Peeples. A lot of good actors are wasted on a ridiculous story that has many more cringes than laughs. Kerry Washington (Grace Peeples), Craig Robinson (Wade Walker), David Alan Grier (Judge Peeples) and S. Epatha Merkerson (Mama Peeples) are talented but can’t magically transform an insipid script into a romantic comedy worth seeing. Wade and Grace are an item but Grace has not told her upscale family about Wade. Wade crashes the Peeples annual reunion in the Hamptons intending to ask Grace to marry him. Everything goes wrong, everyone has secret agendas, everyone is saving face and when they all get a good case of honesty, life becomes sweet and they all sing together. Rated PG-13 for language and adult content.
The Great Gatsby. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s enigmatic novel of uniquely American excess in the 1920s is brought to the big screen with over the top sets, costumes, song, and 3D that really enhances the experience. Director Baz Luhrman is known for his lavish productions and this is film does not disappoint. Seen through the eyes of writer Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) who arrives in New York City chasing the American Dream, the story portrays the overindulgences of the Roaring 20s. Nick rents a cottage next door to legendary, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo de Caprio). Gatsby is mysterious and secretive. Nick’s cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan) lives near in her husband Tom’s baronial mansion. Tom is a womanizer and lives the high life. As the story evolves passions, deceit, greed, jealousy and corruption drive the story to its tragic ending. All of the awfulness of the film is played against a gorgeous background of high style and beautiful scenery. With all of these going for it, the film does not connect because the characters are not very likeable and don’t draw us in. Rated PG-13 for violence and adult themes.
Iron Man 3. The franchise is getting tired. This story line is silly and the best parts of the film are when Robert Downey, Jr. winks at the camera or makes an insider joke. The endless action sequences are hard to follow and just too much. Playing the terrorist card, Downey as Tony Stark/Iron Man must vanquish the evil Mandarin who is terrorizing the USA. Stark’s personal life is destroyed and Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) is held captive in extremis. When all seems lost and the terrorists seem invincible, Iron Man goes old school with a touch of gadgetry to reclaim his role as the savior of the world and especially Pepper. Despite some fine performances from Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce and Don Cheadle the film’s story is too wobbly to be even remotely interesting. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and some adult content and language.
Reluctant Fundamentalist. An intriguing political thriller film directed by Mira Nair. Thanks to her, the movie is colorful and amazing to just watch. The story is engrossing but the film’s message is pointed and uncomfortable. The film follows the life of Changez, a Pakistani man who is Princeton graduate working on Wall Street. Changez is conflicted as he chases the American Dream but is caught in post 9-11 paranoia because of his nationality. He feels the pull of his homeland and family. He must reconcile all of these conflicting aspects of his life. During a hostage crisis in Pakistan he engages Bobby, a CIA operative, in a conversation that shatters the core beliefs of both men. An appeal to fundamentals is the calling card of charlatans and their nefarious agenda. Rated R for language, violence and adult content. It is a Peggy’s Pick.
Kon-Tiki. Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 expedition from Peru to Polynesia is given the Hollywood treatment. Even with the too lush color, pretty people and faux near catastrophes, Hollywood can’t completely ruin this gripping story. Heyerdahl and his five-man crew take off on a balsa wood raft, the Kon-Tiki, on a 5,000-mile journey to prove that ancient Incas, thousands of miles to the east, populated the South Sea Islands. Thor replicates the design of an ancient raft using neither modern techniques nor materials. Their only modern equipment is a radio, which does not work well and a sextant to keep them on course. After 101 days of basically floating on the current, they land in Polynesia and history is made. The ocean threw its worst at them, but their intrepid spirit got them through. This is a great, true story that needed a less glorifying presentation. Worth a see and suitable for the whole family.
The Big Wedding. A waste of a lot of 1st Class Hollywood talent. Robert De Niro, Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton, Robin Williams, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried, and even Topher Grace can’t save this mess from it self. The film feels like an extended sit-com that went horribly wrong. A long divorced couple Don (De Niro) and Ellie Griffin (Diane Keaton) are cajoled into playing the happy couple at their adopted son’s wedding so he can save face with his biological mother who unexpectedly decides to attend the ceremony. This is only one of many stupid set-ups that drive the story. Everyone has secrets that explode in the crucible of the wedding. When everyone decides to be honest it’s a big Kumbaya moment and the film blessedly ends. Rated R for language, nudity and strong adult content.
Disconnect. After you see this movie you may never use your smart phone, tablet or computer again. We have surrendered a lot to technology, maybe too much. In a series of stories that come crashing together, we meet a workaholic lawyer so attached to his cell phone that he fails to communicate with his family that is exploding right in front of him. A young couple dealing with grief is drawn into dangerous situations when she visits grief chat rooms, he seeks distraction in on line gambling and they expose their personal information online. A widowed retired cop discovers his mischievous son’s pranks have escalated into vicious cyber-bullying. The bullying has disastrous effects. A second tier journalist surfs the net and is attracted to a young teen boy who performs on an adult-only site. Their relationship explodes, as they never truly connect. The Internet and its seeming anonymity have chilled our human need to really connect. This is a riveting thriller that we should all see. Rated R for language, violence and sexual content. It is a Peggy’s Pick.
Mud. The essence of being a 14-year-old boy living life and discovering who and what you are is captured brilliantly in this moody tale of love, revenge, friendship and adventure. Two boys, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and his friend Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), find a man named Mud (Matthew McConaughey) hiding out on an island in the middle of the Mississippi River. Mud tells fabulous tales that amaze the boys and allow Mud to recruit them to do his bidding and keep his secrets. Mud has killed a man in Texas to protect the love of his life Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). Mud and Juniper are from this backwater area of Arkansas and are to rendezvous so Mud can escape down the River with Juniper. Juniper has other plans. The evil family of the murdered Texan is in town hunting Mud. Ellis is a dreamer, believes in true love and does all he can to unite Mud and Juniper. Fortunately his friend Neckbone is a realist and others around are skeptics so when this melodrama erupts into violence this community protects its own. Rated PG-13 for language and violence.
Blancanieves. Film lovers will find this black and white and silent film amazing. The photography, the shadings, the use of light and dark and use of close-ups on beautiful faces make the entire experience like being in a museum of fabulous photographs capturing a time long ago. It is the early 1920s in a stylized Seville, Spain. The film opens with the pageantry and the traditions of the Bullfight. The famous and much loved Matador is gored. His pregnant wife witnesses the tragedy and dies in childbirth. The matador is confined to a wheel chair and his daughter Carmen is left in the care of a deliciously evil and monstrous stepmother, Encarna. Carmen escapes the clutches of the evil stepmother’s henchman and joins a troupe of bullfighting dwarves. Carmen is both beautiful and a skilled bullfighter; she becomes the sensation of Spain. But the evil Encarna is not done yet; she has one last perfidy to employ, a poison apple. In a glorious bullring full of light and shadow the final dance is performed. This film is a marvel, find it and enjoy its familiar tale, wonderful music and artistry in black and white. Not rated but suitable for all ages.
Oblivion. Tom Cruise is good at being Tom Cruise and his fans will not be disappointed in his latest Sci-Fi thriller. It is 2077 and Earth is in ruins after a devastating war; a beautiful, recognizable ruin. Jack Harper (Cruise) is a drone repairman aided in his mission by the beautiful Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) who assists him during the day and services him at night. Jack is skilled at surviving in the harsh environment and avoiding the Scavs, who live underground and scavenge what’s left of Earth. Jack’s mission is almost complete when he rescues a beautiful woman Julia (Olga Kurylenko) from a crash. They have a seemingly unexplainable connection that is slowly revealed. Their history leads to the discovery of the truth of what really happened on earth during the war. The film mixes many Sci-Fi classics into this mélange of clichés, but this is a Tom Cruise film and his heroism alone will save humanity. The film is beautiful to watch with its stunning visuals but wallows in too much Tom. Rated PG-13 for violence and some language.
The Company You Keep. Robert Redford does his best to bring us a thriller about fugitive 1960’s radicals, but the film wanders in the wilderness a bit too long and loses its focus. A tremendous cast that only Redford could assemble is great to watch and reminisce, but a strong, believable story is still needed. The film opens with Susan Sarandon as 60’s fugitive Sharon Solarz, being captured. Redford plays Jim Grant, a widowed father practicing law in upstate New York who is asked to defend her. His world is shattered when his past as a member of the radical Weather Underground and connection to Solarz is revealed. The FBI is hunting him as the alleged shooter in a botched bank robbery where a guard was killed. He goes on the run chased by a FBI agent (Terrence Howard) and an intrepid reporter (Shia LaBeouf). Grant’s escape takes us back to the 1960s as he careens among radicals turned professors (Richard Jenkins), drug dealers, Viet Nam Vets (Nick Nolte), old friends (Brendan Gleeson) and others who reflect on their youth. Grant is trying to get back to his young daughter (a miscast Jackie Evancho) in the care of his brother (Chris Cooper). The one person who can save him is Mimi (Julie Christie) an old flame – she knows the truth about the bank heist. They have quite a history and she is still fighting “the man”. The film eventually reveals all of the secrets and gracefully ends. Rated R for language.
42. The Jackie Robinson story needs to be told again to let us see how far we have come from our racist past and to see that there is still work to be done. It is 1946. WWII is over and America is getting back to America, baseball is the national sport and again the focus of our national life. Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) is a baseball man who sees that Jack Robinson a Negro ball player can help his team The Brooklyn Dodgers win. Rickey is not afraid of the “code” that has kept baseball all white and signs Jackie Robinson to the team. Robinson and Rickey are targets of a racist America that does not know how to deal with a black man playing baseball with white boys. The racial epithets are beyond hurtful, but Jackie has the strength of character to not react and lets his skill as a baseball player speak for him. Robinson wins over his critics quietly but forcefully and the better America emerges and begins to put the racists in their place and applaud Jackie’s talent. The film also has some of the best pure baseball moments seen in a while. Chadwick A . Boseman as Jackie captures his spirit and his love of the game and of his family. Rated PG-13 for language. It is a Peggy’s Pick and a must see.
The Place Beyond The Pines. Ryan Gosling is Luke, a carney and a motorcycle stunt rider who travels from town to town. After a performance in Schenectady (which means the place beyond the pines) he spies an old flame Romina (Eva Mendes) to discover they have a son, Jason, as a result of his last visit. Luke gives up his life as a roadie and tries to create a family with Romina and Jason. He can’t make enough money as a car mechanic so takes up bank robbing as his main line of work. This does not end well as Luke is cornered by local cop, Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper). The film then switches focus to Avery as local hero cop who takes on corruption in the police department, which is a stepping-stone to local and then statewide politics. Then 15 years later the progeny of Luke and Avery cross paths with unpredictable results. The film seems to say we cannot escape our biology and our fate is determined by the ambitions and frustrations of our parents whether we know them or not. The film is overly ambitious in trying to tell an epic tale that really just makes you cringe through 2 hours and 20 minutes. Rated R for language, drug use, endless smoking, violence and adult themes.
Raffi. The gentle, Children’s Troubadour is on tour again after 20 years. His sweet voice and simple songs are a joy for all, especially children. From Baby Beluga to Shake My Sillies Out the kids of all ages will sing along and tap their feet. Even grumpy grandfathers enjoyed the show. If you have children, grandchildren or great grandchildren and have not heard of Raffi, then check him out at http://www.raffinews.com. His remaining concert dates are on the site. Needless to say, he is a Peggy’s Pick.
From Up On Poppy Hill. It is 1964 in Yokohama, Japan. In this gentle Japanese Anime, we meet Umi a young teenage girl who has taken on the care of her younger siblings under the roof and watchful eye of her grandmother. The parents are away. A young romance blossoms between Umi and Shun as they and their high school buddies start a campaign to save their high school’s ramshackle clubhouse from demolition. The story takes place in a Japan that is changing its ways after the destruction of World War II and emerging as a world leader among nations. The past and the future present challenges, as old secrets must be revealed for a bright future to be reached. Fans of the genre will enjoy this sweet story. Not rated but would be PG for adult themes.
Starbuck. Leave it to the French Canadians to make a funny film about sperm donation. Meet David Wozniak, a hapless 40 something guy whose family tolerates his consistent lapses of good judgment because they have to, he is family. Twenty-five years ago David made a few compensated donations of “biologic materials” to a fertility clinic. As a result he sets a record, he has fathered 533 children and 142 of them have filed a suit to have his real identity revealed. His code name is Starbuck. David is still an adolescent who must now grow up fast because, not only does he have to deal with his newly discovered huge family, he has fathered a child the normal way, loan sharks are after him and his family’s support might be wavering. But, this is a film about family and all of its new nuances. So David with his good heart, his family and a wonderfully inept lawyer will stumble through this mess and make it all wonderful. Rated R for language and adult material. In Quebecois with English subtitles.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. A film about magic and childhood wonder should be fun to watch, but Jim Carrey as self indulgent, self-abusive street magician Steve Gray takes the movie over the edge into a ruinous dark hole. The film starts with childhood friends who become Vegas magicians Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carrel) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) who rule the strip as headliners. Burt becomes in insufferable egotist. Burt and Anton grow stale as Steve Gray’s outrageous stunts draw the crowds. The Act breaks up but with the help of the beautiful Jane (Olivia Wilde) and Burt’s childhood mentor (Alan Arkin) they get their mojo back as Steve Gray literally screws himself. The film had promise and at times hit the mark, but just goes too far and becomes obnoxious and worse, boring. Rated PG-13 for language, adult content and mild violence.
Like Someone In Love. A wonderful film about mood and melancholy that slowly pulls you into its quiet, almost unspoken world, and then shatters your senses with an abrupt and ambiguous end. The craft of the filmmaker is amazing as he draws you into this world and makes you feel as if you are there and actually experiencing the drama first hand. The film opens in a Tokyo bar as we hear but do not see a young woman, Akiko, speaking on a phone. We soon realize she is a call girl and a student who reluctantly agrees to a date at the insistence of her manager. She must ignore her grandmother’s pleas to visit as she heads off to meet her date. When she gets to her destination she meets Professor; who is kindly and grandfatherly. He wants to surprise her with a special soup from her hometown. The Professor admires her youth and beauty and treats her as his granddaughter and protects her from her boy friend, a violent bully. The film is full of fascinating characters that give it a richness and texture seldom seen. Much is left unsaid and for us to determine what is the reality of this world. Not rated but not suitable nor understandable for children. In Japanese with English subtitles.
The Sapphires. At last a feel-good movie that will keep you smiling and tapping your feet for 90 minutes of unabashed fun. It’s 1968, and four young and talented Aboriginal girls from “Down Under” learn about love, friendship and war. Australia still has institutional racism but these young girls can sing. They know the way out of their plight is through their talent. They answer an ad to entertain the US troops in Vietnam. They meet a washed up musician, Dave (Chris O’Dowd), who becomes their manager. With fabulous soul sounds of the Sixties they are a hit with the troops and become a legend as they tour the battlefields of Vietnam. Based on a true story, The Sapphires is a fabulous celebration of youthful enthusiasm, love, emotion, family and music. This is one to find and enjoy. Rated PG-13 for language and violence. It is a Peggy’s Pick.