Movie Watching (September 2015)

All the movie titles I viewed in September.  Let me know your thoughts as well if you have seen any of these.

New:

Good Kill- One of the first movies I have seen that deals directly with the US’s drone war.  The film follows Major Thomas Egan (a very good Ethan Hawke) who commutes to a secured trailer in Las Vegas to launch drone strikes in the war on terror.  He drinks too much. His marriage seems to be falling apart.  He complains to his commanding officer Lt Colonel Jack Johns (Bruce Greenwood) about waging war with a joystick and how he wants to become an actual real pilot again.  “Good Kill” is an intensely sad film.  The dialogue at points, particularly from Jack Johns, becomes a preachy hammer but otherwise, is very effective in its thematic mission.  A very good directorial effort from Andrew Niccol.  *** 1/2

CitizenFour- A historical documentary from Laura Poitras who recorded interviews with Edward Snowden in a Hong Kong hotel room with Glenn Greenwald (from The Guardian) and others.  As haunting and chilling as when the information was coming out, Snowden explains his reasoning on being a whistleblower and the searing of his conscience once he realized how far (and wide) the US government’s wire-tapping program went.  I felt a great deal of empathy for Snowden. I realized how crazy this situation was as a lot of the filming happened before anyone knew (for sure) exactly what was happening and before a lot of the press knew who the exact whistleblower was. The harassment faced by the filmmaker as she was trying to travel as well as to members of Greenwald’s staff is downright scary.  The deserving Oscar-winner for best documentary is about as scary as docs get.  **** 1/2

The Notebook- Finally got around to watching the infamous Nicholas Sparks adaptation starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams.  I rolled my eyes several times but I will say there were a few well done scenes.  McAdams’ performance as Allie is a great one.  People always say that Gosling is a solid actor but having seen him in a lot of films now, I recognize that he is a cool guy but I’m not convinced of a wide range of acting ability.  In this film, he plays Noah.  He is the poor boy who has a wonderful summer of love with Allie before her parents run him off and he goes to war (like all Sparks’ males it seems like).  She eventually gets engaged to a rich dude which causes tension when Noah comes back into her life.  So, the story is quite cliché, predictable and its fatal flaw is I don’t think it does enough with the romance of Noah and Allie to make sense of them coming back together after years apart and considering the overall circumstances of the plot.  That might just be me.  The above story is recounted by James Garner to his elderly wife (Gena Rowlands) as a narration and it is no surprise who this elderly couple turns out to be.  The ending is laughably bad.  **

True Story- A James Franco and Jonah Hill movie where both actors don a sense of seriousness in a movie that is based on a “true story”.  Franco, who is actually top-notch in this performance, portrays Christian Longo.  Longo is accused of murdering his wife and three children.  While on the run in Mexico, he assumes the name of Michael Finkel (Hill), a journalist with the New York Times.  The real life Finkel has been let go from the Times and is a disgraced journalist after evidence is revealed that he fabricated a story.  He finds out that Longo took his name which arouses his curiosity.  Director Rupert Goold is trying to make this “The Silence of the Lambs” meets a John Grisham courtroom thriller but mostly fails on both counts.  The film feels disjointed and the character’s motivations underdeveloped in parts.  Also, I think Hill (as much as I like him) is terribly miscast here.  ** 1/2

Love & Mercy- A great film and stands as one of the best musical biopics I have ever seen.  Review here.  **** 1/2

Give Me Sex Jesus- Matt Barber’s documentary that can be viewed here is a more interesting movie than I thought it would be.  Barber traces the purity movement within Evangelical Christian circles that in the 1990s entered prime-time politics in the “True Love Waits” campaign.  I actually personally signed a “True Love Waits” pledge card in 1994 at the church of my teenage years.  I expected the film to be extremely critical of the purity movement but was surprised to find a little bit of balance.  A little bit.  Barber interviews people who were involved in the purity movement from all over the spectrum.  Conservative pastors speak of their conviction, a couple speaks of their first kiss at the altar, a gay teen comes out to his famous Christian family, a lesbian couple talks about their dreams as teens growing up versus their relationship now and more.  The political reach of the abstinence movement is also analyzed.  It is on this last point that I feel the movie goes off the deep end.  There is a portion where the filmmakers were trying to link the purity movement with racism which seems absurd.  Yes, racism existed in the past and still exists today tragically…but the church (and specifically the Catholic church) has been teaching about chastity for thousands of years.  This isn’t an idea that popped up in the late 1800s and made its way to Evangelical culture in the 1980s and 1990s.  Still, this movie is worth engaging in and hearing the different perspectives is a good challenge no matter where a viewer’s own beliefs lie on the spectrum.  ***

The Water Diviner- I always love to see actors become directors.  Quite frequently, they have a unique vision and understanding that they bring to the screen.  Russell Crowe’s directorial debut is utterly disappointing.  He plays an Australian father who goes looking for his three boys who were lost in the battle of Gallipolli in Turkey.  Of course, his wife commits suicide and sets up the sentimental, slow-motion mush that immediately moves the film into cheese mode.  Also, the story relies on the most absurd and nonsensical practice of hovering over the land and determining what took place at that spot.  This is how Crowe’s character (Conner) finds out what happens to his boys.  The film also tacks on (or attempts to) a romance.  Skip this. It is bad.  * 1/2

The Fifth Estate- This film should be so much better than it actually is with the subject matter involving one of the most interesting characters in the world, Julian Assange.  A tragic thing about this movie is that as the proceeding move along, it becomes boring.  Shameful as Benedict Cumberbatch gives a great performance as Assange and recalls the story of how he “wikileaked” a bunch of countries secrets.  For all of the pontificating about how there should be no secrets, Assange here is portrayed as a man with a lot of them.  Director Bill Condon really should have done a lot more with this contentious material.  **

Rewatch:

Crimson Tide- Seed Church did a showing of this movie for “Film and Theology” during September.  Tony Scott’s intense nuclear submarine picture revolves around a disagreement between Captain Frank Ramsey (Gene Hackman) and First Officer Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington) that rises to the level of mutiny.  Against the backdrop is a looming war with Russia that may turn nuclear.  “Crimson Tide” is a solid and engrossing thriller that wallows into melodrama at points but still rises via the star power and acting chops of Hackman and Washington.  I thought the film would have been stronger if they would have found a way to not make Hackman somewhat of an antagonist.  The haunting prospect of the film is that both Captain Ramsey and First Officer Hunter may be right in their entrenched viewpoints or atleast both may have a strong element of truth.   I still sense the film making Hunter a slight protagonist.  ****

 

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About dangeroushope

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