Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

It’s been a long few days on the road, and I am on a flight in seat 15E from Chicago home to San Diego. 15E is a middle seat, with not enough space on either side to take out the laptop and do some meaningful work of any type. I have the Bose headphones on, but no music, just noise cancellation. Then the movie Bumblebee starts on the little screen a few seats ahead of me overhead. I see the start and I plug in the headphone cables so I can hear the sound. That’s how I came to watch Bumblebee, a movie rated 93% on the Tomatometer.

It’s 1987. Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) is about to turn 18 and she finds a battered yellow WV bug in a junkyard. She brings home the car and quickly discovers this is not an ordinary WV beetle. It’s a Transformer. And that’s really all I have to tell you about the story.

Transformers are cars that turn into robots. I have never before watched a single Transformer movie, and now I am grateful that I didn’t. Robot battles are boring. I know too much about technology to buy into this myth of indestructible robots that, when it comes right down to it, do their battles with fist fights like two humans would. It quickly turns into endless action scenes of robots throwing each other around, kicking each other, and I can’t get it out of my head that it’s all two guys in robot suits doing the fighting.

The story is predictable and boring. The concept is ridiculous. I don’t know where the ratings come from, but it did nothing at all for me.

It killed 114 minutes of flying time. Now I know I never have to watch another Transformer movie.

Read Full Post »

I was around in 1988, when Senator Gart Hart (Hugh Jackman) was considered the front runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. We know how it all ended. Hart exited the race not too long after a story broke about an extramarital relationship with a woman named Donna Rice.

In 1988, tabloid journalism surfaced for the first time in a presidential election. It is now 30 years later, and it seems like tabloid journalism is all we get anymore in high profile elections. Gary Hart was an Eagle Scout compared to Donald Trump. Our senses are now dull, and our sensitivity numbed. The office of the presidency will not be the same again.

But in the days of Gary Hart, different rules applied.

This documentary drama tells the story of the rise and fall of Gary Hart, the man who almost might have been president, until some “Monkey Business” got in the way. The Front Runner is an entertaining and informative film into the way we run our presidential elections and I enjoyed the window into the past.

Read Full Post »

Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson) is a quiet, shy working-class man who lives with his wife (Laura Dern) in the mountains outside Denver. He is the local snowplow driver and a respected citizen.

Their young son, who works at the local airport as a baggage handler, is killed one night. When Nels tries to figure out what happened, he runs into the underworld of the local drug traffickers. As he is faced with brutality and criminality, he quickly turns vigilante and picks off the bad guys, one at a time, using fists, guns, snowplows, tree trimming tractors, axes, and anything you might find in a maintenance garage for heavy machinery.

I expected Cold Pursuit to be an action thriller as many other Liam Neeson movies, and it is, but it’s also a dark comedy. I laughed more than I expected, and in the end I walked out chuckling.

Read Full Post »

Rich, old, fit black man in big city puts on headphones and expensive watch and goes for a jog. Bam! He gets hit by car and dies. Shock – I didn’t see that coming.

His estranged daughter and her two children are driving to his house in the country to get ready to sell the house. The house turns out to be a mansion with all kinds of security gadgetry. But something does not seem right.

Four bad guys had broken in. They somehow got wind that the old man had liquidated all his assets and there was a lot of cash in the safe in the house. All they had to do is find the safe, open it, and take the money.

But darn it, the family shows up and makes things difficult.

The mom and her children turn out to be quite resourceful against the four bad guys, of which one is a very bad psycho guy.

A predictable story, told many times over. Normal people get in the way of really bad people, and have to fight their way out. In this case, with the gadget house, it’s Home Alone for Adults.

Alright, I was entertained for a bit, found myself cheering for the underdog, but in the end there was nothing much to remember about this movie.

Read Full Post »

A Private War is a dramatized documentary about the life of Marie Colvin (Rosamund Pike), an American journalist who worked as a foreign affairs correspondent for the British newspaper The Sunday Times from 1985 until her death in 2012.

Being a foreign affairs correspondent is somewhat of a euphemism for “going into war zones” armed only with a camera and a lot guts. She was a brave woman, fearless and dedicated to getting the real story out, the truth, no matter the cost. She was born in 1956, like I, and she spent one of her high school years abroad, like I. She is no longer alive today because she chose a very dangerous profession, unlike I.

Watching A Private War is hugely important in today’s world, where our leaders send young men and women into battle in foreign countries without seemingly blinking an eye, over and over again. Don’t we ever learn that war is deadly, not only to those who die getting shot on the battle field, but to those whose souls are killed and who struggle for the rest of their lives after they are lucky enough to return.

A Private War is crushingly realistic and very difficult to watch. I was numb when the credits rolled, shocked, and disgusted with what we are doing to ourselves, to other countries, in the name of democracy, freedom and religion. Go watch A Private War and get yourself a new perspective and then tell me it makes any sense to send off one more American soldier to any conflict overseas.

Stop it already.

Read Full Post »

When Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) is 21, his father (Bill Nighy) pulls him aside and tells him that the men in his family have always had the ability to travel through time. They can do it at will by going into a dark area like a closet or a bathroom with the lights off, clenching their fists, closing their eyes and wishing for another time. Boom, there they arrive, properly dressed the way they were at that time.

He can’t seem to find a girlfriend, so he decides he is going to use his new skill to get one. That does not turn out quite the way he expected. When he meets a girl and falls in love, she gives him her number, and he bounds away excited. Mission accomplished! But then he travels back in time to help out a friend and realizes too late that he is now in a time where he has never met the girl and never received her phone number. He now has to figure out how to meet her again – but where to start?

I ran across this 2013 movie at a hotel flipping through the HBO channels. Time travel is one of my favorite science fiction genres (just search this block for the category and it’ll be obvious I am an aficionado –>) so this was a natural choice to stop on. The mechanics of time travel in this story are very simple and not scientific, like they would be in a fairy tale, which this essentially is.

About Time is light feel-good movie with no antagonists but perhaps life itself and the curve balls it throws at you. It plays in England, the characters are all delightful and light, and life is — almost — perfect. When the credits rolled I was convinced that I need to live every day as best as I can and I was satisfied.

Read Full Post »


Vice is a biopic about Dick Cheney’s life. Cheney is played by Christian Bale, and his wife by Amy Adams.

How did a quiet man from Wyoming of humble beginnings become arguably the most powerful man in the world during the George W. Bush presidency?

Cheney reshaped our world. First, he made sure that he and Bush won the election in 2000. Bush won against Gore by less than 600 votes in Florida, as far as the world knows. What would have happened if Gore had won just his own home state and therefore the presidency? We will never know. Because Cheney was in charge.

After the terrible events of September 11, 2001, Cheney took the reins and shaped the world to his liking. What he did affected all of us, all over the world.

This movie guides us through Cheney’s life, and gives us a glimpse of his reasoning and motives. The likeness Christian Bale achieves at times is eerie. There is also a very powerful performance by Steve Carell playing Donald Rumsfeld and a hilarious one by Sam Rockwell, playing George W. Bush. Rockwell does not quite look enough like Bush to be convincing, but when you close your eyes and listen to him talk, he really comes to life.

I enjoyed the film, and I didn’t like Cheney any better when it was over than I did when I walked in. I just had more insight.

We live in a frightening world, where men with immense power can do horrific things to thousands, no, millions of others.

 

Read Full Post »


Oscar (Anthony Gonzalez) is a 12-year-old boy from Honduras. Forced to flee his home to escape gang brutality, he goes on the long trek in hopes of meeting up with this uncle, who lives and works in the United States. Eventually he reaches the border and tries to seek asylum. But the journey is not simple, and he ends up in a cage in an ice-cold warehouse (the Icebox) with nothing but little space blankets and a thin mattress. Rather than reaching the promised land after a long and arduous journey, he is lost in the American immigration system, and that’s where his journey only starts.

The timing for this movie could not be more appropriate. In an age where our leadership vilifies immigrants, and demonizes those that come from the south as criminals, rapists and drug dealers, it is enlightening to witness the human story of the immigrants themselves.

Frightened in an alien world, separated from their families, terrified by the crime and gang violence at home, these people are abused, beaten and subjugated — all for the “crime” of trying to make a living for themselves and their families.

Now more important than ever, go watch Icebox and then tell me you are afraid of those monsters and criminals who threaten us from the southern border.

Read Full Post »

Adolf Eichmann was Hitler’s “architect of the final solution” and one of the most notorious henchmen of the Nazi regime. He was one of the few senior Nazis who did not commit suicide but managed to escape to Argentina after the war. He lived a quiet life with his wife and two children, and worked as a manager at an automotive factory.

In 1960, Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad got a tip from agent Peter Malkin. He convinced them to try to find and abduct Eichmann and bring him to Israel to stand trial.

The movie deals with the soul of a Nazi, and how he justified his deeds at the time, and how he lives with himself afterwards. “I just followed orders, like everyone else,” is the simple answer most of the monsters of history have used to justify their bloody deeds. It also addresses the role the Argentinian government played in protecting the Germans.

Read Full Post »

Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford) is an old man who escaped from prison at age 70. Rather than lying low, he starts robbing banks. He walks in quietly like an elderly gentleman, shows the stunned teller his gun, and walks out with a bag of money – over and over again. He is such an unlikely robber, he gets away with it. On one of his road trips he runs into a woman (Sissy Spacek) with whom he starts a friendship.

The movie is base on the true story of Forrest Tucker, who was a misfit as a youth and spent time in juvenile correction facilities and prisons dozens of times throughout his life.

Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek are seasoned actors who obviously carry the movie. It’s light, and I didn’t find any great value. I enjoyed watching it, but I knew I’d better write this review soon lest I forget all about it.

Read Full Post »

Bobby showed up for his first day at Sullivan Community College in upstate New York in the fall of 1980. As he crossed the campus, checked in for college and went to his dorm, girls came up and kissed him, guys slapped him on the back, and everyone seemed to welcome him. Finally, a friend figured it out. “Were you adopted?” he asked? “You have a twin brother.”

Together they called that brother, Eddie, who had dropped out of Sullivan CC the year before. Bobby and Eddie met soon after and were stunned when they looked at each other. The story made it into the newspapers and the national media. Soon, a third boy in New York recognized himself in the pictures and contacted the paper. Now there were all three of them, David, Bobby and Eddie, with three different surnames, all born on July 12, 1961, separated and adopted by three different families.

The boys and the families didn’t know they were part of a larger experiment. Only slowly did they find out. The debate of nature vs. nurture is central to this documentary.

Three Identical Strangers is a heartwarming documentary about human nature, raising children, and what upbringing can effect in a person’s life. It is a story well told. Initially a feel-good story, it eventually unravels into a dark tale of deception, where the innocent subjects find their entire lives upset, confused and shocked.

In Three Identical Strangers they tell their story to all of us.

Here is an article that provides more background you might read after you watch the film.

Read Full Post »

Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood) is a horticulturist in Peoria, Illinois, who had so much passion for his work that he was a terrible husband to his wife, father for his children, and not just while they grew up. When his daughter got married, he didn’t show up to walk her down the aisle.

With the advent of the Internet, when people started buying flowers online, Earl got left behind and foreclosure ended his business and bankrupted him. Being well into his eighties, there are few options left and no place to go.

But he still has his truck and a flawless driving record. When a young man offers him a job to pick up some valuable items from El Paso, Texas and bring them back, he accepts. Naïve as he is, he doesn’t realize right away that he has signed up with a Mexican drug cartel to ferry cocaine. But the money is great, his financial troubles are gone, and he does one run after the other.

As his success grows, the cartel gets more and more interested in him and assigns a handler to him.

But there is also the drug enforcement agency (DEA) and a few hard-charging agents get on his trail. Soon Earl is in trouble with his family, the feds and the cartel. Everyone is looking for him.

Clint Eastwood produced and directed this movie, besides being its star. Eastwood is masterful story-teller with his movies, and I have enjoyed most of them. I just searched for his name in my blog and realized that I give almost always three stars or more to Eastwood-directed movies. There seems to be a pattern. While I did that search, I also realized that Grand Torino, the film this one reminded me of, was vintage 2009, almost ten years ago. Eastwood was 78 years old then. He is 88 now.

I hope he makes many more great movies like The Mule, a simple human story, masterfully told with a soundtrack that made me stay and sit through all the credits.

Read Full Post »

Bohemian Rhapsody is a biopic of Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek), the iconic lead singer of the British rock band Queen. It starts with the early life of Freddie, whose birth name was Farrokh Bulsara, was born in Zanzibar, and grew up there and in India before moving to England with this family.

He is widely regarded as one of the best singers in rock history with a vocal range of four octaves. Freddie broke through stereotypes and conquered convention when he lead the band Queen through a meteoric rise in the 1980s.

Freddie’s lifestyle almost ruined the band. They reunited just before the Live Aid concert in 1985. Their performance at that concert is widely regarded as the greatest rock performance of all time.

The movie was criticized for flattening out the Freddie Mercury character, but I don’t know how you could give it any more depth in a movie. Yes, to the music critics and people studying the persona of the famed singer, no movie can ever do it justice.

But for the average person, like me, who really wasn’t that into any specific band, Bohemian Rhapsody has prompted me to study up on Queen, read more about Freddie, and relive some of those iconic moments in rock history.

Rami Malek did an amazing job playing Freddie. He warned the producers that he is not a singer. The soundtrack is original Queen, and the voice of Freddie. The New York Times also reported that Rami’s voice is mixed in with Marc Matel, a Canadian singer who is known as one of the best Freddie soundalikes.

I was rocking, I was reminiscing, and I was thoroughly enjoying the Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s a killer soundtrack.

 

Read Full Post »

Can You Ever Forgive Me is based on the true story of Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), a celebrity biographer whose books were once on the bestseller lists in the 1970 and 1980 decades. In 1991, her career in decline, she is broke and cannot pay her rent. She is a curmudgeon. When her cat gets ill and the veterinarian refuses treatment because she already owes $78, which she cannot pay, she gets desperate.

By coincidence she discovers that there is a market for original documents, particularly signed letters, by celebrities. Collectors will pay several hundred dollars for an authentic letter.

She collects a few different vintage typewriters, practices forging of signatures, and starts cranking out fake letters. That quickly takes care of groceries, rent and veterinarian bills and she is back in business. Eventually she recruits her gay friend Jack (Richard E. Grant) to do the peddling, while she is producing the product.

Can You Ever Forgive Me is about artists and writers and their careers. Every career has a peak, and there is a downslide from that peak and for some, who saved up enough resources, it is bearable, and for others, like Lee, it is catastrophic. She is not willing to accept her situation, will not bow to taking on a “regular” job like the rest of us, but is obsessed with using her writing skills to make a living. She almost succeeds.

Eventually, however, a house built on deception will come crashing down.

 

 

Read Full Post »

I have waited for In Saturn’s Rings for several years and have followed their Facebook page. It took the producers years longer to finish it than they thought it would. It was supposed to be done on December 31, 2014, but was finally finished on May 4, 2018. It is a 42-minute documentary made exclusively from real photographs taken by spacecraft, from the Hubble Space Telescope to the Cassini-Huygens space craft. The movie uses no computer generated graphics (CGI) technology. All images are arrangements of actual photographs.

There are not many places in the country where the film is currently shown. On my visit to New York City I decided to go out to the New York Hall of Science in Flushing, NY, about 30 minutes outside of Manhattan where it is currently playing.

I have always been fascinated with Saturn and its rings, and I have written plenty about it here. Here is one of my descriptions from almost five years ago where I marvel about floating in the rings and then actually refer to this movie.

But I was disappointed. Perhaps I am spoiled by the amazing CGI production in movies and documentaries where pictures are enhanced and animations are smooth and stunning. In Saturn’s Rings seemed flat and boring in comparison. But again – I realize that there is value in looking at actual photographs, not made-up stuff. And I give the producer credit for that.

However, there is too much fluff in the movie. It starts out with the Big Bang and plays images of Hubble of distant galaxies. Then it moves into an odd collage of photographs of science and scientists, wasting a lot of time on those flying and merging still photographs that didn’t add any value to the message or the film itself. There were fillers, and there were too many of them.

The film is narrated in parts, but some of the descriptions of images were subtitled rather than narrated. I found that annoying. The images were there for a short time, and rather than looking at the images, I found myself reading the captions that described what I was looking at while the narrator was silent. Then the images were gone and the next ones came up. I missed them. This happened a lot.

In Saturn’s Rings is an admirable effort but ultimately not worth it. The images you see in the movie would be much more valuable in a book. Buy a book on the Cassini mission and I am sure you will see the best photographs there. You can read the captions in leisure, and then look at the images as long as you want. In the movie, you only have a few seconds before the next one comes along. Having the image move, or zoom in or out is not adding enough value to account for the brevity of the viewing experience.

As coincidence would have it, I was flipping through the channels yesterday and came across the Science Channel and found Space’s Deepest Secrets – Cassini’s Grand Finale. This was a documentary about the Cassini mission and it showed spectacular graphics of Saturn taken by Cassini but it also provided professional narration and interviews of scientists along with the history of the program. The subject was similar to that of In Saturn’s Rings, but done much better.

 

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: