Movie Watching (August)

More films for the month of August.  Being that my herniated back still has problems, I’m thankful that cinema is one of the things that can keep me company.  Here are this month’s reviews based on what I watched.

New:

Leviafan (Leviathan)- A slow-moving but gorgeously photographed movie about Kolya (Aleksey Serebryakov) and his family being forced out of their home by a corrupt mayor (Roman Madyanov).  The scenery is from a small coastal town in the Barents Sea with a harsh landscape from all the cold.  Kolya enlists the help of an attorney (Vladimir Vdovichenkov) to fight the mayor moving him off his land.  The film may have many, many meanings as the proceedings move along.  The “leviathan” here (other than the skeleton of a whale on the beach) may be a corrupted government in which citizens have no recourse in fighting against.  There is grave injustice here.  Worth a watch for patient viewers.  ***

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (Theater)- Tom Cruise returns for the fifth incarnation of Ethan Hunt along with his team of undercover operatives:  William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames).  Directed by Christopher McQuarrie (who previously worked with Cruise on “Jack Reacher”), “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” never strays from an entertaining and fun ride.  Although acting serious, the film never takes the proceedings too seriously and there is some clever humor worked into the action.  Cruise has already received publicity for allegedly doing his own stunt work involving hanging off the door of a flying airplane.  Having seen the shot, I’m not sure how long they did the stunt in reality before cutting to green screen work but the whole sequence looks good.  This plot (if that is really important in a movie like this one) involves an anti-IMF squad that participates in terrorist actions around the globe.  Politicians in DC (cue Alec Baldwin as Alan Hunley) are trying to shut down Cruise’s IMF team as they have caused quite a few, well, problems.   Appearing as a foil for Cruise on the anti-IMF team is Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) but whose side she is really on is part of the suspense of the entire film.  Like the rest of the series (minus the 2nd installment), “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” is a solid action picture.  ****

Bridesmaids- Yes, this was my first time watching this movie.  Starring Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Bryne, Melissa McCarthy (who is absolutely hilarious) Ellie Kemper and others, “Bridemaids” is certainly funny but I was also surprised by the dramatic heart.  Credit director Paul Feig and writers Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo for expertly balancing comedy and a fairly serious storyline about changes in life that come between friends at the beckoning of nuptials.  Sadly, it is also occasionally hard to find female characters that are this well drawn out and complex in contemporary cinema.  Most of the male characters, including Jon Hamm playing a total douche, are mere sidekicks to the proceedings.  The man Maya Rudolph (her character is Lillian) is marrying is hardly even in the movie because the wedding is not the real focus.  It is the women whose friendships will be altered forever as they move into different stages of life.  ****

Insurgent (The Divergent Series)- Another young adult series has hit the big screen.  The Divergent Series wants so desperately to be like “The Hunger Games” but the contrast is extremely stark.  This 2nd installment is fairly boring.  Sure, there are the required gun battles, jumping on and off trains, running from a dystopian government, but the fatal flaw is that there is nothing really to distinguish this franchise or set it apart.  The proceedings are stocked full of stars: Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, Octavia Spencer, Jai Courtney and they all seem to be sleep-walking through their parts.  Do they care? Probably not.  The star, Shailene Woodley as Tris, really gives this series her all but the script is not doing her many favors.  * 1/2

Good Morning Vietnam- Almost a year after the tragic suicide of one of our most gifted comedians/performers, Michelle and I watched the film which really catapulted Robin Williams to stardom.  “Gooooooooood Mooooooorning Vietnam.” I had never seen this film all the way through and was glad that I finally watched it.  Hollywood had been pumping out serious reflections of the war in Vietnam (Apocalyspe Now, Platoon, Coming Home).  William’s film is a change of pace.  He plays a radio DJ who cracks jokes in Robin’s famous rapid-fire style.  He also plays modern (for that time) rock music and runs afoul of the upper officers due to his irreverent behavior.  In a way, this is one of the most fitting movies that Robin ever did.  While troops were living in the hellhole of the southeast Asian war, Robin (as Adrian Cronauer) tried to make them forget about their circumstances, for just a short time, with his humor and personality.  Most definitely, that is the poignant gift that Robin gave to all us in life.  The film is a microcosm of what we loved best about his persona.  ****

The Intouchables- Francois Cluzet I was sure I recognized.  He has been called the French “Dustin Hoffman” that I saw in “Ne Le Dis A Personne (Tell No One)”.  Here he portrays an aristocrat named Philippe who is paralyzed from the neck down due to a paragliding accident.  He meets Driss (a rock solid Omar Sy) during a job interview in which Driss is looking to get a form signed in order to receive benefits.  Philippe ends up hiring Driss to be his caretaker.  The result is a magnificent film in which a sincere friendship blossoms from the working relationship.  The film is void of any major climatic build.  It simply tells the story well and earns the feel-good moniker by the end.  Before viewing, I was anticipating this to be a sad movie but was genuinely surprised at how funny the movie ended up being.  ****

The Square- A powerful documentary about the recent, historic events in Egypt.  The famous Tahrir Square, starting in 2011, saw massive protests against the government.  Hosni Mubarak was ousted as a result of this uprising and then the military (Muslim Brotherhood) took over igniting more protests.  The film has an intimate connection with the protesting revolutionaries:  Ahmed Hassan, Khalid Adbdallaf, Magdy Ashour, and Ramy Essam as they seek to build a free society of conscience.  The first film from Netflix to be nominated or an Oscar- best documentary.  *** 1/2

Jane Eyre- Michelle always told me that she preferred Charlotte Bronte to Jane Austen.  Bronte, as evidenced in bring her masterpiece to the screen, dealt with darker issues in the Victorian era and has protofeminist ideals.  As a film, this is masterfully made by director Cary Fukunaga.  Jane Eyre (portrayed by Mia Wasikowska as an adult) survives a bleak childhood and seeks to become a governess.  She winds up at Thornfield Hall and meets Mr. Rochester (the great Michael Fassbender) who is harboring a terrible secret.  ****

Aloha- Keep in mind that the guy who wrote and director this horrific film is Cameron Crowe who also did:  Say Anything, Jerry Maguire, and Almost Famous.  This boasts a cast of:  Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams and John Krasinski.  The result is epically awful.  I didn’t think that this movie could be as bad as the critics were saying.  It is actually worse than that.  The plot line boasts several holes and climax relies on an inexplicable act by Cooper, playing Brian Gilcrest, that there is literally hardly any development for.  Murray plays an eccentric billionaire who is always interesting to watch but his part is more wasted to focus on one of the most annoyingly, non-sensical love triangles ever.  Oh, this is bad.  You have been warned.  *

Rewatch:

Jurassic Park III- I remember watching the third installment of the Jurassic Park franchise during the summer of 2001 when I was working as a youth intern at Evergreen Christian Fellowship in Issaquah.  A group of us caught the movie in the theaters and I was underwhelmed by it at the time.  For one thing, the film was short (92 minutes long).  Rewatching the film after seeing “Jurassic World”, I was somewhat surprised that I had a good time.  The plot is certainly not flashy.  Paul (William H Macy) and Amanda Kirby (Tea Leoni) enlist, by deception, Dr. Alan Grant (the returning Sam Neill from the first “Jurassic Park”) to go to Isla Sorna to search for their missing son.  The kid has disappeared while paragliding near the isla with his step-dad.  Essentially, we come up with any excuse to get people to go back to where they can be eaten by dinosaurs.  The fact that this movie was not trying, at all really, to top the first two is kind of refreshing.  The beginning builds up the characters well and Laura Dern returns briefly as Dr. Ellie Sattler who has settled down with a family of her own.  Once we get to the Isla, the film becomes a relentless action picture.  The fight scene between the Tyrannosaurus Rex and a Spinosaur is pretty cool.  The big highlight is the groups journey to the foggy pterodactyl cage on the way out of the island.  The climax of this movie is the river scene which can be found in the original Michael Crichton novel.  Certainly an entertaining ride.  ***

Uncle Buck– To me, this is another classic John Hughes directorial effort containing the legendary presence of John Candy (whom comedy misses).  I watched this with my family when I was a kid.  We rented the movie for the first time on VHS from DJ’s Video Shop in Kent, WA and it would become a family favorite.  Look for a pre-“Home Alone” Macaulay Culkin.  Candy, of course, plays “Uncle Buck” a wheeling and dealing gambling man who is trying to avoid matrimony to his long time girlfriend, Chanice (Amy Madigan).  He is called away from the city to the suburbs to watch his nieces and nephew for an indefinite amount of time when mom (Elaine Bromka) and dad (Garrett M Brown) learn of grandpa’s heart attack.  He becomes the ultimate fun-loving uncle to Miles (Culkin) and Maizy (Gaby Hoffman) but the nemesis of the rebellious teenage daughter, Tia (Jean Louisa Kelly) who is dating a guy named Bug (Jay Underwood).  Entertaining, funny and some unforgettable scenes.  ****

The Rock- By no means is this a great film but there is a certain degree of fun to be had.  Let me put it this way:  this is one of Michael Bay’s best movie if that means anything.  Probably not much.  Once “Die Hard” came out in the late 80s, the formula was expanded by Hollywood to be beyond a tower in Los Angeles or an airport.  We had “Die Hard” on a ship (“Under Siege”).  We had “Die Hard” on a bus (“Speed”).  We had “Die Hard” on a plane (“Air Force One”).  Why not have “Die Hard” on Alcatraz?  The Michael Bay-esque plot involves General Francis Hummel- played by Ed Harris- being really pissed off about how fellow comrades are being treated by the government. He gathers a military group who takes over Alcatraz and aims missiles at New York City.  Enter Stanley Goodspeed (the goofy, pre-bankruptcy Nicholas Cage) and John Mason (the legendary Sean Connery).  What makes the film is the “chemistry” I guess, between Cage and Connery.  Many moments involving Cage are unintentionally funny but hey, at the end, we are all entertained.  ***

Grosse Pointe Blank- Now, here is a movie with a brilliant premise.  What happens when a burnt out professional assassin goes back to his high school reunion?  People ask him what he does for a living and he non-chalantly tells them.  Martin Blank, who is nicely portrayed by John Cusack, is this man and he meets up with his old girlfriend, played by Minnie Driver, who is still trying to piece together emotionally why he left rather suddenly ten years prior.  Dan Aykroyd plays another gleeful assassin that is trying to hunt Blank down along with government forces.  This movie is funny and is a blast.  A 90s classic.  ****

Brokeback Mountain- Many people crack jokes about this film involving two gay cowboys in Wyoming who meet during the summer working up on the mountain.  Many of jokes are funny but people forget how good this film is and how complex the characters become and their relationship to each other.  Heath Ledger Is Ennis Del Mar and Jake Gyllenhaal is Jack Twist.  The men start a gay love affair in 1963 but they both end up marrying women.  Ennis weds Alma- Michelle Williams and Jack ties the knot with Lureen- Anne Hathaway.  This is done, of course, because perhaps the men themselves were trying to get rid of how they truly felt but also in order to hide from a society that would not welcome their love affair.  There is nothing happy about this film and probably one of the characters we feel the worst for is Alma who witnesses the two cowboys making out and does not know how to process what she saw or is lost in how to confront her husband about the act.  Director Ang Lee definitely took a huge risk with this film but he has crafted a haunting milestone that people will be talking about through the years.  ****

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About dangeroushope

Striving to follow Christ, love people and learn more about the world.
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