Sunday, March 24, 2013


I am a new Quentin Tarantino fan.  That's right.  I'm a convert after seeing this movie.  You see, "Olympus Has Fallen" has made Mr. Tarantino look like the director of Romper Room.  (Yes, I'm old.)  "Olympus Has Fallen" was 99% shooting, blowing things up, blood spurting, realistic violence.  At least with QT, much of the violence is comic-bookish.  With "Olympus" is was disgustingly real and disturbingly savage.  Rarely, do I get up and walk out of a movie.  I have fallen asleep in several movies, but walking out is seldom done.  I lasted 45 minutes and couldn't take it anymore.  My reasons are many and I just couldn't waste any more of my time.  I had already wasted my money for my husband and I to see it.  In fact, he was the one that suggested that we leave.  I didn't argue.

The premise of "Olympus Has Fallen" is that a foreign country is disgruntled with the US for some reason and takes over the White House and takes the President hostage.  "Olympus" took on various realistic aspects of life in order to make this movie.  The setting was Washington, D.C.  The branches of government were ours.  It took place in the current day.  These were all realistic aspects.  In addition, in real life there are countries that don't like the US.  However, these few pieces of realism weren't enough for me to buy the rest of the movie.  First of all, I truly have more faith in my country and those that protect me to believe that one plane could possibly fly into White House air space without being shot down.  I lived less than 2 miles from the White House and I know that the only airplanes or helicopters I saw fly overhead were the Presidential ones.  In a movie, you have to suspend belief...I know that.  But there has to be a smidgeon of credibility there.  I really do think that if a plane flew in, it would be taken down without question.  Then we had the battlefield as they entered the White House.  Please.  A bunch of foreign people in 1980's polos and facemasks were able to take down the Secret Service and all the guards?  I felt like I was watching one of the many Civil War reenactments I was subjected to while I was 8 months pregnant, standing in a field watching the lines of soldiers being gunned down.  Hunker down, people!  Don't march into the death trap.  That's what happened here.  Lines of Secret Service Agents came out in lines only to be gunned down.  Again, I have more faith in our military than that.  I'm also guessing we have given our agents and police officers bullet proof vests.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I think not.  It was one preposterous event after another paired with non-stop shooting and blowing things up that set me over the edge.  That's entertainment?  Really?

Morgan Freeman, Aaron Ekhart, Dillon McDermot (or is it Dermot Mulroney?) and Gerard Butler were in the same room with me (albeit on the screen) and no one's blue eyes or charismatic abilities could make me stay.  I am more than disappointed; I am embarrassed.  Embarrassed for these actors who have entertained me in many wonderful or even mediocre films in the past.  Please, put me in a room and make me watch "Transformers" again before you make me go back and watch the entire movie of "Olympus Has Fallen."  As my husband said numerous times on our snowy ride back home, "Do they really think this was entertainment?"

Skip this poor excuse for a movie.  It's non-stop violence and non-sensical sequence of events are an embarrassment to the film industry and to viewers alike.  Don't waste your money.



Out of the four movies opening this weekend, I chose to see "Admission" as I couldn't bring myself to see another stressful, end of the world, blow things up kind of movie (Recently viewed "The Call" or currently opening "Olympus Has Fallen").  My other choices were total trashy looking films ("Spring Breakers") or a kids' cartoon ("The Croods").  However, I really didn't have my hopes up as I was afraid, and history usually repeats itself, that they had given away any and all of the funny parts in the trailers.  Luckily, I chose the right movie and I was wrong about the trailers!  See?  I can admit when I am wrong!  (This comment is directed to my family!)

"Admission" starred Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, and Lily Tomlin.  The story focused on Tina Fey's character Portia, an admissions counselor at Princeton who was being considered for the top-dog position at the prestigious school.  Her priorities and focus on her job shifted considerably after having met John Pressman (Rudd) who was the principal at a nearby alternative high school.  Apparently, he had found Portia's son whom she gave up for adoption years ago and was currently attending this alternative high school.  This student wanted nothing more than to go to Princeton.  We watched as Portia tried to deal with this information in a humorous, yet touching way.

I give the writer, Karen Croner, a lot of credit for creating this screenplay and taking it in directions that perhaps another writer may not dare to do.  She took chances to make this not just funny, as I am sure she had complete confidence in the abilities of Rudd and Fey to do so, but also touching.  She kept the humor, but added some realism to it as well.  She touched upon the emotions that an adoptive child might have as well as seeing things through the eyes of the mother who gave up her child.  But again, I want to emphasize the fact that it didn't dwell on the sadness or the emotional roller coaster ride of these characters.  It threw in a lot of fun aspects as well such as Portia's relationship with her mother (Tomlin), her boss, her cut-throat co-worker, and of course, Rudd's character.  "Admission" also addressed what an admissions counselor might actually see when viewing thousands of college applications.  Having just had my daughter apply to 19, yes nineteen, different universities, I truly enjoyed this aspect of the film.   We delved into the mind of Portia as she envisioned each of the applicants as real people.   These "real" people then reacted to various portions of their application being read.  Then the gauntlet came down...The red check mark went to the DENY, ACCEPT, or WAITLIST box.

"Admission" was somewhat predictable in parts, but not completely.  Everything didn't follow the predictable path of happiness, yet it was still a fun, humorous, and upbeat film.  I was definitely entertained by the creative balance of humor and real life situations as well as the far-fetched concepts.  Although the chemistry between Fey and Rudd wasn't there to me, I easily looked past that as the story was engaging!  "Admission" is worth seeing in the theater, but if you don't catch it there, be sure to do so when it comes out on DVD.


Saturday, March 16, 2013


Stress.  I get enough of that in my life as it is. Going to the movie theater to get stressed out isn't exactly MY idea of entertainment.  I hadn't really thought about the stressful job of a 911 dispatcher; that their decisions could mean the difference between life and death, until I began watching "The Call."  This movie definitely put that in very clear terms.  Halle Berry played a 911 dispatcher who answered an emergency call and her error had horrific consequences.  As she tried to come to terms with what happened, a similar situation ensues.  Will she make the right decisions this time?

Abigail Breslin, from Janie Jones, comfortably played the part of kidnapped victim.  Her terror and panic were far too realistic for me.  All I could envision is my daughter being in that same situation which was more than I could bear.  Halle Berry is always a pleasure to watch on the screen.  Her ability to bring you into the film and feel like you are watching a real situation seems so natural.  The combination of these two actors skills, the direction, the cinematography, and pacing made this movie very intense, to say the least.  From the first few minutes, you were glued to the screen, riding this emotional roller coaster, second guessing what you would do in a similar situation.   There wasn't a moment that went by in the movie that you felt like you could relax.  Between the intensity and high action of every scene, my stomach was in knots.  It was also quite violent which elicited my usual hands-to-face reaction in order to cover my eyes.  Some things I just don't want permenantly etched into my brain.  Yes, I know it's fake; it's a movie.  Nonetheless, it was very realistic.  I won't give away too much more of the movie, but there were some incredulous aspects of the movie as well.  You know the parts where you say, "Come on!  There's no way I would do that."  I conclude by saying the end was worth it though.

This was way too intense of a movie for me.  Too much stress, too much identification with having a teenage daughter, and a bit too high action with violence for me.  HOWEVER, if you like this kind of movie, you are going to love THE CALL.  It was well-acted, directed, and written.  But be warned, it's  anxiety producing.  It was only 2 in the afternoon when the movie ended and it was time to grab a glass of wine!  My recommendation is to see this movie in a theater that serves wine!

7 REELS (if you like high action, stress-inducing movies)

Friday, March 15, 2013


I don't typically go to midnight openings of movies, but I made an exception for "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone."  My 17 year old daughter scoffed at me for this decision as it is way past my regular bedtime (The midnight screening was actually a 10 pm one, but still...) and as she put it, "It's going to stink.  Just because it has big names in it doesn't mean they can't sell out."  She was right.

As I sat in the theater, freezing to death as apparently some theaters don't keep the heat on after 10 pm, I kept hearing my daughter's words in my head.  I blocked them out as I'm sure she blocks several of my comments out.   "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" had quite the cast:  Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Jim Carrey, Olivia Wilde, James Gandolfini, and Alan Arkin!  How could it go wrong?  Well, that's not a rhetorical question, so let me list the ways!  Writing, directing, acting, story-line, character development or lack thereof, etc. The premise seemed entertaining:  2 life-long friends, total geeks and outcasts as children, grew up to become headliners at Bally's in Las Vegas.  Their friendship wanes and the newcomer, Steve Gray (Carrey) who I likened to the "stars" of 'Jack Ass,' gives them that final shove out the door into oblivion.  How will they make a comeback?  Oh, if only this movie was totally predictable!  POOF!  It's magic!  It was totally predictable!  Actually, if it was totally predictable, it would have been a better movie.  They completely missed the mark in bringing any life and enjoyment to this film.

Initially, the movie started out quite endearing.  The young "Bert" in elementary school has a rather dismal life; getting bullied and having no friends and having a rather uninvolved mother.  But the gift of a magic set on his birthday sets him down a different path in life.  Fast forward 20 years later and we have the rest of the movie.  Now, you would think that Steve Carell and Jim Carrey could comedically carry any movie...but they didn't.  I laughed out loud in one part, but I don't think it was supposed to be a funny part!  Carell's character's affected speech and Jim Carrey's "new look" was more than I could handle.  It was over-the-top, but not far enough over to make it funny.  It just made it pathetic.  The superficiality of the movie along with the contrived scenes made the 100 minute movie seem like a 200 minutes movie.  Wow!  Magic again.  Alan Arkin played an aging magician who had inspired kids from all over to become magicians.  Thank God Alan Arkin will be remembered for "Argo" as opposed to the other flops he's been in recently such as "Stand Up Guys" and now this one.  All of these actors can be wonderful.  Steve Carell was in one of my top 10 movies, "Dan In Real Life."  Jim Carrey could always make me laugh, even in silly movies like "Liar, Liar."  The list of films from all of these actors goes on and on.  I guess there's only one conclusion that I can come up with for these actors to have taken on these roles:  money.  Let's be honest here, wouldn't you do it too?

My recommendation is to skip this movie all together or at the very least, wait for the DVD.  The story, the humor, and the creativity just isn't there.  Let's send a magical message to Hollywood and not go to the boxoffice.  POOF!  We just might get better quality films!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


I'll admit it...I adore Nick Offerman.  The fact that he is from a small town in Illinois that my kids have traveled to in order to play sports makes him a regular kind of guy...relatable.  Then there's the fact that he did local theater in Chicago.  That's just another bonus in my mind.  You all know, if you've read my play reviews, that I love Chicago theater.  Mr. Offerman and I have the same appreciation for the quality "store-front" theater that only Chicago can offer.  He was once a part of that scene in the Defiant Theater before he became "A Man's Man" on televison.  Mr. Offerman now has produced and starred in the soon-to-be released "Somebody Up There Likes Me."

Keith Poulson
Honestly (It is Reel HONEST Reviews, you know.), I didn't know what this film was about until the end.  It started at the cemetery with Offerman's character, Sal, stating that you can't live forever.  We then were introduced to our other main character, Max (Keith Poulson) who was having some marital issues...that's putting it lightly.  Max and Sal worked together in a high-end steak house as waiters.  Each of these characters' lives became intertwined over the years showing us their bumpy road of life.  Sounds pretty benign with that description.  Where the film comes to life is with its quirky writing and off-beat humor that only Nick Offerman could pull off.  Although the other characters were minor by comparison, they are nonetheless very important.  As with 'Parks and Recreation,' Offerman's wife was in this film as well.  She too personified off-beat humor with her voice, her reactions, and facial expressions.  Words are just a bonus with her humor!  As Offerman stated after the showing, his wife stole the film with just her hair.  It was true.

Poulson with Jess Weixler
This movie was quirky.  Truly, it was the essence of quirkiness.  It wasn't a "sit on the edge of your seat" kind of movie, but it was a movie that you had to stay glued to the screen.  It just didn't make sense until the end.  But the end was worth it.  It was one of those 'Ah Ha' moments!  The unorthodox (I needed to find another word besides "quirky!") writing perfectly fit each of the characters.  Each scene was equally balanced with words and actions to tell the story.  And the humor was (let me go to my thesaurus) wacky and peculiar (I love my Mac!) which was right up my alley.  This unconventional (yes, I'm still on the "quirky" thesaurus page) film was fun, light, funny and a pleasure to watch.  I liked the fact that I didn't "get it" until the end!

Demonstration of ballet positions!
One of the best things about this screening was that it was at Chicago's Music Box Theatre.  Mr. Offerman reminisced fondly about his time in Chicago and this particular theatre.  Offerman took questions from the audience and continued to amuse and amaze the audience.  It was fun to hear him laugh at his own jokes in a laugh I wouldn't have anticipated coming from this "Man's Man."  It was adorable!  In being this "Man's Man," it was heart-warming and refreshing to hear him talk about his wife, Megan Mullally.  He stated, "That lady is my hero."  Wow!  How many husbands talk about their wives with this much adoration.  It's true.  He is a "Man's Man!"

Friday, March 8, 2013


Red flag #1:  Disney.  If you've followed my blog, you know I am not a Disney fan.  In fact, one of the most fun movies I saw at Sundance was the Anti-Disney Movie called "Escape from Tomorrow."  Red flag #2:  Lots of hype.  Mega Marketing.  Sometimes, we need to follow Mies Van Der Rohe and go with "less is more."  Red flag #3:  They were messing with a classic.  The classic that I grew up with .  The classic that I looked forward to seeing each and every year as I circled it in the TV Guide and counted down the days until it was on.  The classic that I didn't know changed from B&W to color until 1975 when my family finally got a color TV set.  And the classic that I watched from under the dining room table to protect me from the monkeys just in case they were real.  In fact, I memorized the witch's lines in hopes of one day playing The Wicked Witch of the West in a play when I was older.  I wrote feverishly under that dining room table on one of my father's yellow legal pads to later read the lines into a cassette recorder; mastering each line in front of the mirror.  It's no wonder I loved playing a witch for the local "Haunted Bridge" event.  I stopped once the liquid latex which produced wrinkles on my face didn't appear to come off!  In any case, I digress...just a smidge.  Back to OZ.  The red flag system (more than 2) has been pretty accurate.  And in this case, my batting average is better than Derek Jeter's!

I sat, in my usual seat, waiting to be entertained.  I loved the B&W intro along with the beginning of the story filmed in B&W.  This rang true (at least after 1975 for me) with the original.  After all the hype, I watched as James Franco played the Wizard, knowing that he was not director Sam Raimi's first choice.  (See Entertainment Weekly's great article about the making of this film.)  The beginning, to be honest, was entertaining with its rather corny jokes and situations of irony.  Then, you guessed it, the tornado hit.  Oz (short for Oscar) was pulled violently into the whirlwind to land in the Technicolor land of Oz.  As he awoke, CGI did as well.  The hummingbirds and butterflies brought me back to Disney's land of Snow White.  In fact, I was transported back to 1937 with the special effects/cartoonish feel to the insects and feathered friends.  With the hummingbird's blue color, I then started to sing Zippity Do Dah from Song of the South!  Maybe that was Disney's intent:  to reminisce about old Disney films.  I can't seem to reconcile the CGI effects with the 1939 effects of the Wizard of Oz.  In the 1939 film, those monkeys were real.  Oz and the Emerald City were real.  It felt real.  For 1939, they did a great job with what they had to work with.  Now here we are in 2013 and it was not perfect CGI.  My eye was drawn to the fact that Franco and Williams were working with air...the space that the later incorporated CGI character would take up.  There were spaces between the hands and the CGI China doll and many other examples.  Disney was sloppy.

We are introduced to the first witch played by the gorgeous Mila Kunis.  Oz, ever the philanderer and womanizer, dupes this poor, trusting witch into thinking that kissing and dancing equates love and marriage....typical male!  The sibling rivalry is really what this film is about.  The three sisters, although raised by the same man who was apparently the King of Oz, were oh so very different.  I'm not sure where mom was.  Maybe that's another story in and of itself!  Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams round out the Witch Sister characters.  The costumes and make-up were wonderful.  Rachel's green gown would be perfect to wear to the Green Tie Ball in Chicago.  I hope someone can hook me up with that!

The backgrounds and settings were truly beautiful.  Total technicolor at its finest.  No doubt the acting of the "extras" was exaggerated and a bit hoaky, but I'm guessing (and hoping) that's the effect they were after.  As we s-l-o-w-l-y moved through the story with the close-ups and predictable background music,  more of the focus of the story was revealed.  We have a moral to the story and a place to leave off which is where Dorothy and the classic that I love picks up.  The movie is probably geared toward everyone.  Let's face it, who didn't grow up with "The Wizard of Oz!"  No one!  It'll pull everyone and every age group in.  I felt it was slow and disappointing.  I would recommend waiting for the DVD.

Friday, March 1, 2013


I will admit this.  I seem to do a lot of admissions on this blog site.  It's cheaper than therapy, so it's a good thing.  Anyway, here's my admission.  I really didn't want to go see "Jack the Giant Slayer."  It was either that or "21 and Over" and you couldn't pay me enough money to see that one. could offer me some exorbitant amount and see what I do.  Go ahead.  I will also admit (looks like you're my therapist of the month) that I don't remember a whole lot about the story Jack and the Beanstalk other than the obvious bean thing, giants, and Fee Fye Foe Fumm chant.  But alas, no worries, I was not lost during the film.  I was also surprisingly entertained and hooked in the first 5 minutes before the opening credits rolled.

This star-studded cast (Yes, it was star-studded, believe it or not), reinforced "Jack" and all it appeared to want to accomplish which was pure child-like entertainment.  Suspend all belief and be transported back into English folklore and bed-time stories.  Stanley Tucci, Ewen McGregor and Ian McShane magnified the validity of this movie.  Yes, it was still a child's fairy tale, but it definitely was one they can be proud to have been a part of.  It was nothing like "Beautiful Creatures" and Emma Thompson.  Our hero was played by Nicholas Hoult from the recently positively reviewed "Warm Bodies" and our heroine or damsel in distress (Damn fairy tales typifying weak women!) was Eleanor Tomlinson.  Both actors embodied their characters well.    Stanley Tucci can play any role.  In "Jack," he played royalty with suspicious motives.  I loved the denture!  Thankfully, Ian McShane did not drop any f-bombs as his role of King Brahmwell as he typically did in 'Deadwood.'  And that leaves us with Ewen McGregor.  What is it about this guy?  From "Beginners" to "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" and "The Impossible," he is perfect in any role he plays.  He played our princess's protector valiantly. The special effects and talents of those behind the scenes were truly at the forefront with our Giants and Miracle-Gro vegetation.  I'm not sure what was CGI and what was makeup and camera angles.  Those blurred lines are a compliment on its own.

This was an entertaining movie and perfect for a family or kids between the ages of 9 and 15.  It was a fairy tale.  It was also a cute little love story with heros and damsels in distress...everything little girls and boys read about.  Although there was some violence, it was really in the realm of fairy tales scope, so nothing too terribly disturbing.  The most disgusting things were the

farts, burps, and nose picking/eating...right up any little boy's alley.  Yes, I can say that.  I raised a boy and drove 5 boys to and from soccer tournaments.  There.  Credibility established.

7 Reels