Awkward. Vulgar. Tedious. Predictable. A crowd, but no pleaser. The reviews were definitely not kind.
But I couldn’t resist a film with such heavyweights as Robert DeNiro, Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton and Robin Williams. And while I agree it wasn’t the best film of the season, it certainly wasn’t the worst wedding comedy on record.
The Big Wedding is based on the Swiss/French film, Mon Frère Se Marie, released in 2006. In the original film, the adopted Vietnamese son of a well-to-do divorced Swiss couple is preparing to marry. The son’s biological mother, long out of the picture, travels to unite with her son for the wedding. To appease the traditional Vietnamese mother, the entire wedding party pretends the adoptive parents are still married.
In The Big Wedding, adopted son (Ben Barnes) is Colombian and has two siblings: an attorney with marital problems (Katherine Heigl) and a doctor saving his virginity for marriage (Topher Grace). The virtuous Catholic mother (Patricia Rae) arrives with her other child, the sexually precocious Nuria (Ana Ayora). Add in Robin Williams as Father Moinighan to officiate the ceremony and all the ingredients for a chaotic farce are in place.
At barely ninety minutes, the film does not require a major time commitment. But I would wait for the DVD.
On December 26, 2004, a tsunami struck Southeast Asia killing over 230,000 people in fourteen countries. Images of that huge wave coming out of nowhere have been imprinted into our collective memories.
In The Impossible, director Juan Antonio Bayona focuses on the real life survival story of Maria Belon. Naomi Watts delivers an outstanding performance as the British doctor on vacation with her husband Henry (Ewan McGregor) and sons Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast). I was impressed by all the actors, especially Holland who captured the bravery and determination of Maria’s eldest son. I am surprised he wasn’t nominated for an Oscar.
In the opening scenes, we meet and get to know the central characters. The siblings squabble on the airplane. Henry shares his workplace issues. Maria offers to resume her medical practice. And then we watch, fascinated, as the wind picks up, a page is ripped from Maria’s book, Lucas chases his ball, and birds fly quickly away. Palm trees start falling and then the huge wave descends.
At first unsure about the film’s direction, Bayona wanted to focus on Maria’s heroics. But while speaking with Maria, she stressed that it was all due to luck.“If anything I did was heroic, what would that mean for the others who weren’t so lucky?”
Inspirational and uplifting!
War correspondent. American novelist. Travel Writer. Martha Ellis Gellhorn was more than just the third wife of Ernest Hemingway or as she so succinctly put it, “I’m not a footnote in someone else’s life.”
In Hemingway and Gellhorn, Nicole Kidman delivers an outstanding performance as the feisty journalist who first meets the legendary author (Clive Owen) while on a family holiday in Key West. There is instant chemistry and they agree to travel to Spain to cover the Spanish Civil War. As correspondent for Collier’s Weekly, Gellhorn later reports from Germany, Finland, and Asia.
I was fascinated by Gellhorn’s writing journey. At first, she is unable to write and marvels at Hemingway’s ability to crank out pages while standing up with his typewriter on the dresser. Later, Hemingway chides Gellhorn for staying in bed until noon, admitting he had been writing since 6:00 a.m. After making several rookie mistakes, Gellhorn hits her stride and achieves her own success.
Their relationship was a tempestuous one, exacerbated by Gellhorn’s long absences during her reporting assignments. While Hemingway admired her intellect, he wanted a wife in his bed. Interestingly enough, Gellhorn was not keen on marriage and she was the one who initiated divorce proceedings.
While I enjoyed the movie, I was not impressed with some of the retouched scenes. Director Philip Kaufman treated some of the front line drama with a sepia tint, creating a newsreel effect. I would have preferred the full colored images.
A must-see movie, especially for Hemingway fans.
Lavish and languid. Those are the two adjectives I would use to describe this pale companion to The King’s Speech.
After watching the trailer, I expected more humorous scenes as U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Bill Murray) welcomed the British royals to his country retreat in upstate New York. And more depth regarding the president’s relationship (affair?) with his distant cousin, Daisy (Laura Linney). But perhaps there was no depth to that relationship. Maybe all that FDR did was take country drives, play cards and share drinks with this agreeable companion approved by his mother.
Bill Murray captures many of the nuances of FDR with his panama hats, southern drawl and long cigarette holders, but fails to demonstrate the strength and decisiveness of one of the great U.S. presidents. His wife (Olivia Williams) and mother (Elizabeth Wilson) come across as forceful women who ruled their respective roosts.
I was most intrigued by the scenes involving the royals (Olivia Colman) and (Samuel West). The queen is portrayed as a sharp and shrewish woman, suspicious of her hosts and all Americans. She is obsessed with the hot dogs to be served at the picnic and convinced that everyone “wants us to fall flat on our faces.” Her constant references to the Duke of Windsor and what he would and would not do undermine the King’s confidence.
The most compelling scene occurs between the disabled president and stammering king. Bertie confides, “They didn’t want me as their king” to which the president replies, “I didn’t think they voted for that in England.”
According to the critics, Admission does not make the grade. “Stumbling” and “uninspired as a slice of boiled ham” were some of the descriptions tossed about in the reviews.
While I read the reviews and watch the trailers beforehand, I usually go with my mood when deciding which movie to see. In this case, I wanted a light and fluffy romantic comedy to offset the busyness of the holiday weekend.
And that is precisely what I got with Admission.
I love watching Tina Fey perform and was not disappointed with her portrayal of Portia Nathan, an admissions officer at Princeton University. Fey captures the nuances of the slightly obsessed Portia who spends her days visiting wannabe collegians and lecturing about the importance of an Ivy League education.
Portia’s personal life leaves much to be desired. She puts up with her domestic partner, an academic snob who prefers to read poetry to himself, and later defends him halfheartedly, “Sometimes you make sacrifices for the person you’ve been living with for ten years.”
Her not-so-perfect life is ready for an overhaul.
The snob dumps her for a smarter (but not prettier) colleague, and the director of a charter school (Paul Rudd) resurrects one of Portia’s secrets from the past.
I particularly enjoyed Portia’s scenes with her mother, Susannah. Lily Tomlin delivers a superb performance as the radical feminist mother who conceived Portia during a chance sexual encounter and subsequently forgot the man’s name. Living the life of an ex-hippie, Susannah does not hesitate to point out her daughter’s flawed choices or use her rifle to scare off aggressive suitors.
Light entertainment that hits the sweet spot.
Each year, I look forward to seeing at least one Nicholas Sparks movie. It’s that light-hearted entertainment filled with commitment-shy lovers trying to hide dark, unhappy pasts.
Safe Haven is no exception.
The movie opens with a violent episode. A blood-splattered brunette is running down a dark Boston street.
Abuse. Murder. These are the thoughts that immediately come to mind as we watch an obsessed detective ( David Lyons) launch a nation-wide man-hunt for her.
The scene changes abruptly when a blonde haired Katie (Julianne Hough) finds herself in the quiet seaside town of Southport, North Carolina. There, she decides to seek refuge and reinvent herself.
Content with working at a waterside cafe and redecorating her secluded cabin, Katie resists the overtures of her persistent neighbour Jo (Cobie Smulders) and Alex (Josh Duhamel), a single dad who runs the local grocery mart with the help of his children.
The romance heats up as the town prepares for the July 4 festivities and fireworks.
While parts of the movie are predictable, there is a surprise twist at the end.
The robot or the memory centre.
Retired cat burglar (Frank Lagella) can no longer hide his forgetfulness. So, he grudgingly accepts the humanoid robot provided by his son (James Marsden). After a short period of adjustment, Frank starts appreciating the calm, infinitely patient helper who cooks healthy meals, cleans his house and accompanies him to his favorite haunts.
Frank becomes even more animated when he discovers that the robot’s skill set also includes petty theft. Ignoring the robot’s suggestions to take up gardening or hiking, Frank plans several heists and makes the robot his partner in crime.
The supporting cast includes Liv Tyler (Frank’s free-spirited daughter) and Susan Sarandon who plays the librarian with a soft spot for the aging septuagenarian.
Set in the near future, Frank and Robot provides us with glimpses of sleeker telephones and cars along with technocrats intent on replacing books with digital archives. Unfortunately, there’s still no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease.
Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes. Jim Carrey
In Hitchock, Alma Reville does much more than roll her eyes. Unknown to many Alfred Hitchock fans, she played an integral role in the creative production of those dark and dazzling films. In his book, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Pyscho, author Stephen Rebello describes her as the “exacting Mrs. Hitchcock” and the first person Alfred had to impress and please with any film idea. Dame Helen Mirren captures the intensity and elegance of this forgotten heroine, while Sir Anthony Hopkins plays Hitch at the height of his fame, just after the dazzling success of North by Northwest.
Determined to prove that he is not a relic at age sixty, Hitch decides to finance and film Psycho after the studios balked at the idea of filming something so grotesque. Undaunted, Hitch mortgages his house and instructs his assistant (Toni Collette) to buy every copy of Robert Bloch’s novel, Psycho, to keep the public from knowing the story. Acting on Alma’s advice, he persuades Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson) and Tony Perkins (James D’Arcy) to play the lead characters.
I was impressed by Hopkins’ rendition of the corpulent director obsessed with his leading ladies and fetishes. The seasoned actor inhabits the role, giving one of his best performances. But, in my opinion, Mirren was the star of the movie, leaving me to wonder what Hitchcock’s movies would have been like without Alma.
At age seventy-five, Dustin Hoffman has made an outstanding directorial debut with this gentle comedy about aging musicians living at Beecham House, a British retirement house. The film is based on Italy’s Casa di Riposo per Musicisti, first chronicled in the 1984 documentary Tosca’s Kiss.
The musical seniors are rehearsing for the annual gala fundraising concert. When legendary diva Jean Horton (Maggie Smith) arrives, she creates a stir and receives a standing ovation from the other residents.
But not everyone is pleased to see her.
Reggie Paget (Tom Courtenay) still holds a grudge against his ex-wife and fellow member of a London operatic dream team. Two other members of the team, Wilf Bond (Billy Connolly) and Cissie Robson (Pauline Collins), also live at Beecham and hope to persuade Jean to join them and wow the audience with their famous quartet from Rigoletto.
The supporting actors include actual retired stars, among them opera singer Gwyneth Jones and jazz pianist Jack Honeyborne.
Hoffman has provided the perfect backdrop for creative people who refuse to slow down, despite their aging bodies and minds.
Simply delightful from start to finish.
It is not surprising that Daniel Day-Lewis won the Golden Globe and SAG awards for best actor. And I wouldn’t be too surprised if he also won an Oscar for his outstanding portrayal of Abraham Lincoln. He doesn’t just look like Lincoln; he immerses himself and becomes Lincoln. He dominates every scene of the film, displaying the many aspects of the former president’s character. While the folksy storytelling provides the humor, the cagey politicking demonstrates a different aspect of the former president, one not usually portrayed in films.
Director Steven Spielberg confined the main story to a one-month period: January 1865, the beginning of Lincoln’s second term. He wants the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery, passed in the House of Representatives, and he wants it passed right away. An ambitious plan, Lincoln refuses to be deterred by advisors who deem it impossible given the current makeup of the house.
Most of the scenes in the movie involve politicians sitting or standing in rooms while arguing. While some of these scenes were necessary to demonstrate the process, I felt there were too many of them. I would have preferred more scenes of Lincoln with his wife (Sally Field) and oldest son (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).
The stellar cast also included Tommy Lee Jones as visionary Congressman Thaddeus Stevens. Another Oscar-worthy performance. In her supporting role, Sally Field delivered an outstanding performance as the volatile Mary Todd Lincoln.