Sunday, December 29, 2013

THE 2014 SUNDANCE HOT SHEET by Pamela Powell

For the third year in a row, Reel Honest Reviews will be traveling to beautiful Park City, Utah to partake in the cutting edge film festival known as Sundance.  With two years under my belt, I have finally learned a few important things:

1.  I do NOT need to pack an entire suitcase full of various boots.
2.  I do NOT need 3 outfits for each day.
3.  I do NOT need to schedule every single second while I'm there.  The best things seem to happen spontaneously so the control freak aspect of my personality needs to be quelled...perhaps with a little High West Whiskey!
4.  I DO need to remember that Utah liquor laws require the state liquor store to be closed on Sundays!
5.  I DO need to pack a backup camera.
6.  I DO need to eat dinner every day...note to self: Make reservations today!

Now that that's down in black & white, I can focus on the important aspects of the film festival---the movies!  What an array of films there are this year.  Each year, I think it can't possibly get any more exciting, but somehow it does.  Here are Reel Honest Reviews' projected highlights:

In the PREMIERES category:

HITS starring Julia Stiles, Micheal Cera, and Matt Walsh

COLD IN JULY starring Michael C. Hall and Sam Shepard
In the US DRAMATIC category:


WHIPLASH starring Miles Teller and JK Simmons
LOCK CHARMER starring Esteban Lamothe and Eric Rivas

Other noteworthy films: LAND HO
ALIVE INSIDE: A story of Music & Memory

Now, watching 35 films in 6 days is nearly (but not completely) impossible.  And I do pride myself on two abilities:  1.  The ability to view 5 films in one day  and 2.  The ability to call the winners of the film race from year to year.  But I will only be able to see a fraction of these films.  Hopefully, a high fraction, but a fraction no less.  Again, tapping into that laid-back personality (induced by High West Distillery, thank you very much), I will take advantage of everything Sundance has to offer and report back to you.  You will be the first to know what's going to be hot in the coming year!

Be sure to comment on this site if you have a film at Sundance or a friend's film that you would like for me to see and review!

Friday, December 27, 2013


Where do you go when you "zone out?"  Are you thinking about the next stop you need to make?  What's for dinner?  Who's school project you forgot to pick up items for?  Or are you imagining yourself as the hero of a situation?  My guess is the former choices rather than the latter.  Most of us are so consumed with the day-to-day drudgery of life that we don't take the time to dream about possibilities.  Walter Mitty picks up the slack for all of us and does just that.  Unfortunately, he dreams a bit too much and misses out on living.

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY is based on James Thurber's short story of the same name written back in 1947.  Mitty is a dreamer who works in the Negative Assets Department at NYC's  LIFE Magazine.  Mitty doesn't really live life, he dreams about it.  He zones out and imagines what could have or even should have happened and then pops back into reality, realizing absolutely nothing has happened...or at least nothing positive.  He is awkward.  Let me rephrase that because that really is an understatement.  How about maladroit in any interpersonal communications.  Yes, that is a much more suitable word for Mitty's people skills.  Throw in a crush on a girl (yes, we are talking about a 30-something adult) and his awkwardness is profoundly exacerbated.  As Mitty finds himself in search of a missing film negative to be the final cover for LIFE Magazine, he has to jump out of his shell and actually start living.

For those of you who watch television (yeah, yeah, I know...everyone but me), there's a show (I have watched this one!) called The Amazing Race.  "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is a bit like that in that he travels from NYC, across Greenland to Iceland then to the Himalyan Mountains and back.  It's the rural version of the show as he searches for the renowned photographer Sean O'Connell to find the missing negative #25.  He encounters volcanoes, sharks, and other obstacles.  Without giving more of the film away (I'm matching what you've already seen in the trailers), Mitty learns how to live life and not just dream about it as it passes him by.  There's irony, humor, and relatable circumstances that are touching.  His interactions with his boss, Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott) are frustrating as he epitomizes that bully that never grew out of his junior high school class.

Ben Stiller transforms himself as Mitty's character grows.  He plays a sweet and trusting man who just can't find the confidence in himself that he deserves.  Stiller captures that and brings this book to life.  Kristen Wiig is always a joy to watch, but she finds herself in a role that is just a normal, everyday, down-to-earth woman trying to live life.  Of course, she has the talent to pull that off wonderfully.  Adam Scott plays a very unlikeable character with ease and Shirley MacLaine never ceases to amaze me with her ability to add the necessary icing on the cake.  She is everyone's mom.  Thank goodness for that or it might have had a very bad turn!

The story was a familiar one with not a lot of surprises, except when it really mattered.  The film was truly enjoyable and beautiful to watch.  The characters were a bit over-the-top, but so were the circumstances so that is ok.  It all matched up wonderfully.  Stiller did a wonderful job---let's say he was quite adroit at enabling the viewer to leave the movie feeling good.  This movie also had a positive message.  Watch it and listen.  You just might learn something.  And that's a positive thing!

This film will appeal to the older 20's and on up.  It's also a good date movie or girl friend movie!  ENJOY!

7 1/2 REELS

Thursday, December 26, 2013


Opening on Christmas day was this sweet, touching film about a man's heart and soul---just kidding.  This film couldn't be anything further from sweet and touching.  And I'm not so sure this man, aka Jordan Belfort, had a heart or a soul for that matter.  Think the opposite of George Bailey from "It's A Wonderful Life," and you've got the right picture.  "The Wolf of Wall Street" was raw and in-your-face in every aspect imaginable.  From sex to drugs to lust and greed for the almighty dollar, there was never any question about this film's focus.

But first, let me tell you the synopsis of the film which, by the way, is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort.  (For more information on this real life character go to CNBC's Jordan Belfort article  .)  Jordan Belfort was a young kid, fresh out of school, living in NYC trying to make it as a stock broker.  Learning from the pros, Jordan finally gets his broker's license on a very special day---Black Monday.  For those of you old enough to remember, this was a pretty horrific day in the stock market.  With the love and support of his wife, Jordan sets out to make it in this industry using his gift of gab and his intellect.  As he moves up the ladder, his paycheck moves right along with him, but his ways and means of getting richer become much more suspect.  The movie focuses on Belfort's rise and fall as the Emperor or Wolf of Wall Street.

Scorsese based this film on Jordan Belfort's book by the same name.  From here, one can only guess what was fact and what was fiction, but I'm sure a lot of the film can be supported by newspaper and magazine articles.  As a film, this is a movie with a huge punch, dragging you along Belfort's path of self-destruction; you can't take your eyes off the screen.  Maybe it was the fact that there was a lot of sex, in-your-face sex in 30' x 70' full view.  I'm going to mention here that as the good mother that I am, I wanted to spend time with my two children who are 18 and 21.  We go to the movies on Christmas day.  What better way to spend the afternoon than with my two children.  Yes, I am still out of the running for Mother of the Year.  As my 18 year old daughter said as we left the theater, "That was like watching porn...with your mother."  Yes, there's something wrong with that!  My son dittoed her comment and added that he might have been more comfortable watching it with "the guys."  Oh, well.  It certainly made for open and interesting conversation afterward!  But, as usual, I digress.  Back to the film.  From the opening scene to the final cut, there was more sex and drug usage than I imagined happened in Woodstock, NY back in 1969.  Addictions to sex, drugs, and money were the obvious issues, but Belfort was addicted to the success and power he earned at any cost.

The film is really much more than that.  It is a creatively executed story that enables the viewer to get a real feel for who this mega millionaire is.  The unique story-telling perspective of having Belfort narrate the film in hindsight as the viewer watches is always an interesting way of showing a film.  We get to know Belfort in both the before and after stages which makes us have empathy for this money-loving, cheating, lying thief.  Belfort also breaks through that "4th wall" and talks to us, the audience.  It's like he has a secret that he's letting us in on and who doesn't like to hear a secret?  He's being honest with us so we like this scumbag even more.

DiCaprio is not one of my favorite actors, but I must say his last two films, including this one, have won me over.  This was a very complicated, multi-layered role to take on and his performance was mind-boggling.  He became this very character and I found myself rooting for the "bad guy."  He was charming, charismatic, angry, volatile, abusive, and smart.  He was also a lot of fun.  He embodied this character completely.  The remainder of the cast was outstanding with Jonah Hill playing his right hand man complete with pearly white veneered teeth.  Matthew McConaughey, Jon Favreau, and Rob Reiner had relatively small roles, but deftly performed their parts.  The action was always high (pun intended), the story was fast-paced even considering that it was an almost three hour movie.  This man's life was depicted in such detail, but never, ever in a boring way.  The music was perfect at every scene, punctuating the scene.

"The Wolf of Wall Street" is a captivating story full of lust, greed, drugs, and lots of sex.  It shows the life-style as well as the rise and fall of the real life Jordan Belfort.  Even with the fast pace of the film, and the high intensity scenes, it could have probably cut out 30-45 minutes of the explicit sex and drug scenes and still conveyed what it needed to.  This movie isn't for everyone.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, however I may never convince my children to see another movie with me.  If you are at all offended by language, sex, nudity, or drug usage, avoid this film.  Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the ride.

8 REELS (but be's not for everyone!)

Friday, December 20, 2013


Starring:  Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jeremy Renner
Written by:  Eric Singer and David O. Russell
Directed by:  David O. Russell

David O. Russell reunited and blended his talented casts from THE FIGHTER and SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK for yet another creative, smart, and captivating film.  As the film came into focus, the words "Some of this actually happened" appeared.  Although I have no recollection of the

events as I was busy learning to dance The Hustle and listening to Elton John during the late 70's, I love the fact that they didn't say, "Based on a true story."  Hey, let's face it.  Every movie could be "based on a true story."  Even ANCHORMAN 2 could be based on real life.  It is, after all, about how news became "what the people wanted to know and not what they needed to know."  But I digress.  "American Hustle" is about a con artist who falls in love (oh, the women are always the men's demise) and chooses the wrong man to hustle, an undercover FBI agent.  This agent busts the two and forces them to work for the Bureau or they will go to jail.

Let me start by telling you a bit about the premise of the film.  Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) meet at a party and fall in love.  The two realize they are cut from the same cloth and team up to build their illegal enterprise of scamming people.  Their success stops as they hustle the wrong guy.  Richie DiMaso, a wild-eyed FBI agent makes a deal with the couple to work for him, making 4 busts and then they will have earned their freedom.  Little did Rosenfeld and his girlfriend know that DiMaso had some issues that would affect his judgement.  What DiMaso deemed as "passion" others might categorize as manic or some other psychological disorder. The scam to entrap Congressmen, Senators, and even Mob bosses quickly spirals out of control.  How the three work together (or against each other) is the focus of the movie.

"American Hustle" is superbly written.  What movie could take a story about conning people who are desperate, and marry it with the intriguing tale of ice fishing (You have to see it to understand this comment!) and make it work?  It is creative, interesting, and captivating to the point of not daring to take your eyes off the screen for fear of missing an important detail.  Every word, phrase and sentence is important in figuring out who was truly the good guy and who was scamming whom.  And the "characters" in this film are realistically over the top.  I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but it's not!  Have you been to Jersey in the 70's?  The dialects, hair styles, and interactions are spot-on entertaining, but truly believable.

Traveling back to the late 70's and early 80's was a scary endeavor before I saw the film.  Let's face it, the style of the day was not too flattering.  Trust me, I have photos from high school to prove it.  This film, however is provocative as it blends the style, music, and overall feel of the time period to tell this tale of crime.  The incorporation of classic music by Blondie and Elton John and the humor of Louis C.K.'s character interacting with DiMaso was priceless.  (I also think I still own hot rollers like the ones in Amy Adam's hair!)

"American Hustle" couldn't have been any more entertaining and at 138 minutes (that's 2 hours and 18 minutes, folks...1 hour past my usual attention span), it held my attention every step of the way.  I'd like to say there were standouts in this film and focus on one or two actors, but I can't because they were all standouts!  Bale seems to have no qualms about not looking so great in a role.  His fat, hairy belly with extreme comb over hair was jaw-dropping intriguing.  Bradley Cooper spent quite a bit of screen time with perm rods in his hair while he roller-coastered his emotions with his mother, FBI boss, and his co-workers.  Cooper's skills as an actor continue to amaze me.  Then we have Amy Adams.  If I ever meet her, I never want to cross her as her scene as a scorned woman was very intimidating!  She was beautiful and raw in her emotions as I have never seen her.  Jennifer Lawrence nailed the role of the Bronx housewife who was bored and neglected.  Her character added such fun at her own expense.  The list goes on and on with talent, but I think that these actors, no matter how talented they are, couldn't have had the performance they did without the direction of David O. Russell.  Now that's talent.

"American Hustle" is a smart, clever, and wonderfully entertaining film about crime around 1980.  This is one of the best written films to hit the screens this year.  Not only is the writing outstanding, but the acting, directing, and style of filming is beyond comparison.  Go see this film in the theater.  It is worth every dollar you spend!

9 1/2 REELS

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


 “Saving Mr. Banks” opens this weekend attracting fans of the Mary Poppins books and movie.  Starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, the film has the star power to draw the fans in, but does the film have the substance it needs to continually draw an audience in?  

In 1961, Pamela L. Travers, author of the renowned children’s book Mary Poppins, finds herself in need of money to maintain her modest lifestyle in London.  Her publicist pushes her into agreeing to fly to LA and meet with Mr. Walt Disney to finalize a long overdue plan to magically transform her book into a Disney feature film.  Mrs. Travers, not a fan of the Disney concept, reluctantly agrees to talk with him and attempt to work on a screenplay.  What follows is a comedy of errors and insight into the world of this famed author.

 Admittedly, I was not a Mary Poppins fan, although I do remember jumping from the top of a slide with an umbrella thinking I could at least float gently down to the ground.  Two broken pinkie fingers reminded me that it was only a movie.  Ah ha!  Maybe that’s why I don’t like Disney!  Nah, there are many other reasons too! The film has all the trademarks of a Disney film.  The perfectly set up shots, the longing stares, and the attempt to tug at your heart-strings just a little too hard are all aspects in “Saving Mr. Banks.”  That’s not to say it’s not an enjoyable film; it’s just to say it has the markings of Disney.  

The story is well-told.  We get wonderful insight to Mrs. Travers uptight personality and why she acts the way she does.  We learn about her imagination and her relationships with her parents as a young child and why she treats others in a rather cold and unfriendly way.  Disney is just as one would picture him---kind, thoughtful, and caring---just the opposite of Mrs. Travers.  Those that are employed at Disney seem perfectly happy in their work environment until the whirlwind of a personality of Mrs. Travers (please don’t call her Pam or Pamela) strikes the office.  Watching Mrs. Travers as she recalls her past in her mind, she begins to understand herself better.  Her curt, articulate speech fit her perfectly as she lets those around her know they are beneath her.  From the audience standpoint, it comes across rather funny.  Throughout the film, she softens and her new-found relationships at Disney enables her to do so.

Emma Thompson is the epitome of British properness.  She is perfectly cast as one would imagine Mrs. Travers to have been.  She conveys a sense of ownership to these “imaginary” characters and allows the audience to understand her reluctance to let Mr. Disney work his magic.  Tom Hanks looks and sounds like Mr. Walt Disney.  He’s sweet and sincere with his want of bringing love and laughter to children everywhere.  Colin Farrell plays Pamela’s father in the flashbacks as the loving, but unreliable drunk.  His close relationship with his darling daughter (Annie Rose Buckley) is believable and touching.  The most entertaining part of the movie came with Paul Giamatti as the limo driver and with the threesome who try to convince Mrs. Travers that “Mary Poppins” can be a musical.  Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, and B.J. Novak are quite entertaining with their interactions and expressions with Mrs. Travers.  The script is concise, the delivery is accurate, and the message is conveyed to give us a complete story of the book’s transformation into a film.  How accurate is this film?  This is Hollywood and Disney so your guess is as good as mine.  Let's face it, it's not a documentary, it's a feature film.  Just sit back and enjoy.

“Saving Mr. Banks” is a pleasant film about a famous author and her struggle to relinquish control over her coveted "Mary Poppins."  It gives us insight to the conception of the book and who these characters truly are.  While there are many laughs along the way, the film tries too hard to be touching.  This is a family film that is appropriate for all ages making it a destination at the movie theater this holiday season.  It is a nice story with a Disney happy ending.  Weren’t you expecting that?  


Monday, December 16, 2013

REEL'S INDIE PICKS OF 2013 by Pamela Powell

What constitutes an "indie flick" anymore?  The definition has changed over the years and the lines have become blurred.  It used to be that any film made outside the Hollywood studio system was considered an independent film.  These films were made in opposition to the traditional and powerful Hollywood system.   Now, these large production companies have their own subsidiaries that cater to the smaller "independent" films.  These companies go to the film festivals, searching for the next "Silver Linings Playbook," purchase the rights and then distribute the film.  But that's not the case with all films.  Many of the smaller films never get picked up by the bigger companies for distribution.  Luckily with technology where it is, the films can at least be picked up and seen via VOD (Video On Demand).

While some may not consider films like "Silver Linings Playbook" to be independent due to its star power, it did meet the criteria of the Independent Spirit Awards.  It was at least 70 minutes, it played in a theater for at least one week, it was at one of six key film festivals and it had a budget of less than $20 million.  Ok, it was $21 million, but what's a million bucks?  Minor detail.  Oh, if only someone would make that mistake in my paycheck!  Anyway, I have my own thoughts on independent films.  While all of these criteria are great, I love finding that hidden gem of a film that most people don't know about.   I wanted to share with you my top list of independent films that perhaps will never play in your town's theater, but you will be able to see on VOD or DVD in the near future.  Perhaps it's a film that the marketing just wasn't there or maybe the film will only appeal to a smaller group of people.  Whatever the case may be, there are some great films out there that are worth your time and money to see.  Please note that these are not in any ranked order.  Most (but alas not all) films have been reviewed on my blog.  Check it out!  Click on the link for the trailer!  See these movies!

Here they are:

"It's a Disaster," written and directed by Todd Berger and starring Julia Stiles and David Cross
IT'S A DISASTER movie trailer

2.  "Fruitvale Station," written and directed by Ryan Coogler and starring Octavia Spencer and Michael B. Jordan

3.  "Between Us," written and directed by Dan Mirvish starring Julia Stiles, Taye Diggs and David Harbour.  Dan Mirvish will be my first guest on the new NPR show THE REEL FOCUS in January 2014. BETWEEN US movie trailer

4. "Struck by Lightning" written by Chris Colfer and starring Mr. Colfer, Rebel Wilson, and Allison Janney  STRUCK BY LIGHTNING movie trailer
5.  "Hours," written and directed by Eric Heisserer and starring Paul Walker.  HOURS movie trailer
6.  "The East," written and directed by Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling, starring Alexander Skarsgard and Ellen Page.  THE EAST movie trailer
7.  "In a World," Lake Bell's first feature film that she has written, directed, and starred in along with Jeff Garlin, Fred Melamed, and Rob Corddry.  IN A WORLD movie trailer
8.  "Some Velvet Morning," with Alice Eve and Stanley Tucci, written and directed by the playwright Neil LaBute  SOME VELVET MORNING movie trailer
9.  "August: Osage County" (This one pushes the limits to me on the definition of "independent" because of the mega star power, but it was written by Chicagoan and Steppenwolf actor and director Tracy Letts so I had to include it!  We Chicagoans stick together, ya know!)  AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY movie trailer
10.  "Enough Said" starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini, written and directed by Nicole Holofcener  ENOUGH SAID movie trailer
11.  "Blue Jasmine," written and directed by Woody Allen, starring Cate Blanchett  BLUE JASMINE movie trailer
12. "No," starring Gael Garcia Bernal, written by Pedro Peirano and directed by Pablo Larrain
NO Movie Trailer
13.  "Nebraska" NEBRASKA movie trailer
14.  "Dallas Buyers Club"  DALLAS BUYERS CLUB movie trailer
15. "Mud" MUD movie trailer

Additional independent foreign films:

1.  Sightseers  SIGHTSEERS movie review
2.  Wadjda
3.  The Hunt
4.  Starbuck
5.  Instructions Not Included
6.  Banklady
7.  The Patience Stone
8.  Northwest


1.  Blood BrothersBLOOD BROTHER movie review
2.  Honor Diaries
3.  20 Feet From Stardom
4.  Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me
5.  The Genius of Marian
6. The Project
7.  The Rider and the Storm
8.  My Name is Faith

Movies to watch for later this month and early in 2014 include:

1.  Favor  FAVOR movie review
2.  Eat, Spirit, Eat
3.  Twenty Million People
4.  Mistaken For Strangers
5.  Labor Day
6.  Philomena
7  Breathe In

Keep checking back as I will be adding films as I recall them...that's the beauty of a blog!

Friday, December 6, 2013


Starring:  Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, and Woody Harrelson
Written by: Scott Cooper and Brad Ingelsby
Directed by:  Scott Cooper

"Out of the Furnace" has an all-star cast with Christian Bale as the lead and supporting actors of Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana, Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker, and Sam Shepard.  The basic premise of the movie was that two brothers, Russell and Rodney Baze, grew up in a dying steel town in rural Pennsylvania, and went their separate ways.  As their lives converged as adults, Rodney's poor decisions impacted Russell.  When Rodney disappeared, Russell went to every length to find him.

"Out of the Furnace" was initially reminiscent of home as I grew up in rural NY State.  I loved seeing the hills, the trees (although the seasons seemed to be incongruous), and the middle class working town's neighborhood.  That's where my happiness with this movie ended.  The first one hour and 10 minutes (yes, I timed it) was devoted to setting up the shoe that was to drop.  The second 46 minutes (yes, I timed this as well) was just total stress and anxiety with a splattering, I mean smattering of blood, violence, and execution style murder.  This, my friends, was the shoe dropping.  Many times I gasped aloud in this all male audience (take a hint here) and I frequently covered my eyes as I could not endure watching the brutal violence accentuated by the 10 foot screen in front of me.

Casey Affleck played the younger, always angry and in trouble younger brother, Rodney.  Christian Bale (Russell), an uneducated, but loving and kind older brother, was always bailing Rodney out of his gambling debts.  In between bouts in Iraq, a safer place to be than in debt with the ne'er do wells like Woody Harrelson's character Harian DeGroat, Rodney began street fighting for money.  Yeah, I think a few synapses were knocked askew during one of his many fights.  Anyway, Rodney and his first rather fatherly loan shark by comparison (Willem Dafoe) decided to take on a fight organized by the "inbreds from New Jersey" lead by DeGroat.  In the Appalachians, these "hill folk" didn't take kindly to outsiders and regarded them cautiously...and they did more physically violent things to them as well.  Russell had enough problems of his own without having to deal with his inept baby brother's dangerous dealings.  Russell's family loyalty took him down yet another dangerous path full of surprise attacks which threw your stomach into knots and your jaw into spasms from clenching it the entire time.

I grew up in Rural, USA.  I've been through the deserted mill towns in the North East.  These characters were spot-on accurate.  Bale and Affleck captured these blue collar workers perfectly.  The acting by all involved couldn't have been any better.  Shepard played the sad and protective uncle.  Forest Whitaker (one of my favorite actors) was a believable police officer and Zoe Saldana, even with minimal make up was a beautiful, down to earth local.  Then, (I saved the best for last) we have Woody Harrelson.  I never swear in my reviews, but I think there is only one way to describe Mr. Harrelson:  He is one bad-a$$ mother f'er!  (Yep, that's as close to swearing as I will come in a review.  Talk to me personally after a few glasses of Three Buck Chuck and we may have a different story!)  Harrelson is the epitome of mean.  He scared me on the screen.  I think I liked him better in "Catching Fire" where he was a belligerent drunk.  Where this story failed me was in the writing.  It took so long to build to any climax that it was a bit dull in parts.  Where it wasn't dull, it was extremely violent.  To me, that was not a successful combination. There was definitely suspense, but to the point of not being enjoyable, at least to this viewer.  And then there was the end.  Don't worry.  I won't give anything away.  I try very hard to never do that.  They had an ending---and then they added one more quick scene.  Poetic justice was just flushed down the toilet.  Great.  I might have been able to overlook a few major problems with this film if they would have ended it properly.

So...if you love extremely violent, stressful, and suspenseful movies, "Out of the Furnace" will be your cup of tea. If you find your taste in films goes more along mine, skip this one.  I almost left the theater early.  When I did leave, I left angry and depressed.  I drove angrily.  I shopped at Mariano's in an angry mood; smiling and talking with no one. (This is VERY out of the ordinary for me!)  And then I had dinner with my husband.  Good thing we drove separately!


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

HOURS: A Final Performance by Paul Walker by Pamela Powell

Starring: Paul Walker and Genesis Rodriguez
Written and directed by:  Eric Heisserer

HOURS stars Paul Walker and Genesis Rodriguez,  and is set to open on December 13, 2014.  Unfortunately, Mr. Walker will not be able to see the success of this different style of movie for him as he passed away just last week.  Walker, known primarily for the "Fast and Furious" series of films, had ventured  into a film requiring him to carry it primarily by himself.  And he did.

Walker plays Nolan Hayes and takes on the role of husband and soon-to-be father. Nolan's wife goes into premature labor requiring an emergency room visit just as Hurricane Katrina is about to hit in full force.  As doctors attempt to save both his wife and baby, Nolan keeps vigil in the waiting room.  The birthing process becomes tragic and Nolan must keep his baby alive on a battery back-up ventilator as Katrina has caused an emergency evacuation.  One tragedy begets more tragic and gripping moments as Nolan fights for his life as well as little Abigail.

HOURS focuses upon the love this young father and husband has for his wife and premature new-born child.  We see Nolan deal with death and try to grasp the concept of the needs of a premie during the dire situation of a deadly hurricane.  Knowing that Hurricane Katrina affected hospitals, you have to wonder if these events, even in partiality, occurred in real life.  What would you do if your baby was on a ventilator and could not be moved?  What lengths would you go to to keep that ventilator going?  Nolan shows us the super human that all of us have inside when it comes to survival and protecting our children.

HOURS is a gripping and emotional tale.  The stress is immeasurable from the beginning. Your heart breaks as Nolan must deal with what has happened to his wife.  As the hours tick by, one striking event after another occurs.  Keeping the crank-up battery going every 3 minutes, then every 2 minutes and so on, would feel like an eternity.  Minutes turn into hours and hours turn into a day with no sleep, no food, and no medical guidance with caring for this medically fragile premie. When will help arrive and how will help know he and his baby are stranded in the hospital?  What other circumstances will Nolan have to fight and overcome what most would consider insurmountable obstacles.

Walker's skills in portraying all the emotions his character would seemingly have are spot-on.  He captures happiness, anger, frustration, and just being down right afraid.  He became Nolan Hayes and he lived this experience.  Never did you feel that he was "acting."  This role is one of Walker's best as it showcases the depth of character he can portray.  It is with such sadness that this was Paul Walker's final role.  He went out with his best performance.

Although this is a primarily about Nolan and his struggles, we also get flashbacks to his former happy life as we learn about his wife and their relationship.  We find out even more as he passes time talking with his baby; showing her pictures of happier times.  These moments balance this movie so that it isn't non-stop stress.  Don't get me wrong.  The stress level is quite high and intense throughout most of it, but there are many tender, sweet moments that help to connect us with Walker's character.

HOURS is a story of love and survival.  When moments are crucial and minutes are seemingly unending, the will to live must endure the hours ahead.  HOURS captures more than time; it captures your heart.

HOURS Trailer

7 1/2 REELS