Category Archives: romance

Ascension

ascensionOriginally introduced as a miniseries for the SyFy Channel, Ascension is now available on DVD.  The movie is set against stimulating and enormous elements on which the story plays more with the human approach to drama.

The story is looks great for a miniseries, offering a spacecraft built in the 60s. The attention to detail is extraordinary, and draws the viewers into the experience.  The direction allows the actors to do stellar work with such notable talent as Tricia Helfer, Gil Bellows, Brian Van Holt, Andrea Roth, Brandon P. Bell, and Brad Carter. They all work together and keep the plot moving forward with memorable performances.

The CGI is well done with a few amateurish looks to scenes when viewing the exterior shots of the spacecraft.  Keeping in mind that the SyFy Channel produced the movie, the special effects comparably are not that bad.

The storyline is what wins the movie for me. In 1963, in the gripes of the cold war, we guard against our future survival by launching a huge interstellar ship call the U.S.S. Ascension. With 600 or more people aboard to guarantee our survival, the ship is little over 50 years out on a 100 year mission. Threatening the crew is an unprecedented domestic murder.

The movie is promoted as “Mad Men in Space” and I agree it is the best way to describe it. The twists and turns in the story is a little too much like a soap opera, but it keeps you on your toes with the plot moving along nicely.

All in all, I was surprised how good Ascension actually is for a low grade cable show. I really recommend it.  There is a lot of entertainment value for sure.

A Horse Tale

horsetaleDirected by Brad Keller, A Horse Tale received the Dove “Family-Approved” Seal for all ages.  The story follows a typical uptight city accountant, Michael Thompson, played by Patrick Muldoon. He is raising his daughter by himself and is over protective. His daughter, Chloe, played by Mandalynn Carlson, has an unpleasant incident at school, and her dad stresses out. So much so that his assistant recommends they move to her Uncle Cliff’s horse farm. Her uncle needs help with the books, anyway, before the merciless bankers take the farm away from them.  With Christmas coming up, it is a perfect time to visit the family and help save the horse farm.

Cliff, played by Rick Herod, is grateful for Michael’s help. But, Samantha (Sam), played by Dominique Swain, is in charge of running the farm. She has a hard time with the idea of a city guy stepping in to help. Sam is not interested in any assistance from an outsider. They smooth over the rough edges, and decide working together is the best way to avoid losing the farm.

The story is predictable.  But, it is a good family movie because it promotes getting in touch with your family and working together toward a common goal. It also touches on the importance of accepting help when you are trying to overcome a problem. The movie even offers a message to parents: No matter how hard it may seem, let your children grow up and be in command of their own lives. Be willing to let them make mistakes on their own.

She’s Funny That Way

She's Funny That WayShe’s Funny That Way is a good movie, coming across sometimes funny and sometimes serious, but has a great cast that keeps the show on the road. Directed by Peter Bogdanovich, who directed such winners as Paper Moon and The Last Picture Show, does a fine job on this movie as it tries to find an amicable ending.  Another favorite of mine, Wes Anderson, who directed such witty movies as The Grand Budapest Hotel and Fantastic Mr. Fox, is one of the many producers of this movie.

It starts off with a sit down interview with Izzy, played by Imogen Poots, who is a hooker-turned actress and now successful. She talks about her rise to stardom and her first role on Broadway.  She reflects on the people involved with her breakout role, and the movie cuts to that time on Broadway where they are thrown into a romantic state of uncertainty and confusion.

A salacious, but bleeding heart director, played convincingly by Owen Wilson, hires Izzy, a former hooker he solicited, now turned actress, to star alongside his wife, played humorously by Kathryn Hahn, and his wife’s ex-lover, played by Rhys Ifans. Playing on the outer edge of this confusion and adding a lot of hilarity are Jennifer Aniston, Cybil Sheppard and Will Forte. There are also numerous cameos such as Tatum O’Neal, Quentin Taranitino and Peter Bogdanovich himself.

The movie really gets fun when the director’s wife (Hahn) discovers his fetish for soliciting and then helping call girls. It comes to light when one of the more recent call girls he helped, Izzy, auditions for a role in the play he is directing. She does a fantastic reading because she is reading for a call girl, type casting. A hilarious scene follows where his wife, who wants to get back at her husband, rehearses with the lead actor (Ifans) in a passionate love scene, and she makes real sexually advances toward him. The director tries to stay professional, as her husband he is jealous. I was laughing at his reactions, so funny all the way through, and Wilson is hilarious.

Jennifer Aniston plays someone that I have never seen her play before, an unlikeable character, so I was uncomfortable with it at first. She does a great job of being the typical psychologist, who totally makes the patient feel inadequate and weak. Adding to that, in their face telling them what is wrong with them. Aniston is great and funny.

There are so many good qualities in this movie. The reason I really enjoyed it is because of the director, Peter Bogdanovich brought all these fine actors, some is has worked with before, together. He is such a wonderful director, and I am delighted to see him working again.

Christmas at the Cartwright’s

christmascartwrightLike most Hallmark movies, Christmas at Cartwright’s is a charming movie that comes around the Christmas season each year. Cartwright’s is a fine example that Hallmark movies are innocuous, amusing and heartwarming to watch.

Directed by Graeme Campbell, the story follows Nicky Talbot, played by Alicia Witt, who is a single mother and without prior notice becomes unemployed.  With Christmas just coming up, being without a job is going to be tough finding a way to earn money to give her daughter Becky, played by T.J. McGibbon, an engaging and cheerful Christmas with a few gifts.

Nicky finds out a local department store called Cartwright’s is hiring extra staff for the holiday shopping season. She applies for a position. Nicky is happy because it appears she will have a job, but Fiona Aldrich, played by Gabrielle Miller,  a senior executive at the store, puts a curb on her plans and turns her down for the job.  Fiona is jealous of Nicky because she has seen her with Fiona’s would-be boyfriend named Bill.  Gabriel Hogan plays Bill, who is the store manager.

Along comes Harry Osbourne, played by Wallace Shawn, he suggests Nicky work as the store Santa. That way she can keep her identity hidden from the other workers.  We are talking Hallmark magic here on the storyline. It is a little unbelievable for a young woman playing an older man as Santa. It gets funny at times, but still hard to believe.

Christmas at Cartwright’s is a fun movie to watch with the whole family.  All the actors are great. Their roles are believable and engaging. The movie is timeless because it is like a fairy tale where you have to believe what is happening to get into the holiday magic. Like all fairy tales the story is worth seeing again every Christmas.

Love & Mercy

L&M_bdskewLove & Mercy delves into the part of the entertainment industry where evil people lurk. Such people control and manipulate the artist while feeding off the artist’s life force, creativity, energy force or whatever you want to call it. There are not a lot of these life suckers, but the few that are there can wreak havoc. This movie answers the questions of what happened to Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Robin Williams and so forth. Luckily, Brian Wilson meets a woman who has the tenacity to help him and save his life.

The movie directed by Bill Pohlad, his second film as a director, takes a refreshing, and almost clandestine, approach to the story about Beach Boys co-founder and song writer, Brian Wilson. Two very talented actors play Wilson in different stages of his life. Paul Dano is the younger Brian. Here we see him with his cousin and a good friend, together; they launch the Beach Boys musical group in the early 1960’s. John Cusack is Brian in the 1980’s while under the control of his ingenious and vicious psychologist, Dr. Eugene Landy, played truthfully by Paul Giamatti.

The story flashes forward and back while twisting the lives of both the young Brian and the old Brian. Watching young Brian create memorable music, we see a whiz kid. He starts with “surfer” music and moves to more complicated music produced as studio sound. During this time we hear some great music by the young Brian Wilson. He is a unique soul, creating hit song after song.

He did have problems to face, such as not wanting to fly in an airplane or being on the road with the Beach Boys. So, he refused going on the road and worked in the studio instead. He also took popular recreational drugs at the time, which probably caused all his problems. Some may label him while others would say he did have demons, but psychiatric treatment is not the answer.

Dano is great as the young Wilson. His performance captures Wilson and his various mood swings and eccentricities. Here the viewer must not mistake this for mental illness. He is a genius while conversing about the mind and spirit. The older Wilson is constantly under the psychotherapy of Landy’s 24-hour surveillance and over-medication and misdiagnosis. He blatantly manipulates Wilson guising help with a colorized screen of undermining half-truths, invalidation and total lies.

The older Wilson decides he wants a new Cadillac and meets saleswoman, and his champion, Melinda Ledbetter, played brilliantly by Elizabeth Banks. They fall for each other and begin dating, supervised by Landy and his associates. History will prove that there were other interests that Landy had in Wilson other than his mental health, which Melinda touches on as she confronts the ill-intended psychologist.

At first, the flashbacks are a little annoying because the younger Wilson and the older Wilson are two very different people. After awhile it all makes sense. Both the young and old versions are hard to watch, yet Melinda proposes a breather of hope. And when she confronts Landy, I cheer her on. She does the right thing and doesn’t smack him in his demented face as he shrinks back from her absolutely determined smile. She saves Wilson and flourishes.

The Age of Adaline

ageadalineThe Age of Adaline appears to have everything a movie needs to be in order to be a really good movie. So it seems.  Two main elements are missing – a really good script and a seasoned director.  Nevertheless, it is the number one romance movie at Amazon as I write this review.  The wave of potential has carried over to On Demand, Blu-ray and DVD because of the astounding cast and cinematography.

The Age of Adaline tells the story of Adaline Bowman, played very well by Blake Lively (Gossip Girl). She is a woman born in 1906 and looks like she is in her late twenties when we meet her in 2014. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would know the big part of the story is that she will never age another day.

In a series of flashbacks, the movie narrates while showing how Adaline was given the baffling curse of never aging past the age she was at the time of the curse. The narration is where both the writer and the director made their big mistake. Any filmmaker will tell you to let the story unfold. Don’t tell us. Show us.  The imagery worked just fine where the narration is used unnecessarily twice. The narration made it all seem so hokey. As if the director had to convince us that this transformation really happened to Adaline. The narration is not needed because throughout the movie her curse is so believable.  It’s like a fairy tale. Lively is convincing and her talent held my attention throughout the movie. Along with a very talented ensemble of co-stars kept me hoping for a better story.

What is fun about the movie is the story shifts through history with some hitches along the way. Adaline worries she will be recognized as a curiosity and terrified that she will be used as a guinea pig for governmental experimentation.  Adaline decides to live on the run, changing identities and locations in a timely manner. Until she encounters Ellis Jones, played charmingly by Michiel Huisman, he is a man beguile by her inscrutability and decides to woo her with her own medicine – history. He captures her heart, but not without a disquieting concern. It just so happens that another Jones family member Ellis’ father (played by Harrison Ford) might have a stronger connection to Adaline than any person knows.  Ford is great as he always is, and I just love watching him in this movie.

Lively is gorgeous in personality and body.  Yet, while watching the movie I kept feeling that she didn’t get along with the director, Lee Toland Kriegerm, or he didn’t know how to bring her over the top as the star of the movie and let the story be told. He just placed her in the scene hoping something would happen.  What she did was fantastic. Kriegerm just didn’t know who to capture it. The reason I say this is because the seasoned actors like Harrison Ford were true to form. Kathy Baker and Ellen Burstyn had minor roles, but I had a great time watching them in the movie.  They knew what to do with an inept story and director.

Being number one at Amazon merits a mention because the movie has its qualities. The overall story is engaging because of the concepts it offers like love at first sight, lasting love, growing old, becoming wiser, and finding old friends and family. They are magical, endearing through Adaline.