Movies & Reviews

Movie Review – “Sweet Land” (2005)

5-Star Post Master

Sweet Land - 2005 - 02

It has been sometime since I have done any sort of movie review. In fact, it has been sometime since I have even posted on this blog at all. But this past evening after watching the subject movie of this review for my third time since March 14th of this year its injection of exuberance from the entertainment factor of this film has simply gotten the best of me.

Set in the early 1920’s of post World War I, a mail-order bride comes to America to marry an immigrant Norwegian farmer who had procured a homestead in Minnesota. The young woman, being of German descent is immediately ostracized by the local community and the local church’s minister. The minister refuses to marry them and local officials refuse to issue government documents to her which would resolve the communities perceived suspicions, again all because of her German heritage and the lingering raw feelings regarding Germany and the aftermath of the war.

The young woman’s husband-to-be must grapple with his religious convictions and the critical eyes of the church in dealing with how he and the woman are to cohabit in an unmarried situation. She speaks little English and must personally deal with trying to understand all that is going on in all the social turmoil.

The farmer’s young bride-to-be turns out to be a very strong and formidable partner as they vie for acceptance into their community. All and all, it is a very heart warming love story peppered with humorous moments and a film which will draw you in and won’t let you go until the very end.

Movie Review – “Robot & Frank” (2012)

3-Star Post MasterRobot & Frank - 2012 - 03

Well it has certainly been a while since I have submitted a movie review. Sadly enough, I’m not sure that I have watched more than two or three films since my last review even worth making a them post worthy.

Yesterday while doing my blog rounds I popped in on Ronni Bennet’s “Time Goes By” blog where she was featuring a new post, ” Robot Caregivers and Old People“. And in that post she featured a movie trailer which was in fact exactly what the film portrayed. After watching the brief trailer I was completely snared by what I had seen.

So I immediately headed into Cyberspace to see if I could find more information on this film. Since I had up to this point never heard of the film I certainly assumed it was yet to be released but that was my first mistaken assumption. The film had been released in 2012 and had also won the Sundance Film Festival’s “Alfred P. Sloan Prize” for the year 2012. That prize is awarded to films which feature science and technology in its main story line.

I thought at first I would just order the movie but then, being a Comcast subscriber, thought I should check their available movies first. As luck would have it they did have it in their ‘On Demand’ library of films and were renting it for $3.99. I certainly will admit to having a cheap streak in me from time to time but I had been hooked on the movie trailer so not even the rental fee of $3.99 was enough to deter me from what would be my Friday night at the movies.

But now to the film itself. The film’s setting is set in the not to distant future where robot technology has been developed for a more common use in both the home and the work place. The main character played by Frank Langella, a real favorite actor of mine, is a divorced, aging elderly man with a son and a daughter and who seems to be suffering in some small measure from dementia. Quite independent in his nature, his son is worried that he lives alone out in a somewhat rural area and seems to do little to take care of himself or his home. So his son purchases him a robot which is programmed primarily as a caregiver and housekeeper.

When he introduces his gift of this robot to his father it certainly does not receive a warm welcome. Of course as the film progresses we watch our main character slowly warm up to his new companion. But in the process we also learn that our main character has a bit of a character flaw. He is an ex-cat burglar aka jewel thief with a measure of prison time in his past. As the film progresses even further his underlying passions for his trade as a jewel thief slowly emerge when triggered by events in the film. Along the way he also begins to realize the capabilities of his new robotic companion and decides solicit and train his new companion in the finer arts of thievery.

I suppose at this point I should resist from any further dissertation regarding the film’s plot or outcome. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and it was well worth the $3.99 I begrudgingly forked over to Comcast. This movie was, however, very difficult to rate for me. I wrestled with a 3-Star or a 4-Star rating and continue to wrestle with that even as I write my little review here. I want, in a sense, to give it a 4-Star rating based on entertainment value alone but if I stick to my own definitions of my rating scales, it has to be a 3-Star. The reason being, if you are familiar with my rating system, is that to get a 4-Star rating there has to be a conscious assurance that this is a movie I will want to watch again in the future. Although I found it entertaining in almost every sense, I do doubt that I would ever watch the film again. But it certainly warrants watching for a charming night of entertainment…. 🙂

‘Movie Review – “Draft Day (2014)

5-Star Post MasterDraft Day - 2014 - 01

Given the fact that I have already watched this film twice, perhaps it is time to express a thought or two regarding my unsolicited opinion of the film. Well… I have already watched it twice so there you go! What more of an endorsement could I levy? 🙂

It is definitely a sports film dealing with the sport of professional football and I found it to be exceptionally entertaining. The film encompasses a time frame of some 12 hours and it revolves around all that comes with that one day a year when all the National Football League teams select from the cream of the crop of the year’s top college players. Of course we all know it as “Draft Day”.

The subject film stars Kevin Costner as the fictional General Manager of the Cleveland Browns along with his co-star Jennifer Garner who is one of the front office staff along with being his inter-office love interest. The film presents us with the high stakes drama and inter-office politics that manifests itself within a team’s managers and coaches in an effort to select those players who are the best fits for their teams. That same drama plays out as the individual teams negotiate with each other for players and yearly draft choices using their draft choices for barter in their quest for the players of their choice.

This is definitely a sport’s film so it’s impossible to say that everyone will find it as entertaining as I did. I’m sure that if you have at least some measure of the love of sports and in particular the sport of professional football, you may find it entertaining and even somewhat educational although from that standpoint the film may be little over dramatized. 😕

Movie Review – “Philomena” (2013)

4-Star Post MasterPhilomena - 2013 - 01

The review I find myself offering up today is on a film which I have already watched twice over the past couple of months and there is little doubt that I won’t watch another one or two more times in the future. Enjoyable and entertaining from the get-go, the film “Philomena” was well worth the hype it was getting prior to the 2014 Academy Awards of a year ago. Unfortunately it did not garnish any awards for its four nominations to include Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Original Score and Best Adapted Screenplay. But as we all know, winning awards or not winning awards is not necessarily an indicator on the entertainment value of any film when it comes to our personal likes and dislikes.

The subject film is based on the book by journalist Martin Sixsmith titled “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee”, the true story of a mother’s fifty year long search for a son who was forcibly taken from her at age fourteen and adopted out to another couple. Martin Sixsmith, who was portrayed by Steve Coogan in the film, was the journalist who accompanied and assisted Philomena in the long search for her son.

I have to say that it took me a while to convince myself to even watch the film. I just wasn’t sure a drama based solely on the search for an adopted child could hold my interest for any real length of time. Well I sure got that wrong! Certainly a bittersweet movie but none the less, I found it extremely entertaining from beginning to end and of course the acting was superb. There is hardly a time in any film that Judi Dench doesn’t deliver.

Movie Review – “The Mothman Prophecies”

4-Star Post MasterThe Mothman Prophecies - 2002 - 02

Given the fact that I am not a real fan of the ‘supernatural’ film genre, I had, in the past, past on several opportunities to view the subject film. I knew little about the content or plot but creepy pictures of a moth-like looking creature on the film’s advertisement posters and ads were enough to deter my interest.

But a few nights after noticing it was airing again on cable and perhaps finally realizing that it starred the likes of Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Debra Messing and Will Patton thought perhaps I should reconsider given its underlying star power. And so it was that I settled in on this particular evening and decided to give it a look.

Pleasantly surprised I believe would be appropriate with regards to my reaction to the movie. It was quite entertaining and one of those films kept you a bit on your toes with several twists that kept you attentive and at times a bit antsy. Turns out that the film is actually based on a true event of which I was unaware of until the credits rolled round at the end of the film.

And unlike many movies, I found myself during the next day or two having the film pop into my mind and realizing what something meant that I had totally missed while watching the film. Since this film does flirt somewhat with the supernatural, ‘prophecy’ being the key word there, it might not be to everyone’s liking but don’t miss the fact that it is based on true events…

I thought it was stupid”! – Robert Redford’

I recently had an opportunity to re-watch a film which I had not seen in years. That film which was certainly quite well known was “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” which was released way back in 1969. Gosh, it just doesn’t seem like it was some forty-five years ago when I first watched that movie. And of course who can mention this particular film and not in the same breath mention the song “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” which was sung and recorded by B.J. Thomas that same year. For most the film and the song are synonymous.

I was, however, to also learn during this particular airing of the film that all was not as it seemed back in the beginning with regard to the film and this particular song. There was much discussion as to whether the song fit the film in any regard. And as recently as April of 2012 during an interview at the London Film Festival one of the stars of the film, Robert Redford, noted that the music played a huge role in the film’s success but at the time they were filming he thought it was stupid to put that particular song in the film. Redford noted, “Suddenly there was a scene where the guy was singing “Raindrops Falling on My Head” and it wasn’t even raining. Well… how wrong was I?”

The song was released in October of 1969 to very mixed reviews. It wasn’t particularly a good fit with the hit songs on the charts at the time competing against number one songs at the time to the likes of “Can’t Get Next To You” by The Temptations; Sugar, Sugar by The Archies; Suspicious Minds by Elvis; Wedding Bell Blues by The Fifth Dimension; Leaving On A Jet Plane by Peter, Paul & Mary.

A separate version of the song was recorded specifically for the film which included a separate instrumental break when Paul Newman did a few bicycle stunts during the subject music sequence. The entire filmed sequence centered around two of the lead characters, Paul Newman and Katherine Ross, riding on a bicycle in one manner or another.

Despite the song’s initial slow rise in popularity, with the release of the film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” in December of 1969 “Raindrops Falling on My Head” shot up to Number One in January of 1970 and held that position for four weeks. It sold some 200,000 to 300,000 records a day and continued selling for about three years. Written by Hal David and Bert Bacharach, it won an Academy Award for both “Best Original Song” and for “Best Original Score”.

Below is a video clip of the scene in discussion….

As we now know of course, the song became almost iconic after it became a part of the film. And to this day I suspect it is hard for anyone who was old enough to remember the release of the film or the song to think of one without thinking of the other. And can’t you imagine just how bad Mr. Redford must feel about his prior misgivings! 🙂

Movie Review – “The Butler” (2013)

4-Star Post MasterThe Butler - 2013 - 1

I have looked forward for almost a year to seeing this film and it finally became available to me recently. I admittedly knew little about the details of the plot but had certainly been caught up in the hype surrounding the movie – the true story of a butler who served in the White House through eight consecutive Administrations. Almost hard to imagine and certainly intriguing to ponder what that life was like and all the history making events he would be somewhat privy to be a part.

Bottom line… In the end I was very disappointed in the film. So much so that it has taken me over two weeks, off and on, to gather my thoughts into the manner I wanted to present them. Again, I don’t know what I expected from the film but I didn’t expect to see ground which had already been plowed up time and time again in numerous other good films be subjected to another plowing and made part of an almost completely fictional plot.

You say you thought it was based on a true story? To say the film is based on a true story would be better stated a saying loosely based on a true story and even that is a bit of a stretch in my opinion. There are certainly a lot of true events related to in the film but unfortunately they are presented within the confines of a fictional plot for the most part.

Eugene Allen

“The Butler” is a screen play written by Danny Strong which is actually based on an article that appeared in The Washington Post titled “A Butler Well Served by This Election” back in 2008. The article was written by Wil Haygood, a Washington Post staff writer and can be read ‘here’. As noted in the article, the actual name of the man portrayed in the film by actor Forest Whitaker as ‘the butler’ is Eugene Allen.

Lee Daniels, an African-American, was the Director of the film. The performances by the actors in the film were outstanding, especially those of Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey. That unfortunately is about all the accolades I can spare for this film. It was entertaining but when a little ‘after the fact’ research was done about the film, I came away feeling as though I had been duped.

Forest Whitaker & Oprah Winfrey

The film’s eye-opening beginning takes place in a cotton field supposedly somewhere in Georgia and the white landowner comes into the field where the family is working alongside other workers. Our main character who as at the time a small boy along with his father watches as the landowner takes his mother to a small shanty nearby and rapes her. Then as he is leaving the father says something to the landowner who then stops, takes out a gun and kills the father, then casually walks off. The intent of the film of course was to show the absolute lack of worth a black man’s life had in those times but as to it factual basis as relates to the life of the film’s main character, it is completely fictional and never happened.

Eugene Allen and his wife had a son and a daughter. In the film they are portrayed as having two sons, one younger son with a demeanor similar to his fathers and an older son who is portrayed as a civil rights activist. The younger son serves in Vietnam and is killed which is completely fictional. Eugene’s real son, Charles Allen, did serve in Vietnam but was honorably discharged and returned to civilian life where he worked as an investigator for the State Department. Charles Allen was never the radical civil rights activist portrayed in the film.

In the film his older son is portrayed as a black activist during the civil rights movement as a backdrop to his position as head butler in the White House. His son is portrayed as participating in every major civil rights event from the Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in to joining the Black Panthers while his father, the butler, takes a more passive stance given his position in the White House. It is this tension between the father and son over civil rights issues that fuel the majority of the drama in the film.

To put it quite simply, the film for me would have been a much more enjoyable experience overall if it had simply been produced as a fictional drama and not passed off to the public for something it wasn’t.

In closing, as I have often stated with regard to my reviews… they are my reviews and my personal take on the films I review as I see it. It is not my purpose to encourage or dissuade anyone else with regard to viewing the films.

Docudrama Review – “The Men Who Built America”

5-Star Post MasterThe Men Who Built America - 01

I am usually highlighting and reviewing a film I have recently watched but today there will be a bit of a change. It’s more a ‘made-for-television’ feature that I choose to chronicle than a film as it were.

I recently watched a documentary on the History Channel, and for a second time I might add, and thought perhaps I should share how much I personally enjoyed it, both for its educational value as well as the gleaned entertainment.

The 6-hour docudrama or mini-series was first broadcast in the fall of 2012 and is presented in four – 90 minute segments. It chronicles the world’s greatest economic expansion and technology innovations produced over a period of some fifty years of America’s history from the close of the Civil War to the Great Depression and World War I and focuses entirely on the five men who were at the center of it all and portrayed by the character actors shown below ….

The Men Who Built America - 02

There does seem to be, in my view, something eerily familiar about it with many similarities to the America that we live in today. Perhaps in some ways it seems somewhat reflective of the current class struggle being exploited and debated within this country as I speak, in particular regarding the wealthiest 1% and the collapse of the middle class. And… they even bought themselves a President! Check out this intriguing video preview – “Presidential Election of 1896″.

If you are a history buff and/or enjoy watching these types of documentaries, I highly recommend this one. If you click on this link, Video Exclusives, you will be able to choose from several short video excerpts from the docudrama to give you some idea of content. As for me, well it’s getting a 5-Star review…. 🙂

The Porterhouse Movies….

Porterhouse-Steak(The Porterhouse Steak – Click to Enlarge)

For me, there are a few really, really good movies that are much like dining on an excellent porterhouse steak. Now let me try to explain the intent of that comparison if I can. Typically when I eat a porterhouse steak I eat the main portion of the steak first saving the ‘filet’ portion until the very end, the filet of course being the juiciest and most tender part of the steak. Consumption of the entire steak is quite the enjoyable dining experience certainly but the filet, in the cuisine sense, encapsulates for me the complete experience of an excellent meal – the best of the steak and the best of the meal.

In comparison, there are some films whose plots and storylines are constructed in much the same way as a porterhouse steak. The movie is really good all the way through but when you get to about that last 20-30 minutes the movie explodes with feelings and emotions and a total sense of satisfaction. While the majority of the movie equates to the main portion of the porterhouse, the last 20-30 minutes of the film I reference is the obvious filet.

Now, there are many good movies obviously but only a few are constructed in such a manner as to be referred to as the porterhouse steak style movie in my opinion. The film I came across last night while channel surfing on the television was “He’s Just Not That in to You”, a romantic comedy, which easily fits in the category I’ve been discussing. It’s the film that got me to thinking about all my other favorite movies and which ones had that magical 20-30-minute conclusion, that “filet of film” if you will. After some deliberation I have concluded that those movies which for me fit into the porterhouse steak scenario are as follows and in no particular order….

Sleepless In Seattle (1993)

Trouble with the Curve (2012)

Notting Hill (1999)

You’ve Got Mail (1998)

He’s Just Not That in to You (2009)

Field of Dreams (1989)

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Obviously you would have had to watch the entire movie to truly understand the wonderful climatic scenes of these films but for me, when I watch that last thirty minutes it’s like seeing the entire movie again condensed into a 30-minute time frame. The real plus with regard to these movies is that you don’t have to watch the entire movie over and over again to enjoy the experience; you only have to watch the climatic 20-30 minute conclusion to in fact receive the complete benefit of having watched the entire film.

In conclusion, if you can relate to what I am trying to say then that’s good that you have understood my point. Perhaps you have a favorite movie or two you can relate to this comparison yourself. If you don’t have a clue as to what I was trying to convey, just chalk it up to an elderly man who probably needs to increase his medication dosages.

Movie Review – “The Hunter” (2011)

4-Star Post Master

The Hunter - 2011 - 01

I ran across this movie last night and although it was unfamiliar to me, the fact that Willem Dafoe was in the starring role quickly caught my attention. He is an actor whose work and films I have really enjoyed watching over the years.

The film was appropriately titled “The Hunter” and Willem Dafoe played the role of a mercenary who was hired by a large biotech European company to go to the island State of Tasmania which is located some 240 miles off the southern coast of the continent of Australia. Although the scientific community at large presumed the Tasmanian tiger to be extinct, there were a few who thought there might still be a small remnant lurking about. This biotech company was hiring this mercenary to go and kill this thought to be last tiger, gather samples of its DNA and other body tissues, and destroy any remnants of the animal. The company thought there to be great commercial value in the DNA and destroying any other sources would give them complete control over any by-products created from the source.

Along with the adventure and the hunt Willem Dafoe begins to cultivate a relationship with a woman and her two children who live in the backwoods in an old house where he will stay while on his assignment. This relationship with the woman and her children provides a great backdrop to the story. As usual, the entertainment value of any movie is within the eye of the beholder but if this sounds interesting and suits your movie values, I think you will enjoy this one….