Archive for May, 2013

Some Good Movies

For Your Entertainment Pleasure


It has been almost a year since I posted a Blog of movie reviews. Last time I selected Mao’s Last Dancer as my selection for Best Movie, and Warrior as Best Action Movie. I hope my cyberspace audience has had a chance by now to see these two outstanding movies.

Every movie I’m about to report on I have seen in the last 12 months. In my review I found a “real sleeper” that may have eluded audiences everywhere; however I found the movie to be a catch-your-breath, heart pounding, and a very entertaining movie. This movie sleeper is Premium Rush; it’s a better watch than a lot of other action-packed movies. So get your popcorn and soda and join me now as I review my movie selections for this year. Hollywood producers and a few movie-makers elsewhere in the world deserve a great deal of credit for creating and bringing to the screen a lot of very good movies—all in such a short period of time. Kudos to Hollywood’s brightest and most talented. Who are the most talented, best actors in Hollywood or on TV these days? In my humble opinion—it is Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Damian Lewis, Josh Lucas, and Johnny Lee Miller. Unlike our Congress recently, these people actually get something of value done right.


Best Movie

Les Misérables




Les Miserables, first produced for the stage in 1985, is the dramatic musical version of Victor Hugo’s epic tale of love and sacrifice. It now receives the big-screen treatment that was par excellence. The bloody era of the French Revolution is the backdrop to Jean Valjean’s long struggle for redemption. Hugh Jackman plays the role of Valjean supported by a cast of top-flight actors including Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit, Samantha Barks, Colm Wilkenson, Bertie Carveir and Tom Hooper.  

The music in this film is without equal, and the performances were brilliantly played out with plot and story line. Each actor’s singing ability was also simply outstanding. The cast was an excellent blend and each actor/singer shined in every way. One could argue that no movie ever meets a perfect standard for excellence. And such argument would be wrong because Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, and Amanda Seyfried’s performances, along with the movie’s directorial genius and superb casting, created a picture that redefines what a perfect standard of excellence really is all about. In fact, this movie is far and away better than any musical I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen quite a number of good ones). And, it is clear that newcomer actor/singer Eddie Redmayne has a bright future indeed. See this movie and judge for yourself. My judgment is that this is one very outstanding movie. Bravo!


Best Action Movies

There are two movies this year I have selected for this category. Both were equally outstanding movies.


The Expendables II



In this high-octane thriller, Mr. Church brings the Expendables back together for an easy job — but things go wrong, and one of the mercenaries is brutally murdered. Now the band of hired guns goes on a mission of revenge in hostile territory. This action Thriller is a real delight for movie-goers who like action-packed movies with an all-cast of super heroes including Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Crews, Randy Couture and Liam Hemsworth. Simon West directed this movie that is both violent and exciting. If you like special effects and great fight scenes this movie is right for you.





When a serious menace threatens MI6, James Bond is on the case — putting aside his own life and personal issues to hunt and obliterate the perpetrators. Meanwhile, secrets arise from M’s past that strain Bond’s loyalty to his longtime boss. The cast in this movie include: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, and Ola Rapace. The movie is directed by Sam Mendes. The opening scene in this movie is exciting and catches your attention right away. It was used in the trailer precisely because it is tense, exciting, violent, and captures the long tradition in Bond movies of great special effects, heart-pounding action, mixed with the particular uniqueness of the James Bond character. Every actor who has ever played James Bond has left his own indelible fingerprints on all the action and excitement in every Bond Flick. Daniel Craig is no exception. His uniqueness gives a harder edge to most Bond characters. I’m not going to give away the ending of the movie, but rest assured James Bond’s relationship with his longtime boss M will change forever.


Best Family Entertainment Movies

Everybody loves a good family entertainment movie. This last year three such movies caught my attention. They are Red Dog, Trouble with the Curve, and the Magic of Belle Island.


Red Dog



Are you sentimental and love dogs? If you do, this is a really fine Australian movie for the entire family to watch. Kids will especially love this movie. This is the emotional story of a legendary, lovable canine that roams the outback and finds his way into the hearts of each and every person he meets along the way. He brings people together, helping some find love and others to find themselves. Toward the end of this movie you may find yourself misty-eyed and sad. I say “Good.” It means you share something in common with Red Dog: You are as human as Red Dog and he is as human as you.

The cast include: Rachael Taylor, Josh Lucas, Noah Taylor, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Eamon Farren, Tiffany Lyndall-Knight, Luke Ford, Paul Blackwell, Bill Hunter, and John Batchelor.

Trouble with the Curve



Slowed by age and failing eyesight, crack baseball scout Gus Lobel takes his grown daughter along as he checks out the final prospect of his career. Along the way, the two renew their bond, and she catches the eye of a young player-turned-scout. The cast includes the iconic Clint Eastwood as scout Gus Lobel. Other actors include: Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Matthew Lillard, Robert Patrick, Scott Eastwood, Joe Massingill, Matt Bush, and Chelcie Ross. Robert Lorenz directed. Who is my favorite Hollywood person of all time? It is Clint Eastwood who is an American actor, director, producer, and composer. I have this opinion of Clint primarily because of his lifetime legacy of acting/and or directing in such great  movies as: Escape from Alcatraz, In the Line of Fire, Heartbreak Ridge, Firefox, Honkytonk Man, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, True Crime,  Play  Misty for Me (the first movie he ever directed as well as acted in), Grand Torino, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Hang ‘Em High, Million Dollar Baby, Blood Work, Unforgiven, (Dirty Harry, of course) and The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (and folks, this last movie was not named after the Republican Party).

 I also liked Invictus, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, Changeling, and Mystic River. I first became aware of Clint in his uncredited minor roles in the 1955 movie’s Tarantula and Revenge of the Creature. His first minor credited role was in Francis in the Navy (also 1955). He is now in his 7th decade as a Hollywood icon, legend and superstar.

On May 31st, 2013 Clint Eastwood will be 83 years old. Trouble with the Curve is his latest acting/directorial contribution to Hollywood, and to all of us movie-goers. If longevity and tenacity were one and the same, one thing would be for certain, Trouble with the Curve is his latest movie, but I seriously doubt it will be his last.         


The Magic of Belle Isle



After alcoholism depletes his enthusiasm for writing, celebrated author Monte Wildhorn finds his creative passion renewed when he moves to quaint Belle Isle and gets to know his next door neighbors — a single mother (played by Virginia Madsen) and her three daughters. The relationship Monte Wildhom has with the middle daughter is special and touching. This is the best feel good movie in the last 12 months.

It is also one of the best family entertainment films as well. Morgan Freeman (otherwise known as God or Mr. President from some of his prior roles) is the consummate “good guy” whose laid-back, yet highly intelligent mature view of the world in his characters endears himself to audiences everywhere. We love Morgan Freeman in his role when he plays a writer coming to grips with his own dormant, yet highly respected and acclaimed successful career as one of the finest authors or writers of his generation. Insights into the human condition abound everywhere in this movie.

Enjoy your visit to Belle Isle and see first-hand the magic unfold as engaging characters interact with one another with love, and personal triumph of the spirit. This movie was directed by Rob Reiner. This is definitely a feel good movie that will appeal to all family members over the age of 8.   

The cast include: Morgan Freeman, Virginia Madsen, Madeline Carroll, Emma Fuhrmann, Nicolette Pierini, Kenan Thompson, Fred Willard, Ash Christian, Jessica Hecht, Boyd Holbrook, Debargo Sanyal, and  Kevin Pollack



Best Dramatic Movies




In 1979, when Iranian militants seize the American embassy, six Americans slip into the Canadian embassy for protection, prompting the CIA to concoct an elaborate plot to rescue them by pretending that they are filmmakers rather than diplomats.

As a movie experience this is one of the most intensely dramatic portrayals of what actually took place in Iran the mass imprisonment of staff from American Embassy. The tension watching this movie will cause you to sit on the edge of your seat throughout the entire movie.

This movie is very exciting as a political thriller (despite the fact most of the audience know the outcome of the story in real life). Ben Affleck does a really outstanding performance as a CIA operative, and John Goodman and Alan Arkin give a real nice acting touch to the events surrounding the creation of a “Fake” movie. In real life the script used for the Fake movie was called (you guessed it), not surprisingly—Argo.

I watched this movie and enjoyed it very much; I think you will too. I don’t care what the Academy did or didn’t do. Ben Affleck has certainly proven himself as both an actor and as a director, and it’s time Hollywood accord him the respect he certainly has earned. The cast include: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Kerry Bishé, Kyle Chandler, Chris Messina, Zeljko Ivanek, Titus Welliver, Keith Szarabajka, Bob Gunton, Richard Kind, Taylor Schilling, Adrienne Barbeau




Director Steven Spielberg takes on the towering legacy of Abraham Lincoln, focusing on his stewardship of the Union during the Civil War years. The biographical saga also reveals the conflicts within Lincoln’s cabinet regarding the war and abolition.

This movie is a political drama that certainly drove home the message that things got done in Congress in the 1860s by extreme patronage (i.e., said another way—votes were simply bought and paid for). And President Lincoln was very much the driving force for such patronage when it came to guaranteeing that the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution to end slavery would not simply fall by the wayside just because the South was about to surrender and hostilities come to an end. The war that was supposed to last just six weeks lasted four years. The country was tired of the war, and there was a terrible loss of more than 600,000 soldiers on both sides.

Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the finest actors of our time and I think casting him in the role of Abraham Lincoln was a very smart choice. Daniel Day-Lewis deserved to win Best Actor in 2013 and Tommy Lee Jones certainly earned his nomination as Best Supporting Actor as well. Sally Field also gave to her Best Actress nomination role as Mary Lincoln an outstanding performance. You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy this movie. All audiences will enjoy this movie. There are no huge battleground scenes in the movie. The primary thrust of the movie (like talking heads in a stage play) was character interaction and Lincoln’s determination to do the right thing by the country by ending the evil of slavery. The cast include: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, Tommy Lee Jones, Jackie Earle Haley, John Hawkes, Jared Harris, Joseph Cross, Tim Blake Nelson, David Oyelowo, and Bruce McGill.


Life of Pi



This movie is based on Yann Martel’s best-selling novel. It is a coming-of-age tale that recounts the adventures of Pi, an Indian boy who is the sole survivor of a shipwreck. Pi finds himself on a lifeboat with only some zoo animals for company. Pi shares his boat with another main character in the movie—a huge Bengal Tiger that licks his chops all the time hoping to eat Pi.

This movie was directed by Ang Lee and you will find it very exciting, imaginative, and suspenseful throughout the entire movie. There are many plot twists and the story unravels in such a way as to produce the feeling that there is sometimes a really fine line between reality and hallucination.

I won’t reveal the ending, but think about the effect of lengthy extreme deprivation on a person who is trying to survive at sea. The Cinematography in this movie was also breath-taking at times.

The cast include: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Ayush Tandon, Gautam Belur, Adil Hussain, Tabu, Ayan Khan, Mohd Abbas Khaleeli, Vibish Sivakumar, Rafe Spall, Gérard Depardieu

Best Sleeper Movie

Premium Rush



Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as a New York City bike messenger whose routine “premium rush” run turns into a life or death chase through the streets of Manhattan after a dirty cop (Michael Shannon) becomes desperate to get his hands on the package.

Split second timing doesn’t begin to describe the harrowing accident-prevention mindset of the lead character (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as he navigates through the outlandishly busy streets of Manhattan. There are no rush hours in New York because busy streets everywhere operate and congest practically 24/7.

I’ve been to the Big Apple twice in my life, and my reaction was the same both times: Like a human being “A City that never sleeps” is always one that is perpetually too tired and cranky all the time (Thus undesirable as a place anyone would seriously consider living).Sorry New Yorkers! But one would have to be out of their mind to actually want to live there.

Strangely enough, Manhattan is a character in this movie. Beyond the story line (which was well written) the City itself is the backdrop for all the action. Without revealing too much, I want to say that Chinese immigration issues and criminal activity have a bearing on the various plot twists in the story.

Like I said, as a movie-goer, you will find yourself glued to this movie once it starts. It is my recommendation for “Sleeper movie” of this last year. The movie was directed by David Koepp. The cast include: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jamie Chung, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez, Aasif Mandvi, Aaron Tveit

Best Animated Movie




Scottish princess Merida uses her archery skills to establish her independence, but when she accidentally angers the ancient land’s three powerful lords and is granted a poorly conceived wish by a witch, she must go on a quest to repair the damage.

You might think that animated features these days like Brave are made primarily for children. Nothing could be further from the truth; these movies are rated PG but intended for an adult-paying movie-goer. That’s alright! Animated features are some of the very best movies made today.  This particular animated feature is exciting, imaginative, and also falls into the category of a “feel Good” movie.

The cast include: Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters, Eilidh Fraser, and Sally Kinghom.


Best Foreign Movies

The Big Picture

(L’homme Qui Voulait Vivre Sa Vie)



This rather dark movie, directed by Eric Lartigau, is best described as a French psychological thriller. Put your sub-titles on as the language is French. There is lots of suspense and many plot twists during this movie that will keep you wondering what will happen next. What sets this movie apart as one of my two choices for Best Foreign movie is the clever use of dialogue mixed with a storyline that weaves in and out between truthfulness and outright lying   The basic story line is this: Successful Paris attorney Paul Exben (Romain Duris) has everything going for him, including power, wealth and a picture-perfect family. But the mirror suddenly cracks when Paul discovers that his wife, Sarah, is carrying on an affair with a photographer. After a tragic error closes the door on all that he’s achieved, Paul makes a fateful decision to escape, fleeing abroad to try and begin a new life as someone else altogether.

The cast include: Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters, Eilidh Fraser, and Sally Kinghom.

A Separation

(Jodaeiye Nader az Simin)



This movie, spoken in Farsi, gives one a modern-day “look-see” into the emotional lives of an Iranian husband and wife. She wants to leave the country with the family but he does not. The husband and wife cannot come to an agreement and end up splitting over his decision to stay and care for his aging father instead of leaving the country with his family.

However, his fateful choice to hire a stranger to do most of the caretaking breeds unexpected consequences. One of the fascinating aspects of this movie is how individual Iranians handle conflict with the legal system. There are no heroes or villains in this movie, only the complex interplay of personalities that clash with one another, against the backdrop of Iranian social and legal customs. Were it not for the fact that The Big Picture above was such an equally engrossing movie, I would have picked A Separation as Best Foreign Movie this last year.

The cast includes: Peyman Moadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat, Shahab Hosseini, Sarina Farhadi, Merila Zarei, Ali-Asghar Shahbaz, Babak Karimi, Kimia Hosseini, Shirin Yazdanbakhsh, and Sahabanu Zolghadr. The film is directed by Asghar Farhadi.

Other Highly Recommended Movies


Fine Family Entertainment Movies

The First Time

The Ultimate Gift

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel



Django Unchained


Alex Cross

Assassin’s Bullets

A Dark Truth

End of Watch

The Dark Night Rises

Quality Foreign Films

In the Land of Blood and Honey

The Flowers of War

Recommended Guy Flicks

Death Race 3: Inferno

The Bourne Legacy


Taken 2

John Carter

Soldiers of Fortune

Recommended Chic Flicks

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Water for Elephants

Recommended Historical Flicks

The Impressionists, Disc 1, 2006

The Impressionists, Disc 2, 2006

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