Friday, August 31, 2012

"Premium Rush" Is a Complete Adrenaline Rush! by Pamela Powell

As I entered the empty movie theater to view "Premium Rush," I envisioned two hours of a chase scene.  As I left the theater, I realized that yes, it was two hours of a chase scene, but it was SO much more!  The movie utilized a unique film technique that captured you from the beginning.  We started the movie toward the end of the film and then backtracked a couple of hours to explain how our main character, Wilee played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, ended up on the pavement.  Wilee was a bike messenger in NYC along with a reported other 15,000 bike messengers.  Wilee narrated the beginning to give the audience necessary information about his personality, education and his job.  The "cool" filming technique was utilized throughout the movie to make this high intensity, adrenaline-producing movie even more fun to watch!

Wilee was in the midst of completing a pick-up and delivery for his company when he was accosted by an unknown man to get the package back.  The intensity of the movie was there from the beginning to the end as we watched Wilee try to flee from this attacker.  Wilee's attacker, Bobby Monday, played by Michael Shannon from "Take Shelter" was unpredictably volatile.  His ability to portray a psychologically disturbed human being was spot-on.   As I said before, there was so much more to the movie than just the chase.  Wilee was in love with another messenger, Vanessa (Dania Ramirez), but was having some relationship issues.  Another male messenger, Manny, played by the wonderfully cut, fit and handsome Wole Parks, tried to swoop in and win Vanessa over.   Without giving anything away, we watched as all of these characters weave not just in and out of traffic, but also in and out of each other's lives during the movie's less than 2 hour actual time period.

The bike riding and stunts were amazing!  The filming of this movie was incredible.  It truly captured the scary zipping in and out of traffic, dealing with pedestrians and oblivious drivers.  The danger of being a messenger in any city has got to be one of the most life-threatening jobs for very little monetary compensation.  The rolling back of the clock to get the more complete picture of each character gave the viewer all the necessary information at just the right time.  Although you knew 3/4 of the way into the movie how it was going to end, it didn't stop you from sitting on the edge of your seat not wanting to blink as you might miss an amazing stunt.

Go see this movie for sheer fun!  It's high intensity and adrenaline pumping story will completely entertain you!  It'll also make you feel like a complete weenie on your next bike ride...or at least it did me!  Potholes and car doors SCARE ME!

7 REELS for total entertainment and unique filming to tell a story!

"Lawless" Shockingly Brutal by Pamela Powell

The title should have given me my first clue about the violence level of this movie.  My second clue that the violence level was going to be over the top for me was the first scene of the movie.  3 young boys, apparently brothers, challenging the youngest one to shoot a pig in a pen.  Seeing the weakness in this little boy, one of the older brothers completed the deed.  Fast-forward 15-20 years and these brothers are now grown and one of the largest moonshine or white lightning distributors south of the Mason Dixon line.  Beautifully set in the hills of Virginia (although it was actually filmed in Georgia), this Prohibition Era movie artfully depicts what lengths people would go to for liquor and what lengths the law would go to to stop its production.

Tom Hardy (Forrest), Shia LaBeouf (Jack), and Jason Clark (Howard) played the Bondurant brothers.  Guy Pearce was the menacingly powerful Special Agent Charlie Rakes.  LaBeouf's character Jack Bondurant, the youngest brother, narrated the movie to give the audience more insight.  These backwoods moonshiners all had different personalities with Forrest's invincibility, Howard's heartlessness with others, and Jack's impulsivity, but these brothers stuck together.  Family was everything.  As the government cracked down on moonshining, Chicago sent in their troops to "the wettest county in America," Franklin, VA.  Pearce's overall look and sinister mannerisms were enough to make people turn away and run.  His ferocious behavior intimidated all but the Bondurant brothers.  This meant war.  And war was had.

The sheer brutality of the movie with special effects as people's throats were slit sent me to burying my head in my knees.  The power of the story and the dark smokey hues of this depression era movie kept me in the theater.   With the constant feeling of impending doom, I watched as these brothers wouldn't back down.  Revenge with no regard for the law was the common theme.  The writing of this film most definitely made you root for the law-breaker as opposed to the law-enforcers.  We were able to get a sense of each brother's personality and the relationships they cultivated.  These ancillary stories were what gave this movie the depth it needed to make it more appealing than just about running moonshine.  Based on a true story of these brothers, it gave you a glimpse of what it might have been like to live during this time period complete with the poverty of the people and the wealth of those law breakers.  References and small scenes of Chicago gangsters and liquor connections were emphasized as well.  Tommy guns and murders in this little backward town brought a different level of crime to it.

The cinematography, overall setting and feeling of this story was flawless.  "Lawless" was a  well-written and directed story, although I couldn't always understand Hardy's character's speech as much of it was grunting or slurred, you could still feel and see that this was a story of 3 brothers and their commitment to family.  Abiding by the law was not of utmost concern to them as was evidenced not just by the moonshine industry they built, but by the torturous murders that they felt they rightfully performed.  The graphic special effects were disturbing to me, but very realistic.  I can only recommend this movie to you if I warn you of the extreme violence which helps to complete the story.  It is not there just for the sheer shock factor.


Monday, August 27, 2012

FOR A GOOD TIME, SKIP IT! by Pamela Powell

“For a Good Time, Call..."premiered at Sundance this winter.  It was about 2 women who couldn’t stand each other during their college years and are now forced to live together due to circumstances beyond their control...and due to a meddling friend they have in common.  Their gorgeous NYC apartment far exceeded their meager wages which pushed the two to be more creative in their ability to earn a dollar.  The phone sex business seemed to suit them well.  As the two built their business, they began to like each other more.  OK, this could be funny.  But once again, true to so many movies, all the funny (or even relatively funny) scenes were revealed in the trailers.  So, I checked off “funny” on my list of hopes for this movie.  Next on the list?  Item #2:  Well-written and creative.  Nope.  OK, on to item #3:  Great acting.  We’re not exactly batting a thousand here.  Last item #4:  Entertaining.  Jeez...can’t even give it much credit for that either!  It was mildly entertaining at best.

As I scoured through my journal and notebook that I used during the festival, I searched and searched for my notes on this movie.  Do you know what I found?  Nothing.  Hmmmm.  What do you think that means?  I do, however, remember thinking two things:  “Is this going to get any better?” and “Ugh, if the actors or director are in the audience, I can’t get up and leave!  UGH!”  

Ari Graynor, Lauren Miller, and Justin Long starred in this mediocre, rather crass, and not-so-funny comedy.  There were some mildly humorous parts, but all in all, not worth my time.  That's my call.  I believe that it was definitely geared solely toward the 20 to 30-something female age group who might actually enjoy it for its quality of total escapism.  At 40-something, I want my entertainment, no matter what the topic, to be smart and creative.  This was not.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Morgan Spurlock
Have you been sitting back, enjoying summer, sipping your glass of wine and procrastinating completion of the short documentary that could put $100,000 in your pocket!  NO WORRIES!  Focus Forward Films has extended their deadline to October 7, 2012.  (Cheers!)  Together, Cinelan and GE have been bringing us quality documentaries, 3 minutes in length, that have positively impacted our world.  Now, they want to give filmmakers around the world (or maybe in the Chicago area!) the chance to win an unprecedented amount of cash as well as another $100,000 in prizes for your talents.

"Good Bread"
Cinelan, a corporation whose co-founder is Morgan Spurlock, and GE have teamed up to create Focus Forward Films.  Their motto is "Short Films, Big Ideas."  That's it in a nutshell.  They want  to make the world a better place utilizing film.  And it can be done.  During the 2012 Film Festival year, we have been able to see the fruits of their labor with 3 minute educational and entertaining documentaries.  You can learn more in these three minutes than you can in an entire seminar!  Medicine, technology, the environment, safety, health, and our future are some of the many topics addressed in Focus Forward Films.

"Meet Mr. Toilet"
"The Invisible Bicycle Helmet"
Go to for examples of previous documentaries.  These are professional-quality, three-minute, end-to-end stories that have a positive impact on society.  Some of my favorites include (but are not limited to!):  "The Invisible Bicycle Helmet," "Robot," "Good Bread," "New Gift,"  "Meet Mr. Toilet," "Newtown Creek Digester Egg" oh, I should just name them all!  They all affected me in a different and positive way and my hope is that more people will take 3 minutes out of their day to be positively educated and enlightened.

"Newtown Creek Digester Egg"
If you think you have a vision to share through film, make sure you submit your film before October 7, 2012 at midnight!

For qualifying information and FAQs for the competition, go to  For full rules and submission guidelines, visit http://vimeo/focusforwardfilms/rules.  Further cash prizes, a selection of competition films will be distributed online to a global audience through Vimeo and will sit alongside films produced by FOCUS FORWARD filmmakers on game systems and cable TV, VOD such as Verizon Fios, Time Warner, Sony PlayStation, and AT&T U-verse.

GOOD LUCK!  I can't wait to see the next winner!

Monday, August 20, 2012

"The Odd Life of Timothy Green" A Review by Pamela Powell

"The Odd Life of Timothy Green," a Disney production, told the story of a childless couple who had finally given up on having a child.  Upon their final decision to stop trying, they put together ideas of what their child would have been like.  Burying this box that held their paper dreams, they vowed to move on.  However moving on was to be in a different direction that they ever could have imagined.  Timothy, their new son, sprouted up from the garden to give them a more plentiful bounty than they thought possible.   Jennifer Garner (Cindy Green), Joel Edgerton ( Jim Green), and CJ Adams (Timothy Green) starred in this film.  CJ Adams, from "Dan in Real Life," stole every scene with his cherubic looks and huge puppy dog eyes.  Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton played the not-so-perfect parents perfectly.

"Timothy Green" was a sweet story with a moral as well.  I likened it to Disney met Hallmark Hall of Fame holiday television movies.  It was heartbreakingly, tissue tearingly, sweet.  Your heart broke for this childless couple.  You rooted for them every step of the way, but you knew the story would have its ups and downs so that your heartstrings were yanked upon in many different directions.  The film was complete with the not-so-sweet sister of Cindy Green, the not-so-loving grandfather, and other characters to make this movie complete.  However, everyone that interacted with Timothy was better for having done so including the grandfather and Cindy's sister.  Yes, Hallmark met Disney to make "Dismark."

Although I thought this was a predictable tear-jerker, I enjoyed it.  Not having kids that would go to this movie (17 and 19), I think I could have skipped it or waited for the DVD.  This would be a great movie to take your elementary school kid to and feel comfortable knowing that it's safe.  No bad language, a little first crush sweetness, positivity galore, and love abounds in this movie.  The icing on the cake is the moral of the story is a great one to hammer home to kids just before they head back to school.

6 Reels For Adults and
8 Reels for 6 -13 year olds with your parents.

Friday, August 17, 2012

"HIT AND RUN" IS A HIT! by Pamela Powell

“Hit & Run” was a hit in my book.  What fun!  This movie has it all!  Love, violence, humor, irony, and quirkiness were all successfully blended together to create a successful and entertaining film!  Dax Shepard wrote the screenplay for this movie and also directed and starred in it.  It’s about the life of Charles Bronson.  No, not that Charles Bronson.  This Charles Bronson was the adopted name of the character in the Witness Protection Program.  Living in a podunk town somewhere east of LA, Charles or Charlie as he will now be known, was protected by the oh- so-loving, but truly inept, federal marshall Randy (Tom Arnold).  Granted, the writing was great for this character and all characters, but Tom Arnold pulled off this unique character with ease.  Tom’s comedic timing was just icing on the cake for this fun movie.    As Charlie's girlfriend Annie, played by Bell, needed to go to LA to secure a new job, he risked everything by leaving the Witness Protection Program to get her there.  As the news traveled, Charlie's ex-con cohorts received information of his whereabouts and the thrill of the movie began.  Charlie wanted nothing more than to protect Annie (Bell), but his previous bank robber partners wanted what they felt they were entitled to.  As the story evolved, Annie learned more and more about who she thought Charlie was.  Throw in a jealous ex-boyfriend and the pot gets stirred a little more vigorously.  Shepard, Bell, Arnold, Cooper, Rosenbaum and Chenoweth melded together on the screen to give the audience total entertainment.

“Hit & Run” was a quirky, fun, cute love story complete with a little violence, a few chase scenes with cool cars, and side stories that augmented the main story.  There was also a touch of sweetness in this movie.  I left the theater with a smile on my face.  “Hit & Run” had the feel of an indie flick on a bigger budget.  Wow!  Could Hollywood actually be recognizing what might work on the screen?  Let’s hope so.  I can’t handle any more Transformer movies!  Audiences of all ages, both male and female, are going to love this movie!

8 Reels

Thursday, August 16, 2012


"The Campaign," starring Will Farrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, and Dillon McDermott wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be!  Initially, I must admit, I saw the trailers and had hope of another "Anchorman" or "Step Brothers."  (Yes, I did enjoy these movies.  They were silly and entertaining and sometimes that's just what a movie needs to be!)  As I saw more clips, I became more leery of its entertainment value.  However, even after my son and his friends panned it along with some critics, I still had to see for myself.  It wasn't wasn't great, but it really wasn't bad.

Cam Brady (Farrell) ran unopposed for Congress until two CEOs (reminiscent of "Trading Places" with Aykroyd) decided a different Congressman needed to be purchased and controlled like a puppet.  Enter Marty Huggins (Galifianakis) who was from a good-ol'-boy wealthy family in North Carolina.  Marty, however was anything but what his father wanted him to be.  Marty was a rather effeminate, sweet, and honest man which made him the black sheep of the family.  The CEOs hire Tim Watley (McDermott!) to help their cause by getting Huggins up to snuff physically, superficially, and ethically.  The antics ensue as the two Congressional opponents duke it out, sometime literally, to the bitter end.

Was it funny?  Yes, there were a lot of funny lines and situations.  Was it ridiculous?  Of course.  Was it crass?  Yes, in parts, but nothing horribly offensive and nothing I couldn't have taken my mother to!  (Please refer back to my "Hope Springs" review!)  So why in the world are the teens panning this movie?  There are a lot of references to my generation for jokes that someone in their teens or 20's just wouldn't get.  This movie also appeared to want to make a statement about  government and politics.  We adults, over the age of 35 have seen enough to get disgruntled and disenchanted.  Government and politics have reached an all new low, some might say.  The younger generation may not have become jaded yet which would have made the movie a bit on the preachy or dull side.  It took the ridiculous behavior and characteristics of politicians and blew it out of proportion to make fun of it.  And that's ok, but I think it would be more entertaining to a 40-something year old than a 20-something year old.

I was pleasantly surprised to have laughed and been entertained by this movie.  Will it have the same following that Farrell's other movies such as "Talladega Nights" and "Anchorman" have?  No.  But that doesn't mean you shouldn't see it.  I would recommend waiting until it comes out on DVD though.  The big screen price isn't necessary to see this movie.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"HOPE SPRINGS" reviewed by Pamela Powell

"Hope Springs" was a movie that brought me back to my teenage years, but as you will quickly learn, it was the awkward aspect of my teenage years. How could a movie about an older couple possibly make me feel like a teenager, you ask?  Here's the whole uncomfortable story.  I brought my 89 year old mother to see it.  It was the first movie she has gone to since the release of "Tootsie" in 1982.  I was visiting her in NY and thought she might enjoy seeing a movie.  Given that fact that they usually have the audio up pretty loud,  I wouldn't need to worry about her being able to hear it as she had lost her hearing aids.  I knew that this movie was geared toward the older population and thought it would be a perfect reintroduction to the silver screen.

Going into the show, I knew the movie was about a couple who was experiencing marital difficulties.  What I didn't realize was the fact that the ENTIRE movie revolved around the couple's sex life or lack thereof!  Imagine sitting next to your elderly mother who you never really had "The Talk" with and listening to Steve Carrell (the therapist) ask Tommy Lee Jones (the husband) to describe his fantasies in detail or Meryl Streep (the wife) express whether or not she orgasms when she masterbates!  OH MY GOD!  And I won't even begin to tell you the uneasy feelings I had as the couple had to perform homework exercises after each therapy session such as "The Touch Exercise" and we watched  Tommy Lee being massaged until a certain reaction occurred!  Or how  Meryl Streep performed oral sex in a movie theater!  I really can't accurately judge this movie as I was too busy looking at my mother, sitting in the wheel chair next to me, looking for some clue as to whether or not she was grasping what was happening on the 10 foot screen in front of her!  It was the only time during my visit to NY that I was thankful that she had lost her hearing aids as MY hope sprung that she thought Meryl Streep was just tossing and turning in her sleep and not pleasuring herself!

As the movie ended, my mother loudly proclaimed that she liked it!  Several fellow movie goers chuckled and smirked as they heard this comment.  Later that next day, back at the assisted living facility where she resides, she told the nurses about the movie.  She let them know that she "learned a few new things!"  Again, OH MY GOD!

My review of this movie can only be told from my uncomfortable experience.  Your view might be completely different if you weren't there with a parent! I can say that there were some funny parts, but I think most of them were shown in the trailers.  It was a disturbing look at a couple's marriage that has slowly fallen into state of disrepair.  Meryl Streep played Kay who wanted nothing more than to save their marriage.  She was lonely and desperately grasping at anything to save it.  Tommy Lee Jones played her husband Arnold, an accountant, who had given up on sex, communication, and affection and was content watching golfing tips on tv, falling asleep in his recliner, just to repeat the same thing the next day.  Kay dove head first into getting help for them with Arnold reluctantly trudging along.  Steve Carrell played the very serious Dr. Feld, intensive marriage therapist.  Although his role in this movie was important, this role could have easily been played by anyone.

"Hope Springs" addresses what is probably a common theme in marriages. Marriage is work and when a marriage is broken, both parties have to want to fix it.  It also completely focused on the need for affection and sex as a part of a relationship and in this movie, it was a good 90% of it!  Or at least sitting next to my mother, that's the percentage it felt like!



Thursday, August 9, 2012

"KILLER JOE" SLAYED ME! by Pamela Powell

I wasn’t quite sure why the poster for “Killer Joe” was of  fried chicken in the shape of the state of Texas.  Ok.  I get the Texas thing, but the fried chicken?  Why?  Am I out of it and don’t realize that Texas is known for its fried chicken?  No.  (Well, I may be a bit out of it, but not in that way!)  It became crystal clear toward the end of the movie why they chose fried chicken.  Oh, my!

Tracy Letts, a well-known Chicago actor and playwright, has written his first feature film, “Killer Joe.”  Initially, “Killer Joe” was an off-Broadway production which ran for 9 months in 1998. I went to this movie not realizing this was Letts’ production as I was “killing” time waiting for my son to finish enjoying Lollapolooza.  I remembered seeing the trailers which described a few rednecks wanting to kill a mother for insurance money.  The killer-for-hire was none other than Matthew McConaughey.  (Perfect casting, but I’ll talk more about that later.)  Back to the premise of the movie...The adult son, Chris, played by Emile Hirsch, apparently was up to his neck in gambling debts with no way to pay up.  This was Bad Decision Number 1.  After Chris' total loser and redneck father turned him away, he devised a scheme to collect enough money to be free of his debtors:  kill mom for the insurance money.  (Bad Decision Number 2)  You’re saying to yourself, “C’mon.  This is an all too common theme.”  Yes, you’re correct, however, you need to trust me on this one.  It’s never been done quite like this.  There was so much irony involved in the plot development that I was laughing out loud.  Then the chips continued to fall where they did eliciting Bad Decision Number 3, 4, 5...I’m not sure where it ended.  You could just see how these decisions spiraled out of control.  
As I said before, Matthew McConaughey played the smarmy, cut throat killer/police officer (interesting combination), Killer Joe Cooper.  I truly think this was one of McConaughey’s best performances.  This role required him to be cold, charming, smart, heartless, beguiling, repulsive and scary all wrapped up into one handsome package.  Emile Hirsch played the dumb hick Chris Smith who never learned anything, but had a love for his stunted sister and always protected her...except when he needed money.  Thomas Hayden Church played the loser dad with an IQ no higher than a brick wall and a heart made of the same consistency.  Gina Gershon rounded out this perfect cast with her tenacity, grit, and ability to look and act like a hussy.  Her performance was probably the most difficult of all the actors as she portrayed a woman who has fewer morals than Britney Spears, yet she still made you have empathy for her!  (Sorry to you Britney fans!)

This was a sick and twisted plot from the beginning. I’ll make no bones about that. (You’ll laugh later at this reference.)  It was also physically repulsive with the onslaught of surprising violence which made me cringe, pull my knees up to my face to help my hands cover my eyes and then utter many words that I probably shouldn’t even type! (Sorry to that sweet couple sitting next to me!) That being said, I also laughed...a lot!  This was a smart, entertaining, captivating and well-done dark comedy. Please emphasize the word “dark!”  

This movie is NOT for everyone.  I really liked it, but it left me disturbed, shaky, and unnerved. As I went into the elevator at the Century Landmark Theater (I was too shaky to walk the stairs), comments such as, “Wow!” and “Oh, my God!” along with, “That was the best dark comedy I have ever seen!” could be heard.  Yes, I would agree with them all.  (I might even throw in a few expletives!)

8 Reels