Tag Archives: movie critic

Country Strong

While out on tour to revive her stalled career, once-popular country singer Kelly (Gwyneth Paltrow) falls for emerging newcomer Beau (Garrett Hedlund) and tries desperately to hide their burgeoning romance from her ever-present husband and manager, Ed (Tim McGraw). Written and directed by Shana Feste, this musical drama co-stars Leighton Meester as a former beauty queen trying to break out as a songstress.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Country Strong. It isn’t long exactly, but it does feel like it won’t end.

There are too many main characters – Gwyneth, a country super star fresh out of rehab; McGraw, her asshole of a husband and manager; and the two young wannabes along for the ride. The writer really should have picked whose story this was before trying to jam all their lives down our throats. As the story builds it feels forced and phony. This is not at all like last year’s successful movie about a washed up, drunk country star – Crazy Heart, which was authentic and raw.

Country Strong moves along quickly, it has to in order to fit it all in. Alcoholism, dead babies, affairs, parents in prison, lies, music – this movie has it all. The story isn’t unfolding as much as is being thrown at us. The scenes don’t build and reveal secrets slowly, they just spat out some issue and then the next scene spats out something new and unbelievable. And even without any build up everything is completely predictable.

I don’t really like any of the characters but the secondary leads are better than Tim and Gwyneth. It is weird watching Blair Waldorf sing country music, but she’s not bad. The young, sweet country crooner, who prefers singing in honky-tonks to good people who just want to hear some good music while they drink their beer, is cute, but his facial hair is distracting. It’s long and straight and grows in patches. He needs to shave.

The end came just in time with a big, sad, to some, dramatic finale that, again, is predictable even though there isn’t any preparation for it.

Vic’s Classics: Dr. No

On a mission in Jamaica, suave Agent 007 (Sean Connery) — in the first of the James Bond films — finds mad scientist Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) plotting to derail the U.S. space program and take over the world, pushing Bond into an intimate alliance with the sexy Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress). With the help of Felix Leiter (Jack Lord), Bond battles seductive double agents and sinister villains in his quest to save the human race.

Rating: 9 out of 10

My first theatrical exposure to a genuine James Bond film was when I saw (I’m cringing right about now) MOONRAKER in 1979. Ugh. What a way to cash in on Star Wars. Well, Disney did it with “The Black Hole,” so why not UA? After the movie I felt as if I had seen all they had in the cool, neat, little package that is James Bond so I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Meh” and moved on to my next flick. My Uncle and Grandfather had insisted that Bond had a very good run of films waaaaay back even before my time. I found it incredulous but hey who was I to argue with my Grandfather and Uncle?  So this is what happened.

Right around the time I graduated high school I went down to Tower Records and Video near Soho, Manhattan and bought every Bond film to date up to Diamonds are Forever on Videocassette. When I got home I popped in “Dr. No” first and that was the beginning of a fruitful and long relationship with Sean Connery as the baddest spy to have ever walked this planet. “Dr. No” was amazing, but I was left wondering how they made “Moonraker.”  Dr. No was produced by Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman back in the early 1960s and it was after they saw Connery in “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” that they knew they had someone who could pull off their version of the hard- nosed, all business agent. But Connery brought more to the table than that. He had danger and threat lurking just behind those studly Scottish lips.

Swiss actress Ursula Andress, who was cast after being seen in a photograph just two weeks before shooting began, is my very first Bond girl. Who will ever live up to that walking out of the water onto the beach scene?  NO ONE!  And She can act, too!  I must, in all honestly,  say that Joseph Wiseman out-acts just about everyone in this film as the evil megalomaniac Dr. No who is involved in appropriate evil Cold War hi-jinks with that grand-poobah of evil global organizations S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Wiseman is chilly, dangerous and very aloof and that makes him very evil and believable. This film is just all around a must see Bond film and a must-own for spy film enthusiasts. Connery is just stunning to behold as he swaggers and assassinates his way through this very economical spy thriller. Now if only I can sell off all those Bond videocassettes…

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The Eclipse

In this supernatural thriller penned and helmed by award-winning Irish playwright and director Conor McPherson (Salt Water, The Actors), Ciarán Hinds (There Will Be Blood) stars as a recent widower who begins to sense that a mysterious presence is sharing his house. Iben Hjejle and Aidan Quinn co-star as a pair of novelists whose worlds converge with that of the widower thanks to an international literary festival in Wexford that brings surprising changes to all their lives.

Rating: 8 out of 10

This film is extraordinarily subtle, from its performances, writing, cinematogrphay, and even its more chilling moments.

McPherson is very patient as a director. He develops characters, never goes over the top with gore or scary imagery, and builds the entire movie to have meaning in the third reel. Because of this, the viewer needs to be share McPherson’s patience. It’s not very hard, though, as the characters are believable, ones we can relate to on many levels and care about by the end of the film. McPherson never takes the easy way out of his story — a big splashy scene with gore and car chases or a corny monologue to wrap up a conflict within a character.

Because of this, the ghost story he tells is more believable and therefore even more tense. It’s not out-of-this-world crazy. In fact, many of us may had similar experiences as the characters in “The Eclipse.” This is one of the best psychological thrillers I’ve seen in a while. The scares are few, but powerful. As a side note, it’s available on Netflix’s instant viewing.

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