We open on a bridge in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It's New Year's Eve and a costumed woman is marching to the center of the bridge with a purposeful stride. Her purpose? To JUMP. Then we see a battered young man who tries to stop her.

This is only one of the several stories that intertwine in this wonderful, exciting and funny film submitted to the 2013 Seattle International Film Festival from Ireland and the U.K.

Kieron J. Walsh directed this award-winning film: in it we see a crime boss tell his thugs to punish someone; we see a young woman hide in the ladies room from an angry rival; we see a murder, a theft, a missing corpse, and a ghost.

Through judicious use of flashbacks, we gain insight to all of our players, who they are, why they are where they are, and what they hope to gain by being there. By the time that car radio blasts ear-splitting music at a couple of fugitives, we laugh out loud.

See? I'm not going to tell you anything that may be construed as a spoiler, therefore I really can't say much about this film. It's billed as a giddy mix of crime caper, romance and morality tale. It's rated R because of profanity, but you can expect only a few gunshots, a beating or two and no blowie uppie stuff. I liked it a LOT.
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Catch the flavor from the preview:
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Crystal Fairy

We find ourselves with a pair of singularly unlikeable people around whom this plot revolves. We watch a pair of Ugly Americans travel on Chile's Atacama Desert, in quest of a cactus that promises the ultimate hallucinogenic "high." Many of us in the 2013 Seattle International Film Festival audience are international travelers, so we were embarrassed by the behavior we saw on screen.

Director Sebastián Silva brings us two Americans and three very sympathetic (and HANDSOME) Chileans (played by his younger brothers) in this peculiar road trip. We had a mixture of English and Spanish (English captions) to move the plot along.

Here is the small cast:
  • Michael Cera ("Juno" and "Arrested Development") plays a boorish, rude, self-centered hedonist from California. But, you may ask, did I LIKE him? Three guesses and the first two don't count... Cera usually plays shy, awkward young men that we automatically like. Not this time!
  • Gaby Hoffmann ("Homeland" and "The Good Wife") is an airy fairy radical spirit who seems to find a lot of excuses to take off all her clothes. With her Frida Kahlo eyebrows and her existential blabber, she has her traveling companions in a state of chronic confusion.
  • Agustin Silva ("The Maid") is one of the three brothers (playing three brothers) who are too polite to refuse this pushy gal from joining them on their outing.
  • José Miguel Silva is another of those aforementioned brothers.
  • Juan Andrés Silva makes the third.
As you might expect, the two Americans lock horns at every turn and have absolutely nothing in common. She is into community building, yoga, sharing and the Emily Post rules of drug use; he is just into drugs, drugs and drugs. Maybe you can tell I didn't like either one of them, even though they seemed to like them at Sundance! Sigh...
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This trailer is in Spanish with English captions!
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Celestial Lives of the Meadow Mari

Faith-based behavior always mystifies me. I grew up around Protestants and Catholics, so I am familiar with those rituals and rites, but this screenplay by Denis Osokin takes us to the remote Mari in the north of Russia in the autonomous Republic of the Marij El, where we find the Volga-Finnic people and become privy to their nature-worshiping beliefs, rituals, customs, ceremonies and rites (along with a smattering of Russian Orthodoxy).

"Nebesnye Ženy Lugovykh Mari" (English captions) is a collection of short stories about 23 Marij women whose names start with "O." Their culture is suspended somewhere between magic and realism; we watch them participate in mating rituals, fertility rites, hexes for revenge, spells to restore virility, and a fairly traditional burial. This is only the tip of the iceberg, there are 18 more stories to go! Director Aleksey Fedorchenko moves us along in a non-judgmental way, immersing us in the lives and beliefs of these women with no questions asked.

That some of these rites are "foreign" to the 2013 Seattle International Film Festival screening crowd is an understatement. For example, we see a police officer draw a beaded anti-zombie device, rattle it at a zombie's chest and it works! We see a young woman engage in heavy petting under a birch tree, then fall into a wasting sickness that isn't cured until she goes to the tree and begs forgiveness.

Be prepared for a lot of nudity, forthright talk and a bit of humor. There is not a trace of blowie uppie stuff or gunfire. In fact, I don't think there is even electricity in this fairly primitive culture.
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Interesting preview:
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Our Nixon

This one is a head scratcher. I'm not sure how many people want to see a rehash of a political scandal that is 40 years old. The only ones who might be interested will probably be happy to hear all the old stories again, so this movie will be preaching to the choir.

Comprised primarily of old Super 8 home movies shot by Richard Nixon's top aides, we have endless candid shots of smiling people sitting in offices, walking down halls, picnicking, standing on the Great Wall of China, or boarding Air Force One (Super 8 doesn't have sound). The carefully chosen selections from the White House Tapes are audio only, so we listen to them while we are entertained with shots of squirrels and birds. The anti-gay tirade, while repugnant to our "oughts" sensibilities, simply reflects the prevailing attitudes of 40 years ago.

We mainly focus on three aides, H.R. Haldeman, John D. Erlickman and Dwight Chapin, with interviews of them in "the day," and again about 20 years later. (You should see how young Barbara Walters looks!) This is all Water(gate) over the dam now, with no new insights to offer.

This is strictly a low-budget project directed by Penny Lane ("We Are the Littletons: A True Story"). There is no rating.
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Here is a preview:
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Frances Ha

Okay, first of all, let me concede that Greta Gerwig is a talented young lady. She writes and acts, she works all the time and she should play Chloë Sevigny's sister in the near future. They definitely look related!

Now let me tell you about this 2013 Seattle International Film Festival entry from the USA. One of my most fundamental requirements for a movie is that I want someone to root for. No such luck in this one! Here we have a young woman who seems fixated on another young woman but they fight all the time when they are roommates. She pretends to be a dancer but can't dance, pleads poverty even though her parents seem to be supporting her, and generally upsets everyone who meets her.

We have:
  • Greta Gerwig ("Lola Versus") is Frances, needy, clinging, mendacious, selfish and manipulative. She is tone deaf to the folks around her; oblivious to how they react to her boring conversations; spends (her parents') money like it is water; and doesn't understand why life isn't treating her well.
  • Mickey Sumner ("Girl Most Likely") is Sophie, her erstwhile best friend who really doesn't like her anymore.
  • Adam Driver ("Lincoln") is Lev, who suggests the best way to leave his apartment, but she moves in anyway, with him and his roommate (she rarely pays rent).
  • Michael Zengen (Lots of TV) is Benji, the roommate who accommodates our unpleasant heroine when she is without a place to stay.
Our screening audience just shook our collective head when we exited the theater. Even though this R-rated black and white flick was a great favorite at Sundance, it won't win any prizes for Director Noah Baumbach in MY book!
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See what you think:
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The Deep

The first film of the first day of six weeks of press screenings (three per day, four days per week) was this amazing film submitted by Iceland/ Norway. It has won numerous awards for acting, set design, production design, sound design, music and visual effects. This is a worthy entry for the 2013 Seattle International Film Festival.

"Djúpið" (English captions) is based on a real life incident in 1984 when a fishing boat capsized off the coast of Iceland. All hands are thrown into the icy waters (temperature is 21° and the water is 41°). As you may know, a person can usually survive a scant 30 or 40 minutes in northern waters, but we watch an astonishing story as one man tries in vain to hail two passing boats, watches the Northern Lights, chats with a friendly sea gull, and makes promises to God if he can just live one more day. He does this for over six hours.

I toyed with the idea of listing the actors' and actresses' names, but their alphabet is somewhat different from ours and most of us can't pronounce them anyway, so suffice it to say, we saw terrific work that was utterly convincing.

The byplay of the crew feels authentic, e.g., one cautions another not to tell him how "Jaws" ends because he hasn't finished watching it yet. We watch (via newsreels) the volcanic eruption that Iceland experienced, as well as the aftermath, with citizens shoveling ash from their town.

When a film is based on real life, I always appreciate having the "real" person shown at the end of the film and this one includes excerpts from his interview! Hurrah!
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Here is a link to a preview:
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Arthur Newman

Be careful what you wish for! Sometimes the dream is far better than the reality, but it is the dream that drives our eponymous hero to plan and execute some drastic action. This R-rated dramedy is more drama than comedy; furthermore, if you have any trouble hearing dialogue, you might want to consider closed captions, either in a theater, or wait for the DVD. You don't want to miss the finer points in this plot.

We watch:
  • Colin Firth ("A Single Man" and "The King's Speech") speaking American (!), is Arthur Newman, a frustrated wanna-be golf pro who, after a down-hill slide, has decided to reinvent himself. "New man," get it? He cleverly fakes his own death and hits the road.
  • Emily Blunt ("Your Sister's Sister") also speaking American, is Mike, a young woman with nothing to lose. She encounters our hero on the road and they proceed to go adventuring...
  • Anne Heche ("Cedar Rapids") is Mena, the girl he left behind. She knows he's boring, but she loves him anyway.
  • Lucas Hedges ("Moonrise Kingdom") is Grant, our hero's son. It turns out that he is the most compelling reason for Arthur Newman to re-think his decision.
As our couple journeys on, they break into people's houses and take on the personalities (and clothes!) of the occupants. They are far more comfortable being someone else than being themselves. The tagline is: "If you don't have a life, get someone else's." They find this great...until it isn't.

This is no light-hearted romp, but we are in the hands of pros. Both Firth and Blunt are wonderful actors, so there is no quibble about the quality of their work. I would like... Maybe... Oh, I don't know WHAT I would like...
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Here is a preview:
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The Big Wedding

A big wedding is coming up and the groom, your adopted son never told his (Catholic) birth mother that you divorced years ago. What are you gonna do? Trust me, it's R-rated! Adapted from John Stéphane-Bron's original screenplay "Mon frère se marie" we watch a comedy of errors as these good folks try to sort things out.

If you look at the cast, you know this is for "People of a certain age..."
  • Robert De Niro ("Silver Linings Playbook") is Don, the groom's father, who has to let his mistress of eight years move to a hotel while he pretends to still be married to the mother of his children.
  • Dianne Keaton ("Darling Companion") is Ellie, who, eight years ago, lost her husband of twenty years to her best friend. Even though the divorce was amicable, things ARE a bit awkward.
  • Susan Sarandon ("Snitch") plays Bebe, the "other" woman, AND Ellie's former best friend.
  • Katherine Heigl (''Life as We Know It") is their eldest daughter Lyla, who is in the throes of a divorce but hasn't admitted it to her parents yet.
  • Topher Grace ("The Double") is Jared, always loyal to his brother and sister but also working on his own growth as a man.
  • Amanda Seyfried ("Les Miserables") plays Missy, the bride, with her own drama as her parents unveil some of THEIR secrets.
  • Ben Barnes ("Chronicles of Narnia") impressed me as Alejandro, their son who was adopted from Columbia. He's the groom and his birth mother is the one they are deceiving. This British-born actor not only spoke American, but he seemed to speak Spanish pretty well, too.
This is light, silly, contrived and a bit vulgar, sort of like a telenovela. Everyone is a good sport and there are no real bad guys, so if you are looking for a bargain matinee somewhere....
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Here is a preview:
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Pain and Gain

Based on forty-four Miami New Times newspaper articles by Pete Collins in 1999, this black dramedy is far, far stranger than fiction. As a matter of fact, the real-life participants are less than thrilled with big-budget producer/director Michael Bay's goofy low-budget take on these events.

We see three dim-bulb bodybuilders in Florida who are caught up in an extortion and kidnapping plot because the ringleader is inspired by a motivational speaker (played by Ken Jeong). This knucklehead doesn't want to be "as good as," he wants to be "better than."

Here is the cast:
  • Mark Wahlberg ("Broken City") sincerely believes in "The American Way." As things go terribly wrong, he blunders around trying to fix them and only makes matters worse, and worse, and worse.
  • Dwayne Johnson ("Snitch") found The Lord in prison and would have stayed on the straight and narrow if only it hadn't been for that doggone cocaine. He sings Amazing Grace.
  • Anthony Mackie ("Gangster Squad") has the best shot at a normal life, but he has spent so much on that gorgeous house.....
  • Ed Harris ("Man on a Ledge") is a retired detective pulled into the case because the police think it sounds too outrageous. Harris does great comedy because he is soooo deadpan!
  • Tony Shalhoub ("Monk") is a seriously difficult victim. Even when he is kidnapped and tortured, we end up laughing in spite of ourselves; shades of the Coen brothers.
This film is rated R, based on the violence, blood, profanity and discussion of body parts. You'll even see some blowie uppie stuff and gunfire, but brace yourself, because you WILL laugh. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I did.
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Take a look at the trailer:
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Children of Heaven

There is a lot to be said for a tempest in a teapot. To me, watching a movie about military battles doesn't have the same impact as watching a small family struggle for marginal existence in a third world city.

"Bacheha-Ye aseman" (English captions) is one such movie.

This award-winning 1997 film takes us to Tehran, Iran, where a nine-year- old boy is sent to a cobbler to have his little sister's shoes repaired, then buy some potatoes for his hard-working mother to cook for the evening meal. While he is selecting the potatoes, the shoes are picked up in error and he can't find them. This is a huge problem: Now he and his sister have to share one pair of sneakers without the parents finding out. Of course this makes a major challenge because she wears them to her school first, then has to rush to meet him so HE can put them on and go to his school (and try not to be late!).

Watch as they spot the shoes on a little girl who has no idea they are watching her. See their sense of justice and fair play as it is tested. It's fun to watch them find joy in simple things, e.g., soap bubbles, a brand-new pencil, and a ball-point pen (a prize for scholarship).

This is an excellent way for our own over-privileged youngsters to see how precious a single, shabby pair of shoes can be and to admire the steadfast loyalty between these siblings.

I am, once again, grateful to a JayFlix colleague to light a fire under me to issue this long-overdue review. Many times we overlook deserving films simply because no one bothered to remind us.
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Here is a preview:
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The Way

After some gentle urging from some of my JayFlix colleagues, I finally picked up a DVD of this expertly targeted movie from the library and viewed it. I say expertly targeted because it clearly speaks to a huge number of people who appreciate the redemption of an estranged father who reluctantly follows a path chosen by his (deceased) son.

Adapting the book by Jack Hitt, "Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim's Route Into Spain," Emilio Estevez has crafted a screenplay that features his father Martin Sheen as the modern-day pilgrim who takes his son's ashes along "El camino de Santiago," in northern Spain. Also directed by Mr. Estevez, this satisfying little gem is sweet, funny and inspiring. It has been nominated for numerous awards.

We see:
  • Martin Sheen ("Anger Management" with his son Charlie Sheen) is a California ophthalmologist who decides on the spur of the moment to complete the trek his son had begun. Perhaps he will come to understand him a little better.
  • Emilio Estevez (lots of TV) in a few flashbacks plays the deceased son.
  • Deborah Kara Unger ("Crash") is a Canadian peregrina whose sole purpose for this pilgrimage to quit smoking.
  • Yorick van Wageninger ("The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" 2011) is a gregarious, pudgy fellow from the Netherlands. He wants to lose weight so he can fit into his old suit.
  • James Nesbitt ("Coriolanus") is an Irish author suffering from writer's block.
As time passes and the miles accumulate, a tentative foursome has formed. We see other peregrinos (pilgrims) and appreciate the warmth and hospitality extended by the Basques and Spaniards along the way. I couldn't help but wonder where and how they kept themselves clean, how they adjusted to the cramped hostels in which they slept and the unusual food they ate. I very much enjoyed their reaction at one point, when they were given the luxury of individual hotel rooms.

Treat yourself to a scenic stroll through an interesting countryside with occasional stops at way stations, hostels and cathedrals.
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Here is a trailer:
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"Based on a graphic novel" means another comic book-based story. I'm sure you expect subtle nuances and sophisticated philosophizing, but.... In this dystopian setting (of course) we visit the ruins of well-known American landmarks as our hero is sent to finish the eradication of a few survivors who cling to the remnants of Earth after an interplanetary war. The moon has been destroyed and we see the effects of the resulting earthquakes, while aliens "farm" Earth's remaining water. Computer Generated Imaging is used very effectively, although some of this was shot in Iceland, California, New York and Louisiana. The Empire State Building is a critical element.

It is impossible to talk about the plot without revealing important points, so rather than do an entire review that is a spoiler, I'll stay pretty general.

We see:
  • Tom Cruise ("Jack Reacher" and "Rock of Ages") is more appealing than usual; this time he plays the stalwart soldier on assignment to "mop up" any survivors.
  • Morgan Freeman ("Olympus Has Fallen" and "Dolphin Tale"") is one of those survivors trying to avoid being "mopped up."
  • Nikolaj Coster-Waldau ("Headhunters" and "Game of Thrones") is currently my favorite Danish actor. His character is another one of those survivors attempting to remain alive on Earth.
  • Andrea Riseborough ("Disconnect" and "W.E.") is our hero's partner, sharing that mop-up assignment.
  • Olga Kurylenko ("Quantum of Solace" and "Paris je t'aime") is the survivor of a crash, rescued by our hero.
  • Melissa Leo ("The Fighter" and "Flight") is the Commander's voice and face on the communications screen, issuing orders to our mop-up crew.
Pay close attention to the plot, as it is satisfactorily complex. I liked one "sink hole" that turned out to be the ruins of the New York City Library. Please note that this cast has been assembled in keeping with Tom Cruise's international stardom. His movies are successful throughout the world and his fans are kept in mind when his movies are cast. This is a good one for him.

This is rated PG-13, so expect lots and lots (and LOTS!) of gunfire, no sweaty bodies, a couple of swear words, and nudity only alluded to, but the crux of the story is a "mind-wipe" that erases memory, so I repeat, pay close attention.
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This trailer will give you the flavor:
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This Canadian entry to the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival (this review was first posted May 7th, 2012) is a "crowd-pleaser," which is snide film-critic speak for "No betrayals, no angst, no slaughters, no misery," nothing that warms the cockles of the hearts of the artistes; just a laugh-filled time spent with a witty guy who just happened to make 533 deposits in a sperm bank (for quick cash) 20 years ago. (Wait until you figure out the reason he wanted the money!) Through a clerical error, the clinic used only his deposits for a year. (At the clinic, he went by "Starbuck" for anonymity.) 

Now middle-aged and completely oblivious to the clinic's old error, our hero is an over-grown adolescent, living with a lovely young police- woman who just found out she's pregnant. He drives a delivery truck for his father's butcher shop and mostly ignores all of his parking tickets and any temptation to grow up. Her news is NOT welcome.

Out of the blue, 142 of his offspring file a class-action lawsuit to meet their biological father. They include: a manicurist, a soccer player, a bartender, an actor, a drug addict, a busker, etc., etc., etc. They are male and female, gay and straight. One is institutionalized because he has cerebral palsy. Of course the press has a field day trying to uncover the mysterious "Starbuck."

We have:
  • Patrick Huard ("Funkytown") is Starbuck, our lusty hero, who quietly starts tracking down some of his children and is surprised by what he finds.
  • Antoine Bertrand ("The Necessities of Life") is his best friend, who is (almost) a lawyer and volunteers to defend him in court to keep his identity a secret.
  • Julie LeBreton ("The Good Life") is that lovely pregnant police- woman, tired of being the only adult in the relationship.
We meet our hero's father and brothers, then we meet some of his other family, as curiosity gets the better of him and he anonymously gets acquainted with some of these young adults.

There are no betrayals, no gunshots, no car chases, no sweaty bodies and no blowie uppie stuff. What we have here folks, is wit, humanity, warmth, loyalty and love. In other words, Entertainment. (And English subtitles!)

The general release for this film was delayed because an American version is nearing completion. This film is already available on DVD. I know, because I own a copy!
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This trailer has English captions:
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"Plaaaay Ballllll!" Yes, the Boys of Summer are at it again and this time, I learned a LOT about where American baseball has been and the fundamental changes that have happened in my lifetime. Even though we already know how it ends, courtesy of a terrific PG-13 script by Brian Helgeland (Oscar for "L.A. Confidential") this insight into the Great American Pastime is an excellent reminder of how far we have come, thanks to courageous trail blazers like Jackie Robinson, who integrated professional baseball in 1945 at the instigation of Branch Rickey, a baseball executive who loved the game.

We cringe at the language used to attack our hero, we are saddened by the refusal of hotels and restaurants to serve a team that includes a black man, we are enraged by the racist heckling that takes place and we cheer when we see a man quietly rise above the rancor and "just play ball."

Here is a sample of the (huge) wonderful cast:
  • Chadwick Boseman ("The Express" and lots of TV) is heroic as the legendary Jackie Robinson, whose Brooklyn Dodgers uniform boasts a "42" on the back. Despite Jim Crow laws, blatant racism and a potential lynch mob, he staunchly maintains, "I'm just here to play baseball."
  • Nicole Beharie ("Shame") is Robinson's gentle wife, Rachel, who is the calm at the center of his storm. The Robinsons are from Pasadena, so neither of them had ever encountered segregation at this level, they had only read about it.
  • Harrison Ford ("Ender's Game" SOON!) is marvelous as Branch Rickey, the man who first brings a black man (Robinson) into Big League Baseball. He pulls no punches when he lays out what is in store for Robinson; he gives excellent advice. He explains that "God is a Methodist."
  • Christopher Meloni ("True Blood") as Dodger coach Leo (the Lip) Durocher, Jackie Robinson's first defender on the team. He blasts the rebellious Dodger teammates who threaten to boycott until Robinson is fired: "If Robinson can help us win, then he's gonna play on this ball club."
  • Alan Tudek ("Firefly" and LOTS of TV) as Ben Chapman, the racist Philadelphia coach whose vile heckling of Robinson finally turns the tide. The crowd can't help but sympathize with his victim.
  • Lucas Black ("Seven Days in Utopia") playing Southerner Pee Wee Reese, another legend who had to come to grips with his own prejudice. Eventually he tells Robinson, "Maybe tomorrow we'll all wear a 42 on our uniforms, that way nobody will be able to tell us apart." (This has become an annual event.)
  • Hamish Linklater ("Lola Versus") is Ralph Branca, the teammate who tries to invite Robinson to shower with the team. The more awkward he becomes, the funnier the scene becomes.
The screening audience was entertained, thrilled and inspired, our applause was richly deserved, and we all went home much smarter than when we came in. Be sure to stay for the final credits because there are some interesting (and satisfying) postscripts.

Please take children to see what our tawdry past looked like not too long ago. They will be shocked!
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Take a look at a preview:
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Doesn't it seem like everyone is wired these days? Doesn't anyone talk face-to-face anymore? This recent trend has permeated everything we do; if you don't believe me, take a look: LOL; BFF; OMG; W8; BTW; BYOB (kidding...); FYI; ETA; ASAP; RSVP (well, okay... not EVERYTHING is recent)....

With this in mind, brace yourself for an exciting film that addresses our digital world, with grief counseling chat rooms, cyber bullying, on-line sex, and identity theft, plus general e-mails, texting, GPS units and Facebook. It is NOT boring; there isn't a wasted scene, an unnecessary line or a plot hole left unfilled. Kudos to director Henry Alex Rubin ("Murderball" - a terrific documentary) and scriptwriter Andrew Stern ("Return to Me" - one of my favorites), for a movie about moral dilemmas and ethical quicksand that keep us engaged and involved every step of the way.

We see:
  • Jason Bateman ("Identity Thief") is a successful attorney named Rich, whose adolescent son is very troubled. Dad puts it down to normal teenage angst. Bateman just gets better and better; he is extremely effective in this one!
  • Hope Davis ("Real Steel") is Lydia, the mother of that same boy; she is more alarmed by their son's behavior than her husband. This actress never makes a misstep; how does she do it?
  • Jonah Bobo ("Crazy, Stupid, Love") is Ben, their awkward teenage son who is the target of cyber bullying. Our hearts go out to this kid as we share his misery.
  • Haley Ramm (Lots of TV) is Abby, the loyal but embarrassed sister of the dorky misfit. This young lady has developed into a terrific actress.
  • Alexander Skarsgård ("True Blood") gives us Derek, a successful fellow we can relate to; however, his toddler died, his wife is grief-stricken, his marriage is on ice, and his identity has just been stolen. The whole Skarsgård family is amazing; in this film, you can't tell he's from Sweden!
  • Paula Patton ("Ghost Protocol") is Cindy, Derek's grieving wife, who visits the chat room without his knowledge. With their bank accounts in limbo, it is a short, humiliating slide to living in a motel.
  • Michael Nyqvist ("As It Is In Heaven") is Stephen Shoemacher, whom Cindy meets in that grief therapy chat room.
  • Frank Grillo ("Warrior") is a former cop, now a cyber crime expert, hired to investigate identity theft. He's really good with computers (so's his son...). I'm keeping my eye on this actor!
  • Max Thieriot ("The Family Tree") plays Kyle, the (very) handsome, (very) charming, (very) young man who makes his living via on-line porn. This former child actor has developed into an appealing capable actor! (He reminds me of a young Ryan Phillippi...and that's good!)
This involving film runs four parallel stories with no confusion, building each to a crashing climax and we never question which story we're seeing. This is a solid-gold script and the direction brings up everyone's game. There are NO clichés and that climax has to be seen to be believed.

Expect no gunshots, no vehicular mayhem, no blowie uppie stuff, no sweaty bodies, no profanity, and no drug use (well, one little scene with some pot); on the other hand, you can expect people to root for, suspense, excitement and top-notch acting.

As you can see... (YOYO) (You're On Your Own)...smile...
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This is what I'm talking about:
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Gimme the Loot

Although the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival catalog calls this "a charming crowd pleaser," this crowd member wasn't charmed. It is listed as a Crime/Drama, but it was more a comedy of errors! (This review was first posted May 14, 2012 so a few of you have seen this before.)

A pair of two-bit chiselers fancy themselves graffiti artists (using stolen paint), but by morning other taggers spray paint over their artwork. BTW this is an Alpha-male method of "marking territory." If you doubt it, ask a gang member to paint OVER a tag left by the gang leader. It will never happen! This behavior is not limited to tomcats, dogs, wolves or coyotes, it's an instinctive human one, too. Does anyone remember "Kilroy Was Here" in WWII? (Ask your grandparents! ....smile...)

In this lame little endeavor, our three principals are:
  • Ty Hickson ("Killer") as an inept drug dealer, would-be lover, out- tagged tagger and general loser. I couldn't find anything about this guy to root for. He spends most of the film in his sock feet simply because a "friend" took his shoes.
  • Tashiana Washington ("Gun Hill Road") as our "hero's" sidekick; she is just marginally smarter than he. For example, in the first half hour of the film she is robbed at least two times...three total for the day. Rough day!
  • Zoë Lescaze ("Undoing") as his customer; it was interesting to note that despite her chronic drug use, she runs regularly. I guess her health IS important to her!
Much of this movie feels ad libbed, with constant profanity-laced bickering between our two principals and some herky jerky hand-held camera work. Expect lots of drug use, no gunshots or blowie uppie stuff and only a bit of foreplay. (I needed subtitles to understand a lot of the squabbling.)

This won the 2012 SXSW Competition Award: Grand Jury for Best Narrative Feature, so the good folks in Austin saw something that went right over my head!
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Here is a preview:
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The Sapphires

Remember 1968? LBJ is President, Vietnam is still a war zone, North Korea captures the USS Pueblo, and in Australia, it is still legal to remove light-skinned Aboriginal children from their homes, and place them in institutions to teach them the white man's ways. (A practice which was outlawed in 1969/70, this controversial issue is also addressed in both "Australia" and "Rabbit-Proof Fence.")

We are in a remote outpost in Australia. Three girls perform for an itinerant talent scout, played by Chris O'Dowd ("Bridesmaids"). They sing a Merle Haggard song and he joins in on his electronic keyboard, adding some Floyd Kramer piano stylings. He offers them the chance to audition for a USO tour to Southeast Asia to entertain the troops. As soon as they arrive in the city, they look up a former playmate who had been captured and raised by whites.

After an initial culture gap during which the four of them must become re-acquainted AND learn Soul (their new manager knows their audience won't expect Country/Western from a girl group that looks like The Supremes), they are booked and head off for Vietnam.

Based on a popular play by Tony Briggs, whose mother was one of the original "Sapphires," this satisfying sample of the sixties is great on many levels: O'Dowd is very good; each girl has her own distinct personality, issues, and career arc; while the clothes, news, and problems of the times are faithfully portrayed. I loved the big hair, the go-go boots and the Tupperware.

We get to see what a dangerous challenge a USO tour might become. It's fun to watch as our gals develop stage presence, refine their music and become at ease in the spotlight. In a very welcome postscript, we learn what each young woman achieved after mastering these important skills.

This film festival favorite is playing in art houses so you may not see it in your local multiplex; in that case, watch for the DVD. JayFlix.net participants will be notified when it is available. (NOTE: Closed Captions will be welcome!)
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Here is a sample:
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Jurassic Park in 3D

Yes, it's Steven Spielberg's 1993 classic, based on Michael Crichton's exciting novel, tweaked into 3D and redistributed to scare the piddle out of a whole new generation! As for creating tension and thrills, Spielberg never misses a trick; I had to smile at all his gimmicks...even as I reacted to them. Remember, clichés became clichés because they WORKED!

A scientist finds prehistoric DNA in mosquitoes trapped in amber; from this he has cloned dinosaurs and wants to open a theme park in a highly controlled environment so children can have first-hand lessons about the Jurassic Age. He invites a small cadre of scientists and investors to tour his Caribbean Island facility, but as they tour...Oops! they have a power outage. Excitement ensues...

I'll use fairly current credits, but think back, you'll remember:
  • Sam Neill ("The Vow") is Dr. Alan Grant, a paleontologist who is pro-science and anti-children. He is very interested in this pro- posed theme park, he is NOT interested in marriage or children. Born in Ireland and raised in New Zealand, Neill works all the time.
  • Laura Dern ("The Master") is Dr. Ellie Sattler, a botanist who works with Dr. Grant. This scientist is interested in both children AND marriage. Daughter of Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, she is another professional who has acted all her life. She looks so young here!
  • Jeff Goldblum ("The Switch" and "Portlandia") is Dr. Ian Malcom, who questions the wisdom of trying to override nature's method of extinction. I had forgotten what a hunk he was (and still is).
  • Richard Attenborough ("Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat") is John Hammond, a scientist who dreams of using dinosaur DNA to create clones for a theme park. This multi-talented actor/producer/director is one of Britain's most honored professionals.
  • Samuel L. Jackson ("The Avengers") is Ray, one of the tech- nicians at the theme park. Along with other achievements in his varied career, Jackson has gone on to become a mainstay of Marvel's Superhero series.
  • Ariana Richards ("Jurassic Park" trilogy and lots of TV) is the terrified big sister, Lex. After decades of television work, Miss R. has a new movie, "Battledogs," scheduled out this year.
  • Joseph Mazzello ("The Social Network") is all grown up now, his adventurous little 1993 Tim, a distant memory. Mr. M. has managed to work a college degree into his busy schedule.
  • Wayne Knight (Lots of TV) is the scalawag who tries to steal prehistoric embryos from the labratory. It is his rear-view mirror that cautions "Objects may be closer than they appear" when he spots a T-Rex in pursuit of his jeep.
Some of us today think "Thesaurus" is a dinosaur, so maybe we need to brush up. Remember those velociraptors hunting the children in that kitchen? For some reason, that indelible scene has stayed with me all these years. Spielberg made a memorable movie in 1993 and now, 20 years later, it's fun to visit it again. One big difference: Today's children have their bladders set for a commercial break every 10 minutes or so (Ah, television); there was an annoying stream of school children sneaking in and out during the film.

It's PG-13, so expect humor, suspense, violence (dinosaurs eating each other), bits of corpses (human and otherwise, with very little blood), and everything else Spielberg can throw at you. Just remember, this was terrific in 1993 when it was in 2D, so there is really no need for the extra 3D expen$e. But it's great either way!
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This trailer is for the 3D release:
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Is Felipe Martinez Amador the Columbian version of our home-grown Coen brothers? This black comedy contains numerous laugh-out-loud moments and hits all its marks! I can't wait for the Coens to make an American version of this 2007 Comedy/Thriller, although the English captions are right on the mark.

A young man catches his girlfriend having sex with his boss. The boss fires him to get him out of the way and marries the girl. A year later, our young hero photographs that former boss having a fling with a new girl- friend. Intent on blackmail, he is floored when, instead of being black- mailed, that former boss offers him a significant amount of money to kill his current wife (that former girlfriend)! Got that straight?

Watch these folks:
  • Federico Lorusso is Nicolás, our frantic hero. Nothing goes right for this poor bungling bozo and he shares his misery with us as he routinely drops the fourth wall and talks directly to us.
  • Victor Mallarino is Pablo Mallarino, that cagey boss. He isn't exactly mean, but he is self-serving.
  • Catalina Aristizábal is a disenchanted Margarita, our hero's former girlfriend and the boss's soon-to-be former wife.
  • Carolina Gomez is a frustrated Alexandra, the boss's latest girlfriend; she's leaving for Peru...or Madrid...or somewhere....
  • Verónica Orozco is Rosemary, our hero's landlady; she seems to have a little side business, too...
  • Luis Eduardo Arango is the puzzled Walter Montes, a married police captain who has been having a fling with that landlady.
  • Felipe Botero is the much put-upon Perez, a better-than-average cop but he's handicapped by his boss, who has something to hide.
There is something so engaging to watch an amateur try to commit a crime when his only preparation is that he has watched "CSI" on TV. Just remember, every single person involved has his or her own agenda! (And you'll LOVE the gun!)

I ordered this DVD from the Seattle library, but bought my own copy from Amazon.