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Should teens see this?
So, should you let your twixt-ten-and-twenty kids see this? Superb story line and execution with little to no use of formulaic plot devices or simplistic teen music--which makes it easier for adults to watch. It's basically a Pokeyman Go game with money and FAME as the rewards, only with increasingly dangerous dares. It's right into the wheelhouse of its "I'm bulletproof" target teen audience. It shows exactly how addicting something like this would most likely be, as well where this out of control path to daredevil thrill/fame seeking so often takes us.
I see plenty of movies for younger kids since they usually have material adults can appreciate mixed in. But as a rule, I avoid movies directed straight at teens, especially horror. This, however, is about as good as I can remember a movie for this particularly audience being. In fact, when I saw all the teens, mostly girls, coming into the theater, for a 1 PM showing, and then several teen slasher previews, I almost walked out. But the premise made me stick it out, and I'm glad I did.
As for the opening question, I recommend a very hearty but advised, yes. Adulation derived adrenaline could well be the new drug of the future, and it's always better to face something head on than to ignore it. With caring parents and relatives, this can actually be a good source for a life lesson discussion--and to its credit, the movie is on your side. But you really need to see it too (separately?) so you can help them think through what really happens, so they don't just conclude, "well I would do it better". The message for the "watchers" at the end is the real point, in tandem with the insanity of excessive physical risk taking.
An Expose of History.
It doesn't open wide until Jul 22, but 3 days prior there's already an enormous canyon between the critics (10%) and the audience (76%) on Rotten Tomatoes. What did we expect? The movie opens saying it was based on truth, but I think it's better to say that it's a documentation of suppressed history. I learned a lot and it confirmed a lot. One newbie for me is Ida B. Wells, one of the founders of the NAACP, who was a Republican and worked for a Republican newspaper in Chicago, documenting lynchings, working for women's suffrage, and was even thrown off a train for refusing to give up her seat on the first class ladies coach in 1884. (In a twist, she sued the RR but lost when her black lawyer sold out. Then she hired a white lawyer and won! But that was overturned by the no doubt all white, Tenn Supreme Court). Her home is a Chicago landmark, but till now she's a near nothing but a footnote to history, and an embarrassment to the Democrat Party.
The high point for me was when D'Souza came through and revealed facts that showed Lyndon Johnson to be the corrupt, vulgar racist he always was and remained, and explained why Johnson did what he did. It is a very powerful sequence. And of course the details of Hillary's background are eye-openers if not stomach grinders.
The actors, when used, are pretty cheesy, but otherwise it's a respectable production. The facts are there for all to see and take home to verify. Those already on the political right will appreciate the details and confirmation he provides, and it will certainly help tip the scales further away from Hillary by Independents.
Free State of Jones (2016)
A rebellion against the rebellion
A powerful action-drama about a local Mississippi rebellion against the Confederate rebellion, brought about by Southern corruption, conscripting men, and confiscating supplies and livestock, without reimbursement, in order to support the army in its fight for the Southern plantation system. The last straw for the main character, Newton Knight, superbly played by Matthew McConaughey, was the passing of the 20 slave law that exempted 1 white man for every 20 slavesin order to prevent a slave rebellion what with so many white males being off to war. It's a gritty depiction of the sordid underbelly of an already corrupt slave economy. It's a reminder, as if we needed one, of the reprehensible conditions some of our ancestors (on both sides) imposed on their society; but neither justifies either hate or guilt this far removed from it or the Jim Crow laws. It also depicts the courageous good things that others got right. The end of the movie balances things with a political statement when it shows a mixed-race group, armed with guns I must add, marching into town on election day and demanding Republican ballots. It's easy to forget that Lincoln and the Abolitionists were Republicans; while Klansmen (including "former" Klansmen) occupied some of our highest offices, and were allied with Democrats into the 21st Century.
Saturday's Warrior (2016)
I tried but I can't say enough bad about it.
A Christian ambush piece that nobody's gonna see but other evangelical Christians--well almost nobody. I stuck it out for 30 minutes but I couldn't keep my jaw closed, so I bolted. The "actors" must have gone to some retro golden age of 30's era faux overacting school. Yes, "freedom is knowing who you are", but what does that have to do with this? Just the opposite. No way this is a 7.9 without ballot stuffing. Oh, and the music is probably why so many people think of heaven as hell. 0/10 The bot is telling me I don't have enough lines but what can you say when if you say anything more it would be like piling on. When the horse lies dead in the street, how shall the oats pass through for the sparrows. Keep kicking it I guess. There.
13 Hours (2016)
Remember the Alamo
It's impossible to separate the politics from this "true story" of valor, but I can't imagine why anyone would even try. It's blatantly obvious that security at the compound was woefully inadequate, which was brought up by Ambassador Stevens and others down the chain; but the lack of response using F-16s and a C-130 gunship which were standing by cries out for Administration transparency. Instead, we were told it was an impromptu demonstration generated by a video on YouTube. Even if that lie had been true, so what? Does that mean those assets should not have been used and the security team told to "stand down" The movie doesn't offer any explanations for why no response was authorized, though it does beg the question for the reason for such a lack of response. The closest it comes is to show an image of the White House just after the attack begins, with the subscript, "The POTUS is briefed". Technically, the movie is pretty phenomenal in it's recreation of the events, though it is hard to follow at times--though that could be written off as an accurate portrayal of the fog of war. But enough already with even its occasional use of the shaky-cam. At times it looked like I was watching it through helmet-cams like someone playing "Call of Duty", which I guess could be considered a compliment to the film and/or the game.
One of the six, Mark Geist, equated this battle to holding the Alamo, though this turned out better for all but four of the defenders. That's a good analogy, with Al Qaeda standing in for General Santa Anna; but the likes of those "Texians" such as Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett, didn't have cameras from above beaming their actions back to Washington--or reinforcements being held idle only minutes away.
The Big Short (2015)
OK, first off, there ain't near enough humor in it for it to be labeled a comedy by the awards shows. And yeah, it's an incomplete picture, but only because it pulls up short at every opportunity it had to present the whole story.
The scene with the model in the bubble-bath sipping champagne while mulling over the implications of all those sub-prime mortgages came as close as it got to spilling the beans. Then there was the ditsy former government regulator who was now on the payroll of the people she used to regulate (or vice versa). And amidst all the international chaos, it never mentions Canada which never succumbed to the politically correct pursuit of "affordable housing" which mandated that lending institutions ignore minimal prudent background qualifications for a mortgage--and thus avoided the crisis as much as it could in such close proximity to the US.
Yeah, the banks ran with it when the saw Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac buying up all that bad debt. But who started the whole thing and who enabled/forced it on the banks? With all the technical talk they get into in the banking end of the mortgage industry, it never mentions the Community Reinvestment Act (which goes back to Carter), or Dodd/Frank.
The production quality and cast of the movie is way above a 7/10, but this one-sided aspect to the story drags it down to the category of propaganda. It more than just ignores the cause of the problem.
Pawn Sacrifice (2014)
Biggest disparity between a box office and my score, ever. An indescribably small $1.3 mil ($1.6 including international !), though the ratings are relatively high by those who have actually seen it. Excellent performances by Maguire, Schreiber and especially Sarsgaard, who was the character I identified with the most. I'm guessing most of the subtle humor wasn't obvious, to most--some of it being Chess humor. The movie perfectly portrays the fact that we'll never know how much of Bobby was show and strategy, and how much mental problems.
Excellent to outstanding use of music, especially "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane from 40+ years before--which beyond doubt had to have been written and performed expressly for this move. If they'd have included "One Night in Bangkok", at least in the credits, it'd have finished it off exquisitely, "I get my kicks above the waistline, Sunshine"---but I'm obviously in a very small minority.
P.S. You don't even have to know how to play chess, because they don't dwell on the actual play.
Irrational Man (2015)
Magnificent. Existentialsim is the opiate of the Literati.
(WARNING: Action junkies and those adverse to heavy emphasis on dialogue, proceed at your own risk of brain lockup or catatonia at the mere discussion of the film. Any comparison between what those with such a disposition would feel having to sit through it, and the straight-jacketed, eyelids held open Alex in "A Clockwork Orange", is more than a perfect analogy. There's only one small, climactic action sequence at the end. In line with all that, a brief refresher in existentialism: "Søren Kierkegaard 1813-1855 is generally considered to have been the first existentialist philosopher, though he did not use the term existentialism. He proposed that each individualnot society or religionis solely responsible for giving meaning to life and living it passionately and sincerely ("authentically")"--Wiki. I emphasize that Kierkegaard didn't name it; and as it's expressed in Wikipedia, his concept was very reasonable. FF 160 years into the future to what that concept, under the existential label, has been bastardized into during the intervening years--a training ground for psychobabble, making theology seem like a maze with no turns. Thus it makes perfect sense that our hapless, confused philosophy professor, seeking existential enlightenment, should assume the mantle of the title character.)
If religion is the opiate of the masses, then it follows that Existentialism is the opiate of the Literati.
I'm not a Woody Allen fan in any sense, but if I hadn't known he directed and wrote it, I never would have guessed so. But it's far and away the best thing he's done that I've seen inmynevertobehumbleopinion Every aspect of movie making, especially the dialogue, cinematography, story line, and the excellent casting (with one exception), is perfect. About that exception: what's with Jamie Blackley getting top billing, alphabetically or otherwise, over the other three primaries--especially Emma Stone who had the most difficult part, the most screen time, and redeemed both herself and Woody Allen after their last collaborative abomination, "Magic in the Moonlight". And who is the hell is Jamie Blackley anyway; his part was secondary, and his performance was blah at best. What's going on there, some nepotism......or worse?
(Major spoilers follow) As for the moral issues the movie raises, the first, the murder of the judge, is not so cut and dried as it is made to appear. If you see someone about to be murdered and you kill the perp instead, are you not justified? If you have no other way to prevent a corrupt authority figure from perpetrating a horrific injustice (with diligent fact checking and exploring other avenues of resolution, which the story took license to assume), what would, or should you do? If you do take action, you must assume responsibility for the correctness of your judgement, and for the system resolution that follows.
I was spellbound, making this my #2 movie, and most thought provoking (out of 72 so far), in theaters this year. Magnificent, 9.5/10
Like Sunday, Like Rain (2014)
Distinctive, enigmatic and fleeting
10/10 Masterpiece. Some are calling this melancholy, but I think bittersweet is a better word. Above all, it's a story about a 12 year-old music prodigy being played by a c. 12 year-old acting prodigy. As good as child acting has gotten, few if any could have pulled this off as well. What's the significance of 12? It's that age where you're as mature as you're going to get before the onset of puberty. But what if your emotional maturity and profound awareness outstrip your physical growth? It's about resigning yourself to your solitude, until.... The result is a bittersweet gulf between two otherwise kindred souls. This isn't about dramatic friction, it's about something distinctive, enigmatic and fleeting. It's like playing a beautiful tune on a cello in an empty swimming pool with good acoustics. It's like Sunday, like rain.
Maybe the best "child" performance ever.
The Gambler (2014)
Best since The Departed
I've liked Mark Wahlberg since his best of the outstanding cast performance in "The Departed". Since then he's mostly been in slo-mo-strutting-away-from-an-explosion action flicks which haven't employed his abilities effectively at all. For me this puts him back up on that level and then some. His scenes in the college auditorium are exquisite.
I'd stayed away from this since the trailers made it appear to be just another depressing, soul-wrecking examination of self-destructive introspection. But it was a surprise. Those clichés were not adhered to, and it isn't predictable at all--all of which will probably keep it from garnering any significant awards. The direction it was going had me in the dark right up until the absolute end where either of the two main possibilities each had their further quirky possible trajectories. Goodman is excellent standing in for Jabba the Hutt, though I worry he won't be with us much longer. They have me wondering if they had his already significant bulk in a fat suit.
Tied for best of the year IMHO with "Nightcrawler"; and with "American Sniper" yet to go. Definitely the first year in quite a while to be dominated by male actors. 9/10