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Adam (played by Mark Ruffalo) lives his life day to day. Every morning he starts out determined to make it through the day without lapsing and giving in to his strong addiction. Even now, five years “sober”, he still struggles daily with his impulses and his addiction. He’s a sex addict. He’s made it this far thanks in no small part to his sponsor Mike (by Tim Robbins), himself a recovering alcoholic, who gives him constant advice and encouragement – and some days he needs it far more than others. Adam’s a sponsor too, to Neil (by Josh Gad), a newcomer sent to the group under Court Order after his sex addiction led to a series of his misdemeanours and anti-social behaviour. Things are going along with their ups and downs and Adam’s making a real go of his life. He meets Phoebe (by Gwyneth Paltrow), a stunning beauty and fascinating woman who he falls for instantly. He must disclose his addiction to her, but when things are going so well he doesn’t want to jeopardise anything. Meanwhile, both Neil and Mike face challenges in their lives that cause them to reassess their priorities and their relationships. Life throws some serious curve balls at each guy in turn – and they all must decide how to deal with their own difficult situation; whether their addiction is going to get the better of them once again …

This is an interesting movie. It first presents as a lightweight romantic comedy, but ‘comedy’ it isn’t – in some places it does succeed in laughing at human nature and presenting human frailty in an entertaining, positive way – but there’s no comedy here. These people all deal with real life issues associated with addiction – day to day struggles, choices about their actions and priorities, dealing with their impulses and with the consequences of their behaviour. There are strong messages here – often about the way humans interact with each other and deal with life issues that involve their or another’s frailty or weakness. It deals with that very well. The performances are all good – Tim Robbins and Mark Ruffalo are realistic and Josh Gad is as endearing as ever. There is great work from both Gwyneth Paltrow and P!nk (Alecia Moore) too. Overall it’s a good movie.

Made in 2012. Directed by Stuart Blumberg

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Posted by on November 2, 2014 in Movies

 

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Sylvia

Life at Cambridge University in 1956 is all about words and writers … aspiring American poet Sylvia Plath (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) has come to Cambridge to soak up the atmosphere and study literature. She meets fellow poet Edward [Ted] Hughes (by Daniel Craig), already very well known for his writing around campus and beyond. He is so different from men she’s known before – he exudes bad habits, risk and danger and she is drawn to him. He falls heavily in love with her too and romance blossoms amongst endless recitals of their much adored prose of Shakespeare and Chaucer. As can be the case with a literary genius, these two are both tortured souls, each in their own way. They marry and are blissfully happy, but the path of true love becomes unstable once Ted and Sylvia move to America to be nearer to her mother, Aurelia (by Blythe Danner). Ted charms everyone around him – he continues to write and Sylvia gets a job to support him, but her own writing isthwarted through her intellectual exhaustion and frustration at his apparent natural ease at producing endless marvellous poetry. He’s constantly distracted by other women and this starts to tell on Sylvia – already emotionally delicate. Things go from bad to worse for the couple and their marriage falters. They move back to England to focus on their writing and try to save their marriage. As things deteriorate, Sylvia finds a well of inspiration for her writing in her trauma, but it is slowly eating her away inside.The couple watch helplessly as their relationship disintegrates … leading to a tragic end.

This movie is very good. Clearly, the early lives of both Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes were punctuated by trauma, which shaped them into the writers they became. Throughout the story, Sylvia admits to several attempts at suicide and her emotional fragility is clear. The scenes that depict her crumbling emotional state are done very well. As Ted Hughes, Daniel Craig does well too – he has the capability to portray emotions without having to say anything, which works well here. Gwyneth Paltrow’s performance is excellent in this difficult role and to my mind she should have received her Academy Award (Oscar) for this, rather than the award she somehow received for “Shakespeare in Love”. She resembles Plath very much too. The support roles by Blythe Danner and Michaell Gambon, who plays Professor Thomas, are strong. The movie features excerpts from Plath’s poems in appropriate places and the supporting soundtrack adds to the drama and desolation of the story. I thought it was a well put together piece, but I understand that Sylvia’s daughter, Frieda Hughes, has been critical of the film as in her view it sentimentalizes her mother’s death. The movie notes that Ted Hughes never spoke of his marriage to Sylvia until he published his own memoir, “Birthday Letters” a few weeks before he died in 1998. The audience is left with a lot of respect for Sylvia and after her death her writing became some of the most celebrated of the 20th century.

 Made in 2003. Directed by Christine Jeffs

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2013 in Movies

 

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Contagion

Beth (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) is travelling for business in Asia. After her final stop-over in Hong Kong, she returns to the US, meets an old friend in Chicago, then heads home to her husband Mitch (by Matt Damon) and their children. Beth is feeling the effects of jetlag coupled with a sniffle and a cough, but she finds this difficult to overcome and soon she becomes very unwell. Mitch rushes her to hospital, where her illness takes a turn for the worse, she has a seizure then unexpectedly dies. Her young son takes ill very soon after her and due to the speed at which the illness takes hold, he also quickly becomes comatose and dies. The officers at the Centre for Disease Control are increasingly concerned. Deputy Director Ellis Cheever (by Laurence Fishburne) assigns his best officer Dr. Erin Mears (by Kate Winslet) to the situation so that the matter is contained, the illness identified and public health is not compromised. She works with research scientist Dr Ally Hoxtall (by Jennifer Ehle) to get it handled. Unfortunately, the virus moves faster than they do – and in a double whammy a controversial blogger from Seattle and opponent of the CDC, Alan Krumwiede (by Jude Law), is highly suspicious and cynical about the actions of the CDC and rallies the community against them – at the same time publishing his own theories about the virus and how to beat it. By this time, Mitch is beside himself with anxiety and worries about the health of his teenage daughter Jory (by Anna Jacoby-Heron). He watches as his family and life seems to dissolve around him and resolves to do anything he can to protect his daughter. As you would expect, word of the virus gets out and the public are understandably concerned about their own safety – leading to everyone taking their own action, some unbridled panic and a threat of full blow anarchy across the community.

This movie is really good. Its almost a documentary and the viewing is realistic – people in fear, disease control working hard to understand and fight the virus, governments and organisations with their own political agendas.  It’s all in this and the key points are explored well.  We join the story on Day 2 of the developing outbreak and by the conclusion we have understood what happened on Day 1 to set the threat to public health on such a rapid roller coaster. The performances are good – Kate Winslet is stunning here and Laurence Fishburne is a pleasure to watch.  Matt Damon is as good as ever and although she dies very early in the story Gwyneth Paltrow is featured throughout the story in flashbacks about her actions, to try to piece the journey of the virus back together.  It’s particularly good where it depicts the situtation building the the community and the responses of the public and the health and safety authorities. Yes, it’s good – well done Steven Soderbergh once again.

Made in 2011.  Directed by Steven Soderbergh

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2012 in Movies

 

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The Talented Mr Ripley

In 1950’s America, Tom Ripley (played by Matt Damon) is a charming and personable young man, with a low-paying janitorial job. He’s also a natural con-artist and in any situation he always finds the most lucrative angle. Dickie Greenleaf (by Jude Law) is the son of a millionaire shipyard owner (by James Rebhorn) and he’s somewhere in Italy, living the high life with his girlfriend Marge (by Gwyneth Paltrow). One day, Tom is serving at a garden party and manages to convince Mr Greenleaf that he knows Dickie from his Princeton days. He gladly accepts a paid assignment in Italy to find the misbehaving Dickie and bring him home. When they meet, the handsome and confident Dickie isn’t fooled by Ripley for a second, but he plays along for a while rather than face being back at home and the reality of the family business. Tom soon settles in to the luxury Mediterranean playground and into Dickie and Marge’s friendship. As well as a good liar, Tom is also adept at imitation and forgery, so when Dickie tires of Tom, Tom goes to extreme lengths to adopt every privilege that Greenleaf’s life offers. He makes his way on the goodwill of affluent friends and acquaintances Meredith (by Cate Blanchett) and Freddie (by Philip Seymour Hoffman).

This film is engaging and vivid. The Italian Riviera sparkles like a gem and the main characters shine right out of the screen. It demonstrates the marvellous 1950’s lifestyle for rich Americans particularly well and you can feel the warm sun beating down on your back just as Jude Law, Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow soak it up on the Italian beach. Matt Damon is very intuitive as the destitute Ripley who will do anything to adopt a more affluent lifestyle. Jude Law is perfectly cast as the superficial Dickie, who will “play” with Tom for as long as he’s interested then cast him aside like an old shoe. Cate Blanchett’s performance as the rich tourist, Meredith, is marvellous and she demonstrates exquisite timing. However, for all that, the film does go on for too long and I feel it could have ended sooner with a more effective arrival at the same conclusion, but the story is entertaining and the movie is a pleasure to watch.

This movie is a dramatisation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel,

Made in 1999. Directed by Anthony Minghella

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Movies

 

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