Monthly Archives: January 2015

Black Hat


Movie:  Black Hat

Rating:  2 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:  For all of you non-computer savvy folks out there (like moi), a “blackhat” is a computer hacker who violates computer security somewhere because they are malicious, or just out for personal gain.  In this film, some evil genius sics some malware into a Chinese nuclear plant and kaboom, meltdown.  Then some other bad things happen, such as Wall Street going bonkers over soy shares (whatever they are).  The Chinese government and the U.S. government come to a mutual meeting of the minds, and agree that some bad ass computer geek is out there getting into supposedly secure computer systems and wreaking havoc for some unknown purpose.

What are the two super-power nations to do about this crisis?   Bring in their top government geeks?  Uh, no.  The Chinese computer whiz, Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang) recognized the code in the malware as code created by friend and former college roommate Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth).  Chen figures only he and Nick can save the day.  The only problem is, Nick got himself locked up in the Gray Bar Hotel for 15 years for some unfortunate illegal computer misdeeds.  But never fear, high levels of government intercession spring Nick, and the chase is on to find this really bad Blackhat.

I really had high hopes for this film after seeing the trailer, and knowing it was a Michael Mann film (credits include TV show Miami Vice; movies Heat, and The Insider).  Plus the film has a darn good cast.  The premise was interesting, but the plot goes off the rails about halfway through the movie.  It starts out as one kind of story, and then takes the easy way out and becomes a common place shoot ’em up flick with crashes and things that go BOOM.  Late in the movie, there was a plot point reminiscent of the movie Chinatown.  (If you figure it out, send me a comment).  Sorry fans.  I made allowances for the great cast; this is really a 2 star flick.   On the plus side, there were some nice views of Asia, especially Hong Kong at night.

Actresses To Watch:  Viola Davis is wonderful in any role.  Too bad she doesn’t have much to work with in this movie.  Also, Chinese actress Wei Tang is terrific.  For you fans of foreign films, if you haven’t seen “Lust, Caution”, do yourself a favor and see her in this Chinese film.

Huh?  What The….:    In a scene late in the movie, Hemsworth is prowling around in a heavy jacket with a thick scarf around his neck, while everyone else must be warm because they are wearing T-shirts.  He should have looked rather suspicious, don’t you think?

Since when do government agents stand out in the open with pistols to shoot it out with bad guys with automatic rifles, instead of fighting from a position of cover?  Just saying….

Dialogue Nuggets (slim pickings):    “I want you to commute my sentence.”

“How badly do you need this guy?”

“When I start thinking about anything it vanishes, disappears.”

“The real hit is still to come.”



Into The Woods


Movie:  Into The Woods

Rating:  3 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Movies adapted from Broadway plays are always a risky endeavor, especially musicals.  This one succeeds, for the most part, on its star power and whimsical tongue-in-cheek handling of the story lines.  Basically, there are four classic fairy tales interwoven throughout the movie.  There is Cinderella, played by Anna Kendrick.  Her handsome prince, played by the studly Chris Pine.  There is the Jack and the Beanstalk tale with Daniel Huttlestone as the clueless Jack.  There is beautiful Mackenzie Mauzy as Rapunzel with the long golden hair, pursued by Billy Magnussen as the other charming prince.  And lastly, Little Red Riding Hood, played by young Lilla Crawford, who leads the Big Bad Wolf (Johnny Depp) on a merry chase through the woods to Grandmother’s house.  The straw that stirs the drink, so to speak, is Meryl Streep as the witch who engages with all the characters.

The witch used to be a beautiful woman who was hoodwinked by the father of the town’s baker (James Corden), and cursed to be ugly.  The witch can regain her beauty if the baker and his wife (Emily Blunt) can accrue four items by midnight of the third day.  And of course during these three days, the fancy ball is taking place, and beanstalks are sprouting into the sky, and all characters  keep bumping into each other as they all have their various schemes and desires to pursue.  There is not a lot of straight dialogue in this movie, as with Broadway musicals, most of the dialogue gets sung.  The songs are better than average, as they come from the talented Stephen Sondheim.  Is this a great movie?  No, but it is harmless fun, and not a bad way to spend two hours.

Actress To Watch:  Lilla Crawford caught my attention as a young actress (14 years old) who may do big things in the future.  This is her first movie; previously she played Annie on Broadway.

Best Scene:  For the ladies, the two hunky princes, Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen, bare their souls (as well as their chests) in a hilarious duet about the perils of love.