Cake is a movie about chronic pain.  Jennifer Aniston plays Claire Bennett, a woman who is suffering from unspecified injuries.  The film starts at a support group, where the group leader, Annette, meekly played by Felicity Huffman, is discussing the loss of Nina (Anna Kendrick), due to her suicide.  Claire reacts poorly, and is invited to leave.

We see this consistently – Claire is not a nice person.  She lashes out at everyone. She’s rude to her maid Sylvana (Adriana Barraza), who keeps her going.  She’s awful to her physical therapist, and other patients. We find she has an interesting relationship with Nina, to say the least.  Claire is clearly in hurting, but we find that there’s as much emotional pain as there is physical. Where she goes with it, I leave to you to discover.

I expected a few things from this movie, given the subject matter. As you would expect in a movie like this, there is drug-seeking, there is a lot of hostility. I was pleased  that it did not fulfill all of those expectations.  Relationships barge in to the story, and help muddy the story. Several people appear at random times throughout.   Not everything was spelled out, which leaves you to connect the dots and decide the exact nature of those missing details. The choice of spirit animal is appropriate.

Jennifer Aniston puts in a good performance here.  I’ve always said that she’s the best actor from the cast of Friends, and this only solidifies it.


Afterthoughts –

  • I do have to point out what I see is becoming a movie trope.  Much like actors have to be in a prison movie at some point in their career, actresses are finding it necessary to play against their normal glamorous nature – Charlize Theron in Monster, Nicole Kidman in The Hours, and so on.  I’m not against that in the least!  I welcome the change, but I hope that doesn’t become an obligatory thing.
  • FYI, the name Claire Bennett stuck in my craw for a while, until I realized that Claire Bennet was a character on the NBC show Heroes.

American Sniper

I caught American Sniper this weekend. It tells the story of Chris Kyle, a Texan who became a Navy Seal. This is based on the book of the same name. Though he started older than most of the cadets, he becomes a sniper and is deployed for the invasion of Iraq, acting as part of an ‘overwatch’ (support unit) for Marine troops tasked with clearing out cities of enemy combatant. You’d think that the role of a sniper is fairly straightforward, however, since the conflict involves moving through the civilian population, some moral judgements are required.

Along the way, he meets Taya, the woman who becomes his wife. They are married right before a deployment, and keep in touch, via satellite phone, while he’s out there. Taya and Chris struggle to keep the family together in the midst of all the turmoil (sometimes during!), and it leads to an interesting dynamic between the two. Chris is redeployed several times, between the arrival of their two children. His military career is a legacy that I hope lasts for a long time.

The story is pretty linear, but there are some flashbacks, and a flash-forward at the start of the movie. Before sitting down in the theater, I tried to stay ignorant about the goings-on in the story. The movie itself necessarily continues past the end of the book, and has its own significance, considering what happened.

Bradley Cooper plays Chris Kyle, and Sienna Miller plays Taya. Sienna, to me, melts into the role (I’ve seen her in several films, but couldn’t place her), and Bradley is quite effective, but in a way, aloof. I don’t know how detailed the book was about Chris’ psyche, but in the movie, he’s portrayed as distant, and a bit cold.

There is significant wartime violence, as well as some that is morally objectionable. Be forewarned.


Welcome to the Aisle!

Hello everyone!  I like movies.  No, scratch that, I LOVE movies!  I go out to the theater quite frequently, and used to post quick movie reviews online.  If you’re interested, take a look at some reviews  here

More recently, I’ve been posting them on Facebook, and they’ve gotten hard enough to find, so I decided to start this blog, where you can find them easily. I will be reposting those reviews from the last year’s movies in the near future.





Unbroken, the retelling of the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Italian-American immigrant whose parents spoke no English. This is an adaptation of the NY Times bestseller of the same title, written by Laura Hillenbrand. This movie also has many flashbacks, and jumps between events. In his teens, Louie is an outcast, picked on for his ethnicity. He manages to overcome that, and participates in the 1936 Olympics in Germany. He becomes a bombardier in World War II, in the Pacific theater. While on a search and rescue mission, his plane goes down and is cast adrift with two survivors. They are eventually captured by the Japanese and interned in Japan. He suffers through the abuse of a Japanese soldier, and tries to survive.

It’s a very compelling tale, directed by, surprisingly, Angelina Jolie. The flashbacks disappear before the final third of the film, and you’re left wondering what will happen, in the end. Jack O’Connell, as Louie, was the only memorable prisoner. Takamasa Ishihara was the prison guard Wantanabe, who became the major tormentor, and he provided the right amount of intensity. This film represents prison life, and is quite brutal. I was quite stunned when I saw that Joel and Ethan Coen were listed as the first and second screenwriters (two others besides Laura received credit), but given the story and nature of the film, it seems about right.

It seems that most American movie actors, at some point, have to star in a prison film, and this film allows Jack to make that check mark. WIthout straining too hard, Bruce Willis, Sly Stallone, Paul Newman, Robert Redford (twice!), Burt Reynolds (and Adam Sandler in the remake) immediately come to mind as also having that check mark. I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule, so no need to point them out.

I really am on the fence with this film. I can say with certainty that if you want to see it, you don’t need to see it in the theaters. Most of the cast exist to serve the plot, but the ‘atmosphere’ didn’t quite gel for me. None of the other prisoners were all that memorable to me, as was also the case for entirety of the Japanese captors, besides Wantanabe. They seemed to exist just there as filler. I do want to grumble a little about the trailer, but I don’t want to say more.

The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game, a dramatization of the life of Alan Turing. Turing is considered one of the fathers of modern computing. His main accomplishments took place during World War II, when he became a part of the British effort to crack some of Germany’s codes. The codes would be changed daily, frustrating much of the efforts for timely work. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch, who most people will recognize as the current incarnation of Sherlock on BBC TV. Turing was antisocial, didn’t understand most people, and IMO, borderline autistic, and that is demonstrated in the film.


The film itself takes place in three times during his life – school, WWII, and postwar, and jumps between the three periods quite well. I do not want to spoil the outcome of the film, but I do have to say that this is one of the best films of last year. Highly recommended, despite casting Kiera Knightley.