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Junebug (2005)

I wonder what she looks like. I bet she’s skinny. She probably is. She’s skinnier’n me and prettier too. Now I’ll hate her. Oh, I can’t wait!

— Ashley

I have had a passing interest in seeing Junebug since it garnered Amy Adams an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in 2005 and catapulted her to A-list status. My favorite movie podcast, Cinebanter sung its praises. I thought that I might have to check to check it out at the library. I  have to say that I wasn’t disappointed.

This slice of life movie pulls you in with the marvelous, whimsical soundtrack that gives you an automatic smile on your face. The movie revolves around an ambitious art curator from Chicago named Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) who is trying to woo a gifted artist, David Wark (Frank Hoyt Taylor) who has a form of autism. David reinterpreted the Civil War into a sexual orgy of big black penises impaling Confederate soldiers and cum filled scrotums.

The only way she can get him from signing to a rival New York curator to go to David’s home in North Carolina where her husband pf six month George’s (Alessandro Nivola) family is close neighbors with. George’s family is not too excited for their arrival like his grumpy little brother, Johnny (Ben McKenzie) and his mother, Peg (Celia Weston). George’s withdrawn father, Eugene (Scott Wilson) feels indifferent about it, retreating to his basement sanctuary. The only person that is excited is Johnny’s pregnant wife, Ashley (Adams) who makes the Energizer Bunny look like a wind up toy.

When Madeleine and George arrives, the married couple from the Chicago and the uber-religious family from North Carolina clash in some unexpected ways. Jealousies arise and past resentments come bubbling to the surface as these people struggle to co-exist under the same roof.

As first, i thought that the movies was going to be a straight comedy of errors, but there are some dark moments that tugged at my heart. Did Amy Adams deserved the recognition for her performance? Yes. The scene in the hospital was painful to watch. I ached when she ached.

Some of the actions of the characters were fairly predictable. I guess, when you see millions of independent movies, you see the same patterns over and over.

Judgment: I did enjoy this movie and I would like to revisit this family again.

Rating: 8/10

The Fighter (2010)

I have known about The Fighter for  some time now. It was originally supposed to be Darren Aronofsky next movie, but it kept getting delayed in the process. He did The Wrestler and felt that this movie would be too similar so he passed the baton to David O. Russell. It has got a lot of buzz this award season. It deserves it.

This is the true life story of Lowell, Massachusetts residents Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his older half-brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) circa 1993. Dicky has a HBO documentary crew follow him around for his comeback to the boxing ring where he shined as knocking out Sugar Ray Leonard, who appears as himself in the film.

Seeing that his time has passed, Dicky trains Mickey to make more goals than he ever did in his career. His decades long crack problem had him wasting away his body, hair, and mind. Their mother, Alice (Melissa Leo) is trying to keep the family together by acting as Mickey’s trainer. Dicky’s crack problem is hampering Mickey’s training and everybody sees that, except for Alice.

Mickey meets a feisty bartender after a night drinking named Charlene (Amy Adams). They begin to have a courtship when a fate steps in. Mickey would supposed to fight one opponent that is in his weight class, but his opponent caught the flu and will not be able to box. Another opponent steps up who is twenty pounds heavier than Mickey. (If you expect me to believe that Mark Wahlberg weighed 145 lbs, you are nuts. I am 160 lbs and I hit like a girl.) He takes the match so the family could get paid. He gets his ass handed to him.

Embarrassed by the loss, Mickey doesn’t want to talk to anybody in his life. Not until a rival manager would train Mickey in Las Vegas so he could have a chance to have a great career ahead of him. Mickey has a tough decision to make about choosing between his family and his career.

The movie overall was a very good exercise in establishing the dynamics between duty and pride, acceptance and being ostracized.

The story gets under your skin and wants warm your heart. It does has its faults. The main problem with this movie is the lead actor. Wahlberg has been training for this part for roughly five years and I was not rooting for him to succeed. He didn’t have the nuance, the charisma to make me be on his corner. Lastly, another down point is the fight sequences in the general were overly rehearsed. It did not feel like that they were hitting each other in the ring. It was like a choreographed dance.

Judgment: This movie is like a sucker punch to the gut.

Rating: ****1/2

Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)

These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world… and then we fucked up the endgame.

— Charlie Wilson

When I was working out recently on the stationary bike, I heard on CNN that Charlie Wilson, the Congressman that almost single-handedly ended the conflict between Afghanistan and Russia died recently at the age of 77. I have never seen the big screen adaptation of this story, Charlie Wilson’s War until now. Philip Seymour Hoffman was nominated for an Oscar for his work on the FBI agent who was part of the trio that put an end to the Cold War. It is a fascinating bit of history trapped in an uninteresting narrative.

Based on the book by George Crile, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and director Mike Nichols transports us to the Cold War era circa 1980 where the Soviets invaded Afghanistan a year before. The unlikely hero of this story is a skirt-chasing, booze-swilling Texas Congressman Charles Wilson (Tom Hanks). He overhears the plight of the Afghani people during a wild house party seeing a news report by Dan Rather. The Afghanis feel that the Americans are not listening to their cries for the necessary weapons to defeat the Soviets.

Charlie wants to do something about the covert conflict without inciting World War III. He tries to raise funds for the conflict, but nobody could do anything. America has a wait-and-see approach to when the Soviets run out of supplies to finally do something.

By sheer happenstance, Charlie gets a call from a wealthy oil heiress who tries to do something thing with the conflict, Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts). She urges Charlie to go to Pakistan to see the Afghani refugee camps there after a roll in the hay for old time’s sake. Charlie books a trip to Pakistan with his trusty executive assistant, Bonnie Bach (Amy Adams) at his side.

Charlie meets the refugees that shared with him horror stories that the Soviets would do. Defectors would be run over by military tanks, children had limbs blown off from field bombs that looked like toys or the Soviets would slit the throats of children while the parents watched in horror.

Charlie wants to have the countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to supply enough weapons to stop the Soviet helicopters. He enlists the help of a CIA agent, Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to help put together a task force to get the necessary weapons for the Afghanis to combat the Soviets.

This was supposed to be a comedy of errors about the mostly unlikely of people that would be instrumental for the greatest covert operation in US History, but I was mostly uninterested with the path to end the Cold War. Having two hours of weapons jargon thrown at you would make you bored off your tits. What the fuck is going on? What the hell are you talking about? Why should I care about every minute detail?

Hoffman was very good as the nonsense CIA agent that is not afraid to tell somebody to fuck themselves. They were glorious moments. The rest of the movie I could have done without. This movie is tedious to watch. I didn’t care about this boozehound trying to be a hero or the Dallas reject with the “angular face”. The Sorkin dialogue was nice, but I thought it tried to be a comedy about dramatic events.

Judgment: I was largely disappointed with this film. I wish this movie was documentary instead.

Rating: **1/2

Julie and Julia (2009)

I’m Julia Child. Bon appetit!

— Julia Child

I had no inclination of watching Julie & Julia, because I thought that it would be just another chick flick. Now, that Meryl Streep is getting lots of awards attention for her portyal of Julie Child, I had to watch the film to see it. I also heard when you watch the film, it would make you hungry. I had a meal before I watched this. I envied the characters having the chance to try those wonderful dishes.

Based on the novel of the name by Julie Powell and “My Life in France” by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme, writer/director Nora Ephron interweaves of two women seeming to live parallel lives at two different times.

Julie Powell (Amy Adams) is struggling novelist that is working for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation answering insurance calls after 9/11. She feels like she hasn’t finished anything in her life. Her friends are becoming more successful than she is, and it makes her feel left out in the cold. After a scathing article about her turning thirty is pressed, she wanted to accomplish something in her life. By suggestion of her husband, Eric (Chris Messina), Julie starts a blog, “The Julie/Julia Project” to cook all of the recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in a year.

Flashing back to when Julia Child (Streep) arrives in 1949 France where her husband, Paul (Stanley Tucci) was transferred to the local embassy. While Paul is at work, Julie tries to find something to do. She has the idea to have a French cookbook in English, which didn’t exist at the time. To do that she had to enlist in cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu, but the headmistress, Madame Brassart (Joan Juliet Buck) tries to discourage her for advancing in the school. Her infectious energy makes her the star of the class.

As the movie goes on story highlight coincides in their lives, Powell has doubts that anyone is reading her blog when she receives ingredients from her fans. She is becoming more popular that people want to interview her. Child has an opportunity to author a cookbook with acquaintances, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle (Linda Emond, Helen Carey).

I heard about the liberties that Ephron with Powell who was having severe martial problems that lead towards her divorce. I enjoyed myself with the movie. Streep was good as Julia Child. Her portion of the movie was better than Powell’s. The sequence with Julia’s sister Dorothy McWilliams (Jane Lynch) visiting them did not have any bearing on the movie to me. I thought the ending dragged on too much that it got syrupy for my tastes.

I was struck about the blog. I want to read it. Does Julie have another one in the works?

Judgment: This movie is a slice of life. Make sure that you have eaten before watching it.

Rating: ****

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009)


This is the Smithsonian! This is the big leagues!

— Larry Daley

I reviewed the first Night of the Museum and I liked the movie very much. A kid friendly movie teaches about semblances of history in a clever way. We fast-forward to 2009 with the release of Night of the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, the magic of the first film is there, but you have to dig to find it. That’s not a good sign. I’m glad I went to the cheap theater to see this movie.

After his stint as the night watchmen of the Museum of Natural History, Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) is inexplicably the CEO of his own company, Daley Devices. He left the inhabitants of the museum behind to invent the glow in the dark flashlight.

He goes back to the museum – no reason why – to see that the place is closed for renovations. Most of the exhibit pieces are in boxes en route to the Smithsonian federal archive. Dr. McPhee (Ricky Gervais) tells Larry that the people are not coming to the museum. They want to have new attractions. Larry wants to find a way to have the museum open again.

En route to the Smithsonian, the capuchin monkey, Dexter steals the Table of Ahkmenrah to their new home in the basement. Larry turns into 007 to break into the restricted area. He awakens the inhabitants of the museum like General Custer (Bill Hader) and Amelia Earheart (Amy Adams).

Amelia becomes Larry cohort to help stop Ahkmenrah’s (Rami Malek) older brother, Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria) from resurrect the undead army to take over the world with Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest), Napoleon Bonaparte (Alain Chabat) and Al Capone (Jon Bernthal) on his side.

I was still swept up with the fantastical moments of the movie. Bill Hader, Amy Adams and Mizuo Peck who plays Sacajawea were fantastic in the movie. They were the only enjoyable parts to the movie.

Many elements bothered me, especially the accent of Kahumunrah, the chase scenes in the paintings did nothing for me, and the whole thing with the villains was awful. It can’t say too much without spoiling the movie.

Judgment: A nice movie, but the first movie is much better.

Rating: **1/2

Enchanted (2007)

The real world and the animated world collide.

Instead of watching the presidential address to the nation last night, I decided to watch Enchanted.

This Disney production begins with an animated sequence that is in the same vein as The Little Mermaid, Snow White and The Princess Bride. It gave the audience who grew up with Disney a little wink with some of the jokes and the situations.

Giselle (Amy Adams), the damsel in the distress longs for her one true love inside of her hallow tree in the land of Andalasia. She is surrounded by forest creatures as she made a mannequin of her love out of random items.

She begins to sing and the self-absorbed Prince Edward (James Marsden) hears her melodious song. He tries to find her. He is detracted by Nathaniel (Timothy Spall) to not let them meet, because if they marry than Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) would lose her kingdom.

Giselle and Edward do meet, fall in love and plan to be married the next day. Plans change when Queen Narissa disguised as an old hag pushes Giselle through a portal. She comes out in the middle of Times Square in New York City.

Bewildered, Giselle wanders around the streets to find her way back to Andalasia. When she sees a billboard of palace that looks like Prince Edwards, she meets a cynical divorce lawyer, Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his six-year-old daughter, Morgan (Rachel Covey). They bring her home.

Prince Edward, Nathaniel and Pip the chipmunk fall in the portal to search for Giselle.

During the course of the film, the traits of Giselle and Robert begins to meld with Giselle acclimates to the real world and Robert not being bitter about love, especially with Nancy (Idina Menzel).

Judgment: This was a fun movie. I had some genuine laughs.

Rating: ****

Doubt (2008)

Adapting his Pulitzer Prize winning play, Doubt, John Patrick Shanley directs this thought provoking film with great actors, masterful dialogue and leaving you thinking the actions onscreen.

The setting takes place in 1964 Bronx Catholic school, St. Nicholas. A young, impressionable young nun, Sister James (Amy Adams) witnesses what she thinks is misconduct on the part of the progressively-minded, Father Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and an Black altar boy, Donald Miller (Joseph Foster).

Sister James confesses what she thinks she saw to the hardcore disciplinarian principal, Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep). Armed with this new information, Sister Aloysius launches a campaign to oust Father Flynn out of the Parrish.

The movie consists of basically four major scenes: the confession, the confrontation of Father Flynn, the heart-to-heart between Sister Aloysius and Mrs. Miller (Viola Davis), and the final showdown between Father Flynn and Sister Aloysius.

I will highlight one person that floored me, twice. Viola Davis who plays Mrs. Miller. Her scene was transcendent that I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, what she said, and her complacency. She blew everyone away. She deserves an Oscar for this role.

The author wants to figure out, did Father Flynn have inappropriate relations with Donald Miller or not? With my eagle eyes, I looked for clues, facial expressions, voice inflections, involuntary behavior. I know with certainly that Father Flynn did it.

I also believe that he at least molested three of the kids. Look at the kids faces, their behavior. You will know.

These are the questions that I asked myself, Why did Father Flynn stuff Donald’s undershirt into his locker? In the hallway, when Father Flynn ignored Donald, Donald felt wounded? When the boys gathered together, why did Donald look longingly at the Father? Why did Jimmy (Lloyd Clay Brown) have that hurt look on his face? Why did Father Flynn single out William London (Mike Roukis) about his dirty fingernails? Why did he resign? Why did he want to ignore the question or change the subject?

The only criticism I have about this film is including the kids in the movie. It swayed my decision one way without a doubt in my mind. Some people are saying that they should have Donald’s perspective. It would be a waste of time. Donald would lie to defend Father Flynn or have an outrgeous explansion that the adults would not believe him.

This was a good film that blows a good majority of the Oscar-baity movies out of the water.

My rating: ****1/2 stars.

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