Don’t wait ‘til TOMORROW to see ANNIE

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On the way to the theater, my granddaughter Elizabeth and I talked about seeing the remake of ANNIE. “The trouble with remakes,” I expect, “is getting so wrapped up in comparing that you don’t enjoy the one you’re watching.”

Most of us are familiar with the 1982 ANNIE when Carol Burnett played the crazed and memorable Miss Hannigan or the 1977 stage play. I loved them both. This time around was no different. I enjoyed the whole show. Quvenzhané Wallis as Annie was adorable and fun. Jamie Fox didn’t disappoint as a campaigning, rich politician. The only kink in the casting was Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan. Diaz cast as a boozing, obnoxious crab caring for little girls was images-3wrong. Her role was redeemed, thank heavens, in the second half of the story when Hannigan realizes opportunity for herself and the girls.

ANNIE got a bum rap from the critics. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 27% approval. YET, on CinemaScore audiences rated the film an A- !images-4

“Elizabeth,” I asked after the movie, “what did you think?”

“I liked it!” then she added, “I watched it just as a movie. I didn’t compare it.”

You’ll like it too.

BIRDMAN saved by the drum

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Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a 2014 American dark comedy Wiki writes.      Comedy?

Whatever you do, consider your frame of mind before you watch this sad, getting sadder film. Keaton plays a faded Hollywood actor famous for his superhero role struggling to mount a Broadway adaptation of a Raymond Carver story. (Wiki)
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don’t care how many people like Birdman which is listed as a favorite this year with 9 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Director, Actor. No doubt about Michael Keaton winning Best Actor (though my choice would be Bradley Cooper!!).  Nominations also for Best Supporting Actor Ed Norton who is always tops, and a stirring role played by Emma Stone, up for Best Supporting Actress. That doesn’t rule out other nominees for me. Not this year.

The problem I had with the film was, when it was over, I knew I didn’t want to see it again—that’s my test of a good film. While the storyline is valid, an older actor trying to find extend his fame when he played Birdman, causes him to miss the, what I consider, the finer things in life. His daughter would like to enjoy him and his wife would not have left if he could get over his “Birdman” role in his life. One does not have to be an actor, even a successful actor, to understand his feelings—or theirs.

Yes, the acting is superb. Yes, the filming is fantastic. But, for me the theme of the story was YUCK. And it led to more of the same. What I did enjoy was the soundtrack!   Antonio Sanchez use of drums kept my attention. However, Wiki writes: On January 7, 2014, Antonio Sánchez was set to compose the music for the film.[12] The soundtrack album was released on October 14, 2014.[13]It was later disqualified for the Academy Award for Best Original Score, due to the ratio of classical music to original score.[14] 

WHAT?  Listen to Sanchez!

Rotten Tomatoes, gave it a rating of 92% based on 251 reviews, with an average rating of 8.5/10. The site’s critical consensus states: “A thrilling leap forward for director Alejandro González

How Sanchez will fare with his soundtrack will tell all.

GONE GIRL reminds him of “Misery”

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Every once in a while a film comes along like GONE GIRL that grabs my attention and, better, keeps it. Typical of director David Fincher (The Game, Fight Club) to do this with a film adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s 2012 novel of the same name.

The surprise for me in this marriage gone bad story was the terrific acting by Ben Affleck as husband Nick Dunne. Nick comes home on the day of his 5th anniversary to find his wife Amy, beautifully played by Rosamund Pike, is missing. What follows is attention by the press becausedetail.22774506 of “amazing” Amy’s fame. The media is suspecting Nick murdered her because of sociopathic tendencies. Amy’s ability to manipulate others to a kind of submission leads to some bizarre behavior. A couple of scenes for us were pretty rough to watch (blood and sex), surely not a surprise to those who read Flynn’s book.

“Misery,” my husband Mike whispered, “this is like Kathy Bates in Misery, quirky and suspenseful.”   Misery  was Stephen King’s 1987 psychological thriller and a 1990 film directed by Rob Reiner. Wow. In fact, Mike didn’t know it then but Bates won the Academy Award for Best Actress for that role. Pike may do the same.

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I won’t be reading Flynn’s book even with some compelling comments from friends. Director Fincher’s style was my attraction to see the film. The movie had great casting and was riveting. That was enough “Amazing Amy” for me.

Gone Girl had a budget of $61 million and box office of $365 million and counting. The film received positive reviews with  Rotten Tomatoes giving an approval rating of 88%, based on 280 reviews, with a rating average of 8/10.  List of accolades received by Gone Girl (film). Regardless of the films wins or losses by the Academy, it’s a winner with its audiences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INTERSTELLAR is no “Close Encounters”

About Interstellar: Please don’t make me see it again to see if I missed something (like havingth-1 another tooth drilled for the experience). Only this: I enjoyed the soundtrack, naturally, because I am a fan of Hans Zimmer–he has done no wrong. But, my husband Mike said: Now you know how much I love you–I didn’t leave. And leave others did.

Interstellar, a 2014 science fiction film directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Matthew McConaughey, and Michael Caine disappointed us in more than one way. Astronauts travel through a wormhole searching for help for humanity. Lucky you if you could understand McConaughey’s easy drawl—I couldn’t. Quite frankly, even if I did, I don’t know that I would care.

The film had a whopping budget of $165 million and so far box office is $662.5 million. Maybe you will want to see it for yourself to decide.   Not me. I honestly don’t care if it is the tenth highest-grossing film of 2014.[91] According to Wiki, “Interstellar is the fourth film to gross over $100 million worldwide from IMAX ticket sales. It trails AvatarThe Dark Knight Rises and Gravity in total IMAX box office revenue.[92][93][94]

Wiki reports that “Screenwriter Jonathan Nolan was hired by Spielberg to write a scriptth for Interstellar, and he worked on it for four years.[6] To learn the science, he studied relativity at the California Institute of Technology while writing the script.” WOW, all that and I’m looking in space at a view of nothingness when suddenly Matt Damon appears. I don’t think so.

HOWEVER, Interstellar has at the 87th Academy Awards, received five nominations including Best Original Score. It is the winner of the Golden Globe Best Original Score Hans Zimmer along with several other Best Score awards. Zimmer is amazing.

I got a kick out of this:

Zimmer also said that director, Christopher Nolan, did not provide him a script or any plot details for writing music for the film and instead gave the composer “one page of text” that “had more to do with [Zimmer’s] story than the plot of the movie”.[43] Nolan has stated that he said to Zimmer: “I am going to give you an envelope with a letter in it. One page. It’s going to tell you the fable at the center of the story. You work for one day, then play me what you have written”, and that he embraced what Zimmer composed. Zimmer conducted 45 scoring sessions for Interstellar, which was three times more than for Inception.” (Wiki)

By the time the film was wrapping up, (spoiler!) whether he saw his aged daughter, was superfluous to me. I was glad it was over. Maybe it will be better as a TV show. We’ll see. But believe me, Interstellar was no Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).

 

 

 

 

INTO THE WOODS IS ANYTHING BUT GRIM(M)

Director Ron Marshall with Into the Woods cast.

Director Ron Marshall with Into the Woods cast.

News that Into the Woods celebrated the biggest opening weekend ever for a movie adapted from a Broadway musical must have director Rob Marshall celebrating once more. Marshall was also the director of Academy Award winning Chicago (2002).

 

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I loved Into the Woods as a play with memorable quotes/music/lyrics the first time I saw it. Like so many movie aficionados, I couldn’t wait for it to open on the big screen and it didn’t disappoint. Casting and costuming with Disney settings made this fairy-tale themed musical an easy candidate as an Oscar nominee.

Yes, expect to laugh out loud as the witch, Red Riding Hood, a wolf and a couple of princes learn life’s lessons the hard way.  Though the woods are eerie and dark, the characters are anything but grim (yes, pun intended). So, don’t be surprised if you start humming the tunes next time your off “to grandmother’s house.”

What difference does God’s Not Dead make?

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What Difference Does It Make?

With a movie title like God’s NOT Dead, any non-believer should know better than to set foot in the theater lest he be convinced otherwise. My husband Mike and I didn’t need any convincing. We were, however, skeptical of the film because too often “Christian” movies are quality poor.

During the first half of the film, Mike was itching to head for the lobby—find some twizzlers—he was bored.

“The last half,” Mike confessed, “was redeeming and darn good.” In fact, he recommends it!

I, on the other hand, was never bored, just disappointed in some of the casting (probably budget limitations) and the need for more lively lines. What a boost then to have a spirited andentertaining performance by the Newsboys – God’s Not Dead – YouTube now the #1 inspirational song in America.

The story opens with college student Josh Wheaton accepting the challenge to prove to his professor and class that God is, in fact, not dead. While remarkable incidents in his life beg him to concede, the decision to accept such a challenge is enough to keep one’s own mind and conscience whirling.

The movie takes the liberty of portraying non-Christians in the film as self-centered, uncaring types, the way Christians are customarily viewed in most secular programming. Josh’s girlfriend’s role was carried out so well I could feel the cringing in the theater when she bossed her boyfriend. That was one of several scenes begging for decision.

Though the film directs its viewers to believe God’s Not Dead, when the dust settles, the audience is left to decide who wins the debate, or the bigger question, as the writer implores, what difference does it make?

 

Captain America is “the best of the best of the best SIR!”

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My excitement about Captain America: The Winter Soldier did not evolve from reading comic books.  Never a fan of the flimsy colorful pages sporting larger than life heroes, my attraction to their films is all about the fun and positive nature of the characters.

More than 2011 Captain America: The First Avenger, this year’s sequel is even better.  In fact, as Will Smith says in Men in Black, “the best of he best of the best SIR!”

What’s at stake is all too real.  The government’s access to personal information (NSA anyone?) and abuse of power toward targeted organizations (IRS Lerner testimony).  Second amendment rights are already compromised.

Our heroes are a trio of stars exerting super-human expertise to stop a covert enemy that is hiding in DC.  Our country’s freedoms imagesare at stake and civil libertarian, Captain America (Chris Evans), tells us “The price of freedom is high; but, it’s the price I’m willing to pay.”

The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) have me looking forward to the 2016 Captain America.  If local newspapers and talking heads have made you cynical, a dose of Captain America will have you saluting.

NOAH—good film for post-movie discussion

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My head is whirling with all the controversy surrounding director Darren Aronofsky’s  NOAH.  There are two rather distinct piles of articles about the movie, pro and con; or, as the movie What About Bob would say, “there’s the people who like Neil Diamond and the people who don’t.”

NOAH’s director/screenwriter has, pun intended, brought out the beast in pastors and their flocks.  Even the atheists want some floor time with this one.  Try as you will, a two-hour movie just can’t be created from a few pages of the BIBLE.

Maybe the discussion should be whether religious films should just be banned altogether.  Let’s just get this over with right now.  After all, weeks ago SON OF GOD was on the chopping block.  And who could ever forget reading hateful accounts of PASSION OF THE CHRIST director, Mel Gibson.  And, if that wasn’t enough, his father—yes, his father for Pete’s sake was dragged into the slugfest.

“Literal fundamentalists will blow a gasket,” my friend Michelle Rifenberg offered, “but anyone who understands the role of allegory in scripture shouldn’t hate it.  It’s a good film for post movie discussion over wine.”

I love all of it—especially Michelle’s idea for discussion.

Enter the Rock People.  Noah (Russell Crowe) needs help to build the arc in time for the anticipated rain.  Rock People help him build and protect him from the bad guys.  Aronofsky may have overstepped here for some critics; but I liked the ginormous fallen angel creatures.  What a creative way to show both their punishment and presence in the world before the flood.

“The rock people that sent one columnist over the cliff,” Michelle believes, “is an earthen way to represent how the inherent goodness that comes from being made in the image and likeness of God becomes hardened and incased in worldliness because of the fall. The serpent and the picked apple appear repeatedly on the screen. In fact one of the rock people flat out explains the metaphor. “

imagesNoah has really gone out on a limb to build an arc on barren land.  His wife (Jennifer Connelly) assists unquestioning until he raises a knife to their newborn granddaughters. No spoiler here—just to say that scene was reminiscent of Old Testament Abraham with his son on the altar.

Special effects used to deliver the animals to the arc are remarkable.  (No live animals in the film.)  As an action, suspense movie, it was nothing short of extraordinary.

Characters in the film acknowledge they are made in the image of their Creator.  The good guys want to please and the bad guys want to be the Creator’s equal.  Therein lies the basis of war—then and now.

SON OF GOD–a resurrected story

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Imagine waking up in the morning with the thought of producing/directing a successful biblical film.  That is the story with reality TV producer Mark Burnett and his wife, actress Roma Downey & the newly released Son of God.

The challenge rests not just with film critics but with Christians as well.  Rotten Tomatoes critics, for example gave the picture a 25% rating while its audience rated it 82%.  The discrepancy according to the critics: “The faithful may find their spirits raised, but on purely cinematic terms, Son of God is too dull and heavy-handed to spark much fervor.”

Then we have Christians who wanted something more, or, as Christianity Today described: images“..watching Son of God was not a dreadful experience, but it wasn’t a particularly inspirational or entertaining one, either.”

REALLY?  My take on this is sometimes we forget that today millions of lapsed Christians and non-believers out there have no clue what believers are talking about.  They have either missed the point in Sunday school or are hearing it for the first time.  As viewers, this film is very possibly totally new information presented in cinematic storytelling—and music by Hans Zimmer!!  Enjoy the film.  It’s a movie!  Leave the rest to the beholder.

How timely to have the story of Jesus at the theaters as liturgical calendars look to the beginning of Lent, and preparation for the celebration of Easter—the point of the story.

Could Steven Spielberg given Son of God audiences a deeper, more inspiring film? Probably.  But, would he?