Showing posts from November, 2015

Snapshots - #38: Only the Brave, Jane, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Only the Brave (2017), (♦♦♦♦): Based on the true story of the effort it took to get a municipal crew of firefighters from Prescott, Arizona, certified as Hotshots. After battling thousands of wildfires since their inception, the Granite Mountain Hotshots answered a call to battle the Yarnell Hill fire—about 30 miles away from Prescott—along with several other crews. How they got to that point and what happened is what this movie is about.
Only the Brave is a drama with some thriller on the side, and excellent performances to boast of. It's got a dynamic pace, engaging plot, amazing shots of wildfires, fun camaraderie, and great music to underscore the action. As an audience, we care for the journey of that crew, individually and as a group, and as heartbreaking as the closing scenes are, we stand in awe at the sacrifices that firefighters and their families make every day of their lives. Only the Brave is a darn great tribute to them, and elite firefighters such as the Granite Moun…

Concussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas (♦♦♦♦)

Dementia pugilistica, dementia that boxers can develop from repeated blows to the head during their careers, had been documented in medical literature for at least two centuries. There were concerns among some prominent brain scientists about the possible damaging effects of repeated concussions to football players, but NFL-sponsored research pointed to the opposite.
In 2002, Mike Webster's (a.k.a. Iron Mike) corpse ended up at the Allegheny County morgue in Pittsburgh as a result of accidental death. Neuropathologist Dr. Bennett Omalu performed the autopsy. And brain being his specialty, decided to preserve Webster's brain for further evaluation.
Dr. Bennett Omalu wasn't familiar with football as a pastime, but as an outsider he reasoned that the blows to the head that football players received didn't seem that different from those that boxers did. As he would learn later, he was far off in that regard; depending on defensive position played, football players receive bl…

Cinderella (2015) (♦♦♦♦♦)

My gosh! I loved this movie. I got such a high that I practically felt like I was in love. No kidding, I'm still smiling and my heart is fluttering!
What can I say about this live version of Cinderella? It's perfect! How you noticed how many exclamation points I've used already? Let me calm down...Ah... The cast is perfect: Lily James is an adorable, courageous and kind Cinderella. Richard Madden, the gorgeous Robb Stark of Games of Thrones (GOT) fame is a dashing and charming prince. Gosh, he practically stole the movie from Lily James and Cate Blanchett with that smile of his. Cate Blanchett is perfection as the malevolent and scheming stepmother, though I can't stop thinking that she should have been given more screen time. Hayley Atwell did whatever little she could in virtually a cameo appearance as Ella's mother, though I hardly recognized her as a blonde. Helena Bonham Carter has a flair for interpreting whimsical characters and she literally does magic as th…

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (♦♦♦½)

Oskar Schell is a precocious nine year-old who lost his father on the World Trade Center on September 11. A year or so into the death of his father, Oskar finds a mysterious key inside a vase on top of his father’s closet, along with an envelope on which the word Black is written. That leads Oskar to start a hunt around New York City’s five buroughs looking for the lock the key opens, whose owner may tell him more about his father and how he died.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close came to my attention via a coworker. She spoke excitedly about it, so I thought I should read it. I started reading it years ago and abandoned it about page 50. But since the previous book I was reading this time around wasn't grabbing my attention, I took a look at my book shelves and decided to give this one another try.
The only element that made me keep reading was Oskar and how authentic his voice felt throughout the novel. I had an extremely hard time reading the first 200 pages for several reasons…

Far from the Madding Crowd (♦♦♦♦)

England, 1870. Bathsheba Everdene is a young woman with only her education to pride herself, but upon the death of an uncle she inherits money, a mansion, and a farm on several acres of land. Working on her farm is Gabriel Oak, the first man she refused to marry. He accompanies her through life's ups and downs, her whirlwind romance to spirited sergeant Frank Troy which ends up in a failed marriage, and another truncated marriage offer from her land neighbor and middle aged bachelor Mr. Bolwood.
I love period pieces and romantic movies and Far from the Madding Crowd doesn't disappoint on any front. The acting is superb; the photography, musical score, and cinematography are simply beautiful. This movie has soul and a moral: enduring love grows from partnership and sacrifice; it isn't born from infatuation, but from every day acts.
I like Carey Mulligan's acting style, because she can conjure at will different characters such as the innocent girl in An Education, the vain …

Grace of Monaco (♦♦♦♦)

Between 1961 and 1962, French president Charles de Gaulle issued an ultimatum to the principality of Monaco to stop luring away businesses from French soil and pay them taxes accordingly. Prince Rainier of Monaco and his cabinet refused de Gaulle's demands and Monaco was blockaded under threat of an impending war with France.
Meanwhile, princess Grace wanted to return to the business of movie-making with a role offered by Hitchcock. The crisis between her adopted nation and France puts everything in perspective for her as she has to decide if her love for the prince can endure with so much at stake.
No living actress has either the allure or the beauty that Grace Kelly did, but in Grace of Monaco, Nicole Kidman comes very close. The photography takes advantage of a distant likelihood of Kidman to Grace Kelly, and they exploit the close up angle to her eyes and hair to perfection to show off that Kidman genuinely owns the role. And she does, from the scenes in which her marriage seem…

The Devil's Violinist (♦♦♦♦)

Paganini had extraordinary talent but lacked an audience receptive to his heavenly music. A man who turned out to be the devil offered him a deal: everlasting fame and filled concert halls, everything his heart desired, in exchange for his soul in the hereafter.
It's been long since I didn't see a movie that gorgeous, the screenplay, the storytelling, the acting are to die for. The music is just exquisite, which by the way was arranged in part by the gorgeously looking David Garrett (who looks like a young Ricky Martin) in the leading role as Paganini.
The two movies that vaguely convey the same spirit of music perfection are Nannerl (la soeur de Mozart), and Quartet.
The story transmit enough emotion to make us feel bad for the doomed genius whose talent has gone to waste in the prime of his life, and to make us empathize with a blooming love thwarted by evil intent.
I cannot recommend this movie enough. If you love classical music, as do I, you shouldn't miss The Devil's…

Lovelace (♦♦♦♦)

In the 1970s, Linda Lovelace starred in an adult movie that became a sensation. She became an overnight celebrity. Little did people know that she had been an unwilling pawn in her husband sick way of making money.
Amanda Seyfried usually stars in bubbly, feel good movies, but in Lovelace she sheds her good girl image and delivers the performance of her life as Linda Lovelace. The role is challenging enough for an acting heavyweight, but Seyfried as usual makes it seem effortless, as if all the sugar coated roles that preceded this one had been in preparation for Lovelace. Don't get me wrong, there is a bubbly personality underneath the sexy persona, and Seyfried shines equally as the girl next door turned unwilling celebrity than she does as a common woman needing love and protection.
Peter Sarsgaard has the role of the abusive scumbag husband, and he owns his role as well. He is the villain in the story and you get to hate him for it.
Lovelace is not a family movie; it is intended …