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Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Tree of Life

This was painfully sad to start with (telegram comes, obviously son has been killed- probably in a war); muted dialogue of mourning parents; boring 'artsy' photographs of tall trees alternatiang with loud, ear splitting sound track to accompany somebody's idea of how the earth began, with shrill soprano vocalizing, and then just shrieking sounds.  (Indicating heat and explosion of creation?) By the time the first dinasaur-like creature emerged from the primal ooze (I had endured about 45 minutes) I couldn't stand it any longer and I escaped from the theater.  It is rare that I walk out on a movie.  Over the years, less than a handful. This one joins the group.  Believe it or not, the film has Brad Pitt and Sean Penn.  What were they thinking?????   Maybe ONE STAR (for photography of the trees!)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

One Lucky Elephant

Lisa Leeman, the director,  took ten years to make this wonderful documentary starring  David Balding, and his elephant, "Flora," who was not only the star of the circuses he created, but his companion and friend. "Flora" became like a daughter to him. With the best of intentions, he had adopted the orphaned Flora when she was  about two years old. As Balding became older (65), he realized he had to provide for Flora's future (as she would surely outlive him), and the film portrays his search for the proper environment for her, including  failed attempts to take her to Africa, and various Zoos.  I learned a lot about elephants - and human behavior -- from David, as well as from Carol Buckley, the owner of an Elephant Sanctuary who, again, with the best of intentions had her own ideas of what Flora needed, contrary to David's opinion. You hear from Mrs. Balding ( a lovely woman), and various elephant caregivers. The Writer, Cristina Colissimo (who shared Producer credits as well) has Balding narrating.  According to a review I read, Leeman says that David didn't really need a script, having told the story of what might be called, "A Ten Thousand Pound Love Story," so many times through the years.   (I stopped going to circuses a long time ago, because I felt the way the animals were treated, and trained, just wasn't right.  But David's way with Flora was based on love, not fear.)  Absolutely a FOUR STAR film.  (P.S.  I think Carol was wrong, and David was right. But no one asked me.)

X-Men: First Class

Probably best of the "X-Men" series (though to tell you the truth, I don't clearly remember the others), this is a pre-quel, and is definitely a "First Class" film!  Expertly directed by Matthew Vaughn, starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon and Jennifer Lawence among other excellent actors, I loved this movie -- and, surprise, I  even loved the fantastic special effects, seamlessly achieved!  Seeing the various characters mutate into their colorful (literally and figuratively) "real' selves was amazing.  Plus, the film includes real newsreel footage of the  then President of the USA regarding the  Cuban missile crisis. Altogether, a splendid movie, with intelligent dialogue, marvelous camera work, suspenseful plot.  Good stuff!  (Watch for a cameo performance by a favorite actor)  FOUR STARS

Friday, June 24, 2011

Movie Marathon

Three reviews for you!  1) "Kung Fu Panda 2"  Fabulous voices of Jack Black (of course, he's the hero, "Po," heading the lineup which includes Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman (his wise mentor, who tells him to master himself, and Kung Fu, he needs "Inner Peace." Add Gary Oldman and Jackie Chan and others in a worthwhile story, well told, directed by Jennifer Yuh,all together, I say FOUR STARS!  Next - 2)Parts of the film, "Super 8" were terrific, the parts where the young kids, played by wonderful young actors Kyle Chandley, Elle Fanning, and Amanda Michalke,  are making an 8 Millimeter film.  That's half the movie.  But the rest, the sci-fi part with special effects that were wasted on me,  I did not enjoy. So TWO STARS.  Directed by Rob Marshall, I suggest you stay for the credits on this one. You may like it fine.  Finally, the best of the lot, 3) "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."  First rate super cast, headed of course, by the incomparable Johnny Depp, at his very best!  With Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane and Penelope Cruz, directed by Rob Marshall.  Lots of sword play, mermaids, several plots interwoven,  just plain (actually, not "plain" -- rather "fancy" FUN!)   I say FOUR STARS, and "...a bottle of rum, me matees!

Monday, June 20, 2011


This film is the opposite of "escape to the movies."   It portrays misery, suffering, violence, religious fanatic slaughtering for 130 minutes.  I wanted to walk out, but was curious enough to stay to learn the final outcome of the searches by these twins (brother and sister) whose mother's will had left them each with an envelope to deliver. His, to be delivered to his brother (his existence up to then unknown) and hers, to her father (previously assumed to be dead.) With confusing flashbacks throughout, and taking place in an unknown country, with both French and some Arabic type of language spoken  -- even subtitles didn't make it possible to know for sure what was going on.  Oh, and they are trying to track their mother's past, and that's another snake pit -- including prison and torture.  Definitely not a fun film.  Unless you are a masochist (or a film "Critic" by profession, since many of them praised it!) I suggest you avoid this French Canadian movie.  Acting was good (they certainly could portray misery!) and photography was good.   ONE STAR 

Friday, June 17, 2011


If you love horses, and riding horses, you'll be in heaven watching this documentary about Buck Brannaman, a unique and wonderful human being who teaches people how to get the most out of their relationships with these beautiful, intelligent animals.  Even I, being a non-rider, with no personal interest in horses, found this film a wonderful experience -- and of course, developed a great admiration and appreciation for Buck, who, despite a horrible childhood turned out to be (made the decision to be!)a kind, compassionate and truly loving and lovable man. There is some great footage of Robert Redford talking about his discovery of Buck when Redford was making his movie, "The Horse Whisperer."  Directed by Cindy Meehl, and listing eight (yes, eight!)  Producers of various areas, the photography was superb. You get to see Buck's wife and daughters, as well as pictures from his childhood, when he and his older brother were featured as trick ropers. I don't remember the exact quote, but Buck's philosophy (which works beautiuflly when applied) is that problems are usually not with the horse, but with the people.  He says that the horse's behavior is a reflection of the owner's problems. "Buck" deserves FOUR STARS

Friday, June 10, 2011

"Fast Five"

Yes, it is ridiculous, over the top with car chases (brilliantly photographed/choreographed), lots of fighting, embellished with the requisite beautiful women,  All in all,  I liked it a lot!  My tolerance for violence seems to have returned, and I loved seeing one of my favorites,  Vin Deisel  (I don't know why, I just love this guy), matched with Dwane "The Rock" Johnson.  That said,  I look forward to another sequel in this "Fast and Furious" genre.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Directed by Kenneth Branagh, with the always magnificent Anthony Hopkins as "Odin" and beautiful Renee Russo as his wife, "Thor" was heavy on the special effects ( thank goodness it was not in 3D).  Someone designed a marvelous imaginary locale for the Norse gods to inhabit, but the technical achievement was wasted on me.  In fact, I almost walked out  (really!) in the beginning because it was nothing but scenery - despite its obviously excellent design- for what seemed like a tedious 10 minutes at least.  However, I enjoyed the parts of the film where there were people to watch. The "GateKeeper" deserves highest praise.   Obviously Hopkins was superb, and Chris Hemsworth as "Thor," "Odin's" eldest son was perfectly wonderful.  I liked Natalie Portman as "Jane," the scientist whose jeep accidentally runs over "Thor" when he falls from the sky, having just been banished by "Odin." There's a jealous and power hungry younger brother, also very well played.  This movie was a mixed bag for me, half annoying and boring, and the other half (story and acting) first rate - entertaining.  Maybe I'm just too old.    Anyway,  you  do the math: Half and Half =  TWO STARS