REVIEW: RUNAWAY JURY

CAST

John Cusack (2012)
Gene Hackman (Superman)
Dustin Hoffman (Hook)
Rachel Weisz (The Bourne Legacy)
Jeremy Piven (Mr. Selfridge)
Bruce Davison (X-Men)
Bruce McGill (Timecop)
Marguerite Moreau (Wet Hot American Summer)
Nick Searcy (The Dead Girl)
Leland Orser (Taken)
Lori Heuring (8mm 2)
Joanna Going (Nixon)
Dylan McDermott (Texas Rangers)
Stanley Anderson (Red Dragon)
Celia Weston (Hulk)
Bill Nunn (Money Train)
Cliff Curtis (Blow)
Nora Dunn (Bruce Almighty)
Rusty Schwimmer (The Perfect Storm)
Jennifer Beals (The Prophecy II)
Guy Torry (American History X)
Orlando Jones (Sleepy Hollow)
Gary Grubbs (Angel)
Luis Guzmán (Traffic)

In New Orleans, a failed day trader at a stock brokerage firm shows up at the office and opens fire on his former colleagues, then kills himself. Among the dead is Jacob Wood. Two years later, with attorney Wendell Rohr, Jacob’s widow Celeste takes Vicksburg Firearms to court on the grounds that the company’s gross negligence led to her husband’s death. During jury selection, jury consultant Rankin Fitch and his team communicate background information on each of the jurors to lead defense attorney Durwood Cable in the courtroom through electronic surveillance. In the jury pool, Nick Easter tries to get himself excused from jury duty. Judge Frederick Harkin decides to give Nick a lesson in civic duty and Fitch tells Cable that the judge has now given them no choice, and that he must select Nick as a juror. Nick’s congenial manner wins him acceptance from his fellow jurors, but Frank Herrera, a Marine veteran, takes an instant dislike to him.A woman named Marlee makes an offer to Fitch and Rohr: she will deliver the verdict to the first bidder. Rohr dismisses the offer, assuming it to be a tactic by Fitch to obtain a mistrial. Fitch asks for proof that she can deliver, though, which Nick provides. Fitch orders Nick’s apartment searched, but finds nothing. Marlee retaliates by getting one of Fitch’s jurors bounced. Nick shows the judge surveillance footage of his apartment being searched, and the judge orders the jury sequestered. Fitch then goes after three jurors with blackmail, leading one, Rikki Coleman, to attempt suicide. Rohr loses a key witness due to harassment, and after confronting Fitch, decides that he cannot win the case. He asks his firm’s partners for $10 million. Fitch sends an operative, Janovich, to kidnap Marlee, but she fights him off and raises Fitch’s price to $15 million. On principle, Rohr changes his mind and refuses to pay. Fitch agrees to pay Marlee to be certain of the verdict.Fitch’s subordinate Doyle travels to Gardner, Indiana, where he discovers that Nick is really Jeff Kerr, a law school drop-out, and that Marlee’s real name is Gabby Brandt. Gabby’s sister died in a school shooting. The town sued the gun manufacturer and Fitch helped the defense win the case. Doyle concludes that Nick and Marlee’s offer is a set-up, and he calls Fitch, but it is too late. Nick receives confirmation of receipt of payment and he steers the jury in favor of the plaintiff, much to the chagrin of Herrera, who launches into a rant against the plaintiff, which undermines his support. The gun manufacturer is found liable, with the jury awarding $110 million in general damages to Celeste Wood. After the trial, Nick and Marlee confront Fitch with a receipt for the $15 million bribe and demand that he retire. They inform him that the $15 million will benefit the shooting victims in Gardner.This was a movie that wasn’t over-hyped, filled with talented actors and kept you watching all the way through.  Hackman was flawless as usual as an actor and once again maintained his great screen presence. Hoffman really portrayed the idealistic lawyer character well. Weisz played the female lead with the right mix of the strong and vulnerable.  The plot twists were not overdone but did offer some slight surprises which were hinted at along the way if you payed attention. Overall I’d recommend this movie to anyone, especially those who take their movies seriously

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REVIEW: STRANGER THAN FICTION

CAST

Will Ferrell (Elf)
Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Dark Knight)
Emma Thompson (Junior)
Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man)
Queen Latifah (Taxi)
Tony Hale (Chuck)
Tom Hulce (Parenthood)
Linda Hunt (Pret-a-Porter)
Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies)

Harold Crick, an agent for the Internal Revenue Service, lives his life by his wristwatch. He is assigned to audit an intentionally tax-delinquent baker, Ana Pascal, to whom he is attracted. On the same day, he begins hearing the voice of a woman omnisciently narrating his life but is unable to communicate with it. Harold’s watch stops working and he resets it using the time given by a bystander; the voice narrates, “little did he know that this simple, seemingly innocuous act would result in his imminent death”. Worried by this prediction, Harold consults a psychiatrist who attributes the voice to schizophrenia, though they consider that if there really is a narrator, he should visit an expert in literature. Crick visits Jules Hilbert, a literature professor, and relates his story. When Jules recognizes aspects of a literary work in Harold’s story, he encourages Harold to identify the author, first by determining if the work is a comedy or tragedy.As Harold audits Ana, the two fall for each other, but when Harold refuses to accept cookies that Ana made for him because they could be viewed as a bribe, Ana tells him to leave, making Harold believe the story is a tragedy. On the advice of Jules, Harold spends the next day at home trying to control his destiny by doing nothing, but his apartment is partially demolished by a wrecking crew that mistook the building for an abandoned one. Jules believes that since Harold cannot control the plot, he should accept his impending death and enjoy whatever time he has left. Harold takes a vacation from work, develops his friendship with his co-worker Dave, fulfills his dream of learning to play the guitar, and dates Ana. Harold reassesses his story as a comedy. When he returns to Jules with this revelation, Harold inadvertently identifies the voice in his head from a television interview as author Karen Eiffel. Jules, an admirer of Karen’s work, reveals that all of her books feature the main character’s tragic death.Karen struggles from writer’s block and researches ways to kill the character Harold to complete her next book. Her publisher sends an assistant, Penny Escher, to ensure the book is completed. Harold finds Karen through her tax records. When Karen learns that Harold experiences everything she writes, she is horrified by the thought that her books may have killed real people. She tells Harold she wrote a draft of his death, but has not typed it up yet; the events in the book manifest when she strikes the period key. Penny suggests Harold read the drafted ending to get his opinion. Harold cannot bring himself to read it and gives the manuscript to Jules to review. Jules confirms its excellence, labeling it as Karen’s masterpiece; Harold’s death is integral to its genius. Though Harold is distressed over his fate, Jules comforts him by stating the inevitability of death: this one death, at least, will have a deeper meaning. Harold reads the manuscript, then returns it to Karen, telling her the death she has written for him is “beautiful” and she should keep it intact. He spends one last night with Ana.The next day, Harold prepares to return to work, despite Karen’s voice narrating as she types up her ending. Because Harold’s watch is three minutes fast owing to the imprecise time given to him days ago, he reaches the bus stop early and watches as a young boy falls in front of the oncoming bus. Karen continues writing; Harold leaps from the curb and pushes the child out of the way, but is struck by the bus. Karen cannot complete the sentence confirming Harold’s death, and Harold wakes up in a hospital, injured but alive. He learns that fragments of his wristwatch blocked the right ulnar artery in his body after the collision, saving his life. When Jules reads Karen’s final manuscript, he notes that the story is weaker without Harold’s death. Karen admits the flaw, but points out that the story was meant to be about a man that dies unexpectedly; with Harold sacrificing himself, the story would have lost its tragic impact. In place of Harold, his wristwatch—anthropomorphized throughout the film—is the character who died tragically.stranger2Stranger than Fiction, works. Like a good novel, Forster has fashioned something that is strange, stylistic, and unexpectedly inspiring. And, despite the chinks in its existentialist armor, that’s surely something worth writing home about.

REVIEW: THE SIMPSONS – SEASON 1-3

CAST

Dan Castellaneta (Super 8)
Julie Kavner  (Dr. Dolittle)
Yeardley Smith (Dead Like Me)
Nancy Cartwright (Kim Possible)
Hank Azaria (The Smurfs)
Harry Shearer (This Is Spinal Tap)
Pamela Hayden (Recess)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Maggie Roswell (Pretty In Pink)
Russi Taylor (Babe)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Chris Latta (Transformers)
Marica Wallace (Full House)
Susan Blu (Transformers: The Movie)
Ron Taylor (City of Angels)
Albert Brooks (Drive)
Kelsey Grammer (Frasier)
Penny Marshall (Laverne & Shirley)
Harvey Fierstein (Independence Day)
James Earl Jones (Star Wars)
Tom Poston (Mork and Mindy)
Tony Bennett (Muppets Most Wanted)
Alex Rocco (The Godfather)
Phil Hartman (Small Soldiers)
Doris Grau (Babe)
George Takei (Heroes)
Sab Shimono (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III)
Larry King (American Crime Story)
Jon Lovitz (Happiness)
Danny DeVito (Batman Returns)
Frank Welker (Transformers0
Tracey Ullman (Into The Woods)
Audrey Meadows (The Honeymooners)
Ringo Starr (Thomas & Friends)
Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man)
Cloris Leachman (Scary Movie 4)
Daniel Stern (Home Alone)
Michael Jackson (Men In Black 2)
Kipp Lennon (Norbit)
Joe Mantegna (Criminal Minds)
Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother)
Jackie Mason (Caddyshack II)
Sting (Zoolander 2)
Steve Allen (The Comic)
Beverly D’Angelo (American History X)
Michael McKean (Smallville)
Christopher Guest (The Princess Bride)
Kimmy Robertson (Twin Peaks)

What’s really great about the first season is that you get to see the writers trying to figure out what direction the show should take, this provides some interesting experiments as well as some classic episodes. Season 1 does not have a lot of amazing scenes or laugh out loud moments but it does have a sense of realism to it and can actually tackle some pretty dark themes, such as Lisa having depression or Homer trying to commit suicide.

It really does feel great when there’s a happy ending because you do want to see these characters succeed, especially when you can relate to their problems and empathise with them. I really liked Homer’s characterisation here, he is just an average man who just happens to make a few honest mistakes and I think that he has a genuine charm to him. He never does anything hilarious but some of his one liners did get a chuckle out of me. The episodes revolving around Bart were probably the funniest. Although this season proves you don’t always need a lot of jokes to tell a good story, “Life on the Fast Lane” is a fantastic Homer and Marge episode that treats the audience with a lot of maturity and though I personally do not find it very funny, I am still invested in the plot. Even though the plots and characterisations are a lot more subtle when compared to later seasons, there is still a sense of wackiness to it, the best example being “The Call of the Simpsons” where Homer is mistaken for Bigfoot. Obviously in the first season of any show not every episode will be a success but when Season 1 does things right, it can be a pretty damn good season with just a few hiccups here and there.

Season 2 is basically a new and improved version of season 1, the tone is still very similar but now the characters are more developed and the plots have started to become a lot more intelligent. One of the best things about this season is the way it portrays Homer and Marge’s relationship, you never doubt even for a second that they truly love each other.

Even something so simple as Marge singing to Homer to cheer him up in “Simpson and Delilah” is very effective and I really do have to give credit to Dan Castellaneta and Julie Kavner for the amazing vocal performances. The voice acting in this season is brilliant and it does make the emotional scenes are a lot more powerful. This season also starts to develop the secondary characters, whenever Mr. Burns appears in an episode you know it’s going to lead to some very good moments and even Ned Flanders and Principal Skinner have a chance to shine. The wide variety of different characters and personalities was one the main reasons that the show was so good. The storylines are also great, tackling mature issues such as censorship or the corruption of government politics and the show never talks down to its audience. These writers are so talented that not only can they make us laugh, but they can also make us think as well. This is my personal favourite season of The Simpsons. The first disc has it’s moments, Homer Defined”, “Bart The Murderer”, “Stark Raving Dad” and “When Flanders Failed” are all great episodes.

The Second Disc has classic such as “Treehouse Of Horror”  which  is almost as incredibly well written as the first, “Lisa’s Pony” and “Saturdays Of Thunder” are also great. “Flaming Moe’s” is on a different level altogether to all episodes mentioned previously. It is one of the best written, funniest episodes this show has ever produced and will remain an all time classic.From Disc 3 onwards, especially after “Lisa The Greek”, the episodes seem to run into each other, you can’t put the remote control down, you simply have to keep watching. For you are viewing classic episode after classic episode after classic episode.  First you have  “Homer Alone”. David Stern decided to use a “deeper vein in comedy” in this episode by focusing on Marge rather than Bart or Homer, as most of the other writers were doing. It’s a fantastic episode with lots of humour and lots goes on, it seems more than 21 minutes.

“Bart The Lover” is another fantastic episode. I love hearing the letters that Bart writes to Mrs. Krabappel. “Homer At The Bat” is probably the episode that made me laugh the most in the entire season. My favourite part was when Ken Griffey Jr. had gigantism. “Separate Vocatians” Is a very interesting episode and another one that you can’t fault. It’s as good as every one of the episodes mentioned in this paragraph. There’s so much great humour in this episode. As for the other episodes on Disc 3, “Radio Bart” is a very cleverly written episode and is one of the best to watch. “Lisa The Greek is also as good as everyone of those episodes. One of my favourite episodes of all time, “Colonel Homer”. I think it’s one of the only episodes where Matt Groening wrote the entire thing. Then there is “Black Widower” in which Sideshow Bob marries Selma, which is a great episode, with a hilarious ending. And then, there is my favourite Simpsons episode of all time, The Otto Show. Disc four has “Bart’s Friend Falls In Love” and “Brother Can You Spare two Dimes”, these two episodes are good episodes but not classed as classics compared to the other episodes in the season.Season 3 was when the Simpsons hit it’s stride and became the animated  juggernaut it is today.

 

REVIEW: DICK TRACY (1990)

CAST

Warren Beatty (Bonnie and Clyde)
Al Pacino (The Godfather)
Madonna (Evita)
Glenne Headly (Sgt. Bilko)
Charlie Korsmo (Hook)
Seymour Cassel (Boiling Point)
Michael J. Pollard (Scrooged)
Charles Durning (Attica)
Dick Van Dyke (Mary Poppins)
Frank Campanella (Capone)
Kathy Bates (Misery)
Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man)
William Forsythe  (The Devil’s Rejects)
Ed O’Ross (Another 48 hrs)
James Tolkan (Masters of The Universe)
Mandy Patinkin (The Princess Bride)
R. G. Armstrong (Predator)
Henry Silva (Ocean’s 11)
Paul Sorvino (The Gambler)
James Caan (Elf)
Catherine O’Hara (Home Alone)
Robert Costanzo (Batman: TAS)

war-of-the-worlds-1953-martian-hand-on-shoulder-sylvia-van-buren-ann-robinsonAt an illegal card game, a young street urchin witnesses the massacre of a group of mobsters at the hands of Flattop and Itchy, two of the hoods on the payroll of Alphonse “Big Boy” Caprice. Big Boy’s crime syndicate is aggressively taking over small businesses in the city. Detective Dick Tracy catches the urchin (who calls himself “Kid”) in an act of petty theft. After rescuing him from a ruthless host, Tracy temporarily adopts him with the help of his girlfriend, Tess Trueheart.
ww-53Meanwhile, Big Boy coerces club owner Lips Manlis into signing over the deed to Club Ritz. He then kills Lips with a cement overcoat (referred to onscreen as “The Bath”) and steals his girlfriend, the seductive and sultry singer, Breathless Mahoney. After Lips is reported missing, Tracy interrogates his three hired guns Flattop, Itchy, and Mumbles, then goes to the club to arrest Big Boy for Lips’ murder. Breathless is the only witness. Instead of providing testimony, she unsuccessfully attempts to seduce Tracy. Big Boy cannot be indicted and he is released from jail. Big Boy’s next move is to try to bring other criminals, including Spud Spaldoni, Pruneface, Influence, Texie Garcia, Ribs Mocca, and Numbers, together under his leadership. Spaldoni refuses and is intentionally killed, leaving Dick Tracy, who discovered the meeting and was attempting to spy on it, wondering what is going on. The next day, Big Boy and his henchmen kidnap Tracy and attempt to bribe him; Tracy refuses, prompting the criminals to attempt to kill him. However, Tracy is saved by Kid, who gets prized by the police with a Honorary Detective Certificate, which will remain temporary until he decides a name for himself.
16-215041_0x420Breathless shows up at Tracy’s apartment, once again in an attempt to seduce him. Tracy shows he is only human by allowing her to kiss him. Tess witnesses this and eventually leaves town. Tracy leads a seemingly unsuccessful raid on Club Ritz, but it is actually a diversion so officer “Bug” Bailey can enter the building to operate a secretly installed listening device so the police can hear in on Big Boy’s criminal activities. The resultant raids all but wipe out Big Boy’s criminal empire. However, Big Boy discovers Bug and captures him for a trap planned by Influence and Pruneface to kill Tracy in the warehouse. In the resulting gun battle, a stranger with no face called “The Blank” steps out of the shadows to save Tracy after he is cornered and kills Pruneface. Influence escapes as Tracy rescues Bug from the same fate given to Lips Manlis, and Big Boy is enraged upon hearing that The Blank foiled the hit. Tracy tries again to get the testimony from Breathless he needs to put Big Boy away. She agrees to testify only if Tracy agrees to give in to her advances. Tess eventually has a change of heart, but before she can tell Tracy, she is kidnapped by The Blank, with the help of Big Boy’s club piano player, 88 Keys. Tracy is drugged and rendered unconscious by The Blank, framed for murdering the corrupt District Attorney John Fletcher, and is detained. The Kid, meanwhile, adopts the name “Dick Tracy, Jr.”
war-of-the-worlds-1953-martians-attack-humansBig Boy’s business thrives until the Blank frames him for Tess’ kidnapping. Released by his colleagues on New Year’s Eve, Tracy interrogates Mumbles and arrives at a shootout outside Big Boy’s club where his men are killed by the police and Tracy. Abandoning his crew, Big Boy flees to a drawbridge and ties Tess to the gears before he is confronted by Tracy. Their fight is halted when the Blank appears and holds both men at gunpoint, offering to share the city with Tracy after Big Boy is dead. Big Boy takes advantage of a distraction and opens fire before Tracy sends him falling to his death in the bridge gears. Mortally wounded, the Blank is revealed to be Breathless Mahoney, who kisses Tracy before dying. All charges against Tracy are dropped. Later, Tracy proposes to Tess when he is interrupted by the report of a robbery in progress. He leaves her with a ring before heading away with Dick Tracy, Jr.dicktracy_727Overall, a really fine movie that has become misunderstood over the years since its release and is incredibly underrated. This is a perfect example of capturing the essence of a comic book, from style to eccentricity.

REVIEW: LAST CHANCE HARVEY

CAST

Dustin Hoffman (Tootsie)
Emma Thompson (Love Actually)
Kathy Baker (Edward Scissorhands)
Eileen Atkins (Robin Hood)
James Brolin (Catch Me If You Can)
Richard Schiff (Man of Steel)
Michael Landes (Final Destination 2)
Angela Griffin (Waterloo Road)
Nadia Cameron-Blakey (Batman Begins)

Divorced American Harvey Shine writes jingles for television commercials, a job not in keeping with his dream of being a jazz pianist and composer. His position at work is tenuous as he departs for London to attend his daughter Susan’s wedding. Upon arrival at Heathrow Airport, he encounters Kate Walker, a single Londoner who works collecting statistics from passengers as they pass through the terminals. Tired and anxious to get to his hotel, Harvey brusquely dismisses her when she approaches him with the survey.

Arriving at his hotel Harvey discovers that he is the only wedding guest booked in there. He is hurt to discover that has his ex-wife Jean has rented a house to accommodate everyone who is attending from the States, except him. At the dinner on the night preceding the wedding, it becomes increasingly clear Harvey is now an outsider to his daughter’s life and is being excluded from the clan around his ex-wife’s new husband Brian. Their politeness towards him is insincere and makes him feel embarrassed and uncomfortable. Susan tells Harvey that as her step-father Brian has been more of a father to her in the last few years than he has, she is going to ask him to give her way at her wedding. Clearly upset, but accepting of her decision Harvey lies and tells Susan that he will be attending the ceremony but not the reception because he has to urgently return to the States.

Meanwhile, Kate is on a blind date that is not going well. After taking a phone call from her neurotic mother Maggie, she returns to the table to discover that her date has bumped into friends at the bar and invited them to join them. Feeling socially awkward and excluded from the group she eventually goes home.

The following morning Harvey attends the wedding and then leaves immediately for the airport, having been excluded again and seated at the back of the church instead of the front in his true place next to his daughter. Owing to the heavy London traffic he is delayed and misses his flight back to the States. When he calls his boss to advise him he will be returning later than planned he is fired. Needing to drown his sorrows, Harvey goes to an airport bar and sees Kate who is there having a solitary lunch. Recognizing her from the day before, he apologizes for his rude behavior. She initially resists the attention he is paying her but soon they’re both glad to finally have an honest, genuine conversation with someone.

Harvey, feeling lonely and not wanting to stay in an hotel by the airport, follows Kate and joins her on the train to Paddington station. He asks if he can walk her to her writing class on the South Bank. She accepts his offer and is pleased when he offers to wait for her and meet her afterwards. As they stroll along the South Bank River Thames, Harvey mentions he is missing Susan’s wedding reception, and Kate urges him to go. He finally relents, but only if she will accompany him. Kate insists that she is not properly dressed for such an occasion, so Harvey buys her a dress and the two head to the Grosvenor House Hotel, where they are welcomed by Susan and squeezed in at two places on the children’s table. When ‘the-father-of-the-bride’ is called upon to make a toast, Brian rises and begins to speak but Harvey interrupts claiming his right as her biological father. He then delivers a touching, eloquent speech that redeems him with his daughter and endears him to Kate.

Following the bride and groom’s first wedding dance, the groom calls Harvey up to dance with his daughter. He happily does so, and then all the guests join them on the dance floor. Harvey is enjoying himself on the dance floor and Kate is left at the children’s table, finding herself again in the same position as on the blind date. She starts to feel socially awkward and out of place, alone in the room full of strangers. Harvey is dancing and appears to have forgotten Kate. She bears her feelings as long as she can and eventually quietly leaves. Soon after Harvey returns to the table to find her gone.Harvey, now looking for Kate, goes into the corridor and seeing her waiting for the elevator, he disappears into a side room where there is a piano and begins to softly play one of his own jazz compositions. She hears the music and follows it, finding Harvey smiling and waiting for her. He asks her to stay and return to the reception so he can dance her socks off. She agrees and they have a great time together.

Following the reception, Harvey and Kate walk and talk through London until dawn. Upon parting they exchange a single, gentle kiss and agree to meet at noon later that day. Back at his hotel, Harvey experiences serious heart palpitations having had to use the stairs as both lifts are out of order. He is taken to hospital. Forced to stay over night for treatment he misses the appointment with Kate, who turned up as agreed and waited for him. Upon being discharged the next day Harvey receives a call from his boss who has discovered that he needs Harvey to continue handling the account at work. He urges Harvey to return to as soon as possible. Harvey quits his job, deciding he prefers to remain in London and explore the possibility of a relationship with Kate. He tracks down Kate’s work number and calls her to explain but she refuses to take the call. He goes looking for her at the airport and eventually tracks her down at her writing class. He explains why he missed their rendezvous and tells her that he wants to stay in London and begin a relationship with her. Overcautious about romance because of so much past emotional pain, Kate resists, but finally agrees to give things a chance to his suggestion that they see what the future might bring.

As they slowly stroll away along the South Bank, Harvey invites Kate to ask him the questions she would have asked him at the airport terminal, and this time, he happily answers, telling her his place of residence “…is in transition.”

The direction provided by Joel Hopkins is impressive as he extracts excellent performances from the lead actors. The background music score, which is provided by Dickon Hinchliffe is also worth an applause as it is soothing and perfectly compliments the story. The movie would have turned out to be an average fare if it was not for Hoffman and Thompson.
‘Last Chance Harvey’ is a delightful and competent movie, which deserves a watch.

REVIEW: FINDING NEVERLAND

CAST

Johnny Depp (Edward Scissorhands)
Kate Winslet (Insurgent)
Julie Christie (Troy)
Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black)
Dustin Hoffman (I Heart Huckabees)
Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel)
Joe Prospero (My Uncle Silas)
Ian Hart (Enemy of The State)
Kelly Macdonald (Trainspotting)
Mackenzie Crook (Almost Human)
Toby Jones (The Hunger Games)

The story focuses on Scottish writer J. M. Barrie, his platonic relationship with Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, and his close friendship with her sons named George, Jack, Peter, and Michael, who inspire the classic play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Never Grew Up.

Following the dismal reception of his latest play, Little Mary, Barrie meets the widowed Sylvia and her four young sons in Kensington Gardens, and a strong friendship develops between them. He proves to be a great playmate and surrogate father figure for the boys, and their imaginative antics give him ideas which he incorporates into a play about boys who do not want to grow up, especially one named after troubled young Peter Llewelyn Davies. Although Barrie sees this family as wonderful and inspirational, people question his relationship with the Llewelyn Davies family. Sylvia was a widow: her husband died from cancer and left her with four boys to raise on her own. Barrie’s wife Mary, who eventually divorces him, and Sylvia’s mother Emma du Maurier, object to the amount of time Barrie spends with the Llewelyn Davies family. Emma also seeks to control her daughter and grandsons, especially as Sylvia becomes increasingly weak from an unidentified illness. Along the way, Barrie goes on these adventures with Sylvia and her boys. He too is a boy at heart and spending time with the family is special. Barrie and his wife did not have any children of their own. Barrie takes those adventures he has with the boys and sees within them and makes it into a play, Peter Pan.
Producer Charles Frohman skeptically agrees to mount Peter Pan, despite his belief that it holds no appeal for upper-class theatergoers. Barrie peppers the opening night audience with children from a nearby orphanage, and the adults present react to their infectious delight with an appreciation of their own. The play proves to be a huge success. Barrie is all set for his play, but when Peter arrives alone to the play, Barrie goes to Sylvia’s house to check up on her, and misses the show. Peter attends the play and realizes the play is about his brothers and Barrie.  Sylvia is too ill to attend the production, so Barrie arranges to have an abridged production of it performed in her home. He gets the actors, props, and musicians together in the Llewelyn Davies house. At the end of the play, Peter Pan points to the back doors and implies that Sylvia should go off to Neverland. She takes the hands of her boys and slowly walks out into Neverland. The living room and backyard transform into Neverland and Sylvia continues to walk on her own.

In the next scene everyone is at Sylvia’s funeral. Barrie discovers that her will says that he and her mother should look after the boys, an arrangement agreeable to both. The film ends with J. M. Barrie finding Peter on the bench in the park where they first met after Peter ran off from the graveyard. Peter is holding his book where he wrote the plays that he ripped apart and that his mother glued back together for him. Barrie sits down and puts his arm around Peter to comfort him. They both fade, and all that is left is the bench.

Peter Pan’s story may be told repeatedly, the process and struggles of his conception by Barrie have been done more than adequate justice by this film. It is a visual feast that will interest adults and children alike, and may be the best alternative to other failing versions of Peter Pan as it tells the story of the original boy who never grew up

 

REVIEW: I ♥ HUCKABEES

CAST

Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man)
Jason Schwartzman (Scott Pilgram vs. The World)
Naomi watts (Insurgent)
Isabelle Huppert (Amour)
Jude Law (Spy)
Lily Tomin (Orange County)
Mark Wahlberg (Transformers 4)
Kevin Dunn (Small Soldiers)
Tippi Hedren (The Birds)
Said Taghmaoui (American Hustle)
Jean Smart (Garden State))
Jonah Hill (Cyrus)
Isla Fisher (Grimsby)
Talia Shire (Rocky)
Kamala Lopez (Total Recall)
Richard Jenkins (The Cabin In The Woods)

huckabees_1

Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) is a young man who heads the local chapter of an environmental group, the “Open Spaces Coalition”. One of their current projects is an attempt to stop the building of a new Huckabees store, a chain of “big-box” department stores. Albert is a rival of Brad Stand (Jude Law), a shallow power executive at Huckabees. Brad infiltrates Open Spaces and charismatically displaces Albert as the leader. Dawn Campbell (Naomi Watts) is Brad’s live-in girlfriend and the face and voice of Huckabees; she appears in all of the store’s commercials.

huckabees_2
After seeing the same conspicuous stranger three times, Albert contacts two existential detectives, Bernard (Dustin Hoffman) and Vivian Jaffe (Lily Tomlin). The detectives offer Albert their optimistic brand of existentialism—they name it universal interconnectivity (which has some tenets of romantic and transcendentalist philosophies)—and spy on him, ostensibly to help him solve the coincidence. Bernard and Vivian introduce Albert to Tommy Corn (Mark Wahlberg), an obsessively anti-petroleum firefighter. Tommy is assigned to Albert as his ‘other’.

Tommy grows dissatisfied with the Jaffes, feeling that they are not helping him. Seeking out other possibilities, Tommy ends up abandoning and undermining the Jaffes by introducing Albert to Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert), a former student of the Jaffes who espouses a seemingly opposing nihilistic/absurdist philosophy. She teaches them to disconnect their inner beings from their daily lives and their problems, to synthesize a non-thinking state of “pure being.” Being lifted from their troubles, they wish to keep that feeling forever, yet she tells them that it is inevitable to be drawn back to the human drama, and to understand that the core truth of that drama is misery and meaninglessness. In order to prove her point, Caterine takes Albert to go and have sex in the woods, leaving Tommy behind. Tommy finds out about the two of them being together and feels hurt. Caterine tells him that they found each other through all of the human suffering and drama. Tommy rejects this idea and leaves them furious and lost. Meanwhile, in Brad’s further attempts to undercut Albert, he and Dawn meet with and are influenced by Bernard and Vivian. In the following days, Brad and Dawn rethink their entire lives: Dawn rejects the modeling world and looks for deeper meaning, and Brad realizes that his whole ascent on the corporate ladder is meaningless, as he has lived his whole life just trying to please others and not himself.

All the storylines collide when Brad’s house catches fire. While the fire trucks get stuck in a traffic jam, Tommy comes on his bicycle to put out the fire, which incidentally trapped Dawn inside. As he saves her life, the two fall in love. Meanwhile, Brad despairs at the destruction of his house, the symbol of his material success. Albert attains a sort of enlightenment when he synthesizes the two opposing outlooks of the Jaffes and Vauban to realize the cosmic truth of everything. Brad, meanwhile, is fired from Huckabees, leaving him rudderless. Albert reveals to Brad that he burned Brad’s jet skis, and the fire spread to the house. Albert understands that he and Brad are no different, that everything really is inextricably connected, but that these connections necessarily arise from the often senselessly painful reality of human existence. Having realized this, he refers Brad to Caterine, hoping she will help him as she did Albert and Tommy. Albert and Tommy talk later about everything that has happened. As the two talk, Caterine and the Jaffes watch them, concluding that they can close both of their cases.

This film manages the delicate balance of being thought provoking while simultaneously quite funny, as our protagonist navigates the different philosophies that other characters come up with. Aided by a cast of stars, it is really a great film and a must see for all those who like to think outside the box.