MR. HOLMES (2015) movie review

1425493080204Sir Ian McKellen, versatile and vibrant, spins a good yarn. He becomes his characters, or perhaps they become him. No longer the man behind the Magneto mask or the old grey beard of Gandalf, McKellen is an aged Sherlock Holmes.
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In search of a medicinal cure for the aging mind, he has one crime left to solve, and it isn’t the one he’s pursuing. He retires to the seaside along the white cliffs of Dover and finds there a small boy wonder, a fan of Holmes, who may be the key to opening Sherlock’s memory banks and subsequently, his heart.
rs_560x415-150304172941-1024.ian-mckellen-holmesCharming and enchanting. Heartwarming and thought-provoking. It’s a mystery to solve inside the resolve of lovely dear and true friendships.

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THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (2015) movie review


pg-28-oldie-filmsGo back for seconds if you enjoyed the first. This addition picks up the same story a few months later and offers more depth, color,  humor, and sweetness.

A few more likable characters also grace the screen, but old favorites stay favorites.unnamed-29 The traditions of Indian wedding celebrations set the timing and pace for events in the film. You will want to discover this India: the joy of music and dancing, the encouragement of friends and feasts, the companionship in conversation, and the honor of heritage in this most vividly adorned culture.Packed-matinees-a-scene-f-007

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JURASSIC WORLD (2015) movie review


Spielberg gives Tomorrowland a frightening facelift in this latest installment in the Jurassic universe.JW-8 John Hammond’s flea circus-turned dino theme park dream becomes a reality. Universal Studios tram ride through King Kong’s city scape, Disneyland’s jungle safari cruise, and Sea World’s main attractions combined cannot compare to a day on the original island now paradise once more.DLC00012-720x405DLC00020-720x405 DLC00011-720x405But hubris married with technology begets genetically amalgamated super saurus. Only the gritty ex-military turned raptor trainer, Chris Pratt, can calm the cage free and the control freaks. JW-7And, Bryce Dallas Howard proves for womankind that she can run a marathon in heals.bjwax76bjjl4i19u72dy

Some blood, but more jump scares. Some great lines, but more memorable characters. Tons of product placement and even more marketable park merchandise. Sure, every character is a caricature, but this film is meant for pure entertainment. It is meant to be a family action film.

Newby director and writers prove once again that Spielberg is not attempting to keep the legacy of big production film in Amblin’s name only. Art is meant for everyone, to be shared. No corner on the market. Just go and make your movie, and maybe someday a nice guy like Spielberg will pay for the promotion and you too will have the biggest box office weekend like Colin Trevorrow did.

Have fun. Don’t get scared now.JW-2

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ALOHA (2015) movie review

920x920I’ve always wondered what it would be like to see some of my favorite actors as children. The kindergarten effect: emotional roller coasters, needing snacks and naps, afraid of odd things, dancing to whatever music plays, having pointless sleepovers, wrecking stuff at will, yelling and calling names, friending and unfriending, saying the darn’dest things.

ALOHA (2015) fulfilled that birthday wish. What a surprise to sit in stunned awe at the total lack of continuity – as if they filmed it all backwards as a joke and forgot to fix it, as if they spliced in a few decent shots of great actors but thought it would be quirky to have them speak in total nonsense or silence (sometimes with subtitles), or as if they tried to make another film…how about Ernest Goes to Hawaii…minus Ernest.

It’s that bad.emma-stone-ewwSave yourself. Avoid. See anything but this. A great review that I read called this film a more impressive disaster film than San Andreas starring “The Rock,” also debuting this weekend.

Don’t be persuaded by the perfect cast of blue-eyed beauties or the promise of Bill Murrayisms. Even Alec Baldwin couldn’t save it.normal_001n-ALOHA-TRAILER-large5701024x1024

Here is an unrelated clip by the same name that was shockingly less confusing and almost more enjoyable than the film Aloha:

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SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998) movie review

 The 1998 Best Picture nominee ÒSaving Private RyanÓ will be screened as the next feature in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and SciencesÕ ÒGreat To Be NominatedÓ series on Monday, June 9, at 7:30 p.m. at the AcademyÕs Samuel Goldwyn Theater.   Pictured here: Tom Hanks in a scene from SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, 1998.

To be honest, I was jaded by the bandwagoning over this film. The mob mentality followed flag-waving mutual love for Saving Private Ryan from the moment it exploded onto the big screen. So, I skipped it. Too many older male teachers looked at me and said, “Earn this” as if it meant they’d nearly died to help me get my degree. I’ve seen that last few minutes in clips in so many classes and so many sermons, I assumed that everyone must be romancing the ideals of war somehow. I didn’t see American Sniper for the same reason. I didn’t want to somehow promote war by enjoying it.

I claimed this excuse: films are a passion, an escape, a joy for me. I’d rather rewatch a lovely story on DVD than be shocked or potentially harmed by the vicarious experience of torture. I live the movies I watch. I don’t sleep well for weeks after watching a horror movie. As a young girl, I knew was going to be the next meal of the T-rex after Jurassic Park. And my feet will never forget the sensation of trying on the glass slippers for the first time. I feel invincible after action movies, and so very thoughtful after solved crime dramas. I sob through too many films, even the happy bits. Somehow I feel that movies are made for me, about me. I learn, live by, quote, and internalize the messages of films. Filmmakers are teachers, like it or not. They persuade, preach, and perpetuate ideas that they too believe in. Perhaps I am the type of audience they make movies for. I care.

Spielberg called in the troops for this one. Every face under an Allied helmet seemed notable, famous, yet somehow fitting in this quintessential war flick. The actors vying for these roles must have known that Spielberg was making history…from history. Spielberg manages to give enough pause-to-breathe time as well as changes in scenery to make the journey on the shores and fields of France during WWII manageable, though I admit I had to mute and close my eyes many times just to stomach the horrors of war, even from my living room’s comfy chair.

The brilliance of Spielberg’s Private Ryan is that it seeks to tell the story from the inside and refuses the omniscient narration of wide angles. It’s a human interest story in POV, point of view. The audience is as surprised as the soldiers are when under fire. We suffer as they do. I watched it today for my friend Dan who served in Iraq. Dan is one of the kindest, most peaceful men I know. He loves his Bible and his wife, and he has always been a good friend to me. He has never talked about war, but it felt like he was there in this film. We were there together in the fox holes and behind barricades.2762_5

Just as the opening hook of the film “The Hurt Locker” shows a likable Guy Pierce calmly discussing basic human desires like food and sex, so Spielberg set audiences up to  care about and relate to characters. We invest in them and in the film. If they want to live, we don’t want them to die. If the characters are cruel or insensitive, unrelatable or cold, audiences will often feel nothing. Heroes in film can also be too perfect to be likable, but it’s not the case with Hanks’s Captain character who is far from Christ-like. He makes bad calls and gut decisions. In front of the men, he seems callous, task-driven, even unfriendly at times. He refuses to offer personal information and keeps a kill count. But, something in him is reluctant, sorrowful, duty-bound. He leads, but from within as a do-er, a comrade, a man who misses home. Yet, we all know that he is willing to lay his life down for the mission. He is almost thrown by the concept in the line (and poster’s tagline) “This mission is a man.” In this way, he becomes the everyman. We know that we are flawed. We make bad calls and worry about the mission and the people we may bring down with us. We are Miller. We are Ryan. We were there on the battlefield with the men who died for us.

So today as I write this, on Memorial Day, when we who did not have to fight for freedom are called upon to remember those who did, I watched this film and thought it was beautiful.  Gut wrenching, devastating, tragic, and awful, but true and real and necessary.

Admittedly moved, I left the movie on as it replayed.

The scene I may have liked most is the moment before the climax battle when Hanks finds a coffee machine and tries to make a cup while the men lounge in the sun listening to an Edith Piaf record. The interpreter tells the men what she is singing, calling the lyrics quite melancholy as they speak of a love she’ll never have.

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I was reminded of a line from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet after Romeo finds out of a battle that his cousin fought that morning:

Oh me, what fray was here? Why then o brawling love, o loving hate, o anything of nothing first create, o heavy lightness, serious vanity, misshapen chaos of well seeming forms. Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, still waking sleep, that is not what this is!”

Shakespeare’s Romeo, like Piaf, discusses the oxymoronic nature of love that hurts, of love unrequited. But I would apply this speech to war in that it too dwells in both realms. They fought and died for love, killed for love. For love of life, of freedom, of family, of a world unbroken by tyranny. And for that they died. None of us can earn that. Earn life, love, freedom. That’s the beauty and irony of the Cross of Christ as well. He died to give life. He earned it so we wouldn’t have to.

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Filed under Drama, Historical Drama, War

TOMORROWLAND (2015) movie review

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“Tell me, how do you get to Tomorrowland?
Close your eyes, make a wish, and you’re there.”

…or go by jet pack. 
ft0110.comp_.047600.1115_R-660x348In Brad Bird’s newest screen sensation, dreams come true as the Small World ride at Disneyland opens up to reveal an interdementional gondola, as the Eiffel Tower in Paris disguises a secret rocket, and as bathtubs eject you to safety. George Clooney, likable curmudgeon furrows his way into your heart as he learns to believe in dreams again. Clooney, Hugh Laurie, and Tim McGraw lead a perfect cast, and up-and-comers Britt Robertson (best in Dan in Real Life), Thomas Robinson (my favorite little character from “The Switch”), and the young Raffey Cassidy astound in their roles.

Tomorrowland-George-Clooney-620x400Trusted screenwriters Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird allow the film to preach the power of positivity and to present the  old Native American morality tale (also quoted by George Bernard Shaw): there are two wolves inside each one of us, and the one who wins is the one we feed the most.

Brilliant, poignant, and timely. This film is an adventure ride. It fills you with Disneyland joy, a love for family, and a hope for the future which waits in each of our hands, like a token waiting to take us there.tomorrowlmdBe brave enough to dream in a Tomorrowland for all of us.  “We’ve saved a seat, just for you.”

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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