July 26, 2015

Movie Review: Irrational Man **

No, that image at left is not from Irrational Man, it's how I felt while watching it.
Oh my god. THE most boring movie.
It's an unconvincing story of a depressed college professor who finds his zest for life in planning the perfect murder. Joaquin Phoenix's character is the anchor of the story, but he isn't invested in his character or his lines; he seems barely able to remember them. Emma Stone and Parker Posey are the reasons I didn't walk out - they make the film come alive when they're on screen. But that's not nearly enough.
Two out of five stars for Irrational Man. And that's generous.

July 22, 2015

As You Get Older...

Older singles lose millions in online dating scams

screams the headline on CBS This Morning.

The story is about a 76-yr-old lady who is looking for love. She meets a guy online (on the very first day she goes on the site!) who "said sweet things and was very charming." She never meets him in person but they communicate by email and phone for four months. Then, all of a sudden he's stuck somewhere in Africa and becomes very ill and has to have a kidney transplant   that's costing $4000/month  and the next thing you know the sweet little old lady is out $300K.
The lady is trying to get her money back from Match.com (good luck with that). She thinks they're responsible.
I might have some sympathy for her if she'd sent him $1,000 or $2,000, or even $10,000 before she realized it was a scam. But $300,000?
Barbara Hannah Grufferman
The news report's expert is Barbara Hannah Grufferman, who they say is "with" AARP. I can't find any indication that she does anything other than write for AARP. She's a journalist and wrote a book called The Best of Everything Over 50, but as far as I can tell she is not an expert on aging. On this report she makes this ridiculous and insulting statement:
"As we get older our ability to decipher deceit declines."
I'm not an expert on aging either (unless you count my firsthand experience) but my bullshit meter is working just fine. And, taking Alzheimer's or any other type of dementia out of the equation (because that's a whole other issue), my 'expert' opinion is: If you are this gullible when you're old, you were this gullible when you were young. Age has nothing to do with this kind of stupidity.

July 20, 2015

Movie Review: Trainwreck ***1/2

If I were rating Amy Schumer she'd get five stars; she's so charming and funny and her face tells stories even when not saying a word. She's a surprisingly terrific actor and a very appealing on-screen presence.
But I'm rating the film, so it's a star and a half less than that.
What I really like about Trainwreck is its humor and sweetness and relate-ability, and how heartwarming it is. And LeBron James. Who knew he could act? I found myself waiting for him to come back on screen.
What I don't like about Trainwreck are the sophomoric bits that feel like a stand-up comedy routine and go on too long - like the tampon bit, for one. They aren't needed, they slow down the action and they distract from the heart of the film.
If they'd cut this film the way it should have been cut, by at least 20 minutes, I'd have given it four and a half stars. As it is, there's much to enjoy about Trainwreck but I can only give it three and a half stars out of five.

July 17, 2015

Book Review: Old Souls at Night by Kent Haruf *****

When I began reading Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf, one of my favorite authors, I felt sad on a number of levels, not least of which is that this is his final novel, as he died last December at 71. I hadn't known he was sick and his death broke my heart.
I felt sad because the characters in Our Souls at Night are sweet and familiar, even though I hadn't read about these people yet, but Haruf had a way of creating characters I could see clearly in my mind, even though he
doesn't describe them to any great degree.
Is this his best work? No. But it's a sweet story of old love with characters that feel real, like people you'd want to be friends with.
I was sad because the story is sad, I was sad because I didn't want the book to end. I'm sad because I already miss the work Kent Haruf will never write.
Kent Haruf is one of America's finest authors. If you haven't read his work start with Plainsong and then read everything else he's ever written. And finally, end with Our Souls at Night, a sweet goodbye.
Five out of five stars for Our Souls at Night.

July 14, 2015

Traveling to Montreal

Walking up to Mount Royal
Montreal is a taste of Europe without the eight hour plane ride; lovely architecture, great food, beautiful port, French speakers...
View from Mount Royal
Mount Royal Chalet
Top of Mount Royal

Notre Dame
Notre Dame
Notre Dame
See more pictures here.

July 12, 2015

Movie Review: Infinitely Polar Bear ****1/2

Infinitely Polar Bear, the based-on-life story of a manic-depressive father of two young girls, hit a little close to home for me, having been married to a manic-depressive some years ago. Much of it felt familiar and sad, though we didn't have children, and I wasn't nearly as understanding and supportive as the loving wife/mother in this film, played by the luminous Zoe Saldana. And being married to my ex wasn't as much fun as it is sometimes depicted in the film (although we had our good times), but yes, there is humor in everything.
This is a poignant story, authentically told and beautifully acted by all. Mark Ruffalo is perfect, and utterly believable, in this difficult role. What a fearless actor he is to open the film with a scene riding a bicycle in his red Jockey shorts. He's not exactly buffed out.
If you have no experience with manic-depression Mark Ruffalo's character may feel exaggerated and contrived, but get beyond that and you'll connect to this family stuggling to survive.
Four and a half stars out of five for Infinitely Polar Bear.