From Tehran To Park Slope (Movie Thoughts: Appropriate Behavior)

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If you read reviews of the movie “Appropriate Behavior,” you will find mostly glowing reviews not only of the film, but also of its writer and director, Desiree Akhavan. Akhavan bases thsi movie from her own experience in dealinf with the breakup of her lover, and in the film the character is named Maxine. The protagonist of the movie is named Shirin, and just like Akhavan is a bisexual Iranian young woman, but more so is a twenty something hipster from Brooklyn. I was on board until that last detail, and I told myself, no not another film about an annoying and entitled millennial Brooklynite.  Sure, I get the wit in her screenplay – she has been described as a Middle-Eastern Lena Dunham – but really, there is nothing much to see here beyond that. I guess we get a glimpse of how someone her age thinks, but for me, no big whoop there. So she goes through lovers – male, female, even a couple, but what about her dates give her the wisdom and acceptance that she supposedly arrives at in the end of the movie? Maybe I also need to be her peer in order to get it? What I get here is a young woman with a typewriter and a camera, but not much else.

Isn’t It Bromantic (Movie Thoughts: The Wedding Ringer)

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Before I saw this movie, I had no idea what Kevin Hart did. Well, I knew he was a comedian and he is the next big thing, but other than that…nada. And “the Wedding Ringer” I knew was some kind of comedy movie, and based on the previews I saw, one of those that catered to young me, so, yeah not my demographic at all. But it was a Saturday night, and I chose this, because I guess I wanted to see something that I thought would not really make me think, that would be fun. I wasn’t wrong. “The Wedding Singer” is exactly what the doctor ordered. And for the record, I liked it much more than I thought I ever would – because and despite the fact that Josh Gad is an actor I can’t stand. Here he plays the “straight man,” mostly setting the jokes for Hart. I thought of this more as a buddy car movie without the car. or perhaps a Bromantic-comedy – a genre where two guys don’t realize they are best friends, even as we, the audience, can see it from the beginning. I must say that Hart (and Gad) did make me laugh, even as the situations got a little too raunchy and too testosterone-filled for my taste. But I am not the target audience for this, and the fact that even I appreciate this movie has to be some credit for it.

When I Grow Too Old To Dream (Film Thoughts: The Age Of Adaline)

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When was the list time I Paid attention to Blake Lively? I mean, she wasn’t even my favorite in “Gossip Girl.” But here, in Lee Toland Krieger’s “The Age Of Adaline,” she is a major movie store. She is beautiful, luminous, and charming. Dhe knows how to use those traits for the camera, and I predict people will notice, as I have. The movie? It’s a mixed bag. Lively makes the most of an underwritten character, and her co-stars also shine (Harrison Ford is unforgettable in a smaller role) all their efforts cannot mask a tepid screenplay. We never really know who the real “Adaline” is, and her character is written a little too “modern” for someone who was born in the early 1900s.  But all in all, I liked the movie a lot more than what confused me about it. The story was believable enough (even with the scientific mumbo jumbo explanation as to why Adaline doesn’t age) and nowadays it’s kind of hard to find a movie aimed at adults. Plus, it’s a good love story and a perfect date movie – two things that the Avengers movie probably will not be.

Some People Can Get A Thrill (Movie Thoughts: Such Good People)

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“Such Good People” is kind of a rare thing: a gay screwball comedy. Actually, it can even be just a screwball comedy, because the “gay” aspect of the main characters is inconsequential. Randy Harrison and Michael Urie play a couple who finds a million dollars inside a house they are sitting. What would you do if you were int heir position? It is not an easy decision, of course, and everything gets compounded by the actions of another couple, played Carrie Whilta and James Urbaniek. The best thing about this movie is the easy performances of Harrison and Urie, and actually by everyone else, including cameos by Lance Bass and Alec Mapa. The movie tries hard, it tries way too hard to be funny, and I couldn’t say that it was, for me, too successful. Too many plot points and not enough laughs. But I give it an A for effort – smooth technical elements present a very professional job. And while it didn’t really work for me, some people may enjoy this movie, and t really isn’t a bad Saturday night rental. Plus, Harrison are adorable and cute. and could seal the deal just for that.

Boy To Man (Film Thoughts: Boyhood)

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I have been dreading watching Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” because I have been intimidated by its length – two and a half hours. But I should not have been, because there was not one boring moment in this film. Shot over twelve years, Linklater has made a film that makes you (literally) watch a boy transform into a young man. Mason (Ellar Coltrane) in the beginning of the film starts out as a wide-eyed six year old, and by the end of the movie has just started his Freshman in college. I don’t know what Coltrane has done professionally, but he has this contemplative intensity as an actor, and especially in the later scenes, shows depth and sensitivity. I know Patricia Arquette has gotten accolades for her work here (and may probably win an Academy Award) and there is a scene towards the end of the film where she has a emotional breakdown, after realizing her son is going to college and she will be left alone. You feel her pain, because you feel like you have been there all along, as she made sacrifices and moved heaven and earth to have a better life for herself and her kids. That reduced me to a pool of tears. I think Ethan Hawke deserves just as much recognition. It was interesting to see not only how his looks have aged over he years, but also how he essayed his character evolving. Mason Sr. evolved from being a rabid bleeding Liberal to someone who marries a wife from a religious gun-loving family. It shows how we change and make concessions once we find the ones we love.  This is an emotionally affecting film, and I found it stayed with me after the film ended and I started thinking more not just about the characters, but on what life means for all of us.

A Deeper Love (Movie Thoughts: Pride)

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In September, when I was in London, the movie theater around the corner from my hotel was showing the movie “Pride,” and I remember passing by it, looking at the huge poster and wondering if it was a gay movie. Then I read a rave about it somewhere, and realized that it was a movie with gay content, so I made a mental note to try and catch it somewhere. I missed it, but the movie has been in my radar sine and when it finally came out on video, I instantly put it on my Netflix queue. What a great uplifting feel-good movie this is. The story is set during the miner’s strike during the Thatcher years in the UK when gay and lesbian groups banded with the miners because they empathized with their plight. Miners and gays would seem like an odd couple, and yes they are, but the film shows that even the most mismatched people can find common ground and band together. Director Matthew Marchus (who directed the stage version of ‘Matilda’) weaves personal stories with seamlessness that you instantly connect with all the characters on both sides. There’s great performances everywhere, but for me Imelda Staunton and Bill Nighy stand out among the vets.  So yes, at times, the proceedings become a tad predictable and you can see the resolutions a mile away, but you won’t be able to recognize the big open heart tha lies inside this movie. Rent it, stream it, however you watch it, just do.

The Eyes Have It (Film Thoughts: Big Eyes)

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Tim Burton’s movie “Big Eyes,” opens with a quote from Andy Warhol complementing the art of Margaret Keane, and the movie tells her story. Clearly, we are already biased and empathetic towards Ms. Keane. Truthfully, I have only heard about her/this story when I heard about this biopic of hers, although I have a very vague recollection of seeing her paintings when I was a young kid. I like her paintings. I think her style is a great mixture of melancholy and whimsy, though I do admit they are kind of kitschy. And I thought her story was interesting. She has a passive personality and agreed when her husband, Walter Keane decided to take credit of her paintings. Burton tells the story clearly. This is not your typical Burton production, though on one scene (the supermarket one) you get a glimpse of his quirk. Perhaps Burton has a lot of respect for this story and wanted to tell it in the most straightforward way possible. He succeeds and you are riveted from the first frame to the last. Amy Adams gives a great performance here, subdued but powerful. Counterpointing hers is Christoph Waltz’s manic over-the-top turn, which really turned me off. Surely, there is a better way to convey the character than his histrionic over-acting style? For me, it just highlights Adams’ performance more.  I think this film has an interesting story to tell, though perhaps may be a bit too tame for today’s mainstream taste.