This delightful comedy/romance is written and directed by Stuart Acher. The official release date in the United States is October 10, 2014, but I haven't seen it in any local theater. I'm so happy to finally see it available for streaming on Amazon.

It features:
  • Madeline Zima (Lots of TV) as Holly, the young lady who keeps texting someone...
  • Joel David Moore ("Avatar") as Guy, the young man who had vowed chastity until "the right one" comes along. Texting irritates him.
In a nutshell, we open on the morning after a one-night stand. The woman awakens and quietly slips out of bed. She dresses and steps out of a house only to realize she is miles from the bar where she left her car. She slips back in, strips, and quietly slips back into bed. When the fellow awakens, she pretends to wake up and be dismayed to be without her car. She says she will call a cab, so naturally he offers to give her a ride.

Once in his car, they no more than enter the freeway when they are stuck in the mother of all traffic jams. Most of the rest of the film is about them getting acquainted, while at the same time, we in the audience see flashbacks which incrementally fill us in on how each of them came to be in that bar where they met. We also realize that each of them is a really good person. The dialogue cleverly alludes to things that we just learned, so we understand each person's position far better than the other does. We are sort of insiders as they get acquainted.

They fight, they laugh, they watch (and are watched by) the neighboring vehicles. We come to recognize the mother with the crying baby, the man who desperately needs to pee, and the truck driver ogling our heroine. We (and they) discover that she is a lawyer (he hates lawyers) and he is a CPA. After one verbal spat, she says, "Okay! Let's just not talk for five minutes!"

To which he retorts, "Are you giving me a time out IN MY OWN CAR? Get out and look at my license plate. It says 'April 15' because I'm a CPA and I do taxes!"

"I hate taxes!"

The dialogue is authentic and so are the characters. We start rooting for them about half an hour into the film, so this is an entertaining and satisfying film. Amazon has offered the DVD so I OWN IT!
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Here is a sample:
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Will Smith plays fast-talking con men extremely well, so this is a perfect fit. Add his easy on-screen chemistry with Margot Robbie and we are treated to a colorful, action-filled R-rated (language and sexual situations) romance that keeps us scratching our heads even as we giggle with delight. We can see there is no safe place for a "mark" in a crowd and that conning is BIG business!

Co-writers and co-directors Glenn Ficara and John Requa ("I Love You Phillip Morris") bring their goofy skills, clever cons and unexpected plot twists to keep us surprised and entertained.

We see:
  • Will Smith ("After Earth") Nicky teaches the science of trust. We believe him even while KNOWING he's a con man, that's how good he is! He may have one weakness...
  • Margot Robbie ("The Wolf of Wall Street") Gorgeous Jess is eager to copy the best. She learns how to pull her mark's focus from his watch or his wallet so she can lift it undetected.
  • Rodrigo Santoro ("I Love You Phillip Morris") This wealthy (and handsome!) South American industrialist specializes in Formula 1 race cars. He has a lot riding on a newly developed fuel.
  • Robert Taylor ("Longmire") Aussie McEwen wants to get his hands on that new fuel and will pay any price for it. This Australian actor has successfully portrayed an American lawman, Longmire, on TV for years; I've watched it and never suspected he wasn't American.
  • Gerald McRaney ("Longmire") Ownes is a partner in that Formula 1 race car venture, but he has a suspicious nature....
  • BD Wong ("The Normal Heart" and "Law & Order, SVU") Liyuan is a gleeful gambler. He will take a chance on ANYTHING!
  • Adrian Martinez ("American Hustle") Farhad is our hero's unlikely but indispensable right-hand man.
As you see, all the pieces are in place for a romp through glamorous international surroundings, high-fashion clothes and witty repartee. There will be some physical violence and an unexpected gunshot; that's what makes it unpredictable and I LIKE unpredictable.
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Here is a sample:
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2015 Academy Awards

This was too good to pass up! I may delete this "review" later, but right now I just want to get these impressions off my chest.

In my opinion, the Hollywood crowd just flunked "Audience." Many adroit bits of humor either went right over their heads or they were afraid laugh lines would spoil their Botox. (I know, I know... Meow...)

Here were some of the featured players:
  • Neil Patrick Harris did a terrific job as host, from his sendup of "Birdman" in his whitey tighties to his clever introductions that seemed to fall on mostly deaf ears, e.g., he said Jason Bateman was the only person in the room who had successfully navigated a path from being a child star to an adult one. (Harris has done EXACTLY that, from TV's "Doogie Howser, M.D." to Broadway and Hollywood fame. The audience seemed unaware.)
  • J.T. Simmons (Best Supporting Actor for "Whiplash") made a great impression thanking his wife for raising their "above average children" and urging the audience to "Call your mom! Call your dad!" He began his career in Montana theater, but spent time in Seattle working here.
  • Patricia Arquette (Best Supporting Actress for twelve-years-in-the-making "Boyhood") brought the audience to its feet with her call for equality for women.
  • Julianne Moore (Best Actress for "Still Alice") made a call for research and funding to cure Alzheimer's. She also mentioned that she read that an Oscar winner lives an average of five years longer than his or her peers. She's glad she won, because she's older than her husband.
  • Eddie Redmayne (Best Actor for "The Theory of Everything") was absolutely dancing with joy but managed to thank everybody and his uncle.
  • Lady Gaga surprised all of us with her coloratura rendition of selections from "The Sound of Music." I had NO idea that she was a trained singer. Julie Andrews was appropriately impressed and grateful (Andrews suffered damage to her vocal chords decades ago and hasn't been able to sing since). This was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the movie.
  • Wes Anderson ("The Grand Budapest Hotel") never took the stage but the cameras sought his happy face over and over as Oscar winners sang his praises for his dedication to filmcraft. (That isn't a word but it should be!)
  • Graham Moore (Best Adapted Screenplay for "The Imitation Game") told us he had tried to commit suicide when he was a teenager because he "felt different and like he didn't belong." He reached out to any teenagers who might be watching to reassure them that they DO belong!
  • Clint Eastwood ("American Sniper") never took the stage but his sound editors Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman won for Best Sound Editing. Eastwood's blockbuster made more than the rest of the "Best Picture" nominees combined.
  • Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky (Best Documentary for "Citizenfour") made a plea for protection from governmental overreach, case in point: Whistleblower Edward Snowden must remain in exile. When Neil Patrick Harris said Snowden "couldn't be with us tonight," it went right over the audience's head.
  • Joan Rivers - did the "In Memoriam" segment overlook her? If she was included, I missed it.
With a show this long, there were bits I have forgotten or left out. What can I say, this is Entertainment, not History.


McFarland, USA

We all love David vs Goliath stories, particularly in sports. Director Niki Caro ("North Country"), working from a heartwarming story by Chris- topher Cleveland ("Glory Road"), brings us a terrific PG-rated tale based on true events. In fact, during the final credits, we meet many of the actual people and are pleased to read what happened with them after the "happily ever after."

A tiny little poverty-stricken California town combines two unlikely things, a beleaguered coach and an award-winning cross-country track team. He happens to spot some of his students "commuting" (on foot!) between their work as pickers in the fields and their school classes. It takes only one day in the field for him to understand how tough these kids are and how much stamina they must have, just to survive. Both toughness and stamina are essential for cross-country track!

We watch:
  • Kevin Costner ("Black or White") Coach White steps into his new job with low expectations and a hot temper. He makes "gringo" mistakes about Low Riders and the importance of his daughter's fifteenth birthday (quinceañera), but after a humbling day in the field as a picker, he is willing to learn! Costner has rarely been better.
  • Maria Bello ("Prisoners") is his wife Cheryl, who sticks with him as he loses job after job. She is befriended by a local beautician and starts to feel at home.
  • Morgan Saylor ("Homeland") Julie turns fifteen in this strange little town, but her dad is busy and forgets.
  • Valente Rodriguez (Lots of TV) Principal Camillo shows us what a high-school principal SHOULD be! He spots phonies and finds opportunities where others might not look.
  • Carlos Pratts ("Coyote") Thomas is tough and fast. His schedule doesn't allow him the luxury to loaf. Señor Blanco will have to accept him as is, or not at all!
  • Ramiro Rodriguez (First role) Burly Danny Diaz is the anchor of the McFarland team, and NOT because he is muchacho gordo. His gutsy determination inspires them all.
Yes, this is predictable, but you will enjoy every step of your way to a happy ending. As you might hope, the only bad guys are the opposing teams (they play golf!) and the only gunshots are the starter guns at the track meets. You will see no sexual heat, vehicular mayhem or blowie uppie stuff, but you WILL enjoy McFarland's version of a ticker-tape parade, the town's many kindnesses for the new family, and the excite- ment of boys who finally see the ocean!

After I made a mental list of scenes I particularly liked (there is a LOT of humor, and I like humor), I quickly realized there wouldn't be enough space. Go see for yourself, and you might want to take along a tissue or two.
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Here is a trailer:
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Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman: The Secret Service was founded (and funded) by wealthy families after WWI who found themselves with no heirs. They could see the flaws in their government and its intelligence gathering, so they created a powerful, richly funded organization that NO one knows about or even suspects.

This R-rated (language and violence) action/comedy/adventure is directed by Matthew Vaughn ("Layer Cake" and "X-Men: First Class"). After a bloody opening, this unpredictable romp sets off with a parcour chase through city streets, and demonstrates enough gadgets to impress even Q, of James Bond fame. We see a raw kid recruited for training as a super spy, then we watch him learn the ropes while a gleeful villain launches a brilliant plot.

We see:
  • Colin Firth ("The King's Speech") Harry Hart/Galahad is the recruiter. Our young hero's father had saved Galahad's life at the cost of his own. Dapper Galahad has echoes of Steed from TV's original "Avengers" (including a bullet-proof umbrella) and a tongue-in-cheek Sean Connery from early "Bond" movies.
  • Taron Egerton ("Testament of Youth") Gary "Eggsy" Unwin is the recruit I just mentioned. He's a street tough burdened with a mother who has been going downhill ever since his father died.
  • Samuel L. Jackson ("The Avengers") Did I mention an R-rating? Evil Valentine has a plan to save the world and he's rich enough to do it! I'll bet his product placements for McDonald's Happy Meal and Google Glass help!
  • Mark Strong ("The Guard") Merlin can sort out the applicants until there is only one left standing. This is the perfect role for Strong: It's great to see this wonderful actor (finally!) granted the screen time he so richly deserves.
  • Michael Caine ("Interstellar") Arthur explains to our hero what the villain is doing, and why.
  • Sofia Boutella ("StreetDance 2") is Gazelle, can you guess what she brings to the table? Not only mad hand-to-hand combat skills, but a razor-sharp blade attached to her leg. Emma Peel should have been so lucky!
This carefully choreographed martial arts violence is gruesome and bloody, but the movie is so cartoony our screening audience laughed at that church congregation, and then applauded when the cigarette lighter/ grenade mowed down some enemies. It was also fun to watch our hero bond with the puppy he selected; he thought it would grow up to be a bulldog but it was actually a pug!
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This is the international trailer:
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Jupiter Ascending

The Wachowski siblings ("The Matrix") are at it again! This over- whelmingly action-filled fantasy/adventure takes us to various planets in outer space for two hours (and too many minutes) of disjointed Computer Generated Imaging and fragmented storytelling. Of course our heroes have to save the world, so that DOES take quite a bit of CGI! We saw it in 3D (Dodging Demolition Debris).

We are in the midst of a rivalry that pits siblings against one another. Each wants to "harvest" a crop that has ripened on Earth.

We see:
  • Mila Kunis (Meg's voice in "Family Guy") is Jupiter, born to a widowed mother amid prophecies of future glory but faced with the tawdry reality of cleaning toilets. Her Russian immigrant family is a noisy, contentious bunch but she loves them anyway. Her "compass is broken."
  • Channing Tatum ("Magic Mike") Caine was genetically engineered to be a warrior but some wolf DNA slipped into the mix. His "weapon" seems to be the ability to sky skate in and out of chaotic battles.
  • Eddie Redmayne ("The Theory of Everything") Balem has a brother and a sister. All three of them want to rule, but this upstart from Earth exasperates him.
  • Douglas Booth ("Romeo & Juliet" - 2013 - he was the pretty one) is Titus; this brother takes the art of lying to a whole new level.
  • Tuppence Middleton ("The Imitation Game") Kallique is their lovely sister; wait until you hear how OLD she is...and how she got that way!
  • Sean Bean ("Game of Thrones") Stinger can always depend on Caine; he's the best warrior he has ever commanded. Sad to say, the reverse isn't true!
My first criteria for a movie is that I am entertained; my problem here is that the plot takes lots and lots (and lots) of expository chit chat to explain all the ins and outs of the story. I found myself thinking, "Let's just get on with it, guys!" On the other hand, the production design is to die for: The space ships, Jupiter's gowns, her swarm of adoring bees (trust me!), and all that aerial mayhem. Most of this massive budget shows up on the screen.

Some of the humor amused us, e.g.,  Jupiter patches Caine's bloody wound with a new Kotex she finds in the car; the pause for a quick kiss during a battle for their lives elicited giggles from the screening audience; the all-too-familiar bureaucratic runaround, even on an alien planet, made me laugh; and everyone smiled at the crop circles!

This visual orgy will appeal to: 1) fans of the Wachowskis; 2) fans of CGI; 3) fans of action flicks with lots of blowie uppie stuff. Am I one? I refuse to answer on the grounds.... oh, you know...
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Here is a sample:
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Seventh Son

Okaaaayyyy...Here we're fighting evil spirits. If you are the seventh son of a seventh son, that makes you the local spook. It is up to you to run off evil spirits, witches and other pesky threats to the local populace. Problem is, you can't stop time and you are getting old and weary. So far, you haven't been able to find an apprentice who can survive long enough to do the job. Who will take over?

This PG-13 movie, directed by Sergei Bodrov, combines the usual grotesque monsters, dragons and witches with a sweet romance between two attractive (and NICE!) young people.  What a welcome change of pace. Of course the bar keeps going up as more and more disgusting monsters come roaring off the 3D screen, but at least we have someone to root for.

We see:
  • Ben Barnes ("Prince Caspian") is Tom Ward, sold by his parents to the spook... who is NOT impressed! Our hero learns a LOT, but much of it he would rather not know. He wishes he were a sixth son!
  • Jeff Bridges ("True Grit" - 2010) is Master Gregory, the ageing spook who can't seem to keep his apprentices alive long enough to learn their trade.
  • Julianne Moore ("The Hunger Games") is Mother Malkin, a witch who escapes from safekeeping and is out for revenge (shocker!),
  • Alicia Vikander ("Anna Karenina") plays Alice, the sweet niece of that nasty Mother Malkin. Alice is a failed witch and Tom is a failed spook: at least they have SOMETHING in common!
  • Djimon Hounsou ("Guardians of the Galaxy") Radu is Mother Malkin's go-to guy when it comes to beating the living daylights out of her enemies.
As someone who lived on a farm as a child, I always shake my head when I see how ignorant filmmakers are about what I consider basics, e.g., they have our hero strewing corn on the ground in the pigpen. That's how you feed chickens, not pigs! Aarghhh.

Is it a spoiler to say there is a happy ending?
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Here is a sample:
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