Friday, April 30, 2010

Jurassic Park -- 1993

Jurassic Park

Rated PG-13 for horror and violence and some language
My Rating: 4 Stars

Sam Neill
Laura Dern
Jeff Goldblum
Richard Attenborough
Bob Peck
Martin Ferrero
B.D. Wong
Samuel L. Jackson
Wayne Knight
Joseph Mazzello
Ariana Richards

I have been startled into a slight reflex during a movie; I may have even made a squeak during one or two. But I've never, in all my days, screamed and nearly fallen off my chair. I have even less excuse than most audiences, because I had read (and greatly enjoyed) the book Jurassic Park, and suspected what was coming. Lol. Steven Spielberg outdid himself on this film.

Dr. Allan Grant is an archaeologist, working in the badlands of Montana with his co-worker, Dr. Ellie Sattler and crew of diggers. They had just made a new discovery of a fossilized dinosaur when wealthy and persuasive John Hammond. arrived on the scene. Mr. Hammond. has leased an island in South America and built a park with some unusual attractions on it. When asked what the attractions were, he merely smiled and said, “Why don't you come and see?”

There is never a project of that scale without investors and Mr. Hammond's had been asking questions. He needed favorable, authoritative opinions before he could go on with his building. Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler seemed like a perfect choice; they're doctors (so their opinions will matter), they are a little eccentric (therefore, just the people who might approve of what he was doing) and, of course, they love... dinosaurs.

Allan and Ellie weren't the only people Mr. Hammond. had enlisted. He had a mathematician, a representative from his lawyer and the man who had set up Jurassic Park's computer system. The latter was there to iron out the bugs in the system while the important visitors were making their rounds. All together, they made an interesting company of folks.

Jurassic Park was a theme park, but it wasn't just any theme park. With the aid of fossilized mosquito blood (whose donor had fed on dinosaurs then gotten itself stuck in tree amber, therefore being perfectly preserved) and frog DNA to fill in the gaps, Mr. Hammond's scientists had managed to reproduce dinosaurs of all kinds and sizes. When the visitors first got a glimpse of these magnificent creatures, there were mixed reactions. The lawyer was ecstatic, thinking of all the money they were going to make; Dr. Grant was impressed but wondered what he'd do for a living from now on. Dr. Sattler's feeling were similar. The only one unfavorably impressed was the mathematician. His comment? “I am horrified with the lack of respect shown towards nature.”

About this time, Mr. Hammond's grandchildren arrived. Here was the ultimate proof that he expected the visit to go smoothly. Two young children he cared deeply for were going to experience the same tours that the others were taking.

Probably everything would have gone smoothly and everyone would have gone on their way afterwards, praising Jurassic Park and their experience there to the skies. But Dennis the computer programmer had something up his sleeve. He had been paid money... and lots of it... to steal embryos from the lab. In order to this, he had to shut the security systems down. Unfortunately, if you shut down the security systems of Jurassic Park, it did more than turning off cameras and gates. Little did Dennis realize that his greed for money would lead to disaster... and the loss of more than one life.

What I Liked:
1: The special effects of this movie are spectacular.
2: The score – excellent!
3: How little offensive language there was.
4: How well planned the horror was. It was very effective.

What I Didn't Like:
1: There were quite a few untied strings when this movie ended. For instance, what happened to the staff of Jurassic Park? All the scientists? The chefs? Etc? They simply fade out of the picture and for all the viewers know, they stayed behind on the island. Btw, what did happen to the island? Did they simply leave the dinosaurs to reproduce and overrun their habitat? Obviously, the baby dinosaurs were not getting their supplements, so they were surviving without them... therefore, the adventure could continue on... and on. (In the book, the island was eradicated by the government.)
2: The romance between Allan and Ellie added a an element that I didn't care for.
3: The mathematician was much more of a play boy on the film than he was in the book. In the book, he was very solemn and somewhat of a philosopher. I liked him better in the book. ;-)
4: I felt that the character of Mr. Hammond was mixed in the film. He was rude, then kindly, then arrogant, etc, etc. In the book, he was egoistic, arrogant and had no room for advice/wisdom from anyone. By the time the end came along, he really was a villain who deserved his fate.
5: Some (mild) language.

With all the problems I had with this film, you are probably wondering why I gave it 4 stars. I must say that with all that I didn't appreciate, what I did appreciate was greater. :-) I do recommend this film. For me, it has found a resting place in the list with “Ben-Hur”, “Indiana Jones”, “Sound of Music”, “Fiddler on the Roof”, “Amadeas” and “The DaVinci Code”. These are all films that have something about them that made a great impact on me and the way I look at life.

Now, for all of you Jurassic Park movie fans: go out and read the book. Come back when you're finished and tell me what you think. :-)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

High Crimes -- 2002

High Crimes

Rated PG-13for violence, sexual content and language
My Rating: 4 Stars

Ashley Judd
Morgan Freeman
Jim Caviezel
Amanda Peet
Tom Bower

Claire Kubik is a smart, happily married, wealthy attorney with a perfect life. But her life comes crashing down around her when her husband Tom is arrested for military crimes. He had another name and another life she didn't have a clue about. But, regardless of that, she decides to believe him when he declares that he is innocent.

As she gathers her defense to save her husband's life, Claire unknowingly begins digging a little deeper than certain people want and her life is threatened. She is attacked, watched, stalked... she doesn't know who she can believe, except her husband.

But she always has her lawyer by her side. Charlie Grimes (Morgan Freeman), is an ex-military lawyer as shrewd as they come. At first he goes for the case because he thinks it will be interesting. But as he delves deeper, he finds he is in it for Claire, whom he has come to think of as a friend.

What I Liked:
1: The friendship of Claire and Charlie Grimes. It's so nice to watch two people from completely different backgrounds become good friends. I found it very heartening and refreshing.
2: How strong Claire is. She is willing to fight to the end for what she thinks is right. Even if it means hurting those she loves.
3: The story was great. It was a mystery that kept me guessing until the end.
4: I felt all of Claire's emotions. Ashley Judd did a wonderful job on this film.
5: How this film was based on a book.
6: The humor. My favorite line was, “Embry-o.” Totally cracked me up.
7: I have watched several films featuring Morgan Freeman and he is one of my favorite actors. There is a distinct quality to him.
8: Actually, all the actors on this movie were great. :-)

What I Didn't Like:
1: Language.
2: The almost sex scenes. Didn't seem out of place with the Kubiks but it would have been better if they had stopped the camera sooner. :-P
3: It would have been better if they hadn't had Jackie sleeping with Embry. They could have simply fallen in love, etc. Leave out the sensuality. Please.
4: There was a scene at a bar with some very undressed females. They were not necessary.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Game Set and Danger -- Anna Clarke -- 1981

Game Set and Danger

Anna Clarke

My Rating: 4 Stars
Ages 17+ (most of it would be fine for 14 & 15 year olds but there are some references to torture/experimental methods of the Nazi doctors during the Holocaust... and a couple other elements (that perhaps only an older reader would understand) that I didn't appreciate.

There's nothing I love more than a good mystery... and there is nothing like the frustration I feel when a mystery is poorly executed. I had never read this author before, so began this book with some trepidation. Was it going to be well written? Were there going to be twists? Was the story going to hold my attention until the end? The answer was yes. My attention was properly held and impressed, I was surprised three or four times at the twists Anna Clarke threw in and when I finished, I thought, “I should read it again.” :-)

When Helen was a young woman, she was a great tennis player. Her partner was her best friend and they played many games together, each striving for the best performance they could muster. They were very close, so close that it was almost unhealthy. Neither wanted to get married for fear of hurting the other... and it took a summer's absence from each other for their lives to continue on. While abroad, Marianne met a German artist who won her heart while Helen decided to marry her childhood sweetheart, a serious young man studying to enter the church of England.

As close as the two girls were in their youth, married life left them no time to continue their friendship, except by infrequent correspondence and even rarer visits. Helen thinks that perhaps it's best since her husband Arthur doesn't care for Marianne at all. He's an even tempered man in all other respects so she takes the interrupted friendship with typical patience for those in her life.

Life goes peacefully on for twenty or so years. Glenna is born to Arthur and Helen; Marianne's artist husband is becoming famous and has made a tidy profit from his paintings; Arthur is now the vicar of Collinghurst in Sussex. Both couples are established in their communities, having their own circles of friends and acquaintances, living their own lives as they like. Helen thinks life will continue on just that way for another twenty years or so.

But her peaceful existence is interrupted suddenly by a letter from a distraught Marianne. Her husband had fallen down a cliff and had been killed. She had found him at the base of it... horrible. Couldn't Helen come stay with her? She needed her friend immediately. Of course Helen will go. Arthur makes a fuss but Marianne needs her. And even with the years lapsing as they had, when you have a friend like Marianne, you have a duty when she calls for help.

When Helen arrives in Germany, the first thing she notices is that Marianne is a bundle of nerves. But what startled and nearly frightened her was the fact that Marianne locked Helen's bedroom door (from the outside) the first night. By the time the next four days have passed by, Helen is no longer sure that Karl fell down the cliff. And she's also not sure if Marianne is as guilty as she's acting. And then there's the strangely sinister village doctor who seems to be Marianne's dark shadow. He wants something from Marianne but she isn't sure what.

The ending is as thrilling as it is surprising.

What I Liked:
1: The patterns of dark and light in this story. I didn't appreciate when it ended on dark, however.
2: How well written it is.
3: A nice variety of characters.
4: The twists in this story. I wasn't expecting any of them. :-)
5: How she added a WW2 aspect. In fact, the story hinges on it, though one isn't sure how until the end.
6: It was a mystery. I love a good mystery.
7: Marianne's guilt was well written and seemed realistic.

What I Didn't Like:
1: Arthur being a skunk. Blah. :-P
2: I wish there weren't any women who are sheep. It seems outrageous when someone takes advantage of them. ::sigh::
3: How it ended on a black note.
4: The scenario of husband loving his wife's best friend even though the relationship would be impossible, etc. I suppose it happens sometimes in reality but that doesn't stop me from disliking it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Down With Love -- 2003

Down With Love

Rated PG-13 for sexual humor and dialogue
My Rating: 4 Stars (I was debating a lower number but for reasons listed below, I give it the number I have.)

Renee Zellweger
Ewan McGregor
David Hyde Pierce
Sara Paulson
Tony Randall

Let me begin by saying that I've never loved and hated a film so much. Only with Fiddler on the Roof have I been so completely swept away into a world that I found utterly fascinating, charming. And only with my least favorite films have I been this aghast at the principles taught (in an amusing, but very effective way) in this film.

In the 1960's, a gorgeous blonde by the name of Barbara Novak (Renee Zellweger) has just written a book for women called “Down With Love”, encouraging women to do just that. With three stages, Barbara Novak claimed that she could help all women overcome the need for love. The first stage? Refrain from sexual relations and affection for/from men altogether. When you feel the need for sex, eat some chocolate.

With a little luck, perseverance and a good friend for an editor, this book becomes a world wide phenomenon. In doing so, Miss Novak becomes very popular herself and is introduced on many T.V. shows, where she talks about her book and the women who have read it. In doing so, she brutally and purposely blackens the name of the man around town himself, Catcher Block... the most notorious ladies man ever (not excluding King Henry VIII).

Catcher Block is not only the most eligible bachelor ever, he's the star reporter for KNOW magazine, famous for his vicious exposes. [pro. X-spo-zayz... sorry, readers: I haven't discovered how to accent my words yet.] And now, incensed that a mere woman would dare try to ruin him, he determines to ruin Miss Barbara Novak. His plan? Make the “Down With Love” girl herself fall in love with him.

What I Liked:
1: The music, clothes, acting, directing, etc, etc, etc. was all gloriously 60's. As Renee said, “It's like eye-candy!”
2: How incredibly well acted this film was. Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor acted very well off each other, as did David Hyde Pierce and Sarah Paulson.
3: The story was so well done. There were no holes or loose strings. The twists kept me firmly in my seat and eyes glued to the screen.
4: The feeling I got when I finished the film, “I'm so glad I watched this film.”
5: The romance. I love the romance.
6: Ewan McGregor is now my 2nd favorite actor...
7: ...while Renee Zellweger is probably my favorite actress.
8: Every detail in this film was necessary. Nothing was over or underdone.
9: “I love you too much to have sex with you before I'm married to you.” 'Nough said. :-)
10: The humor. I don't think I've laughed so hard over a movie. This is film is funny. Capital letters and italics!

What I Didn't Like:
1: Did you ever wonder how much sex could be stuffed into one little story? I don't mean the actually act. I mean implications... movements... sensuality... apartment gagets (a couch that turns into a bed)... pronunciation of words (for crying out loud!)... (And yet, they somehow leave you feeling like you've just watched the cleanest love story in history. How do they do that?)
2: Some language.
3: Homosexual references.
4: The entire premise of the movie was against a woman's natural behavior, emotions, and place in the world. This premise is pushed throughout the film, jokingly and although partially disqualified with the conclusion of the movie, it is not completely disposed of. If the viewer is a woman with a rebellious spirit, the message of this film will only feed her dissatisfaction with her God given role. If the viewer is a man who doesn't view women with a protective, loving (biblical) spirit, he will feel the need to emotionally abuse the woman/women in his life to keep them submissive. Conclusion: this film can be dangerous to certain character types/attitudes.

Do I recommend this film? For educational (non-sexual, of course :-P) purposes, such as learning about quality filming and period movies. On the other hand, if you need a good laugh and you won't be bothered by the negatives I've listed, go for it. Not for kids or for young men who have problems with their thought life. My apologies for being blunt.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cheaper By the Dozen -- 1950

Cheaper By the Dozen

Not Rated (I'd give it a G)
My Rating: 2 Stars

Clifton Webb
Jeanne Crain
Myrna Loy
Betty Lynn
Edgar Buchanan
Barbara Bates
Mildred Natwick
Sara Allgood

Based on best seller by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. I'll start by saying that the book is better and except for three very funny incidents, I didn't care for this film.

When Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr. and Lillian Moller Gilbreth were married, they decided to have twelve children. Lillie asked if half of them could be girls and Frank said, of course and promptly wrote it down in his memo book so he wouldn't forget. Well, the Gilbreth's did indeed have six boys and six girls and this movie is about them growing up.

The movie is set up in episode like sequences... rather like the book. But the movie only captured a quarter of the fun that is in the book, and except for the three incidents I cited before, it isn't told nearly as well.

One theme that runs continuously throughout the film is the rebellious nature of the two oldest girls. There is some of this attitude in the book but it is infrequent. I wish they had picked something else to concentrate on because it makes the movie almost painful to watch. As children mature, they often have different ideas of how life should be; some good and some not. In this case, it made fun of both the girls and the father as they tried to sort things out.

One thing I loved about the movie was how beautifully Myrna Loy was dressed. I wish I had dresses like that! They are so graceful and feminine, but very practical. Probably part of the reason the dresses were so pretty is because Myrna Loy was such a lady, herself. :-) She acted a wonderful Mrs. Gilbreth.

In conclusion, this film gave a mixed message. Part of it was how wonderful it was to have a large family. The other was all the trouble and heartache that comes with it. I suppose those two could have been mixed better, given a different director. However, as I mentioned before, they really concentrated on the rebellious spirit of the daughters... so unless they changed the script, I'm not sure how it could have been made better.

Read the book. :-) It's refreshing!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Black Beauty -- 1994

Black Beauty

Rated G
My Rating: 4 Stars

Alan Cumming
Sean Bean
David Thewlis
Andrew Knott
Jim Carter
Georgina Armstrong
Gemma Paternoster
Rosalind Ayres

Docs Keepin Time (Black Beauty)

Black Beauty was born on Farmer Grey's farm in England during the 19th century. He was just a typical horse with a typical life in that era but author Anna Sewell immortalized him, showing the world that just because something or someone is classed 'typical' doesn't mean that it is unimportant.

This film is well done, for the most part. It chronicles Black Beauty's life, hitting the 'important' parts (the ones that come to mind when we remember the book) and people. My favorite character is Jerry Barker (David Thewlis). A kinder man you never did see. But the parts with the Gordon children, Jessica, Molly and Alfred, were very fun and added a whimsical air to the film.

What I Liked:
1: How clean the film is.
2: The beautiful photography of horses/scenery/people.
3: How well England is portrayed.
4: 99% of the acting is wonderful.
5: The main horses used were gorgeous creatures.
6: The score... ranks with “Miss Potter”!
7: Jerry Barker/David Thewlis. Bravo!

What I Didn't Like:
1: There were a few instances that seemed unrealistic.
2: A few of the tricks of the trade were obvious... for instance, when Reuben and Black Beauty have their accident, and Black Beauty is led away you can see something is on his foot to make him limp.
3: Sean Bean didn't get a bigger part. He's a phenomenal actor.
4: How they used a stunt man instead of Sean Bean to train Black Beauty to run while saddled.
5: Why did they have to make John hit the water instead of having the man at the other end of the bridge, like in the book? It would have been better. Especially since the water was so obviously not deep.
6: They should have picked an actor that could cry or not had 'old' Joe weep when he finds Black Beauty again.

Do I recommend this film? Yes... it's a great kids movie. Very clean, funny, with happy and sad parts. :-)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Above Suspicion -- 1939

Above Suspicion

Helen McInnes

Rating: 5 Stars
Ages 15+ (some violence and torture)

I've read one other book by this author and really enjoyed it. The mixture of mystery and espionage, delightful characters and lots of action Helen McInnes uses is delightful. And since WW2 is an era of special interest to me, I was happy to discover this book was written at about the same time her story took place.


Richard and Frances Myles haven't been married very long. In fact, they're are still rather in the honeymoon stage. Life was pretty sweet, actually. Both were students at Oxford, where they were happily living their life together in their small abode. Both enjoyed traveling in Europe and had taken several trips in between their studies. Richard wanted to make one last trip to Europe before war erupted, so they were packing up for a few weeks abroad when Peter arrived.

Peter was an old friend of the Myles. He had always been involved with political work but he had suddenly become involved in something much more important and dangerous than his desk job at the British Embassy: espionage. In the spirit of The Scarlet Pimpernel, the network that Peter Galt was involved in smuggled anti-Nazis out of Hitler's Europe. But something was wrong. They had received some misleading information and two of the network's last 'packages' had been picked up by the Nazis. It appeared that the network had been infiltrated, way up at the top. The only way to know that for sure was to make contact with the man in that position. Due to a close call, Peter's face and name was known to the Nazis, so he was out for the job. He had sent a man in of his own, but he hadn't been heard from. It looked like the safest way to check on things was to get someone who was not a spy, and therefore, not suspected. “A couple of innocents abroad...” Thus, his visit to Richard and Francis.

Richard was not so sure he wanted anything to do with the mission but Frances was delighted at the prospect. Here was a wonderfully great adventure, just waiting for them. As with many others at the beginning of the war, she was very naïve about the situation and dangers in Europe and the Nazi regime. People loved to think of themselves as small heroes, making short dagger thrusts at the enemy, hurting him a little, but not enough to get into trouble. Little do they realize that when you take a stick to an ant's nest, all of hell breaks loose.

Peter assured Richard that there was little or no danger, if they followed his instructions, so after much deliberation, Richard agrees. But the neither Richard or Frances are the type to run away from danger if they can save someone, even if it mean going the 2nd mile and straight into the face of danger. For every ounce of their naivety, there are two of courage and devotion. And when it comes to following instructions... well, they're pretty good about them. ;-)

What I Liked:
1: Each character in this novel was so unique and different than the next.
2: The relationship between Richard and Frances was strong. I loved watching their love for each other deepen as they experienced difficulties and victories together.
3: Watching Frances mature into a wise and mature woman.
4: All the action. It was nearly a perfect mixture of excitement and peace.
5: The sequence of events was fairly realistic and very believable. I appreciated the author's insight on the war... even as it was happening. I can't help but wonder if she had eyewitness accounts or experienced some of the events herself.
6: Style, way of life, manner of speech, etc, in England is very well portrayed. It's interesting how in style it was to smoke. Several times, it's mentioned that everyone was offered and accepted a cigarette, or some other form of tobacco.
7: How many characters one doesn't know for sure about until you're right in the thick of it. Very exciting. :-)
8: The wonderful descriptions of European cities, living quarters, people, scenery, Nazi headquarters, etc. It delights the senses.
9: Humor always makes things slide down easier and so in the case of this story.

What I Didn't Like:
1: I couldn't cite one page or chapter, but occasionally, I got the feeling of the author's imagination... like she was filling in the blanks with what she thought should happen. It was rare, however.

I wish there were more of these books to read. Somehow, the authors of the 40's picked up a similar style to write with and it is a good one. It leaves the reader feeling warmed by good old fashioned morals, adventure, history, and clean romance. I will be looking for Helen McInnes' other books.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Miss Potter -- 2006

Miss Potter

Rated PG brief mild language
My Rating: 5 Stars

Renee Zellweger
Ewan McGregor
Bill Paterson
Emily Watson

The other evening, the teenagers were at youth, the younger set were tucked in bed and we had company to occupy my dad, so Mom and I settled on the couch and watched “Miss Potter”. I had watched it a couple times but Mom hadn't seen it before and it was a pleasure to share one of my favorite films with her. It was an even greater pleasure to have her to myself for a entire hour and a half. I am the oldest of 11 children, the youngest being a year old. If you can imagine our household, you'll know what a rare thing this opportunity was. :-)

On my mental list of movies, Miss Potter ranks right up with Fiddler on the Roof (which is #1 :-)). I love the detail. I love the story. I love the scenery. I love Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor. I love how clean this film is. I love how I can recommend it to anyone. Okay. I admit it. I love everything about this film!

Sheltered artist Beatrix Potter is single (:gasp:), in her early thirties (:gasp:) and hasn't any desire to marry at all. (:faints:) In fact, all she wants to do is publish her illustrated story, Peter Rabbit. Beatrix's father enjoys her art (he wanted to be an artist when he was younger) and compliments her on it, but does nothing to help her along to her goal. Her mother, on the other hand, thinks that anything Beatrix does, besides getting married, is foolishness.

So when Beatrix gets her book published, in spite of all obstacles, and begins spending more and more time at her publisher's office, said mother is less than pleased. And when Beatrix invites her publisher, Mr. Norman Warne (Ewan McGregor) and his sister Miss Millie Warne (Emily Watson), to the Potter's annual Christmas party, her mother was horrified. But she would have been even more horrified had she known about the romance budding between her daughter and her publisher.

But the rose is slowly unfurling her petals and the beauty of womanhood is upon Miss Potter. Romance has a way of making life never be the same again.

What I Liked:
1: Renee Zellweger.
2: The painting... picking brushes, mixing colors, selecting paper, experimenting with colors...
3: Mr. Potter's wisdom in letting Beatrix mature (at last) and go.
4: The romance. I love how Beatrix and Norman fall in love.
5: Millie Warne. I love her. She is so endearing and sweet. “Hogwash!” ;-)
6: The veritable black crows... Fruing (David Bamber) and Harold Warne (Anton Lesser).
7: Norman Warne. I'd marry a guy like that character.
8: How rich this movie is on all counts. It delights the senses.
9: Miss Wiggin (Matyelok Gibbs). She is so prim and proper... the type of old maid society was turning out. She was actually the most most comedic part of the film. Well done.
10: The score is lovely. Probably the most beautiful I've ever heard. I love the reoccurring theme, “Teach Me How to Dance”.

This film is more of a girl's film because of the romance and 'gentle' quality to it, but I highly recommend for anyone. I wish there were many other films with this quality.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Sum of All Fears -- 2002

The Sum of all Fears

PG-13 for violence, brief strong language
My Rating: 4 stars

Ben Affleck
Morgan Freeman
James Cromwell
Liev Schreiber
Alan Bates
Philip Bakerhall
Ron Rifkin
Bruce McGill

The reason I rented this movie is because I saw it was based on a Tom Clancy novel. I read his “Hunt For Red October” and was impressed with all the detail and research he included. I hoped this movie would be similar. I was even more hopeful when I began watching it and saw in the introductory credits that Tom Clancy is the Executive Producer of this film. I figured that if he had anything at all to do with the making, the movie had to be at least a little bit good. :-)

It was a lot good.

Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck) is just a historian. Well, a little more than that. He researches living people, too. And since he's done his history and paid attention to character and scenarios, he can usually give a good guess at what comes next.

In this case, he predicted it. No one paid any attention to his prediction until his prediction comes true. When attention came, he was hired by the CIA and swept into a world of intrigue, politics, terrorism...

Coming at a time when The Cold War threat was still lukewarm, terrorists strike America and from all appearances, the U.S.S.R. did it. They claim innocence. The President and his staff aren't sure. And when a second attack occurs, this time definitely from Russia, they are certain they must take counter measures. Through it all, Jack Ryan claims the Russian government had nothing to do with the attacks on America and that someone else has a plan in mind. But can he stop counter attacks in time?

The most memorable line in this film for me was this: “People say Hitler was insane. He was not. Hitler was stupid. You don't try to fight Russia and America. ...but if you can get Russia and America fighting each other...”

For the record, I think Hitler was insane. Unfortunately, he had just enough genius to become one of the most infamous murderers in history.

What I Liked:
1: Very well done... story, filming, sequence of events, psychology, acting, etc, etc. I can't praise it enough. The actors who had the chance to be in this movie have a right to be happy with it. Bravo.
2: Morgan Freeman. He is such a great actor. The subtlety of his facials features, way he stands, walks, sits, speaks... it all makes for an incredibly rich actor. A treat for the viewer.
3: Liev Schreiber. Something about watching this man embody his character left me wishing he had more scenes. Excellent work.
4: The score. Great music. Bravo to the composer, musicians and conductor.

What I Didn't Like:
1: The bed scene. Nothing too graphic but enough to let you know where it would have headed if the phone hadn't rung. (Thank goodness for the phone!)
2: Language. Mostly happening when the President (James Cromwell) got excited.

I recommend this movie. :-) Enjoy it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Shooter -- 2007


Rated R for strong graphic violence and some language
My Rating: 4 stars

Mark Wahlberg
Michael Pena
Danny Glover
Kate Mara
Elias Koteas
Rhona Mitra
Rade Sherbedgia
Ned Beatty

If you like conspiracy, action, romance and a lesson on sniper shooting, this movie is for you.

When military sniper, Bob Lee Swagger, is left for dead in the middle of nowhere and his best friend and spotter is killed in a mission gone wrong, he is left with an tarnished vision of the land of the free and home of the brave. When he made it out, he payed his respects to the people who were to fault, then retired and retreated far into the mountains, resolved never to shake hands with the government again.

But when he is asked to help divert an assassination attempt on the President of the United States, the oath he took to defend his country and it's people rang in his ears once again. He agrees to stage an assassination so the agency requesting his assistance will be able to use the knowledge he imparts to them to stop the real assassination attempt.

What happens when an agency turns out to be shady? What happens when the assassination is executed and pinned on Bob Lee Swagger? What happens when he's shot twice at point blank range? What happens when the agency tears his life apart and hurts those he loves? What happens when the head of the FBI sits beside him and remarks, “This is not the wild west, when the streets were ruled by guns... even if that's exactly what needs to happen”?

What I Liked:
1: The story. It was very interesting and totally kept me on the edge of my seat for the entire movie. :-)
2: Action, but not too much. Very well done.
3: The cast. I'd seen Kate Mara in Zoom and really enjoyed her performance there. She is just as good in this film. Mark Wahlberg was excellent as well.
4: Clean romance.
5: There was implication of rape but only that. Thank you, Mr. Director! Oh. Thanks also for the fitting end of the rapist.
6: The sense of justice happening, in spite of a very screwed up justice system.
7: The young FBI agent showed a remarkable character and tenaciousness for what was right, even when everyone else said he was wrong (and worse). I enjoyed his character the most. It was a refreshing change.

What I Didn't Like:
1: How unrealistic/unnecessary some of the story seemed. For instance, even I knew they were going to pick up on the existence of the girl. Why didn't Bob Lee, as efficient as he was in every other situation, think of that?
2: The language. I wanted to show this film to my brother (age 15) but when I re-watched it (with my ears open... usually when I'm watching a film, I block the language out of my head) and didn't feel as though I could for that reason. Frustrating.
3: Why did Sarah have to get kidnapped with her shirt off? (She was wearing underclothing, for the record.) It wasn't necessary... added nothing important to the story. Thankfully, it's only three shots and only one is fairly graphic. It would be easy to cover the screen.

This movie was filmed beautifully and the story told well... it isn't a movie I'd want to watch often but I'm glad I watched it. It's another movie that the viewer can learn from. I love watching Mark Wahlberg embody Bob Lee Swagger as deals with a set of raging emotions... learning that even though a person goes through a horrendous ordeal, bitterness never helps. But being thankful makes all things bearable.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Marley and Me -- 2008

Marley & Me

Rated PG thematic elements, some suggestive content and language
My Rating: 4 Stars

Owen Wilson
Jennifer Aniston
Eric Dane
Alan Arkin

John and Jenny Grogan are newlyweds, trying to make a start on their life together. First, they move to Florida. They find a lovely house. They both get good jobs. What's next on the list? John is afraid it's going to be kids. He doesn't feel ready for kids yet.

“Get her a dog. That will help keep her mothering instinct under the wraps for awhile.”

On this advice, Marley, the “world's worst dog” enters the Grogan's home. What ensues is as good or better than Beethoven, but with Owen Wilson thrown in.

This is probably one of the sweetest movies I've seen in awhile. For a secular film, this story had more biblical principles than most Christian films do. I really enjoyed the story about the Grogans... how they adjusted to having children, moving, job changing, etc, etc... all with Marley, three bounds ahead of them. The funny parts are really funny and the sad parts are really sad. I was laughing and almost crying and relating to the story the whole way.

What I Liked:
1: This story could have happened to anyone in North America and I'm sure everyone in the world can relate to a certain extent. Very well done.
2: The acting was marvelous. Bravo!
3: I love the relationship between John and Jenny. The highs and lows are there for you to see and learn from. A lot of truths were there for the viewers to learn from as well.
4: The relationship between the John, Jenny and the kids. At one point, Jenny decides to quit her job because, if she was, “going to miss out on something in life” it sure wasn't going to be her children. “I made a commitment and sure it may be harder than I thought it was going to be but that's ok.”
5: How John wrote his columns about himself and the family (that includes dog).

What I Didn't Like:
1: The almost sex scenes. If they hadn't been in there, I could have let my siblings see this film. I wish I could have.
2: The language. Not too bad but there is some.
3: Beach scenes. Lots of bikinis.

I highly recommend this film. It is a beautiful story that you don't often get to experience with Hollywood.

I would love to read the book this film is based on.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Miss Congeniality 2 -- 2005

Miss Congeniality 2
Armed and Fabulous

Rated PG for violence, crude jokes and sexual references
My Rating: 3 stars

Sandra Bullock
Regina King
Enrique Murciano
William Shatner
Ernie Hudson
Heather Burns
Diedrich Bader
Treat Williams

I wasn't terribly impressed with this movie for several reasons but the main one was the FBI sequences seemed fake. I kept thinking, “This is a movie. This so would not happen in real life.” That being said, I am the first to admit that I am fairly ignorant when it comes to the real FBI world. I am only comparing this film to others I've seen that featured the FBI (S.W.A.T, Shooter) and other agencies (Mission Impossible 3, Sum Of All Fears).

After her heroics at the Miss United States Beauty Pageant, Special Agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) is too well known to safely participate in field work. In fact, she almost got herself and her partners killed while on a mission because a bystander recognized Gracie as an FBI agent from the talk shows and magazine covers that had featured her. On top of that blow, her boyfriend breaks up with her, leaving Gracie feeling lost and bewildered. So when her boss offers her a career of being the new face for the FBI, Gracie accepts. Awkward, gangly, Special Agent GS13 turns into a glamorous and famous beauty that isn't allowed do anything that is not packaged and sealed decorum.

Right about this moment, enters Sam Fuller (Regina King) who just transferred from Chicago because of anger management issues. She's tough, mean and ready to beat up anyone in her way. She has a very low opinion of Gracie Hart and Gracie Hart has similar feelings for Sam Fuller. Nonetheless, to their dismay, Sam is appointed Gracie's bodyguard.

With her new glamor and list of rules, Gracie is supposed to be on magazine covers, not field duty but when her friends Miss United States and Stan Fields get kidnapped, she can't help herself. And what happens next is a fairly amusing turn of events.

What I Liked:
1: Regina King is one of those wonderful actors who brings a smile to my face. She's the reason this film went from 2 stars to 3.
2: I liked the unglamorous Gracie Hart. The snort when she laughs, the ratty hair, the unprofessional quality about her and the dedication to her job. She's endearing.
3: I liked watching Jeff Foreman (Enrique Marciano) mature.
4: The humor was often very funny.
5: I love how they use Dolly Parton for the Dolly Parton scene.

What I Didn't Like:
1: The sexual/crude humor.
2: The dress was pretty... well, typical for stars. :-P
3: I didn't like how they abruptly went from Gracie being herself to glamorous. Even though they made it a point to inform the view ten months had passed, the change didn't seem realistic.
4: Parts of the movie seemed completely unrealistic.
5: The language. (There was not very much.)

A movie doesn't have to be realistic. In fact, if you're just looking for entertainment, you might enjoy this film. A lot. It's well done and funny.

My favorite lines are:
“Please don't make me do something unladylike!”
“I don't usually like to do this but...” ::gun cocks::
“She's too young to die and I'm not as old as I look!”

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sahara -- Clive Cussler

Clive Cussler

A Dirk Pitt Adventure
Age: 16+
Rating: 5 stars

After watching and enjoying the movie, I was delighted to discover there was a book. Yesterday, I read it... all 568 pages and found myself mentally applauding the author. He has such a gift for plot and characters, humor, gruesomeness, history and mystery and emotion. He kept me turning page after page. I love a good book. :-)

Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino have been buddies since childhood and they now have a bit of fame to their name for their deep sea adventures. But author Clive Cussler decided it was time for these two to take a break from the water and tread sand in the adventure of their lives.

Dr. Eva Rojas, a biochemist from California is in Cairo, Egypt with her colleagues from World Health Association. They were sent to study a plague that was severely affecting the natives of the Sahara Desert. From the symptoms, they suspected the plague was due to toxins and they suspect nothing more until Eva is brutally attacked and nearly killed by two men. Dirk happened to be in the neighborhood and rescued her (and took care of her assailants) but they are both puzzled. Why would someone want to kill Eva when she is only trying to save lives? Nothing seems connected so Dirk sees Eva and her colleagues off to the Sahara, albeit a trifle sadly since he's not sure when he's going to see her again. Little does he know!

Shortly afterwards, Dirk's boss, Admiral James Sandecker, is notified of a rapidly spreading water contamination. No one in higher power will listen to him, even though danger of extinction of all living creatures on earth is imminent. So he does the next best: he sends Dirk, Al and their friend, scientist Rudi Gunn, in a yacht to find the source. Enter into the world of adventure as this trio travels up river and meets all sorts of savory characters.

Dirk Pitt: rogue, hero, ingenious. He's also thinks that he's God's gift to women, which is why he's not married. Lol. I appreciated the fact that he always thought first of those he loved, even when things seemed hopeless. I also appreciated his sense of humor. Probably the funniest part in the book was when he told the dictator General Kazim the truth about the rescue team and Kazim back handed him, accusing him of lying, so Dirk made up a story. Kazim believed that one.

Al Giordino: funny. This guy's sense of humor had me laughing out loud more than once. His timing is excellent... his personality helps with the laughs, too. He's also ingenious and very quick on his feet. The only thing I didn't like about Al was how mouthy he was. When you're in trouble, it's wise not to sass the bad guys and get them to beat you up. Unless, of course, you're three steps ahead of the bad guys when you mouth off.

Rudi Gunn: genius scientist. Very handy with guns, too. Nice to have around when you're in a pickle. My favorite line of his was, “Why me?” Oh! Did you know that when you wear a back pack around your front and dress yourself in a djellaba (a long flowing garment), it looks like you're fat?

Admiral James Sandecker: domineering, determined. This man will do what he knows is right, even if he's going to get into a serious amount of trouble for doing it. And he's pretty good at the manipulation thing, “Once you see the boat, I guarantee you will change your mind.” :-)

Dr. Eva Rojas: dedicated, beautiful and caring. Her personality was more dynamic in the movie but I still admired her character. She wished to help humanity, even if it was at great cost to herself.

General Zateb Kazim: dictator, evil. This man cared nothing about his people... in fact he cared for nothing except himself. He was a genius gone wrong and money helped him on his way.

Yves Massarde: And yet a more evil character! His ending was... fitting. The humor related to him was what made me laugh the most.

Colonel Marcel Levant: Commander of the United Nations Critical Response Team sent in to rescue Gunn and the group of people enslaved in the mines. He liked to call it his duty and he was very brave, but I have a sneaking suspicion that he gloried in the adventure and smoothness with which his team worked.

What I Liked:
1: The history and knowledge.
2: The humor.
3: The rich array of characters.
4: 99% of the book. ;-)
5: Even though the author had the Dirk and Eva sleep together, it doesn't go into detail... stops at the point when they find themselves alone. Thank you for that.

What I Didn't Like:
1: The fact that Dirk and Eva sleep together. It didn't help the story at all.
2: Occasional bad language. (It wasn't terrible.)
3: How bloodthirsty and callous Dirk and Al seem at times. (Ok.. I'm a girl...)

I do recommend this book and I'm looking forward to further adventures of Dirk and his crew. Read and enjoy! “The...humor never ends.”

The Clearing -- 2004

The Clearing

A Thousand Words/Wildwood Enterprises Production

Rated: R for brief strong violence and language
My Rating: 5 stars for direction and production
My Rating: 4 stars (minus the 5th because of language)

Robert Redford
Helen Mirren
Willem Dafoe
Alessandro Nivola
Matt Craven
Melissa Sagemiller

One word: abstract.

There is a line in the movie “Amadeas” in which it is said that Mozart's music was perfect and would fall if one measure or note was added or taken away. That is how I feel about this film.

There could be a number of other words used to describe this: beautiful, ugly, angry, fulfilling, sadness. But the first word that comes to my mind is the first: beautiful. Because love is that. In the end, when all is said, felt or done, it is beautiful.

A “self made tycoon” as they describe him, is kidnapped by an old classmate. Over the next hour or so, the story unfolds and you are witness to a couple's love for each other and their family... glowing even in the most difficult times. Even when they wonder if they can trust each other. Even when they've been married for thirty some years.

And you get to see into the mind of the kidnapper. Why did he do it? What led him down this path? What snapped and when? Did anything snap? Where do bitterness and ungrateful thoughts take you?

The movie doesn't end like you expected it to. But even though, I was left feeling filled and hopeful for happiness, even after all the mistakes.

What I liked:
1: The beautiful love this couple had for each other.
2: How well the movie was filmed and directed. Bravo!
3: The actors were phenomenal. All of them.
4: The story was very well written and kept my interest until the end.
5: The 'bad guy' was truly bad and made for a very interesting study of...
6: Psychology... the entire movie was very good that way.
7: This movie made me think.
8: The score was perfect. ::applauds the composer::

What I Didn't Like:
1: The language... not lots of it but enough to be offensive.
2: Swimsuits in the pool... one bikini. It fit right in with the story and didn't seem out of place or overdone but if you have a problem with swimsuits, keep this in mind and a towel handy for the screen. Easily covered.
3: The husband had an affair at one point and the wife goes to talk with the former girlfriend. It's necessary for the story but be warned.

Do I recommend this movie? Yes. Definitely. :-) It's not an entertainment film but definitely one worth watching for excellence in production, psychology, love, family values, etc.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Fever Pitch -- 2005

Fever Pitch

Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, and some sensuality.
My Rating: 3 stars

Drew Barrymore
Jimmy Fallon
Jason Spevack
Jack Kehler
Scott H. Serverance
Jessamy R. Finet
Maureen Keiller
Lenny Clarke
Ione Skye
KaDee Strickland
Marissa Jaret Winokur

Drew Barrymore is another of my favorite actors. She always makes me laugh. But this movie didn't ring a bell with me, even though I've always liked baseball more than any other sport. Pathetic, huh?

Lindsey is a highly successful business woman who loves her work with a passion. Little does she know that romance is just around the corner... with the most unlikely person ever.

Ben is a super-fan of the Red Sox baseball team and his devotion always seems to put off girls. He doesn't care though. He'd rather have his game than a girl any day.

But when he meets Lindsey, that changes. Life suddenly got a lot more beautiful. But can two obsessed people make a relationship work? And if they can, will it be healthy?

What I Liked:
1: Lindsey's parents. Her dad and his hair totally cracked me up every time. Hilarious! I've never seen anything quite like it.
2: Oh... I must admit it: I did enjoy the romance. :-)
3: Ben reaction to maybe having a kid was so sweet. I don't know of any girl who wouldn't think, “awww” about a dad-in-the-works buying baby clothes.
4: Very little language. Nice change.
5: Great acting.

What I Didn't Like:
1: Crude jokes... and there were a few.
2: Sex scenes... well, they stopped at kissing, but you know what's happening. It was awkward and didn't help the story in the least.
3: The story/film/etc wasn't me. I couldn't get into it.

My favorite Drew Barrymore film is “Music and Lyrics”. That film was ::fun::! (I can't recommend it 100% but it's a sweet story with some excellent music in it.) If you're a big sports fan, Fever Pitch might be your kind. It wasn't a horrible film and I did enjoy some of it. :-)

Behind Enemy Lines -- 2001

Behind Enemy Lines

PG-13 violence, language
My Rating 4 stars

Owen Wilson
Gene Hackman
Gabriel Macht
Charles Malik Whitfield
David Keith
Olek Krupa
Joaquim de Almeida
Vladimir Mashkov
Marko Igonda
Eyal Podell

Does anyone else out there think that Owen Wilson rocks? :-) He's become one of my favorite actors of all time. It doesn't matter if he's a cowboy, family man, pilot, or cop, doing an action, comedy or serious part, he's fun to watch.

In this film, Owen plays the part of navigator Chris Burnett who has gotten so bored with the whole military system that he uses any excuse at all to get into trouble. In fact he gets onto his commander's nerves so much that The Admiral (Gene Hackman) sends Burnett and his buddy/pilot, Stackhouse, on a routine mission... on Christmas Day.

Both guys are pretty miffed at this but Burnett is especially since he knows The Admiral gave the orders because of him. So when their censors pick up some heat where there wasn't supposed to be any, Burnett convinces his buddy that they should check it out. Against orders, of course. Ten minutes later, they were shot out the sky.

US soldiers down in Bosnia. Were the natives friendly? Perhaps the majority. But Burnett and Stackhouse have evidence. And there was a man desperate not to have the evidence leave the country or fall into the hands of his contemporaries.

What I Liked:
1: The great acting. Everyone on this movie was excellent. It is one of the best military movies I've watched.
2: How realistic it is... or seems. If it's not, then I fell for it. Lol.
3: It's very well directed and the score is wonderful.
4: The relationship between Burnett and The Admiral. An interesting study.
5: Basically, 99% of the movie.

What I Didn't Like:
1: The language. It gets hairy sometimes.
2: There are two or three scenes/happenings that seemed pretty unrealistic. You could tell they only would have happened that way on a movie.
3: One of the directors favorite things to do was have Burnett get into a very tight situation and you wouldn't be sure if he got out because the camera goes to the enemy or something besides him... therefore, the viewer rarely sees how Owen gets out of the situation. Once or twice is fine but through the entire movie? Please. :-P

Do I recommend this movie? Yes... I do. It's not a film for children or for someone who is not used to action/violence but for those that like this type of movie, go for it. Makes for an enjoyable evening.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Baby Mama - 2008

Baby Mama

PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language, and a drug reference
My Rating: 2 stars

Tina Fey
Amy Poehler
Greg Kinnear
Dax Shepard
Romany Malco
Maura Tierney
Holland Taylor
Sigourney Weaver

This is one of those movies that I laughed over two or three times, finished the film and thought, “Was that worth my time?” The answer, I'm afraid, was no. There were too many negatives.

Kate is a very successful, childless, single, 37 year old business woman who suddenly realizes that she wants a baby. Everywhere she goes, she sees babies. And I mean everywhere! She looks around her conference table and all the fat, balding men and ugly women sitting at it turn into gurgling, grinning, adorable babies. (That was one of the scenes I thought was hilarious, in case you hadn't noticed.) She rides in the elevator and all the women in the elevator have babies. She walks down the street and there are strollers with dimpled, angelic babies in them no matter where she looks.

So she tries artificial insemination. Five times. Oh. Wait. I think that was six. Anyways, it doesn't seem to be working. She goes back to the Dr. He informs her that he doesn't like the shape of her uterus... in fact, he doesn't think she can get pregnant. “One chance in a million,” he says.

“Have you heard of surrogate parenting?” asks her sister. Kate says no way. That is not a route she would dream of taking. Ever.

The fee is $100,000. The woman/broker who runs the place is in her 40's and having babies the natural way. Kate makes an appointment to see several would be surrogate mothers and she finds... Angie.

What ensues is... interesting. Funny at times. The best part is when Angie is “beating up on her baby bump”. Hilarious.

What I liked:
1: How well filmed it is.
2: The actors are perfect for their parts.
3: Sweet romances.
4: When the humor was good, it was really good.
5: The lead actors (Tina Fey and Amy Poehler) really work well together.
6: The jokes about the health food industry were the funniest. Oh my word.
7: How Kate and Angie both learned there is more to life than money.

What I didn't Like:
1: The crude language/jokes.
2: A lot of the characters were dressed seductively.
3: The scenes they cut out should not have been cut out. They left several strings untied by doing that.
4: The very little moral in this story.

It's a movie for entertainment. It's not one I would watch again but I'm not sorry I watched it. I would like to see those actors in a different type of film because they are excellent at their profession.