Monthly Archives: July 2014

Wish I Was Here

Movie:  Wish I Was Here

Rating:  3 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:  When does one give up on their dreams in life?  Aidan Bloom (Zach Braff) is 40ish, and still believes he will make it as an actor.  This despite it has been months since he acted in a shampoo commercial, and it is up to his wife Sarah (Kate Hudson) to grind it out 9 to 5 working at a boring cubicle job at the utilities company.  The kids, 14 year old Grace and 8 year old Tucker, are happy enough going to a private Jewish school.  That is until Aidan’s father, Gabe (Mandy Patinkin), who had been footing the bills for the school, becomes seriously ill.

Now the delicate balance that had been holding the family together with some semblance of order is gone.  With no money for school, Aidan is forced to attempt home schooling, which is clearly a mistake because he knows less than his daughter.  Sarah is reaching the boiling point at work sharing a cubicle with a jerk who is constantly making sexually inappropriate comments.  Aidan’s younger brother Noah (Josh Gad) is a social recluse who spends his days designing a costume to compete for a prize at the next Comic Con in Los Angeles.  Noah has been estranged from his father for years, and Gabe’s fervent hope is that he can see Noah one last time.

Why go see this movie?  Isn’t it a chick flick?  Yes, but it has some real heart to it.  For all the goofiness that Zach Braff brings to the role, he also has some adult emotions that are true to life.  There are light moments that make you laugh, and serious ones that make you think about your own life experiences.   Josh Gad (delightful in Frozen as Olaf the snowman) is excellent as the son who never really grew up.  Nice cameo appearance by Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory fame.

Actors to Watch:  Kate Hudson has a real screen moment in a scene with Mandy Patinkin.

Huh?  What The….:  What is up with all the dirt piled on the roof of the Bloom house?

Okay, Aidan is strapped for money and needs to loot the “Swear Jar”.  But does he have to carry this gallon size glass jar all over LA?  Can’t he just cram some cash in his pocket?

You haven’t lived until you see two Comic Con characters, in full costume, trying to consummate the sex act….

Dialogue Nuggets:  “I didn’t think God would look like that.”

“The problem with living in a fish bowl is that everyone can see you.”

“We are going to Mr. Miyagi the shit out of that fence!”

 

A Most Wanted Man

Movie:  A Most Wanted Man

Rating:  4 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:  It is present day Hamburg, and Gunther Bachmann (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is the head of a secret German counter-intelligence unit.  His people are tracking a potential Chechen terrorist, Issa Karpov, to find out his contacts and purpose for being in Germany.  Gunther is good at his job, but is constantly fighting internal bureaucratic wars with the larger and more powerful German police infrastructure who only want to arrest Karpov immediately and eliminate him as a threat.

An unlikely ally comes to Gunther’s aid, Martha Sullivan from the American embassy (Robin Wright), and she is able to buy time for Bachmann to spin his web to try and ensnare whoever may be complicit in terrorist plotting in Hamburg.  This web slowly extends out to Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams), an idealistic American amnesty lawyer who is trying to help Karpov, as well as Tommy Brue (Willem Dafoe), a banker who may or may not have resources that belong to Issa Karpov.  To complicate matters, there are Muslim interests that affect the decision making of certain parties in Hamburg.

This is not your James Bond or Bourne spy movie with hi-tech gadgetry, car chases, beautiful women to romance and eccentric evil bad guys to battle.  This is the real deal of how the spy world operates.  It is complicated, unglamorous, and betrayals are likely at every turn.   The movie was produced by John LeCarre, who authored the novel.  LeCarre previously wrote such acclaimed novels as The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  He knows a thing or two about espionage, having worked for MI5 before he became a novelist.

This is a terrific film.  You may burn a few brain cells as the movie unfolds, but it is worth the effort.  Unfortunately this is Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s final film, but it is a hell of a swan song for him.  He is an amazing actor.

Actors To Watch:  All of them.  A great cast.

Dialogue Nuggets:  “Men who trusted you died.  And that stays with you forever”.

“It takes a minnow to catch a barracuda; a barracuda to catch a whale”.

“You are a fucking social worker for terrorists”!

 

 

 

Lucy

Movie:  Lucy

Rating:  4 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:  The whole premise of the movie begins with Professor Norman’s (Morgan Freeman) hypothesis that basically states that human beings are only capable of utilizing 10% of their brain.  The Prof should know, since he is a leading expert in evolution and human mental capabilities.  He lectures an eager audience in Paris, hanging on his every word, and informs them “We possess a gigantic amount of information of which we have no access”.

Then there is Lucy (Scarlett Johansson).  She is an attractive young woman, scuffling along to make ends meet, and dating a most dubious young man.  Lucy is smart enough to turn down his plea to complete his task, which is to deliver a brief case into a bank to a certain Mr Jang (Min-Sik Choi).  So the boyfriend slyly slaps handcuffs on her and the brief case, forcing Lucy to enter the bank, and ultimately go down the proverbial rabbit hole.

Mr Jang is a well-dressed man of expensive tastes (he washes blood off his hands with a bottle of Evian water) and an extreme penchant for violence.  He recruits Lucy, quite unwillingly, to become a drug mule for a new wonder drug called CPH4.  Before she knows it, Lucy is flying off to faraway Taipei.

After getting ass-kicked by Mr Jang’s thugs in Taiwan, Lucy is unintentionally introduced to the new drug.  Suffice it to say immediate and amazing changes happen to Lucy physically, and even more so mentally.  That 10% blockage to the mind’s capabilities is smashed open, and changes to Lucy happen like a runaway train that is barely staying on the rails.

That old adage “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger” could not be more true in Lucy’s situation.  She is a force of nature to be reckoned with.  Woe to anyone who gets in her way….

This was a terrific film on several levels.  There is the beautiful and talented Scarlett Johansson at the peak of her considerable acting powers, and of course there is Morgan Freeman providing his matchless gravitas to the mix.  There is plenty of eye-popping action and special effects to keep the mob entertained; a car chase through the streets of Paris that is especially hair-raising.   Then there is the philosophical side to consider, if you have a mind to (no pun intended).  What would be the consequences if certain people suddenly had significantly enhanced mental powers, and would it necessarily be a good thing for the world?

Actors To Watch:  Scarlett & Morgan, the dynamic duo!  Go to any movie they are starring in.

Dialogue Nuggets:  “Life was given to us a billion years ago.  What have we done with it”?                                                                                                                                                                           “This pain you are experiencing now is blocking you from understanding”.                          “I’m colonizing your brain”.

Huh? What The ….:  I don’t care how smart someone is.  They can’t make a PC work 100 times faster than it was designed to operate.

 

 

 

 

Snowpiercer

Movie:  Snowpiercer

Rating:  3 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:  In 2014 79 countries took global warming seriously enough to do something to halt it, and released something called CW-7 into the atmosphere.  Not only did it stop global warming, it pretty much turned the entire planet into a giant freezer.  Now in 2031, the only humans left on the planet are riding on one long train that is on a permanent long distance loop around the world.  The people relegated to the back of the train are barely surviving, living in cramped filthy quarters and eating black bars of goop of unknown origin.  The back train denizens are not happy, and rumbles of revolt are in the air.  The people in the front of the train have the good stuff, and the back of the train have-nots want to get up there.  Think of Animal Farm mixed in with Mad Max, and you have an idea of what’s happening here.

All good revolutions need leaders.  The wise old philosopher king in exile is Gilliam (John Hurt), who provides sage counsel to firebrand leader Curtis (Chris Evans  ).  As the train hurtles forward on its never-ending journey (why does it need to speed if there is no destination?), the progress from the back of the train towards the front becomes more enlightening as the passengers discover what is up there.  Behind it all is the inventor of the eternal train, and de facto ruler, Wilford (Ed Harris), “Divine Keeper of the Sacred Engine”.

Some critics find this film something of a masterpiece.  I felt it started off with purpose and potential, then allowed itself to meander and lose its way.  It is a good movie; could have been a lot better if 20 minutes had been trimmed.

Huh?  What the ….:  For a train blasting along at high speed, you don’t see the cars swaying back and forth during scenes inside.

Hey Wilford – you’re such a freakin’ genius, and managed to have train cars dedicated to sushi bars and an aquarium; do you suppose you could have saved a car to store spare train parts?

Actors To Watch:  Back of the train mom (Oscar winner Octavia Spencer ) deserved a much bigger role.  Ed Harris is marvelous as the Great and Powerful Oz-like Wilford.

Dialogue Nuggets:  “Bullets are extinct”.

“That’s what people in the best place say to people in the worst place”.

“We don’t have time for true natural selection”.