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Around the Block (2013)
LIve by violence then die by violence, unless you decide to change.
I watched this on Netflix streaming movies, mainly because I am a Ricci fan, I like her roles in all her movies. I found it a bit better than the low IMDb rating might suggest. Filmed in New South Wales, Australia.
Christina Ricci, early 30s, is American Dino Chalmers. She traveled to Australia for a guy and she is working as a drama teacher at the local school mostly populated with students with indigenous parents.
A yearly celebration is coming up and the school usually puts on an event, and it seems to always have been a Rugby match. Instead Chalmers proposes that the students put on a play instead. Against the odds that idea is accepted. So she decides they will put on a performance of Hamlet.
The key student is teenage actor Hunter Page-Lochard as Liam. He is a good kid but his father is in prison and his older brother seems intent on following their dad into a life of violence. But Liam does not want to follow his dad's footsteps. He gets the title role as Hamlet.
I really like this small movie, much of it seems realistic although being an American I don't really know. At one point near the end the teacher says "None of us choose to be born but we can choose to live." And that is really what the story is about, and mainly Liam deciding to make something of himself.
SPOILERS: The dad in prison tells the older son who he found to be responsible for his incarceration. The older son decides to ambush him and kill him, but the 6-yr-old daughter witnesses it. Liam had gone along reluctantly as the getaway driver. Soon the cops were after all of them. The older brother decides to flee, their car wrecks, the brother tries to run through a field, when he turns to shoot the cops shoot and kill him. Hamlet is successfully performed and at the end the cops escort Liam away, but we have to believe that he will only suffer some sort of probation and be allowed to get back to developing a life with good choices.
Espionage and love in WW2.
We watched this at home on BD from a Redbox rental. My wife actually saw it in the theater with her sisters.
This is a very well made and interesting story. It is fiction but was inspired by a real story during WW2 where a soldier got a woman pregnant and later found out she was a spy for the enemy.
This movie never drags, is interesting all the way. The extras on the disk are worthwhile, they reveal a lot about how the movie was made, a combination of real action shot against blue screen and computer-generated images, so well executed that it is difficult to tell when it is being done.
Brad Pitt is Canadian Max Vatan working with a British agency for the Allies during the middle of WW2. As the movie begins we see a mission he is on to execute a group of Nazi officers in Casablanca. He is joined by a French operative, Marion Cotillard as Marianne Beauséjour. The two represent themselves as a married couple from Paris.
After that sets up the premise and the characters we move to London where the couple really do fall in love, get married, and have a daughter. It become a love story in the middle of espionage.
SPOILERS: His superiors approach Max with the suspicion that his wife is really an operative for the enemy, that she has taken the identity of a dead woman. They suspect her of sending messages to the enemy. Max has to cooperate to set her up, they will call with fake plans, he is to write the message on paper, and on Monday if the fake message has been transmitted then they know it was her. In the end she is shown to be the operative, but Max still loves her. His orders are to execute her but instead she uses a handgun to take her own life at the airfield where Max was trying to steal a plane for the two of them to fly off to safety. The official report was to state that Max had killed her so he would not be executed also. At the end we see Max and his teenage daughter walking in a field. Life and love are seldom simple.
Pete's Dragon (2016)
Very good movie, story of an orphaned boy and his dragon.
We watched this on Netflix streaming movies. It is a remake of an old story.
The basic story presented here is this - when he is about 4 a young boy, Pete, is in the car with his parents when they are involved in an accident. The car goes off the road and flips, the parents die but young Pete manages to trot off into the forest. He befriends a dragon and names him Elliot after the puppy in his favorite children's illustrated book. Most of the story takes place 6 years after the accident when Pete is about 10.
The movie was filmed in beautiful New Zealand. There is a logging operation and Pete is watching from the trees when he is spotted by the logger boss's younger daughter Natalie. Eventually Pete is captured and taken in by the nice lady, Bryce Dallas Howard as Grace.
In a parallel story Grace's father, played by Robert Redford as Meacham, tells of his own encounter with a green dragon near a stream in the forest. Everyone figured he was making the story up but news of this new dragon which Pete tell of sparks new interest in the fable.
Eventually the hunters get wind of Elliot and using tranquilizer darts manage to capture him. But the kids, and Grace, work to set him free. The movie ends with Pete being part of the extended family with Grace, Natalie, and her dad, and they travel to a deep valley in the mountains where they can observe Elliot and several of his dragon friends flying and frolicking.
Young actor Oakes Fegley is fine as Pete.
Good movie, I enjoyed it much more than the movies with sex, shootings, and killings.
Silver Bullet (1985)
His wheelchair is called 'Silver Bullet.'
I found this older movie on Amazon streaming movies. My interest was piqued because the screenplay was written by Steven King and based on his own book of a different name. It is interesting diversion but at 30+ years old the picture, sound, and effects don't hold up very well compared to more recent movies. It is no 'Shawshank Redemption.'
Filmed in North Carolina at a number of different locations, it is set in 1976. In a small community where everyone seems familiar with each other. Panic begins when a railway worker is found dead, his head severed near tracks. Everyone assumes he drank too much and fell asleep on the tracks. But that was not it at all. We witness an animal-like creature that killed him.
The main character is Corey Haim as wheelchair-bound Marty Coslaw, about 13 or 14. He has a motorized wheelchair, with controls like you'd find on a scooter, and he names it 'Silver Bullet.' At some point he realizes what is going on and when he gets trapped on a bridge, shooting fireworks, he rouses the monster.
Other key characters are Gary Busey as Uncle Red, the brother of Marty's mother. He likes Marty and in fact surprises him with a 3- wheeled motorcycle that is road-worthy.
Everett McGill is the local Christian pastor, Reverend Lowe. Maty's sister is played by Megan Follows as Jane Coslaw. She and Marty have a good sister-brother bond.
Just a fluff of a movie, there are a few moments of terror.
SPOILERS: While shooting fireworks Marty was surprised by the Werewolf. He managed to shoot off a small rocket that punctured the monster in the left eye. Next day in an encounter with the preacher he is wearing a fresh patch over his left eye. Of course it turns out he is the werewolf and now has to take care of Marty. At night he enters their home, fights with Uncle Red, and Marty manages to shoot the monster with a silver bullet he just had made for the occasion. As the monster dies we can see it gradually turning back into the preacher.
A psychic doctor helps track down a psychic killer.
I watched this at home on DVD from a Redbox rental. My wife chose to skip it.
The best things about the movie are its stars. Anthony Hopkins is physician John Clancy who has been in relative seclusion since the death of his 20-something daughter from a progressive disease. The guys he used to help know he has a special talent, he can touch things and visualize either what happened, or in some case what will happen.
The detective is Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Joe Merriwether. His partner is pretty Australian Abbie Cornish doing a pretty good but somewhat exaggerated American accent, as Katherine Cowles. Together they are investigating a series of unusual murders, each is killed by a long spike stuck into the spine at the back of the neck.
We eventually, about 2/3 the way through, meet the killer, Colin Farrell as Charles Ambrose. Like Clancy he is psychic and seems to always be 1 or 2 steps ahead of those trying to track him down.
It is an interesting movie but often hard to interpret what is being shown. I didn't take it all too seriously and I was entertained.
SPOILERS: Ambrose was in a sense playing God. His abilities resulted in his learning of people with a terminal illness and, instead of their suffering for a long time he decided to put them out of their misery. He was eventually tracked down and cornered on a train, he was killed in a shoot-out. In the process we learn why Dr. Clancy was at times "conflicted" about what Ambrose was doing. Clancy himself actually had done the same for his sick daughter in pain, he injected something into her I.V. in the hospital to put her out of her misery.
What is actually 'legal' during times of war, or prevention of war?
We watched this at home on DVD from our public library. The case of Snowden is still relatively fresh in our minds, having been fodder for news and debate just a few years ago.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is really good as Edward Snowden, the bright hacker that was discharged from the Army after badly breaking his leg in training. Easy with computers he managed to get jobs in government agencies, or with contractors to the government.
Here he is portrayed as a very bright but rather naive man who loved his country but over the course of several years became disillusioned. He saw remote drone operators kill families with only the reaction "It is only a job." He discovered that agencies were hacking into the phone and email records of private citizens without proper warrants. Things like that eventually got him to steal many documents to expose what he considered crimes by the government.
Why didn't he just go to the authorities and be an internal whistle- blower? Because what he saw told him it would not work and in fact he would be punished instead. So he fled his country and now is holed up in Russia.
The movie raises many questions that have no easy answers. We do know for a fact that after the revelations then POTUS Obama ordered many changes in the way the USA agencies collect data. But it will be an ongoing issue, for the whole world, for many countries, what is acceptable in cyber-hacking?
A teen's 'coming-of-age' during WW2 in Ithaca, California.
We saw this at home on DVD from our public library. It has a rather low IMDb average rating and, judging from some of the comments, it seems many just didn't get the gist of the story.
It is based on a 1943 novel "The Human Comedy" by William Saroyan, and is considered somewhat autobiographical, a boy growing up fatherless. The characters and some references are aligned with Homer's 'Odyssey'. Set in 1942, it is at its core a coming-of-age story of the 14-yr- old boy whose father has died and older brother is fighting overseas in WW2.
The two big names are Meg Ryan, who directs, and Tom Hanks, who is an executive producer. They are the mom and dad here but their roles are so small they could have been played by any actors. Meg Ryan's son, Jack Quaid, plays the brother off to war.
The central character is Alex Neustaedter as Homer Macauley. He is 14, still idealistic about life, and gets a job as a messenger for the town telegram business, using a bicycle to pick up and deliver. It is through this job he begins to learn about real life.
The old telegraph operator who drinks too much and tells Homer to splash cold water on his face if he finds him sleeping at the desk. Or the delivery to the house of prostitution. Or the telegrams to the townspeople from the War Department, announcing the death of a son. And a number of other things.
Regarding action there isn't a lot that happens, but it is all happening to Homer, waking him up to the real world, molding his journey into young adulthood.
Good movie. Actually filmed in Virginia.
Sausage Party (2016)
An utterly disgraceful movie, no redeeming qualities at all.
I had resisted watching this movie, based on the title and knowing who had hands in making it I figured it would not be worth my time.
However I recently found it on one of our streaming movie channels, already paid for, and all I needed to invest was some time.
This is yet another example of foul-minded filmmakers making a foul- mouthed movie just because they can and get away with it. There is absolutely no redeeming virtue here.
I find myself wondering what kinds of movie fans actually enjoy this type of foul movie, but I cannot understand it. I don't get what is interesting or funny about animated characters using sexual references and foul language. It must take a really juvenile mind.
Can you tell I am sorry I invested even a bit of time?
Elvis & Nixon (2016)
December 21, 1970 - Elvis meets Nixon.
I watched this at home on DVD from our public library. My wife skipped, her loss because this is a very good and entertaining movie.
Today we can read about it in the archives, in December of 1970 Elvis and a couple of his friends went to D.C., gave a letter that Elvis had written, for the White House guards to have delivered to President 'Tricky Dickie' Nixon (who a few years later resigned in a scandal). It seems that Elvis collected badges and he wanted one from the USA's Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. What started out as Nixon requesting that the meeting, during his lunch hour, be limited to 5 minutes he found Elvis so fascinating that they met for much longer.
Michael Shannon, superb actor in a variety of roles, is Elvis. As he said in the DVD extra he wasn't trying to do an impression of Elvis, instead he wanted to portray him in a way that was authentic to the character.
And one of my personal favorites, Kevin Spacey is Nixon and from the voice and the mannerisms it was almost like seeing the real Richard Nixon.
The movie is very interesting and entertaining, much more than I expected going into it. What may seem like a rather dry topic for a movie turns out to be much, much more than that.
Into the Forest (2015)
The beginning of a dystopian life out west.
We watched this at home on DVD from our public library. The actors are some of our favorites and their performances really make this worth a watch.
Set and filmed in the Pacific NW, in Canada. As the movie begins we see out-of-focus figures of a dancer, we find out soon that it is one of the daughters, Evan Rachel Wood as Eva. She is coming back from an injury and is stressed for her preparation for an important audition.
Then we meet her sister, presumably the younger of the two (although both actresses were near 30), it is Ellen Page as Nell, the studious one, with her SAT test coming up soon. Then we meet their dad, Callum Keith Rennie as Robert. Mom had passed away and the three of them lived in a home in the forest. It is near future, several signs of technical advancements and automation but they drove a Jeep.
With that as the background and all at home relying on their electronic devices, a special TV news report is about a massive power outage on the west coast. Then shortly their power is gone, the part has not come in for the solar panels, they don't have much fuel for the emergency generator.
The story at its core is about families and their bond. Even though the sisters are pretty much opposite types when the going gets rough they support each other.
I enjoyed the first half of the movie the most, when you get into what happens when services are lost and things shut down indefinitely, as the second half deals with, it can only be fiction and we are not very good at understanding how that will all play out. Still it is a worthwhile watch, especially for the performances.
SPOILERS: Dad dies while using a chainsaw when something breaks and cuts his femoral artery and he bleeds to death with his daughters there. The daughters adjust to surviving on their own, killing a wild hog, finding edible berries, eggs from their chickens, stashes of rice and beans. But the house begins to fall apart, a large portion of roof caves in during a big storm, then the store owner Stan shows up, he rapes Eva. In the end the daughters burn the house down and retreat to their childhood playhouse in the forest, the hollowed out stump of a large Redwood. Eva has the baby with Nell helping. It has been about a year since the power went out, with no signs of a resumption the sisters are striking out into an unknown future, but they stick together.