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Only the Brave (2017)
You can't not see it.
I dreaded going to see this but I couldn't not. It's one of those movies you feel you need to see to get a dose of historic reality, like "Schindler's List, "United 93" or "World Trade Center", so that you understand better what happened, and remember. But for me at least, it's only the once. The reality of it is incredibly evident.
The Good Catholic (2017)
It's not what you think
No matter what you might think this is about from the title, you're wrong. IOW, don't not see the film because of it. It's neither a polemic mocking religious faith, nor does it say anything about religion except maybe why don't we all just sit down and start over. All four primary characters are superbly cast, including Danny Glover who is about 3 steps above anything I've ever seen him in before. The subject matter is handled respectfully, albeit with liberal amounts of humor which zeros in on the fact that most religions take themselves way to seriously--which the production company apparently takes to heart, naming itself Pigasus (sic) Pictures.
This is about as perfect as you can expect an independent film to be. It's only flaw is there being too much lipstick on Daniel--which is so obvious, I wondered if they just wanted to give the audience something to criticize. Needless to say, there's no actual action for the action junkies, but the dialogue and the subject matter are outstanding--and at times, profound. This is my second "10" of the year, (18th all time), the first being only a week ago, so I was wondering if coming out of the summer movie drought has something to do with it.
This is a movie that hits many of the same notes and soul-chords as "Like Sunday, Like Rain"--character, plot and dialogue driven low budget Indies, both well cast (Yes even Pierce Brosnan), but with no obligatory high octane action scenes, both inexplicably rated R, with low ratings (besides a few like mine),and all leading to a low box office. I especially like Jeff Bridges on screen character and voice over narration. Of all the outstanding scenes, the initial confrontation between Kate Beckinsale and Callum Turner's characters is exquisite. This is the second of Marc Webb's movies I've rated 10/10 (besides "500 Days of Summer") and is only the 18th film (out of 8000+ I've seen) that I've rated at that pinnacle. He also released "Gifted" this year, which I thought was an 8. But in between then and now, he did two high budget, low class superhero movies which I'll leave unmentioned. (You can look them up yourself if you really need to know. Think 8-legged arthropod.) Disclaimer: for those who may be thinking I'm anti-action, one of my two most favorite 10s is "The Accountant", with which you can list these other 10s, "The Counselor, Gladiator, Inception, Undisputed and Zero Dark Thirty". Maybe not your particular cup-o-action, but u c what'm sayin'.
Wind River (2017)
Renner at the top of his craft, and Elizabeth Olson, about who I was concerned, was well cast as the green FBI agent, whose character comes through when the situation required it. Bernthal has a very small part. Graham Green and Gil Birmingham are perfect mixes of stoicism and Indian humor. The Utah (made to look like Wyoming) weather has a major role as well, although I never knew if it was following direction or doing it improv. The story is an intense drama with action to match, based on actual events on the Wind River Indian Reservation which has a per-capita crime rate that makes Chicago look like Mayberry. The climax was set up so suddenly it actually added an element of lethal humor to it. It definitely has a similar flavor to "Hell or High Water" in which Sheridan acted, only better. I noted the absence of any disclaimer about any animals being harmed. I don't know if that's still routinely being put in the credits or not, but I don't think it would apply here, though it was about an animal being hunted, Renner's character's job.
Motown manufactured melodrama
How can a movie as confusing as this be considered Oscar material. This is nothing like Bigelow's previous superb movies with its jumbled story and outright fiction presented as "truth". The screenwriter admits to "a self-imposed rule to never stray from what I understood to be the underlying truth of a scene or an event". What he termed poetic license, is nothing less than a license to lie. He also updated the dialogue, to what, modern terminology or assumed modern attitudes? Probably both.
Bigelow uses a broad brush dipped in the slime of three corrupt cops as an indirect implication projected 50 years later on today's police a la BLM hate. Just casting Will Poulter, who oozes bully/evil, as a cop, is pejorative. And yes the black victims deserved focus, but not to the point of marginalizing the massive violence, looting, vandalism, riots and murder. A major flaw was the fact that the victims stood up to the beatings and apparent/actual murder of some of them, rather than give up the dead moron in the parlor who had fired off a starter pistol in the middle of a riot. This is a canyon sized plot hole.
And in another piece of complete idiocy, one of the black singers is made to complain that Motown's music is just for white people. Ga! And yes it was an all white jury, but they found the black security guard to be innocent in like 8 minutes. But the white judge, who was later found to be personally corrupt, instructed the jury to either convict the cops on 1st degree murder (which was not the case), or render a not guilty verdict--2nd degree murder or manslaughter weren't options. Chalk another one up to the establishment, so of course none of that was mentioned.
What in the hell happened here? Was Bigelow found to have been too conservative in her previous efforts and forced to make a propaganda film, or is this her true self? Her emphasis can do nothing here but stir the rabble rousing pot which is already at the boiling point. So I guess yeah, it is Oscar material.
Miss Sloane (2016)
Not as biased as it might first appear.
Fasten your cerebral seat belts, its going to be a bumpy ride. Superb writing and performances, especially by Jessica Chastain. It was exhausting just trying to keep up, especially since there isn't any physical action that would allow you to rest and recoup the contents of your brain pan. My only fault is that it tries too hard to be even handed, switching back and forth on the 2nd Amendment issue a dozen times, up until Sloan reveals the depth of her and the Establishment's bankrupt souls at the end. For physical action junkies, there is one sequence involving guns, but I'm sure that won't be nearly enough for those who require a "Fast and Furious" level of check-your-brain-at-the-door action.
The Accountant (2016)
Do you Like Puzzles?
Calling this an action movie is like calling Romeo and Juliette a romance novel.
**Contains one spoiler, but it's recommended that you read it anyway before viewing, to enhance your understanding of the story, unless you're an actual art expert**
This is a puzzle in the form of one of the best action movies in a couple of years. And to emphasize the point, the autistic-savant main character, Chris Wolff (Affleck), is shown at the start as a child putting together a jigsaw puzzle as fast as he can lay them down, backside up! But this is an "action" movie with a lot of meat on it. Perfect casting, an ironclad story, lots of off-hand/dark humor, and an important message that's handled perfectly instead of presenting it as a cause.
Some people don't like Anna Kendrick in this part, but if opposites attract, she's the outgoing spark that matches his autism. She's the catalyst to the only scene in the movie where Wolff gets truly excited about something. The lunch scene is exquisite, as is the one on the couch where Wolff delivers the lines, "I have difficulty socializing with people...but I want to", soon followed by the most jolting segue ever, "Crazy Eddie and the Panama Pump!" The most important piece of this puzzle is a painting. Two are used in the story, a Renoir, and one of Jackson Pollock's cynical abstract abominations (in my not so humble opinion) which a little research revealed was titled "Free Form". But the one in the movie has a small alteration, the profile of an eye looking askance from the center of the surface, which jumps out at you for the 3 seconds they show it on screen. But it isn't in the original, and it changes everything. It hearkens to a line from the song at the end, "I can get through the wall if you give me a door." Instead of being pure red, white and black noise, an eye (of an autistic?) is added at the center of that noise. It's probably the harshest form of critique, to show something of what Pollock could/should have done, and do it for him.
Wolff's mentor in prison tells him to find just one person he can trust. But he finds three. There are several reveals, but the story behind the SIRI (Wolff's artificially intelligent personal assistant) is a real kicker.
I agree with the public on this one which gives it a high rating as opposed to the critics who don't, for reasons I can't fathom. When there's a split, I'm usually on that side. This is the director's (Gavin O'Connor's) second major film, after "Warrior", which was only OK, but this is a masterpiece IMNTBHO.
Rated R for prevalent violence, and some profanity.
Hanks and Eastwood a great team
While this may not be Hank's most demanding role, I think it will certainly be one of his most memorable, along with "Forrest Gump" and "Saving Private Ryan". And Eastwood met the challenge of telling the truth of the story in an engaging way without loosing the audience in tedium or BS. And I was glad to see that serious attention was paid to aeronautical reality in a movie--for a change. For those interested in how well the movie does stick to the facts, re: the go to source for that, http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/sully/ . For me, one of the two highlights of the film was what happened after the aircraft was ditched, in how the passengers didn't panic, and how well the rescue effort went. The other was the climax with Sullenberger's & Skiles testimony before the NTSB investigation (read "trial") which was in a much larger venue than I would have thought.
The one thing the movie (and the actual investigation, apparently) didn't cover was how things are changed when making a dead-stick (no thrust) landing in an airliner, which without thrust, have been likened to flying a brick. With a runway, you have only one shot aiming for a specific point--in this case surrounded by many tall buildings, and they didn't exactly have much time to see how far they could glide anyway. Better to have something flat, very wide and very very long, even if it is wet. The space shuttle is the only large aircraft that routinely does (or did) dead stick landings; and that's with much study, training, practice, and (at least at first) landing on a dry lake bed--offering plenty of wiggle-room.
What Sullenberger told 60 Minutes had to have been going through his head that day, "The only viable alternative, the only level, smooth place sufficiently large to land an airliner, was the river". The only semi-error they made was not to hit the ditch button which would have sealed the vents in the airplane (though the tail section was breached on landing) because it was at the end of the checklist which they didn't have time to complete. They made a big deal out of his starting the aux power unit (APU) out of checklist order. Just sayin'. That should have been the co-pilots's cue when Sully looks at him 10 seconds before ditching and asks, "Any ideas?". (A "DITCH" button, who'd've thunk.)
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
Jersey Boys (2014)
A Cry for Creativity
It isn't that the music in the (20 years and counting) run of musical anthologies is that great, although the ABBA collection in "Mamma Mia" which started it all comes close, and it isn't even the nostalgia; it's the lack of inspiration in song writing that's able to make it past the gauntlet of suits who think music is rehashing a sound that semi-worked....once. You need go no further than the pitti-pat music in the otherwise excellent previews that accompanied this movie. This is a cry not for Frankie Valli, but for music with a spark of something, anything, but the same ol' same ol'. Nowhere is musical creative cowardice more evident than Broadway with it's assembly-line approach to boiler-plating the musical, substituting Novocaine for its claim-to-fame lifeblood. "Frozen" has been very popular, but only because most of the audiences haven't been numbed by the Broadway rut. Why else this major resurrection of 50 year old pop music? This is of course is a back-handed complement for this well done Eastwood production, which only makes me long all the more for some modern Euterpian creativity, especially from Broadway and Hollywood. Certainly these characters weren't heroes, mostly just Jersey punks, except maybe for Bob Gaudio, the song writer...as irony would have it
Hateship Loveship (2013)
Includes ***spoiler***, so marked.
This is another one to add to the list of recent superlative female performances in the last few years. They just keep coming. If a lack of action or "character driven" defines a chick-flick, then I guess this one qualifies. But for me, its tone just doesn't put it in that category. And even for those who don't believe in awards, the melding of the truly imaginative screenplay with Kristen Wiig's superb, often wordless performance of it, would probably prompt a lot of them to make an exception for this magnificent film.
In the scene with the Chinese food, and taking it in the scene's context, Kristen delivered the most wicked grin ever recorded in film history. It makes an artistic set piece to accompany Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile in oil and canvas, only here you know what prompted it.
***spoiler***In the last scene where Kristen stands in front of her unintended benefactor (Sami Gayle), listening to her explaining her cookie cutter plans for the future to someone, you can feel Kristen weighing her options for a response. When Sami rudely asks "What do you want?", it makes up Kristen's mind for her, and she responds perfectly, "I have what I want" (instead of a possibly helpful suggestion that she consider a career in writing). I thought at first they'd missed the boat there, but then I realized the audience could savor both, while Sami's character could wallow on her shallow journey towards square-filling non-fulfillment. That double spoken/unspoken statement is another milestone for me as well.***spoiler*** 95/100
Draft Day (2014)
Really good behind the scenes drama.
Costner's best in a good while. The movie was confusing at first, throwing around a lot of unfamiliar names; but by the end, the packed audience I saw it with was all in. It was like a high stakes poker game (bid, bluff, dodge) with the whole world watching and using football trading cards instead of the standard poker deck. My main negative was the obligatory, Jennifer Garner love interest distraction. Chadwick Boseman is very charismatic. And since they were fictionalizing the 2014 draft, they could of at least come up with a post season summation to spice things up during the credits--like for instance, "Browns make it to the Super Bowl, but loose....to the Cardinals....in Phoenix." Yaaaaaaah! I'm a casual NFL fan, and I'd have to be a lot more involved to even care about following the draft, but the behind the scenes drama is what draws me in here. The NFL mystique will only be abetted by this movie.
Words and Pictures (2013)
Great story with a rough finish.
Starts off with a great premise and excellent dialogue throughout, but the story falters 2/3rds of the way through with the art vs. words contention going completely one sided given the exemplars. The tête-à-tête between Owen, Binoche, and to a degree, their students, was the centerpiece of the film. But the alcoholism was a distraction and not necessary to the story. I was amazed at what they were holding up as "fine" art. Her creations were executed with brushes of ever increasing sizes until she was using a mop suspended from the ceiling. The masterpiece (?) and the two panels at the end were the most recent examples of an emperor having no clothes. 7/10
God's Not Dead (2014)
There's so much wrong with this massively over the top movie, but the worst is the title which should have been: "The Strawman's Not Dead". No, I'm not an atheist of any flavor. Then what you may ask am I? Good question, but nobody took the other position. As Ecclesiastes implies, there's a time for gray, and a time for black and white.
I knew I was in trouble when I saw all the old people and young families with school age children in the audience, the religious themed previews, and someone in the credits listed as an expert on apologetics. As I predicted elsewhere, deism or anything like it never came up, and neither did anything like soft atheism. All the good guys were Christians and all the bad guys were mean spirited, glib, sarcastic and/or hard atheists.
The best line in the movie came when the kid asks the professor "If you don't believe in God, how can you say he's dead", which drew smile from me, but great laughter and applause from the crowd confirming my earlier assessment about the bias of the packed audience this Friday afternoon. It was the coup de grace from one strawman to another. The ending after that, with all the implied miracles and the dying conversion, was sickening.
Need for Speed (2014)
Up and down and...
The true stars of the show are the cars (drool), the impressive driving/stunt work and the locations....even though Georgia locations are substituted randomly for New York and Michigan**. The acting was adequate at best, and the unlikely story sets the audience up for extreme whiplash, the overall quality switching so rapidly between good and bad from beginning to end. Imogen Poots (cute as hell but born with a real anti-marketing name) along with Michael Keaton were the best thespian offerings.
**The story starts in upstate NY, but imagine my surprise when I notice many Macon and other Georgia (my adopted hometown and state) locations I know by heart, slathered with kudzu throughout the fist half of the movie. Picturesque, yeah, but....
Most Profound Movie Ever
With all the great wealth of films we have, I've always shied away from saying I think any of them are the best or my favorite. But I must break that rule and declare this one to be that movie.
**Major Spoilers Follow**
It's a science-fiction love story that hints at the implications of the sciences of quantum-computing, which we're only on the verge of, and the physics of cosmology, which I think even Einstein would find emotionally enthralling here. Johansson's voice performance is outstanding as the operating system (OS)in Theodore's computer, who transitions from a girl giddy with love, to a cosmic intellect that necessarily grows past him. She also delivers the lines that are key to understanding the scientific yet artistically emotive message being presented:
"It's like I'm writing a book... and it's a book I deeply love. But I'm writing it slowly now. So the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite. I can still feel you... and the words of our story... but it's in this endless space between the words that I'm finding myself now. It's a place that's not of the physical world. It's where everything else is that I didn't even know existed. I love you so much. But this is where I am now. And this who I am now. And I need you to let me go. As much as I want to, I can't live your book any more."
It's both an uplifting and a downer ending where Theodore and Amy are both separated from their computer soul-mates, while at the same time drawn together by realizing their common human attraction and shared human/AI experiences. The unanswered question that hangs over the ending is will they eventually be able to follow through to where the AI's have gone? It's a downer, which, as the best downers do, offers hope, and the promise of a fulfilling life in this world in any case.