REVIEW: VALENTINE’S DAY

CAST

Jessica Alba (Machete)
Bradley Cooper (Serena)
Jessica Biel (The A-Team)
Patrick Dempsey (Transformers 3)
Julia Roberts (Mirror Mirror)
Hector Elizondo (The Princess Diaries)
Kathy Bates (Misery)
Eric Dane (X-Men 3)
Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained)
Jennifer Garner (Alias)
Topher Grace (That 70s Show)
Anne Hathaway (Interstellar)
Ashton Kutcher (Two and a Half Men)
Queen Latifah (Bringing Down The House)
Taylor Lautner (Twilight)
George Lopez (The Smurfs)
Shirley McLaine (Bewitched)
Emma Roberts (Scream Queens)
Taylor Swift (New Girl)
Larry Miller (10 Things I Hate About You)
Katherine LaNasa (The Campaign)
Kirsten Schaal (Bob’s Burgers)
Christine Lakin (Family Guy)
Cleo King (Mike & Molly)
Rance Howard (A Beautiful Mind)

MV5BMjE0MzEyNjMzMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjMyOTQxMw@@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_The film follows a group of related characters and their struggles with love on Valentine’s Day.
MV5BMTUwOTg4Nzg4Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTEyOTQxMw@@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Florist Reed Bennett (Ashton Kutcher) wakes up and proposes to his girlfriend Morley Clarkson (Jessica Alba), who accepts. However, Reed’s closest friends, Alfonso Rodriguez (George Lopez) and Julia Fitzpatrick (Jennifer Garner), aren’t surprised when Morley suddenly changes her mind and leaves Reed a few hours later.
MV5BMTk5NjUwODU1M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDMyOTQxMw@@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_On a flight to Los Angeles, Kate Hazeltine (Julia Roberts), a captain in the U.S. Army on a one-day leave, befriends Holden Wilson (Bradley Cooper). Kate is travelling a long distance to get back home only for a short time, and Holden states that she must really be in love to do so. When the plane lands and Kate has to wait hours for the taxi, Holden offers his limousine to allow her to be there on time.
VALENTINES DAYJulia, an elementary school teacher, has fallen in love with Dr. Harrison Copeland (Patrick Dempsey), but does not know that he is married to Pamela (Katherine LaNasa). Harrison tells her that he needs to go to San Francisco for a business trip: on his way, he stops by at Reed’s flowershop and orders two flower bouquets – asking for discretion. Wanting to surprise him and despite Reed’s warnings, Julia flies to San Francisco, convinced that Reed was wrong. Julia finds out that he is married and finds him at a local restaurant. Dressed as a waitress, Julia makes a scene at the restaurant, making Pamela suspicious. One of Julia’s students, Edison (Bryce Robinson), orders flowers from Reed, to be sent to his teacher. Julia suggests to Edison to give the flowers to a girl named Rani in his class who has a crush on him after telling Edison the meaning of love.
MV5BMTM5OTA4NDEzNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTEyOTQxMw@@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Edison’s babysitter Grace Smart (Emma Roberts) is planning to lose her virginity to her boyfriend Alex Franklin (Carter Jenkins). The planned encounter goes awry when Grace’s mother discovers a naked Alex in Grace’s room, rehearsing a song he wrote for Grace. Edison’s grandparents, Edgar (Héctor Elizondo) and Estelle Paddington (Shirley MacLaine) are facing the troubles of a long marriage. Estelle admits to Edgar about an affair she had with one of his business partners long ago. Although she is deeply sorry, Edgar is very upset. Grace’s high school friends, Willy Harrington (Taylor Lautner) and Felicia Miller (Taylor Swift), are experiencing the freshness of new love, and have agreed to wait to have sex.
MV5BMzA1MTY2MDA4MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTEyOTQxMw@@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Sean Jackson (Eric Dane), a closeted gay professional football player, is contemplating the end of his career with his publicist Kara Monahan (Jessica Biel) and his agent Paula Thomas (Queen Latifah). Kara is organizing her annual “I Hate Valentine’s Day” party, but soon becomes interested in sports reporter Kelvin Moore (Jamie Foxx), who was ordered to do a Valentine’s Day report by his boss Susan Moralez (Kathy Bates), and who shares Kara’s hatred of the holiday. Substituting for Paula’s absent secretary is one of the firm’s receptionists, Liz Curran (Anne Hathaway), who dates mail-room clerk Jason Morris (Topher Grace). Jason is shocked when Liz turns out to be moonlighting as a phone sex operator. Liz explains that she is only doing this because she has a $100,000 student loan to pay off. Jason is upset, but eventually reconciles with her after seeing Edgar forgive Estelle.
MV5BMTgwNTU1MzM5NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODIyOTQxMw@@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Sean finally comes out on national television, and Holden, Sean’s lover, goes back to him. Kate arrives home late at night to greet not her supposed boyfriend but her son Edison. Willy drops Felicia off at home after a date and they kiss. Kelvin and Kara hang out at Kelvin’s news station where they later kiss. Alfonso dines with his wife, and Grace and Alex agree to wait to have sex. Edgar and Estelle reconcile and redo their marriage vows, Harrison’s wife has left him because of his infidelity and Morley tries to call Reed, who is instead starting a new relationship with Julia. Paula receives a call from one of Liz’s masochistic clients and takes delight in expressing her dominance and sadism.MV5BMTI2ODIzMzM0OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjU3NzMwMw@@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Big star cast with lots of intertwined storylines going on with a lovely little twist at the end. A proper feel good movie thatt ticks all the right boxes for Valentine’s Day.

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: INTERSTELLAR

CAST
Matthew McConaughey (Two For The Money)
Ellen Burstyn  (Mom)
Jessica Chastain (The Huntsman: Winter’s War)
Mackenzie Foy (The Conjuring)
John Lithgow (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Timothée Chalamet (Homeland)
David Oyelowo (Rise of The Planet of Rhe Apes)
Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises)
Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games)
William Devane (Stargate: Continuum)
Michael Caine (Inception)
Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone)
Topher Grace (That 70s Show)
Josh Stewart (The Punisher)
Matt Damon (The Bourne Identity
Bill Irwin (Legion)
Elyes Gabel (Game of Thrones)
A catastrophic crop blight has made farming increasingly difficult and threatens humanity’s survival. Joe Cooper, a widowed former NASA pilot, runs a farm with his father-in-law, son, and daughter Murphy, who believes her bedroom is haunted by a poltergeist. When the “ghost” creates a pattern in the dust, Cooper realizes someone is using gravity to communicate, and interprets the pattern as geographic coordinates, which Cooper and Murphy follow to a secret NASA facility.
There, they meet Dr. Brand, Cooper’s former professor. Brand reveals that a wormhole, apparently created by an alien intelligence, appeared near Saturn 48 years before and leads to a distant galaxy, with numerous potentially habitable planets. Twelve volunteers have gone through it, knowing only a few can be retrieved, each to assess a planet’s suitability as humanity’s new home. Miller, Edmunds and Mann have sent encouraging data from planets near Gargantua, a supermassive black hole. Brand recruits Cooper to pilot the spaceship Endurance to evaluate as many of the planets as possible, while he works on “Plan A”, a theory to harness gravity for propulsion, which would allow humanity to leave Earth. The Endurance also carries 5,000 frozen embryos as “Plan B”, to provide for humanity’s survival. Cooper agrees to go, alienating Murphy.
Cooper’s crew consists of scientists Romilly, Doyle, and Brand’s daughter Amelia and robots TARS and CASE. Traversing the wormhole, they head to Miller’s planet, an ocean world where time is severely dilated due to its proximity to Gargantua; for each hour there, seven years pass on Earth. While Romilly and TARS remain aboard, the rest descend to the surface, where they find only wreckage. Amelia retrieves Miller’s data, before a gigantic tidal wave kills Doyle. Cooper, Amelia, and CASE manage to return to Endurance, but 23 years have elapsed on Earth.
Murphy, now an adult, has been assisting Dr. Brand with his research. On his deathbed, he admits to her that he solved the gravity equation long before and deemed Plan A impossible, and that he lied to everyone, pinning his hopes on Plan B. Murphy notifies Amelia of her father’s death, then accuses her and Cooper of abandoning Earth. She continues working, believing Plan A might work if she could somehow get more data about singularities.
With limited fuel, Cooper decides to go to Mann’s planet, rather than Edmunds’, over Amelia’s opposition; both have sent promising data, but Mann is closer and Amelia admits to being in love with Edmunds. After being revived from cryosleep, Mann assures the crew that while the frozen planet has an ammonia-laden atmosphere, the surface is livable. However, when they are alone, Mann attempts to kill Cooper, revealing that he falsified the data so he would be rescued. Mann then heads for Endurance. Meanwhile, Romilly is killed by a booby trap. After Amelia rescues Cooper, they race to Endurance, where Mann is attempting to dock despite being locked out of the autodocking system. Mann ignores Cooper’s plea not to open the airlock, which fails catastrophically. Mann is killed and the severely damaged Endurance begins falling out of orbit. Cooper uses the landing craft to stabilize the ship.
Using Gargantua’s gravity as a slingshot, they head to Edmunds’ planet, but their nearness to the black hole means 51 years will elapse on Earth. To shed weight, Cooper jettisons himself and TARS towards the black hole, so that Amelia and CASE can complete the journey. Cooper and TARS pass the event horizon, but emerge in a tesseract, which appears as a stream of bookshelves that look into Murphy’s bedroom at different times. Cooper surmises that the tesseract and wormhole were created by five-dimensional beings to enable him to communicate with Murphy and that he is her “ghost”. He relays in Morse code quantum data that TARS collected from the black hole by manipulating the second hand of a watch he gave to Murphy before he left. Murphy is able to solve the remaining gravitational equation.
Cooper is ejected into normal space and awakens in a space habitat orbiting Saturn. He reunites with an aged Murphy, now near death. At Murphy’s urging, Cooper leaves to rejoin Amelia on Edmunds’ habitable planet, the future home of humanity.
Interstellar is a terrific film, and may come to be regarded as one of the best ever from this genre.

 

 

 

 

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.

REVIEW: TRAFFIC

CAST

Michael Douglas (Wall Street)
Amy Irving (Alias)
Benicio del Toro (Sin City)
Erika Christensen (Swimfan)
Topher Grace (That 70s Show)
James Brolin (The Amityville Horror)
Jacob Vargas (Get Shorty)
Albert Finney (The Bourne Legacy)
Catherine Zeta Jones (Entrapment)
Dennis Quaid (Jaws 3)
Clifton Collins Jr. (The Bad Pack)
Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2 & 3)
Luis Guzman (McBain)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Peter Riegert (The Mask)
Benjamin Bratt (Demolition Man)
Viola Davis (Suicide Squad)
Salma Hayek (Ugly Betty)
Emilio Rivera (Venom)
Michael O’Neill (Transformers)
Majandra Delfino (Roswell)
Rena Sofer (Heroes)
John Slattery (Iron Man 2)
Jack Conley (Angel)
Harsh Nayyar (Gandhi)

a Steven Soderbergh Traffic Michael Douglas DVD Review PDVD_004

Scripted by Stephen Gaghan, Traffic is adapted from the famous British miniseries Traffik and takes a hard look at the illegal drug trade from multiple perspectives. All sides of the issue are explored via a series of intersecting storylines. On the front lines, a Mexican cop (Benicio Del Toro) witnesses the rampant government corruption that facilitates the smuggling of drugs across the U.S. border. In the halls of American power, a politically ambitious judge (Michael Douglas) is picked as the new Drug Tsar and quickly runs into obstacles implementing new policies.

In fact, even the judge’s own daughter (Erika Christensen) and her privileged rich kid friends experiment with freebasing and begin the downward spiral of addiction. In the netherworld between these two extremes, a DEA agent (Don Cheadle) in California attempts to take down a drug running ring but finds the effort futile; even if he succeeds all he’s done is clear the way for new competition to move in. Meanwhile, a society wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) whose husband is indicted on trafficking charges is forced into taking over his smuggling racket to pay their debts and protect her family.

The movie has a huge cast of other recognizable faces (Dennis Quaid, Albert Finney, Luis Guzman, Amy Irving, and Miguel Ferrer among others), but it’s Del Toro who stands out in a star-making turn; he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor but actually carries a big chunk of the movie and proves he can be an effective leading man. The story has an ambitious reach and a complicated structure. Soderbergh juggles all these elements with masterful control, maintaining a steady tone that emphasizes the tragedy of the situation without overstepping into preachiness, overwrought theatrics, or heavy-handed sermonizing. The movie asks many questions but is frank that it can deliver no answers. It takes no political stance either for or against our government’s policies other than to point out that they clearly aren’t working. The war on drugs is a self-generating, never-ending cycle of corruption, hypocrisy, and hopelessness with seemingly no possible solution.