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Showing posts with label Film. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Film. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Movie Review Red Sparrow (2018)

Movie Review - Red Sparrow            Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Red Sparrow
Red Sparrow

Red Sparrow
Jennifer Lawrence is Dominika, a former ballerina forced to join Sparrow School, a secret government program that transforms her into an agent who can manipulate, seduce and kill.


In the spirit of the novel, “Red Sparrow” the movie adaptation would probably be Borscht with Seasoned Ham: Combine a Tom Clancy thriller with an early James Bond picture, season liberally with last year’s “Atomic Blonde,” add a cup of the old Mad Magazine panel "Spy vs. Spy vs. Spy" and a pinch of both the 1942 film “Casablanca” and 1946’s “Notorious,” a puree in a blender, and serve chilled with vodka and vermouth on the side shaken, not stirred.

In “Red Sparrow,” prima ballerina Dominika Egorova suffers a grotesque injury during a performance and must say adios to the Bolshoi. As an alternative to losing her modest government-provided apartment and the health insurance she needs to care for her ailing mother, Dominika accepts a proposal from her creepy Uncle Ivan that she enroll in “Sparrow School,” a training program operated by Russian Intelligence.
Jason Matthews' original novel “Red Sparrow” employs an unusual literary device: Each chapter of the book includes a reference to a specific gourmet food and ends with a recipe for its preparation.
Derisively referred to by Dominika as “whore school,” the Sparrow program instructs female recruits in seduction techniques, for use on foreign operatives as a means of gaining secret information. “Red Sparrow” essentially details Dominika’s enrollment and vigorous training in the program, and her first secret assignment.

Directed by Francis Lawrence, who also guided the last three installments of the “Hunger Games” film series, “Red Sparrow” boasts first-class production values, including beautiful photography, music, and a supporting cast of professional actors riding on a sort of merry-go-round of international accents and inflections Brits and Americans using Russian inflections, an Australian affecting American cadences, and Mary-Louise Parker reciting her lines in her signature distracted southwestern drawl.

Unfortunately, “Red Sparrow” is plump and ponderous at 140 minutes, and filled with unnecessary characters, details, and plot twists and turns which will either keep viewers on their toes or hopelessly confuse them. There’s not a single subplot or peripheral character this picture couldn’t jettison as ballast to reduce “Red Sparrow” to a less-punishing running time of under two hours.

Among the players, Jeremy Irons with each new performance grows to resemble legendary horror star Boris Karloff so closely that aficionados of classic films of have taken to examining the actor’s neck for Frankenstein’s electrode bolts. Irons delivers a characteristically exacting and riveting performance as a highly-placed Russian spy with motives that will keep viewers surprised until the very end.

Charlotte Rampling as the matron of the Sparrow School is essentially playing a reheated version of the Lotte Lenya character from 1962’s “From Russia with Love” the scary, bad-tempered, uniform-clad spymaster. Rampling’s performance is also strongly reminiscent of her breakout performance in 1974’s “The Night Porter” which is to say that her character has more than a few kinks in her cable.

The Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts appears as creepy Uncle Ivan, Dominika’s sponsor in Sparrow School. Schoenaerts’ resemblance to Vladimir Putin is so eerily pronounced that it’s impossible to not imagine his character is based on the Russian president, if not actually played by him. And Mary-Louise Parker contributes a cameo performance as a US government employee who might have secrets for sale. Parker’s appearance is a breath of fresh air in a sometimes-repressive movie, but her hasty departure will leave viewers gasping.

The primary assets of “Red Sparrow” are the wonderfully seductive Jennifer Lawrence as Dominika, and Joel Edgerton as the CIA operative she’s sent to seduce. Essentially, Edgerton distracts the girls in the audience while Lawrence steals the picture. As anyone knows who’s seen Lawrence’s appearances as the villain Mystique in the “X-Men” film series, even covered in blue paint and without dialogue the Academy Award-winning actress finds a means of endearing herself to audiences of all ages and genders.

Although the teaming of Lawrence and Edgerton fails to generate the sparks necessary to ignite “Red Sparrow” into the grand romantic entertainment plainly intended by the filmmakers, both actors deliver persuasive and ingratiating performances. Lawrence’s role requires such physical punishment that viewers might wonder if the actress is performing penance for her appearance in the execrable “Mother!” a few months ago, a film so fatally pretentious that even the traditionally easygoing audiences polled by CinemaScore assigned it a grade of F.
“Red Sparrow” is receiving decidedly mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike, although as usual Lawrence’s performance is being praised across the board. The picture has received an MPAA rating of R for nudity and violence, surprisingly little of which is gun-related.
This movie marks the reunion of director Francis Lawrence and actress Jennifer Lawrence, who made 3 of the 4 Hunger Games movies before. Here they go a very different direction, namely an ol' fashioned spy thriller drama, as if we're back in the Cold War (and maybe we actually are). The movie is very plot-driven and, I must admit, quite convoluted, so pay attention! even then, there's a good chance you'll get lost during some parts along the way. 
Lawrence truly takes the movie on her shoulders, appearing in virtually all scenes, and no-one is going to out-tough Jennifer Lawrence! Speaking of Jennifer which there are several extended torture scenes that are just brutal (I had to look away more than once). Besides Jennifer Lawrence, the movie also benefits from the performance of Belgium's Matthias Schoenaerts, in the role of the sinister no-good uncle. 
Charlotte Rampling equally delights in her small role as the sparrows teacher/trainer. The movie's production set is first class all the way, with Hungary standing in for Russia, and extended scenes in London and Vienna as well. Last but certainly not least, there is a warm orchestral score that plays prominently in the movie, courtesy of veteran composer James Newton Howard.

"Red Sparrow" opened wide this weekend, and I couldn't wait to see it. The Saturday early evening screening where I saw this at here in Cincinnati was pretty much sold out, which is of course normal for a movie of this stature just opening. Whether it will have staying power, only time will tell. If you are a fan of a good spy story (even it it's a bit convoluted), or a fan of Jennifer Lawrence, you'll want to check this out, be it in the theater, on Amazon Instant Video, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray.
Author Jason Matthews is contracted by his publisher to write a sequel. If Jennifer Lawrence is going to appear in the film version, we should get in line now.
"Red Sparrow" (2018 release; 139 min.) brings the story of Dominika. As the movie opens, Dominika cares for her ailing mother, and then, while dancing ballet at the Bolshoi suffers a brutal leg injury (accident? or not?). We then go the "3 Months Later", when Dominika is forced by her uncle, the Vice Deputy of Security, to go to training school for sparrows (in return for which her ailing mom receives medical care). 
Sparrows are used by Russia to compromise enemies of the state in any way possible. "Every person is a human puzzle of need", they are taught. Dominika is tasked with finding a mole high up in the Russian government. To tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
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Red Sparrow (2018)

Movie Review
Red Sparrow (2018)

Movie Review Goodbye Christopher Robin

Movie Review Goodbye Christopher Robin    Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Christopher Robin
Goodbye Christopher Robin

Goodbye Christopher Robin
Get a rare glimpse into the relationship between author A.A. Milne, creator of the beloved Winnie-the-Pooh stories, and his son, in this moving story about success and family.

Returning from The Great War, Blue (AA Milne) finds it hard to readjust to ‘proper’ society and moves his family to the country where he plans to write a protest book against war. When his wife flees back to the social lifestyle of the city and their nanny abandons him, a bonding with his son Billie (Christopher Robin) changes not only his objectives but his perspective.


A very thoughtful film, well written, acted, and filmed. Felt like you were actually watching the Milne family. The actor playing Christopher Milne was phenomenal. This made me cry, both time's I watched it. This is NOT a Disneyesque film, much closer to a Merchant Ivory film and not for the folks looking for an easy "feel good" family film. 

It captures the consequences of a terrible war, and the difficulties of social strata in England, the corruption of childhood, among many other things. It does not diminish my love for Winnie-the-Pooh, and I am encouraged to go see Tiger, Pooh, Piglet, Kanga and Roo at the New York City Library. It only has increased my empathy for this whole family, and their struggles, and my love for the hundred acre wood Again, this is a serious, imaginative and special film. I am seriously considering purchasing as gifts for my adult children.
My family and I have always been huge fans of Winnie the Pooh. This movie was so good. I can't believe this movie wasn't nominated for anything. Glad I purchased instead of just renting, I know we will be watching it again. My 13 yr old daughter and 22 yr old son both loved it as well. It is sad, quite sad at times but so worth watching.
This is an extravagent independent film of the depiction of children's' beloved Winnie The Pooh creator A.A. Milne. Tears fell from my eyes as I felt empathy for Christopher's plea for love in a world that exploited, neglected, and abused him. No child should have experience this at the expense of fame for a children's book. I really felt this movie. I wanted to jump through the screen and give Christopher Robin a bear hug and say that it would be okay. Wow! What a movie experience. I have not felt this in a while. This film is very family friendly but can be dark and cynical at times. I recommend this movie for adults and older children. Younger children may need parental guidance to talk about these mature themes. 
To Winnie the Pooh fans the script was not centered on the creation of Winnie the Pooh as it was centered on A.A. Milne's relationship to his son and Milne's post dramatic stress. The movie's ultimate theme is the effects of fame on Christopher Robin. Fans that want a detail account of the creation of Winnie The Pooh should look elsewhere. It's not that the creation of the Winnie the Pooh is not included in the film; It is just shown briefly. The chemistry between the characters was ecstatic.
I will be the odd reviewer here because I have not read the Winnie the Pooh books or seen any of the animated films that have been made from the books. Good-bye Christopher Robin is a beautifully filmed and acted movie. I have come across comments elsewhere about the chilly relationship between A.A. Milne and his wife and son Christopher. Even though the First World War is only 100 years past, the devastating effects of the war does not seem to register with viewers. Many villages in England had all of their young men wiped out entirely because they were encouraged to join a single regiment. The sense of extreme loss was very palpable. 
The Milne marriage was devastated from the shell shock that Alan suffered and made him withdraw. The fact that the story of the writing of Winnie the Pooh had no happy endings is the way life goes. The tragedy of Christopher is that the writing of the book blighted his life because it made him famous, and he was unable to cope with the demands that fans of the book placed on him.
I loved this film and have loaned it to my daughter for her to view. I also texted my sister to recommend that she watch it. It was well done, and the child actor who played Christopher Robin was adorable. The beginning was confusing slightly, but I soon sorted out what was going on. A very pleasant viewing experience although I was almost in tears in parts.
For me the story had was wonderful because Alan Milne and his son did draw closer over the writing of Winnie the Pooh and created books that offered some light during the difficult times following the war. If Daphne Milne enjoyed the glamor of London, her husband and son found peace in the English countryside. Ultimately, this is a beautiful film with a good resolution as Christopher goes to war, like his father and comes home. He reconciles with his fame from the Winnie the Pooh books but wanted none of the royalties. I plan to see this film again for the sensitive direction by Simon Curtis and the superb performances by Margot Robbie, Domhnall Gleeson, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Will Tilston.
I strongly recommend this film. Please support Independent Films.
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Goodbye Christopher Robin

  • Genres: Kids & Family
  • Starring: Vicki Pepperdine, Margot Robbie, Domhnall Gleeson
  • Supporting actors: Domhnall Gleeson, Will Tilston, Alex Lawther, Stephen Campbell Moore, Richard McCabe, Geraldine Somerville, Mossie Smith, Stanley Hamlin, Kelly Macdonald, Dexter Hyman, Sonny Hyman, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Sam Barnes, Allegra Marland, Mark Tandy, Richard Dixon, Shaun Dingwall, Ann Thwaite
  • Director: Simon Curtis
  • Format:  Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: January 23, 2018
  • Run Time: 107 minutes

Movie Review
Goodbye Christopher Robin

Friday, March 2, 2018

Movie Review The Line (2017)

Movie Review - The Line            Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

The Line - www.imdb.com
The Line (2017)


The Line - Movie 2017
The unstable new kingpin of a Tijuana drug cartel is targeted by an assassin for elimination.


The use of Mexican/US drug wars as a catalyst may have caused some viewers to think that this is a routine gritty crime movie but the writer(s) wanted something epic, life and death, which these ravaging drug wars are, to put the bigger theme of Family into high relief.

As to the casting, I appreciate it whenever actors challenge what they've already done twenty times, so I rather liked the choice that Andy Garcia made in particular, I do not think he was wasted at all. Liotta played his assassin's part almost as a mute - and that too is not an accident or a poor reading on his part, ie. who is his foil? It's the striking Mexican prostitute, her life is the battleground that all the other actors cross over, disrupt, shred, and yet she is the one who communicates to us, the viewer, what Liotta is going through, we understand him through her empathy with him. I think that this film is worth watching just to see how Liotta and Cruz pull it off. The title itself, the "line," is in my opinion, refers not to geography but the line crisscrossing over lives of real people like Cruz, it is her life encapsulated for us to see where the real terror and horror of these drug wars are fought, not some convenient metaphor of a border between countries.

However, of all the cast, and it was a remarkably competent one, the stunner for me had to be Pelon, every second of screen time Esai Morales was riveting, pathetic, tragic, and desperate and in many ways the male parallel of destruction in this environment that we see with Cruz's character. Even Assante's seemingly minor role became the pivot I never saw coming. It never ceases to amaze me how many gears this actor has to work with, be it over the top charm or almost a stunted shell of a man, merely existing on autopilot, he nails the human drama of that life every time.

So, don't view this film as some gritty routine action throwaway, as if it were Dumb and Dumber with guns. There were times when I did wish they had had a different film editor to better layer the many simultaneous story lines so that we wouldn't lose or confuse the underlying theme of Family. Then again, most films that endeavor to be a persuasive emotional and intellectual "experience" and not just a couple hours spent in leisure mode are not one-offs, view once and move on. They become a new film every time you view it, they grow as you do, they reveal details that you missed the first time. They may even change entirely once you do see it from say the perspective of Family or blood feuds or revenge or even exposing the moral decay of a human who no longer has family?

A final thought, any film that attempts to do things differently, from cast to writing, to choices in character development, to cultures too often passed over as one-dimensional, impresses me tremendously. Give this one a look, and let it tell you a story or stories, that you aren't telling the director is the one you want, but the one they want to tell you.
 
The plot line is hard to follow but it should be given the chaos of the subject matter. I was totally fooled by the ending. Knew the priest was up to no good early on but couldn't have guessed to what extent. Armand, I've never seen you do bad so well. Ray, I thought were washed up and over the hill. Excellent work. Brilliant. Thought you were dead! 
 
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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Movie Review Roseville 2014

Movie Review - Roseville 2014                  Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Roseville - Eye on Films
Roseville 2014

Roseville - Movie 2014
On the night of November 18, 1985, four dead bodies are found in a desolate home in the Roseville mountains. One man, Vasil, went missing, never to be found. Flash forward three decades: a cold case police unit goes searching for the horrific truth of what happened that night, and where Vasil is today.


It is about a weird murder that took place in a resort. I won't go into details because I don't want to give the ending away. However, it was a surprise ending. Not what I expected at all. The acting was good but in some spots it was too overly dramatic for my taste. 

The film made me jump some and I found the movie very entertaining and creepy. I found it interesting since it involved a different culture. There were "omens" and "signs," and definitely a "good vs evil" thread that ran through the film. I gave it a four.
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Roseville 2014

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Movie Review Roseville 2014

Movie Review The Dark Valley (2014)

Movie Review - The Dark Valley (2014)         Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

The Dark Valley - Amazon.com

The Dark Valley


The Dark Valley - Movie 2014
A mysterious stranger arrives in a snow capped Austrian mountain village claiming to be a travelling photographer from America, yet is in fact an embittered gunfighter on a mission of vengeance.

A great Western, even though the plot is set in a mountain village in Bum-screw Bavaria(In-bred Appalachia equivalent.) Great acting and a believable story if you think about how weird shit probably happened in the days before running water and Mini-Marts. Seriously, though, this is worth your time if you like a good Western revenge story. 

The lead actor, Sam Riley, and lead actress, Paula Beer, who is a real babe, more than carry the story, they keep it moving and then some. I could see Sam Riley doing the remake of "Then Came Bronson." Paula Beer, besides being my favorite beverage, is someone I will look forward to seeing in more movies.

I don't normally like anachronistic music in period pieces, but it seemed to fit the mood. Particularly in a shootout scene with the brothers toward the end. Powerful scene that stuck with me. Loved the cinematography. The story itself is reminiscent of Pale Rider. Mysterious stranger on a mission of revenge. 

Think I would enjoy it better with subtitles to catch the nuance in the actual language. 4 stars for well done story, direction, acting. Only flaw, and not really much of one, was the lack of explanation as to why the brothers thought they had the advantage in the shootout scene. I caught that he had a repeating rifle.
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The Dark Valley

  • Genres : Western, Mystery
  • Director : Andreas Prochaska
  • Starring  : Sam Riley, Tobias Moretti
  • Supporting actors  : Paula Beer, Thomas Schubert, Carmen Gratl, Clemens Schick, Helmuth Häusler, Martin Leutgeb, Johannes Nikolussi, Florian Brückner, Heinz Ollesch, Franz Xaver Brückner, Xenia Assenza, Beatrix Brunschko, Gerhard Liebmann, Josef Griesser, Johanna Bittenbinder, Erwin Steinhauer, Hans-Michael Rehberg, Thomas Hochkofler
  • Studio : Film Movement
  • Subtitles : English
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Movie Review The Dark Valley (2014)

Movie Review XXX: Return Of Xander Cage

Movie Review - XXX: Return Of Xander Cage

XXX: Return Of Xander Cage - Youtube.com

XXX: Return Of Xander Cage

XXX: Return Of Xander Cage Movies 2018
When a group of lethal mercenaries steal a hi-tech weapon that poses a global threat, the world needs Super Spy Xander Cage. Recruited back into action, Xander leads a team of death-defying adrenaline junkies on a mission to save the world.


This movie follows in suit, with the not-quite-good guys fighting for the world. It opens up with a much wider array of X operatives, and brings in an entirely new crop of desirable "undesirables." Ruby Rose and Rory McCann liven up any bunch, and Donnie Yen is simply amazing with his acting and choreography/fight skills.

That said, there were a few ways that the film simply fell short of the franchise, and didn't live up to the original. By introducing so many new characters, it was impossible to develop each of them, so we were left with a token introduction to each one and one or two scenes that built off that introduction. It felt a bit glossed over and might have actually been better if fewer characters had been used. For instance, in the original XXX, the main team consisted of Xander, Gibbons, and Shavers, with Yelena trapped in the middle. The main antagonists were Yorgi, Kirill and Kolya. That's only six characters to really need to know anything about. This movie has Xander, Gibbons, Becky, Marke, Nicks, Adele, and Tennyson. Then there's the second team of Xiang, Serena, Talon, and Hawk. That's already eleven characters, and that's not counting the two different love interests they bring up for Xander.

It just seemed like they tried to cram a bit too much into this movie. I can appreciate the fact that they are trying to stick with the fact that Xander has always been a man who lives life to the fullest, but the addition of a current love interest for no apparent reason other than a 5 second long PG-13 sex scene didn't make much sense. It didn't enhance his reputation, nor did it really last long enough or show enough to be of any real entertainment. In my opinion, the entire scene could have been removed, and it wouldn't have detracted from the movie at all. In fact, removing it, and giving a bit more detail as to why he was visiting Ainsley specifically would have been much better. That scene, followed with his classic "the things I do for my country" line, are much more in line with his character.

I was also a bit sad to find out that Agent Shavers was not going to be in this movie, after the actor's, Micheal Roof, tragic death. He was one of the fundamentals of what made the series so good, and I caught myself wishing that he would pop up in scenes with some lame attempt at being cool. He will definitely be missed.

All in all, it was a decent movie. The action scenes were good. The comedic one-liners were good, and it had just enough moments of cheeky humor that we've come to expect from a XXX movie. It may not be as good as the original, but it's still a good action movie, and one that I would watch again. And I will be buying it to add to my Vin Diesel movie collection.
I liked the crazy action that drove the plot. Loved the crazy stunts too. I thought it was fun, adrenaline pumping, don't take it that seriously. Not intended to win an Oscar but doesn't mean it's any less entertaining. Oh the two chicks who doing their own rendition of Mr. and Mrs. Smith just knocking them out with the choreography and bullets was hot too.
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XXX: Return Of Xander Cage

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

TV-Series Review NCIS Seasons 15

TV-Series Review - NCIS 15 Seasons

NCIS Season 15 Episodes - CBS.com
NCIS Season 15 Episodes

The 15th season of NCIS returns two months after Special Agents Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and McGee (Sean Murray) were last seen fighting a group of rebels in Paraguay. Last season's dangerous mission will forever change each member of the team and bring this family of agents closer than ever. 
1. House Divided
2. Twofer
3. Exit Strategy
4. Skeleton Crew
5. Fake It 'Til You Make It
6. Trapped
7. Burden of Proof
8. Voices
9. Ready or Not
10. Double Down
11. High Tide
12. Dark Secrets
13. Family Ties
14. Keep Your Friends Close
15. New Team Friendships and Rivalries

I've been a fan of mark harmon for a long time. When NCIS came online and I saw the cast I had to watch it. i've watched all the seasons plus shopped at the gift shop on line. NCIS is everywhere at my house. I see people come and go the imprint that each person leaves is and imprint on the person watching this show. I'm 61 for me it brings a little life back in me. The show means a lot to a lot of people. Mark (Gibbs) lives by a code in the show. and i think everyone needs a little bit of code to live by. i will be sorry to see the show come to and end .The cast has been at this a long time. But you do touch people.
NCIS had a rocky season last year--no wonder, with the departure of Michael Weatherley after 13 years and the sudden death of long-time show runner Gary Glasberg. Story threads got lost, writing was uneven, and, sadly, the "team" just never jelled. There was a lot of adolescent silliness in the office. But from the first show of Season 15 on, the show is totally back on track and better than ever: good stories well written and acted, newer characters fitting in well now, and the team members have suddenly all grown up again. (Gibbs never needed too, but he has also changed in interesting new ways). There is still enjoyable good humor among them, but a lot less silliness. New addition Agent Jack Sloane is a strong plus.
NCIS has been characterized by strong characters, good plots, and good directing. This IMHO is not the real source of its popularity. NCIS has been so popular because its characters are patriotic and care about honor and integrity. They are front line soldiers working for something greater than themselves. Last season was not a great one, due to a weak character, who has now left the show. There's only been one episode of the new season, but it was excellent. If the writers are going to expand McGee and Bishop's roles, that will be great. The writers definitely haven't lost their touch. If you liked it before, you'll still like it. Unless the rest of the episodes just collapse (unlikely) I anticipate a very enjoyable season. 
NCIS is still the best of all the NCIS’s.
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NCIS Seasons 15

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TV-Series Review
NCIS Seasons 15

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Movie Review Get Out

Movie Review - Get Out

Get Out - youtube.com
Get Out

A young African-American man, visits his white girlfriend's (Allison Williams) family estate, he becomes ensnared in the more sinister, real reason for the invitation. At first, Chris reads the family's overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter's interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he could have never imagined. This speculative thriller from Blumhouse (producers of The Visit, Insidious series and The Gift) and the mind of Jordan Peele (Key & Peele) is equal parts gripping thriller and provocative commentary.


This movie effortlessly addresses several forms of racism and discrimination of people of color through the horror genre. But, what makes this movie special, is that it stays pretty close to reality. Yes, some situations are exaggerated for the effect, but the conversations and body language are, to me, close to what happens between benevolent racists and people of color. If you look at this movie with more than just a scare in mind, you will probably walk away with a better understanding of what people of color live through each day (as I did), your eyes will be opened to the extent of the effects of racism, or you will applaud Peele for pushing the boundaries in Hollywood to bring the racism conversation more to center stage (as it damn well needs to be). Overall, 10/10, would watch and love and learn from again.
This is a kind of weird take on the horror movie theme, where racism is the monster/bad guy. It has kind of a Stepford Wives, pod-people feel to it. I will not go into the plot in much detail to avoid spoiling it, but the basics are that a black guy and his white girlfriend are going to her parent's house for the weekend. A situation he is uneasy about to begin with, but he discovers that her parents and the people in the town are more than what they seem to be. It is written and directed by Jordan Peele, of Key and Peele fame, and stars Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams in the main roles with a strong supporting cast including Bradley Whitford, Stephen Root, Catherine Keener, and Lil Rel Howery.

For those who get the blu-ray, the film looks and sounds very good. Especially for a non-special effects laden movie. For extras there is an alternate ending, about 23 minutes worth of deleted scenes, a behind the scenes look at the making of the movie, and a short Q and A with Peele and some of the cast members. There is also a commentary track on the movie with Peele. Good for what is there.

It is definitely not a movie that will appeal to everyone. Yes, there is a message about race relations, but it is not white-people bad, black-people good. It goes beyond that and tries to tell more of a "we are not in a post-racial division America" story. It wraps it in the horror movie/thriller genre where you want to yell at the characters "Get out of the house!" hence the name of the film. That said the main story being told is not overly complex, but is not meant to be. I think it is well written and acted, and can definitely be a topic of conversation.
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Get Out

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Movie Review Star Wars VIII The Last Jedi

Movie Review - Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi - youtube.com
The Last Jedi

From the ashes of the Empire has arisen another threat to the galaxy’s freedom: the ruthless First Order. Fortunately, new heroes have emerged to take up arms and perhaps lay down their lives for the cause. Rey, the orphan strong in the Force Finn, the Ex-Stormtrooper who stands against his former masters and Poe Dameron, the fearless X-wing pilot, have been drawn together to fight side-by-side with General Leia Organa and the Resistance. 
But the First Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke and his merciless enforcer Kylo Ren are adversaries with superior numbers and devastating firepower at their command. Against this enemy, the champions of light may finally be facing their extinction. Their only hope rests with a lost legend: Jedi Master Luke Skywalker.

Where the action of Star Wars: The Force Awakens ended, Star Wars: The Last Jedi begins, as the battle between light and dark climbs to astonishing new heights.


Both directors of the new trilogy are huge Star Wars fans, each with a different mission as filmmakers within the series and each with their own sense of style and vision. Compared to Abrams, whose job it was to create new and likeable characters while thrusting them into a fun and familiar Star Wars setting (a job well done IMO), Johnson's job was to continue the arcs of those characters while somehow subverting expectations. I can't speak for other fans, but I had a strong personal need for the saga to expand on its ongoing narratives, themes and character dimensions in ways that were simultaneously new, familiar, interesting and unpredictable. I didn't want just another Empire the way we kinda got just another New Hope. I knew that to do that Johnson would need to take some risks, and as it turns out he took a lot of them with varying degrees of success. Not everything lands how it should've, but all the A-plot stuff with Kylo, Rey, Luke and Leia worked great for me initially and in retrospect.

Without going into too much detail, VIII suffered mostly from one or two of its subplots, namely that of Finn, Rose and DJ. In spite of their subplot's flaws, perhaps the biggest payoff was one in which DJ helps Finn and Rose to understand that war is far more grey and nuanced than they previously realized, and that the concepts of good and evil are maybe a bit more relative than they'd like to think. This is a concept that is echoed in various ways throughout the movie's various arcs, and its a theme I personally adore, but I wish Finn and Rose had come across it in a more fun and concise way.

One of the most common complaints I've seen of this film has to do with it's attempts at humor. Admittedly, I was caught off guard by it near the beginning, but I quickly and effortlessly found myself enjoying it, and did so for the most part for the rest of the film. I'm not sure I understand why the humor didn't land for so many people, at least not beyond the fact that humor is a very subjective construct. The humor of the prequels suffered greatly because it was so infantile and kid-centric. I think people forget how much humor there was in the original trilogy, but it seems to me that the new trilogy hasn't forgotten, nor has it failed to understand what made that humor more successful. The humor simply needs to appeal to the widest possible audience, young lings and old lings alike. Was some of the humor too “meta” in this film? Who knows. One could easily argue yes or no, but I personally didn't think the humor was specific enough to be truly bad in a meta sense. Overall it seemed fine, and a lot of it got genuine laughs out of me.

I have enormous difficulty taking seriously the opinions of those who say flat out that Episode VIII “sucks” or even of those who somehow loved it unconditionally, although there seem to be far fewer of those in the latter category. Either way, let's not kid ourselves into thinking there has ever been a perfect SW film (although Empire was objectively maybe the closest we'll ever get to one). Empire took plenty of risks that in hindsight paid off beautifully, and I feel quite comfortable saying the same of VIII. As far as risks go, the difference between the two films is that VIII takes maybe one or two too many. Its possible that a few more months in the writer's room probably could have fixed all or most of the film's biggest missteps, but as a realist I understand time isn't always as abundant as we'd like it to be. In the end, The Last Jedi is what it is, and it would have been folly to ever think it could have pleased everyone.

I could follow suit with so many of the Internet's talking heads by nitpicking this film to death, but doing that seems unnecessary and beside the point of cinema. It might be a cynical view, but I think a lot of people kinda enjoy dissecting all the “bad” parts of movies more than losing themselves in all the “good” parts. I simply can't find it within myself to cut off this film's face to spite it's nose like so many people have. When considering the poignantly grey themes of The Last Jedi, doesn't it make more sense to embrace a more “grey” approach to how we experience films? To reference a specific quote from VIII, if darkness rises, shouldn't the light rise to meet it?

With all it's jaw-dropping spectacles, touching character moments and fresh thought-provoking themes, its the sum of Episode VIII's parts that, for me, make it an enjoyable cinematic experience. I have no quibbles about recommending this episode of Star Wars, but I'd try to ignore the Internet's echo chambers.
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Star Wars VIII : The Last Jedi

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Movie Review Wonder Woman

Movie Review - Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman - Amazon.com
Wonder Woman

Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons. Fighting alongside man in a war to end all wars, Diana will discover her full powers and her true destiny.


The storyline in a nutshell: Diana leaves her paradise Island of Themiscyra that is magically hidden from the rest of the world to fight alongside men in a war to end all wars.

Wonder Woman is a movie that everyone can comprehend and accept, which is not brooding and polarizing like other DC movies. Unlike many comic book movies that make the main character one dimensional, I have never seen so many profound aspects in a fictitious superhero movie before. It is a movie beyond woman equality, history, war, ethics and even religion. It’s about honor, duty, good, evil, love and doing what is right.

Wonder Woman is a good mix of action helped by the back drop of The Great War/World War I. It is not just plain adventure but has a narrative focused on the increasingly treacherous world with diminishing tolerance and morality. While I don't consider it good to compare, it was inevitable to see similarities with Captain America: The First Avenger.
This doesn’t just create a good visual. After a three-movie streak of stinkers from DC studios, this moment demonstrates what makes superheroes, something Zack Snyder apparently doesn’t appreciate. Heroes represent, not the recourses we’re willing to live with, as with Snyder's Superman, but the aspirations we pursue, the better angels we hope to achieve. We all hope, faced with the nihilism of the Great War, that we’d overcome bureaucratic inertia and face our enemies head-on.

In some ways, this Wonder Woman, directed by relative novice Patty Jenkins, accords with DC’s recent cinematic outings. Diana’s heroism doesn’t stoop to fighting crime, a reflection of cultural changes since the character debuted in 1941. Ordinary criminals, even organized crime, seem remarkably small beer in today’s world. Crime today is often either penny-ante, like common burglars, or too diffuse to punch, like drug cartels. Like the Snyder-helmed movies, this superhero confronts more systemic problems.

But Snyder misses the point, which Jenkins hits. Where Snyder’s superheroes battle alien invaders, like Superman, or pummel the living daylights out of each other, Wonder Woman faces humanity’s greatest weaknesses. The Great War, one of humanity’s lowest moments, represents a break from war’s previous myths of honor. Rather than marching into battle gloriously, Great War soldiers hunkered in trenches for months, soaked and gangrenous, seldom bathing, eating tinned rations out of their own helmets.

This shift manifests in two ways. First, though Diana speaks eloquently about her desire to stop Ares, the war-god she believes is masquerading as a German general, this story is driven by something more down-to-earth. General Ludendorff’s research battalion has created an unusually powerful form of mustard gas. The very real-world Ludendorff, who popularized the expression “Total War,” here successfully crafts a means to destroy soldiers and civilians alike. He represents humanity’s worst warlike sentiments.

Second, this Wonder Woman doesn’t wear a stars-and-stripes uniform. Comic book writer William Moulton Marston created Wonder Woman as an essentially female version of Superman’s American values, an expression externalized in her clothing. This theme carried over into Lynda Carter’s TV performance. But this Wonder Woman stays strictly in Europe, fights for high-minded Allied values rather than one country, and apparently retires to curatorship at the Louvre. Her values are unyoked to any specific nation.

Recall, Zack Snyder’s Superman learned from his human father to distrust humankind, and became superheroic only when threatened by Kryptonian war criminals. Diana, conversely, learned to fight for high-minded principles—which she learned through myths which, she eventually discovers, are true without being factual. Snyder’s Superman, in fighting General Zod, showed remarkable disregard for bystanders, his film’s most-repeated criticism. But Diana charges into battle specifically to liberate occupied civilians. The pointed contrast probably isn’t accidental.

Unfortunately, Diana learns, war isn’t about individual battles. She liberates a shell-pocked Belgian village, and celebrates by dancing with Steve Trevor in the streets. But General Ludendorff retaliates by testing his extra-powerful chemical weapons on that village. No matter what piteous stories she hears about displaced, starving individuals, ultimately, her enemy isn’t any particular soldier. It’s a system that rewards anyone willing to stoop lower than everyone else, kill more noncombatants, win at any cost.

In a tradition somewhat established by the superhero genre, Diana culminates the movie with a half-fight, half-conversation with her antagonist. Ares offers Diana the opportunity to restore Earth’s pre-lapsarian paradise state by simply scourging the planet of humanity. (Though Greek in language, this movie’s mythology reflects its audience’s Judeo-Christian moral expectations.) Diana responds by… well, spoilers. Rather, let’s say she simply resolves that fighting the corrupt system is finally worthwhile, even knowing she cannot win.

Wonder Woman’s moral mythology resonates with audiences, as Superman’s doesn’t, at least in the Snyderverse, because she expresses hope. Watching Diana, we realize it’s easy to become Ludendorff, wanting to not just beat but obliterate our opponents. Yet we desire to emulate Diana, standing fast against human entropy and embodying our best virtues. Diana is a demigod, we eventually learn, and like all good messiahs, she doesn’t just rule humanity, she models humanity’s truest potential.


This is by far the best DC to be made since The Dark Knight. Although I remain loyal to Marvel, I am pleased with DC success with Wonder Woman as it is one of the most well rounded, entertaining superhero movies to date.
 
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Wonder Woman

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