Monthly Archives: July 2015

In Bruges – movie review

In Bruges is a very dark comedy starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as two Irish professional killers. They are hiding out in the Belgian tourist town  Bruges, after committing a contract killing in Dublin where the job went terribly wrong.

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They have been instructed by their gangster boss Henry (excellently played by Ralph Fiennes) to do nothing but wait for his call and keep a low profile. The problem is that Ray (Colin Farrell) has no intention of just sitting around keeping a low profile. He wants to have fun, and basically has about the same amount of intelligence and impulse control as a 14 year old.

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If you can imagine Waiting For Godot with crude humor, sex, drugs and extreme violence, this is it.

Clemence Posy plays Chole, a beautiful Belgian woman who makes a living tricking and robbing tourists. She comes in for a surprise when she mistakes the Irish killers for harmless tourists.

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Jordan Prentice plays Jimmy, an American dwarf actor filming a movie in Bruges. He and Ray end up becoming friends, due mainly to their love of  women and drugs.  Jimmy is a very bitter character, basically hating the roles he is forced to take simply due to his size.

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This movie is quirky and all the actors are excellent. You will find yourself laughing at parts and then thinking “I shouldn’t really be laughing at that.”

  • We give this movie 5 stars. *****

 

All The Light We Cannot See – book review

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is such a beautifully written novel that I was sad when it ended. It is an intimate story that follows the stories of a number of people in France and Germany whose lives are intertwined and impacted by World War II. Many war stories focus on strong soldiers and epic battles. However, this novel is about those who are small and weak and young.

One main character  is a young blind French girl named Marie-Laure who lives in Paris with her widower father. Marie-Laure’s father works at a museum whose greatest treasure is a fabled diamond named The Sea Of Flames. Legend is that whoever possesses this jewel will be immortal, but that all the people that  person loves will meet tragic ends.

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Marie-Doerr is only 12 when World War II begins, and it becomes obvious that the Germans will soon take Paris and steal anything of value.  To save The Sea Of Flames, the museum entrusts it to Marie-Laurie’s father, and the two of them flee Paris.  This would be frightful and traumatic for any child, but is many times more so for a blind girl.

The title All The Light We Cannot See has a double meaning. In one sense, it refers to the fact that the blind girl must imagine the light of the world and create images in her mind. On a deeper level, the title refers to the inner light of a person’s soul and the moral  strength that people  can possess even when they may be physically weak. The characters in the book are people who possess such an inner light. It is a light that the hate-filled messages of the Nazi regime cannot extinguish.

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One of the other main characters is a German boy named Werner who is also 12 when the war begins. He lives in an orphanage and is a near genius for working with radios, which was a new technology at the time. Despite being tiny and thin, his skill gets him accepted into an elite training academy. He is thrilled that he will be learning  at such a prestigious school. However, he soon learns that the main goal of the school is to craft all the boys into good Nazi killing machines rather than in honing their scientific skills.

I will not give away much more of the plot other than to say it is complex and magnificent. Too often, war stories are written with people as stereotypes. In All The Light We Cannot See, the people are real.  You cannot but help ask yourself, “what would I have done in that situation?”

All The Light We Cannot See won a Pulitzer Prize, and we highly recommend it.

Alicia von Rittberg’s New Movie

Alicia von Rittberg will be starring in Our Kind of Traitor which is scheduled to be released soon. This is a thriller based on the best selling novel by John le Carre. She will play the daughter of a powerful Russian mobster. Alicia, of course, is the beautiful German actress who had such a key part in the movie Fury.

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Alicia von Rittberg will also be beginning work on the film adaptation of the controversial book A Woman in Berlin. This book is a true story of the mass rapes committed by Soviet soldiers when they took over Berlin in World War II. When this book appeared after the war, it was so shocking and so shameful to both Germany and the Soviet Union, that the woman who wrote it had to publish it anonymously.

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In this movie, Alicia von Rittberg will have the lead role as a young German woman whose only thought is how to survive each day. In one of the most memorable lines, the main character looks back and states that ,” It is hard to believe that there was a time in my life when all I thought about every second of every day was how to stay warm and how to get food.”

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It is rumored that Alicia von Rittberg has been starving herself for this role to look more realistic for the part. Th movie studio wanted to use special effects, but Alicia insisted on the harder method, to prove to the world that she is indeed a serious actress.

 

Good Movies with Bad Endings

You expect a bad movie to have a bad ending. What is really frustrating is when a good movie is ruined in the last 5 minutes by a terrible ending. Sometimes the endings are so bad they actually make you angry. Below are 3  movies that could have been great with just slightly different endings. Spoiler alert – We will be giving away the endings of these movies.

The Ninth Gate – Johnny Depp plays a rare book merchant who makes an extraordinary find. There is an ancient  manuscript which was supposedly written by the Devil himself. At first, Johnny is only interested in the monetary value of such a book. However, as the plot progresses, he begins to believe in the power of the book

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Supposedly,  if you can collect all the right pieces and read them out loud, you can open up the Ninth Gate to Hell and walk through it. Why exactly anyone would want to do this is never made clear. That point aside, this movie is very exciting. It has mystery, suspense, and even a beautiful woman with supernatural powers.

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However, the ending will leave you shouting at the screen. After many long and dangerous adventures, Johnny Depp successfully collects all the parts of the book. He then arranges them in the correct order and begins to read the incantations.  This is the moment the whole film had been building to. Will the Ninth Gate to Hell really open? If it does, what will Hell look like?  We never find out.

The movie just stops. The credits roll and that’s it. It was as if the movie company ran out of money on the film and had to shut down production. There is no use sitting through all the credits either. There is no hidden scene after the credits. We never get to see what happens when Johnny Depp reads the book.

The Devil Wears Prada – Anne Hathaway plays Andy, the young innocent woman who gets a job as an assistant to Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) at the fashion magazine Runway. This movie is terrific.  Runway Magazine, of course, is really Vogue, and Miranda Priestly is actually Anna Wintour the dictator of Vogue.

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Meryl Streep gives an amazing performance as a woman who is willing to do whatever it takes to retain the top position in the cutthroat world of high fashion. Anne Hathaway starts out knowing nothing about the business, and finds the whole Fashion scene rather silly. As the film progresses, however, she comes see the true excitement that draws so many to that world. She looks more and more beautiful as she learns the secrets of how to dress perfectly.

It turns out that Andy  has a natural aptitude for the business and eventually becomes the indispensable “right hand woman” for Miranda.

Then we come to the end of the movie. After having reached the top, Andy simply quits the job and walks away. It is supposed to be one of those morality tale endings.  She does not want to have to make the moral compromises it takes to stay at the top of the fashion world.

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It is a ridiculous ending. We are supposed to believe that this young woman quits a job where she meets famous people, attends amazingly lavish parties,  goes to fashion shows in Paris, and gets one-of-a-kind dresses for free. Yes, she drops this so she can spend more time with her boyfriend who is a short order cook in Brooklyn.

It simply makes no sense. To make it worse, the final scene shows Anne Hathaway in a coffee shop, wearing frumpy clothing and obviously about 20 pounds heavier than when she was at Runway Magazine. In the coffee shop she is looking very happy.  Apparently the makers of this movie really believe the old adage, “fat and happy.”

Despite the ending, this film is still worth seeing. It is one of the best performance Meryl Streep has ever given. She plays a woman who will never leave this exciting and glamorous word willingly. In the final scene when Anne Hathaway talks about walking away from the job; Meryl Streep answers, “Don’t be ridiculous. Everyone wants to be us.”

Wall Street: Money never Sleeps – Most people will  simply refer to this movie as Wall Street 2, although that is not the title. This is the long awaited sequel to the 1987 blockbuster movie Wall Street, which ended with the business tycoon Gordon Gekko going to prison for insider trading.

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Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas)  is now out of prison and is a changed man. The movie was made in 2010, but the film is supposed to take place just before the Great Recession of 2008.  Gekko is no longer bold and adventurous. He is meek and tries to warn people about the excesses of the banks. He is no longer allowed to trade securities in the United States, and even if he could he has no money with which to do so.

The twist is that his new personality is all a ruse. He is still the same son of a bitch, money driven person who went into prison. He steals the large trust fund from his own daughter, and moves to England. There he is legally allowed to trade securities. He has not lost his touch, and makes many millions. He returns to wearing hand-tailored suits and even changes his hair to the slicked-back style that he was famous for the in the first movie, when he gave his “greed is good” speech.

The movie would have been terrific if it had stopped there. It even had the perfect ending line. After making his millions in the UK and wearing his new suit, Gordon Gekko looks straight at the camera and states “I’m back!”.

 

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However, the makers of the movie decided instead to end it with a sappy, feel good morality theme. Apparently they thought you just can’t have the bad guy win. So in the last five minutes of the movie they change this classic bad guy into a good guy. He takes his millions and wires it  to a project for his daughter. Not only does the money go back to his daughter, it gets invested in a Cold Fusion research facility, which will magically solve the environmental problems caused by fossil fuel.

This is an idiotic  ending. We have seen Gordon Gekko through two entire movies and everything he does is motivated by greed and money for himself. You can’t just change him into a caring philanthropist is the last 5 minutes of the sequel.  Gordon Gekko cares only about himself, and that is what has made him such an iconic American figure.

The ironic part is that anyone who had read anything about cold fusion knows it does not work. Everyone who ever invested money in it lost 100% of their investment. The Gordon Gekko we love to hate  would never make such a stupid mistake.

 

 

 

The Last Four Days of Paddy Buckley -book review

The Last Four Days of Paddy Buckley by Jeremy Massey  is about a Dublin undertaker whose life is suddenly turned upside down by a strange series of events. Paddy Buckley is a middle-aged widower, who leads a routine existence dealing with death in Ireland.

He is a good decent man, who sees his job as a solemn duty to provide a dignified farewell to the deceased, while at the same time providing comfort to the surviving relatives. Paddy’s life is a series of repeated rituals consisting of embalming, funeral masses and burials.

Then one late night, driving home  in the rain, Paddy hits and kills a pedestrian who steps into the road. Of course, Paddy stops and is about to call the police until he sees who the man is. The man Paddy has killed is none other than the brother of Vincent Cullen, the most notorious and violent gangster in all of Ireland.

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Even though it was an accident, Paddy knows that Vincent Cullen will surely murder the man who killed his brother. Paddy takes off in his car, leaving the body behind.

Paddy’s predicament becomes worse when a few days later Vincent Cullen chooses Paddy’s funeral parlor to arrange the elaborate services for his brother. For some reason, Vincent takes an immediate liking to Paddy. Vincent brings Paddy into his inner circle, even inviting him home and treating him as a new best friend. Is this a genuine friendship, or is the gangster just toying with Paddy prior to taking revenge?

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The Last Four Days of Paddy Buckley was written by Jeremy Massey, who himself is a third generation undertaker from Dublin. In addition to having a great main plot, the book provides a behind the scenes peek into the hidden world of undertakers. We find out details like what the “ashes” of the deceased are really composed of,  and the tricks for quickly dressing a dead body. There is even a lesson on what to do if an undertaker loses the body.

This is a fun book to read. After you have finished it you won’t look at your local funeral parlor the same way again. You may find yourself passing the mortuary in town and wondering, “What’s really going on in there?”

 

The Land of Lost Girls

Leah looked at her naked body in the full length mirror and smiled. For the first time in months Leah felt at peace. She had gone from “fat” to “chubby” to “svelte.” All her friends had noticed. Finally she was in control. The way she had mastered her own body had given her something to be in charge of. Something that she controlled. Not her parents, not her teachers, not the boys who tried to paw her at school functions.  Leah was finally in control of her life.

Leah’s greatest joy came when she stopped menstruating.   She felt pure. It was proof that she was superior to those sluts at school who were always taking about the disgusting acts they had performed over the weekend. She was above all that now. Her sacrifices had moved her to a new level of existence.

Of course,  the old people were tying to take all that away from her. Mrs. Ryan, the Phys Ed teacher had been the first to meddle. Leah had been forced to listen to a lecture by Mrs. Ryan about Anorexia Nervosa. Why couldn’t that fat old cow just leave her alone?

Then Mrs. Ryan had done something even worse. She had called Leah’s parents to discuss the “situation.” That’s how Leah ended up at Overlook Hospital sitting here discussing intimate details of her body with Dr. Telesco. The only good part was that Dr. Telesco was really hot. He was tall and thin with a gorgeous face and a  body like a marathon runner.  He also had a really soothing voice.

“So Leah,” began Dr. Telesco. “Now that the examination is done, would you like your parents to come in while we discuss the case?”

“God no!” said Leah in a shocked tone. “Besides, Mom is in California on a big case for at least a month. The only reason Dad is here is that the stock market is closed today.”

“O.K.,” said Dr. Telesco with a smile. “Your rapid weight loss is not good for your health. You have gone far below what is normal for your height. The X-Rays show that this is causing a loss of bone mass. In addition, your body has trouble simply maintaining normal temperature.  I notice you are wearing a sweater even though it is quite warm out today.”

“I just like the way this outfit looks,” answered Leah defensively.

Dr. Telesco leaned forward and said gently, “Leah you are putting your life at risk. You are literally starving yourself to death. I would like to put you on a program to help you get back to a normal weight. You should be seeing a Psychiatrist to help you through this. Your parents will need to be involved.”

Leah began to shake and cry. This is exactly what she was afraid of.  They were going to try to control her. They were going to force her to become fat and ugly. She would develop big cow breasts like the other sluts. That disgusting monthly “thing” would return.

In the end, however, Leah had no choice. She either had to agree to see a psychiatrist  as an outpatient, or her parents could have her involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.

So one week later Leah was back at Overlook taking to a psychiatrist named Dr. Grundy. He looked like he had not shaved in a few days, and his suit was very wrinkled. In her own mind,  Leah immediately made up the nickname “The Grunge” for him.

The first thing The Grunge did was to hand Leah a picture of a naked woman sitting on a rock by a rushing river.

“Leah, describe to me in as much detail as possible, exactly what you think is happening in this picture.”

This was a standard test Dr. Grundy had used for several years, with varying degrees of success. It was designed to explore the patient’s attitude toward, body-image, sex and life in general. Although he had been a psychiatrist for 15 years, he had never encountered a response as remarkable or as detailed as Leah’s.

Leah held the picture in her hands and stared it it intently for several minutes. Then she began to describe what she saw in the photo.

“Her name is Lilith. She is trying to get the courage to jump into the water. She wants to jump, but the water looks dangerous and she is afraid. She has ripped off all her clothing so that it will not drag her down when she jumps into the water, but now she is too scared to jump.”

“What do you think of Lilith’s body?” asked Dr. Grundy. “Do you think she is pretty?”

“She’s fat,” answered Leah. “She is upset about being so fat.”

“Most men would call her beautiful.”

“Most men are pigs,” responded Leah. “Look at the size of her ass. That’s all men want. Big tits and a big ass. Something to grab on to while they do disgusting things.”

“Have any men done disgusting things to you?” asked Dr. Grundy gently.

“NO WAY!” shouted Leah. “My tits are too small and I have no ass at all! I like it that way! I am not like those sluts at school!”

Dr. Grundy was concerned that Leah was getting agitated and he was afraid she might storm out of the session. He decided to switch the topic slightly. “Let’s get back to the picture,” he said soothingly. “What will happen to Lilith if she does jump into the water?”

Leah immediately calmed down. She looked up the picture and smiled. “When Lilith jumps into the water, the current will rush her down and over a high waterfall.  She is scared when she goes over the falls, but she does not get smashed on  the rocks.  After the waterfall, the river becomes calm and she floats gently downstream for a very very long time. Finally she comes to the shores of the Land Of Lost Girls.  Other girls come to the riverside and greet her with smiles. They dry her off and give her a long beautiful pure white robe to wear.  They brush her hair and give her fruit to eat and wine to drink.”

“What happens in the Land of Lost Girls?” asked Dr. Grundy.

“Nothing. That’s the point,” answered Leah. “It’s like in Peter Pan, but for girls. They stay there forever and don’t age. It’s actually better than Peter Pan, since there are no pirates, or alligators or weapons.”

“Or males?” asked Dr. Grundy.

“Of course not,” said Leah. “No annoying little boys. No dirty old men. No aggressive over-sexed young men.  Just the beautiful girls.”

The time for the session was over, although Dr. Grundy knew they were only scratching the surface.

As Leah got up to leave she picked up the picture of the naked woman and asked, “Can I take this with me?”

“Of course you can take the picture Leah.”

“May I have an envelope to put it in? I don’t want my dad to get the wrong idea.”

Dr. Grundy found a large manila envelope in his desk and gave it Leah. She slipped the photo of the naked woman into the envelope, and then clutched onto it, like the envelope contained a bar of gold. Then Leah meekly said goodby and left the office.

Dr. Grundy spent the next 45 minutes writing notes about the session. He was very worried about Leah. He looked down at his notes:

Leah’s identification of a healthy young woman as “fat” is a part of Leah’s distorted image of the female body. Leah has possibly been sexually abused, perhaps at an age so early she does not consciously remember it. The desire to jump into the water and go over the waterfall may indicate potential suicidal tendencies. The Land Of Lost Girls fantasy is an obvious desire to avoid sexual maturation”

That night Dr. Grundy and his wife celebrated their 17th anniversary at La Papillon. The food was exquisite  but he hardly spoke at all. “What’s wrong John?” asked Celeste.

“I’m sorry. I was just thinking about all the young lives that have gone over the waterfall through the decades and ended up in the Land of Lost Girls.  Maybe this time I can catch one before she goes over the waterfall.  Maybe I can pull her back.”

Celeste smiled at her husband and did not ask what he meant. She had been married to John for long enough to know  that it had something confidential  to do with a patient. She wished that people who complained about how much psychiatrists earned could see the toll that the work took on them.

Just 10 miles away, Leah was at home alone, also having dinner. Her mother was still on the case in California.  Her father was working late in the City. He had called and said something about the Greek Euro crisis and how he had to work up a strategy for how it would impact his firm’s portfolio.  Leah pretended she understood what he was talking about.

“Have a good dinner honey.”

“I will Daddy,” said Leah as she hung up the phone.

Leah loved having dinner alone. No one to criticize or monitor her.  She looked at her dinner plate and was very satisfied with it. On the plate were a small wedge of Water Mellon, a tiny cube of cheese, three cashews and a stick of celery.  There was also a very large glass of expensive Chardonnay.

As Leah slowly ate her dinner and drank the wine, she looked at the picture of Lilith naked by the water. Leah had placed the picture on the table next to her dinner plate.

“Make the jump Lilith”, whispered Leah. “Make the jump and I will join you soon. Very soon.”