Saturday, October 18, 2014

Rudderless (R/105 min.)


Music is life.  Music is healing.  Music is everything.

What would you do if you lost a child?  What would you do if you lost a child in one of the most horrible ways imaginable?  What would you do if, after their death, you discovered that the bond you once shared had still been a big part of their life?

I’ve been waiting for this movie for a couple of years now.  A gentleman (as opposed to “this guy”) I’ve known since at least 7th grade, maybe longer, co-wrote the screenplay with one of his friends.  And William H. Macy.  Pretty cool, right?  My acquaintance with said “guy” has nothing to do with why I’m giving this a positive review.  Despite my anticipation for the release date, I was really REALLY hoping the movie wouldn’t suck because, although I’d give an honest opinion, you can probably imagine how uncomfortable that would be.  I can just picture this Facebook comment on his wall, “Hey, man!  How’s it going?  Your movie totally sucked pond water!  Hope all is well. Laters.”  Yeah.  I’m just not seeing it.  So, you can understand how relieved I was that this film wasn’t just good.  It went beyond.  If this movie doesn’t touch your heart in some way, you might want to check your pulse.  Let me warn you though, this film does bring up a difficult topic that is making the news much too often lately.  It questions your sympathies and begs the question, “What would I do?”

Following is the summary of Rudderless as told on IMDB:

“A grieving father in a downward spiral stumbles across a box of his recently deceased son’s demo tapes and lyrics.  Shocked by the discovery of this unknown talent, he forms a band in the hope of finding some catharsis.”

I don’t entirely agree with that summary but it’s just semantics.  It does have a basic truth.  The father IS grieving. The CDs are given to him.  He does play the music in the hope of finding some catharsis.

I’ve always believed in the healing power of music. If you can’t find someone in your life to share what you’re going through, you can always count on finding a song that proves that someone, somewhere has been through the same and completely understands.  Or a song will come along that stops you in your tracks.  The raw truth and beauty in it speaks to you in ways you never imagined and you have to just pause for a moment and go, “Whoa!”  Or, music can be an oh-so-valuable bridge between you and a loved one; a connection that was somehow broken can be made whole again.

Billy Crudup is Sam, a father who is struggling with the loss of his son and the circumstances surrounding that loss.  I can’t even begin to imagine the kind of pain a parent would feel.  His son’s CD’s and lyric book are dumped on him and ultimately change his life.  I liked Billy as Sam.  His orneriness was endearing, his pain was easily felt and his breakdown nearly did me in.  You can’t believe how glad I was that no one was sitting around me.  And very glad that I hadn’t gone to the showing that was viewed by several of my past classmates.  I was an absolute mess.  I did find it odd that only one person seemed to know/figure out who Sam was.  Apparently these characters watch as much news as I do.

Anton Yelchin is Quentin, a musician who hears Sam sing and convinces him that they would sing well together.  You may recognize him as Chekov from the new Star Trek franchise.  Granted, he no longer looks twelve years old.  Anton’s Quentin also messed with my emotions.  I cheered for him, I felt for him and I wanted to smack him.  If you’re a good actor, that’s pretty much how it should be.

Has anyone ever noticed that it’s difficult to not cry with Felicity Huffman?  She’s one of those people that can just break your heart.  Imagine her character (Emily) losing her son.  My heart hurt. It hurt bad.  And it was just the briefest of moments. 

I liked Selena Gomez’s character, Kate, the first time I saw her. You’ll want to just hug her and let her cry it out.  Later on…not so much. I’m willing to bet that people will eventually either be for her or against her.  I just happen to be the latter.  I don’t think what Kate did was right.  I wish I could say more but I don’t want to ruin it for anyone.  Some people will disagree with me.  Obviously the writers disagreed because the movie would have ended differently had they done things the way I would have been more comfortable with. But, that’s half the fun of movies; being able to see both sides even though one of those sides is only in your mind.  And who wants to go to a movie that stays in your comfort zone?  If a movie doesn’t transport you out of your own world for a couple of hours then it is not doing its job. But, I digress.  Please don’t read this as I didn’t like Selena’s acting.  To the contrary.  She also made me feel. 

I could go on and on about the other actors/characters but it would be alot of what I’ve already mentioned.  They were all well-chosen.  I don’t think there was anybody I would have replaced. Okay, so maybe one more character description.  I do feel that I need to mention Del, played by Laurence Fishburne.  As mentioned in my last post, I love a good old crotchety teddy bear.  Del is a good good man who believes in seeing both sides of every story.  He is the friend everyone should have.  And despite his grouchy demeanor it is oh so obvious that he loves his wife.  Could you guys find me a Del, please?

And speaking of being taken out of my own world, it wasn’t long at all before I left the theater and was transported to…Oklahoma.  Which sounds really odd because I do actually live in Oklahoma.  And not far at all from the lake we saw so much of.  But this wasn’t my Oklahoma. It was Sam’s and Quentin’s and Kate’s and Emily’s and Del’s.  I became a part of their lives.  I can ask no more of a film than to do just that. 

Now let’s break it down:

Through most of the movie I kept waiting for something to happen to validate the R rating.  There were no sex scenes. No nudity.  The closest they came to it was the main character peeing in the lake but even then everything was kept covered.  We saw a couple people smoking joints.  There was quite a bit of drinking but a good portion of the film happened in a bar so you kind of have to expect it.  The only violence we actually witnessed was a fist to someone’s eye though we did see the emotional damage one brief moment of violence can cause.  And for most of the movie the cussing was kept to a minimum.  Yes, the big words were used but not often enough to earn that rating.  Then why?  Because the last quarter of the film decided to make up for the lack of cussing in the first three-quarters.  That is the only reason I can think of. 

I do feel that I need to say that, in one instance, the cussing was almost validated.  There is a reason I don’t watch the news and the reporter who received her comeuppance is exactly why.  They just can’t seem to get that the last thing any person who is grieving wants is for some stranger to stick a microphone in their face and ask them how they feel.  How dumb are you?  How would you feel?  It is none of your business and certainly none of my business.  If they want to share their story they’ll hold a press conference. Until then, leave them alone!!!  Sorry.  I’m finished.

I know some people may avoid Rudderless because of the rating and I really hate that because it is such a good movie.  While I try to steer clear of people who believe the F-word should be a well-used adjective, I still want to encourage everyone to go see this.  It has a good message.  The music is great and hits nearly every emotion on the spectrum.  The actors are wonderful.  I got to see lots and lots of my beloved Oklahoma.  And finally, it’s just a good way to spend a couple of hours.  Would I watch this movie again?  Absolutely!  As a matter of fact, I’m doing so tonight.  Join me, won’t you?



P.S.  If you live in the OKC area and would like to go see Rudderless, it is showing at the AMC Quail Springs.  If you live outside of the OKC area, check out this site to see if it's showing at a theater near you: http://www.rudderlessthemovie.com/#theaters. If you aren’t able to get to the theater, you can also check it out on demand and on digital HD.  You can buy it here: http://j.mp/iTunesRudderlessYou can also buy or rent it on VUDU or Amazon. 

P.P.S.  The soundtrack is also available on iTunes.  Just a warning to parents.  There is “language” in some of the songs too.  I do believe that this is one of the albums that allows you to buy each song individually so, if you’re screening what your child/teenager listens to, and you like the music, pick what you feel is okay for them.  I don’t know how many times I’ve already listened to “Home” and “Hold On” though there’s not a song on the album I don’t like.
P.P.P.S.  I don't have any pics yet for this post but will update it as soon as I do.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Best of Me (PG-13/117 min.)



It appears that Nicholas Sparks has out-Nicholas-Sparks’d himself with this one.  Had this been the first of his films I’d ever seen, I would’ve been a weepy mess.  Fortunately for me, it wasn’t.  I only teared up a little bit, thankyouverymuch.  

"The Best of Me" is the story of Dawson and Amanda, young lovers separated by tragedy only to reconnect 20…correction…21 years later, after the passing of a mutual friend.  If you’ve ever read a Nicholas Sparks book (the covers of which have been laughingly described as “White People Almost Kissing”) or seen any of his movies you know that someone is not going to survive.  It’s like the expendable crew member on Star Trek except that viewers actually care when you pass.  My apologies, expendable crew members, but you know it’s true.  If you’ve not read the books or seen the movies then you may not have already been made aware of the impending doom for at least one character.  I would apologize for a possible spoiler but I just can’t.  I was flat-out irritated by the end of the movie, having not read the book in advance.  I really wish I had.  It was just overkill…pun intended.   Enough of that.  The love story itself was sweet without being disgustingly so.

Despite that, it was as well-written/filmed as any of his other movies.  In a good way.  I love love LOVED that James Marsden (Dawson) finally won a leading role.  And I’m not just saying that because he was born and raised in Oklahoma.  Not that that hurts my feelings either.  He was not difficult at all to watch in his film.  He and Michelle Monaghan (Amanda) played well off each other.  Luke Bracey and Liana Liberator were also convincing as young Dawson and Amanda.  


The way Liana talks reminds alot of Clare Bowen who plays Scarlett O’Connor in the hit TV series Nashville.  I’m just sayin’.  I truly liked all these characters.  They seemed like genuinely good people.  However, I adored Tuck, played by Gerald McRaney.  I always enjoy seeing a crotchety old teddy bear.  He practically stole every scene he was in. When young Amanda went to him after disaster struck, my heart just hurt for the both of them.

One of my favorite “characters” in "The Best of Me" was Tuck’s house and garden.  I know that sounds odd but there were times in which I was aiming so much of my attention at the wonderfulness of both that I was distracted from what was actually happening in the scene.  I thought I was going to be ill when part of the garden was intentionally hurt and then again when it was overgrown.  If my Gma L was still alive she’d feel the same and would probably want to hunt the place down to see it all for herself.  And don’t even get me started on the boat dock.  My feet would be absolute prunes all the time if I had access to that.  The entire area was a tribute to lazy, warm days.


I took Mack with me to see this movie and, unfortunately, a few things happened that kept us from getting altogether absorbed in the story line.  She told me that I’m not allowed to mention that she about came out of her skin a few times so I’ll just say that she said to write that there were “several random loud noises.”  Each time it happened we both got the giggles.  Many apologies to the people sitting around us.  We also kept getting pulled out because of little mistakes that we just HAD to discuss right then.  For instance, Dawson mails what looks to be several hundred dollars cash without sealing the envelope.  I’m sure it got safely to its destination.  After Dawson breaks into someone’s garage, he starts fixing a car that’s parked in it.  Apparently he was THAT bored!  Or maybe he decided that was how he could pay the person back for “borrowing” their shelter.  A car dies in front of a long line of other cars (and right in front of Dawson’s truck).  Dawson and his friend push the car out of the way and Dawson starts to work on it but they never go back to move his truck.  Whoops!  And it takes less than a minute to fix.  It didn’t need to be moved in the first place!  Finally, Dawson left his Physics book inside Amanda’s car.  You’re probably thinking, “Big deal.  People leave stuff in cars all the time.”  I meant IN the car as in under the hood.  Oopsie daisey!  I know these are little things but they’re big enough to be distracting.  Isn’t that what editors are for? 
 
I have a feeling I’ll be headed to iTunes soon to buy the soundtrack, if available.  I thoroughly enjoyed the music and wouldn’t be surprised at all if Irving Berlin’s family ends up with a nice, fat royalty check from the number of downloads of “What’ll I Do?”  While I would like to be able to say that I actually recognized that song, I didn’t.  It received a big shout out in a couple of scenes.  They also played a song I hadn’t heard in ages; “All I Want” by Toad the Wet Sprocket.  If I’d never heard this song before I would think it had been written specifically for this film.  It’s only briefly heard though and, in my opinion, in the wrong scene.  It would have been perfect in any of the garden scenes with grown-up Dawson and Amanda. 

And now, for the break-down:

Except for the young tap dancer who sat down the row from us I didn’t see many teenagers or children at the pre-screening.  She seemed to take it all in stride but a few things happened which would cause me to agree with the PG-13 rating.

Sex/Nudity – Yes.  The important parts are kept strategically covered though.  If you’ve seen the trailer, you probably saw the scene in which Amanda is floating on her back in the water.  A couple of things were “fixed” so that they weren’t seen by the television audience.  That’s the worst of it as far as nudity.  The sex wasn’t graphic but you definitely know it’s happening.  I know I should have been happy for the couple doing this but I couldn’t get past the fact that they shouldn’t have been for one very important reason.  

Drinking/Drugs/Smoking – Yes.  I don’t recall actually seeing anyone smoking but I saw what I’m sure was meant to be scars from cigarette burns.  Just the thought…  Grown-up Amanda and Dawson drink wine and beer.  I thought we were going to see underage drinking, but nope.  We didn’t see anyone doing drugs but there was a drug bust.

Cussing/Swearing - Yes.  There was more than I’d like but it could’ve been alot worse.  The most used was $#!+ but I believe there was more swearing than cussing.  God and Jesus were mentioned quite often and while I’m sure He/They enjoy a good shout out, I believe we all could’ve done without.  It’s just not necessary.

Violence – Yes.  We saw child (okay…teenager) abuse.  One of the good guys got a nasty beating.  That one hurt me.  And guns played a big role in the film.  

I keep wondering if it’s written in Nicholas Sparks’ contract that he has to make his readers cry and then I’m reminded that the man sells many copies of each book he writes.  Obviously people just need a good cry.  I just hate knowing that someone is gonna kick it and I have to wait until the end to find out who.  At that point I am highly invested in the characters’ lives and don’t want to learn that any of them die.  His books make me willing to believe that something like the book/movie “Misery” could really happen.  If you haven’t seen it and you like Stephen King or Stephen King-type stories, run to your nearest video store and rent it.  It’s so good.  And super creepy.  But back to “The Best of Me”.  If you like Nicholas Sparks movies you’ll probably like this.  Guys, you should already know that this is a chick flick…big time.  One of my younger cousins posted on Facebook that she really liked it.  She also mentioned that she dragged her husband to it but didn’t say if he liked it or not.  If you’ve never seen a Nicholas Sparks movie or you have and have no clue what’s going to happen, take Kleenex.  Don’t be like me.  I know I sound jaded but, just once, I wish Nicholas Sparks would write a love story that has a completely happy ending.  Is that too much to ask?

And, just so we end on a good note. 


You're welcome.

Monday, June 9, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (PG/102 Min.)

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How to Train Your Dragon 2 has thrown the sequel standard out the window. I would almost venture to say that it was better than the first. This is the story about the power of love, forgiveness and true friendship. I'm ready to see it again.

I went to Saturday's pre-screening and, as you can imagine, a lot of children came to see this show. But, as with the showing of Maleficent, as soon as the movie started you'd never have known any munchkins were in the room at all until something funny or sad happened. They were completely engrossed. It's not surprising at all, really. The animation was captivating and the movie started with a dragon race. What's not to love? My favorite audience participation moment? One character kissed another and several children yelled, "EEEWWWWW!" Just you wait, kids.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 picks up 5 years after we first met Hiccup and Toothless. Instead of joining in the fun of the dragon races, our daring duo is off mapping their world. I know that doesn't sound terribly exciting but anything must be exciting with a dragon for a friend. Along the way, they run across a band of dragon trappers and then discover a cave full of hundreds of dragons who are protected by a mysterious dragon rider. All parties must join forces against the evil Drago to prevent him from controlling the dragons and, therefore, mankind. And, in the middle of all this, Hiccup has to figure out who he really is. No pressure.

If you liked the different characters in the first movie, you'll like them in the sequel. I think you'll also like the newcomers and strongly dislike Drago. He's just a no good, stinky, poo poo head. Sorry for the language. I couldn't help myself. As far as the dragons go, after Toothless, I'd be hard pressed to pick a favorite. How fun must it have been thinking up all those critters? I especially liked the ones that belonged to the little old lady in the village. They reminded me of my cats.

This movie has a little bit of everything in it. It's got action. It's got cute, little baby dragons. It's got villains. It's got romance (minimal). It has super-cool, ginormous dragons. It's got a big battle scene. It's got drama. More than I wanted to see but well-done just the same. I will warn you now that one of the dragons and one of the good guys dies in this film. I very nearly came undone. If I hadn't been so worried about being laughed at by the guy who was sitting next to me, I may have bawled for a moment or two. Most of the people in the theater, children included, gasped when both happened. The only reason I mention it at all is so you'll be prepared ahead of time in case your kids wonder what on earth just happened. I'm hoping that I took it to heart more as an adult than a child would because of the things that happened leading up to this scene. Hiccup's reaction, though understandable, hurt almost as much as the loss. I'm getting all sniffly just thinking about it.

Please note that the above-mentioned sadness is just a small part of the movie. They don't give you much time at all to grieve before you're thrust back into battle. After a short, funny scene that is. I was so grateful for that.

If you liked the first film, go see the second. If you haven't seen the first film, rent it and then go see the second. This isn't one you'll want to jump into without knowing the background of the different characters. I would love to be able to go this weekend so I can help it at the box office but my mom is visiting and we'll be off doing various mother/daughter things. Maybe some of you can go twice to make up for my absence. No? Didn't hurt to try. There is no need to stay through the credits unless you like looking at the names. If you do, it's worth it. Some of them are doozies!