moneyball-march

The Ides of March and Moneyball are two relatively recent films in which Philip Seymour Hoffman did not star, but rather provided crucial, essential and, as always, very strong supporting performances.

The Ides of March is a film that George Clooney not only stars in but that he also co-wrote and directed. And, really, he’s not the star here. Like Hoffman, Clooney is just a supporting player here. At the heart of The Ides of March is the Ryan Gosling character, Stephen Meyers. Stephen is the crux of this story. He is the pivot which all of the other action and characters revolve around. Stephen is a deputy campaign manager for a presidential candidate (Clooney) who at first seems untouchable. But soon, skeletons appear peeking out of the closets. Stephen finds himself caught in the middle of a potential scandal that could bring down both the campaign and his own career. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the candidate’s senior campaign manager. His time on screen is limited, but as always with Hoffman, his performance is larger than life and full of passion and vigor.

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maxmary

I’m not that fascinated by contemporary animated films. I love what Aardman Animation does (Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep), but aside from that, most animation of today leaves me yearning for the non-computerized animation of the past…where tedious work was done all by hand to bring to life a spectacular finished product. This is why when a colleague recommended an animated film for adults and older kids entitled Mary and Max, I was highly skeptical. And, boy was I surprised at what awaited me.

Mary and Max is done in the “Claymation” style of animation, meaning CLAY animation. Claymation has advanced since the days of watching Davey and Goliath in grammar school (if you are not familiar with D&G’s stop-motion style of Claymation, don’t worry – it was not worth remembering). This movie’s animation, in addition to the sweet, touching story, is most definitely worth remembering, and even savoring. Mary and Max are both endearing characters that will stay with you for a long time. I do tend to gravitate towards holding “sad sack” characters in higher esteem…Eeyore was always my favorite Pooh character, as well as the Looney Tunes’ Elmer Fudd, and the ever-pathetic Dopey, the silent dwarf. Mary and Max both fall into that category…each being sad, lonely and lost in their own unhappy worlds.

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pirate-radio

Right off the bat I will say it: NOT MY KIND OF MOVIE. But, oh well, Pirate Radio has a great cast so I thought I would give it a whirl. And, when it began, I almost said I told you so to myself. But, then the plot really kicked in and the characters all came to life right on the screen and boom, before I knew it, I was hooked.

Not by the music (most of which is pretty much the kind of music I like), not by the 60s culture, but by the characters. You REALLY get involved and attached to the characters…all of them. They all have their own quirks that really give each of them panache…and then all of them together give the movie a special touch that resonates with audiences…because they will all know characters like this. In a cast lead by Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (the token American), other British actors including Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, Nick Frost and even Oscar-winner and icon Emma Thompson all lend their own spice to add color and vibe to the film that already rock with 1960s British pop.

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monu-men

I wanted to like The Monuments Men. Actually, I wanted to love it. I mean, off the bat, what’s not to love. George Clooney. Matt Damon. Need I go on? But, we also have Hugh Bonneville, who I love from TV’s Downton Abbey. And then also Jean Dujardin, the sexy Oscar-winner from The Artist. Add in favorites Bill Murray and John Goodman for comic relief and you have a dynamite cast that could rival the cast of Clooney and Damon’s Ocean’s movies.

Alas, I should have just watched this one on mute and looked at the pretty scenery (and also the French countryside). But, I did not. And while it’s not a horrible movie, it sure does not live up to the full potential of its illustrious cast.

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divergent

Within the last decade, the Young Adult genre has skyrocketed in irrepressible popularity. It seems that with this increasing regard, film companies have grasped at the opportunity to impress the YA fan club, in hopes of making the next hit blockbuster. Many have tried to replicate the success of such franchises as Twilight and The Hunger Games, but only a handful have succeeded. The movie adaptation of Veronica Roth’s worldwide bestselling book Divergent, has seemingly played its cards right and won the hearts of moviegoers everywhere.

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dbc

Much like several recent Oscar-winning and nominated films of the past years (Saving Private Ryan, The Hurt Locker, Amour), Dallas Buyers Club is not a movie I’m going to RUN out and re-watch. It’s a tough movie to watch…the subject matter is harsh, the characters are sad and highly flawed, the dialogue is filled with homosexual abuses. All that said, is this still a movie you should watch? Yes. One reason: the performances. This is not to say the story is not good. It is. And the entire film on the whole is worth watching. But, the focus here should be the performances, since I feel they make this hard movie well worth watching.

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Prisoners

One feeling kept me going throughout the entire time I watched the film Prisoners: FEAR. At over two and a half hours, you would think that I could not possibly have been afraid for the entire film. Well, I was. And, most likely, you will be too.

In addition to instilling fear from minute one, Prisoners also continually surprised me. I thought it was going to be just a simple revenge movie. But, this is so much more than that. Filled with leaps and twists and unexpected turns around every corner, Prisoners is more than a thriller. It is an adrenaline ride.

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BEFORE-MIDNIGHT-stills

The third and last (?) in the Richard Linklater directed and Julie Delpy/Ethan Hawke starring series, Before Midnight again features more dialogue and banter between characters than plot. But, after three movies, we are used to that and we know these characters so well, we pretty much know what they are going to say and do. Not that this is a good or bad thing…but it’s comfortable. Like an old pair of slippers, these films have charmed us, endeared us, and romanced us. A little refresher on the series: Before Sunrise (1995) is set in Vienna and has Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) meeting on a train and taking a risk by spending the whole day with each other. They talked and walked and laughed and talked and walked and laughed some more. As they fell in love, so did we with them.

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captain-phillips

I have issue with movies based on real stories where I know the ending…mostly because it kills the suspense. Titanic: No matter how much Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet love each other, the boat will still sink. Marie Antoinette: She tells the French people to eat cake and then she loses her head. Joan of Arc: She inspires France and gets burnt at the sake for her troubles. Now, I know Hollywood takes a lot of liberties with endings (adaptations rarely end exactly as they do in the book or on the stage, etc.) But, even the fickle movie industry would never be so brazen enough to change the ending of a real life tale, right? Titanic 2: It’s Didn’t Sink will never be produced, right? (Well, hopefully!)

So, in Hollywood’s latest string of based-on-real-life movies (Dallas Buyers Club, The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years a Slave), one stands out for me, EVEN THOUGH I was pretty sure I knew how the movie was going to end. Captain Phillips is based on a book by, that’s right, Captain Richard Phillips. Chances are (and I’m just GUESSING here) if he was able to write about his death-defying experience, he most likely survived. Again, I’m JUST guessing. So, what does this tell us…that we know the ending. Darn, another Titanic. But, wait. Not this movie. Captain Phillips is a wild ride, a fast-paced, highly enjoyable thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

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