Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

 

Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) are two police detectives, both disgraced and sidelined. Terry has made some mistakes in the line of duty, and Allen would be better suited as an accountant rather than a cop, since he does not like to take any risks. Both are going to work every day to fill out paperwork for other cops.

When the two are assigned to a high-profile investigation of a sketchy rich guy, they must deal with their differences and inherently mismatched personalities to do the tough job of the cops they usually just idolize from a distance.

The Other Guys is a police comedy that came out in 2010. We watched it late one night to get our minds off the crappy national news. It’s the kind of unmemorable movie I would have completely forgotten about the next day, had I not taken a few notes right away so I could write this minimal review that says – just don’t bother.

Read Full Post »

Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a struggling and unemployed writer. His girlfriend Lindy (Abby Cornish) breaks up with him over lunch. She has just been promoted to editor and does not want to be with a loser anymore. At rock-bottom, Eddie runs into an old friend who gives him an experimental drug called NZT which is supposed to unleash 100% of one’s brain capabilities and capacity.

Eddie takes the pill, and immediately realizes that it gives him virtual superpowers. He remembers everything he has ever seen, read, experienced, watched and observed, and he can put together conclusions from those memories with lightening speed. His laser focus quickly results in unleashing a financial genius. When he draws the attention of business tycoon Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro), their collaboration gets them on the way to make billions.

But the drug has side effects, there is only a limited supply of it, and he quickly finds out that he is not the only one that has it. His life gets complicated very fast.

Limitless is an action thriller of a different kind. It explores the capacity of the human brain and its possibilities – which do appear limitless.

I enjoyed watching this movie. It was entertaining. But – end the end – forgettable.

Read Full Post »

It’s 1975 in Rhode Island. Small-time thugs Deuce (Theo Rossi) and Chucky (Clive Standen) are holding up pawn shops and jewelry stores, when they get the idea to rob two banks in the same day. But for that, they need help. They join forces with Gerry Ouimette (Don Johnson), also called “The Frenchman” in mob circles. Deuce and Chucky quickly get sucked into the New England mob underworld, where bosses run their empires out of prison cells.

Rather than robbing banks, Gerry has bigger plans, like stealing thirty million dollars directly from the mob by taking down a private vault hidden in a Providence fur storage business. This eventually turns out to be one of the largest heists in U.S. history.

Based on a true story, Vault is a view into the world of the mob in the 1970ies, and the life and times of the people getting sucked up by that world, including the women that somehow find it desirable to get involved with these guys. Vault is entertaining, at times comical and definitely thought-provoking.

After watching this movie, I was glad to go to bed in my middle-class house in my middle-class world.

Whew.

 

 

Read Full Post »

It is the time after the Los Angeles Riots in 1992. Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank) is a young and idealistic teacher who leaves her safe hometown of Newport Beach to teach freshman and sophomore English at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach. The school has just implemented a voluntary integration program, and gang violence in the community is terrorizing the school. The Latinos hate the blacks, the Cambodians hate the Latinos, every group hates every other group, and the white minority is drowned out. Every kids knows somebody who has been killed by gang violence. The students are un-teachable. None of them have any respect for Ms. Gruwell.

When she intercepts a racist drawing one day, she uses it to teach the kids about the Holocaust. Slowly, one student at a time, she wins them over. She asks them to write journals about their lives and experiences, and slowly she wins their trust. To finance materials and field trips, she takes on a second and third job. In the process, she loses her husband. Only her father sticks with her and supports her endeavor. One by one, she brings the students together and  they transcend their former boundaries and hate. The students become friends, and they revere Ms. G, as they endearingly call her.

Freedom Writers is not just a movie about a high school teacher, it’s about America locked in diversity and divide, trying to overcome the differences, and growing as a microcosm – a single class of kids – and as a nation.

Freedom Writers is an uplifting story that left me feeling enriched and inspired.

Read Full Post »

 

United States Air Force Major William Allison (Robert Clarke) is a fighter pilot in 1960. His mission is to fly the X-80, which is actually an F-102/F106 figher, up to 500,000 feet to “the edge of outer space” at supersonic speeds as a first ever.

During the trip, he breaks through a “time warp” and ends up landing on the same airfield, now abandoned and derelict, in the year 2024.

He finds the world destroyed by a plague in 1971, which leaves all humans sterilized and infertile. Most humans are now mutants and devolved, they are deaf-mute, and society lives in underground cities. When they realize the Major comes from a time before the plague, they want him to sire offspring with the only fertile human left alive, the lovely Princess Trirene (Darlene Tompkins).

But the Major has no interest in serving as a stud. He thinks it’s better for him and the world to return to 1960, if that is even possible, and warn his compatriots of the upcoming plague and prevent it altogether, thus altering history.

Beyond the Time Barrier is a really bad movie. Of course, being made in 1960, it was in black and white, and the orchestral sound track is awful. There are no special effects whatsoever. We see the F-102 take off shot in stock footage, then it becomes a plastic model that floats in front of a fake star-studded sky. Imagine Godzilla being represented by a 12-inch plastic toy that hops around in a movie set – that’s how realistic this all looks.

But well, such was the technology in the 1960s, and that’s what science fiction movies were like. I vaguely remember watching a movie like this as a small child, showing a flight to the moon, ten years before that actually happened, and years before President Kennedy’s announced commitment for the Apollo program. I was fascinated when the astronauts stepped out of the rocket that had landed tail first on the moon.

The most fascinating part about Beyond the Time Barrier is how the science fiction crowd of 1960 imagined the far distant future 64 years hence in 2024. You can see some of their musings on the movie poster above. It is entertaining being here in 2020 and writing this review just four years before the target time of 2024, which to them seemed utterly utopian. I wonder what they would have thought of a blogger in 2020 writing about their movie?

The technology they envisioned is nothing like the technology that actually happened. All their “futuristic gadgets” are just crude 1960 technology made out to be incomprehensible. They didn’t anticipate miniaturization of any kind or any computer technology at all for that matter.

I always find it uniquely entertaining to see a movie after the future it predicts has already happened, like watching Back to the Future after the year 2015, the farthest into the future Marty travels, or reading Orwell’s 1984 now, almost 40 years after the envisioned distant future.

And that experience brings Beyond the Time Barrier from zero stars to half a star.

Read Full Post »

When her husband dies in a terrible car accident, Libby’s life falls apart. Her two young daughters give her the reason to continue. She packs up the minivan and moves out to the country in Central Texas, where her aunt runs a struggling goat farm.  She offers her room and board in exchange for help on the farm.

The kids adapt to life in the country quickly, but it’s harder for Libby. There are secrets in her family, and her overbearing mother and her aunt aren’t exactly helping her uncover her past. There is also a cantankerous farm manager who does the work around the farm, teaches the girls some very practical skills and slowly gets Libby’s attention as well.

The Lost Husband is a story of life’s hard knocks in contemporary rural Texas, where life on the farm is everything, and where city slickers are frowned upon.

The movie is an adaptation of the book The Lost Husband by Katherine Center. I have not read the book, but saw some reviews that state that the movie follows the book closely. It’s a feel-good family movie, with something for everyone, but it does not go too deep. A lot of reviewers on IMDb gave it 10 out of 10 stars, which seems strange to me. The Lost Husband has some of the feeling and sentiment of Fried Green Tomatoes, but it’s no Fried Green Tomatoes.

Read Full Post »

Timestalkers is a time travel science fiction flick of the worst kind. Surprisingly, it was made in 1987, and I thought it was more like 1967. I watched it because I could not sleep the other night after midnight, so I got up and flipped through the channels and Amazon Prime thought I’d be interested in this.

Scott (Willam Devane) is a history professor in California in 1986 and an Old West aficionado. He likes to go to auctions and pick up antiques and curiosity items from the 19th century. He comes across a photo from 1886 where he notices a handgun that appears to be an anachronism.  Through his research he attracts a woman (Lauren Hutton) who eventually turns out to be a time traveler from the year 2586. She is on a mission to stop another rogue scientist from her time (Klaus Kinski) who is back in the Old West trying to change history. As the two battle, Scott is drawn into the conflict, resulting in a shootout at a robbery of a stage coach that carries U.S. President Grover Cleveland.

Timestalkers is bad from the credits on and all the way though. The acting is terrible and the story lame. Obviously, they didn’t have the special effects we are used to now in movies, so the time travel episodes and scenes are hokey and annoying.

There is nothing of value here, nothing that adds to the genre of time travel stories or movies, and definitely nothing you want to devote an hour an 40 minutes to, unless of course, it’s after midnight, you can’t sleep, and you’re a time travel buff like me.

 

Read Full Post »

I didn’t know what The Old Guard was about when I started watching it. For the first half hour I was completely confused and I was not able to follow the plot. I was close to turning it off when it finally came around.

Andy (Charlize Theron) leads a group of highly trained fighters and mercenaries who have obviously worked together for a long time. They only take on jobs that are for the good of mankind, or so it seems. What is odd about them is that they are immortal. They get shot or stabbed, and literally, within minutes they start healing rapidly, get up and fight right on. They are the ultimate weapon. Nobody knows how and why they have this gift and why it works. They also have a telepathic connection, where they sometimes can feel and see each other’s dreams.

When a pharma tycoon finds out about them, he sets a trap to capture them in order to study them and hopefully extract the secret of immortality. Suddenly their mission is not to save someone else, but it’s to get themselves out of the clutches of the murderous scientist who will stop at nothing to get his will.

The Old Guard has a slow start and is characterized by extreme violence and brutality. At times it feels like a video game rather than a movie. The plot is complex and confusing. When I was done watching, I felt like watching it again to appreciate it more and fill in the many blanks. The end sets it up nicely for a sequel.

 

Read Full Post »

Nick is a young scientist who has always been obsessed with building a time machine. He was first in his class in high school, went on to study physics and lives in a modern house in the suburbs in Michigan. His focus is on his job, and he neglects his friends, and most importantly, Jess, his wife. She has stood with him and supported him through five years of courtship and another seven years of marriage, when by 2019, she has had enough. She leaves him, and the day she serves him with the divorce papers, she also brings a box of stuff that belongs to him.

Most notably, it contains a pocket watch she gave him on their 5th anniversary of their relationship, the day he had proposed to her. That’s the watch he’s holding up on the movie poster above. When she brings it back to him along with the divorce papers, he calls it “junk” since it hardly works, they get into an argument, and she smashes it with a hammer before she leaves the house .

That very night, federal agents from the Department of Energy bust into his house, act like they’re going to arrest him, and eventually make him an offer to buy his time machine. It’s not clear how they knew it was working, and it’s also not clear how Nick would be so obtuse about that fact with his wife, who has spent years of her life supporting him in this quest. Eventually, he leads the feds down into his basement. The lead agent is Dr. Kent, a physicist who, upon seeing the time machine, seems to immediately understand how it works, and within minutes Nick and Kent are on their way seven years into the past.

Through some amazing coincidence, they arrive in his basement seven years earlier just before his anniversary party, to which he has invited some of his friends and sister, without telling his wife, because he wants to mark the occasion by proposing marriage to her with his friends present. The arrival of the time travelers pops the breakers in his house in the basement, and Nick from seven years ago comes down to check on what’s going on. Nick meets Nick, and things get complicated fast after that.

Let me just say that the busted pocket watch serves a plot need, similar to how the watch in the classic time travel movie Somewhere in Time made us all marvel: where did the watch come from?

Making Time is a cute time travel movie, but the acting is sophomoric, the plot silly and oversimplified, and the entire story is therefore not credible. The federal agents are outright caricatures, the cast of friends somewhat confusing, and the two-scene structure of now and seven years ago is too obvious for a simple plot skeleton without enough meat on the bones. And the depiction of the time machine is comical and ridiculous.

As I said: Cute. But if you’re a time travel story buff like I, you gotta watch it.

 

Read Full Post »

Three young men with disabilities need to get away from it all. Two are in wheelchairs, one of them completely disabled from the neck down. And the third is blind. All three of them are virgins. They make a pact to get away, and escorted by a nurse driver, they go on a road trip from somewhere in the Midwest to Montreal, where they heard there was brothel that “caters to people like them.”

At first, the nurse does not know what’s going on, but by the end of the first day, staying in a motel, she figures it out. Soon she joins their quest and helps them escape the tentacles of their parents who, thinking they are “in trouble” are trying to bring them back home.

On they go, and they each find what they are looking for, but not exactly where they thought they would find it.

I enjoyed watching this film, even though there are some unrealistic scenes and some plot holes. But it was meant to be a comedy and to put a spotlight on disability, something the able-bodied among us can easily ignore. It was good and heartwarming, and when I got up from the couch after watching I was grateful that I could do so without asking anyone to help me.

Come As You Are is a remake of the acclaimed Belgian film ‘Hasta La Vista’ which in turn is based on the real-life story of Asta Philpot, which was chronicled in the 2007 documentary ‘For One Night Only’.

Read Full Post »

Romeo & Juliette

British-Italian, 1968, 2.5 hours

Directed by Franco Zeffirelli

Music by Nino Rota

Starring Leonard Whiting & Olivia Hussey

Franco Zeffirelli’s popular version of Romeo & Juliette undoubtedly remains the most successful adaptation ever of this Shakespearean tragedy for the screen. The Director’s artistic touch is evident in the lush photography and the meticulous attention to detail in the scenery, costumes, and props.

Zeffirelli’s determination to seek out the best talent was well rewarded. The casting of teenage actors for the protagonists is faithful to Shakespeare’s play. The bright flame of youthful passion between Romeo and Juliette, which shines through Shakespeare’s verse, is resurrected on-screen by the chemistry between Whiting and Hussey. The famed Irish actor, Milo O’Shea, stands out as Friar Laurence, a demanding role which challenges the actor to steer his emotions between the extremes of boundless hope and hopeless despair. The querulous antagonists, Tibult and Mercutio, Juliette’s sinister cousin and Romeo’s steadfast companion, are brilliantly portrayed by Michael York and John McEnery. The fateful duel between Romeo and Tibult ‒ unrelenting in its graphic violence ‒ is staged with gut-wrenching realism.

Through his directorial deftness, Zeffirelli manages to instill in his audience a glimmer of hope, a momentary suspension of belief in the predictable tragic climax. We are tempted to wonder whether Friar Laurence’s ingenious plan to save the hapless couple could have succeeded; whether Juliette may have awoken at the right time to see Romeo by her side; whether Romeo himself could have acted less rashly and impulsively. Yet even with his magical touch, Zeffirelli cannot shield us, his empathetic audience, from the inescapable conclusion. In the end, his retelling of the tragic resolution of the tale of the star-crossed lovers remains faithful to Shakespeare. The Bard would have approved!

Read Full Post »

Taming of the Shrew

Columbia Pictures, 1967, 2 hours

Directed by Franco Zeffirelli

Music by Nino Rota

Starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

Have you already endured the cathartic effects of Zeffirelli’s tearful, Romeo and Juliette? If so, you may turn to his more cheerful, earlier blockbuster: Taming of the Shrew. You will be rewarded in spades by a lush adaptation of Shakespeare’s hilarious commentary on the perennial battle of the sexes. A boorish fortune-hunter named Petruchio (Burton) undertakes the daunting challenge to court a stubborn shrewish spinster by the name of Katharina (Taylor). Their brief courtship, a marathon battle of words and blows, leads to a rushed wedding. Now tethered by the vows of wedlock, Katharina continues to endure Petruchio’s unrelenting efforts to tame her. Yet amazingly, the unyielding wife gradually begins to humor her overbearing husband. But how sincere are her gracious avowals of submission? The drama culminates in an unexpected contest between Katharina and her untamed sister to determine which of them is a more obedient wife! The contest reaches its climax with a seemingly earnest admonition to married women to obey their husbands. Most ironically, the impromptu speech is delivered, somewhat coyly, by none other than the (repentant?) shrew herself, Katharina. The veiled lesson (if any) behind the speech is still debated among Shakespeare scholars.

Zeffirelli’s legendary artistic touch is recognizable in every frame of this production. The leading roles were originally earmarked for another memorable duo, Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. However, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were so eager to play the starring roles that they invested more than a million dollars of their own money into the production of the film, in exchange for a percentage of the profits. Their gamble paid off: the film grossed $12 million worldwide, proving that under the hands of a skillful director, Shakespeare can still draw a huge audience across cultures. The winning choice of Burton and Taylor, a cantankerous couple in real life, illustrates a perfect inversion of the cliché that art imitates life. The turbulent relationship between the legendary couple, much publicized, was an unrelenting roller-coaster ride before and during their marriages.

Read Full Post »

In the last few days I watched the “trilogy” movies Atlas Shrugged, parts I, II and III. I put trilogy into parentheses because it’s not really a trilogy, but I am getting ahead of myself…

The trilogy is based on the novel by Ayn Rand of the same name. The novel is one of the longest written in the English language with 645,000 words and over 1,000 pages. I read the book in 2008 and wrote a review here. I gave it three stars. Atlas Shrugged is a book you cannot shrug off, and it leaves a mark on you, it alters your thinking, and it is just as relevant in the age of Trump as it ever was, or perhaps more so. Before I get into the movie review, therefore, here is my plug. Go and read Atlas Shrugged, it is worth it, and it will change the way you think about our society.

Browsing the movie offerings on Amazon Prime in pandemic stupor, I came across the Atlas Shrugged Trilogy:

Atlas Shrugged: Part I – came out in 2011.

Atlas Shrugged: Part II – The Strike – 2012

Atlas Shrugged: Part III – Who is John Galt? – 2014

I watched the first movie and it struck me that it was pretty poorly done and that it didn’t do the book justice at all. Also, it played in the “near future” of 2017 – which for 2011 is reasonably far away. I thought that didn’t work. Atlas Shrugged plays in the 1950s, it is about railroads, steel and rust-belt industries in general. They have telephones and railroads. Commercial air travel is still in its infancy. By placing the story into the age of smartphones, Apple, and Facebook, but still dealing with the subject matter of making a railroad work, just does not play very well. It would have been much more effective if the movie had played in the original time period, mid 20th century. It would have been more authentic.

Then I watched the second movie and I was completely jarred. All the actors of the main characters were completely different. Yes, Dagny, the protagonist, was still a young blonde woman. Her assistant, Eddie, was still a black man. But that’s where the similarities stopped. They didn’t even try. All the characters that played in Part I had roles in Part II, but all the actors were different.

Enter Part III. AGAIN all the actors changed. Every. One. Of. Them.

This was truly bizarre. It was hard to watch. The most jarring character changes were those for Ellis Wyatt and Francisco d’Anconia.

I am not even going to go into the story line here, since I won’t recommend you watch the movies, but I have to tell you something funny.

Today, via email, a good friend from high school asked me about a classmate, and he praised my memory of details from 45 years ago. What had gone completely obscure and murky for him were vivid images for me, completely clear. We remember what we choose is important for us, and we forget events and people that had no impact.

Memory is selective. I just experienced this now when I sat down to write this review about the trilogy. Since I remembered reading the book a long time ago, I did a search for the title and found it. But guess what else I found? This review I wrote in 2012 about, you guessed it, Atlas Shrugged: Part I. It was actually pretty good, and it’s a better review of the movie than this is. I encourage you to read it.

So – in 2020 – in pandemic boredom – I watched all three parts of Atlas Shrugged and absolutely had no recollection first of watching the movie, then of writing a pretty extensive review and coming pretty much to the same conclusion – don’t bother.

Atlas Shrugged, the movies, are so bad that you’ll likely forget you ever watched them in the first place.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Spotlight is a team of investigative reporters working for the Boston Globe. When a new editor takes charge of the paper, the Spotlight team is tasked to investigate allegations of sexual abuse of minors by the Catholic Church. The year-long investigation slowly exposes cover-ups at the highest level of the Boston religious circles that date back decades.

Spotlight is an expose about the Catholic Church, not just in the United States, but worldwide. What we learn is shocking, disturbing, disgusting and, in the end, a confirmation of what we knew all along from the media revelations of decades of abuse.

The Catholic Church has taken advantage of its members for over a thousand years, it has committed millions of atrocities, and it’s been getting away with them. In the modern world, where we value the emotional health of our children, abuse, and particularly sexual abuse by the clergy has been put under a microscope. And even now, with all the modern tools, there are still plenty of people willing to cover up for the church.

I know about this type of abuse and the effort to cover it up personally from people very close to me and I can attest to that.

We need more Spotlight on this problem, and we need to continue to expose the church for what it is: a power-hungry, self-serving beast that preys on its own members and everyone it comes in contact with.

Watch Spotlight!

Read Full Post »

Five decades after the Vietnam war we still have riveting movies about that war, or that conflict, as it was called back then. Spike Lee tells the story of Da 5 Bloods, the nickname for a group of all black Vietnam veterans, Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis), and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), who go back to find and exhume their fallen leader, Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Boseman), and bring him home, and to find the massive cache of gold bars they buried there in 1971. To help them, Paul has brought along his adult son, David (Jonathan Majors).

They find Norman, and they find the gold. The problem is, you can’t just carry out that much gold in backpacks without attracting the wrong kind of attention, and the ensuing conflicts during the retreat brings out the worst in each of them, all deeply damaged from post-traumatic stress and ruined lives. Today’s Vietnam is not the Vietnam of the 1960s, but it’s also not Kansas. There are still plenty of landmines that can kill, and demons that can drive you insane.

In today’s age, where black Americans are once again the targets of hate, injustice and suppression fueled by nascent resurgence of racism let loose in our society, a movie about the fates of black soldiers in a war that wasn’t theirs hits the mark. Beware that this movie has some very horrid imagery that once seen, will stay with you for a long time. Some pictures cannot be unseen. I have warned you.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: