A Late Quartet (2012)

Christopher Walken plays Peter Mitchell, who has recently been diagnosed with a medical condition that will end his tenure as the Fugue String Quartet’s cellist and leader for the past twenty-five years. The ensuing story is one that sees Peter as a paternalistic figure struggling with emotions about his own life as well as the quartet’s. Robert Gelbart (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is the second violin, much to his chagrin but he stays the course for the sake of the group. His wife, Juliette (Catherine Keener) is the viola player. Daniel Lerner (Mark Ivanir) is the first violin and most conceited of the quartet, who has an affair with Alexandra (Imogen Poots) who just happens to be Robert & Juliette’s daughter.

From the beginning of the movie, competing egos, undisciplined passions, up/down emotions and friendships are tested from the opening scene to the last fade out. I won’t give away all the specifics. I chose this movie because I am a Christopher Walken fan but not one of Hoffman’s. Not only was I surprised with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance I was knocked over by Walken’s, as I did not expect to see this side of him. You’ll have to see this for your own benefit. Oh, and don’t forget to add butter to the popcorn. And go ahead – get some Goober’s, Sno-Caps, Milk Duds, Junior Mints, Jucy Fruits, Dots, Jujubes and the Raisinets. Oh, what the heck, get the Good & Plenty too. Go all out…

 

 

 

Chicken With Plums

Foreign film – French (2011).

Poulet aux prunes is about an established violinist, Nassir Ali Khan, set in 1950’s Tehran. However, there are a few turns in the story. It’s filled with flashbacks after his wife breaks his beloved violin in a fit of frustration. He is unable to find a replacement for his broken violin, thus he has become broken. As a result of this, he decides that the only outcome is to end his life.

The film is whimsical in nature as we are taken down a rabbit hole of scenarios, flashbacks, and surreal frames of Nassir’s hallucinations. We find that Nassir does not love his wife, even though she thoroughly adores him. Nassir’s true love was lost to him due to his profession as a musician. This scenario takes us on a journey that is all too familiar in most films.

Amidst his flashbacks, Nassir has a few comical moments when he speaks with the Angel of Death, then back to reality while speaking with his brother, then back in the rabbit hole again seeing his true love as she feigns not to know who he is when they happen by chance to encounter each other years later. It’s the classic romance, albeit more like a Shakespearean ending than a true love story. Overall, I wasn’t as impressed with the movie but was mesmerized by each individual scenario. So for me the parts of the movie were better than the picture as a whole.

BTW, his favorite meal is chicken with plums…

The Bang Bang Club

Based on a true story of a group of combat photojournalists as they capture images of the final days of apartheid in South Africa from the period 1990-1994. This Canadian-South African 2010 drama/documentary style film grips you from the very beginning in many edge of your seat clips as well as graphic scenes of the violence.

From the opening frame to the last portrays the frustrations of four photographers and their friends as they snap photos of the inhumanity of civil strife as it tears apart a country. Although the violence is upsetting it is a film worth watching. The Bang-Bang Club members star Ryan Phillipe as Greg Marinovich,  Taylor Kitsch as Kevin Carter, Neels Van Jaarsveld as João Silva and Frank Rautenbach as Ken Oosterbroek as a tightly knit group to get the story of country caught in turmoil through the lens of a camera.

Grab the popcorn, put some butter on it and pick out another snack that suits your fancy although I will warn you that watching the compelling scenes you may just forget you have any snacks at all.

No One Killed Jessica

Foreign film- Hindi (2011).

Based on the true story of Jessica Lall who was murdered in 1999.

Jessica, an aspiring model, refuses to serve her eventual killer a drink after hours in a local nightclub. Manish, the son of a intimidating, prominent, and wealthy politician succeeds in buying off the witnesses with his father’s help believes he has beaten the charges in the senseless, deadly crime.

After several years of attempting to prevail in justice, Jessica’s sister Sabrina finally gives up as all seems to favor the politician’s son even though all believe Manish is guilty.

Enter stage right, Meera, a well-known reporter takes on the challenge of righting the wrong for Jessica. Utilizing unorthodox means, Meera sets in motion the will of power of the people. What transpires is a national protest against those individuals who believe they are above the law.

A very compelling film, skip the wine for this one but do butter the popcorn.

Away We Go

Independent film – 2009.

A couple, Burt Farlander and Veroma De Tessant are very much in love, however Verona is not a believer in marriage yet she wants her unborn child to be near family. Lo and behold, one night at dinner, they learn Burt’s parents drop a bomb on them revealing they have decided to move to Belgium one month before the baby is due. So much for close grandparents.

Burt and Verona decide to visit other places both in the U.S. and Canada where they know friends to see if they can find the best place to raise a child. The zany scenarios they encounter becomes surreal until the last, and least likely, place they’ll ever dream of raising their child. But once there…

This is a cute rainy Saturday afternoon charmer to have with a grilled cheese or any other delectable sandwich of your choice. oh, and by all means put bitter on the popcorn.

Illusion

In this 2004 film, an iconic movie director, Donald Baines is in the twilight of his life where he ponders the whereabouts of his son and what has become of him.

Enter stage right, Stan, his assistant (not of this world as he’s dead) brings a silver lining to the silver screen showing Christopher’s (the movie director’s son) life in three separate scenarios. It’s sort of like A Christmas Carol and the three ghosts as it tells what was, what is, and what will be.

The ailing director regrets his past by ignoring his son but redeems himself in the end by arranging a scene written for Christopher and Isabelle to meet – you have to watch this as I’m not going to give the ending away, come on, you should know be by now 🙂

Michael A. Goorjian does a great job both as actor and director, but I believe Kirk Douglas did a remarkable job of portraying a dying soul

Intelligence Seasons 1 & 2

Foreign TV series – Canada (2005-2007).

Jimmy Reardon, a Canadian gangster hanging out in the city of Vancouver, BC is the main character in this Canadian TV crime drama. Unlike most crime dramas where you can’t wait for the “bad” guy to get caught in the end, this one you can’t help but rooting for the bad guys and you immediately like Jimmy. He’s a likable guy played to a “T” by Ian Tracey.

Jimmy has a strange connection to Mary Spalding, head of the Organized Crime Unit stationed in Vancouver in a nemesis-colleague type relationship. You’ll find you are wishing them both well.

Jimmy has a lot of people on his side and the characters are well played by the cast. Chris Haddock, the TV series creator did an excellent job casting the crew for this series.

Throughout the series, it was tough to tell if certain characters were good guys or bad guys on both sides of the law. The bad guys had some good qualities, they also had some bad qualities. The good guys had some good qualities, they also had some bad qualities.

Storytelling was top notch beginning with the first episode till the last one. It kept me spellbound at the end of each episode wanting the next episode to start right away. I’ll have to warn you, watching this is like reading a good book – it’s tough to put down.

Have butter on the popcorn, but make sure you get the refillable box of popcorn as you’re going to need it for all these episodes. You may want to get a few boxes of Goobers, Dots, Jujubes, Sno-Caps, Juicy Fruits, Junior Mints, Milk Duds, Raisinets, and Good & Plenty – yeah, the whole candy case. Oh, did I forget the licorice?

Haywire

In this 2011 thriller, a member of a black ops mission is set up and she’s on a quest to seek revenge on those responsible for setting her up. She has to use all her skills to stay alive. It took me awhile to figure out who the good guys were and who the bad guys were.

After a covert operation in Barcelona, Mallory Kane is sent on another mission to Ireland where she is earmarked for elimination. Realizing she has been double crossed, she embarks on a mission to uncover the culprits. There’s a lot of intrigue in this movie with good performances by Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Ewan McGregor, and Bill Paxton among others.

 

Another Earth

A 2011 independent film tells a story of a young teenager, Rhoda Williams, on her way to MIT to explore the galaxies of other worlds. She’s bright, talented, and has exceptional qualities. John Burroughs on the other hand is married with a child and another on the way, is on the top of his profession as a composer. He’s bright, talented, and has exceptional qualities.

However, on the eve of discovering another earth just outside of the moon’s shadow an accident happens killing Burroughs’ wife and family while young Rhoda goes to jail for the crime. Once out and on probation, Rhoda lands a cleaning job as a janitor at the local high school.

Compelled to say she’s sorry to John for the accident, Rhoda couldn’t find it in her to tell him the truth. So, she becomes his house cleaner and the two engage into an unlikely affair she knows is wrong but is helpless to stop. The affair is too much for Rhoda to bear so she tells him the story. John almost chokes her to death.

Meanwhile, during the affair Rhoda enters a contest to win a ticket to travel to Another Earth and she wins and decides to offer John the ticket. Rhoda’s theory is that John’s family is alive and well on the new earth – oh, did I forget to mention when the new earth was discovered its inhabitants were duplicates of what we have on this earth. Okay, now that the cat’s out of the bag, there’s a surprise ending.

 

The Wave

Foreign film – German (2008).

Rainer Wenger (Jürgen Vogel) is a high school teacher and is getting ready for “project week” where just about anything goes (within reason of course, after all this is high school). The topic is Autocracy and Rainer, as all his students call him, wanted the Anarchy class but the older teacher would not switch with him.

So, Wenger accepts the role of autocracy and tell the students they must call him Herr Wenger and that they must stand when they want to speak in class. To further the ideals of a unified group, Wenger suggests they all have uniforms and it is decided that jeans and a white shirt would prevail as the “new trend” in clothing style.

Another stipulation is that he rearranged the seating from an adhoc mish-mash one to a structured, facing the front, two students at each desk. Now, each of the students were not with their friends but paired up by one good student and one student that struggled academically.

The group decides to give their movement a name and decide on The Wave with a nifty salute. There are many parallels to Nazi Germany but you have to remember that the students are third generation from the mid 1940s.

Throughout the film we see the dynamics of the students before project week, during project week and the end of project week. You get a feeling something will go awry by the films end and it does but I’ll leave that for you to experience it. This was a well directed movie with some dynamic acting on all fronts. Go ahead and put butter on the popcorn and get your self a box of Dots too.