By Robin E. Simmons

Still Alice Julianne MooreSTILL ALICE

I was reluctant to see this film. All I knew was that the subject was Alzheimer’s Disease. Having dealt with this tragic illness with not so elderly friends in real life, I assumed the film would be a major downer, no matter how it was portrayed.

In the film, Julianne Moore plays happily married Alice Howland, a linguistics professor at Columbia. She shares her demanding Manhattan life with her professional husband, Alec Baldwin. They have three grown children. Moore has special concerns for her alienated daughter, played by Kristen Stewart. who seeks success as an actress in LA.

When a series of seemingly minor neurological events send Moore to her doctor, she gets just about the worst news possible: she’s has early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. The doc explains that while super smart people like Moore can ward off the symptoms for a while because their brains are so agile, there is no avoiding the inevitable.

I was enthralled by Moore’s subtle and delicate portrayal of a woman slowly losing her mind and at the same time aware of it. Her attempt to heal the ragged bond with Stewart with time running out is heartfelt and beautiful. You can see on Moore’s face the slow disconnect to the reality the rest of us share. It is an astonishing performance by any measure. Directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland from a screenplay by Lisa Genova, Wash Westmorland and Ricard Glatzer.

This film was not the depressing experience I feared, but an unexpected celebration of life and the importance of living in the moment. The title may be a bit misleading, for the duration of the movie, Alice is indeed “still here,” but the sad reality is there’s a day with Alzheimer’s when that is no longer true. Life is fleeting and there’s no redux. Life is now. Coming soon.


Boxtrolls EggsBOXTROLLS

From Laika Studios, the folks that gave us the dark but marvelous CORALINE and PARANORMAN animated films, comes this extraordinary stop-motion fantasy directed by Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable from an unhinged story by Alan Snow.

Eggs is a human orphan who lives with the Boxtrolls — a community of über quirky, skittish, paranoid, decidedly impish and mostly ill-behaved creatures who inhabit a cavernous world beneath the city of Cheesebridge. When villainous Archibald Snatcher (wonderfully voided by Ben Kingsley) hatches a plan to get rid of the annoying but harmless harmless beings, Eggs bravely decides to go above ground, where he make friends with feisty Winnifred (Elle Fanning). Together, Eggs and Winnifred devise a dangerous and daring plan to save the Boxtrolls from extermination. Yes, a Boxtroll holocaust is looming. This wise and witty movie is the most richly detailed and elaborate stop-motion film I have ever seen. Nice extras high-light the tedious process of film production. There were 79 sets, 20,000 hand-made props, 200 costumes and 53,000 face parts! It took animator an average of one week to complete 3.7 seconds of finished film — that’s only 90 frames. But it’s the core story that most connected with me — and that’s about overcoming fear of the “other.” BOXTROLLS is nominated for Best Animated film. It deserves to win. Universal. Blu-ray 3D.


Directed by John Leonetti from a screenplay by Gary Dauberman, this rather tame but atmospheric prequel to THE CONJURING borrows liberally and unabashedly from classic horror films of the 70s. OK, I did jump at some of the cheap jolts, even though I was expecting them. However, I think it’s time to retire the demon doll ghost story sub-genre. If your expectations are moderate, you may enjoy this moody but obvious film that’s more fun than fearful. Warner Bros. Blu-ray.



Robert Downey Jr. stars as big city lawyer Hank Palmer, who returns to his childhood home where his estranged father (Robert Duvall), the town’s judge, is suspected of murder! He sets out to discover the truth and along the way reconnects with the family he walked away from years before. David Dobkin directs from a screenplay by Nick Schenk and Billy Dubuque. The solid cast, besides Duvall and Downey, includes Billy Bob Thornton, Vera Farmiga and Vincent D’Onofrio. I liked the way this overlong movie looked, and the performances are top notch, but I was more than a little disappointed that nothing really surprising happens. I wanted more than a clichéd story of a bad dad and his equally compromised son. Warner Bros. Blu-ray.