity written and directed by Luiso Berdejo and starring Junio Valverde and Leticia Dolera. This film, quite a departure from the horror genre Americans might recognize the writer and director for, captures the essence of youth, love, and family.

Alex (Valverde) happens upon a Polaroid photo at a flea market while living in Santa Monica. Alex becomes obsessed with finding this woman in the photograph. With the help of his girl friend and the guidance of his grandfather's words of wisdom imparted on him before he passes away, Alex begins his journey. Along the way, he discovers much more than he anticipated.

Alex and 5 (Dolera) seem to be inseparable best friends. As Alex searches for this mystery woman, you see the conflict of emotions within 5 who absolutely adores Alex. Their conversation and interactions let you know that they know each other well, but there is a boundary there that 5 does not cross. They are friends. She obviously will do whatever Alex needs to make him happy; including finding an unknown woman in a photo he has fallen in love with. Alex seems to be a free spirit---young and happy without many worries. With the luck of a mishap, even money isn't an issue. As Alex follows his intuition, you see how he honors and holds his grandfather and his wisdom in high regard. Alex follows "the signs" and all the coincidences that occur, trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together. While you know the chances of Alex finding this woman are slim, and you root for 5, you still want him to find this woman...or do you?

VIOLET is a sweet, lighthearted film with a message about life. What a wonderful combination. The film is shot entirely on film which gives the movie even more of a feeling of real life. It's grainy, but colorful, especially when 5 is in a scene. The innocence it captures immediately transports the viewer back to his or her own youth when anything is possible. Berdejo's writing fully represents that innocence and Valverde brings it all to life. Dolera's performance is skillful as she conveys so much with her expressions. You have empathy and truly care about this character. With creative writing and talented acting, the story succeeds not only in entertaining you, but reminds us of what is important in life. Sometimes, if we just listen, the answers are right in front of us.

VIOLET is a sweet and simple story about self-discovery as a young man follows his heart and intuition. It's also a story about love and being open to really seeing what's around you. Coincidences are truly serendipitous in this emotionally satisfying film full of words of wisdom to live by.
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9/10
Some Velvet Morning: Intense and Captivating
4 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This cutting edge and sometimes controversial director/writer Neil LaBute has stayed true to form with his intermittently cruel and quite realistic new film "Some Velvet Morning."  The realistic conversation with the cynical and chauvinistic male lead and the submissive female is almost reminiscent of a David Mamet play in style. It was not always pretty or comfortable to watch, but this seems to be LaBute's signature.  

Fred (Tucci) arrived unexpectedly at the home of his former lover/prostitute, Velvet, after a 4 year hiatus.  It appeared that Fred had the notion of moving back into Velvet's home.  The two had a sordid past as they struggled to find a place of comfort within their relationship.  Can a love once gone wrong be turned around?

From the moment Tucci's character, Fred, is on the scene, tension and apprehension are in the air.  Fred, with suitcases in hand, waits impatiently at the door of his former lover/hired prostitute.  As Velvet opens the door, more than the look of surprise crosses her face.  Is it fear?  Trepidation?  Excitement?  Fred is then reluctantly let in with Velvet expressing her desire to leave for an appointment soon.  The two move from room to room, as Fred shares more from his life and what has happened in the last four years. The push and pull these two have on each other is from a very unhealthy past relationship.

It was difficult and stressful to watch this rather fast-paced and rigorous verbal workout.  The intensity with each and every scene was continually amplified until I truly wanted to leave.  But I didn't and I'm so glad that I didn't!

  This 2-person film  could have been a play on a stage.  The film took place in a few different rooms of a beautiful townhouse in NYC.  The entire film was a conversation between Tucci and Eve's characters.  It felt as if you were following them from room to room and sitting in a corner chair as the scene unfolded before you.  Stanley Tucci showed that he can be quite brilliant as the egotistical, control freak who forces his views and opinions onto those around him.  He also seemed like a lost soul at one moment and then an uncaring bastard in the next.  Alice Eve was equally extraordinary.  She pulled you into her character and situation.  Even though you couldn't relate to her chosen profession, you still cared about her.  You identified with her as a female.  She, too, was simply brilliant in her role.

"Some Velvet Morning" was about an unbalanced relationship that tipped way too far in one direction.  It took a harsh look at one of the oldest professions in the world: prostitution.  No matter if it's a street corner or a penthouse apartment, it's still prostitution.  It was also a relentless examination into how women value themselves and allow others to dictate their worth.  This movie kept me glued to the screen, but it also made me incensed.  The emotional roller coaster ride was almost more than this merry-go-round rider could handle.  But with every roller coaster ride, it does eventually end (but you better hold on tight)!
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Gravity (2013)
9/10
Gravity Has Emotional Pull
9 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I wasn't expecting much from the premise. I couldn't imagine how they could make this an interesting film. It was much more than interesting. It was as if I became a part of the film. I felt visually disoriented as if in outer-space. I held my breath and it became irregular along with the film's intensity. I got to know the characters and cared about them. Bullock's performance is Oscar-worthy as she carries the film. Clooney's role is decidedly smaller, but just as important as he brings calmness as well as levity to the film. The cinematography is amazing, especially in 3D.

"Gravity" is a spellbinding and beautiful movie as two people encounter dire circumstances one after the other. Survival is the name of the game, but the inner strength is what shines for these characters. Wonderfully written and visually gripping to bring the utmost intensity to a story filled with anxiety and stress.

This is a film to see!
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5/10
The Butler Falls Short
15 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
"The Butler" tackles the daunting task of relating history accurately, telling a story of an influential butler in the White House, and most importantly, relaying a tale about a father and son in an entertaining way. "The Butler" can't do it all. It misses the mark by trying to do too much. The heart of this story is about Cecil and Louis, a father and son, but you have to brush away too many layers to really see this. In the end, this very ordinary man has a very extraordinary life. The changes he sees and possibly even influences are amazing.

Forest Whitaker plays Cecil Gaines in Whitaker style. He is adept at conveying pain, hurt, disappointment and conflict without saying a word. You feel what he is feeling whether you have experienced what he has or not. Oprah Winfrey is quite competent in the role of Cecil's wife, Gloria. She is a mom and a wife, but an unfulfilled one. She loves her husband, but is conflicted. All of these emotions are clearly displayed. The well-known actors playing various presidents are spot-on with their speech and mannerisms. James Marsden, playing JFK, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, and Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan are particularly impressive.
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8/10
A Perfect Blend
13 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
"The Return of Joe Rich" is set in Chicago where every mob story should be set. Joe Rich is a story about a son/nephew, Joe (Sam Witwer) returning to Chicago to live with his mother after the financial crisis hits him and he has lost everything. Joe's family is "connected." His Uncle Dom (Armand Assante) is the patriarch of this connected family and Joe "wants in". As he says, "Crime does pay." How far will Joe go? Is this type of work truly in his blood?

As Joe moves back in to his childhood home, we see the immediate struggles any man moving back home would have. These struggles are compounded by a very strong mother in an intimidating family. Joe's relationships with his mother and other family members appear to pick up right where they left off when Joe was young. He also reunites with his long lost love adding the necessary love story in a rather brutal mob tale. Joe sees first hand where loyalties truly lie and what kind of a person he actually is.

Violence is a big part of this movie, but there are also some great comedic lines thrown in to balance the film. The rolling meatballs across the screen to segue from one scene into the next are reminiscent of Batman, taking the tension of the film down a level. The home movies and the interviews with the "retired connected men" were the two aspects that keep this movie grounded and real. These men were truly a part of "The Family." These old guys tell it like it was back in the day. The scenes of Joe pretending to shoot a gun in the bathroom add yet another level of entertainment in this film. No, not just because he shows off his six pack abs (although, that is a bonus!), but because it's funny and immature in a serious movie. He shows us that moving back home and living with mom in your late 20's has it's drawbacks!

The cast is outstanding. Talia Shire plays Joe's mom with a sense of ease and reality. Armand Assante is perfectly cast as the mob boss. He is exactly how I imagine one to be. Sam Witwer takes on this rather complex role effortlessly. The writing, directing and acting seem to meld seamlessly to give us a compelling story not just about the mob, but about people.
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7/10
One Small Hitch Hooked Me
26 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This lighthearted "chick flick" was wonderful escapism entertainment. The story has probably been done before in different ways, but this one, due to its humor and cast, kept my attention and pulled me into the story. Josh's best friend was Molly's older brother during high school. Molly was always "the little sister." How each of them viewed the other drastically changed, even against their will, as the two "pretended" to be engaged to make Josh's dying father happy. The relationship evolved with humor utilizing miscommunication and even tackled the families' two opposite religions trying to meld together: staunch Irish Catholic and Jewish. Molly (Aubrey Dollar) was sweet, cute, and adorable...the all-American girl next door. Josh (Shane McRae) was the typical hot player, never wanting more than a bit of fun with women. The chemistry between the Dollar and McRae was believable and the families were stereotypical to the point of comical.

Although "One Small Hitch" was predictable, it was an absolute pleasure to watch. It was endearing, lighthearted, sweet, and just plain fun. This was a perfect film to see with girlfriends.
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9/10
Eat Spirit Eat Sated My Movie Appetite
20 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
"Eat Spirit Eat" had its World Premiere at the Waterfront Film Festival in South Haven, Michigan recently. "Eat Spirit Eat" was about an orphaned boy, Oliver, who wanted nothing more than for his father to keep his promise: become a movie star and come back for him. Years went by and Oliver became an adult. He was intent on helping his father fulfill his promise. Through the years, Oliver made pacts with various foster siblings to help him find his father.

This rich, vibrant, and exaggerated film touched your heart. It was quick-witted, fast paced, and at times, cartoon-like. All of this just added to the film's fun. Interspersed in the humor were true feelings and emotions concerning the depth of need for a father and his love. "Eat Spirit Eat" was a truly sweet story about belonging, family and a search for a father.

"Eat Spirit Eat" was fun, entertaining , and humorous, but it also had heart. What a wonderful combination. With great acting, intelligent writing about characters you love, this is a perfect feel-good movie. It's an exhilarating journey which takes you along a scavenger hunt and makes you laugh. A definite "must see!"
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Favor (2013)
9/10
FAVOR Blew My Mind
17 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
When a friend asks you to do a favor, you do it, right? How about helping to cover up an apparent murder? Would you do that favor? That's the situation in "Favor," a dark, intense psychological thriller. Kip, a successful marketing director, and Marvin, an out of work loser, had been friends since elementary school. As they each went in their separate and polar opposite directions, they grew apart. But when Kip's affair went awry, he called the one person he knew he could trust; Marvin. As Marvin cleaned up Kip's mess, Kip was completely indebted to Marvin. How far did Kip have to go before he paid his debt? When is it truly "Even Steven?"

This sharp, intelligent, and even at times witty, psychological thriller was unbelievably intense. The twists and turns it took were more wicked and dangerous than Mulholland Dr. on a dark and stormy night. The hole that Kip dug himself got deeper and deeper until you thought there was no way out. I was on the edge of my seat in anticipation of the next move. And when that next move occurred, it was shocking. At times, the inferred violence was a bit much for me, but added to the overall intensity of the movie.

Blayne Weaver and Patrick Day starred in this film by Paul Osbourne. Outstanding performances by all! I left the theater in awe. "Favor" is now one of my top psychological thrillers! Beware, there is violence, but if you like intense, smart, unpredictable films, this is one you won't want to miss.
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Between Us (2012)
8/10
Between Us Worth Seeing
6 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
BETWEEN US is about two sets of grad school friends, now married for years and living in different regions of the country, reunited for a weekend.  Sharyl and Joel, the Midwesterners, had "made it" financially.  They showed off their wealth and what it bought, but Carlo and Grace quickly learned that money didn't buy them everything...happiness was most definitely missing.  The wine was endlessly poured and the acerbic words spilled effortlessly from Joel and Sharyl's mouths. The anger, frustration, resentment, jealousy and even hatred were evident.  As the evening progressed, Sharyl and Joel revealed secrets about each other in hateful, spiteful ways.  Secrets that should have remained just between the two of them came charging to the uncomfortable forefront. We jump forward in time to two years after this negative night to see how Grace and Carlo's relationship has evolved. Through the use of flashing back to various interactions between the couple over that fateful night, we learn more about what actually occurred.  

"Between Us" reminded me in many ways of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf"  with its sarcasm and verbal punches one after another directed to a "loved one." It  was a tense and powerful film portraying many marriages and relationships.  The reactions and emotions each actor demonstrated were riveting and ultimately believable.  The fast paced, overlapping conversational style was realistic as were the topics. The reality of this film, the skilled performances, and the tight script and dialogue made this film gripping.

Marriage can be a rough road full of pot holes, loose edges, and an occasional boulder placed in the middle. It's how you work together to find a smoother path that determines the success of your marriage. "Between Us" showed us the road these two couples traveled.
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Hello Herman (2012)
7/10
Hello Herman Opens Communication
6 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The social implications of the daring film "Hello Herman" cannot be ignored. Michelle Danner, the film's director, gave her audience questions to ponder such as what can and should be done to make schools safer, why do some children commit such atrocious acts, and who are these children? The story unfolds with two parallel stories taking place. Both main characters have issues in their past, but they both deal with them differently. Through flashing back and forth through time, we see each individual unfold completely. Both Lax (Reedus), the blogger, and Herman (Backstrom), the shooter, are realistically complex individuals. The film captures this in a harsh and sometimes brutal way that was at times, difficult to watch. Delving more deeply into the rationale of a shooter, Herman reminisces about many forms of bullying; physical, verbal, emotional, and cyber. They all take a toll. Parental involvement, or lack thereof, and many other stressors are given for the viewer to consider. While this is a disturbing film, it is still a film that opens the doors of communication to discuss how we can address this alarming situation. "Hello Herman" takes us on that difficult journey of beginning to try to understand why this violence is happening to our children.
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8/10
The Russian Winter is Full of Warmth
2 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
"The Russian Winter" is all about second chances and never forgetting who you want to be. John Forte received a second chance in his life after making one bad decision. This former rapper and integral member of the group The Fugees, was in prison on drug charges. He made a bad decision and paid the price. His sentence was commuted thanks to the continued efforts of those that believed in him. Now free, he has an obligation to never let those who did believe in him down. This documentary is a vivid and beautiful depiction of John's journey to share his story and his music. As he travels through Russia, he touches the heart and soul of everyone he meets. The music is phenomenal and lets us inside his mind.

John received a second chance and "The Russian Winter" is a way for you to hear and see this story of remarkable changes. It'll expose you to music you might not otherwise hear and be grateful you did. I know I am grateful he had a second chance!
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