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Movies for the Weekends

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It is nice to see films in which character development and good script writing takes precedence. The Movie Sideways features two long time buddies on a road trip. Miles (Paul Giamatti) takes his former college roommate Jack (Thomas Haden Church) on trip through the California wine country the week before Jack’s marriage. Both men have their problems. Since his divorce two years previous, Miles has suffered from depression and still long for his ex-wife and Jack is getting ready to settle down but he still wants one more week of sexual adventures.

Miles considers himself a expert on wine but one get the feeling that his love for wine is just a disguise for alcohol abuse. In one scene, he calls his ex wife after he finds out that she is now married and is abusive. She tells him, he can be obnoxious when he is drunk so we are led to believe that maybe his drinking was a substantial reason for their break up. As for Jack, he wants to get his friend laid and get laid himself.

On their journey, they meet Stephanie (Sandra Oh) and Maya (Virginia Madsen) at Miles favorite restaurant Hitching Post, where Maya works as a waitress. Maya is recently divorced and has a crush on Miles from his previous visits to the wine country. After a night of drinking, they go back to Stephanie’s place where Jack jumps in bed with Stephanie whereas Miles appears nervous in his dealing with Maya.

After this evening, we follow both men as they deal with their own inner demons. For Jack, he tells Stephanie that he loves her and essentially lies to her. As for Miles, he begins to shed his own inhibition as he moves closer to Maya.

Paul Giamatti proves an interesting leading man as his character moves from his past feelings of insignificance to a more confident individual. Thomas Hayden proves an excellent counter to the more morose Giamatti as his character finds that he is indeed in love with his fiancé as his affair to Stephanie proves disastrous along with another affair with a waitress. After a week of receiving a broken nose from Stephanie and being chased by an enraged husband, Jack realizes that the time has come to settle down.

Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh add to the ensemble. Oh plays a single mom who finds Jack the perfect mate and reacts violently when she finds that Jack’s words of love are false. As for Madsen, her character is the most complicated. Her discussion of wine with Giamatti is really a discussion on the character of both individuals as they substitute wine for each other.

Finding Neverland
details the inspiration behind Peter Pan. Johnny Depp plays J.M. Barrie, whose latest play flops. Barrie is bored by his own writings and his own life. He lives in separate bedroom from his wife and both seem distant from one another. Barrie encounters the Davis families, a young widow and her four sons. Katie Winslett plays the widow and Julia Christie plays Emma du Maurier, Winslett mother.

Barrie uses the kids to reenact his next ideas. Playing with the children leads to his next inspiration- a story of lost boys in never land. His imagination of a make believe world represent his own dream of not having to grow up but the real world keeps intruding. For one, Ms. Davis is coughing and Barrie suspects that the she is sicker than she lets on. The children suspect the same and once again, the children fear that they will be dealing with the loss of a parent.

As for Barrie, his vision of Peter Pan starts to take hold as he convinces his actors that they need to fly across the stage, talk to fairies and wear dog and crocodile costumes. Barrie is writing a children play with adults in mind. It is a land of make believe but in the real world, Barrie sees his marriage crumbling as he spends more time with the Davis’ family but he also runs smack into the opposition of the mother, who view Barrie as damaging her daughter reputation. The irony is that while Barrie loves Ms. Davis, he does not seek sex. It appears that Barrie is an asexual person but interested in a brother-sister relation. He feels sorry for the family and tries to substitute for the boys’ father but he knows that he can never replace their father. He prefers the company of the Davis’ family than his own wife.

In the end, Barrie’s marriage dissolve and Ms. Davis dies. He is listed as a custodian of the children along with Ms. Du Maurier. The responsibility of parent hood intrudes upon his world of make believe. He sees the boys grow up as their mother health decline. The world of make believe created by Barrie can’t stop the tragedy of the real world. But it does give comfort as Barrie tells Peter, one of the boys that eventually he will meet his mother in Neverland. The one scene that sums up the movie is when Barrie tells Ms. Davis that she must face up to the fact that she is seriously ill but she reminds him that it was he that brought make believe into the family. Thus sums up the movie dilemma. We can have make believe but there is a time to put childish things away. There is no Never land except maybe in death.

Finally for those who just love to be entertained, there is Ocean 12. Ocean 12 is well written, witty and has you guessing the entire time. Who is getting con by whom? It begins with Terry Benedict giving the Ocean 11 gang two weeks to get his money back plus interest. Add a mysterious French rival called the Night Fox along with a Europol agent with a connection to Rusty’s past and the gang find themselves confronting all kind of obstacles as the deadline approaches.

Like the first film, this film has everything that a movie should have- great cast, great writing, witty exchanges, a little action and it is the stars that carry the movie not the special effects. Ocean 11 was superior to the original done by Frank Sinatra and Ocean 12 is even better than Ocean 11. Both Ocean movies are return to the old Hollywood that saw big star actors starring in big budget productions to go along with everything else. Plus we see a little tongue in cheek committed at the expense at Hollywood. A good time for all.

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