Thursday, May 29, 2014

As I began this blog, I had very distinct views about my knowledge of films and film history.   In my research to write informed reviews of current films, I often read respected writers to gain their insights and compare them with my own observations.  What happened was I was humbled at their knowledge .   So, I have decided not to write full reviews unless I am really angry or in awe of a certain film.  What I will do is continue to add to my lists on the right side of this blog , Favorite, Entertaining, Disappointing, and I will continue to see films weekly and put them on these lists.  There will always be a special magic watching a film in a dark theater with great sound and a bag of popcorn !

Thursday, February 20, 2014

FILM REVIEW - -" Monuments Men " - Wonderful Cast , great true story, a missed opportunity for a film that could have stood the test of time.  Usually , I am critical of films that are too long and poorly edited.  In this case, I wish there was move, much more.  The script gave this interesting group of talented actors just enough to tease the audience , to make us want to see more of their individual stories, then left us hanging without closure.   Forty more minutes to explore the theft of Jewish art collections, the entrance to a Nazi death camp,  Kate Blanchett's character, Rose Valland, arrested as a German sympathizer and her relationship with Matt Damon,  and battle scenes that put the "Men" in harms way.  Maybe the budget was too small, or the story too big to fit one sitting.  Maybe this subject could have been better dealt with as an HBO series or a three part made for TV Movie. One of the axioms of entertainment is to leave the audience wanting more.  But, when something could go from good to great, disappointment can set in.   Don't open a door and then not walk through it.
The acting is first rate, as this cast of characters each has a past body of work that sets them apart.  Each are given small moments to shine.  Comic scenes ease the tension but tense scenes never reach the height to grab the viewer. How much more could have been done with the Russian troops inching closer to a confrontation with the Monuments Men.   Another missed opportunity.   The finding and return of Art stolen by the German Army in World War Two is a story that needed to be told.  The sacrifice and bravery of these experts needed to be told.   They and their story deserved better.
Cast : George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville.  Directed by George Clooney.  Rated PG-13,  115 minutes EJ Rating **1/2

Monday, February 3, 2014

FILM REVIEW - "Jack Ryan : Shadow Recruit" - Disappointing, Good action film and Costner and Branagh always interesting on screen.  Poor casting of Chris Pine and Keira Knightley.   No chemistry between them and a missed opportunity for a complicated relationship.  Far fetched plot elements.
PG - 13    EJ rating 1 1/2 *     105 minutes

Thursday, January 16, 2014

FILM REVIEW - " August : Osage County " - In 1966, there was a play made into a film called "Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf".  It was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards and won five.  Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor screamed at each other for two hours.  Great acting ,but very painful to watch.  It still is, and maybe that's why it doesn't make the conversations about the best films of all time.  Enter this year's version with Meryl Streep ,  Julia Roberts and company.   Their voices are still echoing in my ears, even after a week.  Again, the acting is great and not just from the stars. Academy Awards nominations for Best Actress and Supporting Actress have been given to Streep and Roberts and rightfully so.  But, it is painful to watch.  Good movies should reflect real life and this does.  Difficult themes of substance abuse, divorce , infidelity, and growing up in dysfunctional families, test the audience's strength to keep focused and entertained.  Director John Wells does give us some moments to catch our breath , but other scenes are so intense, that 125minutes can seem like an eternity for anyone who has experienced these themes in their own lives.  For others, constant verbal jousting may just make them uncomfortable, even if it is done well.
   If you are one of the lucky ones to be around the theater and film in high school , college or later in life, go see and appreciate the skills you have come to love.   The cast is great , the cast is great, the cast is great.  I want to see them with a different script.   Special mention must go to Abigail Breslin as a 14 year old who lights up the screen at every appearance.   I'm torn with this review.  If you go, bring ear plugs and hold on.
Rated R   EJ rating ** 1/2    

Sunday, January 12, 2014

FILM REVIEW - " Saving Mr. Banks " - This true story will make many top 10 lists for best films of 2013 including mine.  But it is NOT a traditional Disney film as we know them.  This is a serious and often painful film to watch and not one for the kids.   For anyone who struggles with or who has experienced substance abuse in a family member or friend,  it may be difficult to sit through.  For many , the effects may be lifelong. "Saving" has the ability to make one want to leave the theater, but compels one to stay.   It is that well made, edited,  directed, filmed and acted.   The scenery of Australia is breathtaking. The parallel editing of writer P.L.Travers' childhood years and her time in Hollywood in the 1960s,  serve as glue to the film and lead us to an interesting conclusion.  Director John Lee Handcock's gentle hand can be felt throughout. Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney with just the right touch of frustration and quiet insight.  Emma Thompson adds another brilliant performance to her resume as the driven and focused."Mary Poppins" writer who contracts with Walt to help write the screenplay and musical score.  The ironic part of her character is the fact that she resists the change we so often look for in round portrayals and this so reflects real life.  The supporting cast of Colin Farrell, Rachel Griffiths, Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novack bring the screen to life with song and laughter.  And Paul Giamatti proves once again that he can bring magic moments to his time on camera.
   Leave the children at home for this one, but "Save" the movie in your home collection for their later years in hopes that they can recognize and understand the complexities that life can throw at us.
Rated PG-13,  125 minutes, EJ ratinng ***

Monday, January 6, 2014

FILM  REVIEW - " American Hustle " - Mix together a December film, a great cast , a creative script , and the historical location of Atlantic City and the well known known politics of New Jersey and you should get a unique film ready for the Award months of mid winter.  I guess I listened to the early critic reviews and the clever commercials as I entered the theater expecting something special.  What I got was good , not great which left me somewhat disappointed.  This hustle will be better appreciated by the over forty crowd who will identify with the characters and the time period.  The length of the film, its subject matter and the slow development of plot will turn off many younger viewers.  Those of us who remember " The Sting " will be more patient waiting for the final half hour.
   With this being said, the film is worth the price of admission.   Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale are unique characters who make the most of their roles as self inflated FBI agent and a living on the edge hustler.
Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence light up every scene in which they appear.  Adams' sexy and faithful soul warms our heart.  Lawrence plays a dizzy recluse whose desire for a simple life highlights her versatility as a young actress.  A cameo appearance by Robert DeNiro brightens up the lumbering middle of this poorly edited plot line.   The ending is worth the wait but I left wanting  more from this overcooked Holiday meal.
Rated R  138 minutes  EJ Rating ***
FILM REVIEW - " The Wolf Of Wall Street "  -  Martin Scorsese has achieved a status as one of the master Directors of our time.  With it , comes some responsibility.  He has created wonderful characters that have entertained us and some that have ingrained themselves into film history.  His latest effort is a wolf in sheep's clothing.  This biography of motivational speaker and stockbroker Jordan Belfort glorifies a lifestyle of drugs, sex, theft and lies with little consequences in the end.  While the story may be accurate , does it need to be told ?  With the power Scorsese wields, couldn't he choose projects that uplift.  Just look at the choices made by Stephen Spielberg in his early and later films.
    Performances by Leonardo DiCaprio , Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Joanna Lumley, Margot Robbie, and Kyle Chandler are well done, if sometimes a bit over the top.  DiCaprio's role should bring a variety of best actor nominations.   The problems with the film lie in the editing and length .  Three hours of the same scenes again and again with questionable themes , insults the audience's intelligence. Good films entertain and instruct.   This film does neither.  Rated R   EJ rating **   179 minutes