Review of No Escape (2015) starring Owen Wilson and Lake Bell

Owen Wilson tries again to play a character in a dire situation (remember “Behind Enemy Lines”) and he conveys this fear and desperation extremely well.  As Jack Dwyer, an engineer who has joined a multinational corporation after his own company failed, and is moving his family to an unnamed Southeast Asian country. As brave a front as he and his wife, Annie (Lake Bell), put up for their two young daughters, Lucy and Beaze (Sterling Jerins and Clare Geare), they know the situation is bad. Of course, it’s about to get much worse.

As “No Escape” begins, the Dwyers are landing, befriended on their flight by Hammond (Pierce Brosnan), a seatmate with the rough beard, fresh scars and randy cheer of an old post-colonial hand.  A typical mysterious Brit who helps out from time to time through out the movie. When Jack takes a walk out of their luxury hotel the next morning, he’s caught in a clash between the police and mobs, then scrambles back minutes before anti-Western revolutionaries go room to room, slaughtering foreigners. From that point, the film is a series of fight-or-flight set pieces of the panicked family trying to stay alive. At every turn the family is in the militants cross-hairs, yet somehow manage to escape.

Though the plot is pretty thin, and somehow Hammond seems to turn up just when the script requires and improbable rescue, the movie zips along at a fairly fast pace and offers up plenty of scenes that have you laughing just from the implausibility of it all, yet you never really understand why these knife-wielding locals are so hell bent on revenge. All-in-all the movie was enjoyable for what it was, that is as long as you don’t read too much into it and just want to watch an escape by a hairs breath type of movie.

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Review of The Revenant (2015)

revenant A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. Inspired by true events, THE REVENANT is an immersive and cinematic experience that captures one mans epic adventure and extraordinary power of the human spirit. This movie is not for the faint of heart, there are some gruesome, bloody scenes that caused me to grimace along with the legendary explorer Hugh Glass played exceptionally well by Leonardo DiCaprio. Glass endures unimaginable grief and betrayal and sets out for revenge, but encounters danger and help along the way. I can certainly see why DiCaprio won an Oscar for best actor, even though his character spoke fewer than 15 lines of dialogue in English since his performance was largely physical. DiCaprio’s depiction of Hugh Glass was so riveting that you could almost feel his pain.

A vegetarian, DiCaprio was so committed to the role that he ate genuine raw meat in a scene that depicts Glass surviving off a wild bison’s liver. According to the actor, “I certainly don’t eat raw bison liver on a regular basis. When you see the movie, you’ll see my reaction to it (he vomits). It says it all. It was an instinctive reaction.”

Review of The Martian 2015

the martianThe Martian (PG-13) is an epic tale of an American astronaut who, like a modern day Robinson Crusoe, learns to survive on a deserted planet (Mars).  As Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon), while on a manned mission to Mars is presumed dead and ultimately left alone on this vast planet, with only a meager supply of food and other essentials.  Mark must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal Earth that he is still alive. My favorite quote as he stands contemplating his fate and what he needs to do, he matter-of-fact says, “I’m going to need to science the s*** out of  this” and that is exactly what he does. It is thrilling to watch him struggle at making food grow on the hostile planet. The plot thickens as his crew is finally made aware that their team member Mark is still alive and that every attempt NASA has made to send help or rescue him has failed.  So the team decides to return to Mars amidst insurmountable obstacles to save their team mate and friend.  The Martian is an enjoyable movie that touches on the fears, triumphs and vastness of just what a mission to Mars might be like and Matt Damon is funny, witty and believable as an intellectual astronaut left alone yet against-the-odds isdetermined to survive his plight. Run time is 2 hours 14 minutes.

Review of Legends of the Fall (1994)

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Legends of the Fall is an epic tale of three brothers who live in the mountains with their father (played by Anthony Hopkins) and the woman who comes between them. Set in the early 1900’s during and after World War I, Legends of the Fall is a heartbreaking drama and character study of Alfred (Aidan Quinn), the civilized and ambitious older brother, Tristan (Brad Pitt), the wild one and “favorite” child, and Samuel (Henry Thomas), the baby.

All their lives the boys have been secluded in the mountains due to their’s father’s hatred of a government that persecutes Indians. Alfred and Samuel show yearnings to return to society and serve their country in the military while Tristan’s heart remains in the wild. When Samuel brings home his fiancee (played by Julia Ormond), the older brothers cannot help but fall in love with her. This love not only causes a rift between brothers and father and son, but it unintentionally leads to tragic consequences. Can this family unit hold strong at a time when the men are divided by love, grief, and corruption?

If you haven’t seen this movie before, do yourself a favor and check it out.  It is a bit melodramatic, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Favorite Quote:

Alfred (to Tristan): “I followed all the rules (man’s, God’s), and you, you followed none of them…and they all loved you more.”

Review of Delivery Man (2013)

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In the mood for something a little different? Give Delivery Man a try.

Based on a French-Canadian film called StarbuckDelivery Man is a story about an underachieving deliveryman named David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn) whose life gets turned upside down when he learns that he is the father of 533 children as a result of numerous sperm donations he made twenty years ago.

When over a hundred of his biological children demand to know who “Starbuck” (his alias at the clinic) is, David fights to keep his identity a secret for fear that his pregnant girlfriend will find out about his past and leave him. However, he cannot help but spy on his newfound children and tries to anonymously help them in any way that he can.  Will David become the guardian angel that his children need, or will his good intentions backfire?

Quaint and surprisingly heartwarming, Delivery Man is a great movie to check out and watch with friends and family. Available now at the Gabriele Library.

Favorite Quote:

David: “In my life I have a tendency to make very bad decisions. Maybe that’s why I’ve been stuck in the same job for so long. Everyone has a purpose in life. I guess I just haven’t found mine yet. All my life I felt like I was destined for something big. I just never expected it to be this big.”

Review of Chef (2014)

By Christine Iannicelli

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John Favreau returns to his independent film roots as the writer, co-producer, director, and star of Chef, an inspiring comedy/drama that will have you licking your lips and appreciating the art of cooking.

Favreau stars as Carl, a renowned chef who quits his job at a restaurant when the owner refuses to allow him to deviate from the menu and cook some new food.  After receiving an unfavorable review and entering into a Twitter war with a critic, Carl is publicly shamed and out of a job.  His ex-wife (Sophia Vergara) encourages him to return to his Miami roots and open up a food truck.  Inspired by the atmosphere and the Cuban cuisine, Carl is soon traveling cross-country on his own food truck with a co-worker (John Leguizamo) and Carl’s neglected son.  Can this road trip help Carl find his passion and reconnect with his son?  Or will this latest venture end in disaster?

Favreau not only trained at a culinary school and worked on a food truck to prepare for this role, but he also hired chef Roy Choi as a consultant and co-producer.  This was a smart move as the cooking scenes in the film are simply scrumptious to watch.  Favreau succeeds in showcasing the precision and pride that chefs take in their food; indeed, a simple act of making grilled cheese is turned into an art form on screen, and one cannot help but be inspired to cook after watching this film.

Including cameos from big names like Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downey Jr., and Scarlet Johansson, Chef is a charming independent film that is worth checking out.

Favorite Quote:

“I get to touch people’s lives with what I do and I love it.”

Review of Open Range (2003)

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In the mood for a western? Give Open Range a try.

It’s the story of two cowboys named Boss (Robert Duvall) and Charley (Kevin Costner). These cattlemen are traveling across the American West minding their own business when they are unintentionally caught up in a bitter feud with a town sheriff and land baron.

The film opens with a stunning shot of the prairie and depicts the solitary, hard-working life of these nomadic cowboys. They are removed from the townspeople, many of whom don’t take kindly to “free grazers” who allow their cattle to roam on their lands. The cattlemen do their best to avoid a quarrel, but when these townspeople brutally kill one of their friends, they decide to fight back. Can these outsiders convince the townspeople to back them up or will fear and prejudice force them to stand up to these corrupt lawmen alone?

I enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would. Everything from the cinematography to the costumes transports you into its western setting. The suspense is subtle and builds slowly throughout the film. Just when you think one of the characters is going to walk into an ambush or start a fight, all of a sudden he backs away. The quintessential shootout does not happen until very late in the movie, which is just one of the characteristics that makes Open Range more of a character story than an action-adventure flick.

While Boss does his best to avoid conflict, Charley is no stranger to violence. Secretly, they both yearn to settle down and have a family, but their traumatic pasts have led them to pull away from intimate relationships. When they meet a charming doctor’s wife (played by Annette Bening), Charley doesn’t know how to handle his feelings towards her. He is a hard man, afraid of gentility and love. Slowly, throughout the movie, he fights to tear down these walls he’s put up around him. It’s not an easy process, but a necessary one if he hopes to experience any happiness in his life. We get a sense from watching this movie that neither man has experienced much joy recently. As much as the open range is beautiful and peaceful, for them it’s an escape. Can they find a balance between solitude and human interaction? This is just one of the questions that the plot forces upon these men.

If you enjoy thoughtful dramas, classic westerns, or romance, then this is the movie for you.

Available to check out now from the Gabriele Library.