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It makes me wonder....
15 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The Adjustment Bureau, directed by George Nolfi, is an action packed romance movie that captivates from beginning to end. David Norris (Matt Damon) is a rising New York politician who has a chance meeting with a professional dancer, Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) that completely changes his life. The two fall madly in love and must deal with divine powers trying to keep them apart in a battle between free will and fate. This is a thought provoking film which challenges personal beliefs regarding a higher power and creates an interesting plot. Although I believe in free will, the possibility of "Adjusters" or "Angels" guiding our lives and keeping us on a predetermined path is intriguing. It makes me wonder what my life would look like if I chose another path or had an "Adjuster" correcting my mistakes.

The chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt is intense and enhances the believability of David and Elise's emotions. The intimacy and impulsiveness of their first kiss leaves me feeling like they are meant to be together. Although this adds to the predictability of the ending, I appreciate David's determination to win Elise. Since I am a hopeless romantic, watching a man fight for the love of his life is very appealing.

The cinematography is very well done and the special effects create a visually exciting chase scene through Manhattan. The seamless transition as the characters move supernaturally through doors all over the city is mesmerizing. After living and working in Manhattan for many years, the backdrop evokes a feeling of nostalgia and makes me a little biased towards movies set in New York City. The music of Thomas Newman, one of my favorite film score composers, is engaging and compliments the feeling of romance between David and Elise, as well stimulates the action scenes throughout the film.

The Adjustment Bureau is entertaining and emotionally gratifying with a love conquers all theme. I look forward to watching again.

The Adjustment Bureau. Dir. George Nolfi. Perf. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt: 2011, Film.
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Kick-Ass (2010)
I am a devoted fan!
15 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
"How come nobody's ever tried to be a superhero (Kick-Ass)?" When Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) utters that line, I am instantly hooked. I tried to be a superhero in high school by defending those who could not defend themselves, but I never had a costume or cool alias. Kick-Ass (a.k.a. Dave Lizewski) is a teenage vigilante who becomes an internet sensation as a masked superhero. His crusade attracts the attention of Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz) and Big-Daddy (Nicholas Cage) who join forces to fight the powerful gangster, Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong).

This is a fast-paced, action-packed film that is a visual feast for the eyes with colorful costumes and brilliantly choreographed fight scenes. The grotesquely violent scenes are portrayed in a satirical manner making them quite enjoyable to watch. The music selection is an essential component by adding impact to high-voltage action scenes as well as depth to emotional scenes.

An eclectic cast of characters adds to the film's appeal because they are relatable and enviable. Hit-Girl (a.k.a., Mindy Macready) is absolutely the best part of this movie. She is a pint-sized, powerful avenger who slings guns, knives and vulgarity with ease. All of this is done under the watchful eye of her doting father, Big-Daddy (a.k.a. Damon Macready). The relationship between Mindy and her father is heartwarming, albeit unconventional. There is something endearing and disturbingly funny about a little girl whose daddy teaches her how to take a bullet in the chest.

Despite all the blood and violence there are some touching moments. This is a film about finding your true identity, breaking out of your comfort zone and taking extreme risk to earn great rewards. Kick-Ass is a cult classic that will have devoted fans for decades. I am definitely one of them! Kick-Ass. Dir. Matthew Vaughn. Perf. Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz. Marv Films: 2010, Film.
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A picture is worth a thousand words; this film deserves every one!
15 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Welcome to the wonderful world of real estate, where the golden rule is "A.B.C., Always Be Closing (Glengarry Glen Ross)." This means lie, cheat, steal and do whatever it takes to "get them to sign on the line which is dotted (Glengarry Glen Ross)." A highly competitive group of real estate salesmen struggle to close deals in a tough market with weak leads. In an effort to motivate the team, corporate bigwigs raise the stakes of the monthly sales contest. Blake (Alec Baldwin), the corporate henchman on a mission to enforce the rules, announces the prize: "First prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired (Glengarry Glen Ross)." The intense ultimatum is music to the ears of Ricky Roma (Al Pacino) who is the office superstar. However, rivalries erupt under pressure and the office becomes a breeding ground of anxiety, tension and desperation. Shelly Levine (Jack Lemon) clings to his faded glory while the other agents, Dave Moss (Ed Harris) and George Aaronow (Alan Arkin) concoct a profitable scheme to get them back on their feet. When John Williamson (Kevin Spacey), the snide office manager, announces the good leads were taken during a robbery, everyone is a suspect.

Glengarry Glen Ross is a splendid film adaptation of David Mamet's 1984 Broadway play, directed by James Foley. This is an exceptionally well-written script with a phenomenal cast that transforms material, which is not inherently cinematic, into an interesting and intriguing film. The film does not rely on special effects to hold the attention of the audience; it achieves this with a natural dialogue that realistically portrays multi-dimensional characters. The characters are complicated with a mix of good and bad in each of them. They banter back and forth, interrupt each other and at times it's hard to tell who's right and who's wrong. These conversations add interest and enhance the reality of the film.

Glengarry Glen Ross is not what anyone would consider a feel-good movie, but there is appeal in the testosterone driven behavior of these characters that use memorable lines like razor ribbon to cut each other down. I find it interesting that some have claimed Glengarry Glen Ross is about the "evils of the free-enterprise system." I feel it is more about basic human evolution and survival of the fittest in a cut-throat world. This is evident in the fact that Ricky evolves to be the top-dog and consequently leads his mentor, Shelly, into proverbial extinction. They are all like animals struggling to survive in their environment.

David Mamet contributes greatly to the film's success with an exquisite script. However, the attention to detail within the set design is noteworthy because it adds irony and reality to the film. A majority of the film is set within the walls of a drab, depressing office which is filled with inspirational wall hangings containing messages that seem to daunt more than inspire. Additionally, a picture of Shelly Levine's daughter sits on his desk in serene contrast to the all-male cast and surrounding chaos. The irony continues throughout the film and enhances the empathic feeling at the end.

Although some feel the performances of Al Pacino and Jack Lemmon stand out among the cast of equals, I disagree. I feel each performance stands out individually without overshadowing the other and allows us to view into each of the character's psyche. Some characters have more time on screen and are more likable than others which may influence opinions. Oddly enough my favorite character is Blake. Blake does not appear in the play, but was added by David Mamet in the film adaptation. He is a heartless narcissist who takes great pleasure in his nefarious behavior and even goes so far as to show everyone his "brass balls". Even though Blake is a man I love to hate, he has some of the most memorable lines in the movie which I have been quoting for years. As I reach for a cup of coffee, I can hear Blake's voice saying: "Coffee is for closers (Glengarry Glen Ross)." The collaborative effort of David Mamet and James Foley produced a film which successfully transitioned a theatrical performance to the screen without losing any of its integrity. The effective use of close-ups keeps the focus on the dialog which is the quintessential element of the film's success.

Glengarry Glen Ross. Dir. James Foley. Perf. Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey and Jonathan Pryce. New Line Cinema: 1992, Film.
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Rio (2011)
Take me to Rio!
15 August 2011
I want to go to Rio de Janeiro! Rio is an exuberant CGI animated 3D film with wonderfully vibrant colors that literally jump off the screen. This is a classic fish out of water story filled with romance, life lessons and a fairly predictable ending. Nevertheless, Rio is a truly enjoyable film and nearly impossible to watch without dancing in your seat. Director Carlos Saldanha incorporates a tremendous amount of the Brazilian culture into the film and realistic landscape; it is very easy to forget this is an animation. In particular, the flight scenes offer spectacular bird's eye views of the exotic Rio de Janeiro setting. Breathtaking scenery filled with rich, warm colors is incredibly detailed and mesmerizing.

Although the themes are familiar, the characters are engaging and lovable. Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) is a domesticated macaw from a small-town who embarks on an adventure in Rio de Janeiro with native, Jewel (Anne Hathaway) to save endangered animals. Credit goes to the writers for providing a sharp, witty dialog and the voice actors for bringing the animated characters to life. In addition to the incredible computer generated visuals, the music adds authentic Brazilian flavor and zest. I love the samba and bossa nova rhythms that pulsate throughout and provide infectious energy. Rio is not billed as a musical but it definitely has that feel and the music is what makes this fast-paced adventure so enjoyable. The Carnival festival explodes on the screen with vigor and verve providing a dazzling display of movement and color set perfectly to music.

Rio does not have the depth of some other animated stories; however, it is pure fun from beginning to end. This movie is a visually stunning escape from everyday life and serves as an animated brochure for a place I hope to visit one day.

Rio. Dir. Carlos Saldanha. Perf. Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway and George Lopez. Blue Sky Studios: 2011, Film.
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