PREviews for January 2014

We start the New Year with two strong carryovers from last year, one franchise flick that looks reasonably promising, and two new offerings that look like stinkers. 
August: Osage County (Release delayed until January 10 from December 2013)
Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts starring in a movie that includes the phrase “strong willed women” in the title. They had me at Meryl Streep. 
Lone Survivor (Release delayed until January 10 from December 2013)
Peter Burg direct this, and he was also involved with the TV hits Chicago Hope and Friday Night Lights. This movie stars the multi-talented Mark Wahlberg and is about a SEAL team mission. Notwithstanding the deep sense of inadequacy I feel having written the foregoing sentences, I will probably go see this one. 
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
This Tom Clancy character was played by Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October, Harrison Ford in Patriot Games as well as Clear and Present Danger, and Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears.  Now Chris Pine takes off his Captain Kirk uniform and gives it a shot. Looks a little formulaic to me, but probably worth a try. 
Labor Day
Kate Winslett’s character hides Josh Brolin’s character from the cops. Directed by Jason Reitman, the same guy who did Juno, which was great, and Thank You for Smoking, which was pretty good. Still, this looks weak to me. 
That Awkward Moment
I mention this movie not because it looks good, but because doesn’t. It’s really disappointing that no one could find a better gig than this for Michael B. Jordan, who was great in Fruitvale Station on the big screen and in both Parenthood and Friday Night Lights on the small screen. I hope better things are ahead for this talented young man, but I gotta pass on this one. 
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REview of “Nebraska”

Nebraska

I didn’t even bother to PREview this one, but my curiosity got the best of me, so I checked it out. Apparently, some people think this movie should win an Oscar for Best Picture, and/or that Bruce Dern should win an Oscar for Best Actor. This flick tells the story of a son who, despite his estrangement from his alcohol-addled father, decides to participate in dad’s delusion that he has won a prize. So off they go by car from Bozeman, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska to pick up the “prize”. Along the way they visit their relatives. 
Like The Artist, Nebraska is shot in black-and-white, but The Artist was a much better movie. Like Sling Blade, Nebraska included breathtakingly uninteresting conversations between astonishingly uninteresting people, but Sling Blade was a much better movie. Like The Savages, Nebraska showed the tension between a self absorbed, aging parent and the children who were trying to care for them, but The Savages was a much better movie. 
I didn’t dislike this movie, but I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. If you see this one and disagree, please comment and explain the appeal to me – seems like I must be missing something. 
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2013 Movies, Blogging, (and Living)

On Movies
This winds  down my first full year writing this blog.  With the idea that you might want to catch one or more of them in the theater or watch them later in some other format, here’s what I have to say about the 43 movies I saw and reviewed in 2013. The links will take you to my REview of each movie. 
Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”.  My ongoing effort to further refine my negotiation and conflict management skills requires me to further develop my capacity for empathy. All of these movies helped me in this effort. 
These three flicks reminded me that some things must be viewed on a big screen (sometimes in 3D) to be fully appreciated. 
Both of these were works of art using film as the medium. 
This movie reminded me that humans can be courageous and it caused me to set aside my cynicism for a couple of hours. That is no small feat. Further, it is one of the very few movies I watched this year where the audience actually clapped at the end. 
A pretty neat niche movie for anyone in a relationship who is over 50. 
A pretty funny niche comedy for any man over 50. 
On Blogging
Watching and writing about both Man of Steel, which I didn’t like, and Safe Haven, which I did like, helped me to further clarify my own movie watching sensibility. Plus, I thought the review of Safe Haven was kinda funny. 
The number of subscribers to this blog is up 14% and peak traffic has doubled from about 20 to 40 visitors a day in the last year. This is only a hobby, something I do to entertain my friends, but what can I say? I’m a business guy who tends to think in terms of metrics and bullet points, and there’s still a six-year-old boy trapped inside my body who likes to experience the Internet equivalent of a pat on the head from time to time. Soooooo, a couple of requests:
1 - If you have a reaction to something you see written here, please click on the link provided and contribute a comment so I’ll have some way of knowing you’re there and that you are reading the posts.  (Replies to a post go nowhere.)
2 – If you have a habit of forwarding these blog posts to your friends, please continue to do so and also encourage them to subscribe. 
On Living
Every morning when I wake up I note with gratitude that I am still breathing, that all of my various body parts are still working, that my best friend still lies sleeping next to me, that I will again get to do work I enjoy and that I am well paid to do, and that I am still an American citizen. 
Then the voice inside my head starts: “Weeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!”
Happy New Year. 
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REview of “Her”

Her

Maybe it’s because it was 50° and sunny here in Chicago yesterday and I walked 6 miles, whereas today it was 25° and misty and I’m feeling a little more confined to the indoors. 
Maybe it’s because I’ve had some time off lately, and I’m feeling a little more open to something non-routine. Maybe I’m just feeling in the mood today for something truly different. 
Now that I’ve gotten all the disclaimers out of the way, let me just say that I thought this was one of the most creative and unique movies I’ve ever seen. I had heard that the premise was “guy falls in love with his computer”. Based on that description, I had decided not to even try it. Note to self: contempt prior to investigation is a bad idea. 
Suspending my disbelief in order to buy into the premise proved to be easier than I thought. A story in the Times just this morning talked about how impressed all of us will be with the next round of computers are about to come out next year. I just asked my iPhone a question and Siri answered me. Our telephones have essentially become prosthetic devices, so maybe this movie is not so much of a stretch after all. Want to guess how the relationship between the man and the computer ended up? If it ended, did the man break up with the computer or did the computer break up with the man and why? Kind of arouses your curiosity, doesn’t it?
Joaquin Phoenix was almost as good in this as he was as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line. Even though it was only her voice that was used in the movie (as the computer) Scarlett Johansson was still sexy. I liked Her for its originality, but mostly I just liked it. 
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REview of “Llewyn Davis”

Inside Llewyn Davis
If you like the Coen Brothers – No Country for Old Men, Fargo, Raising Arizona – you will love this movie. It is quirky but not confusing, offbeat but not offputting. 
There are artists who find a way to make it a the world because their talent and skill overwhelm their self absorption, irresponsibility, and lack of impulse control. Llewyn was not one of these artists. This guy took the wrong path at every opportunity, couch surfing because he was homeless, sleeping with his friend’s girlfriend, and being rude to people with whom he should’ve been graceful.  Oscar Isaac was very good in the lead role, and Carrie Mulligan was also very good. John Goodman was, as always, irrepressible and indispensable. 
This movie is also a cautionary tale for anyone hoping to do for money things that most people do for fun and for free – sports, singing, acting, writing, etc. 
This lasts 105 minutes and provides 105 minutes of entertainment. 
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