I call my following reviews “half-pint movie reviews,” as I refuse to write a whole review on any of them. Either I watched the whole movie and have no desire to write a complete review due to my disgust or boredom, or I stopped watching the movie somewhere in the middle for the same reasons, or I just didn’t feel it really merited a lengthy review. Instead of considering watching them a complete waste of time, I offer these petite reviews.
1. “To Gillian On Her 37th Birthday” (1996)
I started to watch this movie, but quickly became bored. I kept watching until about half way through the movie, when I couldn’t take it anymore. Gillian Lewis (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) dies. I wish I could say it was one of those tragic deaths where I could invest myself further in the movie in order to watch the other characters grapple with their grief, pain and ultimately triumphant healing. However, Gillian dies through her own arrogance and stupidity. I won’t tell you exactly how she dies in case you want to watch the movie – okay, I lie – there’s a spoiler alert a few sentences down. The rest of the movie is spent watching her husband, David (played by Peter Gallagher), isolate himself and grieve. He also either connects with her spirit, like the Ghost Whisperer, or he is deranged and thinks he is talking to her. SPOILER ALERT : DON’T READ THIS NEXT SENTENCE IF YOU WANT TO WATCH THE MOVIE! At any rate, whenever they would show a scene in which David and dead Gillian would speak, I wanted him to ask her, “Why the hell did you climb up that mast pole anyway?!”
Pfeiffer’s real-life husband, David E. Kelley, co-wrote the script from a play by Michael Brady. Blame him.
2. Hanna (2011)
At first, when I heard the plot was about a teenage girl, Hanna, played by Saoirse Ronan, who is raised as a tough assassin by her former CIA father (played by Eric Bana), I was all in! Female Empowerment – Hooray! I actually watched this whole movie, started to take notes because I thought I was definitely going to review it, but then put my pen down somewhere in the middle and shook my head. It just became a comic book version of itself, with implausible feat heaped upon a further implausible feat until I became completely bored with the whole implausible premise. Cate Blanchett plays an utterly dislikable character set to destroy Hanna and her father.
3. Margin Call (2011)
I watched the entire movie. It starts out not unlike “The Company Men” (2010), where employees are being downsized by a company due to down turns in the economy. But then the movie differs, as it tackles real-life issues endured relatively recently by those supposedly more legitimate boiler-room broker houses which over-leveraged, and then sold their own stock immorally and fraudulently to get out of their own bind with some profit. I didn’t see much to review here except that Demi Moore plays the head of Risk Management and the only female executive in the bunch. When it comes down to crunch time, she is the one who is used as a scapegoat by the firm’s CEO, John Tuld, played by Jeremy Irons (doing his best Scar impression). What a surprise – the female has to take the heat!!! Also stars Stanley Tucci and Kevin Spacey. Normally, Kevin Spacey movies are a big turn off for me unless I’m in a bitchy mood, as he always plays the angry, arrogant, sniping, snide, obnoxious narcissist. Here, he plays a kinder, gentler version of that character. Why did Mary McDonnell even agree to do this movie (other than for the cash)? She only has one bit part at the end – remember when she helped carry the better part of an entire movie, Dances with Wolves (1990), with Kevin Costner?
4. The Passion of Ayn Rand (1999)
Do you like real-life angry Nihilists? Then you might like this movie. I did watch the whole thing, half-heartedly, but really did not find anything to like about any of these people. They are all self-absorbed, bitter and biting narcissists. Helen Mirren plays real-life author Ayn Rand with brown contacts which make her look like she is dead behind the eyes. Eric Stolz plays Nathaniel Branden, a psychologist 25 years her junior and her sycophant/acolyte/lover. Frankly, in my opinion, Stolz’s best acting days were spent when he completed “Mask” (1988) – he’s not a bad actor at all, he’s just someone I don’t care to watch in movies. There’s a lack of strength or character or something is missing. Peter Fonda plays Rand’s husband. Frankly, I was bored by this movie, but Fonda won a Golden Globe for his role, Mirren won an Emmy for hers, and both were nominated for a Screen Actors Guild award, so what do I know?
5. Blue Valentine (2011)
This is another movie that I started to watch, but it just couldn’t keep my interest. What happens when you’ve been in a relationship with someone for a long time? You’ve had kids together, seen every bad hair day and worse, experienced failures, disappointments, and your pet dog is hit by a car due to your spouse’s negligence. This is movie is not sentimental in the least – it’s actually quite realistic about such relationships and their burdens. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play the couple in question. They are believable as a couple; I just found the movie boring and barely passable. I would have called it “Brown, Ripped Valentine.”
6. Prelude to a Kiss (1992)
This movie isn’t bad, it just seems a bit dated some 20 years later. Meg Ryan plays Rita Boyle, a young, quirky, perky female who “hasn’t slept since the age of 14.” She meets as a very stable Peter Hoskins (played by Alec Baldwin) at a party, sparks fly, they both enjoy “schpetzle,” and suddenly and spontaneously they are married. But it is at the wedding that a supernatural event occurs, and suddenly Rita seems a tad bit . . . well. . . different. It’s not that I don’t recommend this movie – after all, Alec Baldwin is a very versatile actor, even if Meg Ryan was type cast at the time as that “perky type – it’s just that it didn’t have the same appeal for me that it did when I first saw it in 1992. Stanley Tucci’s character, as Hoskins’ close friend, has a great line about marriage just before Hoskins and Boyle exchange their vows: “it’s like sliding down a banister that turns into a razor blade.” Ouch.
7. Addicted to Love (1997)
This movie is also not bad. It wasn’t boring or disgusting. I just don’t feel like writing a complete review. I’m not sure the movie really warrants that kind of dissection. Matthew Broderick plays Sam, who is dumped by his hometown honey, Linda (played by Kelly Preston) in the beginning of the movie. She has moved to New York City and moved in with studly former-model-hottie-restauranteur-chef, Anton. Like any good rejected beau and potential stalker, Sam follows her to NYC, lives in a ramshackle condemned building across the street, and spies on the canoodling couple. Sam is lovelorn and wants Linda back. Enter Maggie (played by Meg Ryan). Ironically, she is Anton’s ex, and she doesn’t want him back at all – she wants revenge – she wants him “vaporized and extinguished.” She takes Sam’s spying to heightened technological level previously unseen! With Sam’s help, Maggie is bent on destroying her ex. Directed by Griffin Dunne. I can actually recommend this movie.
8. An Education (2009)
This was actually a critically acclaimed movie, but again, I don’t feel like writing a complete review. The setting is 1961, and Jenny Mellor (played by Carey Mulligan) is a 16-year-old British school girl who dreams of attending Oxford. She plays the cello and preps for her Oxford interviews through a prep school run by stern head mistress (played by Emma Thompson). Enter David Goldman. He’s a scammer and a con artist, and soon he’s got Jenny and her parents under his charms, so much so that they’re practically pimping out their daughter, while her dreams of attending Oxford are fading like the tail end of Haley’s comet. It’s a nice female coming-of-age story; the opening music is particularly inviting. Alfred Molina, one of my favorite actors, does a fine turn as her middle-class dad who easily ingests Goldman’s lies and then encourages his daughter to ditch her previous dreams in order to get married. While there’s a happy ending for Jenny in the movie, I wonder how many girls followed this path to its logical dead end. Millions, I suppose. I can recommend watching this movie.
9. It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010)
Craig (played by Keir Gilchrist) is a 16-year-old under the extreme stress and pressure of having to be one of New York City’s elite teens. After being accepted to one of NYC’s top specialty high schools, which requires each student to continually one-up and top other students and themselves with their competitive resume conquests, Craig is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He checks himself into the psyche ward in a large urban hospital rife with interesting, albeit damaged, characters. Zac Galifianakis plays one of those characters. Craig’s mother is well-meaning, but his father continues to apply the academic pressure, even after Craig is in residence at the psyche ward. Craig also meets a teenage girl living at the ward, too. It’s a good story which I can recommend.
10. Shattered Glass (2003)
This movie is based on a true story, and reminds us all to take the news, whether through a daily newspaper site or a high-respected magazine, with a grain of salt. Stephen Glass wrote for “The New Republic” and allegedly fabricated over half of his stories. Hayden Christensen plays Glass; Hank Azaria and Peter Sarsgaard play his former editors, Michael Kelly and Charles Lane, respectively. With some of his allegedly fraudulent articles, it appears that even minor google searches would have uncovered issues with sources cited by Glass. I wonder – if Glass had been a female, would his articles have been more properly fly specked? Interestingly, Glass went to Georgetown Law after his fall from grace – is that a better profession for his proclivities?
As a writer, I also think of the stories and articles that such highfalutin news sources refuse to print (instead printing fabrications), in effect creating “censorship by omission.”
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