Movie Watching (May 2016)

Mad Max- A down under classic which effectively launched the career of Mel Gibson in 1979.  George Miller’s “Mad Max” is a post-apocalyptic, low budget thriller that struck a chord with audiences across the world.  The plot is simple enough:  a vengeful Australian policeman, Max, takes on a ruthless motorcycle gang who toward the end of the experience, threaten his family.  The movie is not spectacular but did launch a franchise that has culminated in the critically-acclaimed Mad Max: Fury Road which is a far superior film.  One has to start somewhere.  ***

Captain America: Civil War (Theater)- Further proof that the Captain America movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are superior to the rest. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo have outplayed DC Comics by delivering the ultimate superhero at-each-others-throats smackdown.  The Russo brothers effortlessly juggle multiple characters both old and new in order to give us an unrelenting thrill ride that, in a world overstuffed with comic book films, makes us yearn for more.  The dispute between Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man’s (Robert Downey, Jr) is well-written and developed effectively that we understand the motivations for each in their course of action.  One of the better comic book films ever made.  **** 1/2

Batteries Not Included- A long time ago, maybe circa 1989 or 1990, I watched this film as a kid but I didn’t remember much of it.  Being that the movie started streaming on Netflix, Michelle and I thought that we would give it another go.  An elderly couple runs a greasy spoon restaurant in an old apartment building in New York City that will soon be demolished- a victim of the urban renewal wasteland in the Big Apple.  The couple, Faye (Jessica Tandy) and Frank (Hume Cronyn) as well as other residents in the building are visited by small, alien flying saucers who work to repair the building.  This is a typical, friendly alien visitation movie which seemed to be a big theme in the 1980s.  A predictable plot and way too much sentimentality.  ** 1/2

Bone Tomahawk- Now, here is a crazy ass crossbred genre movie that gives way to considerable shocks at the conclusion.  The movie is mostly a western that centers around a group of men, led by Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell) as they venture out to rescue a doctor, Samantha O’Dwyer (Lili Simmons), who has been kidnapped by savages.  In the final act, the film veers wildly into horror giving the entire viewing experience a uniqueness.  This movie is the debut of S. Craig Zahler and he has made a pretty good film.  *** 1/2

The Machinist- Starring Christian Bale, “The Machinist” is a character study of Trevor Reznik who is an industrial worker struggling with sleep.  What is real and what is all in his head are the questions the audience will ask itself?  By the end, most of it will make sense and we experience the powerful theme of a man needing to act in repentance and confession to begin a journey toward peace.  Solid film that packs quite a punch.  ****

Sisters- With the joint talent of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, one would have high hopes of a devastatingly funny comedy with an engaging story.  Not so here.  “Sisters”, directed with wild mediocrity by Jason Moore, is a third-rate Judd Apatow rip-off.  Two sisters (Fey and Poehler) return to their childhood home to throw one last party before the house is sold.  There are some funny moments but that is about it.  **

Saul Fia (Son of Saul)- Another holocaust film, “Saul Fia” strives to be different by being one of the most personal journey’s through hellish evil perpetuated by the Third Reich.  The movie won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.  Many things about the plot are not substantially clear.  The camera follows Saul Aslander (Geza Rohrig) almost literally as if the audience is tagging along right behind him as he witnesses mass atrocities and worse.  There are close encounters with death.  Saul’s job is burning corpses.  At one point, he takes a corpse of a young boy that he takes as a son.  Is this actually his son or is Saul trying to grab a hold of any piece of morality or humanity that he can?  The movie is never really clear here.  Saul hardly speaks even when unspeakable horror and chaos is all around him.  As I hinted at, there isn’t really much of a plot here. This is more an experience as if the audience is an invisible witness to genocide.  Raw power emanates from the screen but there isn’t much of a story to pull us fully in.  ***

Mad Max: Fury Road- The 4th installment of the Mad Max series is a white-knuckle chase film from beginning to end.  Max (Tom Hardy) almost becomes a supporting character in this film as Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) leads a group of women fugitives in rebellion against a tyrannical leader in postapocalyptic Australia.  I guarantee that anyone seeking to watch this movie will have seen nothing like it.  “Fury Road” is a relentless action picture with a good deal of social commentary and stunning visuals.  A triumph for aging director George Miller.  ****

The Hateful Eight- Quentin Tarantino is an undisputed master of cinema and his passion for making movies can be experienced in just about every frame he has ever shot.  His latest, a 3 hour western “The Hateful Eight”, is sadly one of his lesser works along with “Death Proof”.  That is not to say the movie is bad and it is certainly better then a lot of other stuff Hollywood puts out.  The story centers around a bounty hunter (Kurt Russell) who is looking to bring a prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) into the town of Red Rock to collect his reward.  They meet up with Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) and come upon a cabin/bar.  Other nefarious characters are at this cabin/bar (Minnie’s Haberdashery) and the film slowing unravels their histories and intentions.  Beautifully filmed in the Wyoming winter and becoming more compelling as the running time moves forward, “The Hateful Eight” is still recommended while not being one of Tarantino’s best. *** 1/2

Risen- Christian films try so hard.  “Risen” is actually better than most of what gets produced from faith-based decisions of movie studios these days (those which I have seen).  That is not to say that it is anything more than mediocre but at least the subject that is tackled is different then in other Jesus movies we have seen.  Joseph Fiennes stars as Clavius, a Roman Tribune, who is tasked with finding the body of Jesus of Nazareth after it vanishes from the tomb where He was laid.  Fiennes does give a fairly good performance here as he interviews eyewitnesses and tracks down Christ’s disciples who claim they have seen their Lord risen from the grave.  There are moments which are done well and others that fall strictly into an irritating sentimentality.  ***

11.22.63- The Amazon mini-series, based upon the Stephen King novel, will be a hard one for me to review as I thought the book was near masterpiece status.  The mini-series of “11.22.63” treads the major plot points of the book but, of course, has to cut out compelling parts of the story to fit this into an 8 episode arc.  I mean, why not make this longer since this is a mini-series?  Anyway, the huge error in the cinematic version is how criminally underwritten Sadie Dunhill (Sarah Gadon) is and how her character plays such a more central (and stronger) role in the book.  An excellent James Franco plays Jake Epping who discovers that a local Maine diner has a time portal back to October 21, 1960.  He plots with the dying diner owner to stop the assassination of John F Kennedy as they convince themselves that the world would be a better place.  The morality and ethical considerations with this plot is more engagingly explored in King’s work.  Overall though, it was enjoyable seeing this story on the screen.  *** 1/2



About dangeroushope

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