Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Lord of Illusions (1995)
"I was born to murder the world."
Earlier this year, 2015, actor Daniel von Bargen died. He was only 64. While I had seen many of his movies and some TV roles, I had never seen this movie, "Lord of Illusions." An IMDb member recommended that I see it. So I found a nice used DVD of the movie and now own it.
The title and references in the movie distinguish between "magic" that is performed with illusions and "magic" that is real, perhaps black magic of the evil spirits or the devil. It centers on a cult in the desert and the movie opens with scenes representing 1982. The cult leader is Daniel von Bargen as Dix, and it is clear that the magic he performs are not illusions. He is shot and killed by a young girl.
Forward to 13 years later, 1995 which is the release year of this movie, and a detective stumbles upon some old evidence and a magician who was part of that cult 13 years earlier. The girl has grown up into a beautiful woman, being hunted by evil members of the old cult.
My only reason for getting this movie was to see von Bargen's performance, and it is a very good one. In fact now it would be hard to imagine anyone else in that role. I knew him in college, we were students at Purdue, and we were in a 4-week, 28-performance student musical in 1969. It is both extremely fun and extremely sad to see him on screen, knowing that he is already gone.
SPOILERS: In 1995 they found someone who could tell where Dix had been buried, and dug him up. He became "re-animated", of course still evil and uttering the words "I was born to murder the world." But in a series of events he was propelled down a deep shaft into what looks like molten lava and apparently destroyed. But who really knows? As the director comments in the DVD's selectable director's commentary. Good horror movie.
Best Picture nominee, features a young college drummer with ambitions of greatness.
The movie starts with a drummer in action in a band room at the end of a long, dark hallway. It is the first encounter between student Miles Teller as Andrew and teacher J.K. Simmons as Fletcher. Andrew is a student of great drummers, in a pizza joint with a girl he names the 1930s song playing and the drummer in the band. Attending this prestigious private music school in NYC is to be his springboard to greatness.
But while he knew of Fletcher he didn't know what a wild man Fletcher was. Seemingly out of control in his over-the-top criticism of musicians who may be off just a little. And using ethnic and gender slurs to berate them. Such behavior probably would never be tolerated in a real school but it is necessary for the resolution of this story.
Paul Reiser is good as the dad, Jim Neimann and cute Melissa Benoist (of Glee and the next Supergirl on TV) is Nicole, a girl Andrew starts dating but stops because he says it will not be compatible with his drive to be the best.
JK Simmons won the Oscar for Best Supporting actor and the movie itself was in the running for Best Picture. Many fans think it should have won over "Birdman." The movie is hard to watch at times but it all pays off in the final couple of scenes.
SPOILERS: After weeks of on-again, off-again verbal abuse Andrew snaps after failing to perform well after an automobile accident right before the performance. He rushes Fletcher on stage, tackles him, both are bloody, Andrew is kicked out of school. But a family representative of a former student who hanged himself convinced Andrew to witness to Fletcher's behavior, and he was terminated. But in an accidental meeting Fletcher asks Andrew to play drums for a gig, actually setting him up for failure by opening with a number Andrew did not know and didn't have the music for. However next Andrew began to play a hot number, stood up to Fletcher, had the other musicians come in, maybe Fletcher finally had his star.
The Last Boy Scout (1991)
Rather typical Bruce Willis 'chase the crooks and shoot-em-up' crime adventure.
Bruce Willis just turned 60 this month, March 2015. In honor of his milestone birthday (I'm 10 years older than Bruce!) I watched this movie, on DVD, for my first time.
Bruce Willis plays Joe Hallenbeck, he is a former secret service agent who took gunfire to save the President a few years earlier. Now he is a small-time investigator in Los Angeles, and not with a very good reputation among the cops.
In a small role before she became well-know, Halle Berry plays a stripper ... uh, exotic dancer ... who needs protection, so Joe is asked to take that job. He doesn't do it very well, she is killed execution-style shortly. It is all tied in with football and an unscrupulous owner who wants to prolong illegal gambling, and he is in cahoots with a California state senator.
Along the way Joe gets help from the girl's boyfriend, ex-pro-QB, Damon Wayans as Jimmy Dix. Together they work to avenge the girl's death and to put the bad guys in their place. Lots of shooting, car chases, explosions, etc.
This is not a good movie in the usual sense, lots of foul language, even from the 12-yr-old daughter, but it is a good Bruce Willis action movie.
The Theory of Everything (2014)
Fine movie with Redmayne's award-winning performance.
I will always have to wonder how this movie is viewed and received by non-Scientific viewers. I am a Scientist, of Hawking's vintage. My main areas are Math, Chemistry and Physics. So I went into viewing this movie already pretty familiar with Hawking and his works.
Eddie Redmayne of course won the best actor Oscar for his performance as Hawking and it is fully deserved. Felicity Jones is fine as his girlfriend who stands by him when his illness is diagnosed and becomes Mrs Jane Hawking.
The story here starts in 1963 when Hawking is a new graduate student in Physics and is having difficulty declaring a field of study for his PhD. But he finally gets inspired and writes a thesis on the origin of space and time as a singularity that became the Big Bang. Of course later in life he said his new theory goes against that earlier one.
The thing about this type of Physics, there is no good experimental evidence for most of them, making it difficult to know how valuable their contributions might be, aside from his best-selling book "A Brief History of Time."
As the movie unfolds we don't get a good feel for the time but in the end there are Hawking children in their late teens so it must have been up to about 1990 or so. We see Hawking's physical health degrade, his being fitted with various devices that allows him to communicate.
Miss Meadows (2014)
'Justice is Sweet' for Miss Meadows.
This is a quite different type of movie for Katie Holmes. I had not heard of it before today but our friends loaned us the DVD. It is set in some unknown community called Edmonton but was actually filmed in Cleveland. Even on the wall of the police station is a large map of Cleveland. My daughter lived there for a few years, I enjoyed my several visits there, especially to Great Lakes Brewery.
This is a small budget movie shot in a relatively short time. It opens with Katie Holmes as Miss Meadows walking and tap dancing along the sidewalk in her usual little-girl clothes when a rough- looking man pulls up in his pickup truck, opens the door, and makes lewd invitations. Miss Meadows tries to have him leave gracefully and be on his way but he points a gun at her, demanding that she get inside. She pulls her own gun from her purse and smiles while she shoots and kills him. (This is shown in the trailer, it establishes something about the character.)
At first it seems to be headed towards being a dark comedy but while it is dark, and has many funny moments, it is not a comedy. Miss Meadows has been formed by experiences from childhood and has become disgusted with the evil people in society. While she is a sweet and kind person, especially to children, and in her job as a substitute teacher, she has little patience for the bad guys who would kill or mistreat others, especially children.
One day while stopping on a small city bridge to save a frog from being smashed, a cop car pulls up behind her. It is James Badge Dale, and throughout the movie she calls him "Sheriff". They have a strange conversation but he was interested enough that he looked her up at her place of work. Unexpectedly, especially since she seemed a confirmed and happy single person, and a killer, they hit it off.
Another key character is Jean Smart as Mother Meadows, they have frequent telephone conversations but we never see them together and begin to wonder if she really exists.
This movie seems, with its rather low IMDb rating, to have a narrow appeal but I really enjoyed it, quirky and funny with a quite different twist. The DVD also has a nice 5-minutes Q&A with Holmes about her role and the movie in general.
SPOILERS: After the opening killing, and she and the Sheriff begin to be a couple, they end up in bed in a very humorous love-making scene, which seems like it might be her very first time. And she gets pregnant. And he asks her to get married, it is a surprise to her that he would want her. Meanwhile going to get hot dogs for all the kids during an outing in the park she comes upon a murder scene in the restaurant, the killer had a shotgun, when he pointed it at her she shot and killed him. It turns out her boyfriend was actually working on the case of the vigilante killer, he was chasing her. Eventually he finds out, they get married, are happy at home with their small child, and she puts on her gloves and picks up her little gun-carrying purse, says she won't be long. And, it appears the conversations with her mom were in her imagination, witnessing her mom being gunned down in front of church and then being at her funeral was partly responsible for her quest to rid the world of bad people.
Open Road (2013)
Very nice movie about a young lady looking for a lost relative.
We came across this one on Netflix streaming movies and my wife and I enjoyed it very much. I am a bit surprised at its low IMDb rating, it is a pretty good movie.
The movie is carried by Camilla Belle, about 26 during filming, as Angie. She has such a genuine and natural acting style, she reminds me a lot of a long-time favorite of mine, Tea Leoni. Here she plays a Brazilian (her mother is actually Brazilian) who was educated in American schools. We find her in Arizona leading a hermit's life. Well, almost. Even though she lives out of her car and a tent in the woods she has a job as a waitress. And she is an artist, drawing and painting in her free time.
The lure of the story is that we don't learn much about Angie or why she lives like she does. She doesn't tell other much about what is going on and that works well to build interest in the rest of the story.
Old reliable Andy Garcia is Chuck, bearded and dirty, he lives out of a shell of a trailer near where Angie camps. The two of them become friends, and when Angie does take off she leaves him some money and a note "Take a shower."
Angie has car trouble on the road, it is a blown head gasket that takes a few days and a bit of money to repair, so she takes up with the trooper that found her roadside, 40-ish Colin Egglesfield as David. And she eventually gets a local job at a restaurant run by is Juliette Lewis as Jill.
This is NOT your usual romantic story, it captured us to the end, and Camilla Belle is really good in this role.
SPOILERS: Angie had come to the USA to find her dad who had deserted the family when she was quite young. When she had just about given up and had an art show, old Chuck was there, cleaned up and shaven, she realized that he was her long-lost dad. In the last scene they all travel to Brazil and reunite with the full family.
Unique and mostly fun series about a high school Glee Club.
I was born in the 1940s, so I am NOT in any way the target audience for this TV show. But I love singing, I have been on stage myself, I have performed with Barbershop Quartets and Barbershop Choruses, so I was drawn to this show after some young college friends began to comment on it. That was 2009.
Now, in March 2015, I saw the series' finale last night, and that is prompting me to add my own comment here. The series is over, I enjoyed every hour that I invested in watching it.
There are many great characters over the 2009 to 2015 run of the series, but for purposes of economy I'll only mention one, Matthew Morrison as Spanish teacher Will Schuester. In real life Morrison was a stage actor and singer from an early age so his role here is in line with his credentials.
As the series begins the "artsy" kids are the outcasts in high school and Will gets the idea that he will create a Glee Club. That becomes the basis for all the rest of the episodes. As new years and new seasons come the graduating seniors leave and new kids come into the club.
I enjoyed the first 2 or 3 seasons most, there was more focus on singing production numbers throughout each episode, much as is done in a stage musical. In later seasons there was more focus on the soap opera type stories, and especially as some of the graduates moved to New York.
In the two-hour finale last night, and don't read if you haven't seen it yet, but the first hour recreates and reviews how several members of the original group and Will formed the Glee Club. The second hour includes "today" and "5 years into the future" for several key characters. The school is declared to be a high school for performing arts and Will is asked to be the Principal. The plan is to form at least 5 different singing clubs, as the alumni of Glee all perform a number on stage for the finale.
Redwood Highway (2013)
Nice smaller movie of an aging woman asserting her independence.
We found this movie on Netflix streaming movies. Shirley Knight is really good in this role.
She is Marie Vaughn, living in a retirement community in Oregon. She has her wits about her and she usually takes daily walks in the community. She has an overprotective son who worries about her.
Marie has a crisis of sorts when she become very judgemental of the plans her 22-yr-old granddaughter has to marry a man 12 years older. She is certain that she is making a big mistake, she knows she is too young to make a rational decision. As a result she refuses to attend the wedding, to the disappointment of her family.
But Marie has her own memories of being young and in love, and decides on her own, no one else knows, that she will put on her backpack and her hiking shoes and walk to the coast where the outdoor wedding will be held in a few days. On the way she will visit a place that has special meaning for her.
Her hike is not without difficulty, and one person she meets is Tom Skerritt as Pete. While Pete is open and friendly Marie is guarded and hesitant, but it is clear that they make a connection and we think they will probably see each other again.
Nice character study and Knight is just perfect in her role.
Malcolm in the Middle (2000)
'At Lucky Eight, the "L" stands for VALUE.'
I completely missed this TV series in its original run. For reasons I can't remember it just didn't seem like something I would enjoy. Boy was I wrong in that assessment!
So what happened, why did I now, March 2015, change my mind? It all comes down to the recent death of an old college friend, Daniel von Bargen, a classmate of mine at Purdue in 1969.
The TV series, which had a total of 151 episodes over several years, mainly involved the family of Malcolm, the middle of three boys still at home. But there was a 4th boy, sent to Military school in Alabama, with the hopes of shaping him up. The Commandant there was Edwin Spangler, played by von Bargen. While he was only in 15 episodes total his role was a great addition to the series. And for me nostalgia as I watched von Bargen and recalled him in college. It is sad that he is now gone, he was such a good and interesting actor.
Jane Kaczmarek is the mother, Lois, who works at the local 'Lucky Eight' store. She is written as a very quick-tempered, stubborn mother but cut through the exaggerations and she is more like a typical caring mom than some might realize. She is great in this role.
Bryan Cranston is the dad, Hal, and we don't really have a good idea what he does for a living but it is some type of office job that he hates, we find out clearly when he quits temporarily for a short- lived effort of become a painter, the artist type. His role here is just a short trip to his role as Walter in 'Breaking Bad.' He is great in this role also.
But the star of the series is Frankie Muniz as Malcolm, a character younger than his actual age. He is in middle school as the TV series starts, but is discovered to be gifted, a genius, so is put with the other exceptional children, which also seems to make him a social outcast. His brother in Military school is Christopher Masterson as Francis, his older brother at home is Justin Berfield as Reese, and his younger brother at home is Erik Per Sullivan as Dewey. In addition to the stories it is interesting to see them grow up over the 7-year span of the series.
With the entire series currently available on Netflix streaming over the past few days I have watched all 15 of the episodes with von Bargen as Spangler, plus a few of the other episodes. Without commercials each episode is right at 22 minutes, which is a nice length. It has become a favorite now. The characters are so quirky and the writing is full of surprises, each episode is different but each is also very entertaining.
In memory of Daniel von Bargen, 1950 to 2015.
Continuation of the last one, after Katniss destroyed the domed battle ground.
By now just about everyone in the world knows the general premise of "Hunger Games" so that novelty is gone. In the last movie, the second of the series, the surviving victors are double-crossed by President Snow, instead of honoring the pledge to keep them free forever he made them fight, hoping to kill Katniss. But she not only survives, she shoots an arrow that along with lightning destroys the domed battle ground.
As this one opens, the first installment of two movies, with Jennifer Lawrence back as Katniss Everdeen, she is pegged to be the "Mockingjay" symbolic of the fight for freedom. All of the districts to overthrow President Snow and his regime.
So most of the movie involves conflicts and battles of various sorts, to set up the two-hour second movie. It is interesting, but not great.
Josh Hutcherson is also back as Peeta Mellark, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy, Donald Sutherland as President Snow, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee, Julianne Moore as the rebels' President Alma Coin. (Where do they get these names??)
We will watch the part two movie, when our public library gets the DVD. The series are fun movies but my wife and I are not big fans.