Category Archives: Movies

When Wallace Met Chandry

It’s no accident that the movie poster for What If places good friends Wallace and Chandry at a diner.

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The film is clearly trying to be the When Harry Met Sally for this generation…and does a decent job.

Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan are quirky and appealing, their friendship believable,  their banter quick and smart.

She has a boyfriend (who made me laugh), and Daniel has emotional baggage — plus best friend Adam Driver of Girls who has huge energy…and is huge standing next to Daniel (which is pretty funny right there).

This is a rom-com, so there are misunderstandings, yearning, romantic postcards (in this day and age), implusive international flights, fist fights, and at least two weddings — babies, too.

What if that stuff still worked in films?

You know — it kinda does.

Star gazing

This morning was grey and rainy, so I decided to go see Guardians of the Galaxy.

Guardians-of-the-GalaxyI didn’t think the trailer looked that interesting, but all the critics were singing its praises…and a few friends who attended the first showings loved it, too.

So, off I went.

If you love Chris Pratt from Parks and Recreation and have been on the fence, go see it.  This is a superhero film infused with his trademark sense of humor.

Bradley Cooper is also hilarious as the voice of the raccoon.  And the talking tree, who can only speak four words, will become a favorite.

I have to admit, though, one of the most gut-wrenching movie moments in the theater today was seeing the trailer for Interstellar for the first time.

Wow.

Schooled

kidnapped for christIf you subscribe to Showtime, I encourage you to watch the documentary Kidnapped for Christ, currently available OnDemand.

The film centers on a Christian boarding school in the Dominican Republic that advertised itself as a rehab center for troubled US teens.  The filmmaker, an evangelical school student, was allowed complete access to the teens there and, during production, uncovers disturbing information about the school’s “behavior modification program.” She also learns that some students had been kidnapped from their homes with their parents’ full knowledge and permission.

Her commitment to the project eventually morphs into a determination to help these abused teenagers — one in particular who wants to leave the school where he is essentially being held prisoner.

This story is heartbreaking and, I learned, just one case among thousands around the world.

It is a must-see.

 

Cold justice

I was lucky enough to catch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on HBO over dinner tonight.

eternal sunshine

Such a wonderfully inventive story, and perhaps Jim Carrey’s most powerful and controlled performance.

As I watched, I questioned yet again why he didn’t win an Oscar…or even get nominated.  So I used the Google machine to remind me — who did take the prize in 2005?

The Oscar nominees for Best Actor in a Leading Role were:

  • Don Cheadle in “Hotel Rwanda”
  • Johnny Depp in “Finding Neverland”
  • Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Aviator”
  • Clint Eastwood in “Million Dollar Baby”
  • Jamie Foxx in “Ray”

Foxx took home the prize; it was no shock.  His portrayal of the musical legend was spot-on. He sang and played the piano, too.  I wasn’t a fan of the film, but of him, yes.

I concede defeat.

But I would argue that Carrey’s performance deserves to be on that list as much if not more than Leo.  Or Johnny.  In fact, the list would be stronger for it.

Isn’t it funny how quickly you can become bitter about something that happened 10 years ago?

(Imagine how Jim must feel.)

That’s life

Richard Linklater’s film Boyhood has received enormous attention and near perfect reviews.

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It should.

The fact that it was 12 years in the making is epic enough. That the same actors gathered together to recreate this family each year…so the passage of time Is made all the more authentic by every bad haircut, each pop culture reference.

But Boyhood’s true appeal lies in Linklater’s choice of subject matter: the simple, day-to-day ups and downs of a family doing their best to juggle school and jobs and divorce and remarriage and financial worries and love and loss.

Chances are, at certain points in this movie, you will recognize yourself or your family.

And it will make you smile.

Constructive criticism

Feedback — we have to give it and receive it, sometimes daily depending on our jobs.

That doesn’t make it any easier to hear.

Tim Minchin, the Olivier-award winning and Tony-nominated songwriter of Broadway’s Matilda, once received a very bad review that he couldn’t really shake off.  How did he deal with it?

He wrote a hilarious song about it.

I’ll have to try that sometime…

Note — Minchin is currently workshopping a new musical in London based on the movie Groundhog Day. Can’t wait to hear those lyrics!

Renewed vows

It’s no coincidence that most movies end with the wedding.

That’s when reality kicks in.
112 WeddingsThe documentary 112 Weddings (HBO OnDemand) gives audiences the opportunity to see how that reality measures up.

Filmmaker Doug Block shot wedding videos for 112 couples over his career, and in this documentary, revisits some of those couples a decade or more later after the ‘I do’s.’

Most are still married. One couple is in the process of divorcing and agreed to be interviewed separately.  But all agree that marriage is far different from any idea they may have had at the start.

Many have faced real challenges.  Seriously ill children.  Depression.  But all answer the simple question: would we do it all again, knowing what we know now.

The film manages to be both sobering and joyful at the same time…which is how couples should probably approach such an important life choice.

If you stop and think about it.

Asleep in my takeout

I am fascinated by the critics’ take on the movie Chef, which is currently 88 percent fresh on RottenTomatoes.com.

I found it stale and oh-so-overcooked.

chef movie

I watch a lot of Food Network, so I had high hopes for the film’s ‘recipe': a chef gets fired after he starts a Twitter war with a restaurant critic,  and opens a food truck.

Seems new, seems current.

Turns out all the conflict that drives the film is in the first 15 minutes.  After the chef (Jon Favreau) loses his job, everyone and everything starts working in his favor.

  • Need a food truck?  His ex-wife gets her other ex-husband to provide one.  Takes him to Miami to get it. Appears to bankroll the enterprise, too. (Sure, that happens.)
  • Need help setting it up?  His former junior cook travels across the country — without pay — to help him get started. That sainted ex-wife even takes orders at one point.
  • Need to reconnect with your kid? The ex-wife — again, the most non-confrontational divorced couple in the history of movies and life, for that matter — lets an 11-year old kid work as a line cook on a food truck for the entire summer. Without checking in. Right.

I don’t want to give away the ending in case you plan to see it.  But let’s just say that, once the food truck is parked –

Nothing really happens then, either. Or if it does, they don’t show it.

Because conflict might wake you up out of your food coma.

 

I’ll alert the media

I passed this delivery truck in my neighborhood yesterday afternoon.  The service is new to me, but the name is a classic.

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Can it really be over 30 years now — 1981 in fact — since Dudley Moore burst onto the scene in the comedy classic Arthur, with Sir John Gielgud at his side as his loyal, oh-so-proper manservant Hobson?
arthur hobson

Even he might approve of the logo’s jaunty cap and just-so tie.

The driver of the delivery van was very young.  I couldn’t help but wonder — does he even understand the reference for the company name?

Perhaps he is more familiar with the cringeworthy 2011 movie version of Arthur where Helen Mirren portrayed  Hobson in a bit of gender-bending casting.  If so, he is probably confused by the logo. (Helen didn’t wear a hat.)

And thinks the movie was awful.

Young people.

 

 

 

Moving pictures

The trailer for Words & Pictures, starring Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen, makes it look like a light romantic comedy.

Makes you wonder if the marketing folks even watched the film.
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The promo oversimplifies the story to its most basic elements: two teachers at a private high school clash on the relative importance of art and literature while falling in love.

Tragic.

Not the movie; it was lovely.  What is tragic is  everything the trailer leaves out.

I don’t expect it to reveal every detail  — I’d prefer it didn’t — but the love story in W&P is very specific to the two teachers’ ages, health issues, and work and family situations.  It’s complicated because their lives are more complicated, which makes it a more interesting and multi-layered story.

And it deserves a trailer that reflects that.

Oh well, I’m a happy camper — I got way more movie than I expected!