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Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Dramatization of a real person treating himself for AIDS in the 1980s.
Saw it on DVD. It is set in Dallas during the 1980s but filmed in New Orleans. In fact near the end when Ron is driving and gets out of his truck, it is under the ramps to the New Orleans bridge to the West Bank, and one sign even shows it to be an on-ramp to I-10.
The film was nominated for a number of awards and Matthew McConaughey in the lead role of Ron Woodroof won the Oscar for best actor. To prepare for the role of a man with AIDs he lost a reported 30 pounds for the shoot. And watching the film I can see why he won the award.
Jared Leto also does a fine turn as Rayon, the homosexual cross-dresser who became a partner in Ron's business to distribute medicines, which became known as the Dallas Buyers Club. The deal was each "member" paid $400 a month to be in the club and the medicines were free. Leto also won an Oscar for best actor in a supporting role.
I always like seeing Jennifer Garner and here she is Eve, a doctor that treats Ron when he first is hospitalized, and who later becomes sympathetic to his cause.
The credits say the characters are fictional but certainly Woodroof was a real person and this movie tells his story. He really was diagnosed in 1986 and given only a few months to live, but in fact lived an additional 6 years. He attributed that to the medicines that he took, sourced from many places around the world, rather than rely on the "approved" treatments of the time.
If you can't be with the one you love, then love the one you're with.
This is the second in the series of 'Hunger Games' movies based on the books. My wife read them, I didn't. We saw this one last night on Blu- Ray, about a year and a half after we saw the first one. The Blu-Ray picture and sound are quite good, it gave my subwoofer a good work out.
All the main characters are back, played by the same actors. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, Willow Shields as Primrose Everdeen, Donald Sutherland as President Snow, and Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket.
In this episode a year has passed, it is the 75th hunger games, the yearly event to remind all of the failed revolution. But Snow is still unhappy how the prior one ended, with Katniss and Peeta both surviving, by threatening to eat the poison berries. Snow wants Katniss dead, but wants it to happen in a way for all to see.
So they change the rule, the tributes this year will be chosen only from among the prior victors. This of course is a big betrayal because victors had all been promised a free life after their own hunger games.
So this one is about the competition and the alliances, Snow determined they will die, Katniss determined she and Peeta will survive.
Frankly, much of the middle I found a bit tedious, the parts where all the contestants were in the domed forest and had to face various dangers. It just didn't seem interesting to me. I had a lot more interest in the opening scenes leading up to the actual competition, and the closing scenes. Still, a good movie, worth the watch.
SPOILERS: As it turned out several behind the scenes were conspiring to make sure Katniss and Peeta survived, and in fact when it was all done they described it as the start of the revolution. Not only does Katniss survive, plus Peeta and several others, she managed to shoot an arrow, with copper wire attached, into the roof as an artificial lightning bolt hit a tree on schedule, this destroyed the dome and structure came raining down. She and the others were rescued and nursed back to health.
'Leave one ship and go ... or die here.'
I like this movie. I have not seen the preludes to this one but I will now.
The movie opens on a strange planet, with strange colors, a hand is sticking out of the rubble as a type of vulture starts picking at it. Suddenly the hand becomes animated, grabs the vulture by the neck and chokes it to death. It is Riddick, hardened criminal, once again left for dead but far from it.
The story here plays on the theme that at some point everyone wants to "go home." So surviving some of the most vicious beasts imaginable, and eating some of them, Riddick makes his way to a Merc (mercenaries) station and activates a rescue beacon. He is a wanted man, and in fact the bounty will double if he is brought back dead instead of alive. The beacon states who activates it and soon two competing ships of Mercs land, intent on capturing Riddick.
But Riddick has other ideas, he wants them to "leave one ship and go, or die here", he writes in blood inside the building. So most of the 1:50 running time is the interplay between Ridick and the members of the two bounty hunter groups.
Vin Diesel, who also produces, is of course Riddick. The scum of the Mercs is Jordi Mollà as Santana. The better leader of the other group is Matt Nable as Boss Johns, trying to learn the fate of his missing son. And to add female interest is Katee Sackhoff as Dahl (pronounced 'Doll'). She is one tough cookie, doesn't take any crap from the guys, and is the sharpshooter of the bunch. There is also a short scene where she is topless in a shower. Cute girl!
All in all a very entertaining Sci-Fi fantasy.
SPOILERS: In the jockeying for position Riddick gets captured, but he had stolen and hidden the two energy modules for the two space ships. That was his bargaining power, either he gets a ship or they all perish on that planet. It doesn't go easily, most of the two crews die in one form or another, but in the end Riddick is in one of the ships alone, headed for destinations unknown. I suppose setting up the next installment.
Violet & Daisy (2011)
Hard to categorize, teen girl assassins, quirky and most probably would not like it.
When you get bored you're likely to watch almost anything. That was me, colder than usual March, and Neflix streaming movies offering me this one. Thing is, I like all the actors ... Ronan, Bledel, Trejo, Gandolfini ... so even if the story was uneven it was enjoyable watching all of them.
It sets the tone when we see the two teenagers, dressed in Nun's habits, carrying pizza delivery boxes, and casually chit-chatting about 'girl stuff.' Then they ring a doorbell, and proceed to shoot and kill everyone with the guns hidden in the pizza boxes. Afterwards, with the cops coming, they skip away down the sidewalk as if nothing just happened.
They are teen assassins (even though Bledel was 29 during filming, she has a very young face) and now look forward to a break, a vacation. But something happens, popular Barbie Sunday has a new line of clothes and they just have to have new dresses. So they need money and agree to another job.
The teens are Saoirse Ronan as Daisy and Alexis Bledel as Violet. Their contact man is always reliable Danny Trejo as Russ. The man they are led to is James Gandolfini as Michael, dying of pancreatic cancer, so when they show up, somewhat expectedly, he is resigned to the whole thing.
I am not opposed to good movies about teen assassins, in fact Ronan's 'Hanna', made about the same time and about a young girl who is trained to be an assassin, has become one of my favorites. As is 'The Professional' with a very young Natalie Portman aspiring to be an assassin.
But this one never gels for me, the story seems all over the place, and it is strange seeing 'Rory' of 'Gilmore Girls' acting tough and talking dirty. It is an interesting concept but I never was sure what the movie was trying to do.
We all are 'prisoners' in one form or another.
There are two incidents in this movie where people are taken as prisoners, the second resulting from the first, and that is certainly what the title refers to. But in a deeper level it plays on things inside us that we become prisoners of. It could be fear, or the need for revenge, or just how we look at others in the world. It is a deep and involving movie, but some parts are hard to watch.
It starts with a typical suburban family walking a few houses down the street to visit another family. After a while the two small girls ask permission to go back and get something, but they don't return. Then a frantic search fails to find them.
About the same time the teenagers had noticed an old RV parked on the street nearby, and now it was gone. Everyone suspected the person in the RV had taken the girls, so they search for him.
Hugh Jackman is Keller Dover and Terrence Howard is the neighbor Franklin Birch. The two girls taken are their young daughters, and the two of them get involved in the search, at times a bit violently. The mothers are Viola Davis as Nancy Birch and Maria Bello as Grace Dover.
The main investigator is Jake Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki. He goes about systematically doing his job, but is badgered by Keller who thinks he should crack down on the RV driver.
Paul Dano is good as the RV driver, Alex Jones.
SPOILERS: When Alex is found at a rest stop, for some reason he panics and crashes into some trees and is caught. But questioning him turns up nothing and he is released. Keller doesn't take this well, convinced that Alex is guilty he abducts him and imprisons him in a dilapidated building Keller owns. He tortures him in an attempt to get him to reveal the location of the two girls. In the end they are found held captive by a woman who over the years had taken and eventually killed a number of children. As the movie ends Keller is seen in the building where Alex is still being held, but the cops arrive and we sense Keller will have to answer for his lawlessness.
An artsy B&W film that can appeal to only a narrow audience.
My studies and career have been intimately entwined with mathematics and numbers. I like numbers, I understand numbers, they make sense to me. So with the many favorable comments on this movie, titled after that fundamental measure of a circle's circumference to its diameter, 'PI', I went into this eagerly. I found it on Netflix streaming movies.
Overall it is a big disappointment for me. Sean Gullette is the central character Max Cohen, a New York non-religious Jew, who is also a mathematics genius. Graduated from college at 16, a PhD at 20.
But as his voice-over tells us, as a young boy he was told not to stare at the sun, but he did anyway when he was 6. Some time later, as the bandages were removed he began slowly to see light again. And he also started having headaches. All this presumably contributed to his math genius and his borderline madness.
The meat of the story comes when he is using his computer at home and it spits out a long string of numbers, perhaps 200 or so, maybe a bit more. Then in a chance meeting with a Hasidic Jew, learns that there is a rumor that a mysterious 216-digit number matched to symbols in the Torah spells out the name of God. So Max begins to wonder if somehow his computer had spit out that number, now on a paper he had discarded.
So we follow Max as he gets confused, or angry, and yells at everyone around. Followed by a woman who wants his codes for predicting the stock market. All in all not a very satisfying viewing for me.
One thing fun was seeing veteran actor Mark Margolis as Max's former graduate adviser Sol Robeson. Margolis had a key role in the TV series "Breaking Bad" as the wheelchair bound and mute member of the Mexican drug lord family.
Stuck in Love (2012)
Family of writers, good drama with lots of funny moments too.
We found this one on Netflix streaming movies. Good entertainment with good characters in good stories.
Set and filmed near the North Carolina coast, Greg Kinnear is writer Bill Borgens but he has already begin to realize that he isn't really as gifted as others give him credit for.
His ex-wife is Jennifer Connelly as Erica. Bill has never given up hoping that she will come back, and still insists on setting a place for her at the Thanksgiving table, although it doesn't seem that she ever will.
The two kids stay with Bill. Very attractive Lily Collins is college student Samantha Borgens, herself an aspiring writer. But she seems to have a very cynical attitude, and doesn't let others get close to her. She resents what her mother did, and refuses to have any contact with her.
Nat Wolff is the son, Rusty Borgens. He seems like a well-adjusted high school student, and also has some writing aspirations.
Kristen Bell is the married woman Tricia living just down the beach, she comes by on occasion simply to have sex with Bill, and encouraging him to move on and find a new love interest. They are just friends.
Logan Lerman is the nice young man Louis who has writing class with Samantha, as he tries to become her friend she pushes back but he is persistent and eventually things begin to develop.
Liana Liberato is Kate, a girl with some issues and prone to experimenting with drugs. Rusty comes to her rescue and begins to help her see a batter path.
And Stephen King makes a vocal contribution, as himself, in a phone call to Rusty after reading something he wrote, it was a good touch.
The excellent cast goes a long way to make this good.
Closed Circuit (2013)
Crime investigation thriller, it held our interest all the way.
With all the terrorist activities the past few years, all over the world, this story could have been inspired by real events, but I believe it is fictional. It begins with an explosion near a London train station where a number are killed. The story also plays strongly on the fact that London has thousands of closed-circuit TVs monitoring public places, and this CCTV activity is featured all the way through.
The person initially assigned to the case is found dead, apparently jumping off a building in suicide. But did he take his own life, or was he thrown off the building because he was closing in on the truth?
One of my favorites over the years is Jim Broadbent and here he is the Attorney General overseeing everything. The attorney assigned to work the case after a terrorist suspect is arrested is Eric Bana as Martin Rose. In addition, a special defender is Rebecca Hall as Claudia Simmons-Howe. For security purposes some of the state's evidence is kept secret, with only very specific access, and those who have access cannot talk to anyone else about it.
As the story develops it begins to seem that the "terrorist" wasn't really acting with foreign terrorists but in fact was working for the British M5 agency, and now they are actively working to cover up their involvement and killing of their own citizens. The arrested man's teenage son becomes a critical cog in this complicated wheel.
While it gets a bit complex it is also easy to follow. We enjoyed it, although it is sad to realize once more how much of this is going on in the world.
SPOILERS: The Attorney General and the British M5 operatives became very active in working to cover up what actually happened. In the end they went into his cell and killed the arrested man, and left him hanging from his bed sheet, making it look like a suicide. That way, with the suspect dead, the case would be closed before the incriminating evidence could be made public. An inside British agency cover-up.
You have to be in the mood, and I was in the mood! Very entertaining.
I probably would not have hunted down this DVD but I usually watch everything my public library gets, and I enjoy both Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton. I enjoyed it in the same way I enjoyed "Abe Lincoln, Vampire Hunter."
The most known version of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale has the stepmother convincing their dad that the kids eat too much and with a great famine at hand their only (selfish) means of survival is to take the kids into the deep forest and abandon them. After the second abandonment the kids were not able to get back home, found the gingerbread and candy house of the blind witch, were captured and fattened so that she could eat them. But she was out-foxed and they were able to throw the witch into the fire and burn her.
This movie begins with that same theme, and we see the witch burned. But most of the movie takes place when the kids had grown up and achieved a reputation as witch hunters. In fact they had destroyed hundreds of them. Jeremy Renner is the adult Hansel and Gemma Arterton is his adult sister Gretel.
But the region is now threatened by a more powerful witch, Famke Janssen as Muriel. With the upcoming blood moon which will attract many witches Hansel and Gretel have their work cut out for them. Fortunately they find Pihla Viitala as the good witch Mina. And a very large troll, Derek Mears as Edward, who had been in service to Muriel, ends up helping them.
This is just a fairy tale and if you are in the right mood can be very entertaining. I was entertained!
The Spectacular Now (2013)
Realistic portrayal of teenagers growing up.
This movie has gotten a fair bit of early praise so I was expecting something a bit better. However, it was a worthwhile viewing, a reasonably realistic portrayal of high school kids dealing with all the modern issues of growing up.
Miles Teller is the lead character as Sutter. He seems very happy-go- lucky and friendly with everyone. He even has some skill helping others realize things that may not be apparent. But he has a very dark personal side. His dad left home when Sutter was maybe 8 or 9, and he had no contact with him after that. He didn't even know where he was or how to contact him. Perhaps as a result, or certainly contributing, he had no ambition. He was smart, but sloughed off homework. And he had developed a drinking problem, he never seemed comfortable unless he was sipping some type of booze.
After one night of binging he ended up on someone's front lawn, and had no idea where his car was. Shailene Woodley as good girl Aimee was up early for her mom's paper route, she finds him, wakes him up, gives him a ride, and they start to get to know each other for the first time even though they are both seniors in the same school.
The role of Aimee was a difficult one to play realistically. She is a smart girl with a good work ethic, and not really shy, but feeling that she didn't have the looks or the interests to make her a popular girl. At one point she even says she has no "old boyfriend" to think about. Sutter begins to take an interest in Aimee after his girlfriend broke off with him, plus he needed tutoring to pass Geometry. They become friends and more, but it never seems that Sutter is really interested in her.
There is a scene or two where Sutter and Aimee drive 3 hours to look up his dad, after his older sister gave him contact information. That didn't turn out well because his dad was preoccupied with his friends and almost totally ignored the kids, even asking them to pick up the tab for the pitchers of beer. Sutter realizes he is becoming just like his dad.
The story wraps up with hope, as Aimee gets into the college she wants and Sutter manages to graduate, while also realizing he has to get himself out of his self-destructive spiral. It doesn't try to tie everything up in a neat package, only to say that there is hope if you realize that NOW is the time to look at your life and do something with it. The past is interesting and important, but it is not the NOW.