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7/10
OK, but not as satisfying as I was hoping
18 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This is the ninth PotA movie, and the third of the more recent Chernin-produced reboots (Rise 2011, Dawn 2014, War 2017). IMHO, Rise has been the best of the three. War is very similar to Dawn, in that it finished the story about Caesar.

The hallmark of this reboot is that we cheer for the apes now. What keeps it all going is the thrill of seeing realistic intelligent apes, and this film is no different. The CGI is superb. I think the high scores reflect the enjoyment that audiences get from seeing this CGI artistry. After a while, you simply forget that it's not real and focus on the story.

I didn't find this one to be as good as Rise or Dawn. The apes are an interesting lot, but they didn't blow me away this time. There were too many of them, I suppose. I didn't feel connected to them. The villains here are not yahoos and hotheads, but crazed, plague-infected humans. The humans are all soldiers and they live in fortresses and are armed to the teeth (an American view of a post-apocalyptic Armageddon). The theme is oppression, brutality, militarism, and so on. Nasty human stuff. This is a dark movie with too much violence for my taste.

I wish the series had slown down and maybe gone somewhere else in this movie. Europe? China? But this is the last in the Caesar trilogy and I suppose they had to play that out. It was interesting to see the situation getting closer to the Planet of the Apes we saw in 1968. Humans are falling mute.

There were a few plot problems with this one. The biggest one for me is that the simian society can rise so far, and human society sink so low, in such a short space of time. It's happening too fast. Not enough time was spent by the writers in figuring out how that would have played out realistically. The first movie in this reboot did seem vaguely realistic, and I liked that.

Another problem is that the movie is not that verbal. I suppose this is necessary, but it's not an easy thing to pull off well. In hindsight, I don't remember any of the apes or their characters really. What are they going to do next?

This was...well, a run-of-the-mill movie. It didn't soar for me. It was entertaining enough, but if you miss it, you wouldn't have missed much. It's worth about 7.5. I hope the next one is better.
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Atomic Blonde (2017)
7/10
Superspy kicks ass
5 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Atomic Blonde is centered on the character of Lorraine Broughton, a tough spy who knows how to kick ass. This is a martial arts movie, with extended F2M fighting scenes, which are -- surprisingly -- not implausible. Broughton is a cool character, and Theron was excellent in playing her. It's hard to imagine anyone else who could do it. The music and lesbian themes were appreciated.

The backdrop is late-1980s Berlin just before the Wall fell. That part felt less credible to me. They were apparently spies who could walk easily back and forth between East and West.

This is an OK movie, especially if you like martial arts and shoot-em-up action. But I'm not really into either of those two things. The movie didn't soar for me. The story and the writing could have been better, I suppose. It's worth about 7.5. Higher if you like martial arts and action.
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8/10
Conor and Jock's excellent adventure
7 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This is a light, fun, often satirical film that shows the idiocy of two young, lovable, semi-criminal, lower-class Cork losers as they bumble from one misadventure to the other.

The familiar tropes are the inseparable mates, the inept suffering mam, the obsessed bumbling cop, the alcoholic dad, and so on.

This well-made movie falls into the genre that includes "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure", "Dumb and Dumber", "New Kids Turbo", etc. What would you call this genre though? Pretty well every Australian movie is like this. Ken Loach's movies show this kind of people as well, but his movies are much more serious.

For me, part of the attraction of the movie is the snappy Irish dialogue and way of speaking. I watched it with subtitles to catch it all. I also enjoyed seeing once again the gorgeous West Cork scenery.

Eye candy Alex Murphy is someone to keep an eye on.
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Dunkirk (2017)
9/10
Don't miss this one
30 July 2017
So far, over 80% of the people who have rated this movie have given it and 8, 9 or 10. Deservedly so. This is an excellent movie that successfully shows first hand and close up what Dunkirk must have been like for those on the ground, in the air and on the sea.

I don't want to gush too much about it, but the realism and cinematographic artistry are superb. This is a story of survival, after all, but it is a story that is so well told that it feels like time travel. I've seen so many movies about the 2nd WW during my life that I tend to avoid them now. But this one is different. It worked for me from beginning to end.

I'm glad I saw this movie in an IMAX theatre with a great sound system because it really enhanced the experience. The sounds were visceral, more so than in any movie I've ever been in. So this is what it feels like to have a bullet crack near your head. Or to be strafed. Or to be be in an aeriel dogfight. Or to drown. (Some of the negative reviewers found this too loud, too realistic perhaps. So be warned.)

Nolan has somehow captured the strange mix of selflessness and selfishness, cowardice and heroism, depersonalisation and intensive personal narrative that the military and war can bring out. Some reviewers have commented that there wasn't enough character development, but to me that lack of personalisation reflects what being in the military and a huge operation like this feels like.

I felt the desperation and hopelessness. The sense of being trapped. The terror of being shot at. I was moved by the ending. Some reviewers are saying the film lacked emotion, but I didn't feel that. My friend says he wasn't moved at all though. Did these negative critics want more emotion from the soldiers? Screaming? Weeping? I don't think that would have been realistic.

This movie wasn't too bloody at all, although I don't think I've ever felt more strongly the waste of war. It's too easy in these war movies to demonise the enemy and emphasise the bloodiness -- but Nolan did none of that. He didn't show the enemy or the carnage at all really. What he did show was the desperation and fear.

This movie had a few minor issues, but I'll see it a second time before reporting on them in more detail. Right now, I'll just mention a few:

• Nolan didn't use CGI. I was surprised that there weren't more on the beach. Is this really what hundreds of thousands of men look like? I'm not sure this movie depicts accurately what it was like for so many to be trapped on that beach. Is this what 700 civilian boats look like? Why were there only a handful of aircraft in the air? Maybe CGI would have worked better here.

• I sometimes had a hard time telling who was who.

• I would have liked to have walked away from this moving knowing why Dunkirk occurred.

• What happened to the 100,000 or so who were taken prisoner?

This movie puts action fans in the same theatre as old fogeys. That alone is a major accomplishment. You have to hand it to Nolan. He almost casually and unnecessarily turned from his usual fare to focus on an historical war drama. The result is a compelling, excellent movie. Imagine if all these superhero directors did this.

It is interesting that the world continues to make and watch movies about this war, even though the greatest generation has all but died out. This is a war we will never forget, even as those who lived it are no longer around to describe it to us. From now on, every generation will tell this story in its own way.
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Baby Driver (2017)
8/10
The story of Baby
29 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
OK, I really dislike American action films that are about music, cars chases, shootouts and crime (in any combination). However, this movie was exactly that, and I rather enjoyed it. I think it's because this movie was really all about Baby (played by Ansel Elgort), an interesting, multi-faceted, sympathetic and attractive character. It's a dense, well-written, self-aware and overtly cool movie. There are some funny and unexpected aspects. Not a run of the mill film. I wouldn't miss it.
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7/10
OK, but nothing that special
29 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This movie does three things.

First, it has some footage of Russian and American astronauts on the ISS. We see them doing astronaut things.

As interesting as this is to those of us who are into space development and exploration, it is essentially the same old depiction of astronaut activity that you've seen in every other documentary about astronauts for the past six decades. I suppose it was interesting to see astronauts are doing nowadays. Answer: not much more than they were doing in the 1960s.

Second, this film includes some footage of the earth as seen from the ISS (400 km over the planet).

Of course, this is spectacular. It's hard to decide what was the most impressive. It could have been the thunderstorm seen from above. Or perhaps just the nighttime images of cities artificially lit up. This is a good usage of Imax technology and something worth paying to see. However, I would have appreciated more insights. Or at least something to make it more worth watching.

I felt the footage would have been improved with longer looks at specific things or with map overlays to help the viewers understand what they were looking at. To be fair, they did use a highlighting system to identify cities at times. I have a good understanding of geography so I figured most of it out, but my friend said he couldn't tell what it all was. To him, they were just depictions of land masses and water, sometimes a little hazy.

During the film, I actively wondered if I had become too spoiled and jaded by CGI depictions of space. This is the real thing though, and it is thrilling...

The third thing is that at times the movie gets philosophical. We are told that these images show how we are destroying the planet (yes, Madagascar and Brazil). We are also shown CGI images of another possible earth-like planet. And we are shown how a few borders look from space. So yes there is some philosophizing and politicking about saving the planet, supporting space exploration and, yes, having borders. This movie is pro-borders and not a fan of the North Korean government.

I don't mind this once in a while, but it really was the same old sh8t. It was nothing new. And nothing you wouldn't see on TV. I paid money to watch this documentary.

It was an OK Imax movie, but I'm not sure I would necessarily recommend it to anyone. It didn't impress me all that much. I think Imax movies need to be more than this.
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6/10
OK, but nothing that special
29 July 2017
This 40-minute Imax movie is playing under different titles, including "China, The Rise of Empire" and "Mysteries of China".

It tells the story of the 1974 discovery of the terra cotta army by farmers and the archaeological study afterwards. The film also explains a few things about the emperor who created this army, i.e. Qin Shi Huang, the ruler of "Qin" and the first emperor of a united China.

Despite the name, I didn't find this 40-minute film to be really that informative about Chinese history. There were a few re-creations and explanations, but nothing really new, controversial, dazzling, insightful or comprehensive.

The single "wow" factor in this movie is the Imax-screen depiction of the terra cotta army display in a huge hangar-like structure in China. I can't say I've ever seen this before. However, this wasn't enough.

I felt the film was on the same level as a made-for-TV programme on National Geographic or a basic documentary. Is it unfair for me to point that the filmmakers seemed to have done nothing more than take an Imax camera to the terra cotta army display in China, interview a few archaeologists, and then make a simple documentary out of the footage? This is what it felt like.

It's a competent, watchable Imax film, but I wouldn't particularly recommend it to anyone.
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Lion (2016)
8/10
An interesting story, well told
16 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is based on an interesting true story. The strength of this film lies mainly in its "slumdog" portrayal of life in Calcutta for Young Saroo. But what made it also fascinating was the process of him getting so utterly lost as a child and then as an adult reversing the process by using modern technology to find out where he was from exactly. It really could easily have remained a lifelong mystery.

I am a little uneasy with the romanticisation of Indian poverty. I wouldn't enjoy that in any context, so I don't understand why it is practically glorified in some movies relating to India. I simply don't need to see this in movies. I don't go to movies to see extreme poverty. There is nothing of merit in showing it.

His reuniting with his mother was not so moving to me as it was apparently to some of the other reviewers. I found it mawkish. Don't get me wrong. I was indeed moved, especially in the light of his relationship with his birth brother. But it was a little too much. I felt emotionally manipulated.

It's worth about 7.5, but I'm going to round it up.
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8/10
Funny, smart, entertaining animation film
5 July 2017
Superheroes are no longer valued in America, so they have to hang up their capes and live their lives full time in their secret identities. Elastigirl and Mr Incredible have got married, are settled down and have super-powered kids. However, this suppressed life is very difficult for all of them. Mr Incredible has a horrible job, a horrible car and has got fat -- the American nightmare.

Fortunately, Mr Incredible is brought back into action. He and his family end up in an evil villain's jungle island lair. The rich evil villain (Syndrome) has a personal grudge against Mr Incredible, has been eliminating former superheroes and is developing a city-crusher weapon. Will this super family same themselves and the city?

Thirteen years after being released, this intelligent, fast-paced animated family film is still quite entertaining for young and old. What I liked in particular about it was the writing and the rich detail in the story. There is a clever reworking of many old, tired themes. This movie was a vibrant remix of Bond movie, domestic sitcom and superhero saga. It all felt creative and fresh. At times it exploded into comedic brilliance (eg Edna Mode; Frozone's wife). The animation is superb, clearly the work of professionals at the top of their field.

Well done to everyone involved. I feel it's worth about 8.5.
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Sully (2016)
8/10
Quiet movie about Flight 1549 and its pilot
26 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The heart of this movie is the spectacle -- beautifully staged and filmed -- of a passenger airplane landing on a river in the middle of a large city in the winter and all its passengers getting rescued. By anyone's standards, this is remarkable thing and the worthy subject of a 96-minute movie. Realizing this, Eastwood presents a realistic, appropriate and detailed film depiction of the crash. It was fascinating to watch, even though the viewer already knows how it ends.

The rest of the movie is a populist "little guy v. the man" kind of film, with the airline, the investigating committee and the insurers cast in the role of "the man", and the pilot (Tom Hanks) and co-pilot (Aaron Eckhart) in the role of the "little guy". In the end, the heroism is not just in landing the plane, but in being able to face with dignity and confidence the bureaucratic/financial firestorm that comes afterwards .

Hanks and Eastwood also engage in a sort of "portrait of heroism". They show us more about Sully and what kind of man he is. The pilot was just a man doing his job, but he did it well and he survived (in many ways) a life-changing accident that could have destroyed him. Is he a genuine hero? This movie makes that argument. America needs heroes; the movie industry loves making films about heroes. The movie was restrained in its flag-waving, thankfully.

I thought this was a good film, although maybe a little on the pensive side. It's worth about 7.5, but I'll round it up.
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Life (I) (2017)
8/10
Visceral, claustrophobic and dark
22 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This film is like Gravity and Alien, but with more of a horror element.

It's a dark, visceral and claustrophobic film that shows you the collision of two worlds. No, not Mars and Earth, but science and the unknown. What happens when scientists come across an alien that is not studiable, not knowable, not interested in playing the game.

It's a first contact story, but one in which everything goes terribly wrong. The nightmare here is not one of misunderstanding or miscommunication (like Arrival) but the sheer inability to co-exist. It's about an unstoppable creature from Mars that kills in terrifying ways. From the start, the awful realization is that the entire human race is in danger.

I'm not going to lie to you: I am not sure I enjoyed this film. I'm a fan of sci-fi, not Cronenburg-style horror. As soon as I realized what kind of a creature this was, I foresaw the entire movie. Too bad the people actually involved in it all didn't foresee it in the same way. They had to go through it all. The alien in this movie will remind you of every filthy thing you fear when walking through a marsh. This alien is definitely the star of the show, a work of creative genius.

The cinematography showing the earth and the space station was credible and beautifully done. If you're going to this movie to drool over Reynolds and Gyllenhaal, don't bother. Unsexiest movie ever.

Good performances from everyone, especially Dihovichnaya and Sanada.

It's worth about 7.5, I suppose. If this kind of film appeals to you, go see it. But don't expect a light, feel-good experience. And, um, maybe we really shouldn't explore Mars.
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Wonder Woman (2017)
7/10
"Magnificent as she is"
16 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I've been thinking a lot about this movie since I saw it. If you had told me a month ago that I would go to (never mind enjoy) a Wonder Woman movie, I would have written you off as bonkers. And yet that's what has happened. I enjoyed this movie, although there were some aspects of it that I didn't buy.

This movie is about female empowerment v. male violence (represented here by the Great War). Diana v. Ares. Much of the fun of the film was in seeing Diana experience the modern world (well, the world a century ago) and seeing whether her idealism would crack under the weight of reality.

I liked Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot. She was indeed "magnificent" (as Ludendorff needlessly points out to the viewers), a shining light. Diana is propelled into an extraordinary adventure, and yet handles everything that comes her way. It is an important mission that gives her society, her family and her life meaning. There was a lot to enjoy here, including her formation, her beliefs, her innocence and idealism, her determination, her shock at the modern world. Just awesome.

They did a great job in showing how WW could work as a superhero. I just had not bought into it before (shield? lasso? bracelets? -- c'mon). But they made it work. Some real cleverness there.

One major theme in this movie is female athleticism. It's not just women engaged in, um, ancient Greek martial arts though. (In this regard, it's similar to "The 100".) I really have no idea how they do it, but the result is spectacular. I suppose it's a combination of martial arts, gymnastics, choreography, CGI animation and cinematography. Once it is all combined for the viewer on the screen, the result is exciting and appealing.

These were powerful women, portrayed (as far as I know) in a way never shown on the screen before. It felt new and different, although I suppose it's what we see now in Crossfit competitions and shows like Steve Austin's Broken Skull Ranch. For anyone who hasn't seen these things, I'm sure the depiction in this movie was mind-blowing. Showing this aspect of the movie in a convincing way must have been a huge undertaking on the part of the filmmakers. I think this was successful.

Another important theme in the movie is the Great War. This is a war most of us don't hear about much anymore. We've all seen the historical footage and historical movies attempting to show it to us. I'm not sure the movie was accurate in depicting this war as genocidal and oriented at mass destruction. It wasn't, was it? This bothered me.

The portrayal of the war here was different than one I'm used to. This movie attempts to show it in a way that is relevant to its theme ("Ares must be destroyed") and interesting to modern internet-generation viewers (especially those demanding action). Whether this depiction of the Great War was successful I am less certain, but they get an "A" for effort.

I didn't like the Trevor character. I blame the writing and story here. His job was to be the foil to Diana, and most of it didn't work for me. It didn't help that I'm generally not into Chris Pine. I think Pine was given a very tough role here. There is a lot more I could say about this, but I will refrain.

I didn't buy Capt Trevor's little gang of misfits on the front. Sorry, but I just didn't feel they belonged on the front or in the movie. When they were on, I played on my phone.

Ares was "meh".

This is the thing: I feel that this movie had some tedious aspects and some awesome aspects. Yes, the two themes were dealt with in a camp way -- how else could you deal with it in a Wonder Woman movie? -- but I admired the effort. This movie is worth about 7.5.
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6/10
Visually appealing but there are too many issues
1 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The space ship and the alien world are portrayed beautifully in this movie. In that sense it's a beautiful movie. I wish Ridley would explore this further outside of the Aliens franchise.

The "aliens bursting out of the body" theme -- the hallmark of this franchise, I suppose -- was done well in one spectacular scene. If you enjoy that kind of visceral, Cronenburg-esque horror, you won't be disappointed.

Let me list the obvious problems....

One problem is that the visuals are not that different from Prometheus. This movie is quite similar to Prometheus.

A second problem is that there is no real intellectually interesting premise behind it all. No new story really.

No character development at all this time, which is a huge problem.

I don't like this special historical connection the aliens somehow have now with the human race via the Engineers. These Engineers. Who are they again?

"Alien bursts out of body. Alien becomes scary and evil. Woman fights alien." This is the plot of every movie. I'm tired of these aliens.

A third, very annoying problem is that all the crew seem to be paired off with each other. This movie is proof that partnered people should not be in a military unit together, because if this movie is any indication, the minute one's partner is endangered or gets killed the screaming and blubbering and unprofessionalism begins. "Oh my god, my wife might be in trouble, I will risk this huge space ship, and all 2000 colonists, just to save her. She's so important."

My response was: WTF is your wife/husband/partner doing on the ship with you if you're such an emotional mess? At one point, I yelled "stop screaming" aloud at the screen. This is why there are (or should be) rules about this kind of thing. Somehow the edginess of the marines in the first movie has morphed into this. I don't like it.

A fourth problem, perhaps the most annoying problem of all, is that these people seem to have no understanding of the biological dangers of alien planets. I mean, a 10-year-old would know about this from watching cartoons. Why don't they? Why would you get so close to a man who was clearly suffering from some serious alien trauma? Why would you look into an alien pod knowing that the alien planet had somehow infected your mates? How can I rate a movie highly when I was spending much of it rolling my eyes?

A fifth problem is that the David/Walter mix up was so frigging obvious. I saw it immediately. How could the crew not have checked this more carefully? It was just unbelievable that they didn't do this. And how did David learn Walter's codes?

A sixth problem: the movie was confusing. I googled it afterwards to try to sort it out, but I still don't know how the alien got onto the colonist ship after all that effort to keep it out. I suppose David brought it in, but how? In his mouth? And what happened exactly when David brought the ship to this alien world. Where did he get those spores? What were they? Confusing.
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5/10
Crap
30 May 2017
I didn't like this movie.

This film has little to no connection to either British history or the Arthurian legend. I wasn't in the mood to put up with yet another fantasy world and idiosyncratic mock interpretation of history (a la Monty Python or Tarantino). The anachronisms and anatopisms disturbed me, especially the accents. Was that a Chinese man in 6th century Britain teaching martial arts?

Does every historical movie now have to be turned into a fantasy action film? It was all just made-up sh*t: a "mage" who controls the animals, the blade has to touch the altar, Vortigern has a freaky evil thing going on, slithery octopus-women...it just went on and on.

I disliked the fact that I had to pay close attention to figure out what was going on. The dialogue (consisting essentially of macho bantering) was really annoying. I'm not at all into laddism. Was this movie meant to appeal to 14-year-old British chavs addicted to video-game action and violence? This movie was told from the perspective of...what?...a Cockney footballer? A Geordie thug?

The move was melodramatic, to the point that I groaned audibly when the boy's scream was echoed throughout the city. Everything was momentous and slickly cool and kept at a high pitch. I disliked the artificial slow-mos and fast-forwarding.

It all just seemed very much like LOTR or every other fantasy film you've seen lately. Giant elephants, I mean, c'mon. Action for action's sake, which I hate. This wasn't a movie with character development of the kind that I recognize. I just didn't care about these people. Men bantering with each other is not character development. It's just annoying posturing.

Three of the hottest guys on the planet were in the movie, but it wasn't a sexy movie.

I fell asleep for about 30 minutes in the first half. It just was too confusing. Who the f*ck is Vortigern? Who the f*ck is Uther? None of it was properly explained. Fortunately I awoke just in time to see him pulling out the sword. The fire alarm in the cinema went off about 20 minutes before the ending. I was grateful for the opportunity to escape, and I didn't care about how it ended.

When I look at the list of movies Ritchie has made, I realise I don't like Guy Ritchie movies.

OK, there were a few creative, thought-provoking and interesting visuals and scenes, I'll give Ritchie that. There is enough there to make me think that maybe I didn't really understand or get the director's style. I'm thinking of going back to give it another chance. Maybe my review is unfair. Maybe I just didn't get it.

A puzzle to me: why did I like "The Great Wall", but not this? They are cut from the same cloth.
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The Circle (I) (2017)
7/10
The limits of transparency
30 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is an exploration of our modern online "black mirror" culture, this time focusing on large corporations (think Google, Apple and Facebook) that are forcing us to publicly live our lives online.

It's a slick, snazzy movie with good production values, a good script and decent acting. Emma Watson's skills and amiability are on full display here.

At The Circle, "transparency" is pushed as a public good, even though it really serves corporate purposes. We see in this film how far it can go.

This movie is like "Nerve". "Nerve" looked at online anonymity, sensation-seeking and desensitisation; this movie looks at the slippery slope between "transparency" and totalitarianism.

The Circle is ultimately a creepy place where the employees are forced to live their lives online in a way that comes across eventually as malevolent and overly intrusive.

Our heroine is apparently one of the few who are not using the internet for romantic or sexual purposes. She seems to have no tension between her online (non-existent?) sex life and her online public life. No wonder Tom Hanks loves her.

Of course, the rest of us do have that problem. There is a good deal of tension between our online sex lives (which we want to keep private) and our online public lives (which we are willing to share). If the good people at The Circle are going to make everything completely transparent with the assistance of millions of cheap mini-cameras, it's going to have to deal with the fact that 90% of the internet is being used to get off.

This is the creepy horror of the internet for many of us: Facebook and Google are going to blithely reveal our dick/boob pics, our sexts, our sex vids, our porn preferences, our kinks and our f*ck dates to our families and employers.

This movie presents that issue in a single but hugely important scene. The line is briefly crossed. But it is not her sex life that ends up being made public. It is her parents. OMG, America is horrified. People are having sex!! What's hypocritical about this scene is that it avoids the main issue, and deflects it into an issue about respecting your parents' privacy.

This online tension between anonymity and transparency is a huge topic. But this movie does not do it justice, in my view.

And of course there is also the problem -- which the movie deals with in detail -- that some people simply don't want to be online all the time. Some of us don't want their lives to be transparent. What do we do with them? I think this movie addresses a huge anxiety of the selfie generation. They need anonymity; but they are also afraid of not being watched. It's admittedly a very strange situation. How did our society end up like this?

I think this movie is worth 7.5, but I'm going to round it down because I don't like how it dealt with sex.
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Nerve (I) (2016)
8/10
Snappy exploration of the black mirror
29 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Imagine a not-too-unrealistic online game where the players are encouraged, motivated and lightly coerced by an anonymous gamemaster to do stunts IRL, which are then broadcast to and rated by the anonymous viewers. The stunts become increasingly more dangerous until it becomes obvious that the viewers are insatiable for sensation, and the whole thing is out of control.

This is a fast-paced, engaging movie that I found to be thoroughly enjoyable to watch. The visuals and music are appealing. Emma Roberts and Dave Franco were competent and worked well together.

It was one of the first movies I've seen to actively explore where our new online culture is taking us. In that sense, it's not that different than a "Black Mirror" episode. Is there any role in our brave new world for trust, privacy, decency, altruism, etc.?

There are a few plot holes, but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the film for what it was. It's worth about 7.5, but I'm rounding it up.
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Bram Fischer (2017)
8/10
Good movie telling the story of the Rivonia Trial
21 May 2017
This historical movie tells the story of the Rivonia Trial, which was conducted in Pretoria in 1963 and 1964. This is the trial in which Nelson Mandela (amongst others) was sentenced to life imprisonment for sabotage.

The story focuses on the lead counsel for the defendants, Bram Fischer. Fischer's story is an interesting one. He had himself been a member of the Communist party and had played a role in the planning of the sabotage. The defendants saw their actions as political resistance.

We meet Bram Fischer's family and friends. We witness the actions and dialogue of the various personalities in the anti-apartheid movement at this time. All the whites involved -- defendants, their counsel and their prosecutors -- were mostly Jewish. We also see the Afrikaner security forces of the apartheid state, doing their utmost to bring to justice a group they regarded with hatred. We see the details of the trial.

The director did a great job in recreating this particular time and place. I had the feeling that we were being shown a realistic film about life in South Africa at that time. The dialogue is mostly in Afrikaans but with some English. I suppose this easily bilingualism reflects the reality in South Africa. The use of Afrikaans certainly made the movie extraordinarily realistic.

I thought that perhaps the portrayal of the Afrikaner security and justice system was not painted with a light enough touch. They seemed unrelentingly evil. However, I saw this movie with an egte boer, and he did not find it offensive or inaccurate.

The story is interesting and well told in this film. At the end, the film became quite moving. I left the movie with the impression that Bram Fischer was an extraordinary and heroic Afrikaner. I recommend this movie especially if you're interested in learning more about South Africa during this period.
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9/10
A great sequel!
7 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This high-energy sequel is hugely entertaining from the opening scene to the very end. Highly recommended!

This movie is very funny and, at times, ribald and camp. The real pleasure is not in the world-destroying, starship-battle action, but in the snappy, humorous dialogue and in the character conflicts. Chris Pratt and Zoë Saldana are sexy as hell. The soundtrack (yes, still based on Peter's Mom's 1960s cassettes) is uplifting and catchy. Even the other characters have adopted this music, and play it non-stop. At the end, quite unexpectedly, this movie becomes moving. Excitement, laughs, cheers, tears -- it's all there.

I think it would be a great idea to see the first movie before you see this one. Volume 2 brings back the winning characters, musical theme and formula from the first movie, so don't expect too many changes. Groot is still alive -- although he is a mere, um, twig. We see more of the Ravagers. A new alien species is introduced: the strange, perfect golden Sovereign. One important new character is introduced: Peter Quill's father. This movie is essentially about him, and all is revealed.

The film is worth about 8.5, but I'm rounding it up. Go see it!
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9/10
One hell of a good movie
26 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This intense, iconic movie is loosely based on the story of William Hayes, an American trapped in a horrible Turkish prison for five years. It's a film about courage and perseverence.

Alan Parker is the director. Oliver Stone is the writer. Brad Davis is the lead. A perfect storm....

I remember being blown away by this gripping movie when it first came out. So much so that I must have seen it five times. It was just so gritty. It seemed to show the world the way it really was. It exposed in exquisite detail a corrupt third-world justice system and a brutal prison system.

And I just saw it again today, about 35 years later. Some of the scenes, so devastating back them, have become memes in modern culture ("Oh Billy..."), so it's hard to appreciate them fully now.

It's also difficult to sit through such an unrelentingly negative portrayal of Turkey. I've been to Turkey several times, and it is difficult to see this side of Turkey. It didn't help that the producer and writer played up that aspect.

Regardless of its accuracy or inaccuracy, it is one hell of a good movie.
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7/10
Not special
9 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This is a Disney movie for young girls. I'm in the wrong demographic for this movie. Still I thought I might see it, because Disney movies are meant to appeal to all.

I thought the first part was fairly slow and I almost fell asleep half way through. It picked up a little, but not enough.

The movie is highly stylized and lacking in realism, which is not surprising, I suppose. We're in the world of ancient fairy tale, Disney fantasy and CGI. But there were many places where I found myself having to accept some contrived aspect that I didn't really want to accept.

But then every so often the director showed us some beautiful animation, and the movie magic was there for a bit.

The music and story didn't inspire me or even interest me really.

I thought the whole anthropomorphic furniture/household thing was over done.

I had a hard time with the "beast" character. I mean, yes, he was half man half mountain goat (or whatever he was supposed to be) but he wasn't exactly a repulsive creature. He had muscles, strength, courage, hair, good looks, intelligence, education and sensitivity. This movie might have been more to the point if the beast had been truly hideous and unattractive. So I didn't really buy into the central moral dilemma of the movie, ie that a man-goat is hideous and that a human girl would never have feelings for a man-goat, or more importantly, that looks don't matter. Have I missed the point somehow?
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King Cobra (2016)
7/10
Desire, greed and violence in the gay porn world
8 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is rated too low on IMDb. It's worth about a 7.5 It tells the true story of the murder of a gay porn producer (played by Christian Slater). There are two story lines.

The first is about this porn producer and a new star (Brent Corrigan, played by Garrett Clayton). Brent stays at his place and together they have fun making some hot movies. But then they have a falling out when Brent finds out how much is being made from his films.

The second is about two mentally unbalanced losers (Joe and Harlow) who hang around at the edges of the porn industry. They want to make a film with Brent, but decide that they have to kill the porn producer because he's not allowing Brent to use his trademarked porn name.

I loved how this film dealt so naturally and explicitly with gay sexuality and with the gay porn and escorting aspects. The sex scenes were depicted with relish, but without genitalia. (After all, this is an American movie.) The depiction of stereotypical porn situations and dialogue and was hilarious. At times the real world in the main movie seemed disturbingly too close to the porn version of reality. These characters were so immersed in porn that they were leading porn lives.

Part of me wishes that the director (Justin Kelly) had focused on creating just a feel-good movie about the gay porn industry, about gay escorting and about gay sexuality in California. This alone would have been a great film (or hell even better -- a Netflix series). He could have developed various interesting characters and just drawn the viewer into this sexy world.

Kelly partly succeed in doing that in this film. But I had problems with some of it. Where were the drugs, for example? No drugs at all?? The dysfunctionality of the characters was also a major theme. I wish there had been some normal gay men in the film, because yes we still need to show that in a film like this.

I thought the porn director and Brent parts were well played by Slater and Clayton. However, although Clayton is a stunningly handsome man, in this movie he didn't really generate the same erotic heat as a sleazy 18 year old porn star. The movie would have made more sense if they had found someone who can do that.

I liked how the porn producer was torn between desire and greed when it came to Brent. He wanted Brent's love, of course. He wanted Brent to want him. Or at least to pretend that he wanted him. He was an older porn-producing lech, but there were a few perceptive lines in there about his motivation and he came across as a sympathetic character.

The dysfunction of the Joe and Harlow characters got in the way for me. I found some of their scenes to be difficult and awkward to watch. Perhaps that was the point (because after all they were psychos). After just watching the film, I feel I still don't have a good understanding about the underlying forces that drove them to murder. Maybe the problem is with the basic plot. The murder was so senseless. Tbh, I think the movie would have been better without Franco (because...c'mon).

This is the second movie I've seen this year in which the difficult relationship between porn producer and actor was central. (The other was Tickled.) These movies also have something to say about porn itself, how it can take over people's lives and ruin them.
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7/10
OK movie about the healing power of love
25 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This is an OK film. The story is about a troubled American businessman (Tom Hanks) who goes to Saudi Arabia on a business trip, only to find that Saudi Arabia is superficially a difficult place for a man like him. Fortunately, he connects with a beautiful, urbane married Saudi doctor (Sarita Choudhury). She easily bridges the culture gap and heals him in more ways than one. He also meets a few other interesting characters, who show him how to appreciate the place, even if it so different than back home.

So you could see this as a timely metaphor about the US and the Middle East finally reconciling despite their differences. It's a call to Americans to open up their spirits and not get bogged down in parochialism and narrow thinking. Learn about the Middle East. Appreciate it.

It's also about finding love later in life, and the healing power of love. I see the movie as shooting an arrow into the hearts of 60ers everywhere: Your life is not over yet. Don't give up on adventure. Despite your troubles and infirmities, there is still love and excitement out there.

This kind of movie is not for everyone, but I enjoyed it well enough.
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Reign of Fire (2002)
7/10
Epic tale about defeating the terrrifying dragons
25 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This is another post-apocalyptic film, the apocalypse this time having been brought about by dragons. Not ordinary dragons, but terrifying dragons that move lightning fast and scorch the earth like napalm.

The story starts with a group of tough, grimy, low tech humans trying their best to survive in this world, and doing a pretty good job of it. But then a group of well-armed high-tech humans shows up and bring the battle to another level. Their goal is not just to survive, but to destroy all the dragons.

These two groups are each led by strong-willed leaders, who naturally ram heads with each other for a while. They each believe in what they're doing. Will they be able to work together?

Even though the two leaders are two of the best actors on the planet (McConaughey and Bale), they put on pumped-up cartoonish performances here. I suppose that's what most of the watchers of this movie would want. I think the movie is aimed at teenage boys more than anyone else.

I thought this was an enjoyable enough action film. I had serious suspension-of-disbelief issues for a few scenes, but I was able to look past it. There was more grit and sweat in the movie than magic. This movie has little fantasy or medieval context to it, although it does a good job of showing a dark, apocalyptic world.
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Logan (2017)
7/10
Charles and Logan go on a roadtrip
7 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This is another movie in Marvel's X-Men franchise. We're a few decades in the future of the other movies. Logan (Wolverine) and Charles (Professor X) are old, isolated and not doing well. The entire mutant thing has been successfully stopped, and the mutants are being hunted (by men called "Reavers" for some reason). There is also a mad scientist experimenting with mutants. Logan and Charles get together and try to save Laura, a mutant with the same powers as Logan. She's got Logan's DNA so they think of her as his daughter. Logan is not really into it. She keeps talking about a mutant hideout near the Canadian border. Logan thinks it's hogwash, but he takes her there, chased the whole time by the hunters and mad scientist. Will Logan lead them to safety in Canada (his homeland, as we all remember).

I heard this was a really good film, but to me it was just OK. I'm not sure what the hype was about. I guess this superhero film is different from the rest because it reflects on the idea of the decline and death of superheros. I'm not sure it's something I need to explore, since I'm not really into this genre in the first place. There's nothing about this movie that stood out for me.

I'm not really into the characters. Hugh Jackman played his role with the usual gusto, but I didn't see anything in the character to draw me to it. I don't understand why the Wolverine character has had so many movies. Boyd Holbrook was interesting.

It's not a bad film, although I thought it was too violent, and it bothered me how the innocent people they came across were all wiped out.

So, this movie's current score on IMDb is 8.7? And it's the 37th top rated movie? Wait...37th of all time? OK, this is an OK film, but it's not that good. This just indicates how many young men are into these superhero movies and will go online to support them. It's a shame because it skews the entire IMDb movie rating system.
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The Great Wall (I) (2016)
8/10
Wow. What a movie.
19 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This is a mixed genre movie that works spectacularly well. It's a cross between a historical movie about medieval China and, well, a science fiction movie about alien lizard hordes. Like Cowboys and Aliens, it is interesting from start to finish.

Just when you thought you'd seen everything. And just when you thought that all that was left were superhero movies....we get this. You will regret having that drink that is annoyingly making you visit the WC. Don't do it because you won't want to miss a minute of this film.

I don't know how much of the Chinese historical technology scenes are realistic, but to be honest with you, I don't really care.

All the negativity about Matt Damon being the film is just hogwash. He plays a western character. He does a great job here.

The current score on IMDb is too low. It's worth about 8.5. The one problem with the movie (if you can call it a problem) is that I wasn't moved at all. It's not that kind of movie.
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