THE GIVER (2014) movie review

thegiver1-1024x576It is usually considered better to give than to receive. In this 2014 film, the man known as the Giver must bestow on his new Receiver the entirety of humanity’s hurt, fear, and sorrow as well as its love, joy, and peace. An emotionless society, set apart (but never really explained), lives in safety, secure from all issues brought on by squeamish emotions or daily discomforts. Climate controlled, policed, and vaccinated from human emotion, this society employs the keeper of memory, Jeff Bridges, to provide the wisdom of  the ages when necessary. He is the only one capable of empathy, also the only one who lies. He is the one who can see through the thin veneer of the “perfect” society, run by evil silver-fringed Meryl Streep who organizes the ceremony of selection which allows for each member of the community to be selected for his or her . Of course, when the memory is passed on and the younger, hotter Giver knows the truth and is brave enough to follow his convictions, he seeks to end the cycle of servitude and drone work by dispersing the kept memories of the ages to the whole community.

thegiver4-1024x681The sheer innocence of these characters makes world peace seem possible and the film feel implausible. Disappointing. Jeff Bridges, illustrious talent, co-produced this film. Perhaps this is why the film feels overly emotional and forced…he was too close close to it. Bridges wanted this film to be made. It meant something to him. He is the Giver, the mentor, the bleeding heart, the true hero.

thegiver2-1024x640Accepting this film as a faithful adaptation would require more than “precision of language.”  The Lois Lowry novel, written post “1984,” the novel, but pre-Hunger Games and Diversion is the original Gattica. The book is beautiful, subtle, disturbing, intense, mysterious. Jonas is 13. He is gifted. His “stirrings” are only ever hinted at and not the essence of a budding romance but of puberty. There is no boundary. The memories, once given, cannot be retrieved, so the Giver shares once then loses them. Jonas becomes a Giver as he transfers memory to the child. The ending is illusive, questionable, fearful, precious, unresolved. The book is a Jackson “Lottery”-esque thinker left open-ended allowing the reader to imagine a hopeful ending despite the very few vague hints at hope.

the-giver-movie-actorsDespite my disappointments at the simple-fixes of the film, I still liked it. I liked the characters, the transfer from black & white to color, the stories created, the happy ending. I liked that. It was too easy to fix the whole world. The transition to color was brief. The long slide down the banister was a hard to connect with moment, obviously meant to make more impact. Jonas has innocence and power. Idealistic. Taylor Swift’s overacted cameo makes her portray, well, a dramatic musician. Stretch.

Leave a comment

Filed under Drama, Fantasy, Sci Fi

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT (2014) movie review

Magic-in-the-Moonlight-Emma-StoneGreetings from beyond the grave… Knock once for yes and twice for no.

Would you call this film one of Woody Allen’s best?

One knock.

magic-in-the-moonlight-colin-firth-emma-stone-600x399We do write ourselves into characters, writing what we know, but don’t you think that the delightful, big-eyed Emma Stone is too many decades the junior to our flawed likable hero Colin Firth?

Two knocks.

True, Allen would have no trouble with the age-old question, so it could be good to note Allen’s perspective walking into this film. I believe that Allen’s accolades, well deserved, should not be withheld in lieu of his life choices. That’s taking personal vendettas too far. He is a brilliant filmmaker and writer. No question. He still pushes boundaries making viewers think. I have great respect for that skill as he puts it to use.

On a similar note, Allen girls rarely resemble Bond girls. Allen’s women are bold, conversational, talented, complex, sometimes quixotic but still intelligent, sexy, and confident.  Allen paints women that women don’t mind watching and can relate to. Emma Stone is no exception. She is exceptional. Wouldn’t you agree?

One knock.

DSCF0410.RAFThis film waxes Gatsby, doesn’t it?

One knock.

Lush 20’s sets, costumes, and lighting: perfect from every feathered hat to draping beaded gown. It’s silver screen smudged hues on golden twilight backdrops transport these modern actors into a golden age of Hollywood. You expect Cary Grant to attend the party and Grace Kelly to step into the scene for a quick visit at any point.

magic_article_story_largeMagic in the Moonlight is a talkie, but the lack of action is rarely felt.  Audience members are allowed somehow to feel equal with the characters on-screen.  Tricked and sung to, questioned and valued.  The actors saunter from one room to another, adjusting bow ties pondering the weather and waxing philosophical. Allen unabashedly tackles common taboo topics like religion and politics. Perhaps like Scorcese whose seeming quest is to find himself redeemable, Allen’s obvious discussion on-screen mirrors this by asking  questions of the afterlife. This film questions the existence of God, mankind’s purpose on the planet, the truth in daily living, and the romance of magic.

Is he perhaps squeezing the brain to make room for the heart?

Three knocks.

Wait – what does that mean? Don’t you know? Okay, spirit from beyond, one final question:

Do you think that since Woody Allen’s last two films took place in France in the 20’s, that we can dare hope for  a trilogy of sorts?

One knock.

Wonderful! Thank you so much, kind spirit, for the interview from beyond. Until next time…



Filed under Chick Flick/ Rom Com, Classic, Comedy, Comfort Film, DramCom, Family friendly

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014) movie review

guardians-of-the-galaxy-movie-poster-wallpaper-1920x1200-the-best-of-sdcc-2014-wonder-woman-guardians-of-the-galaxy-2-godzilla-2-moreThis comedic 80s mix tape romp through a new Marvel universe takes on the big dogs by standing strong beside the Avengers series. It paints the Avatar honey green, suffers classic daddy issues, gives Lee Pace a full body makeover, and offers Kirk from Gilmore Girls more face time than he even got on the show. Written and directed by his brother, James Gunn, perhaps Kirk (Sean Gunn) had more to do with the success of this hit hero flick than we think.Sean-Gunn-and-Michael-Rooker-in-Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-2014-Movie-ImageWhile Bradley Cooper continues to make his acting career more about his quirk than his face as the voice of Racoon Rocket, Vin diesel gets to make one line count as the new Chewbacca Groot. Yes, the quintessential Star Wars comparisons must be made, but I believe this new universe created a name for itself and a life of its own.

guardians-of-the-galaxy-movie-characters-1920x1080Chris Pratt takes center stage and owns every scene as the relatable, flawed, likable hero, still quirky like the kid from Parks & Rec. With more Star battles yet to come, we can expect Pratt to keep the physique for yet another season.





Filed under Action, Classic, Sci Fi

THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY (2014) movie review

one-hundred-foot-journey-0514This journey of one hundred feet may have begun with a single step, but its message of redemption will reach a million hearts.

om-puri-in-the-hundred-foot-journey-movie-3Despite its droll title and Oprahbook-boasts, The Hundred Foot Journey won me in moments with enchanting characters and gorgeous scenery. My writer friend Joey and I inhaled and sighed at the same moment and for the same interval. I believe that defines “breathtaking.” It is charmingly funny with heaping dollops of family friendly foodie dialogue. The pièce de résistance is its story of two diametrically opposed peoples at “war” who eventually show grace and offer a new sense of home. Redemption. Relationship.

THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY“Food is memory.” Do any flavors or scents take you back to specific moments? I went to a funeral as a child and the church was littered with Easter lilies. To this day, I smell stargazers and am immediately back in the viewing room filled with sadness for that loss. My mother’s baked bread is Christmas. What are some of yours?

My father’s early dream of inventing “smell-o-vision” would have helped with the array of redolence and flavor throughout this film. Somehow the pungent spices of India still emanate from the screen. Truffle oil wafts from the curtains. Tomatoes are meant to be eaten like apples. Béchamel and hollandaise sauces await you in the lobby. Do not go to this film hungry.

image008-560x374In this film, food is beauty, is skill, is art, is life. It is given great reverence which pairs nicely with the art of hospitality teaching us to rest in the moment, to put grievances aside, and to appreciate friendship for all of its potential sweetness.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

MONUMENTS MEN (2014) movie review

Learn your  A B C’s:the-monuments-men-uk-quad-posterA lways trust George Clooney.

B elieve in Bill Murray.

C ast Matt Damon in anything.

D on’t forget Cate Blanchett.

E njoy Bob Balaban as much in this as in Guffman or Moonrise Kingdom.

F eel the weight of loss when you realize that Hitler stole everything from people when he took their lives.

G reet Goodman, as ever, a force and a friend, like a grandfather you fear but can’t wait to see.

H ugh Bonneville, Downton’s Lord Grantham, stayed true to form in his stately address and attire.

I nnocuous as art may seem, when paired with the destruction of so much of Europe, its loss must have felt like insult to the injuries caused by war.

J oin ever sweet Jean Dujardin and the team in rescuing stolen art with their suave personalities and winning smiles.the-monuments-men_wide-5c74020332c43e14e25bfc06079da41ee6d50dc5-s6-c30

K eep
L ooking though you
M ay
N ever clear the
O bstacles
P ervading your
Q uest.
R emember that your
S oul is
T he art of the
U niverse’s Creator who
V alues you, knowing you are
W orth treasuring, as
eX tingushable as
Y ou may feel.

NaZ i soldiers obeyed orders, feeling they were right, but Clooney’s troop of Monuments Men sought to remind all why we fight.2013-mostanticipated-monumentsmen-full

1 Comment

Filed under Classic, Comfort Film, Drama, DramCom, Historical Drama

TRANSCENDENCE (2014) movie review

transcendence_ver4_xlgThe autopsy reports for the slow death of this movie Transcendence are inconclusive.transcendence-movie-paul-bettany-and-rebecca-hall-with-johnny-depp-transcendence-interview-wally-pfisterIf I watch films that haven’t done well in the box office, I find I approach it less like a scientist hypothesizing accuracy and success and more as a coroner or homicide detective would. What caused this tragedy? I often agree with the Tomato rating, but this time I found a film with excellent actors, decent writing, great directing & effects, a thoughtful story and meaningful relationships. It wasn’t the haphazard train wreck that I guess I was expecting. It certainly wasn’t the schizophrenic Secret Window. And it wasn’t The Tourist.


The puzzle could be solved in timing. As with all things, timing is everything. Perhaps it was released too soon after the hype of Jonze’s Her since it may have a few similar themes but a vastly different story and outcomes. Ads also made it look like an action thriller. Not true. It’s a sci-fi drama – a thinker. transcendence-whysoblu-7

Blake Snyder, film expert, renowned teacher, and author of the book “Save the Cat” would perhaps call a film that seeks the co-dependence of the brain and technology a “double mumbo jumbo.” It’s like the movie Signs asking people to believe in both God and aliens. For some, that’s a stretch.TRANSCENDENCEMy brilliant sister Annie Mae believes that people might have had a hard time accepting an intelligent film without sex or a ton of senseless violence. The marriage relationship in the film remains one of deep love and faithfulness. The best friend character is not out to sabotage the marriage or woo the girl. The plot makes you think.still-of-paul-bettany-and-rebecca-hall-in-transcendence-(2014)To seek the beyond… A higher power …to become …to achieve the enlightenment of soul…

…through technology?

This film poses the thoughtful and future plausible attempts at true AI: artificial intelligence via the symbiotic and simultaneous merging of tech with humanity. It’s bionic. The birth of AI is ever the prequel to The Matrix or Terminator, or RoboCop or IRobot. It’s the moral dilemma ever stemming from artificial creation, from plastic limbs and pacemakers to cloning technology: are we playing God? Can tech register or muster a soul? Will the corruption of pure motives always end in tragedy?

Don’t forget Shawshank tanked in the theater but blossomed into its cult classic status. There is still hope for these lesser loved post- release weekend.


Filed under Drama, Sci Fi

TRANSFORMERS 4 Age of Extinction (2014) movie review

a sonnet in 14 lines


The world may cry for Michael Bay to pay
For this atrocity Transformers 4
Explosive robot action sets the stage
For Autobots, Decepticons at war.

Mark Wahlberg plays the poor inventor dad
Who fights to rescue Optimus, the Prime.
Resenting daughter’s favorite Irish lad,
She cries, explaining all with “Dad, he drives.”

Your expectations low, you may survive.
No story. Endless end-of-world type threats.
The power swords bring dinobots to life
And oddly that’s when Stanley  Tucci sweats.

Three hours of my life I can’t get back,
The age of MY extinction come to pass.

Transformers-4-Age-of-Extinction-Cast transformers_38236 tf4 transformers_trailer_a_l_0


Filed under Action, Animated, Sci Fi, Skip It