My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

“Pull my neck back, I’ll pull yours.” -relatives posing for a photo

Sequels are rarely good and this one isn’t good at all. Written by comic, Nia Vardalos, it shows a definite need for a writing partner or team. It’s a redo of the gags from the first movie with no real “new” message for the audience. I was shocked to see this film was produced by Tom Hanks. I suppose he thought it would make him money based on the first film in the franchise. I wonder if he visited the set and offerred his advice to the director.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016)
Cast
Nia Vardalos

as Toula

John Corbett

as Ian

Michael Constantine

as Gus

Directed by
Kirk Jones
Written by
Nia Vardalos
Other Info

Comedy, Romance
Rated PG-13
94 min

The best part of a good date movie is one that makes your wife or girlfriend laugh. There is nothing more satisfying on a movie date than hearing her laugh out loud. There were just a few ties in this film I heard my wife laugh: so there you go. In the first movie, the Greek father showed how Windex was a cure for everything but even Windex can’t save this long movie.

It’s about another wedding but this time it’s her parents. They find out the wedding was never fully sealed since the priest was not fully ordained, or something like that. There are a lot of significant particulars in this movie that I just didn’t care about. The script goes all over the place and when it seems it’s too far afield, they just crack a joke from the first move assuming that will save the scene. It doesn’t.

I never walk out on a movie but when the old mother and father were planning their wedding it really was like fingernails scratching down a chalkboard: irritating. There were a few gags here and there that worked but overall it was a mediocre comedy moving at a snails pace. The angle of having the parents remarry could have been expanded thus making the movie better. Unfortunately the directors were content to show that Greek women do best married with children. It’s also shown that Greek men rely on their wives for too much and nothing really changes even now in modern times. There were a few laughs and it was a light-hearted movie. That only took me as far as to give it 2 stars though. I wouldn’t recommend this film unless you are just in love with the actors. It lacks the charm of the first film in the franchise.

Spring

Small budget films achieve suspense and horror through little or no financial means. That’s one reason I love watching them. “Spring” makes the grade as a love story with a spoonful of creepy … Make that two.

Spring is a 2014 American romantic science fiction horror film directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead.[ The film stars Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker. Wikipedia

I’m in the zone of avoiding spoilers at all costs today. For that reason, this is a short review. Nothing in the film is interesting except the parts that would be spoiled. The girl is well cast, the guy is meh. Oh yes, and those spoilers we won’t mention. It takes place in beautiful Italy, mostly in the streets where slithering things can hide. It’s a romance/horror. Don’t let me spoil anything more for you. I recommend this film.

Cactus Flower

As you look into the history and legacy of this film, you see it’s undeniable influence on motion pictures. It’s very well written and the acting is superb.
Title: Cactus Flower
Number of times I’ve seen it: 1
Genre: Comedy, Romance
MPAA Rating: M
Year: 1969
Director: Gene Saks, known for “The Odd Couple”
Top Billed Cast: Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman, Goldie Hawn
Brief Synopsis: A dysfunctional romance gives way to an unexpected love affair for the couple with other people.

Goldie Hawn looks to be about 20 years old. Walter Matthau’s character ought to be slapped for having an affair with her. Of course, I’m joking. The characters weave together in this film like mixing paints, The ending is unexpected, somewhat, my wife saw it coming. If they had more romantic comedies like these, I think there’d be more happy couples in the world. I highly recommend this one 100% just like the critics at Rotten Tomatoes do.

Nina Forever

“I’m so sorry.” Rob

I think viewers will find there isn’t much more that Rob can say. His girlfriend has come back from the dead to haunt him and his new love interest every time they have sex.

Nina Forever (2015)
Cast
Fiona O’Shaughnessy

as Nina

Abigail Hardingham

as Holly

Cian Barry

as Rob

Directed by
Ben Blaine
Chris Blaine

Written by
Ben Blaine
Chris Blaine

Other Info

Comedy, Horror, Romance
Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, bloody images, and language
1h 38min

The film is a surprising triumph as a horror movie. I didn’t detect much romance. The black humor is such that we’ve never seen but you find remnants of it in “American Werewolf in London,” “Reanimator” and other campy horror extant. There is a lot of nudity but it’s hard to find it sexual given the subject matter. I kept asking myself, “What is really being said here?”

For me it worked on one level as that nagging depression one feels after a breakup or even after a romantic lover has died. Thankfully for me, I haven’t had to experience the latter. Rob has. He even unsuccessfully tries to commit suicide to escape his sadness. Nine is never going to let him forget her, or so it seems.

I like the tone of this film, both somber and scary with a bit of sarcastic humor thrown in. It’s blood along with sexual content is woven into a really great horror movie. I kept wondering what would happen next. For me that’s the sign of a great “any genre” movie. This one didn’t make me jump out of my seat but I liked being out of control, watching how far the movie would venture out beyond what we’ve seen before. There is a twist I didn’t see coming, nothing earth shattering but I applaud the writers for it.

I’ll look for more for this directing duo in the future. I did feel it got a little repetitive toward the final 1/4 of the film. We’d see the events go in a circle enough and it could have ended about 2-40 minutes earlier ad I would have been content. I think they fell victim to thinking their quirky idea was so innovative it would carry a movie of 1h 38min. For me, I wanted another smaller idea to break things up. Unfortunately, it dragged toward the end for me so it lost a star. For horror fans, this is a MUST SEE! I recommend.

Two Lovers and a Bear (2016)

Enter Hemingway, Melville, London … you will like what’s being served at this table. We’ve heard of nature being our indifferent enemy but what to do when that enemy is our own nature. We have not yet begun that process in film and literature, but it’s here in this film … along with a few others through the years.

Two Lovers and a Bear (2016)
R | 1h 36min | Drama, Romance | 16 December 2016 (USA)

Set in a small town near the North Pole where roads lead to nowhere, the story follows Roman (DeHaan) and Lucy (Maslany), two burning souls who come together to make a leap for life and inner peace.
Director: Kim Nguyen
Writer: Kim Nguyen
Stars: Dane DeHaan, Tatiana Maslany, Gordon Pinsent

I almost always love the film when the director also wrote the film. In this case it is Kim Nguyen doing both artistic roles. My hat goes off to him, and I assume he wears a hat also because like me, he is shaved bald. (Gotta love the brother!). I don’t know much about him other than he is known for this and two other films and he is a Canadian: War Witch (2012), Two Lovers and a Bear (2016) and The Marsh (2002). I would put stock in him because this film is something quite different than we are used to seeing. Human v Nature/Human v Self. It’s a gritty psychological drama and God forbid IMDB plot keywords would let us toil in ignorance of these features:

“Plot Keywords: sex on table | sex scene | topless female nudity | female nudity”

Yes, Orphan Black star, Tatiana Maslany, bares her breasts. That’s the easy part of nature no one is too worried about.

All these facts plus the plot basically is two lovers at the North Pole in a barely functioning town. Why they are there is not explicitly mentioned, at least not as much as the breasts are displayed. 😉 There is something about an abusive father in her past and he … likes the drink and he likes the hard drink. Sometimes you gotta just go “right now.” Other times maybe your demons are better dealt with by a heater. This couple is fraught with demons and they decide it’s time to go into the snow, into the storm but not without the help of a very helpful? bear. Dane DeHaan seems to like him. BTW DeHaan is there and does a good job as such. Not much more is needed from the, I wonder if he even likes the White Stripes.

This is no family movie. It’s also not a sweet romance, unless you think of Moby Dick as romantic. Having said that, there is a lot to think about romance here, maybe how “not” to support a lover with baggage. For a gritty tale of love? turmoil and t*** on a table, I do recommend.

9/10

Streaming on Amazon video for $3.99

At time of publishing, July 2017, this film is streaming on Netflix.

Silver Linings Playbook

A romantic comedy about a form of bipolar that doesn’t exist telling an offbeat story that could never really happen with characters that are not realistic. Despite all that, it’s still an entertaining 2 hours.

In Silver Linings Playbook Bradley Cooper plays a manic bipolar who is fixated on getting back with his wife who has cheated on him and secured a restraining order. Meanwhile, Jennifer Lawrence plays an admirer with issues of her own. There is some trouble here, the movie starts off clearly being about bipolar and metal illness and later waters all that psychology study down making it like a low grade Hangover or other romantic film Bradley Cooper has starred in. I was hoping for a more realistic portrayal of mental illness. I don’t know why, Hollywood is never good at that. Maybe it shouldn’t be expected to be. It was still highly entertaining as a romantic comedy.

The film was Directed by David O. Russell known for The Fighter. I liked this film because it portrayed people in an unflattering state, as they are. Many times movies try to sugar coat families and individuals to make them seem superhuman. I don’t think this really helps humanity. This movie starts out portraying bipolar disorder in a believable and textbook way but later veers from the realistic path. I think if they would have made this a movie about bipolar disorder it would have not had been as interesting. Still, it would have been educational which might have made it better. As it stands, Silver Linings Playbook is a romantic comedy about a form of bipolar that doesn’t exist telling an offbeat story that could never really happen with characters that are not realistic. Despite all that, it’s still an entertaining 2 hours.

Les Miserables 2012 3/5 Stars

The film is quite successful in portraying a monstrously powerful musical on screen. Unfortunately it takes a back seat to the stage version.

Les Misérables (2012) is a film adaptation of a highly acclaimed stage musical that has been part of American culture for decades. So why make a musical cinema adaptation? After making more money as a motivation that is … It was likely meant to appeal to the growing number of younger people who never saw the stage version or all ages who would not have access to a stage. The movie makers took on a lot in this respect.

There are mammoth challenges when recreating musical theater on screen. This film was unsuccessful in meeting some of those those challenges. For one thing, stage musicals are seen from just one seat in a theater. They don’t provide close-ups and the bodies on stage of all the performers figure into the grand illusion known as stage performance. In a movie, there are close-ups. Furthermore, the focus is on whoever the director chooses to embrace. This leaves us with a flat image of a musical that never lets us turn our eyes away or have our own visual interpretation. In short, the cinematic musical adaptation rarely matches the power of the stage. As a person who has seen Les Mis (as it has been commonly referred to) on the stage when he was much younger, I can tell you the movie fails to measure up to that experience. Still, for what it tries to do, portray Les Mis in a new genre to a new audience, it is quite successful. It also may be safe to say it’s nearly impossible to portray a stage musical with justice on the screen. If that is the case, they get a huge handicap (if this were a golf game) and I would say it represents a gargantuan effort to get the Les Mis art piece to newer viewers by means of theater. For that, this film gets higher marks.

I think younger people (20’s and below) who have never seen the musical will like the movie because the music is so amazing. Still, the two lead actors, Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman, are not captivating singers. One has an annoying vibrato he must have cherished in Catholic school and the other is forced sounding. Most lines in the cinematic are sung. There are some excellent moments in the film make no mistake. The Ebony character was my favorite. I will be watching for what she does in future movies. Last but not least, Anne Hathaway does an incredible job with her 1 song. People her give her too much praise however should remember that she had only that performance to focus on. I wonder if her voice and presence would have grown old as a lead role? Just something to throw out there and suggest we think about. The movie is far too long, approaching 3 hours. I think this is a very tough genre to embrace on the screen. They tried it and unfortunately, in my view, failed.

Ruby Sparks

Ruby Sparks is a romantic comedy written by Zoe Kazan. Ruby is a fictional character thought up in the movie by a successful writer in his early twenties played by Paul Dano. Much to his surprise, one day Ruby comes to life and takes on the role of his real life girlfriend. After that a roller coaster of emotions and love lessons ensues. For me, the strongest message in the movie is about the power we try to exert over each other in relationships. It has a truly all-star cast including Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Elliot Gould, and many more. Though the film started slow for me, it picked up in the middle and became a very fun and emotion-filled ride. I read online while watching the movie that the actress playing Ruby, Zoe Kazan, is the actual writer of the movie. For this reason, the audience gets the perspective of a woman being invented and controlled by an actual woman writer. I was impressed by Miss Kazan and will look for more from her in the future.

Final Thought: Relationships are often funny but more often perplexing. This movie uses metaphor and satire in the form of this invented woman to address some of those difficult issues. Paul Dano does a very nice job as a young writer trying to figure out life and love. He has definite ideas about what Ruby should be and he writes them clearly. I felt a real-life connection to what he was doing when he “wrote Ruby.” I thought at one point, “How would I ‘write’ my wife if I had the magic typewriter?” Through most of the movie I knew I would not rewrite her one iota. I think that is the message of the movie. We want “the perfect spouse” but in reality, we don’t know what that is for us. Better to let our spouse have her/his imperfections than try to craft them into something “perfect.” If those themes sound interesting, you’ll love this romantic comedy. I give it 5/5 stars. In some ways for me it was a perfect film experience.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Emma Watson and Ezra Miller steal the show in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Miller often reminded me of a Jack Nicholson for a new generation. This book-turned-film pleases at every turn.

Emma Watson and Ezra Miller steal the show in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Miller often reminded me of a Jack Nicholson for a new generation. This book-turned-film pleases at every turn. It was written and directed by Stephen Chbosky known for the TV series Jericho. Lead actors include: Emma Watson as Sam, Logan Lerman as Charlie, and Ezra Miller as Patrick.

This movie is an adaptation of Stephen Chbosky’s novel. Charlie is 15 years old and has trouble finding his place in High School. He learns to make friends in the context of a group of misfits. He learns about love, friendship, and his own mental illness in the same context. Lucky for him, it’s a warm, supportive context. It is in some ways the typical coming-of-age film but there is some originality here as well. There are a LOT of “mix tapes” changing hands, almost to annoyance. My wife reminded me the movie is set in 1990 so that might explain it.

I was able to shed my grown-up reason and enjoy this film as my inner-high-school self. Emma Watson is the perfect choice for Charlie’s first love because her face is so familiar and calming. When Charlie has some of his darker moments, she is there as a comforting force. Ezra Miller, who was terrifying in We Need to Talk About Kevin, moves into a new phase of his acting career. He is a delight to watch often showing humor akin to Jack Nicholson (in his own budding way). Logan Lerman does a fine job as Charlie. His piercing eyes really speak more than his lines but I found him to be engaging for the role. People are comparing this film to the Breakfast Club, I think that a hollow comparison. Both are about kids in High School but I don’t see Wallflower hanging around in the American mind as much. It’s a lot of fun with some great acting but fails to mirror the storms of adolescence as clearly as the Breakfast Club.

Secretary

This movie bears indictable resemblance to “Fifty Shades of Grey” but is more than just a tale of BDSM sexual encounters. I gave it a 4.5/5 because I think the director succeeded in showing the power we can hold over our significant others.

The movie Secretary (2002 Rated R) seeks to portray sexual control in a relationship. This is probably a really hard thing to do straight out so the movie makes a sort of comic book story to get its point across.

The result is a jarring, strangely erotic tale of control between a cutter and a BDSM dominant. Though the writing and sets are comic-book like, this is definitely not one to show the kids. This film, replete with nudity and graphic themes like cutting, can be viewed however as a close look at how lovers can control each other in relationships. Not everything here is meant to be sexual.

This film was directed by Steven Shainberg and stars Maggie Gyllenthal and James Spader and the couple it centers on. While the director is not known for a slough of films, the actors are well known for many movies. Both deliver passionate performances. There is nudity and once again, this is not a film for kids. It is however well acted and the writing is bizarre yet enjoyable. None of this is anything I do but it helps me get what this sort of stuff is about. I found that interesting.

Here is the storyline from IMDB:

Lee Holloway is a smart, quirky woman in her twenties who returns to her hometown in Florida after a brief stay in a mental hospital. In search of relief from herself and her oppressive childhood environment, she starts to date a nerdy friend from high school and takes a job as a secretary in a local law firm, soon developing an obsessive crush on her older boss, Mr. Grey. Through their increasingly bizarre relationship, Lee follows her deepest longings to the heights of masochism and finally to a place of self-affirmation.

This movie bears indictable resemblance to “Fifty Shades of Grey” but is more than just a tale of BDSM sexual encounters. I gave it a 4.5/5 because I think the director succeeded in showing the power we can hold over our significant others. It lost points with me in the way that it wasn’t a more realistic portrayal. We are obviously not all like Mr. Grey and few like Mr. Grey will find requited love. Still, we do hold each other captive sometimes and it’s interesting to think about how we do that while watching this movie.