Friday, September 21, 2012

"Trouble With The Curve" Hits a Home Run For This Daughter! by Pamela Powell

Let’s face it.  Movies mean more when they hit home.  This movie didn’t strike out in that aspect for me.  It wasn’t even a double or a triple; it was a home run.  For those of you who know me, you know that I lost my father early this year.  He was 86 and a WWII hero.  I don’t use that word “hero” loosely.  He was.  Unfortunately, we didn’t know that until after he passed away.  He was tough and loving all wrapped into one German hard-shelled package.  He always had a joke and a smile for a waitress or a stranger who passed through his life.  But he expected perfection from himself and those around him.  His standards were high and his word was his bond.  Did I mention he was tough?  As he aged, he got a bit crabby.  Aging isn’t for the faint of heart.  It’s a tough road.  His heart had beat as many beats as it could and failed.  He went quickly.  My mother suffers from dementia and macular degeneration: the visual difficulty that the main character “Gus” (Clint Eastwood) suffered as a baseball scout.  Gus was angry at how you deteriorate with age, much the same way that my dad was angry at how he felt useless as his heart failed over his final 6 months.  In the movie, Gus had a daughter that he was left with after his wife died at a very early age.  His daughter Mickey, played by Amy Adams, was only 6 when she lost her mother.  Gus and Mickey had a strained relationship from the beginning of the movie.  As we learn more about each of the characters, we learn more about the baggage that each of them carries and how that has bearing on both of their lives.

This is a movie about a father and daughter and their intrinsic relationship.  We are always connected to our fathers, good or bad, because we are family.  That connection is dependent upon communication.  Let’s face it.  Men communicate differently than women.  That’s a fact.  It’s how we bridge that canyon (or if you’re lucky, it’s only a small gorge), that determines, I think, our future relationships with prospective spouses.  That’s “Trouble With The Curve” in a nutshell.  The medium is baseball to tell the story, but that’s just the superficial avenue used.  The story is how important fathers are to their daughters.  

Clint Eastwood playing Gus could have been my father.  OK, maybe Clint was more my dad in “Gran Torino.”  We won’t dwell on those aspects.  Anyway, he’s gruff and to the point.  He’s not a bs-er.  He calls ‘em like he sees ‘em.  He finds fluff like yoga to be voodoo much the way my father felt my triathlons were strange. But somehow, no matter how estranged we become from family members, they are still family and we feel a commitment to them.  Mickey saw her father’s need for her to be with him and she was willing to jeopardize her legal ladder climb for him.  This movie about self-discovery, family, and priorities was a home-run.

Clint was Clint.  Enough said.  Amy Adams was the perfect person to play the driven daughter who just wanted to be loved and wanted by her father.  I love it when a role is written for a woman and it goes against the grain of a typical female character.  Mickey (Adams) is a lawyer who, like her father, doesn’t take baloney from anyone.  She’s a hard hitter.  She also knows baseball better than any male and can handle a bat and ball.  I love that.  Females equal to (or sometimes better) than a male in a traditional male role.  Now let’s call in Justin Timberlake.  He adds just the right amount of levity to the movie.  He’s natural on the screen.  I loved him in “The Social Network” and feel he was underutilized in “Bad Teacher.”  He’s the perfect guy to round out a script with a grounded performance and humor.  Ok, he’s great to look at too as he strips down to his Calvin Klein’s to jump into a lake in North Carolina.  This, by the way, was bothersome.  Not that I didn’t want to see Timberlake in his skivvies, but I lived in North Carolina for a short time and there is NO WAY I would EVER jump into a lake or pond.  You see, they had water moccasins there.  I found that out the hard way...naive New Yorker that I had been!  

Although I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, its characters, the story-line and the great cast, I did think it started too slowly trying to set the scene too deliberately.  It was slow-paced, but just the beginning of the movie.  I’m glad I didn’t judge it from that as it was worth the wait.  It picked up its pace and told a nice, albiet predictable, story.  

This is a perfect movie for any father to take his daughter or any daughter to treat her father!

For you fathers out there, I’d love to suggest the book “How To Raise Your Daughter Without Reading a Book” by Christopher Hoyt or “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters” by Meg Meeker.

7/10 Reels

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Celeste and Jesse Forever" Emphasized Jones' Talent! by Pamela Powell

Rashida Jones wrote and co-starred in the romantic comedy, "Celeste and Jesse Forever" which premiered this year at Sundance.  Jones' co-star was Andy Samberg who took on the role of "Regular Guy" instead of his typical "Funny Guy."  Don't get me wrong with that statement.  It was a funny movie, but Samberg was the "Straight Guy."  "Celeste and Jesse Forever" was about a couple who were in the midst of a divorce, but neither one was willing to really let go.  They were best friends since college and unfortunately for Jesse, Celeste grew up after that point.  Jesse, however, remained a man-child.  Work?  What's work?  With their different life choices and the referred to fighting from the past, Celeste and Jesse were divorcing.  Interestingly, they remained best of friends much to their other couple-friends' dismay.  When Jesse found out he was going to be a father...and not the father of Celeste's child...the final divorce proceeded.  I don't want to give away any more of the plot line away, but I will tell you that it was entertaining, funny, sweet, and sad all wrapped up in a perfect little It's-Time-To-Face-Reality package.

Rashida Jones' character, Celeste, is very similar to her character in Parks and Recreation, of which I am a huge fan.  She was cute, sweet, smart, feisty, and had these sincere brown eyes and honest expression which made you want to be her best friend.  She's the All-American Girl Next Door.  The writing of this movie was real and down-to-earth just like Rashida seemed to be, yet was still very entertaining.  The situations like being depressed about a break-up, using not-so-good judgement of drinking too much to counter-act that depression, then attending a formal engagement party might not lend itself to positive results.  It was a fun roller-coaster ride of emotions and situations that enabled you to have empathy for Celeste.  It was a perfect balance.

Jones and Samberg were great on the screen together.  You truly got a sense that these two really knew each other and enjoyed being together doing goofy things.  Elijah Wood played Celeste's best co-worker friend with style and panache.  Ari Graynor was a wonderful match for  Celeste's best friend; she seemed the ying to Celeste's yang for more balance.  Now, I don't usually notice music in a movie, but I did in this one!  It was wonderful.  Don't ask me the names, don't ask me the lyrics, because that's just not my thing.  Go to imdb for that info!  What I found was that it was catchy and perfectly matched to whatever the scene wanted to convey.  I loved the opening credits' music and style of introducing the characters.  I felt like someone took their go-to camera, set it on video mode and captured pieces of Celeste's and Jesse's lives.

Celeste and Jesse had the unique situation of wanting to still be together, but knowing they weren't the right match for each other.  They did, however, have the common feeling of not wanting to branch out and take chances.  Familiarity, even when it's not a positive thing, is a comfortable aspect of our lives and very difficult to just toss to the way-side.  "Celeste and Jesse" captures this common theme in most everyone's life making it a movie we can all relate to.  Of the current "rom-com's," I would have to say that this film along with "Safety Not Guaranteed" tops my list.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

"The Words" Very Slowly Told A Tale by Pamela Powell

"The Words" has an all-star cast with Bradley Cooper, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde, and Zoe Saldana.  I guess I should rephrase this.  "The Words" has a gorgeous all-star cast!  "What do you love about me?" Rory (Cooper) asks of his wife Dora (Saldana).  "Your eyes," she replies.  Of course!  We all love those eyes!  Cooper was the draw for this movie about plagiarism.  But can Cooper pull off the part of a deceptive plagiarist?  Can he play the guilt-ridden, underachiever son and husband?  I loved Brad (as I do refer to him!) in "The Hangover," "Limitless," and "Hit and Run" to name a few.  I just don't think he was able to pull off this seriously conflicting and complicated role.  Saldana plays her part well as does the remainder of the cast.  Dennis Quaid, J.K. Simmons, and Jeremy Irons have smaller, but vital parts in this movie.

"The Words" was a story about a story within a story.  Sound confusing?  Maybe, but it makes sense in the movie.  The concept itself was great.  As I described the movie to a friend afterward, I thought it sounded wonderfully entertaining.  She wasn't yawning at all when I told her about it.  Unfortunately, that wasn't the case when I was in the theater watching the matinee.  The movie's pace was excruciatingly slow.  I found myself looking at my watch several times and for a movie that is only 96 minutes long, that's not a good indication.

Here's the movie in a nutshell.  Rory Jensen was a mediocre writer who had dreams of being the next Hemingway.  What writer doesn't?  It was when he discovered an old manuscript written by a truly gifted and passionate writer that he realized he would never be a Nobel Laureate.  Rory took that unidentifiable manuscript and ran with it. We watched and watched and watched as he struggled with his decision to ask a publisher to read it.  The true guilt and difficulties arose when the real author identified himself to Rory.  Sounds interesting, right?  Oh, there was so much more that could have been done with this film!  It had such potential.  As I indicated before, it was a story about another story within a story.  Each part of the story was focused upon equally, but for some reason, I felt that it left me hanging.  I never cared for the characters the way I should have.  I didn't see the rise and fall of the characters the way that I wanted to see them.  It was blah.  Had this have been a book, I would have made it through Chapter 1 and then skipped to the Kindle store to see what else I could read.

It's easy to sit back and critique a movie and say which way the writers and directors should have gone with it.  I realize that.  Unfortunately, I have to honestly tell you (this is Reel HONEST Reviews!) what I thought of it.  Save your money.  If you really want to see this one, wait for the DVD.  It'll be out soon.

5/10 REELS

Thursday, September 6, 2012

"The Bachelorette" Is Not "Bridesmaids!" by Pamela Powell

The movie "The Bachelorette" was based on a play that my friends and I happened to see in a little store-front theater on the north side of Chicago.  I didn't go there to review the play, I just went with friends as a birthday get-together.  This intimate (and I do mean intimate) theater was like being IN the play yourself!  We sat in the second row and I could have actually interacted with the actors.  I chose this play based on recommendations of area reviewers.  My, oh my, it was a TAD bit different than the reviews had expressed.  My jaw was on the floor for a good portion of the show.  As we were so close to the actors, I found myself doing my own acting as I didn't want to hurt their feelings with my expressions.   This play was harsh.  The language, the smoking, and the relationship issues were jaw-dropping!  As my two friends and I got up to leave, no one looked at each other.  We walked in silence toward our martini, I mean dinner, destination until we all broke out laughing!  We had the same interpretation of this play...disbelief.  My friends also call me Julie The Cruise Director as I always want to coordinate and make sure everyone has fun.  All I could say was,"I'm so sorry!  I had no idea it would be like that!  The reviews were something completely different!  I thought it was going to be funny!"  (Our other play option was "How to Kill Your Husband" or something along those lines.  We figured our husbands might take offense at that one!  Or stop eating our food we make them!)  Thankfully, I have two wonderful friends who didn't mind and we set forth walking toward our beverage/dinner destination.  A dark and rather depressing play wasn't going to hamper our celebration.   As my interpretation of "walking distance" is different from my friend's interpretation of the same, we grabbed a cab and began to discuss the movie.  Interestingly, even though we all perceived it as rather harsh and in-your-face, it stimulated a lot of conversation about friendships and what they mean.  We concluded that even though it wasn't that ha-ha funny play we had anticipated, a play that can make you think and analyze your thoughts and feelings about a topic can't be bad.

Now on to the movie.  Unfortunately, for me, "The Bachelorette" was a hot-ticket  at Sundance so once again, I missed it there.  I did see it on demand recently, to compare and contrast the two productions.  The filmmakers got it right.  They took this screenplay and tempered it while actually making it better.  Both the film and the play have the same premise:  The least attractive woman in the group of four from high school (Becky played by Rebel Wilson) found herself engaged to be married to a wonderfully handsome and rich man who absolutely adored her.  Regan (Kirsten Dunst), the only friend living near-by is saddled with the burden of Maid of Honor.  Regan is the control freak of the group who had all her ducks in a row, or so she thought.  The green-eyed monster took hold of Regan and pulled her along on a wild ride with the other two friends, Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and Katie (Isla Fisher), both with their own baggage of drugs and self-loathing.  This ride showed the women's true colors which almost destroyed Becky's wedding.  With anger, immaturity, and jealousy at the helm, these women make one bad decision after the other.  Their ride was an interesting one which plunged into each of the characters lives.  This back story with love interests including Gena and Clyde (both stars from the cable show Party Down) was not the focus of the movie, but added to the common theme of how four childhood friends grow up and support each other in some way...or don't!  Although there was a lot of drug use, a bit of sex, some harsh language, and scandalous behavior, it was still significantly toned down from the play.  You found yourself understanding some of the behavior, being repulsed by a lot of it, and also having some empathy for the characters.  This is what lacked in the play.  I had no empathy for any of them.

This wasn't "Bridesmaids" so don't go into the theater thinking it's going to be a laugh a minute.  It's about women and their difficulty in relating to each other.  It's also about friendship and choices we make.  I'm hoping this movie isn't too true to life because I like knowing that my friends are there for me no matter what!  I also know they are happy when I succeed and I'm there for them as well!


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

"Hello I Must Be Going" a review by Pamela Powell

I was lucky to have been able to see "Hello I Must Be Going" at this year's Sundance Film Festival.  This film was definitely one of my favorites.  When a film can hook you from the beginning with its ability to make you have empathy for the main character, it's a winner.  Although, I must admit that I cringed at some of the situations Amy, played by Melanie Lynskey, got herself into or hearing some of the unedited things that popped out of her mouth, I still felt for her.  This realistic feel delved deeper into a topic that perhaps 20 years ago was very taboo.  However, today's culture not only tolerates it, but many times reinforces it.  Terms like "MILF" and "Cougar" to name a few, are commonplace and acceptable.  Although the age difference between Amy and Jeremy in  "Hello I Must Be Going" isn't quite Cougar status, it did focus on the Older Woman Meets Younger Man concept.   Amy, recently divorced,  reluctantly moved back in with her wealthy Connecticut parents.  As Amy struggled to get out of bed every morning, depression and melancholy overcoming her, she was then prodded to attend a dinner party at her parents' home.  The guests?  A possible legal client of her father's with his wife and 19 year old son, Jeremy.  An immediate attraction and connection ensue, but given the age difference, Amy was not comfortable acting upon her feelings.  This was not the case of the younger, but possibly more mature, Jeremy.

This awkwardly funny and uncomfortable, but realistic film was thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end.  Everyone's emotions were pushed and pulled in two different directions, unsure as to which choice was the right choice or which one was the best choice.  The two were not always one and the same!  As we saw Amy try to hide her situation from her never-sleeping mother played deftly by Blythe Danner, the situations became  comparable to a 21st century "I Love Lucy" episode.  I laughed until I had tears streaming down my face.  It wasn't all fun and awkwardness, though.  There was self-discovery that maybe Amy should have gone through in her 20's, but it was better late than never.  Both main characters, Jeremy and Amy, portrayed the love, uncertainty, and needs of anyone at any age.  This heartfelt comedy/drama resonated with everyone in the audience.  Even given the superficial topic of "younger man falls for significantly older woman," there was always the common theme of love and desire to feel successful in all aspects of our lives.

"Hello I Must Be Going" is a smart, funny, and heartfelt film ringing true to so many 20- and 30-something year olds having to return home due to divorce or financial calamity.  Now those two things CAN be one and the same!  The fun in this film comes with the development of the relationship and situations that ensue.  As the film's contradicting title suggests, relationships can be confusing... sometimes we just don't know if we are coming or going!

(I'm guessing this is more of a movie that females will enjoy.)