Monthly Archives: April 2014

Heaven Is For Real

Movie: Heaven Is For Real

Rating:  3 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:  Todd Burpo (Greg Kinnear) is a pastor in a small Nebraska town.  He has a congregation that likes his down to earth sermons, he’s a volunteer fireman, a garage door repairman, an ardent softball player, and a devoted husband to Sonja (Kelly Reilly) and father to Colton (Connor Corum) and Cassie (Lane Styles).  He is the model of a popular Christian man in an idyllic Midwestern setting.

Bad things happen to good people.  Four year old Colton has a burst appendix, and is rushed to the nearest hospital for treatment.  His life hangs precariously in the balance, but pulls through in what his doctor calls a miraculous recovery.  Over the next few weeks, Colton occasionally refers to his visit to heaven.  At first his father pooh-poohs the comments as the result of an anesthesia induced dream, but a few of the young boy’s remarks give Todd pause.  Colton recounts his experience of floating during the operation, and accurately recounting what his parents were doing.  Then he talks about angels singing to him in heaven, and how they laughed when he requested they sing “We Will Rock You”.  When shown typical artist conceptions of Jesus from books, Colton kept saying, “He doesn’t look like that.  He has blue-green eyes”.  The description of Jesus becomes more startling when Colton mentions marks of the crucifixion.  When he is finally shown a painting of Jesus by Akiane Kramarik, he calmly states, “That’s what he looks like”.  This finally convinces Todd that his son could actually have had a real experience with heaven, as Akiane is a young girl famous for religious visions, and her vision of Jesus has him with blue-green eyes.

What is the truth?  Todd wrestles with the enormity of what may be possible.  A talented cast gives a nuanced performance and show how real people would react to a possible miracle in their midst.  As to whether the movie goer believes in Colton’s story, that may very well depend on their own religious beliefs.  As a Christian themed movie, this is one of the very best.

Actors To Watch:  Greg Kinnear (TV’s “Rake”; “As Good As It Gets”) and Margo Martindale (TV “Justified”; “The Americans”) are top notch performers.  Kelly Reilly also just got the lead to a TV show, “Black Box”.

Post Credit Stuff:  At the end of the film, you get to see pictures of the real life Burpo family.

 

Brick Mansions

Movie:  Brick Mansions

Rating:  1 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   In the not so distant future, the mayor and leaders of Detroit throw in the towel as far as trying to provide services to its worst city district, Brick Mansions, and basically close it off to the general public by putting up a wall and guarding the exit with a military presence.  With a vacuum of leadership, drug kingpin Tremaine (RZA) steps in to rule with a lethal iron fist.  But the mayor hasn’t forgotten Brick Mansions.  He figures if it could conveniently be destroyed, maybe by a suitcase bomb conveniently left for Tremaine to steal, some spiffy upscale urban renewal could take place with plenty of kickback money to be had by city and business leaders.

A few good people still want to live in Brick Mansions, such as Lino (David Belle), who is single-handedly putting a dent in Tremaine’s drug trade.  So Lino’s lady, Lola (Catalina Denis), is kidnapped to put the kibosh on Lino’s good deeds.  Finally, undercover detective Damien (Paul Walker) is dispatched to retrieve the bomb before it goes off and destroys a big chunk of the city.  Stir it up, and violent hijinks ensue.

Alas, there is little plot to this flick; a lot of fighting, shooting and car chase mayhem is added to fill out the movie.  Luc Besson is capable of some good movies, such as Taken, The Professional, and the Transporter films, but this one feels like it was originally destined for straight to DVD.   Nothing original or noteworthy about this flick.

Dialogue Nugget:  Tremaine, referring to Damien and Lino:  “I need to shoot the sheriff and the deputy”.  Yes, a reference to the Eric Clapton song (I Shot The Sheriff).

 

 

Under The Skin

Movie:  Under The Skin

Rating:  1 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:  The first four minutes of this film the screen is literally black, and the audience is wondering if anything is ever going to happen.  Then a motorcycle guy retrieves the body of a young girl from a field, and all of a sudden the body is energized or inhabited by some entity.  Which is okay for us guys, because if we’re being invaded by aliens that look like Scarlett Johansson, that’s fine with us.

Somehow Scarlett (aka the woman since we have no name for her) gets her hands on a van, and she tools around a city in Scotland flirting with young men that she entices into her vehicle.  Once she gets the fellow into a building where he assumes they are about to engage in sex, the young man starts to disrobe (ladies may be interested in seeing the “full monty”).  The woman also disrobes, sometimes completely (guys are mucho grateful), but no sex actually takes place.  Instead the man finds himself slowly walking into a liquid pool and becoming…entrapped?  We have no idea what has become of them, why the woman is doing it, or what it means.  But she keeps luring the poor chaps to an unpleasant fate, even a misfortunate soul who resembles the Elephant Man.

Motorcycle guy makes a few more brief appearances; no clue why.  Is he following the woman?  Is he a colleague?  Who knows.  Near the end of the movie the woman stops talking.  She had been quite the chatterbox, but now she seems traumatized.  She is taken in by a compassionate bloke, she stays in his small flat, and to no one’s surprise attempts to have sex with her.  Alas, this ends badly, and she is off and running again, this time wandering through an isolated forest area.  More bad things happen to her, there is a semi-big plot reveal, and the movie mercifully ends.

Huh?  What the ….:  Pretty much the whole movie you will sit there and think, “WTF”??  This movie tries to be so avant-garde that it goes off the charts, much like those ancient sailing maps where the uncharted seas were labeled “There Be Monsters”.

Dialogue Nuggets:  There is almost no dialogue, at least none that is noteworthy, or even interesting.

 

Draft Day

Movie:  Draft Day

Rating:  3 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:  Sonny Weaver Jr (Kevin Costner) is having a stressful day.  His father, legendary football coach Sonny Weaver, has recently passed away.  His girlfriend and employee, Ali (Jennifer Garner), just told him he is about to be a father.  And in 11 hours Sonny, the GM of the Cleveland Browns, must parlay his team’s #7 draft pick into a “Big Splash” per orders of team owner Anthony Molina (Frank Langella).  That will be when the team must reveal its picks on national TV.  No pressure there….

Sonny gets a call from the Seattle Seahawks GM to see if he wants to make a deal for their #1 pick in the draft.  After some soul searching, Sonny agrees to give up their #1 picks for the next three years to get this year’s #1 pick in the draft.  Now he has a few hours to figure out what to do with his pick.  The overwhelming favorite in the draft is golden boy QB Bo Callahan (Josh Pence).  Cleveland has a competent QB, but will he come back strong after an injury from last season?  Then there is a defensive monster Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman) who probably would have still been available at #7, and the Browns desperately need a defensive stopper, but he won’t make a “splash” if picked.  Cleveland Coach Penn (Dennis Leary) has only one thing to drill into Sonny’s head:  “Draft a running back”!

As the precious hours tick away, Sonny exhorts his staff to research the players he is interested in, and tempers flare under the mounting pressure not to screw up their picks.  In between visits to a closet for private chats with girlfriend Ali (which are always interrupted), fending off his mother and ex-wife, and making frantic phone calls to about 5 GMs around the NFL, Sonny is trying to “Get the team that I want just one time”.

As the TV cameras roll and Cleveland is “on the clock” to make picks, Sonny plays his hand like a three card monte dealer on crack.  It is guaranteed to make your head spin as the movie comes to a climax.  Even people who know nothing about football can enjoy this movie; it is all about the characters, and the level of suspense to find out if Sonny’s hopes turn out to be a boom or bust.

Actors to Watch:  Frank Langella is always a joy to watch.  He is one of a handful of actors who have the gravitas for certain roles.  It was good to see old pro Sam Elliott as Coach Moore, though very briefly.

Dialogue Nuggets:  Ellen Burstyn, Sonny’s Mom exclaimed, “You sold the cow for magic beans”!

Talking about Bo, the star QB:  “He has a website for all the girls he smashed”.

Sonny complaining, “Everyone always gives me grief for firing my father”!

Owner Anthony Molina smugly stated, “I can’t take all the credit, but I will”.