Friday, May 31, 2013

NOW YOU SEE ME reviewed by Pamela Powell

Magic is the art of deception for entertainment value.  "Now You See Me" was of questionable entertainment value.  With an all-star cast, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, and Isla Fisher, "Now You See Me" took magic to an all new level...robbery.  Great concept!  All four street magicians were brought together by some unseen "force" to become one cohesive and powerful act.  Where?  Well, Vegas, of course!  Where else?  The Four Horsemen, as they were becoming quickly known as, pulled off a bank heist worth millions and didn't keep a penny for themselves.  All "proceeds" went to the audience in a shower of dollars or Euros.  Now that's good marketing for the next show!  And so it went...  The police were bewildered, interpol was called in.  More targets, more money, more magic.  The how's and the why's were the questions of this visually entertaining film.

This was quite the visually stimulating film...Vegas on the silver screen.  As the camera encircled the actors, the tilt-a-whirl effect was in full swing.  The polished act of the street-smart magicians worked its magic on the audience on and off the screen making you dizzy.  Not long into the movie, the buzz kill, Thaddeus Bradley (Freeman), worked his reality on their magic, giving away all their secrets.  The federal agents on the case soon realized that they needed Thaddeaus' help to crack this case (or safe) open.  And that is where this movie falls short.  Thaddeus outs these shysters' shenanigans which takes away all the magic of the film!  There was a mystery here.  Who brought these four together?  What was the purpose of them stealing this money?  Who was working for whom?  Thaddeaus spoon fed us all the information as we got pulled along.  No need in trying to solve the puzzle with small pieces when you have the jumbo sized puzzle pieces!  This had a great potential to be a mystery thriller.  It gave away too much information as if needing to wrap it all up before it even began.

Jesse Eisenberg's character was by far the most intriguing with his frenetic style and cocky word usage.  You had to pay close attention to his fast paced speech to make sure you caught all the essential information.  I enjoyed the other characters initial portrayals as they duped and conned their "victims."  That was entertaining.  As soon as the mystery truly began, that is when the intrigued plummeted.  That was so sad to see as this film had so much promise.  When the final loose ends were tied up, you had a beautiful, intricate bow perfectly placed upon the package.  Although there were some unforeseen twists to the plot, it was relatively predictable.  Unfortunately, the unpredictable ones were so unpredictable, they were also unbelievable.

In discussing this film with a friend, I compared it to "Side Effects" only because I think "Side Effects" did it right.  You had to solve the puzzle right along with the main character.  You were given only bits and pieces of that puzzle; not 70 of the pieces placed perfectly at one time to say "Voila!" The "voila" effect was what "Now You See Me" did.  It took all the fun out of a mystery.

As I started this review, I did say it was visually entertaining.  It did entertain me.  It just didn't satisfy me.  "Now You See Me" was a movie that was fluff and fun and nothing more.  It's not one I can tell you to rush out and see.  I'd wait for the DVD, but if you see it, just sit back and enjoy the spoon feeding.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

THE KINGS OF SUMMER reviewed by Pamela Powell



I  want you to think back to being a teen.  Yes, for some of us, it seems like a century ago, but I know you can do it.  Remember having rules, curfews, nosy parents?  (Let's not think about the braces, the zits, and the glasses...that gives me the chills.)  Everyone's parents drove them nuts because they just didn't understand, right?  What was one of the most irritating behaviors one of your parents had?  My mother wore a "house coat" during the day with curlers in her hair.  No, that wasn't embarrassing at all.  Well, THE KINGS OF SUMMER brings us all back to the days of being a teen.  In this film, three teens with varying irritation with their parents, decide to run away and build their own "home" in a clearing in the woods.  They become the kings of their domain. They have no rules, but do have to fend for themselves which may prove to be a bit more difficult than their handy little guide book initially implied.

"The Kings of Summer" was originally entitled "Toy's House" and premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.  There was so much buzz about this film, that tickets were nearly impossible to get and rightfully so!  Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Alison Brie and my favorite couple Nick Offerman and his wife Megan Mullally, starred in this coming of age movie which appealed to both genders and all age groups. As we were introduced to the boys and their families, the story unfolded from the boys' perspective.  Relationships were at the heart of this movie.  From family relationships, friendships, to young love, Joe, Patrick, and Biaggio all see things a little differently.  Relationships and self-perception, as I am sure we all remember, were a terrorizing roller coaster ride at this age.  The film aptly paints that picture as the boys build their dwelling, "hunt" at the local chicken shack, and tackle relationships between themselves, girls, and their parents.  The stressors throughout the movie (yes, there's young love so a girl is one of the "stressors") push these boys to grow up and test the waters of what's ahead.  Painted with deft skill and beautiful imagery, "The Kings of Summer" reminded me of what was important when I was growing up.  The decade is different, but people and relationships haven't changed a bit.  Discovering your world as well as yourself was an adventure each and every day.  Through humor and realistic characters, "The Kings of Summer" was the perfect summer adventure.

All three boys in this film were unknown to me, but were wonderful to watch.  They depicted exactly what they were:  three teens who were still finding themselves.  Of course, Nick Offerman was perfect as the mildly sarcastic, yet loving father of Joe.  His timing, expressions, and demeanor were attributes that I could never tire of.  Offerman's wife, Megan Mullally, played Gabriel's overly sweet and loving mother to a "t." The cast, writing, direction, and location of filming couldn't have been any better.  I laughed, I sympathized, and I related to so many aspects of this movie that I left the film uplifted.  It was entertaining to watch this film from the kids' perspective, but now being a mom myself, I saw bits of me in this film.  Do you think I drive my kids bonkers?  I asked them both at dinner recently.  Be careful what you might get an answer!  Seriously, they said I was perfect.  Really!

"The Kings of Summer" is a summer movie must-see for all.  Even though the main characters are boys, both male and female, no matter his or her age, will enjoy this film.  Go see "The Kings of Summer" and reconnect with nature and your youth!  And parents, try not to drive your kids nuts this summer!



Friday, May 24, 2013


I saw THE HANGOVER in 2009 and laughed my ass off.  Yes, the ridiculous situations, the total inappropriateness of the movie was absolutely hysterical!  Then, two years later, we had THE HANGOVER PART II.  Ugh.  It was completely disappointing in every respect.  It was vulgar, crass, disgusting and simply not funny.  That brings us to the current day with THE HANGOVER PART III.  After "Part II," I thought I should probably do a couple of shots of tequila before I go into my noon matinee.  Just kidding...although that wouldn't have been a bad idea!

THE HANGOVER PART III picked up with The Wolfpack doing an intervention with Alan as his behavior had gotten even more out of control.  Alan had purchased a giraffe.  The subsequent beheading of the animal as it was transported on the freeway going under an overpass resulted in Alan's father dying of a heart attack due to the stress.  It was now time for the 42 year old to grow up.  As the Wolfpack was driving Alan to the rehab center, their car was run off the road.  Doug was then kidnapped by Black Doug and his posse, leaving the other three, once again, on their own to complete a mission to save Doug.  Poor Doug gets very little screen time in these movies!  The antics began as the three went on their way to find Chow in exchange for Doug.

"Part III" was just more of the same of "Part II" and the original.  It went along the same story line with silly situations arising and their reactions to them.  Starting in Bangkok, then to CA, Tijuana, and Vegas, the three had very stilted conversations, lots of violence, and very little humor.  It just wasn't very funny.  A mild "hehe" was emitted occasionally, but that's it.  There were funny references to the dental industry, but I'm guessing I was the only one who laughed at those because I'm married to an oral surgeon.  A bit more rehearsal and a few more rewrites were called for.   Frequently, I felt like Bradley Cooper was reading his lines on large note pads off screen.  I love Bradley Cooper (Who doesn't?) and he is a wonderful actor, but truthfully, I think he just showed up for the paycheck.  A large paycheck, I am sure, but put some effort into it!  Zach Galifianakis' lines were so contrived and awkward that I was almost embarrassed for him.  Even John Goodman and Melissa McCarthy couldn't save this one. And so the story continued.  As I wiggled and changed positions in my seat trying to stay focused on the screen, I had wished I did stop in to the pub next door and have a couple of shots of tequila after all!

Finally, THE END had come.  The credits rolled.  Very plain, dull credits and I thought to myself, "Come on!  You didn't even spring for out-takes?"  Everyone left the theater and as I gathered my belongings, a final scene appeared...what happened the next morning was shown!  That was funny!  Even though this movie was a disappointment to me, there will be plenty of people to go and see it.  IF you do go, stay till AFTER the credits roll.

I'm sure the teen and twenty-somethings will still enjoy this. It is better than "Part II," but nothing will compare to the first one.  I'm glad it's the final installment.  But my 18 year old daughter said even though she thought "Part III" was just ok, she'd still go see a "Part IV!"  Nooooo!  Who is this child????


Wednesday, May 22, 2013


I was lucky to see this film as it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year.  Truly, one of my favorite films of the festival, I have been anxiously awaiting its release for all to see.  "Before Midnight" was the third installment in the life of Jesse and Celine starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.  In 1995, "Before Sunrise" began their journey of life together in their chance meeting and impulsive decision to exit a train bound for Vienna.  "Before Sunset" picked up in 2004 to show us how their lives continued and the changes that occurred.  In "Before Midnight," Jesse and Celine are now 40-something, traveling on vacation with their two young girls, and experiencing life as all of us 40-something married couples do.  I hadn't seen the first two films prior to seeing "Before Midnight," but it wasn't necessary. The writers, Delpy, Hawke, and Linklater, gave you enough information in the dialogue to catch you up  quickly.

"Before Midnight" was a beautiful movie set in Greece.  9 years have passed since many of you saw them in "Before Sunset."  They had 2 beautiful daughters, left relationships behind and lived in Europe.  On holiday, as they say abroad, the family traveled through Greece.  We, the viewers, had the luxury of traveling with them as the continuous filming shot of the drive was spectacular.  The walks along the beach and through towns made me feel as if I was a third wheel tagging along behind the couple, experiencing everything that they were experiencing.  As they dined with friends in a pristine country table with vistas I can only imagine, I too was sitting at the table, wanting to take part in the natural ebb and flow of conversation.  The conversation of this film is what made it truly a remarkable film.  It was natural.  It was a realistic response to many topics of conversation which have taken place in my own home.  The dialogue could have been directly lifted from many of our homes.  I could completely relate with Delpy's character and could see how my husband might view me and my responses.  (Oh, dear...I feel kind of sorry for him now!)  Within this realistic conversation, there was also so much humor.  I laughed out loud and laughed so hard that I had tears in my eyes!  The film took twists and turns, literally and figuratively, to give you a complete picture of how Jesse and Celine's relationship has evolved or even devolved over the years.

"Before Midnight" was all "just a conversation."  But what a powerful conversation it was!  Realistic, honest, open, heart-felt, conversations about not just Jesse and Celine's relationship but of others in their circle as well.  The movie touches on topics of life and death, priorities, males vs. females and their roles within a relationship, sex, passion, body image, body changes, and so much more.  As Celine looked for answers to life from her elders, I was completed absorbed by the words of wisdom I heard.  I left the film truly touched and fulfilled by what I had not just seen, but experienced.  Again, the location was bewitching (I need to book a trip to Greece!), the style of the film with continuous shots simply spellbinding, and the writing was captivating.  Delpy, Hawke, and Linklater performed perfection together with "Before Midnight."

In the question and answer segment after the film, Mr. Linklater joked about the next installment of the movie series in about 9 years...what would it be called?  "Early Bird Special?" I'm thrilled that I can look forward to seeing how Jesse and Celine are doing in 9 years as they seem to follow my aging as well.  I highly recommend seeing this film whether you have seen the first two or not.  If you're married, have kids, and in your 40's, you are going to love it!  If you've seen the previous two films, you have got to see this new addition!  It's not often that we have a film that is natural, realistic, relatable, and entertaining..."Before Midnight" is all that and so much more!


Friday, May 17, 2013



Here's my news flash:  THIS IS NOT A CHICK FLICK.  I know, I know.  Shocker, right?  It's not just because they just HAD to have the hot chick in a black bra and undies in one scene.  This "hot chick," by the way is the very talented Alice Eve who I had the pleasure of seeing in her new film with Stanley Tucci, "Some Velvet Morning."  She was an amazing actress in that!  Back to "Star Trek." It's not that I love seeing all "chick flicks" either.  I like action flicks, intellectually stimulating films, totally base level humor films (sometimes), as well as thrillers, docs, and lots of other types of films.  "Star Trek Into Darkness" (brace yourselves, Trekkies) just didn't thrill me.  Maybe it was because I am a female.  Maybe it's because I am not a huge Star Trek fan to begin with.  No, you won't see me at any conventions dressed up like a Klingon.  However, I used to watch Star Trek on my little black and white TV utilizing a pair of pliers to change the channels and aluminum foil on the rabbit ears to get better reception.  I'm really not that old.  I just grew up in an isolated little town in Western NY State.  Anyway, I remember watching episodes with Capt. Kirk, Spock, Scottie, and all the rest.  I knew what was going to happen in each episode, but I still enjoyed watching the interactions between the characters.  There was always going to be a crisis.  There was always going to be a bad guy.  There was always going to be a fight.  There was always going to be some humor.  And Capt. Kirk was always going to save the day.  Even back then, I thought the fights were hoaky, but I didn't care.  I also didn't care about the special effects because, let's face it, we didn't really have special effects back then.  Beaming someone up was good enough for me.  Now we have lots of special effects and well-choreographed fight scenes to make it seem more authentic.  Those two aspects alone should make "Star Trek" even better, right?

The Starship Enterprise continues on...or did we go back in time for this one?  I don't know.  I guess it's the young Kirk and Spock, but then why did I see the old Spock on the screen and he spoke of how he defeated Kahn (Ricardo Montalban!  I remember these episodes!)?  Maybe I should have watched the previous "Star Trek" movies beforehand.  I'm confused with the timing, but alas, I don't think it really mattered.  For those of you unfamiliar with the "Star Trek Into Darkness" premise, here's my version:  A young Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine...oh how I love those blue eyes and his role in "Unstoppable!") and his first officer, Spock, along with their crew took risks which jeopardized the ship and its mission.  The resulting punishment for Capt. Kirk's poor judgement lead to another reckless endeavor as he fought Kahn and others to save the day.  OK.  According to that, it sounded like a typical episode, right?  In theory, yes, that would be correct.  However, JJ Abrams had a different flair to this "Star Trek" 2 hour episode.  From the beginning, it was visual and auditory bombardment with chasing and fighting scenes.  I, at times, felt like I was watching a James Bond movie with fights occurring on movie spaceships and jumping to catch the one beneath it...not a train as in Bond, but a space ship.  There was relief with some of the comedic achievements of Simon Peg as Scottie.  In fact, at one point when he was running and running on the enemy's ship.  "Run, fat boy, run," was all I could think!  I'm not even going to go into who played which character.  If you really want to know, go look it up on  The rest of the characters looked quite similar and for the most part, acted like their 1960's version counterpart.   Now, here is where even I take issue with the two main characters.  And remember, I am not a huge Star Trek fan so I can just imagine how you people feel!  Spock cried.  Yes, he shed a tear.  Come on!  The Vulcan in him cannot do that!  Even I know that!  And then we have Capt. Kirk saying he's scared!  NEVER!  Capt. Kirk would never say that!  NEVER!

Anton Yelchin...loved him in "Charlie Bartlett!"
Simon Pegg..."Run, Fat Boy, Run!"
"Star Trek Into Darkness" I am sure will be a huge success because of just what it is.  That's fine.  It just wasn't my cup of tea.  For those of you young, single people out there (Guys, I'm talking to you!), don't take your date to this one unless she suggests it.  She will be yawning within the first 30 minutes and she'll want to head home after the movie...without you.  Married couples?  Well, let's husband is on his computer right now and I'm on mine.  That being said, guys, gather your buddies and go see this if you're a Star Trek fan.  Then go out for some pizza and beer.  Bring home some flowers and a bottle of wine for your honey and you're that much better off!  You can thank me for my advice later.  Cheers!


Thursday, May 16, 2013

THE ENGLISH TEACHER reviewed by Pamela Powell

"The English Teacher" had a very recognizable and respectable cast with Julianne Moore, Greg Kinnear, and Nathan Lane.  This film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival just last month.  When considering films at Tribeca, my mind goes directly to "indie" films.  But when an "indie" film utilizes known actors, to me, it makes it less than "indie." That's just my opinion.

Julianne Moore played the wonderful and beloved high school English teacher, Linda Sinclair, who happened to have never married or had much of a social life.  It seemed that her standards (and dreams) were just too high.  She compared everything with a book and romanticized life accordingly.  Therefore, she ended up a "spinster." She kept to herself and lived a regimented and predictable life, that is until she re-encountered a former student.  This brilliant former student, Jason Sherwood (Angarano) had fallen upon difficult times with his play not being produced in NYC.  The storyline evolves and revolves around this play and the teacher-former student very predictable ways.

"The English Teacher" was a movie that capitalized on the star power which meant it could slack on the story power.  Julianne Moore was fine.  Nathan Lane was his typical over-the-top drama teacher.  Greg Kinnear was the grounded and handsome father.  I truly loved seeing him on the screen...I think it's the blue eyes.  Yes, it's definitely the blue eyes.   I'm guessing that all of these actors walked in to the studio, filmed their bits and breezed on out of there.  Snap!  Done!  Regarding the story, it was  predictable.  The characters were one dimensional and predictable.  It really would have been better as a "made for tv movie."  But alas, with the stars in this film, it had to hit the silver screen first.  Now don't get me wrong...I was entertained by this film even given its predictability.  I laughed.  I chuckled.  I saw humor in the writing and delivery of the lines by this talented cast.  The captured moments of dating life for Miss Sinclair were very funny!  The narrative aspect was also quite creative and entertaining.  All in all, I'm afraid you would be disappointed in paying $10 to see this film.  This "chick flick," however, would be better suited as a rental while having a few glasses of wine and some cheese and crackers in your family room.  You could chat, chuckle, and tell related stories triggered by different lines.  You needn't worry that you missed an integral part of the film because you know within the first 10 minutes of the film what's going to happen throughout most of it anyway.

So skip this one in the theater and wait for the DVD, ladies.  Then go ahead and rent it, buy some Two Buck Chuck and enjoy time well-spent with your girl friends!  Cheers!

This is actually already available on demand through Amazon!  Here's the trailer...

Sunday, May 12, 2013


There you are sitting in the center seat, third row back, in an intimate storefront theater located in a neighborhood of Chicago.  POOF!  The live theater production has begun.  But what happened before you got comfy in your seat to watch this new production complete with props, make up, backgrounds, and costumes?  Months, or possibly years, of pre-production work occurred, that's what happened.  Unless you are closely associated with theatrical productions, you may not know what needs to happen before a play even has a prayer of hitting the stage.  'By Reason of Sanity' is currently going through that  process.  I hope to share with you the ups and downs as well as the uncertainty that a playwright goes through before the curtain ever rises.

Blake Levinson, author of 'By Reason of Sanity,' and I met by chance at another production at The Wit Theater.  His energy in chatting about his new play was infectious and the title intrigued me.  He invited me to "a professional reading" of this play.  Not wanting to look ignorant, I readily accepted the invitation, but I had no clue as to how "a professional reading" happened.  High school and college plays were the extent of my on-stage theater experience.  Did a select few sit around a table while the actors read?  Was this a type of audition for the actors?  Did the playwright want feedback?  Was this what usually happened in order to get a play on to the stage?  I truly had no idea and thought maybe there were other theater-lovers out there that don't know either.  So read on to learn what it takes to get a show from just words on paper to living souls acting them out on stage for all to see, hear, feel and judge.

I showed up to the first reading at a small theater in Bucktown, completely open-minded, but blind to the situation.  I walked in to a full house.  Who were all these people?  Regular theater-goers? Critics? Actors?  I'd have to find that out later because, as usual, the Dan Ryan was backed up and I had been running late.  The manager gregariously spoke about Chicago theater and upcoming productions. He then introduced the actors, the director and then the playwright.  The stage was barren.  The actors were dressed in "regular" clothes.  They had no props, just a script to read from while seated across from one another in folding chairs on the stage.  The director was off to the far left of the stage with a music stand to prop the script upon.  That's it.

The reading began.  The director described Act I, Scene 1 and the powerfully intense play came to life.  Throughout the reading, the director continued to describe the visuals we needed to imagine the scene.  'By Reason of Sanity' addressed spousal abuse; both verbal and physical.  It captured the essence of the impact this has on a woman's entire psyche.  This phenomena, as was typified in 'Sanity,' touches all women no matter her race, religion, education, or socioeconomic background.  How each woman deals with the situation varies tremendously.  How the law views how she dealt with it can also be completely variable.  With this play, knowledge was power.  It was also the ability to have empathy and insight.  The two characters, the social worker and her abused client, unknowingly provided that to each other.  Who was really helping whom?

The power of the mind to deal with or suppress situations such as these are frequently not talked about.  'By Reason of Sanity' delved deeply into this issue and touched upon other pertinent aspects which left you riveted to the stage.  We were educated, entertained, and fascinated by the honesty with which 'Sanity' addressed abuse.  Feelings of anger, frustration, embarrassment or even identification with the characters to some level were evident.  But there was also humor in this play.  The characters were complete opposites in most respects.  One was an educated white woman, the other a black woman who lived in less than a desirable situation.  The black woman was abused and was seeing the social worker as ordered by the court.  As we learned more about each of the characters, we came to know them as people in all their complexity.  These two women couldn't have been any more different; and they couldn't have been any more similar. 

During this "professional reading," I didn't need a prop.  I didn't need a background.  I didn't need to see the costumes or the makeup.  The writing and acting were so passionate that all of the other aspects were just ancillary to my imagination.  The "reading" was now over and I breathed deeply, completely awe-struck by what I had felt and experienced.  The audience was then invited to stay and fill out a questionaire so that Mr. Levinson could tweak the script before the second professional reading to take place in about a month's time.  I, of course, had to leave as my meter had run out and I had already contributed way too much money to the city of Chicago and its parking/towing fees.  By the way, there was free parking available...I figured that one out too late!

Fast forward to May.  A chilly May evening and I was at "professional reading" number 2 at the Piven Theater in Evanston; my old stomping grounds.  The setting was similar to the first reading however, there was a social worker presence there.  The validity and usefulness that a play such as this could possibly have in therapy could not be ignored.  As you looked on the stage, the only difference was that we now had a teddy bear as a prop.  We also had two new actors and a different director.  The reading of the play had proceeded just like the first one had, but Mr. Levinson had made a few changes.  The ending was entirely different and a few things were added or omitted based on the feedback that he received from the first reading.  Audience feedback was obviously taken quite seriously.

What happens now?  Mr. Levinson is hoping to find the right director and company to produce his play.  He has also taken the feedback from the second reading to tweak the script that much more.  I'm excited to see what changes he will make!  I hope to be able to tell you about these changes as this is a play that needs to be on stage for all to see.

Now that you know what happens before the curtain rises, stay tuned to find out WHEN the curtain rises!

Saturday, May 11, 2013


I'm not going to even begin to compare THE GREAT GATSBY with the book of the same name primarily because I never read this classic.  There.  I said it.  Embarrassment be gone!  The book, a favorite of my 18 year old daughter, had been setting on the kitchen counter begging me to read it.  I once again ignored the obvious calling from one of the greatest American novelists.  However, there is one perk to this situation:  I can review this movie for just what it was; a movie.  For those of you in the same boat as me (it's a small boat, I know, and not The Titanic...pun intended), the story is a quintessential love story.  Boy meets girl, they fall in love, they get separated, girl marries another, but the love between the two is still there.  Will they ever have a second chance at love together or has too much water passed under the bridge?  There you have it.  This story line is what the great romantic books and movies are made of.  What makes it great, however, are the characters within the story and the depth to which they are developed.  I'm guessing F. Scott Fitzgerald nailed it in the book version.  Baz Luhrmann, director and screen writer of the movie version, did not.

The roaring 20's...oh, how I romanticize that era.  The clothes, the hair, the music, the parties, the love of life in that era was like no other!  Baz Luhrmann, if you recall, also wrote and directed "Moulin Rouge."  Some of the over-the-top costumes, sets, and scenes reminded me of that movie of which I was not a fan.  The music used in "The Great Gatsby" was not the typical 20's genre.  Although there were some songs I recognized, the majority of the background and occasionally foreground music was of the hip-hop type.  Now, before we judge this juxtaposition of music with era, let's remember that everyone seems to LOVE that QT does that in his westerns ("Django") and other era specific movies.  If the music somehow adds and does not detract from the overall feel of the movie, I think we should forgive and actually give credit to Baz for having the courage to do so.  Unfortunately, the music, to me was just all wrong.  It most definitely detracted from the image of the film.  "The Great Gatsby" also missed in the costuming.  To me, it just didn't typify the era.  Don't get me wrong as there were some amazing party dresses and men's suits, but I had just expected to be wow'ed.  I wasn't.

On to the overall movie...It was a time-consuming start to the film.  The characters were set up and explained in excruciating length.  I found my mind wandering with the monotonous and droning narrative.  Even with all this explanation, I still didn't connect with any of the characters.   Everyone seemed to be so one-dimensional that I was bored.  I expected the characters to be vivacious, complex, and energetic, but what I got was the opposite.  The attempt at vivaciousness just resulted in corny and over-the-top acting.  Carey Mulligan was beautiful, but that wasn't enough to carry the main role.  Tobey Maguire who I loved in the recent "The Details," was also so flat that a cardboard cutout could have played the role just as well.  Sorry, Tobey.  Leonardo DiCaprio had beautiful blue eyes.  That's all.  I knew there was so much more to his inner character that seemed to be just bursting to get out on the screen, but it never happened.  Thankfully, I was able to look at those intense blue eyes.  Then we had Joel Edgerton who has been underrated.  His acting abilities shined in "Wish You Were Here," but the over-the-top acting in "The Great Gatsby" just wasn't his style.  The entire movie seemed as if we were all just on a movie set.  As this was a story told from the perspective of the main character's recollection, I can forgive the  exaggerated forms.  However, there has to be a balance to make you care about the characters.  Again, that wasn't there.  When the story finally came into full view, I wanted to know what happened in the end.  It truly was a beautiful story.  Unfortunately, it was a beautiful story poorly told.

This was the fourth attempt at bringing this love story to the silver screen.  I tried to watch the Robert Redford version as well, but didn't make it through the film.  I, again, was bored.  Maybe the lesson learned from this should be to leave this classic alone.  Go read the book if you haven't.  I will.

4 REELS because I'm hoping that this film will inspire future fashion gurus to bring that era back!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


This cutting edge and sometimes controversial director/writer Neil LaBute has stayed true to form with his sometimes cruel and quite realistic new film “Some Velvet Morning.”  LaBute, known for “In the Company of Men” (1997) which won the Sundance Filmmaker’s trophy, tackled two misogynistic co-workers with heartless realism.  After a couple of diversions, LaBute directed another winner, “Nurse Betty,” a sweet and charming piece by comparison.  Now, with “Some Velvet Morning,”  we have the cynical, chauvinist, male character back as the lead.  The realistic conversation, almost reminiscent of a David Mamet play in style, was not always pretty or comfortable to watch, but seems to be LaBute’s signature.  

Fred (Tucci) arrived unexpectedly at the home of his former lover/prostitute, Velvet, after a 4 year hiatus.  It appeared that Fred had the notion of moving back into Velvet’s home.  The two had a sordid past as they struggled to find a place of comfort within their relationship.  Can a love once gone wrong be turned around?

From the moment Tucci’s character, Fred, was on the scene, tension and apprehension were in the air.  Fred, with suitcases in hand, waited impatiently at the door of his former lover/hired prostitute.  As Velvet opened the door, more than the look of surprise crossed her face.  Was it fear?  Trepidation?  Excitement?  Fred was then reluctantly let in with Velvet expressing her desire to leave for an appointment soon.  The two moved from room to room, as Fred shared more from his life and what has happened in the last four years. The push and pull these two had on each other was from a very unhealthy past relationship. The tension built as we saw Fred become more and more anxious over trivial issues as well as monumental ones.  A fear for Velvet’s safety was eminent as Fred became more verbally abusive, but in a controlled, condescending and manipulative way. It was difficult and stressful to watch this rather fast-paced and rigorous verbal workout.  The intensity with each and every scene was continually amplified until I truly wanted to leave.  But I didn’t.  I’m so glad that I waited for the train to hit me at the end!  
This 2-person film  could have been a play on a stage.  The film took place in a few different rooms of a beautiful townhouse in NYC.  The entire film was a conversation between Tucci and Eve’s characters.  It felt as if you were following them from room to room and sitting in a corner chair as the scene unfolded before you.  Stanley Tucci showed that he can be quite brilliant as the egotistical, control freak who forced his views and opinions onto those around him.  He also seemed like a lost soul at one moment and then an uncaring bastard in the next.  Alice Eve was equally extraordinary.  She pulled you into her character and situation.  Even though you couldn’t relate to her chosen profession, you still cared about her.  You identified with her as a female.  She, too, was simply brilliant in her role.

“Some Velvet Morning” was about an unbalanced relationship that tipped way too far in one direction.  It took a harsh look at one of the oldest professions in the world: prostitution.  No matter if it’s a street corner or a penthouse apartment, it’s still prostitution.  It was also a relentless examination into how women value themselves and allow others to dictate their worth.  This movie kept me glued to the screen, but it also made me incensed.  The emotional roller coaster ride was almost more than this merry-go-round rider could handle.  But with every roller coaster ride, it does eventually end, and the feeling of deliverance at the end was completely worth it!  But you better hold on because, trust me, it’ll knock your socks off!