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This Revolution (2005)
Not pleasant, radical and somewhat biased, but important
The movie starts with what appears to be documentary footage of protests at the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston.
Later we learn Jake filmed the footage and is showing it to Chloe, who works at BCN and is also his romantic interest. They don't have a perfect relationship, though, since Chloe cares about getting ahead and Jake cares about the truth.
The Republican Convention is coming up in New York City, and BCN wants Jake to cover the "war" taking place in the streets. Jake has experience with war, having been the first "embedded" journalist in Iraq.
Before the convention, though, Jake and his sound man Dexter film some opinions of people in general, including a wacko who thinks Bush caused 9-11, and rapper Immortal Technique, who is angry about the way black people and other minorities are disrespected by cops and others.
Jake meets Richie, who raises homing pigeons with his father Cruz, who is serving in Iraq. They become friends, and Jake also develops a relationship with Richie's mother Tina, who explains that her husband was killed but Richie doesn't know it.
Soon Jake is learning about the protests and those who are participating, including one group that wears masks so its members will be anonymous. While Jake believes he is doing good, BCN and its president of programming Bob Kramer, who was once a journalist but now considers himself a businessman interested in his company's success, want to help Homeland Security keep track of potential terrorists.
The ending is pretty amazing if disturbing.
If you are a Bush-Cheney supporter who believes in conservative values, this movie may not be for you. The conservative point of view is presented but mostly to be ridiculed or criticized. Those who served in the military are respected and praised, but why they were serving is another matter.
Of course the protesters are more than just lazy people looking for an excuse to make trouble as some of the conservatives think. But they are working hard to take a stand and drive change. If they were lazy they'd just back down from all the adversity.
Rosario Dawson does a great job as a mother who is trying to cope and seems reasonably happy considering her circumstances. And she is pushing her son to be more than she is.
Nathan Crooker does a good job as an idealistic journalist.
The real stars of the movie are the ordinary people. Most appear to be merely actors but they come across as more. And there is a lot of what appears to be real footage.
And of course the convention itself was real. According to this movie, though, Bush didn't speak at night, but I guess that's a minor criticism. Maybe it wasn't safe to film that part of the powerful climactic scene during the day.
There is some violence, but it's not too bad. I'm so glad I saw this movie cleaned up for TV, because the sound went out a lot.
It's not what we would like to see, and it's not necessarily the truth, but it's what we need to see. If only to make us think.
Very entertaining and touching
In Britain during the Recession that affected so much of the world late in the first decade of the 21st century, Zooey and her husband Alec want to have a child, but they can't. They might just have to consider adoption. Zooey runs a children's bookstore with her mother Diane, and Alec runs the toy company his late father founded 50 years earlier.
Eli is a 7-year-old boy who lives at Mrs. Lange's children's home. But he is more intelligent than most adults and quite mature, and he dresses like a successful businessman, though he does enjoy toys and other kid stuff. No one else appears to be able to see or hear him as he starts taking to the audience. Though Zooey and Alec are able to see him as they visit Mrs. Lange trying to become foster parents one of the children.
While they are told the application will take a while to process, Eli shows up at the couple's door with paperwork filled out and signed by Mrs. Lange. Zooey and Alec go back to Mrs. Lange to make sure everything is okay, and Mrs. Lange is being taken away unconscious in an ambulance. The one employee of the home who can help them doesn't really know about the process but looks at the paperwork and sees nothing wrong.
So Eli begins his life with Zooey and Alec. Among his many talents: he can cook.
Eli is too smart for school, so he refuses to go after the first day, but he can help Alec at his job.
The toy company is in trouble. Tom is very loyal, and he has been there 45 years. But the other workers are worried about being paid. Alec can't get a new loan and the house is already mortgaged, something he didn't tell Zooey about.
While in the park, Eli and Zooey meet a mystery man named Mr. Potts who knows what happened in 2007 (there is a room in their house Zooey refuses to let anyone into). Mr. Potts needs money and appreciates Zooey's help. Later, Alec is at the cemetery and Mr. Potts is there too, making sure the gravestones look good.
So will there be a Christmas miracle?
I should mention that even though the movie had a title related to Christmas when I saw it, it's not really about Christmas. The holiday does come near the end, though. And Zooey and Alec learn a lot from Eli.
Maurice Cole is outstanding. There is no way he is seven years old. He comes across as a short adult and shows a lot of intelligence and appeal.
Toni Collette is quite appealing, and when she does smile, it's a very nice smile. But she doesn't smile a lot.
The other lead actors do quite well also. In fact, everyone does. Even the employee at Legoland Amusement Park who is only there for the paycheck and cares nothing about his job.
It's a very worthwhile effort.
The Controller (2008)
Very exciting and often funny
Liberation Force is the biggest selling video game, and William runs the company that makes it. However, he has never played a video game.
William gets a mysterious call from someone with a strange-sounding voice asking if he likes to play games.
William and wife Melissa are celebrating an anniversary, but he devotes too much time to his job and it's not much of a celebration. Melissa gives William some tea to help him sleep.
And William really does sleep. He wakes up late and finds Melissa gone, and a ransom note.
Then William finds out what he has to do. He gets a message and a key to his old home office, which has been completely redesigned. He is told he has eight hours to play Liberation Force, starting at 1:00 Mountain Time, and to get his wife back he must win.
The cops can do a lot to help William because he is worth billions. The interactive game has many competitors, and the best of these are found. It is hard to make contact with them, but clever ways are found, and this movie turns into a comedy. All the major TV channels around the country run a crawl, like a news bulletin, telling the top competitors what they need to do.
Fragmaster is the best, and he lives in Florida. He has responsibilities but manages to get around those. Another competitor is a cop in his town, and the electric utility is asked to help.
Knarf37 is a loser living in his mother's basement. Athena is a Duke University student. PappaPooh happens to be home with his kids in Portland, Oregon, which provides many opportunities for laughs. And Master Chief, whose wife is hot and shows up later, is fortunate to get out of the most boring business meeting imaginable, as legalese is being read by a very monotonous voice.
At 1:00, the players are ready, and they introduce themselves. William is "Rookie" and knows absolutely nothing, but with no incentive to do so, the other players are happy to help him learn. Everyone has a microphone so their voices can be heard on each screen when the proper steps are taken. William even needs to learn how to do that. And each person is represented by an image on the screen which look somewhat realistic. There are backgrounds showing where our heroes are as they attempt to reach their goal, which is somewhere in Hawaii.
A Mr. Lee is also a player, but we never see his real identity. Alien drop ships land and our heroes have to go to Hawaii to do battle. William is not allowed to say why he is playing (if he does he loses), and only later does he offer all the players one million dollars. There are many rules, the most important of which is each player can only die once, and if Rookie dies, everyone dies and the game is lost. But there are many different means of protection available.
The action begins, and while we still have comedy, it's not as much a part of the movie as it was. The players all must deal with important decisions and moral dilemmas. The one million dollars, if that is indeed real, certainly provides an incentive, but these players really do care about each other, even though they are all over the country and have never actually met. There are disagreements, but they get resolved. Sacrifices must be made, and the players learn to work together.
So will William reach his goal and save Melissa? The actors playing the competitors are really good, and they make us care about them. There are plenty of laughs as well as touching moments.
The actress playing Captain Jenkins does a capable job. Her second in command is good for a few laughs.
The one major weakness is Bob Rue as William. He seems like he is auditioning for the role, or perhaps reading with the person auditioning for another role. While he has his moments, he should have been told, "Thank you, we'll let you know."
The video game art is what I will call video game realistic. Not real realistic, but quite detailed.
I have no experience whatsoever with video games of any type, and the closest I have gotten to this type of experience is an episode of "Community". Still, I had a good time.
It's quite entertaining.
Assassins' Code (2011)
Very violent but at least we can laugh occasionally
At the start of the movie, Jennifer walks into the building housing the offices of a company that deals with the U.S. government. In just minutes, at least 10 people die. It's probably 11, because that's the total given by Dodd as he talks to his friend Paul while a woman does yoga in a park.
Powers (I hope that's right) is being interrogated in blue and white. That's like black and white, only blue. Most of the rest of the movie is flashbacks explaining what Powers is saying.
Paul was a government hit man who has killed many people but he does not currently own a gun. He rents one when he needs one, and he practices frequently.
There is a disk that contains vital information. Lots of people want it, including North Korean big shot Karl Kim, and are willing to kill for it. Eight people die, and Paul is the prime suspect. While he later admits to killing the people, he says he had to, as if it were self-defense. Paul is hurt and on the run, and Stacia, an divorced ER nurse who just worked a double shift, finds him behind a dumpster. He takes her hostage. Later, he visits Arlo and finds out more information. There is more shooting, and Arlo and Paul return to Stacia's place.
Altman is an important government agent who might be corrupt. He is quite serious and demanding but also likes to have fun with women. Tony is his "point man" but he doesn't seem to be doing a very good job.
More people get shot.
My main incentive to watch this was seeing Bull from Night Court in a different kind of role. He is pretty good, but not as moral as I am used to.
The scenes with Paul and Arlo were sometimes funny, especially with Stacia. Dodd was a good character too.
This isn't my kind of movie, and I can't say whether it is any good or not. I was just glad when it was over and certain people survived. And no, not everyone we like is going to survive.
Entertaining and sometimes funny, but not always pleasant
In 1932 in Kingdom County, Vermont, a fire destroys much of the family's hay. They can't feed all their cattle and they can't get more hay, so they have to sell some of their cattle. Quebec Bill used to run whiskey, and that may be the only way to make money. Quebec Bill's father disappeared, according to Aunt Cordelia, as did many who ran whiskey. Quebec Bill came back to Vermont because of his father after working on ranches and as a lumberjack in Montana. Quebec Bill's brother-in-law Henry has run whiskey before, but he's reluctant to now. Wild Bill wants to go along but his mother Evangeline? has to be persuaded. Rat, who helps run the farm, also goes along but isn't sure he wants to.
The group crosses the border into Canada, where whiskey is legal. Two monks see nothing wrong with helping out and they agree to store what the guys get. But the guys have no money. They have to steal from the family that sells most of the whiskey, and violence becomes necessary. Wild Bill doesn't want to kill, but he has to. He is occasionally visited by his Aunt Cordelia, who appears and disappears mysteriously.
Kris Kristofferson does a great job. Quebec Bill is such a nice person, even though he is tough and willing to kill when necessary. He cares about his son. He loves nature, and there is plenty of nice scenery. And he is a man of faith. He believes Jesus approves of whatever he does.
Charlie McDermott is best known as irresponsible and rebellious Axl on "The Middle", but he is a completely different character here. He isn't the brightest student, but he responsible and moral and certainly not rebellious. And yet he would like some excitement in his life.
While not a comedy, this movie does provide some laughs. William Sanderson is probably best known as Larry, the brother of the two Darryls, and here he is mostly comic relief, though he takes his faith more seriously than Quebec Bill. Luis Guzman as what sounds to me like Brother Hilarious lives up to that name, though he is only in a couple of scenes.
Genevieve Bujold does an excellent job as Aunt Cordelia, who is a voice of reason and provides Wild Bill plenty of guidance and real Christian morals.
If you like steam trains, this movie has one, and an engineer who is quite a character.
It's worth seeing if you like stories about macho men in the woods.
A Christmas Wedding Date (2012)
Cute if weird holiday romance
Rebecca is a Wall Street big shot who arranged a big merger involving her firm--and worked herself out of a job. No problem. She's so good at her job she can get a new one just like that. Except no one wants to interview her until after the holidays. Seriously? Christmas has no practical purpose.
Rebecca's best friend Allison from back home in Santa Mira, California calls, wondering if Rebecca will attend Allison's Christmas Eve wedding. Okay, she has nothing else to do. Rebecca goes home but isn't looking forward to being with her mother Shirley. They don't get along, and Rebecca lost her father some years ago and wasn't really there for her mother.
A mysterious cab driver, well played by George Wendt (who has several roles), gives Rebecca a magical Christmas ornament. Rebecca tries to spend time with her mother, but Shirley has to run her diner. People with no place to go at the holidays need her. Shirley is not the problem in the relationship. Rebecca is.
Rebecca goes to the wedding but is annoyed on the way there by a "girl scout" selling cookies and a man trying to get people to go skating. At the wedding, bridesmaid Jennifer has lost weight and enhanced her chest. Maid of honor Molly is still blonde, gorgeous and nasty. The best man forgot the ring. Tyler is an usher and a jerk. Rebecca's ex Chad, another usher, was the football star and is now a chef, but can he and Rebecca restart their relationship? Supposedly he cheated with Molly.
The day is a disaster for Rebecca, and all she wants to do is get on a plane Christmas Day and go back home. But when she wakes up the next day, it is Christmas Eve--again. Rebecca knows what will happen but can't take advantage. That's okay. It happens again. And again. How many times can it happen? Will Rebecca learn to straighten out her life? One way to take advantage is to do frivolous and even risky activities, knowing they will not have lasting consequences.
Marla Solokoff is so good here. The character is pleasant enough most of the time, but eventually she is really nice. But I liked her best when she was having a good time, knowing she would not gain weight or have to pay for huge purchases on her (former) company's credit card, or spend time in jail. Her efforts to improve herself and get her man are really enjoyable.
Chris Carmack is good enough, and he even sings, but not well enough for me to believe he will be a big country star.
Catherine Hicks does a great job as Rebecca's mom.
There is plenty of good Christmas music, but also a lot of what I consider junk.
This is no masterpiece but it is a pleasant and even funny fantasy for the holidays.
Touching moments, mostly worthwhile and well done
In New York City, Rose is a children's book editor who has never had children and divorced her husband years ago, though when she meets a former friend she tries to claim she is happy with a Wall Street big shot and twin daughters Brittany and Ashley. The truth is she tries to care for everyone else but herself and she needs a relationship ... well, actually, people tell her she needs more than that. Her co-worker Marco might be able to provide her with what she needs, but she doesn't see him that way.
Mike and Nina are engaged but Mike, a cop, is suspicious and controlling, though not abusive. Nina is gorgeous and cares a lot about her large family.
Marcus had a terrible childhood and he gets by committing crimes. What he wants is a nice Christmas but the only time he ever had Christmas was when his abusive father beat him up and put him in the hospital. So he goes to the hospital hoping he can participate in the activities. Told he has to be a patient, he takes desperate measures.
Rose's mother has Alzheimer's and can't remember her, but she is dedicated and visits anyway. Across the hall is a comatose patient who never seems to get visitors, so she decides to be nice and visit the person. Quietly sitting there is a mysterious and kind man played by Robin Williams. Is he an angel? I'm not going to say. All I will say is that he and Rose help each other feel better.
Rose and Nina also interact and as a result, Rose ends up spending time with Nina's wonderful family.
Meanwhile, Mike and his partner on the force encounter Artie, who works in a restaurant where they eat. He lost his wife years ago and recognizes that Mike likes many of the same things his wife did. Could he be Mike's long-lost father? No, it's actually much weirder than that, and Artie and Mike end up spending time together, which is not entirely positive.
This is not always a pleasant movie, but it does have some touching moments and great performances. Susan Sarandon does such a good job, showing a very caring attitude, and putting on a good front when the truth her character is miserable. Penelope Cruz has such a positive attitude for what she is going through.
Alan Arkin also shows his talent.
And Robin Williams is amazing as always. He isn't that funny here but he has an ability for pleasant drama. Especially after what just happened to him, it's nice to see him as a man of faith and to hope Williams really did believe in something.
The storyline about Marcus I could have done without. He doesn't seem to interact with the others but merely happens to be in the same room at one point.
Is this a family movie? I wouldn't recommend it for kids, but it has some of the qualities of a holiday family drama. It just reminds us all too much that not everyone has happy holidays, while showing how we can make each other's lives better. And someone forgot to bleep the s-word a couple of times. I don't know whether this means everyone hears it or someone was supposed to be monitoring the movie as it aired. The sound did go out a couple of times later.
It's worth seeing if you don't mind being depressed before you feel better.
Peter Pan Live! (2014)
After "The Sound of Music", I had high expectations for this production, since NBC seems to want to make this an annual event. While I didn't see as many excellent performances as last year, this was quite an accomplishment.
Taylor Louderman was the standout actor. Absolutely wonderful and a fine singer, plus she was beautiful.
Allison Williams was great as a singer and pretty good speaking lines, with occasional moments of brilliance. She was too pretty for me to consider her a boy, but at times I felt I was seeing Peter Pan rather than watching someone play a role and evaluating her. And she was completely convincing as British.
Christian Borle wasn't as spectacular as last year, but he did play two roles and did them very well. Without being told he had two roles, I would never have known. It was like Richard Bucket and his brother-in-law Onslow. Wait, not Richard. More like Hyacinth, but a male version.
Kelli O'Hara is an amazing singer.
The two young actors playing the Darling boys did a fine job for their age.
I liked the three pirates who spent the most time on screen other than Hook himself. I knew Shmee (that's how Hook pronounced it; live TV!) but I could never keep track of who the other ones were. But they were great and very funny. And not threatening at all. As dangerous as the pirates sounded in the Macy's parade and their first scene, they couldn't live up to their reputation and that's just fine. A kid-friendly movie can't have villains that are TOO scary. And these bumbling idiots reminded me of The Three Stooges or perhaps Dumb and Dumber (and Dumbest).
As for the pirates, they were very talented indeed as singers and dancers. Not since Michael Jackson's "Beat It" video have such sinister types shown so much musical talent. And no, I've never seen "West Side Story". Imagine, tap-dancing pirates. And pirates doing the tango. And waltzing! And an Esther Williams routine from overhead! What a silly yet magnificent production!
The Lost Boys were great too. Once again, I didn't really try to keep up with which one was which, but the three with the most lines all did a great job. Not just speaking lines but also singing and dancing.
Minnie Driver did a fine job as narrator and later as adult Wendy.
Finally, there is Christopher Walken. Sufficiently goofy, but I never once forgot this was Christopher Walken playing Hook. I don't know the man all that well but his distinctive style was there. Still, he was frequently overshadowed by his talented subordinates and he often didn't enunciate in a manner to stand out, or even be heard. He was entertaining enough, especially after I got used to (on a competing network on Sundays) seeing Pan as villain and Hook as handsome and dashing hero.
Tiger Lily wasn't given much to do. Alanna Saunders was pretty and a good dancer but she was kind of a disappointment.
In the "making of" special that aired a week earlier, I learned the people in charge of flying had a lot of experience with Peter Pan. They executed their jobs nearly flawlessly. Watching Pan fly was amazing. I couldn't see what held him (her) up except at the end. There may have been a slight problem with the youngest Darling because I could see an edit; apparently this wasn't completely live, because I saw the same thing happen 20 years ago in the sitcom "Roc". Ever since the Janet Jackson incident, "live" can't really be "live" because things can happen. Still, excellent work on the flying.
On the same special we were told how Tinkerbell would work. "She", of course, was presented spectacularly. And on this kid-friendly show, we were apparently lucky not to hear her talk. On that subject, the Macy's parade had one inappropriate word which I didn't hear here, and the worst thing we were told Tink said was a synonym for donkey. Yeah, that's it.
The well-known music, of course, was great. New songs were added, but this is real music and kids need to know that when I was their age, this is what music sounded like. Back then, rock and roll was this evil presence which mostly stayed in the shadows.
Once, again, NBC gave us something to be proud of, something the whole family could watch.
A Dangerous Place (2012)
Mostly scary but occasionally touching
Eight months after September 11, a man in a suit carrying a briefcase shows up at a house, looking shaken up and dirty as if he just came from the Twin Towers on that terrible day.
Claire is finally ready to return home to her executive job at Prozan Pharmaceutical in Newark, after spending time in Ohio after she lost her husband Will on September 11. Her son Ryan is still having a hard time; he won't talk, he still dresses up all the time and his play focuses on the firefighters and the towers. Greenfield, a co-worker, has been taking care of the house and bringing in mail; the kitchen looks like it belongs to Britney Spears.
Prozan is planning to sell, but Claire is opposed, even though her stock in the company is worth $2.3 million. Co-workers think it is because she will get a huge settlement for her husband's death.
Thousands in Africa are dying from a dangerous type of TB. A few in the United States have also died from an even worse strain. And Prozan makes the only drug that can treat it. Stock prices climb, though Prozan has a limited supply. The company can start production quickly, which is strange. Even stranger is the discovery of a hidden supply. And the stock price keeps rising, and more and more people die, mostly important business people and their employees. Journalists make everyone worried. It is believed the disease is spread by mail.
Meanwhile, Claire must cope with her grief and plan a funeral. She says with no body there should be no funeral, which is one of several disagreements she has with Will's mother Flo.
And there are strange things happening to Claire. Could she be a target? And what is taking place on the abandoned 13th floor of Prozan's building?
And the mystery man we met early is now dressed for camping.
This is a pretty good movie. Not great, but exciting enough. There are plenty of scary moments, and of course the urgent tone and frenzied editing of the various news outlets. Weird lighting, strange angles and shaky cameras add to the mood in the scary situations.
And we are given many different possibilities about the cause of what's going on. But we always suspect there is one main reason. We just don't know the details.
But it's not all a tense thriller. There are sweet family moments, and even a role for faith, as the family's priest helps with honoring Will.
And there is room for occasional comedy, like that huge pile of what looks like a week's worth of celebrity fan mail, but is really eight months of regular mail.
Kristen Dalton does an okay job. Claire has to be strong, but she falls apart occasionally. She's no superwoman, which is fine. She isn't necessarily a person of faith, but she is open to the idea of relying on a higher power.
I could have done without all the blood, but I guess that's how you know people are sick.
It's worth seeing.
Old Dogs (2009)
Fun family movie
I had a good time and that's really all that counts. Yes, it's silly, and yes, it's really for kids, and not really clean enough for kids, but not bad.
Robin Williams isn't doing his best work here, but he impresses in some quiet, more serious scenes. He's good enough where he's funny.
John Travolta doesn't exactly show why he's one of the greats, but he is convincing as a successful businessman.
The guys have quite a mess to clean up in their business, and that's fun to watch.
The scenes where Charlie and Dan took the wrong drugs have enjoyable visual effects and hilarious pratfalls.
Lori Loughlin looks great, and she's quite professional as the translator.
Bernie Mac does a good job too. I don't share Jimmy Lunchbox's musical taste, but the song was pretty good.
Sab Shimono does his usual fine work.
The music is mostly my taste. For once, a Disney family comedy has music geared toward the parents, not the kids.
If I have any criticism, it's that the zoo scenes didn't last longer. Shortly before the movie started, we were told what the movie would be about, and it appeared mostly about sneaking into the zoo. That looked really funny, but we saw the best parts.
Not Disney's best work, but overall, I had a good time.