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Give Me Liberty (2019)
"I should be there in ten."
Safe to say this movie won't appeal to everybody. It has an unscripted feel to it, more like a slice of life or stream of consciousness experience on a wide scale. The central character is Vic (Chris Galust), a shuttle van driver who has to consistently divert his attention moment to moment like a human pinball. The film is populated with a cast of Russian immigrant retirees, an assortment of mentally and physically disabled people, and throws in a civil rights protest along the way. Some of it is funny, but you have to wonder at times if the humor isn't a result of taking advantage of the handicapped. The film makers utilize a gimmick in which the picture, mostly in color, at one point goes black and white as Vic's van comes in contact with a protest demonstration, returning to color right after. Another reviewer makes the point that virtually all of the writers offering '10' ratings with an IMDb review for the movie have only this one review in their profile. I clicked on more than a half dozen user names to verify and that apparently is the case where folks associated with the picture are more than likely promoting it. The one comparing it to the work of Fellini and Truffaut is a dead give away. Without them, the rating would plunge well below 5.0.
Escape from Pretoria (2020)
"What we'd always accepted, we would now reject."
At times harrowing and suspenseful, this is a classic prison break story in which the escapees must use their wits to determine the best, if not the only way to flee their incarceration. The story takes place in South Africa during the heyday of apartheid, at a time when activist white men joined forces with Nelson Mandela's ANC (African National Congress) in an attempt to break the racist white majority rule of the country. I thought the story could have been set up a little better than it was, being left dumbstruck as to how authorities knew it was Tim Jenkin (Daniel Radcliffe) and Stephen Lee (Daniel Webber) who set off the leaflet 'bombs' to open the picture. That could have been better explained since Jenkin and Lee looked like they dispersed into the crowd with no viable means of detection by the police. Be that as it may, once in South Africa's Praetoria state prison for white males, the pair of revolutionaries immediately begin plotting their escape, bringing a third member (Mark Leonard Winter) into their fold who was desperate to leave as well. Via exceptionally keen observation and skills with draftsmanship and woodwork, Jenkin managed to fashion a set of wooden keys that would open the locks of the prison doors. Even after seeing how they did it, I'm still not convinced that it could have been all that possible, but the proof is in the results as they say, so I can hardly question their success. Tense moments abound as the trio set out on their quest for freedom, and the film ends pretty much when they make their way to the city street just outside the prison walls. It would have been a bonus to see what might have happened to the prison guards who were held responsible for the lax in security, but the story didn't go there. I'd like to have been the fly on the wall for that one.
All the Way (2016)
"Accidental President. That's what they'll say."
If nothing else, the casting for this movie was exquisite. Bryan Cranston to portray Lyndon Baines Johnson was an inspired choice, you would really think you were watching the former President in action. And when they came on screen, it was very easy to identify the characters portrayed by their respective actors - Melissa Leo for Lady Bird, Anthony Mackie for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bradley Whitford for Senator Humphrey, and Stephen Root as J. Edgar Hoover. And even though I'd long forgotten about him as a politician during the era, as soon as the face of Ray Wise popped up on screen, I knew him to be Senator Everett Dirksen.
The story highlights LBJ's struggles with getting the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed by Congress, done as well by hook as by crook, as the President used all of his wiles to seduce and/or ram through his legacy legislation. Talk about seeing how the sausage is made, the story here is a textbook case of behind the scenes machinations that gets the job done. It's almost never pretty, vividly described by Johnson while speaking to his chief of staff Walter Jenkins (Todd Weeks) - "There's no place for nice in a knife fight".
What always comes through though is the President's humanity, even when he dresses down Cabinet members and other subordinates. LBJ knows he's the one in charge, and he could light a fire under your butt and be a gracious host in mere moments. His commitment to equal rights is what comes through most dramatically in the story, and for anyone who was not around during the turbulent era of the Sixties, this would be a good primer on the evolution of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In the Tall Grass (2019)
"The field doesn't move dead things."
High growing vegetation doesn't seem to be Stephen King's strong suit, at least when it comes to movie adaptations. Of the thirty two films based on King's work that I've watched and reviewed (you can check my list on IMDb), 1984's "Children of the Corn" comes in at #29, while this one shows up at #31 when ranked in IMDb rating order. 2004's "Riding the Bullet" comes in dead last, with no pun intended using the word 'dead'.
I think the problem might be that there doesn't seem to be any coherent logic for the death and revival of the characters in the picture. The time loop aspect of the story tends to confuse more than illuminate, while the religious connotations ascribed to The Church of the Black Rock of the Redeemer are somewhat circumspect. What's effective though is the way in which King takes a rather mundane subject and turns it into a horror show, much the way he did with a St. Bernard named Cujo. I have a feeling that the novella upon which this movie is based does a better job of eliciting the terror King attempts to convey, one which I haven't had the pleasure to read, but will now be looking for. There's something about the surreal imagery of the gnarled root-hands that doesn't come across on screen the way I think King might have conveyed with the written word.
Still, it's Stephen King, and that makes it worth a look if you're a fan. You'll note that one of the things he does quite often is interject a nostalgic tribute to a song or TV show from his formative years, in this case a recurring tribute to the song 'Midnight Special' popularized by Creedence Clearwater Revival. It's a traditional folk song thought to have originated among prisoners in the American South, the chorus referring to a myth that if the light from the Midnight Special shone on a prison inmate in his cell, he would be released soon. With that understanding, the whole idea of escaping from the tall grass makes a lot more sense, and was a neat way for King to tie the fate of innocent travelers into a recurring nightmare .
The Aftermath (2019)
"I should never have brought you here."
Effective drama of relationships tainted by loss, leading to passion and betrayal. I didn't care for Jason Clarke in the role of Lewis Morgan, he didn't appear to be a good match for wife Rachael, portrayed by Keira Knightley, who looked more stunning here than in other recent pictures I've seen her in. Which goes a long way to explain the affair between herself and German Stephen Lubert (Alexander Skarsgård). The post-war reconstruction scenes of Hamburg were credibly filmed, with holdovers from the defeated Nazi regime attempting to hang on by a thread. I would not have expected Rachael's reversal at the end of the story given all that went before, her marriage felt irreparable by that point. The finale forced Lubert to accept his fate much like Bogart in "Casablanca", only this time, with the guy on the train leaving the station.,
"Were we better than the Japanese, or just luckier?"
The IMDb viewer rating for this film (6.8) and the 2019 version (6.7) are remarkably similar. I watched the recent release only a few days ago and it compelled me to seek out this picture with it's cast of great actors of the era. Picking a favorite is probably a toss-up, old school fans like myself would probably go for this picture, while a younger crowd might be persuaded by the CGI special effects of the latter movie. I'm actually kind of in the middle, I enjoyed both pictures about the same, though as I've mentioned in other war movie reviews, I can do without the inclusion of a romantic subplot between principal characters in a film. In that respect, the 2019 picture adhered to my personal preference. However the film under consideration here might have done a better job with minor characters, in mentioning by name some of the squadron leaders during the attack on the Japanese carriers headed for Midway, for example. And for sheer star power, I don't think you can top the 1976 cast, even if some of the premier actors had to settle for secondary roles with little screen time, like Robert Mitchum as Admiral William Halsey, and Cliff Robertson as Commander Carl Jessop. I also felt Charlton Heston would have been assigned a more prominent character role, even if he did occupy much screen time as Captain Matt Garth, trading dialog with son Tom (Edward Albert). I would also contend that this picture did a better job of detailing the intricacies that led to the American victory, not simply limited to the bravery of our fighting forces, but chronicling some of the enemy missteps, like not providing fighter cover for the Japanese carriers during the American airplane assault, while having their own bombs stacked on deck as viable targets to inflict further damage. So many elements contributed to the final outcome that it would be impossible to determine which was the most crucial. In any event, both pictures are recommended viewing to learn about one of the most significant battles of World War II, paving the way for victory in the Pacific. Without it, the country's resources might have been pinned down to an extent that the war in Europe could have gone very differently.
The Act (2019)
"Sometimes the only way out is through."
I was thinking about the title of this series while watching it, because at first it doesn't seem to fit with anything going on. But as things progress, "The Act" eventually came to symbolize two distinct things for this viewer. First off, the entire facade presented by Dee Dee Blanchard (Patricia Arquette) to prolong the Munchausen Syndrome confinement of her daughter Gypsy Rose (Joey King), can be considered an act of outrageous proportion. The mentally ill mother had to keep this act up in order to live vicariously through Gypsy, not only for the government relief benefits, but for the fame that went along with such recognition as 2009's 'Child of the Year'. The more hideous connotation of 'The Act' had to do with the murder of Dee Dee, an act with consequences far beyond anything Gypsy and her boyfriend Nick (Calum Worthy) were able to imagine during their run from the law. Nick liked to compare the fugitive young couple to Bonnie and Clyde, but for all of his dysfunctional intention, he must never have seen the movie, because it ended badly for the notorious bank robbers.
Like a handful of other reviewers, I thought this could have been trimmed down a bit, maybe by a couple of episodes. But there's no doubt the principals held your interest with a compelling story, all the more so because it was based on a real life situation. Patricia Arquette was outstanding as the monstrous Dee Dee, while Joey King was brilliant in her portrayal of a multi faceted Gypsy Rose, by turns a homely young girl and a glamorous looking teen trying to find her way. And there's no word other than creepy for the character of Nick Godejohn, who walked a very narrow tightrope between reality and his own battle with multiple personalities. Together, the participants engage in a toxic mix of perverted love and hate, which could only end in tragedy. For those unfamiliar with Munchausen Syndrome, the picture will be an eye opener in showing how someone with emotional difficulties will use extreme controlling behavior in a way that strangles another person's growth and development as a human being.
"I'm grateful for Grandpa Fonse".
Don't be misled by the title, the picture isn't about the glory days of America's most famous gangster. Instead, it takes a look at the final year of Al Capone's life in what is most likely conjecture, since much of the story involves his visions and imaginary conversations with people from his present and past, including a young, pre-teen version of himself. That's the thing, once it's over, you have no idea what might have been real or what Capone might have dreamt up in his dementia addled state of mind. A perfect example being the gold plated machine gun sequence in which he mows down a handful of his associates fearing they're the enemy. The first to go down is bodyguard Gino (Gino Cafarelli), but immediately after, we see Gino at Capone's side along with members of his family trying to console the deranged criminal. As a backdrop, we see the crime kingpin's possessions being hauled off for failure to keep up payments, while the Feds unsuccessfully attempt to interrogate Capone over an alleged ten million dollar stash that he can't remember hiding. With what he has to work with, Tom Hardy does an exemplary job of depicting a Capone who's lost all his marbles, but it's often a slog to get through with the long, brooding shots of the gangster facing the camera, never knowing if there's a coherent thought behind the facade. The sight of Hardy's Capone whaling away in a diaper is one of the more depressing sequences in the picture, and even more disgusting is the one scene in which he gives new meaning to the colloquial expression, he ---- the bed. And you thought the horse's head in "The Godfather" was scary!
Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
"I do not stand by in the presence of evil."
This really isn't a criticism, but "Alita: Battle Angel" is primarily a movie made for teens and young adults, so for me it had limited appeal. I know Japanese manga comics and anime have found increased popularity over the years, and this appeared to be anime brought into the physical world so to speak. That's particularly true with the character of Alita (Rosa Salazar), who actually does look like an animated version of a super-hero type warrior. Her doll eyes in particular were distracting for this viewer, who kept wondering why she was made to look like a robot. Alita has the fighting skills of Panzer Kunst, a lost combat art for machine bodies in the twenty fourth century. More specifically, she's been restored from an Iron City scrap pile by Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz), and given the body of an URM (United Repunlics of Mars) berserker, following a brief run with the synthetic body of Ido's own daughter who died. There's plenty of fight action and while it takes some time for Alita to recover her past memories, it seemed like she was able to defeat an army of formidable techno-warriors much too easily given her size and youth. A good portion of the story utilizes the concept of the 1975 film "Rollerball", here renamed Motorball for the Iron City crowd. By handily defeating the Second League of Champions in her first Motorball contest, the film makers set up an expected sequel in which she graduates to a First League battle to become champion, which goes without saying, as it's a foregone conclusion that Alita would prevail in any future movie.
My Babysitter's a Vampire (2010)
"How can you date someone who doesn't like 'Dusk'?"
It's almost embarrassing for me to put this review up on IMDb, but sometimes you just have to let a granddaughter have her way picking something to watch. Mine said she saw this about twenty times already. I can relate to that because when I was her age (12), I would watch the same film every night for a week when it was featured as a Million Dollar Movie on New York's WOR-TV. But with all that said, the best I can come up with for this flick is that it has it's appeal for tweens and teens, but I personally found it to be on the boring side. The story seems to be all over the place, and judging by the mere handful of reviews here on IMDb, it doesn't appear to have had a very wide audience. So rather than rain on anyone's parade, I'll simply say that if you're a kid, you'll probably like this, even if the theme sounds a little scary. Only one of the vampire characters is truly menacing, while the babysitter in question (Vanessa Morgan) looks like she would be a pretty good role model without the vampire fangs. There's a real nerdy kid named Rory (Cameron Kennedy) who tends to be annoying and funny at the same time, and he too winds up a vampire victim in the story. But it never gets too heavy, and the fledgling vampires all seem to be your average neighborhood teens trying to fit in with their peers.
The Omega Man (1971)
"Are you fellas really with the Internal Revenue Service?"
Having recently seen the 2007 movie "I Am Legend" with Will Smith, I wanted to get a look at this earlier version starring Charlton Heston as the principal character, Dr. Robert Neville. I'd already seen 1964's "The Last Man on Earth" with Vincent Price, and it's interesting how each of the screenplays takes the same basic story and recasts it in an entirely different milieu. Also interesting is the idea that in this picture, the mutants aren't specifically referred to by a particular name, whereas in the Price picture, there was no question they were zombies, while Will Smith's Neville found himself battling 'hemocytes'.
It's too bad I didn't go to see this in theaters back in the day. With Heston being such a firm Conservative, I'm sure there had to be some controversy over his sharing an interracial screen kiss with actress Rosalind Cash, and for the sexist line a scene called for when he said to her, "OK baby, hitch up your drawers!" Lines like that would make the correctness police go bonkers today and probably wouldn't survive the cutting room floor. So in that regard, the picture is a curious look at a time gone by. I also got the biggest kick out of the theater marquee promoting "Woodstock" - held over for a third year!, and Neville listening to music on eight track cassettes. Boy, those were the days, huh?
The story itself does play a lot like a zombie or even a vampire flick, though it's sci-fi sensibilities give it a slightly different edge. All those hooded mutants led by the cult figure Matthias (Anthony Zerbe) reminded me of the Jawas in "Star Wars", so there may have been some inspiration there. Among the three films all based on the Richard Matheson novel "I Am Legend", it's hard for me to pick a favorite because they're as different as they are similar. Each one has it's appeal for fans of dystopian landscapes and end of world symbolism. What you don't want is to be the last person on Earth to check them all out.
"It's likely that what you think is real, sometimes ain't."
Even as far back as the Nineties, there were rumors of a movie being made based on a character from the Valiant Comics universe. I was a huge Valiant fan and collected all the titles up until the dissolution of Acclaim Entertainment in 2004. Bloodshot wasn't one of my favorites, I preferred 'Archer and Armstrong' for it's humor, and 'Eternal Warrior' for the time travel aspects of it's central character. But I did read 'Bloodshot', and it had an interesting premise with it's nanite technology and it's application for enhanced humans.
With that, I thought the movie was far better than it had any right to be. Not as good as the films in the Marvel franchise, but even Marvel had it's clunkers. Vin Diesel, upon reflection, seemed a decent choice for the title character given his build; another good one would have been Duane 'The Rock' Johnson. I don't remember much about the 'Bloodshot' comics I read, so I don't know if the origin story told here matches up with that of the series, but it seems close enough. I did like the representation of the 'nanites' that formed the blood of Ray Garrison (Diesel) following the operation that brought him back to life. With a completely programmable system, Bloodshot became one in a long line of movie super-soldiers that includes Robo Cop, Wolverine and the Unisols from "Universal Soldier".
Story wise, the movie does have it's predictable moments, so in that regard, it's not entirely original. I do credit the film makers with the CGI that made Bloodshot's healing powers look credible, not to mention creepy looking as well. I'm sure the companies involved would like to spin off this movie with a sequel or an accompanying film from the Valiant stable of comics. Like I mentioned earlier, I had my favorites, but they wouldn't seem to fit in with the concepts introduced by "Bloodshot". 'Harbinger' and 'Rai' would appear to suggest better possibilities, and I'd be all for it. It's too bad this film found release during the season of Covid-19, as that has greatly limited it's exposure to a more general public. But if the film makers find a way, I think this could be a good alternative universe to rival Marvel and DC.
Drunk Parents (2019)
"Whatever happens, probably will."
Believe me, I know better. With less than two hours available to watch something, anything, my wife and I decided on this flick, knowing at the outset that it would probably be painful. I can understand Alec Baldwin in the picture, he's not even acting here, that's just his personality. But Salma Hayek? What a terrible addition to her résumé. The screeching and histrionics of her character were beyond bizarre. And Jim Gaffigan - he's a funny guy, but he wasn't funny here. At least Will Ferrell had the good sense to keep his name out of the picture's credits, unlike Colin Quinn, who basically had the same role as Ferrell as part of the burning bum scene. Good grief, whoever made the decision to make this flick was even drunker than the film's principals. So bad, the picture won't even show up on yardbay.
"I guess every battle needs a miracle."
The film's IMDb viewer rating as I write this is disappointingly low. It seems like the ones who know nothing about World War II have the harshest things to say about the story's accuracy, while actual service men reviewing the movie were impressed with the attention to detail and depiction of historical facts. The critics also seem to belittle the CGI effects, whereas I thought the film makers did a spectacular job with the battle action, especially the aerial maneuvers to destroy the Japanese Imperial Navy. To each his own I guess. Personally, I thought this movie was better than 2017's "Dunkirk", and just as good as 2016's "Hacksaw Ridge", even if the subject matter is that much different for a World War II topic. I would also echo the thoughts of a couple reviewers who were satisfied that the story line omitted a romantic sub-plot between central characters, something I find totally unnecessary when making a war picture. And considering that the title of the film is "Midway", it's almost as if you get a 'two for one' bonus with the movie's depiction of the attack on Pearl Harbor that brought America into the War. All of the actors do a fine job in their respective roles, with particular kudos to Woody Harrelson, uncharacteristically portraying Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. For film buffs in general, the inclusion of a segment depicting director John Ford (Geoffrey Blake) was a special treat. Ford was on hand during the actual battle, and his film short, "The Battle of Midway", won a 1942 Oscar for Best Documentary.
The Attack (2012)
"Life is filled with booby traps and dog s--t!"
This is a powerful movie, which unfortunately, won't change many minds regarding those involved in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It tells the story of a celebrated and award winning Arab doctor who practices in Israel, who was recognized for one of his profession's highest honors with the Ben Eliezer Medical Achievement Award. While his wife is away on a personal family matter, he finds himself ministering to the victims of a bomb blast that killed or injured over a dozen victims. When authorities relate their suspicion that Dr. Amin Jaafari's (Ali Suliman) own wife may have been the terrorist suspect for the suicide mission, he's thrown into a paroxysm of doubt and grief that would cripple virtually anyone. Receiving a posthumous letter from his wife, Amin eventually learns the unexplainable truth, and searches for answers that will never be forthcoming. So remorseful and angry over the horrible secret that Siham (Reymonde Amsallem) held to herself, he ultimately rages to his long time friend Kim (Evgenia Dodina) that "She deserved to die", even if he doesn't hold that sentiment deep in his heart.
This sobering and insightful movie offers a non-judgmental look at the Arab/Israeli conflict from the view of both sides, and it doesn't take a position over the course of the picture. When you think about it, the director and participating actors in the movie gave a rare and brave performance, presumably to open the eyes of the world to the insanity of the never ending conflict in the Middle East. Unfortunately, it was probably stated best and without emotion by a Muslim cleric who offered a word of practical understanding to the grieving Amin - "We'll never agree on anything. This is how it is".
The Gentlemen (2019)
"I'm basing my crescendo on the sum of it's parts."
Any Guy Ritchie film I've seen, he always delivers, especially when he's writer and director. This one follows in the tradition of "Rocknrolla", "Snatch", and "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels", the story layered with multiple sets of gangsters trying to outdo each other for the grand prize at the end of the flick. I got a kick out of the opening scene in which the bartender pouring Michael Pearson's (Matthew McConaughey) pint pulls down on the bar tap handle reading 'Ritchie Sewing Company', a self promoting piece of business I found pretty clever.
This one doesn't seem to be as hard to follow as the earlier mentioned films. All of them prompted a second viewing to catch all the nuance of the characters, but this one, even with the chronology going back and forth, was pretty straightforward. That's probably due to the format, essentially a narration of events by journalist Fletcher (Hugh Grant) relating his investigative work to Pearson's right hand man, bodyguard and driver Raymond (Charlie Hunnam). Colin Farrell's character is simply known as 'Coach', and he's drawn into the story by virtue of his gangsta underlings botching a take down of one of Pearson's weed farms. What could have been an ancillary character winds up being central to the outcome of the story.
And just about when you think it's over, another twist occurs with the introduction of a Russian oligarch and his mission of revenge for the death of his son. All the while you have to wonder how the picture's principal character, that would be Pearson, manages to come out of the story intact, considering all the bad guys who want to do him in. It's a fun watch if you go for this kind of stuff, made all the merrier by the script's creative use of the English language. You know, maybe I will watch this all over again.
"Never take your eyes off the bull."
Wonderfully filmed, this is a surreal take on the Snow White children's tale set in 1920 Spain. It's made as a silent movie in black and white, and right there, that would be enough to turn off the average modern day viewer. But if you stick with it, you'll be struck by the creativity involved in reconstructing the story in an entirely different framework from the original Grimm Fairy Tale. One can quickly empathize with the fate of young Carmencita (Sofía Oria), shunted aside by the evil stepmother who steps into the life of the crippled Antonio Villalta (Sofía Oria) following a tragic bullfighting accident. Carmencita is forced to endure menial tasks while being denied access to her father's quarters on the second floor of their palatial mansion. When the grown Carmencita is left for dead by stepmother Encarna's (Maribel Verdú) lover, she's discovered by a band of bullfighting dwarves who nurse her back to health and take her under their wing. When she shows proficiency at bullfighting due to daily secret meetings with Don Antonio, she becomes the main attraction of 'Los Enanitos Toreros'.
While I did enjoy the story as it unfolded, I must admit that the eventual fate of the adult Carmen (Macarena García) left me troubled and confused. Successful as a matador in a major arena in Seville, Carmen's stepmother sought revenge by offering her a poisoned apple. For a moment, it appeared that Carmen would be distracted by the cheers of the crowd to take a bite of the apple, but eventually she does and it proves fatal. What happens next is a sordid take on the original story, as Carmen becomes an attraction at a carnival freak show, with customers paying for the opportunity to revive her with a kiss. The whole concept here bothered me a lot, and I had to wonder why the film makers applied this ominous twist to the story. Especially when the coffin in which Snow White was laid to rest was rigged to simulate her coming alive, enough to scare the bejesus out of an unsuspecting patron. On a somewhat more solemn note, a kiss by a handsome dwarf evoked a tear in the eye of the departed Carmen, but by then I was a bit overcome by the bizarre treatment given this classic children's tale.
Van Helsing (2004)
"For you, my good son, this is all a test of faith."
This is almost too silly for words, but I did like the idea of bringing back Frankenstein, Count Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and the Wolf Man together, all in one picture. Well, not really the Wolf Man, but close enough. It was almost like Van Helsing's (Hugh Jackman) sidekick Carl (David Wenham) was challenging the script writers with one of his own lines - "How many commandments can we break in one day?" Yet the production design is pretty good, and the principal players are easy enough on the eyes. The action scenes are pretty frantic, even if some of the CGI employed is a bit dodgy. I don't know about the flying vampire brides though, they could have been a bit sexier. The story reaches it's epic conclusion when the Werewolf Gabriel puts the bite on the Satanic Dracula. You want to know who they were, you'll have to watch the picture. I can't give everything away here.
I Am Legend (2007)
"Typical human behavior is now entirely absent".
While watching, and before coming to this board to learn the film was a remake of sorts, I felt that it resembled the 1964 Vincent Price movie "The Last Man on Earth". In that one, Price's character is Dr. Robert Morgan, the lone survivor in an apocalyptic landscape, curiously immune from a vampire plague, and driven not so much by revenge, but by a choice made to make things right in the world even to his last breath. The classic black and white format of that picture makes it easier to convey the utter hopelessness and despair of Morgan's situation, and the lack of CGI back then makes the bleak landscape of the story all the more real.
My timing in watching this was somewhat ironic, being in the midst of (or hopefully the tail end of) the current Covid-19 pandemic. All of a sudden it felt like the destruction of humanity was all too possible. The story hinges on Dr. Robert Neville's (Will Smith) desperate search for a vaccine that would end the Krippin Virus. What impressed me by way of production design were all those city streets sprouting grass and weeds after three years of disuse. Unlike the Vincent Price film, the creatures who evolved into 'darkseekers' weren't vampires, whereas Dr. Morgan outfitted himself on a daily basis to do battle with the world's remaining vampire horde. Interestingly, the only way I knew that the monsters here were called 'hemocytes' was by way of captioning, since I didn't hear anyone refer to them by that name in the picture.
For Will Smith fans, the movie's ending won't be a happy one. It surprised me that he was so doubtful of Anna's (Alice Braga) insistence on finding a surviving colony in Vermont, even if he did remain intent on staying behind to work on a cure for KV. His self sacrifice was noteworthy, but I wonder if the movie's alternate ending might not have been better appreciated by offering a more positive outcome.
"It's not easy to leave the only thing you've ever known."
I 'sort of' binge watched this series, because it took a few weeks of three and four episodes at a time with a full week in between. I don't recommend seeing it that way because you lose some continuity and forget things that already happened. What I found clever in the first season was how the writers brought Daniel Holden (Aden Young) out of prison after nineteen years, and introduced him to such unfamiliar concepts as cell phones and the internet. Later stories had him completely flummoxed over flat screen tv's, video games and Wal-Mart, which when you think about it, are things that you just about take for granted now if you grew up with them as a matter of course.
More than anything, the series seems to explore an idea posited in the third episode - 'What is the Truth?". Because Holden, who was wrongfully imprisoned for the rape and murder of a young woman, actually confessed to authorities that he did it. Season after season, the series explores Daniel's reminiscences and the family dynamic that sustains him when he returns to his home town of Paulie. Actor Aden Young brings a brooding, almost haunting aspect to the character of Daniel Holden, and he can be frustrating and annoying to watch. You don't get the sense much that he's interested in clearing his name entirely, even after he's released from prison.
Thinking about it now, for me there wasn't really any character in the ensemble cast that appealed to me very much. There were moments that I liked Holden's sister Amantha (Abigail Spencer), but for all her belief in her brother, I thought their relationship just a bit creepy. Can't put my finger on it, but it just bothered me. Though competent in their roles, none of the other family members or support characters really moved me. I do think the series ended on a fairly high note, with the sixth episode of season four being the best. There you had compelling dialog between such disparate characters as Ted Jr. (Clayne Crawford) and a customer at the tire shop, Tawney Talbot (Adelaide Clemens) and a comatose hospital patient, attorney Jon Stern (Luke Kirby) with D.A. Sondra Person (Sharon Conley), and Daniel with potential love interest Chloe (Caitlin FitzGerald). The title of the series suggests the attempt to offer a reconciliation of sorts for the injustice done to Daniel Holden for years locked away from society, but the result is best left considered in the eye of the beholder.
"You've come to the right boat."
I'll often seek out a movie about submarine action because they always involve a suspense factor that's built into the plot. How can they not, the story takes place in a confined space with no way out if trouble develops. That this one is entirely fictional shouldn't dissuade potential viewers. The ensemble cast gives it their all in a World War II setting that pits an American sub team dispatched to steal a German Enigma cipher machine, from another submarine no less. Matthew McConaughey's character is Lieutenant Andy Tyler, initially bypassed for his own submarine command, but who rises to the occasion when Captain Dahlgren is left to drown in a pitched battle against a Nazi sub crew in open water. The moment is poignant, because the reason Dahlgren didn't recommend Tyler for promotion was his hesitation about putting men at death's door.
There are credibility defying moments in the story as one finds in almost all wartime sub movies. Here, the German submarine, commandeered by the Americans after theirs is destroyed, is taken almost a hundred meters below safety level with the attendant pipes bursting and crew fearing for their lives. Taking the attack to a Nazi destroyer on the surface, a precision shot takes out the radio tower, and it's a combination of miraculous timing and uncommon bravery that sees the crew achieve success on their mission.
As far as submarine movies go, this one was about in the middle for it's action and suspense. I don't think any film will ever top the 1981 thriller "Das Boot", though other fine ones include 1990's "The Hunt for Red October", and a couple from the Fifties, "The Enemy Below" and "Run Silent, Run Deep". Among more current films, this one compares favorably with 2002's "The Widdowmaker" and the more recent "Hunter Killer". And if you're intrigued by the idea of the German Enigma machine, you'll want to catch "The Imitation Game" to learn how the Enigma code was eventually cracked, even if liberties were taken with the actual history. Also, the story takes place entirely on dry land.
"You just invented a life, and then filled in the gaps."
Interesting premise, and the story keeps you in it's grip, but all the while you know that something isn't right. Like Dr. Farge (Karl Markovics) stated, an unplanned and unexpected accident leading to a convenient case of amnesia and identity crisis didn't really work for this viewer with all the other elements required to pull off an assassination attempt. On top of that, authorities were to take it on faith that Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) himself planted an explosive to kill Dr. Bressler for his corn research. And then to get away scot-free with a part time taxi driver (Diane Kruger) was the icing on the cake for a story that defied credibility on so many levels. But it's a slick film and engrossing to watch as you try to figure out what's going on with Harris and his wife/not wife (January Jones). Exciting action sequences too, but did you ever wonder how destroying all those vehicles in a car chase never leads to any accountability?
"There is always something you can do with the mad that you feel."
I'm sure I'm not the only person who expected something different from a movie titled "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood". In fact, when the picture started and got into the story of journalist Tom Junod, represented as Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), I thought I was watching the wrong picture. But as it moved on, the story did proceed to demonstrate the kindness and compassion of the long time children's television show host, known as Mr. Rogers (Tom Hanks). I was particularly impressed with the way Mr. Rogers handled his interviews by Vogel, who's questions were designed to provoke a negative response. Fred always managed to turn things around by becoming the interviewer himself, and gently forcing Vogel to confront the issues in his own life. I was already in my late teen years when 'MisteRogers Neighborhood' came on the air, and even though it was on a long time, I only ever caught a stray snippet of it while changing channels. I can't say for certain if I missed out on the experience, after all, I had Captain Kangaroo and Buffalo Bob on the case as a kid. But if some of the other reviewers on this site who experienced Mr. Rogers first hand found him to be an inspiration in their own lives, I would have to believe he was a most kind and gracious human being.
The Current War (2017)
"But only one man makes the bread rise."
I always come into films like this with a bit of skepticism when I don't know the historical facts. A handful of reviewers who do state that the rivalry portrayed between Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) for supremacy in electrifying the nation is fairly accurate, so I bow to their knowledge. As a period piece, the movie is visually stunning, and both actors convey the deep seated rivalry and bitterness between the famous scientists. Thrown into the mix is futurist inventor Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult), who's genius was unheralded and left behind in the wake of their feud. The deciding factor in all this, as demonstrated by Westinghouse before the committee to decide who would energize the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, was how the job could be done better and cheaper. It was a hands down decision for alternating current. The biggest kick I got out of the film however didn't have anything to do with either scientist. It was with the Union Electric guy who came out with the statement, "Never going to be anything named Tesla ever again." I wonder what Elon Musk has to say about that.
El artista y la modelo (2012)
"Beauty reveals itself in places that seem impossible."
Not knowing anything about this film, I thought it was made in the Fifties as I was watching it. The black and white cinematography hearkens back to an earlier time, and it seemed appropriate for the era the story was set in. I can relate to other reviewers who would have liked this movie better in color, but I think that would have distracted from the ambience of the picture. It was serious in tone for the most part, as the aged sculptor (Jean Rochefort) comes upon a source of new inspiration in the person of Spanish refugee Mercè (Aida Folch). I thought it interesting that if this movie WERE made in the Fifties, it might have been Claudia Cardinale in the role of Cros's new found muse instead of his wife.
I found two separate sequences of dialog between the artist and the model to be fascinating. The first was their interpretation of Rembrandt's sketch on the postcard, and the way Cros cleverly led Mercè into finding her own meaning in the artist's work. The other was the twist in the story of Adam and Eve, a decidedly incompatible interpretation of the Bible story. All the while, there was this theme of an 'idea' that Cros was struggling to find in his own work, and never really being able to reach that goal over the course of a long lifetime.
I suppose that one could interpret the ending of the film in more than one way. Another reviewer suggests that Cros's gunshot might have been used to simply scare off the birds in the trees. I never even gave that a thought, having determined that the artist had finally achieved his master work in the statue of the pensive Mercè, the inspirational 'idea' provided accidentally during one of her restless moments. His death by suicide would have been a personal acknowledgment that he had no more left in him to contribute to his craft. Yet at the same time, his action was less than noble after bidding his wife goodbye for a vacation trip to visit a friend.