Category Archives: 3 of 5

Mama (2013)

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Mama

Mama

Annabel and Lucas are faced with the challenge of raising his young nieces that were left alone in the forest for 5 years…. but how alone were they?

I was predisposed to like this movie.

Ever since Pan’s Labyrinth, I’ve known Guillermo del Toro can deliver an intriguing fantasy world. I also know he can deliver chills & goosebumps, he definitely did here.

Jessica Chastain, Mama

Further setting my expectations was the casting of Jessica Chastain, who manages to portray strength & delicacy in whatever measure needed in each of her roles. She is quite good here – and nearly unrecognizable with short black hair and an array of tattoos.

This is sufficiently creepy and visually arresting, you get the requisite jump-out-of-your-seat shots (perhaps they go to that well a few times too many), you may have some lingering chills. There is nothing too gory in the gruesome here, so if you are the type to have nightmares, they may be spooky – but not bloody.

The story is…weak. Not exactly a think piece, certainly no surprises in the plot. Still, it is a ghost story and, if you are into that sort of thing, you should be sufficiently satisfied with this one.

I did have a minor quibble, but since it is a bit of a spoiler I put it below.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 65%; Audience 56%


SPOILERS
Hover to reveal

Why would this entity, who kept these girls alive for 5 years, suddenly want to kill them?

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

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Safety Not Guaranteed

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%

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Despicable Me (2010)

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Despicable Me

When a criminal mastermind uses a trio of orphan girls as pawns for a grand scheme, he finds their love is profoundly changing him for the better.

This is a movie I have heard a lot about, but (not having kidlings) I had never really planned to watch it. I had expected, though, that on viewing I would find some hidden nods to adults – for instance, as they did in Enchanted – but, other than a slam of Lehman Brothers and a Saturday Night Fever reference, I don’t recall any.*

So, my thoughts…eh. Didn’t do much for me, doesn’t seem like the kind of movie the nephews & nieces would have wanted to watch repeatedly. Yes, I did spend unbearable weeks suffering through Pee Wee’s Big Adventure on a loop. D got his fill of The Lion King

I’m glad it was a free viewing (and I am glad it exposed the fact we were sold a floor model), doubt I’d watch it again. If you have kidlings, though, it would kill a few hours without destroying brain cells – theirs or yours.

Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood – but I thought it was just OK.

*We bought a new Blu-ray player at Fry’s Electronics Saturday. When we set it up, we found a disc in the drive. It was Despicable Me, clearly marked as “non-inventory demo”, so I’m guessing they sold us a floor model. Not sure whether it was the disc or the player, but the movie froze, jumped, and glitched repeatedly, making viewing less than optimal.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 81%; Audience 81%

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Safe (2012)

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Safe

Full disclosure: I like my action movies with a lot of action. I like a high body count with minimal gratuitous blood. I like clever fight choreography that respects the laws of physics rather than relying on wires and/or CGI. I like Jason Statham as a good, but flawed, man who is willing to do what it takes to save the day – or the girl. Safe delivers on all those criteria. (note that a quality script doesn’t really factor – though it helps)

The story here finds Statham, a mediocre cage-fighter with big secrets in his past, suddenly thrust into a three way turf war that threatens to end the life of a young girl. Russians, Chinese, Police – all the ingredients for “a body count that rivals classic John Woo.

One of the bad reviews claims the movie is

…little more than an excuse for Statham to do what Statham does better than anyone else: look stern while punishing bad guys.

Don’t see how that is a bad thing. In fact, the reviewer claims ‘Safe’ is “everything that is wrong with action movies“, clearly missing the point of action movies.

A reviewer with a clearer understanding of the genre writes:

[Jason] Statham blasts his way through his biggest body count in this satisfying, one-note action film designed very specifically for Statham fans who know his acting limits as well as he does.

Indeed.

Because of the high body count, despite the relative lack of blood & gore, there are still several of my friends who would give this a pass – so only three on the WOM scale. However, if shoot ’em up action flicks float your boat, this one should satisfy.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 57%, Audience 62%

No Country for Old Men (2007)

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No Country for Old Men

Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong and more than two million dollars in cash near the Rio Grande.

One of the best movies I have seen in quite a while. From the story to the setting, everything here works.

I was unsure going in whether the choice of Josh Brolin in the lead role was wise, but he seemed custom fit as hapless protagonist Llewelyn Moss. There was no question Tommy Lee Jones would deliver, he always gives solid, understated performances. I had heard (who hadn’t) that Javier Bardem gave a stellar performance as contract killer Anton Chigurh – what an understatement. The guy took creepy to a whole new level.

There were several other wonderful performances, but a huge standout for me was Kelly Macdonald as Llewelyn’s wife. Her portrayal of the loyal, and seemingly meek, Carla Jean was every bit as impressive in it’s ‘smallness’ as was Bardem’s. Their inevitable meeting was one of the classic moments in film.

There were two casting errors to my mind; Beth Grant as Carla Jean’s mother was a bit over the top, and Woody Harrelson as Carson Wells, one of Chigurgh’s rivals, was glaringly out of his league.

However, the choice to forgo a musical score was genius. Rather than directing our emotions and reactions via orchestration, the Coens allow the silence to increase the tension. It was a Hitchcockian decision that makes for some edge-of-your seat moments.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 96%; Users 87%

Music & Lyrics (2007)

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Music & Lyrics

Music & Lyrics

Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant) is a cynical and self-deprecating former pop idol (the hilarious opening video introduces his ’80s new wave band Pop!) who is now playing the nostalgia circuit, but has maintained enough dignity to turn down an appearance on a “Battle of the ’80s Has-Beens” TV reality show.

Sweet and saccharine, pedestrian and pedantic. Yet, Grant and Barrymore are quite charming enough to pull it off.

Only 3 stars because it is completely a chick-flick. I watched this one a while ago, and I don’t think D watched it with me. I am fairly certain he would have rolled his eyes a time or two. However, if you enjoy romantic comedy (or Hugh Grant in tight pants) you will be glad you rented this one.

I mean, who doesn’t want some love and romance, especially if it’s indulgent and totally unbelievable?
~ Toddy Burton, Austin Chronicle

I should mention that for a movie about music, the tunes are pretty lame.


Rotten Tomatoes: critics 64%; users 78%

Shooter (2007)

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Shooter

A marksman (Wahlberg) living in exile is coaxed back into action after learning of a plot to kill the president. Ultimately double-crossed and framed for the attempt, he goes on the run to track the real killer and find out who exactly set him up, and why.

Another movie with a high body count. And, speaking of bodies, Mark Wahlberg. C’mon, you know what I’m talking about. Relax boys, there’s something for you, too.

Not highbrow entertainment by a long shot, but it delivers exactly what you expect it to. Lots of shooting, a few explosions, some bad guys and some good looking actors.

The movie’s politics may miss their mark, but its thrills are dead-on.
~ Peter Debruge, Miami Herald

(Another movie where the hero doesn’t hurt any good guys. I thought he was, but D pointed out the section I missed, they had made a point of the fact that a plane load of mercenaries was coming in)


Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing: critics 49%; users 75%

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