CHRISTMAS 2017 REVIEW: GARDEN STATE

 CAST

 Zach Braff (Scrubs)
Natalie Portman (No Strings Attached)
Ian Holm (Lord of The Rings)
Peter Sarsgaard (Knight and Day)
Jackie Hoffman (Down)
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
Jean Smart (Samantha Who?)
Ann Dowd (Compliance)
Struggling actor Andrew Largeman (Braff) wakes up from a dream—in which he apathetically sits on a crashing plane—to a telephone message from his father (Holm), telling Andrew that he needs to return home because his mother has died.
Andrew leaves Los Angeles and returns home to New Jersey to attend the funeral. He recognizes the grave-diggers as old friends Mark (Sarsgaard) and Dave (Alex Burns), who invite him to a party that night. At home, his father gets Andrew a doctor’s appointment for headaches he’s been having.
Later that night, Andrew goes to the party where he meets up with Mark, Dave and Jesse (Armando Riesco), an old friend who has just earned a fortune after creating silent Velcro. After smoking marijuana and taking ecstasy at the party he still remains detached.
The morning after the party, Andrew proceeds to the appointment. In the waiting room, he meets a young woman named Sam (Portman), who is a pathological liar. She later explains that most times she does not know why she lies and will always admit to them afterward. In Andrew’s meeting with his doctor (Ron Leibman), it is revealed that Andrew has been on lithium and other mood stabilizers, as well as antidepressants, for his entire adult life, but has recently stopped taking them. He also says that his father, who is his psychiatrist, put him on the medication. Andrew finds Sam outside the office and offers her a ride home. Sam invites him into her house, and he meets her mother, who inadvertently reveals that Sam has epilepsy. Andrew tells Sam of his mother’s death, and Sam tearfully eulogizes her hamster. After returning home, Andrew’s father confronts him and is insistent that they have a talk before Andrew leaves.
Later, Andrew and Jesse sit in the cemetery as Mark digs another grave. Andrew observes Mark stealing jewelry from the corpse he is burying. Andrew then returns to Sam’s house, and the two spend the rest of the day together, joining his friends later at Jesse’s mansion. Andrew tells her that when he was nine years old he pushed his mother in frustration, knocking her over a broken dishwasher in an accident that left her paraplegic; he says that his father blames him for his wife’s paralysis and put him on his medications to “curb the anger” he supposedly harbors. Sam listens, and Andrew then admits his feelings for her.
The next day, Mark tells Andrew that he needs help “tracking down” a going-away present for him. Sam, Andrew, and Mark spend the day together, ending it in a quarry in Newark where Mark talks to a man named Albert (Denis O’Hare), who is employed in keeping intruders out of the quarry. The three visitors discuss the reasons for which Albert and his wife choose to live in the quarry. Albert explains that living there and exploring the quarry is “doing something that’s completely unique, that’s never been done before,” mirroring an earlier speech by Sam. Finally, Albert explains that what actually matters is living with his family. Andrew is inspired by the conversation, and outside in the rain, he climbs atop a derelict crane and screams into the quarry, joined by Sam and Mark. He and Sam then share a kiss.
When Mark and Andrew look at the gift later on, it turns out to be Andrew’s mother’s favorite pendant, one of the items Mark stole from her grave, sold, and subsequently located. Andrew eventually talks with his father, and states that he was not to blame for his mother’s accident and that he will live the rest of his life without medications. He forgives his father and says he wants to build a better relationship with him.The morning after, Andrew says his goodbyes to Sam at the airport, while she begs him not to leave. He acknowledges that she has changed his life but that he still has to fix his personal problems before continuing the relationship. Andrew boards the flight, and Sam is left crying in a telephone booth. Andrew then returns, saying that he doesn’t want to waste any more of his life without Sam. He wonders what to do next, and the two then kiss.
Garden State is a great movie for rainy days and Saturday night at home with popcorn. The scene at the abyss is memorable – something to look forward to!
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REVIEW: THE EX

CAST
Zach Braff (Garden State)
Amanda Peet (Igby Goes Down)
Charles Grodin (Beethoven)
Jason Bateman (Identity Thief)
Mia Farrow (Rosemary’s baby)
Lucien Maisel (Everybody’s Fine)
Donal Logue (Gotham)
Amy Poehler (Mean Girls)
Fred Armisen (Anchorman)
Marin Hinkle (Two and a Half Men)
Paul Rudd (Ant-Man)
Robert John Burke (Robocop 3)
Romany Malco (No Ordinary Family)
Amy Adams (Man of Steel)
Living in Manhattan, Tom (Zach Braff) is a cook who has a hard time keeping his job. His wife, Sofia (Amanda Peet), is an attorney. When their first child is born, they agree that she will be a full-time mom and he will work hard to get a promotion. When Tom gets fired after defending his friend Paco (Yul Vazquez), he takes a job in Ohio working at the ad agency where his father-in-law is the assistant director. Tom is assigned to report to Chip (Jason Bateman). Chip is a strict and hard-working wheelchair-using man who is coincidentally Sofia’s ex-boyfriend from high school. Chip still carries an obsession with her, so he conspires to make Tom’s work life miserable. As Tom’s frustrations mount, Chip begins to sway Sofia to his side.
Tom begins to suspect that Chip isn’t handicapped at all and goes through his desk. He finds a photo of Chip playing tennis and rushes to his in-laws’ house to see his wife and show her the picture. He finds Chip having dinner with Sofia and her parents and holding Tom’s child. Tom mercilessly tries to prove that Chip isn’t actually paralyzed by dragging him up a flight of stairs and then throws him, expecting him to stand up to prevent falling. Chip doesn’t stand up and Tom is humiliated in front of his family. Later, he confronts Chip outside his house and attacks him, where Chip reveals that he really can walk, but can’t fight outside of his chair. After sitting back down, Chip beats him severely and reveals that he plans to sleep with Sofia, much to Tom’s already-increased rage.
It’s revealed that Paco had called Chip under the guise of being an ad agency boss in Barcelona, telling Chip that he got a job and convincing him to fly to Spain. Excited by the news, Chip goes to Sofia and asks her to come with him. However, Tom accosts them both and convinces her not to go with Chip. Chip, angry that Sofia chose Tom over him, heartlessly mocks Tom and reveals he “faked his orgasm” to Sofia before getting out of his chair and walking out. While chastising them from outside, Chip is hit by a bus and ends up breaking both of his legs, crippling him for real. Tom and Sofia have moved out of Ohio and Sofia’s dad is helping Tom start his own ad business. Tom and Sofia are shown to have switched positions, Tom becoming a stay-at-home dad while Sofia becomes a full-time worker. During the credits Chip is shown being tossed out of the ad company in Spain, and later on Tom’s friend sees Chip in the middle of the running of the bulls on TV.
This is a very good film, admittedly it feels more like a TV movie, yet is well written, funny in places and well acted. I appreciate Zach Braff’s acting skills and his comedic abilities,  Don’t expect a life altering experience, it is just a movie, but a worth while one.

 

 

 

REVIEW: OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL

CAST

James Franco (This Is The End)
Mila Kunis (Ted)
Rachel Weisz (The Bourne Legacy)
Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)
Zach Braff (The Ex)
Bill Cobbs (The Bodyguard)
Joey King (The Dark Knight Rises)
Tony Cox (Bad Santa)
Stephen R. Hart (Silent Hill)
Abigail Spencer (Rectify)
Bruce Campbell (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Ted Raimi (Xena)
Martin Klebba (Project X)

In 1905 Kansas, Oscar Diggs works as a magician in a traveling circus. An inveterate womanizer, Oscar flirts with the circus strongman’s wife, and the strongman threatens him. Oscar escapes in a hot air balloon, but is sucked into a tornado that takes him to the Land of Oz. There, he encounters a kind and naive witch, Theodora. She believes him to be a wizard prophesied to destroy the Wicked Witch who killed the King of Oz and take his place; the idea of being an immensely wealthy monarch makes him immediately accept. En route to the Emerald City, Theodora falls in love with Oscar, though he does not reciprocate her feelings. They encounter the flying monkey Finley, who pledges a life debt to Oscar when he saves him from a lion. Oscar reveals his deception to Finley along the way, forcing him to help maintain the lie that he is the ‘Wizard’, much to Finley’s irritation.

At the Emerald City, Oscar meets Theodora’s older sister Evanora, the Royal Advisor. Evanora tells him the Wicked Witch resides in the Dark Forest and can be killed by destroying her wand, the source of her powers; only then will Evanora consent to make him King of Oz. Oscar and Finley are joined en route to the forest by China Girl, a young, living china doll whose village and family were destroyed by the Wicked Witch. Oscar fixes the China Girl’s broken legs with glue. They reach the forest and retrieve the wand, but they discover the “Wicked Witch” is Glinda the Good Witch who identifies herself as the daughter of the late King, revealing that Evanora is the true Wicked Witch. Evanora sees this with her crystal ball and tricks Theodora into thinking Oscar is trying to court all three witches. She offers the heartbroken Theodora a magic apple that she says will remove her bad feelings about Oscar; Theodora bites it and realizes that Evanora had been deceiving her, before she is transformed into a monstrous, green-skinned version of herself. Glinda brings Oscar’s group to her domain in the south of Oz to escape Evanora’s army of Winkies and flying baboons. She confides to Oscar that she knows that he’s not really a wizard, but still believes he can help stop Evanora. As he reluctantly takes charge of an “army” of Quadlings, Tinkers, and Munchkins, Theodora enters Glinda’s domain and angrily reveals her new, hideous appearance to Oscar. She threatens to kill him and his allies with the Emerald City’s well-prepared army. Oscar despairs of his chances. After telling China Girl about the exploits of his hero Thomas Edison, he conceives a plan that relies on trickery and makes preparations with Glinda and the Munchkins.
Glinda and her subjects mount a fake attack on the Emerald City using an army of scarecrow puppets whose true nature is hidden by thick fog. The witches are tricked into sending their Flying Baboons through a poppy field that puts them to sleep. However, two of the Flying Baboons and Evanora capture Glinda, but cannot find her wand, which was taken by China Girl. Glinda is then brought to the city square and chained. Oscar infiltrates the Emerald City with his allies, but appears to abandon them in a hot air balloon which he loads with stolen gold. Theodora destroys the balloon with a fireball, but Oscar was never actually in the balloon. As the Wicked Witches prepare to kill Glinda, Oscar secretly reveals his engineered death to his friends. Using a hidden smoke machine and image projector, he presents a giant image of his face amid smoke and flame as his “true form”, and calls upon “the stars themselves” (a fireworks display) to intimidate the Wicked Witches. Evanora fearfully hides in the castle, while Theodora eventually flies off on her broom after her attacks fail to hurt the “invincible” wizard. Oscar calls after her, telling her that she is welcome to come back if she overcomes her wickedness, but Theodora screams defiance at him and flies to the west, leaving Oscar saddened. China Girl frees Glinda, who engages in a magical duel with Evanora in the throne room. During the fight, Glinda destroys the Wicked Witch’s emerald necklace that hides her true, crone-like appearance. Defeated, the banished Evanora is rescued by the two remaining Flying Baboons, swearing revenge as she is carried east.
Oscar, now ruler of Oz, uses his projector to sustain the belief he is a powerful wizard. He also presents gifts to his friends: Master Tinker, who helped build his machines, receives Oscar’s camping tool; Knuck, the grumpy Munchkin herald, receives a mask with a smiley face; the long-suffering Finley receives Oscar’s friendship along with his top hat; and China Girl accepts her friends as her new family. Finally, Oscar takes Glinda behind the curtains of his projector, thanks her for making him a better person, and they kiss.
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The film, a prequel to ‘The wizard of Oz’, the tale  of the magician (played magnificently by James Franco) and his journey to Oz is well played out. It is a great tale and fun for everyone.