Movie Week in Review 2/19 - 2/26

Sunday found me watching a movie that truly proved how impossibly bored I was. Just on when I turned on the Telly, Mad Money (2008) features the always watchable Diane Keaton as a suburban wife desperate to pay the debt accumulated in her family, in disarray since hubby Ted Danson was "downsized" from a company he worked for decades. This actually happened to my stepdad so I felt for Danson. It can happen just like that. Job gone. Working as janitorial labor at a federal facility where "old currency is obliterated for fresh bills to replace them", she sets in motion with two other employees (Queen Latifa and Katie Holmes) a well orchestrated skimming operation, destroying required amounts and escaping with *a little on the side*. Stephen Root is always stealing scenes he's in. He is a character actor thief that cracks you up with just an expression or character quirk. As the eyes of the corporation, with all the cops and security detail seemingly under his watchful eye, the three ladies are sure to be very careful not to stir suspicion from Root. Latifa is a single mom with two boys she takes great care in raising responsibly. She runs the money shredding machine. She's hard working and focused on her boys being the best they could be. Which kind of makes her agreeing to Keaton's robbery a bit disconcerting for a comedy. That dichotomy isn't necessarily a great interest in the comedy which is designed to celebrate women suckering the Feds and Root who works for the government. Even a security guard who works for the facility becomes complicit because he's in love with Latifa. Holmes is a lovable ditz with a dimbulb man working at a meat plant, wanting to travel places, her job to push money carts around. The film decides to show those involved interviewed by Feds. So you know they get caught. Keaton proves to be formidable. But she gets greedy and the girls continue daily to collect the old bills and hide them at their homes. But even as the Feds comes calling Keaton is confident and defiant. Oddly the ending would have you believe concealing extra cash is worth applauding! Christopher McDonald has a small part as a tax attorney neighbor.

I rewatched Killer Joe (2011). I have already written a review so I'll refrain from a novel. McConaughey is just boss as the dominating presence of the title, Juno Temple a revelation as a slow-witted but sweet-faced child-woman, Thomas Haden Church as a boozing, easily duped dad, Emile Hersch as a oft- gambling loser under pressure from loan shark to get him his cash, and Gina Gershon as the stepmom with a lay on the side who initiated the "kill mom for her money" insurance hit that draws Killer Joe, cop for Dallas Police Department by day, hitman on the side. Although most notorious for the fellatio with chicken leg scene, which I had a hard time watching on a second time just the same as the first, Temple being drawn into the middle of the Joe and the family's turmoil when the policy pays to an outside party is equally as discomforting. McConaughey, as expected, is incredible but Temple becomes a star here. Hersch is quite a worm, with his fate a product of his own making. The kids turning out as they do is no surprise considering the adults in their world. That balance of cool and psychotic makes McConaughey terrifying and electric. Gershon deserves credit for withstanding an obviously difficult role. Friedkin, not shockingly, really brings to life this bottom-feeding white trash atmosphere, and his cast are game for anything. Location Friedkin uses further symbolizes his maverick independent directorial nature.

The Land Before Time (1993) I remember distinctively as a kid mainly for it being the *other* dino movie out, as Jurassic Park was the blockbuster taking the theaters by storm. I thought it was cute, and my son was completely enthralled. Great score and the animation by Bluth brought the prehistoric era to life, emphasizing the Earth's *restructuring itself*, separating the kid dinosaurs from their parents, forcing the little creatures to journey to The Great Valley, something similar to The Land of Milk and Honey in the Bible. You guessed it: they make it to their destination. The drawing of the dino kids and their voicework certainly should appeal to the kids. Similarly on Sunday my kids wanted to watch Beethoven (1992), another popular kiddie movie I seen in the theater when I was a child. But we settled on Beethoven's Second as I had to DVR the first one. It provided the popular St Bernard with a mate and puppies, as Debi Mazar and Chris Penn are doggie exploiters getting humiliated by them while Charles Groden grimaces a lot at the prospects of taking care of more than one Beethoven. The plot also has them away from the city and suburbia, off on vacation to a nice lodging near a lake. Favorite scene might be when Beethoven pulls apart a two story cabin with the front of it falling into a lake! Truthfully the sequel is fun for dog lovers while the first followed Groden's conditioning to having Beethoven around despite its mischief and tendency to leave his family house in a mess.

Supercross (2005) is basically a motocross commercial. It has Vogel and Howey as brothers working as pool cleaners trying to make it big in dirt bike racing. Both find hot girlfriends (Cameron Richardson and Sophia Bush respectively) while trying to make it big. Richardson, smokin hot, is the rider daughter of Robert Patrick (given little to do which sucked) while Bush is a wealthy law school student. Early Channing Tatum part has him as the star of the racing team (headed by Robert Carradine) Howey is told to block for, held back from winning on his own. Vogel is the reckless, irresponsible younger pretty boy rider, more talented than Howey but too hotheaded and confrontational. While Howey continues to do his role, Vogel works independently earning a ride with Patrick's privateer team. Eventually Vogel is injured while protecting Howey, and Howey is rejected by his team because he is deemed a threat to Tatum. The track and bike stunt work is first rate and excitingly photographed. The plot is cliche and devoid of surprise. Cast with a bunch of handsome performers who would later find their places in television mostly, but the movie was a flop. I do remember seeing some commercials for the film upon its release. On a lazy Saturday it isn't a total waste.

The son wanted to watch Cinderella (2015) and I surmised that Cate Blanchett is certainly a major reason to watch it. No doubt Branaugh knows how to bring a fairy tale to life lavishly, and Disney has the money to pay him. But you get nothing here the 1950 animated Disney film doesn't offer. Lily James is a beauty. The effects for her entourage to get her to the ball and how they return to their previous animal forms, along with the pumpkin carriage are a highlight. Studio Ghibli's Secret World of Arriety (2010) is a new love for my son and I. It has a breezy pace and feel to it, a sense of comfort in its storytelling, stunning development and presentation of little people (the size of insects) in a huge human world and how they survive, and how not all human beings are dangerous as evidenced by the sick boy preparing for a heart surgery but some are (the maid who wants to prove to others the little people exist). The size differential is a significant visual dynamo in animation. Nothing all that extraordinary in the story but as a work of beauty in animation it is fantastic....Never a surprise considering it was Ghibli. How a human boy and courageous borrower girl help each other save Arriety's mom is a memorable highlight.