Thursday, February 27, 2014

Non-Stop (PG-13/106 Min.)

Liam Neeson, you have done it again! In the last few years I don't think you've made a movie I haven't liked. Then again, The Grey was pushing it just a bit but I'll forgive you for that.

In Non-Stop, Liam is Bill Marks, a US Air Marshal on board a flight from New York to London. He's barely settled in when he gets a text from an unknown person threatening the lives of the passengers on the plane if he doesn't have $150 million transferred to a specified account. Well, that's no way to start a flight.

It did not take long at all for the suspense to begin. There were a few character-building scenes here and there but those were quickly set aside for the drama. And action. And dramatic action. I do want to warn you early on that this movie contains a cheap scare. My friend Mack went to the movie with me and we were so unprepared for this scare that she blurted, "Holy crap!" before nearly knocking me out of my seat. I couldn't stop laughing. My apologies to the people who endured the mini earthquake my silent laughter produced. In all fairness to Mack, alot of us jumped too. We just didn't do it with as much flair. Would you like me to tell you when this scare is going to happen so you're prepared? Okay, I'll give you hint. It happens in one of the scenes on the airplane. You're welcome.

There are too many who-dunnits in Non-Stop that I'm going to stay away from the character descriptions because I could too easily give something away. I will say that I thought the cast was well-chosen. Okay, I'll say something about one character. I thought I was going to have trouble picturing Michelle Dockery as anything but Mary from Downton Abbey.  No trouble at all.

Non-Stop earned its PG-13 rating due to violence and cussing. There was no sex or nudity. There was drinking but who wouldn't want a wee dram in the midst of that mess? I'm betting the little girl in the film didn't, but only just. A few people were shot or pistol-whipped but there was no collateral damage. The people who died were meant to die. Sad, but true. I counted a total of 14 cuss words, but I'll bet I may have missed a few. GD and BS tied for the most with 4 each but the big one seemed to have been avoided altogether. Yea!

Overall, I was very happy with Non-Stop. Not the bad stuff that happened but in how it was all put together. I would like to make a few quick complaints and then move on. First, the terrorist sucked at math. Pay attention. You'll probably catch it too. I totally guessed who done it when I first laid eyes on him/her. I wish they'd been a little less obvious about it. The good guys on the ground should have known that Bill would know that they would try to track the account number. The co-pilot didn't smell the smoke.

I would recommend Non-Stop to anyone who likes Liam Neeson action films or just action films in general. It was fun with a few twists and turns. Please note that there were no extras after the credits at the pre-screening. I'm not sure if, when the film is released, they'll show them then but I've never caught that happening before. Go see Non-Stop this weekend. Help it beat The Lego Movie. Please!!!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

RELEASE DAY SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY: THE CHASE by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg


THE CHASE by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
Bantam – Random House
On sale: February 25, 2014
THE CHASE at your favorite retailers

Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg, New York Times bestselling authors of The Heist, return in this action-packed, exciting adventure featuring master con artist Nicolas Fox and die-hard FBI agent Kate O’Hare. And this time around, things go from hot to nuclear when government secrets are on the line.

Internationally renowned thief and con artist Nicolas Fox is famous for running elaborate and daring scams. His greatest con of all: convincing the FBI to team him up with the only person who has ever caught him, and the only woman to ever capture his attention, Special Agent Kate O’Hare. Together they’ll go undercover to swindle and catch the world’s most wanted—and untouchable—criminals.

Their newest target is Carter Grove, a former White House chief of staff and the ruthless leader of a private security agency. Grove has stolen a rare Chinese artifact from the Smithsonian, a crime that will torpedo U.S. relations with China if it ever becomes public. Nick and Kate must work under the radar—and against the clock—to devise a plan to steal the piece back. Confronting Grove’s elite assassins, Nick and Kate rely on the skills of their ragtag crew, including a flamboyant actor, a Geek Squad techie, and a band of AARP-card-carrying mercenaries led by none other than Kate’s dad.

A daring heist and a deadly chase lead Nick and Kate from Washington, D.C., to Shanghai, from the highlands of Scotland to the underbelly of Montreal. But it’ll take more than death threats, trained henchmen, sleepless nights, and the fate of a dynasty’s priceless heirloom to outsmart Fox and O’Hare.


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ABOUT JANET EVANOVICH Janet Evanovich is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum series, the Lizzy and Diesel series, twelve romance novels, the Alexandra Barnaby novels and Trouble Maker graphic novel, and How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author, as well as the Fox and O’Hare series with co-author Lee Goldberg.

Connect with Janet

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ABOUT LEE GOLDBERG Lee Goldberg is a screenwriter, TV producer, and the author of several books, including King City, The Walk, and the bestselling Monk series of mysteries. He has earned two Edgar Award nominations and was the 2012 recipient of the Poirot Award from Malice Domestic.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Pompeii (PG-13/98 Min.)

Since I already knew the basic story of what happened to Pompeii, I didn’t bother with any of the trailers for the movie. Well, that and I try to avoid trailers at all costs because they just give too much away. I am so glad I didn’t see any. I think the anticipation made it that much better.

Pompeii is the story of Milo, a gladiator who is dragged to the city of Pompeii to provide entertainment in the arena for the masses. Along the way, he befriends, and grows quite fond of, a wealthy merchant’s daughter (Cassia) who has just returned home from Rome. Unbeknownst to them and anyone else in the town, Mt. Vesuvius has chosen to erupt soon. Bad timing all around.

I’ve decided that Pompeii is Gladiator meets Dante’s Peak meets The Perfect Storm meets most Disney movies. I could explain but it would give too much away. I liked so many things about this movie; the actors, the story, the scenery. Oh my goodness, the scenery. I loved Pompeii itself, especially the harbor. I would like to give a big shout out to whoever’s job it was to take care of the scenery. Wow! The volcano wasn’t too shabby either. Good job, special effects people. I did find it amusing that some of the disaster caused by the volcano was reacted to with laughter instead of shock. I admit I giggled too when a couple of people were bonked on the noggin by flying rocks. It was just so unexpected, I think.

Kit Harington was our hero, Milo. Poor Milo. He’s had a rough life. His village was massacred when he was a young boy and shortly after he was forced into slavery and then forced to fight. I liked Kit. I really did. The only thing I questioned was his size. He wasn’t that big compared to a few of the men he was pitted against but that didn’t seem to faze him much. He’s quick and that does count for something. Milo knows a bit about friendship and loyalty and it seems if you get those from him, you may count yourself fortunate.

Emily Browning was Cassia. She left Rome early due to unwanted advances and walks right back in to that when she returns to Pompeii. I’m usually pretty good about recognizing actors from their other roles but I’m gonna guess that she did so well here that it never even dawned on me that I’d seen her before. She was the lead in Sucker Punch. Loved that movie! Well, most of it. Anyway, Emily seems led to do movies in which she has a strong character. That holds true in Pompeii. She knows what she wants and what she doesn’t and doesn’t mind voicing her opinion when she is wronged. She is also willing to make sacrifices for her family and friends. This character was a joy to watch.

Carrie-Anne Moss and Jared Harris were Aurelia and Severus, Cassia’s parents. This was a happy family. Not only did they obviously love each other but Severus deferred to Aurelia in several instances. He did so out of respect and not because she was a controlling harridan. He trusted her opinions and acted upon them. When Cassia returned to Pompeii, Severus’ reaction was what any girl would like to receive from her parents.

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje was Atticus, Milo’s foe and then friend. I loved him from almost the first moment I heard him. Despite having to kill men for the entertainment of others and to one day earn his freedom, he is still an honest and good man. He was the veteran fighter but knew when to heed good advice from someone new to the arena. He also brought some of the brief comedy to the movie with his one-liners. I would not mind having a friend like this man.

Finally, the two men I couldn’t stand at all; Kiefer Sutherland as Senator Corvus and Sasha Roiz as Proculus. Oh, Kiefer, you wound me. Where is Athos when you need him? Senator Corvus wasn’t just mean, he was cruel. He delighted in the suffering of others and when he decided he wanted something he didn’t care what it took to get it. What did he want? Cassia. He even went so far as to tell her that once he had her, he’d break her. Well, what’s the point in that? I don’t get people like that. Moving on, Proculus is the Senator’s right hand man. He’s skilled with a sword and just as mean as Corvus. What bothered me most about him, besides the fact that he’s obviously a bad guy, was his arrogance. Romans are the elite race. Anyone else may as well not exist. How’d that work out for you, Proculus?

The break-down for Pompeii is fairly simple. It earned its PG-13 rating based solely on the violence. When you have Gladiators, someone is going to die. This is nowhere near the blood fest that was 300 so it was mainly the deaths themselves that did it. Wine was imbibed but that’s not really a surprise, is it? I don’t think they had many choices back then. I may have missed some but I only recall one cuss word in the entire movie and everyone managed to stay clothed and upright. Other than the killing, it was almost family friendly. And just in case you think this has a lot of romance in it, it doesn’t. So you don’t have to worry about mush ruining your death and destruction.

I recommend Pompeii for anyone who likes gladiator and end of the world type movies. I liked it and wouldn’t mind seeing it again. If you don’t like the killing that goes along with gladiator-type movies then this is not for you. But maybe you could shut your eyes through those parts. Just a suggestion. If you’re looking for a good action-y movie to go see this weekend, give Pompeii a chance.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Endless Love (PG-13/103 Minutes)

I took my friend Mack with me last night to the pre-screening of the movie Endless Love. When it was over, I asked Mack what she thought.

“I liked it against my will.”

That’s not what I expected to hear but I completely understand. I wanted to see this film but the timing, for me, was not the best. Not having a Valentine of my own (I know. Boo hoo.) I wasn’t sure how I’d respond to this kind of movie this week. It was fine. It was more than fine. I really liked it. I will tell you right now that you need to take your special schnookums to see Endless Love this weekend. Actually, I encourage all you couples out there to go see this on Friday. Because it’s just that good and, if you are all at the theater, traffic shouldn’t be bad while I’m out running errands. See? Win-win!

Endless Love is the story of Jade and David. She’s a doctor’s daughter and he’s a mechanic’s son. I know. I know. You think you can already see where this is headed. Don’t jump to conclusions! You never know. I have to admit to expecting a cheese fest. Let me assure you, the cheese was kept to a minimum. Despite growing up in a well-to-do household, Jade has not had an easy last few years and it has affected her socially. David helps her come out of her shell, much to her dad’s chagrin. David’s past hasn’t been all that great either but he’s holding on to an ideal of love that I wish more people – myself included – carried. The only thing I had trouble with during this movie was picturing them as fresh out of high school. Twenty-somethings can only look so young. Other than that…

Alex Pettyfer is David Elliot. I own it. He’s the main reason I wanted to see this movie. I didn’t even care what it was about as long as he was in it. I first saw him in Beastly (or was it I Am Number Four?) and have liked him ever since. It’s got to be the eyes. Sigh. Anyway, I think he was a good choice for this role. I understood his anger though I wish he’d reeled it in when others egged him on. I liked that he tried to get on Jade’s dad’s good side after making a bad first AND second impression. I liked that he protected his friends and girlfriend. I loved that he fought for her. Take note people. If someone’s not worth fighting for you should probably move on. I’m just saying.

Gabriella Wilde is Jade. She has been over-protected for years and her innocence shows. Gabriella was also a good choice for this film. Well done casting people. I can’t imagine anyone else as Jade. She kept her look of innocence long after it had gone by the wayside. But! Where is Jade when the going gets tough? You really need to go and see. I do feel that she was a touch na├»ve but, considering her life, it’s really not surprising. And it works for her.

Bruce Greenwood is Hugh Butterfield, Jade’s dad. I wanted to understand him. I really did. But then he went and did the things he did and I couldn’t be bothered to try anymore. He’s built a shrine to one of his children, stuck Jade on a pedestal and left the third sibling blowing in the wind. And he treats his wife as if she is an afterthought. Gives you all kinds of warm fuzzies, doesn’t it? Hugh is very predictable. For the most part. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

Joely Richardson is Anne Butterfield, Jade’s mom. I saw Joely years ago in the movie Shining Through and have disliked her, based on that one role, ever since. It’s just like my dad’s feelings towards Louise Fletcher because of her role as Nurse Ratched. If you have no idea who that is…why not? Back to Joely. This role made me absolutely love her. Even though she’s been through the same ordeal as the rest of her family, Anne maintains almost the same sense of innocence that Jade does. When Jade is finally happy again Anne soaks it up. She revels in her children’s joy. In one scene her kids and their girlfriend/boyfriend are lighting fireworks and having a grand old time. She’s right in the middle of it all and looks like she’s having the time of her life. And on several occasions she throws some good life truths in Hugh’s face and I loved her for those too. She is a good good person and her almost instant bond with David was heart-warming.

Finally, I want to mention three more people and I’ll get on with the breakdown. Rhys Wakefield, Robert Patrick and Anna Enger were in several scenes but were, sadly, secondary characters. Well, someone had to be. I still loved all three in their own special way. Robert Patrick is Harry Elliot, David’s dad. Talk about a supportive/protective dad! Wow! Everyone should have parents like him. Rhys Wakefield is Keith Butterfield, Jade’s brother. He’s the brother every person should have. Watch his face when Jade and David are talking during the trip in the Jeep. He loves his sister and it shows. And last, but not least, is Anna Enger, Keith’s girlfriend Sabine. She loves Keith, loves his mom and tolerates his dad. She didn’t get to talk much but she didn’t need to. She knows the value of words and when best to use them. I could learn a thing or twenty from her.

I don’t think younger kids would enjoy this movie but I’m going to break it down anyway so you’ll have some idea of why it earned its PG-13 rating.

Sex/Nudity – Yes. Jade strips down to her unders but her hair covers up the important parts. She also stands in front of a fire in a very flimsy nightgown but, once again, the important parts are covered. The sex scene is not graphic and not shown for long. You basically know what they’re doing but may have to explain to curious youngsters. Just so you know.

Drinking/Drugs/Smoking – Yes to the drinking at a couple parties. I don’t recall seeing any drugs or smoking.

Cussing/Swearing – There was some cussing but I only caught about seven or eight words and those were limited to S and AH. If you don’t know what those letters stand for, yea for you! I only heard one JC so they kept the swearing to a minimum too.

Violence – 2 different people get punched and they both deserved it.

I would recommend Endless Love to pretty much anyone other than young children. They won’t enjoy it. If you’re part (well, both parts) of a couple, go see this. If you’re part of a new couple, definitely go see this. You’re already in hyper-mush mode anyway. If you’re single, give it a shot. It’s nice to hope. As mentioned at the beginning I was not in a romance movie kind of mood but I was quickly sucked in to this one. So, apparently, was the guy behind me. Once the movie really got going, he stopped fidgeting and kicking me. That, in and of itself, would encourage me to go see a movie. Make this part of your Valentine’s weekend plans. You’ll be glad you did.

Monday, February 10, 2014

August: Osage County (R/121 Minutes)

I realize that this has been out at the theaters for a while now but between illness and landing myself in the middle of a bar fight (literally…the fight happened around me), I haven’t been able to put in an appearance lately. Please please please let that change soon! The Oklahoma City Museum of Art is showing several of the Oscar-Nominated movies during the month of February. August: Osage County was one of them. Despite wanting to get back to my movie viewing, I was on the fence about this one. Did I want to go to yet another movie in which they play Oklahomans WAY over the top? Did I want to go to a movie about which I’d heard more than a few bad words were included? Was I really in the mood for a drama? I mean, more than the typical everyday drama I cause around me. Last week Spike said that he wanted to go see it and asked if I’d like to go with him. Oh fine.

Let me begin by saying that the accents were NOT over the top. That’s usually my biggest worry. I’m still not sure why people think we all talk like Reba. Don’t get me wrong. She’s one of my favorite entertainers on the planet but the woman has a twang! No doubt about it. I, however, do not. Unless I’m really sleepy or have imbibed a bit more than is probably proper. Not that I ever do the latter. But! Back to the film. August: Osage County is a film set in Osage County, OK…in August. I knew the title left you guessing so I wanted to make sure you knew. Okay, yes, it is about that but it’s also about a family coping with loss, illness, favoritism, pure meanness, REALLY close relationships and insanity. Sounds like a real upper, doesn’t it? While I think this film was very well-made and everyone in it deserves some kind of award or other, I was about ready to walk out half-way through. It was just so depressing! Please do NOT jump into my comment section and tell me I should have known since it is a Drama. I did know that but there was no letting up! It just got worse and worse. My life seemed all sunshine and lollipops by the time I walked out of the theater.

One thing I did find highly amusing was how many of my own family members were in this film. No, not literally, but whoever wrote this certainly knew about typical Oklahoma families. Please let me state that when I say my family was in this, I mean as far as basic character set-ups go. They would never have taken anything to the extremes this movie did. Spike was amused that when several character personalities were revealed I’d lean over and tell him who, in my family, that was. And the scene in which the entire family is making fun of/laughing at the granddaughter? Yup, we’ve had moments like that too. Then again, who hasn’t?

But, enough of all that. Let’s get on with the actors. The list is long but I’m not going to attack discuss everyone, so you can breathe a sigh of relief. Or just stop reading. Whatever floats your boat. Let’s begin with Meryl Streep. Holy cow that woman needed to be tackled! Oh wait. She was. Meryl was Violet Weston, matriarch of the family, wife to Beverly (yes, that’s a man) and made of pure meanness. She has an opinion on everything and makes it a point to know everyone’s business. And mentions that last fact several times. She blames her behavior on her less-than-happy upbringing. She’s suffering from Cancer of the mouth. The rest of her family is suffering from her diarrhea of the mouth. It is rare that a kind word slips past her lips. I have no desire to defend her but I do have to say that Violet is a tough old broad and she knew what it meant to stand by her man. Granted, her man may have wished she hadn’t.

Spike couldn’t decide if he liked Julia Roberts’ character or not. Boy, I did! Julia was Barbara Weston, daughter of Violet and Beverly. You could tell that she was a lot like her mom but she had some redeeming qualities too. She loved/tolerated her sisters as all good sisters should. She took a lot on her shoulders so others wouldn’t have to face the discomfort. She also comes from the school of “I-can-beat-the-stuffings-out-of-one-of-my-family-members-but-I’ll-be-darned-if-I’ll-let-you-hurt-them”. I went to that school. She tried so hard to protect her little sister when all the odds were against her. My heart hurt when Barbara ran after her sister as she drove away. Barbara was also willing to stand by her man but her man so did not deserve her.

Julianne Nicholson was Ivy Weston, sister mentioned above. She is soft-spoken but strong. She is loyal, almost to a fault but finally stands up for herself. She allows others to talk at her and around her when you wish she would tell them all to jump in a lake. She’s one of those people who, when she does speak, it means something. My heart hurt for Ivy too.

Despite the star-studded line-up in this film, my favorite character was Johnna, played by Misty Upham. She didn’t have much to say but when she did you’d better listen! You feel the need to come on to a 14-year-old girl? Go right ahead. See what Johnna has to say about it. I guarantee you won’t like it. I’m still amazed that Johnna didn’t cut and run when all the drama began. She walked in to a world of crazy that most people couldn’t possibly have been prepared for. I will say that she looked a bit worried at the end. What on earth kind of mess did they leave her to clean up?

Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Juliette Lewis, Abigail Breslin, and Ewan McGregor, I did not like any of you very much at all which means you probably did your job right. Chris Cooper and Benedict Cumberbatch, your characters were so underappreciated that you almost didn’t exist except when someone needed to be mean.

I’ll wrap it up with Sam Shepard who, ever so briefly, played the part of Beverly Weston. He was the perfect opposite of Violet. It’s the only way they could have stayed married for so long.

Now for the fun. I don’t believe children should see this movie. Period. Exclamation point. For one reason, it’s so depressing and no child needs to be put through that. For another, the cussing. Oh my stars the cussing! I’ll get in to that a little more below. Let’s break it down now.

Sex/Nudity – None

Drinking/Drugs/Smoking – Yes. Yes. YES! And then some. I did get the giggles when one of the characters brought a couple bottles of wine to dinner. Spike leaned over and whispered, “He didn’t bring enough.” Truer words were never spoken. During this movie. Moving on.

Cussing/Swearing – I didn’t even bother counting because I’d been warned ahead of time. They used them all. Someone even dropped the C-word which absolutely makes me cringe any time I hear it. Dear people outside of Oklahoma, this is not a stereotypical Oklahoma family when it comes to language. We don’t all swear like it’s going out of style. It just got old after awhile. Use your words, people!

Violence – Only if you count the scene in which Barbara tackles Violet. Oh! Barbara also slaps her daughter when said child mouths off to her dad. I’ll let you decide how you feel about that. I, personally, felt it was long overdue. My goodness! I keep remembering parts as I type. Another such scene involves Johnna and it is much deserved.

I do have a couple of complaints to make regarding the filming of August: Osage County. When did you all really come out to Oklahoma to film? Julia, I’m sorry but I don’t know of anyone who sleeps in an un-air-conditioned house in Oklahoma in August wearing a long-sleeved shirt and long pants and then, when they wake up in the morning, throws a light sweater over the mess. It just doesn’t happen. Also, where were the mosquitoes? There is no way on God’s green earth you’re going to sit outside on an Oklahoma summer evening and not get eaten alive. Who knows? Maybe your characters put on bug spray before you went out. Furthermore, I don’t care who you are, if I were a man you could absolutely NOT make me put on a dress jacket in the afore-mentioned un-air-conditioned house in the middle of the day while sitting down to eat. I don’t care how formal the occasion is. And, I’m curious. Was Dermot Mulroney’s character from Georgia or was he from Florida because his license plate didn’t agree with his state of residence.

I have no idea who I would recommend to go see this film. Again, it was very well-made and all the actors did great but I wouldn’t want to put anyone through that. I’m miffed that I put myself through it. If you can’t decide whether or not to go, ask someone you trust with movie selections what they thought. If it were up to me I’d recommend skipping it altogether.