Tuesday, November 27, 2012
I had my doubts about this movie. After subjecting myself to "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer" earlier in the year, I wasn't sure that I could sit through another movie decimating the character of the president that, to me, was one of the best leaders our country has ever had. In addition, I will admit (I seem to always admit something of embarrassment in my reviews!) that I am not a history buff. (I apologize to Mr. Johnson, my high school history teacher.) History just never came to life for me in a book. Back to the movie. My husband, who IS a history buff and a Civil War aficianado, accompanied me to the film, to give his professional opinion about the accuracy of the film. My sole purpose was just to review the movie as a whole.
I absolutely loved the way Daniel Day Lewis, to me, became President Lincoln. I had a preconceived notion of what Mr. Lincoln was like, and Daniel Day Lewis brought this version of him to life on the silver screen. His even temper, his soft and subtle mannerisms brought him to me as a caring individual. His tenacity and perseverance backed by intellect was my mind's eye of Lincoln. Maybe I actually did learn more in history class than I thought. As Lewis' Lincoln told stories and analogies, I was spell bound. I wanted to hear the story like a little kid during circle time in first grade listened to her teacher. How much of this was fact, I don't know. It was the overall person that I saw coming to life before me that was so impressive. Lewis, the writers, and director, brought Lincoln to life. The rest of the cast was outstanding however, no one seems to be giving Tommy Lee Jones enough credit. I put him on the same level of performance as Mr. Lewis. Jones' character of Thaddeus Stevens was a curmudgeon with high moral standards and a vocabulary and ability to impale his opponents with his poetic harpoon. Jones stole every scene. I was rapt when he appeared and concentrated on each and every word he uttered. I would be remiss if I didn't also mention David Strahairn who played William Seward from my hometown area of Westfield, NY. Sallie Field truly looked like Mary Todd and gave such a powerful performance and justification of Mary's instability as she was a mother who lost her child and had guilt that she didn't do enough to save him. How does one ever recover from that. Again, the cast was incredible. There were so many recognizable names and faces who, I am sure, wanted to have some part, no matter how big or how small, in this incredible movie.
The story took place over a small, but very important time period of Lincoln's presidency. His goal was to pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and he stopped at nothing to make sure that this passed before the end of the war. Did this bribing and coercion truly take place? I hadn't thought of Lincoln in that way before. Did he twist and turn language to work for him? I'm sure he did. He was a lawyer. (Lawyer friends, please don't take offense at this. It's actually a compliment. Lincoln was so verbally savvy that he could manipulate his sentences to manipulate people. Pretty smart!) Although the beginning of the movie was extremely slow, the pace and interest did pick up after the first 30 minutes. This 2 hour and 30 minute movie, in my opinion, could have been easily pared down to an even 2 hours. Had I have rented this movie at home, I would have gotten sidetracked in the first 15-20 minutes and then never finished it. Then I would have gotten late fees, but that's another story. I'm so glad that I did see it through to the end.
The accuracy of the time period was to be marveled! I lived in the DC and Maryland area for a few years. I cherished the history along with the Georgian architectural style and home decor of all the historic landmarks we toured while we lived there. The furniture was spot-on accurate. The rich wood, the paint colors, and the antique rugs were perfectly done. It almost brought me to tears when I spied my old secretary desk that I cut into two pieces to remove from my Georgian home as the future owners didn't want it. It was the only way to remove it from the remodeled room. It was later deemed to be worth several thousand dollars and now I have spotted it in an historic movie. Oh, well. The scenes that truly captivated me were the ones that took place in the Capitol Building where the House of Representatives argued and demoralized one another with their elaborate language. They were smug and condescending to one another which is exactly what I envisioned based on a wonderful tour of the Annapolis Capitol Building (thanks to that wonderful tour guide!) I had the pleasure of taking in. The battles were but a small piece of the movie, thankfully. Again, I've visited every (and I mean EVERY) battlefield in the DC, VA, MD, WV and PA area and the thought of watching the war all over again, gave me a pit in my stomach. I was in luck. This movie was more about the political workings to gain a desired goal than the intricacies of war. The ancillary war was in the House of Representatives. The tension built to a point of explosion as I watched the verbal bludgeoning. It was amazing that this tension could build as I knew how it turned out!
"Lincoln" was worth my money to see on the big screen. It was beautifully shot, well-told, and phenomenally acted with standouts of Daniel Day Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones. It brought Lincoln to life and gave him that human characteristic I think we all wanted him to have. It also made me appreciate what happened in order to make all people equal under the law. Thank you for saving Lincoln from the clutches (or should I say 'fangs') of the last Lincoln movie.
If you're a history buff, you will love this movie. (My husband is still going on and on about it!) If you aren't a history buff, you're still going to enjoy it, just be wary of the 2 hour and 30 minute time frame with 22 minutes of trailers before hand. Don't get scared off in the first 15-30 minutes. Hang in there and know that you'll be educated, enlightened and entertained. That's a tough combination, but they pull it off!
Monday, November 26, 2012
Violent. This is an absolutely violent film. I've become rather desensitized to the blood and gore, but there was something that sent me over the edge of the violence cliff in "Deadfall." This chilling tale which took place in the frigid north sent shivers through my system from the looks of the snow and wind as well as the detached personalities invoking irreversible harm unto others. Happy Thanksgiving. The movie took place on Thanksgiving Day. Unfortunately, the surprise guests just didn't evoke that warm, fuzzy, let's talk about what we are thankful for kind of feeling.
Two siblings made a run for it after committing a heist and we the viewers sat back and watched who fell in their way. Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde) were siblings escaping the law with a boat-load of money. When their car crashed in a remote area of the far north and their driver killed, Addison does the only thing thinkable when a police officer stops to help them. Addison shot the officer. BAM! No thought, a superficial verbal apology and then on with the rest of the day's plan. Addison's sister Liza and he shared a few knowing glances with each other making the viewer question their past. Brrr...I was getting colder watching this! The two were desparate and would stop at nothing to keep their freedom and their cash. Finding it better to split up, Liza befriends Jay (Charlie Hunnam) by banking on her gorgeous looks and her way with men, to find safety. Wow! Some pretty steamy sex scenes ensue! OK, back to the gore. Addison leaves a mess in his wake. I warned you that it was violent!
Bana played the detached sociopath to a T. Wilde was the epitome of the conflicted younger sister wanting to please her brother, but knowing that she was being suppressed by him and maybe, just maybe, she was doing things that weren't very nice. The star of "Sons of Anarchy," Charlie Hunnam played the sweet, misdirected ex-con with father-son relationship issues. Did I mention that he was part of the steamy sex scene? Did I mention WOW?! Anyway, Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson played Jay's true-to-life parents with mom just wanting everyone to be happy and dad never being happy. Ahhh, the conundrums in everyone's life being represented on the silver screen as well. This well-cast thriller was short on dialogue, but long on tension and death toll, giving it a high on-the-edge-of-your-seat captivation quotient. Although I would say it was rather predictable, that aspect was forgiven as it also had many surprises interjected intermittently. And I loved the end.
If you see this movie, be warned that it is VIOLENT! Wear mittens and a scarf because if it's cold outside, it'll be colder when you're watching the movie!
Saturday, November 24, 2012
"Life of Pi" was hot in the bookclub circle a few years back. Although I don't belong to a book club due to my committment issues, I do like to follow what's out there and attempt to read what's current and relevant. My latest book you ask? Why, 50 Shades of Grey, of course! I've got to keep up with what's current, you know! Anyway, Life of Pi just didn't catch me in the first few chapters so I was pretty excited that this was going to be a movie. I thought if the book didn't catch me, the movie would.
The story unfolded in the current time with an adult looking back on his life and telling this miraculous event to a writer who was down on his writing creativity; searching for that perfect story that would wow him AND give him faith. Pi Patel brought us back in time to when he was just a little tike growing up in a zoo and going to school. Pi reminisced about having been teased incessantly about his name (Pi is short for a longer name which had negative connotations.), learning about religions and falling in love. Unfortunately, due to financial reasons he and his family needed to leave India. They embarked upon a voyage that would forever change Pi's life. As the cargo ship encountered the rough seas and storms of the Atlantic Ocean, it sank taking with it all that Pi knew. Pi was left in a life boat with several animals, including an adult Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, and he must try to survive.
This was a beautiful movie. Serenity and tranquility abounded in the beginning with all the animals portrayed in the zoo. The adult Pi navigated our journey taking us from his experiences and memories of his relationship with his father to his typical interactions with his brother. Starting with a dare from his brother to drink the Holy water from a Catholic church, Pi then began to explore many religions. His exploration of faith is what he later called upon to help him through the harrowing experience of survival with a Bengal tiger in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on a life boat.
"Life of Pi" was a movie about a boy growing up and becoming a man. As the story unfolded before our eyes, we could see the pain and struggle Pi endured. We could also see his determination. Pi also found that the tiger was not just his enemy but his focus which enabled him to survive. Even though we couldn't relate to the situation Pi was dealing with, we still understood how Pi felt. We cried when he was sad and we chuckled when he made mistakes we could and would all make. But most importantly, we got to know Pi. As the adult Pi narrated various portions of the movie, the young Pi version blended perfectly into the film to create a cohesively well-told story. This blending perfectly captured every aspect of Pi's personality to we not only cared about him, but we could relate to him as well.
Young Pi played by Suraj Sharma was the standout performer. What heart and depth he shared with his audience with his words and facial expressions. Irrfan Khan, the adult Pi, comfortably told his story with such natural affect that you were immediately reassured that everything was going to be ok. "Life of Pi" was a beautifully filmed story that kept you glued to the screen. This was a perfect film for a family to see. The target group that will completely enjoy this film is the 8-13 year old boy segment. That's not to say that no one else will enjoy it, but I think that it was definitely geared toward that group. Be warned that there are animals that act like, well, animals. There was some CGI animal death. Nothing too graphic, but it may be upsetting to animal lovers.
Monday, November 12, 2012
This dark, no let me rephrase that, this VERY dark comedy kept me cringing and looking away just to quickly turn back to the screen as I had to know what happened next. Dr. Lang and his wife, Nealy (Elizabeth Banks), were the perfect couple having been married for 10 years and have one adorable little boy. Their major, apparent, problems were as simple as a building code permit and a few pesky raccoons tearing up their newly installed sod. Simple fixes for both problems escalated rapidly out of control. Laura Linney played the believably bizarre neighbor complete with 1950's style and a cat as her best friend. She was loopy and unreasonable in a lovable way; maybe for Dr. Lang it was too lovable! The dark cloud that followed Dr. Lang rained showers of irony as well and Karma was a bitch. Ray Liotta played a character I wouldn't want to upset. (Doesn't he usually?) Dr. Lang apparently did just that. Oh, the snowball was getting bigger and bigger and you knew there was going to be an avalanche because of it! With this all-star cast, I didn't expect a relative unknown-to-me to be the stand-out actor. Yes, Liotta, Banks, and Maguire were fine, but it was Dennis Haysbert that stood out to me. He had a recognizable voice that was rich and melodic. (Think All State Insurance!) What a natural actor. Every scene belonged to him. He wasn't reading a script. He had become the character of "Lincoln" and told his story through his words, his voice, and his eyes. As I looked him up on imdb, I found that he is no new-comer to acting. Somehow I have missed him, but will be sure to watch for him in the future.
"The Details" recalled every step of this married couple's life taking you on an unpredictable journey filled with irony, humor, deceit, and death. What a combination. It was completely entertaining and funny in a sick and twisted sort of way. Take the time to watch this unique and quirky dark comedy. But beware, this is not your average comedy!
Saturday, November 10, 2012
Apparently, all Bond movies follow a very successful formula. The Bond Movie must have its villain and Skyfall's villain du jour was Silva (not Silver with a British accent, but Silva!) played by Javier Bardem. Javier is no stranger to evil characters as his performance in "No Country For Old Men" comes quickly to mind and brings goosebumps to my skin. In "Skyfall," however, his sinister character also adds a bit of levity to the film with his expressions of exasperation and irony. The one special effect I can recall in this movie had to do with Silva and the effect was most impressive. "M" was played by Judy Dench of whom I am a huge fan. She can add reality and depth to anything. She does so with Bond as well. Craig's Bond was nothing extraordinary. He was good. He was believable, but he didn't really shine in my mind. He lacked the charisma and personality that Moore and Connery have to me. The Bond Girls (as I understand they are known as) were cute and beautiful and Craig's Bond enjoyed toying with them. Berenice Marlohe was the voluptuous temptress with a constant look of "I just ate something very sour" on her big, pouty lips. Great lipstick though. Beauty in the women filled the screen as did the backdrops of London and Shanghai. The concisely choreographed dance, er, um, I mean, fight scene with perfectly timed music was entertaining. I'm not sure they wanted it to come across like that, but I felt like I was watching a hip scene from the Hubbard Street Dance Company. In addition, the film had a lot of shooting, a lot of explosions, a lot of "apple cart tipping," chases, crashes, and more explosions. The bad guys were numerous and at times I just didn't understand how they all ended up appearing in the middle of Scotland far removed from civilization. I also didn't understand how deep water could be in a pond in the middle of a farm. Silly me. Then, I watched a scene take place in the daytime, then had it abruptly be the middle of the night and then POOF! it's daytime again in a matter of 5 minutes. These oversights are always a bit bothersome. But it's Bond, right? I have to suspend belief to enjoy the film. Fine. I tried. But why did the movie "Home Alone" come to mind? I can't say anything more...it'll be a spoiler. See the movie and then you'll say, "OH! Now I see what Reel Honest Reviews meant!"
There you have it. I'm not a Bond fan. Sorry. However, guys/Bond fans, I'm sure you'll love it. Ladies, make your guy happy and go see it with him. Then let him buy an expensive dinner for you as you just sat through a Bond movie just for him! Guys, I'm kidding....kind of.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Where to start? If only I could have started at the end of the movie, I would have saved myself 79 minutes. “Nature Calls” was about reviving a dwindling boy scout troop, lead by a complete loser who wanted nothing more than to help kids connect with nature. Sounds like a nice film for the 8-14 year old boy group, right? Wrong. In a sentence, “Nature Calls” was one of the most offensive, ridiculous, and irritating movies I’ve seen this year. It offended every aspect of my intellect. The barrage of constant noise, insanity and ludicrous situations was more than I could handle. Who wrote this? (Todd Rohal) Who did he write this for??? I have no idea. The language, the focus point, and the overall story had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Between the adults acting like pre-pubescent children and the children acting like wild beasts, I wanted to shut the movie off. But I didn’t so that I could save you from wasting your time and money.
Patton Oswalt played Randy, the unrealistic troop leader trying to convince a group of boys to come back to his boy scout troop to experience nature. Randy’s brother Kirk (Johnny Knoxville) and his cohort Gentry (Rob Riggle) were intent on exposing these kids to electronic heaven instead of going on the camping trip planned by Randy. As Randy broke many rules to get these boys out into nature and connect with it, many ridiculous events occurred. Kirk and Gentry exploded with anger and outrage and Kirk’s wife, Janine (played by Maura Tierney), tried to hunt the group down. Janine was nothing more than a servant who had no personality and put up with being treated like a second class citizen. (Personal note to Maura...WHY? Why did you stoop to this level?)
Crude behavior. Crass language. Inappropriate scenes. Nudity. Sexual innuendos. Racial slurs. Animal cruelty. The list of negatives goes on and on. I truly have no idea who the intended audience is. It’s not a kid’s movie, that’s for sure! It’s not a female movie. Is it a guys’ movie? I hope not. This is an awful representation of the boy scouts. This is an awful representation of Hollywood! This is an awful representation of how adult males should be a model for kids. Crude, rude and crass can be funny ("The Hangover"), but not in "Nature Calls!" However, I can't end without saying one positive thing. On the positive side, it wasn’t 2 hours long.
Saturday, November 3, 2012
“Flight” starred Denzel Washington, John Goodman, and Don Cheadle and was nothing like what I had expected. Washington played Capt. Whip Whitaker, a veteran airline pilot flying a routine 52 minute route from Orlando to Atlanta. Encountering mechanical difficulties, among other things including “acts of God,” Whitaker landed the crashing, out of control plane saving many lives. Unfortunately, six lives were lost and “someone must pay the price.” There was an investigation of the crash and we began to learn more troubling information about Capt. Whitaker and his pre-flight investigation.
The beginning of the movie was intense. I knew there was going to be a crash as that was evident in every description and trailer of the movie I had seen. What I didn’t expect was the turbulent ride I, the viewer, experienced from my comfy theater chair. The first scene showed Capt. Whitaker waking up in a hotel room, obviously having had quite the night. As he fought with his ex-wife on the phone, he took a swig of warm, left-over beer among many empty bottles on the nightstand. He looked like a train had hit him. (No pun intended with “Unstoppable!”) But no worries. As he got ready for work, he did a couple of lines of coke. All better. Whitaker showed up ready to fly, looking dapper in his pilot’s uniform and cool Ray-Bans. I was still blown away from the first scene.
As Captain Whip Whitaker sat ready to take off, knowing he was responsible for “102 souls” on board, he took a couple of aspirin and some coffee to prepare. Along with the “souls” on board, the flight attendant and co-pilot bring up their religious beliefs and the running theme of “it’s God’s plan” was quite evident giving us an early indication that Whip was struggling in every aspect of his life. Whip knew the plane was doomed the moment he stepped on board. The high intensity obvious action began and ended in the first 30 minutes of the movie. It was at that point that we hung on for the roller coaster ride of personal demons and struggles within our main character. His character unraveled and showed us how ugly drug and alcohol addiction can be. As the NTSB investigated the crash and why it occurred we wanted so badly to want to love our hero: the man that save 96 souls aboard. Like reality, no one person is perfect. This was quite true of Capt. Whitaker. His behavior was appalling and his decisions angered me, yet it was his competence as a pilot that saved those people. That was a conflict that as a viewer, I was grappling with resolving. I must admit that this was the first time that I didn’t like Denzel Washington’s character. I loved him even in “Safe House” as a bad guy, but this guy was too real and struggling so badly that I just couldn’t like him. I really had no idea how this movie would end and what decisions he would make. Well done!
Washington, although I didn’t like his character, was outstanding. I was captivated from the moment I saw him...completely disheveled and unappealing then transforming into the competent pilot and then on to becoming what I thought was a lost cause. He showed us every aspect of his character's personality. You could feel how he wrestled within his mind about making decisions and how alcohol affected him. John Goodman played Whitaker’s childhood friend Harley. Again, Goodman added the levity needed in a very serious movie without taking away any credibility. Cheadle played the uptight and bright Chicago lawyer, Hugh Lang, hired to help Whitaker even when he didn’t want Lang's help. The remaining supporting cast deftly played those who loved Whitaker, but ultimately were rejected by him and his disease. "Flight" showed how alcoholism affects everyone like a tornado's path. This was a sobering shot of the repulsiveness of drug and alcohol addiction and how it becomes the person.
I highly recommend seeing this movie as Washington’s performance is magnificent and impactful. The story is gripping and moving, but it’s harsh. It may not be for everyone. There is some very real-looking drug usage and alcoholism is truly disturbing. That being said, if you know what you’re going in to, see it! It’s for anyone in their college years and older.
Thursday, November 1, 2012
"This Must Be The Place" screened at Sundance this year and I must admit that I was initially shocked by so many aspects of the movie. My first shock was that I was sitting one seat away from Harvey Weinstein. My second shock was that he had his blackberry out and texted or searched or did whatever during the entire first half of the movie! After that, thankfully, he left so that I was not blinded in the left half of my left eye while watching any longer! Anyway, back to the movie. Sean Penn played a famous has-been rock star from the 80's named Cheyenne living in Dublin. Cheyenne continued to wear the garb and the make-up from that era as if everyday was a performance. Frances McDormand played his wife and just the relationship between two of them could have been an entire movie. Cheyenne, however, has a few different relationships with various people such as his mother and a teen. It is through these relationships that we started to get a clearer picture of who Cheyenne really was. The unfolding of his tightly guarded personality unraveled more quickly when Cheyenne travelled back to the States after he learned of his father's death.
Sean Penn played this rocker has-been skillfully. As soon as he uttered his first sentence, my thoughts went immediately to, "Wow! This guy did WAY too many drugs!" His affect appeared flat. His voice was monotone and slow. He was devoid of emotion. But there was something in the way his flat affect delivered the lines that did convey what was necessary. Frances McDormand's character was just as quirky and bizarre to compliment in a yin-yang sort of way, Sean Penn's character. This was a unique movie that started along a path and you just didn't have a choice but to continue following to see where it would lead. The movie took many unpredictable side roads, full of bumps to enlighten you, then bring you back to the main road. In fact, it brought you right back to where you wanted to be. What a great ending!
I will admit one more thing to you. I didn't love this movie when I left. In fact, it was a few months later that I started to think about it again. At this time, I think I started to appreciate what I had seen. The acting was great, although bizarre. The characters were peculiar but fully developed to enhance what we knew and would know about the main character, Cheyenne. The story-line was very unique and unpredictable. Superb acting with a unique story line equals a good movie.
This movie, however, isn't for everyone. You need to have an open mind and appreciation for peculiar personalities. When you can, you can see the common element among every person which then enables you to see that what's so different on the outside really isn't so different on the inside. Then, trust me, you will enjoy the movie.
Oh! Two more things...The music is great! It's David Byrne! And turn your cell phones off...everyone...no exceptions...no matter what your name is!