'For me, the cinema is
not a slice of life, but
a piece of cake.'
- Alfred Hitchcock
Zero Dark Thirty
Silver Linings Playbook
There are movies that come out and end up being big box office hits. Taken falls under that category. The story about a dad who uses his "special skills" to find the teen-aged daughter who has been kidnapped while on a trip abroad, appealed to both action fans and someone who likes a story of the good guy winning in the end. So, inevitably, Taken 2 was developed as a follow-up, trying to show what happens to Bryan (played by Liam Neeson) and his family after the original story ends.
Liam Neeson is an actor that makes me wish he was in charge of saving the world. He is an awesome 60 year-old man that has a quiet, serious look and I could watch him every day. He makes you believe he really could walk in to a room full of criminals and walk out with the answers he came for. The reason to watch this film is to see him and enjoy the interaction of a man and his teen-aged daughter.
The reason not to see this film is that it is just an okay remake of the original, with a slight change to the story. Instead of his daughter being taken, this time it is his ex-wife and Bryan, himself. In this film, Kim (the daughter) is given instructions by her father on what she needs to do to rescue her parents. The action sequences are very hard to watch, much less enjoy for a true action fan. So, I would recommend a rewatch (if you have already seen it or if not a first watch) of Taken if you want a really enjoyable action film. Although the scenery of the second film is gorgeous, if you are thinking of traveling, you may want to avoid watching either film, since it makes one think women are just at the mercy of the criminal element when they are abroad!
Zero Dark Thirty
The first moments of "Zero Dark Thirty" serve as a heart-wrenching reminder of the moments Usama Bin Laden became a household name in America. The black screen and 911 calls from September 11, 2001 express just how frightening the world became for the people in the United States on that horrific day. This movie follows the CIA hunt for the mastermind behind the terrorism through the eyes of Maya (portrayed by Best Actress nominee Jessica Chastain).
A controversial film before it even hit the theatres, it feels more documentary-like as we are shown bits of the past. These scenes revolve around the terrorist plots that included everything from a bomb on a bus in London to a bombing at the Marriott in Islamabad and the tactics that were used to gather information for the hunt. Somewhat lacking in a narrative, we never get a feel for why Maya has become so obsessed with the mission and there is no life away from her job. Although the years march on in her quest to find the "mastermind" behind the terror, I didn't feel like Maya aged or looked any different at year 10 then she did on day 1. This for me is the part of the film that I liked the least - the lead actress. The only time I felt any real connection to her was in the final moments of the film.
The final third of the movie was the best part for me - following Seal Team 6 as they carried out and accomplished their mission. Even though I knew the final outcome, I was on the edge of my seat and engrossed in every moment.
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, and a follow-up to her Academy Award winning "The Hurt Locker", "Zero Dark Thirty" is more of a procedural thriller rather than an action movie. The film is not a patriotic, flag-waving story but more of a nuts and bolts clinical telling. What could have been a exciting film, is more of a sad reminder that 10 years and thousands of lives were lost in the hunt for a terrorist.
Silver Linings Playbook
What do football, ballroom dancing, mental illness and Raisin Bran have in common? In the case of “Silver Linings Playbook”, they add up to equal a satisfying motion picture. A film classified as a comedy, this not just a light-hearted rom-com. The laughs are definitely there, and I found myself laughing out loud with the rest of the audience, but the story also has serious moments that bring a tear to your eye. Smart and funny, the story encourages us to find the humor in the bittersweet and to not be stopped by the obstacles that could keep you from your own “silver lining”.
Bradley Cooper (nominated as Best Actor for an Oscar) plays Pat, a man just coming home from an 8 month stay in a mental institution. He has discovered that many of the problems he has had all his life are a result of his previously undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Cooper plays this role with vulnerability and instead of being seen as some kind of nutjob, he shows us a person who has finally figured out why he is the way he is and who wants to live as normal a life as he can.
Jennifer Lawrence (nominated as Best Actress for an Oscar) has been one of my favorite actresses to watch onscreen since I saw her amazing performance in “Winter’s Bone” (if you haven’t seen this one, it is a gritty movie, but one I recommend). In “Silver Linings Playbook” she lights up the screen from the moment she appears. I found myself impatiently waiting for her to appear onscreen, as the movie has a slow start, and the moment she arrives is when the movie really picks up.
The entire cast for this movie was just as wonderful as the two main characters. My personal favorite was Robert DeNiro (nominated as Best Supporting Actor for an Oscar) who plays Pat’s dad, Pat Sr. Now, I love Robert DeNiro almost any time he shows up, but this time he was just fantastic. He is joined by a delightful Chris Tucker, as Pat’s friend from the mental institution. His character had me laughing every time he appeared on screen. Jackie Weaver (nominated as Best Supporting Actress for an Oscar) is underused as Pat’s mom, the only somewhat “normal” person in the film.
Overall, “Silver Linings Playbook” is a film that I enjoyed, but it does have a slow start and a predictable ending. There is a lot of profanity and some adult situations, so not for the those who would offended (rated R). However, if you are wanting a movie that has good actors that make you laugh and then cry and a story that shows things don’t have to be perfect to be happy, you will find it here.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
The relationship between Hushpuppy and Wink is at times harsh and angry, but there is also such a beautiful story of a relationship between father and daughter, that it brought tears to my eyes. By raising his daughter as he would raise a son, to be tough and self-sufficient, Wink is preparing Hushpuppy for a future without him in it. Because the story is so well told, instead of seeing Wink in a negative way, you see him as a father trying his best to protect his child.
The lives of people surviving in a place that has been condemned (mandatory evacuations of their home is a part of the story) and their resolve and love for what they do have, even if that is a place off the grid and unforgiving, is both sad and inspiring. Director Benh Zeitlin, Academy Award nominated Best Director for this, his first feature film, has made a visually appealing, yet gritty film that feels at times like it is a documentary. The music (also by Zeitlin with Dan Romer) is a mix of uplifting and haunting beauty and I did not want it to stop even as the credits finished rolling.
A nominee for the Academy Award Best Picture for 2012, I recommend this film that will captivate you from the opening frame until the final strands of music echo through the room.