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Dumb & Dumber To delivers the laughs

by leo guerrero

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In my humble opinion, the hardest movies to write are horror movies and comedies because if people don’t get scared or laugh within the first ten minutes, the audience will tune out the movie.

“Dumb &Dumber To” by the Farrelley Brothers is their latest in a long line of commercially sucessful movies, some of which include “Stuck on You” (Matt Damon) and “Kingpin” (Woody Harrelson) that uses the same formula: the main characters go on a quest and the audience goes along for the adventerous ride.

In “Dumb & Dumber To”, Jeff Daniels and Jim Carey reunite as two best buddies Harry and Lloyd, who each try to outprank the other. The opening scenes find the audience seeing Lloyd at a nursing home, motionless for the past 20 years (which explains the gap between the first and this movie) all for a prank so he could pull one over on Harry. The movie kicks in as we discover that Harry had a daughter unknowingly and must go find her as he is in need of a kidney transplant. So here is the quest which take our two heroes in search of Harry’s daughter.

The laughs come quick and the timing is great with these two actors. You would never know that Jeff Daniels is actually a serious actor yet he has great comedic timing along with Jim Carey (who can make people laugh just with his expressions on his face). I give this movie a big thumbs up and another successfully hilarious movie done by the Farrelley Brothers.

Cast Saves “The Theory of Everything” from the Merely Conventional

by Alejandro A. Riera

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“The Theory of Everything” is so properly British. Its treatment of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking’s first marriage to Jane Wilde is so restrained, so reserved, so decent, so stiff upper lip. It avoids any dramatic tension, even though there are scenes dying for one. It doesn’t want to offend.

Based on Jane Hawking’s, nee Wilde, memoir “Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen,” James Marsh’s film shows very little interest on Hawking’s theories and evolution as a scientist. This is, plainly, the story of a marriage and the toll a caregiver pays when taking care of the needs of a loved one, especially one as brilliant as Hawking. It is also the story of a woman who lives in the shadow of a great man. Anthony McCarten’s script and Marsh’s direction never digs deep; they prefer to follow the rules and conventions of the traditional biopic. We have to rely on Felicity Jones’ performance as Jane to tease out those truths. Her facial expressions, her body language, tell the story far more efficiently. They hint at the joys and the frustration of living more than two decades with an ailing genius, at her sacrifices and commitment.

Jane and Stephen (Eddie Redmayne) meet at a party in Cambridge in the early 60s. He is a gangly, timid, yet outspoken Ph.D. student in cosmology…and an atheist. She is a devout Christian and is studying Spanish mediaeval literature. Together, they are proof that opposites do, indeed, attract. And so begins a delightful courtship that’s threatened to be derailed when Stephen falls face down on a Cambridge sidewalk, is diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and given two years to live. Confident that she can help Stephen beat this disease, she ignores the concerns and advice of both his family and hers, and marries him.

So far, so good. But compressing 25 years of married life in a two-hour film isn’t easy and so McCracken and Marsh follow the path of many a biopic before them by hitting the most salient points of Stephen’s and Jane’s marriage: Hawkings’ slow physical deterioration (from clutches to wheelchair, from slurred to computerized speech); his pursuit of a simple equation that will explain the cosmos; Jane’s professional and personal sacrifices; the publication of Hawking’s best-selling book “A Brief History of Time”; Jane’s befriending of charismatic choirmaster and fellow caretaker Jonathan (Charlie Cox) and Stephen’s mischievous seduction of nurse Elaine, his second wife (whom he would divorce as well).

But even these last two events are played like a coy adaptation of a Jane Austen novel. Stephen and Elaine tease and flirt with each other while Jonathan and Jane gaze longingly at each other to then turn their faces away. It’s a delightful pas de deux that in the end delivers very little. Before their attractions to each other can be fully requited, Marsh and McCarten move quickly to the next plot point that needs to be checked off their list.

It falls on their actors’ shoulders to lift this film from the merely conventional. As Hawking, Redmayne delivers one of the most powerfully complex performances of his young career, one that partially recalls Daniel Day-Lewis’ equally powerful performance as disabled Irish writer Christy Brown in “My Left Foot.” All naughty smiles and manic energy at the beginning, we see this man wither away before our eyes. It’s a delicate balancing act for Redmayne, one that requires a complete immersion in the character, and the use of all his senses and instincts.

Redmayne and Jones are supported by an equally strong cast, from Simon McBurney as Stephen’s father to Harry Lloyd as his best friend. It’s a pity that the script wastes the talents of David Thewlis as Hawking’s mentor and Emily Watson as Jane’s mother. They are treated as mere filler; I am quite sure they played more of a role in Jane’s and Stephen’s lives than the movie allows them to.

Alejandro A. Riera is a film critic, blogger and media relations specialist. He has worked for such publications as ¡Exito! and HOY, where he was a Senior Editor in Charge of the arts and entertainment section. He was also editor of Café Magazine. He writes about culture (Latino and non-Latino alike) and film in his blog: culturebodega.wordpress.com. He has also worked as a Publicity Manager for the Chicago International Film Festival and the Chicago Latino Film Festival.

“Interstellar,” an Overloaded Space Epic that Never Ceases to Amaze

by Alejandro A. Riera

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Christopher Nolan’s new film, “Interstellar,” is an ambitious, awesome, loud, masterful and at times sappy space epic.

Like Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity” and Brian De Palma’s “Mission to Mars,” the roots and inspiration for “Interstellar” can be traced to the stories and novels of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke and the films “Destination Moon,” “Rocketship X-M,” Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” and Douglas Trumbull’s “Silent Running,” all of them science-fiction narratives based on fact and the eternal question, “what if?”. But while De Palma De Palma was too busy ripping off Kubrick’s masterpiece, Nolan uses “2001: A Space Odyssey” and even Trumbull’s film as templates for his own musings on science, humanity and family.

Even though the phrases “global warming” and “climate change” are never uttered in “Interstellar,” there is no doubt, as the film opens, that our planet is in its final days, suffering from the ravages committed by humanity in the name of progress. The atmosphere is now 80% nitrogen, and one dust storm after another is killing what little crops —mostly corn— can now be grown. The government would much rather train farmers to keep the scant food supply going than engineers. This is a world where books are still a tangible thing, where other than laptops and TV sets, technology is a thing of the past, and where schools teach kids that the Apollo missions to the moon where a hoax perpetrated by the government to drive the Soviet Union to bankruptcy.

It’s a world where Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a former NASA pilot turned farmer, doesn’t feel too much at home with. His older son Tom faces an uncertain predetermined future as a farmer while his younger daughter Murph dreams of the stars, much like her father. When her book-filled room becomes the unlikely center of a gravitational anomaly, father and daughter pull all their resources together to find out what’s provoking it and stumble upon NASA’s underground base.

From that base and under the leadership of Professor Brand (Michael Caine), NASA sent a secret manned expedition to a wormhole near Saturn, placed there by some extraterrestrial benefactor. The 12 astronauts sent on the mission were each tasked with finding a planet on the other side of the wormhole that could be habitable by Earth standards. NASA is now preparing a second manned mission to verify the data received from three of the planets. Brand hopes to transport what’s left of humanity to their new home as long as he can solve a particularly pesky equation involving gravity. Cooper accepts to pilot the mission even though it means leaving his family behind for more than 30 years. His daughter doesn’t take too well to the decision and will spend the rest of the movie resenting her father even when his decision drives her to become a scientist for NASA years later.

Once the spaceship Endurance takes off with its crew of four humans and two robots, TARS and CASE (who in their lo-fi design resemble a mix of the robots from “Silent Running” and the ones from the much maligned “The Black Hole”), take off, “Interstellar” becomes equal parts space- and earthbound. One-way video messages are the crew’s only contact with Earth, and in one of the film’s most poignant scenes, after discovering that he only spent the equivalent of three Earth days on a waterlogged planet he and his crewmates barely escaped from, Cooper catches up to over 20 years of video messages, his children’s life passing right in front of his eyes. Time is, indeed, relative; those caught up in its wild streams pay a heavy price.

“Interstellar” almost runs off the rails in the third act, as Cooper and his crew land on an ice-covered planet to find a survivor of the first expedition (played by an unbilled movie star). I don’t want to give much away: let me just say that Nolan quickly recovers control of his film after tempting fate with the plot contrivances that follow this character’s introduction, delivering a tight time-tripping finale that leads into another dimension-twisting “2001” homage.

“Interstellar” is loaded with scientific and mathematical concepts thrown at the audience at the speed of light and drowned by Hans Zimmer’s bombastic and somber organ-driven Philip Glass-influenced-score. Ideas that are sometimes undermined by the Hollywood-friendly, new-agey notion that love conquers all, even the laws of gravity. I missed, at times, that overwhelming sense of wonder that is the Raison d’être of most science-fiction narratives.

“Interstellar” is so wrapped up with the mechanics of space and time travel and the toll they take on its characters that it comes perilously close to losing track of what drove these men and women —in real life and in fiction— to leave their families and planet behind. Yet, Nolan always takes a step back, conscious of the narrative tightrope he is walking, and lets his audience gaze in wonder at such jaw-dropping sights as a tiny dot —the Endurance— gliding across the surface of Saturn or at the majesty of a black hole.

By foregrounding the father-daughter drama between Cooper and Murph (and to a certain extent between Brand and his daughter, astronaut Amelia, played by Anne Hathaway), Nolan gives a personal dimension to all these scientific notions, even if that means pulling at your heartstrings and tear ducts in the most obvious of ways. But he never loses sight of the big picture: to reach out for the stars. “Interstellar” is a gentle rebuke to our partial abandonment of these dreams.

Alejandro A. Riera is a film critic, blogger and media relations specialist. He has worked for such publications as ¡Exito! and HOY, where he was a Senior Editor in Charge of the arts and entertainment section. He was also editor of Café Magazine. He writes about culture (Latino and non-Latino alike) and film in his blog: culturebodega.wordpress.com. He has also worked as a Publicity Manager for the Chicago International Film Festival and the Chicago Latino Film Festival.

“Fury” is a very brutal portrayal of World War 2

by leo guerrero

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“Fury” stars Brad Pitt in a movie which portrays a group of world war 2 soldiers who have survived many fights in a tank named, Fury. The movie is well-acted and we learn of the group thru the eyes of their newest recruit, Norman. Norman is a brand new soldier who has not been in nor had any exposure to the war. So his being assigned to Brad Pitt, the Sargeant, was not a pleasant experience.

Norman at first tries to avoid conflict altogether but during the course of the movie, slowly loses his humanity as he is witness to casualty after casualty and does not react well (at one point, the Sargeant forces Norman to kill a Nazi soldier just to toughen him up).

The depiction of the war is very brutal and graphic as we see lots of blood and loss of life. This aspect of the war makes for great theater. Yet the high point towards the end leaves a bit to be desired as we are led to believe a group of 5 soldiers can manage to stave off a battalion of Nazi soldiers.

To sum up, “Fury” does a great job in it’s portrayal of how brutal world war 2 really was. The acting is great but the ending comes up a bit short. I give this movie 3 out of 4 guns with the ending being the low point of the movie.

Be Fabulous, Be You: Set a Goal Today

by Gris Hernandez

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As many others in our society, I think about my weight a lot, on a daily basis, a number of times each day. Looking in the mirror over the sink as I apply my makeup in the morning and then using the full length mirror as I adjust my outfit for the day. I think about the number on the scale and the size of my waist.

I’ve been struggling with my weight for close to 10 years. Due to thyroid issues, the number on the scale has gone up and down, it’s one of those roller coaster rides I just can’t get off of.

Growing up I loved being active, and in the last couple of years I have rediscovered that. Who wants to be out of breath walking up a flight of stairs? I have gotten excited about Zumba, walking, biking, and recently running! Find what works for you, be adventurous try something new with friends, and mix it up. We live in a great city with diverse events and activities. Strengthen your support system, because they will encourage you to keep going strong.

I’m Latina and I’m in love with my curves. My goal has never been to be a size 2, but to be comfortable with my body. My confidence and energy level are growing. I will continue to push myself remembering it doesn’t happen overnight. Little steps are good, don’t underestimate them because you’re headed in the right direction.

Take that first step, set a goal today,for your health and your happiness.

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