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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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Love and Other Drugs

Jamie Randall (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) is a born salesman. He can sell water in a flood and he’s good at it. He can always charm a customer (particularly the ladies) and can find the one thing that sparks their interest – and he’s good at turning that to his advantage. He’s never tried hard to do anything, not even in school, oh – he could’ve, but didn’t bother. Instead he’s chosen to push that potential back into the faces of his parents (by George Segall and Jill Clayburgh) and take his chances as an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, this plan is a little flawed – he’s recently been fired and after a few weeks searching, he takes up a job as a drugs rep for a well known pharmaceutical company. He’s mentored by one of the company’s best senior salesmen, Bruce Winston (by Oliver Platt), who teaches him all he needs to know. Once he understands “how things work in this game” he takes to it like a duck to water. His skills come back and he starts to build real success. To get to see the right peiple, he charms everyone he needs to and builds up a strong network of connections, particularly Dr Stan Knight (by Hank Azaria). One day, in a drug demonstration with Dr Knight, he meets a patient with Parkinson’s Disease, Maggie Murdock (by Anne Hathaway). She’s such a beautiful woman, but she has a massive chip on her shoulder and a hard-nosed attitude to her illness. She has been hurt before and has little patience for relationships. She won’t let anyone get close to her but Jake is totally smitten. They start a “no strings attached” affair, which suits Jake down to the ground – he’s never been one for commitment. But there’s something about Maggie … she’s tender and loving, but frustratingly distant and Jake finds he’s growing to love her. Maggie’s illness starts to take its toll on her and on their relationship, which presents challenges that neither expected to face in their lives …

This is a supposed romantic “comedy” … but it has a hard edge. Actually, the comedy is there, but that’s not the true essence of this. Romance? – yes, Jamie and Maggie are lovely together and there are some beautifully tender scenes. But the story raises some very significant issues, particularly about the role of drug companies in the choices medical staff make in their treatment regimes. Also, how a person faces a terminal illness and the impact that has on their relationships – Maggie is particularly brave and pragmatic during her illness, but she’s also totally dismissive of any emotions as it’s obviously too much for her to bear. The welcome comedy is provided mostly by the performance of Josh Gad as Jamie’s brother, Josh – he’s marvellous – he does a great job and it’s a nice piece of balancing entertainment. The interaction between the two brothers is very well done too. Jake Gyllenhaal’s character Jamie, is larger than life, but he’s also a tormented, difficult person. This movie goes to places you don’t expect so don’t underestimate its impact. It reunites Gyllenhaal and Hathaway after “Brokeback Mountain”, but this relationship is a more positive one than that was. It’s good to see veteran George Segal here too. Both Gyllenhaal and Hathaway were nominated for Golden Globe awards in 2010, for their comedy roles here and Anne Hathaway won a Satellite Award for her performance in 2010.

 Made in 2010. Directed by Edward Zwick.

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Posted by on February 23, 2014 in Movies


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Steve Jobs (played by Ashton Kutcher) is a bit of a mis-fit – not in the classical sense, but in that he’s never satisfied with “it can’t be done”. It’s 1974 and Jobs is a university student who’s always bucking the system, arguing a point with lecturers and generally being a “pain in the a***”. His lecturers see the potential in him but despair at his total lack of social skills, personal hygiene and general awareness of himself. He has a vision to make computers much easier and far more accessible for people, rather than for big business, so he sets out to make it happen. From grass-roots beginnings with a techy mate, Steve Wozniak (by Josh Gad) and with little more than an idea, his father’s garage and a soldering iron, Jobs and Wozniak make the most of like-minded experts they convince to join them, canny business acumen and dumb-luck to produce a new innovative product – the personal computer. Jobs and Wozniak struggle to get backing for their new venture until Mike Markkula (by Dermot Mulroney) appears, then things really start to take off. Before he knows it, Jobs is into really big business – but his one vision remains – make it better and easier – make it cool – make people want it, even if they don’t know they want it yet …

For anyone remotely interested in the enigma of Steve Jobs, this movie will be quite fascinating. Jobs lived in an extremely high stress, high anxiety and totally manic intellectual world – in some senses, it’s not that surprising that his body developed a serious illness when it never really got a chance to rest. Ashton Kutcher is remarkable as the focused and single-minded Jobs, he does a good job here. Steve Jobs doesn’t come out of it smelling like roses – in fact he’s portrayed as a selfish, insensitive man with no feelings for people, only his product – but I do suspect it represents a balanced view of the progression of the Apple company, competition with Microsoft and the development of the innovative Apple products – which significantly changed the way people interact with technology. Unfortunately, to me, a shortcoming of the movie is the director’s very strong assumptions that the audience will know who each of the characters are and how they impact the story. As soon as each appears and introduces themselves, there’s a clear “pregnant” pause for impact – as if the director is waiting while the audience “ooh” and “aah” their recognition – but perhaps I’m wrong. In my case, I didn’t know who they were – I did soon learn as the drama played out – but I did find the presumptions a bit irritating. At the end, it’s clear to see that the actors were selected not only for their acting prowess but also their uncanny physical resemblance to their character – Kutcher particularly, and they are all well matched. The movie plays a lot like the 2010 movie “The Social Network” about the development of Facebook – and Steve Jobs is portrayed as having a similar regard for the product and business, to the detriment of friends, colleagues and relationships. It’s a dramatisation of the biography about Steve Jobs written by Walter Isaacson.

Made in 2012. Directed by Joshua Michael Stern.

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Posted by on November 17, 2013 in Movies


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