Category Archives: MOVIE REVIEWS!

The Great Beauty

The Great Beauty

The Great Beauty (2014) Starring: Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone, Sabrina Ferilli, Carlo Buccirosso

senior dating church meeting west monroe la Director: Paolo Sorrentino

Enjoy partnervermittlung wesel The Great Beauty for its rich cinematography. From interior lighting and camera angles to scenic outdoor panoramas, the filming and direction are superb. This is a reflective study that is best appreciated by a more mature, seasoned audience. Many of the characters are well beyond age 50.

A celebrated writer, aging Jep Gambardella ( agence rencontre dakar Toni Servillo), having written just one outstanding novel, drifts among his also aging society cronies in the monied enclaves of central Rome. We observe how they roll during a crossroads in many of their lives. The writing and dialogue are sophisticated, laced with pathos, and balanced with forgiving irony. A fascinating range of characters come to life through a solid cast of pros, drawing us straight into their world effortlessly. Slow, steady, rambling, and quite thought provoking. Visual gourmet.

Italian with English subtitles, heavy on dialogue.

site gratuit de rencontre amicale My grade: A

Robert Reoch

Copyright femme mature bordeaux Robert George Reoch Publishing

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Robert Reoch Writes “Mind Pastry”

Robert Reoch is Mind Pastry

Robert Reoch Bakes

rencontres 59310 Robert Reoch measures, beats, and sometimes whips ideas to death. Welcome to strategie inwestycyjne opcje binarne “Mind Pastry,” a bakery of thoughts from my mind to yours. 

Robert Reoch is the Name

My last name,  rencontre femme brest sans lendemain Reoch, is pronounced, film laura ou une sensuelle rencontre streaming Rē’ŏck (rhymes with opcje binarne jak to dzia__a Reebok). That  image of a piece of cake floating among the palm trees in my page banner is a slice from a red velvet cake that I actually baked! Robert Reoch's Mind Pastry CakeThere’s more to Mind Pastry than just the analogy, though. I actually love pastry—and I bake it too!—but that’s another post.

Mind Pastry is Layered

I offer a dose of conscience to the Internet through many of my posts. I believe we have too many “reality TV” shows and deceptive news outlets in the media. Too often, issues are discussed from just one point of view in the news. Many pop “journalists” aren’t doing their homework. They aren’t getting out to the field to research their stories. Much of current reporting relies solely on popular social memes—mass hysteria, as I see it—rather than on verified facts and nuanced examination of the gray areas. Please, people, stop thinking only in black and white. Look for what’s in-between. Ask what is the back story you’re not getting from the media. I try to present layers and perspectives that encourage people to discover full truths. I live by three principles: Love, Truth, and Knowledge. I resent journalism that ignores these values in favor of ratings and profit. I hope you find something new and thought-provoking in Mind Pastry.

Robert Reoch Writes

I’ve written a couple of books of short stories under pen name, Robert George Reoch. I wrote my Travelers’ Shorts books with the traveler in mind, even though my stories not about travel. The idea was to provide short stories for the traveler who didn’t want to start a heavy novel. Short stories provide entertainment in manageable chunks for the person on the go. My short stories are written with taste and richness (just like pastry). These epic tales offer drama, adventure, and laugh-out-loud humor. You can order them here:

Travelers Shorts

Travelers’ Shorts: Stories That Move

 

Travelers Shorts 2: Tethers by Robert George Reoch

Travelers’ Shorts 2: Tethers

Please enjoy my books!

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing

Looper

Looper 

Looper (2012) starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Noah Segan, Paul Dano, Pierce Gagnon

Director: Rian Johnson

Directed with clarity, the sci-fi drama, Looper, takes us forward and backward in time without undue confusion. One of the joys of this story is having a single remarkable character portrayed by two remarkable actors in the same film. Gordon-Levitt, even with face altering makeup, does a compelling version of the character, Joe, including the way he mimics many of Bruce Willis’ mannerisms. Willis, as Older Joe, gives us a juicy dose of, well … Bruce Willis! No complaints here.

Organized crime in the future is able to assassinate a person and send them back in time to be executed. Their remains are destroyed in the past, thereby eliminating their existence and any evidence in the future. Assassins are paid handsomely for each and retire wealthy. However, complications arise with a few assassins in the loop.

Emily Blunt is convincing and has great screen presence as usual. Jeff Daniels gets down with his bad self as a mob boss. Child actor Pierce Gagnon is a standout too. Some kids just have it.

Power struggles, romance, intricate story, and big drama combine in a top-notch production. It all works beautifully. The music greatly enhances too.

My grade: A

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing

The Three Stooges 2012

The Three Stooges

The Three Stooges (2012) Starring: Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos, Will Sasso, Jane Lynch, Larry David, Sofia Vergara, Larry David

Directors: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly

Being familiar with the original Three Stooges films from the 1930s to early 1960s, I was leery about seeing this latest revival. In fact, during the first few minutes of watching this on Blu-ray, I was almost tempted to turn it off. However, once I let go of over analyzing the actors’ impressions of the original cast, I was quickly caught up in the spirit of the story and began to enjoy it. Furthermore, this cast did a great job of capturing the nuances of the originals.

I loved that they used an old melodramatic story line involving orphaned children living in an orphanage run by nuns. There was once an era in Hollywood where orphaned kids were a standard dramatic plot device. Now, poking fun at that old tradition is funny from the onset. Larry David playing a nun (without even trying not to act like a man) set the comedy bar low while raising the laugh quotient for everything else.

The opening establishes the characters as orphaned children. Soon enough, the childhood versions grow into the adult stooges and the pace and laughs pick up. Sean Hayes does a spot-on Larry, only much funnier I dare say, than the original. I’ll watch this again if only for Sean Hayes. I haven’t laughed so hard in years. Ditto for Sofia Vergara in her role as the villain. She has a gift for comedic expression that rivals that of Lucille Ball or Carol Burnette. I could watch her do comedy all day.

Will Sasso delivers an energetic Curly, as does Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe. At times, the physical shtick between the trio of stooges is almost too much for a modern audience, but better too much than not enough, especially in this homage.

There’s no point in dissecting the plot in detail because it’s a Three Stooges movie, not Mission Impossible. The climax is reminiscent of a Marx Brothers finale. There’s a grand anniversary party with all of the sub plots and characters converging in non-stop sight gags and one-liners. Hayes blows the lid off with goofiness not seen since Daniel Stern’s “Marv” (one of the bumbling crooks) in Home Alone.

With due haste, all loose ends are tied up at the conclusion. Then notably, after the close of the film, the directors offer cautionary advice to young viewers about the dangers of imitating the slapstick physical stunts of the stooges. They exhibit rubber hammers used by the actors to clobber one another (not real hammers, of course). They also demonstrate how to feign an eye poking without really putting out an eyeball, emphasizing that none of the comedic actions should be imitated. Even though I agree with this offering of precautions, it’s somewhat bizarre (and slightly pathetic) that a disclaimer like this is warranted today when it wasn’t even considered a half century ago. Changing times.

I loved this film. They pulled it off better than I expected, with plenty of laughs–precisely what The Three Stooges have always been about.

My Grade: A-

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (2012) Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci

Director: Gary Ross

In The Hunger Games, teens are forced to battle-to-the-death with each other in order to appease a long-standing national tradition of extracting a penance for prior homeland unrest and wounds. In the fictional future, this is the flimsy premise for humans hunting humans. Worse, there will be sequels (or better if you enjoy this type of fun—it’s not totally crap).

The story is produced as well as any reality show, but with the bigness of a blockbuster movie. We follow with interest. We marvel at the wonky wigs worn by Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, and Elizabeth Banks. (Tucci will never live this down.)

The fact that the violence is somewhat tempered is appreciated by the squeamish among us. The cheesy love triangle that develops mid-way through the plot is not. We’re suddenly thinking of The Twilight Saga and Taylor Lautner, and…gag.

This actually is an excellent rendering of the familiar theme where the powerful elite entertain themselves with futuristic blood sport at the expense of the downtrodden masses. Throw in alliances and young love and there you have it. At least they’re not tossing people into volcanoes.

My grade: B-

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing

In Time

In Time

In Time (2011) Starring: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy

Director: Andrew Niccoli

In this sci-fi action suspense film, In Time, people trade time as currency. Everyone on the planet has a running digital clock readable on his or her arms. Years, months, days, minutes, and seconds can be added and removed between persons and various external devices. Once your time runs out, you’re dead. On the other hand, you can literally live forever if you keep your meter full.

The wealthiest individuals are practically immortals, owning huge blocks of time. They lord control over the rest of society, whose ghetto lives are lived tediously at various jobs, working just to earn more time to avoid running out and dying in the streets.

Enter our hard working hero, Will Salas (Timberlake), who receives an unexpected gift of a century’s worth of time from a disillusioned man of upper society who wants to let his time run out and die, having grown mentally tired of living indefinitely.

Unfortunately, most of the rich don’t want the poor ever to get enough time to live too long. They prefer to control the wealth and prevent overpopulation by employing “Time Keepers” such as Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy) to ensure that the lower classes never get ahead. Will Salas, having upset the balance with his recent gain, becomes a target of the Time Keeper and his goons. Salas decides to take on the rich establishment and find a way to balance the wealth.

Meanwhile, rich girl Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried) is bored. When Salas shows up among the rich people, she becomes drawn to him and winds up helping him. It’s The Patty Hearst Story meets Logan’s Run.

Overall, this production is pedestrian and lacks enthusiasm. There’s off-putting poor CGI for certain scenery. Also looking cheap is a fleet of ’70s muscle cars and classic ’60s Lincoln Continentals, all painted black to look “futuristic.” (TV’s Dukes of Hazard and The Green Hornet had better stock.)

The story builds well enough, but we don’t ever feel real buy-in from Timberlake or Murphy. Seyfried is the most convincing in her role. There’s no “big reveal” and the intended climactic scenes merely expire, like time. Still, interest is held for most of the duration. In Time avoids becoming too tiresome by the ending—but just in time.

My grade: C+

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing

Albert Nobbs

Albert Nobbs

Albert Nobbs (2011) Starring: Glenn Close, Janet McTeer, Mia Wosikowska, Aaron Johnson, Pauline Collins

Director: Rodrigo Garcia

For twenty years, a single woman (Glenn Close) with no family has been posing as a male butler named Albert. Educated, but with the hardship of having lost all family, her only means to survive in 19th century Ireland was by living as a man. While working in an upper class hotel in Dublin, complications arise when her secret is discovered by a newly hired hand at the hotel. Albert has been stashing away money for years with dreams of opening a tobacco shop. While working at the hotel, she develops sympathy for a young hotel maid (Mia Wosikowska) who has become pregnant by a young man (Johnson) also employed at the hotel. Meanwhile, the hotel proprietor, Mrs. Baker (Pauline Collins) abuses her staff while coddling to her wealthy upper class patrons. Thus is the setting.

The running parallel stories and the characters all provide satisfying drama. Glenn Close is a fragile Albert. Troubled waters run deep beneath her palely made up man’s face. I would like to blame Botox for a lack of expression, but one cannot be sure if it’s not just Close’s role interpretation. Albert is a strangely disturbing yet sympathetic character.

Janet McTeer is brilliant as the gentleman who knows the score. Her bold character is both masculine and endearing. I don’t consider this a spoiler because it’s not that hard to detect.

I was thoroughly engaged watching this film. It’s not appropriate for children due to the sophisticated dialogue and adult subject matter. I’m giving this film an ‘A’ because it’s so well above the quality of most modern mainstream pulp.

My grade: A

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing

The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man  (2012) Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field

Director: Marc Webb

3D is well-honed in The Amazing Spider-Man. It’s not all in-your-face in one moment and then gone the next. The visuals lend splendidly to Andrew Garfield’s Spider-man in his red and blue costume, swinging like Tarzan between tall buildings in Manhattan.

Teenage Peter Parker becoming Spider-Man is made to appear plausible in this well directed installment. Thanks to a great cast and a rounded story, things move along with the character of a good indie and the appeal of a John Hughes film. There’s even a high school bully with whom Peter Parker must contend along with the pressures of a twink Spider-Man saving the world from a mad scientist while romancing the police chief’s daughter at the same time.

Fine cinematography captures the abundant screen presence of the cast. As Peter Parker’s aunt and uncle/legal guardians, Martin Sheen provides firm fatherly authority while Sally Field weighs-in with her urgent motherly pleadings. It’s screen gold. Emma Stone is radiant.

Andrew Garfield’s expressiveness adds depth to his character. We get the full range of the male testosterone experience including his initial awkward flirtations with classmate Gwen Stacy (Stone).  Somehow, overnight, he morphs from a fumbling geek to a smoldering kisser and ninja fighter.

This is the best Spider-Man so far. It’s balanced romance, drama, and thrilling 3D action.

My grade: A

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

We Need To Talk About Kevin

We Need To Talk About Kevin 

We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011) Starring: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller

Director: Lynne Ramsay

Told with strategic flashbacks, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a compelling character study. Even with its non-linear style, satisfaction comes in the telling and the superb acting.

Life turns melancholy for Eva (Tilda Swinton), a successful writer, after giving birth to a boy, Kevin, who only shows contempt for his mother. Compounding Eva’s frustration, her boy demonstrates normal outward affection for his father while maintaining open hostility toward her only when the father isn’t around to see it.

As teen-aged Kevin, actor Ezra Miller ignites his scenes. Attractive and dangerous, his character is also troublesome and defiant. Eva, even after giving birth to another child—a normal happy girl—continues to struggle as a parent. Jumping between present and past, we come to appreciate Eva.

Director Lynn Ramsay’s calculated timing heaps-on the suspense, although we can see the ending coming. Still, it’s a thrilling journey despite an editing bump or two.

My grade: B+

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing

The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black 

The Woman in Black (2012) Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Roger Allam

Director: James Watkins

Like homage to classic ghost thrillers from mid 20th century, every hoary haunted house cliché gets play time in this flick—not just once or twice, but repeatedly throughout.

A young English gentleman (Daniel Radcliffe) is stranded alone overnight in a vacant old mansion during inclement weather. He’s left to wander the musty house, room to room, following the sounds of creaking boards and tortured cries. Doorknobs turn themselves. Children’s toys spring to life. The tension is pierced by sudden loud noises and ghastly apparitions strategically spaced between long pauses of dread filled silence. This type of business is repeated too often over the course. The result feels contrived and planned like a carnival spook house. Still, there’s something compelling, even redeeming, holding our interest.

Handsome, well-dressed lawyer, Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe), has traveled on business to retrieve legal documents left by the deceased former occupant of the vacant manor, which is situated on a small island only accessible at low tide. Mr. Kipps is warned off, and treated hostile by a few local villagers who vehemently try to convince him to leave. The only cordial resident, Mr. Bentley (Allam), provides supper to Mr. Kipps and reveals some horrid secrets. Several of the local children have died mysterious horrible deaths, believed to be the result of vengeful acts by the spirit of a dead woman who had ties to the empty house. Mr. Kipps very slowly pieces together a tragic local history and even goes so far as to try to reconcile a lingering conflict.

Savor this film for how it gloriously mimics the old classics. A clever macabre twist at the end compensates for any campy thrills leading up. Compared to the classics, this movie is over-the-top with its bumps-in-the-nights and ghosts-in-the-mirrors. However in the good old days it would have been choice fare for a date at the Drive-In-Movie theater, sharing some shivers and cuddles during the scary parts.

Daniel Radcliffe and Roger Allam do fine work, certainly appreciating the rare opportunity for modern actors to revisit this dramatic genre, especially with it being so well wrought with nostalgia and authenticity by director James Watkins. Vincent Price would have loved this.

My grade: B

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing

The Avengers

The Avengers

The Avengers (2012) Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Stellan Skarsgard, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow

Director: Joss Whedon

Multiple Marvel Comics superheroes can work together well, even if they don’t always get along. They may even have a few spats, but they get their work done. 3-D effects keep getting better, and this film is the best example I’ve seen yet.

In this story, Thor’s half-brother, Loki, is back on the scene and bent on dominating stuff (in this case, the Earth) as usual. He manages a feasible plan, but is forced to contend with the agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D.—Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate—including a potent assortment of superheroes hired as temps for the police.

This film moves quickly. The dialogue is smart and often funny. The outcome is predictable. Seen in an IMAX theater, children screamed and laughed in some parts, while the adults laughed in others. The movie was engaging enough that I could ignore the girl behind me kicking my seat and forgive the little boy beside me elbowing me and kicking me as he sucked on his gigantic soda loudly during the quiet parts. It’s a superhero movie. It’s noisy. I’ll never go to a matinée again.

My grade: A-

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing

Rango

Rango

Rango (2011) Starring: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty, Alfred Molina

Director: Gore Verbinski

Is there anything Johnny Depp can’t do well? How about portraying an animated banged up chameleon prone to bad luck that is recruited as the sheriff in a town called Dirt? With this dried up desert town as the backdrop, sheriff Rango has his hands full. Ned Beatty voices the irresistible corrupt mayor of Dirt, who lords over the oppressed thirsty citizenry with his monopoly on the water supply.

Hilarious, colorful characters abound. Although the story slows in the middle, humor and distinctive voices keep things interesting. Johnny Depp continues his reign as king of inflection and nuance. The actor must have watched a ton of old movies to have picked up so many echoes from classics of the past. He brings a richer level of entertainment, rare in the industry today. This crazy role as an animated lizard is another example of his extraordinary talent. It makes this movie special.

My grade: B

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing

Hugo

Hugo

Hugo (2011)Starring: Asa Butterfield, BenKingsley, Chloë Grace Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen

Director: Martin Scorsese

A boy named Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is orphaned after his father dies in a fire. Taken in by his drunken uncle who runs the massive clocks at the Paris Train Station, Hugo winds up (no pun intended) alone, once again, after his uncle disappears. Fending for himself, Hugo keeps the clocks running while working to restore a mechanical (automatronic) man, a museum relic on which his father had been working.

A colorful ensemble of characters frequents the train station, echoing the charms of an old Charlie Chaplin film. Among the denizens is a shopkeeper, George Méliès (Kingsley), who has it out for Hugo, convinced that Hugo had been stealing mechanical parts from his merchandise. The train station’s sole constable (Cohen) also presents a constant threat to Hugo, as he tries to capture the homeless boy, eager to remand him over to an orphanage.

Computer assisted imagery and masterfully blended cinematography combine for a visually stunning film. Legendary director Martin Scorsese imbues the production with sentimentality and nostalgia harkening to the days of silent film (again no pun intended).

As daily life unfolds, Hugo secretly befriends the shopkeeper’s goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), who mysteriously happens to possess a special key, the only one that can unlock and make function the mechanical man.

Romantic side tales embellish, as well do several classic silent film clips. Inspiring and entertaining, Scorsese adds to his generous legacy.

My grade: A

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing

Limitless

Limitless

Limitless (2011) Starring: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro

Director: Neil Burger

An acquaintance gives a struggling writer (Bradley Cooper) a sample of a new drug (NZT) that causes his mind to expand at an extraordinary rate. Soon, his writing improves dramatically as does every other aspect of his life. He’s able to recall every experience he’s ever had or witnessed, bringing to bear knowledge and skills he had never used before. The world becomes his oyster.

Naturally, there’s a price to pay. Others want the secret. The film’s ultra-cerebral story and beautifully produced theatrics overcome its predictability. The result is a taut and exciting drama. Visually innovative and well acted.

My grade: B+

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing

The Ides of March

The Ides of March

The Ides of March (2011) Starring: George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood

Director: George Clooney

George Clooney plays it safe in this middle-of-the-road election politics drama. It’s a timely story. The structure is by the book, the acting is slightly more than competent. Although, Paul Giamatti, as the rivaling campaign manager, raises the pitch more so than others do.

Personally, I would have developed the character of Molly (Evan Rachel Wood) a little farther to expand the emotional dynamics a bit. There was plenty of time to do that, given this film goes just 101 minutes.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is in everything these days. I admire his work ethic and his craft.

I haven’t seen any other Clooney directed films as of this writing, so I can’t compare this to one of his others. I like this film. It was worth the price of a rental.

My grade: B-

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

Drive

Drive
Drive (2011) Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, James Biberi

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Music: Cliff Martinez

Drive is cinematic perfection. Cliff Martinez’ music captures an essence and feel for LA that  reminded me of the American Gigolo soundtrack (music by Giorgio Moroder).

Ryan Gosling (whose character is unnamed) plays a stunt driver doing side work driving a getaway car  for armed crooks. Becoming friendly with his married neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan), things become complicated when he tries to help Irene’s husband, an ex-con, who is being threatened over old debts upon his release from prison.

Gosling’s driver is steel behind the wheel in souped-up chase scenes. His character develops quickly, growing throughout the story. His boss, Shannon (Bryan Cranston), at a garage on Reseda Boulevard, has dreams of owning a competitive stock car with (Gosling) driving it on the racing circuit with high paying sponsors. Cranston’s Shannon is a cringing, vulnerable stooge with one bum leg, and prone to bad luck. After successfully convincing a mobster named Bernie Rose (an unlikely but highly effective villain Albert Brooks), to bankroll his racing dream, things go sour. A rough entanglement ensues.

While Bernie Rose is the intimidating calculating businessman, his violent partner, Nino (Ron Perlman), epitomizes heavy handedness. The violence in this film comes through with masterfully created special effects.

Nicolas Winding Refn artfully directs with equal measures of bold strokes and a subtle brush. His characters interact with both tenderness and shocking brutality. The bursts of graphic violence rival that of any mob movie ever made, while other scenes linger languidly as Irene and her young son interact with the driver (Gosling), developing a tentative bond. The dialogue is sparse and not wastefully trite. Gosling’s driver is disarming as he melts the screen.

This film imparts nuances of the essential history and majesty of Los Angeles, even while snaking through its seamy underbelly. The contrasts and the crassness feel familiar to those who know LA. With music, often synthesized, the soundtrack brilliantly recalls a musicality from a 70s-80s synth age, sometimes grinding and pulsating rhythmically as in night music and the clubs. Always, the tone fits with the dynamic. This ride demands you crank up the sound of your home theater system. With superb cinematography and action, this is an exhilarating drive.

My grade: A+

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing

The Help

The Help

The Help  (2011) Starring: Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia L. Spencer, Ahna O’Reilly, Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek, Anna Camp, Eleanor Henry, Cicely Tyson

Director: Tate Taylor

The Help is great cinema with its authentic depiction of life in the south in 1963. Rich white families in rural Mississippi employed black women as full time maids. In this story, young, white, ambitious Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone) decides to write secretly a book exposing the unseen abuses endured by black workers in the town of Jackson where bigotry thrived. With a variety of characters, conflicting attitudes, and clashing personalities we have an epic story of personal and social evolution. The superb ensemble cast assures a rich interpretation of Kathryn Stockett’s book. In the hands of screen adapter/director, Tate Taylor, the production remains pure.

Viola Davis received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her role. Octavia L. Spencer won for Best Supporting Actress in this film. Sissy Spacek’s scene stealing performance is notable too. Fans will relish this small, but memorable role. The entire cast are solid and convincing.

The DVD includes must-see Special Features. The director’s personal experiences parallel those of the story’s writer/personal friend. The behind the scenes back stories provide additional layers of fascinating nostalgia. Destined to become a classic.

My grade: A+

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing

Paranormal Activity 3

Paranormal Activity 3

Paranormal Activity 3 (2011) Directors: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman

Paranormal Activity 3 is, by far, the best of the three in this series of flicks thus far. The
premise is the same. The household sets up video cameras to study what is going bump in the night in their home during the wee hours of the morning as they sleep. What’s fun, this time, is the use of a rudimentary device to affect cinematic suspense—a camera mounted on an oscillating fan mechanism. As the video view pans back-and-forth, we observe ghastly changes in the nighttime activity.

This time, there is some actual activity. There’s actually a back story and a plot line too. I even experienced a fright or two. This time, it was more entertaining.

My grade: C+

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing

The Hangover Part II

The Hangover Part II

The Hangover Part II (2011) Starring: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong, Ed Helms, Paul Giamatti, Justin Bartha, Jeffrey Tambor, Mason Lee

Director: Todd Phillips

Yes, this film is practically the same movie as The Hangover (part 1). The premise is the same, just the settings have changed. This one also has a monkey and a few other new faces. Otherwise, its four besty guy pals getting into a whole lotta trouble when they’re supposed to be preparing for one buddy’s wedding. Some good laughs here and there. Ken Jeong is the standout in this episode, much as he was in the first. Jeffrey Tambor has an uncanny way of grounding a film that needs it. That’s called presence.

My grade: C+

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing

50/50

50/50

50/50 (2011) Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Anjelica Huston

Director: Jonathan Levine

50/50 is a cancer movie. It’s a character study, well-acted and intelligent. Most of these films are very similar, but what separates this one is that it turns out the way you might hope it would. That’s not to say nobody dies, or is it? There’s more to it than that. Worthy entertainment. Seth Rogen, in a dramatic role, does well, as did the rest of the seasoned cast—as was expected.

My grade: B+

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing

Thor

Thor

Thor (2011) Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Thor is an unexpectedly contemporary take on the Norse god of the same name. In an updated story, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), is kicked out of his Norse Gods heavenly realm for being too reckless. His father, Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins), is just about to crown him as successor to his throne when he instead is compelled to banish Thor for impetuously stirring up war with their longtime rivals, the Frost Giants. Thor plummets to earth, stripped of his powers, only to find himself flat on his back in the nighttime desert and a subject of interest for a tight group of star-gazing science nerds who have accidentally smacked into him with their science equipment vehicle. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) develops an instant attraction to studly Thor as she’s dusting him off after the accident. The boy-meets-girl thing starts.

Enter the Federal Agents who noticed a foreign object (Thor’s powerful hammer), which has also fallen from the sky. Science geeks and Thor tussle with the Feds over the hammer and for the return of confiscated documents taken from the science team. Meanwhile, other battles are heating up back in Thor’s home realm where his bad brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), has plotted to take over their father’s throne by any means, including preventing Thor from returning from Earth.

It all runs like clockwork in entertaining fashion. The special effects are clean. There are plentiful robust battles between larger-than-life entities (yes, it’s another one of those movies). This is not your father’s Thor. The acting is great. The action is cartoonishly humorous at times. Nicely directed. Kenneth Branagh has it down.

My grade: A

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Crazy, Stupid, Love

Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011) Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei, Jonah Bobo, Analeigh Tipton

Directors: John Requa, Glenn Ficarra

Crazy, Stupid, Love is a fantastic look at the many faces of romance. Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) and his wife, Emily (Julianne Moore) find their 25-year marriage falling apart, while their adult daughter, Hannah (Emma Stone) explores her own romantic options. Meanwhile their youngest son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo), has his first crush on his teenage babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), who has doe eyes for Robbie’s dad, Cal.

After separating from Emily, a forlorn Cal befriends a guy in a bar, Jacob (Ryan Gosling), who is a womanizer of the first degree. Receiving coaching and a male makeover from Jacob, Cal winds up having flings with several woman at the local club, including his son’s recovering alcoholic teacher, Kate (Marisa Tomei). The plot really thickens then.

As incredible as the character dynamics become, the movie works remarkably well. Excellent acting and realistic dialogue keep it interesting and often funny. Carell keeps a firm rein on his character, never going over the top. Tomei lets loose to great effect. Jonah Bobo steps into his role, and holds his own along with the stellar cast. A wonderful, original, modern film.

My grade: A

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing

Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) Starring: Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Michael Nyqvist, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner

Director: Brad Bird

On audience appeal, teenage boys are the obvious target here. This Mission is packed with explosions, mechanical gizmos, and spy weaponry. Adults will enjoy the nostalgia of Cold War stereotypes. The film’s primary villain is a Russian bent on blowing up the world. It’s always the same with those pesky Russians.

Tom Cruise, as Ethan Hunt again, has the right stuff this time. He projects intensity and effortlessness, unlike other recent turns where he’s been wound-up tighter than his smile. The only visual negative in this movie is the bad hair on nearly every character in the film. (You’ll see what I mean, but it doesn’t detract from the story.)

This Mission actually has two major tasks for the IMF team to complete over the course, filling up every second of its 110 minutes. Multiple complex characters keep things interesting too, while the changing global scenery supplies added visual depth. Altogether, worth a watch.

My grade: B+

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing

Super 8

Super 8

Super 8 (2011) Starring: Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Ron Eldard

Director: J. J. Abrams

Obvious story influences is Super 8 range from E.T. to Jeepers Creepers and even Stand By Me. The most redeeming quality of this film is its charismatic ensemble of preteen actors.

Super 8 refers to the old eight millimeter film used in cameras of the 60s and 70s. Set in the late 70s, a group of kids is making a zombie movie for a school project. While filming, they witness a spectacular train wreck. Out of the twisted metal and to their small town comes mystery and terror.

The tight group of characters each have distinct personalities, all easily winning our sympathy, which rarely happens in movies over the last few decades. This ensemble is irresistible from the beginning.

Among the effective cinematic devices vexing these children are a deep black hole in the ground, a cemetery,  kidnappings, and the adult figures who cannot understand all the urgency. Resisting the adults and other horrors, the band of youngsters press-on with their movie project, while terrifying secrets are unleashed by the train wreck. Soon, the entire town is facing a violent menace.

Joel Courtney (as Joe Lamb), in his first ever film, is already someone to watch. The same goes for Elle Fanning with her impressive turn as Alice Dainard. I see great things coming from these two young actors.

Even with its overabundance of loud explosions and some graphic violence, this film charms. Gratifying entertainment.

My grade: B+

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing

Horrible Bosses

Horrible Bosses

Horrible Bosses (2011) Starring: Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Colin Farrell, Jennifer Aniston, Charlie Day, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx

Director: Seth Gordon

Horrible Bosses is well thought out and certain to endure on video and/or television, although it’ll need a lot of editing for sexual content and language.

Three friends each have uniquely despicable bosses, and getting out from under their thumbs requires planning and finesse. Unfortunately, these guys are lacking in finesse—the punchline to this comedy.

Kevin Spacey’s vile boss portrayal stands out. Jamie Foxx steals scenes with his great comedy chops too.

My grade: B

Robert Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch Publishing

Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger  (2011)

Starring: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones

Director: Joe Johnston

This is pretty standard stuff, although the stylized World War II design is a beautiful nod to great war films from that era. A scrawny young man aches to do his duty for his country by repeatedly enlisting in the military, only to be rejected each time. When he is finally permitted to serve, he volunteers to be a human guinea pig in an experiment that transforms him into the super hero soldier we come to know as Captain America. Cris Evans dispatches his Captain America with panache while causing friction with his commanding officer (Jones) and romancing the girl (Atwell).

Hugo Weaving flawlessly (and deliciously) portrays the villain, Red Skull, whose designs are merely to take over the world (of course).

A surprise ending has Samuel L. Jackson showing up in yet another film.

Good entertainment.

My grade: B+

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

Green Lantern

Green Lantern (2011)

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Robbins
Director: Martin Campbell, Greg Berlanti

I recognized my home town of San Diego as the backdrop where this film is set. It added another level of thrill to an already exhilarating superhero flick. This film also gets high marks for explaining Green Lantern lore, about which I knew barely anything before seeing this movie.

Even though most superhero movies tend to blur together these days, this telling at least makes this superhero character more accessible. We get to know Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) before and after he becomes a Green Lantern member. He stays in touch with his non-superhero persona, the warm fuzzy (and rather dumbed-down) side in contrast to when he’s out being the epic savior.

Portraying one of the principal villains, Peter Sarsgaard oozes crazy. His Hector Hammond is the vengeful loser of the girl, Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), to rival Hal Jordan/Green Lantern. Sarsgaard’s gripping performance provides a lasting impression of a desperate psychopath in a constant rage, bent on revenge and consumed by lust for power. The makeup and special effects make him sublimely grotesque.

I give this film high marks for acting, story telling, and dazzling effects.

My grade: A

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

Priest

Priest  (2011)

Starring: Paul Bettany , Karl Urban, Christopher Plummer, Lily Collins, Cam Gigandet, and Maggie Q

Director: Scott Stewart

This film has an extraordinary palette for a Sci-Fi Action Drama. Juxtapose any old Clint Eastwood spaghetti western over Blade Runner or Tron. Mix-in vampires resembling slimy ghouls with piranha teeth, hatched from pods. Toss-in a totalitarian Catholic-ruled civilization with priests who fight like ninjas. Throw in a dozen fast action fights with whizzing, flying, metal weaponry. Give it a story worthy of an Italian opera. Put it all together with a superior sound track and you’ve got a potent concoction with jarring effects. Good versus evil on multiple levels, the stuff of which video games are made. If this is your game, you will thoroughly enjoy this movie. The final battle on a fast train zipping across the desert flats is a great capper.

High marks for committed acting and an immaculate production. Noisy entertainment.

My grade: B+

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids  (2011)

Starring: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Chris O’Dowd

Director: Paul Feig

Intricate, slapstick, and preposterous are just a few adjectives that describe this hilarious girl fight. Long time best friends, Annie (Wiig) and Lillian (Rudolph) are tested when Lillian becomes engaged. Lillian’s fiance’s boss’ wife, Helen (Byrne), elbows-in to plan the wedding, she wedges herself between Annie and Lillian in the process. Wiig and Rudolph each bring their full acting spectrum to bear with comic skill and ample dramatic talents.

While Annie’s romantic life is tanking, Lillian’s dream of marriage is being fulfilled. At the same time, Annie’s BFF status with Lillian is being usurped by Helen’s monopolizing of Lillian’s wedding plans, including the bachelorette party, the wedding shower and all of the events surrounding the wedding. Annie is dealing with other problems too, including struggling to keep a steady job and an apartment over her head.

As Annie falters and becomes depressed, she  begins to make Helen a target for her hostility and resentment. She also begins dating state police officer Nathan Rhodes (O’Dowd) who had pulled her over for driving without functioning taillights. It all becomes too much for Annie and she acts out in manically, causing chaos for everyone.

The story expands beautifully as the ensemble of wedding participants grows. Melissa McCarthy creates a legendary character as Megan, one of the bridesmaids, with her own brand of chaos.

This journey is full, yet every subplot has a point. Risks are taken and things go way over the top, but the project remains intact. The story comes together in a great package with big performances and spot-on directing. Lots of laughs.

My grade: A

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

The Tourist

The Tourist  (2010)

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp

Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

I love Venice, Italy. I was thrilled to see it up close again in this film. I was not, however, enthralled with Johnny Depp’s performance this time. It wasn’t awful; just boring most of the time. Depp (as Frank Tupelo) had some good cheeky lines that were funny, but the man seemed a bit bloated and slow throughout.

Angelina Jolie, as Elise Clifton-Ward, is radiant. In one particularly memorable scene she is clearly channeling Sofia Loren, appearing stunning and elegant at the grand gala ball, dressed in a long low-cut gown with a fabulous jeweled choker and her hair worn up, exactly as Ms. Loren on any red carpet.

This is an engaging movie along the lines of “Bourne Identity” with its similar circumstances of confused identity and villains in chase. We don’t know who is who until the very end and the surprise is pulled off well.

All of the in-between stuff is almost mundane (aside from the stirring scenery) as compared to so many recent similar tales. It is what it is, though, and a much better than average rental for a rainy day.

My grade: B

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

The Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau  (2011)

Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Terence Stamp

Director: George Nolfi

How many times have you thought to yourself as you were driving to work, if I hadn’t stopped to go back in and get my watch, I probably wouldn’t be stuck at this traffic light, or something similar? I do this all the time. I sometimes think about the small decisions I make that affect the course of my destiny during the course of my day. It isn’t a compulsion as much as it is a silly fascination.

Imagine if there were some unseen force making adjustments to the little choices we make as we go about each day. That is the premise of this story. In this case David Norris (Matt Damon) may never have met Elise (Emily Blunt) if it weren’t for a mistake made by a secret “adjustment” agent involved with keeping him on his destiny’s track.

Once Norris uncovers the existence of a “master plan” and tries to change his own course, lives are shattered in this suspense fantasy.

This film is really quite well done. Based on the 1954 short story “Adjustment Team” by Philip K. Dick, the story goes just long enough to stay entertaining to the end.

My grade: B+

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

The Fighter

The Fighter  (2010)

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo

Director: David O. Russell

The accolades given this film are deserved. The ensemble cast take you directly to the very specific world of a tight-knit Massachusetts family whose lives are embedded in two of their boys’ boxing careers. Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) have been working toward one of them winning a boxing title all their lives. As one rises and falls (due to drug addiction) the other begins his own ascent. The family matriarch and acting boxing manager, Alice Ward (Melissa Leo), struggles to maintain control while family dynamics change and bad professional decisions result in setbacks.

The best reason to enjoy this film is for the remarkable performances of Christian Bale and Melissa Leo. The second best reason is that this is a great boxing story, which is almost always the case in stories that are based on real people and events.

The side story of Micky’s love interest, Charlene (Amy Adams), who is at odds with Micky’s mother and his seven street tough sisters, provides gritty cat fighting drama in addition to the boxing action. Well-rounded entertainment.

My grade: A

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2  (2011)

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes

Director: David Yates

A fine finish to an enduring saga, Part 2 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows makes up for the dismal Part 1. Given the volume of this series, it is best to simply explain that, in this complicated wrap-up film, the final pieces are capably put in place. One never had to become a true Potterhead to have enjoyed following the series, but it would certainly be futile to attempt this final story without having followed from the beginning. Those who have been following Harry Potter will be enthralled. I enjoyed watching this finale in a theater with an enthusiastic audience.

The special effects are the best yet, however Lord Voldemort’s CGI nose is sometimes such an undefined blur, it actually distracts. Also, the surprise use of a mainly white screen (in one scene) is an interesting device that creates an effective segue to the finish–shades of Stanley Kubric’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

The music is always effective and full. The David Yates’ direction is very well organized, making this final chapter less of a chore to follow (with much of the story being explained in detailed dialogue). Speaking of dialogue, the sound level of spoken voices in some of the scenes made it difficult to understand. This is where watching on DVD can be useful with the aid of subtitles.

In all, this film is arguably the best in the series. What stands out, in particular, is the way in which the final outcome manages to please on every possible level. Without spoiling the ending, suffice to say it is as though multiple endings were all used instead of just one. How can you lose? Brilliant!

My grade: A

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

Insidious

Insidious  (2010)

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell

Director: James Wan

Spine tingling describes the first one-third of this film. A young couple with three small children are beset by evil spirits in their new home. This horror story is set up purposefully, and then delivers a fistful of classic thriller punches with exquisite impact.  Demons are afoot, reaping the creeps and wreaking terror. Chills and goosebumps satisfy a craving.

Naturally, the couple (Patrick Wilson as Josh, Rose Byrne as wife, Renai) whose home life has been invaded by the undead, are helpless to deal with their extraordinary situation. Their young boy has become lost on “the other side” where bad spirits reign. Familiar? Yes, and of course the problem can only be solved using one of those wonky mediums (Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier) who enters the story to save the day. That’s where this turns into Ghost Busters meets Poltergeist.

Lin Shaye (as Elise) is not quite convincing as an experienced paranormal expert, as compared to, say, Zelda Rubinstein (the courageous medium, Tangina, in Poltergeist), who gave more authority to her character. Also, Elise’s pair of expert assistants, Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Leigh Whannell), are equally as weak. Their approach is as a dryly comic Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The introduction of this unlikely trio of ghost whisperers undermines the story and diminishes the tension that had been established early-on.

Subsequently, both Wilson and Byrne take turns losing interest in their roles at times. It is as though they had too much idle time between takes. Barbara Hershey does what she can with her role as Josh’s knowing mother. Her part is fairly pedestrian (for someone of her vast talents).

The action sequences depicting the quest to conquer the demons and rescue the boy compare to a trip through a campus haunted house (except not as scary). There is a surprise twist at the end, which leaves us open to a sequel. However, based on how this thriller stumbles, it’s all anyone’s guess.

My grade: C

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

I Am Number Four

I Am Number Four  (2011)

Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Dianna Agron, Callan McAuliffe, Jake Abel

Director: D.J. Caruso

This is as cool as Sci Fi Action Films ever get. Director D. J. Caruso (The Salton Sea, Disturbia) puts his stamp all over it. Sheer engagement from start to finish, this film has rich characters, flawless cinematography, and great story that is easy to get behind.

An alien teenager from the conquered planet, Lorien, is in hiding on Earth. He is on the run from the Mogadorians (evil aliens from yet another civilization). These nasty “Mogs” are bent on eliminating the young escapee along with a few other children who have dispersed on Earth in hiding.

Using the alias of John Smith, our main character (Alex Pettyfer) seeks to find some normalcy while incognito on Earth. He enrolls as a high school student in a small town in Ohio in an attempt to blend-in while evading his pursuers. Handsome Pettyfer holds his own with a clean and believable portrayal. Witness his alien powers developing just in time to use them in defense.

This story has multiple charismatic characters whose lives intertwine. At times, the feel invokes shades of a great John Hughes film, with the simmering teen dynamics, home town settings, and the high school vibe. The movie includes a stand-out performance by Callan McAuliffe as Sam, the misfit student, who quickly becomes allied with the new kid, Smith. The two deal with the school bully, Mark (Jake Abel) while Smith realizes his first romance with fellow student Sarah (coy, seductive Dianna Agron). At the same time, Sam and John also discover a common link with the Mogs.

As the pursuers draw nearer and the subplots fly, the perfect CGI and special effects wow us. With a great climactic finish and an exciting new character revealed, we are left with high hopes for a sequel. It’s just that fun of a movie.

My grade: A

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

The Switch

The Switch  (2010)

Starring: Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Jeff Goldblum, Patrick Wilson, Juliette Lewis, Bryce Robinson

Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman share uncommon on-screen chemistry as unwitting parents to a precocious, introspective boy named Sebastian (appealingly portrayed by Bryce Robinson). Aniston and Bateman both have the same knack for spot-on timing and nuance. The boy comes across quite naturally, even with challenging sophisticated dialogue.

This is a rare and genuine charmer.  When Kassie Larson (Aniston) decides to become a single parent, her best friend, Wally (Bateman), has serious reservations. When Wally accidentally becomes the sperm donor for Kassie’s subsequent child, neither one of the two realizes the circumstances until some years have passed. By then, Kassie is ready to introduce her young son to the man she thinks is the actual donor. Roland (Wilson), the presumed donor, takes the opportunity to try and rebound from his recent divorce and pursue Kassie romantically. Whereas Wally has already begun to bond with Sebastian, Roland struggles, but is determined.

Jeff Goldblum adds to a rich ensemble as Wally’s work associate/confidant, Leonard, deftly helping Wally to sort things out. Goldblum seems to get better with age, adding welcome seasoning in this role. Wilson, as the slightly thick wannabe boyfriend, is also an excellent casting choice. He deftly pulls off an unsympathetic character without making him seem ridiculous.

Another shiny bauble in this romantic comedy is Juliette Lewis as Kassie’s other BFF, Debbie. As with the usual sidekick characters, Debbie has just the right amount of wit, making her character believable and yet edgy funny.

This movie is a pleasant surprise and a worthy production. Without nudity, explosions, violence, or CGI, it is safe for any audience and should appeal to anyone over sixteen. I would watch it again, if just for the actors.

My grade: A

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

The King’s Speech

The King’s Speech  (2010)

Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter

Director: Tom Hooper

For a story that centers on a speech impediment, this film never falters. One of the outstanding achievements is that the troubled manner of speaking by Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George (Colin Firth) is never annoying or distracting. Instead, Firth delivers a portrayal of a man in whose character we immediately find sympathy. This is in no small part also due to the extraordinary direction from Tom Hooper.

Hooper captures, in a period piece, a sense of authenticity and reality that come across as enriching as opposed to affected. Historical significance is realized without the bookish flavor of a documentary.

Helena Bonham Carter, as the supportive wife, is the perfect counterbalance to struggling Prince George, providing another rich element in this great ensemble cast. Geoffrey Rush is commanding as Lionel Logue, the unconventional speech therapist to his soon-to-be-king client.

Guy Pearce applies himself, playing Prince Edward (older brother of Albert), who, upon the death of their father, King George V, ascends to, and then immediately abdicates from the throne, in order to marry a twice-divorced woman, leaving Prince Albert as the new king. All this while England is being pulled into war with Germany.

Meanwhile, wireless communication (radio) is increasingly expanding upon the public. Heads of state, including royalty, are required to address the nation in live broadcasts. Once these duties fall to the newly crowned King George VI (Albert), and given his difficulties with stammering, he must rely on Logue to help him through his radio speeches. A complex friendship develops over the course.

In a brief side story, Archbishop Cosmo Lang (Derek Jacobi) is at odds with the commoner, Logue. This dynamic provides an additional delicious bite of drama, as a result of Jacobi’s ingenious portrayal. Wisely, director Hooper keeps this business in the film (as opposed to omitting it) without expanding on it too much, lest losing the continuity–another example of great finesse.

The story is never dull in this rare successful combination of history, period drama, fine acting, and exceptional direction. Reality is almost always more interesting than fiction. Nothing in this production disappoints.

My grade: A+

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

Winter’s Bone

Winter’s Bone  (2010)

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Garret Dillahunt, Dale Dickey

The dialogue is unsophisticated, yet colorful in this Osark Mountains setting. However, the mood is grim for an impoverished teen and her family. Drug cooking is a common side-business among inter-related families surviving in a bleak rural community.

We soon realize that the less said aloud among these folk, the better. It can be dangerous to ask questions, even when your own father is missing.

Jennifer Lawrence embodies her role as seventeen-year-old Ree Dolly whose world is encompassed by small house, an ill mother, two young siblings, stray dogs and livestock, and hunting squirrel for food when necessary. With her father missing, they are suddenly at risk of losing the little they have.

This film takes us to backwoods culture off the beaten path. It isn’t what most of us are accustomed to, yet it is easy to settle in and believe these lives. The story slowly gathers heat, as along the way personalities emerge. Among the more distinctive is that of Merab Milton (Dale Hickey), the matriarchal watchdog of the dominant family. Her job is to keep people quiet and at a distance from her husband, Thump Milton (Ronnie Hall), the apparent violent force controlling the drug dealing subculture. Hickey makes her every scene convince as though we’re watching live drama from the sidelines.

The standout performances enrich this slow-paced film with steady grist.

My grade: B+

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

Battle Los Angeles

Battle Los Angeles  (2011)

Starring: Aaron Eckhart

As Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz Aaron Eckhart gives 100% in a film that subsists on CGI and special effects.

I give this story credit for bending the rules and killing off a few sympathetic characters early-on. That minor twist on this overdone premise (aliens attacking earth) does not help when young actor Bryce Cass (as Hector Rincon) nearly walks away with all of our sympathy half way through the story. The kid can bring it. Never work with children or animals, remember Eckhart?

Also noteworthy is that the aliens are not very original. (Think tall octopi in armor.) In one scene, the special effects had the creatures on top of a building, appearing almost like marionettes, seemingly suspended from strings with multiple legs dangling. It threw off any menacing vibe.

Lots of explosions, endless weapons fire and misses, graphic violence. This seems to be what a lot of people crave for entertainment, which is why they keep making theses films. Just more of the same.

My grade: C

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

Conviction

Conviction  (2010)

Starring: Sam Rockwell, Hilary Swank, Minnie Driver, Melissa Leo

I’ll say it again, Sam Rockwell can do no wrong. The plot to this truth-based story is familiar, but the actors are electrifying.

When Kenny Waters (Rockwell) is wrongly sent to prison for murder, his devoted sister, Betty Anne (Swank), dedicates her life to freeing him, while making a new BFF in Abra Rice (Driver) in the process. Melissa Leo as Nancy Taylor portrays a villain you love to hate.

The sordid details of this case make for compelling drama and solid entertainment. Authentic sounding Boston accents employed by the principals give this production a nice edge.

Intensely interesting. A testament to the inadequacies and injustices of the legal system.

My grade: A

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

The Green Hornet

The Green Hornet  (2011)

Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Christoph Waltz

This is not like the Green Hornet of the 1960s TV series–not even close–and for that I was disappointed from the start. I don’t know which was worse, that this is a comedy, or that Seth Rogen is a buzz kill. Why was I thinking this was the film with Ryan Reynolds? (Wrong Green hero.) The Green Hornet is supposed to be sexy and virile. Instead we get doughy Seth Rogen playing it like an aging jewish comic of long-standing stature (which Rogen has not yet earned).

All preconceptions aside, this production is just average by today’s standards. The plot is spelled out clearly enough, but the execution is so over-the-top that it amounts to a teen boys’ dream of cool good guys versus clumsy bad guys with shades of Inspector Gadget thrown-in (as opposed to James Bond).

Jay Chou gives us a likeable Kato (although some of his dialogue is difficult to understand). His comic timing is good and his action bits are convincing. He has a good screen presence. All of this helps a lot!

Cameron Diaz fills out her role with good energy too, also helping to propel the film, which would otherwise be sagging under Rogen. Christopher Waltz underplays the principal villain to the point of being boring. That is the biggest surprise in this film.

There are some good comic moments reminiscent of The Three Stooges slapstick punches and pokes. Points are given, too, for clever chase scenes and cool cars with weapons, but overall this Green Hornet has a weak sting.

My grade: C

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides  (2011)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Kevin McNally, Sam Claflin, Astrid Berges-Frisbey

Director: Rob Marshall

Not as good as the first Pirates, but better than the second, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides does get rather strange. Who would have imagined a vampiresque element finding its way into this saga? Yes, mermaids with fangs.

A pleasing enhancement in this installment is seeing it in 3D. The effects are consistent and well executed. CGI never becomes a distraction.

The primary mission in Stranger Tides is the quest for the mythical Fountain of Youth. Multiple strong characters, each with their own agenda, provide colorful elements to fill out the journey.

Some of the best entertainment is in the personalities and acting. There are no bad takes (forgiving Keith Richards for being a tad flat). Johnny Depp again makes a goofy pirate seem cool, while Geoffrey Rush reiterates that pomposity can be hilarious. Also find Astrid Berges-Frisbey as beautiful and compelling mermaid (Syrena) in distress.

Hans Zimmer’s fine music enhances the dramatic sequences equally as well as the comedic.

The movie feels slightly too long. Perhaps it is the director’s need to be thorough. It also feels like a harking back to some of Disney’s enduring early classics. I rate this film a full grade higher than some critics have done.

My grade: B

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

Vampires Suck

Vampires Suck  (2010)

Starring: Jenn Proske, Matt Lanter, Ken Jeong, Chris Riggi

It would be far too easy to say Vampires Suck sucks, but this film almost does. Imagine one long parody of the Twilight series and you get the gist. The trouble is most of the gags are simple and flat.

The best part of this film is actor Ken Jeong as Daro. This guy is a natural to the camera and funny as hell. He makes even bad lines hysterical. Unfortunately, his best lines are nearly all at the end of the movie.

Credit to leads actors Jenn Proske, Matt Lanter and Chris Riggi for some good close-ups with comically emoting facial expressions. Nice burn.

Is it worth it? Almost.

My grade: C

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

Let Me In

Let Me In  (2010)

Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Dylan Minnette

As a modern vampire story, this film is apart from the rest for its crafty camera work and imaginative cinematography.

A school boy, Owen (Smit-McPhee), lives in a rural apartment building with his struggling divorced mother. The quiet boy observes new neighbors who have moved into the apartment next door. Upon first meeting one of the occupants, a girl around his same age named Abby (Chloe Moretz), Owen is initially informed by the girl that she cannot be his friend. The exchange is puzzling and poignant. The acting is delicate and real. One is drawn to the dynamic between the two.

Meanwhile, at school, Owen is bullied viciously by Kenny (a convincing Dylan Minnette) to the point where physical abuse is escalating. As obvious as it is, we still love where this is going.

The sun appears in only a few scenes as Abby comes outdoors to chat with Owen only at night. Her father, (Richard Jenkins), also operates at odd hours in the dark too.

It all comes together in a sumptuous feast of suspense and horror. The opening flashback is scaled perfectly to later propel the story. Flawless and engrossing, this monster movie is creepy and satisfying. Horror film lovers will appreciate director Matt Reeves’ classical construction and plot devices, using less CGI and more traditional blood and guts effort in a finely-detailed production.

My grade: A

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

I Love You Phillip Morris

I Love You Phillip Morris  (2009)

Starring: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor

This romantic love story, wrapped in dark comedy, works on many levels and scores high for sticking to its theme. Despite his non-conventional character, Ewan McGregor, as Phillip Morris, gives a credible performance as a vulnerable gay man who falls for a hopelessly misguided con man, Steven Russell (Carrey).

Russell, having been married for years, has an epiphany following a serious car accident. The trauma causes him suddenly to reconsider the state of his life. He comes flying out of the closet, announcing that he is gay and then leaves his wife and children.

Determined to reinvent himself, Russell discovers that “being gay is expensive.” Hence, he becomes bent on acquiring wealth by any means. Conning his way, and living his new life with flair and extravagance, Russell also learns that “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” don’t always come easily. His appetite for nice things and his willingness to take big risks for his new love, Phillip, land him in and out of prison.

A clever man, Russell uses his cunning to outsmart the legal system. As his love affair with trusting Phillip endures, we enjoy a succession of amusing prison anecdotes and escapes, not at all unfamiliar in the stylings of previous Jim Carrey incarnations. We know Jim Carrey can act. However, we are also (slightly too often) aware that it is Jim Carrey acting.

A unique facet of this movie is its nostalgically accurate take on the stereotypical gay male of the ’80s and ’90s, including wardrobes that are spot-on. This film puts it all out there truthfully and in broad daylight. Funny, touching and entertaining, and based on real people and events, the eventual outcome leaves one in wonder.

For kicks, watch a few minutes of the Special Features. The off-screen dynamics of Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor seem friendly, if not just a bit awkward. Perhaps the kissing and telling? Nah–

My grade: A-

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

Black Swan

Black Swan  (2010)

Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder

I was surprised by the violence in this film, but not disappointed by it. The gripping story line, set behind the scenes of the New York City ballet company, holds as strong as the shocking visuals.

Ballerina Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is thrust into center stage precisely when she most desires it. Her mother, Erica Sayers (Barbara Hershey), has been the drive and control throughout her daughter’s training and career as a means to fill the void left by her own abandoned dancing hopes in youth. Such are the dynamics, the stage for a daughter’s confusion and rebelion.

Others holding a stake in Nina’s future are her demanding ballet director (Vincent Cassel), and a competing ballerina, Lily (Kunis). Both Nina and Lily thirst for the lead in the new season’s production of Swan Lake following the retirement–she’s pushed out–of the preceding tenured diva, Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder).

The ballet company’s preparation for the new season is complicated by Nina’s self-doubts, her ambition, her mother’s prodding, and her crippling soullessness, a trait inherent in her limited personal life. As Nina struggles to rise to the cause, we witness a terrible specter of a drug-induced mania visited upon her by an act of treachery.

What makes this film so taut and believable is the authenticity of the production. This is not your fairy tale ballet drama. The performances are exhausting and delicious, edgy and beautiful.

My grade: A

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

“Home Alone” House for Sale. Movie Opportunity?

What if Macaulay Culkin Bought it?

The Home Alone house is up for sale in Michigan. This is the lovely warm home featured in the John Hughes Home Alone movies from the 1990s, which are now Christmas classics. As you may recall, a young Macaulay Culkin plays a boy, Kevin, who is accidently left home alone as his family goes away on Christmas vacation. His house comes under seige by burglars and Kevin defends it, heroically, insanely, funnily.

Wouldn’t it be great if Macaulay Culkin were to buy this house today? He could live out his life in the home that helped to make him famous. I already have an awesome idea for a future film, a film which could feature Culkin and his house.

My jaded scheme: The idea is to make a follow-up film, an epilogue of sorts, about the real-life Macaulay Culkin after he has lived in the home, alone, for decades. In the new film, we fast forward 50 years and senior citizen Culkin is still living there and hopelessly lost in memories of his former childhood stardom. We get John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Hairspray) to direct the new film. Waters deliciously works it with Culkin emoting a la “Norma Desmond” in Sunset Boulevard. Yes, Macaulay Culkin doing Norma Desmond. Wouldn’t it be great? I just know he would love it!

Open Scene: Macaulay Culkin, looking wan and haggard (not unlike John Waters often does), appears descending the long staircase of the house. A movie camera awaits at the bottom. Half way down, Culkin pauses to say (to no one in particular), “I am big, it’s the pictures that got small!” He lingers, and then continues down the stairs. At the bottom of the staircase, Culkin is surrounded by film crew and reporters. As he nears the camera, he gazes longingly into it, uttering the words, “All right, Mr. Hughes, I’m ready for my close-up.” He then clasps his hands to the sides of his face and screams, “A-a-a-ah!”  . . . End Scene

My grade: B

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

Tron and Tron Legacy

Tron  (1982) and Tron Legacy  (2010)

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, Michael Sheen

This follow-up from the original Tron (1982) excels for its continuity as a continuation of the original story.

The founding themes are man versus computer, computer versus man, and man versus man-as-a-computer. The main characters are represented either as program writers for a giant computer conglomerate or as animated characters representing the inner components of a computer main frame. Other animated characters portray actual running programs inside the  computer. One of the principal program writers (known as a “user”) develops a means by which to transform himself into an electronic entity capable of entering the computer and interacting with the electronic characters inside.

The corporate heads of the large company (which monopolizes the computer industry) do evil deeds, such as casting used-up programmers into the computer, and turning them into virtual data hybrids, which are then forced to compete in violent games, within the computer, for the entertainment of the “Master Program.”

Meanwhile, one of the principal users at the corporation is bent on stopping the evil antics of his boss. He develops his own means of infiltrating the computer system in order to pursue his goal of defeating the Master Program.

The conflict is fought inside the unfamiliar inner universe of the computer (as represented in special effects animations of computer chips and bursts of electronic energy). The backdrops are ever-changing, making for an appealing visual film.

In Tron Legacy, the character dynamics have carried over from the original film and the plot has expanded over a generation. The war between bad and good continues.

Just as in Tron (now available on DVD), the story in Tron Legacy is not complicated. Ideally, one would watch the first film (perhaps again, as I did) before watching the recent movie. I recall that in seeing the first film in 1982, many movie goers were not yet indoctrinated to computers or the related language. Few people were familiar with computer terminology. For that reason, when Tron was first released, people found themselves in a slight fog. In those days, I had developed a healthy curiosity about computers. The computer speak in the movie actually made sense to me most of the time. However, I had a strong sense most people would have to muddle through the film, confused, and just enjoy the revolutionary concepts and imagery.

Tron Legacy should not be a stretch for most people now. The most difficult aspect in this film may be in understanding the characters because most were developed in the original film 30 years ago. This film makes a strong effort to explain the history, but many of the characters would be far better appreciated and understood after seeing the first movie. This film also introduces a few new characters, such as, Quorra (portrayed vividly by Olivia Wilde). Quorra provides the female romantic lead with head turning aplomb.

The simplicity of the plot and the entertaining imagery carry this film. The music is decent. The characters are not complicated. The acting is good. The overall impression is not remarkable. As Kevin Flynn, the main character from the original, Jeff Bridges comes across as being odd and goofy at times, but then he always comes across that way. Bridges’ range provides an element of color and depth to what could easily have been a flat movie.

Of note, Michael Sheen’s brief and energetic performance as the devilish “Zuse” came off like one of the best Tim Curry impersonations I have ever seen (think Rocky Horror Picture Show.) Furthermore, his memorable Zuse was costumed like an albino 1970’s David Bowie-as-Ziggie Stardust. Sheen’s delivery was another infusion of needed warmth amidst all of the computer parts.

Garrett Hedlund (as Sam Flynn) invests himself well and holds up his end of the bargain. He is the son of Kevin Flynn, come to pick up his father’s mantle in the battle against corporate manipulation of the computer industry. He is also the male romantic lead in this.

I almost did not like this film, but it slowly grew on me as the story went on. This film complements the original very well.

My grade: B+

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1  (2010)

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson

These adjectives come to mind: dreary, glum, morose, melodramatic, awkward, painful. . . The sun never comes out in this episode.

This segment itself is like toiling to find a Horcrux, another hurdle in the quest for reaching the end of the saga. The charm of a children’s story has long ago subsided as the principals have all grown body hair. But we knew that. Unfortunately, the adult male-female dynamics are now being pushed in our faces like an episode of the Twilight saga. Credit must go to the actors, regardless, for their hard work and dedication to the company, but the only bright spot in this chapter is provided by Dobby, the elf, the only character deserving of any sympathy.

Faithful followers will enthusiastically endure this episode. Be forewarned, however, it isn’t pretty and it is only occasionally entertaining. Of course, this series is an industry. Any investor feels compelled to complete their portfolio, just as this writer. Eventually, Part 2 (the rest of the end) should be enough for me, but don’t think even for a second that some time down the road they won’t monkey around with expanding on the prequel and cranking out another film. Another holiday for Potter Heads. There are worse hobbies, though, right? Eventually, I see the actors receiving gold watches if things go on.

My grade: C

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013

The Social Network

The Social Network  (2010)

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake

This story is proof that channeling sexual energy into a burning desire to achieve a goal can produce remarkable results. Jesse Eisenberg gives a convincing portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg, who, driven by a desire to overtake his more privileged Harvard peers, and to impress the girl who dumped him, grew Facebook and became a billionaire in the process. That’s the story in a nutshell. Calling the achievement a success is entirely subjective.

The conflict-and-resolution component in this drama is provided by the parallel playing-out of multiple lawsuits brought against Zuckerberg by a couple of his peers and his best friend, all who claim Zuckerberg stole their ideas and ran with them, or cheated them out of their fair share of ownership in the enterprise.

This excellent production and deft direction frame appealing performances by an attractive cast–yes, all of these many adjectives are fair. This film maintains a delicious tension, which holds interest throughout. There is a rare, almost intimate, impact that leaves one feeling as though they had been a part of it all (or perhaps wished they had). Ah, the magic of Hollywood.

Whether Facebook ultimately serves society, or the other way around, is yet to be determined, although I would suggest that individuals examine how much social cache is gained (or lost) in time spent on Facebook. And how much of it is real? And just how rich is Mark Zuckerberg? And what is his status now? And how come I didn’t think of it? And where did I put my coffee cup? . . .

My grade: B+

Robert George Reoch

Copyright Robert George Reoch 2009-2013