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Posts Tagged ‘Movies’

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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The Big Short”  (2015)  —  movie review
Last night I watched “The Big Short“, which is a movie about how the banking, finance, credit bureaus  and real estate industries defrauded the American public (actually the entire world) and got away with it.  The movie stars Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling and is rated “R” for language and frontal nudity (brief scenes with strippers).  The movie uses cut-aways to random famous people to provide “definitions / explanations” and (I guess) a bit of levity.  This act of having the person on camera “speak” to the audience is known as “breaking the fourth wall”.
For some time now, about forty years ago, the banking industry moved away from traditional “banking” and started trying to make money off of making money.  This began as an attempt to monetize risk into products which could be sold.  This was done via derivatives, which is a fancy way of saying “money for nothing”.  It is not really “nothing”, it’s position, options, leverage, coverage, insurance, or any number of other names for financial security – or rather, the illusion of financial security.  Some people think of it as shared risk.  I think it’s more traditional name is gambling.
Okay.  I’ll get off my soap-box and get back to the movie.  Four groups of financial players discover the housing market is being fraudulently (and criminally) propped up and, in fact, is in a giant bubble.  A “bubble” happens when greed takes over common sense in a market and prices for the items in the market are far higher than the actual value of the item and / or the ability of the buyer in the market to purchase the item.  Theoretically, when you lose the ability to pay for something, you should stop buying it.  However, in a true bubble, because “everyone” expects the price to continue to increase, the buyers continue to buy under the assumption the price will continue to go up and just before you lose the item (foreclosure for realty), you sell the item and take whatever profit you can.  IF you can time your exit correctly and get out with a profit, you win.  However, this is not true investing.  It is merely speculating.  This speculation is what is at the heart of the movie.
That is the “before” side of the movie.  The four groups know there is a bubble and one of them creates a derivative to profit (vastly) if the housing market bubble bursts.  The other three parties  get wind of the derivative and essentially go “all-in” to bet on the crash.  This is all happening in roughly 2005.  The expectation is the crash will happen in early 2007 when a percentage of mortgage loans which are variable rates with short-term fixed rate teasers have the teaser expire.
When 2007 rolls around and the housing market does crash, the derivatives don’t initially pay out because the banks / credit agencies / insurance companies  and government don’t want the national economy to collapse.  Essentially, the U.S. Taxpayer (via the government) foots the bill for the losses of the restructuring financial market.  Inevitably, a few of the large financial players “go away” (get bought up at severe discount) and the global economy is saved.   Here, the key point of the movie is that the little guy in America loses their home, but none of the fraudulent bankers and financiers goes to jail.  The irony is they (the banks and financiers) have prevented legislation which might stop this from happening again in the future, and we are back on the same roller coaster again.
Final recommendation:  highly.  This is a complicated movie about a complex subject.  The average person seeing the movie will probably not understand the financial portions of the movie.  They will (probably) understand the effects of the bubble burst because most of us have been living through the results (recession) over the last ten years (and still going).  This is not a great movie, but it is an honorable attempt to educate the working people of America.
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On This Day In:
2015 Even The Little Ones
2014 Who’s On First?
2013 No Equal Measure
2012 A Single Host
2011 No Exemptions
2010 Memories Of KSA – Inside The Fire

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The Intern (2015)  —  movie review
Last night I watched a very entertaining little comedy from last year – The Intern.  The movie stars Robert DeNiro in the title role and Anne Hathaway as the young, entrepreneurial business founder who learns: “Experience never gets old”.  Yeah, that’s the movie’s tag line.  But, believe it or not, for what seems like a over-produced “Hallmark” movie, it works.
DeNiro plays a 70-something, retired widower who is just trying to stay active and feel like he is contributing something with his life.  He applies for and gets a senior (citizen) intern position at an internet company so he can find out what this technology stuff is all about.  Hathaway is youthfully offensive, but like everyone else in the company, warms to “the old guy” who just wants to help any way he can.  In the end, they (of course) become best friends.
The movie is very cleanly shot with a light comedic touch and there is actually a great deal of adult – if uncle / niece – ish  – chemistry between the two actors.  In a moment which almost breaks the fourth wall, Jules (Hathaway’s character) says to Ben (DeNiro’s character) that it was nice spending a few minutes with a male having an adult conversation which wasn’t about her business.  The movie could have very easily gone in a different direction, which would have been predictable (but creepy-ish), but instead adds Rene Russo as the age-appropriate romantic interest for DeNiro.  (One question:  When did Russo become an attractive older woman?)  I am obviously dating myself, but my mind’s eye still sees her in “Tin Cup” and “Lethal Weapon” —  and, ok, maybe “Thor“, too.  LOL.  Their “relationship” is the basis for the two best sight gags in the movie.  Hint – suggested sexuality.
Is the movie believable?  As a business movie, no, not really, but really, who cares?  It is what it is…  a light comedy about relationships which mildly pokes fun at the young and hip as well as at the elderly (without being mean-spirited to either).  I thoroughly enjoyed it and my final recommendation is:  highly recommended!
On a side note, back in 2000, I interviewed for a senior manager position at a dot-com and I showed up on-time, dressed in a dark blue, three-piece, pin-striped suit, white buttoned-down shirt with a striped tie and wearing black wing-tips.  I was interviewed by five or six different managers and executives over a two-day process / series of meetings.  Everyone was in jeans or shorts.  It was in July and warm.  I could soooo relate to this similar scene in the movie!  LOL.  Talk about producing flashbacks…  And, yes, I too got the job.  Unfortunately, the company was short-lived; and my job, even shorter.
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On This Day In:
2015 Reality == Perception / (Times Reported * 10)
2014 Tear Da Roof Off Da Sucka
2013 Exposed Spirits
2012 Ow-ow
2011 Focused Relatives

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Batman v Superman (2016) –  movie review
Last Saturday I took my daughter Sarah to see the latest comic book movie: “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice“.  The movie stars Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.  Wonder Woman is really only in a small role (screen time wise), but it is significant to the movie as the start of the Justice League.  Affleck is new to the role of Wayne/Batman, but was surprisingly much better than I anticipated given all of the negative reviews.  Cavill is reprising his role as Kent/Superman, and is still great in the role.
Is this a “good” movie?  Yes.  It is.  It’s not going to win anyone a best actor trophy and there are large parts of the movie which don’t make any sense, but it’s a movie about comic-book superheroes, so give me a break!  I enjoyed it.  It’s not a great “film”, but most (almost all) comic-book adaptations are not great films.  Who cares?  We don’t go to them for great acting or great dialog or great plot.  We buy our tickets for action, adventure, fantasy and special effects to match our imagination.  By this standard, BvS is entertaining and that is enough.
So, what is the movie about?  Basically, the movie is a marketing attempt to throw three super-heroes together to create a “team” so the industry can have a competing franchise to the Marvel Comic Universe.  The “team”, in this case, the Justice League, will then be able to spin out both League and individual heroes sequels.  If the medium proves as artistically deep as the comic book medium, movie studios will have created a money making machine which can span decades without ever having to come up with a “new” idea.  They just follow the bread crumb trail of the comics.
There is only one problem: actors age and comic book characters don’t.  Well, they do, but on a factor of about 8 to 10 years for every “real” year of the reader’s life.  In the movies, this is handled by substituting a new (younger) actor in the next sequel or re-booting the movie series (again with a new – younger – actor) usually about ten years after the latest origin story.
The other way to deal with the age issue is to age the hero along with the actor.  This can work (see the “Die Hard“, “Rambo” and “Rocky” films), but more often, not really (see Christian Bale in “The Dark Knight Rises“).  The point I’m getting at is that Affleck’s older Batman, and more specifically Bruce Wayne, is better portrayed than Bale’s.  And, one step farther, I think this will bode well for future League sequels.
Now, some of you might ask: what does any of this “really” have to do with this movie.  Probably nothing.  Just the meandering thoughts of an old comic-book reader…
So, final recommendation: strong.  Standing on its own, it is entertaining.  And, if you don’t go see it, you won’t know what’s going on in the sequel.
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On This Day In:
2015 Remarkable Creations
2014 Measured Faith
2013 April Fool, n.
2012 Faith, Ego And Patriotism
As It Happens
2011 What Counts

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