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Eat Pray Love (2010)

Maybe my life hasn’t been so chaotic. It’s just the world that is and the only real trap is getting attached to any of it. Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.

— Elizabeth Gilbert

I haven’t heard glowing remarks for Ryan Murphy latest directorial effort, Eat Pray Love, based on the best-selling novel. I was in the mood to see fluffy romantic comedy, because I was having a crappy day. Well, the movie did not put me in a better mood.

Julia Roberts plays a travel writer named Elizabeth Gilbert. She travels to the most gorgeous places in the world, but she doesn’t have the best life. Her husband, Stephen (Billy Crudup) is very unsure about what he wants to do with his life. It causes conflict with the two, because Elizabeth wants to have kids, but she sees that will never be the case. At a party, Stephen holds Delia’s(Viola Davis) baby like hold a big bag of poop.

Liz have an epiphany when she is reminded of the words from a wise man from one of the places she visited, Bali, Ketut (Hadi Subiyanto) that she will have a major change and that she will come back to find herself. Liz decides to leave her husband, but she winds up in the arms of a vegetarian actor, David (James Franco). Their relationship is on the fast track, but Liz reminds herself that she has either been with a guy or breaking up with a guy.

She wants to take a vacation for a year to find herself and find inner peace. Her loved ones think that she is a fool for doing such a thing. She wants to visit Italy to find comfort with herself, India to reconcile her mind and body and finally Bali to fulfill Ketut’s prediction for her.

I thought that the movie was going to be like Under the Tuscan Sun where a woman is in a crossroads in her life and she is trying to find herself. I get that what was Ryan Murphy’s intention, but it did not translate well on-screen to me. I saw glimmers of it here and there, but not that much to keep me interested in the story.

There is something about Julia Roberts that bothers me. I don’t know if it’s the way her face looks, those three veins protruding out of her forehand that freaks me out.

You have a solid cast with Richard Jenkins as Richard, a man from Texas trying to have a solace in an ashram or Javier Bardem as a businessman who is trying to woo Liz. The story was rushed is some ways and dragged on in others. I kept thinking throughout the movie, when will it be over? It was over two hours long. It felt like five.

Judgment: There was a choice of watching the theatrical or the director’s cut, I thought why bother with the director’s cut.

Rating: 4.5/10

Far From Heaven (2002)

Oh, Raymond, Mrs. Whitaker sounds so formal! Won’t you please… ask me to dance?

— Cathy Whitaker

Writer/director, Todd Haynes wanted to make an homage of the Douglas Dirk bedroom melodramas of the 1950s. He created Far From Heaven, which garnered Julianne Moore another Oscar nomination for Best Actress. It was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Original Score. This was my favorite film of 2002 and I still stand by it.

This story is about a typical American family on the surface. There is the breadwinner of this Connecticut family, Frank Whitaker (Dennis Quaid) who is one of the sales executives at a company called Magnatech. His wife, Cathy (Moore) is the perfect homemaker that reminds you of Donna Reed. She juggles her wifely duties as mother to David (Ryan Ward) and Janice (Lindsay Andretta). Cathy is assisted by her trusty housekeeper, Sybil (Viola Davis) who watches the kids when has an errand to run or plans a cocktail party with her friend, Eleanor (Patricia Clarkson).

During the night of one of Cathy’s planned soirees, she is pulled from attending when she receives a call to pick up her husband from the police station for an incident earlier in the evening. On the drive home, the audience realizes that there are cracks in the foundation of the Whitaker marriage. Cathy tries her best to be close to her husband, who brushes her off. She concludes that it is just stress from work.

A reporter from the Weekly Gazette, Mrs. Leacock (Bette Henritze) comes by the house to interview Cathy for the couple being named Mr. and Mrs. Magnatech 1957. Cathy’s attention is distracted when a strange man is lurking in her backyard. She goes to see Raymond Deagan (Dennis Haysbert), the son of their old gardener who recently passed away. He is their new gardener and they introduce each other.

Frank pulls himself away from his family by diving head first into a big project that he has to do for work, going to the movies or hanging out in back alley bars. Cathy is jealous that her girlfriends could be intimate with their husbands and hers barely shows her any affection.

During another late night working for Frank, Cathy decides to take his dinner over to his office. When she arrives, she is in for the shock of her life when she sees Frank kissing another man. She is devastated as her seemingly perfect life is crumbling down around her.

Can I say that I love this movie? I love this movie. I’m not familiar with the bedroom melodramas of Sirk’s, but this movie makes me want to visit those movies that inspired this one. Todd Hayes created a fantastic movie with the classic title sequence and end credit, the luscious cinematography, the marvelous score by Elmer Bernstein, Sandy Powell’s costumes, the vibrant colors and the type of film Hayes used. It feels authentic, like it was a lost movie from that time. The subjects addressed in this film would be too taboo for audiences to see.

I want to highlight Haynes words. His original script was very nuanced. No word felt out of place. Being delivered by these wonderful actors is something to marvel. Moore was radiant. She portrayed Cathy as a typical housewife, but she has progressive feelings for the Negroes or women’s rights. With Cathy’s world was crumbling around her, she put on a brave face covering her inner pain. Moore was subdued in her portrayal of Cathy that I was rooting for her to win the Oscar, but she was denied.

A special mention has to go Dennis Quaid who I thought was robbed for a nomination for Best Supporting Actor and I continue to talk about the egregious error to this day. He was so good playing a tortured husband torn between the way society wants him and how he is feeling on the inside.

Judgment: Bravo, Todd Haynes for creating this very skilful work for us to revel in.

Rating: *****

Knight and Day (2010)

Someday. That’s a dangerous word. It’s really just a code for “never”.

— Roy Miller

After the miasma that was Vanilla Sky, Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz reteam for their latest effort Knight and Day. First of all, I hated that the studio changed the title from “Wichita” on the original script to this. It’s so plain. Looking at the promos for this movie, I was unimpressed with it, but people seem to be digging this movie. What the hell! Give it a try. Take a gamble. You know what I rolled snake eyes.

This action flick starts with Roy Miller (Cruise); a FBI agent is going to Boston for a little R&R when his flight is delayed. He continues bumping into a random woman, June (Diaz) who is going on the same flight. When they are about to board the flight, she is told by the ticket taker that the flight was full. Roy goes on the flight.

Meanwhile, another agent, Fitzgerald (Peter Sarsgaard) is watching Miller’s actions with June with Director George (Viola Davis) try to keep tabs on Miller from their headquarters. They have reason to believe that Miller has gone rogue, because he has been displaying erratic behavior of late.

At the last moment, June is let on the plane, which is strangely not full. This realization goes over June’s head who thinks it was the carelessness of the airline. Roy, on the other hand, knows better. The flight is plagued with massive turbulence that leas June to spill his drink on herself. When she excuses herself to go to the bathroom, Roy takes on the other passengers who turn out of the assassins.

June coming back to see the plane full of dead people, she panics. Roy flies the plane into a cornfield where Roy drugs her. Before she loses consciousness, Roy quickly explains to her that if anybody from the FBI come looking for her, she doesn’t know Roy.

The next day, June wakes up in her house in Boston where she thinks that everything was a dream, but Roy leaves post-it notes for her around her house. As expected, Fitzgerald comes to talk to June about her relationship with Miller. He tells her about the fact that Roy is losing his marbles and should stay away from him.

For her safety, she is transported to a safe house where the convoy is under attack by a mystery shooter. Turns out to be Roy. June runs for her life thinking that he would come after her. She seeks shelter in a firehouse where her ex-boyfriend, Rodney (Marc Blucas) is at. Over lunch, she tries to explain to him about the past 24 hours. He doesn’t believe her until Roy comes in to take her away. They go on a ridiculous adventure that tests loyalties.

This movie started out like a bumbling romantic comedy then you have to throw some guns and preposterous action sequences to keep the audience intrigued. Actually, I got kinda bored with it. How many times does June need to be drugged in this movie? I’m surprised she didn’t have permanent brain damage.

The MacGuffin of this film was so asinine that I fathom why anyone would give two shits about it in the first place. I understand that the toy knight had to be symbolic of something in his past. When that was revealed, I went with a resounding, “Duh!”

The movie was supposed to keep you guessing about whom to trust Miller or the FBI, but I didn’t buy it for a second. It was going to end up the same way. It is just another throwaway movie that could have been great if it wasn’t handled so poorly.

Judgment: I wish that someone would chloroform me to forget this movie.

Rating: **

State of Play (2009)

state_of_play

That’s what you call damn fine reporting.

— Cal McAffrey

Yesterday, I saw State of Play that is based on the BBC miniseries of the same name. This movie is written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tony Gilroy and Billy Ray. Directed by Kevin Macdonald.

I heard about this movie a year ago when the writer’s strike was happening. I heard news that Brad Pitt was set to play Cal McAffrey, and Edward Norton was suppose to play Representative Stephen Collins, but they had to drop out of the film. Pitt’s reason was because of the script needing a rewrite and Norton has scheduling conflicts.

The movie opens a possible random act when a drug dealer and bicyclist are gunned down in a dark alleyway by a man with a silencer (Michael Berresse).

The next day, a young Congressional aide, Sonia Baker (Maria Thayer) is found dead after a subway accident. The news travels to Rep. Collins (Ben Affleck) that leads to a media firestorm after their dirty laundry is exposed to the public. The news does not sit well with his wife, Anne (Robin Wright Penn).

A Washington Globe journalist, Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) is an old college friend of Collins. He personally investigates to see if the two murders are interconnected.

The editor-in-chief Cameron Lynne (Helen Mirren) is struggling to keep the newspaper afloat in an ever-changing electronic media age. She assigns a rookie that works for the newspaper’s blog, Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) to Cal. Cal is not happy about it. He thinks that bloggers regurgitates another person’s work that adds their “opinion” to it.

There are twists and turns that kept me engaged with the story to the very end. The movie is showing that newspapers are dying a slow, painful death. Nothing is being done to stop it. In an age of Internet blogging, newspapers are struggling to stay current to the times.

Newspapers rule and blogs drool. That should have been the tag line to the movie.

Judgment: If you are looking for a tight political thriller, then check this movie out.

Rating: ***1/2

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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