Friday, February 28, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Blue Jasmine (2013) **½

PG-13, 98 min.
Director/Writer: Woody Allen
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Michael Stuhlbarg, Max Casella, Kathy Tong, Annie McNamara, Tammy Blanchard, Daniel Jenks, Max Rutherford

Does Cate Blanchett deserve her Oscar nomination as the frontrunner favorite for her performance in the leading role of Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine”? Most certainly. Does Sally Hawkins deserve her long shot nomination for Best Supporting Actress? I think so. Does Wood Allen deserve another Original Screenplay nomination? I’m not so sure. Certainly the Blanchett character is very well written. So, perhaps the problem lies in Allen’s direction, but something about this movie left me cold.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Dirty Wars (2013) ****

NR, 87 min.
Director: Rick Rowley
Writers: Jeremy Scahill, David Riker
Narrator: Jeremy Scahill
Featuring: Jeremy Scahill, Nasser Al Aulaqi, Saleha Al Aulaqi, Muqbal Al Kazemi, Abdul Rahman Barman, Sheikh Saleh Bin Fareed, Andrew Exum, Abdul Gahfoor, Philip Giraldi, Matthew Hoh, Patrick Lang

Rarely a week goes by that I don’t see a post on Facebook proclaiming support for the troops. Everybody with a heart posts these. It doesn’t matter if they support our ongoing wars or not. The American public universally supports their troops. The problem is how long we’ve been supporting them in our current conflicts. At almost twelve and a half years our “War Against Terror” has now outlasted our involvement in the Vietnam Conflict by two and a quarter years. It’s nearly double the time we’ve spent in any other war, and more than doubled the length of time we were involved in both World Wars combined.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Cutie and the Boxer (2013) ****

R, 82 min.
Director/Writer: Zachary Heinzerling
Featuring: Noriko Shinohara, Ushio Shinohara, Alex Shinohara

One of the 2014 Oscar nominees for Feature Documentary, “Cutie and the Boxer” is a surprising grand romance. It tells the story of the 40-year relationship between Ushio Shinohara, the well known if under appreciated “boxing” artist, and his wife Noriko. Ushio became famous in Japan for his unique radical style of painting, which involved donning boxing gloves with sponges tied to the fists and punching his paint onto the canvas. Ushio immigrated to the United States to try his wares in New York City. Adding cardboard-based sculpturing to his repertoire, the reputation of his unique style was well known in the art world, but he never had much luck with sales.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Down Terrace (2009) ***½

R, 89 min.
Director: Ben Wheatley
Writers: Robin Hill, Ben Wheatley
Starring: Robin Hill, Robert Hill, Julia Deakin, David Schaal, Tony Way, Kerry Peacock, Michael Smiley, Mark Kempner

“Down Terrace” is the debut film of British writer/director Ben Wheatley, who has proved to be a unique and original voice with a tendency toward the strange and the macabre. His latest movie is called “A Field in England” and involves soldiers of England’s 17th century civil war, who enter some sort of drug-induced treasure hunt for an alchemist. His previous film, “Sightseers”, followed the exploits of the most everyday serial killers ever portrayed. I suppose in its way, “Down Terrace” is Wheatley’s version of “Downton Abbey”.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Monuments Men / *** (PG-13)

Frank Stokes: George Clooney
James Granger: Matt Damon
Richard Campbell: Bill Murray
Claire Simone: Cate Blanchett
Walter Garfield: John Goodman
Jean Claude Clermont: Jean Dujardin
Donald Jeffries: Hugh Bonneville
Preston Savitz: Bob Balaban
Sam Epstein: Dimitri Leonidas

Columbia Pictures and Fox 2000 Pictures presents a film directed by George Clooney. Written by Clooney & Grant Heslov. Based on the book by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter. Running time: 118 min. Rated PG-13 (for some images of war violence and historical smoking).

I’ve long had a fascination with World War II based movies. I was never much of a history buff, but when it comes to WWII on film, I can’t get enough. It’s hard to come by new stories of that war, since it was so heavily mined by Hollywood over the years. Somehow, I’d never heard of the Monuments Men though. In this movie that’s what they refer to themselves as, a unit of the Army made up of art scholars and architects who were tasked with the job of finding and identifying the great amounts of artwork stolen by the Nazis throughout the war.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Munich (2005) ****

R, 164 min.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Tony Kushner, Eric Roth, George Jonas (book “Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team”)
Starring: Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Ciarán Hinds, Mathieu Kassovitz, Hanns Zischler, Ayelet Zurer, Geoffrey Rush, Gila Almagor, Michael Lonsdale, Mathieu Amalric, Marie-Josée Croze, Lynn Cohen

Well, this is kind of a sober note on which to exit the Winter Olympics in Sochi, but it isn’t really about the Olympics, is it? Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film “Munich” examines the aftermath of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich during which 11 Israeli athletes were killed after being taken hostage by the political terrorist group Black September. In the days following the internationally televised incident, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Mier makes the decision to retaliate with a group of Mossad assassins tasked with killing 11 Arabs linked with the Munich Games massacre.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Day Watch (2006) ***

R, 132 min.
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Writers: Timur Bekmambetov, Aleksandr Talal, Sergey Lukyanenko (novel), Vladimir Vasiliev (novel)
Starring: Konstantin Khabenskiy, Mariya Poroshina, Vladimir Menshov, Galina Tyunina, Viktor Verzhbitskiy, Zhanna Friske, Dima Martynov, Valeriy Zolotukhin, Aleksey Chadov, Nurzhuman Ikhtymbaev, Aleksey Maklakov, Aleksandr Samoylenko, Gosha Kutsenko, Irina Yakovleva, Egor Dronov

I’m glad I got the chance to see this series of movies again. Beginning with “Night Watch”, “Day Watch” is the conclusion of the story about the battle between the Dark Others and the Light Others. In the first film, the hero Anton, an agent of Light, lost his son to the Dark Others. His son is what is known as a Great Other, one who can change the balance of power and the war between the two sides will begin again. In the process of trying to save his son, Anton discovered another Great Other, who is a woman with great power. Should the two Great Others meet the war will begin. Now, Anton seeks an artifact that will allow him to change all this, return his son to the Light and save the world from a war of the Others.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) ****

PG, 95 min.
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Writers: Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, Peter George (also novel “Red Alert”)
Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Slim Pickens, Peter Bull, Keenan Wynn, James Earl Jones, Tracy Reed

“Dr. Strangelove” is part of my Sochi Olympics inspired series of films because of it’s Cold War origins, but this is one of those films where nothing I say about it can really add to anything that hasn’t already been said about it. I could never properly express how great this film is in my heart, so what I’d like to do I just quote some of the film’s incredible lines, with their deliciously subversive satire. Also note the wonderful character names.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Trinity & Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie (1995) ***

Not Rated, 92 min.
Director: Peter Kuran
Writers: Scott Narrie, Doug Pugsley
Narrator: William Shatner
Featuring: Dr. Edward Teller, Dr. Frank H. Shelton

“Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.”
                                                                                                    —Dr. Ian Malcolm, “Jurassic Park”

There is a nuclear physicist interviewed in “Trinity & Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie” who doesn’t question for a second that helping to develop the atomic bomb was the right thing to do. His reasoning is that it was going to be done anyway and it was his opportunity to be a part of scientific exploration and guide it in a direction he felt was helpful to humanity. This documentary, without ever blatantly pointing any sort of finger, demonstrates that eventually it was no longer about scientific discovery; and considering the fact that the U.S. military began their nuclear program out of suspicion that the Germans were developing nuclear armaments in World War II, scientific discovery was certainly not the impetus for developing these weapons of mass destruction.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—How I Ended This Summer (2010) ***½

Not Rated, 130 min.
Director/Writer: Aleksey Popogrebskiy
Starring: Grigoriy Dobrygin, Sergey Puskepalis

As humans, we make stupid, stupid mistakes sometimes. A few years ago, I followed my GPS down a gravel road when I was warned ahead of time not to. It was just so much shorter according to the GPS. Then, I could see for my very eyes why I shouldn’t continue to follow the GPS, but I said to myself, “I’ve got four-wheel drive. I can make it.” So not only did I lose an entire day of work because of it, but also I had to disrupt someone else’s day to come and tow me out.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Red Scorpion (1989) *½

R, 105 min.
Director: Joseph Zito
Writers: Arne Olson, Jack Abramoff, Robert Abramoff
Starring: Dolph Lundgren, M. Emmett Walsh, Al White, T.P. McKenna, Carmen Argenziano, Alex Colon, Brion James, Ruben Nthodi

In the late 80s Roger Ebert wrote an entry into his movie glossary of definitions called the Walsh/Stanton Rule, which stated that any movie with either M. Emmett Walsh or Harry Dean Stanton in its cast couldn’t be all bad. I have found that this rule does not always stand up. Case in point, 1989’s attempt to create a Russian Rambo with Swedish action star Dolph Lundgren called “Red Scorpion”. This is not a good film, and M. Emmett Walsh’s involvement does nothing to lift it above the glorified action dreck that it is.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Return (2003) ***½

UR, 105 min.
Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Writers: Vladimir Moiseenko, Aleksandr Novototskiy-Vlasov
Starring: Vladimir Garin, Ivan Dobronravov, Konstantin Lavronenko, Nataliya Vdovina

“The Return” is a devastating film from Russia that makes me wonder just how badly these filmmakers were hurt by their fathers as children. It involves two brothers who live with their mother and grandmother. One day their father, who has been absent for 12 years, shows up. No explanation is given as to where he has been or what he’s been doing. The boys had been told that he was a fighter pilot. That doesn’t appear to be the truth. The older boy, about 15, is thrilled to have his father back in his life. The younger brother, about 12, isn’t so sure how he feels about it.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Night Watch (2004) ***½

R, 114 min.
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Writers: Timur Bekmambetov, Laeta Kalogridis, Sergey Lukyanenko (novel)
Starring: Konstantin Khabenskiy, Vladimir Menshov, Valeriy Zolotukhin, Mariyna Poroshina, Galina Tyunina, Gosha Kutsenko, Aleksy Chadov, Zhanna Friske, Viktor Verzhbitskiy, Rimma Markova

“Night Watch” introduced a new style of action and fantasy filmmaking with its adaptation of the popular Russian vampire novel of the same name. For many Americans it was the introduction to the unique filmmaking style of Timur Bekmambetov, the Russian director responsible for the American movies “Wanted” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”. These movies seem to have involved a little more campiness than his Russian made films. That has rubbed some American audiences the wrong way, but the essence of Bekmambetov’s approach to action has remained the same since “Night Watch”.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—From Up On Poppy Hill (2012) ***½

PG, 91 min.
Director: Goro Miyazaki
Writers: Hayao Miyazaki, Keiko Niwa, Tetsurô Sayama, (original story and comic), Chizuru Takahashi (comic)
English voices: Sarah Bolger, Anton Yelchin, Charlie Saxton, Gillian Anderson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Beau Bridges, Chris Noth, Aubrey Plaza, Emily Osment, Ron Howard, Christina Hendricks, Isabelle Fuhrman, Bruce Dern, Emily Bridges, Jeff Dunham

I didn’t know much about last year’s Studio Ghibli film “From Up on Poppy Hill”, when I decided to screen it for my Family Movie Night this week. I didn’t even know that it would tie in with my Olympic themed movies over the two weeks of the Sochi Olympics, but it does. I did know that Goro Miyazaki, son of the Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki, directs it. I did know that it is co-written by Hayao. I knew it didn’t involve the spirit magic that often occupies much of Miyazaki’s work. I knew it involved a human drama of sorts. I didn’t know if my kids would like it.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Firefox (1982) ***

PG, 136 min.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writers: Alex Lasker, Wendell Wellman, Craig Thomas (novel)
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Freddie Jones, David Huffman, Warren Clarke, Ronald Lacey, Kenneth Colley, Klaus Lowitsch, Nigel Hawthorne, Stefan Schnabel, Thomas Hill, Clive Merrison, Kai Wulff, Dimitra Arliss

I’ve loved “Firefox” from the first time I saw it. Much of that has to do with the fact that my father was a fighter pilot and he loved it. He pointed out almost immediately to me that the Firefox wasn’t really a Russian MiG, but looked like a suped up North American XB-70 Valkyrie, although it was described as looking like a MiG-25 in the book. My father read many military based novels, so I’m guessing he had read Craig Thomas’s 1977 book before seeing the movie.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Reds (1981) ***½

PG, 195 min.
Director: Warren Beatty
Writers: Warren Beatty, Trevor Griffiths
Starring: Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Edward Herrmann, Jerzy Kosinksi, Jack Nicholson, Paul Sorvino, Maureen Stapleton, Nicolas Coster, M. Emmett Walsh, Ian Wolfe, Max Wright, George Plimpton, Gene Hackman, William Daniels, Shane Rimmer, Jerry Hardin, Christopher Malcolm, R.G. Armstrong, Josef Sommer

This is the fourth time I’ve invested my time into this epic romance, and every time I watch it, it grows on me a little more. “Reds” explores the lives and romance of journalists John Reed and Louise Bryant against the backdrop of the Bolshevik Revolution. It is a sprawling film that received mixed critical praise at the time it was originally released despite being nominated for 12 Oscars, but has gained a little more respect since then as one of director/writer/actor Warren Beatty’s more powerful films.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Russian Ark (2002) ****

NR, 99 min.
Director: Aleksandr Sokurov
Writers: Aleksandr Sokurov, Anatoli Nikiforov, Boris Khaimsky, Svetlana Proskurina
Starring: Sergey Dreyden
Voice: Aleksandr Sokurov

“Russian Ark” is one of the most unique and visionary films ever made. It comes from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and uses the Hermitage as a surreal history lesson through Russia’s past 300 years. It depicts two men. One who is the audience’s point of view in the form of a spirit or a ghost that we only hear and never see. The other is a foreigner who has distinct ideas about what he thinks Russia is and a vast knowledge of its history and culture. They travel through the museum and through different time periods of Russia’s history. By the end the foreigner’s ideas have changed along with the audience’s own perception of Russia’s grand history.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Octopussy (1983) **

PG, 131 min.
Director: John Glen
Writers: George MacDonald Fraser, Richard Maibaum, Micheal G. Wilson, Ian Fleming (stories “Octopussy” and “The Property of a Lady”)
Starring: Roger Moore, Maud Adams, Louis Jourdan, Krystina Wayborn, Kabir Bedi, Steven Berkoff, David Meyer, Anthony Meyer, Desmond Llewelyn, Robert Brown, Lois Maxwell, Michaela Clavell, Walter Gotell, Vijay Amritraj, Albert Moses

Sochi has inspired me to watch some Russian themed movies. First up, “Octopussy”. Huh? Yes, one of the least impressive James Bond movies sees the end of The Cold War coming and invents a plot where a Russian general bent on keeping up the image of Soviet strength is caught up in a counterfeiting ring to raise money for and implement a war by detonating a nuclear devise on an American military base located in Germany. It’s all done under the cover of a Circus run by the mysterious Octopussy, who is apparently a pawn in the game.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Lego Movie / ***½ (PG)

Featuring the voices of:
Emmet Brickowski: Chris Pratt
President Business: Will Farrell
Wyldstyle: Elizabeth Banks
Batman: Will Arnett
Metal Beard: Nick Offerman
Unikitty: Alison Brie
Benny: Charlie Day
Bad Cop/Good Cop: Liam Neeson
Vitruvius: Morgan Freeman

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a film directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller. Written by Lord & Miller and Dan Hageman & Kevin Hageman. Running time: 100 min. Rated PG (for mild action and rude humor).

I’m a collector. I have been since my very first Lego set. It was one of their moon landing sets. There was a space station, three astronaut figures, and a moon buggy. I was a stickler for the instructions, but I would also make some of the other designs that were pictured on the box but not included in the instructions. I was pretty good. I could make pretty much anything from a picture, but I never built purely from my imagination. I just didn’t have a knack for envisioning something new.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Lovelace (2013) **½

R, 93 min.
Directors: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Freidman
Writer: Andy Bellin
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Chris Noth, Sharon Stone, Juno Temple, Robert Patrick, Bobby Cannavale, Hank Azaria, Adam Brody, James Franco, Debi Mazar, Wes Bentley, Eric Roberts, Chloë Sevigny

“Lovelace” tells the story of porn star Linda Lovelace. Lovelace was famous for her role in the film “Deep Throat”. She later denounced pornography and wrote the best selling book “Ordeal” in which she claimed she had been forced into the porn industry by her abusive and controlling husband and manager Chuck Traynor.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Onion Field (1979) ***½

R, 122 min.
Director: Harold Becker
Writers: Joseph Wambaugh (also book)
Starring: John Savage, James Woods, Franklyn Seales, Ted Danson, Ronny Cox, David Huffman, Christopher Lloyd, Diane Hull, Pricilla Pointer, Beege Barkett, Richard Herd, Lee Weaver

“The Onion Field” is kind of a strange movie. It’s certainly a cinematic child of the ‘70s, a movie that would never be made the way it was then today. It contains some amazing performances, notably by the very young James Woods as a sociopath with a remarkable ability to manipulate people and the justice system. It also contains a surprisingly good performance by a pre-“Cheers” Ted Danson, and a strong leading performance by John Savage as a young detective who becomes a victim of the system within which he works.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013) ***

PG-13, 132 min.
Director: Lee Daniels
Writer: Danny Strong
Starring: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lenny Kravitz, Terrence Howard, Mariah Carey, Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Redgrave, Clarence Williams III, Ami Ameen, Jim Gleason, Colman Domingo, Adriane Lennox, Pernell Walker, Robin Williams, John Cusack, Yaya Alfia, Jesse Williams, James Marsden, Minka Kelly, Chloe Barach, Elijah Kelley, Liev Schreiber, Nelsan Ellis, Colin Walker, Alex Manette, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda

“Important” films like “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” are often hard to judge. Many times people will confuse the importance of the message or historical poignancy with the success of the film. It also becomes more muddled when you have well-known stars playing historical figures in cameo. When a big name star takes on a real life figure in a leading or supporting role, they are often praised just for doing the role. When the role is only a cameo however, people often find the big name stars a distraction if only because they can recognize the actor.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Death Race 2000 (1975) *

R, 80 min.
Director: Paul Bartel
Writers: Robert Thom, Charles Griffith, Ib Melchoir (story “The Racer”)
Starring: David Carradine, Simone Griffeth, Sylvester Stallone, Mary Woronov, Roberta Collins, Martin Kove, Louisa Moritz, The Real Don Steele, Joyce Jameson, Carle Benson, Sandy McCallum, Paul Laurence, Harriet Medin, Vince Trankina, Bill Morey

I’m all for cult classics. I love “Repo Man”. “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” is a delicious guilty pleasure. However, so many of them are really no good at all. There’s a reason a cult needs to be formed in order to appreciate them. “Death Race 2000” falls into that category. Only a cult could appreciate this movie.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Argo (2012) ****

R, 120 min.
Director: Ben Affleck
Writers: Chris Terrio, Tony Mendez (memoir “The Master of Disguise”), Joshua Bearman (article “The Great Escape”)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea Duvall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Kerry Bishé, Kyle Chandler, Chris Messina, Zeljiko Ivanek, Titus Welliver, Keith Szarabajka, Bob Gunton, Richard Kind, Philip Baker Hall, Sheila Vand, Page Leong

Not only do I like Ben Affleck to play Batman, I’d like him to direct the “Man of Steel” sequel. How about some real suspense as opposed to video game action sequences? Try not to get worked up during the “Argo” airport sequence. Yes, that’d be much better.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Almost Famous (2000) ****

R, 122 min.
Director/Writer: Cameron Crowe
Starring: Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Jason Lee, Frances McDormand, Zooey Deschanel, Noah Taylor, Michael Angarano, Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk, John Fedevich, Mark Kozelek, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Liz Srauber, Jimmy Fallon, Bijou Phillips, Terry Chen, Rainn Wilson, Eion Bailey, Erin Foley, Jay Baruchel, Peter Frampton, Mitch Hedberg, Zach Ward, Eric Stonestreet, Marc Maron

Some quotations as spoken by Philip Seymour Hoffman performing the role of rock critic Lester Bangs.

“Music, you now, true music - not just rock n roll - it chooses you. It lives in your car, or alone listening to your headphones, you know, with the cast scenic bridges and angelic choirs in your brain. It's a place apart from the vast, benign lap of America.”

Monday, February 03, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Sherlock: His Last Vow (2014) ****

TV-14, 90 min.
Creators: Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat
Director: Nick Hurran
Writers: Steven Moffat, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (works)
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Amanda Abbington, Mark Gatiss, Una Stubbs, Lars Mikkelsen, Andrew Scott, Louise Breasley, Rupert Graves, Jonathan Aris, Lindsay Duncan, Yasmine Akram, Tom Brooke, Wanda Ventham, Timothy Cariton

As with any good suspense/mystery series “Sherlock” series three ends with some shocking developments. There are three whoppers in “His Last Vow”, one happens pretty early on in the proceedings, one verifies Sherlock’s claims that he is a high functioning sociopath and the third brings back one of the most beloved villains in all of television. Of course, I would not deign to spoil any of these developments with any more details, but…. Pow! “Sherlock” gets it done in the cliffhanger department; that’s for sure.

Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014)

was participating in one of those silly Facebook games the other day. One of your friends puts up a cut and paste post where they add a poster from a certain director’s films. If you like the post, that person will give you a name. You then post a poster of your favorite film from that director. One of my lifelong best friends gave me the name Cameron Crowe. It was a director I didn’t have to think about. “Almost Famous” was my choice. However, in reposting this to my wall I felt the need to point out the performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman of noted music critic Lester Bangs. In such an excellent movie, somehow it was his small role as Bangs that stuck out in my mind as something that needed note.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead yesterday in his New York City apartment at the age of 46 of an apparent overdose. He leaves behind 2 daughters, Tallulah and Willa, and one son, Cooper, with his girlfriend, costume designer Mimi O’Donnell. Early in 2013, Hoffman entered a drug rehabilitation program. It is said that he had struggled with substance abuse for quite some time. It never seemed to affect his work, however, which was held in high regard throughout the film and stage communities.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Croods (2013) ***

PG, 98 min.
Directors: Kirk DeMiccio, Chris Sanders
Writers: Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMiccio, John Cleese
Voices: Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman, Clark Duke, Chris Sanders, Randy Thom

“The Croods” is one of the many animated films this year that has given me pause about the future of the format. I liked the movie, but like so many of this year’s animated releases, it lacks much of the creativity and broad appeal that has driven the format over the past two decades.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Host (2013) **

PG-13, 125 min.
Director: Andrew Niccol
Writers: Andrew Niccol, Stephanie Meyer (novel)
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, Jake Abel, Chandler Canterbury, Diane Kruger, William Hurt, Boyd Holbrook, Frances Fisher, Lee Hardee, Mustafa Harris, Stephen Ryder, Scott Lawrence, Emily Browning

“The Host” would be a fairly compelling science fiction about an “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” style alien invasion where parasites take over our human forms if it weren’t so drawn out and slow. Melanie is a member of the dwindling human resistance after the Earth has been mostly colonized with much of the human race compromised to the alien entities. She is caught and has an alien known as Wanderer implanted into her body. Although Wanderer culls a good deal of information from Melanie’s memories for the aliens to use against the resistance, Melanie fights back and eventually turns Wanderer to her plight. The two help each other escape the aliens and search out Melanie’s surviving family.