Monday, December 30, 2013


Leonardo DiCaprio: 25-year-old Jordan Belfort
Matthew McConaughey: his boss Mark Hanna
Cristin Milloti: his wife Teresa
Jonah Hill: his neighbour salesman Donnie Azoff
Rob Reiner: his father Max
Christine Ebersole: his mother Leah
Kyle Chandler: FBI agent Patrick Denham
Margot Robbie: party-goer Naomi Lapaglia
Jean Dujardin: Swiss banker Jean-Jacques Saurel
Joanna Lumley: Naomi’s aunt Emma

Several times I was tempted to walk out because like a lot of discriminating viewers I am not comfortable viewing hours of debauchery depicted on screen. And I certainly do not like having to listen to dialogue you would expect from a member of the Hells Angles bike gang not from stockbrokers. It has been reported that the f-word is used 506 times in the film; frankly, it seems like twice that many. And it’s not just the guys who swear and curse: the women talk like that too.

And on top of that, it is too long, running almost three hours since a lot of the hard-partying lifestyle is repetitive. Total frontal nudity, acts of sexual depravity, explicit love-making and groping may be eye-candy to some, but not to me. Sorry, not my style.

However DiCaprio’s depiction of the real-life swindler has got to be one of his best and the main reason for hanging in if you can put up with everything else.

for sequences of sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout along with some violence.


  • Geneva’s landmark icon, the Jet d’Eau, can be seen through the office window of the Swiss banker but it is obviously just a photo of the real thing since it does not move.
  • There are just five steps leading up to the country club but in one shot directly in front there are at least a dozen steps, maybe more.
  • Cell phones of the sort being used were not introduced until 2004, some five years after these events transpired.

Monday, December 23, 2013


P.L. Travers wrote a series of books published over the period 1934 to 1988 featuring Mary Poppins, a magical nanny to the children of Mr. and Mrs. George Banks.

Emma Thompson: middle-aged author Pamela “P.L.” Travers
Ronan Vibert: her agent Diarmuid Russell
Paul Giamatti: Pamela’s LA chauffeur Ralph
Tom Hanks: filmmaker and producer Walt Disney
Bradley Whitford: screenwriter Don DaGradi
B.J. Novak: songwriter Robert Sherman
Jason Schwartzman: his brother and associate Richard
Melanic Paxson: Walt’s secretary Dolly
Kathy Baker: Walt Disney studio executive Tommie
Colin Farrell: Australian banker Travers Goff
Ruth Wilson: his wife Margaret
Annie Bucklye: their eight-year-old daughter Helen aka Ginty

Getting a first-hand look at what transpired when production of the film version of the popular Mary Poppins novel first began is insightful. As expected, Emma Thompson is terrific with Tom Hanks and Colin Farrell putting in their usual splendid effort. Although it runs a little over two hours it needs all that time to tell the background story as well. As one movie-goer was heard to say “it’s an emotional journey well worth telling”.

Great attention to detail (except for the few items noted below) adds a sense of authenticity to this “mostly-true” version of what really happened. The actual tape recording played during the final credits attest to this as well.

for thematic elements including some unsettling images.

  • When Pamela is outside the Los Angeles airport one of the signs reads Trans World Airways. The correct name for TWA was Trans World Airlines.
  • Pamela uses the remote to turn on the television in her hotel room. The upscale Beverley Hills hotel would have used the latest control in 1961 with four oval buttons not one with two square buttons introduced ten years earlier.
  • Walt tells of the time as a young lad he delivered 500 newspapers both the morning and the evening editions, sometimes with snow up to his waist: in fact it would take 5 to 6 hours to deliver that many papers in a residential area and the record snowfall ever in Kansas City where he lived was just 24” back in 1911/1912, which would be up to his knees at best.
  • This is one of my classic all-time favourite nitpicks: at the end of the telephone conversation Walt hangs up and Pamela is left listening to the dial tone. In reality the dial tone is only heard after picking up the phone before dialling. That’s why it’s called a dial tone.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Crime drama

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s the FBI sting operation code named Abscam targeted corruption of elected officials.

Christian Bale: con man Irving Rosenfeld
Bradley Cooper: FBI agent Richard “Richie” DiMaso
Amy Adams: Irving’s partner Sydney Prosser
Louis CK: Richie’s boss Stoddard Thomsen
Jeremy Renner: Camden NJ Mayor Carmine Polito
Elisabeth Rohm: Carmine’s wife Dolly
Jennifer Lawrence: Irving’s wife Rosalyn
Robert De Niro: Mob guy Victor Tellegio

Loosely based on the FBI investigation this is one terrific movie. Perhaps a tad too long at 2 hours and 18 minutes it is fast-paced, riveting and wholly entertaining. Production values are top notch with great attention to period detail. The script mostly rings true and is replete with humorous moments.

The performances are all excellent ranging from Academy Award exceptional-type (Bale, Adams, Cooper, Lawrence) to strong believable characters (Renner, Rohm, DeNiro). One more thing: any movie about a con man is bound to have more than a few plot twists: this one does not disappoint.


 for pervasive language, some sexual content and brief violence.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Steve Coogan: Television journalist and author Martin Sixsmith
Judi Dench: Philomena Lee, an elderly Irish woman
Anna Martin: her daughter Jane
Sophie Clark: the younger Philomena
Amy McAllister: Sister Anunciata
Mare Winningham: the grown up Mary
Barbara Jefford: the elderly Sister Hildegarde

Based on the true story of Philomena (pronounced phil-ah-me-nah) and the problems she had with the Catholic church. You have to smile at Philomena’s simplistic view of the world which is poles apart from that of Martin who is a socially awkward worldly sophisticate. They make for an interesting couple bent on trying to find out what happened years ago. And both give outstanding performances.

 for some strong language, thematic elements and one sexual reference.


  • Martin carries a bag slung over his shoulder but it disappears completely when he gets into the car.
  • Aboard the aircraft the spiral staircase identifies it as a Boeing 747 but the shot of the plane landing at the Washington airport is something other than a 747.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Former United States Secretary of Labor Robert Reich presents the latest in documentaries about the widening economic gap in the USA. With state of the art graphs he explores the impact this has on the deterioration of the nation’s economic health.

Despite the complexity of the subject Reich makes it easy to understand his principal premise: except for the 1%, there is Inequality for All.


Saturday, December 14, 2013



Bruce Dem: seventies-something Woody Grant
Will Forte: his son David
June Squibb: David’s mother Kate
Bob Odenkirk: David’s older brother Ross
Mary Louise Wilson: David and Ross’ aunt
Rance Howard: their uncle Ray
Stacy Keach: Woody’s old business partner Ed Pegram
Angela McEwan: Peg Nagy, editor/publisher of The Hawthorn Republican

Several things sets this one apart from the others:
  • It is shot in black and white
  • None of the cast are high profile well-known actors
It is a terrific story about someone wanting to see things through with dialogue and situations that are believable, characters that ring true and the interpersonal dynamics bang on. The acting is uniformly good and I just loved the pacing, the depiction of rural family life and the amusing moments. What a great combination.


for some strong language.

Thursday, December 12, 2013



Matthew McConaughey: rodeo bull rider Ron Woodroof
Jennifer Garner: Dr. Eve Saks
Jared Leto: Rayon, a transgender woman
Steve Zahn: Ron’s brother Tucker
Griffin Dunne: Dr. Vass, expatriate American doctor

Based on the true story of Ron Woodroof’s fight against the system, it has its gritty side that may shock some people despite its R classification warning.

However the acting is the strong point: the performances by McConaughey and Leto are worth the price of admission alone. Perhaps a tad long at just under two hours, it moves along at a pretty good clip so it does not overstay its welcome.

 for pervasive language, some strong sexual content, nudity and drug use.

  • In July 1985 two viruses were suspected of infecting AIDS patients, HTLV-III and LAV. Doctors did not use the term HIV until a year later when these two viruses were found to be the same thing.
  • When Ron returns from Mexico the border agent asks for his passport which he gives him. In fact it was not until years later in 2004 that all travelers were required to present any document that denotes their identify and citizenship when entering the United States.
  • Ron fires a shotgun blast that opens a hole the size of a dinner plate but well above the lockset so the door would still be locked and would not have opened when he pushed on it.

$400 in 1985 had the same buying power as $873 in 2013.

Friday, December 6, 2013


 Wartime drama

Sophie Nélisse: 11-year-old Liesel Meminger
Geoffrey Rush: her adoptive father Hans Hubermann
Emily Watson: his wife Rosa
Nico Liersch: 11-year-old Rudy Steiner
Rainer Bock: Buergermeister Hermann
Barbara Auer: his wife Ilsa
Ben Schnetzer: Jewish refugee Max

This story of a young girl who learns to love books begins before the onset of World War II. However this is a sanitized version of the real thing and does not ring true: the flags are all bright and pristine, not faded and frayed; the cars are all clean and polished not dusty and dirty; the uniforms are all pressed and immaculate, not tattered and torn; these Nazis rough up citizens and burn books, not people.

Several other shortcomings are much in evidence: with a run time in excess of two hours it is a tad too long and the narration by the Grim Reaper serves only as an unwelcome intrusion and people speaking English with a funny accent and using a smattering of German words.

On the other hand the performances are all top-notch although that of Sophie Nélisse is the best, possibly garnering a nomination for an award of some sort?


for some violence and intense depiction of thematic material.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Animated action\ adventure

Idina Menzel: Elsa, the princess of Arendelle
Kristen Bell: her younger sister Anna
Santino Fontana: Prince Hans of the Southern Isles
Josh Gad: Olaf, a snowman
Jonathan Groff: ice seller Kristoff
Chris Williams: owner of Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post

The story of a fearless princess wanting to find her sister, the one with magical power, is replete with musical numbers. In fact, the first half hour or so plays like a Broadway musical with the story being told in lyrical form. From that point the spoken word dominates and we get to see the loving relationship between sisters.

In classic Disney fashion, the sidekick provides a lot of the laughs. In this case it is Sven, Kristoff’s big-hearted reindeer. The silly snowman Olaf steals the show every scene he is in, including the movie poster.

Technically the film is state of the art with exquisite rendering of clothes and hair, beautiful wide screen images but the pedestrian musical numbers are what holds me back to awarding this a five star rating.

Finally one movie-goer had this to say: “I loved the message, about love and devotion, while the kids around me were laughing their heads off at the animals and screeching whenever the snow monster appeared.” That pretty well sums it up.


 for some action, mild rude humour (really mild).

Monday, November 4, 2013


Historical Drama

Chiwetel Ejiofor: Solomon Northup
Paul Giamatti: slave trader Theophilus Freeman
Benedict Cumberbatch: Baptist preacher and slave owner William Ford
Paul Dano: overseer John Tibeats
Michaael Fassbender: Edwin Epps, cruel plantation owner
Lupita Nyong’o: Patsey, one of the slaves at his plantation
Sarah Paulson: Edwin’s wife Mary
Brad Pitt: Bass, a Canadian carpenter and abolitionist

You might be able to avert your eyes from the horrific scenes of cruelty but you will not be able to block out the sounds of agony. It is agonizing to watch as the camera lingers for what seems forever and all you want is for it to end. We all know that slaves were subjected to harsh working conditions and poor housing and they had to put up with psychological abuse as well. But this movie is the most disturbing one I’ve ever seen about the subject of slavery.

Based on a true story with strong performances from all the cast, Ejiofor in particular, it is riveting albeit it a tad too long at 2 hours and 13 minutes.

At the end as we shuffled out I overheard one woman ask her husband “Why is everyone so quiet?” to which he replied “Probably like me, they are in a state of shock”.


 for violence, cruelty, some nudity and brief sexuality.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013



In French with English subtitles.
Original title: Les Beaux Jours

Fanny Ardant: 60-year-old dentist Caroline
Laurent Lafitte: 30-something instructor Julien
Patrick Chesnais: Caroline’s husband

Not your usual romantic comedy it does have a certain ring of truth to it but I found the acting to be less than stellar particularly by the two principals. Although the husband comes across in much better light the overall impression is underwhelming and the plot for the most part is fairly predictable.

As with a lot of films produced in France, adultery is a key factor but it seems so contrived. Maybe because it is? 


 for sexual situations, brief frontal nudity.



Robert Redford: a solo sailor in the Indian Ocean

Fans of Robert Redford who cannot get enough of him will just love this one: there is no one else to watch. This rather unusual film has just one star, no dialogue and apart from the initial voiceover, very few spoken words.

As with all survival movies there is a certain amount of tension as events unfold leading up to the big question “Will he/she make it out alive?” Along the way Redford has a daunting task: to convey the entire range of emotions only through his facial expressions and body language. He cannot verbalize his interior feelings because he is all alone. It is quite some task but Redford proves he is up to it.

 for brief language (point of clarification: one word!)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Tom Hanks: merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips
Michael Chernus: Shane Murphy, First Officer of MV Maersk Alabama
David Warshofsky: Mike Perry, Chief Engineer
Corey Johnson: Ken Quinn, helmsman
Barkhad Abdi: Abduwali Muse, leader of the highjackers
Yul Vazquez: U.S. Navy Captain Frank Castellano, Commanding Officer of the USS Bainbridge

Based on actual events that took place in 2009, the film is riveting albeit a tad too long at two hours and 15 minutes. The tension begins to build almost from the get-go and never really subsides until the end.

The acting is top notch, even from the highjackers who had never done this before. Credit has to go to the casting director for his/her excellent choices.

for sustained intense sequences of menace, some evidence of bloody images and for substance use.

Driving from his home in Underhill, VT to the Burlington International airport Captain Phillips would get off I-89 at Exit 14E not Exit 30E.

The hijackers chew on khat, a flowering plant native to the Arabian Peninsula. This is a social custom going back thousands of years in part because it is an amphetamine-like stimulant.

Friday, October 18, 2013


Sandra Bullock: Mission Specialist Dr. Ryan Stone
George Clooney: Mission Commander Lieutenant Matt Kowalski

This one warrants seeing it in 3D to truly experience the sensation of being out in space. The images are nothing short of spectacular. But that is not the only thing going for it: the acting by Sandra Bullock is probably the best she has ever done. She is on screen probably 95% of the time and does a really superb job.

So it is more than just a run-of-the-mill story about the dangers that can be encountered when in Earth’s orbit and the struggle to stay alive. You feel like you are there, watching things unfold.

This movie is sure to win awards if for nothing else than being able to create the weightlessness of space.

for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language.

The on-screen title makes reference to the conditions in space 600 kilometres in altitude but the Hubble Space Telescope they are working on is just 559 km above the earth’s surface.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


Julia Louis-Dreyfus: self employed massage therapist Eva
Catherine Keener: Marianne, one of Eva’s clients
James Gandolfini: Albert, employee of a museum of tv broadcasting
Tracey Fairaway: Eva’s daughter Ellen
Tavi Gevinson: Ellen’s friend Chole
Eve Hewson: Albert’s daughter Tess
Toni Collette: Eva’s best friend Sarah

By sticking to the conventional formula of these things the film does not break any new ground nor is it particularly funny, just mildly amusing. What does make it different from the others is the low-key performance by Gandolfini. He steals the screen just about every time he appears and it’s refreshing to see someone who comes across as real in this situation. That is reason enough to go see the movie but you’ll not hear about it when the awards are handed out for best picture of the year.

for crude and sexual content, comic violence, language and partial nudity.

Eva has a glass of wine at the party that changes level although she never gets it topped up. Same thing happens with Albert’s glass of water when they’re having dinner together.


The closing credits include “For Jim” as James Gandolfini passed away in June 2013 from an unexpected heart attack while vacationing in Italy.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


Animated action\adventure

Bill Hader: lifelong inventor Flint Lockwood
Neil Patrick Harris: Flint’s “assistant” Steve, a monkey
Will Forte: world-famous inventor Chester V, head of the Live Corp.
James Caan: his father Tim, owner of a bait and tackle shop
Anna Faris: Samantha “Sam” Sparks, the weather network intern
Benjamin Bratt: Manny, the tv cameraman
Terry Crews: Earl Devereaux, the town policeman

Definitely geared to children, anyone who is not should not be too harsh in judging its excesses. Adults will see it as a pleasant diversion with lots of clever lines providing more than a few comic moments (and some outright laughs) even when things get a little bit gross.

The technical aspect is beyond reproach: the CGI rendering is stunning, the detail quite amazing, the colours brilliant. And the imaginative transformation of vegetables into something resembling people is clever.


for mild rude humour.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Chris Hemsworth: British racing driver James Hunt
Danile Brühl: Austrian racing driver Niki Lauda
Pierfrancesco Favino: BRM Formula One team driver Clay Regazzoni
Christian McKay: financier Lord Alexander Hesketh
Olivia Wilde: supermodel Suzy Miller
Alexandra Maria Lara: socialite Marlene Knaus

This is the true story of two of Formula One’s best-ever drivers and the rivalry between them that made the 1976 season one of the best. Between exciting racing sequences time is given for in-depth character studies of the two men.

Strong performances by the entire cast and great attention to detail make this a must-see for every racing fan. But even those who do not follow the sport will find it an entertaining two hours as the focus is not entirely on the sport itself. The wonderful orchestral soundtrack by Hans Zimmer is an added bonus.


for sexual content, nudity, language, some disturbing images and brief drug use.