Hidden Figures – A Movie Review

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Jun 022017
 

Hidden Figures Movie PosterAs the United States raced against Russia to put a man in space, NASA found untapped talent in a group of African-American female mathematicians that served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in U.S. history. Based on the unbelievably true life stories of three of these women, known as “human computers”, we follow these women as they quickly rose the ranks of NASA alongside many of history’s greatest minds specifically tasked with calculating the momentous launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, and guaranteeing his safe return. Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson crossed all gender, race, and professional lines while their brilliance and desire to dream big, beyond anything ever accomplished before by the human race, firmly cemented them in U.S. history as true American heroes.

Director: Theodore Melfi
Writers: Allison Schroeder (screenplay), Theodore Melfi (screenplay)
Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe,  Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge     Aldis Hodge

Rating: PG; Run Time: 127min; Genre:  Biography, Drama, History; Release Date: 23 December 2016 (USA)

We watched on a weekend evening a while, and both of us loved it. I hope it is something younger people see, so as to get just a taste of the discrimination and racism that existed, even a place of highly educated people, bent on keeping up a polite façade.  And besides the lessons/reminders about our past, it was just a great movie. Continue reading »

Straight Outta Compton – A Movie Review

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May 232017
 

Straight Outta Compton Movie PosterIn 1987, five young men, using brutally honest rhymes and hardcore beats, put their frustration and anger about life in the most dangerous place in America into the most powerful weapon they had: their music. Taking us back to where it all began, Straight Outta Compton tells the true story of how these cultural rebels-armed only with their lyrics, swagger, bravado and raw talent-stood up to the authorities that meant to keep them down and formed the world’s most dangerous group, N.W.A. And as they spoke the truth that no one had before and exposed life in the hood, their voice ignited a social revolution that is still reverberating today.

Director: F. Gary Gray
Writers: Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff
Stars: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Neil Brown Jr., Aldis Hodge, Marlon Yates Jr., R. Marcos Taylor, Carra Patterson, Alexandra Shipp, Paul Giamatti

Genres: Biography, Drama, History, Music; MPAA Rating: Rated R for language throughout, strong sexuality/nudity, violence, and drug use; Release Date: 14 August 2015; Run time: 2 hrs 27 min Continue reading »

Lady in The Van – A Movie Review

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Feb 202016
 

The Lady In The Van Movie PosterAn eccentric (and decidedly grubby) aged lady parks her decrepit old van (which appears to contain her entire world goods) outside writer Alan Bennett’s house in Camden. When the Council threatens to have it towed away, Bennett’s diffidence leads to it being parked in his drive, to the consternation of his neighbors, where it – and she – stay for 15 years. As time passes, an odd relationship develops between them, and he begins to discover elements of her past.

Director: Nicholas Hytner
Writer: Alan Bennett
Stars: Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent, Clare Hammond, George Fenton
Runtime: 104 min; Rated: PG-13; Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama; Released: 15 Jan 2016

Based on a 1970s biographical drama of the same name by noted British playwright Alan Bennett, The Lady in the Van is a “mostly true story” as mentioned at the beginning of the film. That’s because Bennett had to put up with an old homeless woman for 15 years by allowing her to live in her van in his driveway. Then in 1999, Bennett cast Maggie Smith as the titular hobo in his own play. Ironically, Smith plays the same character on screen little over 15 years later. Continue reading »

Spotlight – A Movie Review

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Dec 102015
 

Spotlight Movie PosterStarring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Brian d’Arcy James and Stanley Tucci, SPOTLIGHT tells the riveting true story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation that would rock the city and cause a crisis in one of the world’s oldest and most trusted institutions. When the newspaper’s tenacious “Spotlight” team of reporters delves into allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church, their year-long investigation uncovers a decades-long cover-up at the highest levels of Boston’s religious, legal, and government establishment, touching off a wave of revelations around the world. Directed by Academy Award-nominee Tom McCarthy, SPOTLIGHT is a tense investigative dramatic-thriller, tracing the steps to one of the biggest cover-ups in modern times.

Director: Tom McCarthy
Writer: Tom McCarthy (screenplay), Josh Singer (screenplay)
Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber
Runtime: 128 min; Rated: R; Genre: Biography, Drama, History; Released: 31 Dec 2015 Continue reading »

Movie Review – Fox Catcher

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Jun 072015
 

Foxcatcher Movie PosterBased on true events, Foxcatcher tells the dark and fascinating story of the unlikely and ultimately tragic relationship between an eccentric multi-millionaire and two champion wrestlers. When Olympic Gold Medal winning wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is invited by wealthy heir John du Pont (Steve Carell) to move on to the du Pont estate and help form a team to train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics at his new state-of-the-art training facility, Schultz jumps at the opportunity, hoping to focus on his training and finally step out of the shadow of his revered brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo). Driven by hidden needs, du Pont sees backing Schultz’s bid for Gold and the chance to “coach” a world-class wrestling team as an opportunity to gain the elusive respect of his peers and, more importantly, his disapproving mother (Vanessa Redgrave). Flattered by the attention and entranced by du Pont’s majestic world, Mark comes to see his benefactor as a father figure and grows increasingly dependent on him for approval. Though initially supportive, du Pont’s mercurial personality turns and he begins to lure Mark into an unhealthy lifestyle that threatens to undermine his training. Soon du Pont’s erratic behavior and cruel psychological game-play begin to erode the athlete’s already shaky self-esteem. Meanwhile du Pont becomes fixated on Dave, who exudes the confidence both he and Mark lack, knowing that these are things even his money cannot buy. Fueled by du Pont’s increasing paranoia and alienation from the brothers, the trio is propelled towards a tragedy no one could have foreseen.

Director: Bennett Miller
Writer: E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman
Stars: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller
Runtime: 134 min, Rated: R, Genre: Biography, Drama, Sport, Released: 16 Jan 2015

Yes, I am still catching up writing my reviews. Me and Lay watched this on Amazon Streaming over a month ago. Well worth watching. There’s not much to criticize. Continue reading »

Feb 162015
 

American_SniperChris Kyle was nothing more than a Texan man who wanted to become a cowboy, but in his thirties he found out that maybe his life needed something different, something where he could express his real talent, something that could help America in its fight against terrorism. So he joined the SEALs in order to become a sniper. After marrying, Kyle and the other members of the team are called for their first tour of Iraq. Kyle’s struggle isn’t with his missions, but about his relationship with the reality of the war and, once returned at home, how he manages to handle it with his urban life, his wife and kids.

Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Jason Hall, Chris Kyle (book), Scott McEwen (book), James Defelice (book)
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Kyle Gallner, Cole Konis, Ben Reed
Runtime: 132 min; Rated: R; Genre: Action, Biography, Drama; Released: 16 Jan 2015

We watched this one in the theater a couple of weekends ago. I’m sorry to just now be getting around to writing my review. Me and Lay both thought this movie was OK. I suspect he liked it a bit more. I had some trouble separating the politics, the biography, and the movie. Continue reading »

The Imitation Game – A Movie Review

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Jan 112015
 

Imitation_GameBased on the real life story of legendary cryptologist Alan Turing, the film portrays the nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team of code-breakers at Britain’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II.

Runtime: 114 min; Rated: PG-13; Genre: Biography, Drama, Thriller; Released: 25 Dec 2014

Director: Morten Tyldum
Writer: Andrew Hodges (book), Graham Moore (screenplay)
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear

As the movie begins we hear Alan Turing saying, “Are you paying attention? Good. If you’re not listening carefully, you will miss things. Important things. I will not pause, I will not repeat myself, and you will not interrupt me. You think that because you’re sitting where you are and I am sitting where I am, that you are in control of what is about to happen. You are mistaken. I am in control. Because I know things that you do not know. What I need from you now is a commitment. You will listen closely and you will not judge me until I am finished. If you cannot commit to this, then please leave the room. But if you choose to stay, remember that you chose to be here. What happens from this moment forward is not my responsibility. It’s yours. Pay attention.” Continue reading »

The Monuments Men-A Movie Review

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Jun 042014
 
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We watched this from Redbox on May 24.

Yet another movie I was really looking forward to seeing, but was disappointed. It wasn’t terrible, but it was like an attempt at a noble documentary. I think it would have been better as a documentary.

As far as the storyline, I had no idea that Hitler amassed such a monumental collection of the world’s masterpieces while conquering Europe. When I initially saw the trailer for the movie, I thought it would be an interesting flick of war intrigue. To my horror, about half way through I kept fiddling with the stop button on my TV wanting to escape.

I cannot put my finger on any one thing as to why this movie doesn’t work. Since George Clooney and Matt Damon star in the film, maybe I was hoping for a WWII version of Oceans 11 where the gang steals back valuable artwork from the bad guys. All the actors are people who’s work I enjoy. These are great actors, but mediocre performances, likely because the screenplay just didn’t give anyone any great scenes. But that could be cause the work itself, while vitally important, just wasn’t that exciting. Continue reading »

Philomena-A Movie Review

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Jun 032014
 
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We watched this from Redbox on April 21

Both me and Lay thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It was certainly very sad, and I must admit, it made me angry, but it was a good story well told. You definitely need to watch this movie.

Judi Dench plays Philomena, and although we are used to seeing her in more commanding regal roles or as James Bonds no-nonsense boss ‘M’, don’t be fooled, this is her most complex role to date and her performance is nothing short of sensational and worthy of an Academy award.

The film begins with a series of flashbacks, interlaced with close ups of Dench’s aging facial features. Each wrinkle adjusts slowly each time Philomena relives an emotion, It’s through these scenes that we get a glimpse of Philomena’s pain and it is as strong now as it was all those years ago.

In the flashbacks, Sophie Kennedy-Clark plays the heavily pregnant young Philomena who is abandoned by her family at Sean Ross Abbey. The nuns are obstructive and damn right mean “you are the cause of your shame. You and your own indecency” lectures mother superior, before reluctantly admitting Philomena into their care. Furthermore they refuse any pain relief when Philomena goes into a labour “The pain is her penance, It will help absolve her of her sin”.

Worse yet – the convent sells the children to wealthy Americans looking to adopt, and after four years of being forced to work in the convent laundry Philomena is helpless as she watches her Anthony being removed from the convent by an American couple.

After 50 years of keeping quiet about Anthony, the anniversary of his birth causes Philomena to speak up and share her story. “I’d like to know what he thought of me”, explains Philomena to reporter Martin Sixsmith “I’ve thought about him every day.” Martin Sixsmith is played Steve Coogan (who also co-wrote the screenplay), He is a well educated former political journalist. Who initially believes human-interest stories are for “vulnerable, weak-minded, ignorant people”. Nevertheless Sixsmith at his own crossroads can’t ignore the potential in this story and invests in the operation of tracking down Philomena’s boy.

Coogan and Dench’s on-screen chemistry is undeniably charming, Coogan is a well known British funny-man, last seen in one of this years best comedies ‘Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa’ but in this role he takes a comedic backseat to Dench who provides most of the best chuckles and Coogan gives the film the thoughtful and serious balance that is needed.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (1 votes, average: 9.00 out of 10)
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The ‘road trip’ Philomena and Martin take is full of amusing exchanges with Philomena having a healthy frankness when it comes to discussing sexuality and her constant marveling at the first class lifestyle she’s experiencing. It is Martin who has to keep Philomena motivated with the task at hand when she gets side-tracked by the possibility of renting something called “Big Momma’s House” from the comfort of their hotel room.

As with most journeys, you need to come a full circle to get the perspective you’re looking for and Martin (And the film itself) does just that. After traveling to the United States we return back to Ireland to the Sean Ross Abbey and it is here where we find our answers.

Director Stephen Frears (The Queen) manages to make this sedate tale of a woman searching for her son thought provoking and sensitive but it also takes a cynical glance towards the institutions of journalism, politics and religion. We are reminded once again before the end credits that it is a true story and a remarkable one at that. As Philomena would say this film is “One in a million”.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (1 votes, average: 9.00 out of 10)
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In The Realms of the Unreal – A Movie Review

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Apr 082009
 

Cover for In The Realms of The UnrealHenry Darger, an elderly recluse, spent his childhood in Illinois’s asylum for feeble-minded children and his adulthood working as a janitor. He lived a quiet, nearly solitary existence, but his imaginary life was exciting, colorful and sexually provocative. When he died in Chicago in 1973, his landlady discovered in his room 300 paintings, some over 10 feet long, and a 15,000-page illustrated novel (The Realms of the Unreal), which told the epic story of the virtuous Vivian Girls leading a child slave revolt against the evil Glandelinians. Featuring Dakota Fanning (Hide and Seek) and Larry Pine (The Royal Tenenbaums) as narrators and imaginative animation of Darger’s work, Oscar® winner Jessica Yu (Breathing Lessons) brings to life one of the twentieth century’s greatest self-taught artists.

Genres: Documentary; Running Time: 1 hr. 21 min.; Release Date: December 22nd, 2004 (limited); MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Starring: Dakota Fanning, Larry Pine, Henry Darger

Directed by: Jessica Yu

I admit this was a movie I stumbled across because of the colorful DVD case. When I read the description, I was intrigued by the story line of the reclusive man who created this beautiful body of work. Henry Darger (1892-1973)  created an amazing collection of illustrations with absolutely no contact with the formal art world. Darger, a native of Chicago, suffered an extremely abusive childhood … in which he was institutionalised in an asylum for feeble-minded children, even though he may have been of above-average intelligence.

Jessica Yu’s documentary ‘In the Realms of the Unreal’ (a shortened version of the title of Darger’s novel) attempts to make sense of Darger’s life, art and obsessions. Yu interviews a surprisingly large number of the very few people who actually knew Darger.

The movie uses several gimmicky visual devices. The decision to make animated cartoons from several Darger murals is a good one, and the stiff-legged ‘lazy’ animation technique used here is appropriate to the material. Less commendable is Yu’s decision at several points to use new artwork that paraphrases Darger’s themes; audiences will mistake these images for actual Darger artwork.

This is a very interesting story with a surprising dose of an undercurrent of suspense about what will happen next. It was worth watching.

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Pursuit of Happyness, The

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Jan 222007
 

The Pursuit of HappinessA struggling salesman (Will Smith) takes custody of his son (Jaden Smith) as he’s poised to begin a life-changing professional endeavor.

Directed by
Gabriele Muccino

Genres
Biography, Drama

Cast
Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Thandie Newton, Brian Howe, James Karen, Dan Castellaneta, Kurt Fuller, Takayo Fischer, Kevin West, George Cheung, David Michael Silverman, Domenic Bove, Geoff Callan, Joyful Raven, Scott Klace

Here’s the deal: It’s real, it’s heavy, and it’s inspirational, but NOT AT ALL cheesy. Don’t like that? Don’t see it. I won’t say much else. I will say that Will Smith was shockingly good now that he’s paid his dues with “Men in Black” and “Bad Boys.”

I was very happy that this film never got political and blamed Reagan for the number of “down on their luck” people that were shown, nor was the race card ever pulled out. It was also refreshing that Smith’s character never blamed anybody for his troubles.

On one hand, the film reinforces the great American myth of the self-made man and equal opportunity. Myths are not necessarily false simply for being myths–we can make some of them true by choice, and our belief in this myth still helps make America great. Free-market capitalism is not the cure to all ills–surely it is the source of many ills–but it does open social doors that nothing else can even budge. On the other hand, if you can leave this movie without a burning indignation that any American child of any race should have to struggle just to have a place to sleep, you must be cynical indeed. This movie doesn’t get on a soapbox, not even for a second–it just tells a real-life story that owns you before you know it.

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