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Point Break (2015)
I'm sorry .. I just couldn't resist the play on words. Normally, I never pan anything because how many of us manage to put together a movie? And this one was a huge production judging by the length of time the credits over dramatic music went on afterwards.
Truly, the movie is a beautiful mounting, although I felt the color tones were a bit depressing. I'm sure that was a choice but, again, had I had the no-doubt monumental initiative to have become the director, and had I been the director, I think I would have gone with something a little brighter no matter how bleak the story.
I was looking forward to seeing the original Point Break redone, not because I expected there could be any improvement to the classic with the unbeatably hot Keanu Reeves nailing something of a debut as the opposite of an airhead, but just because it would be interesting to see how the 1991 film would be revisited 24 years later. I guess that's what goaded the filmmakers to give the movie a new story, and, you know, you have to admit, robbing banks in Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon masks probably wouldn't resonate as much today. As it was, the movie did give a nod to those famous scenes when the antiheroes rode around on little motorbikes that made me wonder if they might be able to fold them up and put them in their back pockets, with masks that, if they did not recognizably mock famous people, were paired with signs such as President Obama's campaign cry "Yes we can." Yes we can was a funny take on the so- called criminals doing exactly what they weren't supposed to do just as, in the original, the filmmakers had fun with Nixon's cry of "I am not a crook." Though the current filmmakers apparently couldn't figure out how to work in Bill Clinton's "I did not have sex with that woman."
The "Yes we can" referred to something else, though ... what these new quasi-criminals dared to do in the execution of and mostly the getaway from their, I guess I'll call them exploits because, more than in the original, the question was if they really were criminals. The problem with the newer story was that there was not much, er, point to this. If you're a fan of American Ninja Warrior or the original American Gladiator which seems to have spawned such shows then you might enjoy what ensues ... extreme sports. If you enjoy watching a string of challenges which have little to do with conflict, go for it. That kind of falls into the James Bond reason for being in my mind, at least of yore; the Daniel Craig ones are more complex, have more character development, as English students always say. With the Bond movies, people were fascinated with the spyware. But if you don't want a plot that is just an excuse for such a showcase, in this case of physical courage, turn away now. I did like how the main roles were cast against the types, Reeves and Swayze, whom we remember from 1991. Luke Bracey is hot ... you'll remember him from November Man but not know it. I guess the guy can act. But now I'm going to go and rewatch the original to see why it worked.
October 1 (2014)
Lovely glimpse of a ground-breaking time
When I was a kid in the early 60's, I'd come down to the breakfast table and find my stepfather reading about the Congo. For a little while, it was all over the news. I don't know if the Congo occupied the news in other metropolitan areas the way it did in Detroit. It really meant something there, probably because of Detroit's large black population.
I remember as I glimpsed the blaring headlines and asked my stepfather what it all meant words like "independence." There was the name Patrice Lumumba and the seeming inevitability that he would be killed for his cause. The movie October 1 is set in Nigeria and does not mention Lumumba or necessarily take sides -- it is assumed everyone's for independence except possibly for the grudgingly accepting British empire forces who are still running things while planning to begin handing over power to a new Nigerian government, on Oct. 1, 1960. But the countrymen's anticipation of this ground-breaking transition is a still slightly uncertain backdrop to a detective trying to solve a string of murders and find his footing among his rulers.
I started the movie expecting it to be interestingly amateurish as have been some movies I have seen from that part of the world ... peeks into a lifestyle that no matter how nascent are little different from anyone else's. Made in Africa by Africans, the movie seemed to have grass-roots production values but then I realized that was only because they reflected the milieu. In Nigeria in 1960 people still lived very close to the land. There would be a lot of foliage and open-air buildings to be seen. I loved the fabrics out of which women made cottony dresses featuring large emblematic portraits of their leaders.
But as the movie progressed, I realized it did not suffer in production values at all; in fact, it was superior in some ways to anything I have seen coming out of the West lately. Perhaps the filmmakers did need to be creative for lack of a budget but I liked the way sometimes something, a sound, for instance, would get a special treatment, almost as if we could see the shock waves extending out on the screen. It has been a couple of months since I saw the movie and I have been wishing to write this review all that time so, please forgive me, I don't remember exactly the events being so depicted, they might have been a sound, or an emotion, or both. But I found the effects simple but evocative,
I'm not going to go into the plot other than to say that some of its turns are surprising and adult and may not be suitable for children. But I think you'll like our detective, a man of dignity and sense and who is quite thin. Whoa. He is quite appealing. Winterbottom is dashing, too -- keep an eye out for Nick Rhys. But in Inspector Danny Waziri, Sadiq Daba nails the role of a lifetime. I have to add that I think Tunde Babalola's script was brilliant, understanding so well both sides of the transitiion and knowing when to crescendo. Even though the gaining of independence is not explained like a history lesson, it is an interesting snapshot of how the countrymen responded and an intriguing context for the movie's events and the detective's courage. October 1 is a great little movie. P.S. Maybe director Kunle Afolayan would like to make one of his future projects a biography of Lumumba, if it wouldn't be too controversial. From surveying a Wikipedia entry about Lumumba, he seems to have fit my cursory childhood take on him as a tragic leader.
Twist of Faith (2013)
Wonderful premise ... but
I was unaware of Toni Braxton's immense likability. I have known about her, of course, for years but had never seen anything with her in it. In fact, I hope I don't offend in saying that, given her slightly arched nose and those pipes, this movie was a revelation for me in that I saw her as a possible heiress to the throne of Barbra.
This might be appropriate in that the story in Twist of Faith involves a young Jewish man who finds solace in a Southern black church. He has a past ... a very grave past. It is his history that makes for me a romance between him and the young mother played by Braxton stretch credulity and propriety.
Braxton's character matches the handsome newcomer in mystery ... but he eventually gets her secret out of her. I don't recall that during the movie anyone ever hears what his is, although we, the audience know, so that's fair ... no doubt the congregation will eventually find out; perhaps there is no rush. And therein lies a beautiful leap of faith. I recall thinking, though, as the uncle, played by Mykelti Williamson whom we all remember and love from Forest Gump .. he was Bubba, takes the newcomer rabbit hunting that, in another film in which the young man was actually trouble, this would have been a very tense moment. Music would have mounted telling us the uncle was in danger especially when he handed the newcomer the gun. By the way, no rabbits were hurt in the making of this film I'm sure, although what follows seems lifted from Winter's Bone, a fabulous Jennifer Lawrence vehicle and the scene for me that made an indelible imprint on the American consciousness. That movie is the one that made Lawrence a star, in my view, not The Hunger Games, although it is probably what got her the part in Hunger Games.
But I digress.
I know the main characters are in their early 30's or so and both extremely attractive, and I know the Jewish mother in the story absolves anyone of guilt, but if you're like me you will find what seems to be the timeline in this story way too accelerated. Maybe the way things turned out are what the main male character needed, I'll give it that, so I guess I can rethink the movie and perhaps watch it again; the acting, production values, direction and title were all wonderful. But in my world the possibilities for the young man and woman should have taken about five years to reach develop.
So brace yourself. The story is indeed romantic. You might just not be ready for it either.
12 Wishes of Christmas (2011)
Loved it ... but I'll be brief. *** spoilers ***
Guess I'm getting to a point at which positive stuff really does it for me, and this movie oozes Christmas kitsch.
Okay, here are what hit me:
1) Real liquid in a coffee cup!!!! I am so tired of movies always serving people air coffee, I mean even in the big budget really good ones!!!! What, are you afraid of spilling on the wardrobe you're going to take back?
2) Horrible sets ... they won't fool you at all. And, yet ... and yet ... the acting, writing, directing, cinematography for the most part win the day and you won't care.
3) That Christmas kitsch ... it's everywhere!!! And it is as bright and reassuring as the plot itself.
4) They didn't say grace!!!! That was the one let-down in the otherwise darling entertainment for me. What, do we have a new genre? ... Christian movies that aim not to offend. This is the second really good one I've seen, the other being Paradise Recovered also reviewed here, and maybe that is what makes them work is the less obvious evangelism. I guess our girl wasn't really convinced, though, or maybe you can be good without being obvious about it. Maybe you are displaying your faith in how you treat others. That is basically what the movie says.
Paradise Recovered (2010)
Good movie for the regular joe ... and jean
I'm not really sure on what side this movie fell, whether born-again or judgment-withheld ... as in trusting in one's opinion not avoiding God's judgment ... and therein lay part of its charm, I guess. Actually, the moral was probably fairly clear, in favor of individual choice, although I had to think as our hero railed against arranged marriages that they aren't all that bad. They have worked for centuries for many cultures. From the few I have seen up close, parents from that tradition seem pretty good at picking partners for their children, probably out of love. Even in the occidental culture, many marriages of convenience which could be viewed pretty much as the same thing except it's the spouses themselves who make the choice seem to work pretty well because they focus on the goal, not wild romance. I was shocked once when a boss I had who was getting his psychology degree nights said that of course once a couple fell out of love, that's when they should consider divorce; that to me is when the couple should really begin to work on the marriage with, if they put individual desires aside, sometimes wonderfully satisfying if not passionate results. About the same time another psychology grad admonished me that my toddler daughter should be allowed to embarrass herself in public. I won't go into detail here but, a psychology grad myself, hence the not very remunerative profession at this point, I had to wonder ... what are they teaching people in psychology school today?
But I digress on my soapbox. What struck me as I watched Paradise Recovered is that this is a movie to which that guy you know could relate, that is, if you can drag him to what could also be called a chick flick. You know that guy ... the one who doesn't go to church while his wife does. My stepfather was like that. Mom and us went to church on Sundays and Dad showed up for holidays and special events. Rest of the time he had other things to occupy his mind. It might not have been that he didn't have special spiritual ideals. He just preferred to honor them on his own, and I can see that spending his Sundays tinkering in a warm but briefly unoccupied house and allowing his mind to roam might have been a healing he needed before he began the rat race every week.
With this movie, I liked that there was a point at which I didn't know who would win, and if the filmmakers would come down on a particular side although I guess I should say I did have a clue; but there was a certain amount of suspense. You'll probably really like the buddies, and especially the comic half; I hope I'll get to see these guys, and the gals, too, again. I looked up the bio of the guy who played the minister and though his role was not flashy just an opportunity for solid even brilliant acting, boy, does he work; so these folks don't work just in Christian-type films, no, far from it. But it's also nice to see a film that really falls into the mainstream that nevertheless deals with Christian values and accurately. I haven't really encountered a church quite like the one our heroine seems trapped by, but I have visited cults and they do make no sense. Their appeal appears to emotional.
If you're kind of normal, you'll probably like this film ... maybe even if you aren't that normal. Some of the characters weren't ... and were, both. Kind of like real life :)
Someone to Love (2013)
Really good movie ... what's this doing in 2013?
Somehow, someone let this little sleeper out because, lately, a lot of movies have morales that don't ring true. And producers ask themselves why their projects don't become classics, or even make much money. This movie may never bring in the latter, but I was thoroughly impressed by its truths.
You have the white lady telling our heroine: if you're messing around with a person who is married, no matter how unmarried he may seem, you're asking for trouble. Now who says that in movies anymore? Not enough people.
Then you've got the spoiled wife admirably played by the still amazing Lynn Whitfield who warns our heroine. I was kind of surprised our heroine took her up on a directive; I might have been more trusting. But this was faster. The dialogue explaining the distancing between couples is emotional but didn't leave me having to figure out over coffee with someone afterward what everyone was feeling, why, if it made sense, etc. It was spelled out which, again, is unusual and welcome.
About the biggest failure if you could call it that is that the kitchens, in which, for some reason, much of the action takes place ... maybe that was cost-effective ... look pretty much alike; maybe the filmmakers set up among model homes and just walked from one to another. The same wrought iron candelabra shows up on everyone's kitchen counter. There must have been a sale at Bed, Bath and Beyond.
The level of forgiveness and self-forgiveness here may surprise you but I think you'll like the decision-making. By the way, the men are tasty. For the romantic among you who like to snuggle and watch your favorite Christmas movies, this could be a good addition to your repertoire.
Cause of Death (2001)
Okay, here's my take on it
Movies like this make me wish I had not misspent my youth but had gotten a law degree among other constructive things. But never mind that I couldn't be sure if some of the courtroom goings-on were kosher ... one move will make you ask yourself if you have ever seen it before ... there was enough going on in the rest of the plot, you needed a score card. I'm afraid I came up woefully short in understanding some of the ins and outs particularly in the area of campaign contributions.
But I will give this Patrick Bergin thriller very good marks, better than Suspicious Minds which, despite its flaws, I liked, too; yes, Virginia, there was another Patrick Bergin mystery made. Despite having made an impact as Julia Roberts's implacable husband in Sleeping With the Enemy, in these detective stories with Bergin as the hero he is quiet and reasonable, qualities I told Mike Connors whom I once spied in a restaurant and who had played TV's Mannix years ago were admirable in his character. Yes, Connors said, they don't write 'em that way anymore. I guess Hawaii 5-0's Jack Lord, The Fugitive's David Janssen and Peter Gunn's Craig Stevens to name a few filled that sort of bill and are much to have been appreciated.
Cause of Death was made in the early 2000's probably before 9-11 but it has a bit of the feel of the 80's, although I was surprised in a way to see SUV's, laptops and cell phones so much in use; the budget was pretty good on this one, also witness the quality of the direction and the production values, not to mention the script. Re the 80's though. some skirts seemed too short for professional situations; I know I'm not alone in wondering about this because at least one other reviewer here mentioned that. At least the bodices weren't low-cut and sleeveless, even sometimes strappy, as we are supposed to believe by the various CSI's forensic technicians are allowed to sport.
In this one, Bergin is an assistant state's attorney with a scandal in his recent past who is trying to parse out the high-profile murder of the mayor's somewhat shady cousin. The victim's wife is the accused. Boy, I got a lesson from Joan Severance in how to wrap a man such as Taylor Lewis, played by Bergin, around your little finger. Of course, it helps when you're as beautiful as she is. Somehow I felt Joan was an actress from the distant past and so looked amazing as a 35-year-old. But it's probably just her somewhat dated name. Classic names are making a comeback anyway. And she has cheekbones.
One thing I kind of liked is that we never meet the mayor, who is herself a woman; we don't really need to and I suppose she just would have confused the roster of characters. There are enough others to keep you busy, including a lovely black man unaccountably named Carmine DeLuca; perhaps he's in witness protection except that rather than give him a white bread name they decided to hide him in plain sight with a moniker no one would expect. Lol. But back to the mayor. Given how things turn out, I almost wish we had met her. There is an interesting subplot in which Bergin and his pretty sidekick this time named Missy have a boss who throws big words all over the place, sometimes wrongly, a bit to Lewis's annoyance. I'm not quite sure why that's in there except possibly to prove that Lewis is, again, more reasoned and intelligent, or give the writer and those of us in the audience who care, who include me, a chance to skewer someone with pompous rhetoric; someone who defames the English language deserves the worst. Ooh, wait, I just did it ... probably shouldn't throw stones. The subplot is not laugh-out-loud funny and it's sort of a red herring and yet it didn't bother me as being out of place.
This was a very professionally done movie down to the evocation of a smell, that of garbage due to a garbage strike which somehow has to do with the victim buying it. Had there been just a little more finesse with some of the plot points which, truth to tell, were so well laid out their connections almost took care of themselves, this might have been more memorable, and no doubt is a classic in its class. I do not have the same complaint about the end that I had with that other Bergin thriller I have seen so far and am referencing here, Suspicious Minds, in which you did not see the ending coming because you had no clues to point you to it. In Cause of Death I did not see the solution coming but it was a classic one and I was left with the admiring reaction, "Boy, I missed that"; the script must have been doing a great job of redirection. My biggest complaint is that Bergin had another of what seem to be for him obligatory once-a- thriller-in-which-he-is-the-hero sex scenes; he's an imposing mope but I'd sorta rather keep that between him and his future wife. But some ladies might swoon. So sorry. Meow.
Suspicious Minds (1997)
Able detective story with some rough spots
I hate giving this movie a 5 ... in fact, it should be less ... because it is a pleasant surprise in terms of plot, police procedure to a degree and pacing. Patrick Bergin does not overplay his role, which I appreciate, nor does the direction force him to.
But there are a couple of detractions. First is the pretty ridiculous sub-plot of rogue environmentalists which is where we have, and have not fairly early on, Gary Busey.
Second is the rather complicated denouement. It's pretty clear throughout that things aren't quite as they seem, which is good, but aside from a general suspicion about everybody I don't think we have a clue about what's coming. For a solution to be satisfying, in my view, we should be able to look back and say we just didn't pick up on the signs.
But, again, I liked Bergin in this, liked the acting level of and the characters' challenge to the actors, liked the script pretty well. Ultimately I was left with the feeling of wanting more of the detective and his sidekick ... don't all detectives from Perry Mason on have appealing female helpers? Perhaps there were supposed to have been more movies. Likely they would have been as welcome and thought-provoking.
Celebrity Sex Tape (2012)
It has its moments
Celebrity Sex Tape has some nice moments, both of which I happened to catch as I'm usually doing something else while monitoring a movie on Netflix.
Seriously, there did seem to be some morales to the story, though the morals are pretty low if you care about that sort of thing. Or, actually, much of what was probably meant to be a huge draw suggested what I have heard about sex among teens ... I suppose this could generalize to college-age: it's like a handshake. Nobody takes it very seriously but boy if you are a t*t man, that's all there is. I didn't realize how endowed some women can be. (This was never my gift.) I guess those are the ones who go to Hollywood. There were plenty of bit parts in this movie if you didn't mind doing what was required of you.
As, as mentioned afore, I am not usually completely focused on a movie, unfortunately, I don't know what happened to one storyline but it seemed cute: the football player who doesn't seem to realize how much he likes his best friend/personal trainer. I don't think I have spoiled anything for anyone as that was introduced at the beginning, and it seemed promising for laughs. You'd just better suspend your moral compass for a while to enjoy this one. I think it may deserve a complete watch. Just be prepared for nonstop Girls Gone Wild.
Charming ... and uplifting
I read baharuka's review of Schlussmacher with interest, trying to ascertain how it was like an American comedy. I guess the idea was that it was light. Maybe the Germans are known for being rather overbearing; I don't know, I'm not sure I have ever seen a German comedy before. Well, maybe. At any rate, though, I think I felt heartened as I watched the movie because, as an American used to some of the typical comedic fare, I felt it was different from anything I had ever seen coming out of this country.
I won't mention the places where I felt the movie departed from the American so as not to spoil it for those who may wish to watch it afresh, which I think would be a good idea; me, I don't even like to know what a movie is about before I go into it. Let's just say that there was some refreshing humor and I loved the morale of the story. I felt the story was actually a lot more uplifting than much I have seen lately, being positive about romantic love ... as the Desiderata says, Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass. Everything about the movie was well-done as far as I could see, including the fabulous spaces in which these 20-somethings lived. Many a man may like a car driven here, too. Berlin was a beautiful backdrop. At one point as the hero and his antihero sidekick ... whom you will probably come to love ... were walking single-file, some amazing monumental buildings, relics no doubt from the era of Kaisers and the like, reared up behind them like monsters' heads. It was only at the end when the movie resorted to a couple of cheap ploys and schtick that one could perhaps say that the movie began to seem rather American, or maybe pedestrian could be the word. Also, the question could be asked, how was our hero going to keep his loft? But who ever worries about and works those things out in a movie? I guess, as in life, you have to field the curveballs. I thought it was very cute ... and, again, positive. Worth the watch, imho.