The first movie Ron Howard ever directed was "Grand Theft Auto." Since then, he has built a storied, award-winning career; now he has come full circle to another auto-racing film. This biography is based on the true story of an Austrian Formula One champion and his British arch rival. I found it thrilling, involving and highly entertaining.

We see:
  • Daniel Brühl ("Ladies in Lavender") as three-time Formula One champ Niki Lauda, a buttoned-down technocrat, friendless and charmless, but a brilliant analyst who understands all the elements of racing: the track, the engine, the body, the weight, and above all, the competition.
  • Chris Hemsworth ("Thor") as handsome James Hunt, exuding the joie de vivre of international success. He revels in the booze, the drugs and the women that go along with fame and is always the darling of the press because he is so quotable.
  • Olivia Wilde ("The Change-Up") as Suzy Miller, soon to be the famous supermodel Suzy Hunt, who swans into Hunt's life and quickly marries him, much to their mutual regret.
  • Alexandra Maria Lara ("Imagine") is Marlene, who marries Lauda almost on a whim, but who remains as his staunchest friend and ally.
Howard gives us a soundtrack that shakes the theater as those powerful engines roar into life, but never neglects the dialogue: We hear every single spoken word in a script where much of the fun is what our two rivals say to (and about) each other. Each has driven the other to excel and their top-notch competition brings up the game for both, so they come to realize they need one another. Lauda says, "I learn far more from my enemies than from my friends."

We already know from reading about this film, that neither one dies in any of the horrific crashes we see, so this isn't a spoiler, but I found comfort knowing in advance that despite treacherous rainstorms and challenging race tracks, these guys still will be with us in the final frame. I always want someone to root for!

In this R-rated story, expect nudity, alcohol, drugs, profanity, excitement and a lot of humor.
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Take a quick look:
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Don Jon

Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues to grow as an artist. In this R-rated comedy (that he wrote and directed) he addresses some contemporary issues. The ubiquity of pornography has had a major impact on the dating game. Young men learn self-satisfaction and little else, while young women seek their own (maybe not sexual) self-satisfaction from other sources, e.g., chick flicks and shopping.

Several things jumped out at me: 1) The dialog coach was brilliant. Everyone in the cast had perfect Jersey accents, including the unique inflections. 2) Scarlett Johansson was amazing; she is the ultimate actress. 3) Do all Catholics keep score each week so their confessions are accurate? If so, why does the penance never vary?

Take a look at these players:
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("Premium Rush") is the legendary horndog who comes to realize that his expectations for a partner are unrealistic because they are based on porno films. BTW, his weekly routine always includes church on Sunday (and that itemized confession).
  • Scarlett Johansson ("The Avengers") plays the woman of his dreams. This gum-popping blonde even gets him to buy curtain rods.
  • Julianne Moore ("What Maisie Knew") attends our hero's adult education class; every young man should have a classmate like her.
  • Tony Danza (Lots of TV) is terrific as Don Jon's father, but he will make you groan when you see his response to his son's date.
  • Glenne Headly ("Kit Kittredge: An American Girl") makes a pasta dish for Sunday dinner every week. She looks like a grand- mother but has no grandchildren to show for it!
  • Brie Larson ("21 Jump Street") is our hero's texting sister who finally opens her mouth and speaks!
Be warned that this is about pornography, so it includes a LOT of very naughty film clips; it is about young, single men in the dating game, so it includes a LOT of profanity; it is about growing up, so it includes a LOT of confusion and humor.

The theater was packed with young adult couples. I hope they learned something! Because I'm not a young adult, I found the script a bit over- simplified, but Gordon-Levitt is well-intended, so I give him points. And I LOVED the don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-them uncredited cameos by famous contemporaries who obviously got a big kick out of helping their friend.
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Take a look:
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Behind the Candelabra

Michael Douglas does ("Lee") Liberace in this made-for-TV movie about his relationship with his hapless companion, Scott Thorson, played by Matt Damon. We get to ogle the lavish lifestyle of an icon who was "out" in plain sight, his wardrobe, his candelabra, and his baroque furnishings. In those days, fans just thought he was "artistic."

Although the wigs helped Douglas' depiction, I was more impressed by his take on that distinctive voice. And we couldn't help but feel sorry for his naïve houseboy as Liberace played Svengali, subjecting his current heartthrob to diets, pills, jewelry and plastic surgery.

Rob Lowe does a great job as the doctor who lures our gullible young chap into the prescription drug scene, while Cheyenne Jackson is very funny as the houseboy replaced by Scott Thorson.

Although Scott Bakula was listed as one of the players, I saw no evidence of Mr. B. in the story until someone explained that I had been watching Mr. Bakula but was completely fooled by his performance (and his mustache). He looked like Sonny Bono of Sonny and Cher fame. Wow!

Douglas won an 2013 Emmy for his portrayal.


Instructions Not Included

"No se Aceptan Devoluciones" (English captions) is rapidly becoming a phenomenon: By its second week, it is currently the tenth highest-grossing foreign film in U.S. history and on track for third place. (NOTE: By December, 2013, this has become the highest-grossing Spanish language film in American history.)

Directed by Mexican superstar Eugenio Derbez, who also co-wrote the screenplay, this hits all its marks: It's heart-warming, funny, and has an adorable little girl as the central issue. This has been a labor of love for Mr. Derbez: It took him twelve long years to raise the money to create this film and distribute it in los Estados Unidos.

Please enjoy:
  • Eugenio Derbez ("Under the Same Moon") is a happy playboy in Acapulco when a former fling dumps their baby girl in his lap; he didn't know she was pregnant, nor did he know how to change a diaper. Six years later, after struggling to pay the bills, he has become a top stuntman in Hollywood. You'll smile at their father/ daughter pajamas; in fact you'll think he is perhaps a bit too indulgent.
  • Loreto Peralto in her film debut, is the surprise package. She has become her father's on-set coach and taught him how to be a worthwhile adult, even as he has supported and loved her. Listen to her switch between Spanish and English as she negotiates his pay raises.
  • Jessica Lindsey ("Now You See Me") resurfaces and jeopardizes the life our hero has built with his wise and much-loved daughter. There are a few surprises with her, too.
Everything in this sweet but salty personal project is painted with broad strokes, there is NO subtlety here. Our hero's fears are represented by wolves, whether it's his fear of commitment or fear of heights, he sees wolves! Problem is, the pleasure of watching these characters lulls you into a false sense of security, then the story sneaks up on your blind side.

Find a theater in your area where you can see this one...please! I own this DVD!
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This excellent preview has captions:
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This is a wrenching plot because we don't know WHO to suspect. We share the anguish of the parents whose daughters have gone missing and the woman whose nephew is suspected of taking them. At one point I thought I had seen so many MacGuffins I could open a shop, but then, Lo and Behold, each of those little devices became big ones, so pay attention!

With a script by Aaron Guzikowski ("Contraband") and directed by Canadian Denis Villeneuve ("Incendies"), we are wrung out by the frantic action and the heartfelt misery that unfolds before our unwilling eyes. The most outstanding features are the authentic family interactions and the locations. (Personally, I would have changed some of the dialogue and completely eliminated one "Gotcha" moment.)

Here is the sterling cast:
  • Hugh Jackman ("Wolverine") is Keller Dover, a building contractor who lives with his wife and two children in a pleasant middle-class neighborhood. It is his frantic quest to find his daughter that is central to the plot. He says, "Pray for the best, prepare for the worst."
  • Maria Bello ("The Company Men") is Keller's wife, Grace. As one empty day follows another, she begins to lose hope.
  • Jake Gyllenhaal ("Source Code") is Detective Loki, a weary, relentless investigator who hasn't lost a case yet. The girls' parents are frustrated by his unhurried pace.
  • Viola Davis ("The Help") is Nancy Birch, mother of the second missing girl. She has to examine her own principles and humanity when confronted by the evidence.
  • Terrance Howard ("Red Tails") is her husband Franklin, Keller's unwilling collaborator.
  • Melissa Leo ("The Fighter") is Holly Jones, a resourceful widow who has raised her mentally impaired nephew.
  • Paul Dano ("Ruby Sparks") is her nephew Alex. He has the mental age of a ten year old.
Three things I should mention: 1) This takes place in a chilly, damp locale; wear a sweater. 2) This runs 153 minutes; limit your liquids. 3) This is an R-rated thriller; expect explosive action and a LOT of profanity.

BTW, this is another top-notch production that includes Mark Wahlburg as an executive producer. He's one guy who used his time in prison to good effect.
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Here is a link to a trailer:
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The Family

Here's a new twist on an old situation. A family linked to the Mob is placed in the Witness Protection Program, but they have been re-re-relocated and now they are in Normandy! Do you want to know why? Because these folks play hard ball and they don't have much patience. You see, old habits die hard and some neighbors can be down-right annoying!

In my personal opinion, a mob film directed by Luc Besson ("Leon: The Professional") is interchangeable with one directed by Martin Scorsese ("GoodFellas"). They both "pop" characters with an off-handed thugishness that is extremely violent and disturbing. And they are both top-notch action directors.

We actually CARE about:
  • Robert De Niro ("Meet the Parents") is Fred Blake/Giovanni Manzoni, a capo who ran his old neighborhood with an iron fist until he ratted out his old pals. He has a way of rationalizing everything he has done and seems to have no guilt.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer ("Married to the Mob") is his wife Maggie. Pfeiffer is priceless in this role, her Jersey accent is noticeable but not forced. Her byplay with De Niro looks like they are a long-time happily married couple, but when she gets mad... Oh! My! Dear!
  • Tommy Lee Jones ("Lincoln") is Robert Stansfield, the poor Fed who is saddled with the responsibility of trying to keep the strong-willed Blake/Manzoni family safe and out of harm's way.
  • Dianna Agron ("Burlesque") is Belle, their gorgeous daughter who has learned how to survive in a variety of situations, schools and countries. She likes peanut butter and is the perfect older sister, too!
  • John D'Leo ("Wanderlust") is Warren, small for his age, and a natural target for bullies in the new school. He is resourceful, revengeful, and methodical...probably not a good idea in school....
This R-rated comedy/drama/thriller generated a few white knuckles, let me tell you! There is plenty of comedy mixed in, but believe me, it's very dark comedy. We learn that when a gun is pointed at someone, that person will probably die. And a gun isn't the only method used to dispatch victims, just the least horrific. Our screening audience loved those profane teenagers, and applauded when things went their way. We left the theater exhausted.
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Take a look:
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The Decoy Bride

This one caught my eye only because I am a fan of David Tennant ("Blackpool") so it really was a pig in a poke. What I bought was actually a lovely little romantic comedy that has some of the wittiest dialogue I've had the pleasure to hear, no bad guys, and several people to root for.

We are on a remote island in the Hebrides (off the coast of Scotland) where an internationally known movie star is trying to get married without the army of paparazzi who relentlessly hound her tracks. Her publicist and her staff have scouted out a castle on this particular island based on her favorite book written by her fiancé (he sorta cheated when he wrote that book). They need a decoy to lure the photographers off the scent.

Here are some of the actors:
  • Alice Eve ("Star Trek into Darkness") is that famous actress. Not only is she famous, she's beautiful, kind, clever and smart.
  • David Tennant ("Dr. Who") is the author of her favorite book. He now has writer's block but is utterly agog over his lovely fiancée.
  • Kelly MacDonald ("Boardwalk Empire") is a local girl come home to lick her wounds. She had followed a musician to London but discovered she still has a knack for finding guys who have a fear of commitment.
Our actress's staff decides to do a faux wedding to throw the paparazzi off track. They offer our local girl a LOT of cash; it's tempting because her terminally ill mother wants to see the world before she dies.

This is a cheery little film with charming people, an off-beat hamlet, eccentric locals and lovely scenery. It's sweetly predictable and I'm soooo glad!

IMPORTANT NOTE: A JayFlix person told me he found this in Sweden under "The Other Bride."
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Here is a preview:
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First I want to talk about baseline tolerance. You know how some people have to put on more cologne each day just so they can smell it, while the rest of us gag? That is baseline tolerance.

Now let's talk about Computer Generated Imaging: Starting with the 1973 Yul Brynner oater "Westworld" and decades later "Avatar" in 2009, we have seen so much CGI, we gag. Hollywood can't seem to smell it yet and I admit some of it is dazzling, but how about a good script? Lots of cologne can't mask a failure to bathe, nor can lots of CGI mask a lame script. Which brings me to this third installment of a third Vin Diesel franchise ("Fast and Furious" and "xXx" are two others); it has brilliant CGI but some of the dialog made me wonder how the actors kept a straight face...

Here they are:
  • Vin Diesel ("The Pacifier") is Riddick, the legendary loner who sets his own broken leg (don't ask).
  • Karl Urban ("RED") in a 30-second bait and switch. Do NOT go if you are expecting to see Mr. U. in an actual role...
  • Jordi Mollà ("Knight and Day") is Santana, the bounty hunter. To him, Riddick is worth more dead than alive.
  • Matt Nable ("Killer Elite") is Boss Johns, seeking Riddick to learn more about his son's death.
The story? Left for dead on a sun-baked planet, our hero fights against all odds and plots revenge. That pretty much covers it.

This has some of the best CGI work I have seen to date, the production design is wonderful, the photography is masterful, the story is basic but involving, and like other Diesel outings, includes an anti-drug bit. On the other hand, the R-rated plot is rudimentary, the comedy is crude, the fight scenes are endless, and one of the monsters eats its own entrails. Fan boys loved the action, while I admired the CGI. Yup, I said it!
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Here is a trailer (note the canine sidekick):
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