REVIEW: WALK THE LINE

 

CAST

Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator)
Reese Witherspoon (Just Like heaven)
Ginnfer Goodwin (Take Me Home Tonight)
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)
Larry Bagby (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
Lucas Til (X-Men: First Class)
J.D. Evermore (Cloak & Dagger)
Brit Shaw (Bones)

The film opens in 1968, as an audience of inmates at Folsom State Prison cheer for Johnny Cash’s band as he waits backstage near a table saw, reminding him of his early life. In 1944, Johnny, then known as J.R., grows up the son of a sharecropper on a cotton farm in Dyess, Arkansas. He is known for his singing of hymns, while his brother Jack is training himself to become a pastor. While Jack is sawing wood for a neighbor with a table saw, J.R. goes fishing until his brother finishes. But Jack has an accident with the saw and dies of his injuries. Cash’s strained relationship with his father Ray, becomes much more difficult after Jack’s death. In 1950, J.R. enlists in the United States Air Force as Johnny Cash, and is stationed in Germany. He purchases a guitar to play and in 1952, finds solace in writing songs, one of which he develops as “Folsom Prison Blues”. After his discharge, Cash returns to the United States and marries his girlfriend Vivian Liberto. The couple moves to Memphis, Tennessee, where Cash works as a door-to-door salesman to support his growing family. He walks past a recording studio, which inspires him to organize a band to play gospel music. Cash’s band auditions for Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records. After they play “Folsom Prison Blues”, the band receives a contract, and launch to stardom at the beginning of the rock and roll craze.

The band begins touring as Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two. On tour he meets the singer June Carter, with whom he falls in love. Cash begins spending more time with June, who divorces her first husband Carl Smith. After his attempt to woo June fails, Cash starts abusing drugs and alcohol. After his behavior reaches a bottom during a performance with June, they separate. Later, over Vivian’s objections, Johnny persuades June to come out of semi-retirement and tour with him. The tour is a success, but backstage, Vivian becomes critical of June’s influence. After one performance in Las Vegas, Cash and June sleep together. The next morning, she notices Cash taking pills and doubts her choices. At that evening’s concert, Cash, upset by Carter’s apparent rejection, behaves erratically and eventually passes out on stage. June disposes of Cash’s drugs and begins to write “Ring of Fire”, describing her feelings for Cash and her pain at watching him descend into addiction.

Returning to California, Cash travels to Mexico to purchase more drugs and is arrested. Cash’s marriage to Vivian crumbles; the pair divorce and Cash moves to Nashville in 1966. Trying to reconcile with June, he buys a large house near a lake in Hendersonville. His parents and the extended Carter family arrive for Thanksgiving, at which time Ray dismisses his son’s achievements and behavior. After the meal, June’s mother encourages her daughter to help Cash. He goes into detox and wakes with June; she says they have been given a second chance. Though not married, the two begin spending most of their time with each other. Cash discovers that most of his fan mail is from prisoners, who are impressed with his outlaw image. He proposes to Columbia Records that he record an album live inside Folsom Prison. Despite Columbia’s doubts, Cash says that he will perform, and his label can use the tapes if they wish. At the Folsom Prison concert, Cash says that he has been sympathetic to prisoners, explaining that his arrest for drug possession helped him to relate to them. With this success, Cash embarks on a tour with June and his band. On the bus, he stops to talk with June and proposes to her, but she turns him down. At the next concert, June says she will only speak with him on stage. Cash later performs “Ring of Fire” on stage. After the song, Cash invites June to a duet and stops in the middle, saying he cannot sing “Jackson” any more unless June agrees to marry him. June accepts and they share a passionate embrace on stage.

Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon give memorable performances in this story of Johnny Cash and his long-time love, June Carter. Phoenix’s Johnny is a tortured and self-destructive soul, and Witherspoon’s June is spunky and smart. They have great romantic chemistry on-screen and their close-ups are intense! The supporting cast is uniformly excellent, especially Robert Patrick as Johnny’s mean and unrepentant father. “Walk the Line” is an entertaining bio pic with infectious music and two very likeable stars.

 

 

REVIEW: MONA LISA SMILE


CAST
Julia Roberts (Mystic Pizza)
Kirsten Dunst (Bring It On)
Julia Stiles (A Guy Thing)
Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Dark Knight)
Ginnifer Goodwin (Walk The Line)
Dominic West (300)
Juliet Stevenson (Bend It Like Beckham)
Marica Gay Harden (Mystic River)
John Slattery (Iron Man 2)
Topher Grace (That 70s Show)
Kristen Connolly (The Cabin In The Woods)
Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones)
Lily Rabe (The Undoing)
In 1953, Katherine Ann Watson (Julia Roberts), a 30-year-old graduate student in the department of Art History at Oakland State, takes a position teaching “History of Art” at Wellesley College, a conservative women’s private liberal arts college in Massachusetts, because she wants to make a difference and influence the next generation of women. At her first class, Katherine discovers that her students have already memorized the entire textbook syllabus, so she uses the classes to introduce them to Modern Art and encourages discussion about topics such as what makes good art and what the Mona Lisa’s smile means. This brings her into conflict with the college president (Marian Seldes), who warns she must stick to the syllabus if she wants to keep her job. Katherine comes to know her students and seeks to inspire them to achieve more than marriage to eligible young men.
Betty Warren (Kirsten Dunst) is highly opinionated and outspokenly conservative like her mother, the head of the Alumnae Association. Betty doesn’t understand why Katherine is not married and insists that there is a universal standard for good art. She writes editorials for the college paper, exposing campus nurse Amanda Armstrong (Juliet Stevenson) as a supplier of contraception, which results in Amanda being fired; another editorial attacks Katherine for advocating that women should seek a career instead of being wives and mothers as intended. Betty can’t wait to marry Spencer (Jordan Bridges) as their parents have arranged and expects the traditional exemptions from attending class as a married woman: Katherine insists she will be marked on merit and attendance, resulting in more conflict.
Connie Baker (Ginnifer Goodwin) begins dating Betty’s cousin, Charlie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) but Betty persuades her that he is only using her his parents have arranged for him to marry Deb MacIntyre. After a disastrous date, where Charlie and Connie very nearly cross paths with Deb’s parents on a weekend away at the shore, Connie ends the relationship, believing Betty’s story to be true. However, some weeks later, Connie and Charlie reconnect, with Charlie saying he has already decided for himself that he is not going to marry Deb, so he and Connie get back together. Joan Brandwyn (Julia Stiles) dreams of being a lawyer and has enrolled as pre-law, so Katherine encourages her to apply to Yale Law School, where she is accepted; Katherine is affronted when Joan’s fiancé Tommy (Topher Grace) comments Joan “will always have that”, intimating his own expectations of what his wife should be. Joan eventually elopes with Tommy, and professes to Katherine she is very happy—she had decided that what she wants most is to be a wife and mother after graduation and asks Katherine to respect her choice. Giselle Levy (Maggie Gyllenhaal) has liberal views and supports Katherine because she sees her as having chosen what she wants in her life and because she has often felt out of place at the school being Jewish among the mostly WASP student body. Her parents divorced after the war and her father left them for a new family. Giselle brazenly has affairs with a professor and a married man.
During “truth or consequences” in a secret society meeting, Katherine confides to the girls that she was engaged when she was younger, but that she and her fiancé were prevented from marrying by the war and their relationship fizzled out. Katherine declines a proposal from her California boyfriend (John Slattery) because she doesn’t love him enough and begins seeing the Wellesley Italian professor, Bill Dunbar (Dominic West). Bill is charming and full of stories about Europe and his heroic actions in Italy during the war. He has also had affairs with students (including Giselle), and Katherine makes him promise that it will never happen again. The relationship progresses but when Katherine learns that Bill spent the entire war at the Army Languages Center on Long Island, she decides to break up with him because he is not trustworthy. Bill responds that Katherine didn’t come to Wellesley to help the students find their way, but to help them find her way.
Within six months of the wedding Betty’s marriage falls apart as Spencer has an affair, hiding it from his wife by pretending to be away on business. Betty seeks refuge at her parents’ house but her mother turns her away, telling her that her home is with Spencer now. Betty lashes out at Giselle in rage and pain and then breaks down in tears while Giselle hugs her. Mrs Warren begs Betty to stay married to Spencer, saying that she should try for a year and that she must avoid a scandal. Betty shows her mother a picture of the Mona Lisa and asks if her smile means she is happy. She answers her own question: “Who cares, as long as she’s smiling?” and warns her mother that not everything is what it seems. At graduation, Betty begins to ask Katherine about apartments in Greenwich Village, New York, but their conversation is interrupted by Mrs. Warren. Betty tells her mother that she filed for divorce that same morning and she is going to room with Giselle. She tells Katherine that she is considering applying to Yale Law School.
Katherine’s course is highly popular, so the college invites her to return but with certain conditions: she must follow the syllabus, submit lesson plans for approval, keep a strictly professional relationship with all faculty members, and not talk to the girls about anything other than classes. Katherine decides to leave in order to explore Europe. In the final scene, Betty dedicates her last editorial to Katherine, claiming that her teacher is “an extraordinary woman who lived by example and compelled us all to see the world through new eyes.” As Katherine’s taxi speeds up, all her students follow on their bicycles and Betty is seen struggling to keep up with the taxi as a last effort to thank Katherine for changing her life.
This is a wonderful, highly enjoyable film in which the social mores and style of the nineteen fifties are well depicted

REVIEW: WIN A DATE WITH TAD HAMILTON!

 

CAST

Kate Bosworth (Superman Returns)
Topher Grace (That 70s Show)
Josh Duhamel (Transformers)
Nathan Lane (The Producers)
Sean Hayes (Will & Grace)
Gary Cole (Crusade)
Ginnifer Goodwin (Walk The Line)
Kathryn Hahn (We’re The Millers)
Octavia Spencer (Insurgent)
Amy Smart (Road Trip)
Stephen Tobolowsky (Groundhog Day)
Moon Bloodgood (Terminator Salvation)
Jordana Brewster (Fast & Furious)
Paris Hilton (Veronica Mars)
Wendy Worthington (Bones)
Patrick Fischler (Happy!)

MV5BMTYyNDY3NzI0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjU0OTQyNA@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1528,1000_AL_An old-fashioned comedy geared towards teens, “Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!” didn’t connect with audiences, but this lightweight comedy deserved a bit more of a following. The picture is certainly no classic, but there’s a few appealing performances, clever gags and occasional moments of sharply funny dialogue. The picture stars Kate Bosworth (“Blue Crush”) as Rosalee Futch, a small-town West Virginia cashier smitten with movie star Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel  “Transformers”). When Hamilton’s agents decide that his days of wine and women are over, they come up with a contest idea where one winner will be flown out to go on a date with the actor. Watching from the sidelines is her co-worker, Pete Monash (Topher Grace), who’s never told Rosalee his feelings about her.

While the date goes well, there’s something about the pure, West Virginia goodness of Rosalee that appeals to Tad, prompting him to purchase a place in her small town and spark a war between him and Pete over Rosalee. Standard romantic comedy fare, but played well.

The film’s performances go a fairly long way in pushing the film past the fact that most will feel as if they’ve seen some variation of this story a thousand times. Grace (of “That 70’s Show”) amps up his usual delivery and timing, resulting in some terrifically funny moments.  I greatly enjoyed Bosworth in “Blue Crush”, where she portrayed that character with a great deal of determination and heart. Here, her small town character is sweet and genuine, topped off with Bosworth’s charm and smile.

Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! is a nice, sweet little movie with a few big laughs, fine performances and charm.