A Cure For Wellness

This movie is abnormally intriguing.  It has a lot going on, much more than what is playing out visually.  If you put some time into the movie mentally, after the flicker is done dancing on the screen, the examination will be well worth it.  Your first impression will depend on what sort of audience member you are.  If you assess your films by what you immediately see on the surface, you’ll see this cryptic yarn as a promised thriller that doesn’t quite get you where you were hoping it would.  It provides the creepy elements that one would expect to see but doesn’t follow through with its promise to be a good intense, if I may, grabber. 

The term psychological thriller does apply, however, and in the style of something you’d see straight from a legendary 70’s film.  A list to compare its vibe to could be Chinatown, The Conversation, Play Misty for Me and Magic; all superbly shot, well thought out and their impact on cinema… ever lasting. 

In A Cure for Wellness, Gore Verbinski, who helped write the story with screenwriter Justin Haythe (Revolutionary Road, The Clearing) digs deep into the essential nature of a person to live, care, love and to aid.  His protagonist, Lockhart (DeHaan), is sent by the financial institution he works for to bring back the CEO, Pembroke (Groener) who is nestled in the Swiss Alps at a mysterious wellness center.  He goes to retrieve Pembroke, knowing full well that the true desire of the board members is to pin its problems on him and use him as a fall guy. 
On his way to the center, which uses hydrotherapy from an aquifer with unique purities, he learns of the center’s history and of the castle its inside.  As he speaks to the chauffeur who is taking him to the castle, they’re in an accident and Lockhart ends up a patient himself, waking three days after a crash that had sent the car tumbling.  Continually being urged to drink the water to better heal his broken leg, he finally grabs some crutches and wanders around the place, not only looking for Pembroke but looking around this odd establishment.  From what he recalls the chauffeur saying, his suddenly odd and dark dreams and the behavior of the people around him he begins to feel more like an inmate in an insane asylum than as a willing patient. 

When Lockhart meets someone by the name of Hannah (Goth), a special patient who has been there all her life, the story of the institution unravels more and more and Lockhart’s questions get larger and larger.  Becoming suspicious that all is not well and obsessed with finding out more he suggests it’s bad for business for people to get well.  This does not go well with Volmer (Isaacs) who insists Lockhart needs to be submerged in water and the toxins in his body be removed.  This is a macabre scene as memories of Lockhart’s childhood and eels, yes eels, assault him. 

So, my final take is there are a few disturbing scenes that play out and some I may never purge but for crazy good, alluring cinema, see A Cure for Wellness.  It may not be Oscar worthy, but cinematographer Bojan Bazelli (King of New York, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Ring), couldn’t have shot this film more methodically and used his lens more perfectly to concentrate on the beauty of the set and the locations and also to create the feeling of anxiety and stress.  It’s a masterpiece cinematically.  What might have otherwise been seen as a clichéd tale by the end is made infinitely more interesting by camera angles, shots sizes and expressions he creates as well as the overall tone he designs.  Again, by the time you finish watching it, you could be somewhat disappointed but don’t be.  Yes, Verbinski could have decided on an ending before two hours had expired but enjoy the fact that there is a much deeper theme going on than first thought and you’ll get there, too.  You’ll contemplate whether this person is alive, is this a dream, it that person in a coma?  Decide for yourself and let me know what YOU thought!      

A United Kingdom

Your first thought upon walking out of A United Kingdom very well may be one of bewilderment at the story itself.  Not that it could happen, of course, (look at today’s headlines, this type of forbidden love is still happening) but that a King was questioned and almost denied his wish.  Anyway, you might next have the inclination to Google this to learn more about these individuals.  It could also be, as it was mine, to gather all of the performances of David Oyelowo to date and, find out what he’s up to next so that you can see all of this man’s work. 

Not to disparage the other performances in the production but he delivered the story of a man choosing love over country beautifully.  He never waivered in his ability to sell us on the saga that deep within him, he believed the people of his county would, in due time, not require him to make that sacrifice and did so with the strength and compassion you rarely see with such balance.

It would be impossible not to be impressed with this entire cast and it would be nearly pointless to try and look beyond director Amma Asante’s (Belle) achievements with the film.  She does an exceptional job with this labored piece and with only five directing credits under her belt, quite a feat, she handles the very difficult true life events like a master. 

A United Kingdom was a hefty project to take on.  It’s about Seretse Khama (Oyelowo) and Ruth Williams (Pike) and the political climate of their countries at the time they met in the 1940’s.  He’s heir to the kingdom of Botswana and she’s a white woman from London and despite what their families feel about their union, they insist on being together and will be, even though they’ll be under great scrutiny.  Her father has disowned her for being with a black man and his people, especially members of his own family, would prefer their leader be with his own kind.  Not considering others feelings and only listening to their hearts, they marry and move to South Africa where, unfortunately for all, apartheid is starting to grow.  Their union becomes widely known and a topic of great discussion.  Ruth is a likable person and does her best to be friendly, learn the language and fit in as his family members do their best to make her want to leave.  Oyelowo is outstanding when he addresses his tribe with a moving speech and speaks of Ruth with tears in his eyes, asking to see who would truly deny him his love.  It’s a stirring confrontation and a memorable scene. 

What ultimately doesn’t really work, but may have been better with a seasoned director, is the setup.  This story is a pure and true love so strong that this couple defies all rules, family and country to be with one another should have had you cheering their achievements.  However, as it’s told, you don’t really care.  The reason for this is that we meet Ruth and Khama when they first meet and almost immediately they’re in love and getting married.  There isn’t time for you to feel for these people or for the plight in which they find themselves.  Asante does a wonderful job of keeping the rest of the story flowing, especially the focus on the British government wanting the diamonds and minerals on his land, but sadly, missing this crucial step of giving the audience time to identifying with what the couple is going through or to feel compassion for them, hurts her very efforts.  It’s the single most important goal before telling the rest of the narrative for it to have worked as a well-structured and cohesive piece.  It is a good drama about pressures put on them both and his overcoming his uncle asking him to renounce his birthright to the throne for marrying a white woman, but it isn’t as romantic as it claims to be.  Keep in mind it is a true story… life doesn’t always come out as we plan. 

I do recommend A United Kingdom but I’d say wait for VOD or DVD instead of paying to see this at the theatre.

John Wick: Chapter 2

 

If you like muscle cars, chase scenes, incredible fight sequences and beautiful sets and locations, this movie is going to sizzle your cerebral cortex.  It has everything I mentioned and has them in spades.  All that you liked about the first film is here so you won’t be disappointed.  As you most assuredly know, John Wick was as high octane as they come… what will be your delight is, Chapter 2 is just as powerful and as potent as the first.  John Wick (Reeves), the ghostly and stealthy killer you met in Chapter 1, is the same bad ass, with the same reputation of reigning terror without breaking a sweat but unlike before, he wants out  He wants to retire and live out his life in peace.  Well, he may want out but someone comes knocking to remind him that he’s duty bound to do something first and that is to fulfill a blood marker.  A marker is a blood oath.  Once it’s given to a member of the criminal conclave Wick belongs to, one with strict rules for the professional help and perks they receive, it must be honored.   

He’s forced to be true to his pledge which is to assassinate Santino D’Antonio’s (Scamarcio) sister so that he could have her seat at the high table, a highly coveted place within the criminal federation.  An ingenious scene of him shopping for accessories is priceless.  He gears up and gets to work.  When he completes his task or she does for him, rather, not only are members of her security team after for him, (especially Cassian, played by Common, whose role adds a special element of regalement to the film), but so is Santino.  He decides to close loose ends.  The choreographed action sequences such as rolling down steps mid fight, running on stage and through a concert’s audience while shooting at one another and all death and destruction delivered by clever cinematography more than makes up for the few times that Reeves, unfortunately, has speaking lines.  I know that’s hard to swallow but it’s more than accurate.     

Centrally, this is an astonishingly action packed film and with a good narrative.  It’s the story of a character you can’t help root for, even though he’s a ruthless, emotionless and heartless killer.  You want him to win, despite his willingness to murder, because, after all, they’re the bad guys, right?  Again, luckily for us, it’s more action driven with focus on the deadly encounters rather than on dialogue.  Every performance outside of Reeves was adequate, McShane and Common’s especially, but the only delivery Reeves is capable of giving is dry and detached and that’s a shame.  Yes, it isn’t terrible with this sort of role but had he been able to give some passion to the lines that he did have, it would have been that much better. 
I have to suggest you go see it if you’re an action fan.  I’ll go on record now and say you’re going to absolutely love it.  It starts with a punch and never stops going; it’s solid all around.  Also, it ends with a clear set up for Chapter 3.  After all hes been through and has done, he decides to break a rule anyway, for which you cannot do as long as you’re in the league.  Now that he has, he is banished and… well, I’ll let you discover that on your own. 

Fifty Shades Darker

In the beginning, there was the “Twilight” series of novels. And thus was begotten the “Twilight” movies, and verily so, there was created “Twilight” fan fiction. And thus is was that “Twilight” fan fiction hath created a series of “Fifty Shades” novels, and from that loin was born the “Fifty Shades” movie series. And some people say that fine literature and art is dead…

“Fifty Shades of Grey” brought you the plain little virgin of Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) who meets high-powered and filthy rich Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). Their relationship was a bit troubled, to say the least. Grey is into sadistic bondage and domination, and he needed Steele as a willing partner, a submissive. But there was stupid contract negotiations getting in the way of the soft-core booty calls. Steele got disgusted and left Grey, so now on to “Fifty Shades Darker”.

Steele has a job at a place called Seattle Independent Press, where she works for Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson). Grey promptly buys up the SIP, with no thought of irony in the name. In fact, Grey spends so much time pursuing and attempting to win back Steele, it is amazing that his company can run at all. Jack Hyde and Grey do not see eye-to-eye, even though they both treat Steele basically like garbage. Jack makes an aggressive pass on Steele, and he soon is looking for a job.

Steele and Grey get back together, but she thinks that it must be at a mutual, common level – out of respect and love. Grey has been weird for so long that this might be difficult for him, so he gets Steele to draw lines on his chest with lipstick. What? Oh, yeah, he still has problems. There is a prior ‘sub’ from Grey’s past named Leila (Bella Heathcote). She was once submissive to Grey, but she left. But now she is unhinged and gunning for Steele.

Grace (Marcia Gay Harden) is Grey’s adoptive mother, and she feels that Steele has made a positive change. Elena (Kim Basinger) is Grey’s very early lover and got him into the freaky stuff. But now she owns a salon and they are business partners. Damn good thing that Grey Conglomerated United Holdings, Ltd can just about run itself! Grey is the wealthiest man who never seems to do any work.

So Steele moves in, and Grey and Steele get several kinky booty calls. Grey says he has changed and asks Steele to marry him.  There is the Leila stalker situation, and the Jack Hyde is planning revenge situation, and the Grey flies a corporate helicopter and maybe it goes down in the forest event. Along with the costume ball shindig, and the tool around the Seattle bay in a huge yacht affair, and the Steele gets mad and walks around by herself for hours sequence.

Could this movie be any more boring and inconsequential? Doubt it. Are there any redeeming factors? Yes, the scenery is beautiful and locations look amazing and the production values are top notch. But there is no actual story to tell and no character development. It is more like 15 or 20 minutes of insipid dialog and waiting around for the next “make sexy times”. It is not possible to fault the actors for failing in the roles and having no chemistry. The story gives them nothing to work with.

However, there is no doubt that middle-aged women who loved the “Twilight” series are also gonna eat this up. It will make a yacht-load of money, but not like the previous movie. The rest of the people seeing this might think they are in for an exotic, romantic and erotic adventure. But more than likely they will feel as if they are the ones getting screwed…

The LEGO Batman Movie

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you LEGOs, then make a full length animated comedy movie that centers on an iconic DC Comics superhero. Yes, make “The LEGO Batman Movie”. This will cause great delight in young children and comic book nerds everywhere.

Based as a spin-off from the 2014 animated hit “The LEGO Movie”, this follow-up features the adventures of Batman (Will Arnett) who serves as the dark knight and the protector of Gotham City. When the city is threatened by a massive horde of villains led by the Joker (Zach Galifianakis), Batman saves the day. The commissioner retires, and his daughter Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) takes over.

Batman is helped in his other identity as Bruce Wayne by his loyal butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes). When Alfred tries to make Bruce/Batman be a little bit more caring and empathetic, he gets him to visit an orphanage. Bruce was once an orphan, too. Of course, being an orphan worth multi-millions is not the same as the ones that he visits.

Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) is an orphan who contacts Bruce and gets his OK to be adopted. Bruce was not paying attention when he said yes to Dick, but he decides that Batman needs a new partner. The Joker has been acting suspicious because he surrendered his whole crew to the new Commissioner Gordon. Joker does have some new tricks, but they involve getting even bigger baddies from a far-off prison.

Batman is obsessed with being a loner, a hero who does not need anyone for help. This new situation requires him to work with Dick, who now has a secret identity of Robin, and with Barbara Gordon, who creates a secret identity of Batgirl, and even butler Alfred, who, well, is still the butler, but he also dresses up in a costume. Batbutler?

The movie’s quick pacing of jokes and gags keeps you watching every part of the screen and listening to every word, and sometimes every background noise or musical cue. There are insider jokes about DC Comics, and pop culture reference that brings out laughs, snickers and guffaws. Even the basic first minutes of the movie, fading in from black, is done with a Batman voice-over that is totally on target. It is very funny and very true at the same time, and it will forever change how you see the very beginning of a movie.

Every voice actor in this movie is right up to speed with the comedy and pacing. But the best one is the self-centered, self-absorbed Batman, played by Will Arnett. His take on the Batman character in “The LEGO Movie” was outstanding. And here he takes it to even a greater place. It is enjoyable to hear him growl in his deep, self-important voice about how important Batman is to Gotham.

Ralph Fiennes has his usual great performance. Playing Alfred, he becomes a parental figure to Bruce Wayne/Batman, yet he is always ready to help out. Zach Galifianakis plays the Joker as a figure who needs to hate Batman as much as Batman needs to hate him. They both have a unique thing going on.  Michael Cera is perfect as Grayson/Robin, all young and enthusiastic. And Rosario Dawson has a fun time playing Gordon/Batgirl, and she gives Batman a run for the money.

All in all, the movie could be called BAT-tastic. It is very well written in terms of jokes and comedy bits, and the story never lags. It will occasionally ramble here and there, but it stays on track. The visual scenes are chock-full of bright colors and incredible details, with many scenes a visual gag or a silent comedy bit. It is enjoyable to watch, and will all the small items that you want to catch, it would be just as fun on a second viewing.

Should you see this movie you will agree: it’s “The LEGO Batman” movie the World deserves, but also it is the one it needs right now!

The Comedian

The idea of an aging comedian going on a nostalgia tour is painful for the comedian; throwing in a May-December relationship between the two stars is painful for the audience.  Robert DeNiro plays Jackie Burke, a former television sitcom star whose show “Eddie’s Home” was a huge success.  His star burned so brightly that everyone he passes knows him by the character name they shout back to him his famous catchphrase… which gets on your nerves about halfway through the film.  Though still beloved, Jackie is miserable facing the fact that he’s no longer a draw and his agent, Miller (Falco), is doing her best to get him work.  

She gets him a stand-up gig at a club an while doing his routine a member of the audience starts recording as he also heckles him to illicit a response.  As the heckler intended, he angers Jackie to fisticuffs, or hitting with microphone in this case, and Jackie gets into trouble.  He’s arrested and ends up with community service where he meets Harmony (Mann) a woman with daddy and anger issues of her own.  You won’t feel the connection but they seem to like one another and agree to be one another’s wing-man at two upcoming family functions.  Harmony has to meet her father, Mac (Keitel), whom she’s estranged, for his birthday.  She more or less takes Jackie, one of Mac’s favorites, for her dads gift… which doesn’t go over so well as instantly the alpha males spar.  Jackie’s brother, played by DeVito, has a daughter getting married and would like for Jackie to attend the wedding with him.  They are disrespectful by showing up late which doesn’t isn’t missed by the family… and things get worse from there.

After they’ve carry out the duties the friendship is based on and as Jackie’s video hits skyrockets, he develops an interest in Harmony.  He seems somewhat happy that he might be on the rise again, as well as his ego which is, throughout the film, both inflated and torn down.  Out of nowhere and just when all seems well and after one special night, Harmony is checking out.  What keeps you from doing the same is the tone the score sets, Hackford’s style and his casting choices, (though oddly placed) and a lot of the comedians who pop in and out. 

However, there are clear and present issues with the script.  Several screenwriters had a hand in writing this which is always a bad sign.  You can see several times in the storyline where they start one direction and completely go in another which doesn’t help build a strong cohesive arc.  The story was written by Art Linson, known more for his producing of films such as Fast Times as Ridgemont High, This Boy’s Life, Heat, Fight Club and The Runaways.  He was joined by a writing team of considerable talent.  They are Jeffrey Ross, Lewis Friedman (whose works are mostly on television) and Richard LaGravenese who wrote many celebrated films including The Fisher King, The Ref, The Mirror Has Two Faces and The Bridges of Madison County so what could go wrong? 

To be honest, I liked it overall, Mann’s performance especially.  She has already proven she knows funny but her unbalanced and unhinged Harmony is an interesting character study.  Another thing I appreciated was the honesty of it and how it captured raw human emotion.  People hate.  People love.  People stay.  People leave.  They aren’t successful, are successful and they’re jealous when others are, too.  Taylor Hackford did a brilliant job of showing us this. 

Jackie performs a nasty routine at a retirement community and I saw it as being a truthful and humorous look at what they’re facing.  Making fun of people for everything that goes on in their life isn’t just enjoyed by the young.  It’s okay to give elderly people the laughs they want and most likely need, rather than treat and talk to them like they’re fragile children.  With all of that said, I didn’t love it.  The writers came up with some good material to watch but the story doesn’t have the structure it needs to work as one great piece.  It changes its mind too often so, is it worth watching at the theatre? 

If you like the setting, jazz, the players and all the comics who are playing in this film, giving them your support wouldn’t hurt but this is better to save for the smaller screen where the bad moments don’t seem quite so large.   

Rings

What started as a Japanese horror movie has become a franchise in the United States. First as “Ringu”, then the American remake, “The Ring”, with a sequel called “Ring 2”.  They all feature he storyline of a person who watches a bizarre short movie clip, and then gets a phone call where they get the message ‘seven days’.  For a week, that person who has seen the movie is haunted by creepy images until the last day, when the ghoul named Samara comes to get them…UNLESS you can get somebody else to watch a copy of your video, and the Ring cycle continues.

In this muddy story line, Julia (Matilda Lutz) sees her boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe) go off to college. There he takes a class with Professor Gabriel Brown (Johnny Galecki).  Gabriel has an ongoing secret of seeing the Ring movie years ago. He has spent several years developing a little campus club of people who see the movie and then need to find someone else to take their place. Holt is talked into the cycle, and Julia visits the campus to find out what is going on. She meets Skye (Aimee Teegarden) but Skye needs somebody new to watch the video, because Samara is coming for her today.

It all goes wrong for Skye, but Julia thinks she can help Holt by watching his copy, thus taking the curse off of him. Holt and Gabriel find out that the video copy that Julia has seen is different. It has video embedded in the shorter video. So, is that “Ring-ception”? Anyway they chase down clues about where the body of Samara might be kept. It leads them to a small rural town call Sanctuary City.

 

They hunt all around and find out about mysterious things that happen 30 years ago. A young girl disappeared, there was a huge flood, and the priest in the main church gave up the building and now it is very rundown. There are strange visions that Julia has, and she meets an old caretaker for the graveyard. Burke (Vincent D’Onofrio) is now blind, but he has a very deep knowledge of what happened many years ago. Maybe he knows a little too much…

This franchise is starting to run on fumes at this point. The story is a head-scratcher, the dialog is laughable, and the character’s actions become idiotic. No Julia! You don’t have to open that locked door at the end of the hallway! No Julia! You don’t have to crawl into the tiny crypt at the graveyard! No Julia! You don’t have to watch that video that everyone has told you not to watch!

 

It was hard to get excited for any portrayal or role in this movie. All the actors seemed to the best they could with the odd dialog and the unbelievable plot actions. But I’m sure that Vincent D’Onofrio cried all the way to the bank to cash his check from being in this movie. Unfortunately, the ending screamed out loud: “Hey, we really want to do more sequels like this one!”

But in this case, perhaps it is best that the “Ring” is finally broken…

The Space Between Us

The movie “The Space Between Us” seems to be on odd mash-up. It is about a boy who grew up on Mars, and gets a chance to visit Earth and fall in love. It takes parts from a science fiction movie, a young-adult romance, a story of person with a severe medical condition who wants to hit his bucket list, a cross-country journey film genre and puts it all together. Kind of a cross between “The Martian” and “The Fault in out Stars”, maybe call it: “The Fault in our Mars”…

Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman) is a billionaire who personally sponsors the NASA space program to live on Mars. The flight crew gets there, and on the way Astronaut Elliot discovers she is pregnant. She gives birth on Mars and promptly dies. Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) is her son whose very existence is kept a total secret. But when he is 16, he finds a way to contact a high-school age girl named Tulsa (Britt Robertson). She has been in a series of unhappy foster homes, but she is resourceful and finds a way to have chat sessions with Gardner.

Kendra Wyndham (Carla Gugino) is a fellow Astronaut on Mars, Gardner ‘s mehtor and mother figure. But she knows that Gardner needs to get away. NASA Director Tom Chen (B. D. Wong) decides to bring Gardner and Kendra back to Earth. Gardner must undergo some physical training and special medical treatment to reinforce his undersized bones. Living with Mars gravity is tough, when you leave and go to Earth. He explains to Tulsa that he will go on a trip and vows to here that they will meet up soon.

 

Once on Earth, Gardner finds a way to conveniently escape the NASA medical facility and work his way to meet Tulsa. She is upset that he did not communicate for the past few months, but he says he was on a long trip. Nathaniel, Tom Chen and Kendra go after Gardner, with the help of the authorities. Tulsa sees that Gardner could be in trouble. She uses her near-criminal skills to keep ahead of the group chasing them. Gardner really wants to find his father, and he has a couple of clues.

They ‘borrow’ a biplane, a BMW and a truck to get far away. They travel to New Mexico, the Grand Canyon (lovely), Sedona (beautiful), and they finally end up at a beach house on the California coast. Gardner is expecting to find his dad, but he finds out something different. Tulsa has a solidly cynical view of the world, yet she starts to believe that there is something unusual about Gardner. The time that they spend together makes both of them happy. Yet, the past is not far behind, and the group finally discovers where Gardner and Tulsa are located.

 

So to break this movie down, I think it came about by somebody listing to the lyrics of Elton John’s song “Rocket Man”:

Mars ain’t the kind of place

To raise your kids

In fact, it’s cold as hell

And there’s no one there to raise them

If you did

And from that, this movie was born. Perhaps not on Mars, but the lyrics might explain it a bit more. So this movie was right for the intended audience: teenage girls. The acting was just OK, but Britt Robertson does a more convincing role. Asa Butterfield is very tall and lean and lanky, so he might have been born on Mars. The script was ham-fisted at times, and made some very clunky character transitions.

So if you want real sci-fi adventure, look elsewhere. If you want an honest young adult style romance, look elsewhere. If you want a somewhat jammed together version of both, “The Space Between Us” is your launching pad…

A Dog’s Purpose

We’ll leave controversy out of this review and talk only about the film.  If you’ve ever wondered what the purpose of life is and you love dogs, A Dog’s Purpose is the film for you.  It entwines the two in a curious story that’s filled with sweet and adorable.  Director Lasse Hallström (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Chocolat, The 100-Foot Journey), takes on the issue of reincarnation and attempts to explain the afterlife through the life of Bailey, as he’s born, passes and is reborn again… and again.  His incarnations are Ellie, Tino and Waffles and every time he returns he can never shake the feeling that there’s something he’s missing, that he must have a purpose other than being best friend to his new owner… something but what?

The movie opens on Bailey having just been born.  The kids will smile with glee as the screen fills with puppies to fall in love with.  We’re in 1961.  Bailey is rescued by a youngster named Ethan.  His parents let him keep the dog so he takes him home and Ethan becomes Bailey’s boy.  The pooch goes onto a wonderful life of playing catch and being loved.  Through the years we have point of view camera angles from both Bailey and Ethan which are clever and fun to observe, especially the shot from inside of the sniffing dogs’ nostrils.  As boy’s do, Ethan grows up and gets a girlfriend but Bailey is still a very important part of his life.  Bailey never goes without and is as happy as a dog can be.  How we know this is because he tells us so.  He tells us through the voice of Josh Gad.  Often cast in comedic roles, Gad was frisky animating the voice of this perplexed pup as he was as Olaf in Frozen.  He’s also a good choice because not only is he capable with humor but he can easily adjust if a dramatic moment is needed.   

The script is written to entertain adults yet efforts were made to not go over the heads of youngsters who will be drawn to the film.  The filmmakers handle the dogs passing away in a very sensitive manner.  The young children shouldn’t be hurt or too deeply concerned since the dog always returns. Taking the kids to this might be a good way to approach the subject of death with them, without the real heartbreak you get from films such as Where the Red Fern Grows or Old Yeller which were heavy on the heart.  Instead of tears for days, see this, open up a question and answer session and just like that, it’s out of the way.  It’s made clear that death brings Bailey happiness as he returns and screams with joy that he’s back.  The new puppy we see each time is a happy visual that will blanket any feeling of shock if young viewers were feel any.

As you assumed there would be there’s a nice happy ending to the movie that I won’t share.  I assure you there’s a positive message for all.  Again, this is a good movie for families to watch and enjoy together but the twenty-something’s would most likely yawn their way through which is why I didn’t rate it higher.  There are a few silly moments that were a bit too contrived but the film is one to take the kids to see this weekend.  They’ll have a blast watching Bailey fulfill his purpose which is to lick the ones he loves and to be here now

Gold

The pursuit of that bright shiny metal can drive a prospector to extremes. In “Gold”, the apparent major find in the Indonesian jungle sets off a frenzy in the lives of the people involved. That includes Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) who owns a tiny mining company started by his grandfather in Reno. The company has hit upon hard times, and now the salesmen try to sell shares of dead mines that have no future. They all work out of a bar in Reno, since the office has been closed for a long time. Kenny has a girlfriend in a waitress named Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard). But Kenny still has big dreams about gold…

His dream leads him to Indonesia, where he meets Michael Acosta (Édgar Ramírez). Acosta is a geologist who once discovered the largest deposit of copper. Kenny thinks that Acosta can do the same thing for him and discover the world’s largest gold reserve. Acosta has also had a string of bad luck, but Kenny has so much enthusiasm that he convinces Acosta to try again.

 

After a few false starts, Acosta settles on a remote jungle location. Kenny has limited funds to support the exploration, but he presses on. The jungle takes a toll on Kenny, and he catches malaria and nearly dies. But when he is better, Acosta tells Kenny the good news. He has been successful in finding a large gold deposit.

The story moves back and forth between Indonesia and Reno, where Kenny has become a big shot in the mining industry. He reopens his company, and the investments are flowing in non-stop. There is a major New York hedge fund that is ready to find major investors. Barry Wolff (Corey Stoll) has Kenny and Kay come to New York where they live it up. Acosta stays at the mine delivering more good news all the time. The world’s largest mining company is ready to buy out Kenny and Acosta, but Kenny turns them down at the last minute. The gold bug has bitten him really bad…

The mining company was snubbed and wants to get even, so they convince Indonesian government to shut down the operation. That almost stops Kenny, until he finds a special partner who will get all back on track. So the operation keeps running, the bankers have been rejected.  Kenny finds out that Kay was not impressed with Kenny’s new attitude. She leaves him, and he shrugs it off.

Kenny has an interview with an FBI visitor (Toby Kebbell) who explains that everything about the mining operation is not what it seems. Kenny and his company are brought down in a crashing failure. Acosta is nowhere to be found, and the authorities want answers. Kenny is left in the lurch…

 

Matthew McConaughey really transforms himself in the role of Kenny Wells. The ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ changes to become a middle-aged, balding, pot-bellied, chain-smoking drunkard with bad teeth. He owns the role, and makes Kenny’s personality shine like a super-nova. When Kenny meets up with Michael Acosta, he persuades the geologist with his pluck and luck. Édgar Ramírez also does a fine job as Acosta, the geologist who might have lead Kenny down the Golden Path. Bryce Dallas Howard also does what she can with her role, but the focus is really on Kenny and his obsession with gold.

Is “Gold” as good as the real thing? The story is very interesting, and it is told with a great deal of style and flair. The acting is fun to watch, especially McConaughey getting into the slovenly Kenny character. But the center is not focused in any one direction, and it does tend to wander. So it never reaches pure 24 Karat quality, but is sure is shiny.