Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Moderate To Strong Movie Recommendation’

Caution: this is a relatively long post reviewing two movies…  You’ve been warned.
Today’s reviews are re-watches from my childhood:  “Tribes” (1970) and “The D.I.” (1957).  Both are movies about being in Marine Corps Boot Camp.  “The D.I.” was released when I was two years old, so I obviously never saw it on original release, but I remember seeing it in my early teens.  “Tribes” I saw on its original TV broadcast.  I recently discovered / watched both movies on YouTube.
The D.I.” — movie review
If you’ve ever wondered what “Dragnet” would look like if it were turned into Marine Corps Boot Camp, this is the movie for you.  The movie stars Jack Webb (who also produced and directed the film) as Sergeant Jim Moore who is a Drill Instructor (“D.I.”) at Paris Island.  His job is to turn civilians into Marines and he has a problem in the person of Private Owens (played by Don Dubbins).  Whenever Owens feels he’s under pressure, he quits / gives up.  The company Captain (Lin McCarthy) feels Moore is getting soft and orders Moore to bring Owens around or get rid of him.
There are (of course) side issues:  one – Moore is falling for a shop clerk (Jackie Loughery) named “Annie”, which is wrecking his “tough-guy” Marine self-image;  and, two – Owens’ mother (Monica Lewis) appeals to Moore that she coddled Owens and she lost her husband (in WWII) and her two older sons (in Korea).  She wants Moore to make her son into a Marine or he won’t be able to live with himself.
This movie is shot in black and white and it is fairly dark.  I guess as a nod to realism, the movie has a scene with Moore and Annie which (shockingly) edges very close to date rape.  It doesn’t happen, but I was surprised it was even implied in a movie from that period.  Incidentally, in real life, Loughery married Webb the following year (1958).  Despite this being a “Webb” movie (“Just the facts, Ma’am…”), from the 50’s, it is also a happily ever after ending movie – for the Private / mom and the Sergeant / clerk.  Who woulda guessed?
Final recommendation: moderate to strong.  Viewed as a “Webb” production, this is a classic.  As a period piece, I would say it’s still pretty much a classic.  This movie was my first introduction to the concept of “Basic Training / Boot Camp”, and I remember it had a fairly strong effect on my impressionable mind.  Don’t get me wrong, this movie is not a cinematic “classic” and it’s really only a fair movie, but, in watching it, it reminded me of the simpler times of my childhood when things did seem more “black-and-white”.
Tribes” — movie review
Tribes” is not strictly speaking a “real” movie.  Back in the 1970’s, one of the main TV networks (ABC) used to run what it called the: “ABC Movie of the Week“.  Some of the ninety minute movies were pretty good and some even became TV series in their own right.
Tribes” is a movie about a free-spirited (that’s “hippie”) individual who joins the Marine Corps and who has to go to (and survive) Boot Camp.  It stars Jan-Michael Vincent as the free-spirited Private Adrian, Darren McGavin as Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Drake, and Earl Holliman as Chief Drill Instructor (and Drake’s boss) Master Sergeant Frank DePayster.
The movie always seemed to me to be a message about the changing times of the 1960’s / 1970’s in America.  You’ve got two straight-arrow Marine lifers, but one has a streak of decency and the other does not.  Ultimately, the leadership abilities of the young recruit pushes not only his platoon to excel, but also to win over the D.I. nominally there to break his individuality and “turn him into” a Marine who will follow orders.
Final recommendation: strong to highly recommended.  I was very surprised how much of this movie I could recall after nearly 50 years from my first (and only) viewing.  LoL – this movie also introduced me to meditation / alternative states of consciousness and boxers vs briefs.
I am very biased towards this movie as it had a personal effect on me when I was in Basic Training for the Army four years later.  When I was learning to fire the M16, I asked my Drill Sergeant why we used “human” silhouettes instead of “bulls-eye” targets, he replied, “because we want you to learn to shoot at people.”  He went on to explain Fort Ord (where I had my Basic Training) had the highest casualty and injury statistics of any of the training facilities which sent soldiers to Vietnam.  It was determined this was because “West Coast” city boys didn’t shoot at other humans instinctively.  Using silhouettes, trained them to shoot as a reaction instead of pausing to take aim.  Fortunately, I never had to put this to the test…
.
On This Day In:
2018 Being President Doesn’t Make You Presidential
Day 27: 4 Weeks / 55lbs
2017 I’m Seeing It, Too
2016 Personal Decisions
2015 Verbal Fluency
2014 Familiar
2013 Unbending
2012 Simple Sayings
2011 Wupped Again?
2010 3 and 1…
Musical Notes…
Doubt Tries…
Northwest Passages – Evening Two
The Beierly’s Web Site

Read Full Post »

Z For Zachariah (2015)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for the post-apocalyptic survival movie “Z For Zachariah” starring Margot Robbie as Ann Burden (the farm girl), Chiwetel Ejiofor as John Loomis (the scientist), and Chris Pine as Caleb (the country boy).
The basic setup is “something” happens to the world and it becomes a radioactive waste.  It’s implied this is due to an exchange of nuclear weapons, but I don’t remember it being precisely stated.  Anyway, the movie starts with the farm girl being all alone.  It appears she has been alone for at least a full year, as she relates surviving a winter.  A scientist enters the frame.  He has managed to survive because he has a suit, drugs and a small, portable shelter.  However, he falls ill from exposure to radioactive water. The girl nurses him back to health.
Despite her encouragement, he resists becoming intimate with her.  He appears to have memories of happier times with an African-American female, but her status is unknown.  Eventually, loneliness overcomes hesitancy and the two become intimate.
After some period of time, another man (Pine / the country boy) appears on the scene.  There is no real explanation for his survival because he lacks the suit, drugs or shelter of the scientist, but whatever…
Slowly, the three begin trusting each other and working together.  Ejiofor / the scientist continues to have bad feelings about intimacy with a white female and “gives” permission to the country boy to become intimate with Robbie / the farm girl.  One night, the scientist gets drunk and passes out.  The farm girl and the country boy engage in sex.
The following day, the “social” dynamic has changed and conflict seems inevitable.  The two men continue working together.  One day, the country boy places himself in a hazardous situation.  The scientist saves the country boy, but at the very instant of safety, the two men lock eyes.
The scene shifts back to the farmhouse and the scientist is again alone with the farm girl.  He tells her the country boy has decided to move on.  The movie ends with no resolution of whether or not the country boy was killed and / or if two remaining survivors reestablish their relationship.
Final recommendation: moderate to strong.  I like all three actors in most of the other roles I’ve seen them in – Pine less than Robbie or Ejiofor, and this film is no exception.  The movie is interesting as a character study of the three “types”, but it didn’t really seem to have a direction which engaged me or made me want to root for any of the actors.  As such, despite it being beautifully filmed and reasonably well acted, I was left with feeling piqued but not fully entertained.  Hence, my recommendation is more “moderate” than “strong”.
.
On This Day In:
2018 Sounds Like #45’s White House
2017 Have We Started Winning Yet?
2016 Still Springy
2015 Well Concealed
2014 The History Of Warriors
2013 A Cult Of Ignorance
2012 Counting Valor
Understanding Faith
2011 I Can Hear You Now
2010 Inception

Read Full Post »

Continuing in my pursuit of viewing all things “Pride & Prejudice“, I offer two more tangential movie reviews: “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” and “Austenland” and a third made for TV series: “Lost in Austen“.  The reviews are in the order I watched them, not in preference or year of release.  Because this post covers three “films”, it will be considerably longer than normal.  Feel free to skip it and come back another time if you’re not “into” P&P.
Lost in Austen” (2008) – TV Series 4 part on YouTube
This is a four part TV mini-series for a privately owned (not-BBC) channel in England called ITV.  The movie is a rom-com adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice” book, but is really kind of a “Back to the Future” (back to reality?) feel.  Basically, the lead (Amanda Price, played by Jemima Rooper) is so in love with the book, she stumbles into it through a portal in her bathroom.  She retains all of her knowledge of the book and Elizabeth Bennet (played by Gemma Arterton) “replaces” her in our time.  Basically, what happens in a romance story if you know all the story but as soon as you join the story, the story is irrevocably altered.  Mostly, comedy (and romance) ensues.
The rest of the main characters are: Elliot Cowan as Fitzwilliam Darcy, Tom Mison as Mr Bingley, Morven Christie as Jane Bennet, Tom Riley as George Wickham, Hugh Bonneville as Mr. Claude Bennet, and Alex Kingston as Mrs. Bennet.
Once you know the premise, the TV-series is 70-80% predictable.  Given that, I still enjoyed it.  Rooper is not brilliant, but she carries the load and does it more than adequately.  Cowan is not “my” idea of Mr. Darcy, but he’s not bad.  Strike that.  He is better than most.  He is stern and formal without being Hollywood handsome.  And then he comes out of the pond…  LoL!  Adequate is true with the rest of the cast with the exception of Bonneville.  For whatever reason (mostly “Downton Abbey“, I think), I really like him as an actor and I thought he is very good as Mr. Bennet adding depth which is not always in some of the other portrayals in other versions of P&P.
The series uses the characters from P&P and kind-of follows the novel’s plot, but has (and ends with) significant variance.  Final recommendation: strong.  If you are a “P&P” fan, I think you’ll enjoy this series as an addition / alternate universe to Austen’s P&P.  If not, it is at least tolerable as rom-coms go.  I found it better than “tolerable”, but that may just be my taste.  If you are not a “P&P” or rom-com fan, why are you even bothering to read this review? (Just kidding…)
I watched this on YouTube for free and I would definitely consider buying it if it ever came out in my price range ($5).  Each episode is about 40-45 minutes, so you are looking at almost three hours of viewing commitment.
Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” (2016)
I know that “everything” goes better with Zombies these days, but I really didn’t know what to expect before viewing this version of P&P.  I need to preface this review with a comment: I am not a horror or slasher film watcher.  Mostly, I find them repetitive, boring, or offensive. I stopped watching them about 1977 or so.  I very occasionally will touch base with one if it becomes a “societal” touchstone, but even then, it’s rare.  I have never seen a Jason, 13th, Halloween, Hellraiser, Saw or any of those series.  I have seen and do like some of the classics: “Wolfman“, “Psycho“, “Jaws“, etc and I also enjoy “monster / SciFi” films: “Predator“, “Alien“, “The Birds“.  I’m not sure why I like some and not others. I guess it’s just me.
Anyway, this is actually a rom-slash / martial arts / action film.  It is a “take-off” on P&P, so I thought I’d give it a chance.
Lily James plays Elizabeth Bennet, Sam Riley plays Mr. Darcy, Lena Headey plays Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Matt Smith plays Mr. Collins, Jack Huston plays Mr. Wickham and Charles Dance plays Mr. Bennet.  I like Lily James and love Lena Heady.  James makes a surprisingly good martial artist actor.  I don’t know how much is actually James doing the fighting, but “her” portions looked great.  Headey plays her typically serious role, even when it’s in a ridiculous role, like this one.  (I love the eye-patch.)  Dr. Who, I mean Matt Smith is outstanding as the incompetent and obsequious Collins.  Riley is handsome and gallant enough as Darcy, but seems (to me) a bit too young (and movie handsome, not really ruggedly handsome).  He looks like he should be in a boy band instead of on a parapet killing zombies.  And, finally, I liked Dance as Mr. Bennet.  I haven’t cared for him as much in other roles (GOT and “The Imitation Game“), but I thought he fit in this role.
Between the two threads, P&P and the zombies, this movie is 90% predictable.  The 10% which was unpredictable was whether James, Headly and the other ladies could pull off the martial arts scenes.  They do and quite well, too!
As a P&P fan, my final recommendation is moderate to strong.  I liked the sets, the costumes and the martial art set pieces.  I enjoyed this movie as a different “parody / take” on P&P even though I didn’t care for any of the zombie portions of the film.  They were merely action figures inserted to give the main characters moving targets to slice and dice.  I watched this on my “On Demand” TV service.  I’m not sure if I enjoyed it enough to actually buy a copy if ever comes in to my price point (yeah, still $5).  Despite James and Headey, I’m not sure I’d pay for this P&P theme movie.  And the movie ends as a setup to a sequel (which I will probably miss).
Austenland (2013)
This movie is supposed to be a “rom-com” about a late-20’s young lady who visits a theme park dedicated to re-enacting Jane Austen period life, social settings and romance.  The problem is while there is romance, there is almost no comedy.
So, who’s in this movie? It stars Keri Russell as Jane Hayes (the Austen fanatic), J.J. Feild as Henry Nobley (kind of a Mr. Darcy who looks vaguely like Tom Hiddleston), Bret McKenzie as Martin (the love interest for Russell’s character in the park), Jennifer Coolidge as Miss Elizabeth Charming (I thinks she was meant to be the comedic character, but she is an offensive “rich, unread, ugly American” instead – but with a kind heart), Georgia King as Lady Amelia Heartwright (another offensive rich guest – also American), and Jane Seymour as Mrs. Wattlesbrook (the proprietor of the resort).  There are also a number of other characters who aren’t really worth bothering to mention.
Russell is a “girl-next-door” version of Michelle Pfeiffer.  To be honest, I thought Russell might be Pfeiffer’s daughter or much younger sister.  She is the second best thing in this movie.  Feild is the first.  He makes both an interesting Nobly (Mr. Darcy) and a likeable history teacher.  The only other “interesting” actor was Seymour playing a manipulative park director.  The camera (or director or makeup crew) was not kind to her in this film.  She looks old in her closeups – much more than the early 60’s she would have been when this was filmed / released.  And not, evil / craggy / old – just old.  Like I said, “interesting”.
Final recommendation: moderate (at best). I did like Russell and Feild and thought there was pretty good chemistry between them.  So, “rom” is the limit of this rom-com.  As a P&P fan, at least I can say I gave it a shot and watched it.
Thanks to any of you who made it all the way through this post / these reviews…
.
On This Day In:
2018 Dead Red
You Ain’t Done Yet
2017 Just Because
2016 As Close As They Can Get
2015 And So I Blog
2014 Take Flight
2013 Contributing Joy
2012 More Than A Race
2011 Institutionalized Leadership

Read Full Post »

Colossal”  (2017)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for the “comedy / romantic” movie “Colossal” (2017).  I “air quote” the comedy / romantic, because although advertised as a rom-com, this movie is a SciFi drama and has no comedy or romance in it.  (Okay, maybe some silliness, but no real comedy.)
The movie stars Anne Hathaway as Gloria (the main character and reptile like monster / “Kaiju”); Jason Sudeikis as Oscar (the second main character and robot like monster), who is the adult version of Gloria’s childhood “friend”; Dan Stevens as Tim, Gloria’s ex-boyfriend; Austin Stowell as Joel, adult Oscar’s handsome friend; and Tim Blake Nelson as Garth, adult Oscar’s other friend.
Basically, Gloria is a drunken millennial who is out of work and living off her boyfriend (Stevens / “Tim”).  She comes home after staying out all night and he breaks up with her and kicks her out of his place.  Gloria returns “home” to some small town where she lived for some time as a child and which is inexplicably empty, but still owned by her parents – so she can move back in, rent free.
Gloria meets an childhood friend (Sudeikis / “Oscar”) who owns a bar and he offers her a job as a waitress and then proceeds to bring her furniture so she can settle in to town.  Oscar also introduces Gloria to his two “best” friends (Joel and Garth), and Gloria eventually gets around to sleeping with Joel (which upsets Oscar).

Meanwhile, back in Seoul, South Korea a giant lizard like monster appears and crushes a lot of people.  Blah, blah, blah a second monster (a giant robot) appears and blah, blah, blah – big fight.

Blah, blah, blah, blah.  Another fight.  Blah, blah, blah, blah.  Childhood memories.  Oscar not really my friend – “just” a jealous brat (psychoanalysis part of movie).  Blah, blah, Gloria travels to Seoul.  Reptile monster (Kaiju) visits hometown (in America) and kills “real” Oscar, as “real” Gloria defeats the giant robot (in Seoul).   …Happily ever after.  Mostly.  The end.
Okay.  Two questions: does it work (make sense) and is it entertaining.  Two answers (with a preface): once you get over the fact this is NOT a rom-com (which is why I picked the movie to view) and adjust to it being a SciFi / drama, yeah, mostly it does work and yes, I found it pretty entertaining.  Surprisingly so!
First off, I like Hathaway and Stevens.  I like her a lot and have from her “Princess” roles, through her Batman / Catwoman roles.  I didn’t find her at all believable as a drunk in this role.  But all in all, at the end, I liked the movie and her performance (as a “good person / hero”) in it.  It wasn’t well explained (even with the psychoanalysis) why she was a hero, but it ended up making sense (mostly) by the end.
I liked Stevens in “Downton Abbey” and “The Guest” and his limited bit in “Beauty and the Beast“.  I didn’t “really” like him in this role, though.  Something about his character just didn’t ring true.  I don’t know if it was the writing or his portrayal.   While I still like him, this performance was disappointing and I’m not sure why.
Anyway, final recommendation: moderate to strong.  I was expecting a rom-com.  It took me a while to realize this wasn’t that at all.  After I adjusted my brain to drama-mode, I got into the story (and the acting) and found it surprisingly interesting.  The movie isn’t really “almost believable” SciFi, but it is entertainingly interesting.
.
On This Day In:
2018 Keep Moving
2017 Fighting Good
2016 Size Matters
2015 Maybe The Best Thing
2014 Ready To Be Fried?
2013 A Real Lover
2012 Winning Wars
2011 A Different Lesson

Read Full Post »

Leap!” (2017)  (U.S.)  /  “Ballerina” (2016) (France)
Today’s movie review is for an animated, “rise-to-fame” / dance, kids movie which was originally released in France / Europe in 2016 and then released in English / America in 2017.  The story is of two orphans who escape an orphanage to seek their fame in Paris.  The young girl wants to be a Ballerina and the young lad wants to be an engineer / inventor.  By hook and by crook, they both get their wish.  And the boy gets the girl’s heart along with it…
As most anyone who follows this blog for any length of time will realize, I am all about this sentimental, rags-to-riches, ugly duckling to swan story / genre.  As a former computer programmer I am also predisposed to “liking” an animated film or one with technical special effects.
So, does this movie work as a kids film?  How is the animation?  How is it as an adult film (will the average adult enjoy it)?  Good.  So-so.  And, probably.  Will kids like this film.  Yes, up to about the age of 6 to 8, I think they will, particularly if their parents have filled them with dreams that anything is possible.  But the animation is only “good”?  Yes.  Basically, that’s about it.  Most of everything possible has been done and probably done better in other films.  Shading, shadows, color, textures, skin tones, hair, facial expressions.  All of it has been done, and, if I’m honest, better in other movies.  That doesn’t mean it’s bad.  It’s not.  It’s just not done at “super” hi-def levels.  Also, and this really isn’t a criticism either, the movie lacks the required one or two “fabulous” take-away songs which would make it (the movie) a HIT movie.   And, maybe, it doesn’t need to be for this kind of “kids” movie to be “okay”.  Is it an adult movie?  Not really.  It’s a bit too simplistic for an adult or a “date” movie.  It is an excellent auntie / uncle or grand-parents take the niece / nephew or grand-kids to the afternoon matinée movie.  And, sometimes that’s really all a movie has to be.
It is rated PG for some “suggestive” scenes / themes and it has the requisite good and evil adults and a notable bullying child.  Like most movies for this target age group, the movie resolves hopefully for the children and leaves the adult issues mostly unaddressed / unresolved.  Again, it’s a kid’s movie, so children can “win” without “justice” for adults.
Final recommendation: moderate to strong.  For what it is, it is a “good” movie.  It doesn’t really try to be a great deal more than entertaining – in a kid-sie / hopeful way.  I enjoyed it, and it was a pleasant enough way to spend 90 or so minutes.
.
On This Day In:
2018 As I Recall
2017 Truly Generous
2016 Choose Your Destiny
2015 Fast And Firm
2014 Neither Head Nor Heart
2013 Lonely, Foolish, Love Songs
Batting 1.000
Coward, n.
2012 At Least A Little More Difficult
2011 Speaking Of Fear

Read Full Post »

Personal Ads:  “Got a problem?  Odds against you?  Call the Equalizer: 212 555 4200.
Today’s reviews are for a movie and its sequel:  Equalizer (2014) and Equalizer 2 (2018)
Both movies star two time Academy Award winning actor Denzel Washington as the lead character: Robert McCall.  The character and stories are based on a moderately successful TV show from the mid / late 1980’s of the same name starring Edward Woodward as McCall.  McCall is basically a “hero for hire” and the show is pretty similar to another TV series I enjoyed from the same period called “Stingray” (see my review of that TV series here).  The main difference is McCall never really seems to ask for a payment, whereas “Stingray” asked for a favor some time in the future.  Anyway, in this version, instead of a geriatric Brit playing McCall, we have a geriatric American.
Equalizer (2014)  —  movie review
This movie is rated “R” for violence, language and implied sex.  Basically we have a normal looking man who has a history as spy / detective / electronics expert and martial artist.  He is “retired” from his official duties at “The Agency” by faking his death.  Whenever he sees someone being hurt or taken advantage of unfairly, he exacts his sense of justice on the bad guy.  He says he usually gives them a chance to do the right thing (mostly they don’t) and if not, well, they don’t usually live to regret it.
In this movie, McCall makes friends with a young hooker who is beaten and nearly killed by her pimp.  The pimp is part of a Russian gang, so McCall ends up having to bring down the gang, too.  There are lots of great fight choreography – particularly a scene which replays in slow motion.  On watching it, I was reminded of a similar “replay” technique / scene used in “The Last Samurai“, another action movie I also enjoyed.  The scene works because it demonstrates the “temporal shift” it is said happens to highly trained and skilled warriors / athletes in which they say time slows down for them as they fight / perform.  Unless you have actually been in that “zone”, it (the feeling) is hard to relate to, but once you have experienced it, you find an enjoyable sense of déjà vu when you see the feeling in film.  At least I always seem to.
If you are a fan of violent action movies (and I can be), you will enjoy this movie because it is literally a string of increasingly violent encounters tied together by a thread of a plot.  It works because Washington carries the hero’s role and the Russian baddie (Nicolai Itchenko played by Marton Paul Csokas) is equally believable.  As an aside, there is also a scene in which a personal item is stolen from a co-worker of McCall.  The item is recovered and McCall is seen wiping down and replacing a hammer at the hardware store shelf display.  There is no “action” at all, but you know the robber has just had a very bad day.
Final Recommendation: strong recommendation.  While the story is almost unbelievable, the hero and the bad guy both make the movie an enjoyable action film.  It is violent and not appropriate for pre-teens.
Equalizer 2 (2018)  —  movie review
Okay, let’s get this out of the way:  “Denzel doesn’t do sequels…”  What we have here is Denzel Washington in his first career sequel reprising his role as Robert McCall: a guy who goes around helping others and righting wrongs.  I don’t mean stopping jay-walkers and litterbugs; I mean Russian gangsters (in Equalizer 1) and here (in the sequel) rogue killers who work both sides of the political fence.  When an “Agency” asset is killed, a former top analyst is sent to make sure it wasn’t a “hit”.  When she gets wacked, something smells fishy in Denmark (actually Brussels).  Because the lady is a lifelong friend of McCall, he must avenge her death.  Oh, and he’s upset because he will only get to kill them once.
The main bad guy in this movie is Dave York (played by Pedro Pascal), who worked for and with McCall before McCall’s staged death.  York was not aware McCall is still alive and he and the rest of McCall’s “team” go private after McCall’s death.  Anyway, the team kill a bunch of people on assignment and then to tidy up loose ends and there is a big battle at the end which (of course) pits McCall against the team.  After tidying up their loose ends McCall gets asked: “Who are you Mr. McCall?”
Final recommendation:  Moderate to strong.  Again, another violent movie…  The sequel is just not quite as good as the first.  Yeah, I know, big surprise.  It’s well shot and reasonably well acted, but the bad guy(s) just aren’t as threatening.  I guess they are a little too “clean” as professionals and lack the intensity of the actors playing the Russian gang in the first movie.  If you are a fan of Denzel or of this genre, you will enjoy this movie – both movies, actually.  I did.  But, it’s really not quite as good as “1”.   There is talk of a “EQ3″…  We’ll see…  I think I would prefer a re-boot / prequel with a younger actor.
.
On This Day In:
2018 Irreplaceable Sparks
2017 Saving For April 15th
2016 First Wish
2015 Tracing Shadows
2014 One Thing
2013 More Is Less
2012 The Screw-Up Gene

Read Full Post »

As promised a week back, I am reviewing a couple more “Jane Austen” related movies I’ve seen recently and adding a few comments to the two movie reviews I’ve already done.
The new reviews are for “The Jane Austen Book Club” and “Bridget Jones Diary“.  The comments are for “Pride and Prejudice” – the BBC 1995 version and the “American” 2005 version.
The Jane Austen Book Club” (2007) — movie review
Six Californians – five women of varying ages and a man – start a monthly book club to discuss the works of Jane Austen, only to find that their own romantic relationships — previous and current — begin to resemble modern day adaptations of Austen’s novels.
Sylvia (Amy Brenneman), is shocked when her husband Daniel (Jimmy Smits), leaves her after 20 plus years and three children to become involved with another lawyer at the firm he works at. Jocelyn (Maria Bello), her unmarried best friend, distracts herself from her unacknowledged loneliness by breeding dogs (“dominance issues”).  Prudie (Emily Blunt) is a young French teacher, in possession of a worthy husband Dean (Marc Blucas), yet distracted by sexual fantasies with another man / boy (Kevin Zegers) named Trey.  I say “boy” because Trey appears to be in high school / a student.  The eldest female, many times married Bernadette (Kathy Baker) yearns for one more chance at happiness.  Allegra (Maggie Grace), (Sylvia and Daniel’s lesbian daughter,) has problems with her lover – who is a writer using Allegra’s life stories as the basis for her own work.  And Grigg (Hugh Dancy), the lone (rich and athletic) male joins the book circle because he’s trying to form a relationship with Jocelyn.
As romantic movies go, this one is as good as most, but not particularly believable in any of the final results – all happily ever-afters.  Be that as it is, I thought it was an okay movie.  Mostly, it’s entertaining without being sappy or taking the easy comedic route that many “chick-flicks” devolve into in order to keep hapless male partners watching to the end of the movie.  What I found interesting were the few moments where the actors actually discussed the Austen books and more specifically the characters and views on love, romance, commitment and relationships in general.  And, as stated in my prior review of P&P book, it prompted me to promote the original work to the top of my reading list.
Final recommendation: moderate to strong.  Enjoyable as light entertainment, but I think your time is better spent actually reading Austen’s works.
Bridget Jones’s Diary” (2001) — movie review
This movie was recommended to me by my daughter as a loosely based modern-day adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride And Prejudice“.  It stars Renée Zellweger as Bridget Jones (Elizabeth Bennet character), Hugh Grant as Daniel Cleaver (George Wickham character / the cad) , and Colin Firth as Mark Darcy (Mr. Darcy character / the hero).  I believe it’s more accurately described as an adaptation of the book by the same name as the movie. The “only” two things I found similar to P&P was Firth played a character named Darcy in both the 1995 BBC version of P&P (and in this movie) and Darcy and Bridget have roughly the same relationship track to get to their happy ending. Boy and girl meet. Boy and girl detest each other. Boy comes around. Girl comes around. Issues about the cad. Happy ending.
The movie is a rom/com.  Is it?  Mildly romantic, yes.  Mildly comedic, barely.  To tell the truth, I don’t get it.  The overall review on RottenTomatoes.com is 80% for both reviewers and audience.  Zellweger was nominated for Best Actress…  Really?  I don’t get it.  Somewhere in the character is a nice person struggling to overcome drinking, smoking, vulgar language and a terrible wardrobe.  Other than that, she’s just the kind of person you want to see your son bring home to meet you.  Truth be told, I found her three friends in the movie much more interesting than Bridget and wished there were more of them and less of her.  Hugh Grant was ok in the cad role, but I prefer him in the nice guy roles where his sardonic / ironic comedy work well with his charm.  The most enjoyable part / character in the movie is Colin Firth’s Darcy.  While lacking the physicality of the 1995 P&P role, he still presents himself as a man’s gentleman.  I’ve seen Firth in at least a half-dozen roles and continue to enjoy his work.
So, final recommendation: moderate (at best).  The movie wasn’t bad, it just didn’t appeal to me.  Probably because I was hoping for something more closely aligned to P&P.
Additional comments:
Having just read the original work by Austen, I’ve now gone back to re-watch the 1995 BBC adaptation and the 2005 movie version.  What did I find?  As much as I was critical of the annotations while reading the book, they were very helpful in understanding both versions of the movies.  In addition to seeing where there were cinematic variances from the original work – in locations and dialogue – the notes explained some of the details which I completely missed in both earlier viewings.  Reading the original work greatly enhanced my appreciation of the dialogue in both movies.  Reading the notes, my appreciation of the parks / woods, carriages, gowns, and buildings.  I guess I’m admitting I was incorrect in being overly critical of reading an annotated version of an original work.  Preference change?  Nope.  If you prefer nuance and greater detail – BBC and 6-plus hours of viewing.  If you prefer “Hollywood” looks and production – the two-hour 2005 is better.  One minor comment on “production”…  My DVD copy of the BBC version gets out of sync between the voice and picture in multiple places.  I don’t know if this is the discs or my PC, (it’s probably my PC,) but I found it annoying and a slight negative in this review / comparison.  And, finally, I tried to go back to see “Bride And Prejudice” (the Indian – modern-day version of P&P), but it didn’t come up on NetFlix.  I guess, I have to catch it sometime in the future when it comes back on-line.
.
On This Day In:
2017 …And With It Civilization
2016 Just Like My Mother
2015 All Omissions Are Mine
2014 Precise Order
2013 Uh, No. Not Really…
Deep Regions
2012 A Pre-Valentine’s Day Message
2011 Easy Like Sunday Morning
May I Have A Little More, Please…
2010 Valleys and Peaks

Read Full Post »

Guardians Of The Galaxy: Vol. 2  —  movie review
Today’s movie review is for the “recently” released Guardians Of The Galaxy: Vol 2 (2017) starring Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Dave Bautista as Drax, (voice of:) Bradley Cooper as Rocket Raccoon, (voice of:) Vin Diesel as “Baby” Groot, Michael Rooker as Yondu, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Kurt Russell as Ego, Elizabeth Debicki as Ayesha, Pom Klementieff as Mantis, and Sean Gunn as Kraglin.  Basically, Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot are the Guardians.  Ayesha and Ego are the baddies.  And, Mantis, Yondu and Kraglin are tag-alongs.  Nebula is “different” because she starts out a baddie and ends up a Guardian who leaves the team.  Vol. 2 is a sequel to the 2014 “surprise” breakout hit.  In the original, the team members are introduced, thrown together, they save the galaxy and start a movie franchise.  In this sequel, the team becomes a “Disney” family: ‘ohana – nobody is forgotten and nobody gets left behind.  Just a quick word about Yondu: he has a major purpose in the film and, technically, he too becomes a member of the team, so maybe, tag-along is not the correct description.  But, Yondue isn’t a good-guy and he’s not a baddie, so, like Mantis and Kraglin I’m just putting him down as “tag-along”.
Does it work?  Is this a good movie?  Is it a great sequel?  In order:  Yes, so-so and it’s okay.
Wow!  I can hear you saying?  What’s up, Kev?  This is a super-hero movie with special-effects galore…  Why just a so-so reaction?
Let me backup…  With one exception, this movie has received TERRIFIC positive reviews by EVERYONE I’ve asked about it.  Who was the exception?  My son, James.  The person I went to see the movie with.  His reaction: It was good, but not great.  James is INTO comics and he knows the back story to all of the titles and characters.  He is also a bit binary.  He wants the story to stay faithful to the comic.  More often than not, the movie doesn’t stay true and this upsets him.  I’m not that big a stickler, but I have my moments too.  This movie was not true to the comics and so his rating: good, but not great.
So, what was my problem?  I just didn’t find it to be particularly funny even though the movie went out of its way to throw humor at you with one liners, insults and sight-gags.  The humor seemed / was strangely “forced” to me.  The story just didn’t feel original.  I felt like I was watching “Tron Legacy” with Kurt Russell substituted for Jeff Bridges.
Now don’t get me wrong.  I “enjoyed” the movie.  It was fun.  It had a great sound-track which was integral to the movie.  It has better than average special effects and lots of action scenes.  It doesn’t have a lot of skin in lieu of sex or foul language to make it “seem” like (sound like) an adult movie.  Final recommendation: moderate to strong.  If you are not into comics and you’re just looking for summer entertainment, it’s probably strong to must-see.  For me: it suffered from “Sequel Syndrome”.  It just didn’t quite live up to my hopes based on the original.
.
On This Day In:
2016 Hard Learners
2015 Goals
2014 Switch To Dogs…
2013 Times Change
2012 Ashes Not Dust
2011 A Handful From Saudi
None Of This Happened
Take Responsibility

Read Full Post »

Today I have reviews for two movies I’ve just watched (initial viewings) over the weekend and a third which is a re-watch.
Beauty And The Beast (2014) — movie review (La Belle et la Bête)
No, this is not the Disney remake which came out earlier this year of the now classic Disney animated film (from 1991).  I’ve not seen that version yet, but I hope to when it comes out on DVD.  This is the 2014 Belgium / French / German version (a romantic / fantasy) of the fairy tale by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve.  The film stars Vincent Cassel as the Beast / Prince and Léa Seydoux as Belle.  I must admit to never having read the original fairy tale, so I can’t speak to how closely it follows the original.  With three young children growing up in the 1990’s, I have, of course seen the Disney animated musical multiple times.
This version is live action with special effects.  The “live action” is strangely European.  I’m not sure (quite) how to put my finger on it, but it is unmistakably NOT an American film.  That is not good or bad.  It just is.  The special effects were okay, but reminded me of the “Jack and the Beanstalk” movie from 2013.  (I believe that movie was titled: “Jack the Giant Slayer“.)  In other words: adequate, obviously computer generated, but okay.  The problems I had with the movie came down to this: worse than the predictability, too many parts made no sense or were never explained.  They just kind of happened.  This detracted from the overall theme of the movie: that true love is magical and can be redeeming in itself.
Having said this, I found the movie pleasantly enjoyable.  Not great, but enjoyable.  It’s not terribly frightening and can be viewed by the whole family – well, maybe not very small children.  I give it a moderate to strong recommendation.
War Machine (2017)  —  movie review
Brad Pitt stars as General Glen McMahon, a character based on General Stanley McChrystal.  McMahon is portrayed as an accomplished general with degrees from West Point and Yale brought in by the Obama Administration to bring a resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan because he is an “expert” on counter-insurgency.  Pitt’s portrayal is one of a focused, disciplined, but rather buffoonish military leader who “seems” to be caught in a situation he can’t lead his troops out of.  In a terrific casting, Ben Kingsley plays President Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan.  “Caught” in a similar situation (one of figurehead leadership), Karzai only seeks to go with the flow and enjoy the ride.
Are the portrayals of the fictionalized characters accurate to the real people?  I can’t say because I have never met them and have not read enough about them to form a solid opinion.  Do they “appear” to be realistic portrayals?  Yes, they do.  So, is the movie a satire and / or a dark comedy or is it a realistic depiction of what happened?  My gut feeling is this movie is FAR more realistic than we want to believe.  Absent the horror of combat (injuries and death) and collateral civilian casualties, when viewed externally, most of war can easily appear as satire and dark comedy.
So, is this a good movie?  Yes!  You (or I) may not like what it says about our politics or our wars, but I believe it is an accurate window into the crisis situation we place our combat troops in when we send them into (and leave them in) places where / when they cannot engage and destroy the enemy because they can’t tell the enemies from the friendlies.  Collateral damage becomes almost a certainty.
I highly recommend this movie!  If all you see is the dark comedy or the even darker portrayal of our military and civilian leadership, that’s fine.  If it is, re-watch the film and ask yourself: “What if it’s true and this is what it was (is) really like in Afghanistan?”  What does it mean to you?
Captain America:  Civil War  (2016)  —  movie review
I have reviewed this movie before (here) and watched it a couple of more times since.  Every time I watch it I see something a little different(ly) and I enjoy it even more.  Now don’t get me wrong, this is not great drama and the physical effects of the combat scenes are completely ridiculous, but it’s a comic book movie and if it’s not “JUST” the way you would imagine it from the comics, it’s pretty darn close.
I highly recommend this movie (again).  I would add one side comment.  I watched this movie on TV with commercial breaks and found it MUCH less enjoyable.  Some movies can stand the interruptions, some can’t.  I found this to be one that did not hold up well with the frequent breaks.  Again, just my opinion.  So, watch it on a movie channel or get the DVD.
Apologies for such a long post.  Thanks for hanging in there with me (and finishing it).
.
On This Day In:
2016 Patronage
2015 For Blogs, Too!
2014 Righteous Anger
2013 An Irish Blessing
2012 But Is It Worth It?
2011 Let Us Start

Read Full Post »

A Beautiful Mind  (2001)  —  movie review
This movie asks the question: is it possible to separate genius from insanity?  The movie is an adaptation of the book (biography) of the same name written by Sylvia Nasar.  The movie relates the story of American mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr.  Nash won the Nobel Prize (shared actually) for Economics in 1994 for work he did back in 1950 on “Game Theory” – more specifically on non-cooperative games.  Russell Crowe, of “Gladiator” fame, stars as Nash and Jennifer Connelly stars as his long suffering wife, Alicia Nash.  Long suffering because she cared for him most of his adult life as Nash himself suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.
I read the book (way back when) and I bought and watched the DVD, too, but really didn’t remember either in much detail.  About all I remembered was the bit about agreeing to work in your own self interest as long as it doesn’t detract from the total group interest of the group you belong to.  In other words, you can do anything you want to do as long what you do doesn’t hurt your team.  In a world which had long accepted “dog-eat-dog” / “me first” as the fundamental of economic theory, this was a shock.  Essentially, it means if we all benefit (more or less) from “the game”, no one should try to destroy the game to keep anyone else from winning or from benefitting a little more than everyone else.  At least, this is the rational course of action.
The movie is beautifully shot and Connelly is simultaneously drop-dead gorgeous and sympathetic in her role.  I must admit to not being a big Crowe fan.  I haven’t seen many of his films, so my opinion is somewhat biased here, but I think this was the first movie where I thought, “Wow!  This guy CAN act.”  What I really found interesting was that there is “chemistry” between the two leads, but it didn’t strike me as sexual chemistry – even when it was meant to by the scenes.  They “seemed” to me to be adult friends who genuinely cared about each other – loved rather than being in love.  Either way, I thought they were both excellent in their respective roles.
Maybe I understand the concept of the Nash Equilibrium better than before, even if I still have no clue about the math behind it.  Final recommendation: moderate to strong recommendation.  I don’t really feel like I understand schizophrenia any more than before watching this movie.  I’m not sure if we are meant to.  Nash himself said it was difficult to separate the delusions from the real because both the delusions and his mathematical genius both came from the same place: his mind.  Is it possible to separate genius from insanity?  The answer seems to be: only with love.
…My quest has taken me through the physical, the metaphysical, the delusional, and back.  And I’ve made the most important discovery of my life.  It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logical reasons can be found.
     —  John Nash
.
On This Day In:
2015 He Says It’s Hard To Get There From Here
2014 Question From A Founding Father
2013 Make Heroes
2012 See And Hold
2011 Am Not, Are So

 

Read Full Post »

Fight Club (1999)  –  movie review
“The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club…”
Okay, now that that’s been said, we can move on…  Cult movies fascinate me.  I’m really never sure why the movie is going to be a cult favorite, so I watch a fair number of movies which friends and associates say, “You’ve gotta see…”  Some times they hook me too.  More often than not, they don’t.  Some rare times, even after viewing, I’m still not sure.  “Fight Club” is one of those.
Now, in fairness to the movie, I’ve seen the last third of the movie about a half dozen times.  I’ve never seen the beginning or the middle parts.  Last night was the first time I’ve seen the whole movie and I’m trying to guesstimate if knowing the twist at the end of the movie spoiled it for me or if it was just a so-so movie and it (knowing the twist) didn’t much matter.
The movie is a quasi-SciFi movie about 30-ish young man  (Edward Norton) who feels like he’s lost in his own life.  By a chance encounter he meets another guy (Brad Pitt) who challenges him to live his life more fully.  In this case, “more fully” means beating yourself senseless and then beating others senseless, too.  And, of course, sometimes they beat you senseless.  How (you ask) does this make you live life more fully?  To tell the truth, I’m not quite sure.  It seems to be some kind of cross between a rite of passage into manhood and the adrenaline rush of living with physical pain as a consequence of risking your life in “moderated” conflict.
The movie is appropriately rated “R” for language, brief nudity and violence.  Of the three, the violence is the most consistent (Duh, Fight Club, right?).  The movie has thee main sections: pre-club – an examination of loneliness; club – an examination of an attempt to stem imagined emasculation via participatory violence; and, finally, post-club – a somewhat feeble attempt to reset civilization as we know it.  Of the three, the last is the least believable, which left me with mixed feelings about the movie.
So, is it a good movie and is the movie any good?  I would have to say yes and so-so.  It is shot well.  The characters are well played.  I particularly liked Edward Norton in the lead role.  The movie has “stirring” scenery – a decrepit house,  Dark and Light, dripping and flooding, falling down and being (moderately) resurrected.  The camera conveys the emotions and the building is almost an allegory for the main character.  This, to me, is the “definition” of a good movie.  But, is the movie any good?  In the end, it comes down to the difference between enjoying a movie for what it is and thinking a move is good AND that it makes sense.  Try as I might, the movie doesn’t make sense.  I guess it’s just me…
So, final recommendation: moderate to strong.  This is definitely a “cult” classic.  If you discuss it with you’re (male) friends you’ll find most of them have seen it and enjoyed it, but VERY few (if any) would actually participate in such a club.  Why?  Because in the real world, pain HURTS and generally speaking is to be avoided.  And, if you think about it, it (fighting) doesn’t demonstrate you’re a “man” or prove you’re more alive.  …As romantic as many movies may try to make it seem.
Enjoy it for what it is: fantasy / fiction, and leave it at that.
.
On This Day In:
2015 Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow
The Man Without Fear
2014 I Blame Robocop
2013 Future Trustees
2012 Praise Not The Day…
2011 Educated Living

Read Full Post »

Today, James and I went to see “Pirates of the Caribbean (4): On Stranger Tides“.  It’s another of the summer block-busters and it’s basically pure Disney entertainment.  The reviews I saw were BAD, but the movie I saw was good…  Go figure!  It doesn’t have the originality of the first and it’s missing two of the three main characters, but the main man (Johnny Depp) aka Captain Jack Sparrow is there and he pretty much carries the movie.  The romantic interest is played by Penelope Cruz and she’s ok.  The camera still loves her, but they are both just a little too old for these roles.  The action is not as swashbuckling as in prior editions, but it’s still ok.  I say that because the scenes seem to lack the spontaneity of the first two.  Like the third, they are starting to become set pieces always calling forth the Pirates Theme music.  Still, both James and I found it very entertaining and a good summer flick.  I’ll definitely add it to the other three when it comes out on DVD.
I’ve added three songs to my Poems page: Patches, This Ain’t Nothin’ and Tough.  The first (Patches) is a song I remember from my teens (1970 – although it seems like it’s from an earlier time).  Some vague memory came back to me and I looked it up on Google and YouTube and found it.  The song was originally performed by Chairmen of the Board, but it’s the Clarence Carter version which I remember.  His voice still haunts me when I hear this song today.  If you’re too young to know this song, you have GOT to go listen to it on YouTube!  (Check out the lyrics first…)
The second and third songs are performed by Craig Morgan.  He’s not a real big country star on my radar (yet).  I guess because he’s only been around for about ten years, but he keeps putting out songs I like.  These two are about loss (“Nothin’“) and almost losing (“Tough“) and what really matters most in life.  I admit I’m a softy and both of these songs make me cry.
Enjoy!!
.

Read Full Post »

Movie Review:
James and I went to the movies this afternoon to see “Priest“.  This was a movie I thought I wanted to see for some time.  It’s been advertised as a coming attraction for several months now.  Then, last night and this morning I lost my taste for it because I’d read some reviews and they were pretty bad.  Well, we went anyway and it was a pretty good movie!  Not terrific.  Not life-changing.  But definitely a good, entertaining summer action movie.
I gather the movie is based on some graphic novel and the movie is clearly set up to be the start of a franchise (which I would definitely see at least one more of).  I wanted to see it because I recognized the star (Paul Bettany) from the movie: “The DaVinci Code“.   I thought he was weird in the role of a monk-assassin, but it was strangely suitable.  I wanted to see this movie to see if that was a fluke or if he is an actor I want to watch out for.  After “Priest“, I think I need to see a lot more of his work, because he was again excellent in this role.
Now, don’t get me wrong, vampire movies are not normally my thing (although I have enjoyed the “Underworld” series).  But, this was (for me) an interesting and entertaining movie.  Like most “comic” book adaptation, it doesn’t bear close logical scrutiny – but for the price of a matinée ticket, it is a good way to spend an afternoon.
Book Review:
Today, I also finished a book: “If Not Now, When?“, written by Colonel Jack Jacobs (Ret.) and Douglas Century (2008).   Colonel Jacobs is a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient for action during the Vietnam War.  The sub-title is: “Duty and Sacrifice in America’s Time of Need“.
The book is autobiographical and it is incredibly funny, touching and up-lifting —  all at the same time.  This was another of the $2 books I’ve gotten at Half-Price books and I can honestly say this was among the two of the best dollars I’ve ever spent in my life.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the type of person America and the U.S. military can produce – and what type of man goes on to earn a Medal of Honor.
I will be using the book as a source for many quotes.  Just a terrific read!!
.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: