Friday, November 30, 2012

Silver Linings Playbook

Tonight I saw Silver Linings Playbook, starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.

It will be the topic of Cinebanter #118, so tune in for our review in a few weeks.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Sessions

This morning I saw The Sessions, starring John Hawkes and Helen Hunt.

Mark O'Brien (Hawkes) is disabled from childhood polio and lives most of his life inside of an iron lung. Despite this confinement, he is an accomplished poet with a sense of humor and a desire to enjoy normal things.

When he reaches the age of 38, he decides that he would like to pursue losing his virginity.

As a devout Catholic, he wrestles with the sin of premarital sex, and consults with his priest to see if he can "get a pass," since the chances of him marrying are slim to none. The priest grants him his blessing and soon he seeks the help of sexual surrogate named Cheryl (Hunt).

Cheryl does her best to communicate the boundaries of her role to Mark, but that doesn't stop him from developing a crush on her. After all, he's never been this intimate physically or emotionally with a woman before.

Their sessions to teach him about his sexuality are clinical, yet tender; mechanical, yet arousing. Most people probably don't even know that folks like Cheryl exist (and this, after all, is a true story).

Hawkes is phenomenal as the vulnerable, sweet, scared Mark, who wrestles with so many issues, you wonder if he'll ever be able to give his heart (and body) to any woman; Hunt is equally impressive as a matter-of-fact doctor of sorts, who is brimming with compassion.

This movie is far better than most films in theaters today. The dialogue is witty (and dangerously close to how it really happened, when compared with O'Brien's actual article on the topic); the revealing scenes are treated respectfully and tastefully while not being too sanitized.

It will surprise me if *The Sessions* doesn't receive multiple Oscar nominations, as it deserves several.

Go see it.



On Friday I saw Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field.

The last few months of Abraham Lincoln's life are often overshadowed by stories of his famous assassination at Ford's Theatre. In Steven Spielberg's new film, the months leading up to that event take center stage.

Daniel Day-Lewis plays the popular president in the most historically accurate way possible: hunched over, soft-spoken and thoughtful. According to the scholars, Mr. Lincoln was all of those things.

What's so brilliant about this performance is that his humanity, and his elegant simplicity, shines through. Lincoln was a common man from humble beginnings, and his gift for knowing 'real' people is part of what made him a great politician.

The film shows the president's struggle to get the 13th Amendment passed as his son threatens to go off to war and his wife Mary (Field) forbids it, having already lost one son to the country. Field's performance as the 'crazy' First Lady is played less hysterically than one might expect, and that's what makes it work.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a convincing young Robert Todd Lincoln, and the rest of the supporting cast: David Strathairn, John Hawkes and Tommy Lee Jones, all work their magic as the movers and shakers of the time.

The usual Spielberg-ian grandeur is traded in this time for what mimics a quiet stage performance, and that makes sense since the screenwriter, Tony Kushner, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.

If you're looking for a Civil War-era film with action, this isn't the movie for you; but if you want to see some of the most impressive acting of the year, coupled with a slice of history often forgotten, you need to see Lincoln.


Sunday, November 11, 2012


Today I saw Flight, starring Denzel Washington and Kelly Reilly.

Whip Whitaker (Washington) is an addict. He likes his cocaine, he likes his women and he loves his drink. He's also a reliable, successful commercial airline pilot.

On a routine flight when the weather gets bad, Whip recovers the plane from horrible turbulence. Later, a technical malfunction causes the plane to nosedive and it's the quick thinking and actions of the pilot that result in a crash landing, which only causes six deaths.

When he wakes from his injuries, he's celebrated as a hero as his legal team works fiercely to hide the fact he could also be a criminal based on the amount of drugs he had in his system at the time of the flight.

At this point, the film shifts from being a suspense thriller to a difficult-to-watch, yet can't-take-your-eyes-off-of-it story of addiction.

Washington and Kelly Reilly, who plays his addicted girlfriend Nicole, are nothing short of superb in communicating the silence and sadness that haunt the lives of those who can't stop. Their situations are authentic and their struggles are common—in fact, since *Leaving Las Vegas*, I can't think of any film that's been as good at showing the raw behaviors of addiction.

What's more, it's difficult to determine who or what you should be rooting for as a viewer, which makes the dissection of the story all that more complex.

Robert Zemeckis is one of my favorite directors and I'm thrilled to see that he's crafted another film that's accessible to the mainstream, yet still sophisticated enough to keep the savvy filmgoers satisfied.

I can recommend this for just about any adult, except for those who are perhaps afraid of flying (the crash scene is beyond intense).


Sunday, November 04, 2012

Cloud Atlas

Today I saw Cloud Atlas, starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry.
It will be the topic of Cinebanter #118, so tune in later this month for our review.