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 Across_the_Universe_3lgAcross the Universe

Conceived, produced and directed by the eclectic Julie Taymor, this film is a romantic musical that incorporates parts of 34 songs composed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and the three of them plus Ringo Starr (“Flying”).  Most of the songs are sung on-screen by the characters, though there are some instrumentals.  This places the film in the category of old-style musicals where people seem to burst into song as a part of the story.  To everyone’s credit, it actually seems to work very well indeed.


1-adjustment-bureau-copyThe Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau, based on a Phillip K. Dick story, is a far-fetched, but very engaging film.  David Norris (Matt Damon) is a Brooklyn politician who meets a fascinating woman, Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) on the night that he has just lost the Senate election.  When she runs away, he is motivated to give a galvanizing concession speech that will reenergize his career.


AdventurelandAdventureland

Adventureland is a funny and moving teen romance written and directed by Greg Mattola about a group of teens working at a summer carnival.  The main character, James Brennan, is a student who has just graduated from a small college and is saving up his money to go to the Columbia School of Journalism so he can begin a career in travel writing.  Played with both humor and angst by Jesse Eisenberg, James is trying to find romance, but his own geekiness stands in his way.


All is Lost RedfordAll is Lost

A man sleeps peacefully aboard his small yacht when it suddenly bangs into some sea debris, tearing a hole in the side.  This begins a great survival story where one problems piles upon another as he is tossed across the Indian sea toward shipping lanes and possible rescue.  But he must first face storms, sharks, and other menaces.  And even when he reaches the shipping lanes, will anyone see him?


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Amadeus

A terrible way to triumph over God.  These are the words of 18th Century Italian composer Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) referring to his murder of the brilliant, meteoric Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ((Tom Hulce). He tells the story to Father Vogler (Richard Frank) who has come to hear his confession at the insane asylum to which Salieri has been confined following a suicide attempt.


 american-hustle-posters-sonyAmerican Hustle

Loosely based on the FBI ABSCAM sting operation, this 2013 film was written by David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer and directed by Russell of The Fighter and  Silver Linings Playbook fame.  Bringing along Christian Bale and Amy Adams from The Fighter and Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence from Silver Linings Playbook, he has created a brilliant sting comedy that takes place at the height of disco mania, 1978.


Art of Getting By3The Art of Getting By

In The Art of Getting By (2011), George (Freddie Highmore), a high school senior living in New York City, falls into a fatalistic funk.  Although he is a gifted artist, he realizes that he’s going to die some day and asks himself: What is the point of trying?  Seeing no point, he gives up working on his school assignments, skips class and tests and just skates by as a loner.  Facing this failure, he is placed on academic probation.


Austenland PictureAustenland

The heroine of the movie, Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) is a disheartened Jane Austen fan. Obsessed with the writer, she looks at her own life and sees failed relationships, a dead-end job and no future, so she decides to spend her life savings on a trip to England to resort called Austenland

 

Across the Universe

Across the Universe is a real accomplishment, for both film and music.Across_the_Universe_3lg

Conceived, produced and directed by the eclectic Julie Taymor, this film is a romantic musical that incorporates parts of 34 songs composed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and the three of them plus Ringo Starr (“Flying”). Most of the songs are sung on-screen by the characters, though there are some instrumentals. This places the film in the category of old-style musicals where people seem to burst into song as a part of the story. To everyone’s credit, it actually seems to work very well indeed.

The story concerns Jude (Jim Sturgess), a young dockworker in Liverpool who goes to the United States to look for his American father (who had a fling with his mom during World War II. The very first few frames of film show Jude sitting on a beach singing Lennon and McCartney’s “Girl,” an auspicious beginning because it also tells us that we are not going to be sitting through “copies” of Beatles’ songs. Throughout the entire movie, pretty much every song has been reinterpreted and rearranged which gives them all a brand new and exciting feel.

The movie is definitely concerned with the radical changes brought about during the turbulent 1960’s. Jude provides an outside perspective, while his girlfriend, Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood) and her brother, Max (Joe Anderson) provide the viewpoint of America’s youth. Max drops out of college and gets drafted. While waiting for his induction, the three of them go to New York where they become embroiled in the hippie scene. The other major characters are Sadie (Dana Fuchs), Jojo (Martin Luther McCoy), and Prudence (T. V. Carpio). Where Sadie reminds one of Janis Joplin, Jojo reminds us of Jimi Hendrix.Lucy Across the Universe

An accomplished artist, Julie Taymor brings a sophisticated and stimulating range of graphic beauty to the film, not only in the psychedelic sequences, but in almost every scene. I’ll never forget the way she illustrates “Strawberry Fields Forever” by having Jude pin strawberries to canvas, literally bleeding against the white, while a television shows Max in Vietnam singing with Jude and even superimposed over his face. Another sequence that really carries a punch is Max’s physical in which grotesque sargents stamp out the recruits to “I Want You/She’s So Heavy” with giant troops carrying the Statue of Liberty above them as they stomp on palm trees in Southeast Asia. “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” is full of great images, camera tricks, and bizarre imagery reminiscent of the Beatles own movie Magical Mystery Tour.

All of the young actors are superb, giving heartfelt performances and wonderful vocals. The film is also spiked with a special performance of Bono as Dr. Robert and Eddie Izzard as Mr. Kite, as well as great cameos by Salma Hayek and Joe Cocker.Across the Universe Max Physical

It’s one of those films you excuse for running a little long because it’s all worth it. Great music reinterpreted, fine acting, an excellent script, great direction, and unbelievable graphic art. I will definitely see it again and again.