Love is Strange

Here we have a long-time couple, 40 years, who finally get married. Problem is, George, a teacher at a Catholic school, is fired as a result. The school always knew he was gay, but his marriage is a public declaration, so they can't keep him on the payroll. The first thing that happens is that our heroes are forced to sell their apartment. Unexpected fees and service charges leave them with far less money than they planned.

Director Ira Sachs working from a script he co-wrote with Mauricio Zacharias ("Keep the Lights On") shows us the turbulent results of a life-altering event like this when a couple is no longer young.

His cast includes:
  • Alfred Molina ("Chocolat") is George, suddenly unemployed, now dependent for any income from a few music students. Housing in New York City being what it is, some neighbors, a couple of policemen, offer to put him up on their couch (they don't have room for two).
  • John Lithgow ("Interstellar") is Ben, a moderately successful painter who has his work in a few galleries. He opts to room with his nephew and his family in Brooklyn. He gets a bottom bunk.
  • Marisa Tomei ("Spare Parts") gives by far the most nuanced performance. As Kate, an author married to Ben's nephew, she shows marvelously controlled exasperation: she is trying to finish her next book but Ben blithely interrupts her over and over.
  • Charlie Tahan ("Blue Jasmine") Joey has to share his bedroom with his dad's Uncle Ben and finds the loss of privacy infuriating.
  • Cheyenne Jackson ("Beyond the Candelabra") Ted is half of the couple who offers their couch to George. Watch him try to explain "Game of Thrones" to George.
Of course, our two lead actors, each married for decades, bring a personal authenticity to their roles that other actors would only hope for. My major problem is with the script: It just feels too contrived. Of course there are moments, as I mentioned earlier, Marisa Tomei is wonderful, but this one left me strangely unmoved.
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Here is a trailer:
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There were only four people in the large theater at a multiplex in Bellevue, Washington. This means that the critics and ticket-buying public have declared this movie to be a total bust.

Director Michael Mann ("Public Enemies"), working from a script by Morgan Davis Foehl (in his first time out as a writer) delivered a perfectly acceptable, though emotionally distant, hacker film. My companion and I, both fans of the star, were quite happy with it, thank you very much and enjoyed the constant super-close ups of the appealing stars. We did NOT appreciate the jiggly hand-held camera work nor the unnecessarily long sequences of imaginary data swiftly moving through imaginary systems.

Let's talk about the cast:
  • Chris Hemsworth ("Thor") is Nick, a felon furloughed on the condition that he help discover the Blackhat (evil computer expert) who caused a nuclear power plant meltdown in China. He's on screen most of the time.
  • Leehom Wang ("Forever Young") is Dawai, the Chinese law enforcement official charged with finding and prosecuting the criminal. He went to MIT with Nick and he recognizes the code used by the vandal as one they wrote while roommates in college. He gets Nick out of jail. This actor is just as handsome and appealing as Hemsworth!
  • Viola Davis ("How to Get Away With Murder") is Carol, charged with the responsibility to protect the United States' diplomatic ties with China. She knows her way around interdepartmental rivalries at the Federal level and doesn't hesitate to apply pressure.
  • Wei Tang ("The Golden Era") Lein is Daway's sister, a computer expert in her own right. He needs her expertise, and in very short order Nick needs her, too
  • Holt McCallany ("Blue Bloods") Mark surprised me. His character has the responsibility to monitor the felon and make sure his ankle bracelet stays put; he didn't become the antagonistic FBI monitor we have come to expect, but instead was able to see the larger picture and react accordingly.
  • Richie Coster ("By the Gun") Elias proved once again, that a drama has no depth unless you have an evil villain. He is an evil villain!
This has more than its share of running gun battles and typing on computer consoles (I can't even remember MY password; how do they get into these strange ones so fast?). The UNIX codes were all over the screen, my late son David would have enjoyed THAT! Some of the dialogue was hard to decipher but I had a closed-caption device, so it didn't bother me.

This is R-rated for violence (no nudity or sweaty bodies) and due to unfortunate timing and so-so reviews, has just barely escaped a Direct-to-Video fate. I'm not optimistic...
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Take a look at the preview:
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American Sniper

A record-shattering $103.5M opening weekend made me think this was another super-hero movie. After I saw it, I realized that it IS a super-hero movie! This super hero is a home-grown Texan named Chris Kyle who became a legend during four tours in Iraq as he saved countless lives using pin-point accuracy with a high-powered rifle. The enemy put a price on his head.

Based on Kyle's autobiographical best seller and directed by Clint East- wood ("Gran Torino"), we see a little boy learn fair play and marksman- ship from his father before the events of 9/11 spur him into the military. We see bits of a grueling Navy SEAL boot camp followed by graduation and deployment to Fallujah, where his skills are quickly utilized.

Here is a small part of the large cast:
  • Bradley Cooper ("Guardians of the Galaxy") is Kyle, who matures over the course of the four tours of duty but who never loses his sense of humor or his devotion to his wife, family and country.
  • Sienna Miller ("Foxcatcher") is his wife Taya, who sees his personality change as the death toll mounts. She conveys the tough understanding that is so vital for military spouses.
  • Sammy Sheik ("Lone Survivor") is Mustafa, the deadly marksman nicknamed Keyser Söze after the phantom killer in the film "The Usual Suspects." Their duel becomes a personal vendetta between the two men.
With 6 Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Actor, Holly- wood snipers are out in full force taking pot shots at the story, the military and the film's success. Those who knew Kyle say Cooper has duplicated his persona and his speech with spooky accuracy. It's good to see an actor put his money where his mouth is (he also serves as an executive producer).

Personally, I appreciated the realistic reactions of a veteran, just back from a war zone, when he hears a lawnmower, encounters a video game or sees a dog tussling with his son.

This is R-rated, so expect authentic military language (bawdy, profane, and very funny), implied torturing (with a gruesome power drill!), some blowie uppie stuff, and many, many gunshots. The climactic battle in the film takes place in a sandstorm, so we don't see much of that action; instead we hear the voices and draw our conclusions from them.

The postscript includes snapshots of the actual people; this story is, after all, based on that of a real man.
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Here is the trailer:
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Director Ava DuVernay ("Scandal") brings us a PG-13 film about Martin Luther King. Screenwriter Paul Webb wisely limited this story to one situation in 1965 rather than try to encompass the entire American Civil Rights Movement and/or the complete life and times of Martin Luther King. We start with MLK receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, then we segue to the church where the four little girls are blown up. These are two of the events which sealed Dr. King's destiny.

This cast includes:
  • David Oyelowo ("The Help") is Martin Luther King, not a saint, not a devil, just an ambitious man with a dream, and guaranteeing the right to vote for all citizens is the obvious beginning.
  • Carmen Ejogo ("Alex Cross") is Coretta Scott King, trying to make sense of the life in which she finds herself...her and her children!
  • Tim Roth ("Arbitrage") is George Wallace, the Governor of Alabama who crosses swords with our hero in Selma, and Lyndon Baines Johnson in Washington D.C. We greeted news of Wallaces defeats with glee.
  • Tom Wilkinson ("The Grand Budapest Hotel") is Lyndon Baines Johnson, President of the United States during this perilous time. He ultimately signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but not until after he tries delaying, negotiating, and delivering ultimatums, all to no avail.
  • Dylan Baker (Lots of TV) is J. Edgar Hoover, who has placed MLK on his Enemies List.
  • Oprah Winfrey ("Lee Daniels' The Butler") is Annie Lee Cooper, whose attempt to register illustrates the impediments thrown up for blacks who want to vote.
The first four outstanding actors are actually British, working over here in the Colonies, bringing their skills and wonderful training to our shores. I'm being a bit facetious, but American actors continue to lose ground... Why don't they ask ME? Aarghhh!

Despite being prohibited by his family from using King's actual words, the script makes each separate issue and point of view crystal clear, no easy feat when you consider how complex the situation was in 1965. I was never confused but I WAS impressed by the skills brought to the screen by the entire cast. Kudos!
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Here is a preview:
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Inherent Vice

I walked into Paul Thomas Anderson's latest movie thinking if it's half as good as the trailers, it will be GOOD! I've been up and down about his previous work ("Boogie Nights," "Magnolia," and "There Will be Blood,") and I'm sure you have been too, so the jury was out. This is set in the 1970s, so part of the fun is recognizing the music, the cars, the language, the makeup and the clothes. Television at that time features Richard Nixon and "Adam 12."

This drug-riddled Byzantine plot requires that you pay attention, listen carefully to the dialogue, tune into the narration, AND suspend disbelief! When you leave the theater, you will discover that no one has the same impression of what they saw or what just happened. In my opinion it's because the central character is chronically stoned.

At one point I found myself clinging to anything that made a particle of sense, but I was out of luck with one exception: The dental business was booming in California during the 1970s because heavy cocaine use destroys teeth!

This is a small part of the huge cast of familiar faces:
  • Joaquin Phoenix ("Her") is a private detective pulled into a bizarre case he would be smart to avoid. Listen to the voiceover in the trailer! Phoenix has a Golden Globes (Best Actor) nomination for this role. He's very good.
  • Josh Brolin ("Labor Day") plays a socially tone-deaf cop called "Bigfoot," who seems to be in this up to his thick neck. He's bitter because after so many years of service in the LAPD he has been offered NO book deal, and NO television or movie rights! Compare Brolin's posture between his intimidating presence on the job to his tongue-lashed husband at home! Impressive....
  • Reese Witherspoon ("Wild") is involved, but it's up to you to figure out how. I think this is the first time Witherspoon has been on screen with Phoenix since "Walk the Line."
  • Owen Wilson ("Grand Budapest Hotel") Is this guy an under- cover agent or just screwed up?
  • Jena Malone ("Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1") contacts the detective to find her missing (and maybe dead) saxophone-playing husband. She leads him to the dental office. Now she wants to be a drug counselor to talk teens into sensible drug use.
  • Benicio Del Toro ("Guardians of the Galaxy") is a fast-talking attorney who sees the whole picture, but he specializes in marine law, not murder, consequently he knows "inherent vice" is a maritime term which refers to a cargo that is difficult to insure, like fresh eggs.
  • Katherine Waterston ("Boardwalk Empire") is the ex who asks him for help. I think this relationship still has sparks.
  • Eric Roberts ("Suits") is her (wannabe Nazi) boyfriend, a missing millionaire. You'll never guess where he is!
  • Maya Rudolph ("Saturday Night Live") is the receptionist who seems to know everyone and his history.
  • Michael Kenneth Williams ("Boardwalk Empire") is the fellow who got out of the penitentiary only to discover that his old gang has disappeared. He hires a our hero to find out why.
Where does it end? That would be telling, wouldn't it? (If I knew.) Paul Thomas Anderson based his screenplay for this 148-minute R-rated (drugs, nudity, sexual situations and language) endurance test on the novel by Thomas Pynchon ("Gravity's Rainbow").

I liked the preview better.....
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See what I mean:
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