Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Today I saw Prisoners, starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Keller (Jackman) and Grace (Maria Bello), have a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with their neighbors Franklin (Terrence Howard) and Nancy (Viola Davis).

Each couple has a young daughter and the girls leave together after the meal to go play. The adults don't realize they are missing until much later. They report a suspected abduction and soon are on the trail of the owner of an RV who was parked on their street.

Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) has solved every case to which he's been assigned, so the families are grateful when he takes on the challenge of finding their girls.

That same night he apprehends the RV owner, a mentally slow man named Alex (Paul Dano) who doesn't have any trace of the girls on his belongings. They hold him for 48 hours and release him to his aunt's custody.

Because Keller is convinced that Alex is guilty, he kidnaps him at gunpoint and takes him as a prisoner at an empty property he owns. He begins torturing him to get information from him, but gets no results.

Soon, he involves Franklin and Nancy, who don't feel right about what he's doing, but also choose not to stop him.

Meanwhile, at a candlelight vigil for the girls, a man's odd behavior catches the eye of Detective Loki and he gives chase. This is where, of course, the plot thickens.

From Hugh Jackman's desperation to the numbness of Maria Bello, each actor lives their role with frightful realism. The pain of the families is tangible, as is the frustration of the detective who is unable to decode the puzzle that may lead them all to the girls.

I was on the edge of my seat for the duration of this lengthy film, and with every twist and turn I held my breath, hoping for resolution.

Aside from a few key gruesome scenes, I never looked away.

I'm glad I didn't—a solid thriller is always a great way to get the adrenaline going.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Enough Said

Tonight I saw Enough Said, starring James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Eva (Louis-Dreyfus) is a divorced masseuse ready to send her daughter Ellen (Tracey Fairaway) off to college. She accompanies her best friends—a married couple—to a party and meets two people.

The first, Marianne (Catherine Keener), is a poet with a shoulder that is in desperate need of massage therapy; the second, Albert (Gandolfini) is Marianne's ex-husband.

When Eva meets them, she has no idea they were once married to each other. She begins dating Albert and immediately feels a chemistry with him. Alternately, Marianne becomes her client and they develop a genuine friendship.

It's only when Eva sees their daughter Tessa (Eve Hewson) at Marianne's house that she makes the connection.

Unfortunately, instead of coming clean then and there, she keeps her knowledge of their past a secret and mines Marianne for information about Albert. Because Marianne is so bitter toward her ex, the the things she describes that once bothered her begin to bother Eva.

This scenario is refreshing because it could (and probably does) happen in real life. Furthermore, both leads are so endearing, it's hard not to root for them to end up together, even with Albert's sloppy faults and Eva's bad judgment.

It's a relief to see Louis-Dreyfus not playing a silly or snarky woman and borderline heartbreaking to watch Gandolfini at his most gentle, the way most who knew him personally describe his real-life personality.

The supporting cast is fantastic too—Toni Colette effortlessly plays Eva's flawed best friend, who just happens to be a shrink, and Eve Hewson nails the self-absorbed teenage daughter part.

I've always been a fan of writer/director Nicole Holofcener's gift for painting such real characters and this movie may be her best of all.

Go see it as soon as possible. And then go see it again.


Sunday, October 06, 2013

The Wizard of Oz - 3D

Today I saw The Wizard of Oz in 3D, starring Judy Garland and Margaret Hamilton.

It always feels odd reviewing a classic, especially one of this magnitude, because everyone already knows the story and has made their mind up about its merit.

But I'll give it a go anyhow.

Dorothy Gale (Garland) has dog, Toto, that can't seem to stay out of trouble. He's bitten Miss Gulch (Hamilton), eats hot dogs in mid-barbecue (before being asked) and jumps out of any basket he's confined to; really, he's a pain in the ass.

When Miss Gulch attempts to confiscate little Toto, he escapes back to his owner and fearing the authorities will return for him, Dorothy runs away from home.

While she's out the storm picks up and a twister forms near the small Kansas farm where she lives.

Not making it to the storm cellar in time, Dorothy runs into the house for cover and is soon transported to a magical place where she's greeted by a good witch and about a hundred little people.

Soon, she embarks on a journey to find her way home, following the path of a trusted yellow brick road, meeting friends along the way, all the while dodging the Wicked Witch of the West (Hamilton) who seeks revenge for the death of her sister, which she believes Dorothy caused.

The flying monkeys that help the witch never bothered me as a child, and they still don't now, but the dark forest is unsettling as are the voices and hairdos of the Munchkins.

The songs are fantastic (especially Garland's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," which makes her sound years older than she was at the time) and the colors pop (even more so in glorious 3D), and Hamilton sets the bar unimaginably high for any woman who dares to be a witch thereafter.

When I was a child, watching this film was an annual event. It would come on the television on some random Friday night and we would put sleeping bags on the floor and eat popcorn out of a huge bowl. I don't remember ever paying attention to the beginning before the tornado hits or noticing that the Cowardly Lion had a Jersey accent.

It's still magic though, 75 years on.


Saturday, October 05, 2013

Don Jon

Today I saw Don Jon, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Scarlett Johansson.

Jon (Gordon-Levitt) is an east-coast bartender who likes his family, his church, his ladies and his porn. Barbara (Johansson) is a sexy girl who knows exactly what she wants in a man. When the two meet, sparks fly and Jon respects her in a way he doesn't respect other women.

They wait over a month to sleep together—a true testament to how much Jon likes Barbara—and he promises to quit watching porn at her request.

By all accounts, she makes him a better man: she has him enroll in night school to hopefully advance his career, she teaches him the virtue of patience, he remains faithful to her.

However, his porn addiction doesn't go away; he merely hides it.

The desire to watch porn consumes him so much that he watches on his cell phone as he's driving, attending class, etc. and absolves himself of the guilt by admitting his problem each week during confession.

It's not until a classmate, Esther (Julianne Moore), befriends him that he realizes his addiction to porn stems from his inability to truly connect to his partner. And there are reasons that come clear as to why that connection isn't happening.

In the midst of a lot (and I do mean a lot) of boobs and thrusts, this film reveals a sweet, honest message about a character who's slimy enough to be annoying, but decent enough to be endearing.

All of the actors are first-rate and cast to perfection. An absolute pleasure to watch.

If the topic of sex doesn't offend you, you'll enjoy spending 90 minutes in this true-to-life world.


Thursday, October 03, 2013


Tonight I saw Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

It will be the topic of our October Cinebanter episode, so tune in a few weeks from now for our review.