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TxMike

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Barefoot (2014/I)
Charming movie with some unusual characters, filmed in Louisiana., 26 January 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a relatively small movie, the chase scenes are slow, one is entirely in a parking lot, no one gets killed, at least that we see. We found it on Netflix streaming movies.

It gets its title from the habit of Evan Rachel Wood as psychiatric patient Daisy Kensington, often she takes off her shoes and goes barefoot, for no good reason. It just feels better to her.

Daisy had a crazy mom, it seems, and she grew up with severely stunted social skills. She never went to school, didn't know how to drive, or even go to a store and shop for food. But Daisy herself with proper nourishing could become a well-functioning person.

Scott Speedman, on the other hand, as Jay Wheeler, may be too street-wise for his own good. He comes from a wealthy New Orleans family but has made unwise choices with drugs, booze, and gambling. So now out on parole he has a job as a janitor in a hospital. The mental hospital that Daisy is in.

And therein lies the opportunity for a story, the one we see in this movie. While Jay is trying to figure out how to pay his $37,000 gambling debt to avoid getting his head bashed in, his brother is getting married back home. Maybe he can flush two turds with one trip, attend the wedding and get help from dad. But he needs a date. Conveniently Daisy wanders away from the hospital and follows Jay. He ends up with the bright idea of taking her to New Orleans and both pretend they are boyfriend and girlfriend.

It isn't a heavyweight movie but we enjoyed it more than most we have seen lately. Wood is just a superb actress and she is so sweet in this role. Plus we see her develop as a person as the story moves along, including their fleeing from the police in an old motor home. Speedman has never been a favorite of mine, in his early days could not control that annoying big grin of his, even when the scene did not call for a big grin. But now that he is approaching 40 seems like he has had enough coaching that he has gotten a lot better.

Overall just a very enjoyable movie, mainly because of Wood.

Gone Girl (2014)
Based on the book, did he or did he not kill his wife?, 24 January 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

We saw this highly anticipated movie on DVD at home. I was a bit hesitant at its almost 2 1/2 hours running time but it never seemed overly long.

However when it was over it didn't quite feel genuine, even in the context of a fictional story. Something about the final scenes just didn't seem worth the long story that I had just watched.

The basic premise is straightforward, a man comes home and his wife of 5 or so years isn't there and a glass-top table is overturned and broken, but it doesn't appear to be a burglary. His wife isn't home and he is unable to locate her so he calls police. They find evidence that leads them to believe there was a struggle and a pool of blood on the kitchen floor had been cleaned up.

They begin to suspect the husband who initially cooperates with police but then hires a top-notch lawyer once it seems he is becoming the prime suspect.

The man and the woman are both very flawed people. We find out about half-way into the movie exactly what happened, and the second half of the movie is to understand the "why" and to see how things are resolved.

In spite of the ongoing criticism of Ben Affleck, he is a fine actor and he is good here as Nick Dunne, the out-of-work author who also co-owns a local bar with his twin sister in this Missouri community (filmed in Cape Girardeau) on the banks of the Mississippi River. His wife is Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne.

There are events and scenes that make you think but overall it didn't ring very true for me. Still it is an entertaining movie and I enjoyed it, but perhaps not as much as many fans.

SPOILERS: Nick is devious, he has a very young 20-ish mistress on the side, but he is not a dangerous person. Amy is the crazy one, we see she had difficult issues previously with men, falsifying abuse reports. She suspects Nick is going to want a divorce and instead she plans to frame him with murder, her own murder, so before she disappears with a lot of cash and an untraceable car she creates a crime scene with her own blood, then cleans it up sloppily on purpose. She leaves a diary, and she tells us she will drown herself. But somewhere along the line she changes her mind, goes to see an old boyfriend, slashes his throat and kills him during sex, shows up back home with no apparent explanation but pregnant. So Nick appears to suck it up and stay with the crazy wife because they are going to have a baby.

A bit too goofy to be meaningful, it has a light entertaining tone to it., 23 January 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Way back last century DuPont's advertising phrase was a variant of e "Better Living Through Chemistry". They adopted it in 1935 and it was their slogan until 1982. The title of this movie is a play on that theme.

Sam Rockwell is small city pharmacist Doug Varney. He is married to the daughter of the owner of the pharmacy, who is now retiring, and Doug is set to become the main man. Doug is a nice guy, helpful to others, keeps their medical secrets, and does everything by the book.

His wife is Michelle Monaghan as Kara Varney and she and Doug started casual bicycling when their son was young, as a way to get outside for a bit of exercise and fresh air. But Kara got carried away over time, she found out she was good at cycling, began training hard, opened an exercise parlor, competed to win every race, and when we meet them Doug and Kara don't have a very close relationship.

One day the unreliable delivery boy doesn't finish the day's prescriptions deliveries and Doug has to step and finish. One client is younger and prettier Olivia Wilde as Elizabeth Roberts. She seems to be a wealthy semi-abandoned and lonely woman who takes a quick liking to Doug, but he is cautious and manages to leave.

Well if that would be the end of the story then we would not have any movie at all. Eventually Doug gives in to her charms, and she teaches him to compound certain drugs to get a better effect for everything. This creates some issues in both families, and a brush with the DEA needing to account for drug inventory irregularities, but in the end it is sort of like Lester Burnham in "American Beauty", he becomes a totally different person, but Doug doesn't get shot and killed in the end.

I found it on Netflix streaming movies. There is a narrator of sorts throughout and it turns out to be Jane Fonda as herself, and near the end we see her as a customer of the pharmacy.

Just an "OK" movie, the overall message isn't necessarily a good one.

Leon, the Professional, doesn't have anything over this guy!, 22 January 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A very entertaining revenge movie. Not too far removed from Liam Neeson in "Taken" or Jean Reno in "Leon." And it has a nicely aggressive surround sound track. We watched it at home and several times we had helicopters flying through our viewing room, and the several explosions shook the pictures on the wall.

Denzel Washington is Robert McCall, he is a gentle man who works at a Home Depot type of store in Boston, and spends many of his evenings at a small table in a dive of a corner café, reading one book or another. But we find that he has a mysterious past as a highly trained killer.

He strikes up an unlikely friendship with Chloë Grace Moretz as Teri, and he soon finds she is being held hostage and mistreated in the oldest profession, a prostitution ring run by the Russian mob. Bob is sort of able to ignore it until Teri ends up in the hospital, in intensive care. After his offer to buy out her contract is rebuffed and laughed at, he goes to work to exterminate the mob.

The main enforcer from Russia is sent to find out who was doing all this and to exterminate him, New Zealand actor Marton Csokas as Teddy. Both he and Washington are good in their roles and the last 30 minutes are the most exciting, including a big battle of wits in the big hardware store.

SPOILERS: In the big store the Russian guys are killed one by one, using different and unique ways. Barbed wire to hang one of them, a cordless drilling into the back of the skull of another, hedge trimmers through the neck of another, a microwave-induced explosion for another. But in the climax Teddy was done in by a powerful nail gun. Then three days later Bob was in Moscow visiting the big boss, and set things up so he electrocuted himself after his shower.

Slice of 1950s Teen Life in Brooklyn, 22 January 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

While I have been aware of this title I never saw the movie, until today that is, when it was shown on the Movies! channel. I am roughly the same age as all the actors here, who were mostly mid- to late- 20s when it was filmed. I remember the 1950s and much of what is shown in this movie is fairly authentic to that time.

Those of us who take achievement for granted, simply go to school and college, behave in class, do assignments, make good grades, get married, raise a family, have a decent career ... we don't really get how the others waste the same opportunities. And that is the focus of this movie.

The boys call themselves the Lord's (yes, it is incorrect) and they fashion themselves as a gang of four. But they aren't really vicious, they do get into small fights, they do steal a car for the night, but no major crimes.

They are depicted mostly as teenagers with no focus, no rudder, no concept of what they want their lives to become. They want the girls, and one gets one by virtue of an unplanned pregnancy, but most "good" girls avoid them because, while they are cute and personable, they look and act like losers. And most girls don't want to get attached to losers.

It is fun to see actors like Perry King, Sylvester Stallone, and Henry Winkler in their earlier days. In fact the best scene is in a pool hall when Stallone's girlfriend comes in to tell him she is pregnant and he just isn't prepared to deal with it. He might have made mostly cheesy movies but we can see that he really was a fine actor. He makes that scene work.

Shot mostly in Brooklyn it is an interesting glimpse into that time but overall not a particularly good movie.

Orca (1977)
Watch out for the smart Orca that has revenge on his mind!, 17 January 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

We managed to find this on the Movies! channel. In a nutshell I'd say the concept is excellent, probably rates an 8 or so, but the execution leaves much to be desired, probably a 4 or 5. So a rating of 5 or 6 is about right.

The concept examines the idea of humans killing intelligent animals and where do we draw the line? Set in a NE Canadian fishing village, Richard Harris is Captain Nolan. He is on his fishing boat and apparently hunting a great white shark. But as the shark is getting near their boat it is mysteriously attacked, hurtled into the air, and killed. It was the Killer Whale, the Orca.

Then they get the idea that they could capture an Orca and sell it to an aquarium, but somehow when they encounter an large pod of them, they shoot, barely wounding a dominant male, but killing a female. They hoist her aboard but as she is calling out and dying, a developing Orca fetus slips out.

The Captain is distraught over what he did, but was trying to put it out of his mind when incidents started happening back at the port. The male Orca had the intelligence to know what had happened, who was responsible, and was systematically finding ways to destroy boats and buildings. He did not relent until he got his man, the Captain, who utters this line, "A revengeful Orca."

Still young and pretty was Charlotte Rampling as Rachel Bedford, the Captain's girlfriend of sorts. And the 20-ish Bo Derek in her first movie, right before she made "10", as Annie. Mostly she added eye candy to the filming.

SPOILERS: When the Captain fully accepted that the Orca would not relent until they faced off, he piloted his boat to the spot where he had killed the female. They played a cat-n-mouse game as the Orca led them north, into iceberg infested waters. In a show of extreme skill of planning, the Orca got the Captain stranded on an ice float, and after tilting the ice float to get the Captain to slide towards him, the Orca propelled him onto the ice to his death.

Fair to middlin' real estate caper., 17 January 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

We had not seen this movie over the years but caught it today on the Movies! channel.

Jeff Bridges is football quarterback Terry Brogan, having just been fired by the Los Angeles Outlaws, in his 30s he still thinks he has a couple of good seasons in him, so he is trying to get his job back.

During all this he is hired to find a wealthy missing 20-something, Rachel Ward as Jessie Wyler. This requires him to track her down in Cancun.

Her mother is tied in with real estate developer Richard Widmark, as Ben Claxton, and there are some shady deals going on out of sight, including James Woods as Jake Wise.

There are betrayals and murder, in the end he heads for Miami to try out and see if he can play there, and it looks like he will get the girl too!

Moderately entertaining, but not a particularly memorable movie.

The Crew (2000)
'The only thing we ever wanted to do was be wise guys.', 17 January 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a totally fun movie for me, for several reasons. I actually like all the actors, and I have a long history with one in particular. Back in the 1960s Lainie Kazan was a top singer in the same category as Barbra Streisand, and I was able to hear her live in concert at Purdue University in the late 1960s. Since then she has shown us she is one of the best actresses her age, no matter what age she was, and she is great in this somewhat dark comedy.

It starts in 1968 when "the crew" of four wise guys in the New York area are committing one of their crimes. After about 5 minutes of that it cuts to 2000 in the South Miami area where the four are semi- retired and living in an apartment complex with an ocean view.

The script is funny and one scene with a rat (described after the SPOILERS below) is one of the most inventive comedic scenes I have ever seen. The crew really are trying to be retired but because their location has become desirable, and they are threatened with rent doubling, they hatch a plan. One of the crew works as an undertaker and they figure if they get an unidentified body and blow its head off in the lobby then their location will become undesirable and with people moving out they might even get a reduction in rent.

It works, but one of the crew, the usually silent one, blabs to a hooker and she threatens to expose them unless they do a job for her. Then the south American drug mob gets involved and what follows is a series of funny escapades. I am surprised at this movie's low IMDb rating, I found it to be a very entertaining movie.

SPOILERS: The crew are asked to kill the hooker's wealthy stepmom (Kazan) but they don't want to so instead they get a skeleton, kidnap the lady, put her wristwatch on the skeleton, burn down her mansion to spare her but make it look like she was killed. They use a rat, tie a long fabric fuse to its tail and release it into the house where, as it goes through various walls starts fires all along the way. But it gets spooked by the fires and heads outside, to the house next door which is the south American drug lord's, sets his house on fire and it burns down also. A detail makes it even funnier, we see them outside at night in the front lawn as the rat pulling a burning fuse scampers towards the house in the background. A really fine, comedic detail.

NITRO ETHANE for molecular biology., 16 January 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been popular as comics over the years and was made into a movie in 1990. I hadn't seen any of that, I suppose you can say I never was a fan. But I am a fan now after seeing this movie.

It follows all the basics that have been established, the little turtles with some chemical that allows mutations grow up in the sewers of New York, taught by a rat that similarly was a mutant, so that as teenagers the four turtles, named after Renaissance artists Raphael, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Donatello, grow up with Ninja skills to be crime fighters. But as true Ninjas they are told to always stay out of sight.

The bad guys in this movie are the Foot Clan soldiers, and as the story starts we see them at night on the docks stealing NITRO METHANE, a real chemical used for many things but including pharmaceuticals. This fits with the focus of the story which is the bad guys plan to unleash a damaging chemical over New York, only to quickly supply the antidote so that they will become filthy rich.

But they are encountered by Megan Fox as local reported April O'Neil, who then also witnesses a Ninja Turtle foiling the theft and tying up the foot clan soldiers for the cops. But she also gets a glimpse of something she doesn't recognize. She thought it was a lone operator.

Suspicious, in a later encounter she follows voices to the top of the rood and meets all four of the Ninja Turtles, and soon realizes, from their names, they are the same four turtles she saved as a 10- yr- old when she put them into the sewer after a fire at the lab. Their cover blown, they are forced to work with her to fight crime.

So the movie is to see if the Ninja Turtles and their teacher Splinter can defeat the bad guys and preserve the health of New York.

I don't usually like Will Arnett and his overly silly antics but he is good here as Vernon Fenwick, a friends of April's and who also will have a role.

An entertaining movie, along the lines of Batman and Spiderman. The Ninja Turtle characters are CGI but look very real because state-of- the-art motion capture techniques were used as costumed actors were in scenes as the Ninjas. There is a really good "extra" on the BluRay that shows how they did it, even showing a side-by-side comparison of the actor's facial expressions and the Ninja's expressions. There are several good extras, including one which traces the history of both Ninjas and turtles.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Must-see for all Physics fans who are interested in the LHC., 14 January 2015
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I caught this program tonight on PBS, just under an hour.

It bridges on the film "Particle Fever" which explores the construction of the LHC and much attention to the people behind it. Especially the physicists who work with it to get results and interpret data.

Much of the focus of initial LHC experiments was seeking discovery of the Higgs Boson and the film "Particle Fever" ends with the public presentation of results, where two groups working independently, on two different detectors, came up with nearly identical results.

This Nova program, "Big Bang Machine", summarizes the initial experiments with the LHC and gives a bit more attention to experimental considerations and more explanation of how the LHC works. Plus a discussion of what physicists believe happened during the first tiny split second after the Big Bang, and how presence of the Higgs Boson determines that everything in the universe is possible.

For example, if the Higgs did not exist, electrons and other particles would not have mass, they would all travel at the speed of light, nothing would ever be able to get together to form atoms, molecules, and ultimately tangible things, including life.

Good program, a must-see for all who are interested in the LHC and adjoining subjects.

EDIT: For those who missed it you can view it online at

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/physics/big-bang- machine.html


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