Monday, September 12, 2016

Cafe Society charms Woody Allen fans

Movie Title:  
    Cafe Society

Grade:   B

Rating:   PG-13, 85 minutes

In a Nutshell:  Woody Allen is a master at quirky characters and conversations.  In this dark comedy about love, regret, and existentialism, old Hollywood and Manhattan glamour drip with nostalgia.

As Bobby Dorfman says, you will be “half bored, half fascinated.”   

Uplifting theme: 
  • “Live every day like it’s your last and someday you’ll be right.” – Evelyn’s mom
  • “I guess some feelings never die.  Is that good or bad?” – Bobby Dorfman
  • Regret, longing, love.
 Things I liked:
  • The talented cast includes Steve Carell, Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, and Blake Lively, and Rad Taylor.
  • The end will leave you thinking about the love that got away in your own life.
  • You get to see beautiful homes, theaters, clubs, and even famous celebrity homes.
  • This is the third time that Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart have worked together in a film.  Their chemistry is evident and they both deliver spot-on performances.  I love Jesse Eisenberg in everything he does.  Turns out, he's perfect for Woody Allen material too.
  • The stylized music in the very beginning does a great job of setting the tone and enveloping you in the time period throughout the entire movie. 
  • It pokes fun at the superficiality of society life, but it sure makes being rich look fun.  (wink)
Things I didn’t like:
  • A lot of movie critics say this movie is “charming.”  I’m sorry, but I do NOT find adultery charming.
  • It’s very “Woody Allen.”  If you like his style, you’ll enjoy the movie.  If not, it’s more of the same.

Interesting lines:
  • “Unrequited love kills more people in a year than tuberculosis.” – New York writer
  • “Dreams are dreams.” – Vonnie (Kristen Stewart)

Funny lines:
  • “First a murderer, then a Christian.  What did I do to deserve this?” – Evelyn
  • “Too bad Jews don’t believe in an afterlife.  They’d get a lot more customers.” – Evelyn
  • “Socrates said, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living’, but the examined one is no bargain.” – Leonard (Stephen Kunken)

Tips for parents:   

  • Children will be completely bored.  It really is a movie meant for adults.
  • There is an awkward conversation with a prostitute.
  • Some mobsters knock off a bunch of people.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Sully soars at the box office

Movie Title:    Sully

Grade:  A-

Rating:   PG-13, 96 minutes

In a Nutshell:  This is an inspiring, true story of Captain Chesley Sullenberger III, who saved 155 souls by landing a US Airways airplane on the Hudson River in 2009 when both engines failed.  

Known as “Miracle on the Hudson,” the story dramatically measures numbers and facts against human frailties and instinct.

Combine the legendary Clint Eastwood (who directs the film) with Tom Hanks’ excellent performance and you get solid tribute to a deserving hero.

Uplifting theme: 
  • “Everything is unprecedented until it has happened.” – Sully
  • “A pilot never stops acquiring knowledge.” – Sully’s crop-dusting trainer when he was young
  • Here’s to the hard-working, unsung heroes who do their best every day without fanfare or awards.  Sully explained, “I don’t feel like a hero.  I was just a man doing my job.” - Sully
  • "A delay is better than a disaster." - Sully's Chinese fortune cookie

Things I liked:
  • I wondered how this story would be stretched into a feature film and what we might learn that we hadn’t already heard in the news when it happened.  Clint Eastwood does an outstanding job building tension and drama by looping forwards and backwards through the story, creating a powerful end to the movie that we didn’t know.
  • Great cinematography and CGI work.
  • Fans of disaster movies will get a few glimpses of what kind of destruction could have happened if the plane had crashed differently, as imagined by Sully in nightmares and flashbacks.
  • Anna Gun from Breaking Bad and Mike O’Malley from Glee do a great job as the critical investigators who questioned Sully’s decision to land on the Hudson River.
  • Audiences will likely compare Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Sully with his role as Captain Phillips in that award-winning movie.  Tom Hanks delivers powerful and stirring performances in both.  How is it he has only received two Oscars so far?  Even stranger is that they were both back in the ‘90’s.  He’s everything we want in an actor and truly carries this understated film.
  • Hollywood often glamorizes “bad boys” as heroes, so it’s truly refreshing to see an honest, hard-working “good guy” win the praises and adoration he deserves.
  • Don’t leave the theater after the last scene.  Keep watching during the final credits and you’ll be rewarded with photos and videos of the wreckage, rescue, and reunion of the passengers from Flight 1549.  You get to hear the real Sully announce, "This is your captain speaking."
  • You can never go wrong when you add New York City as a character in your movie.

Things I didn’t like:
  • Laura Linney plays Lorrie Sullenberger who withers under the pressure and spends the entire movie walking around her house on the phone. 
  • Aaron Eckhart had the most gigantic, distracting mustache I’ve ever seen on him.  I normally love him (he has my son’s eyes), but all I could see when he talked was that super bushy mustache.
  • Because the film is pretty short, there simply isn’t enough time to develop any characters other than Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Captain Sullenberger.  We don’t even learn anything about his co-pilot played by Aaron Eckhart.
  • I thought it was almost creepy when the flight attendants started chanting “Brace for impact!  Heads down! Stay down!”  Obviously, that’s what they’re trained to do in a crash-landing scenario, but it seems like that would make the situation even more stressful and scary.
  • I wish the camera had stayed on Tom Hanks' face longer when he was given the news in the hospital that 155 souls were saved that day.  That was a missed opportunity for what could have been an incredible performance by Hanks.  He started to deliver powerful emotion, but then the camera moved away!

Interesting tidbits:
  • The movie was filmed with IMAX cameras.
  • The famous aircraft carrier Intrepid is featured in the movie.
  • A local bar in New York City created a drink they called “The Sully” which has some Grey Goose with a “splash” of water.
  • The water in the Hudson River was an icy 36 degrees that day.  A few passengers jumped in the water and could have easily been frozen to death if rescue workers hadn’t quickly arrived on the scene.  Sully never took credit for saving all the people on the plane day; instead, he attributed the combined efforts of his entire crew and all of the rescue workers to their survival that day.
  • Chelsey Sullenberger III was included in Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential Heroes and Icons” of 2009.
  • The aircraft for Flight 1549 was recovered and is now on display at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina.
  • Sully has received several awards and authored two books since that fateful day.  He was hired as an aviation and safety expert by CBS News and currently gives speeches.

Funny lines:
  • “I’ve never been so happy to be in New York in my life.” – Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart)
  • “It’s our job to investigate how the plane ended up in the Hudson.” – Charles Porter (Mike O’Malley)
“ON the river.” – Jeff
  • “You know the only way to get out of La Guardia on time?” – flight attendant #1
“What’s that?” – flight attendant #2
“Go to JFK.” – flight attendant #1
  • “I’m thinking about running over the press with a car.  Self-defense.  Do you think a jury would convict?” – Lorraine Sullenberger (Laura Linney)
  • “Can you believe they charge $5 for a Snickers?  I could bankrupt the airline in 5 bites.” – Jeff Skiles
  • Interesting lines:
  • "It's been awhile since New York had news this good, especially with an airplane in it." - US Airways representative
  • “Life’s easier in the air.” – Jeff Skiles
  • “They should pin the medal and put you back to work.” – Jeff Skiles
  • “I don’t like not being in control of the process.  I’d like myself back.” – Sully
  • "There was no calculating.  I had to rely on my experience." - Sully

Parent tips:

  • 1 F-bomb, which is actually surprising, considering how many people could have easily lost their lives that dramatic, stressful day.
  • It’s a little slow-moving and boring for children.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Florence Foster Jenkins reminds us AGAIN why we adore Meryl Streep

Movie Title:   Florence Foster Jenkins

Grade:  B

Rating: PG-13, 110 minutes

In a Nutshell:  This period dramedy spotlights a brilliant and ever talented Meryl Streep, although this film won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.  

I can really relate to Florence, however.  My singing voice is terrible, but I love music.  How wonderful it would be to have something beautiful come out of my mouth when I sing.

Florence Foster Jenkins was an heiress and socialite who desperately wanted to be an opera star, despite her lack of talent.  Those around her sheltered her from the ugly truth, something which is both sweet and irresponsible at the same time.  The dilemma: crush someone’s dreams with a dose of reality or enable their blind delusion by supporting their dream?

Uplifting theme: 
  • “Music matters.” – Florence Foster Jenkins
  • “Music has been, and is, my life.” – Florence
  • Money can buy an awful lot.
  • Supportive kindness, friendship, and loyalty.
  • Oh, to dream.
  • There's more to stardom than talent.  Of course, reality TV has already taught us that.

Things I liked:
  • It was fun to watch Florence’s passionate reactions when she listened to music.
  • Fans of the Big Bang Theory will get a kick out of Simon Helberg playing pianist Cosme McMoon.  His facial expressions are picture perfect.  His performance exceeds expectations and is sure to secure more spots on the Big Screen.
  • Hugh Grant gives a mature and tender performance as Florence’s devoted, yet unfaithful husband, St. Clair Bayfield. I love how he dotes on her, calls her "Bunny", and makes her feel like she is truly loved and treasured.
  • Bathtub full of potato salad.  Ha ha
  • It’s actually hard to sing badly.  Meryl Streep seems to relish in those moments.  I loved Meryl’s singing at the very end.
  • You get to hear the voice of the real Florence during the closing credits, as well as see some pictures of what she looked like.

Things I didn’t like:
  • You will hear some truly terrible singing.  It can start to really grate on you and tear you down with weary.
  • It’s slow-moving. 
  • Such ridiculous excess and self-indulgence.

Interesting lines:
  • “The lady is a lesson in fidelity and courage and that’s why we love her.” – Chrisitan McKay (Earl Wilson)
  • “Yours is the truest voice I have ever heard.” – St. Clair
  • “People may say I couldn’t sing, but no one will say I didn’t sing.” - Florence

Funny lines:
  • “The Verdi lunch always begins with a soup.  You know that!  How could we begin the lunch without a soup?  There would be a riot!” - Florence

Tips for parents:   

  • Most kids will be insanely bored.
  • Some profanity.
  • Discussion of infidelity.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Secret Life of Pets is fuzzy fun

Movie Title:      The Secret Life of Pets
Grade:  A-

Rating: PG, 90 minutes  

In a Nutshell:  This high energy family flick by Universal and Illumination is colorful and fun for all ages.  

Directed by Yarrow Cheney and Chris Renaud, the visual gags, lines and chase scenes come at you non-stop with just the right touch of heartwarming “ahhs.”  It’s oddly therapeutic, like you’ve just been playing with your own pet for 90 minutes.  

Uplifting theme: 
  • Friendship
  • Love

Things I liked:
  • I love the opening New York City scene.  You just can’t go wrong making a movie with the Big Apple as one of your characters.
  • You’ll recognize Jenny Slate’s voice from the adorable Zootopia movie.  She has such a unique voice that she has a great future in animated family films.
  • The animators clearly have pets.  They nailed the body movements and pet expressions.
  • It’s fast-paced with humor that even parents will get a kick out of.
  • The talented cast includes Louis C.K., Kevin Hart, Albert Brooks, Steve Coogan, Dana  Carvey, Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell, Bobby Moynihan and more.  I adore Jaime Camil in the popular TV sit-com “Jane the Virgin”, so I was happy to hear his melodramatic, over-acted Latino voice as Fernando in a telenovela that Gidget watches.
  • I laughed out loud at the sea monkey's comment because I had thought the very same thing after buying some.
  • The story about how dogs are descended from wolves.  Ha ha
  • Cute and perky music by Alexandre Desplat.
  • Keep watching after the first set of credits at the end.  At the very end, you hear Pops yell, “Alright, party’s over!”

Things I didn’t like:
  • See it in 3D if you want to see dog drool flying towards you.
  • It’s chaotic, so you'll probably want to take a nap with your dog afterwards. 
  • Isn’t this story basically Toy Story with animals?  Think about it.
  • Kevin Hart’s character Snowball screams during the entire movie, which can grate on your nerves. 
  • The French animation studio, Illumination, really pushes the envelope for family entertainment, because this movie has violence, sexual innuendo, and a few jokes that are inappropriate for American sensibilities.
  • You see most of the cute moments in the movie trailer within the first 10 minutes of the film.
  • Snowball is a total psycho and the action sequences with him escalate into the absurd by the end.

Funny lines:
  • “Where is Max?  Tell me!  Don’t look at him.  Look at me.” -  Gidget (Jenny Slate)
  • “I feel heroic…and handsome…a little wet, but I look good.  I look good.” – Snowball
  • “I’m your friend, and as your friend, I gotta be honest.  I don’t care about you or your problems.” – Chloe
  • “We gotta take the secret route!” – Pops
“Ok, the secret route was death.” – Chloe
  • “Nobody could ever love a cat like they love a dog.  I’m just saying.” – Max
  • “Dog people do weird, inexplicable things like they get dogs instead of cats.” – Chloe
  • “You’re not doing great, but you’re not drowning…and that’s something!” – Duke  (Eric Stonestreet)
  • “You may have lots of time, but for me, every minute is a cliffhanger.” – Pops (Dana Carvey)
  • “This is groundbreaking evil behavior, people!” – Snowball
  • “Oh, great. You’re in love.  How gross for everyone.” - Pops

Tips for parents:   

  • It will make you want to line the walls of your house with web cams to see what your pets really do when you’re gone.
  • Because the target audience is young, plan on butt-sniffing, rabbit pooping, and nervous peeing jokes.
  • Your kids are DEFINITELY going to want a pet after seeing this.