Friday, November 13, 2015


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Movie Review: Spectre -- Bond Does It Again

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Wit, non-stop action, and a liberated heroine make Spectre -- that is breaking records in the UK -- a blockbuster delight. Spectre a criminal spy organization is masterminded by Christoph Waltz, the champion of naughty. Daniel Craig as Monsieur Bond charms as you from Mexico City, to Tunisia, Rome, Austria and, of course, London. Bond searches half way around the world for Waltz (Django Unchained) who plays the sinister Oberheiser determined to torture and to kill Bond. Craig does not let you down nor does the script which has pistol-like one liners that will guarantee your laughing out loud -- sometimes at the most inappropriate moments. And this is part of the charm of Spectre. Surprise. Laughter at the sinister. And yet two scenes were predictable, but one can forgive this faux pas because the rest of Spectre flies like confetti. Bond's love interest is offered in the form of Lea Seydoux as Madelaine Swann who has a Lauren Bacall quality that is refreshing. Her independence makes her Bond's equal. She sports no eye make-up, flaunts no cleavage or nudity and has the carriage of royalty. A rare breed and addition to Bond femmes fatales and lore. Seydoux won the Palme d'Or at Cannes for her performance in Blue is the Warmest Color. At one point Seydoux falls asleep in a dress all alone and wakes up in a slip which was more alluring but again showed a matching faux pas by the editors and director. Still never mind because all the while Daniel Craig -- who at this point has not touched Seydoux -- entertains. He has that look in his eye that by now we all know is perfection. A sideways glance. A twinkle. His timing is impeccable.
Whereas Q played by Ben Whishaw (the Danish Girl) lacks the quirkiness of a mad inventor while Moneypenny played by Naomi Harris (Highlander) simply lacks pizazz. Both Q and Moneypenny are weak links in an otherwise riveting 24th installment of the Bond franchise. Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel) as M delivers his lines with the necessary gravitas.
Sam Mendes (Revolutionary Road) directs so that time has wings. His edits are quick and seamless. No bathroom breaks in this one. Monica Belluci (The Sorcerer's Apprentice) as the widow of a criminal adds more class to this saga that drips with European chic. No Eurotrash for this Bond. But it was the clever writing by John Logan and Neal Purvis that was the star of this awesome Bond installment. Industry analysts predict Spectre to come in at 80 million.
Catch Spectre for a real escape from whatever is burdening you. You will not be disappointed and leave the theatre forgetting what was "your" problem. And say a fond goodbye to our four times winning 007 portrayed for ten years by Daniel Craig who has said "no more Bond". On the Today Show when asked if he would do another Bond, Craig is quoted as saying he'd rather slit his wrists. While Craig's physic is not his finest asset, his mind is. May he be remembered as the "thinking man's Bond." Don't miss Spectre to say au revoir to Monsieur Craig, to have a terrific time and to see and to hear Bond's Aston Martin DB 10 rev and roar.


 Review: 'Love the Coopers' -- Not
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It is always good to see Diane Keaton in a film and executive producing at that, but Love the Coopers simply misses. A yearning for saccharin sweetness permeates. Good raw, honest relationships could make a film like this work, but this is not what Love the Coopers is about. This is a pastiche of stories of a family of four generations returning home for a Christmas dinner while you wonder, "When's dessert?" This is a film with many fine actors, but the writing and story by Steven Rogers are the problem. Alan Arkin as Keaton's father is his usual greatness who is in love with a waitress, Amanda Seyfried who is her competent and beautiful self. John Goodman is Keaton's husband who is still smitten with Keaton who wants a divorce after forty years. Ed Helms is unhappily married to Alex Borstein (Getting On) whose part is too small and ill-conceived for her fine talents. Marisa Tomei is Keaton's sister who has been in conflict with her feelings for Keaton which causes Tomei to steal jewelry for Keaton. Tomei is arrested by Anthony Mackie in an improbable part of a policeman who confesses secrets of his sex life to Tomei, his prisoner. Tomei makes her moments genuine despite the absurdity of the writing. Timothee Chalamet's talent as a passionate teenager is one of the highlights of this film. When he appears, any lull is dispelled and hope for the film's ability to entertain is ignited. But whenever June Squibb rears her body and mocks aging, the film sinks into its very deep toilet. Squibb plays a caricature instead of a character and makes aging disrespectful while Arkin gives it gravitas and class.
Olivia Wilde holds the film together as her part is written with the most depth and creativity, but the tight shots of her in a train while she is romancing a GI, Jake Lacey, whom she just has picked up, cable her beauty, when these tight shots are not necessary. One can see her beauty in a longer shot, but to crop in like a Revlon ad is distracting from the story which already is held together with scotch tape. The cinematographer meanwhile at the closing of Love the Coopers, films Diane Keaton through an overly soft lens to hide her wrinkles, yet when she is in conversation with Olivia Wilde, her wrinkles are apparent and she looks beautiful. After all her wrinkles are part of her charm. As executive producer I am certain she had a say in her lighting, and while her acting is flawless her vanity is not. Jessie Nelson directs this great array of talented actors, but Nelson's experience is slim and it shows in Love the Coopers. Meanwhile throughout the film there is a voice over which is irritating. It is too thin and just doesn't work. Love the Coopers needed a melodious yet powerful voiceover from someone like a Morgan Freeman. Then I discovered the mystery voice was Steve Martin's, and realized Diane Keaton and Steve Martin had been in Father of the Bride Parts 1 and 2 together. It became apparent with Keaton's star power, that the stars came out, but a star a film does not make.


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Movie Review: 'Spotlight' -- A Seamless Must See

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Brilliant acting, pacing, script and economy make the true story Spotlight a well deserving whisper candidate for an Oscar. Spotlight is about the decades of sex crimes within the Catholic Church that were uncovered by the Boston Globe in 2002. It proves why the Globe won the Pulitzer Prize. Spotlight snores then trots to a gallop as it builds like stellar investigative reporting into an emotional pressure cooker of a finale. It is revealed that after a decades long cover up, one of the Cardinals who had been a chief molester of children in Boston had been elevated by the Catholic Church to a position of unscathed glorification in Rome. This fact horrified the screening audience as it applauded closing credits.
The cast of Spotlight is a tribute to fine ensemble acting. Michael Keaton (Birdman) plays Walter 'Robby' Robinson who heads the team of four reporters assigned to what is perceived initially by this team as a dull story. Keaton's acting is raw, genuine without mugging and an exercise in minimum use of energy to portray power of thought. The Boston Globe's Jewish editor, Marty Baron, is portrayed by Liev Schreiver (Ray Donovan) to investigate allegations of sexual abuse in one of the world's oldest and most trusted institutions. Schreiver is hard to recognize as his usual energy is tucked inside and a minimal, soft voiced mensch emerges as the boss whose gentle words have the impact of a bomb and his bearded persona adds to his gravitas.

Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher) as Mike Rezendes showed the most transformation as he was so deeply rooted in his character that he was barely discernible. His performance is riveting. Rachel McAdams (True Detective) portrays Sacha Pfeiffer in a thankless role. Her talents are left unnoticed while Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games) as Mitchell Garabedian again gives a dynamic portrayal of the lawyer who represented the many victims who were ignored and silenced by the Catholic Church and the media until the Boston Globe's Spotlight team began its tenacious investigation which led to exposing worldwide corruption. John Slattery (Mad Men) as Ben Bradlee Jr again gives a vital energetic performance which drives the film. While Brian d'Arcy James (Law and Order SVU) as reporter Matt Carroll rounds out the newsroom.
Academy Award nominee Tom Mc Carthy does a superlative job in directing the understated by allowing the fine acting and script do their magic. The sets are bland and boring as only a newsroom can be which allows the drama to be the focus. The camera work also is without tricks and the sound track emphasizes this thriller at just the right moments. Mc Carthy also wrote Spotlight along with Josh Singer.
Don't miss Spotlight for an exciting night at the movies and you will cheer its filmmakers and the Boston Globe for their Oscar worthy balls!

Sunday, October 25, 2015


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'Freeheld' Review: An Important Film

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The applause at the end of the screening of Freeheld was deserving. This is a true story about New Jersey Police Officer Laurel Hester's battle to secure pension benefits for her registered domestic partner, Stacie Andree, when Hester dies from cancer. Julianne Moore's lack of vanity steals your heart as Laurel Hester who early into the film is diagnosed with terminal cancer. When Moore allows herself to look almost grotesque, Freeheld is most moving. As her cancer progresses Moore's acting improves. Still I longed for a freshly scrubbed face in some shots rather than a well made-up, light makeup look. This is not Moore's fault. The makeup people and cinematographer chose in some scenes -- when she is close to her death -- to film her a bit like a Clinique ad. Still her acting remains seamless.
Hester is in love with car mechanic Stacie Andree (Ellen Page) yet the Ocean County, New Jersey Board of Chosen Freeholders denies Hester's pension benefits to go to the woman she loves. Page is touching as a caretaker for Moore and acts with a butch quality that is charming. As a mechanic, she beats a local dude in a tire rotating contest which secures her position in this male-dominated profession. Andree was consulted during all aspects of this film.
Director Peter Sollett moves the pace along nicely even though this story is well known and the outcome created history. Yawns are not part of this experience of viewing Freeheld though they could have been. The dialogue is crisp and oddly enough peppered with some good laughs largely attributed to Steve Carrell as Steven Goldstein, founder and then chair of Garden State Equality who leads a group to organize a protest against the unfair vote of the members of the Freeholders.
Michael Shannon as Dane Wells as Hester's partner on the force is particularly moving. His restrained acting only adds to the impact of his words and actions. Mugging is not in his repertoire though it easily could have been. Josh Charles as Bryon Kelder is his usual restrained yet powerful addition to the cast. Kelder is the first Freeholder to vote for Hester and Charles haunted portrayal of Kelder is another moving piece of the sad story about homophobia which becomes a triumph for all homosexuals. Luke Grimes plays Hester's closeted gay partner on the force. Grimes' leading the force into the Court for Hester's final moment to speak for equality is the most moving moment in the film. The police force peppered with a homophobic aura drops its prejudice and supports Hester when most needed. She is on oxygen, in a wheelchair and can barely speak.
Ron Nyswaner wrote this screenplay which tells Hester's story with dignity, truth and the occasional wit. Mylie Cyrus sang "Hands of Love" on the soundtrack.
Freeheld is based on Cynthia Wade's 2007 acclaimed documentary short film of the same name, but a film with this message needs to be seen by as large an audience as possible. This is why Freeheld is an important film. Same-sex marriage wasn't yet law. But this couple's last weeks together were spent battling for an appeal of the Freeholders' negative decision. Hester won her fight just before her death in 2006. The journey of two women through the so-called justice system and winning for the equality of gay rights makes seeing this film well worthwhile.

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  • Carole Mallory Headshot

    Movie Review: Crimson Peak...Don't Go Alone

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    If you like being scared, Crimson Peak, a modern day gothic tale, is for you. The sets, costumes, and acting all make for an eerie evening a la popcorn. Mia Wasikowski is stunning as the heroine. Her vulnerability makes you want to protect her from the evil ways of Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain who rips the screen with her hold on terror. Lush, period romantic opulence create Crimson Peak's intrigue. Chastain (The Help, The Martian) as Lucille Sharpe is barely recognizable with her brunette locks which she wears well. Red hair has been her signature, but in this film she is a brunette monster much as Mrs. Danvers in Hitchcock's Rebecca., but with her signature beauty Mrs. Danvers lacked. Chastain's steely demeanor carries this film. Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy¸Pacific Rim) as Dr. Alan Michaels is always an appealing persona on screen and here his charm is of utmost importance.
    Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, Madame Bovary) plays an aspiring writer, Edith Cushing, who sees ghosts as a metaphor, and falls in love with a dashing and sinister Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston-the Avengers, Thor). Thomas has all the right moves as a player after Edith's mega wealth while his sister, Lucille, shows a bit of the love of gore in her every phrase. They are quite the pair. Hold on tight for the ending as in all good horror any illusion to it will deflate the goosebumps one so looks forward to in a gothic horror spectacle such as this.
    The sets and period costumes are sublime and all add to the sense of impending doom which the cinematography and lighting achieve while in sync with the great sound track. Edgar Allen Poe would have enjoyed Crimson Peak. Guillermo del Toro (Pacific Rim, Hellboy) directs this spooky fantasy with a deft hand. He wrote this dandy with the assistance of Matthew Robbins.
    To say that the mansion that Edith and Thomas move into after being married is haunted is an understatement. The snow turns blood red. I wonder why? See Crimson Peak and find out. But do not go alone. You will want an elbow to bang in those 'yikes' moments or an ear to whisper into as what is happening next. But above all you will not want to be alone as this film is truly terrifying. See Crimson Peak if you like horror with your peanuts for a Halloween treat.


    Carole Mallory Headshot

    Movie Review: The Last Witch Hunter -- Silly

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    Vin Diesel is the last The Witch Hunter and a sensual one at that, but Vin Diesel's sexuality is not enough to hang a film on.
    The effects are special. The witches are not and hard to watch, but not frightening, just unimaginatively conceived. Michael Caine has a thankless role. Pity. More of Michael might have made for more plot, but as it is Vin Diesel as Kaulder who is left to battle the Queen of the Witches with a side kick of Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings). Wood is no Michael Caine though he replaces him when Caine is temporarily killed.
    The set, costumes, cinematography are all atmospherically neat and supernatural in feeling but a need to sleep seemed to overtake me as the silliness of looking for witches haunted me more than the witches. The plot is thin and absurd. Why a fine actor such as Michael Caine got involved with this dreck is what I kept wondering throughout the film. Breck Eisner directs this skillfully. It is the material that is the problem.
    Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones) was charming as a spook who sells memories and potions and the like and befriends Vin Diesel as he tries to kill the Queen Witch for the second time. The first killing of her is shown at the opening and I almost walked out then. This flashback into Vin Diesel's past was the set up for the entire film. His daughter and wife are murdered by the Queen Witch whom he in turn murders, but as with the terminator, the Queen Witch is baaaack.
    The plot of the film alas is to find the evil Queen Witch for the second time and to do her in. I wouldn't stick around for the miracle. Skip this one if you are not a fan of the supernatural. On the other hand, if witches and strange happenings banging in the night as they do in The Last Witch Hunter is your thing, go for it.

    Saturday, September 19, 2015


    Carole Mallory Headshot

    Everest Takes You Up Mt. Everest and Down in IMAX-3D. Hold On!

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    Everest is riveting. IMAX-3D brings Mt. Everest into your lap and the courageous climbers peril into your heart. Because of IMAX-3D and its power, you will feel as though you are on the climb with them. If you want thrills, scares, extraordinary vistas and scenery this film is for you. Director Baltasar Kormakur makes a true story of death and survival from the book Into Thin Air written by survivor Jon Krakauer available to our souls. This is the story of the 1996 Mt. Everest disaster which killed eight climbers due to a severe storm and lack of oxygen. To film remaining footage, on April 18, 2014, 16 Sherpa guides carrying supplies to the film crew were killed by an avalanche. Watching this film in vivid IMAX takes you there and you wonder how anyone could have survived.
    But it because of a woman, Peach (Robin Wright) who is the wife of Dr. Beck Weathers (James Brolin) who calls her Embassy and demands that a helicopter fly in to rescue her husband. He is suffering blindness and frostbite and alone while struggling to return to the camp. He is high on Everest, not within safety of a helicopter flight. Helicopters cannot fly above a certain altitude. But the indomitable Peach Weathers persists. The Embassy obeys her firm command and he lives. Long live Peach Weathers. Though Dr. Beck Weathers loses his hands and nose to frostbite, he is miraculously flown out of the camp site on Everest to the safety of his home.
    The stars of this film are the climbers both living and dead. Climber Scott Fischer, who is the leader of the Mountain Madness Expedition, is portrayed by Jake Gyllenhall and fellow climber Rob Hall is portrayed by Jason Clarke, the New Zealander expedition group leader. Both of these stars are touching and effective in portraying the courage of the climbers but, after all, this is a movie and we must honor the climbers whom they portrayed and the fact that these climbers sacrificed their lives to rescue others. John Hawkes brings his usual sympathy to a mailman who was in the expedition of Rob Hall. And Emily Watson (Helen Wilton) gives her usual caring and empathetic performance of the woman on the ground "manning the expedition." It is Wilton's thankless role to report from the climbers during an avalanche and who are facing no oxygen. She must tell them that no help will come to them and then to report to the ground staff about the subsequent deaths. Keira Kneightley is moving as Rob Hall's pregnant wife and Michael Kelly plays Jon Krakauer, a journalist who lives to write the tragic but inspiring story, Into Thin Air. What is inspiring about Everest? A man's desire to triumph over nature. A man's desire to rescue in the face of danger. A man's desire to survive. Se

    Thursday, September 10, 2015


    Carole Mallory Headshot

    Movie Review: The Visit... Yawn!

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    I had wanted to like The Visit as it was filmed where I live and that is the beauteous surroundings of suburban Philadelphia and its Chestnut Hill area, but The Visit is one big narcissistic flop. Waiting to be scared is boring. What a pity with the fine acting and excellent production values that the writing of The Visit is high school at best. It is written by the director M. Night Shyamalan. Too much control at the helm and no objectivity. Someone had to tell M. Night Shyamalan the truth during the creation of this dreck, but it is obvious that only compliments were in order. And so boredom set in after the first few minutes and continued for ninety percent of the film. And fine talent is wasted.
    The Visit is about two children in their early teens who go to stay with their grandparents whom they have never met. Naturally these grandparents are elderly and suffering from sundowning which affects senior citizens with dementia. Their behavior is peculiar at best. If you can make it to the end of the film, all the odd mannerisms of the grandparents is explained in a shocking conclusion. But, alas, it took so long to get here that my interest had left the station. A failed attempt at self-involved humor concludes this film.
    The use of silence as a sound track in the fleeting moments of fright works and was the star of this failure. Camera work was good as well, but the music in the finale was absurd. The child actors were charming, clever and skilled considering the mediocre material. The film stars Olivia DeJonge, as a precious Becca who is an aspiring director and making her home movie of her life. Ed Oxenbould is Becca's younger brother who is assisting Becca in making their movie, but is a frustrated teenage rapper who does this with great agility and charm throughout this film. Deanna Dunagan plays the grandmother, Nana, with conviction. Peter Mc Robbie is Pop Pop who is the caretaker of Nana who suffers from sundowning. Kathryn Hahn is the Mom who sends her children to their grandparents from whom she is estranged. Hahn is taking a much needed vacation from her children as she is a single parent. She lifts The Visit every time she appears on screen, pulling it from the doldrums of a film that tries to be scary but is one big snore.

    Friday, July 24, 2015


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    Movie Review: Trainwreck... Bravo to Schumer et Apatow for a Celebration of a Woman's Rights

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    Trainwreck is a celebration of a woman's independence. Amy Schumer is no train wreck, but a statement of a woman's right to promiscuity and not to be disparaged because of her desire for many sexual partners. Oh, heck, Romeo was admired, but a female Romeo is a slut! Not true says the adorable, talented witty Amy Schumer! Schumer's father drills into her when she was a child that monogamy was not realistic. Oh ,yeah, and Goldie Hawn has said that she does not know anyone in Hollywood who wants to be faithful.
    In Trainwreck we have a modern day heroine who tries and tries to love men, but sends them out of her door when they fail to please her or to treat her with respect. Role reversal at its finest. With a 'man' at her helm. Yes, a man helps Schumer portray just how ridiculous many men are during the sex act. Judd Apatow. But it is Schumer's comedic timing and writing that is over the top. Still one must bless Judd Apatow for shining the light on a woman who enjoys many sexual partners much as men have for centuries.
    This is a time for women. Dozens of women are speaking out against alleged rapist Bill Cosby and Apatow is championing their choirs. Girls starring Lena Dunham and which hauls ass in the 'let's get real and stop pretending we all want to be mothers' department is also championed by feminist Apatow. We have Taylor Swift singing Bad Blood in which she shouts about her bad relationships and Rachel Platton who sings Fight Song about a woman standing up for her rights. Strong women speaking up about abuse.

    In Trainwreck Apatow directs Shumer and her writing with the softest kid gloves. The editing is gentle as one scene ends softly by just fading out. There is not the 'see I told ya so' kind of editing in too many films. Schumer takes the piss out of men in bed while she is doing the deed. She is strong and says to men what they have been saying to women in cinema and in life for years. She has her own determination, willfulness and courage sprinkled with self-esteem that makes for great comedy. A female set of balls. The laughter in the theater was so loud that many of the lines were missed. She is the kind of love 'em and throw 'em out leading lady that we also have in HBO's True Detective with that talented Rachel Mc Adams.
    This is a rare time for women on screen. Let's hope the strength of these female characters continues into life. Bill Hader is smooth and does not miss a beat as the dude who finally wins the mercurial Schumer's heart. Lebron James is magical and one wonders how much of Apatow's fairy dust of champion directing made his performance the show stopper it is. But this story is about Schumer-- a "love em' and leave em' kinda gal" who finally falls long and hard for prince charming. She is a journalist for a magazine called S'nuff and assigned to interview Hader. Her editor, Tilda Swinton, kills Schumer's piece because she claims Hader is too boring for S'nuff. But after a night of debauchery during which Schumer has a disastrous one night stand with an underage fellow journalist at S'nuff, she is canned. Apatow and Schumer give us one heck of a finale during which we have one happy ending. Women now have Magic Mike, HBO'sTrue Detective and Trainwreck to cherish and flock to.