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Matt's Rating System:

Green  Go!  I think anybody would like this movie.
Yellow  Caution.  I liked it, but you might not.  
Blue   I didn't like the movie very much, but there is some merit there.  I'll tell you what I think it is.
Red   I really can't recommend this movie to you at all.
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2013 Reviews
Unbroken  The reaction to this movie from critics around the country has been mixed at best. Most say that director Angelina Jolie has
been too worshipful and uncritical of her subject, Louis Zamperini, who ran for the United States in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. He
fought in WWII, in which he was shot down over the Pacific, spent 45 days in a life raft with two other men be fore being "rescued" by the
Japanese navy and spent the remainder of the war in a prison camp where he was savagely beaten and worked nearly to death.  (Mr.
Zamperini died in the summer of 2014, shortly after Ms. Jolie had shown him a first cut of her movie.) Well, hell. Do these people really
want to know more about the prejudice he experienced as a first generation American growing up in Torrance, California? Do they want to
know what the three men did in the raft while they weren't catching sharks with their bare hands to eat raw? Do they want more
information about how prisoners of war treated each other in the camps?  If so, that's too damn bad. The movie's already two-and-a-half
intense hours, and that's plenty of time to discover that Louis Zamperini is an American hero who deserves the respect and affection that
Ms. Jolie gives him. Good for her. (12/26/2014)

Into the Woods   So now I've seen this thing twice. The first time I saw it, I didn't think it made much sense.  Near the end of the movie,
Red Riding Hood has something between a revelation and an epiphany and suggests that the giant who's tormenting the cast (Jack of
beanstalk fame killed her husband), and suggests that the giant is still a person after all and deserves whatever kind of life the rest of us
have. She sings a song with Jack and Cinderella called
You Are Not Alone that includes the line Witches can be right. Giants can be good.
You decide what's right. You decide what's good.
Then they go out and kill the giant. Right after that, Meryl Streep sings the show's most
famous song,
Children Will Listen to--no one as the child she raised just ignored her advice and rode off with a prince. These are just two
examples in a movie that is logically-challenged at practically every turn. If you just don't care about stuff like movies that make sense--and
I know that most of us don't--
Into the Woods is fine.  Emily Blunt and Anna Kendrick are excellent. A couple of kids with obnoxiously good
voices carried their weight and then some; Meryl Streep and Chris Pine didn't embarrass themselves
too much; and sadly, Tracy Ullman and
Christine Baranski were just wasted. So while you'll probably have a fine time at
Into the Woods, you can leave your brain in the car.

The Imitation Game  is both as good as I'd hoped it would be and a disappointment.  The story of the Bletchley Park code breakers
deserves to be told, and Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode are just the actors to tell it. They're all wonderful. But
does the story deserve to be used as a plea for tolerance of homosexuals?  Frankly, I think it could be, if handled the right way--but this was
not the right way. The story of Alan Turing's arrest and conviction for indecent behavior--and subsequent suicide less than ten years after
the end of the war takes over The Imitation Game and squanders the goodwill that the movie makers worked so hard to build up over the
course of the movie.  Which is too bad.  Both of Alan Turing's stories deserve a full movie treatment. It's a pity that somebody thought they
had to packed into just one.   (12/25/2014)

Wild  Reese Witherspoon is back.  She's fallen off the dark course that led her to places like Water for Elephants and This Means War.  
The Good Lie earlier this year, producing Gone Girl, and this movie, she is again showing us that not only is she one of the best
actresses in the business, she's one of the most insightful and smartest
people in the business.  I didn't read Cheryl Strayed 's book which
served as the basis for this movie. (I tend not to read Oprah's selections.) But I've read that the movie  is faithful to the book and respectful
of its spirit.  That's fine with me--all I know is that it's a heck of a movie. We follow Strayed's shame spiral of drugs and prostitution. (This
may be the first time we see Reese naked and doing it.  I'll have to check my notes.) And then we follow her path of redemption as it
follows a three-month journey through the deserts and mountains of the Pacific Crest Trail.  Along the way, she learns useful life skills and
comes to terms with what she thinks she 's lost in her life.  It's a spectacular movie. Welcome back, Reese! (12/23/2014)

Exodus: Gods and Kings   In case you needed another clue as to why he's Steven Spielberg and you're not, consider this. In 1987, he put
the entire weight of a multi-gazillion dollar, two-and-a-half hour movie (and some said his career) on the shoulders of a thirteen-year-old kid
with little acting experience. The kid was in practically every scene in the movie, and if he flaked out, a lot of people would lose a lot of
money and prestige. Lucky for him, the kid was Christian Bale, and
Empire of the Sun became one of Spielberg's best movies. Since then,
Bale has taken 40-odd quirky, mostly non-commercial roles that gave him an opportunity to do the kinds of things that interested him and
(mostly) allowed him to stay out of the limelight that he hates. Even in the
Dark Knight movies, director Christopher Nolan was more
interested in his villains played by Cilian Murphy, Heath Ledger and Tom Hardy. I mention all this to underscore my surprise to see him in an
old-fashioned "movie star" role. In
Exodus, he commands the screen and demands your attention. If you know the story--and I hope you
do--you may be going to the movie to see how director Ridley Scott handles the special effects of the seven plagues of Egypt and the party
of the Red Sea. (Very well, by the way,) But while you're waiting for the effects, you're treated to a masterful performance by Bale, who--
once again--is in every scene and makes you care about what's going on.  That's to his performance, the big splash (literally) on the screen
means something. In the environment of today's movies,
that's practically a miracle.  (12/14/2014)

The Homesman   I've been thinking all day about what to say about this movie.  It starts out as one thing, turns into another, and finishes
up as something else altogether. I finally decided that if The Hobbit can be chopped up into three movies, this movie could be similarly
deconstructed and diagnosed.  So here's my review of
The Homesman trilogy:

The Homesman, Part 1: A Dysfunctional Prairie Home Companion  Part 1 features a brilliant performance by Hillary Swank as Mary
Bee, a lonely prairie spinster looking for love in all the wrong places, i.e, the Nebraska Territory some time after the Civil War. This is a
place apparently populated by swimsuit models because all the men in town think Hillary Swank is "plain."  It's their loss because Mary
Bee has enough gumption for the whole town. She proves it by volunteering to undertake a five week journey to the Iowa territory to
escort three mentally unstable women of the town to somewhere they can get help.

The Homesman, Part 2: True Grit--Twenty-Five Years Later  Like all sequels, Part 2 isn't quite as good as Part 1.  In this segment,
Mary Bee rescues Tommy Lee Jones from a near-death situation and makes him escort her and the three women to Iowa. This is the
biggest of the parts and feels a lot like
True Grit would have felt if Kim Darby had been playing a character her real age and John Wayne
hadn't been a bounty hunter. This part drags a little bit and ends with Swank's pitiful seduction of 98-year-old Tommy Lee Jones.

The Homesman, Part 3: Hey, Look! It's Meryl Streep!  After suffering the ultimate humiliation of being rejected by the world's oldest
man, Hillary Swank, does not appear in the final section of the trilogy. Instead, we have Tommy Lee and the three crazy women (remind
me to look up the technical term) finishing the journey to Iowa and encountering James Spader, Meryl Streep and Hailee Steinfeld
in vignettes that are respectively bizarre, incomprehensible and creepy. The whole things ends up with Tommy Lee singing and dancing
(I'm not making this up) in the worst finale ever.

The Theory of Everything  I'm not even going to address the subject of Dr. Hawking's famous theories because I know I couldn't explain
them any better than he can himself.  (They are, after all, theories. Hawking himself disproved some of the key theories he'd formulated
himself earlier in his career. This movie is actually being criticized for this by some who complain that the movie isn't sufficiently
worshipful.)  But what I can do is talk about the movie.  Certainly, Eddie Redmayne did an incredible job of portraying Hawking from a
young college geek to an old college geek. He deserves the awards he'll surely receive when awards time comes around. I want to talk
about--and indeed rave about Felicity Jones's astounding performance as his first wife Jane.  She is phenomenal.  While Redmayne's
performance arc flattens out in the later part of the movie after Hawking has achieved fame and unceremoniously dumped her after she'd
spent decades keeping his sorry ass alive, (the movie is, after all, based on
her memoir) Jones continues to shine and make you believe that
she still loves the toad. If her performance isn't nominated for every award out there, it
would be a tragedy. I have to admit that I was
somewhat leery of seeing this movie because of the whole  "science vs. faith" angle. (If you're wondering, I find it beyond tedious for folks
on either side of the debate to deny the truth of the other.) I was surprised to find that faith actually won this round and that--along with the
incredible performance of Felicity Jones--help this movie escape the soulless trap that I'd feared it had laid for itself. (12/4/2014)

Horrible Bosses 2  Have you ever gone to a movie KNOWING it's going to suck?  It's kind of like watching the Hallmark Channel.  You
know you're never going to get back the precious hours of life you spent watching it, but you just can't help yourself.  In the first movie--
which is referenced early and often, what little The only surprise there was came from seeing Jennifer Aniston as a slut. The equivalent here
is seeing Chris Pine. He plays the son of a billionaire who cons Jason Bateman, Jason Sudekis and Charlie Day into pulling a fast one on his
father.  In reality, the plot is irrelevant because we're only concerned with the inside jokes among the actors.  The oddest of them have to do
with how good looking Mr. Pine is. The first movie entailed a little bit of critical thinking, but the second is little more than a genocide of
gray cells. (12/2/2014)

Big Hero 6  The mystery here is Why did so many people seem to like this movie?  It's been getting great reviews, but for the life of me, I
can't figure out what the attraction is. I'll admit that I was interested in the fusion of two cities into San Francisokyo. It's clever and gives
you something to look at when the action moves outside. However, that's kind of like saying that you went to a play to see the sets.  The
people--and robots--in the movie couldn't be less compelling. Scenes that are meant to be heartwarming (I guess) are ham-handed and
treacly--annoyingly so. I suppose the movie makers want us to be moved by the emotional lives and motivations of both the good guys and
the villains, but they're so artless as to be insulting. There is a moral--it's nice to have friends, duh--but your senses and your intelligence
take a pounding to get it. (12/2/2014)

The Penguins of Madagascar  I laughed myself silly at this movie,  but afterward, I hated myself for it. I know that some of the lines (We
are AWESOME at this!
) and running gags (Charlize, theron the machine! Or Drew, Barry, more power!) will be part of my life forever.
Sometimes, you just need some silliness in your life. So why am I giving
The Penguins a break when I trashed Horrible Bosses 2 for pretty
much the same thing.  Here's why: This movie is fresh where
Bosses is recycling what was fresh in 2012.  (12/2/2014)

CITIZENFOUR  Edward Snowden--whistle blower or traitor?  Regardless of what you think about him, you should see this documentary.
The reportage in the movie is unashamedly skewed in his favor, but that's okay. Listening to him explain himself provides not only valuable
insight into what he was trying to accomplish, it also shows the level of paranoia that one can expect to experience if one decides to cross
the government in the manner that he did.  The extent to which your government is able to look into every aspect of your life is a public
debate that we need to have as a country.
CITIZENFOUR provides a good place to start the conversation  (11/11/2014)

Beyond the Lights  Further down this page, I rave about Belle and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (hereinafter referred to as Gugu because I'm lazy)
and what a great career I think she's going to have. This is her second big movie, and I'm more convinced than ever that she's going to be
big, big, big. She plays a Rhianna-esque pop tart named Noni who's mother (Minnie Driver channeling Kris Kardashian) has dedicated her
life to making her daughter a star and a slut. But she's not. During a narrowly-run suicide attempt, she's saved by a bodyguard who's also an
LA police officer who's own father (Danny Glover) is pushing him into a career in politics. But that's not who he is, either. So they run
away and join the circus...not really, but that's the vibe, and they come to terms with who they really are and who's in charge of their lives.
The movie is okay, but mainly, I'm very impressed with Gugu. I hope she'll continue to get opportunities to prove that she's one of the best
actresses of her generation.  (11/16/2014)

Interstellar  The year was 1978--the band was The Sweet--the song was Love is Like Oxygen.  (If you're a young person with your
whole life ahead of you, don't go looking for it. I assure you that you'll regret it.)  Now we have Christopher Nolan sharing with us his
theory that
Love is Like Gravity.  Somehow, love (and future beings) will sustain you in your quest to get back through the wormhole to
Earth and the people you love.  It's a nice thought, but it's hardly a premise to build a multi-gazillion dollar movie around.  Interstellar is two-
and-a-half hours of loud and stupid, followed by fifteen minutes of pretty great. If you liked Mr. Nolan's
Dark Knight trilogy (Are we not
allowed to call him Batman anymore?) and
Inception, you might like Mr. Nolan's signature use of questionable use of dubious logic in
service of terrific special effects.  Matthew McConaghey (bless his heart) is a farmer and ex-NASA pilot who finds an "Indian drone"  on
the beach while walking on the beach one day. Somehow, he's led to a secret NASA installation where the last few rational people on the
planet So planning a mission to a "wormhole near Saturn." All they need is a pilot.   Saaayyyyy....  So the next day (apparently), he's off to
wherever with Anne Hathaway and random others who serve as 21st century cannon fodder. I didn't dislike this movie, but
2041: A Space
, it's not.  11/12/2014)

Laggies  In case you were wondering, "laggie" is not a mash-up of English soccer fans and Texas football players ("Lads" + "Aggies", get
it?) According to the Urban Dictionary, a laggie is the "baddest bitch in town." However, given the nebulous nature of the term "baddest", it
could mean either "meanest" or "hottest".  I'm not sure that either of these definitions apply to Keira Knightley in the context of this movie.  
If she were a man, she'd be called a slacker in her late twenties, who's happy to work as the girl who stands out in front of her father's
office holding a sign and trying to drum up business from passing motorists--although she has a masters degree. She has a boyfriend who's
finally to "take the next step" in their relationship--which makes one of them. She deals with the ambiguity of her situation by befriending a
high school senior (Chloe Grace Moretz) to the point that she hides out at her house for a week while telling her friends and family that she's
at a personal growth seminar.  But the experience turns out to be a personal growth experience of sorts. She helps Chloe deal with her
feelings about her mother, her father (the irreplaceable Sam Rockwell), and her boyfriend. She helps Sam deal with his own feelings about
being a divorced dad, and she even helps herself by coming to terms with her own relationships. The acting good all around, you enjoy your
visit to the world of would-be Seattle hipsters. (11/8/2014)

The Blue Room A few years back, this was a play on Broadway starring Nicole Kidman. It was a sensation because Mrs. Urban appeared
nude in one scene. I remember that one of the New York newspapers actually provided a seating chart of the theater, showing which seats
had the best view of her, um, assets. What nobody mentioned was whether or not the play was very good. Based on the new French movie
adapted from the play, I'd say that the reviews were not good. The sad sack main character works at the John Deere dealership in a small
French town. (I am not making this up.) The job must pay well because he's got a great house, a great car, a beautiful wife and child, and
enough time left over to diddle the wife of a local pharmacist--who's crazy, by the way. During the course of the movie, his wife and her
husband end up dead. Who did what to whom is the crux of the piece, and I have to tell you that French police procedurals are
boring. I'd even go as far to say that nothing in this movie is as interesting as Nicole Kidman's breasts. (11/7/2014)

Take Me to the River   In Only Lovers Left Alive (below), Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton are hipster vampires driving around
Detroit late one night in some cool car. Tom asks Tilda if she wants to see the old Motown studio. She responds with, "No, I'm more of a
Stax girl." I wondered at the time how many people in the audience caught that line. To anybody who doesn't know, Stax is a legendary
recording studio in Memphis that gave the world Booker T and the MGs, Isaac Hayes, Bobby Blue Bland, Al Green and scores of other
talented musicians who created what came to be known as the Memphis Sound.
Take me to the River is their story, and it will lift you up
and bring you close to tears. Told in documentary form, there's great footage from the past and interviews of those who are still with us. In
flush times, everybody was riding high and Isaac Hayes was tooling around town in a gold Cadillac. Everything changed after the
assassination of Martin Luther King and the world of Stax fell into bankruptcy and ruin. But the musicians were still around, waiting for the
Memphis music scene to rise from the ashes--which it has. I use this phrase a lot in describing movies I like, but it was one of those movies
where I just sat smiling at the screen. (11/6/2014)

Birdman   For Brian DePalma's The Untouchables, David Mamet wrote what I think was one of the great movie lines of all time: Eliot Ness
(Kevin Costner) talked about how his work has affected him and he said, "I became what I beheld." That line came back to me a couple of
times during
Birdman, the story of an aging Hollywood star who wants to remain "relevant" by adapting, directing and starring in a
Broadway show. The movie stars Michael Keaton, the movies' first Batman who himself is attempting  a comeback of sorts. There's lots to
like about
Birdman, but there's also much that's so totally "out there" that it undermines the rest of the movie. For example, Emma Stone,
playing Keaton's daughter, makes lots of good points about how in today's world, relevance isn't measured by putting on a show in the St.
James Theatre for a thousand old people, it's measured by how many followers you have on Twitter. That's great, but it was kind of
brushed off the table by several speeches about what a bad father Keaton was. Lots of great performances from people like Naomi Watts
and Edward Norton lift the movie, but odd diversions into the world of Birdman and what has to be the most obnoxious movie scores in
quite a while makes you want to throw SweeTarts at the screen. (11/2/2014)

The Judge and St. Vincent  I'm combining these two as one  entry because I saw them on the same weekend, and I was looking up their
reviews online afterward, I noticed that a lot of the "major" reviewers said much the same thing about both of these movies (good acting,
bad writing, trite plot twists), yet  72 percent of the critics said they liked
St. Vincent, and 60 percent of them said they didn't like The
. It's not like they're really similar--The Judge is full-bore drama, and St. Vincent could reasonably be called a dramedy.  It might be
due to the fact that
The Judge is a big studio movie, and St. Vincent is the soul of indie, but it would be a shame if that's the case.  I liked
them both a lot, and I suspect that you'll be hearing a lot about them at award time. Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall are riveting in
The Judge, and while there are a few too many plot points (I could have done without the tornado and the paternity question), I was
engaged for all of its two-and-three-quarter hours.  Likewise, Naomi Watts was wasted and lost as a Russian hooker on Long Island in
but Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy and the young actor who plays her son are so terrific, that you're willing to let it go.  In short, if
you're trying to decide which one to see some night, see both! (10/27/2014)

Men, Women and Children   A lot of people are dumping on this movie because they think the point that director Jason Reitman wants to
make about how social media rule the lives of children is something so widely known that it's cliché to base a movie on the premise.  (A
more catty person than myself would point out that as those same people who are dumping on the movie are totally immersed in social
media themselves, they might not recognize that there are some of us who don't know the extent of its saturation.) The movie ie focuses on
a handful of teenagers in Texas who embody the perils of living life on the internet.  There's a cheerleader whose mother (Judy Greer) has
organized a website (offering private modeling sessions) to launch her daughter's career; an athlete (Ansel Egort from
The Fault in Our
) who quits the football team so that he can dedicate thousands of hours to online video games; another cheerleader whose driven to
anorexia and painful sex by peer pressure; and a seemingly normal girl whose mother (Jennifer Garner) monitors her every online
keystroke--she thinks. The least effective plotline concerns a middle-aged couple (Adam Sandler and Rosemary DeWitt) who find thrills at
online dating sites. Some have said that the intertwined stories are predictable and "sappy", but I thought it was kind of brutal and left the
theater thinking that every teenager and his parents should see the movie together. At least it will get them off the 'net for a couple of hours.

The Good Lie   The good people who brought you The Blind Side are back with a similarly earnest movie about the Lost Boys of Sudan.  
(If you're like 99.99% of Americans who weren't paying attention at the time, the Lost Boys were refugees of the Sudanese civil war who
fled across the border to Kenya to escape the savagery that was plaguing their homeland.)  The Good Lie is a movie of two distinct halves.  
In the more compelling first half, we follow a group of teenage boys and girls who watch their village burn down around them and face the
brutal task of walking over 800 miles to the safety of the refugee camps across the border.  The journey is harrowing in every sense of the
word.  Of the original eight or nine who started off in the group or got picked up along the way, only three boys and a girl make it to the
camp.  The second half of the movie picks up thirteen years later when the boys and girl are in the twenties and have been selected to be
transported to America.  This is where Reese Witherspoon comes in.  She helps them find jobs and adapt to their new home.  Despite what
you see in the ads, this is not a Reese Witherspoon movie--and that's a good thing.  She's fine in her supporting role, but the stars of the
movie are the young actors who play the refugees, both as teenagers and young adults. My only complaint about the movie is that whoever
was in charge added some unnecessary plot points to make the story more "dramatic"--as if hiding from mindless soldiers with automatic
weapons and fighting off cheetahs for an eland carcass so that they won't starve to death weren't enough. One of those plot points is the
source of the movie's title. (10/9/2014)  

Left Behind  If you'll go back and check the record, you'll see that I'm one of the few people on Planet Earth who liked the Kirk Cameron
version of this material from about ten years back.  It was a faithful telling of the hugely successful series of novels that told the story of the
Rapture and the ensuing tribulations described in the Book of Revelations.  It went way overboard on the theological angle of the story and
was terribly earnest, but my theory was that if you're going to be terribly earnest about something, you could do worse than The Bible.  
Now we have this inexplicable remake which jettisons all that pesky theology and tells a very straightforward tale of how Nicholas Cage
lands a 747 on a freeway in the aftermath of said Rapture with the help of his daughter. As I was watching all of this unfold, it occurred to
me that if we're being honest, we shouldn't name the movie after the
Left Behind books and movies.  Instead, we should name it after it's
true source material--
Airport 1975 (Remember? Pilot Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., is blinded in an explosion and plucky flight attendant Karen Black
has to land the plane.)  I hate to say it, but
Airport 2014 is pretty dreadful.  Beyond all this, there is something to say in the movie's favor: it
provides a vivid picture of what the Rapture will look like in Baton Rouge (where the movie was filmed).  We see kids disappear before our
eyes in the food court at the Mall of Louisiana, a bizarre suicide scene (by anybody's standards) at the top of the Earl K. Long Bridge, and
random mayhem in City Plaza.  There's a scene about halfway through in which people are running out of a hospital.  There's a woman in a
red pantsuit in the middle of the frame who was my secretary a long, long time ago, and I can totally see her doing something like that. But
beyond that little bit of personal realism--yikes. (10/13/2014)

Gone Girl   Remember Bonfire of the Vanities?  Not a lot of people liked it, but I did.  Yeah, it was a little ham-handed, but overall, I
thought it was a prescient satire of national mores at the time.  Now we have
Gone Girl--sort of a Bonfire of the Vanities for the Nancy
Grace generation in fly-over land. It's wicked in its satire and dark, dark, dark in its comedy.  Since I saw this movie on Friday night (in
Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where much of it was filmed--needless to say, the audience talked throughout and applauded at the end), there
have been several articles in national publications about the holes in the plot that are big enough to drive through in a semi.  Maybe by the
time you read this, you'll have seen some of them.  As long as you keep in mind that it's a comedy, I think you'll enjoy it. There are good
performances from Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike and ordinary stock characters played by people like Neil Patrick Harris and the people of
Cape Girardeau.   (10/6/2014)

P.S.  This is
soooo not a date movie.

My Old Lady   Viager: A (French) real estate agreement where property is sold on a reverse annuity basis. Also known as a Reverse
Annuity Mortgage.  
Viager is not only a good Word of the Day for you, it's the premise of this movie, which like the stage play of the same
unfortunate name that it's based on, finds New Yorker Kevin Kline inheriting a Paris apartment that comes with 92-year-old Maggie Smith
and her daughter Kristen Scott Thomas.  I've already discussed the Kevin Kline Effect in my comments on
The Last of Robin Hood
(below), so let me move on and say that while this is not a good Kevin Kline performance, his presence is ameliorated by Ms. Smith in a
thankless role and Ms. Scott Thomas, who is as wondrous as ever. The movies shares many of the awkward moments so often found in
movies based on plays, but on the bright side, we'll always have Paris, and it looks great in the movie. (9/28/2014)

Memphis  represents something new in the history of movies--a movie made exclusively for consumption at film festivals.  Trust me, it's
dreadful.  The guy who sold me the ticket at the theater where I saw the movie in Memphis that most people walk out of it in the middle--
which is fairly remarkable, since it's only about 75 minutes long.  As I was watching the miserable thing, it occurred to me that there was a
lot about the movie I didn't know--like whether it's supposed to be fiction or a documentary--and wasn't going to find out by just watching
the damn thing.  After an hour of waiting for something dramatic to happen, it occurred to me that nothing noteworthy was imminent.
Furthermore, if something did happen, I'd probably resent it because the lack of focus of any kind made me feel that the movie wasn't
entitled to any kind of honest reaction.  The biggest surprise came when the credits rolled and I saw that someone actually wanted credit for
writing it.  It wasn't until I got home and went online to read reviews that it occurred to me that the people who made the movie didn't care
what I or some other mere ticket purchaser thought about it.  The reviews were all eerily similar--they all knew that the characters were real
and that a woman whose seen in the movie with the children is both the mother of the children and the girlfriend of the main character--
facts that someone just watching the movie couldn't know.  All of the reviews I read also compared the movie to Robert Altman's
Nashville.  Something was fishy.  This movie resembles Nashville like 2001: A Space Odyssey resembles Gone With the Wind.  Clearly, the
reviewers had access to a media kit that covered these details--and maybe suggested a connection to the Altman movie.  Maybe, just maybe
if any of these points could have been gleaned from actually watching the movie, the ticket guy at the Malco wouldn't have to tell patrons
that if they didn't like the movie, they could sneak into
The Hundred-Foot Journey next door and watch the end of it.  (9/21/2014)

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby  (Them)  What's with the Them, you ask.  This relationship between a man and a woman (James
McEvoy and Jessica Chastain) was originally shot as two movies--titled
Him and Her, telling the story of a couple (James McEvoy and
Jessica Chastain) who are having issues.  Apparently, after the movie was shot, somebody had the idea that it would be more "commercial"
as one movie--
Them--but people could go online if they wished and see the two original movies. I kind of doubt if much of that will happen
because while the story is compelling enough, the movie-makers don't seem to have a lot of faith in it.  They're loathe to share key
information in the audience.  SPOILER ALERT:  The first big discovery is that they're actually married, which we don't find out until about
twenty minutes into the movie.  From there, the movie makers throw around key plot points like manhole covers as we find out little bits of
information about the pointless drivel that's been going on since the last big reveal.  A lot of good actors--Viola Davis, Bill Hader, William
Hurt, etc.--are wasted in throw-away roles that probably are might have been better understood in the original format, but they just look like
they're treading water in
Them.  The key player is Chastain, who is terrific, and McEvoy, who has somewhat less to do and is somewhat
less terrific.  I liked
Eleanor Rigby-but I felt I was being played from beginning to end.  (9/20/2014)

Atlas Shrugged III:  Who Is John Galt?  At a recent weeknight showing of this movie, the audience consisted of me and a bag of
SweeTarts.  I thought about blowing off the chore of telling you about it because it's pretty clear that you don't care about it. But then I
decided that if I'm going to waste pixels on
Tammy, I owe it to you to tell you of the not inconsiderable charms of John Galt.  This movie is
a slavish translation of the book, which is both its virtue and its failure.  While it has a compelling plot and characters and great production
values like the two
Atlas Shrugged movies and the book before it, it has no truck with the expression that a spoonful of sugar helps the
medicine go down.  Devotees of the book would have been outraged if the book's manifesto had been toned down, and people who just
want to see a good movie don't want the sermon (regardless of how good for them it is).  The corner that the movie has painted itself into is
that there is no middle ground--and no audience.  Which is too bad.  (9/18/2014)

The Last of Robin Hood, 68-year-old Kevin Kline plays 50-year-old Errol Flynn, 20-year-old Dakota Fanning plays his 15-year-old
mistress, and 67-year-old Susan Sarandon plays her mother.  It takes a few minutes to get past the math in this movie, but once you do, it's
rather enjoyable.  This tale of Flynn's last affair features the "good" Kevin Kline (
Sophie's Choice, The Big Chill, In & Out), the "good"
Susan Sarandon (
Dead Man Walking, The Client, Thelma and Louise) and a so-so Dakota Fanning.  It could easily have gone the other way
had the "bad" Kline (everything else he's ever been in) and Sarandon (starting with
Tammy [below] and going on and on) had made the
movie.  Kline's role was especially fraught as he had every opportunity to take it over the top in the portrayal of a character who was
himself larger than life.  But, as everyone dialed it down a notch, the story became accessible.  And although it was clear that it was made
on the cheap (so cheap, probably, that they didn't spring for the cost of including Errol Flynn's name in the title, as opposed to Robin Hood
who's in the public domain), you found yourself engaging with the characters.  
The Last of Robin Hood could have been a real mess, but
thanks to Kline and Sarandon, it's not so bad.  (9/15/2014)

As Above, So Below   As a kid, I loved all kinds of movies.  Soggy westerns, cheesy thrillers, sappy romances, amateur horror shows...
loved them all.  Then one day in 1972, I went to see
The Exorcist.  I'd read the book and knew what to expect, but damned if I didn't get a
progressively queasier feeling as Regan descended into her possession.  About three-fourths of the way through, I started hyperventilating,
and Harry Paslay had to drag me out of the theater.   I was more embarrassed than anything, but it was clear that a line had been crossed--a
movie had got to me.  Since that day, I've tended to avoid horror movies unless I knew there was an element of comedy or there was some
other extenuating circumstance.  A circumstance, for example, like seeing the catacombs of Paris.  
As Above, So Below, I think, is a missed
opportunity.  Six million souls are buried--stacked, actually--beneath the streets of the city, and going underground, climbing over the
mountains of bones, and finding your way down narrow caverns that are black as midnight should be the perfect set-up for a horror flick--
and it is.  Tough, smart anthropologist Scarlett has a loopy reason for going down the hole and somehow she manages to rope five other
dolts into making the trip with her.  Watching them react in a relentlessly creepy situation in the first half of the movie is very effective, but
then it gets stupid.  I'm not saying that the film makers ran out of ideas, but when things start showing up like a broken piano from one of
the characters youth, a ringing telephone where there really could not be one and random apparitions that serve no other purpose than to
make you think that you're on the cusp of hell itself, you just start scratching your head and laughing--but not in a good way.  
As Above, So
could have been a contender. Quelle horreur.  (9/1/2014)

The One I Love   Before I went to the theater, I went to the internet to try to get a sense of the movie.  (For one thing, I'd thought that it
was in French.)  None of the reviewers wanted to say much about it because they said they didn't want to give away anything about it.  I
get their point, but I kind of suspect that they don't want to talk about it because even after seeing it, they don't know what it is.  As I do.  I
can't even tell you how many people are in the movie.  (It's a prime number, but I'm not sure which one.)  What I can tell you is that a
California couple who are having trouble in their marriage go to a counselor (Ted Danson, of all people) who directs them to a stunning
beautiful estate in Sonoma or somewhere.  He promises that it will do wonders for the marriage.  What the couple find at the estate, what
they do about it and how it affects them going forward is the secret of the movie, and I do really need to let you discover it for yourself.  
For the first two-thirds of the movie, the movie is almost magical.  I'd venture to say that this is the kind of movie that Woody Allen would
have made in one of his younger and more whimsical states--let's say the
Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy-stage.  Like lots of movie, the
falls off at the end, but up until that time, it's a great ride.  (8/31/2014)

Calvary   So an unidentified guy shows up in a confessional booth in a small Irish church and tells that priest (Brendan Gleeson) that he'd
been abused as a child. In revenge, he's going to kill the priest on the local beach in one week's time.  He knows that the priest in the booth
is innocent of the crime, but somebody has to pay for his suffering.  I think we're meant to try to figure out who the confessor is and
whether the priest will be stupid enough to go to the beach. It's pretty clear from the beginning who the guy is.  In the course of the week,
we follow Father Brendan through the village as he interacts with the biggest bunch of louts you can imagine.  As I was watching, I thought
maybe that each of the several "suspects" was a representation of one of the seven deadly sins, but now I'm not sure that's the case.  In any
event, each of them throws their sin in his face and dares him to say anything about it.  I thought it was tragic, but many of the reviews of
the movie I've seen claim that it's somehow "profoundly comic."   I so don't get that.   What I do get is that almost everyone the priest sees
is aggressively unpleasant, and as if to underscore the point, the director has chosen to photograph almost everyone from below.  As a
result, I've never seen so much nose hair in a movie in my life--but maybe that's just a personal idiosyncrasy. All I can tell you is that you've
never seen anything like
Calvary.  If you're a conflicted believer like me and think it's tragic, or if you're a godless Communist who see it as
a comedy is something I'll leave to you.  (8/23/2014)

Magic in the Moonlight   Every year, Woody Allen makes the same movie, and I say the same snarly things about it.  It occurs to me that
I'm part of the problem, not the solution.  Therefore, instead of rehashing my usual rant, I'm giving you an excerpt from a great review I
saw online.  Not only does it sum up the experience of going to a Woody Allen for me, it allows me to avoid having to find yet another way
the same things I've been saying since
Stardust Memories:

Like lots of other grown-ups, I enjoy my yearly visits to Woody World. True, the rides are slower than Disney’s, there’s no Tomorrow Land,
and the Haunted House has been closed for repairs since “Match Point.” But the old-fashioned Tunnel of Love is still open for business,
there’s always jazz in the air, and the park has recently added a Pavilion of Nations.  

While Stone’s “cosmic vibrations” shtick is reminiscent of a Lucille Ball routine, Firth seems to be channeling Rex Harrison. But before the
besotted bachelor can ask “Where the devil are my flip-flops?” director Woody Allen has another card up his sleeve, one that at least
partially relieves the discomfort of yet another May-December romance. (Firth is 53; Stone is 25.)

Allen is a lifelong magician himself and a skeptic in spiritual matters, so stagecraft and spoofery form a trap door beneath the lightweight
love story. Yet largely thanks to the intoxicating scenery and the gorgeous natural-light cinematography, “Magic in the Moonlight” does
weave its a spell, resurrecting the spirit of sturdier and more inventive movies by the same conjurer.

Joe Williams,
St. Louis Post-Dispatch  (8/22/2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy   In a summer that's seen precious little of anything new or interesting in the world of superhero movies, here
Guardians of the Galaxy to offer a new batch of characters.  The plot--please, I'm a busy man.  Are there evil warlords who want to
conquer and/or destroy Earth?  Certainly.  Do things blow up?  Of course.  I have to admit that I found the Guardians to be kind of
interesting and fresh (who wouldn't be, compared to
Spiderman 16).  However, I'm sure that if they show up again in a sequel  (and they
will), I'll get tired of them pretty fast.   Chris Pratt is the leader of the group who brings effortless charm and an awesome mix tape to the
party.  Zoe Saldana is green in this movie (I don't even know what color she might be in real life--not that there's anything wrong with that),
and Bradley Cooper's voice is transplanted into a smart-ass raccoon who gets off a few good lines from time to time.  That's about it.  High
wattage actors like Glenn Close and John C. Reilly have throw-away roles that suggest that they're being built up in anticipation of the
sequel, and if that's the case, I can tell you now that I won't bother to see it.  I'm not ready for Chris Pratt and a raccoon to be the Han Solo
and Chewbacca of the new Millennium Falcon.  (8/20/2014)

Boyhood  For reasons that escape me, this movie is receiving almost unanimous critical praise.  Ordinarily, being the contrarian isn't a big
deal to me, but in this instance, I'm just confounded.  The "hook" of this movie is that a family in Texas are portrayed by the same four
actors over the course of twelve years--which is not to say that the movie follows a real family for twelve years.  Inexplicably,
focuses on the least interesting member of the family.  Patricia Arquette is the idiot mother who manages to compact her entire life into
twelve years.  In the beginning, she's thinking about going back to school.  At the end, she's an empty nester psychologist who's
contemplating a retirement in which she can travel and write.  Along the way, she manages to marry and divorce not one, not two, but three
alcoholics.  (One wonders what it is she's thinking about writing at the end of the movie.  Why would anybody want to read something
from a psychologist with such a record?)  The first alcoholic she falls for and has children with is the ever-irritating Ethan Hawke, who's
not nearly as passionate about his children as he is about the Beatles.  The children are pitiable, and the highlight of their childhood is being
abused by three different alcoholics.  I suppose you could consider the movie to be an interesting look at how the development of coping
skills in teenagers pretty much ruins their lives later on.  If any of this had actually happened to someone, that would be noteworthy, but like
I said earlier, this is fiction.  And not very good fiction at that. Yuck.  (8/9/2014)

The Hundred-Foot Journey   is a mash-up of Slumdog Millionaire and  Chocolat  (also directed by Lasse Hallstrom), and if you liked
either of those movies, you'll like this one as well.   In addition to adorable Indians and food loving Provencals,
Journey also features a
couple of secret weapons that put it over the top--namely Helen Mirren and Charlotte LeBon.  OK, Mirren's no secret, but the surprise is
LeBon, who could well be the Audrey Tatou of the new millennium.  She's adorable, and this may be the movie in which a star is born. But
as adorable as LeBon and the rest of young folk are, the movie really sizzles in scenes with Mirren, the owner of an elegant Michelin one-
star restaurant in the countryside and Om Puri, the patriarch of a food-obsessed clan who left India for political reasons and then left
England because the vegetables there had no soul.  As fate would have it, their van breaks down near the town where the abandoned
restaurant across the road from Mirren's establishment just happens to be for sale.  The result--well, let's just call it Asian Fusion.  Like an
overcooked asparagus, the movie seems to go limp in the last twenty minutes or so, but by that time, you've had a great time and you're
ready to finish the ride.  (8/8/2014)

Lucy   Luc Besson is at it again, trashing big swaths of Paris for our amusement.  Lucy's not much in terms of plot but fun to watch.  In
his last outing,
3 Days to Kill, he put Kevin Costner and Amber Heard in charge of the job. Now he's turned the gig over to Scarlett
Johansson, who is fine in the title role as a reluctant drug mule who's ingested a ridiculous amount of an untested drug that allows her to
unlock the potential of all of her brain.  You could get a headache trying to comprehend the curious blend of science and theology on
exhibition in
Lucy, but don't try.  Just go with it.   (God's name never comes up, but eternal life is definitely on the table.)  Morgan Freeman
has the thankless task of being the "neurophysicist" visiting Paris and gets to : 1) try to help Lucy understand what's happening to her; and
2) explain to the audience what's happening to Lucy.  He's still that curious mixture of God and Tallahatchie County, so naturally, you
believe whatever he's saying.   But it's really Scarlett's movie, and she's much more relatable here than she was earlier this year in
the Skin
(below).  That may have something to do with the fact that she's clearly a human here, and in Under the Skin, who knew?  
(SPOILER ALERT: In both movies, she turns into a puddle of black goo at the end.  Coincidence?  Or is someone trying to tell us
Lucy is less than an hour-and-a-half long, and it goes by quick.  The more time you spend processing what's on the screen,
the less time you'll have to think about it.  (8/5/2014)

A Most Wanted Man   When you see the words "Based on a Novel by John LeCarre" attached to a movie, what do you think?   Spies?  
Dense plots?  Quality source material?   All that and more is on display in
A Most Wanted Man, but the downside is that I'm becoming
convinced that Mr. LeCarre's input also means that while some of what's on the screen might be fascinating, no one is really going to have a
good time watching it.  The last three outings based on his work--
The Constant Gardner, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and A Most Wanted
have all been festivals of moroseness, giving actors of astounding talents like Ralph Fiennes, Gary Oldman and now Phillip Seymour
Hoffman license to exhibit the extent to which they've just
had it with the rest of us.  Prepare yourself:  I expect a full-on push to award
Mr. Hoffman a posthumous Oscar for this role next February.  I will not be a supporter of the push, but I can see where others might be.  
He's pretty much the movie--you want to focus on him to keep from having to think about a woefully miscast Rachel McAdams as a
counter-culture Hamburg attorney, or wondering why the actors in this movie set in Germany are speaking English with German accents.  
If there is a happy surprise to be had, it's discovering that the familiar-looking, dark-haired beauty who plays Soulless Apparatchik No. 4 is
indeed Princess Buttercup herself, Robin Wright.  That revelation lasts about thirty seconds.  All of this probably makes you think I didn't
like the movie, and you're right.  I didn't.  But I did appreciate it.  (7/28/2014)

Tammy   is woeful.  While there were a few stray chuckles echoing through the theater during my showing, the predominant response was
pained silence.   In addition to being Tammy, Melissa McCarthy also takes on the responsibilities of producing the movie and co-writing it
with her husband Ben Falcone, who is, by the way, the director.  Sounds like nepotism, no?   At the very least, I think Mr. and Mrs.
Falcone try to do too much and should have brought in some real writers, at least to polish the script.  For example, at one point, Tammy
and her grandmother go to a lesbian Fourth of July picnic in Louisville, Kentucky.  How is it possible not to find at least one joke in a set-up
like that?  Speaking of Tammy's grandmother, Susan Sarandon (who in real life is only 24 years older than McCarthy) is on hand to infect
the movie with her signature brand of anti-comedy.  (Think about it:  What did she really bring to the party comedy-wise in
Bull Durham,
The Witches of Eastwick or The Rocky Horror Picture Show?)  On the other hand, Ms. McCarthy brings oodles (literally) to the table.  In
her best roles, she plays her overbearing personality off of accomplished actors who know how to handle the responsibility, witness Sandra
Bullock in
Heat, Jason Bateman in Identity Theft and Kristen Wiig and others in Bridesmaids.  Here, all she's got is Sister Helen Prejean.  I
love McCarthy, but
Tammy's not her best work.  (7/2/2014)

Earth to Echo   At the end of this movie, a twelve-ish kid with annoying abandonment issues blubbers that the twelve-inch high, metallic,
non-talking alien he finds in the Nevada desert one night is one of the best friends he ever had.  Really?  I'm thinking that if he's going to get
that worked up after spending twelve hours with a metallic gremlin, he's got a lot of therapy in his future.  That, however, is one of my least
concerns.  I firmly believe that every generation is entitled to its own
ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, and parts of Earth to Echo, in fact, look
like a shot-by-shot remake.  However, if you're going to have your own
E.T., you darned well better have your own Drew Barrymore and
Henry Thomas.  Sadly, nobody this movie--earthling or alien--has the charm of their counterparts in the Steven Spielberg classic.  But what
is both interesting and different about
Echo, however, is the extent to which kids today are masters of and slaves to smartphones and social
media.  Watching the young actors in the movie interact with their devices (which never seemed to lose their charge) does actually say a lot
about this generation.  Unfortunately, one of the things it says about them is that the next time somebody gets around to remaking
there might not be any children in it at all.  (7/7/2014)

America   In his last movie, 2016, Dinesh D'Souza made the case that at the end of his second term, Barack Obama would leave an
America where the size of government will have increased while the scope of the country's influence around the world will be diminished.  I
don't think it's too early to make that call that he was prescient in that prediction.    In his new movie, he takes on the liberal culture that he
says produced Barack Obama.  It is a culture, he believes, that: 1) that greedy white men stole the land from the Indians; 2) stole Texas and
California from the Mexicans; 3) enslaved blacks; 4) steal resources from foreign countries; and 5) steal the labor of our own citizens.  The
chief purveyor of this philosophy is one Howard Zinn, "the most influential historian of the past fifty years."  Mr. D'Souza makes the points
that contrary to the teachings of Mr. Zinn, America is a force for good in the world.   Frankly, I don't know how anyone can doubt that,
but apparently some do.  To the doubters, I don't know if there's really a point in seeing this movie.  But to the rest of us, it's nice to be
reminded that America is an exceptional country.  (7/1/2014)

The Grand Seduction   If you need another reason to be unimpressed with the Canadian health care system, try this.  Tickle Head, a lovely
harbor in Newfoundland, population 112, needs a doctor to attract an oil company expansion.  A young plastic surgeon (Taylor Kitsch) is
entrapped by the mayor, who also happens to be a security officer at the airport in St. Johns.  To avoid being arrested for cocaine
possession at the airport, he agrees to be Tickle Head's doctor for one month.  The folks in the harbor--don't call it a village--see this as an
opportunity to make him love them and not want to leave.  Through the not-so-clever use of wiretaps, they learn that he loves cricket and
Indian food.  Cricket "uniforms" are made from bedspreads and shower curtains, and the men in the town are instructed in how to look as if
they're playing the game, even though the rules are insensible to them. After a quick internet search, the local restaurant adds his favorite
Indian dish to its regular menu of cod and "surprise sandwiches."  The movie is too contrived to be really charming.  It wants to remind you
Local Hero from thirty years ago, but it's really not in that league.  Kitsch is fine in a role that essentially asks him to be clueless, but
Brendan Gleeson--a fine actor--is really asked to do too much.  After the first ninety minutes or so, you're ready for it to move on.  

Jersey Boys   Short Review:  Meh.   Long Review:  I never saw Jersey Boys, the musical.  Actually, I've never seen anything you'd classify
as a "juke box musical"--
Mamma Mia, Rock of Ages, etc.  I'm just not a big fan of the idea of paying exorbitant prices to see pop songs
being performed by people other than the ones who made them famous.   Nor was I a big fan of the Four Seasons.  I couldn't sing along
with the tunes--maybe I couldn't sing in falsetto and resented people who could.   For that matter, I can't say that I've ever been a fan of the
State of New Jersey.  Pennsylvania and New York are fine, but New Jersey and Delaware have just been irritating and toll-riden nuisances
along the way to more interesting places.  So even though I'm definitely a fan of Clint Eastwood, there was never really much of a chance
that I'd get too excited about
Jersey Boys.  Yes, the actors deserve praise for doing a fine job of impersonating the boys in the band, and it
was interesting to see that Joe Pesci was somehow involved in their ascent.  However, there are all kinds of holes in the plot, and generally
speaking, New Jersey looks suspiciously like Southern California. I'm glad I saw it, and I suppose that people who went gaga over the stage
show may like it quite as much as I liked
Les Miserables, but it's just not my thing.  (6/22/2014)

22 Jump Street   On Saturday, I spent sixteen hours with an 89-year-old Alzheimer's patient and then went to see 22 Jump Street.  It was a
seamless experience.  In both cases, I was in the presence of wildly scattered thought, pointless talk and irritating action.  While there was a
suggestion of a plot, whenever there was a question of advancing a story or going out of its way to make a joke, there was no doubt which
option would be selected.  You're probably wondering, "So why did you go?"  Answer: It was filmed at Tulane in New Orleans, and I
wanted to see what they did with the place.  (Not much, actually.)  I've seen way too much of Jonah Hill lately (Tangential Comment:  Do
James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, et al have a Rat Pack-ish name yet?  Something to think about), but even though he was the second-
biggest ticket-seller in Hollywood last year, this is the first time I think I've seen Channing Tatum in a movie.  While he has a friendly yellow
Lab-quality, I got distracted by his neck being so much bigger than his head.  Weird.  But I'm sure that doesn't bother the ladies one little bit,
so I'm sure he'll do fine.  There'll be times in this movie when you'll laugh in spite of yourself (mostly at the sly comments that the actors
make about sequel movies in general) but there's really nothing else here that I can recommend to you. (6/15/2014)

The Fault in Our Stars   I read somewhere that Shailene Woodley makes her own soap.  Therefore, I don't think it's too much of a stretch
to think that somewhere in California, she's sitting in her basement sewing together the dress she plans to wear to the Academy Awards
next year.  It would take a cold-hearted bastard indeed to find fault with her touching performance as a teen-aged cancer patient in this
movie.  As was the case with
The Descendants and Divergent (and probably some other stuff), she commands your attention as a
performer, and I hope we'll be seeing her in movies for a long, long time.  Having said that, everything else in this movie is a crock.  More
specifically, everything else in the movie is a 16-year-old girl's fantasy.  As proof, I offer the following questions that might shed some light
on my premise.

1.  If you were visiting the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, and you saw two American teen-agers making out in the attic, would you:
a.  Call Security;
b.  Make rude (but insightful) comments to other visitors about how disrespectful Americans are;
c.  Applaud

2.  If you were a suburban Indianapolis teen-ager, and a classmate's mother caught you egging her Mitsubishi in her driveway, would you:
a.  Apologize;
b.  Run;
c.  Tell the mother to go back in the house because you've got two dozen more eggs.

If you answered (b), you sound like somebody I'd like.  If you answered (c, congratulations.  You're the target audience.  Otherwise, you
might feel as if you've been egged yourself.  (6/11/2014)

Edge of Tomorrow   As I'm typing this, The DaVinci Code is on TNT.  At the end of the movie--SPOILER ALERT--Tom Hanks will
discover that Mary Magdalene's bones are resting in the basement of the Louvre.  Tomorrow (June 6) is the 70th anniversary of the
Normandy beach landings on D-Day.  Coincidentally (or maybe not), both of these locations figure prominently in
Edge of Tomorrow.  Alien
beings have taken over most of the same parts of Europe that the Nazis held in WWII.  The rest of the world has banded together to retake
the continent by means of an invasion through the beaches of Normandy.  Embedded in the invasion force--much against his will--is a
middle-aged, out-of-shape public relations specialist played by Tom Cruise.  Think of his situation as something like that of a Pittsburgh
weatherman who's sent--also against his will--to cover the Groundhog Day festivities in Punxatawny.  And like Phil the weatherman, he
lives the same day over and over and over.  Along the way, he meets the Allies' poster girl (Emily Brunt), who helps in get into shape.  Some
have said that this is the best Tom Cruise movie in years.  Maybe.  Personally, I don't remember seeing a Tom Cruise movie that I didn't
enjoy.  Some are better than others, of course, but in my personal experience, the baseline for quality in Mr. Cruise's work is pretty high.   
Having said that,  
Edge of Tomorrow is a hoot.  Check it out.  (6/5/2014)   

A Million Ways to Die in the West   Well, knock me over with a feather.   I detest Family Guy on television, which is too bad for me
since it's on every channel at every hour of the day.  The idea of Seth MacFarlane venturing into
Blazing Saddles territory really didn't
appeal to me much at all.  Don't get me wrong: I loved
Blazing Saddles.  As counter-intuitive as it sounds, I just didn't think that Mr.
MacFarlane could bring the sophistication--as well as the sleaze--to the screen as well as Mel Brooks.  But I was wrong. The stunning
cinematography, the lush score, big stars doing what they're supposed to do--it's all there.  The jokes are just as raucous, which is to be
expected from MacFarlane.
 A Million Ways stands up to Mel's masterpiece of mayhem in every way, and even exceeds it in some.   (For
one thing, Harvey Korman isn't in it.)  Seth is a leading man like Brooks is a leading man--not really an actor, but more of a host who
introduces more interesting people like Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Sarah Silverman and Giovanni Ribisi. There are even great cameos--
my favorites are Doc Brown and the DeLorean from
Back to the Future and Ryan Reynolds in what may be the shortest cameo appearance
ever.  The movie even has a great catch-phrase.  I guarantee that at some point in the near future, you'll respond to some disappointment by
saying, "People die at the fair."  (6/1/2014)

Maleficent   You might think that hallucinogens were the obvious inspiration for this movie, but I'm thinking that somebody went to see
Wicked and figured out that prequels could be just as lucrative as sequels. So instead of showing us whatever happened in the great happily-
ever-after, we're treated to the story of how yet another wicked witch became wicked. As it turns out, it's not much of a story. Frankly, I
wish the good folks at Disney had paid a little more attention to
Wicked. A few musical numbers might have picked things up a bit. There's
not much to see here besides Angelina Jolie.  Everyone else, from Snow White--or whatever they're calling her here to the bad guy to the
weird bird/man that Maleficent keeps as a personal assistant couldn't be more bland. There's just our girl Angie, and damn if she doesn't
strap the misbegotten mess on her amazing shoulders and carry it. In those rare occasions when she's not on the screen, she's missed, and
when she is on the screen, you can't take your eyes off of her. So.  She is the movie.  If you like her, you'll be able to tolerate
If not, singing witches will return to your local multiplex when Meryl Streep (yikes) turns up as the witch in
Into the Woods later this year.  

Chef   I made the mistake of reading a review of this movie in the Memphis Flyer while I was waiting for it to start.  I forget the name of
the reviewer (sorry), but he or she did have a great line:  "It won't make you want to become a chef, but it will make you want a
sandwich."   Jon Favreau takes time out of his busy schedule of making
Avenger movies to make a small movie that seems personal.  I
don't know if he himself is an amateur chef who bonds with his family over food, but if he's not, he's a good actor who sells the concept.  
He plays a hot-shot Los Angeles chef who loses his job when he knuckles under to the owner of his restaurant who likes the menu the way
it is, and doesn't need Chef Jon getting inventive and cutting-edge on him.  A scene between Chef Jon and an influential critic goes viral, and
he finds himself in the position of reinventing himself as the chief cook and bottle-washer of a food truck that he rehabs in Miami and drives
across country, through New Orleans and Austin, to Los Angeles.  Along the way, his ten-year-old son is along for the ride, and the kid
knows more about social media than Dad ever thought about, so through his efforts, the truck is met with big crowds along the way.  If
anything, the movie is more about social media than food, but above either of those things, its' about the power to reinvent oneself.  Favreau
is fine, and it's nice to see Sofia Vergara as his wife playing something other than Jessica Rabbit.  Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman,
Robert Downey, Jr. and others turn up in smaller roles, and it's just a nice little movie.  (5/30/2014)

X-Men: Days of Future Passed   I'm blue-lining this movie because nobody on this planet is going to look to me for advice regarding
whether or not to check it out.  I  haven't seen any of its hundreds of predecessors, so I have no idea about the backstory of any of these
characters.  For all practical purposes, I was watching a two-and-a-half hour cat video.  The plot is apparently about making the world safe
for mutants. Maybe that's a metaphor for inclusiveness, but frankly, I have no idea.  Of course, effects are the thing in movies like this, and
this movie has hundreds of millions of dollars worth of them.  I was on board with that until Michael Fassbender dropped RFK Stadium on
the White House. In reality, there's no way the stadium would completely encircle the White House complex as it does in the movie.  
However, that's just one moment of disbelief in the middle of dozens of others, so I have no idea why it's the one that bothered me.  Having
said all that, go if you must.  (5/29/2014)

The Immigrant   When I'm sitting here, trying to come up with something that might help you decide whether or not you want to see a
particular movie, all I really have to go on is what the movie makers have chosen to put on the screen.  While it's fun to speculate about
how much better or worse something might have been if a different casting or script choice had been made, in the end, what you see really
is what you get.   And what you see in
The Immigrant is a lost opportunity.   Marion Cotilliard, as good as she is, is about ten years too old
to play Ewa, a girl from Silesia who comes to America and gets swept up in a world of stripping and prostitution in Prohibition-era New
York.  I'm not saying that Jennifer Lawrence and Shailene Woodley should be getting all the good roles, but Marion Cotilliard is no victim.  
Likewise, Jeremy Renner is too damn old to be the young dancer/magician kid who wants to take her away from it all.  I know you need
stars to sell a movie, but come on.  The best part of
The Immigrant is being reminded of how good Joaquin Phoenix can be between rehab
assignments.  Even though he plays the slumdog who tricks Ewa into prostitution in the first place, he makes you think that he might also be
the only person in the world who cares whether she lives or dies.  Lost opportunity or not,
The Immigrant isn't a bad movie.  You just wish
that it could have been more.  (5/28/2014)

Belle  is lovely.  Gugu Mbatha-Raw (hereinafter referred to as Gugu because I like the name) plays the illegitimate daughter of a British
admiral and a slave who in 1769 is rescued by her father from a life with no prospects after her mother dies.  He places her with his aunt
and uncle--who happens to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court--on their estate in the countryside.  Other than parents, Belle wants
for nothing.  Her relatives love her, and when her father dies, he leaves her a fortune that will allow her to live in comfort for the rest of her
life, free of the burden of finding a suitable husband to take care of her.  Belle is much better off in this regard than her dear cousin Elizabeth
who has to find a husband because her own father has abandoned her and left her penniless.   Sadly, she sets her sights on the kid who
played Draco Malfoy in the
Harry Potter movies--and let's just say that he hasn't learned any manners in the interim.  Belle finds true love
after a false start and becomes a formidable young woman who strikes an important blow for the cause of abolitionism.  A few months ago,
Entertainment Weekly whined in their usual pitiful way about the sad fact that there aren't enough good roles for Lupita Nyong'o.  No
offense to Ms. Nyong'o, but with the arrival of Gugu, I suspect her casting options just shrank considerably.  Belle is terrific.  Check it out.

Godzilla  This humble website was established in 1999 (hence "In Our Second Century of Serving America"), so we weren't around to
dump on the 1998 version of
Godzilla--which I totally would have done.  Roland Emmerich, Matthew Broderick, Madison Square Garden...
any of this ringing a bell?  If not, count yourself fortunate--you were lucky to miss it.  But now we have a
Godzilla for the new millennium,
so we can put that unpleasant memory out of our minds.  G'zilla was always a Pacific Rim kind of guy, so it's nice to see him back on his
home turf after his Gotham City adventure (in which he was a her, but I digress).  I don't know what Honolulu ever did to deserve getting
stomped, but hey, who wouldn't like to see San Francisco taken out?  Brian Cranston and Juliette  Binoche are with us for all too short a
time, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen and Ken Watanabe take over.  Essentially, they're just providing background noise as we
await 'Zilla and his radioactive foes, the MOTU's,   A MOTU is military jargon for "Big Ass Reptile," and Godzilla--according to Dr.
Watanabe--provides Nature's balance to them.  Whatever.  All I know is that "Nature's balance" took out about half of San Francisco. With
all due respect to Raymond Burr,
this is the Godzilla you want to see again.  (5/18/2014)

Only Lovers Left Alive   In 2001, Tilda Swinton played the mother of a teen-aged boy who was seduced by Josh Lucas in The Deep
.  In 2014, she looks a lot younger than she did then--but she is playing a vampire, so maybe her freshness of face and spirit is beyond
something as mundane as hydration or moisturizing.  As is usually the case, she's terrific--and for once it's nice to see her playing the more
sane half of a couple.  She is Eve, a unimaginably old vampire living in genteel obscurity in Tangier.  Her husband, Adam, played by Tom
Hiddleston (Loki from the
Thor movies) is a musical type holed up in a dump in Detroit.  Adam is in a bad place.  Suicidal (Did I mention
that he lives in Detroit?), morose and on the run from "rocker zombies" who seem to want something from him (we're never too sure
what), he's ready to end it all.  Eve suspects as much and rushes to his side.   As it seems to be
de rigueur these days, there's vampire
nudity.  They cruise Detroit at night, and Eve points out to Adam that "self-obsession is a waste of living."  And except for a sly turn by
John Hurt as Christopher Marlowe, who claims that he did indeed write all those plays for "that illiterate zombie Shakespeare," that's pretty
much the movie.  But leave it to a vampire to make the very good point that one should always embrace life, whether your alive or just
undead.  (5/16/2014)

Neighbors   demands to be compared by Animal House, which is too bad.  That's not a fight it needs to be picking.  In 1978, I went to the
University Cinema near the LSU campus in Baton Rouge to see
Animal House in a packed theater that had started life as a Jerry Lewis Twin
Cinema.  (I still remember Jerry's profile on the sign--yikes.)  The audience howled at one of the funniest movies ever made.   Fast forward
to May, 2014, and I'm sitting with about a hundred fraternity and sorority types in the new Malco multiplex in Oxford for the late show on
the Sunday night after exams.  Laughter?  Not so much.  The simple truth is that Seth Rogen is really only funny in a "watch-me-put-a-
dildo-in-my-mouth" kind of way, and Zac Efron isn't funny in any kind of way.   You're asking, "Does that really make them all that
different from John Belushi and Tim Matheson?"  Well, yeah, it does.  Belushi was a stoner genius, and Matheson could really bring the
jokes.  And while
Animal House also had talented folks like Karen Allen, Tom Hulce, Donald Sutherland and even Kevin Bacon (in his first
Neighbors has Rose Byrne looking like she's in another movie most of the time and reverting to a distracting Australian accent (she's
entitled), and a brief look at Lisa Kudrow as the Dean Wormser of the 21st century.  I snorted several times during the movie, and I think I
actually laughed more frequently than most of the folks in the audience--probably because I got the references to the adult world that were
mostly lost on everyone else--but I knew that it was but a pale impression of what had gone before.  (5/11/2014)

Fading Gigolo   Now that Woody Allen has taken his operation "offshore" by starting to film in places like London and Paris (I'm almost
certain that it has nothing to do with extradition laws), there's a void in the "New York movie" genre that actor/director John Turturro is
seeking to fill.   Fading Gigolo is not only a "New York movie", it's more of a "Woody Allen movie" than Mr. Allen has directed himself in
recent memory.  The lush photography, the witty dialogue, the inappropriately eccentric music track that makes your ears bleed--even Mr.
Allen himself--they're all there.  And mostly, it's nice.  John Turturro is an every-schlub who works part-time in a flower shop and part-time
in a number of other failing operations, including a bookstore owned by Mr. Allen.  When that operation inevitably goes under, Woody has
the brilliant idea to turn Turturro into the "ho" that he "pimps" to lonely women like Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara.  (Comedy is where you
find it, I guess.)  The central conceit of the movie is that Turturro is so "decent" and "real" that his customers are willing to overlook his
lack of physical beauty.  So much so that in the process of a menage a trois with Stone and Vergara, he can't perform up to expectations,
but they pay him anyway.  (The only thing this says to me is that this movie was written by a man.)  The movie's greatest shortcoming is
that John Turturro doesn't have the gravitas to portray any of this, or if he does, he doesn't project it here.  And that's too bad because
otherwise, it's a nice ride.  (5/10/2014)

The Amazing Spiderman 2   I can't believe that this movie is anybody's idea of a good time.  It starts with a high school graduation scene
where 31-year-old Andrew Garfield and 25-year-old Emma Stone are getting their diplomas.  (Not as bad as 40-year-old Stockard Channing
playing high school girl Pinkie Tuscadero, but still.)  From there, Emma goes to work for Oscorp as an intern, where she seems to have
access to the company's secrets, and after a couple of months of that, she's offered a scholarship to Oxford.  Meanwhile, Peter Parker is
still living with Aunt May, where he's such a financial burden to her that she has to "take nursing classes" to support him.  Is that how that
works?  You make money by going to nursing school?  Really?  All of this is just the beginning of the ridiculousness of Spiderman 2.  The
heroes and villains are boring enough, but worse is the fact that this may be the ugliest superhero movie I've seen in a long, long time.  
Garfield and Stone are occasionally charming, but other than that, there's not a lot to look at here.  And the waste of acting talent is
stunning.  Amazing people like Paul Giamatti, Chris Cooper, B. J. Novak, Campbell Scott and even Sally Field are given practically nothing
to do.  I'm sure that nothing I can say will keep you from seeing it, but don't say you weren't warned.  (5/5/2014)    

Jodorowsky's Dune   Like Lost in LaMancha a few years back, this is a chronicle of a movie that was never made.  "Jodorowsky" is
Alejandro Jodorowsky, a Chilean film maker who achieved cult status in the early 70's with an acid mess called
El Topo.  In the current
movie, it's referred to as the "first midnight movie."  "Dune," of course, is the iconic Frank Herbert sci-fi novel.  After
El Topo had became
a cult hit, a producer told Jodorowsky that he'd back whatever he wanted to do next, and despite the fact that he'd never read the book,
"Jodo" said that he wanted to adapt
Dune.   And off they went.  The first step was to convince Moebius to draw 3000 panels that
completely outlined the movie, and to hire Dan O'Bannon, who'd go on to
Alien and other movies, to do the effects.  Next, he convinced
Pink Floyd and Magma to do the music.  Then he lined up a mind-boggling cast that included Mick Jagger, David Carradine, Orson Welles
and Salvadore Dali (as the emperor of the universe).  Then--nothing.  He took his ideas to Hollywood and was rejected by every studio.  
Why?  Because Jodorowsky's
Dune was projected to run an estimated 14 hours.  And it was just too weird.  As I watched this
documentary, it occurred to me that I wouldn't sit still for it, and I
like weird stuff like Jodo was contemplating.  Surprisingly, the most
interesting part of the movie is the way that the images that Jodorowsky, Moebius and O'Bannon created and sprinkled around Hollywood
impacted science fiction movies for the next forty years.   Light sabres duels were incorporated in
Star Wars.  O'Bannon's aliens became
Alien.  The depiction of the universe that would have been Dune's opening shot became the opening shot of Contact. The skull mountain
that had been designed to be the castle of House Harkonnen became the creepy skull mountain
Prometheus.  And more.  If you're into
science fiction, you've got to see this movie.  If you're not, you'll still enjoy it.  (5/4/2014)

Blue Ruin   I think a better name for this movie might be Thinning the Herd.  At the very least, it should run as a double feature with Joe
(below) at some backwoods film festival.  I have no idea what the title does refer to, unless it's the decrepit 1970 Pontiac that serves as our
homeless protagonist's home, transportation and mobile deathtrap.  Macon Blair plays Dwight, a mysterious--and possibly brain-damaged
outsider whose life is turned upside down when he learns that the man he thinks murdered his parents is released from prison.  Dwight's
bad decisions follow in rapid succession, and it's not long before we realize that this movie is not going to end well.  The sense of impending
dread--and the body count--is practically Shakespearean.  There really aren't any surprises here.  You know something bad is coming, and it
does.  It's not for everyone, but if you decide to go, you won't be able to look away from it.  (5/3/2014)

The Other Woman   This movie thinks that watching a Great Dane take a crap on the floor of somebody's apartment is comedy.  If you
agree, you'll like it a lot. (4/30/2014)

Under the Skin   PROGRAMMING NOTE:  Scarlett Johansson has said recently that she thinks that people who refer to her as ScarJo are
some combination of lazy and/or disrespectful.  Actually, I can speak to that charge.  We're lazy.  I've hated having to look up how to spell
"Johansson" every time I've talked about one of her movies.  However, I'm a big believer in calling people what they want to be called, so I'll
refrain from ScarJo in the future--but I can't promise that if she really ticks me off at some point, I won't call her Miss Scarlett.  But to the
business at hand:
Under the Skin is just weird.  If you decide to see it, add up the times she takes off her clothes and the times she actually
has a conversation with somebody and let me know which number is greater.  I'd really like to know.  Mostly, she drives a white panel
truck around Glasgow, picking up single--and presumably lonely men.  She's clearly some sort of alien, and what she does with the men
takes forever to reveal itself.  People who thought
Trainspotting was high art would probably think this is stylish.  It's certainly stylized, at
any rate, and if that isn't enough for you, the movie won't be either.  (4/28/2014)

The Railway Man   Meanwhile, over on the other side of Scotland, the year is 1980 and Colin Firth is a late-middle-aged man whose new
wife, Nicole Kidman, is having trouble dealing with the fact that he's an emotional train wreck (sort-of-pun intended).  Turns out, he'd been
a young engineer in the British Army when Singapore fell to the Japanese at the end of 1941.  As a prisoner during the war, the Japanese
had needed his skills in their effort to build the same railroad they were working on in
Bridge Over the River Kwai, but that didn't mean that
they were above waterboarding him or locking him up for days on end in something that looked like a primitive air kennel for dogs.  
Railway Man
is about Nicole Kidman and Stellan Skarsgaard convince him to come to terms with what happened to him after thirty-five
years of misery.  Colin Firth is, of course, Colin Firth.  He can make you feel sorry for the King of England when he chooses.  He's
remarkable here, as is Kidman, who dials her performance back a lot, and the movie is much better for it.  I'm sure the people who made
the movie will tell you that they bent over backwards to give the Japanese characters same emotional depth they gave the Europeans (and
the Australian), but they really didn't.   The officer who seemed to be most responsible for treating Firth badly in the war is seen as
repentant in its aftermath,y but somehow, it feels forced.  That really doesn't affect your overall appreciation of the movie, which my friend
Janice tells me is already available on some Delta flights.  Check it out.  (4/28/2014)

Le Weekend   Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan (wonderful in their roles) play Nick and Meg, a couple of aging hippies from
Manchester who go to Paris for their 30th wedding anniversary.  They're a miserable couple, but they manage to have a memorable
weekend.  Nick seems comfortable in the shabby hotel he's reserved (which looks like every hotel room in Paris I've ever stayed in), but
Meg has higher expectations and bolts for the Plaza Athenee, where the room available is the Tony Blair Suite, which I'm guessing is about
ten times the price of their original room.  As the weekend rolls along, there are revelations (he has cancer, she hates that her son wants to
move back into their house) and accusations (he thinks she's having an affair with her computer repairman; she thinks he's a dreamer who
never does what he says).  These people were probably miserable as hippies, and they're not much fun now, either.  Their idea of fun--
sticking it to the man by running out on a dinner check and trashing a hotel room--reek of 1976.  You wouldn't let these people in your
house, but Broadbent and Duncan make the process of eavesdropping on their lives an interesting experience.  Which leads us to...

Joe, which is based on the Larry Brown novel of the same name.  The novel was set in the poverty-ridden backwoods of Mississippi and
included characters that you absolutely, positively wouldn't let in your house before they have a shower, a couple of dental procedures and
check their firearms at the door.  For some reason, the movie has been transplanted to Texas.  Texas should sue for defamation.  To say
that life is hard in Joe is an understatement.  An old man is clubbed to death for the bottle of Boone's Farm he's drinking.  A father "sells" his
death mute daughter for $30.  And in the middle of it all is Joe, played by a brilliant Nicolas Cage, who has all kinds of anger management
issues.  (When the Alsatian at the whorehouse gets on his nerves, he goes home, gets his pit bull, comes back to the brothel and sics his
mutt on the German Shepherd.)  The cops are tired of his crap.  His job is poisoning trees so that lumber companies can justifiably cut them
down.  One day, Gary, a teenage boy who desperately wants out of his life of grinding poverty and abuse, wanders into his life.  Helping
Gary will cost Joe everything.  Joe is horrifying to watch, but it is a monumental story of redemption.  (4/19/2014)


Some Disney bears sing duets with Kermit;
Country bears can dance and sing for food.
Some bears bitch about their porridge;
One gets lost in the Three Acre Wood.

After decades of exploiting bears in just about every context you can imagine, Disney has gone back to the source material and made a
movie about real bears on the Alaska Peninsula.  Sky is a brown bear with two cubs, Amber and Scout, who follow her from her den in the
mountains to spectacular leas, beaches and woods in search of enough food to be able to last through the next winter. We're told that Sky
needs to eat at least 90 pounds of salmon a day to prepare for hibernation.  Is there that much salmon in the world, and will Sky find it?  
C'mon.  This is a Disney film.  Along their journey, Sky and the cubs encounter sly, hungry wolves, other bears who don't seem to be
above cannibalism, a raven that seem to be given too much credit, clams and mussels which have to suffice as food until the salmon start
running, and--eventually--billions of salmon.  Holy cow.  The highlight of the movie is when they swim upstream in such profusion that
they're literally leaping into the mouths of the waiting bears.  It's a wonderful movie.  John C. Reilly provides a voice-over that's informative
and just light-hearted enough to keep the ever-so-slightly contrived movie rolling along.  Unless you're a salmon, you'll love it.  (4/18/2014)

Draft Day   A lot of stuff happens on Draft Day in Draft Day that probably doesn't happen on Draft Day in the real world.  I'm guessing
that girlfriends, ex-wives and mothers of NFL General Managers know better than to pick that particular day to tell him that they're pregnant
or that they want their dead husband's ashes scattered at the team's practice facility.  I'm just guessing.  But all that and more happens to
Kevin Costner as the manager of the Cleveland Browns on this particular Draft Day.  I liked the movie a lot because I was fascinated by the
way egos are juggled in the world of millionaire owners, coaches and players.  That is, in essence, the movie's chief attraction.  Costner is
engaging as always and Jennifer Garner as his girlfriend--and the team's spending cap specialist--is as amazing as ever.  Dennis Leary is
credibly bombastic as the team's coach, and lots of real-life players, sportscasters and NFL Commissioners do well in smaller roles.  It's not
for everyone, but if professional football interests you at all, I think you'll like it.  (4/15/2014)

Nymphomaniac, Vol. 1   I was prepared to dump all over this movie.  I'd already started writing the review before I even saw it.  (In case
you're wondering, it was going to start, "At the Berlin premiere of Nymphomaniac, Vol. 1, Shia LeBouef wore a brown paper sack over his
head.   I think he should have brought extra sacks for Lars von Trier and the other culprits who..."  You get the idea.  Yes, there is much
that is repulsive about this movie.  I don't profess to be a student of men's penises--I sort of thought that most of them looked like some
variation of Michelangelo's
David.  If that's also what you thought, there's a "penis montage" of photos of dozens of them that goes on for a
minute or two in the movie that will change your mind permanently on that score.  Most of things don't even look they belong to humans.  
But I digress.  While there is indeed lots of sex (
lots of sex), most of the movie is spent talking about it, and some of the talk actually makes
you think about what sex is and why it's viewed the way it is in society.  It's kind of remarkable, actually.  There are several labored
metaphors comparing sex to everything from fly fishing to algebra to the music of Bach, and while most of it is bull, some of it is kind of
profound.  What I'm saying, I guess, is that Nymphomaniac, Vol. 1 is a movie that makes you think.   That's rather remarkable these days.

The Unknown Known  Errol Morris is a movie maker best known for a documentary a few years back in which he got Robert McNamara
to take limited responsibility for the Vietnam War.  I suppose his motive in making this movie was to attempt to elicit a mea culpa for Iraq
from Donald Rumsfeld.  Knowing this, a better question would be to ask Mr. Rumsfeld why he was willing to participate in such a venture.
At the very end of The Unknown Known, Mr. Morris asks Mr. Rumsfeld that very question, and Rumsfeld's response is that he doesn't
know.  The movie, of course, takes its name from a memo that Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense during the Iraq era stating that there are
Known Knowns (things we know we know), Known Unknowns  (things we know we don't know), Unknown Unknowns (things we don't
know we don't know), and Unknown Knowns (things we think we know but really don't).  Your reaction to this movie (It was produced by
The History Channel.  It's bound to pop up there eventually.) will no doubt be determined by what you think of the War on Terror and those
who claimed to be fighting it in what they thought was the best interest of the country.  I'm not going to comment on that here--except to
repeat something that Mr. Rumsfeld himself said in the movie, i.e., that Senator Barack Obama denounced enhanced  interrogation, the
Patriot Act and Guantanamo Bay when he was running for president, but after he got elected, he left all those policies in place and upped the
ante considerably with NSA spying, drones and the Presidential kill list.  In Rumsfeld's mind, this validates what Bush had done in his term.  
But back to the movie.  Unlike Robert McNamara, Donald Rumsfeld has made peace with the decisions he made as Secretary of Defense.  
He seems to be content to let history be the judge.  He does himself no favors in the movie by appearing to be philosophical and detached
about the serious topics he's discussing because it might give some viewers the impression that he just didn't care about the ramifications of
his decisions.  It's a fascinating look at a man who presided over the fall of Saigon in 1975 and the fall of Baghdad in 2002.  Check it out.  

Captain America:  The Winter Soldier   is a joyless affair.   The plot is so convoluted that although you know that Captain America,
Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson--who looks pregnant in the movie)and the Falcon dude are the good guys, it's hard to know who any
other good guys might be--if there are any.  S.H.I.E.L.D. always sounded vaguely fascist to me anyway and knowing that it's been
infiltrated by something called HYDRA (of which Gary Shandling, of all people, seems to be a key leader) doesn't really make it sound too
much more sinister than it was already.  For me, Captain America has always been something of a misfit in the Marvel stable of
superheroes.  Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor and even Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Whats-his-name always
look like they've got something up their sleeve and wouldn't mind kicking the hell out of you just for fun.  Captain America, as portrayed by
Chris Evans, always looks as if he's performing under protest.  As for the Winter Soldier--who really doesn't do that much in the movie to
have his name in the title--he's about the least compelling villain you could imagine.  In all fairness, there were two high points in the movie.  
In the first, Cap and ScarJo find some 80's era computer equipment in a bunker in New Jersey and reenact a scene from the great Matthew
Broderick-Ally Sheedy movie
WarGames.  In the second, Robert Redford gets smoked--you might say that All really Is Lost.  Captain
America is the first of a summer full of superhero movies.  Let's hope that they get better from here.  In other words,
Spider Man, you're
on the clock.  (4/9/2014)

Veronica Mars    Sorry, movie lovers, but I'm really not the guy to provide much guidance to you regarding Veronica Mars.  I never saw
the TV show it was based on, and all I ever heard about it is that the fans of the show are called Marshmallows, and apparently the liked it
so much that they were willing to bankroll the movie via Crowdsourcing.  (In appreciation, both Marshmallows and Crowdsourcing are
given a shout-out in the first five minutes of the movie.)  I'm assuming that most of the characters in the movie are beloved (or despised)
characters from television.  Every time a new character is introduced, there's a little pause so that folks in the audience (in my case, folk in
the audience) can go "Ooh, there's Gia--or Logan, or whoever."  Happily, Veronica, in the form of Kristen Bell, provides a comprehensive
summary of both the show and what's happened in the ten years since it went off the air for the benefit of old fans and newcomers alike.  
Frankly, I was kind of surprised at how "adult" the world of Veronica Mars is/was-although I retrospect. I don't know why I'd been
expecting a virginal Nancy Drew.  That's not our world, any more, I suppose.  Ultimately, your enjoyment of Veronica Mars will depend on
your appreciation of Kristen Bell.   I think she's adorable, so I rather enjoyed the movie.  (4/8/2014)

Tim's Vermeer   I'll assume that you're aware that Johannes Vermeer was a brilliant painter who lived in Delft in the 17th century and tell
you that Tim is a brilliant inventor of optical and electric equipment who lives in San Antonio and has never had a painting lesson in his life.  
Vermeer's canvases are considered to be remarkable in the way they capture light, and Tim suspected that Vermeer used some sort of crude
lens device to help him capture effects of light and shadow that the human eye alone could not comprehend.   So naturally he set out to
recreate The Music Room, one of Vermeer's most famous paintings, using his own two new-to-painting hands and a device similar to the
one he thought Vermeer might have used.  The process of constructing the room and its furnishings in a Texas warehouse and recreating
the painting took almost five years and hundreds of thousands of dollars--but he did it.  That's just the plot of the movie.  Along the way,
Tim--along with Penn (producer of the movie) and Teller (director) explore the questions "What is art?" and "Is someone an artist because
they create art?" (Spoiler Alert:  In the Renaissance, scientists were usually artists as well.)  It's a fascinating movie.  Look for it.  (4/3/2014)

The Face of Love   If Tim's Vermeer (above) asks the question, "What is art?", The Face of Love provides lots of answers regarding what
art is not.  (Frankly, I don't even know why I'm bothering to tell you about this movie.  You've never heard of it, and you're never going to
see it.  I make these claims based on the fact that I was only person in the theater watching it on a Saturday night.  But I digress.)  Annette
Bening, who seems to want to be the Katherine Hepburn of indie movies, plays a fashionable Westside woman whose architect husband (An
embarrassed looking Ed Harris) dies on a vacation in Mexico.  After five years of moping and mourning (offscreen, thankfully), she's sitting
in the garden of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, looks up and sees old Ed again--this time in the persona of an art professor at
Occidental College.  After some not-too-creepy stalking and what passes for a car chase on public radio, she invites him out and makes him
fall in love with her.  The main question to be answered in movies like this is how Id's going to find out he's a doppelganger for the dead
husband.  Will he find out when the sad-sack neighbor (a tragically miscast Robin Williams) sees her at the Farmers Market?  When the
daughter from Seattle makes a surprise trip home and finds them in bed together?   You'll just have to find out for yourself.  More likely,
you won't.  (4/7/2014)

Enemy   I gave up beer and liquor for Lent.  Regrettably, this decision had a profoundly negative impact on my ability to comprehend this
movie.  Jake Gyllenhaal (who should know better) is a history professor who's living an oppressively mundane existence in the oppressively
mundane city of Toronto.  (Toronto doesn't need much help to be oppressively mundane, and the way it's photographed here--through a
smoggy yellow filter--made me think we were supposed to be in Beijing.)  While sitting at home one night and treating his girlfriend in a
particularly obnoxious passive-aggressive manner, he watches a locally made film which includes a small role played by an actor who looks
just like him.  After moping around for a couple of days, he decides to try to contact the actor.  After seeming to be appropriately suspicious
at first, the actor (also Jake, by the way) agrees to meet the professor in a hotel on the outskirts of town.  What could possibly go wrong?  
The rest of the movie, which opens with a quote, "Chaos is order undeciphered," answers that question.   Yes, the movie is effectively
creepy (spiders seem to play an important role), and it will certainly raise a lot of questions.   Sadly, it won't give you a clue regarding what
the answers might be.  (3/31/2014)

Noah  Some day, Noah will be featured on some iteration of Mystery Science Theater 3000.  It has to.  There's too much material.  At one
point, a frightened young girl asks Russell Crowe as Noah to sing to her.  ("No!!  Did you even
see from Les Miserables?")  Later, Noah's
standing alone on the screen and hears an otherworldly voice calling to him.  ("What?  Bill Cosby wasn't available.)  I could go on.  At the
very least, Noah will provoke lots of people to read The Bible.  If for no other reason, young folks are going to want to know more about
the pre-historic Transformers called "The Watchers" who help him build the ark.  Somehow, i missed that detail in my various readings of
The Bible, and I'd like to hope against hope that the premise presented in the movie bears some relation to the Old Testament.  I can imagine
people taking almost any kind of position on the movie.  Some will find that it affirms their faith in the "original material."  Some will think
it's blasphemous.  Although it appeared to me that Noah was taking a responsible position by protecting the world's precious wildlife, some
might see that message as environmentalist propaganda.  And some will see it as fantasy.  I have no problem with any of those positions--I
just think it's nice that people will be talking about it.  (3/30/2014)

Bad Words  Jason Bateman plays Guy Trilby, a 40-year-old-man who finds a loophole in the rules governing the National Spelling Bee that
allows him to enter.  He does so for personal reasons that the movie is kind of coy about for about the first two-thirds or so, and during that
time, we kind of enjoy the sorry spectacle he's making of himself.  Common decency would suggest that we should identify with the irate
parents who berate him for making a mockery of the competition that they and their children have sacrificed so much for, but those parents
are presented here as such gargoyles that we don't mind that Guy is trashing the contest.  However, as the movie goes along, Guy becomes
best buds with an adorable nine-year old Indian-American contestant played by Rohan Chand (who steals the movie), and we learn Guy's
secret.  At that point, the movie aspires to "mean something" and the "spell" (get it?) is broken.  Even though lots of good actors are wasted
in small roles, Jason Bateman is always watchable, and young Mr. Chand is cute enough to sustain your interest until the final death spiral.  

The Grand Budapest Hotel   While I enjoyed this movie quite a lot, I realize that it's not for everyone.  I would contend that director Wes
Anderson is better at creating alien societies and putting them on the screen than George Lucas.  However, as the residents of Anderson's
world claim to be human beings, it can be confusing or even irritating for people who've never seen such people in the course of their own
experiences.  In
Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson's last outing, I thought the people were kind of wonderful.  Here not, so much.  The cast,
which includes everyone from Tilda Swinton to Saoirse Ronan and Ralph Fiennes to Bill Murray is having a fine time--except, of course, for
Edward Norton, who never looks like he's enjoying himself.  Fiennes plays the concierge of the titular hotel, and inherits a valuable painting
from an elderly woman who'd been a frequent guest at the hotel.  That, however, has nothing to do with the plot of the movie.  (Come to
think of it, I'm not sure what
anything has to do with the plot of the movie.)  What does it all mean?  Not much.   Your enjoyment of this
movie will rely totally on the extent to which you enjoy visiting this particular planet of the Wes Anderson solar system.  (3/24/2014)

Muppets: Most Wanted


To:      Walt Disney  (I know you're still alive.  I saw you in the movie with Emma Thompson.)
From:   Matt
Re:       Muppets

Walt, I'm a big fan of your work, but it's time to let the Muppets go.  Jim Henson is dead. Frank Oz has moved on to
more interesting projects.  The new guys just aren't getting it done.  I'll admit that I haven't seen the last couple of installments
in this franchise, but if they weren't any better than this, it's a mercy killing.  Just my opinion, you say?  Maybe.  But I can report
that throughout the course of this movie, I didn't hear one person in the audience laugh AT ANYTHING.   And the music. Oy, the
music.  There was actually groan when one of the songs started. (OK, that was me, but still.)  Hell, you even made Celine Dion
look old.  In this age of special effects, I didn't even think that was possible.  Ricky Gervais and Tina Fey are funny people, but
they just looked lost.   You wouldn't know it from
Mr. Peabody and Sherman, but Ty Burrell can also bring the laughs. He, too,
was wasted.  To sum up, if this is what the Muppets are going to be going forward, give it up.

PS:  The trailer for
Maleficent looked awesome.  Can't wait for May 30th.  (3/23/2014)

Divergent   I liked Divergent.  I liked the story about saving what's left of Chicago from the intellectuals (sorry, Erudites), and I liked the
subtext of Katniss--oops,
Tris--discovering whether she's disappointed her parents or not by her--er, career choice.  Shailene Woodley
continues to impress as Kat--dammit!--
Tris.  She was a wonder in The Descendants, and she's equally fine here--which is good since she's
in every scene of a two-and-a-half-hour movie.  Yes, it's long, but it's one of those movies that sets up a franchise, so it has to provide lots
and lots--and lots--of backstory.  Being waaayyyy out of the movie's target audience, I can say that it was nice to see Ashley Judd and Kate
Winslet in age-appropriate roles where they get a chance to kick some butt.  Everyone else in the cast looked kind of random.   Like I said, I
liked the movie, but don't feel that you don't need to go see it.  I'm sure that it will be nicely summarized in the first two minutes of the next
one.  (3/22/2014)

Gloria   I haven't looked at the reviews for this movie about a divorced woman of a certain age (hell, she's my age) in Santiago, Chile, but I
suppose that the majority of them think that this is a feel-good movie about a woman who refuses to allow life to shove her into a corner
after her divorce.  I get that, and if that's the way people want to look at the movie, it's fine with me.  Frankly, the movie that
Gloria most
reminded me of was
Looking for Mr. Goodbar.  Think about it:  Theresa Dunn would be Gloria's age now, had she not gotten herself killed
by a strung out Richard Gere after a wild night at the disco in 1977.  There's a scene in
Gloria that follows a montage in which Gloria meets
a strange dude in a club and is seen drinking, gambling, necking, drinking some more, etc.  The next thing we see is Gloria, unconscious,
lying on the beach in the rumpled clothes we saw her in the night before.  Is she just passed out, or is she dead?  I won't give anything
away here, but let's just say that Gloria has been making bad decisions for a long, long time.  With that caveat,
Gloria does have its life
affirming moments in which Gloria tries--among other things--bungee jumping, paintball, yoga, pot and some other stuff.  Yes, it's good that
a 60-year-old woman is making an effort to be open to new experiences--as long as she keeps an eye out for Richard Gere.  (3/16/2014)

Mr. Peabody and Sherman  Back in the dark, awful days before cable television and remote controls, people who loved great animated
comedy would gather around the old TV to watch Rocky and Bullwinkle on Saturday mornings.  In addition to Rocky and Bullwinkle
themselves, the show would feature other players like Dudley Do-Right and, alas, Mr. Peabody and Sherman.  Today, like the producers of
Dudley Do-Right before them, someone has confused our lazy reluctance to get off the couch, walk across the room and change to one of
the other four stations we had at the time with real affection for secondary characters.  Back in the days when the cartoon looked like it
could have been drawn by any of the kids in the audience, it was unobjectionable enough.  A couple of jokes were made about history or
science, and it was over--you knew that Moose and Squirrel would be back after the commercials.  A 90-minute, $100 million movie is
another animal entirely--and not a good one.  Sherman and a newly-empowered (and obnoxious) Penny beat the hell out of the Wayback
Machine--and history.  It's marginally cute for the first ten minutes or so, but then you beg it to stop.  It never does.  I suppose an intelligent
five- year-old might like it, but the adults who accompany said child will feel deeply persecuted.  Rocky and Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right
and Mr. Peabody and Sherman now have all had full-length features.  Sadly, they 0 for 3.  (3/9/2014)

Adult World stars Emma Roberts as "the premier female poet under twenty-five in upstate New York."  (She says so herself.)  While that
statement may or may not be true, what is definitely true ts that she's quite the drama queen.  Everything that happens in her life is described
as suffering for her art.  Unfortunately, lots of folks around her also suffer for her art.  She's driven her parents to distraction and near
bankruptcy, co-workers at the porn shop where she's forced to go to work think she's a pill, and the poet in town who is perhaps the
greatest poet in Syracuse--I suppose there has to be one--feels persecuted when she decides he must be her mentor.  The poet, played with  
vicious understatement by John Cusack.  He tells her whatever he thinks will make her go away--but she never does, and eventually she
wears him down.  I liked this movie quite a lot, but it's not for everyone.  Every joke you can think of about porn shops is milked for all its
worth, and there are lots of great lines that just kind of zip by your head.  My favorite:

Emma Roberts:   I scored in the 97th percentile on my SAT.
John Cusack:      Believing that the SAT's are important is like believing in Scientology.

Like I said, I liked it a lot, but it's not for everyone.  (3/7/2014)

The Past   is an interesting puzzle.  The movie begins as a French/Iranian man returns to Paris (from Tehran, I guess) to sign his divorce
papers.  He's surprised to find that his wife has moved on to a new guy, who seems decent enough.  Her biggest problem is her eldest
daughter, whom we soon discover is not the child of the man from whom she's getting divorced.  As we learn more about the characters,
we find that they all have issues which need to be explored, and as we peel the proverbial onion, we uncover LOTS of painful memories.  
I'm not sure I'd say t his is a great movie, but I was fascinated by the way the story unfolded.  If you don't mind reading subtitles (and
you'll need to, unless you speak both French and Farsi), it's a compelling look at family dynamics in a family that needs a flow chart to
remember who belongs to whom.  (3/1/2014)

Pompeii Back in December, I visited the Pompeii exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.  (I get around.)  The exhibit is broken into
two sections, roughly along the lines of before and after the eruption.  In the first section, you see hundreds of amazing items that have been
excavated from the site.  Then you go into a dark room that has a built up floor, three black walls and one wall-sized screen that reenacts
the eruption.  The floor shakes as you see black smoke, cinders and ash headed straight for you before it goes completely dark.  The screen
rises to the ceiling, and you enter the world of Pompeii after the eruption, where the chief objects are plaster casts of people frozen by the
ash at the time of their death.  It's grotesque in on sense, but it makes the act of the eruption startlingly real.  Apparently, the producers of
Pompeii were impressed by the exhibit and thought to themselves that all it really needs to be perfect are: 1) Scottish (!) gladiators; 2) a
gratuitous and uninteresting love story; and 3) Kiefer Sutherland.  I proudly proclaim my continuing man-crush on Kiefer--I even liked him
in the otherwise dreadful Melancholia.  Without his participation here as a corrupt Roman senator who's way too full of himself, my
assessment of this movie would be
red, red, red.  In short, even though the special effects are pretty good (I didn't see it in 3-D), he's
really the only thing worth watching in the movie.  If you're not a Kiefer fan; 1) shame on you; and 2) avoid this movie like the plague.  

Tennessee Queer   My first visit to a gay bar was in Jackson, Tennessee, in 1974.  (I told you in the last paragraph that I get around!)  I
think we called them "queer bars" back then, and actually, I'm not sure that the lounge of the Holiday Inn qualified for either word of the
term "gay bar."  For one thing, Jackson was in a dry county, so essentially you were going to the Holiday Inn to buy four dollar cokes that
you mixed with the whiskey you'd brought to the place with you.  As for the "gay" part, I think this was before the whole handkerchief in
the pocket signalling thing, so any gays cruising at the Holiday Inn that night were presumably making secret signs to one another that
eventually led to a more intimate encounter in the parking lot.   I just remember sitting there like an idiot.  My next gay bar experience would
be in Metairie in the early 1990's, and things had definitely changed by then.   So this was my train of thought when I heard about
.  Like the makers of the movie, I'm not sure that much has changed in the past forty years.  Gay life is still unknown to and
mistrusted by most of the people in the fictional town of Smythe, Tennessee.  While most of the townspeople say they have a good friend
who's gay, said gays are never really in evidence.  Mostly, they either take their sex lives to Memphis, or they get out altogether and move to
New York, like Jason the librarian in this movie.  In a nutshell, Jason's family holds an intervention to coerce him to move back to Smythe.  
(The town librarian is retiring, and the job is open.)  Jason says he'll do it on the condition that the town has a gay pride parade--knowing
that the town council would never approve a permit such a thing.  In a surprise to him, some of the members of the council have their own
loopy agenda and approve the permit.  So Jason finds himself organizing "the best gay pride parade that Smythe, Tennessee, has ever had."  
I'd like to say that the results were either hilarious or touching, but you can probably guess how it turns out.  I'm not sure that
will teach you any more about gay life than a visit to the Holiday Inn lounge, but if you enjoy laughing a stereotypes, you could do
worse.  (2/24/2014)

3 Days to Kill Based on this evidence and the recent The Family with Michelle Pfeiffer, France seems to have become the new hangout for
Americans behaving badly.  Whether there's anything more to this than the fact that both movies have French producers, I have no idea, but
maybe some film student can parlay this into a New Wave.  But I digress.  Kevin Costner and Hailee Steinfield are an estranged father and
daughter living in Paris, where Costner has recently been bounced out of the CIA because he's--well, dying.  Enter Amber Heard, as an
Agency operative who just might be able to save him, if only he'll do something for her--namely murder a couple dozen people.  Which he
does, while trying to balance a home life that includes looking after his daughter for three days while her mother is out of town.   Does he
succeed?  Let's put it this way; this is a comedy. Not a great comedy, but you've seen worse.  Costner looks like death chewing on a
cracker, but he does manage to give his grungy character some panache.  Steinfield is miscast, but it's not egregious.  It's an agreeable two
hours, and best of all, you get to spend them in Paris.  (2/22/2014)

The Lego Movie Unless you're comfortable with hearing the song 'Everything is Awesome" in your head for the rest of your life, avoid this
movie.  It's like "It's A Small World, After All".  You can't un-hear it.  But with that caveat, this movie is spectacular.  It's inventive,
hilarious, and unlike anything you've seen before.  It's so good that I even like Will Ferrell in it, and that's saying something.  To tell you the
plot would be pointless and would ruin the surprise at the end of the movie.  Just go see it.  You can thank me later.  (2/17/2014)

Winter's Tale Like Alice in Wonderland, this movie would have you believe six impossible things before breakfast.   A few of them are
that: 1) a girl who was about five in 1917 is now editing a major newspaper in New York; 2) given a choice between apprehending a small
time crook played by Colin Farrell or the mythical flying horse Pegasus, a gang of New York tough guys would rather take--Farrell; 3)
Satan is in reality Will Smith; 4) Farrell could wander the streets of New York for a century, physically unchanged but unable to remember
what he's been doing.  But even with these cautions and lots of others, I liked this movie quite a lot.  I just accepted it as the fable it claimed
to be and went with it.  Russell Crowe is the bad guy here (What, you thought Satan was the bad guy?), and on a couple of occasions in
which he was menacing Farrell, I imagined him saying, "Do what I tell you, or I'll start singing!"  In some ways, it was kind of funny.  

The Monuments Men   The book was interesting in non-fiction kind of way.  It's not an ideal vehicle for the talents of Bill Murry, John
Goodman, the guy who was Uggi's friend in
The Artist, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon and George Clooney.  It's kind of like the National
Geographic Channel version of
Ocean's 11--watchable, but awkward.  (2/10/2014)

The Invisible Woman We got a brief glimpse of Ralph Fiennes during the Opening Ceremonies of the London Olympics, and--like so
much of that ceremony--it was hard to tell what he was supposed to be doing, but he had long dark hair, a full dark beard and was dressed
like Charles Dickens.   We now know that during that time, he was in the process of filming
The Invisible Woman.  It's the (true) story of
Dickens' relationship with an 18-year-old actress at a time when he was in his forties.  Of course, he had a wonderful reputation for loving
his children and loving mankind in general.   He did not, however, love his long-suffering wife and in fact, was kind of a bastard about it.
Much of The Invisible Woman is about the nature of celebrity in the 1860's and the extent to which a famous man jealous of his reputation
went to conceal an attachment to a teen-age girl.  As such, the movie is excellent.  We see that he is attracted by her beauty, and she seems
to be attracted to him out of obligation to his fame and celebrity.  It's not much to base a relationship on, and as a result, it's not much of a
relationship.  Maybe it would be a bit less perplexing if we could see the pair actually enjoying being together.  As it is, it's an interesting
story of a relationship, but it's not a love story.  (1/25/2014

Lone Survivor
  The first big hit of 2014 seems to be becoming one of the most controversial movies of the year.  It's based on the book
of the same name, and while the name might be compelling, it pretty much gives away the plot.  You know from the beginning that this will
be the story of a Navy SEAL team mission in Afghanistan that went horribly wrong, resulting in the deaths of about fifteen brave men.   
While most reviews of the movie seem to be positive, it's interesting to see why the reviewers who didn't like it gave as their reasons.  The
first two (also where I stopped reading) said that while the movie certainly succeeded in proving that war is hell, their complaint was that
the movie didn't make a moral judgment about the war itself.  This boggled my mind.  I don't think that it ever occurred to Marcus Latrell,
the author of the book and the "Lone Survivor" himself that it was somehow his responsibility to justify the war.  That unenviable task
should be left to those who made the decisions to go to war in the first place.  Latrell wrote the story, and the people who made the movie--
to their credit--made a movie that focused solely on the mission and the men who fought it.  Some have called this the most graphic and
honest war movies ever made, and there have been sightings of actual SEALs crying when it was over.  I don't know if that assessment is
correct, but if there is something more graphic and honest out there, I don't think I want to see it.  (1/10/2014)

August: Osage County  When this movie was over, I googled (Googled?) "Osage County, Oklahoma, to see if it really exists.  I was kind
of disappointed to see that it does because I wanted so much to be able to report to you that there
used to be an Osage County, Oklahoma,
but Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts ate it.  Chewed it up and spit it out.  As it stands, I can only say that they chewed the scenery available
to them.  This movie is based on an award-winning play of the same name and features a bewildering list of fine actors.  In addition to
Streep and Roberts, actors as diverse as Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sam Shepherd, Chris Cooper, Juliette Lewis and Abigail
Breslin turn up to assume thankless roles.  Why?  I can only guess that the Gothic gargoyles in this overwritten story are what they really
think about us hopeless rubes out here in flyover country.  Somehow, they must think that this will connect them with "real" people.  I
know it sounds far-fetched, but it's really the only rationale I can think of.  And if so, they're waaayyy off.  The folks who look the least
ridiculous are those who have the least to do.  Nothing about this movie feels remotely "real", and the longer it went, the more irritating it
became.  (1/11/2014)

Her   bites off more than it (she?) can chew.  Yes, it does start off like the episode of The Big Bang Theory in which Raj falls in love with
Siri, the voice on his iphone.  ("Siri, what color case would you like to wear today?")  The first hour of the movie goes along in that vein for
about an hour or so, and then Samantha, the voice on Joachim Phoenix's computer--like SkyNet in the
Terminator movies--becomes self-
aware, and starts doing things like writing books and movies, wanting to have sex with Joachim and--worst of all--talking to other
computers.  The movie which I think wants very much to make a point about the nature of what it is to be human, gets bogged down in the
ethics of artificial intelligence and loses its way.  Scarlett Johansson has been getting a lot of love for her vocal role as Samantha, and while
she deserves the attention, I don't think that Joachim Phoenix is getting enough credit for his work.  He is, after all, the human in the
relationship, and while we're appreciating ScarJo's voice work, we're looking at him (usually in a tight close up) and reacting to her through
his eyes and ears.  (1/12/2014
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