Free Fire

Movie:  Free Fire

Rating:  3 1/2 stars (Out of 5)

Review:   It’s Boston in 1978, and a group of people with ties to the IRA have a suitcase full of money that they want to swap for automatic assault rifles.  They have arranged to meet another group of people who have said rifles, and have agreed to sell them.  They meet in an empty warehouse to cautiously make the transaction.  After a brief hiccup where there is a discussion about the specific weapons that were ordered, M-16s or AR-17s, the deal appears to be concluded to everyone’s satisfaction.  But, there may be a fly or two in the ointment, so to speak.  Maybe someone in one of the groups did a bad thing with a relative in the other group.  Or maybe there is too much money in that suitcase to just let it go out the door.  Avarice, anger, and weapons make a dangerous brew.  Almost anything could set off an explosion of violence, and that warehouse could become a … Free Fire Zone.

This is a quirky movie produced by Martin Scorcese that teeters between an ultra violent movie and a very dark comedy.  The plot is simplistic enough, and the action is oddly compelling as what starts out as a simple weapons sale descends into one of the longest shootouts in cinematic history.  A low budget film with some quality actors having a bit of fun in different roles than we generally see them, including Brie Larson, Armie Hammer and Cillian Murphy.  This film is definitely worth a look before it gets squeezed out of theaters by the summer blockbusters (yes, I am thinking about you Fast And Furious).

Mini Trailers:  Two low lifes – “Got any headache pills?”  “I got smack.”  “Talk about using a f*cking hammer to crack a nut!”

Weapon Dealer – “They are going to bring the guns in, put them right here, and tweedle dee and tweedle dum can load them into your little clown car.”

Another low life – “As God is my witness I did not bottle that slut!”

Confused criminal – “Who the f*ck is shooting at us now?”

Curious criminal – “Did you cheaters bring a sniper?”

Bad girl – “We can’t all be nice girls.”

Seemed Odd To Me:  T’was a bit strange to me that everyone had more extra ammo to reload their weapons than the 101st had at the battle of Bastogne.  But hey, just nitpicking….

 

Ghost In The Shell

Movie:  Ghost In The Shell

Rating:  3 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   In the near future, robotics technology has advanced to such a degree that many people pay to have their bodies “enhanced” in some way.  The line between humans and cyborgs is getting pretty blurred.  In the case of a young woman near death from a traumatic accident, Dr. Ouelet (Juliette Binoche) is able to save her life utilizing cybernetic technology.  But all that is left of her humanity is her brain; the rest of her is a full body prosthesis.  Her name is Major (Scarlett Johansson), and she is chosen to be a part of an elite special ops police task force known as Section 9.

There is a need for Section 9 in the overcrowded and corrupt city of Niihama, Japan.  Greedy corporations wield enormous power, and tech crime is rampant.  One corporation, Hanka, is targeted by a mysterious hooded figure known as Kuze (Michael Pitt) who kills to satisfy an agenda known only to himself.  Major, assisted by her able partner Batou (Pilou Asbaek), are soon on the trail of the mysterious terrorist that leads them to places totally unexpected.

This is a futuristic film noir in the tradition of Blade Runner.  The city is dark and vastly over-populated with skyscrapers sprouting like mushrooms everywhere.  The characters originated in Japanese manga books, and evolved into television and movies.  While the plot is not always obvious (or especially relevant), the action is brisk and special effects plentiful.  Sci Fi fans will not be disappointed.  Scarlett Johansson is currently the premiere female action hero in films today.

Mini Trailers:  Reference to Major – “I don’t think of her as a machine.  I think of her as a weapon.”

Kuze – “Cooperate with Hanka Robotics and be destroyed.”

Section 9 Chief to Major – “You are more than just a weapon.  You have a soul in a ghost.”

Dr. Ouelet to Major – “You’re not invulnerable.  I can repair the body, but I can’t protect the mind.”

Section 9 Chief – “Don’t send a rabbit to kill a fox.”

“My name is Major and I give my consent.”

That’s Odd Dept:  For such a huge city there really isn’t much traffic at all….

Fences

Movie:  Fences

Rating:  5 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:    It is 1955, and in Pittsburgh Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) is doing his best to make a life for himself and his family.  But it ain’t easy for a black man to get ahead in that time and place.  Troy might have been one of the best baseball players ever, but was past his prime when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball.

Troy has a steady job as a garbage collector, and makes $76 every Friday to give to his wife Rose (Viola Davis), who is in charge of finances.  They have a modest apartment and a 17 year old son Corey (Jovan Adepo), a promising high school football star looking to win a scholarship and go to college.  Older son Lyons (Russell Hornsby) has moved out, trying to make his way as a musician.  On payday there is enough change left over to buy a pint of Emerald’s Dry Gin and hang around the back yard shooting the bull with his best friend Jim Bono (Stephen Henderson).  Troy is sociable and extroverted, loves his family including his mentally challenged brother Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson) who was seriously wounded in WW II, and Troy tries his best to keep all the plates spinning so everyone is cared for.  He does this because he is the man, the head of the household, and it is his responsibility.  But at times, the pain he feels as a black man who has had to struggle too hard to survive bubbles up to the surface to fuel his anger, as well as a deep resentment that he never had a shot at greatness as a ball player.

Fences, originally a play by August Wilson, was a celebrated success on Broadway.  Denzel Washington and Viola Davis played the parts on the stage, and brought their considerable talents to this film.  This is a totally character driven movie with 90% of the scenes taking place in the house or the back yard.  The characters are so real you can feel their joy, their pain, and their resignation that they must accept the hand that life has dealt them.  Only Corey with his youthful idealism believes that he can make a better life for himself.  This film defines the experience of what it was like for many black families at that time in America.  The acting in this film is brilliant.  My pick for Best Picture Oscar, as well as Oscars for Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.

Mini Trailers: 

Troy – “I eye all the women.  I don’t miss nothing.”  Rose – “I told him if you ain’t the marrying kind to move out of the way so the marrying kind can find me!”

Bono – “Ain’t but two men ever played baseball as good as you; Babe Ruth and Josh Gibson.”

Troy – “Jackie Robinson!  I seen some teams Jackie Robinson couldn’t even make!  If you can play, you should be able to play.”

Troy – “If my brother didn’t have a metal plate in his head I wouldn’t have a roof over my head or a pot to piss in.”

Corey – “Can I ask you a question?”  How come you never liked me?”  Troy – “What law is there that say I got to like you?”

Gabriel – “I been chasing hell hounds.  The Devil ain’t no pushover!”

Bono – “Some people build fences to keep people out, and some people build fences to keep people in.”

Troy – “It’s not easy for me to admit I’ve been standing in the same place for 18 years.”     Rose – “What about me?  I’ve been standing in the same place too!”

“Life ain’t fair, that’s for damn sure.  As Troy liked to say, a big part of getting through life is knowing you have to take the crooked with the straight.”

 

 

BEST MOVIES OF 2016

BEST MOVIES OF 2016

All of these films were rated with 4 1/2 or 5 Stars by this reviewer.  The list is not prioritized in any way.

ARRIVAL

DEAD POOL

DOCTOR STRANGE

EYE IN THE SKY

FENCES

FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS

HACKSAW RIDGE

HELL OR HIGH WATER

HELLO MY NAME IS DORIS

HIDDEN FIGURES

LA LA LAND

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

MISS SLOANE

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

STAR TREK BEYOND

SULLY

THE FOUNDER

THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY

OSCAR PICK FOR BEST PICTURE:   LA LA LAND is the favorite and will probably win.  HIDDEN FIGURES has a good chance to win as well.  My pick for BEST PICTURE is FENCES.  Denzel Washington and Viola Davis deserve to win acting Oscars for their portrayals in this film.