Across the Universe

(A written and audio review) Visuals and live-stage timing make this film a beautiful colorful musical trip. Listen to my review from my podcast or continue reading below.

Across the Universe (2007)
PG-13 | 2h 13min | Drama, Fantasy, Musical | 12 October 2007 (USA)

The music of the Beatles and the Vietnam War form the backdrop for the romance between an upper-class American girl and a poor Liverpudlian artist.
Director: Julie Taymor
Writers: Dick Clement (screenplay), Ian La Frenais (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
Stars: Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess, Joe Anderson

This is a film telling of many Beatles songs woven into an entrancing film that will leave you breathless yet singing. (Is that possible? Maybe)

Julie Taymor, director, does an outstanding job here and it’s no wonder since her accolades include directing “The Lion King” on Broadway. It was wise of the film financiers to pick a person so versed in dance and music because this is a flm that includes all of it. The charater Lucy is played by Evan Rachel Wood. She moves from the midwest of America to New York. Jude is played by Jim Sturgess. He’s a welder that can’t seem to get a break. As an actor, he can really sing and I bought his scenes hook line and sinker.

Visuals and live-stage timing make this film a beautiful colorful musical trip. I enjoyed every minute of it. One neat aspect was the way some songs are interpreted in new ways for us. An upbeat song on the album might be presented as slow, somber, and thoughtful. The Vietnam war figures into it masterfully, even when the images and subject matter are definitely “not for kids.”

Bono of U2 fame plays the walrus and I have to say, being a staunch defender of Walruses in cinema, I approved heartily. If anyone can make that song work in a film, it’s Bono.

Recently I saw a professional cover band of the Beatles and I was entranced. You really can’t miss when their music is involved. If you like Beatles songs, or are interested in the music of the Beatles and they are new to you, this love story/drama is a great way to enjoy “the lads.” And remember the message, “All You Need is Love!” I recommend Across the Universe in the musical film genre as:

10/10

‘Ashby’ – Legendary Mickey Rourke as Mentor

How does ‘Ashby’ stack up as the latest Mickey Rourke film? The jury is in for this reviewer.

My Rating: 6/10 – Mickey Rourke is an irresistible performer. I’ve been watching his movies since I was a kid and his presence in movies had drawn audiences for years and up to the present day. Is Ashby a welcome presence? Hmmm.

ashby-poster

Ashby (2015)
Cast

Mickey Rourke, Nat Wolff, Emma Roberts

Directed by

Tony McNamara

Written by

Tony McNamara

Other Info

Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rated R
1h 40min

Ashby is one of those movies you keep questioning whether it’s an independent or major studio motion picture. You think it must suck as the latter and might be hip and cool if it’s the former. Turns out, neither platform can save this film, it comes up empty on several levels.

The premise is that a High-school student Ed Wallis (Nat Wolff) enters into a friendship with his neighbor, Ashby, (Mickey Rourke) a retired CIA assassin who only has a few months left to live.

The basic plot bears similarities to Scent of a Woman. The main difference is that Mickey Rourke doesn’t play the role as deftly as Al Pacino. In fact, his character is boring and without charisma. It’s hard to believe we are watching the same Mickey Rourke that kicked ass in Iron Man 2. Maybe he came off as lucid there because he was playing with a thick accent. His character could have been performed much better. The film’s biggest weakness is in him being mis-cast. He’s a great actor and I have huge respect for him. Another film I truly loved him in was The Wrestler. This is not The Wrestler. Unfortunately his performance falls short and almost nonsensical in this film. The romance present in the film can’t save it either. Emma Roberts and Nat Wolff are both charming but the other story overshadows everything and mostly, you want to forget it. I actually chose to watch this film because it was a romance but I think that is another “mis” in the movie along with miscast: a mislabeled.

It’s a fun idea for a story and for a while, I wanted to see what was going to happen. Soon however I lost interest in the characters and the predictable story unraveling before me. When a high school kid is mentored by an old dude, cool things can happen. I guess the trouble here is that not enough cool things happen. The film weaves a high school film into a hit-man drama with another “coming of age” cord woven in. If each were like seasoning, I’d say each overpowers the other. Nothing is subtle. I’ll be a Mickey Rourke fan to the end but this is not one of his films I can wholeheartedly recommend. I wanted deeper, more rounded characters and a better story. I see what they tried to do but in the end they missed it. It’s not a total bomb so if you are a fan, you may enjoy it because hey … it’s MICKEY ROURKE! Still, Ashby doesn’t pack the punch of some of his other hit films.

Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)

My Rating: 10/10 – I can’t think of anything wrong with this film, it’s one of the perfect ones in my book. About 25 years out of high school, everyone probably thinks a little about what they could have or should have done. This film throws a little sci fi “what-if” into a 25 year high school reunion.

Peggy Sue Got Married

“Peggy Sue faints at a high school reunion. When she wakes up, she finds herself in her own past, just before she finished school.” -IMDB

Cast

Kathleen Turner Peggy Sue
Nicolas Cage Charlie Bodell
Barry Miller Richard Norvik
Catherine Hicks Carol Heath

Directed by

Francis Ford Coppola

Written by

Jerry Leichtling, Arlene Sarner

Other Info

Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Romance
PG-13
Fri 10 Oct 1986 UTC
103min
IMDB Rating: 6.3

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather saga,  Apocalypse Now, …), is all I need to say to most movie students like myself. He has such an incredible way with people and movies and we see that come across well in this film. They don’t make films like this often and the universe doesn’t see one like Francis Ford Coppola come along often either.

The staff is similarly charmed. Kathleen Turner plays the lead actress role of Peggy Sue. Watching her is like watching a fine work of art or a ballet dance. She is a talented actress and simply beautiful. Part of her appeal in this film is her humility that belies her beauty. She is one of those beautiful women that can pull it off.

Nicholas Cage is simply hilarious in this film as Charlie Bodell, Peggy Sue’s boyfriend. He is, by way of trivia, the cousin of the famous director. Cage does a great job as the hate-able yet love-able testosterone filled boy with a dream.  His angst mixed with Peggy Sue’s regrets makes the film an amazing message to all of us. There are other notable performance in this film

Peggy Sue somehow transports back to high school after a long bout of regret about her choices. While in this dream state (or is it?) she tries to right every wrong she did in her life. She finds out that maybe isn’t possible but that’s what makes life wonderful. It’s imperfect yet beautiful. Humans are imperfect. My favorite line is when her dad buys an Edsel and she says (in her young self body) “Oh dad, you bought an Edsel, your were always dong stuff like that.” Of course the family thinks she crazy.

FINAL THOUGHTS
We need more movies like this with a female in the lead role who takes us on a fantastic journey. I am always reminded of an important life lesson every time I watch this film. If for no reason other than the fact that it was made by Francis Ford Coppola, you should see this because it’s about the choices we make and sometime regret. Maybe we shouldn’t regret them after all. See what this inspiring film has to say. I recommend it as a perfect film in its genre. It is quite similar to Back to the Future.

 

Murphy’s Romance

My score: 9/10. Sometimes, the understated films are the best experiences. Some modern romances are arguably too much. They weave in every convention even the ones that are old and overdone. This makes for a wild movie that may be good but doesn’t evoke the inner romantic inside. “Murphy’s Romance” does it.

Murphy’s Romance (1985)
PG-13 | 1h 47min | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 31 January 1986 (USA)

Emma is a divorced woman with a teen-aged son who moves into a small town and tries to make a go of a horse ranch. Murphy is the widowed town druggist who steers business her way. Things … See full summary »
Director: Martin Ritt
Writers: Max Schott (based on the novella by), Harriet Frank Jr. (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Stars: Sally Field, James Garner, Brian Kerwin

The director, Martin Ritt has been called one of the best and most sensitive American filmmakers of all time. His movies include: Stanley & Iris, Nuts, Murphy’s Romance, Norma Rae, & Sounder. In 2018, this film does watch a little like a made for tv movie but you have to remember in 1985, a lot of films looked like that. The love story is subtle and it really works.

You have 2 great talents of film: Sally Field and James Garner. Murphy, played by Gardner, is a local shop owner who apparently is one of the richer citizens of the Arizona town. The town is charming by the way, decorated like a little country town from days gone by. James Garner has a way about him that draws you in. He is truly great, like John Wayne an American classic.

Sally Field is a marvel to behold. From films like “Norma Rae” to “Gidget,” she captured the heart of America. Her smile is accentuated by her wit and frankly, her attractiveness factor. She adds to any film she’s in and this is another example. The love affair builds slowly and we are drawn in to what is happening as we get to know the two main characters more and more. This would be great for a date night, I recommend it. 9/10.

The Vow (2012)

My Rating: 6/10 – The Vow is a movie directed by Michael Sucsy, known for Deep Impact. It stars Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum) as its main characters. It has been advertised as a romance flick. It nonetheless presents the difficult, unromantic topic of a brain injury. After a serious car accident where she goes through the windshield, Paige winds up in a coma. After some time, she wakes up unable to remember her husband Leo or any part of their relationship.

The Vow

The Vow

“A car accident puts Paige in a coma, and when she wakes up with severe memory loss, her husband Leo works to win her heart again.” -IMDB

Cast

Rachel McAdams Paige
Channing Tatum Leo
Sam Neill Bill Thornton
Jessica Lange Rita Thornton

Directed by

Michael Sucsy

Written by

Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein

Other Info

Drama, Romance
PG-13
Fri 10 Feb 2012 UTC
104min
IMDB Rating: 6.8

Leo goes to great lengths to remind her of their life together with no success. His efforts leave her cold and she moves out to live with her parents. Much of the romance of this film is shown in flashbacks. We see what Paige and Leo were like before the accident. We don’t see Leo and Paige happy together throughout the movie as the promos suggest.

Sorry to disappoint the romance seekers but this is not a “feel good” movie. Still, it has some value on a date. Watching Paige leave Leo is uncomfortable. I kept wondering why she wouldn’t give him more time to try and win her back. After all, he did nothing wrong to deserve losing her. The question then becomes: should one keep the vow out of duty when feelings are gone? Watching poor Leo try to win Paige back may be a painful journey but it does raise interesting conversation.

Dating and marriage are popular subjects for movies. When a movie seems to have romance, some call it a “chick flick.” In this movie’s case however, the romance is rare so it doesn’t qualify. I’d call it a decent drama though because good dramas make you think. It reminded me of when someone broke up with me in real life. Others reading this may recall that same “punch in the stomach” feeling. The actual woman the movie is based on, Krickitt Carpenter, who said in a New York Post interview, “You make a promise before God with your wedding vows.” She seems to have a different view of The Vow than the director.  With respect to her and what she has been through, that isn’t a very romantic concept for a chick flick. This film has ads that look more like the Notebook than a brain injury study or otherwise religious film. To summarize my view, the Vow fails as a romance but is ok as a drama. If you watch it on a date, it can serve as an interesting conversation starter. As a drama it succeeds but as a romance, it loses a bit.

6/10

Passengers (2016)

I give it a 2/5. It’s much sci-fi ado about nothing worth telling.

My Rating: 2/10 – Space has been called “the final frontier” but what good is space to an explorer all by his lonesome? That’s what we have with Chris Pratt’s character: a lonely man living out a full year knowing no one is there to spend time with him much less save him. That’s what we begin with, what ends is the opposite.

Passengers“A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early.” -IMDB

Cast

Jennifer Lawrence Aurora Lane
Chris Pratt Jim Preston
Michael Sheen Arthur
Laurence Fishburne Gus Mancuso

Directed by

Morten Tyldum

Written by

Jon Spaihts

Other Info

Adventure, Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi
PG-13
Wed 21 Dec 2016 UTC
116min
IMDB Rating: 7.0

Director Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game, Headhunters, provides us with some truly incredible sets. When the doors swish open, they are indeed metal and laden with decor that looks like an Alien ship or even Star Wars one. In fact, this film must have spent most its budget on sets and cgi. It’s truly breathtaking. Unfortunately, the amazing look of this film is in direct contrast to its unaffecting story. I wonder is even the best directing can make a bad story interesting.

Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt need no defense. They are both stellar in what they do and they do an ok job here again, bearing through this awful script and concept. I must note that Lawrence Fishburne is in it too, but just for about 2 scenes that are only partially worth it to the plot. I felt it was a waste of such an amazing actor to have him in this miniscule, needless role.

The story is this: A man is part of a colonizing group that are all asleep in hibernation for 1,000’s of years. He wakes up to find he is alone on a spaceship with all these sleeping people. He wakes a woman up to have a partner and when she finds out she may never make it to the promised land, she mas mixed emotions. The ending shows us what the author think her final resolve would be.

FINAL THOUGHTS
This is a shiny, good looking sci-fi film. Unfortunately it relies too heavily on a simple premise that fails to become interesting even when beaten into the audience’s collective head over ad over again throughout the long middle of the film. The beginning was interesting, it drew me in. The ending was at least a resolution, which not all films have of course, but I do not know how the writer could have come to this conclusion. I was not moved. If you believe you were murdered, would you forgive that person? This is the premise and my response is “who cares, you’re dead.”

2/5

Passchendaele

Passchendaele reminded me that war is organized murder and nothing else. It also illustrates the beneficent role Canada had in WWI.

My Rating: 6/10 – This is a good film that lacks in its script and there is no clearly discernable message. I think great war movies have that. It’s meant to show the passion of a country for its cause, namely Canada in WWI.

Passchendaele (2008)
Cast
Paul Gross

as Michael Dunne

Caroline Dhavernas

as Sarah Mann

Joe Dinicol

as David Mann

Directed by
Paul Gross
Written by
Paul Gross
Other Info

Drama, History, Romance
Rated R
1h 54min

A war film should have a tangible, good story woven throughout and I didn’t feel like one existed here. We see the empty eyes of a woman bereft of her lover. We also see a man who survives war and loves the best way he knows how. The road to these conclusions is peppered with war violence and reverie of a war long past and I wasn’t really into it.

This film is a pride to the Canadians. It shows the role Canada played in the war. That was an important factor of this film and I liked it for that. Did I mention Canadian pride in war is rampant here? If you’re Canadian or you treasure grim war scenes, you will like it for that reason. Otherwise, you might agree with me that the writing was thin and there was no universal, apart from Canada, message being put forth in the story.

I don’t normally put a caveat on my reviews but in this case I think it’s appropriate to inform the reader that I am a pacifist. I try to discourage my kids from joining any military system.

I do think that my global view on war affects my interpretation of war movies so, there’s my caveat.

I do enjoy some war movies when their message is clear and well delivered. I don’t like being among the bombs and bayonets when I see no real purpose. An example of a war film that gets its message out clearly is “Apocalypse Now.” This is no “Apocalypse Now.” People talk quickly and there were no real memorable dialogs or monologues in my opinion. Stabs with a bayonet don’t count as intriguing moments for me.

There is excellent cinematography and the wardrobe is all retro and in sync with the time being portrayed. There is a romance, it’s not thrilling.

War is hell and this film takes you there.

I did get some positive messages from it but overall I found it to be a dismal account with no apparent purpose or moral at the end. For that reason along with poor acting and script, I took away a few stars. Some may like it but this is definitely not a pacifist’s film. I am glad I saw it for the historical aspects and the cinematography. I never knew Canada had such a role in the war, I didn’t need a two hour History Channel TV movie to understand that though.

Somewhere in Time (1980)

Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour star in this 1980 love story. It takes you in and out of present time to discover true love.

Great time travel/romantic flick.

Somewhere in Time“A Chicago playwright uses self-hypnosis to travel back in time and meet the actress whose vintage portrait hangs in a grand hotel.” -IMDB

Cast

Christopher Reeve Richard Collier
Jane Seymour Elise McKenna
Christopher Plummer William Fawcett Robinson
Teresa Wright Laura Roberts

Directed by

Jeannot Szwarc

Written by

Richard Matheson, Richard Matheson

Other Info

Drama, Fantasy, Romance
PG
Fri 03 Oct 1980 UTC
103min
IMDB Rating: 7.3

Director Jeannot Szwarc is known for Jaws 2 (1978) and Santa Claus: The Movie. These two samples show his work has a variety to it. Both also reflect the sing-song incredibly fun style of the late 70’s and early 80’s. With this film, he dips into both colors and paints a lovely portrait that still stands up today.

Christopher Reeve plays the lead role of Richard Collier. His stoic charm is unique and his acting skills truly make this character come alive, especially in the latter scenes. I’ve seen this film 2 or 3 times and I can’t imagine any other actor playing this role.

Jane Seymour is Elise McKenna, the arcane, beautiful, mysterious woman of the past. She plays well with Reeve and the other Christopher (Plummer) who takes the role of the nemesis William Fawcett Robinson. These three famous actors alone are reasons to love this film. They work together well and it is an excellent, heart-rending script.

There’s something different about this old woman. Collier senses he’s met her before. The butler at the hotel senses he’s met Collier before as well. There’s a whole lotta sensin’ going on! We have a time travel component here. How appropriate for a film made in 1980. Back to the Future and Peggy Sue Got Married, would soon follow. Will he discover who she really is? Time will tell. Therein lies the romance and this film is highly romantic. The ending can be debated but I contend it is one of the most romantic endings since Romeo and Juliet. One last mention: the piano driven soundtrack is heavenly.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Reeve and Seymour are in love and they shine like a cotillion. They aren’t like the cotillion you feel sick at due to formality though, this is the place where legends and dreams of true romance play out. I love this film, it’s another one like the Big Blue that puts me in a trance I don’t want to get out of.

10/10

Somewhere in the Middle (2015)

This film is streaming now on Netflix. Why do lovers do what they do? What if you knew what happened ten minutes before a breakup, what would you do differently? The viewer gets that opportunity in several situations in this film and that makes it a compelling, alluring comedy, romance, drama. By splicing in what happened before and a little after scenes, we see the situations twice and we have more insight into the relationships on-screen.

The director, Lanre Olabisi, is not clearly known by name but he does a great job in this independent drama. It’s a delight to find relationship films that really work like this that are in the independent realm. I hope to see more from him.
Charles Miller is the strongest actor in the film. There are also some honorable mentions in the talents of Cassandra Freeman and Marisol Miranda.
In the story, Sofia is a relationship addict and is seeing a therapist in his home office. On her first visit she meets someone in the home who she is not clear the identity of. The brother of the therapist is having troubles with his marriage and appears to be the stalker sort. As more is revealed, initial scenes reveal a truth “somewhere in the middle” about these characters. It’s true to life because sometimes when we know more of the whole story, we realize first impressions are not always the truth.

I liked the characters and the story was well written. Some of the sex scenes are a little brazen and therefore unbelievable but for the most parts, I felt the characters could be real people. I identified with some of the significant parts because they were true to life.

FINAL THOUGHTS
This film is streaming now on Netflix. It’s a gem in the romantic drama genre. If you’re looking for a film to talk about with your wife/husband/spouse, this is a good one for that. It is an independent small budget film with no movie stars but the performances are solid along with the writing (also written by the director). For fans of the genre(s), though there isn’t much comedy here, I recommend this film.

7/10

Sleepwalk With Me

This started out a pretty great movie. It’s as if they lost steam in the writing and acting 3/4 of the way through. Still, it stands up as a decent drama/romance flick. The comedy is sorely lacking. I really felt for the main character’s girlfriend. I was shocked she stayed with him for 8 years in the story.

Title: Sleepwalk With Me
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Bio
MPAA Rating: R
Year: 2012
Director: Oren Moverman. Known for The Messenger (2009), I’m Not There. (2007) and Love & Mercy (2014).
Top Billed Cast: Mike Birbiglia, Lauren Ambrose
Brief Synopsis: A wannabe stand up comic has to decide if he’s going to marry his girlfriend of 8 years. A running theme throughout is Mike’s sleepwalking diagnosis.
My Word to the Wise: This started out a pretty great movie. It’s as if they lost steam in the writing and acting 3/4 of the way through. Still, it stands up as a decent drama/romance flick. The comedy is sorely lacking. I really felt for the main character’s girlfriend. I was shocked she stayed with him for 8 years in the story.


He’s a deadbeat, marginally funny, stand up comedian. I don’t think any woman would wait that long to be married. I won’t offer any spoilers. It holds your attention and raises questions about relationships. Sleepwalking, I’m afraid, is just not all that interesting. The over reliance on that as a theme made it lose a star. Other than that, the jokes weren’t very funny so that subtracted another. It’s decent though, worth watching. Not a must see though.