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4181 reviews in total 
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Race (2016/I)
Really well-told story of Owens and the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany., 17 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

My wife and I watched this at home on DVD from our public library. The movie is very well made, entertaining and historically important.

When I was a boy growing up in the 1960s I was a rabid track and field fan and, even though it happened in the 1930s I was aware of Jesse Owens and his great times in the dashes, times that are great even today, 80 years later, that is how good he was. But until I saw this movie I never knew his name was "J.C.", for James Cleveland, not Jesse at all, but that is what one teacher though he was saying and the name stuck.

The story here is set between about 1933, when Jesse was almost 20 and going off to college at Ohio State and 1936, the year of his Olympic victories in Germany, much to the distress of Hitler and the Nazi regime. The story overall seems to stick pretty closely to the facts, although many things about Jesse Owens in private time had to be invented.

Stephan James was about 20 during filming, he is Jesse Owens. He had to undergo quite a lot of training to look like a sprinter and to mimic the particular running style of Owens. He does very well in the part.

Usually just a funnyman, Jason Sudeikis is really good as Larry Snyder, the track coach at Ohio State who fine-tuned Owens' running to help him become the world-beater that he was.

The 1936 Olympic games are dramatized well here. Overall a very entertaining and historically significant story, very well presented.

Triple 9 (2016)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Story concept has possibilities but poor script, poor direction, and poor editing sinks it., 16 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw this at home on DVD from my public library.

The title is taken from a police code, at least in the universe of this story, 999 meaning officer down. It is a key plot element because some bad cops and former cops are planning a risky robbery and they are hoping that calling in a "999" will occupy the others long enough to allow them to do their crime. Of course there has to be a target, one of the good cops.

The story becomes overly murky for no good reason but to simplify it, a group of dirty cops and former cops are doing jobs for some Jewish Russian mafia. They want to pull out but are being pressured with threat of harm to their families.

There are several good characters but my favorites are Casey Affleck as Chris Allen, the good cop who ends up being targeted for the "999". Woody Harrelson as Chris's uncle Jeffrey Allen, who is also a good cop. And Kate Winslet is a different role for her, as Russian crime boss Irina Vlaslov.

The core story has possibilities but often the action, scene to scene is muddled, some of the dialog doesn't ring true, and overall doesn't come together very well.

Risen (2016)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Good movie, the crucifixion and aftermath from the Roman point of view., 16 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

My wife and I saw this at home on DVD from the public library. Good movie, well made, and with a couple of interesting "making of" extras.

The subject is Jesus (called Yeshua in this script, the Hebrew name) and the story is told as a flashback of sorts from the perspective of the Roman tribune working for Pilot. The action starts as Yeshua and two criminals were freshly crucified but still alive. The tribune is Joseph Fiennes as Clavius, and Pilot, afraid that the followers will cause a disturbance tells Clavius to make sure the King of the Jews is indeed dead. He does but also agrees to let followers place him in the tomb with the entrance covered by the large rock, with ropes and sealing wax to insure no one tampers with it.

But after 3 days the tomb is indeed empty, the heavy rock has been displaced, the ropes appear to have burst instead of being cut. And there is no body to be found. Pilot orders Clavius to find the body, there can be no assumption of Yeshua having risen from the dead.

Cliff Curtis is a good pick for the role of Yeshua, his face and especially his nose are very similar to the negative imprint on the Shroud of Turin, who many believe was made with a bright flash of light as the moment Yeshua came alive again.

So most of the movie is Clavius and his men hunting for witnesses and especially the body so that can prove he has not risen. And of course ultimately realizing that he indeed did rise from the dead and coming to grips with the reality of the start of Christianity.

99 Homes (2014)
Scamming in real estate foreclosures., 13 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I wanted to see this for the two main actors, Shannon and Garfield of recent "Spider Man" fame. My wife and I watched it at home on DVD from our public library. I am still not certain why "99 Homes" is the name of this movie. Maybe they had 100 and gave one back?

It is set in about 2010, during the aftermath of the financial crisis and many underemployed lost their homes. It is set in the Orlando, Florida area but is filmed in the New Orleans area. In one scene filmed in a high-rise you can see the Benson Tower which is right across the street from the Superdome.

It is a fictional story inspired by real events. Michael Shannon is at his best here as realtor Rick Carver who a few years earlier figured out that owning a bunch of homes could make him wealthier than selling a bunch of homes. Although it is not specifically stated it appears that he has some type of shady arrangement with local police, they show up together for an eviction, and give the residents 2 minutes to gather important belongings and get to the street.

The focus of the next eviction is Andrew Garfield as Dennis Nash, he lives in the old family home with his son and his mother. Work has been scarce lately and he is behind on the $85,000 second mortgage he took out. Carver is merciless, but somehow Dennis turns to him for a job as he locates his family temporarily in a cheap motel.

For some reason Carver comes to trust Dennis and makes him his protégé, teaching him the tricks of the trade. Which includes some things not so legal. Not all of the movie grabbed me but enough did that I enjoyed it, for the human story embedded.

SPOILERS: Dennis realized early that what they were doing was illegal, basically paying vacating families a couple of thousand for the key and access to the property. They would strip it, appliances, granite, cabinets, AC units, then make a claim to the government, getting many times more money to fix it up for sale, mostly using the same things they stole. Dennis never felt comfortable with this but he had to get the family home back. In the end, feeling sorry for a forged document used to evict the latest family, he confessed and was taken away, he had decided the crooked activity was not for him. It is not clear in the end if Carver got into trouble or talked his way out with the relationship he had with the police. Even the director in his own commentary says he doesn't know, which is sort of strange!

Trumbo (2015)
Great film of a compelling story, can we learn from history?, 12 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I had been anticipating seeing this movie since it received so much publicity around Oscar time. I also am a Cranston fan since his great turn as Walter White in "Breaking Bad". I was not disappointed, in fact the movie is even better than I hoped. At home on DVD from my public library.

The story here starts in 1947 and before it is over brings us into the 1970s, almost 30 years later. Bryan Cranston (approaching 60) is Dalton Trumbo, one of the best Hollywood script writers in the 1940s. After the war the US government and Congress began focusing on people who were members of the American Communist Party, believing they were aligned with the Soviet Union and a danger to the rest of us.

Dalton Trumbo was one of those, as he was clear he loved his country but considered himself a Communist. In his explanation to his young daughter, to him it just meant that he felt an obligation to take care of and share with those less fortunate.

However the zealots in Congress put him into a group with 9 others, they were black-balled and not allowed to work, some of them were sent to prison for a year or so. Sadly it isn't terribly different from the attitudes of the Republicans in Congress today, going from one witch hunt to another.

The movie has a number of good, accomplished actors in key roles. Mrs Trumbo is played by Diane Lane (also one of my favorites) and Hedda Hopper is played by Helen Mirren, approaching 70. I like the way Cranston played his role, suitably dramatic but also appropriately comedic at times. It could have been a much "dryer" movie but he made it really interesting.

As history tells us Dalton Trumbo and other blackballed writers worked again after prison, they just wrote under fictitious names. One of his scripts even won an Oscar. Eventually they were all cleared and by the 1970s the government's folly was exposed. As Trumbo himself says in a speech, the select committee in all those years and spending all that money never found any evidence of citizens being a threat to the country.

Anomalisa (2015)
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Inventive use of stop-motion animation, the actual story is somewhat 'blah'., 10 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw this at home on DVD, my wife was out of town and didn't see it. I don't think it is her kind of movie anyway.

I had heard much of the praise for this movie but purposely didn't try to learn too much going into viewing it. Animated using stop-motion puppets, Brit David Thewlis voices the main character, Michael Stone, a well-known customer service proponent and author. He has flown into Cincinnati to give a presentation to a large group of customer service professional from various points.

(As an aside, the cab driver from the airport was telling Michael about things to see in Cincinnati, and as he does I wondered if he would mention that peculiar culinary delight, 'Cincinnati Chili', and shortly he does. I smiled.)

So anyway Michael has a fairly mundane, boring existence, you can tell checking into a hotel and ordering room service is something he does all the time. But he seems depressed, everyone he encounters has the same face, and they all sound the same. Even the women. That was disconcerting at the beginning when it showed an old girlfriend who spoke with a man's voice, I assumed it was a long-haired man and being a former lover that Michael was a homosexual. But he called home to L.A. and his wife and son sounded the same.

After seeing the whole movie I understood why it is done this way but it added an initial layer of confusion that, to me, takes away from the core story.

Michael has a chance encounter with someone who doesn't have the same face as everyone else, and who sounds like a women. It is Lisa and she is an anomaly, thus she gets the name 'Anomalisa', the title of this movie. She is voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh. In what seems like a very quick decision for both of them he invites her to his room, he has but one objective, and it was a bit strange seeing two puppets in a sexual encounter.

Michael is a very flawed person, I'm not so sure delving into his flaws is a way to make an interesting movie. I give it good marks for the inventive animation but low marks for the story.

All the other voices are provided by Tom Noonan.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
The women become terrorists in early 20th century England. To get the right to vote., 9 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

'Suffrage' is a curious word, it simply means having the right to vote in elections. Thus a 'suffragette' is a woman who is working towards getting that right for women.

My wife and I saw this movie at home, on DVD from our public library. There are a couple of interesting extras on making the movie.

The suffragette movement in the early 1900s England has great historical significance. Starting with an act in the early 1800s women were forbidden from voting, a move by the male ruling class to keep them underfoot. Not only did they not have a right to vote, they often worked longer and harder than men but got paid less. They were even subject to arrest and jail time just for meeting and discussing the suffrage movement.

While the movement and most facts in the timeline here are accurate, Carey Mulligan, about 30 during filming, plays a fictional but composite character, 24-yr-old Maud Watts. She works in the local laundry, the place she was born. She never knew a father and her mother died young. When one of her co-workers invited her to attend a meeting she said she wasn't interested. She didn't want to make waves, the attitude a large portion of women at that time took.

But after she saw some of the atrocities towards women, and witnessed her own husband's disapproval, she soon became an active member.

The movement was not without great controversy, as the women resorted to what might be considered terrorist tactics. Throwing rocks through windows of businesses, exploding homemade bombs in mail receptacles, cutting communications wires, even burning down the almost complete home of a politician.

Finally after WW1 women began to get rights and by 1928 were given full rights. Some argue that the terrorism actually delayed their getting voting rights, but we can never know because what happened happened.

Good movie and Mulligan is excellent.

13 Hours (2016)
1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
'Remove all my clothes. Check for bleeds.' - badly wounded mercenary, 8 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I watched this on DVD from my public library, my wife didn't watch it.

The Benghazi attacks have been in the news the past year because the partisan Republicans have nothing better to do than conduct witch hunt after witch hunt, finding nothing else but what had already been reported in the various investigations. It is a shame that they chose to politicize this.

The movie is good but long, in many respects just another "war is hell" movie. One can probably get all they need by watching the first 45 minutes then the last 15 minutes right before the credits, essentially turning a 145 minute movie into a 60 minute movie.

The first 45 minutes sets the stage, showing how dangerous a place Benghazi is, and how the CIA and their contract mercenaries operate. On September 11th, 2012, most in the compound are having a leisurely day, several of them talking back home via Skype with family. Then in the early evening all hell breaks loose as terrorists, angry at the USA, storm the compound. One of the dead was the Ambassador.

This is a very serious act in terms of USA - Libya relations, it is commonly accepted that Ambassadors and their staff are safe, but the Libyan government simply did not have the system in place to protect them. The country quickly apologized and made it clear that terrorists were responsible.

The last 15 minutes shows the fighting ending and the evacuation of the survivors and the dead. Again, war is hell, no matter if it is against a country or against terrorists.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Pretty well made but it never engaged me in the terror., 7 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw this on Netflix streaming movies. I went into it with more than a bit of trepidation, it has very mixed reviews but I figured I'd give it a try. All I had to lose was 90 minutes of my "valuable" time.

It is an Australian movie. Mostly about the mom and her young son, about to turn 7. His dad is gone, he died getting his wife to the hospital the day the son was born.

The title refers to a mythical monster, the Babadook that knocks three times ... 'dook - dook - dook'. The boy is very often misbehaved and has a fear of monsters. Yet his mom reads him a monster book.

This story is not just a fear of a monster but the monster also manifests itself. It is supposed to make the viewer become terrified but it never did that for me.

I am glad I saw it but overall has no lasting impact with me.

Deadpool (2016)
3 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Comic book turned movie, lots of inventive action and a great sound track., 6 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

We saw this at home on DVD from our public library. I am not familiar with the source comic book. The movie is rated R for a good reason, the main character has a very filthy potty mouth, but it fits his character. Plus a few shots of bare-chested women.

This is an origin story. Ryan Reynolds is Wade, always a bit of a loose canon. At his favorite bar is a list on a chalkboard, a "dead pool", predicting who will be the next to get killed.

Wade is with his girlfriend when he collapses, at the clinic his doctor informs him he has cancer, but in three places he doesn't need - his brain, his lungs, and his prostate.

He meets a man who says he can "fix" him, Wade has no choice and submits. He ends up being tortured in various ways, it is an attempt to make the hidden beast in him come out. When he finally escapes he is disfigured but has gained some pretty impressive strength and fighting skills, plus his cancer is gone. He can't go openly as Wade anymore, so takes the name 'Deadpool.'

His nemesis is Ed Skrein as Ajax, and his girlfriend is Morena Baccarin as Vanessa. Can he defeat Ajax and get his girl back?

The action is impressive, including the opening ultra slo-mo shot of Deadpool and others in a roll-over car accident on a bridge. And, where appropriate the deep bass worked over my subwoofer and rattled the walls.

Overall a very entertaining movie, for those who can get past the constant filthy language. Reynolds is very good in what amounts to a dark comedy.

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