WOMAN IN GOLD (2015) movie review

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Who is the woman in gold? She is an emblem. She was a woman who loved. She bears a powerful curse and a blessing. Untouchable and coveted.

Gustav Klimt, known as a symbolist painter, studied in Vienna and employed gold leaf in many of his famous paintings and two of my favorites: The Kiss and The Woman in Gold.cn_image_3.size.gustav-kimlt-helen-mirren-woman-in-gold-movie-02

Gustav Klimt’s 1907 Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. Rights reserved: Neue Galerie New York.

This film, however, is not about the painter Klimt at all. The story moves effortlessly into the dramatic story of the niece of the woman who posed for Klimt’s painting. Her wealthy Austrian family fell prey with the millions of Jews who were stripped of all possessions and forced to flee or fall during the Nazi overthrow in World War II.

This true story allowed the voice of the spunky niece Maria, played perfectly by Helen Mirren, to reluctantly revisit her homeland. The haunts of her lush childhood interlaced with the memories leading up to her wedding and eventually her escape. Her one connection to the aunt who helped to raise her was the painting that once hung in her childhood home.

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This film, however, is not necessarily about Maria. Nor is it truly about the painting. Ryan Reynolds plays a young lawyer who took a risk on a start-up and lost. We meet him, downtrodden, looking for work. Maria hires him to help retrieve the beloved painting of her aunt. We, in the audience, need to know that he was willing to take a risk. Despite his growing family, despite impossible odds, he must do this. The film is so much about him. It’s about his personal journey, connecting with his own past, mourning lost loved ones, mourning the holocaust. He fights as so few would, without real financial backing, against an entire country that wants to leave the past behind, forgiven, forgotten. Randol, the lawyer, seeks to prove Maria’s ownership of the painting, and for most of the film, he seems to fight for the wrong reasons. Then he changes. All that Midas touched turned to gold until he lost the only one he loved. Every hero has a tragic flaw, usually hubris. But when they sacrifice themselves for the greater good, they rise up and become what they never could have: a hero.

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Filed under Drama, Historical Drama

AVENGERS: Age of Ultron (2015) movie review

Joss Whedon throws a great party. Getting the gang back together for the ultimate battle against A.I. proves a Hulk-sized task. Each hero a strong-willed leader, the team struggles to mesh, especially when a new entity gets into their heads.

avengers-age-ultronKeith Simanton of IMDb insightfully called “=Whedon’s Empire Strikes Back.” on twitter. avengers-age-of-ultron-24The Avengers indeed strike back at the Hydra bases only to find a set of formidable unfriendlies (twins) waiting to bruise them from the inside. Make them doubt each other and their own gifts, and the team will implode. As the tension builds, it pulses toward civil war.

Ultron awakens, evolves, becomes, multiplies. James Spader’s voice inflections give the machine terrifying strength, a sadistic quality. His Pinocchio song echoes eerily throughout.ultron-1024x435How will the team put out a veritably invincible enemy? Force with force, obviously. In order to win, they must humble themselves. It’s a battle of wits and pedagogy. Each walks in with different stories and belief systems in the Marvel universe. The lore includes God-figures. Biblical allusions prevail even within the darkness. And somehow humor provides balance.avengers-age-of-ultron-background-hd-2

Ultron mimics Stark, swift to the punchline. Machine and man, the age-old battle, climaxes with the marriage of genius and wifi. This second film doesn’t feel like a second. It races and fights for the attention of a first film, ever adding to the groundwork already laid but with funnier lines, faster action, and a solid adventure. It’s a party you won’t want to miss.

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THE AGE OF ADALINE (2015) movie review

You may live forever but you’ve never really lived.”adaline 1

The Age of Adaline, aptly titled, takes an age to get through as narrated details couple with worrisome looks down long hallways and  winsomely whispered lines. It feels like a feature-length Chanel ad. Tall blonde in beaded gown or period attire eludes the handsome stranger and potential danger.ada 5

Potential danger never really materializes. And handsome stranger becomes boyfriend. Forgive me if I feel the need for a deeper plot line than…will she reveal the truth that she is stuck being beautiful for life? Waa waa waaaaaa.

Narration ala Book Thief or 500 days of Summer sets us up for action, leads us to believe that something will happen to her, but it doesn’t. She cuts her hand in a flashback… That’s something, I guess. Sadly, the presence of narration does not make up for the absence of characterization. Neither does a brilliant performance by Harrison Ford make up for the pulse-less lackluster dream-voiced Blake Lively. I don’t know who she studied for her character development, but almost all of the elderly women I’ve met, yes often thoughtful and demure, still get more interesting with age, more unique, less apologetic for their quirks. This character was more like Kristen Stewart’s Bella on Prozac. With the illusive “THEM” on her tail, she relocates and redefines every decade with a new hairstyle and name. This minimal transformation does the trick for threat level minimum.ada 8

For a girl who “can’t deal with change,” she doesn’t seem to mind being constantly on the move. She has some Groundhog Day moments when we realize that she’s used her time learning languages and escape techniques. She can read braille and kill at Trivial Pursuit. Aye, the rub. Game theory on point: her life is a trivial pursuit until she can learn to love and truly live. It’s essentially another “About Time” without the quirk and great accents.ada 7

The plot puzzle never quite takes shape. The most emotion they squeezed from actors and audience alike came in small whimpers from both when she finds out she has to put her dog down. The rule of thumb with a less-than-likable hero: give him or her a pet that they can be nice to. (See Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat).

The one stroke of genius by the filmmakers was in casting veritable newly Anthony Ingruber as the young Harrison Ford’s character. His vocals and facial expressions were so spot on that I heard a girl near me in the theater ask if he was actually Harrison Ford in CG. B22_RVqCQAAEP3h.jpg-large

Hoorah for sentimental journeys…if they lead us somewhere. Anywhere. But this was pointless. Beautiful but blank. Adeline and her love interest have this in common. They know nothing about each other, just the simple sexual impulse and likability of a first date. Hard to root for that love to last, especially for as long as she has. She also had far more chemistry with the contractor who relayed a message for her on the telephone and with Harrison Ford for that matter. the-age-of-adaline-harrison-ford-600x399

So many wonder what they would do with an eternity, with immortality. With her Holy Grail, she chooses to switch librarian jobs around the city for three lifetimes, an age. Spare yourself her exhaustive self-searching. There must be something new on Netflix. But if you must go, watch for Harrison Ford’s toast at the party. His performance was at least worth the price of the ticket.

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Filed under Chick Flick/ Rom Com, Drama, Skip It

SONG OF THE SEA (2014) movie review

song of the sea 20 Moving in Mystery

Mounting in Myth

Wild with Wonder

This Sea Song a gift

song of the sea 15Gasp at the color

Sigh with delight

Sob for the story

A motherless plight

song-of-the-sea-002-birthday-partyThe parallel stories

Of two frozen men

Whose hearts are stone-hardened

When love has to end

song of the sea 9GrandMamas well-meaning,

Imprisoned themselves

In cages without feelings

So their hearts will not melt

song of the sea 14A boy and his sister

The saviors reluctant

Head off on a journey

of purpose, importance

song of the sea 6The selkies, the fairy men,

A magical robe,

The music, the bubbles,

The search for true home

song of the sea 23Sorrow and laughter,

Color and grey,

The story seems simple,

The landscapes homemade.

Both screenplay and screenwork

Surpassed this year’s films

The heartbreak and artwork

Almost overwhelm

song of the sea 5Director Tomm Moore

Deserves accolades

For this musical fairytale

So perfectly made.

Delve deeply in heritage

For the beauty you’ll weep

At this legend in masterpiece

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FURIOUS 7 (2015) movie review

fast-and-furious-furious-7-770x430I attended the most unconventional funeral this weekend…twice. The theater held showings every 1/2 hour, and still our theater was packed. People flocked to pay homage to the deceased actor Paul Walker after his tragic death this past year.paul-walker-furious-7Fueled by vengeance and loyalty, the gang reunites for one last ride. “You ride, I ride. You fight, I fight. You die, I die.” With a call out for no more funerals, they succeed with zero body count.

fast-and-furious-7The FF franchise is known for shocking car stunts, fast action, insane fight scenes, catchy one-liners, and throw downs starring The Rock, Jason Stathem, and Vin Diesel.

546b4ee64d5ff_-_ff7_trailer-lgSomehow these films define the all-American culture. I haven’t decided if that’s a good thing. Competing for bigger-and-better somehow allows the freedom to objectify women, to race for hierarchy, to do things “your own way and with your own crew.” America. Sinatra would be proud.  I asked a friend how The Rock can get away with such sexist speeches “I can leave when I want to, woman!” He smiled and said that The Rock is just playing that guy… He’s a super nice guy…plus he’s huge.

dwayne-johnson-in-furious-7-movie-1These films go so over the top, they succeed in satirizing these otherwise very serious sins. I’ll admit I laugh. Hard. These films are, above all, just plain fun. Walloped by lead pipes and no bruises. Head-on collisions, and step out unscathed. Explode out of a second story window and land on a car: fractured elbow that heals overnight. Furious 7 FilmSuper cars are expendable. The streets know and obey the kids who grew up on them. And cars fly. Not since Chitty-Bang-Bang and the Delorean have cars been known to fly, but Vin believes, like a Peter Pan of motors, and his car lifts into the air, floats out of planes, runs off of cliffs, and drifts from one skyscraper into another. Seamless.
furious-7-poster-396x600hero-car-launch-pike-peak_wide-9a2b57e9202518939b136f7ee7ffe89abc083d2c-s800-c8506-flying-cars.w529.h352.2xKurt Russell brings some surprising and much needed fatherly encouragement and grounding to Furious 7. Vin and the rest of Paul Walker’s screen family memorialized him well on the big screen. A true American tribute.

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EXODUS (2015) movie review

exodus-gods-and-kings-movie-poster-1Exodus has moments of beauty and potential greatness, thoughtful on so many levels. But Bale is no Charlton Heston. Exodus: Gods and Kings lacks the pizzaz and joy of the original Ten Commandments. Prince of Egypt may not have had a doe-eyed Aaron Paul but at least it never diminished the miracles by making Moses the God-whisperer and attempting to explain the plagues scientifically: alligators, so blood, so frogs, so flies, etc.

False beliefs prevail in Biblical films of late. The heroes must be A-listers, never mind the fluctuating accents, as long as they can wield a blade and train the peasants to retaliate. Why would God bother to intervene when Christian Bale or Russell Crowe can lead an army?exodus-gods-and-kings-3

I shouldn’t be surprised that so many renowned directors, like the brilliant, detail-driven Ridley Scott would look to the Greatest Stories Ever Told in the Bible for great screen fodder. To grasp the immortal seems the quest for most Hollywood greats. The gods of myth thought that eternal life is for those who live on in legend. Stories live on, so they must work as conduits…flux capacitors for a new age of inventors who visualize and create widescreen and digital IMAX.

Some also sadly believe that special effects will cover any sub-par plot points or dialogue, or anything that the filmmaker thought too potentially religious. Visual accuracy over biblical. The Pharaoh can look like he grew up in Texas as long as he cuddles with Cobras and paints a mean eyeline.

Egypt is sepia toned, to color the Caucasian cast. And the wilderness a Prometheus blue. The burning bush burst into a less than stunning blue flame.D0ObgKhviA

I’m sorry to say, it’s not the biblical inaccuracies that tanked the multi-million dollar project. It was…boring. Slow and unsteadily paced. It lags so desperately that in the end you almost hope the Red Sea will take them all. But they cross…waist-deep, then the armies drown in a tidal wave.

Many Christians cry and run from theaters over these kinds of oversights. If only the same crowd of movie goers would cry over poorly made films in the B-genre known as Christian films and seek to correct the problem with excellent filmmaking. The Bible will continue to provide a wellspring of stories. The era of Bible-based movies will continue.

So many filmmakers and viewers alike continue the search in a bottomless grave looking for a frozen Savior who they hoped would come to save the world. They have yet to find that He is risen. He is risen indeed.Exodus1

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CINDERELLA (2015) movie review

Kenneth Branagh masterfully directs Disney’s newest live action adaptation of the beloved children’s classic fairy tale Cinderella.75

In contrast to this year’s Into the Woods, no cheesy princes seek with fickle vengeance to woo winsome woeful indecisive scullery maidens. Cinderella_2015_3You need never flinch in fearful disgust. It’s appropriate for all ages but not so slapstick that adults can’t stand it. Marvel at the costuming and at Cate Blanchett’s truly wicked stepmother. CINDERELLADelight in each scene, drenched in artful Victorian symmetry which would do Jane Austen proud.

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No longer just once upon a Time, it’s now once upon our time as Downton’s best take center stage. Lily James’s portrayal is demure, deliberate, ethereal. And Daisy of Downton is the perfect pompous step-sis. Already a fan of Agent Carter in her Marvel Fame, I believe Hayley Atwell was perfectly cast as the tragic mother figure. Shockingly, even Helena Bonham Carter underplayed her toothy froofy Godmother. The film as a whole was like a lovely well-paced waltz. Caring characters suffer loss but seek to prove always that bravery and kindness win the day for good. Well done.cinderella3

Spend an evening getting swept up in the array of gowns and Swarovski’s best. Ah, the glass slippers! cinderella4See Cinderella and believe in magic again.

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Filed under Classic, Comfort Film, Family friendly, Fantasy