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Posts Tagged ‘Movies’

If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his house, what books he may read or what films he may watch.
  —  Thurgood Marshall
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On This Day In:
2018 Reflections
2017 Opposites Attract
2016 Completely Unreasonable
Starting To Be A Reacher
2015 Avengers Assemble II
But If I Had To Perish Twice…
2014 Turning Pages
2013 We Are All Accountable
2012 American Sign Language
2011 Happy Disproof
2010 Book Review – Managing Your Government Career
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Matilda”  (1996)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for a children’s fantasy movie about a young girl growing up in a dysfunctional family, attending a dysfunctional school.  Ah, but the young girl is a self-taught math wiz with telekinesis power.  Basically, she is a genius and can move things with her mind.
The movies stars Mara Wilson as Matilda Wormwood, Danny DeVito plays her father (a crooked used-car salesman), Rhea Perlman plays Matilda’s mother (who spends all day off gambling), Embeth Davidtz plays Miss Jennifer Honey (the only decent grown-up), and Pam Ferris plays the wicked school headmaster / principal.
The movie traces Matilda’s life from birth through (ultimately) getting adopted by Miss Honey and them both living happily ever after.
As a kid’s movie, is it any good?  Does it work as a fantasy?  Is it funny?  Yes; definitely; and, mostly, but not ha-ha funny (for me).  This is not a “Disney” live-action movie, but it feels like one.  There are lots (and I mean LOTS) of amusing lines for adults and enough sight-gags to keep the kiddies engaged.
Final recommendation: highly recommended!  I have seen “Matilda” numerous times over the last 20+ years and it remains an amusing little gem of a film.  A couple of the scenes with the horrible principal may be too intense for children under six years old, but I think any kids, nieces and nephews older than that will enjoy the movie.  Teens may find it a bit too childish, until they are old enough to know how to listen to dialogue.
Two shout-outs: Danny DeVito is excellent in this role (even if a “little” type-cast) — pun intended; and, the movie has a great song in it: “Send Me On My Way” performed by Rusted Root.
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On This Day In:
2018 Nice To Meet You
2017 All Nations & Religions
2016 Given The Choice
Why Is He Wearing Red?
2015 Within The System
2014 None But…
2013 Obviously Longer
2012 A Childhood Poem
Who Are You Callin’ Leather-Faced?
2011 In No Particular Order
The Need For Proof

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Atomic Blonde (2017)  —  movie review
Today’s movie examines what happens when marry the weak storyline of a James Bond spy movie with the visuals / fights of a Jason Bourne movie and throw in the violence / violence of a John Wick movie – all of which is based on a “graphic novel” (aka: comic book).  And, of course, the “twist” is the main character is a female.  Charlize Theron is Lorraine Broughton (the lead British spy); James McAvoy (the young Professor X in the X-men movies) is David Percival (the Berlin station head / British agent), Eddie Marsan is Spyglass (the East German agent with information), John Goodman is Emmett Kurzfeld (the CIA agent), Toby Jones (the Hydra guy in the Avengers movies) is Eric Gray (Broughton’s boss), and Sofia Boutella (the bodyguard with killer legs from the Kingsman movie) is Delphine Lasalle a French agent.
So, it’s 1979 and the Berlin Wall is about to fall.  A list of all agents (French, British, German, etc.) is about to be sold to the highest bidder.  MI6 sends their best agent (Broughton / Theron) to get the job done – whatever the job needs to be.  Blah, blah, blah, lots of violence, blah, blah, blah, more fights / violence, blah, blah, a hint of lesbian sex, blah, blah, blah, more violence and a spy twist at the end.
Is it any good?  If you like the Daniel Craig / Bond’s or the Damon / Bourne or the Reeves / Wick movies, you will almost certainly enjoy this movie.  I do / have and I did.  Is it serious cinema?  It’s a comic book adaptation and suffers from all of the excessive survival issues of this action / spy / drama genre.  No one, male or female could survive all of this over the top fighting and still function.  Given that, the movie works. It is entertaining for its “kick-some-butt” target demographic / audience.  And Theron surprised me as being able to carry off the role.  She is great and she definitely makes the movie in the same way Craig-Damon-Reeves carry their respective franchises.
Final recommendation: strong.  This will not be a movie to everyone’s taste.  There is little to no humor, it is dark and violent, but it is consistent within the universe of its genre (graphic novel).  Although Theron’s character does her fair share of butt-kicking, if male on female violence bothers you, you will not enjoy this movie.  The movie is rated “R” for violence, language and brief nudity.
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On This Day In:
2017 This Explains A Lot
2016 Me Too
2015 A Proper Price
2014 Well Hard
2013 Because I Can
Eloquence, n.
2012 Why Bother?
2011 Peculiar Notions

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The following are my brief reviews of four documentaries I watched on Netflix…
Requiem for the American Dream  (2016)   —  movie / documentary review
This documentary is (more or less) a seminar about the consolidation of wealth in the hands of the few (1%) and the subsequent use of wealth to control the government and thereby use the government to increase their wealth.  The documentary presents the views of Noam Chomsky, an MIT emeritus professor who made his fame in the study of linguistics and philosophy.  Chomsky is a long-time “leftist”, but not in the traditional sense of Communist or Socialist, and more in terms of being pro-democracy, that is supporting the rule of the governed as opposed to the rule of the elite.  More specifically, the people should control the governmental (government and regulations) business environment, not the business’s (or the mega-wealthy).  I didn’t find much which was really new in this documentary, but then I have considered Chomsky’s positions previously and have long agreed with him.  If I have any problems with this film it’s that it is presented in a “relatively” dry (“academic”) format.  So, while I agree with Chomsky, the American public doesn’t seem to mind government of the elite, by the elite and for the elite – hence, the election of Donald Trump.  Final recommendation: highly recommended, particularly if you are angry about the state of the country and / or worried about your job / career and place in our economic class system.
Sneakerheadz  (2015)   —  movie / documentary review
A short (just over an hour long documentary) summary / description of people who obsessively purchase sports shoes.  I agree with one of the commentators – a young lady – who says (in effect): “If you grow up poor and wanting things, like name-brand shoes and clothes, when you grow up and have enough money to buy them, you do.  To excess…“)   As I watched, I recognized myself and realize that except constrained by money, I could / would otherwise fall into this “addition”.  Beyond the simple ego-boost of being able to get something you previously could not afford, there is an underlying message of people seeking a place in society by creating an image of themselves which they can project out to others.  Interestingly, it seems this message is learned at an early age and then becomes the goal of their (the Sneakerheadz) life.  There is also a strong message about societal values and the ability of marketing to influence those values.  Not an original idea, but I still found it interesting to hear it stated so openly in documentary about shoe collectors.  Final recommendation: highly recommended.
A Drummer’s Dream  (2010)  —  movie / documentary review
What happens when you take some of the greatest drummers in the world, put them in an isolated Canadian farmland with a bunch of kids and all the drum kits and money the drummers can bring together?  It seems you get smiles, effervescent passion and irresistible personality. Starring drummers: Nasyr Abdul Al-Khabyyr, Dennis Chambers, Kenwood Dennard, Horacio “El-Negro” Hernadez, Giovanni Hidalgo, Mike Mangini and Raul Rekow, the documentary captures you with Rock, jazz, Latin fusion, and soul, but mostly it is about the drummers and their joy in playing…  And, did I mention smiles!  These musicians are driven by the beats of their hearts – full of love and joy of life.  Final recommendation: Highly recommended!  I found myself tapping my hands and feet for days after watching this.  Fortunately, my attention deficit disorder prevents me from becoming obsessive (in this way) or I’d still be drumming and trying to find / share their joy.  Come for the percussion, stay for the smiles…!
The Real Miyagi  (2015)    —  movie / documentary review
Back in the 1960’s, a young Japanese man came to America with little but an expertise in Martial Arts.  He subsequently went on to become an internationally recognized Martial Arts instructor and stunt back-up actor.  That man is Fumio Demura.  If you have seen any of the first four “Karate Kid” movies, you’ve seen sensei Demura in action (probably without realizing it). Pat Morita’s iconic sensei (Mr. Miyagi) in ‘The Karate Kid’ was based on sensei Fumio Demura and Demura was Morita’s stunt double in the action sequences.  I don’t mean based on Demura’s actual life, as Mr. Miyagi was a fictional Japanese-American character who fought in World War II.  Rather, Mr. Miyagi is based on the idea of a man perfecting (improving) himself using art – in Miyagi’s case it is Karate and Bonsai trees.  The documentary traces sensei Demura’s life and offers multiple tributes from his students which offer insight into the man behind the title “sensei”.  Final recommendation: strong if you have only a casual interest in Martial Arts, highly if you have a personal interest in Martial Arts or in historic Martial Artists.
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On This Day In:
2015 Just Like All The Others
2014 In My Own Vanity
2013 Filled With Words
2012 Lectio Auget Existentiae Meae
2011 Lied Lately?
2010 Born To Work At Faux News
Lost Again (Uh, Make That Still)
Qui Genus Humanum Ingenio Superavit
They’re Back… (Part 1)

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Today’s post is reviewing four movies – one re-review and three new reviews.  The movies are: (old) “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016); (new) Immortals (2011); (new) Jason Bourne (2016); and, (new) Moneyball (2011).  Because this post is for four movies, it will be longer than normal.  If you’re not interested in my movie reviews, move along…  So, in alphabetical order…
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016)  —  movie review
My original review can be found here from back in April.  Back then I gave it a “strong” recommendation as “entertaining”.  That review stands.  If anything, I might raise it to high.  I think I actually liked it more.  The plot still doesn’t make a lot of sense, but as previously stated: it’s a marketing gimmick to get three super-heroes together so DC can start a franchise.  Even given that, I still liked the movie a lot – more so than the first viewing.  I particularly liked Ben Affleck (Batman) and Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman).  And, while Superman is never going to be my favorite super-hero, Henry Cavill owns the role like no one since Chris Reeves in the original “Superman – the Movie”.  The movie worked for me.  Bring on the Justice League of America!
Immortals (2011)  —  movie review
Okay, so in ancient Greece, some beefcake named Theseus (Henry Cavill aka Superman) is blessed / cursed by Zeus (Luke Evans) to protect humanity (well, at least the Greeks) from a mad tyrant – King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke).  Phaedra (Freida Pinto) plays the love interest, an Oracle of Delphi.  Anyway, blah, blah, blah, Theseus finds a magic bow (“The Epirus Bow”) and saves the world from the Titans.
Since I’d never heard of this “legend” tale, I looked it up on Wikipedia and it is completely made up.  The names of the characters appear in Greek history or mythology, but this myth / story does not.  Still, it’s a good tale.  The movie is from the same producers as “300“, so if you like that kind of bloody action, fights and special effects (and I do), you should find this movie to your visual taste.  Final recommendation: strong.  I picked this movie to see if Cavill can act in any other role beside Superman.  That didn’t work out so well as he plays a “minor” superman / hero here, too.
Jason Bourne (2016)  —  movie review
This is a movie I really wanted to see at the theater, but never got around to.  It’s the fifth in the series and the fourth with Matt Damon in the title role.  Matt skipped number four which starred Jeremy Renner.  (Wow.  Now I’ve got to go back and see that one again.)  While it was nice to see Matt back in the saddle, this movie makes absolutely no sense.  The plot is the same as the others (the first three), the CIA wants Jason Bourne dead and he fights back.  The special effects technology is upgraded, but it’s used badly and adds to the “huh?” factor.
I never thought I’d say this, since I much prefer Matt to Tom Cruise, but Ethan Hunt is now better in the Mission Impossible series than Jason Bourne is in this series.  And it’s not Matt’s acting.  It’s the story telling.  This movie is what it is: Matt / Jason fighting and running around and being super clever.  Other than that, it’s an extremely average action movie.  I’m sure Hollywood will try to string this out for another couple of sequels, but it’s running out of air and there’s a DNR on the patient’s chart.  Time for a better re-boot than we got with Jeremy.
Moneyball (2011)  —  movie review
What can I tell you?  It’s only been a couple of weeks since the Cubs won the World Series and I’m missing baseball…
This is one of those movies “based on a true story”.  Basically, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) has to make a small market (ie “poor”) baseball team competitive.  He does it by introducing “Sabermetrics” to baseball.  Here, Sabermetrics is renamed as “moneyball”.  The baseball team is the Oakland Athletics (better known as the “A’s”).  The A’s lose three of their best players to teams with more money and in the struggle to replace them, Beane tries to redefine how you evaluate players using statistics instead of experienced baseball “eye-balls” (veteran scouts).  What happens is he turns the “rebuilding” team into one which not only makes the playoffs, but sets an American league single season consecutive winning streak.
The movie gives a fascinating look into the “business” of modern baseball, and, yes, I did get caught up in both the streak and the “romance of baseball”.  I liked Brad Pitt in Troy, but most of his stuff is just kind of “so-so” for me.  He is excellent in this role!  Final recommendation: High!!
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On This Day In:
2015 More Prejudice
2014 Say What?
2013 Daring Errors
2012 Are You Comfortable?
I Just Have To
In Flux
2011 True New
2010 A Job Well Started Is A Job Half Done
I See With My One Good Eye

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The Lady In The Van”  (2015)  —  movie review
Well, last night the wife and I thought we’d enjoy a little British comedy starring Dame Margaret (“Maggie”) Smith starring in “The Lady In The Van“.  The movie tells the (mostly) true story of Miss Mary Shepherd, an eccentric homeless woman whom playwright Alan Bennett befriended in the 1970s.  He allows her temporarily to park her Bedford van in the driveway of his Camden home.  She ends up staying there for 15 years.  As the movie progresses, Bennett learns Miss Shepherd is really Margaret Fairchild, a former gifted pupil of a famous pianist.  She played classic music (piano) in a famous concert, tried to become a nun, was committed to a mental institution by her brother, escaped, then had an accident when her van was hit by a motorcyclist (who dies).  She believed herself to blame, and there after lived in fear of arrest.  At the very least, she was guilty of fleeing the scene of fatal auto accident.
Alex Jennings plays Alan Bennett and he does it in a kind of split personality role where he frequently appears as two parts of himself at the same time.  One seems to be “the writer” and the other seems to be “the normal person”.  At least, that is what I assume as this duality is never clearly explained in the film.  In the end, it is (not) clear this movie is, in fact, about him, and not about the lady, at all.  This is in spite of the title.  (My wife, disagrees.  She felt the movie was clearly about the lady.)
The movie is one of those “classically” unfunny comedies the British are famous for.  There was no laughter at our house – an occasional smile – mostly smirks.  That’s not to say Smith and Jennings aren’t very good in their respective roles.  It’s just that, except for a few one-liners and ripostes, the movie is entertaining, but not funny.
Final recommendation: moderate.  The acting is very good, but the movie is confusing.  Maybe it needs a second or third viewing.  The problem is I’m not sure I feel it is worth that much trouble or effort.  Somewhat amusing, in a British kind of way…
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On This Day In:
2015 Quality Government
A Handful Of Flics
2014 Just Another Brick From The Wall
2013 Artistic Demands
2012 Foundations
2011 Are We Devouring Yet?

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Spotlight”  (2015)  —  movie review
Spotlight” won the Academy Award as best picture of the year for 2015, so it’s a given this is a good / great movie and my final recommendation is: highly recommended!
Okay.  Now that that’s out of the way, what’s the movie about and why do I recommend it?
The movie is about the lead up to the Pulitzer Prize winning series of articles published by the “Spotlight” investigative journalism team of the Boston Globe back in 2002, which dealt with child molestation (rape) and the systematic (and systemic) decades long cover-up orchestrated by the Catholic Church under the direction of senior religious authority (in this case, by Cardinal Bernard Law, the Archbishop of the Boston).
I am unable to separate my feelings about this movie’s subject matter and my own faith.  I make no claims of religious (or moral) superiority or distinction.  I was baptized Catholic as a baby and attended both Catholic grammar and high schools in San Francisco.  I left the practice of my faith for a number of years and returned to “The Church” over a decade ago in my late 40’s.  As a practicing Catholic, this scandal has been extremely troubling for me.  As humans, we are all weak and have failings.  To understand there will be some in the religious orders who take advantage of their position is one thing.  To have the institution of the Church systematically cover-up unlawful activity propagated against its weakest and most vulnerable (we are, after all, talking about the sexual abuse of children and teenagers) members is quite another.  To say I was and still am furious is quite the understatement!
At the end of the film, there is a list of cities where there has been shown to have been similar abuse and cover-up.  The list is over two full screens!  Moving forward, I only hope that every priest or nun who is proven guilty of these crimes is punished to the full extent of the law.  I further believe that going forward, any other priest, nun, Bishop or Cardinal who fails to report these activities to civil / criminal authorities should be prosecuted for conspiracy to aid and abet in the same crimes and all should be defrocked and excommunicated.
I liked the “film” (not the topic) very much.  The story was interesting and well paced.  The acting was also very good.  I think it very clearly showed this was a failure of persons and of institutions.  The movie was not particularly hard on the Church (as some have objected) and it fairly accurately related the outrage the common Catholic felt (and still feels) about these crimes and sins.  I have no pity for any of the individuals who were brought out from the shadows by the original articles or by this movie.  I continue to hope God has a special place in Hell for all of those in positions of authority who allowed this to continue and who did nothing or who actively attempted to hide these abusers from criminal prosecution.
This movie is about what happens when we let individuals and institutions stand above the law.  Ultimately, though, it is also a cautionary tale about what might happen if we continue to let our “fourth estate” (the written press) get eaten up by corporate consolidation and the lure of speed / cost savings / increased productivity promised by the internet.  Who will be there to inform us in 30 to 50 years when there are no investigative teams?  Did anyone else just feel a shiver run down their back?
“Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”
  —  Louis D. Brandeis
Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
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On This Day In:
2015 Thousands
2014 What We Can
2013 Mostly Unsound
2012 Malcontent
2011 What Have You Seen Lately?
Just Perspire!

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