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Serena

It’s 1929, and George Pemberton (played by Bradley Cooper) is ambitious, but he’s a risk taker in business – he’ll do anything for money. He sets his sights on making a fortune and invests in plantations and saw-milling. He invests his mounting wealth in a venture in South America. His plan is firmly on track until the day his world turns upside down … he’s in Boston when he meets Serena (by Jennifer Lawrence). She is like no other woman he’s ever seen – beautiful, charming, impeccably stylish and aptly named … she is truly serene. They are instantly attracted, so the pair quickly marry and head back to his plantation in the mountains of North Carolina. Serena has sawmilling in her blood, her father ran his own lumber company and she knows how things are done – they both dream of building a logging empire. But they both have history too – George is no sooner back in town than he discovers he’s fathered a son with another woman in town. Although he never says so, Serena can sense it and it’s a growing irritation for her. She puts it aside and follows her ambition, quickly becoming a powerful leader of the logging crews – female notwithstanding, she’s good and the men come to respect her. Try as they might, the couple can’t seem to have their own child and this is a growing problem between them. It turns their blissful insular world into a crazy, unpredictable nightmare. Can they get things back together, or will it run totally off the rails …..?

This movie starts very strongly. As George Pemberton, Bradley Cooper is well cast – he’s moody, intense and deliberate in his movements and demeanour. He does this well. As Serena, Jennifer Lawrence is like I have never seen her before. She’s totally luminous – she shines out of every scene and she is styled marvellously. Even though her hair and clothes are totally misplaced in the timber settlement, this doesn’t seem wrong as her character is just to enigmatic. However, as the movie progresses her strong character slowly dishevels into almost a circus freak, which is disappointing. However, there are several strong other roles in this that are worth seeing – Rhys Iffans is marvellous as the brooding and frightening Galloway. Also, Toby Jones makes a great Sheriff McDowell. The movie is fine to pass the time – but it doesn’t maintain its intensity and momentum to the end unfortunately.

Made in 2014. Directed by Susanne Bier.

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Posted by on May 17, 2016 in Movies

 

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The Hunger Games

In Panem, sometime in the future, a long-standing reality television show “The Hunger Games” recruits its candidates for the coming season. This is a game show with a difference – two “players” are selected from each of 12 districts that were isolated after an unsuccessful rebellion, where the nation’s underclasses now live. The “players” must fight each other (and the challenges that arise from the game-show itself) to their death, until only one player remains – the Winner. In Area 12, very young Primrose Everdeen (played by Willow Shields) is selected, but her protective older sister Katniss (by Jennifer Lawrence) takes her place. She and the other teenage Area 12 player, Peeta (by Josh Hutcherson) are taken to the Capitol for the game where they learn the game’s rules and some tactics, then after audience introductions and a major promotional launch, play commences in the vast holographic arena. The citizens of Panem watch the show play out on live television, commentated by the game’s charming host (by Stanley Tucci) while the players fight for their lives …

I didn’t think I’d like this movie and it wasn’t what I was expecting at all, but this is pretty good. Perhaps not quite up to all the media hype of the time, but still it is very well made and the concept is thought-provoking. The human nature revealed by the characters is interesting and the drama is very well developed. The way the “arena” is stage-managed by the television show brings an additional layer of intrigue to the story – and that the entire viewing audience watch these “players” struggle for survival is bizarre, but still you feel a need to watch. A small point – it is too long, but still very good and easily watchable. As our charming game show host, Stanley Tucci is excellent, but as usual he goes along under the radar. Jennifer Lawrence is very strong as Katniss, our heroine. Great to see a cameo by Lenny Kravitz and the young Amandla Stenberg is very good – she was nominated for a Black Reel award for Best Breakthrough Performance for this work, well deserved. Cinematography is excellent – the action sequences are very well done. The movie is based on the book by Suzanne Collins.

Made in 2012. Directed by Gary Ross

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2013 in Movies

 

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Silver Linings Playbook

Pat Solatano (played by Bradley Cooper) has recently been discharged from a mental institution, where he has spent the last eight months in treatment after beating up the lover of his ex-wife, Nikki. Having lost his house and his job, under the conditions of his release, Pat is now living at his parents’ home with his father, Pat Senior (by Robert De Nero) and his mother, Dolores (by Jackie Weaver). He refuses to take his medication because he doesn’t like the way it makes him feel and he is desperate to reconcile with his wife. He attends mandatory counselling sessions with a therapist (by Anupam Kher) and is convinced that he can get back on the rails, back into his job as a teacher and back with his wife – he just needs to stay positive and focus on the silver linings in his life. Pat’s parents wish everything could just get back to “normal” – but Pat Junior’s bizarre unmedicated behaviour is leading them to the end of their collective tethers.  They hope Pat is able to get back on his feet himself, but this is no easy feat. Pat Senior has his own issues to deal with … his obsessive gambling, his baseball team and his conviction that Pat Junior is his ultimate good luck charm. Dolores just tries to keep everything together. One day, Pat meets Tiffany Maxwell (by Jennifer Lawrence), a refreshingly direct and honest woman who must deal with her own issues. Pat and Tiffany realise that theirs can be a mutually beneficial relationship. They settle on a deal to each get the thing they most want in their lives. … but are they both being honest? … does this come at a price that’s getting too high?  Things progress well, but then start to get complicated and as their deal plays out, an unexpected bond begins to form between them, and silver linings appear in both of their lives.

This movie is interesting and good. Bradley Cooper’s performance in this role takes him out of the familiar roles he has played to this point – and he is very good here. His haphazard method and his demonstration of the effects of mental illness are realistic and well done. He deserves the nomination for Best Actor for this. As usual, Robert De Niro makes acting look like second nature and his portrayal of Pat Senior is so excellent it just looks effortless. Although small, the role of Dolores is important and Jackie Weaver’s performance is strong and I agree that Jennifer Lawrence is the stand-out – she totally deserves the Academy Award (Oscar) she received for this performance. The movie is very well directed, the relatioships, dependencies, human idiosyncracies and the intricacies of human emotions are all done very well.  Great effort. The film is based on the novel by the same name by Matthew Quick.

Made in 2012. Directed by  David O Russell

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2013 in Movies

 

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Like Crazy

Anna (played by Felicity Jones) is British and completing her studies in Los Angeles. One day she takes the plunge and approaches Jacob (by Antonio Yelchin) who she as been attracted to for ages. Their deep attraction is instant and they virtually spend every second of the next few months together. Presently, Anna’s final semester of study draws to a end and she must face the heartbreak of separation when she returns to England, leaving Jacob behind to run his furniture design business in LA. They both find this thought almost unbearable and on the day Anna is due to leave LA she makes the sudden decision to risk any problems with her visa and stay longer in the US to enjoy the coming summer with Jacob. Anna is unaware that a problem may arise until she tries to return to LA after a visit back to England – the lovers are left on either side of a major bureaucratic divide. Anna and Jacob must endure immigration battles and a drawn-out romance at a distance so they can be together, but can their love withstand the pressure?

This movie starts off as a run of the mill romantic comedy, but it doesn’t stay that way. It is a microcosm of ordinary lives – an authentic depiction and effective drama showing a warts and all relationship between two people with deep feelings, facing significant and difficult choices. Anna and Jacob are real, the performances by both Felicity Jones and Antonio Yelchin are very good – they are great new talents. They bring the bitter-sweetness of romance to us and show the anguish of a relationship with natural ease. Anna’s lovely forward-thinking parents are beautifully played by Alex Kingston and Oliver Muirhead and Jennifer Lawrence plays another key role very well. This movie portrays a credible scenario and the ending is quite realistic too – a good (but not “feel good”) movie.

Made in 2011. Directed by Drake Doremus

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Movies

 

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Winter’s Bone

“Winter’s Bone” …. It’s not a “feel good” movie by any stretch of the imagination. In fact much of it is eye-popping and frightening, but it’s compelling. It depicts life and family struggles for an Ozark hillbilly girl Ree (played by Jennifer Lawrence) who, at 17 years old, is trying to support her family (younger brother and sister and catatonic mother) enough to survive alongside her frightening relatives …. yes, her relatives ….. so who needs enemies?

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2011 in Movies

 

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