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I'd like to say I hated or loved this movie, but it's far more complicated than that
The thing is, this is a slow moving portrait of an ordinary man and his wife and dog in a somewhat rundown, industrial city in New Jersey. There's not much excitement here as not much happens in the week we're with them, but the three principals are exquisitely suited to worm their way into your mind in such a way that they'll seem like close friends after it's all over. That's quite a trick.
Paterson's a city bus driver, his wife, Laura, is an accomplished goofball, and their dog, Marvin, is an English bulldog with a sense of humor. Almost the entire plot has to do with Paterson's love of poetry, but I was rather taken with his wife's charming personality. It's almost a perfect match with Paterson's positive, live and let live, attitude. Together you wonder whether such people might live for real, all across the country.
It might all amount to a pleasant but not very impressive night at the movies. Ordinarily, I'd agree, but why then do I smile whenever I think of the principals? Clearly there's been something magical at work.
John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
A great movie for those of us frustrated with the political scene
This movie has pretty much perfected the cinematic kill shot. Keanu goes on a killing spree and every shot seems like it was worked out in detail. You look closely and you would swear he was aiming his weapon exactly as needed to produce the blood and brain splatter so skillfully and repeatedly displayed. It's almost a solo dance he does and he has to be given credit for doing it with the grace and precision of a Fred Astaire.
In contrast the first Wick movie seemed a bit tentative though you could see what was intended and feel it was worth attempting. This movie is more complete and fun, and there's no hesitation in execution at all. There's a dreamy sensibility in full bloom aided by Keanu's peculiarly emotionless approach.
There's no confusing all this with real violence though it's believable enough. I think those decrying its violence are way off base. All men have at some point wished they could make some certain people be permanently gone. But what would that even look like? Here's the answer produced skillfully and rather uniquely in a style others will have trouble trying to duplicate. But as a prelude to real violence it's about as useful Animal House was to going to college.
If, on the other hand, you just want to vent your frustrations, this movie can work better than a punching bag.
Obama should have pardoned Snowden on our behalf
I'm so sorry I didn't make the time to see it while it was playing in theaters. I suppose I shied away from being any more jacked up about our intelligence communities than I already was. But now with the election behind us and with the possibility of Snowden being pardoned having just passed, I could summon up the courage to see a work of political art that might send me into a deep depression.
I'm not depressed having seen it now, but I am incensed. Perhaps there's been some poetic license taken but I've no doubt it's minor and beside the point. The argument is well made that Washington has gone too far and that Snowden's acts were more than warranted. The best analogy I can think of for the core issue is a father wanting to keep his daughter safe by locking her in her room. Does it work? Yes. But should any red- blooded American girl allow it? No. It's tantamount to a denial of her fundamental right to a life of her own making. Oliver Stone has given expression to the millions of progressives who have applauded the supposedly treasonous acts of Edward Snowden and in a lot of ways this is his greatest career accomplishment yet.
As a movie, the first half is fairly miraculous given the technical nature of the action. Nevertheless, what is going on is made elegantly and unmistakably clear by a score of brilliantly constructed scenes. And every established actor, and there are quite a few, seems further elevated by their inclusion in this politically risky, but near heroic, work. The second half is less impressive, but that's mostly because of the real-life, mindless acts of our elected and appointed officials.
If there's a bad side to all this, it does shed an unfavorable, but accurate, light on Obama's administration, and there's little appetite for that given our recent election.
La La Land (2016)
OK, I hate all musicals,,, except this one, dammit!
Never been moved much by musicals though I've always admired those of Fred Astaire. But this movie is not some glitzy re-humanization of being rich during The Depression. It's actually almost the opposite, a musical centered on the little people striving to succeed while enduring the ups and downs of relationships and two branches of the entertainment business, one an actress, the other a jazz pianist.
Thing is the two leads here, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, are not easy to picture in a romantic musical. But, without a doubt, they're an inspired choice who will make you wonder, just how much talent is there in Hollywood? It's mind-boggling to contemplate. What's more, these two fine actors are so evenly matched here that it's impossible to tell which came first, the pairing or the script. Clearly they had an uncanny grasp of the form though it's been years since there's been such a successful one.
This movie so deftly navigates all sorts of truth about so many elusive things that it's not worth picking a few. Just go see it, even if you don't like musicals. It will win you over.
A true sci-fi story of the kind I used to read as a kid, done beautifully and convincingly
The whole idea of traveling between stars has been contemplated for a long time. There are huge obstacles that would have scared off most scriptwriters, but not Jon Spaihts, or the director, Morten Tyldum. Not sure who had the most guts, perhaps both, but the result is spectacular and engrossing. Truth be told there are a couple of plot gimmicks employed to liven up the drama, but I was so wrapped up in the story I hardly noticed.
What if you woke up before everyone else on a ship not due to make landfall for 90 years? What might you do out of desperation?
Imagining what might happen in a plausible way is either going to fall short or seem magical. This treatment is definitely the latter. The look and feel of the starship is fresh and impressive. And both Lawrence and Pratt do more than what is required by the story, they not only make it all believable, they make it poignant and emotional too. I could see Jennifer's part going to some stunning starlet, a younger Megan Fox, perhaps, but the movie would have lacked the emotional impact it gets from a pro like Jennifer, who gets more alluring with every picture.
Rogue One seems pretty childish in comparison.
Our Kind of Traitor (2016)
Just the movie the UK needs to see
It's sad that the UK always seems to revert to dealing in dubious economics whenever its more traditional industries flounder. Elizabeth I sent out so-called privateers who were really just pirates and now the UK is hosting dirty money from all over the planet. This story has had little play in the movies probably because no one wants to stop the money train. But this movie is a refreshing attempt to rectify all that and that in itself is worth the price of admission.
Just as cinema, Stellan Skarsgard, Damian Lewis and Ewan McGregor give memorable performances that treat the subject matter with the seriousness it deserves. Damian Lewis is particularly effective as the spymaster who is trying to expose corruption at the highest levels. One scene near the end where the bespectacled spymaster is home cooking made me immediately envy his gorgeous London pad, and the location shots are just something extra that you'll likely enjoy.
There's plenty of action in this thriller but the best thing about it is the choice of an unusual villain the financial district in London called The City. True, the script could have used a little tuning up but it is all clear enough by the credits.
Hands of Stone (2016)
Though I was one of those US soldiers in Panama who Duran hated, I still love this film
The sad thing is, this is a movie that every American should see and understand, but that that is almost impossible, there's just too much disinformation standing between us and the truth.
This is not a big film but that Robert De Niro was willing to lend his considerable talents to it speaks volumes about its worth. The story is a true one more than difficult to find in news reports at the time and so all the more jarring when told with the passionate clarity that it gets here.
I admit I have a very personal point of view about this movie. I was stationed in Panama when Duran was fighting. I wish I could have seen him fight, but the closest I came was being outside a stadium and being stunned at the uproar coming from it. I asked someone what was going on and they said Roberto Duran was fighting. Roberto was more than just a fighter to Panamanians, he was their hero. The Chorrillo district he grew up in was mostly slum. To come up from such poverty seems more than heroic to anyone familiar with the area, it's downright miraculous.
As Ray Arcel, his trainer, said, Roberto had some of the best instincts he'd ever seen. He was a natural fighter. His weakness was he was also a man prone to excess and excessive pride and the film does not shrink from those flaws. But to its credit it also doesn't shrink from putting the US in a less than admirable light.
There's more that isn't mentioned in this film, such as the highly suspicious way General Torrijos, president of Panama, died, or the extensive prostitution our military base promotes which Roberto would have witnessed. Still this movie is a vast improvement over the usual way Hollywood portrays Central America.
The acting is excellent throughout though I especially enjoyed Ana de Armas' portrayal of Roberto's wife, Felicidad, for the memories it gave me.
Captain Fantastic (2016)
Noam Chomsky mentioned in a movie? Made me smile all night!
I picked up the DVD at my library and as usual checked the new DVD for scratches. I live in a fairly conservative area and I'm used to having lenders mistreat the DVDs. (After all, they've had their viewing.) Sure enough, it was badly scratched, but it was the only copy and so I watched it thereby missing about 15 minutes of it all told.
I will get a hold of a good copy, but I've seen enough to know that I love this movie. It's essentially a beautifully rendered criticism of modern life. Viggo Mortensen is, as usual, quite good, but just as impressive are the children ranged around him as his family. I kept thinking the mere fact they were able to gather such a convincing group is heartening in itself.
But the heroic core of this movie is its conception, direction and script. People don't understand the attraction of socialism. They only think of the loss of freedom, by which they usually mean having to support slackers. This movie is a well-conceived dream of a response to those criticisms. It even includes references to Noam Chomsky who most conservatives haven't heard of. It plays on so many of the ideas that motivated the counter culture in the 60s that it seemed almost nostalgic. But most laudably it's guaranteed to make the stars of Fox's Outnumbered nauseous, and they richly deserve it for comments they've made about 'stinking hippies', which made me nauseous.
One of the best WWII movies I've seen
This movie is one of the most meticulous recreations of an actual event I've ever seen. Of course, without a good story to relate, it'd all be for naught, but this story is worthy of the care lovingly given it here. The drama is set in occupied Czechoslovakia. Seven expatriate freedom fighters are parachuted in from London but the action is centered on two of its leaders, Josef and Jan, who work together. They have one mission, to execute the highest Nazi official in the land.
This is no James Bond fantasy. Things go wrong, communication is difficult, and plans have to be revised on the fly. But the story is told in a step by step way that puts you alongside the fighters to share the tension and fear. The pace is steady and deliberate but nothing's left out and by the end you feel you know everything that happened.
The acting is devoted and committed. I particularly noticed how Jamie Dornan as Jan is particularly good at seeming to be not acting. Though Cillian Murphy's role as Josef is more the narrative's intended center, Cillian plays it in a fairly subdued manner.
All in all, a memorable story that, what with some gorgeous shots of the city, made me want to get to know Prague!
Gods of Egypt (2016)
This is so wildly imaginative that it is sometimes hard to understand
I saw this for the second time after Thanksgiving and it was just right for the holiday. A fun movie that's best seen more than once, I suspect, as we don't know these characters in the West and it's a little hard keeping them straight the first time. (My wife had no trouble.) This is an ambitious, very dense and fast moving fantasy. Some of the women are a little mind-boggling, but they don't seem to know it. The CGI is often annoying but if you just think about the idea they're expressing and forget the shortcomings of its manifestation, it's easy to let it have its say.
Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau as Horus is in the central role. He's next to be crowned the King of Egypt, but he's a bit of a wastrel and loses the crown even before he's crowned. He's loved by Hathor, played by the bewitching Elodie Yung. They're two of the many gods inhabiting Egypt along with its many mortals. They're taller than the mortals and can turn into powerful beasts at will. The story revolves around Set, played by Gerard Butler, who wants to rule Egypt, Horus and a human, Bek, played by Brenton Thwaites who shows these gods that we humans can be clever and brave too.
I particularly liked how it's so divorced from the Judeo-Christian mythology, that it's refreshing and a relief. It's no masterpiece, but it's hardly the dud IMDb seems to think it is.