Archive for April, 2014

 

THE OTHER WOMAN

Starring: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Written By: Melissa Stack

Directed By: Nick Cassavetes

 

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“Heaven has no rage, like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury, like a woman scorned.”   Do you recognize the quote?  Rephrased, it’s “Hell has no fury like that of a scorned woman” and it’s the underlying message of the new film, “The Other Woman,” starring Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.  What happens when a woman’s boyfriend turns out to be married and the two women become good friends?  Let’s add one more variable to the equation before you answer that question.  What happens when these two women find out that the husband/boyfriend is cheating on both of them with yet another woman?  The obvious answer is that all three women become friends in order to get revenge.

other5CameronDiaz plays Carly Whitten, a high profile, sophisticated New York City lawyer who goes through men fasterthan a box of Milk Duds in the movie theater.  Her secretary, played by the overly made up Nicki Minaj, reminds her  boss that she never actually calls her boyfriends by their given names.  But “Mark” is different.  She has “cleared the bench” in order to make time for only him—her “Sunday Kind of Love.”  As she is about to have her father (Don Johnson) meet this new love, Mark suddenly is unavailable.  Her gut tells her to drop him, and with all women, her gut is right.  It was her heart that leads her to find out the ugly truth that he is married.  As Carly and Mark’s wife, Kate (Leslie Mann) meet, the two begrudgingly become friends.  Poor, needy, insecure Kate pours out her heart and soul and the two hatch a plan to get back at Mark.

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The premise of the movie is nothing new.  In addition, the message is something that we women have always known—your girl friends are your complete life support system.  It’s fun to watchthese three unlikely women become friends under the very uncomfortable circumstances.  Kate with her insecurities, her Great Dane, and her perfect suburban housewife clothes complete with Ralph Lauren sweaters in vibrant colors wrapped around her neck juxtaposed with the cool, hip, and chic NYC black on black, she blubbers very funny realizations about herself and her relationship.  Carly, in her chic black on black outfits, calmly helps Kate, but finds herself bumbling as much as Kate in this new situation.  The addition of the voluptuous Amber rounds out the female pack of the newly revised Three Stooges.  

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Yes, this is full of slapstick, silly situations which are all quite predictable.  But even with the predictability, it’s still quite funny.  The overacting of various situations trying to lead into physical humor is a bit distracting, but also forgiven because this is just a fun, lighthearted comedy that puts women in the brightest of lights.  These women together, through friendship and loyalty have scruples.  The women are completely righteous and even though they are each a victim, hurt by the same man, they take matters into their own hands to dole out justice.  This revenge theme has been done many times before.  They even stoop to using the same sophomoric pranks as you’ve seen in other movies such as using NAIR in the shampoo bottle.  But yet again, it’s still funny.

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other2This is a “chick flick” throughand through.  It’s a romp down Revenge Road.  “The Other Woman” is a predictable, yet entertaining movie that is funny in rather juvenile ways.  Every woman out there has probably been in a situation similar to this with a cheating boyfriend at some point in her life.  We girls do stick together and true friends are always there for each other.  If you’re looking for a lighthearted, somewhat silly comedy where the women are all good and the guy is the epitome of awful, you’ll enjoy this movie.  If you’re looking for a complex story with deep meaning, you had better pass on this one.  This is a perfect movie to see with your girl friends after you’ve had dinner and a couple of cosmos and braided each other’s hair.  (You’ll have to see the movie to understand that joke!)  It’s also a movie you could wait to rent and enjoy it just as much with your friends in the comfort of your home.

 

NO GOD, NO MASTER

Starring: David Strathairn and Sam Witwer

Written and Directed by: Terry Green

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Terry Green, writer and director of NO GOD NO MASTER, has effectively depicted the  historically significant time of 1919-1920 when terrorism onUS soil was first seen.  He accurately recreates a specific time when package bombs were delivered to prominent businessmen and politicians by people in a group called Anarchists.  Labor disputes and fair treatment of immigrants was at an all-time high and those in power wanted an end to this radical behavior.  With William Flynn at the helm of the investigation by the Bureau, the politicians got the truth.  But is the truth really what they were looking for?

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David Strathairn stars as Agent William Flynn with second in command, Agent Ravarini (Sam Witwer).  Flynn is an agent with scruples and knowledge.  He lives in the immigrant Italian neighborhood in NYC, right next to and doing business with the very people that are being accused of a part of this conspiratorial group and possibly being deported.  From the opening scene, the viewer is quickly transported back in time to the year 1919.  The attire, the furnishings and buildings, and even the wall paper and photos were spot-on perfect for the era.  Attention to such detail gave even more credibility to this little-known piece of history.

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The story unfolds along a linear time as Flynn and Ravarini learn more about the true culprits of the bombings and the real motivation behind power-hungry politicians such as A. Mitchell Palmer and the young and yet unknown J. Edgar Hoover.  Weaving this story into a secondary story of two young immigrants who are wrongfully accused of murder, the story becomes more complex.  Always reminding us that this is a true story, creates an even more powerful film.

NO GOD, NO MASTER easily shows the parallels  between not only threats and bombings of nearly 100 years ago and today, but also our politician’s treatment and viewpoints.  The film captures the nature of both these aspects and how little many things have truly changed.

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When history repeats itself, what have we learned?  NO GOD NO MASTER artfully explores our American history and helps us answer just that question.  With clear, concise writing and the deft skill of David Strathairn as the lead, the message is conveyed.  Although a serious film, it does have its moments of levity with the relationship between Flynn and Ravarini.  There is also a small romantic aspect of the movie, adding to the entertainment  of the film.

Check out this film as it opens in the Chicago area this weekend.  It never ceases to amaze me how little we know (or remember) about our own history.  The smaller historical events are sometimes just as important as the larger ones.  This is just one example of that.  Learn something and be informed as well as entertained.

Terry Green will be joining me on The Reel Focus radio show on Thursday, May 22 to discuss his film.  Be sure to tune in at 4:30 pm CST.  You can listen on-line at WKCC Radio or catch it in podcast form at Reel Honest Reviews

 

The 16th Annual Ebert Film Festival is set to raise the curtain Wednesday, April 23rd and run through Sunday, April 27th at the historic and recently renovated Virginia Theatre in Champaign, IL.  Over the course of five days, 12 films will be shown with filmmakers and/or actors in attendance to give insight to their film.  “Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival,” now known as Ebertfest, was founded in 1999 by the renowned film critic Roger Ebert.  Ebert, the former University of Illinois Journalism graduate and Pulitzer Prize winner, began the film festival to recognize films that he felt did not receive the accolades deserved during their original run.  To this day, this concept continues with his widow, Chaz and Festival Director Nate Kohn, choosing the films to be shown.

With Mr. Ebert’s passing just a year ago, the hopes and intentions of Ebertfest will “keep true to Roger’s vision and philosophy,” according to Mary Susan Britt, Associate Festival Director.  The festival will be “sharing fantastic films with a diverse international festival audience.”  Ms. Britt also shared that although there are many highlights in this year’s festival, there are two that truly stand out:  “Our festival is opening with LIFE ITSELF, a feature documentary based on Roger Ebert’s memoir; directed by Steve James.”  In addition, “a statue of Mr. Ebert will be unveiled in front of the Virginia Theatre during the festival.”

What makes Ebertfest different and even standout among so many film festivals across the country is the fact that it does not give prizes nor does it have categories of competition.  There is no distribution business that occurs as is typical at other festivals.  This festival celebrates quality films and recognizes the filmmakers who made them.  As Ms. Britt stated, “Filmmaker guests are treated like people, not like celebrities…we are very informal and relaxed.”  Given the filmmaker lineup, that might be difficult to do!  Brie Larson from SHORT TERM 12, Patton Oswalt from YOUNG ADULT, Oliver Stone from BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, and Spike Lee from DO THE RIGHT THING are several examples of the talent available to answer your questions after the screening.  For a complete list of films and guests attending the festival, go to www.ebertfest.com.

The schedule of films this year is outstanding with WADJDA, LIFE ITSELF, A SIMPLE LIFE, and CAPOTE among many others.  Having the directors on hand to share relevant and interesting background information absolutely enhances the film viewing experience.  When will you ever have the opportunity to hear Oliver Stone talk about BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY again?

Ebertfest also holds Panel Discussions which address topics such as “Remembering Roger Ebert,” “The State & Future of Independent Film,” and “Filmmakers Workshop”  as well as several more.  Experts in the field of film will be on hand to discuss these topics and answer pertinent questions to enlighten listeners.  Michael Barker, Co-President and Co-Founder of Sony Pictures Classics, C.O. “Doc” Erickson, an executive producer for major Hollywood films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW and VERTIGO, and Michael Phillips, film critic at the Chicago Tribune are a few of the foremost authorities sharing their wealth of knowledge with you, the audience.

Get your tickets now as these films do sell out!  Individual tickets as well as festival passes are available.  Prices range form $14 per film with student and senior pricing available.  Panel discussions are free and open to the public.  The Virginia Theatre is located in downtown Champaign close to many wonderful restaurants enabling you to make a day of it. With the quality of films showing, the talent in attendance, and the extra events taking place,  this is going to be a film festival worthy of two thumbs up!

 

 

 

 

 FAVOR

Available on VOD Tuesday, April 22nd!  Order on iTunes by the 22nd and receive a free outtakes link too!

Starring:  Blayne Weaver, Patrick Day, and Cheryl Nichols
Written and Directed by: Paul Osborne

“Favor” had its Midwest Premiere at the Waterfront Film Festival to a packed house recently on a late Friday night.  Given its dark and twisted nature, nighttime was the perfect time to see this film.  “Favor” posed these questions…When you do a friend a favor, do you keep track?  And if you keep track, when do you call it “Even Steven?”  When Kip, a successful marketing agent accidentally murders his mistress in a seedy hotel room, he calls his childhood friend Marvin to clean up his mess. Marvin, an unemployed loser, apparently sees this as an opportunity to balance the scales.  How far will each of them go to get what they want?

“Favor” was a powerful, suspenseful, and intense psychological thriller that kept you guessing at every dramatic intersection.  This film had more dangerous twists and turns than Mulholland Drive on a dark and stormy night.  Kip, in his perfect life where his colleagues admired him, women wanted him, and his adoring, beautiful wife trusted and loved him, didn’t appear to realize what he had.  Greed got the better of him and when his bosom buddy from elementary school tried to make him realize this, in not so friendly ways, both Kip and Martin fell into a moral abyss.  As the decisions spiraled downward, I sat on the edge of my seat, sometimes holding my breath, not knowing what was going to happen next.  This unpredictability paired with the intensity of each and every deeper and darker situation, kept you glued to the screen.  How could Kip rectify the situation?  Kip just kept getting dragged further and further down the the slippery slope of life.  Take a deep breath here because even with all the intensity and violence, there was still humor interspersed.  The balance of all these factors made this film brilliant.  I’m not from England so I’m not throwing around the term ‘brilliant.’  It truly was.  From the beginning to the end, you will never see what’s around the next corner.

“Favor” was like few movies hitting the theaters these days in wide release.  It was a great story told well, as independent film supporter Robert Redford would say.  The script was concise and intelligently written.  However, even with a great script, you also need a talented cast.  “Favor” had not only a talented cast, but an outstanding one.  Blayne Weaver played Kip, the self-absorbed, egotistical, greedy yet successful marketing agent.  Patrick Day, starred as Marvin, the not-so-lovable loser.  His appearance, style of speech, mannerisms, and overall presence were increasingly more menacing and disturbing as the movie developed.  “Favor,” made you realize that when you have the right script, the right cast, and the right director, you have a standout film.  Favor was a brilliant, dark, and intense psychological thriller that was full of surprises.

As the lights in the theater came up, the audience simultaneously had an audible exhalation.  Several of us chuckled at how we didn’t see things coming and the overall response was, “Amazing!”  We were then lucky enough to hear the director/writer and two main actors answer questions after the film.

Given the nature of the film, I anticipated a somber and brooding type of writer.  I couldn’t have been any more wrong.  Paul Osborne was charasmatic and immensely funny.  The Q & A had the flavor of an interactive stand up comedy show!  Blayne and Patrick were sweet, handsome, and humble…quite the antithesis of their characters.  This was pointed out by several audience members which hammered home the point of how talented these actors were. One story that stood out concerned one of the hidden obstacles or bumps in the road they experienced while filming.  There was a need for a couple of mounds of dirt.  The digging was to take place in the Santa Monica mountains.  Apparently, according to section 2.4, article 32, paragraph 3, you may not dig here.  You can bring dirt in for the mounding purposes, but it couldn’t be just any dirt.  It had to be “special” dirt.  As he ordered his special dirt, he needed to specify a quantity.  The poor guy didn’t know what a “yard” was so he ordered 9 of them!  I guess there are advantages to growing up in rural NY!  Many other stories were told, but if I share any more, it might ruin
the movie for you.

“Favor” is now one of my top psychological thrillers.  This is a must see!
FAVOR trailer
9 REELS

It’s only appropriate that HEAVEN IS FOR REAL is opening this weekend, Easter Weekend.  Greg Kinnear, Thomas Haden Church, and Margo Martindale are familiar faces that grace the screen.  But the new cherubic face that trumps them all is Connor Corum.  Those chubby cheeks and sweet, innocent blue eyes are the true screen stealer.  The story of, or perhaps more aptly put, the question of whether or not Heaven is for real has been and will always be a debated topic.  Perhaps this movie will sway people in one direction or another to answer that question for themselves.

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Todd Burpo (Kinnear) wears many hats in the rural town of Imperial, Nebraska, but one of the hats is that of the local pastor.  He and his wife lead the congregation while raising their two young children.  The scenery is pastoral (pun intended) with idyllic family values evident as the family sings songs on a family trip.  Imperial, NE is a community that looks out for one another and supports each other.  When Burpo’s young son Colton experiences a near death trauma due to an illness, he visits Heaven.  As he relates his wonderfully pleasant experience to his family, Todd Burpo along with the entire community begin to question if this child could be telling the truth.  With nay-sayers, reporters, and those that truly don’t want to know, Todd begins to question his own faith.  Has he really been believing and practicing what he has preached?

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Let me begin by saying that this is a book written by Todd Burpo based on his experiences with his son.  Knowing this information makes the film a bit more impactful.  Unfortunately, for those of you who have seen the trailers, the entire movie has already been shown.  Filler scenes are there to tie in these clips.

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HEAVEN IS FOR REAL is a nice movie about one man’s belief in God.  Ironically, this man in question is a preacher.  It brings this leader of men to an even level with the congregation, seeing that we all struggle with our faith.  Within these esoteric struggles, there are also tangible issues such as finances and church boards to deal with—very real life issues we can all relate to.  Although this movie seems a bit contrived and too perfect, it’ll still bring you to tears as these various families struggle with unanswerable questions.  Its slow pace and predictable dialogue wears a bit thin by the end, but the angelic face of Colton will keep you interested.

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Greg Kinnear plays this role well as he portrays the charismatic family man to perfection.  Connor will capture your heart and make a non-believer believe he is the one who truly did visit Heaven.  The rest of the cast played their parts, but there is nothing outstanding here.  Couple that with the dialogue and you have mediocrity.

 

HEAVEN IS FOR REAL  is a movie with a message and for those who want to hear the message, it is loud and clear.  As a film, it is not outstanding in the least.  However, it is a family oriented, wholesome movie giving people hope and belief.  If you want a holiday movie this weekend to take your family to, this is the one to go to.  It might just make a believer out of you.  heaven bookIf you’re looking for great cinematic entertainment, you will be disappointed.   If you’re looking for something more enlightening, perhaps you should read the book instead.  As one patron who read the book stated, “…the book is more powerful.”

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5 REELS/10

 

 

BUDAPEST

Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” gets a wider release this weekend.  The avant-garde filmmaker is known for his unusual perspective, both thematically and cinematically.  You may recall his most recent film “Moonrise Kingdom,” holding true to that unusual perspective.  His newest film, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” follows along that same continuum as well as harnessing the talents of his all-star cast.  

 

BUDA7“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is told in parts or acts as would a play in the theater.  Using narration and switching narrators where it is appropriate, the story revolves around a book written about a grand hotel nestled high in the mountains in a far away place.  We are transported back in time as we find ourselves peering into the life of this young writer played by Jude Law.  The hotel is not grand nor is it beautiful at this point, but the Young Writer befriends a man we find out is the owner of the property and shares quite a grandiose story.  The colors on the screen become sharp, bold, and vivd as we are spiraled further back in time to when this hotel was truly magnificent and all the people who stayed there were as well.  

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This complex, but eloquently told story from the perspective of Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) is one of fancy and preposterous situations that all arise because of a caring man, M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), head concierge at the hotel.  With BUDA8his love of older (much, much older) women, he finds himself at odds with one woman’s family after her passing.  The antics begin as the story becomes more and more complicated, but still following a somehow logical path.  M. Gustave and his lobby boy, Zero (Mr. Moustafa) are thrown into one situation after another; delving deeper and deeper into the sordid and sometimes disturbingly violent mess ahead of them.  As a viewer, your attention never wanes as you are captivated by either the gorgeously flowing and poetic language or the elegant, ornate, surroundings with vivid pops of color.  Your sense of vision and hearing is constantly entertained.

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“The Grand Budapest Hotel” covers every possible topic.  There’s love, hate, family issues, class ranking, violence, politics, greed, burglary, death, and anything else life could possibly throw at you.  It’s quick pace holds you to the story line unfolding almost magically before you.  This film captures the essence of a bygone and romanticized era.

 

BUDA5The film is written in a very whimsical style punctuated by a surreal environment and exaggerations of every form, yet it is a story that captures you.  This is a stylistic film.  You notice the lack of color or the bombardment of it.  You are very aware of the contrasting language styles as the poetry abruptly halts with a familiar and not so poetic phrase which is truly humorous.  The elegance of the upper class and the thugs within it are clearly defined as with Willem Dafoe’s character of Jopling and Harvey Keitel’s Ludwig.  Mr. Anderson tends to bring back actors from previous films and this film is no different.  Bill Murray and Edward Norton grace the screen in true Wes Anderson style.  But Ralph Fiennes shows us his ability to portray a very unique character with comedic sense and an almost father-like sensibility.  His lines are complex, almost Shakespearean at times with the recitation of verse, yet still comprehendible. He’s a caring,sweet gentleman and seems to have only one purpose in life and he will fulfill it till the end.  Tony Revolori plays the young Zero with the zest and sensibility of a much older actor.  His nuances in timing and expressionwork impeccably with Fiennes’ honed acting skills. The pair seem to be a father-son combination and are the core of the film.

 

BUDA6“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a truly lovely film full of wonder, excitement,humor, and love.  Its exaggerated moments bringing the preposterous into reality give the film a Marx Brothers type of levity.  It is an exceedingly creative and entertaining film—an adult fairy tale.  The action is non-stop, whether it’s verbalor visual, as you are mesmerized and surprised to see what happens next.  This film is rated R, but I’m predicting that it will not appeal to the teen and young twenties group.