Away We Go

Away We Go is the 5th film from Director Sam Mendes. Known for American Beauty, Road to Perdition and last years Revolutionary Road which are very dark in tone and content, this is a step away from the norm from him and frankly is a breath of fresh air. Away We Go is the story of Burt, played by John Krasinski (The Office, Leatherheads) and Verona, who are a mid-thirties couple who find out they are going to have their first child. Burt’s parents played by Jeff Daniels (Gettysburg, Speed) and Catherine O’hara (Best in Show, Beetlejuice) decide to move to Belgium a month before the baby is born. Burt and Verona, having no ties to their home town any more, go exploring for the perfect place to raise a family. visiting lots of friends and family across  the country, it is a fun adventure of possibilities.

The performances in the film are all pretty good, but the one surprise performance that stands out is that of Maggie Gyllenhaal (Secretary). She plays Burt’s cousin and takes the idea of being close as a family to a whole new level, to the point of being creepy. Her performance is spot on as she delivers her lines with complete confidence without batting and eye as she talks about sharing a bed with her husband….and her kids! She is so good in this role, I could see her getting a Supporting Actress nomination.

Overall I don’t think this is Sam Mendes best film as the movies mentioned previously are very powerful films, but this is a very light, intelligent and delightful film. I would recommend seeing this movie, it is something fresh and not the usual rehashing of a story line you have seen twenty times already. Worth watching for sure!

Leatherheads

937_frontTo be honest, when I saw this in the theatre, I was on the fence about liking this film. After watching this again on bluray, I certainly enjoyed it more the second time around. Maybe because my expectations are were lowered a bit since going into it the first time, I really was wanting laugh out loud funny, and it didn’t deliver on that. Seeing it for what it is now, it is a light-hearted film with pleasantly funny scenes.

George Clooney (Oceans 11, Best Supporting actor for Syriana, Michael Clayton) directs and stars as “Dodge” Connelly, one of the veteran players in a dying professional football league. Clooney is adequate in this movie, but doesn’t deliver on the funny lines like O Brother Where art Thou. He still has some good chemistry going with Renee Zellweger (Chicago, Bridget Jones Diary), especially in the scene when they first meet. Trading one liners back and  forth was great and could almost used a few more of those type of quick witted fast talking scenes in the movie. The Film also stars The Office regular, John Krasinski (Away We Go) who is nicely cast as the young college super star.

Ok, would I recommend it to people, yes. Not to mention enjoying period pieces, especially from the roaring 20’s era, this film is solid, and enjoyable from start to finish. It is a lot of fun seeing the old-time football, leather helmets, wooden scoreboards, very few rules and half empty stands. Nothing groundbreaking or innovative from this film, but it is film that is well done in all areas. Just sit back and enjoy this easy-going and lighthearted journey about the beginning of professional football.

The Orphanage

The OrphanageIt seems like no one can make a scary movie these days without spraying 12 gallons of fake blood from a rubber jugular. The Orphanage is refreshing, it is a true ghost story! It is about a woman, Laura, who has come back to an old orphanage that has been closed for many years, the same orphanage she was at as a little girl. She intends to reopen it with her husband, Carlos, and their adopted son Simon. Upon arriving at the rundown house, Simon all of the sudden has many new imaginary friends to play with. They begin to play games with Simon, and it isn’t until Simon is missing that Laura discovers the truth about the orphanage.

Laura, played by Belen Rueda, really is the backbone of this movie and gives a very good performance. The photography in the film is beautiful, taking place on a rocky coast with great scenic views. I am sure hardly anyone will recognize any of the stars, but will recognize the producer, Guillermo del Toro, who directed Pan’s Labyrinth and has been announced to be directing the new Hobbit film and co-writing with Peter Jackson.

In all I would recommend this film to anyone. This is what Ghost Stories are supposed to be. The only films I can think of comparing it to are The Devils Backbone and maybe The Lady in White. If you enjoyed those, you will love this one. Be aware this film is subtitled, if that turns you off then it won’t be for you. The Orphanage is a wonderful story with great acting and lots of spooky and creepy elements to give you a good scare! This one is worth watching for sure!

Beetlejuice

beetlejuice

Where do you even begin to review a movie that has a freelance bio-exorcist in it? “Let’s turn on the juice and see what shakes loose.” To me this is one of Tim Burton’s (Edward Scissorhands, Batman) best film. This is a film about a young couple Adam and Barbara, living in a small New England town, spending their vacation in their house. While running an errand they are killed in a car accident and have to stay in their house…dealing with the living…as ghosts. Being new at hunting a house, they call upon Betelgeuse, the freelance bio-exorcist to help them run off the living from their house. And the zaniness takes off from there!

Back before the days of CGI and big budget special effects, it actually took some creativity to get special effects done. Tim Burton does a wonderful job of directing this film and seeing his vision come to fruition. Alec Baldwin (The Cooler) and Geena Davis (Thelma and Louise) both give very understated but true to life performances. Winona Ryder (Girl, Interrupted) is perfect as the goth teenager that is the only one who can actually see Adam and Barbara when they are ghosts. The best performance of course comes from Michael Keaton (Batman) who plays Betelgeuse. Keaton is an absolute riot and spouts off memorable one liners one after another! It is almost hard to believe it is Michael Keaton!

I am sure most out there have seen this as it has turned into a cult classic, but if you haven’t, do yourself a favor and watch it. Although I know everyone’s taste in humor is a bit different and Tim Burton seems to have a niche of humor all to himself, give it a chance. It is a ingeniously creative and very funny movie.

Burn After Reading

barblucoverSeeing this at the theatre for the first time, I left thinking to myself that this film was just an average ho-hum movie. Watching it again on bluray, I thought a bit more of the film. Maybe because I knew the plot line and the story and it was easier to watch it as a dark comedy rater than trying to make sure you get all the facts straight so you can know what is going on. For what ever reason, I did enjoy the humor in the film much more the second time.

 This film is about personal trainers Brad Pitt (12 Monkeys, Legends of the Fall) and Frances McDormand (Best Actress Fargo) who find a disc that is simply information on a novel that belongs to a government employee, John Makovich (Rounders, In the Line of Fire). Linda and Chad, the trainers, try to blackmail Osbourne Cox for a quick get rich scheme. George Clooney (Oceans 11, Best Supporting actor Syriana) has a great character whose only goal is having affairs with women, and one of the women, Tilda Swinton (Best Supporting Actress Michael Clayton, The Deep End) is one of the cheating wives, and married to Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich) the government agent. Paths cross, stories overlap and the insanity begins!

This film is directed by the Coen Brothers also known for No Country for Old Men and  Fargo. Don’t think that this film will measure up to those two, they won’t. But if you enjoy their style of comedy, or like me, want to give it a second chance, there are a lot  funny moments, I just needed to know where to look. Worth watching but not a must see.

Gran Torino

Gran Torino

Walt Kowalski’s wife has just passed away, and he is the lone white person in a neighborhood of Asian people. Walt, having served in the Korean war, you can imagine some of the racist feelings he has. While defending his property, he is viewed by the families in the neighborhood as saving Thao’s life. Living next door to Thao, Walt has the services of Thao for a week as Thao works for him as a favor. Friendships and relationships grow from there, and Walt in the end has some interesting choices to make. (Not giving too much away here…..you need to see it yourself!)

Walt Kowaslki is played marvelously by Clint Eastwood (Bridges of Madison County, Unforgiven). In fact I was rather disappointed that he did not receive a Best Actor nomination for this his role. Eastwood playing a hard nosed war veteran, and lets the racial cliches and slang fly like it is everyday conversation, believe it or not, adds a touch of humor in the role. You begin to realize he actually has a good heart , and the way he talks…is well…just that, the way he talks. The few that get to know him, don’t seem to mind the talk and it really works for the film when they role with it, especially with Su next Door. “Get me another beer, Dragon Lady! This one’s running on empty.”

I just can’t say enough good things about this film. In fact, in my eyes, this was the Best Picture of 2008, and a shame it didn’t even get nominated. It is a wonderful story and a great piece of film making. Seeing the trailer for the first time, I was unsure of the film, since it looked like an aged Dirty Harry movie. Don’t let that stop you from seeing it. This film will make you laugh, cry, and think. It offers so much on every front. This one is a must see for sure!!!

Thunderball

bond-thunderball“Look up. Look down. Look out.” Words used on the original Thunderball movie poster. Just as Goldfinger set certain things in motion, Thunderball does the same being the first big budget James Bond. Massive sets, exotic places, and a complete underwater battle truly make this one of the best James Bond films. All Bond films to follow trying to hit the high mark of Thunderball.

Sean Connery again picks up the role as James Bond. Not much to say about the performance, he IS, James Bond. Thunderball also introduces two of the more memorable Bond girls, recruiting French actress Claudine Auger to play the role of Domino and Luciana Paluzzi as the villain Fiona.

I am a very big James Bond fan, and to me, this may be the best  James Bond ever. Casino Royal with Daniel Craig is a very close second though. I would highly recommend this for an average movie watcher who just wants to see a fun spy movie with plenty of class, Bond girls, and action!