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

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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.

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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.

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TRANSFORMERS 4 Age of Extinction (2014) movie review

a sonnet in 14 lines

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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.

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Filed under Action, Animated, Sci Fi, Skip It

EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014) movie review

edge_of_tomorrow_2014_movie-wideGroundhog Day gets an action makeover with Tom Cruise. It’s about time a sci-fi alien-fighting action film got its epic day in eternity. This film is pure action, but paced well. It’s never Cruise ad nauseam.Edge of Tomorrow Mimics

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ALL YOU NEED IS KILL

5390241d28548Emily Blunt, no longer the frail secretary from Devil Wears Prada (2006), has turned in her stilettos for a pair of army boots and a hard to maneuver 100 lb metal weapons suit. The suit is much smaller than those circa Avatar (2009) and Matrix 3 (2003), but a little more throwback to Sigourney Weaver’s in Aliens (1986).

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emily-blunt-edge-of-tomorrow.pngTom gives his character the necessary arc beginning as the cowardly recruiter with no field experience and ending as…well as Tom Cruise. Audiences will love the mirror throwback moments ala Top Gun, Cocktail, Jerry Maguire. Less shake it crazy on Oprah’s couch, more show-me-the-money.edge-of-tomorrow-tom-cruise3

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Very violent, but not a ton of blood. Though summer has just begun, I will dare to call Edge of Tomorrow the best action film of the summer.

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DIVERGENT (2014) movie review

Download-Divergent-Movie-Wallpaper-HDOne of my favorite people from my old clutch and break days, Ellie, said of this movie’s book starter, “On a scale of Twilight to Harry Potter, it’s a Hunger Games.” – E.R.

Having seen the tween-focused trailer, I went into this film hesitantly with expectations of overplayed high school romance and war game whimsy. To my  surprise, the story works, the actors act, the romance is underplayed, and I got sucked in by it all. rs_1024x759-130719130321-1024.divergent.mh.071913I should’ve known that I could expect A-games from this cast.  Ashley Judd and Kate Winslet don’t really make movies now unless they want to. They’re no slouches. In my opinion, they can wait to play great parts in potentially epic films with heart. Shailene Woodley first impressed the world as the anxty teen with Daddy Issues in The Descendants (2011). She’s not so far from that role in this film, but she starts soft and gains intensity as her character attempts to blend into a group that she was not born into. If actors in these films believe in the story enough, we believe in them. Then, voila’. Audience hooked.divergent_CalebandBeatricePrior

Spielberg set us up with his film Minority Report (2002) to believe that the future is blue. This film caps the blue hue almost to colorlessness. Daunting as battle may be for a girl raised to be empathetic, her blood runs to courageous team Dauntless and therefore daily beatings and senseless seeming violence become routine. Take the hint. This film is too violent for children.divergent-movie-photo-14

The army sector, though bold, does not allow for the bravery of critical thinking or selflessness. Once again, the post-apocalyptic scenario cannot seem to factor in faith. Why, with all of the Districts laid out by the Capital and the Factions divided by virtues and allegiance can writers never quite add more than the threat of the “human spirit?” Even the poverty laden and less civilized portions of our world nominate or relegate to a higher power either by choice or tradition. The set of “virtues” that each Faction bows to in this fictional fantasy are not enough to maintain allegiance. One group will seek the domination and worship of the rest. It is inevitable.rs_1024x759-130719130320-1024-divergent2-mh-0719131.jpgSo, a hero must rise up, mustn’t she? She begins as underdog, but fights to fit in and finally to find freedom. That is the essence of story. I see this story paralleled so often in the Bible as David fights Goliath and becomes King, as Daniel faces the lions and gains position in the kingdom, as Joseph is sold into slavery and eventually becomes second to the Pharaoh. I am always challenged when I read the Bible.divergent-movie-screenshot-james

I am a Christian. By choice. And, it is not always a popular choice. At the heart of Divergent is the desire we all share: to be known and appreciated for our uniquenesses. Yet,  culture too often demands elements of uniformity.  The divergent is dangerous to the despotic. When humans are forced to agree and to lose anonymity, choice, diversity, we must recognize the  potential for the power-hungry to abuse their power using fear as a weapon. Then, watch for the retaliation of inevitable revolt from those who value individuality. It is, as always, A Tale of Two Cities.DIVERGENT

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MALEFICENT (2014) movie review

MaleficentMaleficent is a fairy tale in the truest form of the word. It is about a fairy, one lone fairy whose heartbreak allows bitterness to rule her until protecting and mothering a young girl teaches her to love again. For, true love does conquer all.

I loved the parallels to the original Disney Sleeping Beauty: the costuming and casting, the bumbling three fairies, the lines from the old film, the power in Jolie’s voice and presence. 680x478maleficent-concept-art-5Elle Fanning, favorite lovely of the fashion duo Rodarte and no longer known as Dakota’s sister,  stepped easily into the sweet princess Aurora role.maleficent-movie-photo-2

Maleficent-movie-Prince-Philip-and-Princess-AuroraThe film is perhaps a tribute to the selfless love of sarrogate mothers or mothers’ hearts. Perhaps this was the carrot dangled before Jolie who was allowed to have all of her children in the film. Most played cameos, but her little “Viv” got to play tiny Aurora. vivienne-jolie-pitt-600Either way, it’s an inverted villain story. Maleficent is Disney’s Despicable Me. The villain is not cruel, just misunderstood.

angelina-jolie-in-maleficent-movie-6My mother always said, “We all have two dogs inside us. The one that wins is the one we feed the most.”

I’ve been fascinated by the concept of writing the villain lately. A study of the film 3:10 to Yuma (2001) offered much insight. In the director’s commentary, James Mangold discussed the role of the villain as hero in their version of the story. They are equally as cause-driven. They share a path with the hero, but not the identical vehicle. A villain must believe that he or she is doing the righteous right thing for the sake of furthering what they care about. This is Russell Crowe’s role in 3:10 to Yuma. This is Redford’s character in Captain America: Winter Soldier. This is Magneto and Mystique and… Maleficent. The true villain of the film Maleficent appears to be the average Joe who lets greed consume him. The message continues: we all must choose which dog to feed.

Maleficent, too, gives in to the pain and vengeance and turns to the dark side, much like Anakin. But like Elsa in Frozen, her heart melts for the motherless girl in her sphere. She lashes out in helpless throttle allowing her control over nature to envelope and enthrone her. Parallels abound.  True wickedness waits to be seen. Speaking of Wicked…perhaps all villainy eventually goes green.Maleficent-Dream-Movie-Trailer

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MILLION DOLLAR ARM (2014) movie review

MillionDollarArm_thumbLGJon Hamm’s Scrooge heart learns to value family over money as he stresses his way over to India and back in this made-by-Disney, family friendly sports film.
MILLION DOLLAR ARM

52410bf41ee1b020e8fb6b308c9d245212ce5bd7 The hero basically adopts three quirky, sweet, moral, courageous visitors from India who seek better lives through the promise of pro baseball.
Despite odd pacing, the film remained sweet. Rent it. Watch it as a fam. Hamm’s furrowed brow creased ever deeper for most of the movie then cured overnight with a little curry and good company. That felt rushed. So did the physical relationship with well cast Lake Bell, who proved a strong counterbalance to Hamm. girl It’s a true story turned simple film with no surprises but sweetness in the blending of cultures.Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel of the Pittsburgh Pirates

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