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Writer-director John Carney repeats his familiar (Once) boy meets girl rock and roll story in Dublin, Ireland in 1985. The soundtrack features Duran Duran, The Cure, Hall and Oates, and others from that time period. Conor(Ferdio Walsh-Peelo) is a fifteen year old who falls in love at first sight when he spots sixteen year old Raphina(Lucy Boynton) standing on the front steps of a building. He works up the courage to speak with her. She tells him that she is a model who aspires to travel to London and the big time. He says that he is in a band and asks her to star in a music video. The problem is he has no band, and so he manages to gather up some locals and they actually become rather decent musicians and Conor has some talent as a song writer. The rest is fairly familiar and somewhat predictable, but the leads are so charming that Sing Street is worth watching. It is not as good as "once" but Carney keeps the film interesting and the music is not bad, so crank up the surround sound and enjoy the ride.
This is a very different kind of movie. Clay figures are used instead of real actors to tell the story. Michael Stone(voice of David Thewlis) is a customer service expert and author of a book on the topic who travels to Cincinnati to give a lecture at a hotel. Mike is a bit of an oddball with deep personal problems. He phones an old girlfriend to meet him at the bar with very disastrous results. Afterwards, at the lobby he meets two women who have read his self help book and they join him for drinks at the bar. One of the women, Lisa, is a troubled girl with her own set of issues. She and Michael hook up and this leads up to a strangest, and almost x rated encounter between puppets that I have ever witnessed. This is not an animated film for the kids. My strongest criticism is the use of an actor's voice, Tom Noonan, for all of the other characters, including women other than Lisa. It is obvious from the start that the voice is not a woman's. Overall, I was entertained by Anomalisa, and give it a 7/10.
Henry Rollins of punk rock fame seems made for the big screen, as he channels his inner Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson as a no nonsense good guy/bad guy vigilante. Jack(Rollins) is a loner who mostly sleeps and plays bingo incessantly In between, he is stabbed, shot and poisoned along the way. Rollins has a low key demeanor which is beyond description. He is also extremely funny with a deadpan comedic delivery which reminds me of Steve Martin. The less said about the plot here, the better. The title implies the story line, as Jack is very, very old. He explains his bizarre history to a waitress about 2/3 of the way into the film. This is a highly original script with enough comic relief to earn it an 8/10. IMDb tile page informs us of a possible mini series based on the movie. I can't wait for Rollins to bring back Jack in the future.
This looks like one of those old Cecille B. DeMille biblical epics of the 1960s with much better special effects, due to modern CGI techniques. Instead of Old Testament rivals, we get Horus and Get battling for the soul of Egypt. Get is a god of darkness and Horus is the good guy; or god of light. The opening features a fight between the two, which results in the bad guy plucking out the good guys eyeballs. The obligatory mortal hero comes along to assist Horus in regaining Egypt while also attempting to reunite with his one true love. The only recognizable actor is Gerard Butler as Get; in a similar role he did in "300." The script is rather silly but the CGI is spectacular. Gods of Egypt needs to be seen on a big screen. I do not know why the budget was $140 million, as this is, at best, a 4/10.
Steve Martin can do anything. Here he is teamed up with Queen Latifah, and they are excellent together. Martin is divorced tax lawyer looking for a girlfriend on the internet, via a legal chat room. He encounters Charlene(Latifah), who has posted a photo of a blonde woman, and this leads to the first encounter which, of course, shocks Martin. She is a convict seeking a lawyer to clear her name in a case where she has been convicted of armed robbery. She winds up living in his house under the guise of being a nanny to his son and daughter. The story is rather silly, but due to the great chemistry of the leads, it worked for me anyway. Nothing profound here, but it provides a good escape from the real world for a while.
Ryan Reynolds is Wade Wilson, a former special forces guy who transforms into a superhero who names himself Deadpool. This is a very different comic book adventure with numerous inside jokes including a couple of shots of a People magazine cover with Reynolds pictured as the sexiest man alive. The language and a brief sex scene give the film an R rating, and the CGI is as good as expected. Reynolds and love interest Vanessa(Morena Baccarin) have good chemistry and the villains; especially Ajax(Ed Skrein) are excellent. A good story line and great casting; including Leslie Uggams as an old eccentric blind woman make Deadpool a solid 8/10.
Michael Moore travels around the world to bring back some good ideas to America. He begins in Italy, spending a day with a young married couple who tell him about the extensive vacation and holiday time required by Italian law. He visits the Ducati factory and interviews the CEO who explains that his happy workers are more productive because of the two hour lunches and shorter hours with more time for rest and relaxation. In France, we are shown the school lunch program, which include a variety of cheeses and desserts which are mind boggling when compared with the crap we serve here in America. Moore travels to a German pencil factory where the workers are paid for a forty hour week while actually working thirty six. They have a higher productivity level than America. They also have mandatory classes teaching about the Holocaust; the most riveting scene in the film. Moore makes the comparison with slavery and the treatment of Native Americans here and our lack of contrition. The prison system of Norway, with a strong emphasis on rehabilitation, is compared with our "cruel and unusual" style. Moore speaks with a police chief in Portugal to discuss the decriminalization of drugs with great success. The "war on drugs" here has been such a good idea. The educational system of Finland: ranked first in the world, is a result of an excellent public system which teaches students to think and not to pass a test. They do not have charter schools there. In Slovenia, all education is free, including college. Moore interviews students and the president of the country. Iceland is last and Moore explains that they elected a female leader back in the 1970's and that the boards of corporations must have women. He finishes at the Berlin wall to make the point that anything is possible, using the example of the wall being torn down by the Germans; an event which shocked the world. Michael Moore has done it once again; creating a film which might actually cause some discussion.
John Goodman as you have never seen him before. A true believer in conspiracy theories ranging from Russian or Middle Eastern military attacks, to possible invasions from aliens from outer space; it is all here for your consideration. A woman, Michelle(Mary Elizabeth Winstead), leaves her husband and has a car accident, only to awaken in a concrete bunker, shackled to a bed with an i.v. line attached to her arm. Her captor/benefactor, Howard(Goodman), explains to her that America has been attacked by an unknown enemy and that he has saved her life. His bunker has air filters and plenty of stored food for a long stay until after the outside air has cleared enough to leave. Another tenant, Emmett, is another survivor, and together, the three pass the time watching movies and playing parlor games. This is pretty much a three character drama reminiscent of The Twilight Zone. The acting and script are good, but I was not thrilled with the ending. Even so, I would recommend 10 Cloverfield Lane as an above average sci-fi thriller.
The Assassin is promoted as a martial arts film, which is extremely misleading, as we see very few fight scenes. Shu Qi is the lead as a female killer, Nie Yinniang, in seventh century China. She was given to a nun as a small child, and after some unseen battle training returns to her birth place to kill corrupt political and military leaders. Qui is stunning and the cinematography breathtaking; first in black and white with shadows, an obvious Citizen Kane influence, to magnificent color shots of pastel looking silk finery and opulent palaces. The problem is the slow pace and somewhat confusing story line. Viewed as a visual piece, it succeeds, but I would have preferred a more clear cut theme. I will still recommend The Assassin for the beautiful Shu Qi, and the richness of the scenery.
I must confess that I am a retired Catholic with strong antipathy towards all organized religion. Having stated that, I can still recommend Risen as a well made and well intentioned film by director Kevin Reynolds. The cast is uniformly excellent, with the lead, Joseph Fiennes as a Roman soldier drawn into the political intrigue at Jesus'(Yeshua here), Crucifixion and resurrection. Peter Firth is Pilate, the ultimate politician and deal maker. He uses Clavius(Fiennes) to track down the body of Yeshua after he goes missing after the required three days. It is, of course, a familiar story to most of the world. Clavius leaves no stone unturned(pardon the pun) in his search for the messiah. He eventually tracks down the twelve disciples and through a series of mysterious events, is transformed into a new man. Separating my own skepticism from the artistic merit of Risen is easy. It is a beautifully shot cinematic experience without the overdone violence of Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, an extremely unpleasant viewing experience. Kevin Reynolds kept it simple and straight forward without a preaching tone. Risen is worth your time.
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