Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

"Bilbo and Company are forced to engage in a war against an array of combatants and keep the terrifying Smaug from acquiring a kingdom of treasure and obliterating all of Middle-Earth."

Rated PG-13

Let me start by saying I am not a "Hobbit" kind of girl.  I am not into Science Fiction and I only go see these types of movies to fulfill my "Criticly Duties".  So if you are expecting a big review of how close this movie was to the book, or some long diatribe about how fantastic the sci-fi effects were, you might as well stop reading.  Because I have no idea.

 How did it compare to the others in the Lord of The Rings/Hobbit family of films?  No idea.  I only saw the first one in 2001 and my memory fails me.  Nor have I read any of the books.  But I do know this, I enjoyed it very much.

I want to share a bit of the dinner conversation between me and my daughter after the movie.  (Tawni -18 - Artist/Gamer who has seen all the movies. She "got" the movie and did an excellent job keeping me up to speed with the "whos and whats" I might otherwise have missed.)  We talked at length about the epic battles of the movie, and the way they were depicted with no blood or gore.  Because of this, I think I enjoyed the movie more than I would have otherwise.  It made it a bit more family friendly.  That being said, we debated if  the absence of  the blood and guts of true battle would somehow desensitize children.  Just something to think about...

There were great life lessons - about true love and greed. Good stuff.

We saw this at the fantastic AMC BarryWoods 24 in IMAX 3D - I HIGHLY recommend you do as well.  The scenery was breathtaking.  I was blown away by the special effects. And who thinks up the creepy monsters and ogres anyway?  It was amazing.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Belle - A Sweet - and Important - Love Story

BELLE is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Captain. Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle's lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the color of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing. Left to wonder if she will ever find love, Belle falls for an idealistic young vicar's son bent on change who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield's role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England. Written by Fox Searchlight Pictures

My favorite movies are often those based on a true story, and I love historical romance.  Add in a story line in which an underdog wins, and you have me hook line and sinker.  That is exactly where I found myself while watching Belle.  

It is my sincerest hope Gugu Mbatha-Raw finds herself nominated this awards season.  What a beautiful, talented actress!

This one is already available online - you can see it now on Amazon instant streaming.  I highly recommend!

Rated PG

Interstellar....a disappointment

In the near future, Earth has been devastated by drought and famine, causing a scarcity in food and extreme changes in climate. When humanity is facing extinction, a mysterious rip in the space-time continuum is discovered, giving mankind the opportunity to widen its lifespan. A group of explorers must travel beyond our solar system in search of a planet that can sustain life. The crew of the Endurance are required to think bigger and go further than any human in history as they embark on an interstellar voyage into the unknown. Coop, the pilot of the Endurance, must decide between seeing his children again and the future of the human race. Written by Warren D'Souza

Rated PG13

The bad part of living in the middle of nowhere is having to drive about an hour to participate in a movie "experience" - meaning 3D/Imax stuff.  Since I am not a sci-fi fan, this doesn't usually present much of a problem. It's not like I needed IMAX to see Ben Affleck's package in Gone Girl...(wait maybe I did because I TOTALLY missed it)

Anyway - it took me a while to get to Interstellar because of my geographic challenges.  I was listening to all the advice about - YOU MUST SEE IT IN 3D etc.

Fast forward to a free Saturday and a willing date (daughter Tawni) and yesterday I found myself  all settled in at  the beautiful AMC Barrywoods IMAX Theater.

Maybe I am just not smart enough.  I didn't understand Inception - what made me think I would be able to follow Interstellar?   I just thought it was was too deep - I needed a notepad to keep track of everything.  

My apologies to everyone who is going on and on about this film - to all those folks who are buying the ticket that allows a person to see it as many times as they want. Seriously?  But Why?

I did enjoy all the previews in IMAX though - especially the Exodus God & Kings it wasn't a complete loss.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Movie Review - Rudderless

I was pretty excited when I saw this facebook post a couple of weeks ago (@TivoliKC):

"Also! Rudderless opens this weekend! It's the directorial debut of William H. Macy and stars Billy Crudup and Anton Yelchin. 

Not only are we the only theater in KC that you can see this film for it's debut week, but ALSO* screenwriter and former Kansas Citian CASEY TWENTER will be here in person to introduce the 7:00pm screenings on Friday, October 24 and Saturday, October 25.
Casey will also offer an audience Q&A following.  Get your tickets now!!"
...and here is why;
  1. I LOVE interacting with filmmakers, screenwriters, actors.  It brings me immense joy. 
  2. I have been a big Billy Crudup fan since #AlmostFamous - which still ranks in my top ten favorite movies of all time.
  3. I love Westport on a Friday night.
"A grieving father in a downward spiral stumbles across a box of his recently deceased son's demo tapes and lyrics. Shocked by the discovery of this unknown talent, he forms a band in the hope of finding some catharsis." - IMDB  Rated R

I hadn't heard  of @Rudderlessmovie until I saw that post, so  I went straight to IMDB to bring myself up to speed, googled Casey Twenter and sat my plan in motion to convince Jay Erdman this is what we should be doing (please note:  The Royals were in the playoffs).  Surprisingly, he went for it.

Directed and co-written by William H. Macy, “Rudderless”, stars Billy Crudup as Sam, a successful ad man whose world is shattered by the tragic death of his son. His death causes Sam to lose his job, become an alcoholic, and spending his days painting houses and hiding from the pain.

For reasons no one can understand, Sam wants nothing to do with the the memory of his son.  Faced with boxes of his son's belongings, he eventually takes out the guitar and teaches himself to play, which leads to an open-mic performance at a local pub, where he meets an awkward teen named Quentin (Anton Yelchin).
It's hard to say who befriends who, but it is obvious these two misfits need one another.  Together with a few other musicians they form an indie-leaning rock band that I would gladly pay to see in real life.  (Great Soundtrack!)
The twist halfway through “Rudderless” will take your breath away. It’s a ballsy move, and it makes you rethink  everything & beg for a rewind.   It answers the questions I think all parents have asked themselves while watching news reports of school shootings.  What would we do if?  How would we survive?  Would we survive?
It is a brilliant film - I loved every minute of it.   It happens to be available on Amazon already - if you are looking for something to do this weekend - just do it.  

St. Vincent - Bill Murray SHINESI

"St.Vincent is an old Vietnam vet whose stubbornly hedonistic ways have left him without money or a future. Things change when his new next-door neighbor's son, Oliver, needs a babysitter and Vince is willing enough for a fee. From that self-serving act, an unexpected friendship forms as Vincent and Oliver find so much of each other needs through each other. As Vincent mentors Oliver in street survival and other worldly ways, Oliver begins to see more in the old man than just his foibles. When life takes a turn for the worse for Vincent, both them find the best in each other than no one around them suspects." - Written by Kenneth Chisholm 

St. Vincent is rated PG-13

It's a rare thing to have a free Sunday AND a husband agreeing to see a movie - but that is just what happened last weekend.  I gave him two choices - St. Vincent or Nightcrawler.  I told him one was a comedy and one was a "cop drama".  He chose St. Vincent.  About 20 minutes in I knew I was wrong about it being a comedy.

I know Bill Murray's choices are not always predictable - but I was still betting on a laugh out loud comedy - especially since the hilarious Melissa McCarthy was his co-star.

Murray plays Vincent McKenna, a crotchety, drunk New Yorker with a stripper girlfriend from Russia.  (By the way, Naomi Watts was outstanding!) 

We soon meet his new neighbors - single mom Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher).

Like a scene straight from Gran Torino, his new neighbors wreak havoc on his daily life.  He is broke and Maggie needs a babysitter, so you know things are about to get crazy.

Just as it starts to feel predictable, something unexpected happens, making you fall in love with Vincent in ways you would never have expected.

Don't get me wrong - there are plenty of laughable moments. It has lots of happy spots.  But let me put it this way;  as we left the theater - two teenage boys were waiting to clean up.  They said, "why is everyone crying?"   It seems they were as shocked as the rest of us.

Whether on a first date or looking for something to pass the time, you won't be disappointed in St. Vincent.  There is something for everyone - I highly recommend.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

In which I share my review of BOYHOOD and share some big personal news...

Movie Trailer "Boyhood"

Go ahead and play the soundtrack while you read on...

Not a big fan of Richard Linklater.  Didn't get the Before Midnight, After Sunset films.  So I skipped driving to Kansas City for the screening of his latest film "Boyhood."  I just knew I would hate it.  But it is getting so much buzz (Currently listed as a front runner for both Best Picture AND Best Director), I felt like I got kicked out of the cool kids club.  I contacted the studio and asked for the screener.  One of the best deisions of my life.

Boyhood is one of the most amazing movies I have ever watched.  I was mesmerized.  

Obviously I wasn't the only one.

"Filmed over 12 years with the same cast, Richard Linklater's BOYHOOD is a groundbreaking story of growing up as seen through the eyes of a child named Mason (a breakthrough performance by Ellar Coltrane), who literally grows up on screen before our eyes. Starring Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as Mason's parents and newcomer Lorelei Linklater as his sister Samantha, BOYHOOD charts the rocky terrain of childhood like no other film has before. Snapshots of adolescence from road trips and family dinners to birthdays and graduations and all the moments in between become transcendent, set to a soundtrack spanning the years from Coldplay's Yellow to Arcade Fire's Deep Blue. BOYHOOD is both a nostalgic time capsule of the recent past and an ode to growing up and parenting." Written by IFC Films


Now let me try and put this into my own words:  We can talk about the fact that Linklater used the same actors and filmed them over a 12 year period - Mind.  Blown.  The performances in this film were so fantastic - both Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke are getting early Oscar buzz for their Best Supporting Roles.  Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater was both so perfect - to these children the cameras must have been invisible.  It is hard to believe they were acting.

Alot of movies use music to transport the viewer to a different time and place - but this movie took it to a whole new level.  It was spot on.  I really felt like I was in a time machine.  (I hope you are listening to the soundtrack right now - if not - go grab it up at the top!)

Watching life unfold through the eyes of a child over the span of 12 years was difficult.  As a mother, it broke my heart.  It was very personal for me.  I myself have taken my own children on one crazy ride and  constantly worry about how badly I might have screwed them up.

There are a few adults who treat these children like absolute crap - but there are double the number of adults who are their heroes.  That may be what touched me the most.  Life is hard - we have to make decisions with very little guidance and these decisions are like dominoes.  But as long as we have the constant love of our parents and siblings, we will be just fine.

Ethan Hawke & Patricia Arquette, playing Mason's parents, amazed me at how they took their characters on this journey - they were not perfect parents, but man they tried so hard.  The way they interacted with these kids - they absolutely felt like a real family.

It was a soul searching, beautiful movie that didn't need a dramatic twist or an over the top ending.   It is a real human life shown through the brilliant lens of Linklater,  set to a spectacular soundtrack that will make you drop everything in your life and take a trip down your own memory lane.

You do not want to miss this one.  

Now - my personal note I mentioned.  On Saturday I was accepted into the Broadcast Film Critics Association.  This is a dream come true for me.  I love sharing my passion for film with my family and friends.  It is my hope to share it with an even bigger audience now.  I look forward to voting for the Critics Choice Awards this year, and attending the Awards Ceremony in Los Angeles in January.  Thank you for your part in encouraging me along the way!  Don't ever give up on your dreams!  :-)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Love Is Strange (John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei)

                                   "Heartbreaking…Exceptionally Beautiful.   
                                            One of the Best Films of the Year
                                        – Dennis Dermody, Paper Magazine”

 After nearly four decades together, Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) finally tie the knot in an idyllic wedding ceremony in lower Manhattan. But when George loses his job soon after, the couple must sell their apartment and - victims of the relentless New York City real estate market - temporarily live apart until they can find an affordable new home. While George moves in with two cops (Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez) who live down stairs, Ben lands in Brooklyn with his nephew (Darren Burrows), his wife (Marisa Tomei), and their temperamental teenage son (Charlie Tahan), with whom Ben shares a bunk bed. While struggling with the pain of separation, Ben and George are further challenged by the intergenerational tensions and capricious family dynamics of their new living arrangements. Written by Sony Pictures Classics


It’s been a while since I fell in love with a movie's soundtrack as much as the movie itself, but that is what happened to me with "Love is Strange".  Lithgow and Molina played off the music with perfection.  The love and fear in the characters eyes was in perfect harmony with each background piece.  

John Lithgow was an absolute joy to watch - such vulnerability - such love - he really impressed.  Molina gave an outstanding performance as well. Lithgow's Ben seemed frail and optimistic, to which Molina's George seemed more aware of the mountains they were facing.    Marisa Tomei doesn't disappoint (but she never disappoints me - I'm a big fan) 

On the downside, I was disappointed in the performance of Darren Burroughs - an actor hailing from Kansas who I really wanted to love (I was a big fan of him on Northern Exposure.  Did anyone else notice the priest was played by Northern Exposure alum John Cullum?)  Burroughs seemed to be reading directly from a teleprompter at times...I just wasn't feeling it.

Watching this story unfold reminded me of how far we have come in respecting each others right to love who we love – but how far we have yet to go.  For me, it was extremely frustrating to watch the Catholic Church  stand in judgment over these wonderful men.  (That's all I am going to say about that)

There were a few story lines that didn't seem necessary, and were never really resolved (French book thefts?  Is Elliot having an affair?)  Maybe their answers lay somewhere on an editing room floor. 

One of my favorite scenes is the "bar scene" in which Ben spins a tale to the gorgeous bartender who in turn buys Ben & George a drink.  A dear childhood friend of mine plays that sexy bartender, our own Michael J. Burg.

Over all, I loved it.  I cried twice  - and there is nothing I love more than a good cry during a beautiful love story.