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Jay B. Lane "professional audience member" RSS Feed (Seattle, WA USA)
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Focus
Focus
DVD
Price: $14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars We LIKED it!, March 1, 2015
This review is from: Focus (Amazon Instant Video)
Will Smith plays clever con men extremely well, so this is a perfect fit. Add his easy on-screen chemistry with Margot Robbie and we are treated to a colorful, action-filled R-rated (language and sexual situations) romance that keeps us scratching our heads even as we giggle with delight. We can see there is no safe place for a "mark" in a crowd and that conning is BIG business!

Co-writers and co-directors Glenn Ficara and John Requa ("I Love You Phillip Morris") bring their goofy skills, clever cons and unexpected plot twists to keep us surprised and entertained.

We see:
* Will Smith ("After Earth") Nicky teaches the science of trust. We believe him even while KNOWING he's a con man, that's how good he is! He may have one weakness...
* Margot Robbie ("The Wolf of Wall Street") Gorgeous Jess is eager to copy the best. She learns how to pull her mark's focus from his watch or his wallet so she can lift it undetected.
* Rodrigo Santoro ("I Love You Phillip Morris") This wealthy (and handsome!) South American industrialist specializes in Formula 1 race cars. He has a lot riding on a newly developed fuel.
* Robert Taylor ("Longmire") Aussie McEwen wants to get his hands on that new fuel and will pay any price for it. This Australian actor has successfully portrayed an American lawman, Longmire, on TV for years; I've watched it and never suspected he wasn't American.
* Gerald McRaney ("Longmire") Ownes is a partner in that Formula 1 race car venture, but he has a suspicious nature....
* BD Wong ("The Normal Heart" and "Law & Order, SVU") Liyuan is a gleeful gambler. He will take a chance on ANYTHING!
* Adrian Martinez ("American Hustle") Farhad is our hero's unlikely but indispensable right-hand man.

As you see, all the pieces are in place for a romp through glamorous international surroundings, high-fashion clothes and witty repartee. There will be some physical violence and an unexpected gunshot; that's what makes it unpredictable and I LIKE unpredictable.


Orphan Train
Orphan Train
by Christina Baker Kline
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.99
260 used & new from $5.64

5.0 out of 5 stars I just notified all my "Bookie" friends., February 28, 2015
This review is from: Orphan Train (Paperback)
This utterly involving book is written by Christina Baker Kline; it is about a massive 75-year-long social experiment in which over 200,000 children were sent by train from the East coast to the Midwest, starting in 1854. Ostensibly they were orphans but in some cases their parents were institutionalized or worse.

These children were sent to be adopted but in many cases they became nothing more than indentured servants, starved and beaten. In other cases, they were actually adopted and thrived. Of course WWII figures into the lives of some of our characters and we see the aftermath of decisions made during that stressful time.

We meet some of those children shipped in the 20s, but in a parallel story we also meet a young contemporary juvenile offender from the Penobscot tribe in Maine who is assigned 50 hours of Community Service to stay out of Juvenile Detention. (She stole a battered copy of Jane Eyre from the school library.) She has been shuffled from foster family to foster family. She is to interview an elderly woman in her town.

This book is only 278 pages and it goes by all too quickly.


Yes Please
Yes Please
by Amy Poehler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.35
155 used & new from $12.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Than Meets the Eye, February 26, 2015
This review is from: Yes Please (Hardcover)
This was interesting because I learned that there is more to Amy Poehler than meets the eye. In particular I was interested in her work with The Upright Citizens Brigade, which originated in Chicago, but has continued to train young improv artists on both coasts, along with the original location. Good for her!


Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: My Life
Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: My Life
by Sophia Loren
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.73
108 used & new from $8.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Fun, February 15, 2015
Maybe I wouldn't have liked this so much if I hadn't just read Anjelica Huston's dreadful opus, but this one made me feel that Sophia Loren would be a person I would like to know. She comes across as down to earth, full of common sense, surprised by the many blessings life has showered on her, but wants us to understand that she has also worked hard! She covers the impact of WWII on her mother and her during the German occupation and the Allied bombing, her co-starring with Cary Grant, her long relationship with Carlo Ponti, her time spend in jail for tax evasion and many on-set memories from her many many film roles. I loved her story of eating lunch with Audrey Hepburn (she hungrily ate a sandwich after she got back home)!

This fun and interesting book also contains a section filled with a generous number of photos, plus reproductions of notes from Cary Grant, Richard Burton, her grandchildren and many other special people in her life.

Nice job, Sophia.


Ravensburger Disney Frozen Difference Hidden Changes Puzzle (100-Piece)
Ravensburger Disney Frozen Difference Hidden Changes Puzzle (100-Piece)
Price: $11.27
38 used & new from $7.37

5.0 out of 5 stars Girls LOVE it!, February 13, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The girls who received this puzzle love it. The older one helped the younger one complete it, but they are BOTH big fans of the movie, so it would have been difficult to disappoint them. I'll have to check with them about the hidden item.


The Martian
The Martian
by Andy Weir
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.00
120 used & new from $5.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Read This Book!, February 13, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Martian (Paperback)
Read this book! I was hooked from the opening line and the humor never let up, even as our hero is confronted with what appears to be a fatal situation. (He is left for dead on Mars.)

It is interesting to know that the science and math holds up under the scrutiny of scientists and mathematicians; I am neither, so didn't spend any time on it, just stayed with the involving story about a resourceful and upbeat survivor.

I understand this is being made into a movie for release later in 2015, so read it NOW and enjoy the movie, too!


Into the Woods 1-Disc DVD
Into the Woods 1-Disc DVD
DVD ~ Meryl Streep
Price: $17.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be Careful What You Wish For..., February 13, 2015
This review is from: Into the Woods 1-Disc DVD (DVD)
"I wish..."

Remember that one? It's the first song that launches this perennial stage musical. I have seen it numerous times, most recently a spectacular version in Ashland, Oregon, staged at the Shakespearean Festival.

Now it passes into the capable hands of Rob Marshall ("Chicago") who is someone we can trust with a well-loved musical. He did it right! The first act evokes familiar childhood stories, "Little Red Riding Hood," "Jack and the Beanstalk," "Cinderella," and "Rapunzel," with The Baker and His Wife woven in for continuity. It's constructed as a sort of scavenger hunt. Of course that's the part where they all live "happily ever after." The next section is what happens AFTER the "happily ever after." (Composer Stephen Sondheim MUST be in therapy!)

A stage musical this well known draws out musical theater fans. It was fun to hear the screening audience applaud after a song, much like we would do in "live" theater. The actors not only articulated like stage actors, the sound engineering is terrific! No murmuring, no whispers and no missed dialogue. Whew! This is important because much of the music contains witty lyrics.

Here is part of this huge, capable cast:
* Lilla Crawford (TV Host) Red Riding Hood skips happily into the woods to Grandmother's house but she's a little bit scared.
* Johnny Depp ("Lucky Them") The Wolf teaches Red Riding Hood a valuable lesson when he finds her in the woods. "Hello, little girl!"
* Anna Kendrick ("Pitch Perfect") Cinderella will be just fine, if the birds keep helping her.
* Christine Baranski ("The Good Wife") Cinderella's Stepmother will go to any lengths to find the perfect husband...for her less- than-perfect daughters.
* Chris Pine ("Star Trek") Cinderella's Prince is a charming fellow.... He has my favorite punch line.
* Meryl Streep ("August: Osage County") The Witch is packing a lot of malice and in her mind it's justified. It's not HER fault!
* Mackenzie Mauzy (Lots of TV) Lonely Rapunzel knows that she wants... something ...and it isn't just visits from her mother, the Witch, so she sings a haunting melody.
* Billy Magnussen ("Boardwalk Empire") Rapunzel's Prince is in agony when the one thing he wants is the thing he can't have.
* James Corden ("Begin Again") The Baker wants a son...period! But he's not sure how to be a father. He's not good; he's not bad; he's just nice.
* Emily Blunt ("Edge of Tomorrow") The Baker's Wife can't understand why she has never had a baby, so she believes The Witch's story. It takes two....
* Daniel Huttlestone (Gavroche in "Les Miserables") is Jack, who traded his beloved Milky White for a handful of beans.
* Tracey Ullman ("How I Met Your Mother") Jack's Mother is at her wit's end trying to raise such a simple boy.

This two-hour, PG-rated collaboration between Disney, Lucamar and Marc Platt Productions depicts fairy tales, so expect some computer generated imaging but no sweaty bodies or profanity. Each actor has his or her moment in the spotlight and each one shines! It would be impossible to pick a favorite actor, scene, song or situation, although Chris Pine and Emily Blunt are perfectly cast! ...and that waterfall bit is delicious.... ...and Wyatt Smith's editing for "It's Your Fault" is lickety-split... and... Stop me or I'll go on and on and on...

I like the message, "Be careful what you wish for..."


Kingsman: The Secret Service
Kingsman: The Secret Service
DVD
Price: $12.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Homage to Steed and Peel of TV's Avengers, February 13, 2015
Kingsman: The Secret Service was founded (and funded) by wealthy families after WWI who found themselves with no heirs. They could see the flaws in their government and its intelligence gathering, so they created a powerful, richly funded organization that NO one knows about or even suspects.

This R-rated (language and violence) action/comedy/adventure is directed by Matthew Vaughn ("Layer Cake" and "X-Men: First Class"). After a bloody opening, this unpredictable romp starts with a parcour chase through city streets, and demonstrates enough gadgets to impress even Q, of James Bond fame. We see a raw kid recruited for training as a super spy, then we get to watch him learn the ropes while a gleeful villain launches a brilliant plot.

We see:
* Colin Firth ("The King's Speech") Harry Hart/Galahad is the recruiter. Our young hero's father had saved Galahad's life at the cost of his own. This dapper character has echoes of Steed from TV's original "Avengers" and a tongue-in-cheek Sean Connery from early "Bond" movies.
* Taron Egerton ("Testament of Youth") is Gary "Eggsy" Unwin, the recruit I just mentioned. He's a street tough burdened with a mother who has been going downhill ever since his father died.
* Samuel L. Jackson ("The Avengers" I DID mention this is R-rated, didn't I?) Evil Valentine has a plan to save the world and he's rich enough to do it! I'll bet his product placements for McDonald's Happy Meal and Google Glass help!
* Mark Strong ("The Guard") Merlin can sort out the applicants until there is only one left standing. This is the perfect role for Strong; It's great to see this wonderful actor (finally!) granted the screen time he so richly deserves.
* Michael Caine ("Interstellar") Arthur explains to our hero what the villain is doing, and why.
* Sofia Boutella ("StreetDance 2") is Gazelle, can you guess what she brings to the table? Not only mad hand-to-hand combat skills, but a razor-sharp blade attached to her leg. Emma Peel should have been so lucky!

This carefully choreographed martial arts violence is gruesome and bloody, but the movie is so cartoony our screening audience laughed, and then applauded when the cigarette lighter/grenade mowed down some of the enemies. It was also fun to watch our hero bond with the puppy he selected; he thought it would grow up to be a bulldog but it was actually a pug!


Elektra Luxx
Elektra Luxx
DVD ~ Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Price: $9.96
38 used & new from $2.78

4.0 out of 5 stars Review from 2011, February 13, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Elektra Luxx (DVD)
This bawdy little film is waaaay to risque for general audiences but is audacious enough for some of you...you know who you are! It's about a semi-retired porn star, so there is very little left unsaid or undone.

* Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("Inception" and "The Lookout") must have a GREAT agent! He has been in first-class projects since the beginning of his career. His character runs a blog devoted to the life and times of "Elektra Luxx"; his attempts to film and broadcast from his mother's basement are interrupted by mundane tasks, like taking out the garbage.
* Carla Gugino (she played this role before in "Women in Trouble" AND she shared the screen with Gordon-Levitt once before in "The Lookout.") As our eponymous porn star, she sings, dances, and has an interesting scene where she plays against herself, as her tough twin serving time for a felony. The twin has a lisp and a distinctive personality. This is a great showcase for Ms. Gugino!
* Kathleen Quinlan ("Made of Honor") graduated years ago from teenybopper roles, e.g., "American Grafitti." Her character attends Ms. Luxx's adult education class: "How to Act Like a Porn Star in Bed."
* Timothy Olyphant ("Deadwood") was last heard as Clint Eastwood's voice in "Rango." He is hilarious in this one, and appealing as all get out! We're gonna see a LOT of this guy!
* Adrianne Palicki (lots of TV) plays a dim bulb who is thinks maybe she should see a doctor because she might be "artistic." She admits she isn't "the sharpest stool in the shed."

This is by no means a list of the entire cast. Pretty much every actor has his or her moment to show off and the plot is all over the map, but funny 95% of the time. The Seattle International Film Festival audience laughed out loud all the way through.


Birdman
Birdman
DVD ~ Michael Keaton
Price: $14.96
16 used & new from $12.50

6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Unexpected Virtue of Good Acting, February 11, 2015
This review is from: Birdman (DVD)
Full title: "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" is a dramedy about an over-the-hill actor who once played a movie superhero only to walk away from fame and fortune. Now he would like to recapture that life by mounting a play on Broadway. And NO, Michael Keaton ("Batman" 1989) says this is NOT about his own life although he can see why people might think so.

Directed by the audacious Alejandro González Iñárritu ("Biutiful") we are treated to a star-studded cast and a brilliant, R-rated script. Emmanuel Lubezki's camera work deserves special mention: We feel we are watching long single takes with no editing or cutting. It's daring and the actors have to be on their toes. We follow them through the labyrinthine belly of a Broadway theater with twists and turns that lead to dialogue in various dressing rooms, etc., with no sense that the scene has been cut or edited. Very impressive.

We admire:
* Michael Keaton ("RoboCop" 2014) Riggan has become more and more disconnected from the people around him, namely his ex-wife, his daughter and his current girlfriend. He has a constant voice in his head that we eventually figure out is "Birdman," his alter ego. Keaton is terrific.
* Emma Stone ("The Help") is his daughter Sam. She is fresh out of rehab so her hold on sobriety is a bit shaky. Her main criticism of her dad is that he always told her she was special. Stone's diatribe is a revelation. She is very, very good!
* Lindsay Duncan ("Rome") is Tabitha, the theatre critic who vows to "kill your show." Watching Duncan and Keaton go nose to nose was a special treat.
* Zach Galifianakis ("The Hangover") is his good friend and manager Jake. He sees the situation that evolves as box-office gold.
* Edward Norton ("Moonrise Kingdom") Mike is a brilliant actor brought in when the male lead is injured just before previews start. Mike will always be authentic while he is on stage. Off stage is a different matter.
* Naomi Watts ("St. Vincent") Leslie has always wanted to appear on Broadway but when she asks, "Why don't I have any self respect?" Her co-star explains, "It's because you are an actress."

Be prepared for nudity, some profanity, a bit of smoking (both regular and controlled substances) and lengthy scenes with either Norton or Keaton in tighty whities.

I felt that key plot points were telegraphed a bit too broadly, but maybe I just see too many movies. Ya think? I WILL say this turns out to be unpredictable. I kept thinking I knew where it was going, but then....

You should see this before Oscar time so you will know what everyone is talking about.


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