Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Age of Adaline

I was eager to see this movie, but I'll admit that it was mostly because Blake Lively looked so lovely in her old-time garb in the preview. That turned out to be precisely what this movie had going for it. (Well, and she looked great in several different eras.)

I was prepared for The Age of Adaline to be a bit unrealistic--it was, after all, about a woman who got in a car accident and stopped aging. The initial explanation offered for that phenomenon actually made me chuckle, and I gave the writer props for the clever workaround.

Unfortunately, that couldn't sustain, and the ending elevated catastrophes and miracles of convenience to a level that even those who came in prepared to suspend disbelief couldn't swallow. By the time the film was wrapping up, I was far less interested in the sentimental family gathering than I was in what possible reason the costume designer might have had for putting Kathy Bates in that lovely turquoise and brown jacket over a lime green shirt and black slacks.

The scenes featuring Lively with her on-screen daughter (ably portrayed by Ellen Burstyn) had a subtle depth. The juxtaposition of roles as an ever-youthful Adaline watched her daughter age to the point of considering assisted living after a friend suffered a serious fall was powerful and played out in an understated way. But, there was far too little of this and far too much drama surrounding Adaline's love life across the decades. Both of her true loves became so after brief contact, and were predictably wrapped into a neat package at the end.

The script seemed as if it might have been written by a teenaged girl, and I'd have had no trouble believing that she'd recruited her unemployed uncle to do the narration.

I didn't hate the movie like I did Savages (Blake Lively is becoming a red flag for me, though I like her), but near the end I did contemplate using the restroom and realize that I actually didn't care at all whether I missing the end.

If you've noted that I've come to the end of the review and not even mentioned Harrison Ford...well, that probably speaks for itself.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Begin Again

As I was leaving the theater, the woman in front of me said to her companion, "That was cute."

It wasn't.

It was true, if not in the details then in the message and the dingy bars and the breath of hope and inspiration floating just outside the reach of the music industry machine that's poised to suck in talent and artistic passion and spit out something indistinguishable.

Mark Ruffalo, an actor I can't recall having seen fall short, nailed it on a whole new level.

Adam Levine, whether through stunning self-awareness or someone else's sense of irony, convincingly portrayed the music industry sellout he has become in a film about being true to yourself.

Keira Knightley, who's apparently said that she's not a singer, had us fooled. She was cute and charming in a refreshing departure from her characteristic darker roles.

For a movie in which lives were defined and redefined, the plot was pretty quiet and undramatic. Tectonic shifts happened subtly rather than in a blinding moment of life-altering clarity...a little like they do for most of us in real life.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


I kind of wanted to call this post "Adam Sandler at 50," even though Sandler is actually only 47.

If you've been here before, you probably know that I have kind of a love/hate relationship with Sandler's work. I think the guy is funny as hell (sometimes), but just when I start enjoying a film, he goes and tosses in an elk peeing in a guy's face and it all falls apart for me.

Except this time.

In my view, Sandler's previous efforts opposite Drew Barrymore represent some of his best work. Both The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates are on the short list of movies that make me say, "Oh, yeah...that one was pretty good" when I'm confronted in the process of griping about Sandler's obsession with bodily fluids and other middle-school level humor.

But, I mean, there was the walrus vomit.

This film includes everything that's funny and occasionally insightful about Adam Sandler with nary an animal emitting gross materials onto a human being. And, that must have required some restraint, as much of the movie takes place in Africa and there's a wide variety of animals to choose from.

This may come as something of a disappointment to longtime Sandler fans who enjoyed the fart jokes and peeing in the pool, but from where I'm sitting it appears that a talented comic actor.has finally come of age.

Even the potentially annoying elements, such as the chorus of African men who pop in to sing at varying intervals, are so well-placed as to add to the humor.

Bella Thorne, to whom I've previously referred only as "that annoying Disney girl," was charming and beautiful. And, Drew Barrymore was Drew Barrymore.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and came out with some hope for the next stages of Sandler's career.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thor: The Dark World

It's not often that I get a chance to say this, but the second installment in the Thor saga was better than the first.

The main reason I liked The Dark World better than the original Thor is that it delved deeper into the relationship between Thor and Loki and generally focused more on character development and relationships than action.

That's not to say that there wasn't plenty of action for those who like that sort of thing. The Aether was "really cool" (the kid's words) and the aliens were well-designed and put up an engaging fight. We also enjoyed the fact that the battle wasn't all about who had the most powerful toys or the greatest strength--science played a critical role, as well.

The film also offered some spectacular visual effects that you really have to see for yourself.

If you like superhero movies, this one has all of the essentials, plus Tom Hiddleston.  If you're not a superhero movie fan, it still has Tom Hiddleston.  No, that's the teenager talking again. If you're not a superhero movie fan, you may still enjoy this one. The acting is solid, the backdrops are pretty and the script runs a lot deeper than your typical comic book.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Battle of the Year

I'll be honest. We saw this movie strictly for entertainment purposes, and I don't mean in the way you usually go to a movie for entertainment. (Oh, and because the Joshes. They're very.)

A funny thing happened, though.

It didn't actually suck all that much.

The opener was just about what we expected. Holloway plays a formerly very successful basketball coach who has withdrawn from life and drinks too much after a personal tragedy. I have seen this movie before. Many times.

An old friend shows up to offer him an opportunity to reclaim his life, but he's too mired in his angst to take it.  I have seen this movie before. Many times.

The old friend departs with some dramatic words spaced for maximum impact, and we all know what happens next. Otherwise, there wouldn't be a movie.

After some dramatic moments in which Holloway browses through memorabilia, the movie takes a sudden turn for the better.

For one thing, Josh Peck makes an entrance. We didn't see it coming either (before Red Dawn, anyway), but the boy can act. And, he's not hard on the eyes these days.

From there on out, the film is more about personal growth and coming together as a family and less about the drama of B-Boys than we expected. There are a lot of dance scenes in the movie, and whether that's a good thing or a bad thing depends on personal preference. They bored me to tears, but I'm not into that sort of thing. The kid had other views.

Chris Brown busted a move. We think.  We're not entirely sure what that means. But, he was good on the floor.

Without getting into specifics (read: spoilers), the movie avoided a couple of cheap and predictable turns, which raised the quality in our eyes.

We're not expecting any Oscar nominations for this film, but it had its merits even if you're not a fan of the hip hop culture and didn't know that the Battle of the Year is a real international break dancing competition. Yes, really.

Monday, September 30, 2013

So there we were, getting ready to watch this movie, and on came this trailer. Happy people were laughing in a living room, and we thought, "Crap. Those kids are going to get kidnapped."

It was intense, that trailer. And it had Hugh Jackman. And it had Viola Davis. And it had Jake Gyllenhaal. (Who the kid says is much more attractive with a tattoo on his neck. Who knew?  Certainly not me. I just watched the movie and this is the first I heard of him having a tattoo on his neck.)

We didn't know it then, but it also had Melissa Leo, who so completely transforms from one film to another that I sometimes don't recognize her even when I'm expecting her.

So, finally, we saw the movie. The acting was...what you would expect from this crowd.

And, Prisoners was produced by Mark Wahlberg, who is running neck in neck with Justin Timberlake for the John Travolta of this generation. Who the heck saw this coming?

So, in short:

Take a handful of superstar actors.
Add a large handful of twists and turns.
Pack emotional intensity to the brim.
Bring in the best of the best to work the cameras.
Ice it with unique yet smooth transitions.
Then spatter the whole thing with dramatic rainfall.

And, somehow, everyone in this movie was a sympathetic character. Well, except for the uber-villain, but we didn't find that out until the bitter end, and up until then...sympathetic. We were tricked. Now we're mad. No, not really. Because the character development it takes to maintain sympathy throughout some of the spirals these characters went through requires heavy talent on the part of the writer, director and actors.

All around, it was as good as we were expecting. And some of us are worried about sleeping tonight.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

DVD Break - The Place Beyond the Pines

I didn't know much about The Place Beyond the Pines before I watched it, and I'm glad. I've since seen it described as "three related stories," and that might have been enough to bring to mind something like Crash and convince me that I really didn't want to see it. Generally, those device-driven "our lives collide" type of films leave me cold because we just don't get to develop enough attachment to any one character or see enough evolution.

On top of that, I fell asleep during Blue Valentine and never bothered to go back and watch the second half, so I wasn't eagerly awaiting Derek Cianfrance's next creation as many people seem to have been.

The film does, in a sense, tell three stories (though I'd suggest that the third is offered less for its own sake than as a full-circle sort of closer to the first two), and I found the structure within which that happened very interesting. I also came away with a strong enough sense that it shouldn't have worked that it, too, might have discouraged me from seeing the movie. But I didn't know, so I sat down and watched and it worked. It really, really did. It actually took me a few minutes after the first transition to realize that the story had evolved so far that we had a new main character.

Just hours before we watched the movie, my daughter had been lamenting the fact that Bradley Cooper so rarely acts--that he's capable of performances like the one in Silver Linings Playbook but chooses some of the substandard rom-com stuff he's done annoys her--but she took it all back by the end, and Ryan Gosling turned in an outstanding performance in a role that didn't let him rely on quips and charm.

I'm not going to say too much more, because I really did feel the experience was enhanced by not knowing what to expect, but if you read one of those "loosely connected stories" reviews and you've been on the fence, hop down and go rent this.
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