Act your age? What a concept! We see a (sorta) happily engaged gal lie to her fiancé so she can hide out for a week with her new-found (and very young) friend. Directed by Seattle's talented Lynn Shelton ("Your Sister's Sister") this charming little R-rated comedy was shot in her home town. The aerial views are particularly appealing.

We see our heroine confronted by evidence that she has grown-up issues in her life, friends getting married, friends having babies, parents hitting a rough patch, a marriage proposal, none of which are welcome from her immature perspective. She WANTS to be stuck in adolescence...

Featured are:
  • Keira Knightley ("Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit") Megan's erratic reaction to the bumps in her personal road show us that she has never developed adult coping skills. Seeing a teenager deal with similar problems is a BIG surprise that offers unexpected insights.
  • Chloë Grace Moretz ("Hugo") Annika is a wise girl; she has been competently raised by her father but still misses her mother. Her issues are the normal ones that teenagers encounter: curfews, boyfriends and a bit of alcohol.
  • Sam Rockwell ("Moon") Craig is an attorney who has a BIG problem with a grown woman having a sleepover with his teenage daughter. He too, has lingering issues as a result of his wife's abandonment.
  • Mark Webber ("Save the Date") Anthony is a younger version of Megan's father: over-indulgent, adoring and eager to be with her. It's his marriage proposal that sends her into a tailspin.
  • Jeff Garlin ("Arrested Development") We only need to see Ed once to understand why Megan is a permanent adolescent. This father is the poster child for over-indulgent parenting.
Shelton has a knack for giving us relatable characters, a reality based script, witty dialogue and (fairly) good, clean fun. We are not subjected to sweaty bodies, gunfire, vehicular mayhem (although a car hits some mailboxes), or blowie uppie stuff. We liked it!
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Take a look:
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Full title: "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" is a dramedy about an over-the-hill actor who once played a movie super- hero only to walk away from fame and fortune. Now he would like to recapture that life by mounting a play on Broadway.  And NO, Michael Keaton ("Batman" 1989) says this is NOT about his own life although he can see why people might think so.

Directed by the audacious Alejandro González Iñárritu ("Biutiful") we are treated to a star-studded cast and a brilliant, R-rated script. Emmanuel Lubezki's camera work deserves special mention: We feel we are watching long single takes with no editing or cutting. It's daring and the actors have to be on their toes. We follow them through the labyrinthine belly of a Broadway theater with twists and turns that lead to dialogue in various dressing rooms, etc., with no sense that the scene has been cut or edited. Very impressive.

We admire:
  • Michael Keaton ("RoboCop" 2014) Riggan has become more and more disconnected from the people around him, namely his ex-wife, his daughter and his current girlfriend. He has a constant voice in his head that we eventually figure out is "Birdman," his alter ego. Keaton is terrific.
  • Emma Stone ("The Help") is his daughter Sam. She is fresh out of rehab so her hold on sobriety is a bit shaky. Her main criticism of her dad is that he always told her she was special. Stone's diatribe is a revelation. She is very, very good!
  • Lindsay Duncan ("Rome") is Tabitha, the theatre critic who vows to "kill your show." Watching Duncan and Keaton go nose to nose was a special treat.
  • Zach Galifianakis ("The Hangover") is his good friend and manager Jake. He sees the situation that evolves as box-office gold.
  • Edward Norton ("Moonrise Kingdom") Mike is a brilliant actor brought in when the male lead is injured just before previews start. Mike will always be authentic while he is on stage. Off stage is a different matter.
  • Naomi Watts ("St. Vincent") Leslie has always wanted to appear on Broadway but when she asks, "Why don't I have any self respect?" Her co-star explains, "It's because you are an actress."
Be prepared for nudity, some profanity, a bit of smoking (both regular and controlled substances) and lengthy scenes with either Norton or Keaton in tighty whities.

I felt that key plot points were telegraphed a bit too broadly, but maybe I just see too many movies. Ya think? I WILL say this turns out to be unpredictable. I kept thinking I knew where it was going, but then....

You should see this before Oscar time so you will know what everyone is talking about. You also should know that the more I think back on this artistic outing, the less I actually like it! The script, the photography and the acting are all top notch, but I didn't LIKE any of the characters.
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Here is a preview:
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John Wick

Our hero retired after a successful career as a legendary hit man, but as a lark, some crooks took every last thing he cared about. Now he's mad!

Co-directed by David Leitch and Chad Stahelski from an R-rated script by Derek Kolstad ("The Package"), this action/thriller boasts endless gunfire, fisticuffs, martial arts, vehicular mayhem and even some blowie uppie stuff. The script is just witty enough to generate laughter in the screening audience, so everyone went home happy.

We watch:
  • Keanu Reeves ("47 Ronin") is our eponymous hero, mourning his lovely wife and the all-to-brief life they had enjoyed together.
  • Michael Nyqvist ("Disconnect") Viggo has been in business with Wick so he knows what happens when you get on his wrong side.
  • Alfie Allen ("Game of Thrones") Iosef is Viggo's son. He gets on Wick's wrong side!
  • Ian McShane ("Hercules") Winston owns the Continental Hotel. Patrons MUST abide by the house rules or pay the penalty.
  • Willem Dafoe ("The Fault in Our Stars") Marcus is the hit man hired to put an end to all the violence.
  • Lance Reddick ("The Wire") is delicious as the Hotel Manager who combines impeccable manners with wry understatement.
The bad guys are Russian mobsters; the money involved is astronomical; and the violence is endless. Clichés are served up with a straight face (they killed his dog!) and the climactic struggle is (naturally) fought in the rain. To me, this felt more like a cartoon than an actual situation, so I felt free to yawn during the violence and enjoy the humorous bits.
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See what I mean:
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The Good Lie

If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.
~ African proverb ~
Fugitives from the violence that spawned them, we follow three boys and a girl who make an incredible 700-mile trek from the bloodshed in Sudan to the relative safety of a refugee camp. From there, they end up in the United States where cultural shock is inevitable. "Snow?" "Telephone?" "Unmarried women?" Known as "The Lost Boys," they were part of the 3,800 boys and girls brought to the US in the late '90s. (The program was suspended with 9/11.)

Directed by Philippe Falardeau ("Monsieur Lazhar") working with award-winning scriptwriter Margaret Nagle ("Warm Springs"), this PG-13 film is wrenching, entertaining, and hopeful.

We see:
  • Arnold Oceng ("It's a Lot") is Mamere the most ambitious one. He realizes during their seven-year sojourn in the refugee camp that he wants to be a doctor. This actor was born in Uganda and raised in Brixton (England). He's been acting there since 1993.
  • Ger Duany ("Isn't it Delicious") plays Jeremiah, the most religious one: he never loses his Bible. Duany was born in South Sudan and was forced to be a child soldier in the civil war. On his second try, he escaped to Ethiopia when he was 14. He's been in Hollywood since 2004.
  • Emmanuel Jal ("Africa United") is Paul, who rebels against Mamere remaining their chief in Kansas. This actor is another child soldier from southern Sudan who emerged as a hip hop star with an unusual message of reconciliation and peace. You can hear him on the soundtrack, too.
  • Reese Witherspoon ("Wild") joins us about a third of the way into our story; Carrie is the ballsy caseworker who becomes an advocate for our trio. But she first must understand the magnitude of the cultural gap. This is NOT a glamor role for Witherspoon and she carries it off very well.
  • Corey Stoll ("This is Where I Leave You") is Carrie's brother Jack. Together they run an employment agency but he still lives on the family farm. He thinks he might paint the porch but the Sudanese worry that there is no one guarding his cattle from lions there in Kansas.
I must applaud this PG-13 script. It's witty, wise, entertaining and exciting. The bloodshed in Sudan is off screen and hardships endured by the children during the trek are beautifully captured. We learn about a "Good Lie," and enjoy the old joke about why the chicken crossed the road. We come to appreciate the differing points of view between the immigrants and the kind folks in Kansas, and how love of family is universal.

Be sure to stay through the credits because there are postscripts added about these durable people.
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Here is a preview:
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Dear White People

This 2014 Seattle International Film Festival entry from the USA is a social satire about racial issues on a college campus. (This review was sent out to a few JayFlix.net participants in May, 2014.) We focus on two of the houses that provide quarters for some of the students...one is mostly black and the other mostly white. We see undercurrents of race, drugs, intolerance, and sex, and we draw our own conclusions.

The Dean of Students and the President of the University attended school together; one is black and the other white. Appearances to the contrary, they are NOT equal.

Here's the cast:
  • Tyler James Williams (Lots of TV) is Lionel. I listed him first because he ultimately is the catalyst needed to address the issue. We see things through his reporter's eyes. Housing is his first problem...
  • Tessa Thompson (Lots of TV) is Sam, an opinionated talk radio host and student on campus. She runs for president of her house ...and wins!
  • Brandon P. Bell (Lots of TV) is our conformist Troy, son of the Dean and head of his house...but not for long.
  • Kyle Gallner ("Beautiful Creatures") is edgy Kurt, a racist spark plug in his house...AND son of the university president.
  • Dennis Haysbert (Lots of TV) is the Dean. He wants more for his son Troy and is afraid of how he will appear to others.
  • Peter Syvertsen (Lots of TV) is President Hutchinson, proud of Kurt, despite how his son behaves, and is determined to prove his campus is NOT racist.
Justin Simien capably wrote and directed this involving story. The dialogue is almost too erudite, but I understand what he is doing. He makes it clear that intolerance cuts both ways.

I appreciated the soundtrack. Among other pieces, I heard "Rites of Spring," "Afternoon of a Faun," an excerpt from "Carmen" and one that is driving me crazy because I can sing it for you but I can't think of its name!

Oh well....
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Here is a brief preview:
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The United Kingdom submitted this tender drama for the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival. (This review was first published in May, 2014.) Recipient of the Cinematography Award at Sundance 2014, we expect excellence...and we get it!

Our central character has been moved to a nursing home by her son.  The "best friend" of her now deceased son hires an interpreter to help her communicate, both with him and with a gentleman who also lives in that retirement home and wants to court her.

Director Hong Khaou brings us:
  • Pei-pei Cheng ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") is Junn, unable to bridge the language barrier without the assistance of an excellent interpreter. She wants her son's ashes!
  • Andrew Leung (some TV) is Kai, the deceased son, whom we meet in numerous flashbacks.
  • Ben Whitshaw ("Cloud Atlas") as Richard, who wants to fulfill the wishes of his dead lover, come out of the closet and make peace with Richard's mother about it.
  • Peter Bowles ("The Bank Job") his Alan needs just a teeny smile and he comes a'courting.
  • Morven Christie (Lots of TV - BBC) is Margaret, the woman who serves as a most welcome interpreter for Junn, Richard and Alan.
We learn many things over the course of this insightful character study: 1) Some things are better left unspoken. 2) Some things are better out in the open. 3) Good and decent folks deserve to be happy.

Although personally I didn't appreciate her style of mothering, I was happy for Junn with that pleasant ending.
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Here is a preview:
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Men, Women & Children

The Internet has changed our lives. This movie explores the many ways it has infiltrated our society, particularly that of teenagers, and their parents' bewildered response. This R-rated (for VERY graphic dialogue) outing is directed by Jason Reitman ("Juno" and "Up in the Air") from a script he co-wrote with Erin Cressida Wilson based on Chad Kultgen's novel by the same name.

It is shocking to my generation to see how "wired" modern life has become, and it is even MORE shocking to peek at someone else's correspondence. We are exposed to snippets of pornography, anorexia, chat rooms, on-line bullying, extramarital adventures and the pain of awkward teenage dating.

Here is a small part of this highly capable cast:
  • Adam Sandler ("Grown Ups") is Don Truby, a father who has his own skill set for on-line contacts. He isn't above looking at his son's computer usage...and then his wife's... Oops!
  • Rosemarie DeWitt ("Kill the Messenger") His wife Helen, is branching out for no good reason except possibly boredom.
  • Jennifer Garner ("Draft Day") Patricia has mastered on-line skills so she can keep track of her daughter's life. There isn't a keystroke or a digital signal that she hasn't compulsively followed. This is a control freak run amok and we pity her poor daughter!
  • Kaitlyn Dever ("Short Term 12") is Brandy; her mother has quickly learned the ropes of on-line networking and the girl has NO privacy.
  • Dennis Haysbert ("Think Like a Man Too") is secretluvur, a chat room identity, who shows up right where he's supposed to.
  • Judy Greer ("Descendents") Donna Clint is developing a new hobby...smile... Problem is, her daughter is underage and she might be breaking the law.
  • Olivia Crocicchia ("Rescue Me") is Hannah Clint, the vain cheerleader who aspires to be on a television reality show.
  • Ansel Elgort ("The Fault in Our Stars") Tim doesn't want to play football this year, which makes him persona non grata at school. He is a fan of Carl Sagan which leads to a big misunderstanding with the school counselor.
  • Emma Thompson ("Saving Mr. Banks") as the narrator. Her job is to try to bridge the outer space/Carl Sagan aspect of this film with the personal trials and tribulations of teenagers and their parents.
I'm running out of space and haven't covered all of the fine performers. Each individual has his or her moment to shine and there isn't a weak performance. Bottom line, these are all good kids and the parents are doing the best they can, it's just very complicated in today's digital world.
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Here is a preview:
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St. Vincent

Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy in the same movie? This I've gotta see!

Written and directed by Theodore Melfi, this PG-13 comedy looks at the effects of a divorce on a young boy when his mom moves next door to a curmudgeonly drunk.

Sounds predictable, doesn't it? Well, it IS. But here is the surprise: Along the way we are treated to outstanding performances by all of the primary actors, including the little boy, AND we are entertained.

We watch:
  • Bill Murray ("The Monuments Men") as our eponymous hero, who finds having a child next door is almost diverting, because he can have him help deliver laundry and take him to the race track.
  • Melissa McCarthy ("Identity Thief") Maggie begins to doubt her neighbor, particularly when her son wins a schoolyard fight.
  • Naomi Watts ("The Impossible") Daka never had a daytime job but pole dancing doesn't provide maternity leave.
  • Jaeden Lieberher ("Playing it Cool") Oliver is caught by the class bully and has to learn how to stick up for himself. Plus he figures out what a trifecta pays and Mom is upset to learn he has been in a bar.
  • Chris O'Dowd ("Cuban Fury") Brother Geraghty has Oliver in his classroom. This priest shows great flexibility when it comes to religions and he assigns his students interesting projects.
  • Terrence Howard ("Sabotage") Zucko is Vincent's bookie and Vincent owes him a LOT of money.
There are many noteworthy scenes but it was nice to realize that we are allowed to figure out much of the plot on our own. Expect mild profanity, a schoolyard brawl, a drunken Vincent injuring himself and a poignant history. Our screening audience applauded.

BTW: Be sure to stay during the final credits because Murray entertains us with a garden hose and a Bob Dylan recording.
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Here is the trailer:
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The Book of Life

95 minutes of animated PG fun. Of course, in keeping with today's trends, we have celebrity voices. In my personal opinion, professional voice actors would be a better choice, but who am I to second guess writer/director Jorge R. Gutierrez? (Guillermo del Toro is a producer.)

This is the classic love triangle which starts when the three children are fairly young, then it continues into adulthood. It is set on the classic Mexican holiday, Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), when families remember loved ones who have gone before.

We recognize the voices of:
  • Zoë Saldana ("Guardians of the Galaxy") is Maria, the lovely young woman who resists getting married just to be married and she doesn't want to become a Flame of Perpetual Purity at the convent. She cares for both of the young men courting her.
  • Diego Luna ("Casa de mi Padre") is our hero, Manolo, torn between his family obligations (bullfighting) and his heart's desire (music)...and of course, Maria! Plus, it's hard to fight bulls if you don't like killing.
  • Channing Tatum ("Magic Mike") Joaquin, is the heartthrob who has a magic jewel which protects him from harm, thus he becomes a legendary soldier, unafraid because he can't be hurt...except maybe by a broken heart if Maria chooses Manolo...
  • Ron Perlman ("Sons of Anarchy") brings his distinctive voice to Xibalba (you say it, I can't), the creature who places a bet on which hombre he thinks Maria will marry.
  • Kate del Castillo ("Under the Same Moon") is La Muerte, the female counterpart to Xibalba. She bets against Xibalba.
  • Ice Cube ("22 Jump Street") is The Candle Maker. His job is to explain our hero's new surroundings and teach him the rules.
  • Placido Domingo ("Dora the Explorer") is Skeleton Jorge, the frustrated (dead) relative who had always wanted to sing opera. We are treated to bits and pieces of well-known arias.
We learn that Mexico is the center of the world (which made Seattle audiences snicker because we KNOW it's really Seattle!), we learn the traditions and the music, plus we see artwork and costumes that are typically Mexican. Children in the screening audience were NOT bored! I was amused by that little pig that always said "Maaa" instead of "Oink" and I liked that Manolo tuned his guitar before he played it. Nice...
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Take a look at "Book..."
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The Judge

When we see Robert Downey Jr. AND Robert Duvall are together in a film, we are ready to be impressed. Directed by David Dobkin ("Shang- hai Knights") from an R-rated screenplay by Bill Debuque and Nick Schenk ("Gran Torino"), we have every right to feel optimistic, because these guys understand family dynamics and the indignities of illness and ageing.

Here are a few of the actors we admire:
  • Robert Downey Jr. ("Iron Man") is Hank Palmer, a successful big-city lawyer returned to his home town to bury his mother. He is called back when his father is arrested for murder, but his client will NOT cooperate.
  • Robert Duvall ("Seven Days in Utopia") is Judge Joseph Palmer, the most cantankerous, arbitrary, curmudgeonly old coot you will ever hope to see! He and his alienated son go at it hammer and tongs!
  • Vera Farmiga ("Up in the Air") is Samantha, the high-school crush who never left town. She has a few surprises up her sleeve, too. And her description of Hank's "verbal diarrhea" is cutting but true.
  • Billy Bob Thornton ("Fargo") is Dwight Dickham, the slick prosecuting attorney who deliberately sought this case because he is holding a grudge.
  • Vincent D'Onofrio ("Law & Order") Glen Palmer is Hank's brother; they share a tragic history.
  • Jeremy Strong ("Parkland") is their third brother, Dale. We can see right away that he is mentally impaired, but he is sweet and loving.
With such sterling performances, there are many entertaining moments, but I particularly like the jury selection based on bumper stickers and the way small-town America is evoked with a simple ride through town.

They say you can't go home again, but our hero just might have to...
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Here is a link to a preview:
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Kill the Messenger

Based on Gary Webb's biographical book "Dark Alliance" and Nick Schou's follow up "Kill the Messenger," this R-rated script by Peter Landesman and Nick Schou is directed by Michael Cuesta ("Homeland").

This involving but harrowing story explains how an illegal cocaine-for- arms deal was cobbled together by the CIA to fund anti-Communist rebels in Nicaragua. Reporter Gary Webb's work threatens to uncover some closely guarded secrets. We soon see how character assassination works as governmental agencies begin to debunk his exposé and deny any connection to drug trafficking.

This gold-star cast includes:
  • Jeremy Renner ("American Hustle") is wonderful as Pulitzer Prize winner Gary Webb, the investigative reporter who is handed a transcript of testimony from a grand jury hearing. He is stunned to see a cover up between cocaine traffickers and governmental agencies; he immediately sets out to discover the truth.
  • Rosemarie DeWitt (The Watch"") is his wife Sue. She has faithfully come with him to California, but there is "too much sun!"
  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead ("Alex of Venice") plays Anna, Webb's editor. She tries to talk him out of his big story.
  • Michael Sheen ("Admission") brings us Fred Weil, the fellow from the National Security Agency. He cautions our hero, "Some stories are too true to tell!"
  • Ray Liotta (Muppets Most Wanted") John Cullen was deeply involved on both sides of the conspiracy, so he is determined to clear his own conscience.
  • Michael K. Williams ("RoboCop") as Ricky Ross, the jailed cocaine kingpin who is the first to explain to Gary the connection between drugs and the U.S. government.
As you might expect, it's hard to find any good guys as the smear campaign against our hero gains momentum. Please stay for the post script; it's important!
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Here is a preview:
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Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible...

The full name is "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" but I doubt if that will fit on very many marquees.

Based on Judith Viorst's classic book by the same name, we see a wonderful cast bring these beloved characters to life:
  • Ed Oxenbould ("Julian") is our hero Alexander, caught up in his own misery, but eventually he realizes having gum stuck in his hair isn't the worst thing that's happened, he soon notices that he isn't the only one having a bad day...
  • Dylan Minnette ("Prisoners") is his brother Anthony Cooper, who... well... you'll have to see it. (They call him Wreck-it Ralph at school.) Small hint, he has a driver's test today.
  • Kerris Dorsey (Lots of TV) His sister Emily Cooper is scheduled to play Tinkerbell in the school production of Peter Pan today, but she woke up with a bad cold!
  • Jennifer Garner ("Draft Day") is Kelly Cooper, his mother. You should see the typo in the children's book she is publishing!
  • Steve Carell ("The Way, Way Back") is his dad Ben Cooper, who has cheerfully kept the home fires burning since he was downsized, but he has a job interview...and a baby to tend...and a birthday cake to bake... and a son in trouble at school...and a daughter in a play...and his wife may have lost her job.
  • Dick Van Dyke ("Night at the Museum") makes us smile when he shows up ready and willing to read a brand new book to an eager audience... Oops!
  • Megan Mullally (Lots of TV) is Nina, the demanding dame in charge of the publishing house where Kelly works.
  • Jennifer Coolidge ("Austenland") is the driver's license examiner. In my opinion, I think that's a dirty trick that she pulls on Anthony.
  • ...and then there's the alligator....
Well, you'd have to be there. We were in a theater full of little 'uns and not a peep was heard. There is enough silly mayhem on screen to keep them occupied and the adults laugh, too! (I like it when they kick the garbage cans.)

It's Disney, so the Super Coopers MUST prevail and a happy ending is enjoyed by all.
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Here is a preview:
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Drew: The Man Behind the Poster

This documentary now available on DVD is a wonderful testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the value of marching to your own drummer.

Legendary movie-poster artist Drew Struzan was an unwanted baby, an unwanted child and an unwanted student. He says he didn't miss being happy because he didn't know what happiness was supposed to feel like. He was only content when he was able to draw. He drew on toilet paper, the backs of old flyers, and discarded newspapers. He enrolled in art school and was thrown out for failure to pay his tuition. He simply went around to the rear, entered the back door and went on with his studies.

His faltering career was shared by a young woman who flirtatiously lobbed a ping-pong ball at him and never looked back. Decades later, they are still married and now he knows what happiness feels like.

Some of the interviews are with:
  • Dylan Struzan - his wife couldn't trust him with grocery money, he'd buy paint!
  • Christian Struzan - his son is proud of his father's enormous legacy.
  • George Lucas - who has a major collection of his work, including the "Star Wars" series.
  • Harrison Ford - says Drew inspired him to be as good as his posters. "Indiana Jones" was one result.
  • Steven Spielberg - insists Drew's posters make the story better. Just look at "E.T."
  • Guillermo del Toro - loves Drew's ability to simplify. He did the poster for the remake of "The Thing" overnight.
  • Frank Darabont - used Drew for "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Green Mile."
  • Steve Guttenberg - says "Police Academy" owes its sequels to Drew.
  • Thomas Jane - Drew tried to teach him how to draw for a movie role but failed miserably.
  • Joanna Cassidy - was surprised by the quality of his "Blade Runner" posters.
  • Alice Cooper - used Drew for an award winning album cover.
  • Thousands of adoring fans at the 2012 Comic-Con in San Diego.
You will be stunned to see how many of his posters are classics. I OWN this DVD!
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This is a great sampler of his work:
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Gone Girl

Did Nick Dunne kill his wife Amy? This unpredictable movie is predictably unpredictable in the most unpredictable way. With a screenplay cleverly crafted by Gillian Flynn, author of the wildly successful novel of the same name, this R-rated mystery/thriller loses none of its gut-wrenching punch. Under the award-winning direction of David Fincher ("The Social Network") this 149-minute story is forthrightly sexual (these ARE consenting adults) and richly earns the rating.

An attractive, happily married wife disappears from her home in a Missouri town; her husband is alarmed and calls the police. The more we see, the less we know. The press is avidly seeking a sensational story and this one seems to fill the bill. To avoid any spoilers, I can say very little more than that.

We watch:
  • Ben Affleck ("Argo") is Nick Dunne, the beleaguered husband trying to find his missing wife. If only he were perfect....
  • Rosamond Pike ("The World's End") is Amy Dunne, our "Gone Girl." Formerly the role model for "Amazing Amy," her parents' successful children's books, she is now finding her own niche.
  • Carrie Coon ("The Leftovers") is terrific as Margo, our hero's twin sister. She is steady, loyal and utterly furious about what she learns when her brother hides out at her place.
  • Kim Dickens ("Sons of Anarchy") is absolutely wonderful as Detective Rhonda Boney, in my opinion the most sane person in the story.
  • Neil Patrick Harris ("How I Met Your Mother") is Desi, the poor little rich boy Amy left behind.
  • Missi Pyle ("The Artist") is spot-on as the blond TV personality who puts her own lurid spin on the story as it unfolds. Hers is a perfect send-up of Nancy Grace of TV tabloid fame.
  • Sela Ward ("House") is the TV journalist who comes in to help.
  • Tyler Perry ("Alex Cross") is Tanner Bolt, a highly successful lawyer who specializes in high-profile, hopeless cases.
Most of the people in the theater had read the book, unlike the young man walking near me as we exited the theater. To say that he was in  shock is an understatement. Be warned....
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Try to get a hint from this trailer:
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The Ref

Every so often one of my JayFlix.net colleagues suggests a movie. This time the colleague was insistent! So I watched it. I have never been disappointed when I get a referral this way and this time certainly is no exception.

This hysterical R-rated comedy boasts a wonderful director, Ted Demme ("Beautiful Girls") and a razor-sharp script based on the story by Marie Weiss ("The Christmas List"). I defy you to find a better cast!

They are:
  • Denis Leary ("Draft Day") Gus is a cat burgler who is cornered into taking his victims hostage. Problem is, it's Christmas and they have dinner guests due to arrive. And that is only for starters!
  • Kevin Spacey ("House of Cards") Lloyd is the exasperated husband who NEVER gets anything right, no matter what he does.
  • Judy Davis ("To Rome With Love") Caroline has put up with Lloyd for many years but she just can't make up her mind when to pull the plug. Besides, holidays are stressful, AND her in-laws hate her, AND her son's in trouble.
  • Robert J. Steinmiller, Jr ("Coyote") Jesse, like children everywhere, is the lightening rod for his parents' marital problems. But he's blackmailing that guy at school, so he has running-away money on hand!
  • Christine Baranski ("The Good Wife") Connie has been sharpening her tongue along with her nails. She's ready for anything...she thinks...
  • Glynis Johns ("While You Were Sleeping") Grandma Rose objects to the language she hears!
This is only part of the cast, we also have more in-laws, a pair of befuddled policemen and Gus's hapless partner-in-crime who is supposed to be providing a getaway car.

You will not believe all the twists and turns (Gus listens to the bickering couple and realizes they sound like his own parents, so he REALLY feels sorry for the boy). Despite the gaily wrapped Christmas gifts and elegant decorations that surround them, it still isn't very surprising that the Spirit of Christmas is sorely lacking, even though Johnny Mathis sings so beautifully.
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This is NOT a preview, but the 97-minute film. You must be 17 or older:
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