Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.

Now You See Me 2

June 15th, 2016

What really makes me happy? OK, yes, the ocean, good food and good movies make me pretty happy. But what else? Spending time with my near and dear friends. The happy-meter only goes up when you combine friends with good food and a movie. So last weekend I reunited with a dear friend and we watched the Four Horseman reunite for another impossible heist in “Now You See Me 2.”

Three years have passed since the first ‘Now You See Me’ came out to the big screen. Now, audiences have the chance to see a new installment in the magic-oriented action comedy. ‘Now You See Me 2’ brings back familiar faces fans know and love as well as a number of new and mysterious faces. Will the magic still be there for part two of this act? Or will it be curtain call for the Four Horseman?

In this movie the Four Horseman are given a target. As they make an attempt to end their target’s fraudulent act, a bigger magic trick is being prepared. Old enemies resurface and interrupt the Horseman’s attempts and ultimately causes them to run from the FBI. After a series of unexpected events, the bigger picture is revealed and the Four Horseman are now forcibly hired by a mastermind who needs them to pull off a heist to acquire technology once stolen from him.

I found “Now You See Me 2” just as entertaining and hilarious as the original. The team of actors and actresses in the movie brought a certain kind of presence to the screen with each scene. The film continued with their trend of unexpected twists that few may expect and I continued to love just as much as the first film. As I sat there at the end of the film. I was attempting to figure out which one I liked more and to be honest, I couldn’t pick just one. I had a brief moment of being bored in the middle, but as soon as the magic tricks and acts began again, I was instantly back into the film and being entertained.

‘Now You See Me 2’ is not going to win a major award, but it’s nicely meshed together with film and stage magic. If you have the chance, check this one out and if you haven’t seen the first, you should rent it first and then see 2.

 

 

The Nice Guys

May 22nd, 2016

From all the positive reviews I was looking forward to watching The Nice Guys. Boy. what a letdown. Take the popular buddy movies of the 80’s, add the retro good vibes of the 70’s and quickly stir in the grisly blood, violence and vulgarity of the 90’s and voila!…you have the half-baked movie I saw today. To any unsuspecting moviegoer sitting through this dreadful movie, the age-old adage, nice guys finish last, becomes all too true. Wish I had walked out a little earlier and enjoyed a cat video instead of spending my time on this trashy film. Have reviewing standards really slipped this far?

Granted, I’m not a professional movie reviewer by any means. But I felt like I needed to take a shower after watching these “nice guys.” I enjoy both of these actors so when I saw the trailer I thought it might work. Together, the two leads have zero chemistry between them, a grave sin in a buddy film.

One star is higher than I would give it. Why actors as talented as Russel Crowe (who looked bloated like a blimp) and Ryan Gosling would lower themselves to be part of trash like this is beyond me. And how many hours did Ryan Gosling watch Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis’ shtick to get his part. This film was such a waste of talent.

The Nice Guys was vulgar, profane and the acting was only slightly better than bad. Their so-called comedy bits are labored and bereft of humor. But even worse is that I paid to see it. Maybe so you don’t have to. Save your money and feel sorry for the young actress who had to endure being a part of this low-life movie.

The Nice Guys are dumb as rocks and they’re miserable company. Stay home and watch cat videos.

 

Mother’s Day Movie Review

May 8th, 2016

Finally, a decent movie to watch, without violence-stress-nudity and full of heartfelt moments with humor. I really appreciate there are still lighthearted movies like Mother’s Day when I just want to relax. This movie is very funny and has lots of funny, entertaining lines to laugh about later. I don’t understand the rude reviews and the harsh comments.

Mother’s Day hits all the emotional buttons of contemporary mothers everywhere. In some ways, perhaps too well, while revealing much of what most Americans experience but hide and avoid talking or feeling about. Garry Marshall (of Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley) has once again created fabulous comedy-drama that somehow in spite of all the various characters the story lines remain believable and entertaining.

This movie taps into many of the hidden difficulties of being both a female and a mother and acknowledges their wonderful and vital contribution to humanity. By tapping into the female psyche, Mother’s Day is a tribute to better, quality movies so sorely under-rated by the male film industry and critics that can’t comprehend what this movie is really about.

The cast has good natural chemistry with each other. I really liked Jennifer Aniston in this, she is funny, looks great for 48, and has good chemistry with Timothy Olaphant, who plays her ex-husband. Julia Roberts, in spite of her Pretty Woman hairdo, has a well written character and definitely has the deepest character development. Kate Hudson is pretty funny and entertaining too. Jennifer Garner makes a very brief cameo, which is a nice touching scene.

Mother’s Day isn’t meant to be an Oscar nominee. But it isn’t crude, offensive or inappropriate for families and that says a lot to me about Gary Marshall and his movies. I think we need more movies about real families with different problems, life issues, family bonds and humor. I recommend Mother’s Day as a good choice for a “feel good” evening.

 

 

 

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

April 2nd, 2016

A family secret brought the beloved characters of my family back together. Oh wait. It was the Portokalos family characters back together for an even bigger and Greeker wedding. It just felt like my family!

I can’t believe we waited this long to revisit this amazing collection of characters. When the original movie came out, they were like a refreshing storm, giving us a funny but insightful look at close families, with enough commonalities to make us all laugh at ourselves. We could all relate to the large family dynamics of loud relatives, loneliness, love, and other themes. Like Listerine – don’t ask.

The family is back with a fresh spin that parallels the original and has multiple generations dealing with similar situations. Toula is back and she is still dealing with her parents’ proximity and meddling. She is also about to experience her own separation from a daughter that belongs to the new generation and might be overwhelmed by too much affection.

Greek Wedding 2 opens the door for a succession of jokes, one-liners, and some very funny situations. They might not have worked had it not been because the cast, though looking older, remains as charming as ever. They’re loud, and we love them for it.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a Greek movie, if we still didn’t have various traditions throughout and clash with the American counterparts. It’s not offensive, just like adding a different type of spice to the mix, and of course, there is a new wedding in the picture, and everyone is involved.

One of the freshest turns is Bess Meisier, as the great grandmother who is surprisingly old and funnier than ever, with her gestures. Check out her new look late in the movie. She has perfect comedic timing.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is everything a sequel should be. The script, directing and strong ensemble acting all remain true to the original characters that feel like our own loud family. Great running gags from the first film continue, while many of the new jokes and sight gags are laugh-out-loud funny. Although there’s a minor Gus-centered sub-plot that I could’ve done without, the multiple story lines are fresh and woven together wonderfully. This film isn’t perfect, but it’s as hilarious and has even more heart than its much-beloved inspiration.

Get together with your friends and family to enjoy the celebration. Be ready to smile, laugh out loud and have a great time. And don’t forget to pull your friends neck! “A”

Sunday in Michigan

February 21st, 2016

This weekend I went to see the movie Risen, the epic Biblical story of the Resurrection, as told through the eyes of a non-believer. Clavius, a powerful Roman Military Tribune, and his aide Lucius, are tasked with solving the mystery of what happened to Jesus in the weeks following the crucifixion, in order to disprove the rumors of a risen Messiah and prevent an uprising in Jerusalem.

For more than 80 years, stories of Jesus have been the topic of movies. Many featured not only Jesus, but Moses, Sampson, David, etc, but this film is quite different in that it has a more historical feel to it. Sticking to the basics of what is known from the Bible and other Jewish and Roman historical accounts of the event, Risen lacks computer graphics, as well as the pious and pretentious nature of the recent films Noah and Exodus. Although the message of the Gospel is clearly stated, it doesn’t come off as proselytizing. In many ways, the central character is an everyman because it is fairly easy to place yourself in his sandals and imagine what it must have been like to have been in charge of guarding Christ’s tomb and then having to answer for the disappearance.

Unlike other films where the focus is either directly on Jesus, the focus of this film is primarily on the delicate political landscape between the Jews and Romans and the protagonist Clavius, portrayed by Joseph Fiennes. Risen uses the indirect approach to discover why Jesus’ was so special to his followers (and it still to this day). Although this film is about the mystery surrounding the resurrection of Jesus in the background, the foreground is a personal journey thus making it more of a historic film than a “preachy Christian” one. Therefore, most anyone who enjoys Roman or Jewish history will find something of interest in this film. The relationship between the Romans and Jewish leadership is handled very well. It shows the game the Romans had to play with the Jews in order to keep peace in Jerusalem, especially because Caesar is arriving soon and Pilate needs to show him that he has the Jews under control.

The person of Jesus is also handled better than any other film I have seen. I’ve always found it weird that in most historic/Biblical films most of the characters speak with a British or European accent, not so in Risen. Cliff Curtis connects with the audience as down to earth in his appearance and mannerisms. He embodies unconditional love.

Risen is a little slow, and handles character development very well. I really appreciate the development of Clavius, but also Pilate and Lucius as well. To an extent, we also see some development in some of Jesus’ disciples as well. At the end of the movie, the characters in the story felt like real people, and that is a remarkable achievement in this movie.

The problem with most Biblical history-based movies is they fall short in at least one of the major category: writing, acting, directing or production. Remember “The Bible” mini-series? Whew! I promise Risen is very different, hitting on all cylinders.

I greatly enjoyed this film and hope you do too. It’s rated “PG-13” for some disturbing images and has a running time of 1 hour & 47 minutes. http://www.risen-movie.com/

 

 

Sunday in Michigan

February 14th, 2016

Polar plunge temperatures kept me from attending a bar stool race. Instead I rented “The Walk.” Set in 1974, high-wire artist Philippe Petit recruits a team of people to help him realize his dream: to illegally walk the immense void between the World Trade Center towers.

Fast forward to 2015 when Robert Zemeckis directs a 3D version of the feat, titled “The Walk” which was previously told in the Oscar winning documentary “Man on a Wire” in 2008.

This movie is a straight by-the-book telling of a very simple story: Ever since he was a boy, Philippe has always been fascinated by the art of tightrope walking. After mastering the art of tightrope walking, Philippe outgrew his small time antics and set his mind on achieve the impossible. Philippe dangerously, and illegally, set his high-wire to walk the massive distance between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. This was Philippe Petit’s ultimate dream.

Right from the start, Philippe Petit’s character tells the viewer his own story, with a forced French accent, from his early days as a kid in France and up to a very detailed telling of the event itself. If you’ve seen the documentary or know the story, you won’t find any surprises. His story is benign and could be categorized as something between a comedy and a family movie.

Still, there is nothing special about this movie. I expect a lot more from a director like Robert Zemeckis, who is behind some of the most enjoyable films in history. He’s after all at the heart of “Back to the Future”, though Michael J. Fox should get plenty of credit, and Tom Hanks made “Forrest Gump”. Zemeckis also gave us “The Polar Express”, and now he’s directed one of the most uninspiring films ever made about a bored Paris street performer.

And the narrative style grew old very early on in the movie. The Walk is basically a heist movie, and the heist set up takes up 75% of the film. I could have certainly used less time “in his training” phase, and I’d rather have the actors speak plain English, rather than hearing Philippe’s constant request to speak English for practice since “I’m going to America” line.

Perhaps if I’d seen “The Walk” in 3D I would have been absorbed by the visuals and able to get past the horrible accents and poorly developed characters. “Avatar” soared, even with some of the fantastic creations who came to life, though I knew they were not real at all. I connected with the soul in beings that couldn’t be more different from us, and here I couldn’t seem to penetrate the dullness that surrounds the acting and the story of an egotist and his stunt.

All in all, my feelings on this film were summed up during a moment when Jean-Pierre, one of Philippe’s helpers, asks Annie as she’s peering through a pair of binoculars up at the Towers, “Does he even know you’re here?” Which, I suppose, is better than what I was asking myself, “Why are you still here watching?” Rent “Man on a Wire” for the real story.

Sunday in Michigan

January 31st, 2016

“Everyone deserves a defense. Everyone matters.” James B. Donovan

This weekend I decided to catch up on rental movies. On my way to the video store I was cold, so it seemed fitting to rent “Bridge of Spies” that was set during the Cold War. If you pay to rent this film, you won’t be disappointed.

In Bridge of Spies, Steven Spielberg once again masterfully goes to the historical drama with a righteous man’s theme. This time insurance lawyer James B. Donovan is recruited by his firm to defend an accused Soviet spy, Rudolf Able (Mark Rylance), in order to show the world the American justice system is democratic. Donovan becomes instrumental in unofficially negotiating on behalf of the US government in East Berlin. The deal is nearly jeopardized by Donovan’s childlike humanity.

The story is “inspired by true events” with the outline of the exchange of Able for U-2 downed pilot Gary Powers historically accurate. As usual, Spielberg recreates the times with the atmosphere, cars, and film noir aspect of a spy thriller in the figurative and literal Cold War. He once said, “I always wanted to tell the stories that really interested me in my personal life which are stories about things that actually happened.” He does just that and does it well.

Tom Hanks is solid and believable as the fish-out-of-water insurance lawyer, with a large spoonful of patriotic American sugar as Donovan trumpets about the importance of the constitution over the lynch-mob mentality of the general public. Alan Alda, great to see again on the big screen, channels his best exasperation as Donovan’s boss, looking for a clean and quick conviction. But it’s Mark Rylance who stands out as the shining star of the film. His salubrious and calm turn as the cornered spy just reeks of class. He was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Globes and Academy Awards, but they didn’t show him justice.

The cinematography is superb with some gorgeous tracking shots and framed scenes. Most outstanding of all is the scene depicting the traumatic construction of the Berlin wall with long tracking shots in greys and blues delivering a truly breathtaking piece of cinema. They captured the dreary shades that I saw in 1987 East Berlin perfectly.

The only issue I had was the soundtrack. Music is used sparingly and surprisingly ineffectively by composer Thomas Newman. Mr. Newman’s work isn’t bad, but his soundtrack was unremarkable, and doesn’t give certain scenes that little extra punch we expect during the climax of Spielberg movies. This is the first Spielberg film in 30 years in which he didn’t use John Williams, and it’s too bad.

“Bridge of Spies” is more about smart people in conversation with each other, knowing that if they made the wrong decision it was going to be the end of the world, than it is about entertainment.

It’s easy for me to recommend to anyone who missed it at the theaters. It’s gripping from beginning to end. I sat silent save for the odd laugh where some appropriate humor is weaved into the story.

PS: Can you believe they still have a video store in Ironwood? Didn’t those disappear years ago everywhere else? No Redbox here. LOL

 

 

 

Friday’s Film Review

December 11th, 2015

After months of not seeing a film, I watched as Eilis, an Irish immigrant, crossed the Atlantic and landed in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly fell into a new romance. When her past catches up with her, however, she had to choose between two countries, the lives that exist within and make the hardest decision of her young life.

The lead actress, Saoirse Ronan, plays her role meticulously while also constantly setting the tone of the film. Her delicate and sincere portrayal makes all Eilis’s issues, however selfish or insignificant they may seem at first, materialize in your mind, and makes you hope that her pain will somehow ease.

Emory Cohen shows his sensitive and charming side of his range portraying New York Italian plumber Tony.  The natural chemistry between Eilis and Tony gives them the authenticity of a couple that you might actually know in real life.

While, Domhnall Gleeson’s characterization of Jim Farrell is haunting in a role that doesn’t call for many words or emotions. You can see the ache and pain in his movements, desperate for love and a feeling of being lost.

But what will cause viewers to fall in love is how Brooklyn was shot with a lovely yellow hue and soft palate, capturing the country and the city with stunning results. Each scene felt intimate, capturing the heart and emotion of every word spoken. The set designers captured every detail of the 50’s homes as if plucked from the time period themselves, along with transporting us to a foreign land we can only dream to visit. And finally, the music of Michael Brook’s soundtrack is a breathtaking swell of emotion, creating moments that will surely be worth purchasing.

I recommend this film is a remedy for anyone who is losing faith in good filmmaking. It is a splendidly sweet reminder that you can tell a great love story without resorting to excessive twists and effects. Brooklyn is a rare experience in today’s entertainment culture and a serious Oscar contender.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

August 14th, 2015

Does anyone remember The Man from U.N.C.L.E. television show? If you’re lucky to remember you should run to the theater to see the movie. For those of you too young to remember watching the TV show, I extend my apologies. ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” was originally a TV series from the mid-1960s developed by Sam Rolfe. U.N.C.L.E. was an acronym for the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, a secret international counter-espionage organization, aiming to maintain worldwide political and legal order. This series lasted for four years from 1964 to 68, becoming a cultural icon of sorts at that time with its audacious theme of US-Russian cooperation at the height of the Cold War. I urge you to see how they performed espionage with style.

This reboot of U.N.C.L.E. retains the Cold War setting. American agent Napoleon Solo and Russian agent Illya Kuryakin are forced to work together to prevent the nefarious plans of glamorous but ruthless arms dealer Victoria Vinciguerra. They connect with Gaby Teller, the daughter of a kidnapped German nuclear scientist, as a means of getting closer on Victoria’s tail. But it would appear that Gaby also is not all she seemed to be … or is she? The cast is very satisfying to watch, starting with Henry Cavill. He carries the film as Napoleon Solo. With his elegant chiseled looks, Cavill credibly portrayed the cool, capable and suave spy Solo, even better then he portrayed Superman last year. He also succeeded in pulling off the smart-alecky personality of Solo, a man with a bristling sense of humor.

Armie Hammer is quite a handsome actor himself, but he could not really lift his career off the ground after his forgettable role in “The Lone Ranger.” Here in U.N.C.L.E., he was charismatic and charming in the bickering buddy as well as the action scenes. They played off each other without him being in Cavill’s shadow.

I’d never noticed Alicia Vikander until her role as the mysterious Gaby Teller. It’s just too bad that she didn’t get many slam bang action scenes while wearing all those wonderful outfits.

Elizabeth Debicki makes a very good impression as the main villain Victoria, with her towering beehive, striking haute couture and naked ambition. It was also great to see Hugh Grant again, playing British agent Waverley. I’m thinking that if this franchise is continued, we’ll see more of Grant since this character Waverly was the officer in charge of Solo and Kuryakin in the TV series.

U.N.C.L.E. was refreshingly different in the realm of spy films and out and out fun. The 60s-inspired production design, hair and costumes were so fab that the viewer can’t help but fall in love with the aesthetics of that period. The fashion, the accessories, the music … even the cars. Especially the cars! Attention was given to every detail to encourage you to escape into the movie universe they created.

A small side note: missing from this Guy Ritchie film was extensive foul language, nudity and blood shed found in nearly every movie these days. Yet the story wasn’t lacking because of this was omitted. This is the most entertaining, slick and stylish spy film in theatres this year!

What are you waiting for?

 

Friday’s Fantastic Film

June 12th, 2015

I’m not joking when I say that McFarland, USA was a fantastic film. I rented it at RedBox this week and if you haven’t heard, it’s about a cross country coach in a small California town that single handedly transforms a team of athletes into champions.

I know many of you are thinking, “A movie with Kevin Costner coaching a boys running team?” Don’t be hesitant, the story behind these boys is warm, endearing and inspiring. What else would you expect from Disney? The movie develops slowly, but after the first 10 minutes the boy’s characters are taking shape and they’re doing so well you want to keep watching their ability to live ordinary lives under extraordinary circumstances.

I don’t care for major sports, however I enjoy watching a good sports movie. McFarland is one of those movies that satisfies the competitive nature within us and leaves the viewer feeling uplifted with a sense of hope in values. This movie does that and will also make you want to hug your family and count your blessings.

Costner shines as do his runners who tow the mark and are very respectful. At the end of the movie we see the real Jim White and those runners (now adults) and what happened to them and we also see how McFarland excelled in the Cross Country Program for a number of years since 1987.

Get your family together with tissues and popcorn ready and rent this movie. You’ll be glad you did!

The Imitation Game

May 30th, 2015

I may be one of the last people in the country to see “The Imitation Game”, but in case you haven’t, please let me tell you about what I rented from Redbox today. During World War II, mathematician Alan Turing worked to crack the enigma code with help from fellow mathematicians.

This review may take me awhile. My initial reaction is that it was astonishing, a magnificent achievement that stands tall as one of the year’s best movies. (Granted I’ve fallen behind recently) As the film continues to settle within my cinematic soul, this very well could also be the best film performance yet from the amazing Benedict Cumberbatch.

To be fair I’m fairly forgetful of most European history and probably heard the name Alan Turing in high school and college but either didn’t care enough to remember for long or have no recollection of his contributions. Sorry. Yet, his contributions essentially paved the way we exist today.

The Imitation Game was masterfully told, engrossing and disturbing. The director brilliantly explored the horrors of war along with the choices that doom mankind for all eternity while unraveling Turing’s story. Turing is one of the fallen heroes of our history and his story stands as one of the most tragic.

TV’s “Sherlock,” Benedict Cumberbatch continues to climb the ladder as one of the best actors working today. Though based on a real person, the talented Cumberbatch keep the viewers fixated on his performance. He captured the demons of Turing down to his bones. Unsure, arrogant, and dismissive to the world around him, and every once in a while, we get a front seat to his soul. Thank you Cumberbatch. This is why he deserved the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

The rest of the cast was also completely on their game. It was wonderful to see Keira Knightley on the screen again. This time as the feisty and fiery Joan Clark, she seemed comfortable, charming and perfect as I’ve ever seen her. She has all the things that make up an Oscar winner, including a scene that will bring you to tears and plenty others to offer comic relief.

The soundtrack was composed by Alexandre Desplat who has composed the fantastic scores for war dramas The Monuments Men and War Horse. This soundtrack is a bit warmer with long periods of strings. Desplat’s work compliments the film and it’s worth taking note of.

In my opinion, The Imitation Game is one of the best spy thrillers ever made and a realistic view at the spy game. Be warned, with the heartbreaking subplots you could find yourself in tears at the end.

The Imitation Game is a captivating achievement that I’ll likely remember for some time.

 

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel … and Pi

March 14th, 2015

Today is Pi Day (3.14.15). That means today isn’t just transcendental or irrational, it’s mathematical and there’s pie! That’s all the encouragement I needed to head to Lagniappe Cajun Creole restaurant in Marquette for a slice of delicious Mississippi Mud Pie that transcended all rational thoughts. I can’t wait to go back for the frog legs or jambalaya. http://marquettecajun.com/

Marvelous Mississippi Mud Pie

Marvelous Mississippi Mud Pie

Lagniappe Cajun Creole Restaurant

Lagniappe Cajun Creole Restaurant

As if the Pi wasn’t sweet enough to put me into diabetic coma, I went to see the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It was like visiting old friends with a familiar comfort. I’ve been waiting for this film since the day I saw the original Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. And it was lovely and amusing.

This film allows viewers to reunite with the incredible cast and their charming characters, which made the first film such a hit. The action picks up a few months after the story in the first film ended, with the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel doing well, and some of its mature long-term residents beginning or contemplating new romantic relationships and even jobs in their new hometown of Jaipur, India

Evelyn and Douglas (Judi Dench and Bill Nighy) are the highlight of the film for me and seeing their tentative romance unfold is a joy to watch. Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) also comes to the forefront of this film, providing her expected acerbic, hilarious one-liners but with the film also allowing you to see a softer side to her, which comes to a particularly emotional point at the film’s conclusion. Those three were the real highlights of the film, but the rest of the cast did just as brilliantly, especially the Indian cast who I’m glad to see had a lot more to do this time round. Lillete Dubey was wonderful as was Tina Desai and Seema Azmi. And although he caused quite a stir when the cast was announced, Richard Gere was fun to look at, however wasn’t a particularly exciting addition. Still, it was an amazing cast who all played their parts flawlessly, all bringing something different to the story. I don’t think anyone can really argue with that.

The story stays true to its characters, taking their journey forward in natural and meaningful ways with new conflicts to shake things up. A lot of the laughs are aimed at the ages of the hotel’s residents, but they’re in on the joke laughing at themselves while demonstrating what a life well-lived is about. The characters conversations shows common doubts and struggles while reflecting upon a lifetime of experience. (I must be aging myself because I felt the script carried some great lessons for a younger audience if they would make the effort to really listen.)

Honestly, Marigold isn’t a perfect, flawless film. Nor is it “ground-breaking” story-telling. However, I’m still going to recommend seeing it if you like romantic comedies. I just enjoy these movies and it’s pretty. It’s a gentle, harmless film filled with warmth and isn’t there to be picked apart for every little plot failing it may have. It’s there to be enjoyed and if you let yourself, you will. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry, and it makes you reflect. It delivers the point of the film splendidly: that it’s never too late to love, to learn or to really live your life. That life can be an adventure at any age. That’s it. It’s all that you want and need it to be, a form of uplifting escapism.

I’d happily check in to a Third Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service

January 28th, 2015

Last night I attended the premier of Kingsman: The Secret Service. Yes, I went to a movie based on a British comic book. The Kingsman tells the story of a super-secret gentleman spy organization that recruits an unrefined but promising street kid into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius.

Licenced to thrill, Kingsman is almost a love-letter to the James Bond films. It’s not a parody, like Austin Powers, but a clever homage to the franchise combining 007 with Men in Black with an edge. Fans of both movies are certain to love Kingsman with all the rollercoasters of action, comedy and espionage, complete with a bucket of winks, references and nods to the world of spy movies. And just like the colorful, gadget ridden Bond films of the 1960’s, Kingsman is great fun to watch, with ‘wham, bam, thank-you ma’am’ style of mayhem, and one- liners to take home.

Portraying the lead character of ‘Eggsy’, Taron Egerton, proves to be an outstanding newcomer as he brings the character to life with an energizing street vibe with a glimmer of gentleman within much like a young Will Smith. Alongside, and tackling the role as gentleman mentor, is Colin Firth like you have never seen him before! In fact, Colin Firth worked out for 6 months to get into shape to portray Harry Hart, and performed 80% of his stunts. Samuel L. Jackson was fantastic as an over-the-top, fun to watch as the villain with a lisp.

Please keep in mind Kingsman is rated R for sequences of strong violence and amazing martial arts set to music that should make the Matrix franchise jealous, some language throughout and a bare female bottom at the end.

I can safely predict Kingsman won’t win any major awards, but I can guarantee that you will be entertained from start to finish by this original throw back to the old spy movies.

Fun trivia about Kingsman: The black designer bulletproof umbrella Harry uses was nearly a reality. Back in 1978 Bulgarian author Markov was assassinated by poisoned pellet being shot from an umbrella developed by the KGB.

 

 

 

 

 

Black Sea

January 27th, 2015

As you know, I arrived back in South Florida yesterday afternoon. My friend picked me up from the airport and we drove directly to the movie theater for the first movie premier of the week. What a dandy way to begin my Florida visit!

However, watching Jude Law as a tough, revenge-seeking submarine captain searching the depths of the Black Sea for rumored gold, wasn’t inspiring. As submarine movies go, Black Sea is probably the best one this year. That it may be the only one certainly helps.

There’s nothing remarkable about Black Sea. It lacks the tension of Das Boot and doesn’t quite hit the adventure of The Hunt for Red October. In fact, the angst, betrayal and underhand tactics become repetitive and predictable.

The Black Sea rattles along with the odd explosive scene and even managed one or two funny quips. The director establishes a crew of embittered men on opposing sides without serving a purpose. There are missing beats and some clunks as logic and reason tumble down the gangway. There is little to surprise but, and hopefully the viewer isn’t too bothered by historical or scientific accuracy, otherwise they’ll be disappointed.

Jude Law creates a grizzled hero though he isn’t given enough to add depth to his character. The soft flashbacks and memories of his estranged wife and son are intended to add meat to his bones but there isn’t enough in them to make us really care and they are more distracting than affecting. We understand and care more about Tobin’s (Bobby Schofield) emotional predicament through a brief exchange between captain and junior than the entirety of flashbacks from Robinson.

Black Sea has the feel of a movie released in February because it’s not good enough to feature during summer blockbusters, too low budget to compete against Hollywood’s big studio flicks and doesn’t even pretend to have any merit for awards season. Maybe it does well for the British sitting at home on a cold, damp winter’s evening in dire need of entertainment. I wouldn’t even bother seeking out the DVD.

Good thing I was happily nestled between friends to save the evening.

 

 

 

American Sniper

January 25th, 2015

I spent my last day in Reno with friends, one of which I went to see Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper with. In Eastwood’s latest film, real life Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle’s pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend that he never asked to be. Back home to his wife and kids after four tours of duty, however, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind.

It’s one of those powerful movie experiences when you walk out of the doors seeing the world a bit differently. American Sniper left that eerie feeling with me. Thankfully, most of us don’t know what it’s like to face the mental and physical challenges our troops and their families face during war. We’ve never been in the middle of a sand storm fire fight. This movie provides the viewer with a small glimpse into what our troops face overseas and stateside.

While Clint Eastwood didn’t break any ground with direction, he was a perfect choice for this film and did an incredible job telling Kyle’s story without putting politics on the screen. This is a rough story to watch no matter your political views. War is hell on all sides.

Bradley Cooper bulked up his shoulders and took on the very difficult role of Chris Kyle. And he played the role believably and with utmost respect to Kyle, his family and the Navy SEALS.

I believe you will walk out of the theatre with many thoughts after watching American Sniper. Personally, it brought many emotions about the courageous servicemen and their families that have touched my life.

American Sniper was very well made, however if you decide to see it be aware this is a very powerful movie about a serious subject, and includes some graphic wartime violence. It’s not for children, and not a replacement when the comedy you wanted to see is sold out.

To the Kyle family, all veterans and their families, thank you for your sacrifice and courage. Your stories inspire us to strive for peace.

The Gambler

January 5th, 2015

Today I took a gamble on Mark Wahlberg’s “The Gambler”. The Gambler tells the story of Jim Bennett, a degenerate associate professor of literature with a dangerous and seriously self-destructive addiction to gambling at underground casinos in the underbelly of Los Angeles. His addiction soon begins to affect his professional and personal life to severe and deadly consequences.

To be honest, I like Walhberg as an actor, and I think he’s a good actor. This role was a different step for him. I never thought I would see the day when Mark Walberg appeared in a mediocre movie. Yet, the script was so poorly written, it was as if it was written by a college student, and the director added a terrible soundtrack. On top of that the movie was actually boring. with gratuitous use of the F-word, and the ending just simply doesn’t fit and feels more like a studio ending rather than something that would be true to the film.

The only redemption was the superb acting by Walberg and Goodman, but they didn’t come anywhere close to saving this movie. Certain scenes could have been more intense, while others could have been left out. Just like the gambling theme of the movie, seeing the movie will be a gamble. Wait for the DVD.

 

 

 

 

 

Unbroken

December 29th, 2014

Yesterday I had the honor of seeing the unbelievable true story of courage, survival, resilience and redemption through forgiveness. I went to see Unbroken. And before I begin, let me say I have not read the book.

The basic story line is that after a near-fatal plane crash in WWII, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he’s caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp. But there is so much more to learn about American hero Louis Zamperini and his character.

I read a few reviews that called the movie predictable, fine, and mediocre. I can only guess they were hoping for something with more computer generated graphics to make it larger than life and exploit the genuine content of the story. Unbroken is real and deals with Louis’ struggles beyond war, beyond men, beyond race, beyond countries’ borders, but of deep faith beyond persecution.

Maybe those reviewers didn’t appreciate that Jolie wasn’t making an action movie, but created a character driven piece. That’s what made this a winning movie for me because she revealed the inner struggle to match the physical Louis was up against. This is a very real struggle many veterans face.

After speaking with a man who knew Louis Zamperini, I believe the film followed his life accurately. It shows Louis to survive WWII unbroken, character intact and with a heart of a true hero. The lesson to be taken away from Unbroken is the value and power of forgiveness, not just for the other person, but mostly for yourself. Forgive in all that the world has given you and you will leave a gift greater than yourself.

I was unfamiliar with the lead actor Jack O’Connell, but he proved himself with this great performance. He embodies the characteristics of Louis Zamperini and the life he lived, I’ll watch for him in more starring roles.

Unbroken is intellectually fulfilling, without extraneous scenes and the uplifting story is told very straightforward. It’s not a fluff film about friendships made during the war. And when the war, and movie, ends there isn’t a big hoopla. These men, like my grandfather, simply went home to their families, and back to work.

This is a story that needed to be told, as our WWII heros are quickly passing away like Mr. Zamperini did earlier this year. Do yourself a favor and see this movie. You won’t regret it.

 

 

 

 

 

Exodus: Gods and Kings

December 15th, 2014

I went to see Exodus with an open mind. I left feeling disappointed and wondering why Ridley Scott decided to make this movie. Other than spectacular visuals, use of CGI and gratuitous use 3-D, he don’t seem to care about anything else, such as Biblical truth. You will probably never see such detailed visuals of ancient buildings, slums of slaves, and huge ocean waves. The added effect of 3-D adds a lot to the powerful plague scenes.

Amazing, over-the-top visuals aside this is a classic example of poor movie making. When will filmmakers realize the main reason people watch films is for a story to be told and to relate to the characters involved? It’s not to watch scene after scene of meaningless special effects, as entertaining as they are! The story of Moses in the Bible is rich, amazing and epic. Unfortunately the story in this film is slow, lacks heart, but more importantly, completely betrays the Bible story.

That’s it! There is nothing more that I could appreciate other than I getting out of the house for awhile. Exodus felt empty, cheap with ficitious Moses and Ramses. Christian Bale’s acting was alright, but it’s nothing special. And in some scenes he seemed to have a British accent. That was just weird. Some scenes are memorable, and others down right laughable. There are many points Exodus is actually a bit boring, even if the visual effects are great. It’s hard to imagine the same man directed Gladiator. He should have stuck to fiction and not tried a classic Biblical story people are familiar with.

It’s like this, when you don’t tell the whole truthful story the characters involved are ultimately betrayed. The movie suffers from this particularly in the distortion of Moses’ relationship with God was idiotic – portraying God as an unwise brat. Ridley Scott would have done well to concentrate on staying true to the Bible and establishing a connection between the audience and the two central characters: God and Moses. Unfortunately we end up with a movie that is desperately trying to be epic in scale and visuals but somewhat confusing in it’s story and characters.

I just don’t understand how the director blindly spent so much of his budget on CGI technology without caring about the integrity of the story, character building and writing a decent script. All of which, together with the special effects, could have created a masterpiece. Instead the viewers had to be happy watching the magnificent sequence of millions of frogs jumping ancient buildings. Ridiculous! You’ve been warned.

Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.