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Still Alice

Alice Howland (played by Julianne Moore) has a very settled, happy life. She loves her work as Professor of Linguistics at Columbia University, her marriage is solid and she and her husband John (by Alec Baldwin), have raised three great children. Now adults, Anna (by Kate Bosworth) is married to Charlie (by Shane McRae), Tom (by Hunter Parrish) is a successful lawyer and Lydia (by Kristen Stewart) studies drama in Los Angeles. Alice starts to notice some weird things happening to her … just tiny things, but still … things that worry her. She forgets words usually second nature to her, then loses her way around Columbia campus, then forgets her son’s girlfriend – what on Earth’s going on?  Distraught with worry, she sees her doctor and after several investigations she is diagnosed with Early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease – very rare in a person Alice’s age of early 50’s. Hugely distressed, she now faces the challenge of a terminal degenerative illness herself and the added risk that she may have passed it on to her children. Alice bravely steps along her significantly changed life path and faces her unknown future …

I can’t imagine what such a situation would be like to face – knowing that you are afflicted with a degenerative disease that will cause your memories to disappear more and more, until you don’t know who you are or what your life is. Also, that no matter what support and love you have around you, this will happen to you alone and nobody else will know how it’s affecting you. This would be tragic and a huge challenge for anyone. However … there’s something missing in this movie. The story is all there – and it’s interesting to watch this intelligent, ambitious, hard-working and successful woman face her illness and all that comes with that. But somehow the relationships, her portrayal of her own experience and the general mood just misses the mark for me. It’s not the deeply moving piece that I anticipated. Does Julianne Moore deserve the Oscar for this? I’m not sure – perhaps it’s that she is so good and so accurate in her portrayal of Alice, that she makes it look like nothing – perhaps that’s the answer. Alec Baldwin’s seems to be just “going through the motions” with his character, John, who appears superficial and almost extraneous to the story. Even the children’s experiences – each different, as is appropriate with people – are all weirdly and disappointingly distant. It is based on the novel “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova. Julianne Moore also won a Golden Globe, BAFTA and Screen Actors’ Guild award for her performance here. Well done, I guess.

Made in 2014. Directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland.

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Posted by on June 8, 2015 in Movies

 

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Blue Jasmine

Things are going so well for Jasmine (played by Cate Blanchett) – her significantly rich husband Hal (by Alec Baldwin) is a successful businessman, she has a busy social life, a beautiful house, designer clothes, expensive jewellery … but suddenly it all falls to pieces and Jasmine finds herself rather down on her luck. She’s had to move away from her high life in New York to stay with her sister Ginger (by Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco – it’s not quite the life she’s been used to … no money left for rent – and now she even has to get a job!!  She doesn’t really know Ginger very well, except that her husband Augie (by Andrew Dice Clay) was a loser and she doesn’t exactly live the same way Jasmine does. Such is the dramatic come-down Jasmine is enduring. Life is stressful, Ginger’s two sons are utterly intolerable and Augie hasn’t provided well for her – her place isn’t exactly “Park Avenue” either … but it’s at least somewhere to stay until Jasmine gets herself back on her feet.  She’s neurotic and anxious, with the past flooding back to crowd her thoughts when anything tips her memory that way.  She relies on pills and drink to get her through the day. Oh how will she ever survive and adjust to such a comedown?

This is a good movie.  Cate Blanchett is excellent as the self-centred Jasmine – totally focussed on her own life, self and utterly unaware of anyone else’s needs. She is dressed in the finest designer clothes and behaves as the perfect spoilt rich bitch. There is certainly something “Blanche Dubois” from “A Streetcar Named Desire” about her character and to some extent about this story – but only in the opening few scenes – it’s not a remake of that movie at all. I was captivated by them all – it’s easy to get wrapped up in the world of these people. Woody Allen has cast this movie exquisitely – as Ginger, Sally Hawkins is just as strong as Blanchett – she is a marvellous counterpoint to the classically styled Jasmine – these sisters were actually born of different parents and just adopted by the same couple, hence their “sister” status but total lack of anything in common, either physically or in lifestyle. Ginger’s boyfriend, Chilli, is played well by Bobby Cannavale and both Alec Baldwin and Peter Sarsgaard are great. It’s easy to forget that both these lead actresses are non-American, Blanchett is Australian and Hawkins is British but they play Americans with complete conviction. This is one of Woody Allen’s finest in the last few years and as usual he has shot it beautifully. Well done everyone involved.

 Made in 2013.  Directed by Woody Allen.

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Movies

 

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To Rome with Love

Aahhh … Rome …. The Eternal City …. the place that makes you forget everything and just want to be in love … if only that path ran smoothly.

Here in Rome, people’s lives are played out against the marvellous backdrop of history, monuments, warm weather and pure pleasure in the air. Jerry (by Woody Allen) has travelled to Rome to meet the man his daughter Hayley (by Allison Pill) plans to marry. Jerry has some difficulty accepting his retirement and his wife, Phyllis (by Judy Davis) patiently works through these issues (along with all this other neuroses) with him. Upon arrival, they meet Hayley’s betrothed, Michaelangelo (by Flavio Parenti) and his family welcomes Jerry and Phyllis into their home. Meanwhile, architectural apprentice Jack (by Jesse Eisenberg) and student Sally (by Greta Gerwig), who live an idyllic Roman life together, make room for Sally’s best friend, Monica (by Ellen Page) who comes to stay. Sally knows that usually everyone falls in love with Monica, but she’s just getting over a nasty breakup, so she won’t be interested in a new relationship just now, right?  Jack bumps into his professional idol John (by Alec Baldwin\ and invites him home for coffee. On the other side of town, newlyweds Antonio (by Alessandro Tiberi) and Milly (by Alessandra Mastronardi) have just arrived in town from their coutry home. They settle into their honeymoon suite and prepare to meet Antonio’s uncles, who have paved the way for his stunning new career in Rome. At the same hotel, a mischievous group of friends have prepared a “surprise” for their mate and arranged for call-girl Anna (by Penelope Cruz) to make a “special” visit to his suite, Later that day, everyday family man, Leonardo (by Roberto Benigni) very happily married to Sofia (by Monica Nappo) somehow finds himself surrounded by paparazzi and the next “big thing” in town – yes, it’s just another ordinary day here in Rome really …..

This is a lightweight, daydream through various complex lives and scenarios that play out across Rome. Somehow time seems to stand still while the people involved all get themselves into sticky situations, which magically resolve themselves by the end of the movie. It is a beautifully made piece and easy to watch – what’s not to like about a movie set in Rome?  The styling is wonderful, the colour is uplifting and the characters are all authentic. As Woody Allen movies go – and hot on the heels of “Midnight in Paris”, it’s not nearly as good, but it’s okay. The irritations I usually find with Allen’s movies are lesser here – his propensity to populate his movies with characters who are all New York nerotics who think of nothing but themselves is lesser here – thankfully Jerry (Woody Allen’s own character) is the only one like that. The others are all very enjoyable – I like Alec Baldwin in comedy, he plays it straight very very well. Penelope Cruz is great here (as she was in “Vicki Cristina Barcelona”) and I like the efforts of Jesse Eisenberg too. I think Roberto Benigni is just being himself, but either way he’s entertaining.  It’s a nice movie, with typical but still enjoyable comedy.

Made in 2012. Directed by Woody Allen

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2013 in Movies

 

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The Departed

Frank Costello (played by Jack Nicholson) is an Irish-American gang boss in South Boston, USA. The gang has been pursued by police for years for their range of organised criminal activities. Colin Sullivan (by Matt Damon) as been indebted to Costello since he was young and (as well as being a made member of Costello’s gang) he is now a respected Massachusetts State Police officer. At the same time, an ambitious loner, Billy Costigan (by Leonardo Di Caprio) has enrolled in the police academy with great aspirations for himself in the state police force. As soon as he graduates, Billy is recruited as an undercover cop to infiltrate Costello’s gang. To achieve this, his police contacts Captain Queenan (by Martin Sheen) and Sergeant Dignam (by Mark Wahlberg) instruct him through stage-managed disgrace and ejection from the police and a jail term, so that he can infiltrate Costello’s gang. From the outside, Sullivan’s job is to tip-off Costello when the police are getting close. From the inside, Costigan must warn police of the Costello gang’s activities. To complicate things further, both Sullivan and Costigan become involved with the same woman, the beautiful Madolyn (by Vera Farmiga), who is the police and government psychiatrist.The gang and the police become aware of a “rat in their ranks” and each man becomes obsessed with finding the traitor in their midst first, without being revealed themselves or breaking the trust of their gang-mates.

This is a gem by Martin Scorsese. From the outset, the story is told very well with exceptional camerawork, well written script, expert pace and development of suspense. The performances are first class – it’s hard to pick out a stand-out because of the veritable galaxy of stars, but of course Jack Nicholson gives a marvellous performance as the cold-hearted Costello. Ray Winstone plays Costello’s right-hand man, Mr French and Alec Baldwin is the very entertaining police captain Ellerby. Equally marvellous are both Leonardo Di Caprio and Matt Damon – excellently cast in these roles and Mark Wahlberg is very good. Martin Sheen’s Captain Queenan is totally believable and realistic.  Excellent work by everyone.

It is 2½ hours long, but you don’t notice that as it’s such a good, well told movie. Very good – just like “Good Fellas” and “Casino”.

Made: 2006

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2012 in Movies

 

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It’s Complicated

Yes, it is rather … Jane (played by Meryl Streep) is in her 50’s she is a talented cook with a successful bakery/restaurant and she has been divorced for 10 years. Her three grown children are all finding their way in the world and her ex-husband Jake (by Alec Baldwin) has remarried a younger woman Agnes (by Lake Bell) with a young son. We meet Jane at the party of friends she knew when she was still married  – Jake and Agnes are also there. Jane and Jake have an amicable relationship and social occasions involving them both are frequent. At the graduation of their son Luke (by Hunter Parrish), Jane and Jake end up in bed together and start a torrid affair – here is where things start to get complicated. At the same time, Jane finds she is attracted to the new architect Adam (by Steve Martin) who is managing the renovations to her home. The story is delightful and fun – it is a light-hearted look at friendship, trust, family, love and finding happiness. Jake is a rather pathetic character, but Jane is strong-willed and a good positive role model.  The three children are all believable and Adam is portrayed well as a sweet and straightforward guy. There’s an element of slapstick to this, some serious issues are touched on with some very good positive messages, but all in all it’s just a good, nice movie.

(Made 2009)

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2012 in Movies

 

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