Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Les Misérables

I've seen Les Misérables on Broadway, at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, at several high schools, on PBS in concert from Royal Albert Hall (10th Anniversary), and in the movie theater in concert from O2 Arrena (25th Anniversary).  It's without question that I love the show.  I saw the 2012 film on Christmas morning.  There are no words I can use, no praise I can lavish, that can sufficiently describe how remarkable it was.  

Yes, it has some minor faults.  There was Thénardier as the only character with a French accent.  Perhaps it was to help him pretend to be more upper crust in a sea of British accents, but it was out of place.  The singing wasn't always perfect.  So what!  If a voice cracked or a note was a bit sour, it made the characters more human and their emotions (and those of the actors themselves) very real.  It's one thing to play a role, and another to LIVE the role.  I think that's what lifted Les Misérables to a different level.  Every actor in the film seemed invested in his or her character and became that character.

I expected an outstanding performance from multi-talented Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean and was overwhelmed with its power.  As far as I'm concerned, he more than deserves every best actor award that is given for 2012.  The same can be said for Anne Hathaway as Fantine.  I could feel every bit of emotional and physical pain that she endured.  I was leery of Russell Crowe as Javert, but his performance was honest and nuanced.  He did not dissapoint, even in his final scene.  Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne were excellent as Cosette and Marius, and Samantha Barks reprised her stand-out appearance as Éponine from the 25th Anniversary concert.  The child actors, Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche and Isabelle Allen as the young Cosette, delivered strong performances.  Even Sacha Baron Cohen (in spite of the French accent) and Helena Bonham Carter made the Thénardiers more human and less irritatingly cartoonish than in the stage and concert productions I've seen.  A special and moving performance was that of Colm Wilkinson, who played Valjean on Broadway, in the role of the Bishop.

There was magic in the theater from the opening scene through the finale.  The cinematography was above and beyond.  It was part of what made this film so special.  Unlike the stage production, the cameras were able to focus on details that are missing from a live performance and added to the depth of the story.  You are there with men being worked to death in the opening.  You watch the barricade, which is just there as an integral part of the scenery on stage, being built and see where it fits in the city.  The sewer scene becomes horrific.  I was wondering how they would handle the finale, and I won't spoil it with any details.  Suffice that it was perfect.

I've seen several films that took me to a different plane or had me crying for days, even years, after watching them.  What took me by surprise with this one is that I looked up and actually thanked the Almighty for giving me the experience of  Les Misérables.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I was among the folks watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at midnight.  Was it worth staying up most of the night?  Sure, if you are a midnight movie geek.  It was a good film; it kept me awake; and I'm already waiting for the next one.  Was I moved to tears?  No.  Will I see it again?  Possibly, but I'm not rushing.  Was it worth seeing it in 3D?  Not necessarily, but then I'm not much of a fan of the format.  It was only by accident that I even chose the 3D screening.

Ian McKellen IS Gandalf, and his performance was flawless.  Martin Freeman was excellent as Bilbo.  Andy Serkis (and the visual arts geniuses behind the scenes) always amazes as Gollum.  I simply didn't find myself invested in the dwarves, who were the remaining main characters.  They were OK, but not memorable.  At least it was good to see, even if briefly, Elijah Wood as Frodo, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Christopher Lee as Saruman, and Ian Holm as the older Bilbo.

I will admit that I've never read any of Tolkien's books.  I tried reading "The Hobbit" in college, when everyone else was reading it, but got quickly bored with it and didn't get very far.  I did listen to the audiobook a few years ago, but don't remember being excited or even much about it.  I wanted to enjoy the film as much as "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, but the story just doesn't click with me like the trilogy did.  Perhaps if you read and enjoyed the book, you will get more out of the movie.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


With Lincoln, Steven Spielberg once again proves his mettle as a genius at the art of film-making; and I fully expect it to receive multiple Oscars at the next Academy Awards ceremony.  To top that off, Daniel Day-Lewis succeeds, after more than seven decades, in unseating Raymond Massey as the quintessential Abraham Lincoln and is a shoe-in for a best actor nomination, if not the Oscar itself.

Simply put, the film chronicles the machinations involved in the abolition of the institution of slavery in the United states by the passage of the 13th Amendment:
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

What I found really intriguing were the soul searching and the intricate, sometimes seamy, negotiations over whether or not to state the noticeably missing concept that Negroes were equal to whites.  It was quite a lesson in diplomacy and compromise.

All the while, Mr. Lincoln has to balance his responsibility to the nation with the stress of his family life.  His wife, Mary Todd Lincoln (Sally Field), not recovered from the deaths of two sons and on the brink of insanity, is unaware of the silent suffering of her husband.  Their elder son Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), is determined to do his duty and join the army, which only adds to Mary's stress; while their younger son Tad (Gulliver McGrath) is a fixture at his father's side, sometimes out of place and underfoot.
The stellar cast also includes Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, David Strathairn as William Seward, James Spader as W.N. Bilbo, Hal Holbrook as Preston Blair, and more.

Spielberg and his team succeed brilliantly in bringing the characters in Tony Kushner's screenplay to life, adding humanity and context to two paragraphs of U.S. history. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Jab Tak Hai Jaan

 It's a pleasure when a movie lives up to the hype and turns out to be just what you were hoping for.  Jab Tak Hai Jaan ("until I breathe this life" or "as long as I live") was worth the anticipation.  The film, starring Shah Rukh Khan as Samar, Katrina Kaif as Meera, and Anushka Sharma as Akira, tells a tale of star-crossed lovers and includes all the melodramatic trappings that make for a good romance and generate lots of tears.  There are true love, danger, amnesia, joy, sadness, anger, separation, making deals with God, wrestling with God, plenty of singing and dancing, a moving poem, and Shah Rukh Khan.  My hankie was well-used.

The film begins with a dedication to director Yash Chopra (sadly, without subtitles), who died less than a month before its release.  During the credits, instead of bloopers or an item number, clips show Chopra directing his final movie and interacting with the actors.  A fine tribute to a beloved Bollywood icon.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Late Quartet

A Late Quartet was more than a fascinating look at the relationships among the members of a string quartet. It also provided a music lesson sampler and some insight, without being maudlin, into the effect of Parkinson's disease on someone whose hands are an integral part of his being. Christopher Walken was superb in underplaying the role of cellist Peter, who recently lost his wife and now has to face life with Parkinson's Disease.  His decision to leave the quartet has a profound effect on the relationships of the other members: Robert (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Juliette (Catherine Keener), and Daniel (Mark Ivanir).  The interactions among this ensemble cast, which also includes Imogen Poots as Robert and Juliette's daughter, Alexandra, are what makes the film work so well. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Skyfall took me on a ride down memory lane, but not necessarily the way you would think. It was a pleasure listening to the song during the opening credits - somewhat reminiscent of Shirley Bassey's Goldfinger. There was a point at the beginning of the film where I thought that they slipped in a scene from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.  A real audience pleaser was the appearance of Bond's Astin Martin.  What really drove me to distraction, though, was the music during the final confrontation and requisite explosion - the theme was way too familiar. When I got home, I was compelled to watch scenes from Thor and The Avengers to identify the film. The theme in question appeared in The Avengers when the giant metal dragon attacks the city.  No, wait a minute, now I have to re-watch Battleship!  I just watched a clip from it, and heard the same theme.

The movie itself was not the best Bond fare; but I did enjoy it, even though it got to a point when I wanted to pull out my phone and check the time.  Judi Dench was competent as ever as M, Ralph Fiennes was enjoyable as Mallory, Ben Whishaw made a passable Q, Naomie Harris provided a nice surprise as Eve, and Albert Finney was a real treat as Kincade.  There was some amzaing acting from Bérénice Marlohe as Sévérine. Then there was Javier Bardem as Silva, the mad and evil computer genius.  His role was over the top and just too cartoonish.

Daniel Craig is not my favorite Bond, but then nobody can really replace Sean Connery.  It's not all Craig's fault, but he plays Bond as too flawed and too emotional.  There is a scene, though, toward the end of the film that is actually silly and somewhat un-Bondish, but can be attributed to that bond between a boy and his car.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

10 Questions for the Dalai Lama

This week I had the privilege of attending a screening of 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama at one of my favorite movie houses, the Bryn Mawr Film Institute.  Part of the Geographical Society of Philadelphia's GEOfest, the documentary was introduced by filmmaker Rick Ray and followed by a lively Q&A.  The film and interview addressed the issues of war, peace, non-violence, the Chinese occupation, the future of Tibetan culture, and the interdependence of all people.  This simple interview, interspersed with current and historical footage, solidified my opinion that the 14th Dalai Lama is one of the few truly holy men in world history.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This Time Tomorrow

Shane Bissett's low-budget and unscripted story, This Time Tomorrow, begs the question: Do you have any plans for December 21, 2012 - just in case the world ends?  Stacey (Dave Coleman) wants to spend the day with his ex-girlfriend, Parker (Jade Elysan), hoping to rekindle their romance, if only until the end of the world.  I found it reminiscent of some of Richard Linklater's films (Before Sunrise, Waking Life, Before Sunset), where the main characters spend a lot of time in conversation about the meaning of life and relationships.  There was also a cast of quirky friends who added delightful flavor to the production. 

The Procession

In this hilarious short, Julie (Lucy Punch) tearfully begs her mother (Lily Tomlin) and brother (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) to attend a friend's funeral.  They grudgingly agree and, after stopping at a red light, find themselves leading The Procession, with no idea where they are going.  The situation and the interplay between mother and son during the whole ordeal plays with comedic brilliance on one of those deep seated fears that we all have at one time or another.  


Gayby is a sweet and embarrassingly funny film with a simple premise.  Jenn (Jenn Harris) wants to have a baby the natural way with her best friend, Matt (Matthew Wilkas), who happens to be gay.  The antics they go through trying to get pregnant while pursuing their individual romantic interests are hilarious.  This was one of those, oh dear I have to pick one more movie choices I made at the 2012 Philadelphia Film Festival.  I chose well.

The Woman in the Septic Tank

My first reaction to The Woman in the Septic Tank was "interesting".  I didn't quite know what to make of it.  It began as an examination of poverty in the Philippines and became really disturbing when a mother sold her young daughter to an old white man.  Suddenly the scene shifted to three young filmmakers who are trying to get funding for their independent film, "With Nothing".  As they discuss the story, it changes and is replayed according to the new ideas.  The girl becomes a boy; then it becomes a musical.  When they hire a famous actress, it changes yet again to a soap opera.  Finally, actual filming begins.  Not wanting to give any spoilers, suffice to say that the septic tank does show up.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


I wanted to see Shanghai simply because Chow Yun-Fat was in it, and it turned out to be one of my favorite films at the 2012 Philadelphia Film Festival.  It was released in China in 2010 and still doesn't have a US release date listed on the IMDB.

This film noir tale of mystery, international intrigue, and romance takes place in Shanghai just before Pearl Harbor, during the Japanese occupation of China. In addition to Chow Yun-Fat, who plays gangster Anthony Lan-Ting, the stellar cast includes John Cusack as US agent Paul Soames, David Morse as his superior Richard Astor, Ken Watanabe as Japanese General Tanaka, and Li Gong as Anthony's wife Anna.  As in any good espionage thriller, there are many twists and turns.  In the tradition of classic films like Casablanca, love and war create strange allegiances.  This film has it all - good story, lavish production, great cast.  For a peek, you can check the official website.

In Another Country

In Another Country is a Korean film from writer-director Sang-soo Hong, starring French actress Isabelle Huppert.  It consists of three variations of a story about a French woman, a Korean man (three different actors), an umbrella, a lighthouse, and a tent.  If that sounds confusing, it was.  Two ladies sitting next to me hated the movie.  I found it quirky enough to keep me intrigued, but it was so low-key that I did have a hard time staying awake. 


Wow, it's been 10 years since Signs was released, and it still holds up. One of the big treats at the 2012 Philadelphia Film Festival was a showing of the movie, followed by a Q&A with M. Night Shyamalan. I jumped, I got misty, it made me think - all the things I love in a film. All the classic scenes, revealing bits of human nature, still ring true: Graham's (Mel Gibson) tension exploding at the dinner table, Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix) glued to the TV in the closet, Merrill and the kids (Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin) in their aluminum foil helmets, and more.  Shyamalan's post-movie insights into the picture and on writing and directing were fascinating.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bride of Frankenstein

Following on the success of 1931's Frankenstein, Universal aligned the stars again in 1935 for Bride of Frankenstein, with Colin Clive and Boris Karloff reprising their roles as Henry Frankenstein and the monster.  Dwight Frye returns, not as Fritz, who was killed in the original film, but as the doctor's assistant Karl.  Added to the cast were Elsa Lanchester as Mary Shelley and the scene-stealing bride, Ernest Thesiger as the mad and frighteningly sinister Dr. Pretorius, Una O'Connor as the irritatingly silly Minnie, and John Carradine in a brief uncredited role.  Unlike it's predecessor, Bride of Frankenstein included a musical score by Franz Waxman, which I recognized from the old Flash Gordon serials.  Though not nearly as good as the original, mostly because of a lot of silliness, the movie still holds up.  The classic scene with the blind hermit, his violin, and cigars still brings a humanity to the monster.  It makes the final scene, when the monster declares, "We belong dead," all the more heartbreaking.  Oh, yes, I'll see it again.


1931 was a good year, with the release of two classic tales of terror, Frankenstein and Dracula.  That same Frankenstein, along with its sequel Bride of Frankenstein, still played to packed movie houses in 2012, and rightly so. With no film score to set the mood, director James Whale used Mary Shelley's tale, remarkable black & white cinematography, Colin Clive's (Dr. Frankenstein) and Dwight Frye's (Fritz) overacting, and Boris Karloff's sympathetic portrayal of the monster to produce one of the great films of all time.  The scene where the monster throws the little girl into the water, thinking she will float like the flowers is still a classic and always moves me to tears.  There is always something new to see and learn from the old films.  This time around, I realized that I was seeing John Boles (Victor) in a pre-Shirley Temple role and that Dwight Frye also played Renfield that year in DraculaFrankenstein is definitely a repeater anytime it shows up on TV or the silver screen.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cloud Atlas

It probably would have helped to read David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas before seeing the film.  There was so much jumping around among stories, time periods, and characters that I lost track of what was going on.  It didn't help that it was often difficult to understand what Tom Hanks was saying when he was using an accent, beginning with the introduction to the film.  I also found the heavy makeup on Hanks and many of the other characters overpowering.  I found myself pondering things like, "Why did they give Susan Sarandon such a pointy nose?" or "This guy reminds me of Hugh Grant" or "Is this or isn't this Hugo Weaving?"  There were several points in the film that reminded me of the Matrix trilogy.  Ah, I had completely forgotten that the Wachowskis were involved.

All of this aside, I found myself caring about some of the characters and wanting to know their missing back stories.  Perhaps I'll tackle the book and see the movie again when it appears on cable and I can put on subtitles. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

Brain cells died on Saturday night. Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning was the most phenomenally bad movie I've ever seen. I did laugh out loud a few times, purely out of disbelief that any film could be this bad. There was no discernible plot, but that didn't deter the filmmaker from leaving plenty of holes in what minimal amount there was. Maybe it would have helped if I had seen the direct-to-DVD Universal Soldier: Regeneration. Oh, by the way, it was shown in 3D.  What 3D?

Neither Jean-Claude Van Damme nor Dolph Lundgren had much screen time or dialog. Lundgren was, as usual, a purely evil charicature. But what happened to the heroic Luc Deveraux of the first two films of the series? I was really disappointed that Van Damme's Luc had become an evil cartoon.  I wasn't sure if his makeup for the final fight was modeled on Darth Vader without his helmet or Heath Ledger's Joker or both.  I found myself wondering if it was to disguise a stunt double during the fight scenes.  Scott Adkins was passable as our hero, John, but it was so wrong to make Luc the villain.

Right from the opening scene, the non-stop graphic violence was way over the top, and the relentless pursuit of John by a hulking unisol (Andrei Arlovski) seemed to be a pathetic attempt to emulate the Terminator films. There was also an exorbitant amount of gratuitous sex, bordering on, if not crossing over to, porn. The only reason I stayed was the foolish hope that the real Luc would appear, destroy the evil Luc, and save the day. Only in my dreams.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Caesar Must Die

At the 2nd day of the Philadelphia Film Festival I had the transcendent privilege of seeing Caesar Must Die. What a marvelous picture! Filmed within the confines of a maximum security prison, this subtitled Italian documentary follows inmates through their auditions, rehearsals, and performance of a production of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar". Filmed mostly in black and white, the movie's only color is "outside" - within the final production and, for a brief moment, as one prisoner viewed a picture of the outside world.

The inmates, some with life sentences, stole the show with their performances. There was no backstory about their crimes, other than a line or two introducing each one, with his name, offense, and sentence. Anything more was unnecessary. The story was about the power and liberation of the production, driven home by one man's final comment that after discovering art, his cell had become a prison.

A postscript: Watching this performance of just part of "Julius Caesar" reinforces my opinion that Shakespeare is meant to be seen and experienced, not read in a classroom. I can remember being exceedingly bored by the stilted oral readings that I and my classmates endured in high school. What a difference it would have made if we had seen the plays, listened to the language as it was meant to be heard, and felt the emotion of a real performance.

Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook, shown at the opening of the 2012 Philadelphia Film Festival, was an interesting study of relationships and mental illness.   Bradley Cooper portrays Pat Solitano, a bipolar former teacher, prone to violent outbursts, whose obsession is to reconcile with his estranged wife.  Robert De Niro is his OCD father, Pat Solitano, Sr., a bookie who obsesses about the Philadelphia Eagles.  Jennifer Lawrence enters the picture as Tiffany, who has mental issues of her own.

The film is driven by the relationships between Pat and the other characters, primarily his father and Tiffany. The performances were excellent. The story was interesting, but became too contrived toward the end of the movie. It seemed as though they ran out of time and had to finish up right away.

The picture was filmed in the Philadelphia area, and the audience cheered many times at familiar sights. Bradley Cooper was, as always, nice too look at. The bright spot in the movie was Bollywood star, Anupam Kher, as Pat's therapist, another Eagles fan. It reminded me of his role in  Dil Bole Hadippa!, where he played a cricket-loving mayor. But these things didn't save it from being disappointing.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Music Never Stopped

The Music Never Stopped was a fascinating study of family relationships and music therapy.  It was clearly an independent film and sadly didn’t have a wide release.

The main character left home in the 60s or 70s after a falling out with his father, became homeless, ended up 20 years later at the hospital with a benign brain tumor (I forget what kind), had surgery, and could create no new memories. A music therapist discovered that he became animated when he heard music from the Grateful Dead and other groups of the 60s and 70s. Triggered by certain songs, he could remember specific incidents related to the music. Over time, a relationship formed between him and his estranged father, using the music to stimulate conversation. I’m sure that’s over-simplified, but it was quite a testament to the power of music - and music therapy. There was no film score - rather the music of old LPs. I'd love to know how realistic the portrayal was of a man who couldn't form new memories.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day

I had never seen Led Zeppelin before and only knew the title of one of their songs, "Stairway to Heaven". I can't say that the film made me a big fan, but I was surprised at the tunes I did recognize.

The show started badly, with low volume in muffled mono. The audience audibly made their displeasure obvious, and soon the volume went up and the stereo kicked in. As with many live concerts (this one was recorded in 2007), a lot of the instruments were played for the sake of showing off what sounds they could produce, rather than to support the vocals. And there was no good rhythm. The vocals themselves were drowned out by the music.

The first half of the show wasn't all that great. The true fans seemed to really like it, but I was disappointed. It sounded more like noise than melody. During the second half, there was finally music with a decent beat, tunes I recognized, including "Stairway to Heaven". I still had trouble hearing and understanding the lyrics - maybe I'm just getting old and crotchety. They did do two encores, again with tunes I recognized. All in all, the second half of the concert was satisfying.

Throughout the show there were lasers, psychedelic designs, and flashy shots of the performance. I yearned for the old Joshua Light Show of the 1960s and 1970s.

I can't say I would recommend the film unless you are a real fan and already know Led Zeppelin's music.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dante's Inferno

I saw Dante's Inferno at the Philadelphia Film Festival when it first came out in 2007 and recently picked it up on DVD.  In spite of being a bit too raunchy for my taste, it was a delight!  The Fox News helicopter, ie the "great monster of fraud", is in the 8th circle of Hell. Strom Thurmond is eternally trapped in a Mrs. Butterworth costume. Halliburton has its own building. Dick Cheyney is so evil that he is in the frozen pit of wickedness, even though he is still alive. And all the characters were cutout puppets. I forgot how good this is!

Men in Black 3

A short comment about Men in Black 3 - it was all I expected, and more; and Josh Brolin was perfect. I was glad I had an extra napkin - I needed it to dry my tears. The best moment was the worms singing "Amazing Grace", while playing a bagpipe. That scene better show up on YouTube!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

I'm not a big Batman fan and wasn't expecting much from The Dark Knight Rises. Surprisingly, the only thing I didn't like about it was the violence. Unlike the cartoon violence in The Avengers, it was much too brutal, with some distressingly similar to the recent killings in Aurora, CO.  I also found it difficult from time to time to understand what the villain, Bane, was saying.

Aside from these drawbacks, and before re-watching the first two films, I thought that this was the best of the trilogy. There were some interesting surprises, particularly when I was sure I had a couple of plot lines figured out. Christian Bale was OK (I can take or leave him); Gary Oldman was good; Morgan Freeman was his always calm and reassuring self; Anne Hathaway showed her versatility; and Michael Caine delivered a moving performance (my first bought of tears in the movie). The real treat was to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing a strong role. I've enjoyed watching him grow as an actor over the past few years.

By the end of the film, I found myself sobbing, a sure sign that I liked it.


Rubber was suggested by a friend of mine, so I couldn't resist streaming it on Amazon. It is difficult to describe. The short version is that it is a movie about a movie about a homicidal tire. Unbelievably, the tire played its part quite believably. There was interaction between the human characters and the movie within a movie's audience. It is a really bizarre film, but strangely enjoyable - especially if you are a Monty Python or Muppet Show fan and laugh at exploding insects and other creatures.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Vicky Donor

I never got a chance to see Vicky Donor in the theater, but got to enjoy it on Bollywood Hits on Demand.  On the surface, it was a comedy about a ne'er do well, Vicky Arora, who is recruited to be a sperm donor.  Complications arise because he is embarrassed about his successful "job" and doesn't tell anyone what he does to make a living.  Above and beyond, the film touched on some serious issues like prejudice and the importance of sperm donation.  And it worked as both a comedy and an issue film.

There was the added bonus of getting to see John Abraham dancing in an item number.  What I like about John Abraham, who produced this movie, is that though he has been in several big hits, he also does smaller films like Water, Kabul Express, No Smoking, and the should have been widely released New York, that tackle important issues.  He's only in the item number, but the movie certainly has his mark on it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Beasts of the Southern Wild

I saw Beasts of the Southern Wild just for the air conditioning and was rewarded with a powerful and moving experience. Based primarily in "the bathtub", an isolated bayou community, the film chronicles a time period before and after a catastrophic storm, presumably Katrina. Above and beyond that, it addresses such themes as daily existence, alcoholism, the power of cultural ties, and the fabric of the universe, all through the eyes of Hushpuppy, a motherless little girl with a hard drinking father. Quvenzhané Wallis'performance as the proud and defiant Hushpuppy is outstanding.

The Avengers

As promised, here's an oldie, from a May 4th midnight show.  

The Avengers was wonderful!  Since I'm not an avid comic book reader (my love of the characters goes back to the old 1960s TV series, The Marvel Superheroes), I missed some of the "in" things that brought cheers and knowing chuckles from the audience; but it didn't matter.  And what a great audience - this is why I go to midnight shows. Even before the movie started, there was a resounding "Shh!" so that everyone could hear all the previews.  There was action, drama, comedy - all you could ask from a Marvel film.  Once in a while, the laughter would muffle a line; so I guess I'll just have to see it again, perhaps several times.  All the characters were perfect; and there were a few action surprises, especially involving the Hulk, that we're pulled off seamlessly.  As a bonus, the half of the audience who stayed through the credits was treated to probably the best post-credits scene ever.  Since the sneak peek of the next movie came early, it was obviously a gift for the folks who stayed. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


No, not the 1988 Tom Cruise film, even though some of the movie apps and ticket vendors would have you believe it is. Cocktail is a 2012 Bollywood film starring Saif Ali Khan as a playboy living with two women: his girlfriend, Deepika Padukone, and her roommate, Diana Penty, who he ends up falling in love with.  A lot of it takes place in the dance club scene, and the music and lifestyle weren't my cup of tea.  There was one hysterical scene with Saif Ali Khan dancing around dressed in, shall we say, female attire.  My overall view is that it wasn't a great film, but it passed the time. 

Lucia di Lammermoor

A summer encore of the February 7, 2009 offering in the Metropolitan Opera's Live in HD series, Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor was a pleasant surprise. I wasn't familiar with any of the music, since I've only seen a handful of operas, mostly Wagner; but I did recognize Sextet from one or more comedies and/or cartoons. The tragic story was packed with star crossed lovers, ghosts, madness, and murder; and the show was over before I knew it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ice Age: Continental Drift

I chuckled a couple of times, shed no tears, and was not at all impressed with Ice Age: Continental Drift. In this 4th outing, the story has drifted off course and lost its innocence. Sure, the lessons are still there - the importance of the herd (or family, whatever it's makeup), what it means to be a friend, the stresses and changes of coming of age, and respect for elders. But there was something mean-spirited about it. What has changed is the adversary, this time Captain Gutt, an evil primate and leader of a motley band of pirates, voiced by Peter Dinklage. Dinklage does an excellent job with the part, maybe too good, as the heartless and menacing villain. In the previous films, it seems to me that the bad guys we're predators, doing what predators do. In this case, Captain Gutt was just evil and all too human; and this cast a cloud over the whole film. There were also issues of teen angst that might have been OK if not under that cloud, but in this case they just added to the darker atmosphere.

Two bright spots did succeed in peeking through all the gloom. The ever optimistic Sid was as clueless, optimistic, and lovable as ever. Skrat, ever in pursuit of his goal, was welcome relief each time he dropped into the picture; and his big scene near the end must surely be an homage to my hero, Daffy Duck.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Singin' in the Rain

One of the great movies of all time, Singin' in the Rain made a 60th anniversary appearance on the silver screen - in all its timeless glory. The audience of young, old, and in-between applauded every musical number, with Donald O'Conner's "Make 'Em Laugh" the clear favorite.  And there was the iconic scene with Gene Kelley "just singin' and dancin' in the rain".

This film is a glowing example of "They don't make 'em like that anymore". As people were leaving the theater, I overheard a little girl of about 4 or 5 say, "That was really good, Mommy!" That says it all. Singin' in the Rain is a G-rated film that can still play to a packed house of all ages and be enjoyed by one and all.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman

I really liked Snow White and the Huntsman, an interesting take on the story; but I can't help but find Kristen Stewart irritating. It's something about the short little breaths she takes. At least it was minimal, compared to the Twilight films. Charlize Theron radiated evil as the queen; and Sam Spruell as her brother was exceedingly creepy. The dwarves were so believable that even though I recognized Bob Hoskins, I wasn't positive it was actually him.  Chris Hemsworth, who I first saw in Thor, sealed himself as my new heart throb. The CGI effects were stunning (the faeries were adorable), and there were a couple of scenes that made me think of Ray Harryhausen. I wondered what movies would be like if he were still making them today. 

To Rome With Love

I'm not normally a Woody Allen fan, but To Rome With Love had me laughing for nearly 2 hours. The four separate stories are meshed together, throwing any thought of a timeline to the wind. The situations the characters were thrown into were outlandish, yet there was always something you could identify with. The casting and performances were perfect. Penélope Cruz was a hoot as a hooker who shows up at the wrong place. The highlight of the film was Fabio Armiliato as a mortician who sings in the shower and whose scenes generated spasms of hysterical laughter from the audience.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Bol Bachchan

Bol Bachchan was a rollicking good time!  The acting, the music, the dancing, the cinematography - all way over the top.  It was an outrageous screwball comedy, perfect for a hot Friday evening.  Ajay Devgn as Prithviraj Raghuvanshi, butchering the English language, and Abhishek Bachchan as Abbas Ali, pretending to be Abhishek Bachchan (not THE Abihishek Bachchan), were a riot.   

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed

Safety Not Guaranteed was excellent - a cast of quirky characters in a study of relationships, regret, trust, faith, and more - all with a touch of madness.

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

Madagascar 3 was fun - not great, but fun. My favorite part was King Julian being smitten by a huge circus bear who rides a tiny bicycle.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

I wasn't expecting a whole lot from this film, but it was a pleasant surprise.  I even found myself blubbering at the end. 

In the context of the end of all things, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World takes a look at our humanity. What would you do with your life if you knew the end was really approaching? Would you become a complete hedonist? Let your animal instincts take over? Or would you embrace the relationships, old and new, that have grown and faded throughout your life?   It's those human relationships that are addressed in this wonderful film.   

It isn't getting the critical acclaim that last year's awful Melancholia miraculously received.  The only good part of that movie was the destruction of the earth that ended the pain of watching it.  I found Seeking a Friend for the End of the World to be far superior. By the end, what started out as a serio-comic observation imperceptibly transformed into a powerful character study of people (Steve Carrell as the bewilderd Dodge and Keira Knightly as the free-spirited Penny) I cared about. It made no attempt to consider what happens after the world ends and leaves that up to the viewer. 

I saw the film just to avoid the 90+ degree heat outside and found myself grateful for the opportunity to see a good end of the world story. It was even worth paying Loews' outrageous senior citizen rate.

Saturday, June 30, 2012


Brave was wonderful. I can't think of enough words of praise for the film. The movie was pure, unadulterated fun. The story was original and surprising. The animation was amazing. Even the 3D was good and not intrusive. There were no gratuitous scenes made just to showcase the 3D. The lessons were positive and important. I could go on, but I don't want to spoil the wonder and surprise. Suffice that I got to cry happy tears.

Before the feature started, we were treated to La Luna, a delightful short about what happens to those meteorites that land on the moon. I'd seen it before and still found it fresh and imaginative.

Teri Meri Kahaani

I wasn't expecting much from Teri Meri Kahaani, a cute romance taking place in 3 different time periods: 1910, 1960, and 2012. Overall it was a pleasant piece of fluff and gave me a chance to enjoy Shahid Kapoor.
There were some treats. "My Darlin' Clementine" was incorporated into some of the 1960 music. Some of the 2012 dialog was done via texting and Facebook postings - an interesting take on the 21st century life style. I especially enjoyed the music and dancing in 1910.
What blew me away was that Shahid Kapoor's 1910 character was a poet and that I recognized the influence (if not actual quotes) of Rumi. There's something to be said for education. You just never know when what you learn may come in handy and give you a fuller appreciation of something.
Oh, yes, and I did cry at the end.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Magic Mike

Magic Mike, aside for being a feast for the eyes of all the ladies in the audience, turned out to be an interesting glimpse into the seamy and hedonistic life of male strippers.  The mostly female audience obviously enjoyed the eye candy; and there were a few unhappy sighs when the film returned from the stripping scenes to the story, which wasn't completely boring.  I was disappointed that Matt Bomer and Joe Manganiello, the two actors I was there to see, barely got to speak; and Bomer, whom I adore in White Collar, looked uncomfortable the entire time he was on the screen.  I actually liked the ending, but the other ladies seemed to be disappointed.  As for the stripping, it seems I find grown men grinding around in thongs with their butt cheeks hanging out to look pretty ludicrous.  Oh well, it was a pleasant enough break from the 99 degree heat outside.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Last night I saw a sneak preview of Ted.  It was horribly offensive right from the start. A lot of the raunchy humor crossed my line, but the film was totally redeemed by Flash Gordon - and Sam J. Jones' willingness to embrace some great self-deprecating humor. I laughed myself silly. I also got a good guffaw from Ryan Reynolds' cameo and even managed to get misty during one scene. All in all, I'm glad I didn't pay for it, but would probably be willing to pay the matinee price just for Flash. "Death to Ming!"


Oh, dear, this blog has sat dormant for about 6 years, so I removed the few old posts that were here and will start fresh.  Other than adoring my family and going to work, movies are what I do.  Over the next few weeks, I will go through my Facebook postings, pull out, and expand on my movie reviews.

Be forewarned.  My taste is eclectic.  I love science fiction and fantasy, action films (can't wait to see The Expendables 2), horror films (if they are not too realistic - NO slasher movies), independent film, animation, comedies, kids' movies, old movies (I'm still waiting for a Jeanette McDonald/Nelson Eddy film festival), and Bollywood.