Never Too Late- SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK Still Delivers

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SilverLiningsPlaybok

Movie Review:  SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012)

by

Michael Arruda

 

When is it too late to see a movie at the theater?  Why, never of course!

We’ve gotten so used to seeing movies on their opening weekends, it’s not uncommon to hear someone say, “I don’t want to see it.  It’s been out too long.  I’ve already heard too much about it.”  I say, it’s never too late to see a movie on the big screen.

Take SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012), for example.  It was one of those movies which I’d missed- it had fallen through the cracks- but I really did want to see it on the big screen, so I ventured out on a recent Thursday night- the last night the film was scheduled to play in my area- and watched it with one other person sitting in the theater with me.

 Was it as an exhilarating experience as catching it in an opening night theater abuzz with a loud and energetic opening night crowd?  No, I can’t say that it was.  Had I heard more than I wanted about the movie already?  Sure.  But that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of seeing the film on the big screen.

 Of course, it didn’t hurt that SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is a very good movie.  And in keeping with the theme that it’s never too late to see a movie on the big screen, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK has as its central theme that it’s never too late in life to go after what you want.

Pat (Bradley Cooper) is released from a stint in a mental institution, ordered there by a court to deal with anger issues after he had found his wife in the shower with a co-worker and beat the co-worker nearly to death.  Pat also suffers from bi-polar disorder.  He’s taken home by his mother Dolores (Jacki Weaver) where he’ll live temporarily with her and his dad Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro).

He develops a friendship with the quirky sex-addicted Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) but barely notices her because he’s determined to the point of obsession of winning his wife back.  But Tiffany is persistent, and when she offers to help Pat get back together with his wife, by delivering a letter to her, which he can’t do since there’s a court order for him to avoid all forms of contact with her, he begins to pay Tiffany attention, and when she convinces him to take part in a dance competition with her, their relationship deepens, to the point where you really want to see them overcome their obstacles and get together.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is a poignant story, often disturbing, sometimes funny, about second chances in life, about seeing the positives in spite of all the negatives, and about connections people make and whether or not these connections can survive the muck of human existence that gets in the way of relationships.

 I’ve become a big fan of Bradley Cooper, from his humorous turns in THE HANGOVER movies to more dramatic roles in LIMITLESS (2011).  He’s great here once again, making a complicated man like Pat very sympathetic and likeable.

Jennifer Lawrence really does steal the show here as Tiffany, and her Oscar win for Best Actress was well deserved.  I really enjoyed her in THE HUNGER GAMES (2012) but she’s so much better here.  As Tiffany, she delivers a powerhouse performance, creating a woman who’s explosive, volatile, and strong, one who is able to cut through all the distractions and problems in Pat’s world and make him pay attention.  You’ll be paying attention too.

Robert De Niro, as the OCD suffering Pat Sr., delivers one of his most satisfying performances in years. He cares deeply for his son, yet he can’t seem to do right by him, as he’s constantly losing his patience around him.  Yet De Niro is very likeable as Pat Sr., and enjoys a key scene late in the game where he finally says the right thing at the right time.

Jacki Weaver is also memorable as Dolores, and Chris Tucker shines in a supporting role as Danny, Pat’s friend from the institution who keeps showing up at Pat’s door saying he’s been allowed out when he’s really escaped.  Anupam Kher is also a hoot as Dr. Cliff Patel, Pat’s therapist. 

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK was written and directed by David O. Russell, and his screenplay was based on the novel by Matthew Quick.  The fact that it’s based on a novel comes as no surprise because this one plays like a novel, with deep, rich characters who are more complicated and fleshed out than your typical movie character.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is a thoroughly satisfying movie from start to finish.  It has great acting and a thought-provoking emotional story that grabs you from the outset and takes you along for an entertaining ride.  I’ve heard many people grumble that it shouldn’t have been up for Best Picture, but I’m glad it was nominated. 

I enjoyed its story about characters who really have to work hard to succeed in their relationships.  These folks all have baggage, hang-ups, and difficulties.  They strive for happiness and they struggle to treat those around them, family and friends, the way they want to.  They want to treat them well, but more often than not, they don’t.  SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK presents us with characters like ourselves, stuck in struggles we often feel powerless to overcome, yet always with the desire to make connections with others and to do right by those we know and care for.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK  is a movie that tells the truth about flawed people and their relationships.  Yet it’s not a downer by any means.  Sure, there are parts that are painful to watch, but for the most part, the humor works to offset the hopelessness.

We root for these folks, and we want to see them succeed even though we know the road to happiness is paved with pain and uncertainty.  Anything less would just be a silver lining.

 —END—

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IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: HORROR EXPRESS (1972)

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Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in HORROR EXPRESS

Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in HORROR EXPRESS

This IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column on the Christopher Lee – Peter Cushing horror movie HORROR EXPRESS (1972) is now up in the April edition of the HORROR WRITERS ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER.

It’s a reprint of a column which originally was published in the HWA NEWSLETTER in April 2006.  And remember you can read all of my IN THE SPOOKLIGHT columns in my IN THE SPOOKLIGHT EBook, available now at www.neconebooks.com.

HORROR EXPRESS is one of my favorite Peter Cushing-Christopher Lee movies, and I had fun writing about this one.  Hope you enjoy it.

—-Michael

 

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT

By

Michael Arruda

 

You gotta see HORROR EXPRESS (1972), at least once, anyway.

Though it stars Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, it’s not a Hammer Film, and this actually works in the film’s favor, because as a result of not being part of the “Hammer formula” it’s offbeat and refreshing.  It’s an international production, Spanish-British, filmed just outside Madrid at a studio that Christopher Lee described in his autobiography Tall, Dark, and Gruesome as “unspeakable.”   “The food was deadly, salmonella the principal sauce,” Lee wrote.

HORROR EXPRESS was written and directed by Gene (Eugenio) Martin on the same train sets from the movie NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA (1971), which the producer owned.

Christopher Lee plays anthropologist Sir Alexander Saxton who brings a fossil of what he hopes will be the missing link on the Trans-Siberian Express.  The frozen remains of the “man-ape” causes a stir before it even makes it onto the train.  A thief attempts to break into the crate housing the fossil, but ends up dead and inexplicably blind.  Peter Cushing plays rival scientist Dr. Wells, also on board the train.

Once the train starts moving, the monster escapes from the crate and the fun begins. 

Perhaps the most fun part about this movie is the script by director Gene Martin.  HORROR EXPRESS is not your run of the mill monster on the loose movie.  The script fills the tale with twists and turns that keep you guessing throughout.  It turns out, that the monster is not just an ape-man creature gone amok.  There’s much more going on here, which I won’t give away. 

The monster itself is quite chilling looking with frightening make-up and glowing red eyes.

You can’t talk about HORROR EXPRESS without talking about the performances.  The whole cast is good, particularly Alberto de Mendoza as the priest, Pujardov, and Julio Pena as the police inspector.  Of course, you have Lee and Cushing, and the most fun part about their performances in this movie, is that, unlike most of their films, where they’re adversaries, one the good guy, the other the villain, here, they work together against a common enemy.  They’re both given star screen time too, it’s not like one’s the star, and the other just has a cameo.  They’re both on screen doing their thing, and it’s tons of fun watching them work together taking on a deadly creature.

HORROR EXPRESS is also blessed with an abundance of humor.  For instance, in one scene, Cushing approaches his middle-aged female assistant to help him with an autopsy, and he says, “I shall need some assistance.”  She glances at the young woman he’s been having dinner with on the train and says, “Well, at your age, I’m not surprised.”

And just when you think the film can’t get any more unpredictable, who shows up but TELLY SAVALAS (!!!) (Yes, the original KOJAK himself!) as the ruthless Cossack, Captain Kazan, who stops the train with his regiment of brutal soldiers. 

Savalas gets to ham it up and deliver lines like, “The devil must be afraid of one honest Cossack,” (Or was that, “The devil must be afraid of one honest Cossack, baby?”).  The only thing missing is the lollipop in his mouth.  He even gets to bully Lee and Cushing.  It’s great stuff.  You’ll never forget it.

The film has a gory, bloody conclusion.  In fact, there’re generous amounts of blood and gore throughout HORROR EXPRESS.

There’s also a haunting music score by John Cavacas.

 Ready for a vacation?  Take a trip on the HORROR EXPRESS.  You’ll have fun, but be wary of bald Cossacks sucking lollipops.

 —END—