Tag Archives: julia roberts

BEN IS BACK (2018) – My rating: 8.5/10

Ben is Back is a drama written and directed by Peter Hedges, who is also the main character’s father. The plot follows a mother who tries to help her addict son after he unexpectedly returns home after just 77 days of rehab. Ben is Back is moving and intense and includes a message of  how powerful drugs are, even when you apply tough love.  I’m glad I got to see this riveting movie — what an appropriate, strong message it sends as a sign of the times, as well as a look into the world of drugs at a very personal level.

Driving home with her kids on Christmas Eve, Holly Burns-Beeby (Julia Roberts) is startled to see her son, Ben Burns  (Lucas Hedges) standing in the driveway. Ben has been in rehab for the past couple of months and was not supposed to be released yet. Ben explains that his sponsor said a trip home would be good for him. Leery of his story, Holly is happy to see him anyway and says he can stay for 24 hours on the condition he does not leave her sight.  Holly’s husband, Neal Beeby (Courtney B. Vance) who is not Ben’s father, is skeptical and helps to lay down the law if Ben is to stay. Neal and Holly have two young children,  Lacey Beeby (Mia Fower) and their 6-year-old son, Liam Beeby (Jakari Fraser), who have a beautiful and fun relationship with Ben. The couple also has a daughter from Holly’s previous marriage,  Ivy Burns (Kathryn Newton).

**** SPOILERS ****

During the 24 hours Holly and Ben have together, she decides to take him holiday shopping at the mall, which will also allow her to buy him clothes for church.  While there, Holly runs into Dr, Crane (Jack Davidson), Ben’s former doctor who is  now an old man riddled with dementia. When the doctor’s caregiver walks away, leaving Dr. Crane alone in Holly’s presence, she yells at him for getting her son hooked on painkillers after a snowboarding accident that took place when he was younger. Ben also makes eye contact with someone who clearly recognizes him, leaving Ben looking worried. Ben tells Holly to get him to a support group meeting immediately.

At the meeting Ben shares the story of how he almost overdosed but his mom and dog saved him. After the meeting he is approached by a young girl (Liliana Weaver). He doesn’t recognize her, but she tells him he was her dealer and asks if he wants to get high with her one last time.  Back shopping once again Holly finds drugs on Ben, which he claims the girl at the meeting gave him. Holly takes the drugs and they go home and get ready for church. At church they see a distraught woman, Beth (Rachel Bay Jones). Holly approaches her and gives her condolences for the loss of her daughter Maggie. It is implied that Maggie was a friend or girlfriend of Ben’s who also had an addiction. Maggie overdosed and died.

The family drives home from church that night to find someone had broken into their home and kidnapped the family dog, Ponce (Nigel). Realizing it had something to do with him, Ben runs off to find Ponce and bring him home. Holly follows him in her car and they end up driving around trying to find the dog together. They first visit one of Ben’s former high school teachers, whom Holly is shocked to learn provided her son with drugs in exchange for sexual favors. Next they go to Maggie’s father’s (Jeff Auer) apartment but seeing him asleep with no dog in sight, they retreated to their car.  Maggie’s father awakens and angrily smashes Holly’s car window while screaming for Ben to leave.  They ended up eating at a diner and Ben tells Holly he got Maggie hooked on drugs and is responsible for her death. He says that he lied by convincing Maggie that drugs were the best thing ever.

There is a lot more story to tell.  Ben is Back is a well put together movie that shows an addict’s path as he tries to lick the habit while still living in the environment where he started and continued using drugs.  Julia Roberts was brilliant as the mother of an adult drug addict who also had to shelter and care for her other children.  Small incidences built up into big problems for Lucas Hedges who played Ben and also gave a brilliant performance.  I was unable to predict this movie, which is a delightful change from the same kind of movie plots I’m use to.  The family seemed real and the problems were also real.  Given this important message,  it seems like Ben is Back would have been a lot more popular than it was.  I think it flew way under the radar.  If you are dealing with a similar situation, this is the movie to see, as it suggest ways of dealing with your addicted love one, which may or may not help.  It’s almost impossible to outwit a drug addict who is well into their journey.  I highly suggest Ben is Back, especially if you are unfortunate enough to be dealing with a drug addicted person — the film received generally favorable reviews from critics, who praised the performances of Hedges and Roberts.  Ben is Back can now be seen on DVD and Blu-Ray — Check It Out!


WONDER (2017) – My rating: 8/10

Wonder is a drama directed by Stephen Chbosky and written by Jack Thorne, Steve Conrad, and Stephen Chbosky, based on the 2012 novel of the same name by R.J. Palacio.  The film follows a child with Treacher Collins syndrome trying to fit in the mainstream. Having had a child born with a Bilateral Clef Lip, I was reluctant to see Wonder.  Unlike the parents of Auggie, I never knew what the bullying was like for my child because I was divorced and had a prominent career that kept me from the close relationship between child, school and myself.  After seeing Wonder, I was more mellon collie than ever, however it’s not a problem now, just a distant memory, since my daughter is a beautiful, highly educated women with a career of her own. Wonder reflects more on the bullying than anything else.

August “Auggie” Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) is a young boy raised in North River Heights in upper Manhattan, New York. He has a rare medical facial deformity, which he refers to as “mandibulofacial dysostosis.” Due to numerous surgeries (27), Auggie had been home-schooled by his parents Isabel Pullman (Julia Roberts) and Nate Pullman (Owen Wilson), but as Auggie is approaching middle school age, Isabel and Nate decide to send him to Beecher Prep, a mainstream private school. Fifth grade is tough for Auggie who is ostracized by nearly all the student body. He is bullied by being called a freak and rumors were spread that kids will get the “plague” if they touch him. He does befriend a boy named Jack Will (Noah Jupe).

Halloween is Auggie’s favorite holiday. He has to wear an old “Ghostface” mask and costume because his dog, Daisy, threw up on his “Boba Fett” costume. He walks around school unrecognized and is not tormented while incognito. As he walks through the door to his homeroom, he overhears his friend Jack telling Julian Albans (Bryce Gheisar) that he was “only pretending to be friends with Auggie.” Feeling betrayed, Auggie leaves school and wants to stay home during trick-or-treating. His older sister Olivia Pullman (Izabela Vidovic: older/Maccie Margaret Chbosky: younger), nicknamed “Via,” tells him she is still his friend and talks him out of it. Auggie later confides the incident to a new friend, named Summer Dawson (Millie Davis), but swears her to secrecy. When Jack notices that Auggie has become quiet and distant he asks Summer why, but she only gives him the clue “Ghost Face”. Jack is shocked when it dawns on him that it was Auggie wearing the Ghost Face costume, and thus had overheard everything he said to Julian. When Julian calls Auggie a “freak,” Jack becomes enraged and  punches him in the face.  A fight ensues between the two, which is soon broken up by their homeroom teacher Mr. Browne (Daveed Diggs).  Jack is suspended for two days for his actions. Jack also apologizes to Auggie and the two friends reconcile. They even team up for a winning science project.

This is probably a good place to leave you wanting to see more of this very sensitive movie that is very well done.  The acting is brilliant as is the make-up and directing.  I really think everyone should see Wonder, especially “bullies” in hopes Wonder will strike a nerve.  Anyone could and should put themselves in Auggie’s shoes, it’s not a very good feeling.  I think this is a must see movie for everyone.  Wonder can now be seen on DVD and Blu-ray.  Check it out!

[Wonder is Oscar nominated for Best Makeup and Hairstyling]


MONEY MONSTER (2016) – My rating: 7.5/10

MoneyMonsterEver wonder what happens to your money when the market crashes? Money Monster sort of makes you open your eyes and give notice to some of the terms that float around like “computer glitch” as an excuse for a huge loss. Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) is an ordinary guy who really doesn’t have the means to invest but does so on a tip from Lee Gates, (George Clooney) a money market TV guru host of a show called Money Monster. Lee practically guarantees a profit if you take his advice. Of course, this is his personal opinion and research that can guarantee nothing. The stock market is a gamble just like going to Vegas or Atlantic City and playing casino games. If you can’t afford to lose, you shouldn’t invest. We’ve all heard this a thousand times but we do it anyway. When Kyle loses his $60K of inheritance money, he wants an explanation. This is where the story falters because an explanation would not really be offered in the real world, even with a gun and hostage at bay, but we’re talking Hollywood. IBIS Global Capital’s stock inexplicably cratered due to a glitch in a trading algorithm, costing investors $800 million. IBIS’ CEO, Walt Camby (Dominic West) was to appear on Lee’s show for an interview about the crash, but Camby unexpectedly left for a business trip to Geneva.  The movie is interesting and well acted but unrealistic. Julia Roberts plays Patty, the network director and love interest for Lee, who has never really been taken seriously.  Kyle poses as a delivery guy, gets in the studio, takes Lee and the staff hostage and demands answers.  It’s interesting to see how they get to the bottom of the problem with the help of IBIS’ Chief Communications Officer, Diane Lester (Caitriona Balfe), Lee and Patty of Money Monster and their staff.  In the end, it turns out that IBIS’ explanation is logical but far from ethical and is truly a gamble.

In my opinion, if you really want to see a movie, you won’t be bored seeing Money Monster but for the money, you probably should wait for the DVD.

SECRET IN THEIR EYES (2015) – My rating: 7.8/10

SecretInTheirEyesSecret in their Eyes is a suspenseful “how can we convict this totally guilty guy” thriller.  It’s a little slow at times but keeps your interest level high most of the movie. Taking place in Los Angeles, the film focuses on four main characters, Jess Cobb’s, (Julia Roberts) a District Attorney’s Investigator working on a case along side FBI Counter Terrorism Investigator, Ray Karsten (Chiwetel Ejiofor),  newly hired Assistant DA, Claire Slone (Nicole Kidman) and the criminal, Marzin, (Joe Cole) who is hard to arrest or convict given his status to the affiliated case.  We learn early on that Caroline, Jess’ daughter is found raped, brutally murdered and bleached inside and out.  The problem with this plot is I find it hard to believe.  I think anyone would find it hard to believe cops, corrupt or not, would cover up a fellow officer’s tragedy with nothing in return. Secret in their Eyes was well acted but just not a believable plot.  It was exciting and had a couple of bazaar twist, still when you finally realized the bottom line, I think it spoiled the whole movie.  You’ll have to make up your own mind.  Also the past, present sequences got a little confusing at times.  There was one instance when I thought we were dealing with the present when we were actually dealing with the past.  I’m usually pretty good keeping up with that sort of thing.  My blunder surprised me.  The entire movie was shot that way (flash backs of the pass, then suddenly we are brought back to the present.  Despite how I feel about not believing the plot, the end almost justifies the means and overall, I did enjoy the movie.  However, I recommend that you wait for the DVD on this one.


AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (2013) – My rating 9.5/10

AugustOsageCountyWhy oh why didn’t this movie get a nomination for Best Picture? There are 10 slots for Best Picture. August: Osage County, “AOC” or The Butler could have filled the last slot which remains blank. I can’t say enough about this extremely well acted and well told story. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and seeing. Before I saw “AOC” I had my sights set on a different actress for the Best Actress award. After seeing “AOC”, hands down, Meryl Streep deserves that Oscar. Over all, the movie almost resembled a play but was so well done, it just didn’t matter. I don’t think “AOC” has gotten it’s just desserts. Additionally, I don’t think it was well marketed. I was amazed at both the direction and the acting. A cast of veteran actors really makes this movie among the best for me. Contributing to the brilliant performances in “AOC” are Julia Roberts who plays Barbara Weston, Chris Cooper who plays Charlie Aiken, Juliette Lewis who plays Karen Weston and Margo Martindale who plays Mattie Fae Aiken. The film is about a highly dysfunctional family who got that way because of their highly dysfunctional parents, brilliantly played by Meryl Streep who plays Violet Weston) and Sam Shepard who plays Beverly Weston.

Drop everything and go see August: Osage County — it’s really worth your time and money. For me, this may be Meryl’s best performance, to date! Check it out.

[AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY is nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress]