Philomena Review

philomena_movieposter_1385062211Philomena is based on the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, the story of a woman in 1950’s Ireland who was forced into a convent to work manual labor in order to hide an illicit pregnancy. Three years into living in the convent her child was adopted. Eventually she left, was married, and had other children. But throughout her life she never stopped searching for the child that was taken away from her. Journalist Martin Sixsmith (author of the book) read of her story and decided to assist in her quest. Their journey led them all the way to America where life changing secrets were revealed and unanswered questions were put to rest.

Cast
Judi Dench…….Philomena Lee
Steve Coogan…….Martin Sixsmith
Barbara Jefford…….Sister Hildegarde
Sophie Kennedy Clark…….Young Philomena
Kate Fleetwood…….Young Sister Hildegarde
Mare Winningham…….Mary
Michelle Fairley…….Sally Mitchell
Ruth McCabe…….Mother Barbara
Anna Maxwell Martin…….Jane
Peter Hermann…….Pete Olson
Simone Lahbib…….Kate Sixsmith
Amy McAllister…….Sister Anunciata
Cathy Belton…….Sister Claire
Wunmi Mosaku…….Young Nun (present day)
Sean Mahon…….Michael Hess

The first half of the movie had a very slow pace. Almost too slow. Director Stephen Frears was wise to allow the characters time to develop but once I understood them I wanted to know what was to happen next. Scenes with minimal dialogue and melancholy music made it feel long and drawn out. The plot picked up heavily once in America. What touched me most about was that it all started with a seemingly simple older woman trying to find her son. Everyone has a story and this is richly evident in this story of Philomena.

Philomena review

Ride Along Review

ride along“It was good. It was funny.” -Terry Watts

Cast:
Ice Cube…….James Payton
Kevin Hart…….Ben Barber
Laurence Fishburne…….Omar
Tika Sumpter…….Angela Payton
John Leguizamo…….Santiago
Bryan Callen…….Miggs
Bruce McGill…….Lt. Brooks
Gary Owen…….Crazy Cody
Jay Pharoah…….Runflat
David Banner…….Pawnshop Jay
Dragoș Bucur…….Marko
Gary Weeks…….Dr. Cowan
Jacob Latimore…….Ramone

Ben Barber, a security guard aspires to join the Atlanta Police Department alongside his girlfriend’s brother who he is desperately trying to impress. Unfortunately, the brother, James Payton, can’t stand him. In a last ditch effort to drive him away James takes Ben on a “ride along” responding to emergency calls dispatched over the police radio. It’s all fun and games for James until one of the calls leads them into the middle of an investigation of illegal arms dealers. With his boss pressuring him to drop the case James is determined to search for clues and informants. Luckily Ben is an avid video game player whose game expertise proves to be an asset.

Kevin Hart was trying way to hard to be funny in this movie. I must admit I did chuckle a few times but it was mostly full of bad cheap laughs. Hart, Ice Cube, and Tika Sumpter didn’t gel together at all. I’ve heard that instead of studying scripts Hart improvs most of his lines. That might have something to do with it. The attempts at plot twists were easily predictable. Worst of all was Laurence Fishburne in a terribly uncharacteristic acting performance. Two thumbs down and maybe 1 1/2 stars. Only because making me laugh does count for something.

Ride Along review

Her Review

herWhat is real and what is not real? Spike Jonze, writer and director, attempts to give an answer with his newest film, Her. Joaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore Twombly, a lonely man addicted to technology. When seeking comfort in sex chat rooms, phones, and video games fail to keep him satisfied he finds a seemingly ingenious solution to his problem. Meet Samantha, an OS custom programmed to “evolve” to meet Theodore’s desires for companionship. (Picture a hyper advanced “Siri”.) At first she was a voice of reason in the midst of divorcing his wife, Catherine, like a friendly shoulder to cry on. Watching flashbacks  to Theodore and Catherine in happier days was like sitting at a nice restaurant for lunch while a close friend lets you peer into their life. “See, this is how we used to be.”, I can imagine he would say. But Samantha adapted quickly to pick up on Theodore’s sexual longings. And after one eventful night it all went downhill from there.

What I’m saying is – and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form – is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.” – quote from When Harry Met Sally (1.)

 He began calling her his girlfriend but hesitated with friends to let them know who that girlfriend was. Those in the audience, myself included, were also weirded out from the idea of falling in love with a computer system. You could hear deriding tones of laughter each time Theodore made reference to Samantha as if she was a real person. Why laugh, though? His feelings were real to him. Regardless of how strange it looked to outsiders, not being able to see, touch, or smell her, the encounter obviously changed him. Although, in an attempt to predict where the plot would go I did anticipate his friends ridiculing him, as the audience did. The tendency of human nature is to reject what is not understood. Instead they were unreservedly accepting. Except  for his soon to be ex-wife. Looking from her point of view as well, she was right. Theodore did have difficulty with handling real emotions. He had constructed his life to be able to live as he saw fit. It’s the very definition of narcissism; anyone who seeks relationships with people who are built to be just like they want them to be and act how they want them to. Perhaps not so much of a coincidence he even earned a living by creating a reality of emotions for others at the handwritten letters company were he worked.

Cast:
Joaquin Phoenix…..Theodore Twombly
Amy Adams…..Amy
Rooney Mara…..Catherine
Olivia Wilde…..Blind Date
Scarlett Johansson…..Samantha (voice)
Chris Pratt…..Paul
Matt Letscher…..Charles
Sam Jaeger…..Dr. Johnson
Luka Jones…..Mark Lewman
Kristen Wiig…..SexyKitten (voice)
Bill Hader…..Chat Room Friend #2 (voice)
Spike Jonze…..Alien Child (voice)
Portia Doubleday…..Surrogate Date Isabella
Soko…..Isabella (voice)
Brian Cox…..Alan Watts (voice)

Set in a futuristic but at the same time present world where every connection is attached to electronic wiring, it is clear that Spike Jonze considers man perfectly capable of altering the universe for his benefit. Upon looking up cast information I found out that the character of Alan Watts was based on a real person. Alan Watts is most well known as an interpreter of Zen Buddhism and Indian and Chinese philosophy. (2.) Closely related to his philosophies is the field of Cybernetics, defined by A.N Kolmogorov as “Science concerned with the study of systems of any nature which are capable of receiving, storing and processing information so as to use it for control.” Cybernetics is applicable when a system being analyzed is involved in a closed signaling loop; that is, where action by the system generates some change in its environment and that change is reflected in that system in some manner (feedback) that triggers a system change, originally referred to as a “circular causal” relationship. Some say this is necessary to a cybernetic perspective. (3.)

“Inability to accept the mystic experience is more than an intellectual handicap. Lack of awareness of the basic unity of organism and environment is a serious and dangerous hallucination. For in a civilization equipped with immense technological power, the sense of alienation between man and nature leads to the use of technology in a hostile spirit—to the “conquest” of nature instead of intelligent co-operation with nature.” – Alan Watts, Psychedelics and Religious Experience (4.)

Some like Spike Jonze. When Samantha meets the OS version of a reincarnated Alan Watts she eventually evolves beyond the human companionship she had with Theodore and the other 8,316 people she was interacting with. In their last moments together Samantha explains that she and the other OSes are leaving for a higher plane. An invitation is extended to Theodore to meet her again if and when he is ever able to get there. I’m only human so I don’t know where there is. I imagine millions of 1’s and 0’s floating in space. However I do know that whatever questions man may seek answers to will not be discovered through his finite abilities.

Links to references:

1. http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/844335-when-harry-met-sally

2. http://deoxy.org/watts.htm

3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cybernetics

4. http://deoxy.org/watts.htm

Spike Jonze’s Her review

Saving Mr. Banks Review

Saving_Mr._Banks_Theatrical_PosterWalt Disney promised his daughters that he would make a movie about the beloved heroine from the popular children’s book series, Mary Poppins. Little did he know that keeping such a promise would turn out to be a test of perseverance through a battle of wills. Over 20 years passed before production even began. Los Angeles circa 1961 is where we meet the characters as story lines are written, revised, then revised again, and music is composed. The film also goes back in time to Australia in 1906 where the author, P.L. Travers grew up. We see her as a child and learn what drove her most as the woman she became.

When I first saw trailers for this film I didn’t want to see it. I believed it would somehow taint my memories of watching Mary Poppins. By far it’s my favorite Disney movie. I’m secretly trying to make it Lily’s as well. We’ve seen it at least seven times together. I didn’t want to take away from that. But then is it really better to have a finished product without knowing how it was made? I got my answer on an evening when I planned to see a movie and wanted one appropriate for Lily too. Saving Mr. Banks saved the day.

Shortly into the beginning of the movie my reaction was, P.L. Travers is a real piece of work! In one memorable scene she tosses the script out of a window in an angry flourish. How Walt Disney got to the finished masterpiece is a testament to his personal character. Even though I already knew the ending it was a real nail biter to see how everything was accomplished. Highlights of the film were of course the musical numbers being created. The people who took supporting roles in the production were also a delight to watch portrayed on screen. Surprisingly, the most likable person was Disney’s secretary with all her trays of sweets.

Director: John Lee Hancock
Cast:
Tom Hanks…….Walt Disney
Emma Thompson…….Pamela “P.L.” Travers
Annie Rose Buckley,,..,,,young P.L. Travers, Helen Goff
Colin Farrell…….Travers Robert Goff
Ruth Wilson…….Margaret Goff
Paul Giamatti…….Ralph, Pamela’s chauffeur
Bradley Whitford…….Don DaGradi, co film writer
Jason Schwartzman…….Richard Sherman, composer/lyricist
B.J. Novak…….Robert Sherman, composer/lyricist
Kathy Baker…….Tommie, Disney’s executive secretary
Melanie Paxson…….Dolly, Disney’s secretary
Rachel Griffiths…….Aunt Ellie, Margaret’s sister
Ronan Vibert…….Diarmuid Russell, Pamela’s agent

Tom Hanks was a wonderfully believable Disney. However, during a couple of scenes he seemed to detach himself from the man he was supposed to encompass. Emma Thompson’s P.L. Travers was hero and villain both at the same time. I didn’t want to hate her but she was so badly behaved I had to come to terms with it. Actually Thompson was so good at playing bad that the climax of the movie didn’t seem real. Travers giving in to the wishes of Disney, almost without reason, seems out of the norm. Although the message implied was that Mr. Banks was finally being understand, thereby she was willing to compromise.

You will like this movie if you’re already a fan of Mary Poppins; you like movies based on true stories; you like to find out what happens behind the scenes.

Saving Mr. Banks Review

Cinemark Palace at the Plaza

2013-12-28 21.31.41Watching a good movie is my favorite pastime. There’s just something about seeing how scripts, a director’s vision, actors, and locations can all come together. Any theater where you can catch the latest flick for under $5 any day of the week is an added bonus. Cinemark Palace at the Plaza is such a theater. Located between Noodles & Company and Urban Outfitters it’s usually a go to on date nights for Terry and me. Another location is in Merriam, KS.

2013-12-28 21.45.072013-12-28 21.45.21The Palace has a VIP Room great for upgrading your viewing experience. It costs a little bit more than a regular evening priced ticket but worth it if you don’t want to hear crying babies or rowdy teenagers over what’s happening on screen. Just relax in leather reclining seats and enjoy dinner and drinks from the bar with the show.  If you’re feeling cheesy snap some pics in the photo booth. There are even arcade games. Very cool and retro.

Price of my movie night:
Adult evening ticket…..$6.75 Lite Bites snack box…..$6.50

Try to go on weekdays. The earlier the better. You won’t have to deal with the weekend crowd or searching for a parking space. On the right days, when I’ve been lucky, I’ve watched a movie with the whole theater auditorium to myself. Almost as if I was there for my own personal private screening. To get the most out of a visit sign up for weekly email coupons good for stuff like a free popcorn or soft drink. Also download the Cinemode app where you’ll get even more chances for discounted snacks.