Tuesday Releases: The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

APRIL 15TH, 2014

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY // “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty” is a balance of memorable moments and sincere performances from most of the main cast, especially Ben Stiller and Sean Penn. Stepping into the director’s shoes, Stiller takes on double duty and does not disappoint, playing title character Walter Mitty, an easygoing daydreamer living a reserved lifestyle. Facing the last days of his long career as a negatives handler at Life Magazine, Adam Scott plays the bad guy, as he comes to the magazine to lay people off and transition into Life Online, with a completely different staff. Placed in charge of the negative for the final cover, Walter’s head is on the proverbial chopping block when the negative goes missing. Bent on impressing the apple of his eye, played wonderfully by Kristen Wiig, Walter sets off on an adventure to find the photographer who took the missing photo, played by Sean Penn. What follows is an epic adventure filled with beautiful, unforgettable scenery and the perfect moral of stepping outside your comfort zone and experiencing life, a lesson that I will surely take to heart, making this film hold that much more weight for me. Stiller has a way of making all of this unbelievable material come to life and strike true, capturing the imaginations of the audience in a way that hasn’t quite been achieved this year. With an already great track record as a director, I look forward to seeing what he can do next.

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GREAT EXPECTATIONS // A truth must be faced when dealing with an age-old tale like “Great Expectations”, you cannot change Charles Dickens. No matter how much you want to make a current adaptation or a period piece that expands on the 1860′s novel, if you were to tamper with the material, you would face a backlash that you’d never escape. But with that comes adaptations like Mike Newell’s version of the well-known tale, that comes off very much like something we’ve seen before and that does not expand the world much more than we know it already. But as viewers, we must understand where the heart is coming from and either accept what we are witnessing or not. “Great Expectations” is my favorite Dickens novel, with such a profound love story at its base, that you cannot help but feel what these characters are feeling, and with such a struggle in play, your emotions run the proverbial gambit.

What Mike Newell does realize he can control are the actors playing the well traversed characters and hope to deliver performances from these selected cast members that revitalize the retreaded story and breathe new life into the pages. In my personal opinion, Newell achieves this successfully, bringing old and new into the picture superbly. Helena Bonham Carter, although typecast in the role of crazy Miss Havisham, delivers on par with her predecessors and neither takes away from nor necessarily adds anything to the role. Her known grace is apparent and we appreciate it. Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch also carries a well known weight and amps up the performance level for this character’s portrayal as well. The real star of the show, however, is newcomer Holliday Grainger (“The Borgias”), as Estella, the iconic female character with a heart of ice, leading on poor Pip under the advisement of Miss Havisham.

Grainger is first of all visually stunning, especially in the extravagant dresses. Also, her deliveries are breathtaking, stealing your heart, yet dashing your hopes in all the best of ways. Of people that have played the role before her, none have quite captured the innocence that Grainger delivers, as she highlights the best portions of the film and truly keeps the viewer wanting more. Sadly, the same cannot be said for lead Jeremy Irvine, who never quite convinces as Pip and although eventually looks the part of a gentlemen, remains uncomfortable in his own skin as an actor. Along with some unexpected turns from Sally Hawkins, Jason Flemyng, Robbie Coltrane, Ewen Bremner, and Ollie Alexander, you’re able to overlook the unfortunate Pip casting and breath in this newly minted Dickens adaption. With a huge career ahead of her, Grainger has inspired me to follow her future work and with that makes “Great Expectations” one of my favorite period pieces this year, hopefully catching the eye of at least a few Academy members by the year’s end.

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THE INVISIBLE WOMAN // Charles Dickens was a selfish man. “The Invisible Woman” depicts his true story courting of his mistress Ellen “Nelly” Ternan in 1857 while still married to his wife Catherine. With twenty-seven years separating the two of them, the film really depicts the relationship as heavily one-sided, placing Ellen in the predicament of always being the “other” woman, with no possibility of marriage and a life filled with solitude. Ralph Fiennes directs and stars as Dickens, playing the role with an exuberance that brings the character to new life. His multi-layered performance brings a new dynamic to the way you picture Dickens, making him a suave people pleaser, as well as a brooding creative type. For being one of the greatest writers of all time, you get the feeling Dickens is not very in touch with his emotions. Also, you begin to disassociate him with his body of work and realize the man had a life and before tabloids and entertainment news was a thing, gossip and newspapers were handed out from person to person.

The star of “The Invisible Woman” is by far the young and talented Felicity Jones, who continues to leave me in awe of her performances. Blossoming into a fully formed woman in the flash forwards of the film, she not only wears the brilliant period costumes with a zeal that steals the show, but her emotional presence in the role really adds a depth to her character, that Jones brings to all her roles. There’s always something going on in her eyes and her pouting lips that truly delivers the emotional connection between her character and the audience. As the innocent, eighteen year old Nelly, Jones still brings a maturity to the young girl that rings true, as she’s obsessed with Dickens’ work and far more intelligent than most people around her. Jones is a such a beautiful young woman and I cannot wait to see her in more roles and especially if she continues to progress as she does in this role.

Fiennes, as a director, never lays heavy on the dialogue of the relationship. Through most of the film, you’re not sure where the relationship is headed or how anyone involved feels, unless in a subtle exchange. The audience is experiencing the relationship as if an outsider, who only sees the characters involved at face level and never knowing the inner reaching of how they feel or what their intentions are. You’re never quite sure if Nelly actually even loves Dickens, or if she was just infatuated. You never quite sure where Dickens sees the relationship going or if there was ever any sex involved between the two of them. Besides an intimate moment of touching each others faces, there is not even so much as a kiss between them shown on screen.

There are many conflicting emotions throughout the film. Dickens’ wife, Catherine, has become appalling to him and there is a definite distance between them, as with most long standing marriages. But he’s eventually willing to throw that away to “be” with Ellen. With the backdrop of his novels, like “Great Expectations”, being written while this personal turmoil continues around him, it feels like an honor to be apart of this man’s muses while writing some of the greatest novels in the history of literature. But as great a writer as he was, you get the feeling that his love as entrapped Ellen, who is basically hidden away by the end, left to wait for a man whom she can never be married, knowing that with their huge age gap, he will be the first one to leave her. And for this, taking a brilliant young woman with an entire life ahead of her and stealing her love without much choice in the matter, hence the name of the film “The Invisible Woman”, it returns us to my opening remark in that Charles Dickens was a selfish man.

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PHILOMENA // Human emotion is a complicated yet beautiful thing. Captured like lightning bugs in a bottle, the Academy Award nominated “Philomena” displays these complicated emotions in full force. Based on the true story of Philomena Lee, whose baby boy was taken from her by the nuns in the convent that took her in and adopted him away without her permission, Dame Judi Dench (as Philomena) does not miss a beat. Exploring a person’s ability to forgive as we follow the breadcrumbs to find her son nearly fifty years after losing him, Philomena’s breaking heart over the situation along with her always hopeful demeanor is the driving force for the film. Steve Coogan plays Martin Sixsmith, the journalist that agrees to help find Philomena’s long lost son. Faced with the aging Philomena, the generational gap between the two provides for most of the comic relief throughout the film, yet it is always the stronger emotions, like Martin’s guilt for chasing his own professional goals over actually looking out for Philomena, or the understanding nature of Philomena when faced with less than hopeful news. “Philomena” is not a drama for everyone and does feel designated for an older age group, but the one universal truth that does land for everyone is raw human emotion, a quality of most films that almost anyone can relate to.

New Releases
Better Living Through Chemistry
Black Nativity 2-denied2-small
Copperhead (2013) 2-denied2-small
Date and Switch  
Great Expectations (2013)
Interior. Leather Bar.
The Invisible Woman
The Nut Job 2-denied2-small
Philomena
Ride Along
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Neighbors From Hell 2-denied2-small

TV Box Set

  • Anger Management: Season Three
  • The Beverly Hillbillies: Season Four
  • Bletchley Circle: Season Two
  • The Cosby Show: Seasons Three & Four
  • Hell’s Kitchen: Season Eleven
  • The Practice: Season Eight
  • Ripper Street: Season Two
Special Editions/Other Releases
  • 95ers: Time Runners
  • Bad Blonde
  • Being Ginger
  • Bela Kiss: Prologue
  • Boys of Abu Ghraib  2-denied2-small
  • Breaking The Waves: Criterion
  • Camp Dread
  • Cold Blooded
  • Confession of Murder
  • Confine
  • Dead Sea
  • Flowers In The Attic
  • The Formula
  • Free Ride  
  • Gabby Douglas Story
  • In the Name Of…   
  • Lady in Waiting: A DVD Study
  • Legend of the Red Reaper
  • Living Things
  • Man Bait
  • Men in War
  • Mobius (2013)
  • Sherlock Holmes: Classic Film and Radio Collection
  • Sleep My Love
  • Stolen Face
  • Terror Street
  • Trap for Cinderella   2-denied2-small
  • The Visitant
  • Wrong Cops  

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