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TxMike

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Genius (2016)
'Editors. Are we really making books better, or just making them different?' - Max Perkins, 28 September 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I watched this at home on DVD from my public library. It also has a couple of interesting extras on how this movie was made. Set mostly in 1929 and 1930s New York, it was shot in England, Manchester and Liverpool most prominently.

What is it about? What does the "Genius" reference mean? According to the filmmakers, and it becomes clear when viewing, it is really about both the genius of creative novel writing and the genius of editing a book to bring it to the masses.

The editing genius was Max Perkins, played wonderfully by Colin Firth. He had served as editor for such greats as Ernest Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald. He was a kind and organized man, husband, father of five daughters, but also a bit of a workaholic.

The writing genius was Thomas Wolfe, Southerner from North Carolina, played well by Jude Law. Graduating from high school early and from college at 19 with a BA, he attended graduate school at Harvard, receiving a Master's at 21. He arguably was a genius, and certainly Max Perkins considered his writing genius. But Wolfe was very undisciplined and often rude, at one point he asks Perkins, "Do you expect me to grow up like you?" To which Perkins replies, "No I just expect you to grow up."

Perkins and Wolfe could not have been more different, but Perkins became a sort of father figure for Wolfe and his biggest task was to help him cut down his drafts to size suitable for publishing. Wolfe loved his prose, it was always painful for him to cut anything out.

The movie also includes Nicole Kidman in a good role as Aline Bernstein, a married woman 18 years older who became Wolfe's lover and patron. Plus Laura Linney in a good role as Louise, the wife of Max Perkins. In small but important roles we see Guy Pearce as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dominic West as Ernest Hemingway.

A really good biographical movie, it is nominally about Perkins but more about his relationship with Wolfe, who died young from tuberculosis of the brain.

Cautionary tale of the evils of Wall Street., 26 September 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I watched this movie at home on DVD from my public library. It is directed by Jodie Foster and she does a fine job. However it is a very simple story that could have been told in a few minutes but the drama is stretched out to fill a bit more than 90 minutes.

What we have is a fictional generic half entertainment, half investor advice show called "Money Monster". The host is played by George Clooney as Lee Gates. During one live broadcast of his New York show a stranger carrying two boxes infiltrates backstage. He turns out to be Jack O'Connell as Kyle Budwell. Seems he had just inherited $60,000 upon his mother's death and invested it in a company called IBIS because on-air Gates had said it was a sure bet, safer even than bonds or CDs. But Kyle ended up losing just about everything when IBIS had a giant dip and he was there for answers.

But Kyle also forces Gates to strap an explosive vest on him, Kyle will detonate it on-air if he doesn't get answers. What happened? Why did the automatic trading algorithm have a "glitch" that caused him and others to lose a total of $800 million with IBIS?

Most of the running time of the movie involves the drama between Kyle, Gates, and several others, including the police squad that responded. The other key participants are Julia Roberts as the show's director, Patty Fenn. And Dominic West as Walt Camby, the head of IBIS.

Most of the message regards Wall Street, and investment firms in general, rigging the system so that they get rich at the expense of the little guy who is just trying to stay afloat and make a little return on his small investments. It is both interesting and forgettable. Nothing really new here.

SPOILERS: As it turned out there was no glitch, it was human intervention. Walt Camby took the $800 million out of IBIS to attempt to influence a mine strike in South Africa, it was his trying to rig the system for his own profit that caused the problem, not a "glitch" at all. Turns out the "explosive" vest didn't have explosives, only clay, but the sniper shot and killed Kyle, a high personal price to pay to expose the corruption. As the movie ends Camby and his company are being investigated for crimes.

Gosling and Crowe as slapstick detectives in 1970s Los Angeles., 26 September 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I watched this at home on DVD from my public library. After seeing the trailer for this movie my wife decided to skip it, probably a wise choice for her.

I enjoyed it. But I would not rate it very high, there are too many flaws and much of the writing is lazy, using "Jesus Christ" as an exclamation too often and throwing in filthy language gratuitously.

Set in 1970s Los Angeles it involves a dead porn star, a missing daughter, and a corrupt law enforcement. Russell Crowe is Jackson Healy, who it seems earns his living mostly by taking payment to hunt down and beat up people. The example we see early is a 39-yr-old man getting too friendly with a 13-yr-old girl, smoking pot with her, etc. With his brass knuckles on Healy goes to his door, punches him out, and warns him to never see the girl again.

His job leads him to Ryan Gosling as Private Investigator Holland March. After getting beat up by Healy they eventually form a partnership of sorts and the result is a Two Stooges type of story from that point on. There are some very funny scenes, but also some that fall flat.

Cute young Australian actress Angourie Rice is really good as Holly, the PI's daughter who in many respects is more mature than he is. She even drives him places. She has a very natural acting style and a good screen presence, we will continue to see her in featured roles.

Not a good movie, a very dark comedy with lots of shooting and frequent bloodshed, but an interesting diversion for those who enjoy this type of movie.

'I don't think they call it Chinese Food. They just call it Food.' (upon finding themselves in a restaurant in China), 25 September 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

My wife and I enjoyed this sequel, we watched it at home on DVD from our public library. It really needs to be either watched in a theater or at home with a decent surround sound system containing a good powered subwoofer. In key scenes the sound surrounds you, creating the effect of a large space, and the deep bass thunders home certain effects.

The cast for this sequel has been shuffled a bit but several of the key cast returned to reprise their earlier roles. Since we know the basic purpose of each member of the team, and the double agent both in the FBI and in the magician team, this one takes off from there.

Early in the movie the team escape a rooftop in New York by sliding down a large tube, only to find at the other end they exit the tube into a restaurant in China. Only near the end do we find out the "trick" that allowed that to happen.

A new caper is mandated by a criminal, the team has to go to London to steal a printed circuit board that would allow hacking into any computer system in the world. With magicians at work on each side you never know if what you are seeing is authentic or misdirection.

When it was over my wife commented that it was too complex, she had a hard time keeping up with everything. And while it is, I don't think a viewer needs to understand everything to enjoy the movie for its action and depictions of magic tricks.

Absurdist comedy in a fictional universe. Not for all viewers, I expect., 24 September 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw this at home on DVD from my public library. My wife quit after about 20 minutes, too absurd for her.

I added this movie to my watch list because of the actors, I like Farrell, Reilly, and Weisz. But I really knew nothing about the themes. I suppose if you look at the stories as indicators of real interpersonal relationships you might glean something about human nature. But it is scripted in such an unusual style, sort of like how it would sound if all the characters had Asperger's, everything direct and without humor or subtlety.

It is set in a universe that looks much like ours, or more specifically Ireland, but with very unusual customs. One is that if a person become single for some reason they are sent to a particular hotel, given a room, and they get 45 days to pair up with another person. If they don't then they get converted into an animal. Upon entry they get to choose which animal.

Colin Farrell is David, his wife left him and now he is here. He chooses to become a Lobster if he can't find a partner. Why? Because a lobster lives hundreds of years and remains sexually potent until very old age. Neglecting of course the possibility that he will be caught and eaten at a relatively young age.

John C. Reilly is part of the cast as Lisping Man. And Rachel Weisz is only known as Short Sighted Woman (short sighted is British for near- sighted vision). So all this plays out in an absurdist manner, everything is strange. It is not possible to write a simple synopsis but David and the Short Sighted Woman find they are compatible, both as runaways from the hotel, now living in the woods.

Several times I considered abandoning the movie but the absurdity of it all kept me watching. It definitely isn't a movie I'd watch again, or recommend to my friends, but I am glad I stuck with it. What an unusual movie!

SPOILERS: The end may be the whole point of the story. David and his new partner are in town in a restaurant, fugitives of sorts. She has been blinded by the authorities but he still has his sight. He says he loves her and wants to be like her. He asks the waiter for a fork and sharp knife, he goes into the men's room to put out his eyes, to become blind like she is. He looks in the mirror, he puts the point of the knife to his eyes, but the movie ends with her sitting at the table, waiting, waiting. It is ambiguous of course by my take is that he just couldn't go through with it, he couldn't blind himself, so he just went on his way and left her.

ARQ (2016)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A Netflix streaming movie, time-loop in a dystopian future., 20 September 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Netflix in its quest to branch out and become the dominant movie source has continued to come up with Netflix-only programming. This movie is one of those, my wife and I watched it at home streaming.

It is a dystopian future, the air is not safe and people need breathing masks to go outside. Virtually all of the movie takes place in a 2-story dilapidated building that serves as a home and a lab of sorts. The movie's title derives from the machine in the basement, the ARQ, which generates energy and as they find out, can cause time-loops. That is, after a certain number of hours everyone will loop back to the starting point. Some of them remember the prior loops, some don't.

In summary it is an interesting concept but nothing really new. What happens is this, bad people are after food and "scrips" which are surrogates for money. When things go wrong shots are fired, people die. But then the loop re-starts, the dead are alive again, they have a chance to do the next few hours differently to survive.

It has all the look of a very low budget film. The acting is fine, but seeing them over and over in the same loop, trying to figure out how to do it better, I found got a bit old. I would not want to re-watch the movie.

The two main characters are Robbie Amell as Renton and Rachael Taylor as his girlfriend or wife Hannah. As the time loops back each time they wake up in their bed.

The Choice (2016/I)
All the 'choices' we make over our lives determine where we end up., 18 September 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

My wife and I watched this at home on BluRay from our public library. It is based on a Sparks book and he also produces, so you know ahead of time it will be a romance story and will have a happy ending.

Set in and filmed in North Carolina, Benjamin Walker, of Georgia, is Travis, a Veterinarian who has a practice with his dad. Travis has a girlfriend but he acts like he would prefer to remain single, flirt with the pretty girls, go out on his boat, fish and drink beer.

A close neighbor is pretty Australian actress Teresa Palmer as Gabby, an intern on a track to become a physician. Her boyfriend is a hunk of a guy (Tom Welling who was hunky Clark Kent on 'Smallville') and they duck into a medical supply room when they can for some quick ... whatever 30- ish doctors do quickly.

Travis and Gabby have friction right away which, in romantic stories, means they are destined to end up in love. It follows that course but there is an accident and one of them is in a coma, not sure if they will survive.

As the 'extra' explains the theme regards 'choices', a theme I have recognized in my own life many years ago. Each of us faces a constant stream of choices and when we make one it closes off all the other possibilities. We enjoyed the movie even though much of it is very predictable.

SPOILERS: Gabby and Travis marry and start a family. She is waiting for Travis for a dinner date, it is raining, as he closes for the evening a lady comes in with her sick cat. Travis is delayed, Gabby has a couple of glasses of wine before she leaves, and is hit broadside by another vehicle. She is in a coma, after almost 3 months the doctor (her old boyfriend) says the chances of her ever coming out of it is about 1%. But Travis makes a 'choice' to not give up hope, to not unplug her from life-support. Then one day she wakes up, she is OK, she told him she heard everything her told her while she was in a coma, she just couldn't respond. They resumed their live together.

Interesting take on the old story, it had a good 70-episode run., 16 September 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I didn't like everything about his series, but I liked enough of it that I always watched it when I could. Meaning there wasn't something else going on. I never tried to catch skipped episodes.

I was mainly drawn to it for the lead, Kristin Kreuk as Catherine Chandler. I think she is as cute as they come and I always enjoyed her role in the 'Smallville' TV series. In this series she is in law enforcement.

This story is a very updated version of the old story, here Jay Ryan stars as the character Vincent Keller, a medical doctor who was involved in a test program that resulted in his becoming a super-strong, super- fast beastly man when he became highly agitated. In the storyline he and Catherine become associates then friends, then finally lovers and husband and wife. He becomes a practicing physician again and assists her in solving crimes. But he eventually becomes a hunted man.

Two other prime characters are Nina Lisandrello as Tess Vargas, Catherine's law enforcement associate. And Austin Basis as professor J.T. Forbes who is an I.T. expert. As the stories develop Tess and J.T. become a pair.

Last night, September 15, 2016 was the season-ending episode, and it seems the last episode of the multi-year run. However it did end in a way that they could re-start it if they wanted to.

SPOILERS: In the last episode they were closing in on a very wanted terrorist and managed to corner him and take him out. Vincent and Catherine use the opportunity to also stage their fiery deaths in an exploding car off a NYC bridge. They even have a funeral. But 6 months later we see the two of them in Paris, speaking French, with new names and disguises. They wanted to get away, to stop all the drama they both had been sucked into. As J.T. and Tess show up to join them in a Bistro, they observe an altercation outside, Catherine and Vincent jump into action and start to chase the crook, then freeze frame and the episode ends. Will they become crime-fighters in Paris?

The complications of taking your own life., 16 September 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

My wife and I watched this at home on DVD from our public library.

Set in England, Sam Claflin is Will Traynor, young successful businessman from a wealthy family. As the movie starts we see him going out to the street, momentarily distracted, and he is hit by a large motorcycle.

The movie doesn't dwell at all on the accident or its immediate aftermath, instead it switches to two years later. Will is now living back with his parents, he is mostly a quadriplegic and confined to a motorized wheelchair. He has a professional caregiver who comes in especially for the medical and personal care issues. But Will isn't happy or even faking happiness, he is always in a rather sour mood.

Emilia Clarke (of 'Game of Thrones' fame) is ditzy Lou Clark, a 26-yr- old with a job as a clerk, as we meet her near the end of her day's work she is given an envelope with her last pay, she has just lost her job. She is from a working family and with an unemployed dad, she needs to find work to help with expenses.

Through a placement agency she is presented a job, unclear what exactly it is but it would be working for Will's parents, she would be a companion of sorts for Will, drive him places, find ways to keep him entertained. Even though Will himself doesn't want any part of that plan. Will is dour, Lou always dresses colorful and funky and is always upbeat.

So the story here really is to see if somehow Lou can break through and get Will to better enjoy his handicapped life. Things are complicated quickly when Lou learns that Will is planning to travel to Switzerland for assisted suicide. He has promised his family he would give it 6 months before making his final decision.

So the story is both funny and painful. Both main actors do fine jobs with their roles. Life is seldom simple.

SPOILERS: In the process both Will and Lou fall in love with each other. Lou even lets go of her existing relationship. She desperately wants Will to stay, build a life with her. But as much as he would like that he can't forget his former active lifestyle. And he doesn't want Lou to be burdened, perhaps for many years, with him in his condition. So he goes through with his plans and in his will leaves a handsome sum of money for Lou, as he says, not so that she is fixed for life but enough to allow her a fresh start and a real career.

Sequel to the 2012 Huntsman movie., 11 September 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

My wife and I saw this at home on DVD from our public library. We were entertained, it is fantasy set in a fantasy world and as such tales usually do, it is a story of good triumphing over evil. Eventually.

It is a sequel to the 2012 "Huntsman" movie, because it makes a number of references to Snow White and her kingdom, even though we never see Snow White. However it starts when Eric, who will become the Huntsman, was just a child conscripted into the military for training. Sara is also one of the children and she grows up to be a fighter also.

We are introduced to a new character Queen Freya which, according to ancient Norse mythology, is a goddess associated with love, sex, beauty, fertility, gold, war, and death. Freyja is the owner of the necklace Brísingamen and possesses a cloak of falcon feathers. Stemming from Old Norse Freyja, modern forms of the name include Freya, Freija, Frejya, Freyia, Fröja, Frøya, Frøjya, Freia, Freja, Frua and Freiya.

Chris Hemsworth is back as Eric, The Huntsman. Charlize Theron is back as Ravenna. Jessica Chastain is Sara. Emily Blunt is Queen Freya.

So neither Ravenna nor Freya are good queens, each wants to possess the magic mirror. Eric and Sara, with the help of a few others, have to defeat the enemies and destroy the mirror to safeguard Snow White's kingdom.

Overall very well made, very entertaining.


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