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The Movie You've Already Seen
It's the WWII blitz. Two women are sent to the countryside with a small group of children to remove them from the dangers of German bombs. I can't imagine the British government allowing children to inhabit a rundown house that has been deserted for 40 years. Besides being filthy, the house looks as if it's about to collapse.
When you have a sequel that takes place 40 years after the original, there is some repetition . We have the setup, mysterious and frightening scenes (that turn out to be dreams), denial, discovery of what came before and acceptance. Of course there are the obligatory "shock" shots when one character flashes into view to cause a jump from the audience.
Once trouble starts, there is a young, handsome Royal Air Force officer whose only purpose is to show up Just In Time. This happens throughout the movie. The Woman in Black is defeated of course and it seems our heroes are safe. But there is a final shot that suggests we can expect Woman in Black 3 in a few years.
M-G-M Jubilee Overture (1954)
When Hollywood Still Had Class
A full orchestra in formal attire plays a medley of songs made famous in MGM films through 1954. Oddly, there is no music from "Gone With the Wind." As shown on Turner Classic Movies, the music was in stereo and the picture in Cinerama but unrestored. Hopefully it will run again so I can record it. To my knowledge, this short has not been released on DVD or Blu-Ray as an extra with an MGM movie.
It remained me of the prologue to 20th Century Fox's "How to Marry a Millionaire" in which Alfred Newman led an orchestra playing "Street Scene." This came out the year before the MGM film and was also in stereo and Cinerama.
A Difficult Movie to Figure Out
On the positive side, the acting is superb. Michael Keaton was never better and Ed Norton also gave a brilliant performance. Oddly, Norton's role ended about 20 minutes before the end of the movie. The difficult part for me was determining what was real and what was in Keaton's demented brain.
At least twice before the movie ended, I thought that it was ending: first when Keaton jumped off the building and secondly when he shot himself on stage. But he just kept on going like the Energizer bunny. The ending was ambiguous. He jumped out of the hospital window. He had just shot himself in front of 800 people. Why was he left alone? His daughter comes in and looks down from the window. Not seeing him, she looks up and smiles. Fade to black. So Keaton is really Birdman? I doubt it. Maybe they were stuck for an ending.
Good But Confusing
Overall I enjoyed "Interstellar" but left the theater with major plot holes running through my head. Matthew McConaughey mumbled a bit so I lost a lot of his dialog. The soundtrack made great use of pipe organ music which reminded me of "Thus Spake Zarathustra" from "2001: A Space Odyssey." This may have been deliberate. Another feature from "2001" was the confusing, metaphysical ending.
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD
Cooper passes out in some sort of 5th dimension and wakes up in a hospital bed. His daughter, who is now elderly and near death, is responsible for saving humanity. The human race lives in a space wheel (like in "Elysium") orbiting Saturn. Why not orbiting Earth? And HOW was Cooper's daughter responsible for this? Did these trips through the wormhole really accomplish anything?
Maybe other people in the audience caught something I missed or couldn't wrap my brain around. A group of people were discussing the movie in the lobby when I left.
In closing, "Interstellar" is worth your time and money. There really weren't any times when the movie lagged. It starts out at a moderate pace and doesn't let up. Be prepared to pay attention and think.
Field of Lost Shoes (2014)
A Good If Unspectacular Movie About an Obscure Civil War Battle
I enjoyed this movie about the involvement of cadets from the Virginia Military Institute in the Battle of New Market which delayed U. S. Grant's invasion into the Shenandoah Valley. Most of the movie takes place at the academy in 1863-4 showing the cadet's dedication to duty, honor and concern about the war.
The movie takes a decidedly ant-slavery stand though this is mostly in the background. This first scene in 1858 shows the governor of Virginia, who opposed secession, taking his 12 year old son to a slave auction to see the misery and pain inherit in the practice of slavery. Five years later the son is one of the cadets called to serve in the reserves of CSA General Breckenridge's army for the battle.
The cadets experience romance, fear, death, loss of comrades, fear but finally victory. The title comes from one of the last scenes when Confederate soldiers recover boots and shoes from the battlefield. Their sacrifice is still honored each year at VMI. This movie will only appeal to a small audience of course. It received no advance publicity of any kind. I was the only person in this theater at the multiplex. It probably won't last long wherever it plays.
Magic in the Moonlight (2014)
Good Date Movie
Critics have written pretty savage reviews of this film but my date and I liked it quite a bit. The country gardens were pastoral, the background music toe tapping and the acting very good. Allen's casting is always excellent even for small parts. Even "only fair" Woody Allen is far better than this summer's CGI releases. The audience applauded at the end.
The dialog was typical Allen. The lead male and female characters took Allen's own opposing views on God and spirituality. He wants to believe but in the end rationalism wins out. So does love.
My only criticism is the "screen door" effect of digital filming. The movie looks as if we were viewing it through a screen. The country scenes would have been much sharper and colorful on film.
A minor point: The music piece "Bolero", played early in the film, wasn't composed and premiered until late 1929, a short time after this story takes place.
The Quiet Ones (2014)
The beginning sets up the premise in an Oxford classroom in 1974. I didn't trust the professor from the start. Why would a world-class university allow anyone to keep a mentally disturbed girl locked up in a room to perform experiments on her? After the directors cut his funding, the professor takes his patient, two students and a young cameraman to a decaying manor house with no phones or contact with the outside world.....the English equivalent of a cabin in the woods.
Once there, the movie goes into low gear with nothing exciting happening for about 40 minutes. Of course, there are a lot of arguments and accusations. They basically torture the patient while filming it. Why that beautiful young student was attracted to the professor I'll never understand. There really aren't any thrills until the very end and it's over before you know it. The lone survivor is accused of murdering everyone else.
The film makers are able to set up a mood but fail to exploit it. For most of the movie I had no idea what was happening. When it was over I wondered what I had just seen. Save your money and watch "The Haunting" from 1963.
The story was "Based on actual events" like so many movies are these days. Here's the true story: http://www.dreadcentral.com/news/75544/quiet-ones-witness- films-true-events#axzz303jcfAA7
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
The Plot Simply Doesn't Gel
Interesting sets, beautifully locations, wooden characters. Too much of the story takes places in trains, a prison and the countryside. I really wish more of the plot had taken place in the hotel. Following a confusing beginning (there is a double flashback), the story took off without any real direction or reason. When the movie ended, many people in the audience applauded. My feeling was "that's it?" All the ingredients were there but the cake didn't rise.
Still, I'm not sorry I saw the movie. It was different and that's always refreshing in a time of cookie-cutter plots.
At one point I noticed that the movie was no longer being shown in widescreen but more of a television aspect ratio. Once the movie returned to 1985 or the present, it was widescreen. Weird.
Dark Skies (2013)
Would Make a Good Movie on the Sci-Fi Channel
"Dark Skies" is a well acted and photographed movie that builds suspense early and and steadily until the end. The problem is that the payoff just isn't that exciting or frightening. After seeing the trailers I wasn't sure if the family was troubled by aliens or the supernatural. It turned out to be aliens and I was curious as to why ghosts or demons were never suspected.
Even before the unexpected began, this was a family in crisis. The father had been out of work for some time. They were more than three months behind on house payments. The mother sold real estate with little apparent success. The 13 year old son was consumed with girls and the much younger son is being visited by the "sandman".
This movie has elements of "Poltergeist", "Signs" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." One night the mother finds the kitchen floor covered with food from the icebox. The next night cans of food, utensils and crockery are stacked on a kitchen table in ways that form shadows of crop circle patterns on the ceiling. Neighbors discover burn marks on the boys that form crop circle patterns. The parents track down an elderly man who conveniently Explains Everything, tells them they are not alone in this but offers no practical help. The mother adopts an aggressive German shepherd which barks when the aliens come but then disappears when he's really needed.
Remember in "Close Encounters" when the aliens come to the farm house and take the boy? That's the payoff in this movie but it's not nearly as exciting or frightening. The neighbors never seem to hear the noise or see the lights that come with the alien arrival.
So there you are. A good but not great movie, better than most of this genre.
Visually Stunning. Weak Story
"We had such potential, such promise" says the scientist. He's describing the human race but he may as well be talking about this movie. The premise is good enough but it quickly turns into a Terminator film. There should have been more plot development without so many action scenes. The nine dolls are supposed to succeed in a world where humans have failed. But how can they? They possess the same qualities, good and bad, that humans had. And they're 1/6 the size in a destroyed city. Good luck saving the world.
The machines look like they were built with Erector sets and why do they have animal skulls?
Forget about taking the kids. It's far too violent.