Saturday, January 24, 2009


“REVOLUTIONARY ROAD” (Leonardo DiCaprio & Kate Winslet)

You know how when you barf into your mouth unexpectedly and you don’t want to swallow it because you know it will burn & leave your throat feeling raw so you hold it in your mouth, becoming even more ill as you feel the chunks of vomit on your tongue while you frantically search for somewhere to spit up? That’s what watching “Revolutionary Road” is like... maybe even worse.
Leo & Kate play Frank & April Wheeler & right from the git go, I hated them. I’ll just roll thru the notes I took while watching this fun loving couple.
At first I noted that April was a total bitch & Frank was an idiot for staying with her.
Then Frank became a complete bastard & I realized that these two deserved each other.
I then wrote that there must be a law that every man in town must wear a hat, as every single male wore one & they were all the same style (Fedoras, I believe, but never being a hat wearer don’t hold me to that) Obviously the law lapsed during lunch time as none of the men wore a hat in the restaurant scene. Then we see the men marching back to their workplace with hats on. I wondered why I would notice something as mundane as headgear & it dawned on me – I hate these people - I don’t want to be around them & I wish they would both just go away.
In an early scene, Kate’s April is acting in a play & at one point a woman seated behind Frank comments on what a terrible actress April is & I found myself nodding in agreement. I know I’m in the minority on Kate Winslet’s ‘style’ of acting, but I just see a bad actress ‘reciting’ her lines, where Hollywood (& Movieluva) see greatness. DiCaprio does a decent job here, along with Kathy Bates (As the realtor that finds them the house on Revolutionary Rd) In fact, most of the cast performs well; Michael Shannon stands out, but he also has the luxury of playing the only intriguing character. Downside – he only has 2 scenes.
In the first 10 minutes we witness an angry, childish, nearly violent argument between Frank & April – then a flashback to their first meeting; but who cares, we already know these two people don’t like each other now, what’s the point in showing us that when they first met they could tolerate one another? I think we already surmised that by the fact that they were Mr. & Mrs. Wheeler. Then, right around the 10 minute mark, we see Frank take a cute secretary out for lunch, get her drunk & have sex with her. The secretary, despite knowing she was ‘used’ by Frank as a birthday present to himself, seems to like him anyway. This leads to the question – why not divorce the bitch & start over with the (very) friendly secretary?
This would have also saved us from having to listen to April spout such ridiculous lines as, “No one knows the truth, they just get better at lying!”
There were a few chuckle-able lines that were meant to be taken seriously in this film, but that’s the only one I wrote down...
What saves this from being possibly the worst movie ever made is Michael Shannon’s John – the only character I could relate to – the fact that John was recently released from a mental institution means two things 1) John at least has an excuse for behaving unruly & obnoxious; & 2) The fact that I could relate to him means I shouldn’t be allowed out in public. John’s two scenes offset the ‘hopeless emptiness’ of the rest of the film; ‘Hopeless emptiness’ being Frank’s words to describe his & April’s life together & we, the lucky audience, get to dwell in this hopeless emptiness for over 2 hours. To further drive the point home, after April tells Frank she hates & loathes him, he calls her ‘an empty hopeless shell of a woman’; thus changing their relationship from hopeless emptiness into empty hopelessness. It’s a subtle change & you really have to be paying close attention to notice the difference.
Over halfway through this disaster movie, Frank pleads, “April we CAN be happy here.”
. . . HUH? This ‘Match made in Hades’ couple haven’t been happy since the day they met & all of a sudden Frank thinks the wicked witch is going to suddenly become cheerful?
The whole plot that supposedly keeps them together is a pipe dream about moving to Paris so April can work in an embassy & Frank can ‘find himself’ as soon as he learns to speak French. Since we never hear him utter a single ‘oui’, it isn’t difficult to figure out that the move to Europe probably won’t happen. Speaking of Hades, if there IS a hell, I’d bet everything I have that Satan already has this film on an endless loop playing in his realm (Sans the 2 scenes with Michael Shannon, of course! ‘Sans’ – it’s a French word, Frank, look it up in that dictionary you keep ignoring)
When Frank & April aren’t being uber-annoying, they’re as boring as watching a senior citizen fall asleep while watching a ‘Golden Girls’ rerun.
I won’t spoil the ending by revealing what happens - just know that my only concern was how difficult it was going to be to clean the carpet...
At one point an elderly man gradually turns his hearing aid down until there is complete silence . . . oh, if only he had done that 2 hours earlier, I’d have been so grateful, I would have offered to change the old coot’s diaper!
To borrow from the title of an old Gene Wilder/Donald Sutherland flick – Start THIS ‘Revolution’ Without Me . . .

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


“LAST CHANCE HARVEY” (Dustin Hoffman & Emma Thompson)

This film is backward from what I normally complain about – I liked the ending, but didn’t like the set up at all! The whole idea of this film is that you’re suppose to feel sorry for Harvey(Hoffman) & I didn’t; I felt sorry for Emma’s Kate as she was a nice person ‘trapped’ in a boring life- Harvey was simply a putz who pretty much deserved all the ‘uncomfortable’ moments we witness throughout the film.
Uncomfortable is the perfect word to describe this movie – as that’s how I felt throughout most of it. Did that make it realistic? You bet it did, but I didn’t like feeling that way for such a long time – I’m okay with being uncomfortable for a bit, but eventually you have to make it up to me by becoming entertaining in some fashion & this film never quite gets there... With Kate’s first uncomfortable moment, I could relate to her – Stuck on a blind date with a stranger she has nothing in common with, who is obviously a few years younger than she & then to be joined by a group of his even younger friends. The redeeming part of this scene is that the blind date isn’t a jerk – he gives Kate several ‘sorry about this’ looks as he seems to feel genuinely bad for the situation he’s put her in.
Harvey, on the other hand, was overly pathetic – I knew he was about to be fired & I felt bad for his boss because Harvey wasn’t seeing the writing on the wall. There’s a tacked-on scene near the end where Harvey ‘gets revenge’ on his boss, which I felt was totally unnecessary – I don’t think anyone blamed the boss at all, in fact, he seemed like a decent guy that was giving Harvey his ‘Last Chance’ out of the goodness of his heart. To have Harvey ‘stick it to him’ later was just mean spirited. But the main slight on Harvey (& this is a bit of a SPOILER, but it does occur early in the film & has been mentioned in other reviews) is when his daughter tells him she’d rather have her step-father, Brian (James Brolin) walk her down the aisle instead of her ‘birth’ daddy. I mention this because this is the main selling point of the plot where we are suppose to feel empathy for Harvey & I didn’t – I understood exactly why his daughter felt that way after we’ve watched Harvey bumble his way thru the pre-wedding dinner.
The wedding is taking place in London, & Harvey, a composer of jingle music for commercials is in the middle of trying to keep a major client from jumping to another agency when his boss informs him that he’s going to let the ‘younger guys’ take a crack at keeping them. So Harvey is constantly talking on his cell phone back to America & never turns the thing off. At the night before the wedding dinner, Harvey’s cell starts ringing & he instantly jumps up & stumbles his way to a quieter spot so he can hear the caller. So when the daughter tells him she’s having Brian give her away, I didn’t feel bad for Harvey – the girl had to fear a scenario where Harvey was walking her down the aisle, his cell phone rings & he leaves her to go take the call! Of course, Harvey mopes & feels rejected, but it’s his own damn fault!
When Harvey & Kate first cross paths, Kate is just doing her job & Harvey is rude to her (Another admirable trait) It is ONLY after Harvey is humbled by his daughter’s decision that he apologizes to Kate when they meet a second time (After all, London IS the Graham of the U.K. - everybody knows everybody, right?)
Harvey shows another personality plus when he starts stalking Kate; She, being an exceptionally nice person, can’t bring herself to call the police like she should. In this case, however, the stalker isn’t a bad guy at all, just a ‘loser’ feeling sorry for himself in a strange (small) town. It wasn’t until the final 10 minutes or so that I began to wish that Harvey & Kate would wind up together; whether it be his persistence or the fact that I finally relented that the dumb schmuck deserved a break & she definitely deserved some happiness in her life – I’m not sure – probably a combination of both, but it didn’t even bother me that he was much too old, homely & short for her.
A sub-plot involving Kate’s mother & a Polish next door neighbor REALLY falls flat & I won’t complain about Harvey’s hair going from grey to black to grey over the long weekend – My wife suggested he tried England’s version of Grecian Formula, but it didn’t last on American hair... made sense to me.

Monday, January 19, 2009


“DEFIANCE” (Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber & Jamie Bell)

Admitting that it was hard for me personally to relate to characters named Tuvia, Zeus & Asael Bielski, I thoroughly enjoyed this film & I credit Daniel Craig as being the main reason. His portrayal of Tuvia was impressive to watch; while committing murderous acts of revenge, he was also a compassionate, caring individual that took hundreds of his fellow Jews into the woods to give them a chance at surviving the Nazis during WWII. Although he was obviously reluctant to do so, at first, Tuvia came to the realization that ‘If I don’t help these people, who will?’ & thus, he became their ‘savior’; along with his two younger brothers Zeus (Schreiber) & Asael (Bell) – although Zeus abandons the flock to go help the Russians fight the German army, the 3 brothers are responsible for saving hundreds of lives. (Thousands when, as it points out in the closing credits, all of the offspring of the survivors are counted)
Based on a true story, I found myself doubting its authenticity, as I saw a totally hopeless situation evolve; NONE of these people are going to survive this, so who will be left to tell the story?
My wife was bothered by the brutality shown, so those of you that need your heroes to be ‘perfect’ may not like the way the brothers extract their vengeance upon those that murdered their parents. I guess because we don’t actually see the parents being killed, & thus we only know them as corpses, it IS a little difficult to view Tuvia’s act of revenge & not feel a tinge of empathy for the family he guns down in cold blood. But being an ‘eye for an eye’ kind of guy, I’ve always relished scenes were bad people get their due.
The one thing that turned me against the Jewish survivors was the fact that they seemed to easily forget the loved ones left behind as they quickly began pairing up with ‘Forest Wives’. Zeus, after receiving word that his wife & daughter had been killed, almost immediately begins to seek out her replacement. Okay, I hear you screaming at me – You can’t judge them because they were in such a horrific situation, you jackass! – It’s just that despite Tuvia’s law of ‘no pregnancies',
the horny little buggers started humping each other before the first ‘hut’ was ever erected! The Nazis hunting them like animals wasn’t the only enemy Tuvia had to deal with; dissention within his own ranks, between the ‘soldiers’ that provided protection by keeping watch & risking their lives, versus the general population of women, children & elderly reaches a crescendo when the leader of the soldiers decides that he & his men deserve bigger portions of food than the weaker members of the ‘tribe’. With Zeus gone & Tuvia weakened by illness, the soldier's intent is to become the new leader. For a moment you think Tuvia is going to allow the overthrow to take place, after all he is too ill to lead the group anyway, but he once again comes up with a solution that everyone seemed to agree was 'for the best'.
Alexa Davalos plays Tuvia’s love interest & it seemed to me that she was cast only to provide some ‘beauty’ to this otherwise grim tale – her gorgeous, sparkling blue eyes seemed out of place among the doughy brown-eyed females that pervaded most of the cast. But, that being such a minor complaint (& not really a complaint at all, I like looking at beautiful women!) means that I enjoyed this film very much. It will definitely crash my Top 5 - & since for some unfathomable reason ‘Defiance’ is not being considered a Best Picture contender, then none of my favorite films of ’08 will be up for an Oscar this year. A rarity... not that I didn’t like the films being touted as ‘Best Picture’ contenders, but, to me, “Frost/Nixon”, “The Dark Knight”, “The Reader” & “Wall E” have no business being considered in the Top 10, let alone Top 5. Last year, “3:10 To Yuma” was my favorite film, & I would have liked to see “Charlie Wilson’s War” & “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead” on the list with “Michael Clayton” & “No Country For Old Men” – but it looks as though this year, I won’t have much of a rooting interest in the Oscars, except for Sean Penn & Heath Ledger. So was 2008 a weak year, or was it just a year where I didn’t like what everyone else did? Alas, I digress...
“Defiance” is an excellent story, one of those that when you see the photos of the actual Bielski brothers during the closing credits, makes you shake your head as you realize THAT really happened? I hope you get a chance to see it & perhaps you’ll be wondering like me why it isn’t being mentioned for Best Picture & Daniel Craig for Best Actor. I’m a little bit baffled, myself.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


“GRAN TORINO” (Clint Eastwood)
The preview to this reeked of ‘Dirty Harry’ retires & takes on rural gangbangers...
In other words, a cheap little vigilante tale where ‘Grandpa Harry’ takes out the trash by blowing away the Asian gang members because they have the audacity to step on his lawn (& judging from the title of the film, one must figure that they mess with his vintage auto as well) but there’s a pleasant surprise to ‘Gran Torino’ that I wasn’t expecting – This film is actually about an unexpected friendship that forms & becomes meaningful & touching in a very realistic way. It is, in fact, “The Visitor” re-told with different characters & the main alteration is that instead of the old guy being a decent, friendly person – Clint Eastwood’s Walt Kowalski is a cross between Dirty Harry Callahan & Archie Bunker. The one thing I would hate to see happen is Eastwood getting Richard Jenkins slot in the Best Actor category come Oscar nomination time; Jenkins deserves it, Clint does not. My opinion of Clint Eastwood has changed dramatically over the years, but one thing is clear – the man isn’t a great actor – oh, he’s grown on me, but mainly due to the fact that he knows how to make an entertaining film. He’s a top notched director; as a producer he knows how to select wonderful projects & one can’t help but be impressed with his musical talent as a composer. An extremely talented man, but when it comes to acting, he just ‘serviceable’. His grunts & groans as Walt garnered ‘titters’ from the audience I viewed this film with, but the perpetual sneer on his lips & constant grumbling made Walt unlikable to me. But eventually Walt does grow on you – as HE discovers a person’s race doesn’t determine whether or not they’re a good person. & who is Walt Kowalski to judge, since he isn’t such a nice guy himself?
The film opens with the funeral of Walt’s wife; in attendance are his two sons. Odd thing is, they don’t seem to be very emotional – they’re more concerned with what ‘Dad’s going to do with the house’ & that didn’t come off as very believable to me. Usually if Dad is the overly gruff type, it means Mom was a sweetheart. Later, the eldest son & his wife ‘celebrate’ Walt’s birthday by getting him a phone with huge, easy to read numbers & brochures to retirement homes, even though Walt has shown no interest in moving, nor any trouble with making phone calls. Walt (Still in his squinting, sneering, growling phase) kicks them out of his home... ‘on his birthday!’ the son declares. Some audience members laughed loudly at this, even though it was shown in the trailer, where it seemed that it might be an amusing scene, but it wasn’t. It was 2 dorks making suggestions to a grumpy old geezer that they had no business making & at this point in the story – NONE of these people are likable... in fact, they are all quite annoying.
The only character of interest is the young priest that presided over the funeral of Walt’s wife (Father Janovich played by Christopher Carley) He promised her before she passed that he would look in on Walt from time to time & he keeps that promise, even though every time he visits Walt he gets insulted.
Walt’s favorite activity is to sit on his porch with his dog, Daisy & mumble insults at the elderly Asian woman next door – though neither knows what the other is saying, the communication is clear – they don’t like each other.
The ‘real’ story begins to develop through Clint’s Asian next door neighbors & they’re involuntary association with a gang of thugs that drive around harassing the neighborhood. Sue & Thao (Ahney Her & Bee Vang) are the children in the family & Thao becomes the target of the gang when he seems reluctant to join them. This leads to the scene where the gang members end up brawling on Walt’s precious lawn. When the Asian families in the neighborhood start to leave presents on his porch to show their thanks for driving off the thugs, Walt eventually comes to realize these ‘fish heads’ are actually decent people.
Walt changes & becomes Archie Bunker without Edith when he takes Thao to visit his buddy the barber (Played by John Carroll Lynch, whom TV viewers might remember as Drew Carey’s cross-dressing brother, or movie goers would know as the main suspect in last year’s “Zodiac”) This is when Walt won me over – despite the racial slurs that are thrown about – it is done to such an extreme that it’s humorous. & you come to the realization that Walt doesn’t ‘just’ have a problem with Asians, he hates EVERYBODY – so Thao shouldn’t take it personal when Walt calls him Toad & makes statements such as “I’ll come over for dinner, but you gooks better stay away from my dog!”
As I tried to pinpoint why ‘Gran Torino’ winds up as being a very impressive film, I have to credit both ‘character development’, & the unexpected twists – the 2 things I thought for sure would happen, didn’t. When the movie ended it dawned on me how that was ‘refreshing’ – Clint didn’t follow the ‘fomula’, & in doing so created a very original film out of an ‘ages old’ plotline.
For both this & ‘Changeling’, he deserves accolades for his directing talents – but please, Oscar voters, please don’t give him Richard Jenkins’ Best Actor nomination.

Monday, January 12, 2009


“The READER” (Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes & David Kross)

I have mixed feelings about this film; story-wise it is very compelling but I was uncomfortable about the manner in which it was shown. I don’t want to reveal too much about the plot as that would spoil it for anyone that has yet to see it, so I’m going to sound mostly negative with this review since I can let you know what bothered me.
Winslet plays Hanna Schmitz, a German woman in her mid-30’s living alone in a small apartment, working quietly as a ticket taker on a tram. She meets 15 year old Michael Berg (Kross) after he gets sick on his way home from school & throws up in the alley behind her apt. building. She catches the infatuated boy spying on her as she dresses and for some unexplainable reason decides to ‘deflower’ the child. An illicit affair ensues. It would have been easy to convey this act of pedophilic rape without the use of graphic nudity, yet director Stephen Daldry decided to go all-out creepy & show gratuitous scenes of child molestation. Yes, the teenaged boy was an eager participant – it doesn’t make what Hanna did legal or moral. I disliked her immensely & when it becomes apparent that she seduced the lad merely for her own sexual needs, it should sicken the viewer. Okay, if the nice looking older woman had decided to give the horny boy his first sexual experience ONE time, I could understand that – but to carry on an affair for months was disgusting. I was okay with it being part of the story, but I could not understand why show the sex repeatedly on screen. Yes, we understand they are having an affair – what is the point of showing them completely nude. If Roman Polanski was driven out of this country for having sex with a minor – why is a film such as this even allowed to be shown in a ‘family’ theatre? How could it not be rated MC-17?
I’m not a prude by any means, but I do have an aversion to adults that take advantage of & mar the lives of children under the age of consent. If this were an older woman having sex with a character in his early twenties, okay, show all the naked body parts you want, but considering the subject matter, I was quite appalled at how this film was shot; purposely meant to titillate with its several scenes of gratuitous nudity. It could have easily been told without it. In fact, it would have been a much better movie without it because I did enjoy the story, but I would NEVER recommend that any decent person should see it.
The story evolves into a fascinating & intriguing courtroom drama that tortures young Michael. Cut in between these scenes from the 50’s & 60’s are shots of the modern day Michael (Fiennes) as these are his memories we’re witnessing. The courtroom segment brings up some interesting questions that are never answered, one in particular should have been – that also weakens the over-all effect of the film.
No, I can’t recommend this film, & yet if anyone wanted me to tell them the story, I think they’d enjoy ‘hearing’ the tale as much as I would in relating it – a great plot, with impressive acting by all involved (Even the normally horrendous Winslet gives a commendable performance) but - & anyone who knows me is going to think I’ve had a frontal lobotomy for saying this – I would have preferred the story had been told without the nude scenes involving a middle-aged actress & a ‘child’ actor still in his teens – it just wasn’t necessary & made me feel somewhat perverted for viewing it.& again, those who know me would say that I am a pervert, so it shouldn’t have bothered me at all. But it did. It’s the involving a child in sex scenes that I abhorred, otherwise, I’m pretty much game for anything any filmmaker wishes to throw at me.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


“DOUBT” (Starring Meryl Streep as Sister Halitosis; Philip Seymour Hoffman as Father Brylcreem & Amy Adams as Sister Bertrille)

A controversial religious drama, & no, those are not the character names, I just needed to write something silly to help me focus on yet another ‘heavy’ film. Other than a few extra nuns, several kids & one child’s mother, the three stars of this film dominate the screen & they are all excellent. In fact, here’s a line I’m writing specifically to my dear sister-in-law in Hanover – Meryl Streep is OUTSTANDING in this film, 2nd best female performance I’ve seen this year, & Streep’s finest by far – she clearly outshines PSH & that isn’t easy to do – the guy was my ‘Actor of the Year for 2007’ with 3 incredible performances. & Amy Adams, though playing a spunky, yet troubled, young nun was very impressive as well. The controversy if you didn’t already know is child molesting. The question imposed here is – Did Father Flynn (Hoffman) commit the sin or not? The Mother Superior/Principal of the parish’s school, Sister Aloysius , believes he did – her suspicions are arisen by Adams’ Sister James’ accusations after she witnesses the priest behaving strangely & showing the school’s lone black child ‘special’ attention.
From there the two plot to expose the man of God as a pedophile needing to be brought to justice. Sister Aloysius isn’t one to mince words, so she sets up a meeting with Father Flynn on the pretense of ‘What songs should be sung at this years Christmas pageant?’ From there the sparks & accusations fly & the story becomes an intriguing, top notched mystery – Is the priest guilty or not? The Principal is certain that he is, but Sister James (The kids call her “Jimmy’) believes the Father’s explanation for his behavior & has doubts about his guilt.
The difference between this film & ‘7 Pounds’ is the injection of some light-hearted humor – which elevates ‘Doubt’ for me – I love movies that can make me laugh, think & keep my curiosity peaked; this film did that. The elderly nuns & the school children provide most of the chuckles, though the one big laugh comes unexpectedly from Streep. (When one of Sister James’ students is sent to her office for talking in class)
The only scene that didn’t work all that well for me was a lengthy conversation Sister Aloysius has with the mother of the boy in question (Viola Davis) - I found it to be oddly written – for some reason, it just didn’t mesh for me; I found the mother’s behavior to be... unrealistic. Now, I’m willing to set aside my feelings about this scene because it does give the story a very unique twist – so even though I didn’t ‘buy into’ it, I’m still fine with it being included. & it seemed to me that PSH got a little too loud too soon when confronting Streep’s conniving nun one on one. Was it meant to make you think he must be guilty otherwise why would he be getting so upset? Or perhaps it was supposed to make you lean the other way – He was so quick to blow up at her because he’s innocent & frustrated that she would even think such a thing? That’s why I felt this was Streep’s movie from start to finish. I am not a fan of the actress, I think she’s been guilty of over-acting on several of her so-called ‘great’ performances, but here, she is a delight - The perfect role at the perfect time in her career. I applaud you, Ms. Streep, for a job very well done. . . There, I said it – hope that makes you happy, Dr. Porter.


“7 POUNDS” (Will Smith & Rosario Dawson)

Man, talk about your heavy drama! I’m going to pick on this film a little bit, but over-all I did like it – Although I feel like I should be contacting a suicide hotline for admitting that – this movie is so full of dour circumstances, it’s actually depressing to watch. The biggest flaw is that there is NO HUMOR WHATSOEVER. We went from this film to ‘Doubt’ & the latter was a much better movie because, even though it was a ‘touchy subject’ drama as well, it would occasionally lighten things up with a dose of humor. ‘7 Pounds’ is weighed down with dying, or handicapped characters & a seemingly constantly miserable lead character (Will Smith’s Ben Thomas) The one pleasant scene occurs near the end of the film, & because of how it finishes, the lone happy moment doesn’t make sense. Again, it is not a bad movie, it held my interest throughout despite the overall morose feeling it conveyed, thanks mainly to the mysterious air that surrounded Ben; I felt the same as I did viewing the preview – I wonder what this story is all about? The film keeps you in suspense the same way the trailer did.
Here’s the set-up; Ben Thomas works for the IRS – he is seen paying personal visits to citizens that owe the American government sizable amounts of money. His goal seems to be that he’s trying to locate someone worthy of ‘giving them a break’. His first ‘client’ (the manager of an assisted living facility) fails. Ben is then seen on the phone with Woody Harrelson’s blind telemarketer (Ezra) who is trying to sell ‘beef’ by phone. Ben discovers Ezra’s handicapped & heartlessly begins to make fun of him for being a ‘blind beef salesman’ who happens to be a vegetarian.
Eventually Ben meets Emily (Rosario Dawson) a woman with an over-sized heart that’s failing on her – she is given a month to 6 weeks left to live unless a donor heart can be found to transplant.
After an awkward first meeting (Announcing you’re an IRS agent isn’t the best way to endear yourself to someone, is it?) Ben & Emily become friends; it also becomes clear that Emily is ‘falling’ for Ben & he doesn’t seem too keen on the idea, though he keeps showing up at her doorstep & helping her in any way he can.
Ben’s best friend, Dan (played by the under-rated Barry Pepper) is the only person who is in on Ben’s secret, & it is something that is obviously upsetting the man. Ben’s brother keeps calling him & appears to be upset with his older brother for some reason.
Through flashbacks we see that Ben was married at one time & the couple was, as far as the flashbacks reveal, madly in love with one another.
When Ben’s secret plan is finally played out, we discover the answers to most of the mysterious questions, with one main exception – Why the hell is this movie called ‘7 Pounds’? My wife had a couple of suggestions, which I won’t reveal here as it would give away too much of the mystery – but if anyone who reads this knows the answer, I’d very much appreciate you leaving me the information in the comments section.
A very powerful drama that I would have thought with the ‘Fresh Prince’ at the helm should have known to ‘lighten up’ with just a couple of smirk inducing lines!


“FROST / NIXON” (Frank Langella & Michael Sheen)

First off, anyone who thinks any of the supporting actors in this film deserves to be nominated for an Academy Award needs to lay off the crack pipe. NO ONE in any of the supporting roles stood out – even perennial favorite of mine, Oliver Platt, who did a nice turn as one of the American producers that jumped on board the project, didn’t have a big enough role, or do any ‘stretching’ as an actor to fulfill what was required of him. I mention this because I have heard & seen that Kevin Bacon should be in the running for Best Supporting Actor & this is a sham. Bacon has been better in probably a dozen other films – here, he is about as cookie cutter as they come – they may as well offer Clint Howard up for Oscar consideration, & all he had to do was say “Okay, David... in 4, 3, 2 &...”
Unfortunately this is going to be one of those reviews where I stick my slanted nose in where it doesn’t belong – but what the hey, it’s my movie review blog & I can make my own rules. I had low expectations for this film & a very specific fear that Ron Howard, for whatever reason, decided to make this movie to ‘humanize’ Richard M. Nixon. The fear was realized, but low expectations didn’t hold up once the film concluded. For the better part of ‘Frost/Nixon’ I was sufficiently bored; I did not like the way the story was being told – in a half documentary/half re-creation of events style. The whole idea that Watergate was the ‘crime of the century’ was laughable – it was blown out of proportion by the media but it barely constituted being called a ‘crime’. I think everyone who knows someone that has been murdered resents a ‘pseudo-burglary’ being called the crime of the century. But getting past all that, ‘Frost/Nixon’ did gather enough momentum to make the ‘final interview’ something to anticipate. From the previews my thoughts on Frank Langella’s take on Nixon were of a mocking nature (He sounds like he’s doing a bad Rich Little impersonation, I wrote to a friend) But after viewing the performance in its entirety, I would begrudgingly say Langella should at least be considered for an Oscar nod. I was actually more impressed with Michael Sheen’s David Frost – the only thing that bothered me about his performance was as ‘Interviewer’ Frost, Sheen’s voice was uncanny – you’d swear it was David Frost speaking – but as ‘behind the scenes’ Frost he was just another twit with an English accent. Meaning Sheen could nail the voice he heard from the interview tapes, but without guidance, he wasn’t so ‘dead on target’. Still, two very fine performances & really the only reason to see this film at all. Unless you’re a big fan of Tricky Dick’s & you want to see him exonerated from all the bad press & un-humanitarian decisions he made while in office, you’ll probably feel the same way I did as the screen faded on ‘poor’ Richard as he stood alone looking forlornly out at the vast Pacific – Why would they want us to feel sympathy for this man? What was the point of this film?
When they use the term ‘based’ on a true story, & especially when they use one with one of the most well-known figures in American history, they allow themselves the luxury of making up phone calls that never happened to build up the drama. Not to mention the fact that the fictionalized phone call just piled on more sympathetic feelings toward ‘poor’ Richard.
I always found it amusing that it took something as meaningless as ‘Watergate’ to bring Nixon down when he should have been raked over the coals for so many other atrocities; yet in this film, he even comes across as having a reasonable & ‘humane’ reason for some of those. Nixon is shown as being a bright, articulate, humorous family man... So why would anyone want to bring him to his knees & force him to apologize to the American people? That’s the driving force behind the reason for conducting these interviews & yet, the way Ron Howard presents him, it feels as though Richard Milhous Nixon should be ‘accepting’ the apologies from an ungrateful public & media.
I used to despise Dick because he tried to have my idol, John Lennon, deported. Now, I wished he had succeeded because then John would not have been an easy target on the streets of New York in 1980... Yes, why should we glorify a man that failed in having an illegal drug using Beatle kicked out of the country?

Friday, January 2, 2009


“The CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON” (Brad Pitt & Cate Blanchette)
‘CCBB’ is a quaint tale about a unique man who led a rather ordinary life despite living it in reverse. I was indeed curious to see if they could make it look believable, & yes, they do – extraordinarily so. The feature attraction is watching the special effects that make Brad Pitt (Benjamin) appear to be an 80 year old man living in a (decrepit) child’s body.
Unfortunately, the movie itself isn’t quite so interesting; in fact, as Benjamin ‘grows’ younger the film becomes less fascinating. His time working on a tug boat is the most interesting phase of the man’s life – other than that, he’s kind of boring; nice, but with a rather bland personality. The energy in Benjamin’s life comes from the women he associates with as in most of his scenes with Cate Blanchette & Tilda Swinton, the females do most of the talking – Benjamin just sits quietly & listens...
Born a wrinkled baby appearing to be on the verge of death, Benjamin’s father abandons the infant on the porch of a New Orleans boarding house for the elderly. Black housekeeper Queenie takes the baby in, claiming it to be her sister’s child. Growing up with the appearance of an aged old man, Benjamin fits right in with the boarders that are nearing the end of their lives. A recurring bit about an old man who starts every conversation with “Did I ever tell you I’ve been hit by lightning seven times?” is one of the few amusing highlights – As this is first & foremost, a love story.
Daisy (Blanchette) the granddaughter of one of the boarders senses that Benjamin isn’t like the other old fogies & befriends Benjamin. When ‘teenaged’ Benjamin (looking to be in his 60’s) leaves to take a job on a tug boat, Daisy makes him promise to send a postcard from every place he visits.
The time spent on the tug boat & the crew’s inevitable involvement in WWII make for the most interesting segments. Benjamin’s response to the Captain’s question as to why Benjamin appears to be taller & younger than when they first met is the title character’s one funny line.
The film loses its momentum when Benjamin returns from his travels & tries ‘courting’ Daisy - it morphs into that realm of dull chick flick.
Then the heart of the film takes a blow when Benjamin leaves Daisy at a crucial time in their lives – for what I thought was a very lame reason. It made Benjamin less likeable.
Then, on top of that they skim over Benjamin’s time as a teenager that had already lived a full life by simply showing him doing odd jobs in various parts of the world.
All in all, however, I liked this film – It will be nominated for Best Picture, but won’t deserve to win, though it looks like it may. It is a ‘must see’ because creating Benjamin’s backward life was masterfully accomplished.
Brad Pitt’s ‘appearance’ throughout the film is impressive; his performance is not – Though in all fairness, he isn’t asked to do all that much despite being in practically every scene except the very beginning & at the end.
Cate is fine, not up to her usual standard, but she too is overshadowed by the make-up effects.
‘CCBB’ is a visual masterpiece, you have to admire it for that – But there really isn’t much of a story here – Just a man born under unusual circumstances. The connection between Benjamin’s life & a clock that was purposely made to run backward intertwine; other than that there is no other explanation offered as to why this curious life played out the way it did. The clock & hummingbirds are used as life & death symbols – sometimes poignant, sometimes ‘hokey’. Do see it, though, it is hard not to feel that you just witnessed something ‘special’.