‘The November Man’ ~ The Skinny

Peter Devereaux, The November Man  (Pierce Brosnan)

Peter Devereaux, The November Man (Pierce Brosnan)

In the spirited vernacular on the street, “alright now Pierce Brosnan! Go’on with yo’ bad self! You wear it well–age ‘n all!” Brosnan ably carries the cinematic load (yes, load) as Peter Devereaux, a retired CIA agent, in Roger Donaldson’s espionage thriller The November Man. Devereaux is pulled out of retirement by a “friend” Hanley (Bill Smitrovich) who makes known to Devereaux that his former lover, Natalia (Mediha Musliovic), is in trouble and asks for him to come to Belgrade and help her out.

Devereaux and Alice (Olga Kurylenko)

Set in Russia and Romania, the movie is a rough and tumble spy-thriller in a creaky used European vehicle full of spies, car chases, shoot-outs, a neo-cold war, murder, rape, and brutal assassins. Luke Bracey plays Mason, Devereaux’s protégé, and his performance barely moves beyond surfer-dude-on-vacation–he is out of his league! It is as if he signed on for a game of paint-ball on a putt-putt golf course. Ridiculous, yes? His motivation to ‘turn’ on his mentor is so weak that it goes to the ‘what for?’ or the ‘really?’

Natalia (Mediha Musliovic)

Natalia (Mediha Musliovic)

The script written by Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek, certainly needed a second glance from an editor. Of course, Hollywood just had to go for the May-December pairing of Devereaux with Alice (Olga Kurylenko), the girl–oh, excuse me, the young woman who has the information that could get her killed. Tch. So unnecessary, especially since he and Natalia were a perfect fit! While I’m at it, what took so long to relay to the audience why Devereaux is called the ‘November Man’?

Mason (Luke Bracey)

While I’m still at it, see the visual on the right with Mason crashing through the door? Sexy, huh? He’s there to save Devereaux’s daughter, Lucy (Tara Jevrosimovic). Well, remember John Shaft’s (Richard Roundtree) crash through the window to save Bumpy Johnson’s daughter? Same action only Shaft did it better–way better! Yes, I’m talking about Shaft! (I could not help myself!)

If you can wait for The November Man to come out on DVD or is available for streaming. If you are a Pierce Brosnan fan, go to the theater. He’s worth the time and the money.

That’s the Skinny!

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Magic in the Moonlight @ The Ross

Stanley (Colin Firth) and Sophie (Emma Stone)

Stanley (Colin Firth) and Sophie (Emma Stone)

Whether or not we want to admit it, fall is releasing its slumber. The summer is nearing its end no matter how warm it may feel outside. Teachers have made their lesson plans. The children are in school; students are preparing the dorm rooms, and parents either are lamenting yet another absence of their young adult from the fold or are rejoicing over one more year of peace and tranquility. Whatever the emotion or event, before fall fully awakens and pokes winter in the eye, celebrate this annual change in seasons with a trip to The Ross to see Magic in the Moonlight directed by none other than Woody Allen. It’s a sweet heart of a film, sprinkled with the confection of fine acting by Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Marcia Gay Harden, and Simon McBurney.

Howard (Simon McBurney), Aunt Vanessa (Eileen Atkins) and Stanley (Colin Firth)

Howard (Simon McBurney), Aunt Vanessa (Eileen Atkins) and Stanley (Colin Firth)

Set in the gay 1920s, Firth plays Stanley Crawford, a very bah-humbug Englishman, who parlays a persona as a celebrated Chinese magician named Wei Ling Soo. His friend, Howard Burkan (played by the lovable Simon McBurney), invites him to the fabulous Côte d’Azur mansion owned by the Catledge family. His mission: to expose Sophie as a charlatan. Played by Emma Stone, Sophie is an American who claims to be clairvoyant and that she can have conversations with the deceased. Stanley jumps at the chance given that he has no tolerance for that sort of poppycock, and thus, has made a reputation of being the most famous debunker of spiritualists. Upon his arrival, we meet Aunt Vanessa, played by the beloved English actress Eileen Atkins of Upstairs, Downstairs fame, as well as members of the Catledge family. What follows is a series of provocative conversations and meditations on evidence and proof vs. feelings and intuition between Stanley and Sophie. There is an amusing séance whereby Grace Catledge (played by Jacki Weaver) finds out if her husband Henry answers from over yonder if he was faithful to her over the entire course of their marriage. Hamish Linklater is superb as Brice, Sophie’s ukulele playing star-struck fiancé. Brice is rich, but after he sings a few bars of a song, you realize that’s just about all there is to him.

Visual 9

Woody Allen’s signature pulses throughout as the writer-director features a thickset of conversations —an art that is practically going the way of texting and checking facebook posts while in the company of others. Cinematographer Darius Khondji, who photographed Michael Haneke’s Amour, fine tunes the story with fabulous tight spaces and the glorious wide-open outdoors of the Cote d’Azur seen from a 1925 Alfa Romeo driven by Stanley. The interiors are made scrumptious by set designer Jille Azis. Sonia Grande’s costume designs are ethereal with characters dressed up in flapper glory with linens, cottons, furs, sequined headbands, and gowns. These film elements cast their own spell, and seduce you into what feels like Sunday twilight in a hammock.

But there is no ‘poof’ in the magic, and Stanley’s and Sophie’s interactions come off as this old curmudgeon trying to catch a child in a lie. Allen, however, settles on the usual romantic comedy cliché, and this turn in the end really undermined the story.

Mrs. Baker (Marcia Gay Harden) and Grace (Emma Stone) arrive at the mansion

Mrs. Baker (Marcia Gay Harden) and Grace (Emma Stone) arrive at the mansion

Still, viewing Magic in the Moonlight is worth closing out and welcoming the inevitable: the change in seasons, the empty nest, back-to-school, the start/end of romance, the completion of a project; the end of one; happiness, joy, a new job …

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Magic in the Moonlight plays through September 4 at the Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

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Boyhood @ The Ross

Mason (Ellar Coltraine)

Mason (Ellar Coltraine)

Richard Linklater’s Boyhood charts the days in the life of a family as they manage a kaleidosope of life’s daily dramas. In 2002, he cast Patricia Arquette as Mom, Ethan Hawke as Dad, Ellar Coltrane as Mason, and Lorelei Linklater as Samantha, and in 2013 completed the film with the same cast. That’s right. Mason, at 6 years old in 2002 along with his big sister Samantha grow up right before our very eyes in this award-winning film. Set in Houston, Texas, for 2 hours and 45 minutes we are taken on the usual suspects of all things family drama, outings, and rituals: camping trips and s’mores; birthdays; bullying; marriages and divorces—3 to be exact—domestic violence, adolescent angst to young adulthood, first loves, sibling rivalry, then college.

Mom (Patricia Arquette)

Mom (Patricia Arquette)

All characters are well-drawn, and Arquette and Hawke carefully handle their parts as they serve as the parental bookends to the story. Sprinkled throughout the narrative are the trappings of technology—cell phones, Gameboys, Gamecubes, The Wii, among others, and Linklater implements each as a skilled juggler in a park. By the time Mason has turned 18, Linklater has given the audience strong doses of dramatic elements of life that all of us have experienced. In other words, we can identify with each minute as the narrative unfolds.

Yes, Boyhood is pleasant!
It is appealing!
It is delightful! …

And these descriptions are what had me on edge the entire time.

Dad (Ethan Hawke) with Mason and Samantha (Lorelei Linklater)

Dad (Ethan Hawke) with Mason and Samantha (Lorelei Linklater)

Boyhood is Linklater’s utopian fantasy that suggest this is what life is like without multi-ethnic interactions and all of the attendant political conundrums. What’s the political term—oh—Boyhood is his vision of a post-racial community? This family, throughout the story, is sheltered from inter-racial interaction, except for a member of Mom’s social gathering, an African American woman who makes a play for an 18 year old Mason at his graduation party. Stereotype, yes, and we are not to notice it because it comes in the final moments of the film; and it is supposed to be … funny. But it is not.

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Boyhood plays through September 4 at the Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

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I, Origins @ The Ross

Sofi's Eyes (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey)

Sofi’s Eyes (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey)

Michael Pitt commendably plays Dr. Ian Gray, a brooding molecular biologist who researches the eye; more specific the iris and its one-of-a-kind design. He is so mesmerized by the eye, that he photographs those of his family and random people on the street. Science proves that no two persons have the same eye until Karen (Brit Marling), his eager but introspective research assistant, arrives and when he meets and photographs the eyes of Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) his irritating and childlike new-age spiritual love interest.

Ian (Michael Pitt) and Karen (Brit Marling) discuss a theory

Ian (Michael Pitt) and Karen (Brit Marling) discuss a theory

Karen and Sofi are like a pair of eyes, each viewing life in different shades and tones. Sofi sees the world through her own take on spirituality; this view shakes up Ian’s world … almost causing an identity crisis. In New York, they are all over each other in the hustle and bustle of the city so much that they get carried away into the courthouse intent on marrying. But they have to wait 24 hours. At that time, Karen interrupts with a scientific discovery, and in the lab, Karen meets Sofi, and each woman rightly sizes the other up. The marriage between the spiritual (Sofi) and the scientific (Ian) does not happen as tragedy strikes Sofi. Karen and Ian or “science and science” marry and start a family. It is a well-delivered pairing, and one that provides the shift from romance to a relationship of scientific inquiry: what if another person has the same set of eyes someone where out there? Is it possible? Ian travels to New Delhi, India to uncover the truth. What he finds will warm your heart.

Ian (Pitt) and Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) on their first date

Ian (Pitt) and Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) on their first date

Cahill’s I, Origins is an interesting tale, but Astrid Berges-Frisbey’s appearance is like hearing nails on a chalkboard; it was nice when she was offscreen. Brit Marling’s performance is like a spa treatment on a balmy Saturday morning as she inhabits a character who is grounded in her own confidence. The feeling of the movie, itself? Well, think of pouring molasses over a biscuit as you sit in an outside café in the winter … yes! It’s that slow!

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I, Origins plays through August 14 at The Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

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In the meantime, Catch a film … Share the Popcorn … Feed Your Soul!

‘Hercules’ ~ The Skinny

Megara (Irina Shayk) looks on as Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) returns home from battle

Megara (Irina Shayk) looks on as Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) returns home from battle


dir. Brett Ratner

Myth is strong because in its more benevolent sense, it gives communities some idea of beginnings and meanings to things, people, and places not easily understood. Myth is the stuff that legends are made of. Mythmaking, however, is powerful and, depending on who’s telling it, this part of storytelling can inspire fear, awe, and wonder in its listeners.

Tydeus (Aksel Hennie)

Tydeus (Aksel Hennie)

We all know the story or the myth of Hercules, the strongest man in the ancient Greco-Roman world who, in the words of my mother, “didn’t let any grass grow under his feet.” Yes, the demi-god made many adventures and completed his 12 labors before he embraced his own myth. Director Brett Ratner with screenwriters Ryan Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos brings this weathered hero to the screen in his adaptation of Steve Moore’s Radical Comics mini-series.

Hercules & Crew

Hercules & Crew

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson admirably interprets the gigantic legend, and earns respect as he casts aside his own legend as “The Rock” to give Hercules room to breathe. He looks good—real good—yet Johnson plays his muscular body to Hercules not to “The Rock”. Johnson’s Hercules is compassionate, loyal, and, even more commendable, aware that all of his heroic feats in battle could not be accomplished without his crew, among them Amphiarus (Ian McShane Deadwood), Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), a mute warrior, and Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), the uber-skilled archer of Greek Myth. The keeper of the stories of Hercules is his nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), who as a young man comes of age fighting with his uncle.

Atalanta, Archer extraordinaire (Ingrid Bolso Berdal)

Atalanta, Archer extraordinaire (Ingrid Bolso Berdal)

Hercules & Crew invigorate in exhibitions of ride-or-die loyalty in battle scenes that are worth the price of the ticket.

The screenplay is credible, and the plot twists not far-fetched as comments on power and how it is brokered to retain kingdoms are delivered plausibly by King Eurystheus (Joseph Fiennes) and Lord Cotys (John Hurt).

And that’s The Skinny!

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