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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

  Water for Elephants is a big screen movie that keeped true to the book by Sara Gruen.  I loved the book and rushed out to see the movie as soon it was released.  I was not disappointed.  With my training in the fine arts, I tend to examine the sets, the staging and the acting before examining the script.   The sets for the film were wonderful.  Who doesn’t love a circus? The romance of the traveling circus draws us in.  We love the trains that transport them to cities and we love the parades that lead us to the circus grounds.  Under Francis Lawrence's sleek direction and Richard LaGravenese script, the love story between Jacob, the  circus vet, and Marlena, the circus owner’s wife, emerges.   Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz, of Inglourious Basterds fame, offer the perfect triangle to base the story.  At first, I was a bit iffy about the casting but they were perfect, particularly Christoph Waltz, who can play sadistic and charming at the drop of a hat.  You enjoy watching him because you know something bad is just around the corner.  With all the Twilight buzz surrounding him, I didn’t expect Pattinson to be able to act but he can and Witherspoon, an Oscar winning actress, did not over power the cast.  Hal Holbrook does a nice job, too, framing the story as he tells the tale of the ill-fated Benzini circus to a modern circus worker.  The only thing missing for me was the lack of grittiness and hopeless of the Depression era, the desperate way circus people lived in order to have a job, roof over their heads and food in their stomachs.  The roustabouts suffered the most. If the owner couldn’t make money at each stop, he would order several thrown from the train in a practice called “red lighting.”  Some would survive the fall but most would not.  The Depression was a desperate time!  Forget bout the symbolism behind water and train tracks.  Just sit back and enjoy as the story unfolds.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Win Win is a winner and Paul Giamatti is a master. Win Win, directed by Tom McCarthy of The Station Agent and The Visitor fame, does not hurry along. Instead you are given time to get to know the characters. Giamatti plays Mike Flaherty, an average man who finds himself struggling economically with a failing legal practice. Trying to keep his head about water, he takes on the difficult task of coaching the local high school wrestling team. He is trying his best, but neither the team nor his finances are getting better. Unethically, he takes on the guardianship of an elderly, but rich client, Leo, in order to receive a monthly stipend. Without family to care for Leo, Giamatti sells this idea to the judge. Enters Kyle, Leo’s grandson, and everything changes. Alex Schaffer as Kyle is new to acting but there is great promise. He exudes Eminem broodiness. An actual high-school wrestling champ in real life, he is convincing as a disillusioned and troubled 16 year old running away for his abusive mother. Everyone loves a winner and everyone loves Kyle once they know what he can do. The ensemble cast of Amy Ryan, Jeffrey Tambor, and Bobby Carnavale lend spunk, empathy and humour to the film.

In the world of Hollywood glitz and glamour, how can a short, double chinned, pudgy man with slopping shoulders be so appealing? Giamatti has talent and skill to make you love him.

This movie could be about how loss makes you do things you cannot defend and ultimately regret, but to me it was just about average people, living average lives trying to do the best they can. Yes, you can find fault with this film, but somehow it just draws you in and you stay there. I found myself smiling all the way to the car. See it or borrow it from the library when it’s on DVD.

Monday, April 11, 2011

WHAT A MESSAGE! The only good things about Limitless: 1. it was not limitless, (running time 1h.45m), and 2. Bradley Cooper’s electric blue eyes. In this sci-fi thriller, Cooper plays a naive writer living on the fringe in NYC dealing with sever writer's block. He falls for the pitch that taking a mind expanding drug will solve all his problems. It did! But created many more. Over more than a year you see Eddie Morra move from the grimy streets of Chinatown, to the slick money-hungry world of high finance, to the halls of the Senate with the potential of becoming a presidential candidate. The film, directed by Neil Burger, based on a novel by Alan Glynn, uses every possible trick including Russian gangsters, corporate mergers and moguls, murder, lost time, addiction and withdrawal along with some interesting visual effects to keep the audience trapped. Robert DeNiro turns in a cool performance as Carl Van Loon and has the best dialogue and message in the entire film. Reviewers have given it a B+ but I say skip it. If you must see it, borrow it from the library and save your money for a good film like Win Win.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The new April list of DVDs is out.

127 Hours James Franco, Amber Tamblyn. Aron Ralston has a passion for all things outdoors. When a falling boulder traps him in a remote Utah canyon, a thrill-seekers adventure becomes the challenge of a lifetime. Based on the autobiography "Between a rock and a hard place" by Aron Ralston.

Catfish In late 2007, filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost sensed a story unfolding as they began to film the life of Ariel's brother, Nev. A reality thriller that is a shocking product of our times, Catfish is a riveting story of love, deception and grace within a labyrinth of online intrigue.

Cool It Climate catastrophe? The end of civilization as we know it? COOL IT is based upon the book of the same name and lectures by Bjorn Lomborg.

Inside Job Through exhaustive research, and extensive interviews with key financial insiders, politicians, journalists, and academics, Inside Job traces the rise of a rogue industry that nearly resulted in a global financial collapse.

Last Train Home Changhua Zhan, Suqin Chen, Qin Zhang. Every spring, China's cities are plunged into chaos as an astonishing 130 million migrant workers journey to their home villages for the New Year's holiday. This mass exodus is the largest human migration on the planet. Working over several years in classic verite, Chinese-Canadian filmmaker Lixin Fan travels with one couple who have embarked on this annual trek for almost two decades.

Love and Other Drugs Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway Free-spirited Maggie meets her match in a charming Viagra salesman named Jamie. Maggie and Jamie leap into a no-strings-attached affair, but no matter how hard they try to keep things 'casual,' they can't help falling under the influence of the ultimate drug: love!

The Maiden Heist Marcia Gay Harden, Morgan Freeman. Charles, Roger, and George are museum security guards who take their jobs very seriously. But when they learn their favorite artworks are being sent to another museum, they concoct a plan to switch the real masterpieces with fakes.

Morning Glory Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton. For Becky, running a TV show in New York City was the big break she dreamed of, until star co-anchors Mike and Colleen declare an all-out, on-air war. Making the show work with its cast of eccentric characters and outrageous story angles will take a major miracle, but Becky is ready to rise and outshine.

New Tricks: season 3 Amanda Redman, Dennis Waterman, Alun Armstrong, James Bolam. Superintendent Sandra Pullman leads the unsolved crimes unit of the Metropolitan Police. Her team includes three aging former detectives lured out of retirement. Can a curmudgeonly trio of crime busters learn new tricks to crack tough crimes? Or are old-fashioned hunches and footwork still best?

The Next Three Days Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Brian Dennehy, Olivia Wilde, Liam Neeson. Life seems perfect for John Brennan until his wife, Lara, is arrested for a murder she says she didn't commit. Three years into her sentence, John is struggling to hold his family together, raising their son and teaching at college while he pursues every means available to prove her innocence. With the rejection of their final appeal, Lara becomes suicidal and John decides there is only one possible, bearable solution: to break his wife out of prison.

The Switch Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston. An unmarried 40-year-old becomes pregnant from a sperm bank. Seven years later, she reunites with her best friend, who has been living with a secret: he replaced her preferred sperm sample with his own. An unmarried 40-year-old woman turns to a turkey baster in order to become pregnant. Seven years later, she reunites with her best friend, who has been living with a secret: he replaced her preferred sperm sample with his own.

Mademoiselle Chambon V incent Lindon, Sandrine Kiberlain, Aure Atika, Jean-Marc Thibault. Arthur Le Houérou. Jean, his loving wife and son live a simple, happy life. At his son's homeroom teacher Madamoiselle Chambon's request, he volunteers as substitute teacher and starts to fall for her delicate and elegant charm.

Restrepo Sebastian Junger, Tim Hetherington. This documentary chronicles the deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. The movie focuses on a remote 15-man outpost, Restrepo, named after a platoon medic who was killed in action. It was considered one of the most dangerous postings in the U.S. military. This is an entirely experiential film: the cameras never leave the valley; there are no interviews with generals or diplomats. The only goal is to make viewers feel as if they have just been through a 90-minute deployment.

The Wolfman Anthony Hopkins, Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt. Lured back to his family estate Lawrence must investigate the savage murder of his brother by a bloodthirsty beast and confront childhood demons, his estranged father, and his brother's grieving fiancée.

The Tillman Story Pat Tillman, Mary Tillman Pat Tillman chose to walk away from a multimillion-dollar football contract and join the military for no other reason than he felt it was the right thing to do. Documented are the facts surrounding the way the military manipulated his tragic death in the line of duty into a propaganda tool.