Sunday, August 21, 2016

Angry Birds the Movie

I don't know about you, but lately I have been inundated with serious films, sad ones which bring you down. Last week I saw Anthropoid and wrote a treatise similar to a dissertation, giving my readers a history lesson of WWII.  Sorry about that, but I call 'em as I see 'em.

On Friday night I happened upon a movie entitled Infamous. I've been disturbed by it since then. Starring Toby Jones and Sandra Bullock, it is another version of Truman Capote and the case that inspired his masterpiece In Cold Blood. Hardly a barrel of laughs...Interesting casting, though, with Daniel Craig (our current James Bond) with black hair playing one of the killers, Perry White. I remember the film Capote in which the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman gave an Oscar winning performance as the title character. As magnificent as he was, I like Toby Jones better.  He brought more pathos and humanity to the role. They explored the relationship between Capote and White. It was magnificent but a real downer. As in real life White and his partner on the crime spree, are executed in the end.

I give kudos to Jones, best known for the evil doctor, sidekick to the Red Skull, in the Marvel Avengers movies. Who knew?

Okay, okay, we're done with the downers right now.  After seeing endless promos for Angry Birds the Movie when it released earlier this year, I was mildly interested. Yes, I know about Angry Birds, many of my friends are hooked on it or were. I don't keep up with the latest game crazes.

Anyhow today I watched it on pay-per-view. It's child friendly (for the most part) but filled with sly winks and nudges that grown-ups enjoy.  It's funny,colorful, and a bit of a mystery about where some of the characters fit into their universe...at least it was to me.

I laughed like a loon as I watched it. I laughed harder when I read the cast list. To think Peter Dinklage, Tyrion Lannister of Game of Thrones fame voices the Mighty Eagle. He was wonderful and very funny.  The rest of the cast includes: Jason Sudeikis as Red, Josh Gad as Chuck, Bill Hader as Leonard, Maya Rudolph as Matilda, and Danny McBride as Bomb.  The list reads like a Saturday Night Live reunion with Kate McKinnon added to the mix. Also included is Keegan-Michael Key.  Talent, funny folks whose line reading leaves you laughing.

My favorite though was the bird mime (French style) who would only voice "Oh. My. Goooood!" at appropriate times.

This one is almost completely mindless, but hey, that's the point, isn't it?

With all the stuff we are exposed to in the media in this election year, it's easy to get mired in all the negative press on both sides.

We NEED Angry Birds for some light-hearted insanity once in a while.

Last night I watched The Peanuts Movie and howled my way through it, even though it was a rehash of things I'd seen over the years in the television specials.

Do something fun...we all need  it these days!

Until next time...

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Anthropoid

Well, it's another movie marathon as today I went to the cinema to see Anthropoid. Haven't heard of it? I'm not surprised. It's based on a true story of the Czech Resistance and the successful assassination of (SS) Schutzstaffel Obergrupenfuhrer Reinhold Heydrich in Prague in 1942. Third in the line of his command after Hitler and Himmler, Heydrich was the highest ranking SS (Schutzstaffel) officer assassinated during the war. Several other German high-ranking NAZI officers were hung after the Nuremberg Trials.

Brief history lesson - in 1938 Hitler called together the European Allies, who defeated Germany in World War I twenty years earlier, for a conference in Berlin. During the conference, he swore to them he didn't want another war.  If they would only agree to cede Czechoslovakia back to Germany, he would be content. See, there were lots of people of German ancestry living in that country. After World War I, the German Empire had been stripped of much of their territory. Many German speaking people found themselves in Czechoslovakia and Poland. Hitler asked only for the Saar back (the region renamed as Czechoslovakia.) He promised them peace if only Germany could get that region returned.

Poor Neville Chamberlain (English Prime Minister at the time) flew back to London and proclaimed "Peace in our time!" Bless him, within the year, Germany declared war on England and her European allies. He was replaced by Winston Churchill and you know the rest...

There were several high-powered Czech Army Officers who made it to London, just like Polish Officers who got there later.  Anyhow the resistance was run from London, whether it was the Czech, the Poles, or the French as the war progressed. So the Czech officers in London decided to send a team of resistance fighters to Prague. Their target was Heydrich. The creator of the Final Solution - the planned extermination of every Jewish person in Europe, along with Gypsies, LGBTQ people (known in the NAZI world as  "deviants"), insane people, criminals, and anybody else they didn't like (or who didn't like them).

Anthropoid is the story of the mission. It is atmospheric, bleak, and dark at times. With the subject matter it couldn't help being dark and bleak. But there are two romances in the storyline, borne out of the desperation of the times. The resistance fighters manage to execute their plan. Heydrich is badly injured but not killed in the attack. As you can imagine, the Germans are furious and begin searching Prague for the culprits. After Heydrich dies of his injuries, many innocent citizens are killed in the reprisals.

Eventually the Gestapo (which is a German acronym for Geheime Staatspolizei -Secret State Police) tracked down some people who helped the team. With savage efficiency they extract the knowledge of the hiding place after brutalizing a teenage boy. There is a last-ditch battle with none of the resistance fighters left alive. They had all been furnished with cyanide capsules as a last resort and most used them.

In the impotent rage of having no one for a show trial which could be filmed and shown to the German people at home, the NAZI's destroyed a Czech village in retaliation, killing every living thing there.  In all they killed over 5,000 people in their manic killing spree. You see the murder of Heydrich put a chink in their much publicized armor of invincibility. Other resistance groups began murdering NAZIs whenever possible. That and the allies bombing raids on the Vaterland (Fatherland - they would never call their home Motherland) (Insecure much?) marked the beginning of the end.

Of course Hitler's insane plan to open a second front by going into Russia ended in Germany being surrounded by oncoming enemies and the pincers closed. Otherwise, my German would be lots better than it is...

The cast comprised of mostly British actors is excellent in the film.  Notable are Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan as the two resistance fighters who are the main characters. Toby Jones (the sinister scientist of the Captain America films) plays a straight role in this one. He is one of the Prague contacts for the fighters. His suicide is poignant as his glasses drop off and he drops the cyanide capsule when the Germans break into his apartment. Feeling all over the floor, he finds it.  When they break the door down, he is already dead.

Most of the people at the movies today were my age or older, i.e.Vietnam era vets and their wives. It's sad that WWII is fading into the past as most people who lived it pass away. As many of you know, my dad was a WWII vet. I grew up watching archival footage of some of the battles with him. It taught me how insanity can overtake a country and run rampant.

Please you younger folks out there, it is important to remember your history. Remember the words of George Santayana:

Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.

Until next time...





Monday, August 15, 2016

Brooklyn

Nominated for several Oscars earlier this year, Brooklyn, is a lovely film, an atmospheric piece set in the late 1950s.

Starring a luminous Saoirse Ronan as Eilis Lacey. Living with her older sister and their widowed mother in Ireland, there is little opportunity for her there. With the assistance of her priest, passage is arranged for her, as well as lodging, and a position when she arrives in Brooklyn, NY.

The trip is harrowing at first as the sea is rough, but with the help of her cabin-mate, an older Irish girl, who isn't making her first voyage, Eilis makes it through.

The local priest, played by the versatile Jim Broadbent, has arranged for her to live in an Irish widow's boarding house. He has also arranged a job in a local department store in the cosmetics department. As the months go by, she becomes acclimated to her new surroundings and job.

Her landlady, Madge Kehoe (Julie Walters aka Mrs. Weasley in the Harry Potter films), herself an Irish immigrant, takes a shine to Eilis, ultimately giving her the best room in the place.

Encouraged by the priest, who pays for the first semester, Eilis enrolls in bookkeeping courses at night.  She does very well.

With some of the other girls at the boarding house, she attends a dance or two sponsored by the church. It is at one of those she meets Anthony (Tony) Fiorello (Emory Cohen). Instantly attracted, they start a sweet courtship which consists of walking home together, then graduates to going out for meals, and movies. He asks her to dinner at his family home. She has never eaten Italian food, so two of the girls coach her in the art of eating spaghetti.

He takes her to Coney Island where she wears a new swimsuit. Tony whistles when she emerges dressed in the suit. He takes her to empty lots on Long Island, where his family is going to build five houses. He asks her to marry him. She accepts.

Suddenly, her sister dies of an illness no one ever knew she had. Their mother calls Eilis home.

Back in Ireland she faces conflict as she is charmed by a local man (Domhnall Gleeson), encouraged by her mother and her best friend. But I won't spoil the story for you by revealing anything else about the storyline.

This film is beautifully shot, expertly acted, and very well-directed. A story of coming of age in a different time and place, in a sense, their experience is more gentle than ours today.

It is a picture postcard of America in the late 1950s. For those of us who are old enough to have been sapient lifeforms in 1958, it is like looking through gauze in an era far more restricted than ours now. Did I chafe at those restrictions back then? You bet I did. Now I marvel that I made it through those days.

The performances are wonderful. Looking at Jim Broadbent's kind and caring Irish priest, you'd never believe he once camped his way through "Like a Virgin" in the film Moulin Rouge.

See Brooklyn, it is a wonderful water-color tribute to a time of innocence, the like of which we will never know again. Enjoy.

Until next time...

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Breach

I'm planning to go back to the movies this next week. In the meantime, I caught a movie from 2007 on cable this afternoon.

The film is entitled Breach and is based on a true story of the FBI investigation of one of their own. The performances in this one are of the heavy weight acting calibre, so are the stars.

Chris Cooper plays Robert Hanssen, an enigmatic man, though clearly troubled, with a wife played by Kathleen Quinlin and several grandchildren.

Ryan Phillippe plays the young man, Eric O'Neill (who hopes to become a FBI Agent) put in place as Robert Hanssen's clerk. He is to report to Agent Kate Burroughs (played by Laura Linney.) Her superior is in charge of the operation, Dean Plesau, (played by Dennis Haysbert).

The main cast is completed as follows: Caroline Dhavernas as Juliana O'Neill (Eric's wife.); Gary Cole as Special Agent Rick Garsey; and Bruce Davison as John O'Neill (Eric's father.)

Eric is initially told Hanssen is being investigated by the Bureau for being a "sexual deviant." (Shades of J. Edgar!) They have pornographic films he watches, and others he made with his wife. A devout Catholic, regular attendee at mass, he is a complicated man.

Eric becomes close to Hanssen, going to dinner at his home, and going to church together with their wives. He's supposed to do that in his role for the FBI. But it becomes clear he is conflicted as he gets to know the man.

Hanssen is suspicious of Eric and keeps testing him. But finally decides to trust him.

The film's pacing is taut, as the FBI keeps trying to get the goods on Hanssen only to have him do the unexpected and wriggle away.

With Eric's help, he is eventually caught. Eric pays a heavy price emotionally for the deed he did. Though the Bureau is grateful and he is assured of his appointment to agent, he does not accept. Instead he leaves the FBI.

There is a chilling scene at the end when Eric is leaving his former office with a box of his possessions and catches an elevator as the doors are closing.

Hanssen is in the elevator with Dean Plesau and an armed guard. Hanssen is cuffed behind his back. He looks at Eric with red-rimmed eyes and says "Pray for me" as the elevator closes.

As I wrote earlier, this was a real case. Hanssen is spending life in a maximum security Federal prison.  He is under solitary confinement twenty-three hours a day. They said in the film, Robert Hanssen was the most dangerous spy in the history of the U.S. He was active for decades. It is classified how many American agents were killed because he betrayed them. The film credits at the end stated 3 American agents were executed by the KGB.

This film is hard-hitting, one of those OMG-I-want-to-look-away-but-I-can't movies. I wanted to read email on my iPhone, but kept getting drawn back to the film...

If you like a good tight mystery that chills the viewer in its reality, check out Breach on the premium cable channels or rent the DVD/Blu-Ray.  It's worth it.

Chris Cooper is a phenomenal actor and gives an Oscar worthy performance in this one. Ryan Phillippe is no slouch either.

Check it out!

Until next time...

Friday, July 29, 2016

Jason Bourne

Yep, my movie marathon continues.  Today I went to see Jason Bourne on the day it opened!! Woohoo!!!
No, I didn't go to the very first showing. It was the XD version, which means 3D, greatly enhanced sound, and shown in a very luxurious theater with fancy seats equipped with electronics...It also means a "greatly enhanced" ticket price, too.  Besides, a Bourne movie isn't what I want to see in 3D - almost too much action as it is.

I made it to the first "regular" showing which started an hour after the XD one.

This is a great film franchise with the hero going through incredible scenes and always coming out at the end with no one he can trust.

This film, Jason Bourne, is no exception to the pattern of the series. We find him deep undercover, his whereabouts literally unknown in the beginning. He is fighting for money in the countryside near the Serbian border.  Crowds of men encircle him and the huge Serbian champion betting on his opponent to win.  Of course he doesn't. Bourne makes enough money to continue his travels.

Meanwhile we find his old partner, Nicky (Julia Stiles) in Iceland going to a secret facility for world-class hackers. She hacks into the CIA and finds all the dirt they don't want publicized. She copies the files and plans to broadcast them to the world. While doing that, she finds out info on Bourne - how he was recruited, who he was, and who his father was. Trouble is, the CIA noticed those files being hacked, slipped in some malware, and pinpointed the location. Nicky got a copy of the files on a drive and was about to leave when the systems there went down.

Yep, the CIA pinpointed their location and sent a missile, or drone to destroy the place.  Nicky got out just in time before the place exploded. She contacts Bourne who tells her to meet him in Athens. Trouble is, the CIA has found her picture on facial recognition entering the airport and traces her to Athens.  They are on the move, figuring Bourne will be there, too.

Tommy Lee Jones reprises his role as Dewey, the head of the CIA. He wants Bourne found and wants him taken out. Bourne is such an inconvenience, knowing where all the bones are buried. A young woman who found the hack asks to be put in charge of the operation. Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) is ambitious and cold, just the kind Dewey likes. But he mistakenly thinks she can be easily manipulated.

I have to say Tommy Lee Jones is a marvelous actor.  Recently I watched a repeat of the last episode of Lonesome Dove, in which he played Captain Woodrow Call. He was magnificent as the crusty ex-Texas Ranger.  In the end, he had me weeping buckets.

Quite a difference from his portrayal of CIA Director Dewey, an arrogant, frostbitten villain.

He calls in his Asset (chillingly played by Vincent Cassel) to find Bourne and "neutralize" him.

Thus begins a murder spree and a hair-raising series of car chases, culminating in the big one through the Vegas strip.  It's a particularly fast-paced thrill ride. No, I didn't want to see this one in 3D.

When it's all over, Bourne is battered but still free.  Lee makes one more attempt to get him to trust her and come back to the CIA.  Bourne, however, is way ahead of her. He leaves her and walks away.  When she gets into her car, there's a camera waiting on the front seat which contains her meeting with the head of National Security in which she says she can make Bourne come back and if he won't he can be taken down.

Thus, Bourne is seen walking away, once more alone and friendless, but living to fight another day. He has avenged his father's murder in this one, but still has some scores to settle.

Never boring, this movie flies along at warp speed. The reason I don't want to see it in 3D is an unfortunate tendency at times to get motion sickness with a lot of fast moving action onscreen. Today in the regular movie format, I bitterly regretted downing the protein bar I brought from home. I just wanted to alleviate the yearnings when I could hear and smell everybody else enjoying their popcorn. Big mistake there. Note to self: don't ever eat ANYTHING watching another Bourne film in the theater.

Actually, this is a great action picture. There is literally never a dull moment. Matt Damon is a wonderful actor who plays Jason Bourne with ruthless efficiency and world-weary disgust at what he has to do. He is essentially a good guy stuck in a nightmare world.

I saw him interviewed recently in which he was asked if he would do yet another Bourne film. His answer? Of course he would...Looking forward to it.

What a great way to get out of the summer heat and become engrossed in a good movie.

Until next time...


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Absolutely Fabulous: the Movie

"Sweetie, Darling, Let me in!!!" If you've ever watched the Britcom called Absolutely Fabulous or AB FAB for short, you know PR mogul, Edina Monsoon has a snootful once more and is begging her much put upon adult daughter, Saffron (Saffy) to let her in the house. She can't quite figure out the complexities of opening the door...

This was an outrageous television show and the movie carries on the tradition. The cast remains the same for the main characters with a veritable host of British fashion, film, and television stars playing themselves.

Jennifer Saunders plays Edina. She also wrote the script as she did for the television show with her writing partner comedienne Dawn French.

Johanna Lumley recreates her role as Patsy Stone, the ultra chic fashion magazine editor and Edina's best friend.  They do everything together.

Julia Sawalha plays Saffron, Edina's daughter.

Jane Horrocks plays Bubble, Edina's rattle-brained assistant.

June Whitfield plays Mother, Edina's slightly out of it aged parent.

So Edina is having a tough time with her PR business. Down to one client, singer Lulu, she is desperate to sign someone else. She had dictated her autobiography to Bubble, but didn't read it before giving it to a publisher.  When she met with him, she found Bubble had written the beginning paragraph as she heard it. But everything afterward in what looks like a 100,000 word manuscript is "blah, blah, blah..." Edina expected a big advance, but of course, gets nothing.

Hearing supermodel Kate Moss is seeking new representation, Edina and Patsy put on their fashionable best (in Edina's case it's an elaborate hodgepodge as usual). They go to a big fashion affair where designer and Sir Paul's daughter, Kate McCartney sees them come in. She tells a friend, "She better not be wearing MY clothes!"

Edina sends in her granddaughter (yes granddaughter, these two are indeed long in the tooth) to speak to Kate Moss, who is sitting on the terrace wall overlooking the Thames. Edina rushes over stumbling along the way.  She and Pats have prepared for the evening in their usual manner drinking champagne and vodka, taking whatever pills they can find, and topping it off with a few tokes of weed.  Needless to say they are both wasted.

So the inevitable happens, Edina stumbles into Kate Moss, knocks her off the terrace wall and into the river, where she disappears. A police search is held but she is not found. Everyone at the party immediately says Edina murdered the popular model. They loudly and viciously turn against her.  She is detained by the London police. Finally, she is released while they investigate. She is told not to leave the country. Her daughter is dating one of the detectives, which complicates matters further.

She becomes a prisoner in her own home with crowds of the international press outside the gates and people screaming insults. The last straw is when a brick sails through one of her windows with a note saying "I hate you." She's the subject of all the newscasts and newspaper headlines. While the populace makes a large shrine beside the Thames to Kate Moss.

Naturally Patsy is with her. Both of them broke, they manipulate someone to fund their voyage, someone else to impersonate them, and they slip out to fly to France.  On the cheapo airline, the only one they can afford, they run into the world's rudest flight attendant, played by Rebel Wilson.

Their adventure truly begins across the pond. They are confronted with their age, learning what old lovers think of them, etc. True to their nature, they find a way to manipulate their situation to their advantage and learn next to nothing from it.

The film is a hoot, with a host of memorable scenes. Lots of British and a couple of American celebs play themselves.  Look for Gwendolyn Christie, the Lady Knight Brienne in Game of Thrones; Lulu; Stella McCartney; Joan Collins (who looks magnificent for her age); John Hamm, who turns out to be one of Patsy's former lovers (he tries to run away from her when she approaches him); Graham Norton, who DOES run away from Edina; and Dawn French (much thinner than in her Vicar of Dibley days) to name but a few.

There's no message to this film and nothing socially redeemable. I guess if you like that sort of thing I'd say,

"You can't keep a party girl down, no matter her age."

This one is loaded with foul language, inappropriate references, etc. So if you don't like that sort of thing, be forewarned.

Whether Edina and Pats are fleeing the gendarmes in a stolen seafood truck, or Saffron is serenading a club full of drag queens by singing "I learned the truth at seventeen..." until all the queens are in tears, this one is a comic treasure trove, usually at the expense of the main characters.





For all of us AB FAB fans, this one has been long in coming. Go and enjoy it!

Whew, that's my mini movie marathon - two movies in two days, seen in theaters.

Until next time...



Star Trek Beyond

The third film in the Abrams' Star Trek franchise just opened last week. This is the first one not directed by him. He's given credit as the producer. Simon Pegg (Montgomery Scott) is credited as one of the script writers. Also credited for the script is Gene Roddenberry, the original creator of the franchise, who passed away years ago. I'm glad they incorporated his original ideas in the story, it shows.

The scope of this picture is huge. They are in the third year of their five year mission in uncharted space. The film opens with Kirk in the middle of a diplomatic assignment in which he contacts a species previously unknown. In the beginning it looks ominous but quickly turns to comedy. There's the touch of Simon Pegg as the scriptwriter.

The film continues at warp speed, filling the screen with amazing special effects and an enormous base in deep space which encloses a large glittering city, populated by scores of sapient lifeforms, some human, some not. There is also docking space for gigantic starships like the Enterprise. There is a mechanized shipbuilding area where robotics are used to build starships.

Star Trek Beyond is the first Trek film in several years that truly feels like one of the television episodes, to a much grander scale, of course. Maybe it's the Roddenberry influence in the script.

Upon leaving the station for a rescue mission of a crew captured by hostiles on a world hidden in a vast nebula, the Enterprise is destroyed, leaving the crew to take their escape pods down to a planet hostile in itself, not to mention the inhabitants.

It is there the crew members are captured by Krall, a lizard-like alien played by the great English actor, Idris Elba. He also plays Heimdall in the Thor movies.  You won't recognize him in this one, not even his voice.  I already knew he played the role and still didn't recognize him or his voice. By the way, if you get a chance to see the BBC series "Luther" in which he stars, take it.  It's an excellent series, in which he plays a world weary detective.

Okay, here's my one problem with this movie...the alien makeup used for Krall looks almost exactly like a character I remember from an old television series, "The Outer Limits." Look, I know most of the people who see STB are not old enough to remember "The Outer Limits," which pre-dated the original Star Trek series. But I do because it was one of my favorite episodes.  Ah well, I guess everything comes around again. Forgive me for being a Trekker nerd (and no, I am NOT a Trekkie, there's a distinction.) Besides, I've known worse ones than me. At least I don't argue with the number of decks the Enterprise has in a movie. I once heard a friend say Starfleet technical manuals specify the number of decks in the Enterprise to be 80 and the film showed 120. Believe me, I'm not THAT bad.

There were quite a few of the original Star Trek fans at the movie yesterday. Why they gotta be so old?!!! One silver haired lady sat working a crossword puzzle with a penlight throughout the previews, only stopping when the film began...

Wonderful performances are given by all the regulars in the film series, with an added melancholy turn for Chekhov (played by the late Anton Yelchin) who was finally growing up. He looked older in this one, not the gawky young man he was in the first two. He looked taller and heavier, more muscled than before, a man not a teen-ager.

A new alien, Jaylah (played by newcomer Sofia Boutella) is added to the cast. Given the ending of the film, I have a feeling she may return to the crew eventually. Her makeup is wonderful.

The film is a huge, fast-paced thrill ride. Not surprising, Justin Lin of the Fast and Furious films, directed this one.

This is one you should see in a movie theater on the big screen.

There is a lovely tribute to the original cast of Star Trek, which made me start to tear up.

Of course the credits made me cry. It is dedicated in loving memory to Leonard Nimoy.

Then below that it simply reads "For Anton."

Even for an old Trekker like me, I must admit Star Trek still lives and is definitely going in the right direction.

Okay, I'm hoping to get to the Absolutely Fabulous (AB FAB)  movie today or tomorrow. Based on a hysterical Britcom, irreverent, and out there, I'm looking forward to it. I need a good round of raucous laughter, Sweetie Darling!

Review will most definitely follow.

Until next time...