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?”