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Movie Review: The Iron Lady

Mike Finkelstein wants to run for office so he could make this country a better place. For some inspiration, he decided to watch a film about a woman who did just that. Instead, he just started to develop a British accent. Here is his review of “The Iron Lady.”

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Mike Finkelstein wants to run for office so he could make this country a better place.  For some inspiration, he decided to watch a film about a woman who did just that.  Instead, he just started to develop a British accent.  Here is his review of “The Iron Lady.”

PLOT: A look at the private and professional lives of former United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep), including her upbringing, her marriage to Sir Denis Thatcher, and her time at 10 Downing Street.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW:  Margaret Thatcher is a woman who deserves her own movie.  The struggles in her life leading up to 10 Downing Street, the struggles during her time as Prime Minister, and the struggles she’s had to deal with after being forced out of office are all beautifully dramatic and noteworthy.  Yet despite such a life, some beautiful cinematography, and some great acting, led by a career defining performance by Meryl Streep, THE IRON LADY lost its focus, as well as its impact, somewhere along the way.

While other biographical films focus on a few specific instances in the extraordinary lives of our subject, THE IRON LADY spreads itself way too thin.  Starting with Thatcher’s acceptance to Oxford, we seem to fast forward through her youth, and her fight to not just end up as another housewife and “die washing a cup” (a mindset she keeps throughout her life).  We move into the British Parliament, and finally to 10 Downing Street, where we encounter fights with unions as well as her own cabinet, mentions of interactions with Ronald Reagan, and the Falklands War.

By the end of the film, what had hoped to be a recalling of all the triumphs and tribulations of one woman has turned into almost a quick bullet point recap.  Most characters of opposition were so barely fleshed out, that they all seemed to be grouped together in nameless resistance.  Even the method of storytelling—using numerous news clips and archival footage of actual events—caused most events to just blend into one another.  Don’t get me wrong…the cinematography is beautiful, but it’s hard to even tell what opinion Phylida Lloyd wanted to give off about her own film…was Thatcher a hero, or a stubborn, flawed hopeful?  We don’t really know.

With all that, we realize that initial hints of trouble are apparent in the first five minutes of the film. Our first encounter with Thatcher finds her old and senile, seeing images of her dead husband, Sir Denis Thatcher.  She is now a shell of the powerful, dedicated woman she once was.  Yes, the relationship is cute and the framework is a good device to really focus on the couple’s love (more on that later), but it’s almost not fair to take a woman whose who life was dedicated to being and doing something, and imagining that she may be reduced to absolutely nothing.  I almost felt cheated, both as an audience member, and for a woman that I felt I just came to know.

But forgetting everything else I wrote, we have to mention the one aspect that everyone will be talking about: the acting.  It is a force to be reckoned with.  Meryl Streep is yet again in a league of her own.  She disappears completely into Thatcher, both in voice and body, and is almost a sure thing for this year’s Best Actress win (although, I’m sure that has been said about 16 times before…).  Jim Broadbent is adorable as Sir Denis Thatcher, and the two play off of each other beautifully, making it almost impossible not to love them.  Somehow, that dream-like state of love was also able to transfer over to their younger counterparts, Alexandra Roach and Harry Lloyd, who also romanced us with the couple’s early years.

THE IRON LADY is a film that wants to do justice to it’s subject, however, falls flat by overreaching.  Yes, it has an absolutely amazing cast led by Meryl Streep going yet again for the gold statuette, but sadly, such amazing performances does not necessarily make an amazing film.  If only there were more direction and focus, this could have been a great biopic, but instead, it will only be remembered for some beautiful performances (and probably as the film that finally got Streep her Oscar).

GRADE: B

Mike’s LIKES:

1) MERYL STREEP: Meryl Streep is in a league all her own.  The woman can play any part, and here, she disappears into the persona of Margaret Thatcher.  Be prepared for her to get some sort of Oscar nomination, and quite possibly, the win.

2) JIM BROADBENT: While he came across almost creepy at points, Broadbent played Sir Denis Thatcher beautifully.  He was humble, cute, loving, and overall just a teddy bear of a man and a rock to his wife.

3) ALEXANDRA ROACH: I don’t know Ms. Roach well, but she deserves special mention for her role as a young Margaret Thatcher.  She, just like Streep, disappeared into her role, and I dare say matched her older counterpart’s performance.

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) PAINTED AS SENILE: I’m still not sure what to make of this storytelling technique.  You’re trying to tell the story of one of the most powerful women in the history of England, and you focus on her mind faltering at an old age.  Instead of celebrating the greatness of a woman, it’s almost like we were meant to see all that torn away.

2) “MY SHOES”: Yes, I get it was probably supposed to be a little lighthearted moment in an otherwise tense situation, but the line takes away from the seriousness of what happened to Thatcher at that time.  Not a necessary ten seconds.

EXTRA FACTS:

1) In preparation for her role, Meryl Streep sat through a session at the House of Commons to observe British MPs in action.

2) While preparing for the role, Meryl Streep had said: “The prospect of exploring the swathe cut through history by this remarkable woman is a daunting and exciting challenge. I am trying to approach the role with as much zeal, fervour and attention to detail as the real Lady Thatcher possesses – I can only hope my stamina will begin to approach her own.”

Entertainment

REVIEW: “Sing Street” Will Put a Song in Your Heart… and Your iPod

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“I have just seen an instant classic.”

That’s what I said to myself as I left the theater, with the music and adrenaline of “Sing Street” still coursing through my veins.

It’s the kind of movie you want to turn around and see again, immediately. Right after you download the soundtrack. Yes, it’s that good.

Haven’t heard anything about it? I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t have known about this film either, except that my Regal Crown Club card finally paid off in the form of free tickets to an advanced screening. (Never mind the $25 popcorn.) Anyway, let’s watch!

Hooked yet? You will be.

Irish writer/director John Carney (“Once,” “Begin Again”) has conjured a nearly perfect coming-of-age tale set in 1980s Dublin. Think “The Commitments meets “Sixteen Candles meets “Footloose,” but all in one glorious package that manages to be both fresh and nostalgic at the same time. Drawing from his own teenage years at the real Synge Street school, Carney avoids the trap of creating a pure fluff piece by infusing the story with real heart.

A large part of that is due to the breakout talent and hero of Sing Street,” 16-year-old Ferdia Walsh-Peelo. As “Connor Lalor” navigates the tricky currents of a new school, family drama, and first love, Walsh-Peelo is heartbreakingly earnest, predictably awkward, and unexpectedly optimistic. Everything about his performance rings true. No small feat, considering that this is his acting debut.

Thanks to Carney’s non-actor, open casting approach, Walsh-Peelo is also joined by some equally promising new faces. Lucy Boynton is luminous as his love interest, “Raphina,” and Mark McKenna is quietly compelling as Conor’s songwriting partner, “Eamon.”

One of the most satisfying pairings, though, is anchored by the more experienced Jack Reynor (“Transformers:Age of Extinction”).  He shines as Conor’s older brother, “Brendan.”  Dealing with the angst of his own stalled dreams, Brendan tackles his brotherly mentoring role with gusto. Conor soaks up the advice like a ruddy-cheeked sponge, then begins to find his own way as his confidence grows.  Rarely do we see the underlying affection between two brothers played so simply and honestly,  so the relationship between Conor and Brendan is a lovely surprise.

The other undeniable star of “Sing Street” is the music.  While the story could have easily been told with the band only performing covers of ’80s hits,  Carney had a bigger vision for the film.  He collaborated with Scottish songwriter Gary Clark to craft 8 original tunes that not only add layers of light and shade to the storyline, but could be stand-alone chart toppers today.  From the gleefully retro “The Riddle of the Model,” to the Cure-tastic “Beautiful Sea,”  to the EMO ballad “To Find You,”  there’s something for everyone. Welcome to your summer soundtrack, people.

There are few darker notes to the plot, and the ending feels slightly of place, but in general “Sing Street” will leave you feeling as light and fizzy as a packet of Pop Rocks.

The movie poster reads: “Boy Meets Girl. Girl Unimpressed. Boy Starts Band.”  That’s it in a nutshell, of course, but happily, this film is so much more.

SING STREET opens in New York April 15th, and is in theaters nationwide on April 29th.

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrate The Fourth With Our Picks For Great American Movies!

What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

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What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

It’s impossible to list them all… this is just a handfull! Scroll down and tell us what your favorites are!!!

Let’s start at the beginning!

Do you have what it takes to watch a black and white classic? (Don’t break my heart by replying if the answer is no.) Yankee Doodle Dandy is a 1942 classic starring James Cagney – telling the story of the great entertainer George M Cohan. He’s the man behind the songs “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”  A true classic with distinctly American music and showmanship. Watch the trailer!

There’s something about the fifties and sixties that still plucks at the nostalgic heartstrings of America. And yet, two of the most iconic movies about that period were actually shot decades later, with a heartfelt look back at those times.

Both American Graffiti and Grease come to mind. While American Graffiti can take bragging rights for bringing us more breakout stars, (and being written and directed by George Lucas), Grease seems to enjoy more clout as a family friendly favorite.

1986 was a  good year for Tom Cruise, and a good year for movies. Top Gun starred Tom Cruise stars as a student at Top Gun Naval Academy. It sparked a sense of patriotism, and the continued ascent of Cruise’s career. (If you’re watching with your kids, you might wanna skip ahead once you start hearing the song “Take My Breath Away.” Love scene ahead! Still, some might argue it’s pretty tame by today’s standards.)

Forrest Gump (1994) proved not only to be an excellent movie, but also an impromptu history lesson.
The story follows an unlikely hero (played by Tom Hanks) as he journeys through life, finding himself witnessing (and sometimes even influencing) a series of historic events, but is largely unaware of their significance. A true classic.

Before the luster of Mel Gibson had worn off, he portrayed Benjamin Martin, a man who becomes embroiled in the Revolutionary War. The late Heath Ledger plays his son, who fights in the Continental Army.

The most recent of patriotic classics is 2012’s Lincoln. Daniel Day Lewis delivers a flawless performance as our 16th President under the directorial brilliance of Steven Spielberg. A new classic for the ages.

SHARE YOU PICKS BELOW! AND TWEET YOUR FAVORITES TOO!

For more movies updates, follow @BrianBalthazar on twitter!

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Movie Reviews

MOVIE REVIEW- WORLD WAR Z Is a Messy, Relentless Zombie Horror Flick That Really Works

Check Out Steven’s review for one of the biggest surprises of 2013, the epic zombie flick WORLD WAR Z.

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world-war-z-posterWORLD WAR Z

Paramount Pictures

Director- Marc Forster

Starring-Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale. Abigail Hargrove, Sterling Jerins, David Morse, David Andrews.

Steven’s Quick Review- Yes its production was messy, but WORLD WAR Z might be the biggest surprise of the summer movies in 2013. Thanks to relentless action, a number of good scares, and an on-target performance from Brad Pitt, WORLD WAR Z is an excellent zombie film. Even though it is barely based on its source material, Damon Lindelof’s rewritten third act will keep audiences guessing and add some scares to your summer movie slate.

Steven’s Review- Brad Pitt has become the kind of actor who now only does movies he truly wants to do, and only takes roles that challenge him. So when Pitt and his Plan B studios initially won the rights to Max Brooks bestselling novel WORLD WAR Z the options were endless. Yet from the start of production the movie had issues, between the initial script lacking invention, a director in Marc Forster (QUANTUM OF SOLACE) who was found it difficult to make important decisions and the very public spat between Pitt and Forster that nearly sidelined the film indefinitely.  There were also the on-set issues, besides the arguments between the actor and director, there were problems on set in Hungary when government officials stormed the set and removed live weapons. Also, forced re-shoots that moved WWZ from a winter release to a summer tentpole. It’s easy to assume WORLD WAR Z was doomed from the start. But something happened along the way, something that shocked plenty during our screening of the film in May. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Pitt, Forster, and crew actually made a darn good zombie flick. With help from Damon Lindelof (“Lost”, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS) who came to the rescue and reworked an ending  after the studio deemed the initial conclusion was not good enough for release.  Following Lindelof’s changes and a massive marketing campaign Brad Pitt’s newest pet project was ready to show the world.

WORLD WAR Z the book takes place in a post zombie war setting, when a journalist and U.N investigator goes all over the globe talking to survivors and getting their stories.  The film adaptation written by Drew Goddard (CABIN IN THE WOODS), Matthew Michael Carnahan (STATE OF PLAY), J. Michael Straczynski (THOR) and Damon Lindelof  has little to nothing to do with Brooks acclaimed novel. We begin meeting Gerry Lane(Pitt) , a former UN investigator who lives with his family somewhere outside Philadelphia.  Within 5 minutes of the opening credits, we are thrown into a full on zombie invasion, with riots in super markets and speedy zombies chasing people down. WWZ Starts off with a bang. Gerry’s wife Karin(“The Killings” Mireille Enos), and his daughters Constance(Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) desperately leave the city and head towards New York, finding themselves in the streets of  Newark, New Jersey where they pick up supplies and await a helicopter pick-up thanks to Gerry’s old friends at the United Nations.

WORLD WAR Z is in no way a perfect movie; every now and then it finds itself deep into horror cliché, only to drag itself out with one big sequence after another. Pitt carries the film as he finds himself in worse situations every moment, but without being totally indestructible (meaning as an audience you never quite know whether Gerry Lane will make it out alive). Pitt’s performance feels dressed in reality, while he searches the globe for reasons why this zombie apocalypse is happening, worries for his safety and hopes to return to his family.

WORLD WAR Z is a suspenseful zombie flick that contains a few scares, but has the advantage of almost never slowing down.  The filmmakers found a way to protray a lot of violence and still receive a PG-13 rating – they show you enough death and destruction without maimed bodies and severed limbs. I enjoyed the fast paced nature of WWZ and the fact it never drags, it allows characters to develop and story to move forward without forsaking the zombie action fan in all of us.

As far as adaptations go, WORLD WAR Z could be considered one of the worst, it barely contains any connection to Max Brooks brilliant novel, other than a few characters names and one or two plot points. As far as summer surprises, WORLD WAR Z is a welcome break from comedies and super hero flicks that take up most of our time. But the pressure is on: it needs to bring in $500 million dollars to turn a profit for everyone involved. I enjoyed WORLD WAR Z and hope they can find a way to make some cash, so we can get more zombie action just like it.

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