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For lack of a writing pen it might have saved his life.
My wife and I found this on Netflix streaming movies and found it to be quite good, in fact a gem among all the mediocre movies being made.
Simon Pegg is Hector, a conservative, routine-driven Psychiatrist. He never answers any questions for his patients, he always asks another question. Which is usually fine but it is also a reflection of his life, never really committing to anything other than his routine.
His long-time live-in girlfriend is Rosamund Pike as Clara. It is clear that she would like to be married and hopefully have children but Hector is in a holding pattern. One day she is putting away his socks and comes across a photo in the bottom of the drawer. In it are three friends from college, one is an old lady friend. Does Hector secretly wonder if he should have ended up with her?
As Hector gets increasingly frustrated with himself, and finds himself snapping at patients, he realizes he has to take a trip to find himself, and he couches it as a trip "to find out what happiness really is." He goes alone. As he meets people, often asking them the question, he takes notes. Often drawing a humorous picture along with the notes.
He travels to China, meets a pretty girl, starts to make overtones to go see her family with her, he finds out she is a prostitute. He finds a remote monastery in the snowy mountains, they don't have the answer. He travels to Africa. He is caught up in a life-threatening situations with kidnappers. But lack of a writing pen saves his life.
He had encountered Jean Reno as notorious drug lord in the area, Diego Baresco. Diego's wife was suffering from depression and taking a number of medications. Hector suggested some modifications and ended up with Diego's personal embossed pen, because Hector always failed to find his own. When his captors later realized Diego was a "friend" of his they took out to a lonely road and let him go. It was a good, small role for Reno.
So did Hector ever find what happiness really is? He finally travels to California and looks up his old friends. As an old professor (Christopher Plummer) explains to a class, happiness isn't something you find after searching for it, happiness is in the search. Once Hector let himself be happy his world was all clear again.
A really nice movie, and Pegg is perfect in this role.
The Search for General Tso (2014)
"Who was General Tso, and why are we eating his chicken? "
Full disclosure - my wife's favorite Asian dish is General Tso's chicken. She always looks at the whole menu but more often than not she ends up ordering this. She has had it at any number of different restaurants over the years, it is always a bit different but always good.
So when I came across this documentary on Netflix streaming movies I knew I had to see it. The film seeks to answer the question, "Where did this dish come from?" In the process, with contributions of many historians, chefs, and writers I believe the question was answered but we also get a great review of the history of Chinese in the USA, first lured here by the California gold rush.
Chinese food was not always popular in the USA, and to help make it more popular many of the traditional Chinese recipes had to be modified to "Americanize" them. But in 1972 President Nixon made a historic trip to Communist China, and part of that telecast showed him eating Chinese food. That provided the spark that resulted in the boom of Chinese, and in general Asian, food in the USA.
General Tso was a genuine 19th century military leader, very successful and well-known in China. There are parks, schools, museums, etc named after him. But the origin of General Tso's chicken was in Taipei when China's leader Deng Xiaoping was to visit, and a famous chef was asked to create something special for him. He came up with a chicken dish that he named General Tso's Chicken, just to play off a famous general from the Hunan Province.
It was an immediate success and another Chinese chef borrowed the idea and the name and its first appearance on USA menus was in 1970s New York City. Now it is perhaps the best-known and most frequently ordered Chinese dish anywhere. And the way to prepare it is as varied as are the number of restaurants preparing it.
Very good documentary, but only for those who enjoy eating.
Depression era drama, Serena is a catalyst, not always good.
Set in depression era North Carolina, but filmed in the Czech republic. It is nominally about a man building his fortune in the logging business when along comes Serena.
This movie has a curiously low rating, perhaps because it is such a departure from what the actors have been seen in. Perhaps fans expected a different movie, but for what it is I enjoyed the viewing experience.
Jennifer Lawrence is Serena, raised in Colorado but orphaned when a fire killed the rest of her family. Now she shows up in horse-riding activities in North Carolina. She gets the attention of the local wealthy bachelor.
That bachelor is Bradley Cooper as Pemberton. He owns forested land in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina and his wealth comes from running a big logging operation. There is some rumbling about the government turning that area into a national park, so a group are trying to buy him out, at the same time he has his eye on cashing out big, maybe $1 Million, and taking his operation to Brazil.
The local sheriff, British actor Toby Jones as Sheriff McDowell, is trying to get on top of all this and suspects Pemberton is bribing some key politicians to help him retain his logging operation.
Rhys Ifans is really good as the mysterious Galloway who seems to be a logging supervisor of sorts but also tracks animals for Pemberton who hopes to get a Panther that they believe roams the area. he is loyal and at one point his loyalty switches to Serena after she takes care of him, injured badly in an accident.
The movie is titled "Serena" for a reason. She is a strong-willed person who at first appears useful in the logging business but her influence turns to something else.
Good movie, all the actors are good.
SPOILERS: Serena gets pregnant, she and her husband are happy, but then she has a bad miscarriage, loses the baby, and finds that she can no longer have children. There is a son, Jacob, in the village, he is the bastard son of her husband. She is ruthless, she enlists the help of Galloway, they seek out the child and his mother to kill them. But the tables are turned, they escape to safety while Pemberton manages to fight and kill Galloway. Meanwhile destined to be arrested for his crimes Pemberton goes hunting alone for the Panther. He shoots and wounds it, then going to find it, knife in hand, the Panther springs. The party finds both dead, the Panther killed Pemberton as Pemberton stabbed it with his knife. Then Serena is shown in bed in her home, she lights the bedroom up, she dies in the fire, making us suspect she had done the same to her family.
Jupiter Ascending (2015)
Sensory overload : when one or more of the body's senses experiences over-stimulation from the environment. In this case the "environment" is my home theater with surround sound and a nicely powered subwoofer. This movie has a number of fighting and/or battle scenes and the action and sounds can only be described as "sensory overload."
In spite of that I actually enjoyed the story and the movie. Plus as my wife says at least Channing Tatum is good eye candy and I responded that Mila Kunis is pretty good eye candy also! I just found myself wishing the extremely visceral action scenes had not been so overdone.
Mila Kunis is the title character Jupiter Jones, conceived in Russia but born on a ship on the high seas after her dad was shot and killed in a home invasion. He had been a student of the skies and insisted she be named Jupiter after the most magnificent of all the planets.
She has settled down in Chicago with her mom and her aunt, they work hard cleaning others' houses, Jupiter seems resigned to her fate. Until a very mysterious man, a man-canine hybrid shows up. It is Channing Tatum as Caine Wise, he is from another world, he has gotten wind of a plan to kill her and he will protect her. With much difficulty.
You see our Earth is not the only planet with life, in fact others life forms are more advanced and use Earth and other such fertile planets to "grow" humans for eventual harvest. It is getting close to harvest time for Earth. Seems Jupiter has DNA which is identical to a former Queen of the Galaxy and she can now rightly ascend to that position of royalty. But her nemeses want to either kill her or get her to sing over the galactic right to her territories.
The CGI is plentiful and well done, the lair of the advanced aliens seems located in a fortress inside the planet Jupiter, and is accessed by space ships traveling into the giant red spot. The most evil of the evil ones is played well by Eddie Redmayne as Balem Abrasax.
The whole story and movie get a bit complex, it is not always easy to follow all the characters and what they stand for. But it ends nicely and has an overall message of happiness over power.
It is the second hotel, not the "second-best" ...
We enjoyed the first in this series, now up to two, and we enjoyed this one. The story itself isn't particularly unique, in fact it uses elements found in any number of movies over the years. But the fun comes in having it set in India, and their culture, and the fine cast of veteran actors.
Dev Patel is back as Sonny Kapoor and with his success is looking to branch out, to add another hotel. The story here actually starts in California as he and one of the residents travel there looking for financial backing. A vacant, fixer-upper hotel is his target.
So that is the central story, complicated by finding out one of his friends has just both the other hotel. Plus Sonny has proposed to his girlfriend and organizing a wedding is in order.
The plot is further complicated by an American (Richard Gere) showing up claiming to be an author researching a book, but everyone believes he is the guy sent by the prospective financiers to check out his operation. Then this American begins to fall for Sonny's single mother.
Great cast with Maggie Smith, David Strathairn, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and others.
These Final Hours (2013)
Examines how people might react to the last hours before destruction of the Earth.
I found this movie on Netflix streaming. It is an interesting take on how people might react to being only hours away from compete destruction of the Earth.
As the movie starts we see a large, fast-moving fireball in the sky. Although it isn't explained at all it would have to be a reasonably large asteroid to do the damage they portray here. It crashes into the Atlantic Ocean to quickly destroy western Europe and eastern USA, but it will be a few hours before it reaches Australia.
So this story examines how the citizens might react, knowing they had no future at all, that they would all be dead in just a few hours. It depicts most of them throwing off all inhibitions, we see a big party where the women are nude above the waist and they and the men cavort in sexual excess. Personally I hope that is not how most of us would react.
The main character is Nathan Phillips as James who is looking for a car with fuel so he can go to find his family. In the process he witnesses what looks like a kidnapping of a young girl, maybe 10 or 11, by two men. He at first tries to ignore it and go on his way but his morals kick in and he goes in to rescue her. The girl is Angourie Rice, quite an effective young actress, as Rose. Rose's mom is dead and she desperately wants to find her dad before they all die.
What would I do in this situation? I'd hope my curiosity got the best of me and I'd find a good vantage point to observe the end. Or maybe I'd empty my wine cellar, open each bottle, and have a personal wine tasting!
Not a great movie but interesting enough.
SPOILERS: When they find Rose's dad they also find he and all the others killed themselves. She gets to say farewell to her dad's body and, as James leaves in a car she runs behind him, waving and smiling at him. Then James makes it to the coast to find his girlfriend and together they watch the large wall of fire rapidly approaching them. Her last words are "It's beautiful."
We're No Angels (1989)
Not up to the usual standards for a Mamet script.
I managed to miss this movie over the years but now have been able to see it on Netflix streaming movies. I generally like De Niro, and generally like Penn, so had high hopes for this comedy of sorts. I came away a bit disappointed. The beginning and end were most interesting but most of the middle seemed to bog down quite a bit, trying hard for laughs but rarely delivering.
It was filmed in the communities in Western Canada near Vancouver, including a community just north of Porteau Cove, where my kids and I spend a couple of days in 1990. Really beautiful scenery.
Robert De Niro is Ned and Sean Penn is Jim, they manage an escape from prison and head for the Canadian border. But their journey is interrupted when they are mistaken in this small border town for two visiting priests who had written a popular Catholic book. As they plot their crossing the cops show up with search dogs.
A 20-something Demi Moore is also a key character with a young deaf and mute daughter that gets involved. In a miracle of sorts she gains her ability to make sounds and, pointing to the two men, barely says "con ... victs" but the others interpret it as "con ... verts" which provides some humor.
SPOILERS: In the end the cops are gone and the escaped convicts are safe, and as Ned begins to cross the bridge to freedom he looks back at Jim who has been motivated by the order of priests and decides to stay with them and start a fresh life.
5 Flights Up (2014)
Nice small movie, you may need to be over 50 to appreciate it.
We watched this on DVD loaned to us by our neighbors. My wife and I are in our 60s and we identified very well what this couple is going through. While I predicted about half-way through what would be resolved in the end it still was interesting to see what all they did to get there.
The long-time married couple are played by Morgan Freeman (approaching 80) as Alex Carver and Diane Keaton (approaching 70) as his wife Ruth. He is an artist, a painter. In flashbacks we see that they had met many years earlier when she was working as a model and he hired her for a sitting. They hit it off and were married.
So, as this story opens the title meaning comes into play, they live 5 flights up in a Brooklyn apartment they own, with no elevator. Neither is getting younger plus they have a dog which is starting to have trouble with the stairs. So they have decided to sell their place and move to a place more easily accessible. Ruth's niece is a real estate agent and is eager to get her commission on the approximate $ One Million sale.
The story is complicated by their dog becoming ill at the same time, needing $10 Thousand of surgery, so that decision is also reflected in the dynamics of the couple.
Some viewers have criticized this story for what they consider "nothing happens." But that is actually the interest here, seeing how the couple arrives at that point.
My wife and I are not that much younger than the couple depicted here and we also are living in a place for a long time. We have thought about selling and moving and have many of the same concerns this fictitious couple had. I doubt that the usual viewer under 50 would appreciate this movie as much.
SPOILERS: They host an open house, they get several buyers bidding, while they go see a place in Manhattan, about the same price as the home they are selling. The seller starts to pressure them, their agent starts to pressure them, more concerned with her commission than what is good for the couple. They get frustrated, they cancel their offer, they cancel their sale, the dog recovers well, and they stay home where they are happy and the view is great.
Yeah, a pretty strange movie but is worthwhile if you stick with it all the way.
I found this on DVD at my public library. I began watching it with my wife, she gave up and left after about 30 minutes or so. It was when the robot Chappie was being taught by its new "parents" and things were getting pretty silly.
But I stayed the course, I am usually determined to watch a movie all the way through. I figure if the writer, director, and actors thought a story was worthwhile then I'd give it a fair chance.
There are lots of rough edges in this story, many things simply don't add up even in a Sci-Fi movie about robots taking over as cops in Johannesburg, S.A. But the concept is interesting and the eventual resolution (after the SPOILERS warning below) is charming.
It is basically a story about a robot and its creator. Dev Patel is the egg head computer scientist Deon Wilson, mostly responsible for the pre-programmed robots that are used to fight crime. But he has a larger ideal, to truly create artificial intelligence. A robot that can learn and make decisions.
His work nemesis is Hugh Jackman as Vincent Moore, who has created a whole different robotic fighting machine. It is larger, has jet propulsion and lots of destructive weapons, and it is controlled by the operator wearing a head device that allows him to control the robot remotely, in the safety of an office. Vincent wants the regular robots to fail so that his brainchild can be the chosen weapon.
In a nice touch to Sci-Fi Sigourney Weaver is the business boss Michelle Bradley. She doesn't care too much about the technology, she just wants the business to make money.
I enjoyed it. Not all of it, but overall it is an entertaining movie. Subtitles are often required to understand the mumblings of some characters.
SPOILERS: Deon manages to sneak out a damaged robot, scheduled for demolition, and manages to transfer an artificial intelligence program to it. But the robot, later named Chappie by its captors, is stolen by a small band of crooks who want to use it to help them steal millions of Rand. But this leads to a much larger confrontation with Vincent and his robot. Deon in the process gets shot, is dying, but Chappie facilitates Deon's intelligence and awareness to be transferred to an unused robot right before Deon dies, so as the movie ends both of the robots, friends now, decide what to do and how to elude capture.
Mr. Imperium (1951)
Not much story here, I mainly enjoyed it for a teen-aged Debbie Reynolds.
I found this among a DVD of 4 older movies my public library bought. It was filmed in Technicolor but the print was badly faded and the colors are no longer vivid.
Even though Lana Turner was still in her late 20s she had already done quite a number of movies. Here she is Fredda Barlo, an aspiring actress who meets up with a mysterious man in Italy. They have to part ways, she goes back to Hollywood and has a nice career in film, and they are destined to meet again 12 years later.
Her lover is twice her age, Italian actor and singer Ezio Pinza as Prince Alexis, aka Mr. Imperium. He is smitten enough with her that he is willing to give up his crown, but when he finds out his son, living his own carefree life in England, would be pressed into service as a monarch, he relents and leaves Fredda yet again. The ending is reminiscent of the end of "Casablanca", but this time it is the woman on the tarmac watching her love fly away.
My main interest in seeing this movie was Debbie Reynolds as the niece of the woman who has the B&B, her character is Gwen. It isn't a big role but it is nice to see her very early in her career, probably 18 during filming and not long before her big splash in "Singing in the Rain."