The King’s Speech

The King’s SpeechKings_speech_ver3

Its Oscar time once more and try as I might, there are just too many films to see – and not all are available to watch.  My wife and I really wanted to see this one though.  I enjoy drama when it focuses upon historical material most of all, as “The King’s Speech” did.

The film follows the speech-impaired “Bertie”, known to history as the father of the current Queen of England and as King George VI.  Bertie was thrown into his kingship at the advent of WWII, when England sorely needed a strong leader.  His father passes away and the throne passes first to Bertie’s older brother, Edward VIII.  Alas, poor Edward wants to marry Wallis Simpson an American divorcee.  His impending marriage threatens the stability of the Empire and Parliament will not stand for it.  So, Edward abdicates the throne in favor of Bertie.

The film chronicles the events well, and shows us the attempts made by the once-Duke and Duchess of York to cure his stammering.  The nation wanted someone that could speak for them, and this man had a big problem in that very department.  I found the film to treat the material with grace and kindness, which I would expect since this is an English film.  But it was the actors that made this movie Oscar material.

Colin Firth may very well win at the Academy Awards for his portrayal of the Duke of York as he ascends the throne.  Helena Bonham Carter was also superb in the film.  These two would have been enough to make the movie a smash hit with the critics, but it was the addition of Geoffery Rush as the Duke’s unorthodox speech therapist that seals the deal.  Rush is positively brilliant in the movie and he makes Colin Firth shine all the more in the scenes with just the two of them.  Firth has always been a very talented actor that never seemed to be cast quite right.  In “The King’s Speech”, his talent is showcased and I have a hard time imagining anyone else playing the role so well.

Carter’s portrayal of the Duchess of York is subtle and very sincere.  You believe her as a wife that cares so much for her husband that she’d do anything to help.  She and Rush both seem to do just the right amount of support for Firth, who in turn delivers a stunning performance.  How on Earth anyone can fake a stammer and a little lisp that is so subtle as to be almost inaudible is beyond me!  Kudos to the Director of the film, Tom Hooper, for utilizing such a fine cast with such a deft hand.

So, without having seen a lot of other Oscar-nominated films, I can’t say “the King’s Speech” is a sure winner for Best Picture.  However, I CAN say that Firth, Carter, Rush, and Hooper are all extremely strong candidates for winners in all their respective categories.  I highly recommend this film to anyone with an interest in speech therapy, history, or just drama.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE

 

Where the Heart Is

Where the Heart IsWhere_the_heart_is_poster

I know that a lot of people were shocked/stunned/wowed by Natalie Portman’s Oscar-winning performance in “Black Swan”.  I wasn’t one of those people.  Truthfully, there are so many better performances by this actress.  Just to throw out 3 of them which I think trump “Black Swan”, check out Natalie in “Garden State”, “Leon the Professional”, and “Beautiful Girls”.  I thought she was also excellent in “V for Vendetta”, but that could be the story itself talking.  Never the less, Natalie is a fine actress, and I believe the Oscar was over-due.  I had never seen her in “Where the Heart Is” though, and it is another role to add to that list above.  Man, can she play white trailer trash well!  I mean I found this be a stunning transformation and utterly believable.

The story may be a bit hokey, at least at first, but it grew on me quickly.  I was utterly won over to this film by Portman’s portrayal of Novalee Nation.  It’s stunning to see just how well she lived up to the role.  It’s in her voice, her mannerisms, and even how she acts physically.  I thought she really was pregnant at first!  Then I remembered that this film was released in 2000.  I bought it completely.

Where the Heart Is” gives us Ashley Judd as well, in a surprising role.  I say “surprising” because she takes a back seat to Portman.  I found Judd to be very believable too.  She’s not playing some perfect character without flaws; this character’s got plenty.  Judd though is spot-on perfect though as the believable best friend for life, Lexie Coop.  She’s honest and direct, and she could easily be somebody you know.  With the performances of Judd and Portman working together, this film was a delight!

However, it didn’t end there.  Stockard Channing turns in a memorable performance as the how-could-you-forget character of Sister Husband.  The character may be a bit zany and contrived, but Stockard does it so well that you don’t even notice!  Again, a very believable personality.  Add in a small part by the ever-enjoyable Keith David as a Wal-Mart photographer and you can begin to see that the supporting cast is really quite good.  One of the other main characters is Forney Hull, played by James Frain.  Frain is an actor that you may not even remember, but is really quite talented (and this film definitely shows it!).  Compare this role of Forney to his roles in “The Count of Monte Crsito”, “Reindeer Games”, and the vast work he has done on TV (I had no idea- just look him up on IMDB.com.)  Frain is pretty brilliant!

Where the Heart Is” is a compelling tale because the actors and their characters just reel you in.  Once you get even 15 minutes into the film, you find yourself wondering just what Novalee will do.  You find yourself rooting for the characters like Lexie and Forney, and you hope for a happy ending – against all hope.  I found this to be an emotional movie and very rich in both the quality of the acting as well as the directing.  Of course, I didn’t know this at the time of watching the film, but some directors are so obviously talented at their jobs, you just assume they have a veteran-like background.  I didn’t recognize Matt Williams by name, but when you see that man’s resume, you’ll smack yourself in the forehead – just like I did – and say “well, no wonder!”

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE

We Bought a Zoo

We Bought a ZooWe_Bought_a_Zoo_Poster

I love these “inspired by a true story” films!  I really do.  To me, it’s like what the news would be like if they only reported inspiring stories or just simply good news (as opposed to the news done well).  This film is definitely family entertainment, and very worth the watch.  The story follows a widower (played by Matt Damon) who looks to relocate his family to give them a fresh start following the death of his wife.  When he finds the house that he and his daughter immediately fall in love with, there’s a catch: in order to buy it, you have to buy the zoo that’s attached to the property.  For the love of his family, this widower decides to go for it.

Zoo” has all the clichés that you’d expect, including a love interest for the young widower and another for his teenage son.  Sometimes though, that is what makes a feel-good movie worthwhile.  Would the film be made more enjoyable by taking those elements out of the movie?  Nope.  Would showing the real story make a movie? No – that would make a documentary.  So, knowing that there is an abundance of clichés and that the story is largely fictionalized, you can now enjoy the movie.

Ignore all the other criticism of this film – and quite frankly, I am sick of Rotten Tomatoes and its % score based upon reviews.  Cameron Crowe is at the helm and for me that means a lot.  I trust in Cameron to deliver a film that I will FEEL.  If you don’t immediately recognize the name, here’s a short list of other films he’s crafted: “Elizabethtown”, “Jerry Maguire”, “Say Anything”, and “Almost Famous”.  Ring any bells?  I bet that list did more than that; I bet you started thinking of the music from those films.  It’s true that Crowe incorporates a lot of really great music into his films, which in turn makes them movies that carry a lot of resonance with them.  (Come on, who can forget John Cusack holding up that boom box and playing “Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel???)  This is why I say that since Crowe helmed “Zoo” it was bound to be a film that would reach me on a deeper level than a lot of other films.

There’s the usual tension building up from the story of a guy who knows nothing about running a zoo and the knowledgeable staff.  There’s a race against time to get the place fixed up to pass its inspection with a terror of an inspector.  There’s also the strife between a teenage son and his father who have difficulty communicating with each other.  Then there’s the love stories thrown in.  It may be very formulaic with a generic happy ending, but I honestly just liked the movie.

I recommend this film for those in mood for a sweet movie with a pretty great cast and an inspired story.  Don’t fret about the details, and instead focus on how the movie makes you feel.  “We Bought a Zoo” is perfect for the whole family to enjoy.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.

 

Valkyrie

Valkyrie”  Valkyrie_poster

Sometimes you wish the best for certain directors because they seem to possess a real gift.  Bryan Singer is one of those for me.  Since “the Usual Suspects”, I have been rooting for Singer.  When I heard he was doing “X-Men”, I was thrilled.  I also wasn’t disappointed.  He proved himself quite adept at handling the super-hero genre.  Heck, he managed to direct a sequel that was as big – if not bigger – than the original in “X-Men 2”.  He may have been misguided when he ditched on the 3rd X-Men movie to make “Superman Returns”; the film was such a dud that even DC Comics admits to thoughts of remaking that film already.  So, when I heard that Singer was getting a crack at “Valkyrie” – a film based upon the real events surrounding the assassination plot against Hitler by his own officers – I thought it would be a slam dunk of a success.  When I heard the talent discussed as being in the film, I was even more excited.

I should have expected the inevitable outcome though.  I mean, after all, we know that Hitler was not assassinated.

The talents of the actors in this film are impressive.  Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy (whom I absolutely love!), Kenneth Branagh, and the enduring Terence Stamp are all just phenomenal!  These men are just plain brilliant actors.  No matter what they do, they always leave an impression.  Their resumes are HUGE and exceedingly wondrous.  Even Tom Cruise can be fairly brilliant, depending on the movie: I look no farther than “Born on the 4th of July”, “A Few Good Men”, and “The Last Samurai” for proof of that.  I saw “Valkyrie” as a chance for Singer to get back up to where he belongs.  I wanted him to have another killer of a hit.

I love WWII films.  I eat them up.  (Ask anybody that knows me how many times I have watched “Band of Brothers” for proof.)  I may be one of but a few folks out there that can actually watch “the Longest Day” again and again.  It’s very exciting subject matter to me for many varied reasons.  If there is a film centered on WWII out there that I have NOT seen then it is a RARE film.  Needless to say, I thought the combination of Singer as a director, the storyline, and the amazing cast was a perfect combination.

Sadly, the film doesn’t live up to my expectations.  It wasn’t a bad movie.  It just wasn’t a great movie.  It lacked something.  Maybe it was the story?  The plot fails, Hitler lives.  Rats.  Then again, we already knew that – since that’s what really happened.  Was I simply looking for too much from this film?  Maybe so.  You have to admit though, it sure sounded good.

When it is all said and done, I will continue to root for Bryan Singer in hopes that someday he will achieve another critical success like “The Usual Suspects”.  “Valkyrie” may not have been it, but it wasn’t a bad movie.  I suppose I was just expecting more.  A note to all directors out there though: if you have Kenneth Branagh in you movie, don’t limit his screen time to 15 minutes.  That is infuriating.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE

  • Valkyrie (cinemaglimpses.wordpress.com)

V for Vendetta

V for VendettaVforvendettamov

It’s that time of year when people head to the polls to cast their ballot.  What a wonderful feature to our government, you know?  We collectively determine who is running our nation.  I might be over-simplifying that and I am not going to even get into lobbyists and special interests groups.  But – in the end – we vote our leaders into office.  In that vein of thought, I figured I might rattle your brains with a political action-drama film that is based on a graphic novel.  “V for Vendetta” is a BRILLIANT work of art!  That’s right folks; this isn’t just a film.  When it comes to a film being defined as a work of art, it has to meet some very EXCEPTIONAL criteria (because I just wouldn’t call it so otherwise).

V for Vendetta” is a story about freedom and of course, revenge.  It really is focused upon political power and it makes a few really fine statements about the influence the “common man” has.  Power, real or perceived, can be taken away at any moment by a disgruntled population.   When you stop to think about it, all governments are subject to public approval.  If the public doesn’t like their government, they will and ALWAYS have revolted.  Some people in this world seem to think that because they are in a seat of political power that they are “untouchable”.  Nothing could be further removed from the truth.  If a government pushes the limits of what its public will tolerate, you can bet your ballots will be turned into bullets.  When that happens, historians will call it “rebellion” or “revolution”.  I call it “the righting of society”.  Society needs a change and when that need is strong enough, action MUST follow.  In my opinion, governments are nothing without the support of its people.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with this film, you may be wondering what I am talking about?  “V for Vendetta” is the tale of a near-future in England wherein a dictatorship has risen to power through the use of censorship and terrorism against its own people.  Of course, this latter point is the crux of the story – hence, the reason for a vendetta.  It is the story of one man, a victim of the evil of this plot of a dictatorship to overthrow the established government and take control for itself.  That one man mounts a series of attacks aimed at the specific people responsible for the atrocities committed by the dictatorship.  In a brilliant move of storytelling, the man is a bit theatrical and seeks to express the human condition to the masses without the interference of censorship.  In other words, he plays banned music in forbidden areas, he stays up past curfew, he steals works of art before they can be destroyed, and he watches movies that the government doesn’t want you to see.  He’s a rebel and an artist, but he is also the moral conscious of the film. Through him, we are exposed to the villainy of censorship and what happens to a society when they agree to let others do their thinking for them.

The main character is the faceless V.  He is called a madman, a crazy person, a genius, and a terrorist of sorts.  V is out for revenge, not so much for himself (although he has plenty of cause) as it is for someone else and what was done to that person.  That person is a complete stranger to V.  However, her death symbolizes all that is wrong with the world in which V lives.  It lights a fire within V to not simply seek out those responsible and punish them, but rather to alert the public to the need for change.  He wants to complete a mission by another rebel that was never completed hundreds of years ago.  That mission was the plan of Guy Fawkes and other conspirators which would become known as the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.  V’s plan to resurrect the Gunpowder Plot is meant to inspire the people of the nation to rebuild their government.  V wants them to identify want is wrong with their nation and change it.  Will blowing up a building really accomplish that feat?  As V would explain it, “the building is a symbol, just as the act of blowing it up is a symbol.”

Far too few movies can provoke such profound thoughts.  “V for Vendetta” is a success on so many levels that it is hard to imagine that more critics don’t put this film on a pedestal.  The film tells a political tale, but also a story of revenge.  It reminds me in a way of the line from “The Dark Knight” about how a hero lasting long enough to become hated by the people he protects.  V is not a hero in a classic sense.  He is out to overthrow the totalitarian government that has inflicted grave injustices upon himself and others.  Within the film, V references another classic tale of revenge: “the Count of Monte Cristo”.  I know that movie (and its 2 remakes) and the original novel well.  Here is where the film achieves true greatness!

V becomes allies with a hapless woman caught up in his rebellious plot.  Her name is Evey – another fine performance by the greatly underrated Natalie Portman.  Evey becomes the real story of “V for Vendetta” for she is both victim and hero.  She is taught through her alliance with V to become utterly free of fear.  She begins as a weak person and ends the film as its strongest character.  She provides that truly grounded-in-reality, human experience that we experience the story of the film through.  V may be the main character but Evey is our guide.  She rises above fear of the powers that be with the aid of V, and in the end she helps V to remember he is after all human.  Evey and V’s relationship is a love story within this political tale of revenge, and with it, the film transcends just being an entertaining action film/thriller.  It becomes a work of art.

I think I make that claim because I don’t ever recall a more poignant tale about politics and freedom.  “V for Vendetta” could have easily become some action flick with a political backdrop.  It could have been a romance story with a revenge backdrop.  It could have been a revenge story that is clouded by politics and a love story.  It was none of those things.  It rose above what it could have been because it shows what one man is willing to do for the cause of freedom, and what one woman can teach a man bent on revenge about love.  This is a positively brilliant movie because it gets me thinking about the value of expression…and freedom…and love…and revenge…every time I watch it!

So, in the immortal words of the Gunpowder Plot, I ask you to watch this film and “Remember, remember the 5th of November, the Gunpowder, treason, and plot.  I can think of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.

The Vow

The Vow”  The_Vow_Poster

I took my beautiful Valentine out for the Holiday weekend and we caught “the Vow”.  I thought it looked rather appealing from the trailer for it.  It stars Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams.  I like Rachel McAdams and I figured it would be a solid film with her in it.  It’s definitely a romantic film, so I figured that it would be perfect for a Valentine’s Day date.  (Sometimes, I REALLY like it when I pick the perfect film and my wife loves it – and that’s exactly what happened with “the Vow”.)

Rachel  McAdams plays a gal that suffers a traumatic brain injury via an car accident that she endures along with her husband, played by Channing Tatum.  The tale centers around the fact that when she finally awakes in the hospital, she no longer remembers her husband (or her entire life over the last 4 years).  After seeing her in “Red Eye” (a remarkable little movie, truly) I knew I would always be interested in what she was doing, but it was “the Notebook” (which I saw WAAAAAAAY after it was out on DVD) that made me say that she has real star power.  She can be a lot of things as 1 character – funny, sad, charming, angry, depressed – which I think makes her invaluable to roles such as this one.

There are a couple of things about this that hit me a little different than maybe was the intention.  Number 1 on that list: my nephew and Godson suffered a traumatic brain injury just this past year and I cannot express how similar some of those scenes in the hospital were to the real life situation that my sister’s family endured.  I am now very familiar with the phrase “traumatic brain injury” and I know a lot more about exactly what that means.  Number 2 on that list: as I still feel like a newlywed (and I will for my whole life) when I see a couple endure something as dramatic as this, I get a little tense inside.  My 1st thought is: what if that happened to my wife?  So I was watching this whole film cheering on the husband and all of his efforts and praying that her memory comes back!

On that note, Channing Tatum is not who I would have imagined as the lead in a romantic film like this.  I think the last thing I saw him in was “G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra” which was NOT good (and I’m being generous).  I see him in interviews and on the Red Carpet and I am actually predisposed to liking this actor – but I just haven’t seen him do anything that great yet.  In fact, most things I have seen him in are really quite awful.  Well, not any more.  Tatum is emotional yet controlled, believable and likeable, and actually kind of funny at the same time.  He had believably real chemistry with McAdams which made their on-screen romance seem completely real to me.

There are a lot of great moments in this film, a lot of great lines.  That’s really refreshing to see too.  A movie with great lines that is NOT a comedy???  It’s practically unheard of in Hollywood today!  Like I said, the stars are well cast and do a fine job.  But maybe the greatest thing about this film is the ending.  The movie was inspired by a true story, which makes it even better in my opinion.  The ending is not what I expected, which I actually ended up liking even more than if it had been what I was expecting.    The ending also made the entire film feel even more believable.  Of course, that’s when you see a picture of the real couple and you learn of their real story.  It was an awfully nice way to spend Valentine’s Day (even if it was a day or so early) with my sweetheart.  I recommend you do the same when watching “the Vow”.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe_Perks_of_Being_a_Wallflower_Poster

I love films that harken back to the ‘80s, and this one does it extremely well.  In a way, “Perks” is reminiscent of “St. Elmo’s Fire” which is more about about self-centered brats trying to become adults, but there’s a lot of familiar feeling between the two films.  But a better and more direct comparison is “It’s Kind of a Funny Story”.  Adolescent kids with some serious mental and emotional problems, just trying to live their lives – it may not be all that original, but it sure is fun to watch!

Anyway, “Perks” is fairly incredible.  It’s mostly the acting.  Logan Lerman plays main character Charlie who is having problems entering into his Freshman year in High School.  Who hasn’t been there?  There’s a wealth of reasons why Charlie is pretty nervous about High School, and none of them are easy for any teenager to handle.  He does the best he can, but alas he is becoming a wallflower.  However, Charlie bravely befriends Patrick (played masterfully by Ezra Miller) at a football game.  Miraculously, Patrick and his stepsister Sam (Emma Watson, a.k.a. Hermoine from “Harry Potter”) accept Charlie into their fold.

This is perhaps the greatest thing about people.  Some people are wonderful because they don’t judge you; they look at you, smile, and invite you to join in the game of life that we all must play.  In high school, that sensation is magnified a hundredfold.  Call it teenage angst or whatever, but it’s very real and very, very powerful.  Does anyone NOT remember high school?  Some of us were lucky, entering as Freshmen with older siblings ahead of us.  Some of us see old friends who no longer wish to talk to us.  Some of us know people that are friends with our cool older siblings and we think that might work in our favor.  And some of us are unlucky enough to have all of this pass us by, and we are left standing against a wall at a high school dance, too socially inept to do much of anything except watch life pass us by.  “Perks” captures this brilliantly and amazingly well.

On the plus side, “Perks” will also let you believe in the camaraderie that exists between wallflowers.  In the ‘80s, we were freaks, geeks, social outcasts, misfits, etc.  Whatever we were, we found strength in each other.  That is the message behind “Perks”.  As messed up as you might think you are, you can find solace in the kindred spirits around you.  They are always there.  You just have to be brave enough to try to be a friend.  “Perks” highlights this is an elegant and delightful manner.  Maybe Patrick and Sam didn’t go to your school, but I bet if you reach back inside your mind, you will find them there.  The characters are sweet to the point of maybe being a little too good to be true, but I bought the performances easily.

There are the stereotypes to be found in this film ALL OVER the place.  There’s the punk rock girl that is bossy.  The kleptomaniac does it out of spite to her rich parents.  There’s the gay jock trying to hide who he really is from his own father.  There’s even the artsy & cool English teacher.  The crazy goofball who is actually the wonderful best friend you never knew you had.  Of course, there’s the innocent boy and the quirky girl trying NOT to be a couple but are actually perfect for each other.  However, the serious side of this movie is that dark and ugly horrors existed in seemingly every high school back in the ‘80s.  I won’t even go into them, but we all knew they were there.  Maybe that was just the way the ‘80s were: a time when those secrets and horrors were seemingly everywhere.  Truth is, there have always been there, but in the ‘80s, they were coming out in to the light.  For some reason, high school seemed to be the catalyst in unleashing the “other” side of life.  It was the life we were really living, but society didn’t seem to want to hear it.  Now, I am sure that is true for how all high school students feel regardless of what decade I am talking about, so maybe that was not limited to the ‘80s.  The bottom-line: “Perks” brought up a lot of the social feel of the ‘80s to me and it seemed pretty authentic.

There’s a lot of “oh I remember that stuff” moments in “Perks”, mostly nostalgic feelings for the music.  The film is set in the ‘80s, in case you hadn’t guessed.  The artistic style of its direction felt Cameron Crowe-like at some points in the film, too.  The film is based on a book and honestly I do not know if it was biographical or not.  All I can say is that as a high schooler from the ‘80s, it seemed pretty accurate.  I enjoyed the way it was filmed, and in particular I loved the absence of sound during some of the flashbacks – save for dialogue.  That created a wonderful sort of spotlight on the moment.

All in all, “Perks” is a cool film set in an era that is no more, filled with cool music and recognizable stereotypes.  Underneath all of that though, there is a rather depressing story to be told.  So, be warned about this film: it is not all happiness and light.  The mature themes of this depressive tale mark this as what I would deem a Rated R film.  There’s sex, drugs, language, violence, and sexual themes abound in this.  Fortunately, “Perks” stays on point with the story of Charlie and doesn’t get lost in the miasma of the debauchery of teenage life.  The message of the film stays strong and comes out on top with its realistic ending.  Here’s to life in the ‘80s and here’s to “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” for reminding us how messed up our lives were or were not back then.  A good movie!

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE

The Lovely Bones

The Lovely BonesLovely_bones_ver2

I had reservations about this film.  I knew the premise of the story line and as any parent will tell you that scared the daylights out of me.  It just doesn’t sound entertaining; it sounds too real.  The story is thus: a young teenage girl is brutally murdered, and this is the story of her ghost trying to find justice for what was done to her.  The film stars some great talent: Mark Wahlberg as the father, Rachel Weisz as the mother, Stanley Tucci as the murderer, Michael Imperioli as the Detective, Susan Sarandon as the grandmother, and Saoirse Ronan as the victim.  The film is even directed by Peter Jackson, a personal favorite of mine.

All that being said, this film is a let-down.  There’s plenty of suspense, and drama, but the film becomes filled with a ton of visual nonsense and poorly-written parts.  The sort of “Heaven” that Susie Salmon, the victim, finds herself in seems to be utterly out of place.  It was distracting to the meat of the tale, and I for one didn’t like it.  It was too much “What Dreams May Come” and not enough of what it should have been.  I guess it made some sense to the story they were telling, but I thought it was too sugary sweet and all happiness and light.

Tucci is brilliant in the film, and his performance deserves some recognition.  He plays creepy very, very well.  Sarandon veritably steals the whole film though with her over-the-top performance as the booze-swilling & inept grandmother.  Sadly though, Wahlberg wasn’t allowed to show what he can do.  I kept thinking of “the Departed” when I was watching his performance here & thinking “I know he can do so much more”.   The biggest disappointment though was Rachel Weisz.  She’s a top-notch actress, but the part that she was given to play was just …blank.  It was almost non-existent.

The film also has a big problem with what I call “the righteous end”.  A film like this, featuring the violent murder of an innocent young girl, should have an ending that makes you think that at least the killer was caught in the end.  SPOILER ALERT!   No, in this film, the killer is taken out by a complete accident: an icicle falls on the guy causing him to trip and fall off a cliff.  The ending leaves me thinking the writer of the original tale (it was originally a book) wanted the murderer to die, but didn’t want to have him killed in a realistic fashion.  It was like they didn’t want to dirty their hands.  The writer must have wanted to say “I don’t want our main characters to become evil like him”.  Maybe I am just too old-fashioned but I wanted justice to be shown in this film.  After all, it IS a movie.  While it may appear very true-to-life, it is still just a fictional tale.  I was hoping for an ending like “To Die For”.

Over all, the film wasn’t all I had hoped for.  If the realistic story intimidates you, trust me – the “heavenly” scenes will lessen the blow.  I don’t even want to get into the very twisted ending involving the possession of the medium-like character.  That didn’t help the film’s ending either.

…and that is it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.

 

 

The Karate Kid (2010)

“The Karate Kid” (2010) Karate_kid_ver2

It’s not a bad film, and I was predisposed to disliking it because I disagree with remaking older movies that got it right the first time.  I guess that means it was probably a pretty great film – to someone that had never seen the original.  Jaden Smith takes on the titular role, with Jackie Chan as this film’s Mr. Miyagi.

Two things I didn’t like about the film: the age of the title character, and the speed at which he learns his “karate”.  First of all, yes the film is about a kid – so the main character (Dre) should be a kid, right?  Maybe.  The original had the main character (Daniel) at age 15 turning 16.  That works better than a very slight of build 12 year old.  The difference in my mind comes down to one thing: teenage angst.  Dre goes through all of the same kinds of things as Daniel did.  However, the subject matter of the story plays better against the backdrop of a bunch of teenagers, specifically high schoolers.

Secondly, it would appear that Dre learns advanced forms of Kung Fu inside a year’s time.  We aren’t told how much time actually passes in the film, but we know it is within the same school year.  Um, no.  No, no, no, no.  This is what I call complete absurdity.  Oh, I know: I am being overly critical.  Maybe so, but I am speaking from a deeply educated personal background.  I trained in martial arts for several years and I can tell you that such speed of training is simply not possible.  By contrast, what Daniel went through in the original was more like he was trained just enough.  In fact, in the original Mr. Miyagi says “Trust in quality of your Karate, Daniel-san; not quantity.”   I may be nit-picking here, but I think the public should be informed that what Dre goes through is simply not possible (and this may be the movies, but it is not science fiction).

Other than that, I have to say that Jaden Smith is clearly his father’s son.  That is a very good thing, mostly because his dad seems very likeable (and the Box Office agrees).  His mannerisms and even how he talks is very reminiscent of his dad.  He does a fine job with the role, and that bodes well for his career.  Jackie Chan was a great choice as Mr. Han (aka. Mr. Miyagi).  I will say that the scene in the busted up car was such a tender moment that I very nearly broke down.  That may be worth watching this whole movie for.

Overall, this updated version of the tale is okay, a good family-friendly film.  Sure, I have some reservations, but I am also aware that not everybody will see what I saw.  On that note, it makes me wonder if they will ever consider doing a sequel to another ‘80s film (technically it would have to be the third film in a franchise I suppose): “Ghostbusters”.  I only bring this up here because I think A) it could be done and done very well, and B) I saw “Karate Kid” and “Ghostbusters” as part of a triple feature back in NY in 1984.  THAT was a very good day at the movies!

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE

 

The Help

The HelpHelp_poster

Wow.  That’s what I need to say about this movie.

I was reluctant to see this movie at first.  I cited the worst moniker around: “chick-flick”.  But, I wised up and started to pay attention to what the film was about.  Let that be a lesson to all you “guys” because this film is incredibly worthwhile!

The Help” is about a book.  It’s the story of a young author that decides to tell the story of life in Mississippi in the 1960s, but not from the well-do white women’s point of view.  It is instead told from the view of the help.   Now, I don’t need to extrapolate on what exactly that means, but I will stress that the timeframe for the setting of this film would not have worked in any other situation.  I guess I kind of knew that from the trailer, judging by how people were dressed, but it didn’t really sink in.  I will also say that in a most fortuitous turn of events, I just recently watched “the Ghosts of Mississippi” on TV not long ago.  That helped me gain a better understanding of events that would play out in “the Help”.

First of all, any film that deals with the issue of segregation in America in the 1960s is bound to strike a nerve.  For many of us, that issue never touched our lives because we lived too far away.  I myself grew up in an area where I did not even meet a member of another race until I was in high school, really.  I always looked at this issue at arms-length, because what did I really know about it?  In school, you begin to grasp some of its importance.  In college, it really starts to strike home.  That’s how it went for me.  In this day and age, when I see such stories played out in film and television or even a theatre, I think of two incredibly important men.  What a strange country this is, that 2 great men like Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King were killed for supported a principal inherent in all that America stands for.  All men are created equal.  Another way I like to think of it is “equality for all, or none”.

Now, I bring this up because this film is poetic, poignant and very compelling when talking about this issue.  It is displayed with sensitivity and brutality – all at the same time.  Oh, there’s humor to much of it as well.  But I was truly affected by the performances in this film.  These actresses were all STUNNING in their roles!  As a long-time watcher and predictor of Oscar-worthy performances, I can say without hesitation that “the Help” will be nominated for the following: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costuming, Best Actress (Viola Davis), Best Supporting Actress (Jessica Chastain), and Best Actress (Bryce Dallas Howard). THAT is how good this film is and THAT is some incredible talent at work in this film.  Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if “the Help” stomps all over the Golden Globes as well this year!

There are parts of this story that are universal and very heartwarming, and some other parts that just reach you on a personal level.  For myself, I loved the relationship between Miss Minny and Celia Foote.  It was powerful, deftly handled by the director, and those actresses nearly stole the movie!  But let’s not overlook Emma Stone as the young author or Allison Janney as her mother; these are great roles for both of these fine actresses.  Their relationship was so well done!  I cannot overstate how impressive the entire cast was in this film!

So, in summary, I HIGHLY recommend “the Help”.  This will win Best Picture hands down – and if it doesn’t, I will eat crow.  A superb story, a top-notch job by the entire cast, great directing, and just an overall fantastic movie, “the Help” is my pick as Best Film of the Year.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE