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Rules Don’t Apply – ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

Jack Reacher Never Go Back35

Howard Hughes is one of the most interesting people in American history.  Aviator, inventor, filmmaker, and possibly insane, Rules Don’t Apply opens with a packed newsroom awaiting a phone call from Hughes (Warren Beatty) who has holed up in an Mexican hotel room, to debunk a tell-all book about him, and prove to the world that he is still alive, and that he is not crazy.  The film then jumps back in time and tells us the story of hired driver Frank (Alden Ehrenreich), and one of Hughes’ contract actresses, Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins).  Hughes of course has a strict no dating policy between his drivers and his contract actresses, but naturally sparks fly between the two, but ambitions on both sides get in the way. 

She wants to be an actress, he wants to invest and develop land with Hughes.  Both want to meet their reclusive boss, and when he does arrive on the scene and each does get to meet him, things get a little crazier and a lot more complicated.  Beatty’s Hughes is a character I’d love to meet.  He was a bit nuts, but often times he was still the smartest man in the room.

The film was enjoyable, both as a look at a bygone Hollywood age, and as a fictional biopic of Howard Hughes.  Warren Beatty really stood out in the film, which is not surprising as he was screenwriter, director and star.  That aside, his performance really was excellent.  He walked a fine line between sanity and insanity, between genius and insanity. The film almost felt like Sunset Boulevard with Howard Hughes instead of Norma Desmond.  Lily Collins (daughter of Phil Collins) had great chemistry with everybody, and I really enjoyed her singing too.  The film really brought together a great cast including Matthew Broderick, Martin Sheen, Candice Bergen and Oliver Platt among others.

At times I do think that the film lost it’s course a bit and couldn’t decide if it was supposed to be a comedy or a dramatic tragedy, but overall the story was light and it was enjoyable.  The pieces they chose to show of Hughes’ life were interesting and they even managed to throw a few twists in that I did not see coming.

Bottom Line: I thought I should watch The Aviator to get some more Howard Hughes, but I decided to watch The Rocketeer instead.  I love The Rocketeer!


Danny Collins – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

Danny Collins4.0 Stars

Shortly before he died, John Lennon wrote a letter of encouragement to Danny Collins after reading an interview with the young musician.  Unfortunately, Danny doesn’t receive the letter from the legendary artist for another forty years.  Forty years into a successful music career, but thirty years gone since he last wrote a song.  After being once compared to Lennon, to receive the letter from his idol shakes Collins’ world to the core.  Sure he had money, sure he had fame, but was he any good?  What would Lennon have thought of the way his career had unfolded?

Al Pacino plays Danny Collins, the aging rocker who now has regrets about his career, feeling that it would have let down his idol, wondering what sort of person he would have become if he had received his Lennon letter when he should have.  His first decision as he tries to turn his life around is to meet Tom (Bobby Cannavale), his grown son and his family (Jennifer Garner) for the first time.  But Danny is not perfect, his first attempts to connect with his son involve throwing money at the problem.  He arranges for his young granddaughter to get into an exclusive school to help with her hyperactivity, and tries to shower the family with gifts.  Tom wants nothing from the man though, or his money.  All the while, Danny tries to write a new song, and flirts with Mary, the manager of the New Jersey hotel he’s staying at (Annette Bening).  Eventually he breaks through, and writes a song that he’s proud of, a song that makes Mary agree to go to his intimate concert along with his family; but Danny cracks and when the crowd demands his old hits instead of the new material, he gives up and gives in.  Broken, he returns to alcohol and drugs to pass the night, sabotaging his relationship with everyone, including his long suffering manager (Christopher Plummer).  Can Collins find a way to redeem himself?  It’s not only his son he has to impress now, it’s himself as well; and of course John Lennon.

Inspired by the true story of folk singer Steve Tilston, Danny Collins was a very good film, with great emotional depth.  Funny at times and at others it immediately pulled at the heart strings, without seeming sappy. Al Pacino was excellent as Collins, channelling Rod Stewart, Neil Diamond, Mick Jagger and every other stereotypical aging rocker to actually give a very subtle performance.  He is one of the best actors out there, so it’s not surprising that he could handle this role, even though he’s not really that great a singer.  The entire cast had great chemistry, and it really showed on the screen.  Garner played well off both Pacino and Cannavale; Bening played remarkably well off Pacino, who himself worked effortlessly with Cannavale; and as always, Christopher Plummer is great.

It wasn’t a super heavy film, but it was a “feel good” piece of entertainment.  Capped off by an incredible soundtrack by (naturally) John Lennon, I really enjoyed this one.

Bottom Line: How do you get sold out concert footage for an artist who doesn’t exist?  Easy, you crash a Chicago concert.  The band Chicago took a break to allow the film company and Pacino film their scenes.  Pretty inventive I think.

Ruby Sparks

Product Details3.5 Stars

Two nights ago I watched Ruby Sparks, a comedy from writer (and co-star) Zoe Kazan, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine), which tells the story of Calvin (Paul Dano), a novelist hit by a serious case of writer’s block.  After writing a very successful novel in his late teens/early twenties, Calvin has struggled to produce anything more since then.  Sure he’s had the occasional short story and essay but he hasn’t been able to follow up his success with another novel.  He’s also going through some depression issues as he hasn’t really seen anyone other than his brother (Chris Messina) or his therapist (Elliott Gould) in months.  His girlfriend left him weeks after his father died, he’s been under increased pressure to produce a draft, his dog pees like a girl dog, and he’s been having dreams about a woman.  Not erotic dreams, not fantastical dreams, just dreams of social interaction with a woman who likes him.  Taking to his typewriter, he is suddenly inspired; until his dreams come true.  Waking up one morning to discover a woman living with him who he is sure wasn’t there yesterday, Calvin soon realizes that his new “girlfriend” is Ruby, the girl he has been writing about.  Slowly testing the waters of his sanity, he discovers that she is somehow real, and that other people can see her too.  He is now in love with the girl he wrote into existence.

This was a very clever movie about couples, fantasy vs. reality, and control.  Starring a real life couple (Dano and Kazan), written by one half of that same couple, and directed by another real life couple; Ruby Sparks certainly had a lot of experienced voices to lend to its realism.  It poses a lot of interesting questions too; such as how do you love all of someone and not just pick and choose parts of them to love?  It shows us that real life is a lot more complicated than fantasy, but fantasy is no ride in the park when your dreams come true.  When their relationship advances naturally and Ruby does not make Calvin the center of her world, he types a passage to change that.  When he is the center of her world, and finds he has no space, Calvin changes Ruby again.  There were some very interesting moral questions raised around these matters.  If he doesn’t write about her she’s not within his control, and when he does write about her, she’s not herself, so he has to accept that not everything should not be within his control.  When Ruby is real, Calvin is threatened by the very thing that he wanted.  At the climax of the film, there were a few minutes that I believe actually turned the corner sharply into horror.  Calvin maliciously controlling Ruby with his typewriter, was a very interesting scene and really completed an excellent film.

Ruby Sparks had an excellent cast, from the Kazan and Dano at the top all the way through to the supporting characters.  Annette Bening as Calvin’s mother and Antonio Banderas as her boyfriend were not in the movie very long, but entertained none the less, as did Elliott Gould who I didn’t really recognize at first.

Now, do you want to hear my very petty criticism?  A long time ago, I had a typewriter.  It was a Commodore and it was my mother’s from when she was in school.  It had ribbons and keys and did the clickity-clack and ding things when you typed on it, but boy, it was difficult to use.  Each key was attached to a typebar, that is the metal press at the end that would make the letters appear on the page.  Once I got typing with any speed, the typebars tended to get jammed together.  Ruby Sparks is the second movie I’ve watched in recent weeks to feature an old fashioned typewriter, and you know, it kind of bothers me to see people using them without a key jam, without their ribbon twisting or fading, and typing faster than I can believe.  I just took an online typing speed test, and found that my arthritic fingers can still get up to 67 words per minute.  If I were to try using a real typewriter (which by the way is the longest English word you can spell using the top row of keys on a standard typewriter or QWERTY keyboard…who says I don’t try to educate as well as entertain?) I doubt I’d be able to reach half that speed.  Oh realism!  The only fast typist I believed was Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent way back in Superman The Movie, but he had a little help from our yellow sun…

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