R.I.P. Free Popcorn Wednesdays at Wehrenberg Theaters.
If you are a moviegoer near one of Wehrenberg’s 16 multiplexes, and you have ever been on a Wednesday – chances are you have enjoyed a free popcorn. For the last two years members of Wehrenberg’s free rewards program, MVP (Movie Viewer Program), have been able to show their card at the concession stand every Wednesday and receive a complimentary medium popcorn (around a $7 value). As of December 18, 2013 the program ended.
What would you get if you took a Hallmark Channel Original Movie, gave them a great director, decent budget and A-list actors? Survey says: Labor Day.
So many questions run through your mind when you review a movie with all the right ingredients, but the result is a complete letdown. The first of which is: why, Jason Reitman, why? Why did such a talented director, whose debut Thank You For Smoking was brilliant, and whose follow-up Juno was a huge success, choose this novel to adapt into a film? If you look at his first four films, they couldn’t be further from this mushy, ho-hum romance. What was it about the story that called to him, and compelled him to make it into a movie?
The story revolves around 13-year-old Henry (Gattlin Griffith) who lives with his depressed mother Adele (Kate Winslet). While out clothes shopping, Henry wanders off to look at some comic books – only to run into an escaped convict named Frank (Josh Brolin). He asks them for a ride, telling them “this needs to happen,” and the three amigos head back to the house. But what is Henry if not a criminal with a heart of gold? What follows is a case of hunky Stockholm syndrome, where sweet and caring Frank turns into the perfect father and mate to his captives. It’s every single mom’s fantasy rolled up into a romance novel on the spindles of drugstores everywhere, and adapted to the big screen.
Based on the 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, August: Osage County attempts to translate the dark comedy from the stage to the big screen. Packed with an A-list cast, you certainly can’t make the argument that they didn’t get enough star power. Tracy Letts, the award-winning author of the play was even responsible for the screenplay. Yet unfortunately, the film doesn’t quite capture the magic of the dysfunctional family the same way that the stage show does.
After interviewing a new housekeeper (Misty Upham), Beverly Weston (Sam Shepard) disappears. His wife Violet (Meryl Streep), a cancer patient with a severe addiction to pills, fears the worst and calls all of her estranged children to come home to Oklahoma. Violet’s sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale) and her husband Charlie (Chris Cooper) along with their son Little Chris (Benedict Cumberbatch), youngest daughter Ivy (Julianne Nicholson), eldest daughter Barbara (Julia Roberts) and husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) with their daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin), and middle daughter Karen (Juliette Lewis) and her fiancé Steve (Dermot Mulroney) all gather at the house to make one big dysfunctional family.
Having seen the national tour of August: Osage County when it came to the Fabulous Fox Theatre in 2010, I had high hopes for the film adaptation. The play had become one of my favorites of all time, with fantastic acting and an intriguing story. I knew that it wouldn’t be easy to pull off a movie version, but I wasn’t too worried with the cast that was assembled. Unfortunately the magic of the stage just wasn’t there. Often times the film comes off as tedious and a bit boring, whereas the pacing of the stage show was spot on. Also, the story is supposed to be a dark comedy – yet the film appears to try and take itself too seriously. The result is a bunch of actors that just come off as awkward.
At first glance, the idea of a film that revolves around a man falling in love with his smartphone might seem a bit odd. Yet as you watch Spike Jonze’s latest film Her, you realize that it is about so much more.
Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is a writer living in a not-so-distant Los Angeles of the future. His job is to create beautiful love letters for people who lack the creativity – or perhaps a better word is motivation. After a heartbreaking end to his relationship with his ex Catherine (Rooney Mara), Theodore stumbles upon the “first artificially intelligent operating system, or OS. Unlike the ones we know today, this OS has a name and a personality – and her name is Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). What starts out as a companionship turns into more as Theodore starts to fall in love with Samantha, while he teaches Her how to love.
I can’t imagine this film being anywhere near as brilliant as it is without the performance given by Joaquin Phoenix. He is in almost every scene, and pretty much front and center the entire time. There are great supporting actors like Amy Adams, who plays his neighbor, and Chris Pratt who works in his office. Yet the real magic comes from the interaction between Theodore and Samantha. And the emotion that Phoenix exudes while interacting with nothing but a handheld device is magnificent. The actor has been one of my favorites since I saw him in his first major role as the villain Commodus in Gladiator, and has continued to impress me with role after role. This may be the best performance of his career, and that is saying a lot coming off of the likes of The Master last year.