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Apocalypse Now (1979)
Exaggerated fictional account of an American military leader gone insane.
Even I find it a bit remarkable that just this week I got around to seeing this movie. I was rummaging through the movies on the shelf at my local public library and found this one on Blu Ray. Of course the picture and sound are both remarkably good, and includes very deep bass in key scenes where it is appropriate.
Two versions of this movie are on the disc, the original 2+ hour version with neither opening nor closing credits. Also the "redux" version released a few years ago, it is 3+ hours long. While the basic story is the same in each, the longer version includes a couple of scenes cut from the original. Neither of them affect the main story.
The main story is about a rogue military leader in the late 1960s, in a good performance Marlon Brando is Colonel Walter E. Kurtz. He has ended up somewhere in Cambodia and off the radar. He is accused of killings that may or may not be justified in the context of the Vietnam war.
In an equally good performance is Martin Sheen as expert assassin Captain Benjamin L. Willard. he is called in specifically to do a covert mission, if caught he was never sent, to find Kurtz and "terminate his command", which really meant to assassinate him.
To do this a small crew with a small boat are assigned to him, and they head out not knowing for sure when and where they would end up.
What makes this movie so striking are the makeup and cinematography which take the acting of Brando and Sheen up to another level. My only gripe with the movie is how they made so many of the military guys seem like frat boys using bad judgment and acting stupid. I am Vietnam war age, I knew several who went and served and to me it disrespects all the thousands who went and did not act like stupid frat boys.
Fictional love story woven into the historical Colonia cult in 1970s Chile.
I saw this on Netflix streaming. It is based on the real Colonia Dignidad (or Dignity Colony) in rural Chile. It was founded by German fugitive Paul Schäfer who had his followers call him "Pius". He held perverted religious ceremonies and being a fancier of young boys often called the adult women "sluts."
At its most populist there were perhaps 300 German and Chilean followers, once a person got into the guarded compound, roughly 53 square miles, no one was allowed to leave, although a small handful managed to escape over the years.
The story is told with two fictional characters, British stewardess Emma Watson as Lena has a 4-day layover after a long trans oceanic flight from Germany and in the car to a hotel spots her boyfriend, Daniel Brühl as German activist and photographer Daniel. She gets out of the car to meet him, as the military are starting to round up demonstrators. Because he is daringly taking photos he is rounded up with dozens of others, he is sent away to a place unknown.
Lena loves Daniel and is determined to find him. This leads her to the Colonia, where she gets in dressed as a religious person, saying she wants to join the cult.
(As an aside, this part seems a bit disingenuous to me. Could a stranger just walk up and be admitted? Maybe, but it seems a bit too easy.)
So most of the movie is about life in the Colonia and eventually Daniel and Lena looking for a way to escape without getting shot. Michael Nyqvist is really good as the menacing Paul Schäfer.
Spoilers: Authorities tried to get Daniel to talk by torturing him, including electric shock to his brain. Also badly beaten after he recovered he overheard them saying he might be brain-damaged. So he played along with that as a way to get into things without being closely monitored. He eventually finds out that Lena is in there, together they find an escape route through a series of tunnels that have an exit outside the electrified fence. After being there some 132 days. They go to the German embassy to report the criminal activities but instead of being on their side try to have them arrested at the airport. They manage to escape to her old flight crew taking off for Germany and barely elude the authorities trying to keep the plane on the ground.
A family affair, Bettany writes and directs Connelly, a tale of two homeless souls.
I found this on Netflix streaming. At the end is a very short dedication to a homeless couple who lived outside the Bettany and Connelly home.
Set in New York, Anthony Mackie is Tahir, homeless and plays makeshift drums on the street to earn spending money, mostly for food. He is an undocumented immigrant from Nigeria and seems very nice and kind.
Also homeless in the New York streets is Jennifer Connelly as Hannah, who also appears to be a drug addict. (She is very thin in this movie, making me wonder if she lost weight for the role.) Their lives intersect.
One several days we see him sort of following her around, not sure why. When she confronts him he says it is because she has his jacket tied around her waist, and he wanted it back. He had just spent a short time locked up and much of his stuff was stolen while he was gone from his nighttime alley.
So the two become friends of sorts, then later start to refer to each other as boyfriend-girlfriend. They seem to make a genuine connection.
The movie is well-written and well-acted but is never a fun or entertaining movie. The topic is too bleak, homeless in New York during a winter. However I am glad I took the time to watch it.
SPOILERS: Hannah's husband was killed and she left home, abandoning her young son, I believe in Dallas (the dialog was unclear), and he dad makes occasional trips to New York to try to find her. As the movie is ending we see her on a bus, presumably finally kicking her habit and going home to her son. Tahir, it turns out, had joined Boko Haram and finally realized that was wrong and sought to clean up his life in New York. He gets sick and dies, perhaps of pneumonia. Hannah wraps his body and straps it to a makeshift raft, sending it out into the Hudson.
Papadopoulos & Sons (2012)
Real dad and son team up for a family comedy-drama in London.
I was able to find this on Netflix streaming, my wife and I enjoyed it. Good, relatively clean family movie, it is a story of mending family relationships and finding out what "success" in life really is.
Set in about 2010, in London, Stephen Dillane is Harry Papadopoulos. His Greek family had emigrated to London where he grew up, worked in the family fish and chips business, then graduated to big time. He was a wealthy businessman now with a nice family and a massive home, although his wife died when their youngest son, now 9, was born.
What does a serious, wealthy man do to achieve greater "success"? Well in this story he borrows millions to expand and develop a shopping center. Unfortunate timing, it was on the heels of the financial crisis and all that resulted in his having to declare bankruptcy, lose his home, and move into the vacant storefront that used to operate as Three Brothers Fish and Chips.
So Harry has to make choices. His estranged older brother shows up and gets him to agree to reopen the shop. It becomes a real family affair. In a nice touch Dillane's real life son, Frank Dillane, plays his teenage son James Papadopoulos. Eventually Harry comes to realize "success" has no particular financial value, it is what makes you happy each day. Maybe operating the fish and chips shop with his family can be his greatest success.
Gods of Egypt (2016)
Ancient Gods of Ancient Egypt fight for the survival of the world.
I watched this at home on DVD from my public library. My wife chose to not watch it, not her kind of movie.
I pretty much watch everything my public library buys, and the synopsis of this one seemed very interesting. In fact it is. But overall I found it to be a so-so movie. Of necessity lots of CGI and motion-capture with blue screen had to be used.
The feature conflict is between Horus, who wants to be a kind and gentle god for the people, and his uncle Set who is mean, harsh, and wants peasants to gain eternal life by how much riches they can bring forward.
There is also a love story between two mortals, when she is shot and killed with an arrow as they escape, and sent off to the afterlife he desperately wants a god to intervene to bring her back to his life.
The best thing I enjoyed about it is the sound track, with all the effects and battles they use lots of super-deep bass, some of it in the subsonic range, but you can truly feel it. My powered subwoofer had a good workout!
The Finest Hours (2016)
Disney movie, dramatization of a real Coast Guard rescue in 1952.
My wife and I saw this at home on DVD from our public library. The two "extras" are short but interesting.
It was the winter of 1951/1952 in Massachusetts. A storm was brewing and the Coast Guard station gets a radio transmission that a repaired, welded oil tanker in high seas has broken apart in the rough seas. It is now nighttime, and two Coast Guard rescue crews are dispatched. One of them had to turn back, but one of them continued. This is the story of the ones who continued and against great odds, without compass, found the half of ship with 32 aboard. As the captain later said "It was probably just luck that we found you."
Chris Pine is excellent as the captain of the rescue boat, Bernie Webber. As well as Casey Affleck who was playing Ray Sybert, the key leader who managed to figure out a way to get the remaining half ship to a shallow area to ground it, preventing it from sinking until after the rescue.
Being at night much of the picture is often indistinct but I suppose that couldn't be helped. Overall a fine movie, and the sound is filled with deep bass at appropriate times, lending to the realism.
The character I most enjoyed however is British actress Holliday Grainger as Miriam. I had seen her as Bonnie in a "Bonnie and Clyde" miniseries a couple of years ago, she is very pretty and also a good actress. Here she is the telephone operator who becomes Webber's fiancé and she is among the ones monitoring the events of the evening from the Coast Guard station.
The characters here are real people, the ending credits has some photos from the 1952 incident and its aftermath.
Really well-told story of Owens and the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany.
My wife and I watched this at home on DVD from our public library. The movie is very well made, entertaining and historically important.
When I was a boy growing up in the 1960s I was a rabid track and field fan and, even though it happened in the 1930s I was aware of Jesse Owens and his great times in the dashes, times that are great even today, 80 years later, that is how good he was. But until I saw this movie I never knew his name was "J.C.", for James Cleveland, not Jesse at all, but that is what one teacher though he was saying and the name stuck.
The story here is set between about 1933, when Jesse was almost 20 and going off to college at Ohio State and 1936, the year of his Olympic victories in Germany, much to the distress of Hitler and the Nazi regime. The story overall seems to stick pretty closely to the facts, although many things about Jesse Owens in private time had to be invented.
Stephan James was about 20 during filming, he is Jesse Owens. He had to undergo quite a lot of training to look like a sprinter and to mimic the particular running style of Owens. He does very well in the part.
Usually just a funnyman, Jason Sudeikis is really good as Larry Snyder, the track coach at Ohio State who fine-tuned Owens' running to help him become the world-beater that he was.
The 1936 Olympic games are dramatized well here. Overall a very entertaining and historically significant story, very well presented.
Triple 9 (2016)
Story concept has possibilities but poor script, poor direction, and poor editing sinks it.
I saw this at home on DVD from my public library.
The title is taken from a police code, at least in the universe of this story, 999 meaning officer down. It is a key plot element because some bad cops and former cops are planning a risky robbery and they are hoping that calling in a "999" will occupy the others long enough to allow them to do their crime. Of course there has to be a target, one of the good cops.
The story becomes overly murky for no good reason but to simplify it, a group of dirty cops and former cops are doing jobs for some Jewish Russian mafia. They want to pull out but are being pressured with threat of harm to their families.
There are several good characters but my favorites are Casey Affleck as Chris Allen, the good cop who ends up being targeted for the "999". Woody Harrelson as Chris's uncle Jeffrey Allen, who is also a good cop. And Kate Winslet is a different role for her, as Russian crime boss Irina Vlaslov.
The core story has possibilities but often the action, scene to scene is muddled, some of the dialog doesn't ring true, and overall doesn't come together very well.
Good movie, the crucifixion and aftermath from the Roman point of view.
My wife and I saw this at home on DVD from the public library. Good movie, well made, and with a couple of interesting "making of" extras.
The subject is Jesus (called Yeshua in this script, the Hebrew name) and the story is told as a flashback of sorts from the perspective of the Roman tribune working for Pilot. The action starts as Yeshua and two criminals were freshly crucified but still alive. The tribune is Joseph Fiennes as Clavius, and Pilot, afraid that the followers will cause a disturbance tells Clavius to make sure the King of the Jews is indeed dead. He does but also agrees to let followers place him in the tomb with the entrance covered by the large rock, with ropes and sealing wax to insure no one tampers with it.
But after 3 days the tomb is indeed empty, the heavy rock has been displaced, the ropes appear to have burst instead of being cut. And there is no body to be found. Pilot orders Clavius to find the body, there can be no assumption of Yeshua having risen from the dead.
Cliff Curtis is a good pick for the role of Yeshua, his face and especially his nose are very similar to the negative imprint on the Shroud of Turin, who many believe was made with a bright flash of light as the moment Yeshua came alive again.
So most of the movie is Clavius and his men hunting for witnesses and especially the body so that can prove he has not risen. And of course ultimately realizing that he indeed did rise from the dead and coming to grips with the reality of the start of Christianity.
99 Homes (2014)
Scamming in real estate foreclosures.
I wanted to see this for the two main actors, Shannon and Garfield of recent "Spider Man" fame. My wife and I watched it at home on DVD from our public library. I am still not certain why "99 Homes" is the name of this movie. Maybe they had 100 and gave one back?
It is set in about 2010, during the aftermath of the financial crisis and many underemployed lost their homes. It is set in the Orlando, Florida area but is filmed in the New Orleans area. In one scene filmed in a high-rise you can see the Benson Tower which is right across the street from the Superdome.
It is a fictional story inspired by real events. Michael Shannon is at his best here as realtor Rick Carver who a few years earlier figured out that owning a bunch of homes could make him wealthier than selling a bunch of homes. Although it is not specifically stated it appears that he has some type of shady arrangement with local police, they show up together for an eviction, and give the residents 2 minutes to gather important belongings and get to the street.
The focus of the next eviction is Andrew Garfield as Dennis Nash, he lives in the old family home with his son and his mother. Work has been scarce lately and he is behind on the $85,000 second mortgage he took out. Carver is merciless, but somehow Dennis turns to him for a job as he locates his family temporarily in a cheap motel.
For some reason Carver comes to trust Dennis and makes him his protégé, teaching him the tricks of the trade. Which includes some things not so legal. Not all of the movie grabbed me but enough did that I enjoyed it, for the human story embedded.
SPOILERS: Dennis realized early that what they were doing was illegal, basically paying vacating families a couple of thousand for the key and access to the property. They would strip it, appliances, granite, cabinets, AC units, then make a claim to the government, getting many times more money to fix it up for sale, mostly using the same things they stole. Dennis never felt comfortable with this but he had to get the family home back. In the end, feeling sorry for a forged document used to evict the latest family, he confessed and was taken away, he had decided the crooked activity was not for him. It is not clear in the end if Carver got into trouble or talked his way out with the relationship he had with the police. Even the director in his own commentary says he doesn't know, which is sort of strange!