Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Review: Mighty Fine

Writer/director Debbie Goodstein shares the true story about a man wrestling with anger issues to the point where it terrifies his family.

Joe Fine (Chazz Palminteri) owns a garment business in the mid 1970's.  He has moved his family to New Orleans to start fresh.  It is not the first move, as explained in voice-over by his daughter, Natalie (Jodelle Ferland), and soon we see why.  When his business dreams are dashed, he takes his stress out on his family.  Older daughter Maddy (Rainey Qualley) reveals that this is not the first time he has acted so violently.

The film shows an interesting angle as to how abuse can affect people.  In this case it's often more verbal than physical, but he does lash out at times as well.

Palminteri does a good job, but as with his other roles he seems to be playing the father like a thug at times.  Andi MacDowell is terrific as his wife,  a Holocaust survivor.  She is scared of her husband, although she loves him very much.

Rainey Qualley (Andi's real life daughter) and Jodelle Ferdland are great as the two daughters.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Belated Reviews: Frozen River, Away We Go and Beeswax

Film:  Frozen River

Synopsis:  It's about a woman whose husband up and leaves the family without warning. She's desperate, because they had enough for a final payment on a modular home, and he's ran off with the money. So she has only a few days to pull together the funds, and she can't earn the amount needed on her salary. So she has to resort to some desperate means to get the money in time, taking a huge risk that could not only put herself in danger, but also her kids as well.

My review:  This is a powerful film and very compelling.


Film: Away We Go

My review:  It's a cute film, though somewhat over the top at times. I'd recommend it, but I wouldn't rank it at the top of the list of comedies.


Film:  Beeswax

My review:  Boring. The production values were very amateurish - lower than low budget - and the writer/director decided to throw away the script during filming. So it's a film without a plot.

The characters are only slightly interesting. There's a lot of shoulder shrugging and mumbling through it (it's a part of a new genre of films coming out of Harvard University called "Mumblecore", and it shows).

Imagine a bunch of 20-somethings who are in a reality show that doesn't have anyone screaming at each other, getting married, getting rich or kicking someone off an island

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Belated Review: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

This is a fictional Holocaust film, taking a very real, alarming subject and making a children's story out of it. Considering the sensitive subject matter, I thought it was well done.

It stars David Thewlis (Harry Potter) as a German soldier whose son befriends a boy in a concentration camp. The plot requires you to have to suspend reality, since there are some scenes that just wouldn't make sense otherwise.  Based on a children's book, the writers of both the book and the film called it a "Fable", but in the end this misled the audience and caused some negative reviews.

I cried of course. I always do, but I did think it was a good film so long as you ignored a couple of obvious flaws.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Belated Reviews: For My Father, The Young Victoria and Wonderful World

Film:  For My Father

Review:  A very good film about a Palestinian who has to redeem his family name by becoming a suicide bomber. We see what he encounters when he goes into Israel to do the deed. It was a very interesting and poignant film.


Film:  The Young Victoria

Review:That was very good, although I think it would have worked better as a Masterpiece Theatre mini-series with more episodes added to it chronicling her whole reign. The film only covers her early years, and even that scratches the surface. Still it was entertaining with a nice bit of romance. They did bend the truth in one scene, which I heard bugged the British audiences a bit, so that might not sit well with purists, but overall it was a nice film.


Film:  Wonderful World

Review:  This is the fourth time since I started attending the film series that I've seen a Matthew Broderick film, and I've come to the conclusion that the man needs some serious therapy. All of his characters have been depressing and a bit pathetic. He really needs to get away from these pathetic characters. Each one learns something and rises above their mood, but only marginally, since Matthew himself doesn't.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Belated Reviews: Defiance, The Wrestler and Nothing But the Truth

Film: Defiance

Synopsis: Based on a true story of three Jewish brothers who find themselves concealing 100+ Jews in the woods of Belarus during WWII, while butting heads with each other as to whether they should fight or survive.

My review: It was a bit too commercial for my taste, though the director (Edward Zwick) had said he did that to lure people who might not know Daniel Craig as anyone other than James Bond. He thought it would be a good way to send a message to the audience about these people.

In the end it only made me like the film less.  Pass on it.


Film:  The Wrestler

Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood

Synopsis: It's about an aging wrestler (Mickey Rourke), who has a heart attack and has to come to terms with the fact that he will have to retire from wrestling or die. The struggle for him is that he has no idea what to do with his life, as wrestling is all he knows.

My review:  I'm not a professional wrestling fan, but The Wrestler held my interest.  Overall the film is very good and you end up enjoying the wrestling scenes (except for one really bloody one, where a few people actually left the theatre. I closed my eyes during it and let it pass).


Film: Nothing But the Truth

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Vera Farmiga, Alan Alda and Matt Dillon.

Synopsis: When a newspaper reporter uncovers the identity of a covert CIA operative and reports on what she believes was a government cover-up, she gets embroiled a battle with the federal government when she's ordered to reveal her source.

My review: While it dragged a little at times, I thought the movie was well done and the acting great.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Belated Reviews: The Cove, Surveillance and The Loss of the Teardrop Diamond

Film:  The Cove

Review:  This was very interesting. It's a documentary about a former dolphin trainer (Richard O'Barry) who saw the error of his ways and has spent his life freeing dolphins that are captured for one reason or another.  It has brought some much needed buzz to the plight of dolphins in Japan.

The film shows him in Japan with a team of activists who are exposing the slaughter of 23,000 dolphins a year.

Interesting stuff.

Bye the way, he used to be the dolphin trainer on the TV series Flipper.


Film:  Surveillance

Review:  It's an interesting film, but it's not my cup of tea.

If you like David Lynch movies, or you like suspense of any kind, then you might enjoy this. I personally like suspense, but this film was disturbing.

The script was written by David Lynch's daughter Jennifer. She seems to have her dad's penchant for morbid subject matter.


Film:  The Loss of the Teardrop Diamond.

Review:  Based on a Tennessee Williams story, which is rarely adapted to stage or film.  I can see why.  It was not one of my favorites. I found the characters to be played well, but the story kind of dragged.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Review: The Perfect Family

Kathleen Turner stars as Eileen Cleary, a devout Catholic, loving wife and doting mother.  She spends her days helping out at the church, serving communion and bringing food to the less fortunate.

One day her priest (Richard Chamberlain) tells her that she's been nominated (by him, I believe) for "Catholic Woman of the Year" a very daunting competition involving a home visit by a bishop, letters of recommendation from her family and a pristine family life.

Well, two out of three might not be so bad.

You see, Eileen has been living a lie.  Her family isn't as clean and pure as she so desperately wants them to be.  And she wrestles with that fact as the competition hangs over her.  The movie depicts her constant struggle between being devout and saintly and coming to terms with her family's collection of "sins".

It's lighthearted and - I'm pleased to say - entertaining.  I've often struggled with Kathleen Turner's raspy voice, but found her to be quite amusing in this film.  She does a great job as the matriarch who tries so hard to cover up everything with a smile and a white lie.

I had feared it would be akin to The Family Tree, which also dealt with a dysfunctional family, but this one - written, produced and directed by women - had a much better feel and flow to it.

The cast is stellar.  Aside from Kathleen Turner and Richard Chamberlain, there's Zoey Deschanel, Jason Ritter, Elizabeth Pena and Michael McGrady.

It takes place in Chester, NJ.  However, it was filmed in Los Angeles, which was somewhat disappointing, since Chester is about 30 minutes from the cinema.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I love British films and TV. I can't explain why.  I just do.  So I was really looking forward to this film.

As a whole I enjoyed it.  There were scenes that were a bit too predictable and pat, but most of them worked for me.  I loved Judy Dench at the call center.  Ronald Pickup's character is a lot of fun, especially when you learn his true experience with women. They all did a great job.  I really enjoyed it.

I would have liked a few more scenes in Maggie Smith's story in order to really feel the impact on her character, but one could just imagine how things unfolded, so I didn't have a problem with that.

Overall it's a nice feel-good film that I highly recommend.  And one doesn't need to be in a certain age bracket to enjoy it. :)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Reviews: Turn Me On, Dammit and Downtown Express

Title:  Turn Me on Dammit (Norwegian)

Review:  An interesting twist to an old theme about a teenage girl who has to suffer through alienation, when a classmate lies about an encounter of an explicit nature.  The twist?  I won't give it away, but while it is a comedy, it does explore female sexuality in an interesting way that might appeal to teenagers of both sexes.  However, it has adult themes, so parents be warned.


Title:  Downtown Express

Review:  A lighthearted tale about a Russian violinist, studying at Julliard and tackling his desire to follow his own path vs that of his father.  A nice film although some of the acting feels a bit stilted.