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Showing posts from January, 2016

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin (♦♦♦♦)

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In 1966, Truman Capote was at the apex of his writing career. He had published the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's, and had recently released In Cold Blood in book format. He even threw a Ball that year to which la creme de la creme of society and entertainment was invited. That year also marked the pinnacle of his social acceptance. He had befriended years before five high-society ladies--Babe Paley, Slim Hayward Keith, Pamela Hayward Churchill, Marella Agnelli, and Gloria Guinness--and their powerful husbands. He nicknamed those ladies his “swans”. Perennially on the best-dressed lists, these society ladies adopted Truman as if he were an exotic pet, sharing with him details of their intimate lives.
But darkness was lurking in the shadows. Unbeknownst to the swans, Truman was taking notes of every trespass, every comment, and revealed the sordid details of their intimate lives in the 1974 short story “La Cȏte Basque, 1965", published in Esquire magazine. What followed was one…

Pawn Sacrifice (♦♦♦♦½)

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At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet chess team's supremacy was undeniable, that was until American Grandmaster prodigy Bobby Fischer made it his mission to defeat, along with chess Grandmasters the world over, chess world champion Boris Spassky and the entire Soviet team. While Fischer was waging war on the chessboard, he was struggling with his increasingly deteriorating mental state.
I have a thing for Bobby Fischer. I've never learned entirely to play chess, but during my teenage years I made a scrapbook containing the chess matches ever played by Fischer and Spassky, that was much coveted by those in my social circle who played.
Anyways, Pawn Sacrifice is after my own heart. It is well written, well acted and well directed, and I think the film perfectly encapsulated the era--the music, the politics, the high stakes.
Tobey Maguire baffles me as an actor. He managed to achieve commercial stardom with the Spiderman franchise, yet he is still an under-the-radar actor, whic…

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (♦♦♦♦♦)

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Walter Mitty is a bachelor who has never done anything noteworthy or been anywhere. He takes an interest in a coworker whom he has overheard joined eHarmony, so he joins as well, but even writing his profile is a struggle. Little does he know that over the course of the next two weeks his life will change dramatically (in the best sense), for Lifemagazine, where he has worked for 16 years, will be transitioning to online only release after a merger and they’ll be facing a massive layoff.
Directed, co-produced and acted by Ben Stiller in the leading role, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a little gem. Who knew Ben Stiller had this in him?! It has beautiful cinematography, breathtaking photography and cool special effects. Quirky and outrageously funny, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty shouldn't be missed.
Cast: Ben Stiller (Walter Mitty), Kristen Wiig (Cheryl Melhoff, Walter's love interest), Shirley MacLaine (Edna Mitty, Walter's mom), Kathryn Hahn (Odessa Mitty, Walter'…

Her (♦♦♦♦)

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In a future Los Angeles, Theodore Twombly makes his living working for an online company writing personal letters for other people. A new computer OS comes out and he gives it a try. The OS personalizes the experience according to people needs and gives it a human voice. Samantha, Theodore's OS, is thoughtful, loving, and funny. As the relationship between the two evolves, they fall in love but soon they begin to question if what they feel for each other is the real thing.
Written, directed, and co-produced by Spike Jonze, Her is one of those movies that are extremely odd to categorize, and may not be appreciated by the majority of moviegoers, but it makes you feel good, and it is food for thought. What does it mean to be in love? Is the love any less real if one of the subjects in the relationship isn't material? Her takes a sentimental look at loneliness and human needs and turns the answers inside out.
Her is a jewel of a film, and to that contribute its solid yet odd screenp…

The Children's Home by Charles Lambert (♦♦)

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Due to his mother's smothering affection, Morgan Fletcher grows up to become a disfigured millionaire who has seen very little of the world outside his mansion. That changes, when children begin appearing somewhat mysteriously at his front door and he has no other choice than to provide food and lodging. Within months of their arrival, strange discoveries are made in the mansion's attic, and a leader emerges among the children who reveals the purpose of their visit in due time.
The Children's Home has been compared to works like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Golden Compass, but in my opinion that comparison is overly ambitious for it lacks their appeal. The children's behavior and purpose seemed more in tune with Lord of the Flies than with inverted fairy tales, though there are elements of it in this novel. Even when the events described are supposed to be disturbing, they sound so trivial, perhaps because the plot doesn't seem to be moving at all.
Overall, The C…

Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow (♦♦♦♦)

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An alien race known as Mimics has invaded Earth. Our very survival is at stake. Mimics are by far winning the war against humans, but there's hope in the form of two soldiers who have killed, each on a different battle, an alpha mimic--organism dependent of a central brain-like structure called Omega--whose blood has the power to reset time for the soldiers who killed it, making them relive the same day over and over, while the Omega anticipates their every move.
Super soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) trains to and kills over and over soldier Major Cage (Tom Cruise). Together they'll have to find and destroy the brain-like Omega if they are to save humanity.
Hip and brainy... Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow is Groundhog's Day with an alien twist, and the latest weaponry mankind has been able to conceive, and battles on top of battles. Agreed, you have to be a fan of action movies or sci-fi to enjoy this film, but it delivers on both fronts with a stylish and original sc…

Madame Bovary (♦♦♦)

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Young Emma is Catholic educated in a convent. She marries country doctor Charles Bovary, with hopes that she will forever be happy. Soon after the marriage, the Bovarys move to a village, and the boring country living torments Emma.
An invitation to the neighboring estate of Marquis d'Andervilliers for a hunt, marks the beginning of her emancipation, for both Emma and the Marquis will engage in an all-consuming extramarital affair. And when the Marquis bids her farewell, Emma continues her affairs with passionate tax clerk Leon Dupuis. During these entanglements, Emma buys expensive gowns and trifles that lead the Bovarys to financial ruin.
Mia Wasikowska, so at ease in the roles of Jane Eyre, and as Albert Nobbs' paramour in Albert Nobbs, seems ill-fitted for the role of passionate Madame Bovary. I understand there are two sides to Emma Bovary: the one of discontented wife in a suffocating small village, and that side Wasikowska nails to perfection; she is somewhat lost as a pa…

The Elephant in the Living Room (♦♦♦♦♦)

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Many states in the U.S. allow legal ownership of exotic wild animals, and there is a booming marketplace out there where no filming is allowed, catering to every exotic taste. But when animals grow unmanageable and attack, or when owners change their minds and discard the wild critters, it is up to public safety officers around the country to risk their lives to catch and protect the animals or find them suitable accommodations.
Interwoven with public safety officers' interviews are those of exotic pet owners, an emergency doctor's opinion and snippets of news reporting public sightings and/or attacks of wild animals. Eye-opening, visceral, and just plain heartbreaking is this documentary that is a roller coaster experience for victims and animal lovers alike.
When you see an old man crying his love for his four year old African lion, which he reared up since it was a cub, you know that you are facing an issue in which there are only losers, most of all the wild animals.

The Fist of God by Frederick Forsyth (♦♦♦♦)

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I could never do justice to Frederick Forsyth if attempted to retell the plot of any of his novels in my own words. Thus, for The Fist of God, I submitted to Barnes & Noble from which I extracted the official book blurb: "From the behind-the-scenes decision-making of the Allies to the secret meetings of Saddam Hussein's war cabinet, from the brave American fliers running their dangerous missions over Iraq to the heroic young spy planted deep in the heart of Baghdad, Forsyth's incomparable storytelling skill keeps the suspense at a breakneck pace.  Somewhere in Baghdad is the mysterious "Jericho," the traitor who is willing (for a price) to reveal what is going on in the high councils of the Iraqi dictator.  But Saddam's ultimate weapon has been kept secret even from his most trusted advisers. And the nightmare scenario that haunts General Schwarzkopf and his colleagues is suddenly imminent, unless somehow, the spy can locate that weapon--The Fist of God--…