Every family has secrets and stories they tell about them. Sometimes the versions differ depending on who is spinning the tale and the vagaries of memory. Actress Sarah Polley has a doozie of a story about her family, specifically her mom Diane. STORIES WE TELL could have been a nice “based on fact” drama, or an average documentary that gave you the big reveal early then tried to explain how all the pieces fit to make it a part of her family history. Instead, Polley tells the story as an unfolding mystery that plays out like a huge game of “telephone”. At first it seems to just be sweet memories about her late Mom. Her brothers and sisters talk about her in very raw interviews that are funny, touching and sweet. Her father ties it all together, reading a long letter to his youngest daughter, that is used as narration throughout the film. But eventually the big reveal comes and not knowing Polley’s biography, I had no clue it was coming. Then there are other pieces to the story tied to that reveal that are spun as stories by family and friends. I know you must be thinking, why should we care about Sarah Polley’s family drama? In the beginning, you ask yourself the same question. But her family and friends are such characters and are so engaging they draw you in. It’s also a credit to Polley’s talent as a storyteller that she brings you in slowly, builds the drama, then gives you an ultimately satisfying payoff. Polley does a wonderful job making us care about her story. I could reveal the big family secret, but it might spoil your enjoyment of the movie knowing what is coming. Also, if you really care, you can Google it. This is an outstanding film that should be considered next January when they start talking best documentary feature nominees. Congrats to Sarah Polley, I loved your story! — Alan Yudman
J.J. Abrams first foray into the world of Star Trek was a huge success. Even though Abrams freely admits he could never get into the original series, he totally nailed it with his take on STAR TREK. So, that begs the question, could he pull it off again? The answer is again an unqualified YES! Without the burden of origin stories we jump right into the action already knowing who everyone is, and what their roles are. But this isn’t just a simple adventure. The title is accurate, with this version Abrams and writers Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof truly take STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS. Chris Pine’s Kirk wrestles with his own ambition and “cowboy” attitude of fire phasers and ask questions later. But he also evolves, as he’s ordered to take action against a terrorist that one would think would be a no brainer, but has him thinking twice thanks to his First Officer and conscience Mr. Spock. Let me take a moment to applaud Zachary Quinto, who plays the half Vulcan/half Human just the way Leonard Nimoy created it, but makes it his own at the same time. I can’t get too deep into the plot because there are huge spoilers with any in depth description of Benedict Cumberbatch’s villain. Suffice it to say there are moments where you question whether he is truly villainous (only to be reassured, yeah.. he’s the bad guy). Cumberbatch is outstanding as the terrorist who carries out 9/11 style plots. His presence, his voice both inspire menace. The rest of the crew is just perfect. Simon Pegg (Scotty), Zoe Saldana (Uhura), John Cho (Sulu), Anton Yelchin (Checkov) and especially Karl Urban’s urbane “Bones” McCoy are all wonderful. There are points in the third act where it gets a little precious and slightly eye-rolly with its nods to previous Star Treks, but they are by no means deal killers. It just proves that the creators of this universe get it and get the mythology and history. I saw it in IMAX 3D. It costs more, but it is well worth it. The visuals are stunning and combined with Michael Giacchino’s outstanding score (it is one of my favorites of all time) at times chills were definitely traveling down my spine. Abrams certainly knows how to use all the tricks in his enormous bag to their best effect. That brings me to two concerns. One, will Abrams be able to pull off Star Wars? I’m guessing yes, without a doubt. Two, will he find time to make the next movie in the Star Trek pantheon? Here’s hoping he does, or schools his replacement on what is right and what is wrong. Once again it is a pleasure to go where others have gone before, because in this case the destination is worth the adventure getting there. — Alan Yudman
I think I enjoyed this one more than the first. Star Trek felt like it was trying to reboot the franchise without angering the fans (alternate timelines anyone?) and came across as wishy washy. This sequel feels more confident in the characters, the situations, and the storytelling in general. Trek flies high when it goes into darkness, which is quite often. The big bad is really good ( no spoilers here) and the action is intense. Unlike the last one, Star shines with a straightforward story and boldly goes in a direction where others have gone before and has fun getting there.
A Good Day To Kill a Blockbuster Franchise is more like it. Far fetched fun is what you expect from the Die Hard movies but this one was completely missing the fun. Bruce Willis is underused, his on screen son has the charisma of dirty laundry, and some of the action sequences are just stupid. Add to that a villain that’s as scary as Pee Wee Herman and a story that makes absolutely no sense and you end up with this mess. Here’s hoping the next one learns from this mistake.
Judging by audience reaction before I saw Iron Man 3, people cannot wait to see MAN OF STEEL and are excited, but slightly less so, to see the THOR sequel.
Marvel has pretty much nailed this whole Superhero movie thing. We all know what to expect, so it is all about execution. How do the director, writer and cast pull it off? In THE AVENGERS is an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. A near perfect genre movie. THOR was good, but clearly a lesser movie. So it is hit, and mega hit. Marvel has rarely missed since the first IRON MAN movie hit theaters in 2008. So that brings us to IRON MAN 3. Was Shane Black able to pull it off? The answer is an unqualified YES! The dialogue is sharp and witty. Robert Downey, Jr. is a great actor, but seems to have been born to deliver these snarky one-liners. The effects and set pieces are fantastic and the 3D and Dolby sound enhance the experience. Guy Pearce is better than I expected as the all to slick villain. Ben Kingsley shines as the Mandarin and I could give examples as to why, but not without spoilers. The real surprise here is the darkness. It’s not exactly Christopher Nolan’s BATMAN, but there is a shadow looming about Tony Stark. We’ve seen his faults in the previous movies, but here he seems more vulnerable.. more human.. more torn about what he is actually doing as Iron Man. And that makes him even more endearing. That’s fully on display in Downey’s scenes with a younger version of himself. There are a ton of twists in the plot and I know the audience saw the one in the final act coming a mile away, but it was still satisfying. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Marvel movie if there wasn’t some payoff to sticking around to watch the credits. People will compare this to THE AVENGERS. That’s not fair. They are both excellent. I’m sure the next AVENGERS movie will be as awesome as the first. I think a more fair comparison is the Spider-Man trilogy. The third movie was a mess. Too many villains. Too much melodrama. It fell flat as a spider squished under your shoe. IRON MAN 3 soars like Tony Stark’s metal man. It satisfies, it’s endlessly entertaining and pays off in every way possible. If this is Downey’s final turn as Iron Man as has been rumored (other than Avengers 2), then let the series rest here. It’s a fitting end to an excellent trilogy. — Alan Yudman