Jiro Dreams of Sushi is the story of 85 year-old Jiro Ono, considered by many to be the world’s greatest sushi chef. He is the proprietor of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant inauspiciously located in a Tokyo subway station. Despite its humble appearances, it is the first restaurant of its kind to be awarded a prestigious 3 star Michelin review, and sushi lovers from around the globe make repeated pilgrimage, calling months in advance and shelling out top dollar for a coveted seat at Jiro’s sushi bar. At the heart of this story is Jiro’s relationship with his eldest son Yoshikazu, the worthy heir to Jiro’s legacy, who is unable to live up to his full potential in his father’s shadow. — (C) Magnolia
Who would have thought a film about a man making sushi could be so intriguing. Jiro’s singular focus on perfection is fascinating and inspiring. He is revered and respected, and perhaps a bit feared, by his apprentices, his children, his vendors, his customers…
At the start of the film he tells us, “Once you decide on your occupation… you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success… and is the key to being regarded honorably.” We see that is exactly what he has done, and he is both successful and honorable.
The film covers more than sushi, obviously, but in my non-sushi eating mind, I expected to see the creation of complicated and creative rolls. After all, I enjoy watching that process when we visit our local sushi bar. What Jiro makes is sushi in its purest form; rice, fish, serve. Apparently that is enough – when you do it so well.
The lessons of life, the insight into Japanese culture, the idea of “perfection”…all make this a worthwhile film. There were a few scenes that were tough for me, though. For instance, some of the sushi (the mackerel?) is cut from the fish while it is still alive, pinned to the cutting board through his gills. Only after removing all the filets is his head cut from his body, an unnecessarily painful end, I imagine.
For that reason, and the need to read subtitles which turns off some potential viewers, Jiro Dreams of Sushi gets just 4 of 5 on the Word of Mouth Scale. It is a thoughtful, engrossing documentary, but it isn’t for everyone.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 99%; Audience 92%
Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is a skilled archer and the impetuous daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane). Merida’s actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric old Witch (Julie Walters) for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish. The ensuing peril forces Merida to discover the meaning of true bravery in order to undo a beastly curse before it’s too late. — (C) Disney
I must confess I was predisposed to enjoy this movie. Adorable, feisty red-head making her mark in medieval Scotland — what’s not to like? As it turns out, not much. The story is intriguing, the animation is charming, the casting was spot-on.
Some bits were slightly over-the-top silly, like the appalling suitors who come to compete for her hand, but the kids will probably love it. The mix of fantasy & folklore makes for a richer background than some recent animated fare. It is fun, with a message or two. Quite enjoyable.
Since D enjoyed it, too, I can be confident scoring it higher on the Word of Mouth Scale. 4½
UPDATE: The Academy seems to approve of Brave, as well. It is nominated for Animated Feature Film
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 78%; Audience 79%
Set in the world of male strippers, Magic Mike is directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars Channing Tatum in a story inspired by his real life. The film follows Mike (Tatum) as he takes a young dancer called The Kid (Pettyfer) under his wing and schools him in the fine arts of partying, picking up women, and making easy money. — (C) Warner Bros.
I figured I’d watch this one eventually, though I was in no hurry. Still, it got some great reviews so I assumed it would be worth the time. I was wrong.
There is not enough dancing to make this a fun, musical romp. Were it to focus more on the club & dance routines, I could at least appreciate it on that level. By trying to add some deeper, dramatic narrative, they set the bar higher . . .
. . . and fell far short.
This is not a convincing drama. It is not compelling love story. Perhaps if they had spent less time on the club & dance routines, they could have focused on telling a good story.
In far too many scenes the dialogue just d-r-a-g-s along, as if the actors are doing a lazy table-reading and keep losing their places on the page. There are some fine actors in this cast, yet they are so poorly used that McConaughey (who built his career on wooden, one-dimensional characters) actually gives the most convincing performance.
The major players in this drama repeatedly make bad decisions, making it very difficult to care what happens to them in the end. Even our “hero” is unlovable for any reason beyond his ripped body and accomplished dance moves.
We are supposed to care that Mike wants to make furniture out of junk, but we never see enough of that side of him to believe it – and the finished pieces they show are pretty blah. We are to feel for his plight trying to save money for, and get a loan toward, this dream – but we don’t know what he actually needs money for. More junk? We are to just accept that while he is alley catting around, he is somehow finding love with a chick that he repeatedly disappoints – and with whom he has zero in common.
Can’t really imagine recommending it to many folks, so based on the Word of Mouth Scale it get half a star.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 80%; Audience 63%
A wealthy New Yorker leaves her cheating husband and bonds with other society women at a resort.*
This was another movie I never intended to see. But, it was on …
First, the glaring issue running throughout the film – it is a cautionary tale about bad plastic surgery. Several of the women in this cast were, at one time, considered attractive to some degree. Unable or unwilling to age gracefully, they have undergone procedures that have turned them into caricatures. Scary, rubber-faced caricatures.
Now, to the film itself – also a scary caricature…of the far superior movie it claims to update.
- Meg Ryan plays Mary Haines as a ditsy, uninvolved, overwhelmed mother. It’s hard to feel any empathy for her, which makes the story arc a tough sell, indeed.
- Annette Bening is a grating Sylvie Fowler, a poor echo of the positively caustic Sylvia from the other versions.
- Eva Mendes‘s Crystal Allen seems barely appealing enough for a one-night stand, let alone worth leaving your family for (except that Meg Ryan plays the wife as ridiculously unappealing, too)
- Debra Messing is Edie Cohen, playing her as a schlumpy, goofy earth-mother. Hard to believe how Messing could become even less appealing than she has been in other projects, but she managed it here.
- Jada Pinkett Smith, always grating, is cast as butch-Lesbian Alex Fisher. Oddly, hers is one of the least irritating characters in the film (which isn’t really saying much with this script)
- Bette Midler is cast as Leah Miller, an apparent fill-in for Countess De Lave who, in the original, was both amusing and pivotal. Midler’s character has no purpose in this film. Her inclusion, in fact, was so odd I’d have thought it was spliced in from a different movie if she hadn’t dropped the name “Buck Winston” (the cowhand who wooed Countess De Lave). If they weren’t including the rest of her story-line, there was no reason to have her at all.
The list goes on – and on – and on. I could go through the entire awful cast, the awful butchered script, the bland direction, the ridiculous ending.
Unless you are in the mood for a glaring example of how not to remake a classic, avoid this one.
* This description is from IMDB for this remake, but it describes the original. The divorce resort is not a part of the 2008 version.
The Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 13%; Audience 41%
Lars (Ryan Gosling) and Gus (Paul Schneider) are the grown children of a father who died recently and a mother who died giving birth to Lars. But as brothers, they couldn’t be more different. While Gus lives in the family home and has a loving wife (Emily Mortimer) and a child on the way, Lars leads a more reclusive existence in the family’s garage, hiding in plain sight of his small, wintry hometown. Painfully shy and eccentric, Lars fails to recognize that his co-worker Margo (Kelli Garner) has a major crush on him, and he picks up on a casual reference made by his cubicle mate, who mentions a website where you can order life-sized, anatomically correct sex dolls. But instead of seeing a sex object, Lars sees in this doll a potential life partner and the only kind of social “peer” he can relate to. So Lars orders a doll, whom he names Bianca, and begins treating her with utmost gentlemanly respect — and as though she’s his real-life, flesh-and-blood girlfriend. As he begins bringing Bianca with him everywhere he goes, the townspeople have to find just the right balance between supporting Lars’ unusual romance and trying to introduce him to a more conventional partner. Lars and the Real Girl was written by Six Feet Under scribe Nancy Oliver and directed by Mr. Woodcock’s Craig Gillespie. ~ Derek Armstrong
I’ve been wanting to see this one for a while, but had a hard time ‘selling’ it to D. After all, “guy falls in love with a sex doll” doesn’t exactly scream quality entertainment. In this case, however, quality entertainment is exactly what we get.
The part of Lars seems written specifically for Ryan Gosling’s delivery; his quiet, quirky, charmingly unsure delivery brings Lars to life for viewers (much as Lars’ affection brings Bianca to life for the townspeople). His pain and growth really come through.
Also particularly well cast is Margo (Kelli Garner, right), whose shy infatuation with Lars has you wishing for his recovery. The lengths to which sister-in-law Karin is willing to go in her attempts to reach Lars in his self-imposed bubble may have been less believably sweet if not for the deft portrayal of Emily Mortimer
The stand out in this very strong cast though was, for me, Patricia Clarkson as Dagmar. She is the doctor who treats “Bianca” in her physical ailments, and Lars in his emotional ones. The role is small and quiet … and absolutely vital. Through her we learn who Lars is and why he is in such pain. Through her (and the other ladies), Lars learns who he is and how to deal with his pain.
So, we have a movie about death, and pain, and sex-dolls…and I am going to recommend it to most of my friends. It is lovely and sweet and explores what relationships mean to us – with family, with friends, and with that special someone (or something?) to whom we give our heart.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 81%; Audience 83%
Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.
I will preface this with a disclaimer: I am a fan of Daniel Craig. I am a fan of Bond movies. I am not a fan of Daniel Craig as James Bond.
Skyfall starts with a bang, literally, killing James Bond on a failed mission. Then the opening credits start. The theme music, performed by Adele, didn’t impress me on its own, but works quite well to set the mood. You get a sense from the slightly psychedelic 70s vibe that the movie will give a nod or two to the classic Bond movies of old.
The ‘theme’ of this caper is meant to be “old ways” versus “new ways”, I know this because several characters actually tell us so. The script makes several forays into the Bond canon*, perhaps in an attempt to ensure we fully accept Craig as Bond, once and for all. Unfortunately, though I enjoyed the “see, we remember where Bond came from” parts, what comes after the opening credits pales in comparison to those opening scenes.
For one, Javier Bardem, so juicily evil in No Country For Old Men, is sadly flat in Skyfall. Though Bond villains are historically cheesy and one-dimensional, Silva (Bardem) is just…blah. He has the requisite isolated lair, the army of loyal minions, the frightened beauty who betrays him to Bond – and delivers Bond to him. He just has no real menace.
Naomie Harris is a bright spot as Eve, and likely to be around for a few more installments of the franchise. Albert Finney is a happy moment as Kincade. Ralph Fiennes, always reliable, certainly doesn’t disappoint as Gareth Mallory, the new boss intent on securing the resignation of M (Judi Dench). A good cast, overall.
Like Casino Royale, this movie works as an action movie, but not as a Bond movie – unless you are new to Bond. An old fogey like me, still be hung up on the previous winning formula, would easily accept Daniel Craig as any other MI6 officer . . . just not 007.
It was an enjoyable film, full of gunfights and espionage, so it will do well with my friends. I’ll give it a 3.5, and it has inspired me to add Quantum of Solace to my queue so I can give it a whirl.
* They also end this movie having put a decisive end to some iconic Bond bits, which seems a winking way of saying, “Get over it, Sean Connery isn’t coming back”
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 92%; Audience 89%
Darius is a young intern at a Seattle-based magazine and jumps at the chance to investigate the author of a classified ad seeking someone to travel back in time with. Along with Jeff, the staff writer, and Arnau, a fellow intern, the three go on a road trip to a coastal town. While Jeff just wants to chase after his high school crush and Arnau wants some kind of life experience, Darius spends her time with Kenneth, a man who believes that he has built a time machine. The closer they become and the more they understand about each other, the less clear it becomes if Kenneth is just crazy or if he actually is going to successfully travel back in time.
A quirky romp that occasionally seems unsure of its direction, which actually adds to its charm.
Don’t get your hopes up for a time-travelogue in a sci-fi, Dr Whovian tradition. There is more can-he-or-can’t-he than been-there-done-that, with an undercurrent of “why would you want to, what would you change?” It is fantastical without being flighty.
I don’t want to write any more of the story in this review, because you should meet these characters and learn their secrets as the writer intended. Every little detail I started to write risks revealing too much. Below, I have linked a couple of reviews that reveal more – so you can get your spoilers there if you choose.
I will simply say, it is a fun, fresh, amusing yarn. Worth your time if you enjoy independent films, quirky romantic comedies, or off-the-wall fantasies. My review would be in the 85% range, but I am limited by the rules I set when I created the Word of Mouth scale. Since I will only tell about 60% of my circle to watch this (there is some coarse language and sexual situations) it ends up as a 3 of 5 here. See the Rotten Tomatoes numbers for a more general idea.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 94%; Audience 84%