Written by / 9/18/2014 / No comments /

DOLPHIN TALE 2 & NO GOOD DEED & LOVE IS STRANGE

year: 2014 rating: ***1/2
DOLPHIN TALE 2: That’s right, two… literally… as in, there are two dolphins now… Actually, wait... Make that three…

The tailless dolphin Winter will need to bond with her potential dolphin partner in order to remain in the sanctuary where she was rescued in the first movie… Poor Winter is downright depressed, and, with literally no Porpoise in life, she flippers-out on her best friend, teen science brain Sawyer, who has an opportunity to leave for a career in oceanography…

Along with intense gal pal Hazel, both kids put their entire souls into the matter while the adults keep more on the sidelines... And that crazy pelican is at it again, this time humorously stalking an injured sea turtle as the first half deals with the promise of Winter being partnered up with a rescued dolphin, and yet that story, headlined by the moral dilemma of freedom verses captivity, sleeps with the fishes soon enough – and then another dolphin is saved… a rambunctious baby with the speed of a jet fighter… Thus the plot of Winter landing a new buddy ensues, again…. But for real this time...

The suspense relies on Winter and the new dolphin hitting it off… If not, for some reason, she'll be shipped to Texas... And Morgan Freeman, who invented the fake tale, is around for nostalgia's sake... In fact Winter hardly uses her prosthetic at all. So if you love dolphins, there’s enough to keep your heartfelt attention… Thus the feel-good Disney aspect of the first venture, also directed by AMERICAN GRAFFITI actor Charles Martin Smith, is replaced with a prolonged threat to the initial happily-ever-after conclusion of the original… Which in itself compliments both films.

year: 2004 rating: ***
NO GOOD DEED: There should be a cinematic rule by now… That if you render a psychopath unconscious, he’s gonna get back up real soon… So once the madman is down,  a few grenades or even a rocket launcher would really help matters… Because injuring the proverbial bear only pisses it off…

Well now we’re skipping ahead to when things get really nasty: the best aspect of the surprisingly entertaining and suspenseful NO GOOD DEED is that the bad guy, a vengeful escaped convict, takes a while to show his truly lethal colors after ending up in the house of ingénue Terri, alone with two small children and no husband... She allows Idris Elba’s Colin Evans to remain a polite stranger before the inevitable sinister transition…

Most of the film relies on dialogue between Elba and Taraji P. Henson, especially inside the kitchen where a storm rages outside. The taut direction makes use of every expression and movement (including the risque intrusion of Terri's nosy best friend). In this pivotal scene and beyond, the two leads have the right amount of chemistry based on sexual tension, idiotic decisions and, ultimately, fear for one’s life.

Although full of clichés, it all seems brand new since the threat is real, palpable and involving…And an 11th hour twist makes everyone beforehand not only become more clear, you might even rewatch to catch what you missed… Hopefully just mentioning there’s a twist isn’t a spoiler in itself, because what the movie hides, not what it shows, puts DEED one step beyond your typical mainstream thriller.

year: 2014 rating: ***
LOVE IS STRANGE: The two best things about LOVE IS STRANGE, other than the performances of dependable character-actors John Lithgow and Alfred Molina, is that it never basks in sappy melodrama, and doesn’t have a giant chip on its shoulder…

We get right past political matters when Molina’s George is fired from a religious school where he heads the music department… Not only is he openly gay, he's married to his partner of forty years, Lithgow’s Ben, a 71-year-old “artist”…

Within the first five minutes, during the opening credits, we see their life the way it was always meant to be – both spending time in their apartment, surrounded by co-op friends and preparing for their outdoor wedding. But soon enough the couple has to relocate in separate directions: George living with a noisy party crowd and Ben with his nephew, niece-in-law, and their teenage son.

Ben’s story is the most fleshed-out and interesting. If the entire movie dealt with a quirky yet optimistic gay uncle trying to connect with his logical yet pessimistic (and downright grouchy) young nephew, LOVE IS STRANGE could be titled LIFE IS STRANGE: while the trailers promise an alternative to a mainstream romance replacing homosexual characters with straight ones, it’s a somewhat misleading premise...

Not to say Molina's character doesn't matter. He's the solid rock foundation of the married couple. But their story, it turns out, is merely peripheral.
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