Monday, February 24, 2014

Gloria, Winter's Tale, and Brief Mentions of The Lego Movie and 3 Days to Kill

          Love: Can’t Live With It, Can’t Live Without It
                       Reviews by Ken Burke         Gloria

Delightful story of an older woman who’s ready for a new relationship so she goes out to actively seek it only to find a guy with a serious commitment-phobia problem.
                                                                               Winter's Tale
Romance is enhanced by fantasy elements in this tale of destined love, the eternal battle of good vs. evil, and the beauty of a flying horse, but it just doesn’t come together.
Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ brilliantly insightful reviews.  This is how we write, so as to explore what must be said as art transcends commerce (although if anyone wants to pay us for doing this ...); therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when ready to be transported to—well, wherever we end up.

We also encourage you to check your tastes against ours with the summary of Two Guys reviews, which we update with each new posting.  But please be aware that the links we recommend in our reviews may have been removed or modified without our knowledge.  Other overall notations for this blog may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepage.  Now, onward to illumination; you may want to protect your eyes from the brilliance.]

At least until the Oscars for 2013 have been awarded on Sunday, March 2, 2014 (which, in no relationship whatsoever, is also Texas Independence Day—some things you don’t forget after they’ve been drummed into you for 37 years [after which I finally escaped to California]) I’m also going to include reminders in each review posting of very informative links where you can get updated tallies of which 2013 films made various individual critic's Top 10 lists and which ones have been nominated for and/or received various awards.  You may find the diversity among the various critics and the various awards competitions hard to reconcile at times—not to mention the often-significant-gap between critics’ choices and competition-award-winners (which usually pales in comparison to the even-more-noticeable-gap between box-office-success—which you can monitor here—and any sort of critical/statuette recognition), but as that less-than-enthusiastic-patron-of-the-arts, Plato, noted in The Symposium (385-380 BC)—roughly translated, depending on how accurate you wish the actual quote to be—“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder,” so your choices are as valid as any of these others, especially if you can offer some rationale for your decisions (unlike many of the awards voters who simply fill out ballots, sometimes for films they’ve never seen).
To save you a little scrolling through the “various awards” list above, here are the Golden Globe winners Golden Globe winners for films and TV from 2013, along with the Oscar nominations here.
For the most recent Two Guys postings I’ve been adding to my usual repertoire with analyses of the 15 Short Films which are the finalist nominees in the Animation, Documentary, and Live Action categories (in the 2/6, 2/14, and 2/20 postings, respectively) for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards coming up soon.  When next I post after this edition I’ll finally commit myself to personal favorites and complete Oscar predictions, but before getting to this extended-season-finale for 2013 I’ll offer some observations on a few other options currently available in theaters, one that just about everyone has seen (therefore, my notations will be relatively few as there’s not much I can add to how The Lego Movie has been embraced by the ticket-buying public, so I’ll keep it to the realm of unofficial, passing comments), one that was likely intended to be a big splash but hasn’t lived up to expectations (Winter’s Tale, which took in a lowly $11.3 million in its first 2 weeks, vainly chasing its $60 budget, even though it's been consistently beaten by Frozen [Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee; review in our January 24, 2014 posting], which has already been in release for 14 weeks), one that’s getting trashed in the critics’ world almost as badly as Winter’s Tale, 3 Days to Kill (McG), but I still find Kevin Costner as a desperate, dying CIA executioner entertaining in a strange sort of way, and Gloria, which is well worth your time—more so than these other 3 if you’d like to make a mature-adult-choice among them (that should put me in solid with the Lego lovers and Costner fans, although I do belong to both groups)—but has barely broken the $1 million mark despite being out in the U.S. for the last 5 weeks (but only in 112 theaters so far, pitifully below the almost/way beyond 3,000 mark enjoyed by these other current releases).  So, despite its obscure place within the current-box-office-tally, I’ll start this review cluster with the Chilean-import, Gloria (Sebastián Lelio), which is likely the best option out there right now that doesn’t have an Oscar nomination attached to its name.  At one level, there may not seem like there’s too much to it, as “all” it does is chronicle the seemingly uneventful life of an upper-middle-aged-woman (there was a time not long ago when she’d have been called “old” or at least “older,” but given our species’ increasing-longevity, she’s still in a version of her prime—a conceit I’ll hold onto as well, for as long as possible, as I savor my past 66 years), Gloria Cumplido (of the title, played marvelously by Paulina Garciá).  She’s been divorced for quite awhile, has noise problems with her upstairs neighbor along with constant visits from a disturbing-looking-hairless-cat, frequents the Santiago club scene with her same-age-friends, and is ready for another substantial relationship, although she’s nowhere near the stage of being desperate enough to put up with unacceptable b.s. from any potential suitors, although she does begrudgingly tolerate how her 2 grown children, Ana (Fabiola Zamora) and Pedro (Diego Fontecilla), generally ignore her—Ana does inform Mom that she’s about to move to Sweden to be with her globe-roving-skier-boyfriend, Theo (Eyal Meyer), but this is hardly welcome news.  (Hey, Google, does this use of sanitized-adult-language euphemisms still prevent me from soliciting ads on this site?  If so, I continue with my “What the hell, screw you!” response but will also offer a “Have a nice day, my overlords!” just in case you’ve lightened up any in the last few months as you’ve been busy taking over the world.)

So, with that above foundation, this film involves a minimum of additional elements, all focused on a guy, Rodolfo Fernández (Sergio Hernández), who makes a play for Gloria at her favorite club one night, quickly has sex with her, holds off on a return-date-call because he’s so nervous about messing up the possible relationship, finally gets up the nerve to ask her out for a lunch date, then swings ridiculously (for her tastes) from professing eternal passion (in the midst of a lot more sex and romance scenes) to being so freaked out by the responsibilities of a commitment that he actually walks out on her both at a family gathering with her children and at a restaurant (without letting on that he’s about to do so either time) but then begs for her forgiveness and another chance.  It also doesn’t help that even though he’s divorced he has confining attachments to his 2 adult daughters so that he and Gloria can barely go anywhere without him getting a cell-phone-call from one of them about some family “emergency,” including one involving his ex-wife that severely interrupts what’s supposed to be a romantic getaway for Rodolfo and Gloria at a beachside resort.  The photo above is darker than I’d prefer for proper visibility, but there were precious few to choose from as offered by Gloria’s promotions team, plus this one does convey the gloomy attitude that she’s constantly left with when trying to negotiate rationality with this confused jerk, so from a symbolic perspective it conveys everything that’s wrong with our leading lady’s life.

However, she’s not interested in what goes wrong (as illustrated by her constant attempt to keep an upbeat mood, especially by singing along with the radio in a vibrant voice as she drives along from place to place) but more in what can be done to make it right again.  In the case of Rodolfo, she finally resorts to using the paint gun that he taught her to shoot with on one of their happier days to take out her frustration on him and even his house (you can see this in the recommended YouTube clip below, which does help you get a complete sense of this film, even if you can’t find it in a venue in your area) before heading back to her comfy club to see if anyone new might be available for consideration.  That’s about it for the plotline in this marvelous South American export, where everyone seems a little nuts (complementing the actual walnuts, almonds, and European hazelnuts that are important exports from Chile, so you might want to sneak a can of one of those in with you if you get a chance to see this film, just to keep yourself in the proper mood), although Gloria is constantly ready to rise above the silliness that society keeps throwing at her, presenting herself as an admirable, self-sufficient woman who’s always ready to consider new possibilities but just not willing to accept something that’s beneath her dignity.  Gloria’s hard to describe further, for me at least, because it generates a spontaneous sense of interest and humor (along with a bit of sadness) that works better directly on the screen than transposed to words on a page.  If you can’t find it locally, I encourage you to keep it on your rental/download list for when it’s available because I think you’ll find its simple structure pays off in a wealth of deeper implications about what it takes to be self-sufficient in a world that puts so much emphasis on responding to the needs of others that keep creeping in on your life with their various social-media-devices, sucking away your own vitality in an endless game of call-and-response.  Gloria is also ripe for my standard musical metaphors, including the obvious choice used in this film as the events of our leading lady’s life fade off into final credits while she actively sings along with a Spanish version of Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” (from her 1982 debut album Branigan) at (a music video from that time in full disco mode), reprising not only a constant “oldies” hit but also a powerful tune used long ago in the soundtrack of Flashdance (Adrian Lyne, 1983)—although the present lyrics, at least as translated in Gloria’s subtitles, seemed a bit reworked to my (always fallible) memory.

However, I can’t pass up the chance to also offer Van Morrison’s more hard-driving, nightclub-appropriate song of the same name (with completely different content) from back in his days with Them at http:// watch?v=d5FBWOB_ nGM, a stark black-and-white-rendition from French TV reflecting the aesthetics of the song’s 1964 origin as a single record, followed by a more current version at com/watch?v=BvJn lLMJ1Rw (from a November 2008 show at the Hollywood Bowl, which, unfortunately, may play in a bit of a fragmented fashion, unless the problem lies with my aging computer—which in computer years is clearly “old,” not “middle-aged” of any sort).  I especially had to include the Morrison song because both it and the Gloria film are about as far from church content as you could imagine (Despite their well-earned flabbiness, Gloria and Rodolfo go at in the sack in a very vigorous, mutually-satisfying-fashion—the mention of which probably doesn't fit your "family friendly" goal for ad-carrying blogs, does it Google overlords?  Oh well, c'est la vie ... la de da, la de da.), even though my decades-ago-close-friend-and-roommate, Jerry Graham (of Graham Advertising, Colorado Springs, CO, who’ll happily encourage you to go out and buy a car), and I, in our 1968 University of Texas at Austin Catholic Student Center days, used this tune for an unexpected version of the “Gloria” for the Sunday Mass (“Glory to God in the highest, Peace to men of good will,” etc.) which proved to be so effective that the choir was still using our amalgamation of these 2 resources when I finally left there in 1977 after 2 rounds of grad school (Maybe they still do; who knows?  Anyone out there both reading this blog and going to mass at UT who could tell me?  That’s asking a lot, I know.)  We didn’t spell out “G L O R I A,” but it was a rocking liturgy rendition that I think our Gloria character in this current film might have appreciated and sung along with, as long as she could make the Sunday mass at about noon after a normal Saturday night dancing and drinking at her favorite hot spots, but if she went to church it would likely be more out of curiosity than to confess any sins.  She doesn’t see herself as flawless by any means, but she’s offering no apologies for her choices either to man or God.  You go, girl!  (Go she does: Garciá won the Best Actress Silver Bear 2013’s Berlin International Film Festival, a well-deserved honor for an admirable portrayal, which I hope you’ll find the opportunity to see at some point in some format—although I must admit I was occasionally distracted by what I saw as a connection to Tootsie [Sydney Pollack, released on my birthday in 1982 when I was a lad of 35] in Gloria’s resemblance to the Dorothy Michaels character portrayed by Dustin Hoffman, but I’m sure there was no intention there and the appearance of Gloria certainly was intentionally constructed to dim down the natural radiance of Garciá, yet I can’t quite shake what kept emerging for me whenever I looked at her [in the same vein, I have to agree with my wife, Nina, that Rodolfo looked a lot like Lorne Michaels—long-time-producer of Saturday Night Live, who's added The Tonight Show to his résumé now that Jimmy Fallon’s taken over as host—which contributed another distraction for both of us], but maybe I’m just a crazy old man rather than a mature middle-aged-stud after all.  I’ll leave that decision to Nina, an even better choice for analyzing my possible attributes than Gloria would be.)

By contrast, I don’t think anything will be going into the lockbox of cultural significance from the filmic adaptation by Akiva Goldsman of Mark Helprin’s 1983 novel, Winter’s Tale, a potentially-interesting-conception that combines the standard genres of romance and fantasy into a tale where you never know what to expect next, populated on screen by a host of well-respected, well-rewarded actors, but with a mindset that just rolls from ridiculous to ludicrous, while taking itself too seriously to even be proper fun at midnight screenings of drunken/stoned devotees (as you can tell, Google overlords, I don't care much anymore about your intended content restrictions).  It took me awhile to get around to seeing this one, which I resisted because of the consistently bad reviews (a whopping 13%—yes, that’s ONE THREE PERCENT—from the grocers at Rotten Tomatoes with a slightly more sympathetic 31% from the experts at Metacritic, more details on both in the suggested links far below) and tepid response so far at the box office (again, just over $11 million since release, despite playing in almost 3,000 theaters; even worse, it’s a love story that tanked on Valentine’s Day weekend [but $8 million of its total did come then], where most of the interest in the romance direction seems to have gone to About Last Night [Steve Pink] with an almost $28 million opening, while Endless Love [Shana Feste] took in about $14.5 million, with both of them on fewer screens than Winter’s Tale and Endless Love doing as bad as any of them with the reviewers—14% with RT and 30% with MC, while About Last Night did have the critical advantage with 76% at RT and 62% at MC).  Still, with such a stellar cast that includes 3 Oscar winners—Russell Crowe (Best Actor for Gladiator [Ridley Scott, 2000]), Jennifer Connelly (Best Supporting Actress for A Beautiful Mind [Ron Howard, 2002]), and William Hurt (Best Actor for Kiss of the Spider Woman [Hector Babenco, 1985])—and plenty of other worthy talent—especially Colin Farrell, Will Smith, Eva Maria Saint (On the Waterfront [Elia Kazan, 1954], North by Northwest [Alfred Hitchcock, 1959]) … and Roman Blat (uncredited, sadly) … although I understood from Downton Abbey-fan-Nina that I could expect good things from Jessica Brown Findlay as well (life force of the now-departed Lady Sybil Branson)—I just had to see what this was all about that could take such performance talent and a story from a beloved novel but still run it into the ground (although I guess that 1916 haircut we see on time-travelling-thief Peter Lake [Farrell] in the photo above [dancing with terminally-ill Beverly Penn (Findlay)—consumption, now known as tuberculosis, which gives her high fevers so she’s not bothered by the cold, as with Queen Elsa in Frozen—who’s suddenly become his own endless love] should have been enough of a tipoff that no good could come from this experiment in genre-hybridization where Lucifer—yes, that Lucifer, of fire-and-brimstone-fame—wears a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt while reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time years before it’s published [must have gotten it through a wormhole], good people eventually turn into the stars in our nighttime sky, and a flying horse frequently makes everything right for Peter even though there are no other traces of Greek mythology to be found in this incredible mess [although as best I could follow the plot the horse is actually like a Christian guardian angel in an unexpected form]).  Most of the blame for the failures here seems to rest with Goldman, a respected screenwriter (among many others I’ll cite A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code [Howard, 2006], and I Am Legend [Francis Lawrence, 2007]), who probably took on too much quirky narrative for his debut as a feature-film-director (he also gets "credit” for the screenplay), although without knowing anything about the novel I can’t say what he had to work with, nor why he may have alienated devoted fans of the book—although after reading a synopsis of it, I wonder if maybe Goldsman should have taken his movie even further into the alternate NYC universe that the book’s plot exists in, allowing the other flamboyant metaphysical elements to run wild as well so that possibly the unlimited excess might have alleviated any need to try to see the logic or attempted-seriousness of what was trying to coalesce on screen for him.

I’m not sure how much more I’m going to try to write about Winter’s Tale before it just seems cruel to beat it into the ground, so I’ll be sure that you get a look at the horse (sorry that this photo isn't as sharp as it might be but the overall layout this post just called for this one to be bigger), although here he’s just in regular rider mode rather than winging it through the heavens as will occur at the end when Peter’s done the miraculous deed that he was destined for (Do you really care about Plot Spoilers where this thing is concerned?  I’m trying to do you a favor by encouraging you to not spend any cash on this turkey, trust me.), then finally becoming a star to join his dearly-departed Beverly (stealing a bit of business from It’s a Wonderful Life [Frank Capra, 1946] where saints [I’m assuming that’s the Joseph being referred to in those heavenly dialogues] and angels-in-waiting [Clarence, wingless until the end of that story when everything works out for George Bailey] talk as flickering stars, with the further deviation from orthodox Biblical scripture that good humans in Heaven eventually become angels rather than saints, but proper theology is the least of our worries with either of these movies—although Capra’s now-embraced-classic is like a heavenly comet compared to the sputtering charcoal briquette that we find bouncing around as Winter’s Tale).  In another use of classic iconography, though, Peter’s marvelous mount in white in this photo is facing off against Peter’s stepfather (for all practical purposes, as this devious guy raised the orphan boy to run with his gang of hooligans), Pearly Soames (Crowe), in black from head to horse, whom we find out is a demon in Lucifer’s (Smith, with a marvelously-wicked attitude and that “righteous” shirt) army assigned to corrupt souls in the 5-boroughs area of the Empire State’s crown-jewel-city (he’s been limited to this territory for some transgression we never get details about).  To quickly put the other pieces of the story in place (in hopes you’ll be able to make some sense of these remarks), Peter meets Beverly when attempting to rob her house; they fall in love immediately over tea and escape from Pearly’s goons on the magic horse; her little sister, Willa (Mckayla Twiggs), tells him that he can prevent Beverly’s death by giving her true love’s kiss in their upstate-family-estate’s-greenhouse, but that doesn’t work as she dies despite his best efforts at revival; Peter is cornered on the Brooklyn Bridge by Pearly who throws him seemingly to his death but instead he emerges in 2014 with amnesia; Peter’s memory returns when a reporter for the powerful Penn family newspaper, the New York Sun, Virginia Gamely (Connelly—but, then, I guess everyone's "gamely" trying their best here), helps him trace his few identity clues (including meeting Willa again [Saint—who’s almost 90 now, but if you follow the chronology of this movie Willa’d be about 105 although she looks about 20 years younger]); ultimately, Peter finds that the one he was supposed to save is Virginia’s daughter, Abby (Ripley Soto)—also terminally-ill with cancer—which he does in the greenhouse after Pearly’s given up his immortality (for some reason I didn’t follow) to have a death-match with Peter (after the horse breaks the ice on the estate’s lake so that Pearly’s henchmen all drown, along with their cars) that he loses when Peter stabs him with a metal nameplate from the model boat, the City of Justice, his parents sent him to NYC in back in 1895 after they were turned away from Ellis Island; then Peter (who’s now used his personal miracle—we all have one, you know—to save Abby, just as Beverly used hers to keep Peter alive for an extra century) and the horse fly off to the stars.  Got all that?  Good, you can keep it.  I’ll offer commendations to the entire cast for delivering their lines without a smirk (although when original Penn-newspaper-editor-in-chief/publisher, Isaac [Hurt], and Peter discuss the proper pronunciations of “claret,” “fillet,” and “wallet,” you have to wonder how many takes it took to get through that scene with the original "serious" intention, especially considering that total production costs were only $60 million so they must all have taken a hefty pay cut to keep this thing on budget, thereby personally losing money for every day they were on the set).

As a matter of fact, here’s a shot of Connelly (and Soto) checking her smart phone to see where her career went after that Oscar and the mesmerizing The House of Sand and Fog (Vadim Perelman, 2003), until she somehow signed up for this mishmash (but she’ll be riding the waves with Crowe in a few weeks as the ark-builder’s wife, Naameh, in Noah [Darren Aronofsky], likely infuriating all the evangelical Christians who aren’t already having aneurisms about good souls turning into stars when they see this upcoming Hollywood take on the well-known Genesis story).  The voice-over-narration that tries to hold things together in the Winter's Tale plot for the audience offers the happy revelation that “magic is all around us,” just as we constantly find light to be a powerful presence in this movie, with rays of color bleeding into the shots, illumination through jewels, even the blinding starlight—seemingly from Beverly far away in the Orion constellation—that distracts Pearly in his ultimate fight with Peter, but the light will likely dim quickly on this quirky construction, so I’ll just bid adieu to it with a musical metaphor from The Beatles, “Mr. Moonlight” (written by Roy Lee Johnson, included on the 1964 British Beatles for Sale and American Beatles ’65 albums) at, one of the most horrible songs they ever recorded, in my opinion, but still there’s something strangely compelling about it, which makes it a perfect companion for the movie version of Winter’s Tale, which has some of the same qualities.  (As Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle [in a much more positive review than I would have anticipated from him] says: “Besides, “Winter’s Tale” has a magic white horse, and these days you just can’t see enough of those.”)

Well, of course I rambled on much longer than I should have about Winter’s Tale but it’s sort of the train wreck that keeps on giving so it’s hard to stop, but I promise that in closing out my comments this week I’ll say just a bit about the super-sophisticated-despite-intentionally-looking-clunky-computer-animated The Lego Movie (Phil Lord, Christopher Miller) without even bothering to give it a formal review because by now this “awesome” steamrolling-experience has possibly been seen at least once by everyone who’s interested (with a massive domestic haul of almost $183 million after just 3 weeks with even more predicted as this juggernaut keeps flattening the competition, further supported by analytical acclaim— Rotten Tomatoes gives it a magnificent 96% while Metacritic offers only somewhat less with 82%—which is amazing for a PG film essentially intended for children to see, then drain their parents’ bank accounts by buying every LEGO device that’s still on the toy store shelves).  As the critical chorus tells us, this silly, colorful assault on our attention span is filled with witty commentary on the mercantile and media worlds that surround us, although it ultimately ends with a message of acceptance and inclusion that makes for a useful (if probably subliminal) message for the kids in the audience (although there were none at the weekday afternoon showing I attended so it’s clear the humor for once isn’t grounded just in poop [or should I just go ahead and say s**t, Google "Business"-men?] and fart jokes for the youngest common denominator).  Like the long-lasting sketch TV series concept that’s been a constant fixture on the airwaves since at least NBC’s Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (1968-1973) through NBC’s (OK, Peacock Boys, where’s my kickback for all these plugs?  I need some income!) Saturday Night Live (1975 –present) with its regular crop of come-and-gone-imitators, The Lego Movie just keeps throwing silliness (along with a lot of very active, highly-detailed-although-blocky-imagery) at you until something sticks for a few seconds so the quality of the humor doesn’t matter that much when the quantity is so consistently available.  If I were giving this one an official review I’d say about 3 ½ stars because there’s nowhere near the spectacular level of attraction that this eager assault has been claimed to be in the most superlative reviews, but you can’t help but enjoy it, especially if you’re like me and have no children, grandchildren, nor other half-pint-relatives who’ll be clamoring for some new playthings as soon as the house lights come up in the theater.  (Maybe one reason I'm not so gaga over The Lego Movie as are other critics is that they had the advantage of seeing it fresh, being pleasantly surprised by it, then writing superlative reviews so that by the time I saw it my expectations were too elevated, anticipating something really unique not just consistently funny, so that I just don't see it as a repeat-viewing-4-star-experience.)

As with a lot of movies of this type (emulating the plastic LEGO characters that the kids are encouraged to play with, in creating their own freewheeling stories), there’s a simple conflict between good and evil, although this situation offers a lot of variety in the good forces, led (eventually) by common-but-enthusiastic-construction-worker Emmet Brickowoski (voiced by Chris Pratt, front and center with the yellow face in the photo with the paragraph above), helped (most of the time) by friends and creative Master Builders (who find the most inventive uses for the LEGO building blocks) such as Wyldstyle (voice of Elizabeth Banks)—immediately to his right—Unikitty (voice of Alison Bre)—to his left—Metalbeard (voice of Nick Offerman)—immediately behind Emmet—and Batman (voice of Will Arnett), along with many others not in the above photo like Superman (voice of Channing Tatum), Green Lantern (voice of Jonah Hill), Wonder Woman (voice of Cobie Smulders—I guess there’s a Warner Brothers/DC comic connection with LEGO that I wasn’t aware of, but I’m sure there’s lots about LEGO and its many marketing connections that I’m not in tune with), Abraham Lincoln (voice of Will Forte), Shaquille O’Neal (voicing himself), and, most importantly, the wizard Vitruvius (voice of Morgan Freeman), who serves as a sort of Obi-Wan Kenobi guide to help Emmet discover if he’s truly the “Special” who will thwart the plan of Lord/President Business (voice of Will Ferrell)—assisted by his armies of Micro-Managers and Super Secret Police led by Bad Cop (voice of Liam Neeson)—to use the powerful Kragle (which seems like something from the Thor movies but really is just a tube of Krazy Glue with some of the letters obscured) to bind any rebellious characters into a permanent state to allow (Big) Business to maintain order, stifling personal creativity in the process.  We ultimately learn that this is all in the imagination of a human young boy, Finn (Jadon Sand), who’s dared to tamper with his Dad’s (Ferrell)—the “Man Upstairs”— carefully-constructed LEGO lands in their basement, but all’s well in the end as Dad eventually accepts Junior’s desire to let his imagination run wild.  There’s a multitude of jokes and sly social commentary along the way in this fast-moving, pro-individuality narrative, providing a marvelous diversion from the demands of business-driven-real-life (and $37 cups of designer coffee), so if you’re feeling stressed about anything (such as typing movie reviews into the wee hours of the morning) I’d recommend a getaway to The Lego Movie, which may not leave you with much of substance when it all flies away but it’s certainly a major enjoyment while you’re racing along with it, in full appreciation of the positive attitude that Emmet offers as a guy (somewhat like the new host of NBC’s The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon [OK, Lorne, another plug!], and all of those Olympic athletes providing him with such an effective lead-in for the past week) who’s just too positive and determined to succeed to not appreciate and want to root on to victory through the “awesome” power of teamwork—especially when Emmet’s carrying the legendary Piece of Resistance, which turns out to be the red cap for closing off the tube of glue.  This movie should keep you smiling until the next Taco Tuesday or maybe even until that new Star Wars episode is released (yep, Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, C-3PO, and Chewbacca make a cameo appearance too) so if you want to know more please visit the official site and/or The Lego Movie trailer; if you really want to boost up your energy level then sing along with “Everything Is AWESOME!” at (if you can keep up with it).

There’s already plenty of commentary for you to sift through in this posting, but I’ll cap it off with just a few thoughts on 1 more movie, newly-opening 3 Days to Kill, which can function as a pleasing escape from reality if you’re willing to buy the premise that one of the CIA’s best hitmen, Ethan Renner (Costner), now dying of brain-lung-cancer-complications just can’t seem to pull the trigger when he needs to on either of the baddest asses on the planet, The Albino (Tómas Lemarquis), and his obscure boss, The Wolf (Richard Sammel), because every time he gets the chance he’s interrupted by either a bleeding-exhaustion-attack from the illness, a hallucination attack from the experimental-recovery-drug he’s taking, or a “Sorry, I’ve got to take this” cell-phone-call from his teenage daughter, Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld); but even if those plot points—along with the constant, at times comical, bickering Ethan has with Zoey and his ex-wife, Tina (Connie Nielsen)—aren’t enough to entice your interest do be aware that if you catch 3 Days to Kill (a nice pun on the escalating body count within the story compared to Zoey’s comment to Dad that with Mom off on a business trip to London they have “3 days to kill,” trying to repair their fractured parent-child-relationship) on a bargain matinee you’ll get more than your money’s worth of marvelous scenes of Paris, truly a location of grand beauty (or, if snug-fitting-leather-outfits on attractive women driving like maniacs through city streets are more your thing, then you get a good number of eyefuls [Like “Eiffel,” as in “… Tower,” get it?  Damn, I’m clever!] of that with Ethan’s CIA handler, vivacious-but-vicious Vivi Delay [Amber Heard]—although my wife, Nina, tells me that Costner’s still looking good for his age, even though he’s far preceded Yankees-legend Derek Jeter [another of her dreamy delights but with fewer calories than cookies] in retiring from baseball).  Along the way on this active (but not too-graphically-bloody) ride you also get a car chase of epic proportions (with Ethan driving on the sidewalk much of the time), some tips on how to properly cook fish, and a battle of emotions within Ethan as he tries to secretly live up to his promise to Tina that he’s done with spy work, even as Vivi (a lo-cal delight in her own right, I admit) pushes him for these last 2 kills in trade for the antidote that may well prolong his life.  Even though the reviews have generally been blisteringly bad (25% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, 39% on Metacritic)—and maybe I’m just too willing to accept the humor of various situations as Ethan turns to various kidnappings in attempts to get needed information (along with some other clever bits about various women’s hair)—I still think this was a lot of fun to watch (or maybe it was the nacho-cheese-flavoring on my popcorn; that always puts me in a really good mood), but just don’t expect a lot beyond action-movie-clichés, attractive scenery (of various kinds), and surprisingly-interesting twists on African squatters in Ethan’s apartment and the assumption that the hero will always triumph over adversity—and, it would probably help if you don’t put too high a regard on human life, at least the lives of well-dressed-Eurothugs, given that a lot of them fall by the wayside on the way to Ethan’s final confrontation with The Wolf.  If I’ve piqued your curiosity at all about 3 Days to Kill—which did make back almost half of its very economical $28 million budget on opening weekend—then you might want to visit its official site or watch its trailer, which gives you a pretty decent accounting of what it’s about if that’s all you prefer to see.  If this were an official review I’d say about 3 stars just because of the unexpected twists that pop up and the great travelogue footage.  Or, if you just don’t care about any of this, maybe you’re more in the mood for staying home alone, singing along with The Beatles’ “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” (from the 1964 UK Beatles for Sale, 1965 US Beatles VI albums) at (interesting video illustrated mostly with footage from A Hard Day’s Night [Richard Lester, 1964] chosen to somewhat reflect the lyrics)—a better tune than what you find in the movie with Bread‘s soggy-sentimental “Make It with You,” as Ethan is teaching Zoey to dance while thinking of the love gone sour with Tina (but if you must, here’s that one—from the 1970 On the Waters album—as well, at com/watch?v=K4R93xnKink [from a 1977 performance on TV’s The Midnight Special).

 When next we meet I’ll finally offer my Oscar preferences and predictions for the 2013 films.  Until then, stay AWESOME!  (But try to find some cheaper coffee than what they serve in LEGO Land.)

➜ CORRECTION:  Within my previous posting (February 20, 2014), in reviewing Facing Fear (Jason Cohen), an Oscar-nominated Documentary Short Film, I noticed afterwards in the second paragraph of those comments that I made some confusing identifications in regard to the 2 men who are the subjects of that essay in tolerance, Tim Zaal and Matt Boger.  As originally written it sounded like when they met again after they were both much younger that Tim was the one working at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance when, in fact, it was Matt.  Sorry for any confusion caused by my clumsy wording for anyone who previously read that review; it’s now been edited to make clear their proper identities (ironically, the overall subject of the posting and its several reviews) in that situation.  UPDATE:  In that same posting I reviewed another nominated Short Doc, The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (Malcolm Clark), the story of Alice Herz-Sommer, the oldest living survivor of the Holocaust at 110, but I've now had to sadly add the news of her death on February 23, 2014, just days before this year's Oscar ceremony.

AND, given the ongoing political unrest in Ukraine, I'd like to thank the many Ukrainians who have been reading this blog site recently (based on what the accurate accountants at Google tell me). How you folks have time for Two Guys reviews in the midst of all that you're dealing with, I have no idea, but my best to you in sorting out your country's internal needs (with whatever help, if any, Two Guys can offer you) in bringing about a just society that speaks to the needs of your people (I hope this color, in honor of your previous Orange Revolution, reads well on various computers, but please know that my intentions are sincere even if my Web layout skills are deficient).
If you’d like to know more about Gloria here are some suggested links: (actually serves as a useful summary of the most important aspects of the film) (here’s an interesting twist for you, a 6:07 clip from the start of the film, dubbed into German from the original Spanish; even if you can’t follow the dialogue you can get a good sense of how these longer scenes enhance what you get from the trailer above)

If you’d like to know more about Winter’s Tale here are some suggested links: (4:47 featurette on the film with commentary from several of the filmmakers, especially director/screenwriter Akiva Goldsman and actors Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay, incorporating scenes from the above trailer)

As noted above, we encourage you to look over our home page (ABOUT THE BLOG), found as the first one in our December 2011 postings, to get more information on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, including our formatting forewarning about inconsistencies among web browser software which we do our best to correct but may still cause some visual problems beyond our control.

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If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my new email at  Thanks.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile.    Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.


  1. Was one of the few people to catch Gloria and agree with your assessments and recommendations. It was interesting to see a 50+ woman, portrayed as a somewhat average female in a very sexual role. Certainly not for kids and not exactly a date night movie for 20 somethings.

  2. Hi rj, Always good to hear from you. We seem to be in sync with Gloria. Ken