Monday, December 30, 2013

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET




PRINCIPAL CAST MEMBERS
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

REVIEW
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.

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

FOR NITPICKERS ONLY

  • 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

SAVING MR. BANKS




F.Y.I.
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.

PRINCIPAL CAST MEMBERS
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

REVIEW
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.

CLASSIFICATION
for thematic elements including some unsettling images.

FOR NITPICKERS ONLY
  • 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

AMERICAN HUSTLE




Crime drama

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

PRINCIPAL CAST MEMBERS
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

REVIEW
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.

CLASSIFICATION

 for pervasive language, some sexual content and brief violence.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

PHILOMENA




PRINCIPAL CAST MEMBERS
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

REVIEW
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.

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

FOR NITPICKERS ONLY

  • 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

INEQUALITY FOR ALL




REVIEW
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.

CLASSIFICATION

Saturday, December 14, 2013

NEBRASKA


 Drama

PRINCIPAL CAST MEMBERS
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

REVIEW
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.

CLASSIFICATION

for some strong language.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB


















Drama

PRINCIPAL CAST MEMBERS
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

REVIEW
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.

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

FOR NITPICKERS ONLY
  • 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.
 P.S.

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

Friday, December 6, 2013

THE BOOK THIEF


 Wartime drama

PRINCIPAL CAST MEMBERS
Sophie NĂ©lisse: 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

REVIEW
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 NĂ©lisse is the best, possibly garnering a nomination for an award of some sort?

CLASSIFICATION

for some violence and intense depiction of thematic material.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

FROZEN





Animated action\ adventure

 PRINCIPAL VOICE CAST
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

REVIEW
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.

CLASSIFICATION

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