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Jurassic World (2015)
Spielberg is back!
"Jurassic Park" was a great film but the two sequels following it were not quite up to par. But the 4th sequel (this film) redeemed the franchise. Spielberg is back and firing on all thrusters.
It's odd. I expected a different kind of movie. But the movie delivered was one I liked nonetheless.
(spoiler warnings) The part that worried me the most was the idea that the park trainer could become the "alpha" member of the raptor pack. But in a way, it made sense. Remember that raptors are the forerunners of birds. And domesticated birds (like parrots, for example) begin to identify with their owners as if the owners (and sometimes an owner's family) were considered part of the flock. I remember hearing once of a parrot that flew throughout a house, squawking loudly to warn family members that their house was on fire. This is not atypical behavior for domesticated birds. However, I was heartened later on when the raptor pack showed that their loyalty to the "alpha" member was fickle when a new potential "alpha" entered the fray - at least until the new "alpha" demonstrated weakness.
My favorite part of the film is when the aunt wondered out loud how they'd get the better of the hybrid dinosaur - and one of the kids replied, "We need more teeth." And that was pretty-much the first time in the film we got to see a T-Rex in action ... even though a different dinosaur ultimately got the better of the hybrid (a neat surprise).
"Jurassic Park 5" (or "Jurassic World 2")? There were two hints at a potential sequel. First, the flying reptiles were free. They'd likely fly to the Costa Rican mainland where they could easily travel North, South, and East throughout the Americas. Secondly, the "military" toadies on Isla Nublar (minus their leader) did make it to safety with the genetic samples and the Asian scientist who reprised his role from "Jurassic Park."
The Green Mile (1999)
Just one problem.
Almost all of Stephen King's novels end badly for one or more of the protagonists. For example, in "Cujo," the boy dies. However, Hollywood has a problem with kids dying horribly and re-did the ending of the movie version, allowing the boy to make a miraculous recovery.
This movie remained true to the novel in that the protagonist (John Coffey) dies. Perhaps King insisted that the movie remain true to the novel because King is anti-death-penalty - and wanted the novel & movie to make a "statement" in that regard - that some innocent people get executed.
In any event, when Coffey was explaining to Paul "why" he wanted to die, he said, "It's the way things are all over the world."
(possible spoiler warning) Knowing what they knew, Paul, Brutal & Harry could have provided Coffey with a far better outcome. First, and this wouldn't take much convincing, they'd need to convince Coffey that it wasn't the way things were "all" over the world - that there were places where he could find peace and contentment. Then, all they'd have to do is sign a statement to the effect that they witnessed Wild Bill's deathbed confession ... admitting he'd committed the crime John Coffey was accused of. A deathbed confession witnessed by three people of good reputation is almost never disregarded by a court of law. With that signed statement given to the prosecutor & Coffey's public defender, a new trial would have been a given ... if it even needed to come to trial.
Afterward, Paul could have found a job for John doing manual labor (for room/board only) in, for example, a Buddhist monastery - a place where John would be surrounded with peace and contentment for the rest of his life.
I can see only one possible negative ... involving the farmer and his wife. Knowing that it was Wild Bill who did the deed, they'd both realize they'd "hired" the man who killed their daughters - and it might put a strain on their marriage that couldn't be overcome. But, heck, the truth would set them free.
So, I give the movie an overall 9 rating ... taking away 1 point for John Coffey's needless death.
Two stars for the squirrel. Otherwise, the acting was somewhere between lousy and god-awful. I walked out after the first hour because I felt absolutely no connection to nor empathy for the characters. Some of the special effects I saw were borderline-OK. But I didn't come to see FX. I came to see a movie without cardboard characters. Special effects are all well and good. But if everything else makes you want to go to sleep (or leave the theater as I did), what's the point?
Save your money and see if you can find the 1982 "original" at a video store. It's a much better movie.
Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
Just doesn't cut the mustard.
It's hard to write a review of this film that "doesn't" include spoilers. So, consider this entire review a spoiler. Also note that I've not read the trilogy of books.
At age 64, I've been around the block a few times and am certainly not a prude. But while the acting was good (the 3 stars), the premise of the film is one I found disturbing. Christian Grey is a deviate, pure and simple. And the idea that a virgin would first experience sex with a deviate just turned me off. The only good thing about this film occurred just before the credits rolled at the end - when Anastasia Steele had the good common sense to end the relationship.
I realize there are 2 sequels in the works - the first one ("Fifty Shades Darker") comes out in 2017. The second one, "Fifty Shades Freed," will likely come out in 2019. And I can tell you right now that I will NOT be seeing them. I honestly don't care if Grey is ever redeemed. Or worse, I worry that by the end of the 3rd film, Steele might be "converted" to the darker angels of her nature. And that would be a major bummer.
Like I said earlier, I've not read the books. So, I have no idea how the trilogy ends. But keep in mind that Hollywood often "tinkers" with the story lines of novels on which movies are based. In other words, the ending of the 3rd film could be much different than the ending of the 3rd book. Forewarned is forearmed.
Man of Steel (2013)
Characters void of character.
I fell for the buildup hype so much that I went to the "just after midnight" sneak-peek. And after the film was done, I was left with one suspicion - that the reason there weren't more characters in the film is because David S. Goyer (screenplay) must have run out of cardboard from which to cut them.
Action movie fans may like the action sequences in this film. But I felt no sympathy for any character. It was almost as if I was watching an old-style movie about zombies ... trudging through their roles until the movie reached its conclusion. Normally, I doze off during soulless films like this. But, I forced myself to stay awake ... hoping to catch even a glimpse of "depth" or "flesh" given to any character. Didn't work.
Army Daze (1996)
A friend loaned me his DVD of this film, perhaps knowing that I once visited Singapore. After watching it, I decided it was a fun film that was, to some extent, better than some reviewers have painted it to be.
To properly judge this film, you have to put it in perspective. The U.S. film industry has had over 100 years of film-making experience. Singapore, on the other hand, is just celebrating it's 50th year as an independent nation. And, it's a nation only 3.5 times the size of Washington, DC with 3 official languages - Mandarin Chinese, English (used to be a British colony), and Malay - with multiple other dialects spoken. Point is, I doubt if the U.S. film industry would have done so well under these restrictive circumstances.
Also, the U.S. has never had a long-standing peacetime draft. Singapore, on the other hand, does. Over the years, their culture has come to accept it as the norm - leaving it open for comedic portrayals. And as we all know, what constitutes comedy and/or humor is in the eye of the beholder.
I will not give any spoilers to this film. I'll only say that if you watch it, you should watch it in perspective as you would any film from a small young nation - and apply some forbearance in your judgment.
Movie 43 (2013)
Out of all the films I've seen in my life (and I'm 62), I can only recall two films that I wish I could "unwatch." The first one was 1977's "Eraserhead." This film is #2.
Mind you, it's not that I dislike sophomoric humor. In fact, I like a lot of such films that critics tend to pan - films with a core market of manic teenage boys living in a dysfunctional family situation. This film was obviously targeted to such an audience. But, that's not the problem.
The film itself looks like it was designed by committee. It moved from one disgusting vignette to another with nothing shown that might tie them all together - other than kids farting around on computers. It was kind of like throwing paint balls at a bare canvas - then, afterward, cutting out all the paint blotches to sew them together into some sort of cohesive whole. Well, it just didn't work.
But I did give the film 1 star for "educational" value. There may be a few people out there who still believe that acting is a noble profession. But largely, acting is simply a business to most actors. If you pay most actors a certain amount of money - even actors whose names are associated with more worthwhile projects - the content of what they act in is non sequitur. So, this should educate people who believe in the nobility of acting to see actors as they really are - commodities willing to sell themselves for just about anything.
Grace under pressure.
Like one person already mentioned, there are noticeable embellishments on the life of Ernie Kovacs - specifically on his performances. But that's not really what this movie is about. It's about a courageous man trying to make an inroad in a new medium - television. And while he was doing that, he had to deal with a failed marriage and the kidnapping of his two daughters. But the most interesting thing about the film is what "wasn't" seen in it.
(Spoiler alert - maybe)
If you know Ernie Kovacs' bio, this won't spoil a thing. But assuming you don't, here's the summary. Ernie Kovacs was the first father in the history of U.S. justice to be awarded "full" custody to his children. Before Ernie's case, mothers "always" got at least partial custody (but usually full custody). Men almost always got the short end of the stick in a custody battle. Even so, here's what you "didn't" see in the film.
When Ernie's private investigator brought the cops to the place where his first wife was keeping the children ... and after the children were reunited with Ernie ... NOTHING happened to the first wife. Had the sex roles been reversed, the father would have been arrested, taken away in handcuffs, and charged with violating a court order (custodial interference) and Federal kidnapping charges because the children were transported across a state line. But the first Mrs. Kovacs? Not a darn thing was done. The private eye told Ernie, "I'll ride back with the officers" ... and the officers were leaving without arresting anybody.
In 1955 custody battles (and even in 1984 when the film was made), men were treated like criminals if they absconded with their non-custodial children. But if women did the same thing, they usually got off scot-free. And even in our 21st Century "enlightened" times, the same double-standard treatment can sometimes be seen in custody battles.
I took away one star because of the way the film concluded. Remember his first wife's threat to take him back to court? Well, she didn't follow through with it - at least not while Ernie was alive. But when Ernie died in the unfortunate 1962 auto accident, his first wife tried to regain custody again - taking Edie Adams (who'd since married Ernie) into court. Remember that Ernie's divorce took place in Pennsylvania. But afterward, Ernie, Edie and the kids moved to New York. His first wife tried to convince a New York judge that it was "Ernie" who kidnapped the children in 1955. And, the court almost believed her until Edie could produce the Pennsylvanian divorce decree and custody order. And even though she did, the New York court "still" proceeded with a new custody hearing.
During the hearing, Ernie's daughters referred to Edie as "mom" ... and their mother as "the other lady." And Edie won custody.
Anyway, I wish this part of their lives had at least been brought out so that viewers would know just how low his first wife went to get back at Ernie - even after his death.
Great film but not without flaws.
NOTE - THERE ARE POTENTIAL (and real) SPOILERS THROUGHOUT THIS REVIEW.
This is probably not going to be a politically-correct review. The politically correct part is that the film dealt with a pilot coming to terms with lifelong alcoholism and substance abuse ... admitting guilt perhaps due to an epiphany he had when he realized that he was possibly "part" of the problem that caused the crash.
The film's plot was well acted and well played out. However, given the known facts presented in the film, I was left with the impression that the crash (and fatalities) would have occurred regardless of whether or not the pilot was sober.
During the meeting between the union and management, it was clear that management considered the event a matter of pilot negligence. The union, however, pointed out that the toxicology test given to the pilot was invalid due to 3 critical errors made during the test. In short, the union was telling management that the NTSB could not use the test against the pilot ... and that "management" could not use the test for disciplinary purposes. But, the union also pointed out (rightfully so) that the aircraft had issues - and that they planned to pursue "manufacturing defect" as the cause of the crash.
Then came the surprise. During the NTSB hearing, they released findings indicating that the crash situation came about because a "screw" that should have been replaced a year earlier had NOT been replaced. This put the onus (blame) squarely on their airline for poor maintenance. And the intoxication of the pilot (or lack thereof) would have made no difference to that defective screw.
The thing that left me scratching my head was the NTSB testimony about the two tiny vodka bottles. It doesn't make any difference whether or not the pilot suspended drink service. Consider this.
How many of us have gone to grocery stores to buy candies, etc. - later going to a theater to see a film? I have, that's for sure - because I know that candy from Walmart is much cheaper than theater candy. Likewise, it's much cheaper to buy those tiny liquor bottles from a liquor store than it is on a plane. Individual passengers could have brought the tiny bottles on board ... and those two vodka bottles could have been put there by the flight crew as part of their patrol to pick up trash. With two flight attendants dead, there'd be no way to know for sure what they did or didn't do in that regard.
So OK, the pilot was intoxicated. But his grand admission near the end of the film did nothing to remove blame from the airline for poor maintenance on the screw that caused the accident. And whether or not one of the dead flight attendants had an alcohol problem is neither here nor there because the origin of the bottles could have been one or more passengers. And THAT is a possibility the NTSB didn't consider.
(Devil's advocate mode) - Had I been the pilot, and after knowing of the mechanical failure of that screw (and that it was the airline's fault), I wouldn't have felt guilty at all. Even the NTSB said his handling of the crisis was great (and people in the hearing audience responded with applause when the NTSB said so). Rather, I'd have seen this as a wake-up call. Due to the stress of the accident, I'd have requested a one-year leave of absence to deal with the stress. During that downtime, I'd have gone into substance abuse rehab on my own dime. And if successful, I'd likely have courted employment with other airlines who'd be more than happy to hire a "hero."
P.S. I'm a 64 year-old guy who doesn't drink or use any medication (even aspirin) ... outside of the glipizide I take for my type 2 diabetes. And while I see intoxication as a serious issue while operating any vehicle, I sometimes wonder if, in some cases, intoxication is used as a "scapegoat" to minimize the effect of other factors involved in an accident. Drunk is drunk and stoned is stoned. But broken is also broken.
This movie would have been much different if it had featured the inappropriate service record of the aircraft (and its "screw") as the overriding plot device ... with the pilot's alcohol/drug use as a minor player in the incident. Remember that even sober pilots recreating the incident in simulation killed every passenger on board. The "affected" pilot, on the other hand, saved all but 6 passengers. Clearly, without the defective part, the flight would have likely been uneventful ... even if the pilot was intoxicated (since a sober/trained copilot was also onboard).
Good Deeds (2012)
A testament to coincidence.
First, the only reason I took one star away was because I felt that 2 hours wasn't enough time to tell a deeper story. This could have been Tyler Perry's fault for not writing a deeper story ... or Gary Ousdahl's fault (as story editor) for cutting the story too deeply.
Thoreau once said, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." This is so true. And sometimes in our lives, we need a coincidence to occur ... something that jars us from our predictability ... to act as a catalyst for an epiphany that will induce fundamental change.
WARNING! POSSIBLE SPOILER FOLLOWS!
In this film, Lindsey's chance meeting with her boss led this boss to have his own epiphany. In time, he realized (as his fiancée suggested) that his life was predictable ... that he'd sacrificed his personal aspirations to become what others wanted him to become. And when Wesley Deeds' epiphany caused him to change, it became an epiphany for his fiancée to realize that their marriage was destined for failure.
Later, it became an epiphany for Wesley's mom ... to finally realize that Wesley had found his own path in life and was determined to follow that path. And by Wesley leaving the family business, Wesley's brother realized he had no one to sabotage anymore ... that he had to stand on his own two feet and become the man that sibling rivalry had held him back from becoming.
This film was not a "man saves damsel in distress" movie. It was far deeper than that - a testament to coincidence and the importance it can play in our relationships (including relationships with ourselves).
Two final points. Earlier, one reviewer suggested that had Tyler Perry done more research, he would have discovered that servicemen (like Lindsey's deceased husband) had access to a cheap $400,000 life insurance policy - making it unlikely that she should be so much in debt. However, when a person is the recipient of a life insurance payout, and if the insurance was acquired through an employer (military included), only the first $50,000 is not taxable. The remaining $350,000 is taxable as ordinary income ... and would put Lindsey in the highest tax bracket. Living in San Francisco, where the movie is set, things can get pretty expensive very quickly. And as money managers, people are sometimes compromised by grief - making them poor money managers. The IRS was after Lindsey, after all. This could have been fleshed out better - but it's nothing for which I'd take a star away.
Also, near the end of the movie, Wesley's mom sees him off at the airport. Before 9/11, this was possible. After 9/11, no one gets to an airline's boarding gate without passing through security screening. And no one gets through screening without a valid boarding pass - which Wesley's mom didn't have. This "goof" has been submitted to IMDb. But, it's a forgivable goof.
Until this year, Tyler Perry had a morbid fear of flying. He's never been on a post-9/11 airline flight. However, this year, he conquered his fear of flying by taking flying lessons - and is now a licensed private pilot. So, I didn't take away a star for that either.
All in all, it was a most enjoyable film. However, some scenes might be too intense for children.