Movie Watching (June 2016)

Busy schedule, usual excuses, cause me to fall behind in my cinematic journal. Here are June’s offerings:

Rating Scale:  * to *****

Trumbo- Truly great to see the star of “Breaking Bad”, Bryan Cranston, coming into his own as a solid Hollywood actor and “Trumbo” is a film that showcases his considerable ability.  At the center of the movie, is Dalton Trumbo who became a jailed and blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter in the late 1940s and 1950s when the US Congress was hot on the trail communists via McCarthyism.  The last third of the film tends to drag a little bit and become muddled but overall, this is a recommend for movie lovers and history buffs.  *** 1/2

Larry Crowne- A thundering disappointment of a movie especially with Tom Hanks in the director’s chair and as the lead role.  Hanks plays a middle-aged man who gets fired from his job at a Walmart-type department store and decides to go back to college.  His teacher, Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts), becomes an unlikely flame.  Cliches abound and various eye-rolling sequences.  While there are some funny moments, the film is entirely predictable.  **

Joy- Generally, I enjoy the movies of David O Russell but “Joy” seems like a lesser effort in his canon.  The lead character, played by Jennifer Lawrence, holds her quirky and needy family together while becoming a powerful matriarchal-type figure.  Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper) is the executive that gives her the big break with a self-wringing mop.  The performers are all good (Robert DeNiro is also in this) but the main story isn’t compelling enough to draw us in.  ***

Anomalisa- The animation in “Anomalisa” from directors Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman (the creative virtuoso) is astounding.  An author, Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis) who specializes in customer service, finds himself alienated in a hotel preparing for a conference and with a bleak view of life in general due to the mundaneness.  He meets a stranger at the hotel, Lisa Hesselman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) which causes him to reconsider his perspective on his life.  The movie captures loneliness and alienation mightily well.  With all of this, there isn’t a considerable amount to the overall plot.  *** 1/2

The Good Dinosaur- Every Pixar film I have seen is worth watching (even the weakest link in their catalog Cars 2) and “The Good Dinosaur” is not different.  The mis en scene animation, regarding the backdrops and setting in the movie, is jaw-dropping and there are some incredible sequences.  The dinosaur animation is intentionally cartoon-y.  A question sets up the foundational premise:  what if the asteroid that allegedly hit earth and caused the dinosaurs to go extinct missed altogether?  Humans and dinosaurs may have ended up living together.  Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa) is an Apatosaurus who is separated from his family and comes across an unlikely human friend.  Animal and human consciousness is completely flipped in the story.  This isn’t the greatest Pixar movie ever but there is a sweetness to it and those backgrounds, top-notch animation.  *** 1/2

Deadpool- Bound to happen sooner or later, the Fox X-Men universe series has released one of the first major rated R comic book films.  As expected, the movie is very violent, contains much innuendo and off-the-wall sexual situations.  With all of that, there is a certain amount of entertainment to be had.  Ryan Reynolds plays the title character Deadpool (Wade) as a former special operative who goes about a rogue experiment (the typical comic book origin account) and ends up with accelerated healing powers.  The mood is irreverent and Reynolds plays Deadpool with a mouthy sass.  Not as exceptional as people made the film out to be but certainly not bad, Deadpool carries the famous Rob Liefeld comic book character onto the big screen successfully with many sequels to follow.  Points for a pretty funny marketing campaign too.  *** 1/2

Rock the Kasbah- Bill Murray and Bruce Willis in a movie set in Afghanistan and revolving around an Afghani show that is similar to American Idol?  Intrigued?  I kind of was too but then I watched the film.  “Rock the Kasbah”, directed by Barry Levinson, is not very good, is thematically uneven and is boring in places.  Murray plays Richie Lanz, a down-on-his-luck music manager who travels to Afghanistan (!) when the war effort is going on.  He discovers Leem Lubany (playing Salima) who has an incredible voice and may end up inspiring this war torn country on the show Afghan star.  Cue eye roll.  **

Where to Invade Next- I have seen most of Michael Moore’s documentaries (or is that opinionated films or propaganda?) and this is his very best one.  Moore, showcasing his comedy chops, sets off showing groups of personalities from our defense department and setting up the premise of him invading other countries….in order to learn from them.  He discovers Italy’s generous vacation time for workers, France’s nutritious school meals for students, Iceland’s strong presence with female leadership and many other ideas.  I still get the sense that if we dived deeper into some of the ideas that Moore is persuasively bantering on about, we would find some complexities and societal challenges to implement them.  However, I can safely say that this is Moore’s most patriotic film.  A case that America can do better by learning from others.  “Where to Invade Next” is thought-provoking and funny.  *** 1/2

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck- The life of Kurt Cobain, the frontman of the grunge rock group Nirvana, plays out like a Shakespearean tragedy.  This documentary, directed by Brett Morgen, chronicles his rough home life growing up, interviews with ex-girlfriends/friends/ family members and gives us a up close vantage point to his unlikely ascent to rock star superstardom.  Cobain seemed to genuinely struggle with fame and fought to not have his music cheapened and to not sell out.  In a short time, he had gained the whole world (at least in many people’s eyes) but he never seemed satisfied or even excited about the prospect.  His suicide on April 5th, 1994 was a terrible tragedy.  At only 27, there is no doubt he had more musical creativity inside of him.  He could not conquer his own personal demons.  ****

Zootopia- Walt Disney Animation Studios is definitely taking cues from the other division (Pixar) in making quality and engaging animated films.  “Zootopia” directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush is a prime example of that.  The city of “Zootopia” is quite the spectacle to see.  There are different climate zones (neighborhoods) for the varying animals who live together in the greater metropolis.  A rookie bunny cop Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin), from the suburbs, comes to the big city and teams up with a sly con artist fox named Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman) in order to uncover a conspiracy.  This is a solid film that is engaging, funny and thoughtful with its themes of diversity and multi-culturalism.  ****

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About dangeroushope

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