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Posts Tagged ‘Battle: Los Angeles – movie review’

In the last couple of weeks I watched one new movie (“The Hobbit“) and two re-runs (“The Shoes of the Fisherman” and “Battle: Los Angeles“).
New
The Hobbit” is the prequel novel to the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.  Actually, LOTR was not a trilogy.  It was a single LONG novel.  The publisher didn’t believe there was a market for a fantasy of such length (don’t you love experts), so they had Tolkien break the story up into three books.  I don’t recall the books standing that well as independent novels, so I guess it was lucky they’ve always been sold as a trilogy.  Anyway, I’ve watched LOTR multiple times and I read the books (maybe) ten years ago.  I read “The Hobbit” MANY years ago, probably thirty-five or so.  I enjoyed the Hobbit so much I bought the LOTR immediately, but then never read them.  Over the years, I’ve had to repurchase them at least three times, because I’d move and lose them or I’d loan them out and never get them back.
Back to the movie…  I don’t remember the book much…  Hobbit, dragon, special shirt, blue sword, orcs and a ring (“the” ring).  I’m told by fans the movie doesn’t really follow the book.  It both adds new bits and expands other bits.  Yeah, I get it.  You’re an expert and you were not really pleased…  Sorry.  Don’t care.  I really enjoyed this movie.  It’s a bit long and probably a bit too intense for small children, but otherwise, I thought it was really good.  If I have one regret, it’s that I didn’t make more of an effort to see it on the big screen.
There’s action, battles, heroics, and humor.  The humor is both physical and spoken, so you’ve got to both watch and listen.  The acting is good and the special effects are very good on the small screen.  (By small screen, I mean on our 48-inch, high-def home TV.)  You will have to pause every now and then (or have an exceptional bladder), but otherwise, I highly recommend this movie and I will definitely make the effort to see parts two and three at the theater.
Re-runs
I last watched “The Shoes of the Fisherman” back in April of 2010 (see that review here).  I got it off the shelf to get myself in the mood for a nice long papal conclave.  For those of you not up to snuff on Roman Catholicism, when we need a new Pope (usually because the prior one has died), we hold a meeting of Cardinals called a “conclave”.  There, any Cardinal of voting age (under 80 years old) can vote to elect the person they feel should be the next Pope.  The conclave may be long or short and there’s no way to tell in advance how the Holy Spirit will guide the meeting.  Anyway, this is a movie I’ve enjoyed watching several times (I’ve probably seen it no more than a half dozen times in my life) and it always reminds me that my faith is a way of viewing our place in the world and in history and that it is not the “institution” of the Church.  I highly recommend this film too/again.
In real life, the conclave did not last even a week, so there was hardly much suspense from multiple votes.  In fact, the real conclave was shorter than the one in the movie.
The second movie (“Battle: Los Angeles“) is a well done military action film – the U.S. Marines versus an alien invasion.  Setting aside the plausibility of humanity being able to defeat a civilization which is able to move from solar system to solar system, the point is, do you enjoy watching the film.  I did (do).  In all honesty, I’ve watched this several times since getting the DVD and doing my second review (here) back in January 2012.  I initially reviewed the film after returning from my trip to Liverpool back in 2011 (here).  It’s still a terrific little action film (Ooh-rah!!) and it’s still highly recommended.  I haven’t intended to do it, but I guess I’m kind of setting a precedent of not reviewing a movie more than once a year on this blog – even if I’ve seen it more than that during the period.
By the way, I reviewed the film’s ranking on Rotten Tomatoes – it got a 31 rating; then I went to see it on Wikipedia.  According to Wiki, even though the film was roundly trashed by the critics, it did quite well at the box office and there is some discussion about making a sequel.  I can’t see how this really happens because the movie was borderline unbelievable, but if they can come up with a decent action movie, a Sci-Fi buff like me will normally shell out for the ticket.  I guess we’ll see…
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Last night I spent the evening watching two movies: “Hancock” and “Battle: Los Angeles“.  Both were very good and I highly recommend them.
Hancock:
This is a kind of Superman plus Highlander movie.  Suppose you woke up with no memory and super-powers – and, oh yeah, you don’t age.  What would you do?  How would you cope?  Imagine the loneliness of knowing every person you befriend or love will age and die while you never change.  Would you lose your sensitivity to others weaknesses?  Will Smith has the lead in this movie and he does surprisingly well. Smith isn’t an actor I’ve gone out of my way to see.  I enjoyed him in the “Men In Black” movies and in “Independence Day“, but other than those, don’t recall seeing much of his work.  Back to the movie…  It also has an interesting twist, which I didn’t see coming and which makes it an “everyman / no-man” movie.
The film was highly recommended by a colleague at work who I discuss movies with.  We’re both comic-book and animated movie fans and he recommended the movie shortly after it came out (2008).  It’s been on TV loads already as it’s several years old, but I’ve never been able to see the whole thing in one sitting or even all the bits, so I thought I knew what it was about (but didn’t).  As I said, highly recommended!
Battle: Los Angeles:
Unlike “Hancock“, this is a movie I have already seen.  I watched it on one of the flights when we went back to Liverpool this past summer (see Vacation, Books and Lots of Movies). I saw it on one of those 7 inch screens they have on the back of the chair in front of you.  I really enjoyed it then and it was even better on a larger screen.  As previously reviewed, any movie which destroys all (or most) of Los Angeles gets extra points in my book – and this movie does a pretty good job.  The movie stars Aaron Eckhart (“Two-Face” in the latest Batman movie) who plays an almost superhuman, gung-ho Marine sergeant.  It’s definitely an advert for the Marines (very, very militaristic gung-ho), but it also definitely worked for me as entertainment and as a proud veteran (Army not Marines).
There’s this thing about watching “war” movies (and action movies, too).  When you watch them, you’re always left feeling: NOBODY could have survived that, but the hero/protagonist and his small group of friends always does.  The “funny” thing is in war, that’s what actually does happen.  I don’t mean “a hero” survives.  I mean despite all the odds, some (individuals and groups) do survive, and they are bonded with the other survivors in a way normal folks can rarely be.
Rotten Tomatoes rated it a 31 and stated: “Overlong and overly burdened with war movie clichés, Battle: Los Angeles will entertain only the most ardent action junkies.”  When the shoe fits, I’ll wear it…  As stated in my original review:  “Highly recommended.  Oo-rah!!
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Back at work now for a week after my thirty days off for vacation.  Hil, Sarah and I flew to Liverpool, U.K. to visit her family for three weeks (Sarah has stayed an extra two weeks and will be back soon).  We flew out of Oakland, to Portland, on to Amsterdam, and then into John Lennon / Liverpool International Airport (aka Speke Airport).  The return trip was via Seattle instead of Portland.  All the flights were surprising comfortable and there were no problems at all.  The most interesting thing was we took a turboprop on the initial leg of the trip (from Oakland to Portland).  This was only the third time I’ve ever flown in a propeller aircraft and it was the first time it was quiet.  I would say it was quieter than a jet – particularly on the takeoff and landing.  I was expecting to have to shout to Hil, but we could speak at normal volumes.
We had a wonderful time visiting with family and old friends and I felt particularly relaxed by the whole experience.  We stayed close to Liverpool and just enjoyed getting re-acquainted with the jewel at the mouth of the Mersey.  The weather was surprising agreeable – in fact, I would say the first four days we were there it was “hot” (in the low 80s).  Very pleasant for us coming from Concord, CA (in the 90s).  I was hoping for more rain.  We did get some, but it was mostly intermittent and not a bother at all.  “Just enough to keep the dust down,” is how it’s described in Scouser.
Books
I took a number of books along with me, hoping to be motivated enough to get through them.  I wasn’t.  I made the “mistake” of purchasing a Sudoku book at the airport and ended up wasting many hours in simple entertainment.  I find the pattern matching in Sudoku to be extremely relaxing even though it seems to also involve a great deal of mental concentration.  Anyway, the three books I did complete were: The Art Of Pitching, written by Tom Seaver (1984©) with Lee Lowenfish, “Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons“, written by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., (1976©), and “A Christian’s Pocket Guide To Islam“, written by Patrick Sookhdeo (2001©).
If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you probably are aware of my re-kindled interest in baseball (in general) and the San Francisco Giants (in particular).  Hil and I have watch most of the games this season and I would estimate we’d seen some of all but three games – up until we left for our vacation.  Anticipating I was going to be suffering from baseball withdrawal, I took along Tom Seaver’s book to ease my suffering.  The book is an excellent guide to learning about the mechanics of pitching and I would highly recommend it for a junior level baseball coach or 10 to 12 year old who dreams of becoming a high school, college, or Big League pitcher.  For me, there were many insights into the mechanics, but not a lot on the strategy of pitching to a specific hitter or work a game.  Seaver does spend the last chapter going pitch by pitch through a game (he wins it), but it was somehow lacking in what I was hoping for.  I’m not sure what I was looking for, but this didn’t quite “get it” for me.  Anyway, it did help me get through the three weeks without watching a game and I do highly recommend this short volume to anyone interested in the mechanical side of pitching and picture preparation.
Many years ago, I read a few of Kurt Vonnegut’s books.  The one which struck me the most was “Slaughter House Five“, but I enjoyed the couple I read and I bought several more intending to complete more of his works.  Well, life got in the way and I’ve never gotten around to them.  I found a few of his quotes on another blog I subscribe to (and copied them to my own), but they tickled my fancy about getting back to the ones I’ve not read.  “Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons” is one of those unread works.  This is actually a terrific little book about science fiction, life, war, peace and honesty.   I highly recommend it!!  One story on Biafra was particularly touching; another (a SciFi story) on prolonged life was particularly frightening.  As I said – highly recommended.  And now I really do want to read several of his other works which have been sitting on my shelf for thirty odd years…
The third book I completed, “Pocket Guide To Islam“, was a very thin book I found at Hil’s mum’s place.  I didn’t know exactly what to expect reading it.  It seems to be written by a Christian minister who has spent some time studying Islam.  I would say the book captures the basic story, philosophy, historical facts of the religion, but I don’t feel the book conveys the depth of feeling or nuanced interpretation of a Muslim.  Of course, not being Muslim myself, I may be completely incorrect, but my direct experience with Indian, Egyptian, Iranian and Arabic Muslims is not in complete agreement with some of the minor facts in the book and therefore I find it difficult to accept the whole of the work.  Still, I do feel the author seems to be coming from a willingness to accept conversion to Christianity by Muslims.  I’m just not sure the author says anything which would help a Christian convert a Muslim, even if the Muslim were personally willing to listen to an attempt at conversion.
Movies
Including one movie I saw after I got home from Liverpool, I’ve seen fourteen new movies during my thirty days off.  They include: The Adjustment Bureau, The Eagle, The Green Hornet, A Law Abiding Citizen, Grand Torino, Transformers 3, Defiance, Invictus, True Grit (the new version), Harry Potter – Deathly Hallows part 2, Battle: Los Angeles, The Lincoln Lawyer, Country Strong, and Captain America (in 3D and normal the following day).  Wow!!  (That’s some sittin’ around on your duff – even for me!)
The Adjustment Bureau: another good, solid performance by Matt Damon.  Is life pre-ordained or is there free will?  See the movie and then you decide…  Highly recommended as an adult, thinking movie.
The Eagle: a surprising entertaining movie about Romans in England (Scotland, actually, but why nit-pick).  Reminiscent of the first battle scene in Gladiator (which I also enjoyed), but this is the longer, drawn out version.  Not great, but a solid “man’s” movie.
The Green Hornet: mostly a dud.  Very disappointing.  I’ve never seen Seth Rogen in anything before and this movie will go a long way in making sure I make NO effort to see him again soon.  Reminiscent of the Adam West Batman TV series, but I don’t think they were going for the high camp that made the TV series tolerable (sometimes very funny).  Save two hours of your life and do something else besides watching this.  You’ve been warned…
A Law Abiding Citizen: if you liked The Usual Suspects, you’ll probably like this movie.  I enjoyed them both for what they are – good, solid, adult, storytelling.  Perhaps too much implied violence for the young or squeamish, but otherwise, solid entertainment!
Grand Torino: Wow!!  I don’t remember the last time I laughed so much watching a serious movie.  Clint Eastwood at his best!!  Shades of Archie Bunker from “All In The Family“.  A serious movie about racism, hope, coming of age – AND it is laugh out loud funny because it’s so well written and acted.
Transformers 3:  Not as good as T1 or T2, but still pretty good summer entertainment.  If you want to see robots kicking each other around, this is it!  The down side is you have to sit through about 45 minutes of blah, blah, blah about the hero (Shia Labeouf) and why Megan Fox isn’t in the movie.  Next time, just say, “the part of Megan Fox will be played by…” and get on with the robots fighting.  Another thing: you don’t HAVE to include every character from every earlier movie.  Still, I’ll pick it up when it comes out in DVD for X-mas (cause I’m that kind of guy).  I saw this opening weekend, in 3D.  I’m not sure it added much to the movie.  Again, I’m left unimpressed with 3D technology…
Defiance:  an interesting movie about some Russian Jews who resisted the Nazis during WWII.  Based on a true story, it’s not a documentary and it’s not “entertaining”.  Worth seeing and interesting.  Stars Daniel Craig of James Bond fame.  Okay acting – moderate recommendation.
Invictus:  I was expecting a rugby version of Rocky, but instead this was a major bio of support for Nelson Mandela with Rocky thrown in for good measure.  If you like leadership movies and or sports movies about underdogs who win, this is for you.  I highly recommend it (on both counts)!!  Oh, yeah, Matt Damon stars (again).  He is rapidly compiling a significant body of work.
True Grit (the new version) – pretty much follows the original John Wayne classic and then disappoints (me) at the end.  It’s a more realistic ending, but who cares – it’s not a four-poster.  I’d watch them both if I were you and then let me know which you think is better.  This version has Jeff Bridges playing John Wayne (I mean Rooster Cogburn) and it’s a good solid performance.  Oh, yeah, there’s Matt Damon again…  Recommended, but definitely see the first version too.
Harry Potter – Deathly Hallows part 2: a good, solid movie and ending to the series.  I am not a devotee to the books, but I felt it was fairly close.  Interestingly, they did not make the same mistake as Transformers 3, they assume you saw the other movies or read the books, cover the transition into the part two movie in about ten minutes tops and get on with the rest of the story.  I saw this on opening day with Sarah, in Liverpool, in 3D.  For some reason, the things not immediately focused on were blurry.  I’m not sure if this was meant to increase the feel of the 3D or not, but I did not find 3D added much to the movie.  I will definitely pick this up on DVD (in 2D).  Highly recommended if you’ve seen any of the other earlier movies…
Battle: Los Angeles: this was probably the surprise movie of the bunch for me.  I did NOT expect anything from the movie except the pleasure of (once again) seeing Los Angeles get destroyed.  Unfortunately, LA gets saved, but at least it gets thoroughly trashed before it gets saved and the movie is a good action movie.  It’s gung-ho, Marines, oo-rah, but who cares…  It stars Aaron Eckhart (who I first noticed and loved in The Core) and he makes a surprisingly good Marine sergeant.  It’s definitely over the top for the military and the Marines and I loved it.  Great summer entertainment.  Highly recommended.  Oo-rah!!
The Lincoln Lawyer:  a smart law / lawyer movie.  Who would have thunk it?  Stars Matthew McConaughey as a lawyer who does much of his work from a mini-office in a classic Lincoln towncar (oh, I get the title now).  Of course, he’s also out to do the right thing and help the down-trodden – just like ol’ Honest Abe (oh, I get the title now).  Not as interesting as A Law Abiding Citizen (above), but another entertaining adult movie.  Recommended, but not quite highly recommended.
Country Strong: first let’s get the facts out of the way – 1) I listen to country music (a lot), and 2) I think Gwyneth Paltrow is a beautiful and talented actress.  Still, the movie didn’t reach me.  The songs were not that good and the performances (of the songs) were not that good either.  I just didn’t believe Paltrow was a star or the up and coming male singer was up and coming.  I also just didn’t buy into the story of the producer / husband, either.  I know there’s a lot of that in all forms of the music industry – I just didn’t buy it.  This movie came highly recommended by my daughter (Rebecca), but I think she misjudged me on it.  It was okay, but I would not really recommend it and I’m glad I didn’t pay to see it (it was on the flight home).
Captain America:  This was a first for me…  I saw the movie twice – on consecutive days – first in 3D and then in normal 2D.  I was supposed to see it with my son, James, over the weekend, but I went up to visit my brother, Sean, and he wanted to go see it with his son.  So the three of us went to his local movie house.  I really enjoyed the movie!  Of course, it’s VERY over the top on patriotism and rah-rah America, but it’s about World War II and Captain America.  If you can’t get past that, why did you plan to go see the movie?  Chris Evans is much more believable in this role than he was as the Human Torch in the two Fantastic Four movies.  I think it’s because Evans really does play the role seriously (completely unlike Seth Rogen in The Green Hornet).  I also feel Hugo Weaving made a great Red Skull (the bad guy).  I noticed the same blurring of out of primary focus characters in the 3D version (the same effect I saw in HP-Hallows Part 2).  I did not notice the blurring in the 2D version, so again, I’m thinking it’s something the director is trying to do to add depth to the movie or it’s the result of something funky in 3D movie technique.  It doesn’t work for me.
While I’ve stated several times I am not a big 3D fan, I must admit when I watched both versions in close proximity, I missed the 3D effect.  Somehow, my mind remembered and I was expecting it, and I noticed not getting it in the 2D version.  I doubt this will ever happen again, because I doubt I’ll pay to see two version so close together – but it was an interesting sensory experience.
Well, if you’ve made it this far, congratulations!  You get a No-prize and a promise I’ll try not to do another marathon blog like this for a while.
I’ve got more to say about our trip to Liverpool and photos – but that’s for another day/blog.
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