Side Effects

Bill C’s Review – 2.5 out of 5 

Side Effects is a crime thriller with a lot of plot twists, a good director, and a very good cast.  I  expected to like it a lot. Despite all of that, the plot just seemed unrealistic to me, and despite the fun of trying to follow the twists and turns, I was disappointed. If there’s a lawyer is reading this entry who saw this movie, I’d love your view on whether some of the plot is realistic or if there are legal checks and balances that make this unrealistic.

The cast included Rooney Mara (from the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Channing Tatum. Tatum’s role is very small, so don’t go see this film just because you are a big fan. Rooney Mara was excellent. Most reviews seem to like Jude Law’s performance, but I thought he was a little over the top.

I seem to be in the minority on this review, so while I didn’t really like this movie, you shouldn’t let my cynicism about the plot stop you from seeing it.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

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Identity Thief

Bill C’s Review – 2 out of 5

I had originally intended to skip this movie based on the poor reviews it received from critics.  But based on the audience reception on Rotten Tomatoes and since there’s not a lot that’s really good out there right now I decided to give it a shot.  Unfortunately I agree with the critics.  Melissa McCarthy is excellent and provides the laughs but they are too few and far between and this movie violates Bill I’s prime rule of movie previews – don’t show all the best laughs if the movie is a comedy.

This movie seemed to me like a weak clone of the John Candy/Steve  Martin classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles with  two strangers driving each other crazy on a disastrous road trip together before coming together at the end.  Unless you really like Melissa McCarthy I would rent that  instead.  Another option if you’re a fan of the director Seth Gordon is to rent one of my favorite and very funny documentary, The King of Kong, the story of good vs. evil in the quest to be the record holder in ‘Donkey Kong’.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

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Amour

Bill C’s review – 4 out of 5

Amour is one of the best movies that most people will want to avoid seeing. It’s a very well-acted and honest portrayal of a couple in their eighties dealing with the declining health of the wife due to a series of strokes. The husband lovingly takes care of her despite the hardships to keep his vow not to let her die in a hospital or nursing home. This movie doesn’t pull any punches in telling the story of slow decline of the wife.

This movie has deservedly received several Academy Award nominations. Emmanuelle Riva plays the wife and is nominated for Best Actress. This is a challenging role physically as she goes from healthy through various stages of post-stroke to near-death. Amour is also nominated for Best Picture and Michael Haneke is nominated for Best Director.  Haneke directed Cache a few years  ago—a movie that Bill I. recommended, but that I never got around to seeing. Jean-Louis Trintignant does a great job as the husband, and one of my all-time favorite French actresses, Isabelle Huppert, plays the daughter.

So this is another film that I like a lot, but but it is sad and depressing and not for everyone AND it’s French so it has subtitles.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

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Les Miserables

Bill C’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

This is another one of those movies where my opinion is totally irrelevant on whether or not you should see this.  If you’ve a) seen this on Broadway and liked it, b) if you’ve never seen a musical you didn’t like, c) enjoy lots of closeups of Hugh Jackman or Anne Hathaway (even though she’s most likely crying), or d) like movies that have a lot of crying or that easily make you cry (even though I didn’t), then you should go see this. Otherwise you might want to skip this one. The other reason why my opinion should probably be ignored is that I am not a good judge of singing talent (remember. . . I’m the guy who likes to listen to Craig Finn of the Hold Steady).

The performances were all very good. The actors needed to do two things: sing and cry profusely (and do both at the same time!). They all came through with flying colors. I even was surprised by Russell Crowe’s and Sacha Baron Cohen’s singing (who along with Helena Bonham Carter brought needed comic relief). The two main kids in the movie were excellent. Special kudos go to Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman. Jackman also seemed to transform physically as the movie went on. I barely recognized him in the first scene where he was an emaciated prisoner (with incredible strength).

For me, there were a few things that detracted from the movie:

– I’m ready for the slings and arrows from all Les Mis fans—I didn’t like the music that much. I have never seen the Broadway musical. But for most Broadway hit musicals that I only saw in the movies or years after they were a hit, I have always recognized and liked some of the music. For a show that opened over thirty years ago, Les Mis should fit in that category. But I didn’t recognize/remember any of it, and I’m not humming any songs today.

– Too many closeups! I’ve never seen so many closeups in a movie, especially of people crying non-stop or from the 1800s with poor dental hygiene! The closeups were made especially annoying by me being in the third row of the theater. If you plan on seeing this movie, sit towards the back!

– My guess is the plot of the book fills in a lot of holes. SPOILER ALERT ON *** The love-at- first-sight of Cosette and Marius while the world is falling apart and Marius’ happy return to the bourgeois life surprised me (to say the least). But the movie was long enough as it was. SPOILER ALERT OFF  ***

This gets a marginally positive review due to the performances, but again, if you are a fan of the show, you should go (actually you probably have already).

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

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Best of 2012

Due to the wide variety of movie we saw we decided to have our best in various categories as well as our overall best.  Please add your comments with your views as that is half the fun.

 Bill I's PicksBill C's Picks
Best Overall1. Zero Dark Thirty
2. Moonrise Kingdom
3. Argo
4. Arbitrage
5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
6. Lincoln
7. Looper
8. Django Unchained
9. Skyfall
10. Silver Linings Playbook
1. Zero Dark Thirty
2. A Separation
3. Silver Linings Playbook
4. Argo
5. The Raid: Redemption
6. Looper
7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
8. Safety Not Guaranteed
9. Django Unchained
10. Lincoln
11 .Marley
Best Film Based on Historical Events1. Zero Dark Thirty
2. Argo
3. Lincoln
4. Django Unchained (Tarantino’s version of life during slavery)
5. The Impossible
1. Zero Dark Thirty
2. Argo
3. Django Unchained
4. Lincoln
Best Bond/Action/Super Hero Film1. Skyfall
2. Ek Tha Tiger
3. Bourne Legacy
4. Haywire
5. Safe House
6. John Carter
7. The Dark Knight Rises
1. The Raid: Redemption
2. The Avengers
3. Haywire
4. The Dark Knight Rises
5. The Amazing Spider Man
6. The Safe House
7. The Bourne Legacy
Best Unique Film1. Looper
2. The Master
3. Sister
4. The Kid with a Bike
5. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
6. Snow White and the Huntsman
7. The Grey
1. Looper
2. The Master
3. The Kid With a Bike
4. The Queen of Versailles
5. Robot and Frank
6. Seven Psychopaths
Best Crime Film1. Arbitrage
2. End of Watch
3. Premium Rush
4. Lawless
1. Killer Joe
2. The Headhunters
3. End of Watch
4. Thin Ice
Best Romantic Film1. Moonrise Kingdom
2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
3. Trishna
4. Silver Linings Playbook
5. Your Sister’s Sister
6. Best Marigold Hotel
1. Silver Linings Playbook
2. The Perks of Being a Walflower
3. The Sessions
4. Moonrise Kingdom
5. Your Sister's Sister
Best Comedies1. This is 40
2. The Dictator
3. 21 Jump Street
4. Ted
5. The Three Stooges
1. Safety Not Guaranteed
2. 21 Jump Street
3. Sleepwalk With Me
4. Klown
5. The Pirates Band of Misfits
Best Music Related Movies1. Marley
2. Searching for Sugar Man
3. Shut Up and Play the Hits
4. Under African Skies
5. Girl Walk/All Day

Zero Dark Thirty

Bill I’s Review – 4.5 out of 5

Best review of the topic I’ve read is this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-hoffman/zero-dark-thirty-terrorism_b_2421874.html

It’s a fantastic film, fact based combined with the best film-making from Kathryn Bigelow. The acting is superb, doesn’t ever seem like acting, just seems real. I loved Argo, but comparing the scenes from each film where the protagonists try to work their cars through angry mobs in Pakistan or Iraq, and you will see that Zero Dark Thirty takes it to another level, of realism, of feeling the threat, or what it must have been like. The subject of torture (“enhanced interrogation techniques”) is controversial but to me appears very well portrayed: the US did it, it wasn’t pretty, wasn’t effective in most cases, and damaged our reputation. It wasn’t the key to unlocking where Bin Laden was, and if you pay attention this film shows that. It yielded pieces of information, but it took sleuthing, bribery, technology and persistence to finally track him down. The capture exercise by the Navy Seals is a mini-movie in itself, one of the best, and I assume realistic, I’ve ever seen. The CIA is portrayed as comprised of some heroic, dedicated, career professionals who make it through (or don’t, in some tragic circumstances) the hell that is terror central. The CIA is also shown as home to some career bureaucrats, who are more concerned about their careers, showing some “wins” even if it means taking down low value targets, while not taking undue risks, more than succeeding at getting Bin Laden. But, Spoiler Alert…we got him!!!

Bill C’s Review – 4.5 out of 5

I agree with Bill that this is an exceptional film. It draws us right in with actual, heartbreaking recordings of people in the WTC and responding to the tragedy. The film then does an amazing job of netting out a 10-year search into a well-told 2.5 hour movie.

I think part of the reason I liked this movie so much was that these events are so fresh in my mind. The events of—and since—9/11 had such a real and emotional impact on all of us. I think the strong emotions of the Iranian hostage crisis contributed to my strong feelings about Argo also.

As Bill points out, the search and successful mission was totally dependent on the sacrifice and dedication of many Americans. The film does a great job of showing how success came more from ferreting out the lies from captives and painstaking attention to detail and mundane detective work.  While this sounds boring, as presented in the movie, it is not.

Jessica Chastain and her supporting cast are excellent. She deserves her best actress Oscar nomination. I am surprised that Kathryn Bigelow was not nominated as Best Director. She won the Oscar a few years ago for The Hurt Locker (which I highly recommend).

Unless you will be turned off by the torture and violence, you should definitely see this film.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

 

 

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Bill C’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is Peter Jackson’s follow-up to the mega-successful Lord of the Rings Trilogy with J. R. R. Tolkien’s first book. To cash in on the success of the trilogy movies (3 books = 3 movies), Jackson is splitting this single book into three movies, with the first installment being well over 2.5 hours long. The movie is well made and the action sequences are good, but the movie could have been much shorter.

Bilbo Baggins takes off with a large assortment of dwarves and Gandalf the wizard on the dwarves’ quest to retake  their former home. With so many dwarves, I didn’t really come to care about their characters, and I felt that if they couldn’t win one of the battles, Gandalf (or someone/thing he summoned) would bail them out when necessary.

There was one sequence with Andy Serkis as Gollum, and for me, this scene was the highlight of the movie. Serkis was great and the scene was also excellent.

An Unexpected Journey did a good job of setting things up for the next two movies, but I was expecting more…in less time.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

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Parental Guidance

Bill I’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

I expected very little from this predictable comedy, but it exceeded my expectations in several places, including an excellent chemistry by Billy Crystal and Bette Midler and the grandparents trying to bond with their grandkids for a long weekend. The kids are unique and of course clash immediately, then one by one they develop that special relationship that can only come with wacky romps in the rain and mud, and some old fashioned parenting advice.

Guilt Trip

Bill I’s Review – 2 out of 5

It pains me to say this, but Seth Rogan is totally uninteresting and fairly lame in this predictable road trip movie, while Barbra Streisand, as Seth’s doting mom, is sympathetic and mildly interesting. There’s some enjoyable moments, and a nice ending, but this is the type of movie you watch when it’s on TV and there’s nothing else on.

Not Fade Away

Bill I’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

A coming of age film set in ’60s New Jersey, heavily reliant upon a rock’n roll backdrop and focused on a young Springsteen wannabe, I expected this film to be influenced by, and reminiscent of, American Graffiti, Almost Famous and The Sopranos (it’s written by David Chase) with a terrific soundtrack (produced by Steven van Zandt from the E Street Band, the producer of the Underground Garage station on SiriusXM, and of course Silvio on The Sopranos). It did not live up to my expectations, although it kept my interest and had some realistic portrayals, led by the under-acting John Magaro as the drummer/singer/lonely loser and by Bella Heathcote as his beautiful muse (here:

who, when she first spoke, made me think she was raised in another country (she is Australian). James Gandolfini, as the boy’s blue collar dad, does his Tony Soprano at home portrayal to perfection (David Chase must love to script scenes where Gandolfini digs into a plate of food while talking). The music didn’t blow me away, and the boy and his buddies actually don’t seem obsessed with doing whatever it takes to be the next Bon Jovi, while they stumble into opportunities, both music-wise and relationship-wise. There’s no deep friendships that you think will be the next Clarence Clemens and Bruce. Maybe Springsteen’s dad was like this, but the main message seems to be that you won’t fade away if you keep at it. There’s a side story about Bella’s offbeat sister that surprisingly dead ends unhappily. So, it’s a decent movie, but didn’t inspire me like Cameron Crowe did in Almost Famous, or even other niche films like Garden State. If you want to see a current film that does this perfectly, go see The Perks of Being a Wallflower.