REview of “Philomena”

According to the opening line of a 2012 article about the Catholic Church in The Economist, “Of all the organizations that serve America’s poor, few do more good work than the Catholic Church: its schools and hospitals provide a lifeline to millions”.  The article went on to say that The Church has a budget of $170 billion, and most of this is spent on good works.  Philomena is a heartbreaking movie about the dark side of this same noble organization. 

My favorite definition of the word evil is “militant ignorance”, and this is a movie about a great evil perpetrated by the Catholic Church. Children born out of wedlock to young Irish mothers were placed in a convent where the mothers were enslaved and the babies were sold. The shame that motivated mothers to place their babies in the convent to begin with was partially created by “The Church”, and it was The Church that benefited economically from both the enslavement of the mothers and the selling of the babies. As is always the case with evil, the perpetrators defended their criminal actions with a self-justifying internal narrative. They convinced themselves that the girls were “just getting what they deserved” and that it was all in accordance with “God’s will”.  
All based on actual events.
Judi Dench was magnificent as her character evolved from simpleton to sage.  Steve Coogan, her co-star, did a wonderful job of acting, as well as creating the screenplay.  You have probably already missed the opportunity to see this one on the big screen, but I hope you will catch it later if any of this sounds intriguing. 
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REview of “The Wolf of Wall Street”

The Wolf of Wall Street
This movie is three hours long. The other movies I’ve seen worth a three-hour time investment were Schindler’s List, The Green Mile, and Gandhi.  Let’s face it, even for those of us who meditate almost daily and don’t Tweet, three hours is a long, long time to just sit still and hope to be entertained.
The Wolf of Wall Street is worth three hours of your time, whether you choose to see it now in the theater or to wait – for what, 45 minutes? - for it to come out on video. Leonardo DiCaprio is mesmerizing as Jordan Belfort, the real life sociopath-as-hero who is at the center of this movie.  Belfort knew how to sell, and I use that term with the most negative possible connotation. He knew how to sell his Wall Street wannabe bridge and tunnel followers on the idea of making it big and getting rich by appealing to their ambition.  Belfort’s followers in turn knew how to sell the investors they duped by appealing to their greed and to the idea that the stock they were being peddled would be their big break.  There are all the toys money can buy: a great New York apartment, great clothes, great cars, even a 170′ yacht. There are also the things that tend to materialize when money brings on depravity: booze, drugs, hookers. There is even Belfort’s second wife who brings to life the Bruce Springsteen lyric: “That pretty form that you’ve got baby will make sure you get along”. The movie works because the scheme worked in real life, and it is both nauseatingly believable and impossible not to watch. 
I hope you will take the time to see this flick. 
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REview of “American Hustle”

American Hustle
As expected, this movie was a work of art. Amy Adams is an Oscar favorite, and for good reason. Based on real events, this is a great 80′s period piece with music by America, ELO, Elton Joh, and Donna Summer. At points it feels a little like “The Usual Suspects” because of the multiple layers. 
If you are a Boomer who had to Google ELO, you need to go see this if only to get reconnected with your era. I like this one a lot. Please see it either now or later. 
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REview of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Jennifer Lawrence returns as Katniss, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, Stanley Tucci as Caesar, and Donald Southerland as President Snow. The Survivor-meets-Star Trek motif also returns, and the ending makes it clear that this franchise will live on. 
If you are one who follows current events the slum scenes in this movie may remind you of real life  footage from India, and the riot scenes may remind you of real life footage from the Middle East. Even in the prosperous United States, inequality is a topic of discussion for both our liberal President on CNN and conservative columnist Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal. As I reflect back on “Catching Fire”, I find myself haunted by the lyrics of the Buffalo Springfield song “Something’s Happening Here”:
“There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong 
Young people speaking their mind
Getting so much resistance from behind”
Sometimes art imitates life, and I think that’s the case with this movie.  I did not love this, but it did strike me as being of-the-moment. If you liked the first “Hunger Games”,  you will like this one. And there will clearly be a third one coming soon to a theater near you. 

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REview of “Out of the Furnace”

Out of the Furnace
Casey Affleck plays Rodney, a man who comes back from Iraq broken by war, desperate to avoid a life in “the mill”, and willing to participate in a street fight to get out of a gambling debt.  Christian Bale plays his brother, Russell, a man who is himself breaking and who wants to save Rodney from the dark side. Woody Harrelson plays a sadistic backwoods character who seems that it any moment he could utter the phrase “you sure got a pretty mouth” or “squeal like a pig”. I mean, he is one hopped up and twisted dude. This is a revenge tale. This is a tale about how sad towns can become even sadder when the jobs go away. 
This is a tale you should probably see on Netflix. 
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