MONUMENTS MEN – Rated PG-13

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George Clooney steps back into the Director’s chair to bring to life the true story of seven incredible men in World War II, who are tasked by President Roosevelt to acquire the artwork that Nazi Germany was seizing as their own.  These MONUMENTS MEN traded their artistic careers for becoming soldiers to save the world’s Masterpieces for future generations.

As we meet Frank Stokes (George Clooney), he is pleading with our federal government to allow him, and a platoon of his own making, to enter Germany at the end of WWII.  This “Band of Artistic Brothers “ are on a mission to save the hundreds, if not thousands of original works of art that Hitler has been stock piling for himself.

Stokes knows that this assignment isn’t going to be easy – and that he and the others may not make it out alive – but his love to retain the culture and significance that these works of art hold for all of us,  seems to make this mission undeniably important in his mind.

Stokes rallies together seven art experts and manages to convince them that heading to War is a lot more exciting than there mundane lives stateside.  He brings together Americans James Granger (Matt Damon), Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), Walter Garfield (John Goodman), Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban), an Italian ally Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin – of THE ARTIST fame), and an English ally Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville).

Once in place in Europe, Granger heads off to Paris in an attempt to locate the person who may be chronicling all of the stolen art, Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett).  Claire doesn’t trust anyone, especially Granger, and surely doesn’t believe that he, as an American, wants to save these artifacts from Hitler.

While Granger is working in Paris, Stokes and the rest of the men split up, trying to locate American military camps, to secure supplies and transportation.  The American military leaders think that they have all lost their minds, as they are trying to dictate what the military can and cannot BLOW UP, in order to save some of artistic buildings, and the beautiful work housed within, for future generations to experience.

Will Stokes and his men find the stolen artifacts, or will Hitler destroy them all before they locate them?  Will Claire become a friend or foe in helping these brave men complete their mission? And will all seven of the men make it out of this mission alive, or perish as they try to save the original works of the Great Masters?

I give MONUMENTS MEN an A+:  This film had me from the very first scene!  I love films based on true stories, and a film based on the lives of seven incredible men sparked my attention immediately after seeing the first trailer a month ago.  I loved how this film was so reminiscent of old war movies that I watched for hours with my Dad – from the camera angles used, to the barracks they stayed in, even down to the incredible music that played throughout the film, it is as if you are traveling back in time, and are experiencing World War II right along  side these brave men.  I also was pleasantly surprised to see all of these superb actors give fantastic performances on screen, as it seemed they were all cast in exactly the right role for each of them to play.  The casting agent should get kudos for this film, as sometimes when that many stars are playing in one film, it tends to be less than enjoyable.  Clooney also deserves praise in directing this film, as it absolutely flowed and played out perfectly.

Whether you love war movies, or study art history, or you are in love with Matt Damon and try to see every one of his films, or you are just bored and want to go see a good flic – you must see Monuments Men this weekend at a theater near you  – THAT’S AN ORDER! Just kidding…….

Kathy Kaiser

Newly Released on DVD – 2014 OSCAR BEST PICTURE NOMINEE – Dallas Buyers Club – Rated R

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Jean-Marc Vall’ee brings to the big screen the TRUE LIFE STORY of Texan Ron Woodroof (played by Matthew McConaughey) who is heterosexual and leading a very promiscuous life in 1986 – when he is stopped in his tracks by the diagnosis that he has AIDS.

As the Medical Community here in the U.S. is trying to come to terms with the best way to prolong the life of patients who have contracted this dreaded disease, Woodroof is diagnosed by Eve Saks (played by Jennifer Garner).   When Dr. Saks and her follow doctor (played by Denis O’Hare) conclude that Woodroof’s stage of the disease is advanced and that he has about 30 days to live – they decide to start him on the preferred drug of choice at the time for AIDS patients – but the medication seems to be making him worse, not better.

With the fortitude of any man faced with his demise, much less a Texan – Woodroof sets out to find alternative ways to prolong his life.  Having a chance encounter with a physician practicing in Mexico – who can no longer practice in the United States – Woodroof decides to use this physician’s formula of drugs and supplements to prolong his life – and it seems to be working.

Even though Woodroof is very homophobic – he decides to help out a transvestite homosexual he met during one of his many visits to the hospital named Rayon (played by Jared Leto) who is also suffering from the disease.  As Woodroof’s humanity kicks in – he decides he must not only help save Rayon – but any other person he might be able to help with his new found CONCOCTION.

Since the FDA refuses to approve these drugs/supplements for use on patients in the U.S. – Woodruff decides to transport them himself from Mexico into the U.S. and starts a BUYERS CLUB – where anyone who has the money to pay to belong – can take a chance on this opportunity to prolong their lives.

Will Woodroof prove the Doctors wrong and live to change the lives of many inflicted with the HIV/AIDS?  Will Dr. Saks change her tune about the drugs the FDA has approved, and the drugs that Woodroof is using to prolong many patients lives?  Or will Ron Woodroof’s DALLAS BUYERS CLUB become nothing more than a waste of time and energy for everyone involved?

I give the DALLAS BUYERS CLUB an A – This true life story is both amazing to learn about – as I had never heard of this man or his legacy before – and just as amazing TO WATCH!   Matthew McConaughey’s performance is astonishing – as he is so thin and creepy while his is suffering from the disease – which at times it is very hard to view.  Ditto on the performance by Jared Leto –as he too takes his body to unthinkable places with the extreme lengths he went to achieve the frailty of someone suffering from this disease.  And Jennifer Garner plays the perfect part as the Physician who ends up questioning what is the best course of action for her own patients, regardless of the decisions that are being forced upon her by her hospital and the FDA.

Mark my words, McConaughey’s performance will be given a nod for a Golden Globe, an Academy Award – or maybe both this year.   It is one of those performances that will define him as an actor – as this story and the character he plays will stay with you for a very long time.  This is a MUST SEE FILM for 2013!!! It will be a play a key part in many a conversation for weeks to come……..

Kathy Kaiser

NEWLY RELEASED ON DVD – 2014 Academy Award Winning Film for BEST PICTURE – 12 Years A Slave – Rated R

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Based on the true story of Solomon Northrup – and his book “12 years a Slave” – Director Steve McQueen takes you into the 1800’s of this Nation – where black men of the North were free, and slave owners and “their property” were still prevalent in the South.

Solomon (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) was living the life of a free man with his wife and family in upstate New York.  When his family leaves for a trip, his friend introduces to a few fine gentleman who want him to join them to play his violin for a few weeks, to earn some extra money for his family.

When Solomon finds himself drugged and shackled in a cell – his “friends” have apparently sold him into slavery.  Missing his family, but wanting to stay alive, Solomon takes on his new slave name, Platt, and is sold to a plantation owner, yet gentleman, Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch).

Even though Solomon is educated – can read and write – and even knows a few things about engineering , his head master on the Ford Plantation, Tibeats (Paul Dano), is sick of his uppity ways, and wants him dead.  Ford steps in to save Platts from certain death, and sells him to another local plantation owner, Edwin Epps, who is known for his mean and cruel handling of his “property.”  (Played by Michael Fassender – yep’ he’s been very busy acting – as he is also THE COUNSELOR).

Platt/Solomon tries to abide by Epps’ rules, but has trouble standing by as he tortures everyone, including Epp’s lover/slave Patsey (Lupita Nyong’) much to his wife’s (Sarah Paulson) disliking – knowing that he beds this slave often.

Platt continues to try to hold on – trying to think of any way he can to escape without being slaughtered.  When a gentleman worker by the name of Bass (Brad Pitt) comes to help Platt erect a new barn on the plantation, Platt befriends him, as his last and only hope for returning him to his family.  As Platt explains to Bass his plight and how he is really a free man from the North – luckily Bass is also a free man who enjoys his freedom – and believes Platt/Solomon’s story.

Will poor Patsey be able to escape the torture of Epps and his wife?  Will Platt/Solomon be able to withstand the cruel treatment from Epps until he can figure a way out?  Will Bass keep his word and send information to Solomon’s friends and family up North that he is still alive and being held as a slave? Will Solomon make it back to his wife and children, or dye in the fields of the South?

I give 12 Years a Slave  – 5 Stars ***** – An A+ – the BEST MOVIE I HAVE SEEN SO FAR THIS YEAR!!!  Chiwetel Ejiofor gave a performance of a lifetime.  This movie and his incredible portrayal of Solomon Northrup has ACADEMY AWARD written all over it.   Slightly reminiscent of JANGO UNCHAINED, this movie is very intense, very moving and very powerful.  The story played out on screen in mesmerizing, and the real-life portrayal of these characters is astounding.  Whether you are a fan of our Nation’s History or a fan of the producer & small-part actor of this film who goes by the moniker Brad Pitt, or if you are fond of neither of these things….no matter……you will still want to see the 2 hours and 13 minutes of pure cinematic genius that is 12 Years a Slave.

Kathy Kaiser

New on DVD – LAST VEGAS – Rated PG-13

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LAST VEGAS – Rated PG-13

Director John Turteltaub – who has directed and produced such heart-warming classics as THE KID and PHENOMENON, is taking a crack at directing some of the worlds most talented “slightly older” actors as they bring to life the writing of Dan Fogelman – who also wrote CRAZY STUPID LOVE – with their newest film LAST VEGAS.

Growing up as childhood pals in the late 50’s, Billy (Michael Douglas), Paddy (Robert DeNiro), Archie  (Morgan Freeman) and Sam (Kevin Kline) – have been friends and comrades for too many years to count.  As all of their lives have taken a turn for the worse – Archie has had a stroke and is under the watchful eye of his son, Sam is living in Florida with his wife and the rest of the “old folks” that inhabit the entire state, and Paddy has just lost the love of his life – his childhood sweetheart/wife Sophie.

While each of the guys tries to adjust to a life of “getting older” – the BAD BOY of the group, Billy, who is in his late 60’s – has just decided to marry his lover Lisa (Bre Blair) – who happens to be in her early 30’s.  Billy reaches out to the guys to let them know of his impending nuptials, when they all decide to get together for “One Last Hurrah” before Billy ties the knot with his “child bride” – in the most exciting place on earth LAS VEGAS.

As the fellas try to work through some issues that they have been harboring over the years, Billy and Paddy both meet a beautiful singer named Diana (Mary Steenburgen), who happens to catch both of their eyes.

Will the boys make it through a week of fun and excitement in Vegas – or will their old bodies cry I GIVE?   Or Will Billy and Paddy work through their differences and move on to the lives they used to enjoy?  Will Billy get married or will Billy and Paddy fight over who gets Diana? And most importantly, will Sam get to use the prophylactic device that his loving wife gave him to use while in Vegas to get his “spunk and zest for life” back?

I give LAST VEGAS a B – As I was expecting a totally corny film about guys trying to relive their youth, I was pleasantly surprised that the story line was plausible –  the actors were perfectly suited for their parts – and I laughed, and laughed, and laughed some more through the entire picture.  Of course, having cameos by 50 cent and LMFAO didn’t hurt in the enjoyment factor of the film either.

Suffice to say I give this film a big TWO THUMBS UP for a great time this weekend.  Regardless of your age, you will enjoy seeing these four seasoned actors have a blast in Vegas, and from what ended up on the screen – I think they had a great time making this movie too……..

Kathy Kaiser

WINTER’S TALE – Rated PG-13

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Based on Mark Helprin’s 1983 Novel, Oscar winning screenwriter Akiva Goldman turns Helprin’s numerous pages of angst, demonic presence and true, passionate love and transforms them into a love story encompassing the ages with his new film – WINTER’S TALE.

Enter New York City, circa 1900’s, as we meet the young orphaned thief Peter Lake (Colin Farrell).  Cast aside by his mentor – turned demonic underworld servant – Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), Peter is now running for his life from the once father-figure, who now wants to kill him.  With Pearly on his heels, he is blessed with the presence of a beautiful white stallion, which helps him to escape certain death from Pearly’s gang of mobsters.

Grateful to his new companion for his escape, Peter sets out to continue to make a living the only way he knows how, by stealing.   When the stallion stops at the mansion of the wealthy Isaac Penn (William Hurt), he and his family are leaving their estate for a trip to the country.  Peter assumes all is clear to help himself to a few trinkets in Penn’s absence, when he is startled to find that Penn’s ailing daughter, the beautiful Raven haired Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay), is still at home, playing Brahms and trying desperately to keep calm as to not bring on the consumption fevers that will surely take her life.   It is love-at-first-sight for Peter and Beverly, as they are instantly attracted to one another, despite their many differences.

As Pearly and his boys stay in hot pursuit of finding Peter and ridding the world of him, Peter and Beverly begin a romance that everyone in their presence can see and feel, including Beverly’s little sister Willa (McKayla Twiggs).  Peter realizes that he has special powers and is hoping to use them to save Beverly from her untimely death, as Willa enlists Peter’s help too, to save her sister.

Will Peter be able to save Beverly so their passionate love can live on forever?  Will Pearly finely hunt Peter down and bring an end to his life?  Or will this mysterious and fascinating tale bring new meaning to what we all believe – is our existence actually nothing more than our predetermined destiny? And are all our lives being driven by the basic concept of good vs. evil?

I give WINTER’S TALE a B-:  Goldman pulled together a superb cast, as Farrell and Findlay were mesmerizingly beautiful together on screen, and the storyline taking you into modern day was also brilliant, but I just couldn’t bring myself to be taken in by all the fantasy/supernatural elements of this film – as much as I wanted to love it all – I just didn’t.  But that doesn’t mean that if you love to live in a fantasy world, and believe that our destiny in life is purely as simple as good vs. evil, you should count this one out – you might want to prove me wrong with my take on this film!

Kathy Kaiser