Friday, December 28, 2012


I went into this movie completely blind.  I hadn't read the books based on this character.  I didn't know much more than the fact Tom Cruise was in it and it was a thriller.  The initial scene, given societies recent tragic events, was a bit disturbing as the viewer was shown the mind and  vision of a man about to commit homicide.  We watched the possible victims from the scope of a sniper's rifle as he decided which people to take out.  This long, drawn out scene was effective in what it wanted you, the viewer, to feel...sickening dread.  Had the Newtown, Connecticut incident not have occurred, this might not have had as much impact.  But it did.  The rest of the movie could be categorized as a Thriller/Mystery.  Tom Cruise's character, Jack Reacher, was ex-military police who was suspiciously called in to help look at the case.  The mystery began to unfold as to the killer's identity and motive.  Who's the good guy and who's the bad guy was also the question at hand.  And of course there's a little sexual tension between our two main characters, Mr. Reacher and the District  Attorney, Helen Rodin.  
Although the initial scene was a bit disturbing, the rest of the movie kept you glued to the screen as you tried to figure out the puzzle before you.  The characters were well-developed with interesting relationship issues that added to the story.  Richard Jenkins and Robert Duvall had minor roles, but of course, they added depth and integrity to the film.  Rosamund Pike's role of Helen was believable even though I've never had contact with female lawyers who dressed to show their DD's in an evening dress at the office.  But I will forgive that as I thought the acting skills counteracted this.

I can't say this is a must see on the big screen.  It was an entertaining film albeit a bit predictable, with good characters and a good plot.  You could wait for the DVD and you really wouldn't miss anything until then.  But if you're in the mood for a Thriller/Mystery/Crime Solving type of movie, see Jack Reacher.


Thursday, December 27, 2012


I saw the stage production of 'Les Miserables' in Chicago MANY years ago in a beautiful old theater in a private balcony seat.  I've always loved the theater.  I grew up in a podunk little town that, in the summer, transformed itself into a cultural mecca.  I had the opportunity to see Shakespeare and various operas in Chautauqua Institution.  I also took part in small high school plays (not getting the part I wanted where I kissed the handsome blue eyed boy, but instead played the old hag...that's another story) as well as bit parts in college productions.  Living in Chicago afforded me the opportunity to continue my love of theater, viewing 'CATS' and 'Les Mis' along with many others.  Thankfully,  I am now able to see wonderful smaller plays in storefront theaters in Chicago as well as the better known productions from Steppenwolf.  To bring a stage production known for years to the silver screen is a daunting task.  Tom Hooper successfully did so.  He found the talent, conveyed the story, and made it work.

Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway quickly changed their personas during 'Les Miserables' from convict to thief to nobleman and struggling mother to a destitute and desperate whore.  These two actors were talented in their art, but they were also both talented singers.  To convey the depth and meaning of the lyrics was also a daunting task, but they deftly performed their skills.  Russell Crowe also demonstrated a skill previously unknown.  His rich, velvety voice fit the part of policeman Javert perfectly.  Their resonant voices, the full-bodied lyrics, and the richness of each of the characters pulled you into their troubled world.  Remember, the title is 'Les Miserables.'  It's not pretty in the superficial, typical way.  But the story was so very beautiful.  It was a story of love and not just love between a man and a woman, but love of honor, of country, of life, and of liberty as well.  The loss these characters encountered was unfathomable.  Some endured and some did not.  Remember, 'Les Miserables.'

The music was familiar, if you know 'Les Mis.'  The settings were reminiscent of the play, but were much more splendid and bountiful thanks to the flexibility of film vs. stage.  It conveyed cold.  It communicated poverty.  It expressed desperation.  The settings were all that and more.  The music was beautiful with very little speaking conversation.  Now this is where I had some difficulty with the musical.  Yes, I know it's a musical.  I loved 'West Side Story' and 'Chicago' is one of my all-time favorite musicals.  When the lines and conversation are sung-spoken with no melody, I struggled.  I am fine if the conversation fits the musical lines, but it must be a song not just notes.  Again, similar to my views on Quentin Tarantino (see DJANGO UNCHAINED review), that's just my opinion.  This musical will definitely appeal to all 'Les Miserables' fans and musical lovers.  I just don't think it'll cross over into the mainstream very well due to that last observation.

See this film if you loved the stage production of 'Les Miserables.'  You won't be disappointed.  You will be amazed at the unceasing talents of not just the main stars but everyone in this film. This was truly a wonderful adaptation from stage to film.  However, if you aren't a fan of musicals, I'm guessing you might not enjoy this.



I will be the first to say I am not a fan of Quentin Tarantino.  His movies are just too brutally violent for me.  I didn't make it through "Pulp Fiction" or "Reservoir Dogs."  Come to think of it, I didn't get all the way through "Kill Bill" or "Inglourious Basterds" either.  Now, my 20 year old son LOVES QT.  He wanted to see it so badly (and for free as I pay), he even agreed to go see a matinee of "Django Unchained" with his mother!  My deal with him was that he convey all lost information to me from Eye Coverage.  Yes, I lost several minutes of the movie as I can't have those images burned into my memory.

This western which was apparently based on the 1966 DJANGO movie by Frank Nero, had an all-star cast as would be expected in any Quentin Tarantino movie.  Jamie Foxx played Django who was a slave turned bounty hunter thanks to the humanitarian efforts and forward mind-set of Dr. King Schultz played by the over-articulate Christoph Waltz.  The first scene hit the audience with bold type set which informed us that the year was 1858 (2 years before the Civil War)...inferring that most of the audience wouldn't know that that date was 2 years before the Civil War.  Whatever.  Anyway, Dr. King was quickly introduced as he rode his horse-drawn wagon with a large wiggling tooth atop the wagon.  OK.  Details here.  The tooth had 3 roots.  I am sure I am the only one that noticed that the molar only had 3 roots, but come on.  Throw that 4th root on there!  I guess 3 roots would be an oral surgeon's dream. Back to the story.  The violence began quickly and continued throughout the movie.  Yes, this was expected.  Some of the violence, however, was so unrealistic that it wasn't as bothersome as I thought it would be.  Spaghetti Western fit it perfectly as so much of the blood spurting looked like gooey noodles strewn about.  The most troubling aspect of the movie regarding violence were the scenes which dealt with brutality to slaves.  Eye Coverage here.

Given all the blood and guts, the movie also was funny.  Even slapstick silly in parts.  One of the funniest scenes featured Jonah Hill in the KKK.  I give credit to anyone who can take such a deplorable group of people and what they stood for and make them into bumbling idiots and funny.  Funny also came into play with the music choices.  I am not a music aficionado.  So for me to notice Rap, 70's, and Beethoven all intertwined, it had to stand out in a very bizarre way.  My son assured me that that is a QT signature on a movie.  OK.

The story was interesting and kept me glued to the screen, except when Eye Coverage was needed.  I was on edge for the entire movie waiting to see if the end goal was attained.  The acting was superb.  This was the first movie that Leonardo DiCaprio was in that I enjoyed watching him.  He played a most spectacular bad guy.  Don Johnson was surprisingly talented as Big Daddy!  He has improved with age from his Miami Vice days!  Waltz and Foxx were believable and likable.  You cared about them and wanted them to succeed.  That brings me to Samuel L. Jackson.  The make-up was phenomenal.  I truly didn't place him until after several minutes of seeing close-ups!  And he played a very unlikable character in the most extraordinary way!  QT even had a bit part in the movie.  Personally, I think he should stay BEHIND the camera.

Now the negatives and there generally are always a few in any movie, but this one had some pretty powerful negatives.  The N-word being dropped 7 million times (ok, I'm exaggerating) just got to be too much for me.  It was offensive.  Yes, that was probably the way they talked back then, but WOW!  It kept hitting me over the head.  I can't imagine how someone who was African American felt in the audience.  Then the brutal treatment and violence that occurred was really too much for me as well.  I lost out on a good 5+ minutes of the movie due to Eye Coverage.  The positive about the Eye Coverage was that there was generally fair warning that I needed to do so.  Thanks, QT.  The duration of the movie was 165 minutes...that's 2 hours and 45 minutes.  I felt like there were actually 3 different endings and perhaps one couldn't be agreed upon so they melded all three of them into the film.  Next time, pick one and cut 45 minutes.

This is NOT a movie for everyone.  It was an interesting story with great acting.  It was extremely violent, graphic, and harsh.  But it was also funny.  This well-directed and wonderfully acted movie is definitely for the QT fans out there.  If you are at all offended by language and brutally horrific violence, pick a fun Rom Com instead.

8 REELS for QT Fans
2 REELS for those of us who prefer the non-violent movies.

Friday, December 21, 2012

THIS IS 40 MIRRORS LIFE by Pamela Powell

I am thankful that a comedy came out for me to choose over more blood-spurting, killing, and fighting movies for this weekend.  I'm sure I'll end up seeing some of the more violent movies this weekend, but it was great to start it out laughing.  That being said, "This Is 40" was funny.  Laugh out loud funny in many scenes.  Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann were a wonderful combination for a realistic couple turning 40 with two middle school aged kids.  The movie touched upon parenting, technology, sex, in-laws, fathers, health, habits, sex, identity, sex, exercise, friends, sex.  Did I mention sex?  The movie delved into all aspects of life and tried to cover everything in a humorous yet realistic way.  It succeeded on that aspect.  Where it failed was it was too real in most parts and not real enough at the end.  I'm guessing here, but I think most couples seeing this movie will find themselves looking into a mirror of their own life.  Whether or not that is entertainment, is all up to you.

What a wonderful cast.  Rudd and Mann play the married couple who both turn 40 the same week.  Rudd's character, Pete, doesn't seem to struggle so violently with that milestone as Mann's character, Debbie.  "Fight against aging with all your heart," is what her character seemed to scream at us!  Say NO! to J. Jill!  Say NO! to Coldwater Creek!  Say NO! to Ann Taylor Loft!  (I need to make a mental not of the Loft one!)  Let's face it, ladies.  We are all fighting aging.  40 is a biggie.  50 (I'm guessing here too!) is an even bigger biggie!  At 40 we are struggling with money, kids, and an identity as well as our own personal body image.  Jason Segal's character helps Debbie with that by lifting her tush a few inches.  Megan Fox's character reminds us of how we used to be; or perhaps how we wish we used to be!  Albert Brooks and John Lithgow play the respective parents each with their own issues which influence the couple at hand.  And the two children around the ages of 10 and 13 were wonderful siblings...because in real life they are!  These are the children of Leslie Mann and Judd Apatow (writer and director).  Now there's a story.  Writer and director, directs his wife and his two children.  I don't know about you, but I KNOW my kids behave differently for me than they do for "outsiders."  Thank God!  Back to the movie.  As funny as this movie was in parts, it also lulled in parts as well.  The first 2/3 were funny and realistic.  As I said before, they pulled that aspect off.  But then it started to drag and become too real and tried to cover too much material, wrapping it up in a nice little package.  Now, as much of a perfectionist as I am, and I like nicely tied bows on packages perfectly wrapped, my movies don't have to be that way.  This was real life.  Life is messy.  Real throughout most of the movie should yield real at the end.  Or make it just funny.  That's ok too.  Pick one.

If you'd like a different alternative to the blood and guts movies being released (Merry Christmas!), go see this.  If you can see other things, go ahead.  This will be entertaining as you sit on your comfy couch, pouring a glass (or 2) of wine, and popping in the DVD.  It's a perfect renter.  CHEERS!


Monday, December 17, 2012


THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE was a documentary by the famed Ken Burns and his daughter Sarah.  I am a new fan of documentaries.  Before I began reviewing movies, I used movies to escape reality.  It wasn't that my reality was so awful.  I just wanted an escape from grad school finals, financial woes, or crying babies.  You know, the usual stuff.  It wasn't until Sundance 2012 that I was thrown into the eye-opening world of documentaries and how this "real stuff" could change me and how I viewed myself and the world.  "The Central Park Five" was one of those documentaries that I had the opportunity to view on demand recently that will continue to haunt me as does "Ai Weiwei, Never Sorry."  Quite ironically, "The Central Park Five" was a classic movie theme of a mix-up in identity and accusations, but unlike the classic movie theme, the identities and accusations weren't cleared until these five young boys lost precious years of their lives never to be returned to them.

"The Central Park Five" outlined the events that occurred one night in 1989 when a woman in Central Park was brutally raped.  Five boys were taken into custody and questioned about the event.  The documentary showed live footage of the videos taken during questioning at the police station.  As an outsider looking in, I couldn't believe that these kids were treated the way that they were.  I couldn't believe that parents weren't given their rights to help protect their children.  I just couldn't believe the entire story unfolding before me.  Each child, and these were children, had a little different story.  For example, Kharey Wise who obviously had a hearing impairment and possibly some learning disabilities was questioned after giving him his rights.  Does any kid really understand "his rights?"  I looked at the authorities in charge of this case from the police to the DA and I was appalled.  Find a culprit for the crime even if it's the wrong one.  No one will care about these kids because they are from the wrong side of town.  My heart broke.  What if that was my kid.  What if he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  What if?

The parents of these now grown kids as well as the actual five boys, now men, were interviewed.  It was so disturbing to see how the system manipulated the situation with no care for innocent lives.  With convictions set in place, the path of life for  these young people was set in a different direction, never to be set back in its proper place.  The most harsh conviction, if there could be a severity scale, was to Kharey Wise who was the eldest of the group...17 years old.  He was sentenced and sent to Rikers Island.  A 17 year old.  My God, can you imagine your teenage son being sent to Rikers?  That's not to belittle the sentences of the other four.  The rest of their teenage years and young adulthood was taken from them.  I can't even begin to imagine what they went through and to be honest, my psyche won't allow me to.

These now grown men are out of prison trying to make a life for themselves.  Ken and Sarah Burns are bringing us their story.  Their lives are an example of what happens when we go on a witch hunt and have a pack mentality.  It's appalling what the leaders and authorities did under this pack mentality and I can only hope that perhaps this example and the documentary can help prevent this from happening in the future.  Unfortunately, as a good friend of mine explained to me as we discussed this documentary, it's not the first time this has happened in history and I'm afraid it won't be the last time.  Yes, I'm afraid.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Book my hiking trip to New Zealand asap!  Looking at the beautiful and untouched countryside of New Zealand was one of the most memorable aspects of "Lord of the Rings" to me.  I enjoyed the first "Lord of the Rings," as well as the second one, but to be honest (as I always say, this is Reel HONEST Reviews, so I must be!), I was not enamored with the final one.  Now we have the original "The Hobbit" which is the prequel to the first sequel.  (This reasoning is starting to be seen frequently this year!)  Again, the cast and crew returned to New Zealand to film.  Regarding The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings, I must admit that I did not read the books.  I am not a fantasy type of reader.  (Although I will admit to reading 50 Shades of Grey, but that's a completely different fantasty story, now isn't it?)  I didn't read Chronicles of Narnia.  I didn't read Harry Potter.  I tried.  I just couldn't get into any of them.  I guess it's just not my style.  So again, to be honest, I wasn't excited to see this triple sequel's prequel.

The film did an amazing job of telling the story from the true beginning as we met Bilbo Baggins 60 years after his first adventure.  In passing down his story to Frodo, he takes quill, ink, and parchment paper to describe when he met Gandalf and we are suddenly whisked away to the young and impressionable Bilbo Baggins.  And the adventure begins.  The scenery in every castle, forest, and mountain was beautifully and painstakingly perfect.  I am guessing that it fit the book's description of every scene to a "T."  The Hobbit's house was gorgeous with its warm and welcoming woodwork and catacombs full of food and comfortable furniture.  It was a home that I would love to have...with higher ceilings, of course!  Seeing this movie on an empty stomach was a bad idea.  As you Hobbit fans know, food is a big deal what with Second Breakfast and the like.  As the food poured out so did the atrocious manners of the dwarves which quelled my hungry tummy.  Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) were most likable from the beginning.  There was something charming about each of them, in very different ways.

Here's where this film loses me in much the same way the books did as well.  Introduction of the dwarves.  Balin, Dwalin, Fili, Kili, Oin, Gloin, etc.  The only one I kept straight was Kili. (Ladies, if you see this movie, you will understand why.)  As the dwarves went along their adventure to reclaim their mountain home now guarded by a dragon who covets gold, (What would a dragon do with gold,  pray tell?) they encountered many different beasts and obstacles such as trolls and goblins and orcs and other things I can't pronounce or spell.  Fight after fight.  Hideous beasts galore.  More and more and more.  As Gandolf stated, "We go from the frying pan to the fire."  Quite right.  Now here is where the film intrigued me...the make-up and the CGI.  Amazing.  I thought "Cloud Atlas" would run away with this category Oscar night, but now I'm not so sure.  One of my favorite scenes was Bilbo's interaction with Gollum.  Conversation and puzzle solving ensues which made you have some empathy for the poor little schizophrenic goblin.  The trolls, the Orcs, the animals, and the dwarves themselves were a work of absolute art.  The computer generated beasts were spectacular with how they were able to interact with actual people.  But my all-time favorite "bad guy" was the Goblin King (forgive me Hobbit fans, if I didn't remember his title properly) who reminded me of a combination of Jabba The Hut from "Star Wars" and Fat Bastard from "Austin Powers."

This is a long movie; especially if you are not a huge fantasy fan.  The 222 days of filming, the excruciating detail, the gorgeous perfection of scenes and scenery, the make-up, the computer generated animation, and let's not forget the story and the acting were all wonderful...if fantasy is your cup of tea. Go see this on the big screen so that you don't lose any of those details or perfection.  However, if you typically don't love this genre of book or movie, I'd see something else.

8 REELS (if you like this genre)

Thursday, December 13, 2012


When you hear "Save the Date" you automatically think of a wedding. Bingo.  Lizzy Caplan, Alison Brie, and Mark Webber find themselves learning about relationships, engagements, marriage and weddings, children, and all those other aspects of life that a 20-something year old seems to dwell upon.  As Caplan's character, Sarah, wrestles with her level of commitment to her current beau, she also struggles with seeing her parent's relationship deteriorate and trying to somehow find a shred of commonality between herself and her sister.  Relationships and the priorities in life butt heads in this movie as we watch not just Sarah, but her sister grow up a bit along the way.

This talented cast appeared to fit the parts they played quite naturally and the dialogue was true to the 20-something group.  It was also, in some ways reminiscent of my own 20-something era.  Break-ups, match-ups, watching friends and relatives get married to their high school sweethearts, and finding someone when you're not even looking were all things all of us have gone through if you're over 30.  The dialogue and natural chemistry between all of the characters invited me to stay and find out if there was going to be a happy ending.  I loved the fact that both of the female characters weren't perfect; they were real.  They were also sisters in this film and when siblings are so different, it puts an entire new spin on a family and its interactions.  Again, quite true to life.

There are several ancillary stories taking place in "Save the Date," but the main story revolved around Sarah and her new love interest, Jonathan, played by Mark Webber.  The dialogue between the two of these characters was natural, real, and sweet.  Truly, it brought back fun memories of many relationships in the past.  These two unassuming people ignite a spark between them and watch where it ends up.  As the other characters and their situations infiltrate the main story, we get a complete picture of why each of them has made the decisions they have.

"Save the Date" is a sweet story of many different aspects of growing up.  The music, the language, and openness are current of today's 20-something generation, but the feelings and situations cross all generations.  Michael Mohan, director, deftly created a movie that we can all relate to.  If you're 20-something, you will especially enjoy this film.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012


"Not Fade Away" was a movie I should never have reviewed.  I am an awful musical person.  I can't remember names of songs, lyrics, or groups.  My friends on the radio show, in good nature of course, make fun of my inept abilities in the musical category.  Also, I used to sing refrains of pop music to my kids only to learn later that several f-bombs were dropped in the same song.  (Unfortunately, they are the ones that called my attention to this!  No worries, though.  They turned out pretty good!)  All of that being said, I will give it my best shot to review this movie sans music knowledge of the best musical era known to man.  (I hope with that sentence I have redeemed myself for the upcoming incompetent statements about the 60's and 70's genre.)

"Not Fade Away" took place in the late 60's when rock 'n' roll was hot and yet still young.  Everyone wanted to be the next Beatles.  The youth felt that music shaped who they were.  The lyrics in the songs shaped their thoughts and actions.  The generations before them were clueless as to what and how they were feeling and why they were feeling that way, or so they thought.  Garage bands were all the rage.  Everyone wanted to be in a band or a groupie of a band.  The sky was the limit and that's what our main character, Douglas, of "Not Fade Away" thought as well.  That is until Douglas went off to college and returned home to his working class family with long hair, a Navy Pea Coat, and ideals so off-skew from his father's that the proverbial shit hit the fan.  This was a meandering story of Douglas growing up, figuring out his life, his priorities and his talents as well as his relationships.  Each and every scene is backed up by the music of the era.  I can't really comment on this, as I'm musically challenged, even though this IS my era.  It was all familiar, but that was it.

"Not Fade Away" was not what I expected it to be.  I thought it would delve a little more deeply into the relationship between father and son or see how music truly influenced the person Douglas would become.  James Gandolfini was the father.  I think he is a wonderfully talented actor.  What a story this could have been had he been able to truly have more than a few lines.  He was not utilized to his capacity...not even close. This story, as I called it before, was a meandering story.  It nicked away gently at many other possible stories, but never really delved into any of them.  It left me wanting so much more.  Now this could be because I don't know music.  (I think I've made that perfectly clear now.)  But I am looking at this movie as just that.  A movie.  It should be a story and I think it fell short.  As my idol (and I like to pretend, my good buddy) Robert Redford always says, a movie should be a story well-told.  This was not.

If you are a music buff of the beginning of Rock 'n' Roll, go see this one.  You will enjoy the music.  If not, I'm going to advise you to skip it.  The story just doesn't fulfill you.  It truly could have been so much more to us non-music aficiondos!

5 REELS (for the music aspect)