Category Archives: War

Fall 2017 Movie Preview: Drama Part 1

This is going to be a great season. The awards are going to be very crowded. We’ve already seen several powerful films that could be in awards consideration. I’m specifically thinking of Detroit, Dunkirk, Baby Driver, and even Logan and Wonder Woman. However, they are going to have to compete with a slew of biopics and powerful narrative dramas and character studies. These movies are like candy for me so excuse me if I tend to go on and on, but part of the joy of cinema is its ability to move us, and that is exactly what these aim to do.

Please let me know which of these you would see if you could only choose one or two. This is only half of the Dramatic movies coming out this season. I’ll be following up to this post with the dramatic movies from November and December soon. Also, make sure you take a look at the others to watch section because there are far too many to talk about all of them at length.

September

Rebel in the Rye – 9/15

The life of celebrated but reclusive author, J.D. Salinger, who gained worldwide fame with the publication of his novel, The Catcher in the Rye.

How many of you have actually read Catcher in the Rye? I think it is one of those books that people buy to look smart but never actually read. If you want to watch an interesting retelling of the Holden Caulfield story, you can watch Perks of Being a Wallflower. Honestly, It is a great work of literature and it will be interesting to see the story behind what inspired the author. It will be starring Nicholas Hoult as J.D. Salinger and will feature Kevin Spacey as a teacher and source of inspiration. Also, I hope you like biopics because this is the first of about a dozen by my count.

Battle of the Sexes – 9/22

The true story of the 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs.

I love both of these actors. I heard that after La La Land, now Emma Stone is the hottest thing since sliced bread and is making oodles of money. That’s good for her. She has a fantastic comedic sense and is able to sink her teeth into more meaty dramatic roles so this biopic should be great for her. Steve Carell has been one of my favorite comedic actors since his turn as Brick in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. It will be fantastic to watch these two play off of each other in a story of liberation, misogyny, and tennis.

Loving Vincent – 9/22

A feature film about the life and mysterious death of Vincent Van Gogh.

Just watching the trailer for this I am surprised that so much time and care has gone into the preparation of the film. If you haven’t heard anything about it, watch the trailer and be floored by the visuals as you realize that every single frame in this film about the life and death of Vincent Van Gogh was hand painted in oils meant to mimic his style. It looks stunning and innovative. I love to see films that do something that no one else has ever done and this will certainly do just that. Not only have I never heard the story of Van Gogh’s tortured creative process but I have certainly never seen a movie that is put together in this way. It should be very rewarding to watch.

Lucky – 9/29

The spiritual journey of a ninety-year-old atheist.

I really hope that Harry Dean Stanton gets an Oscar nomination for this. The film looks quirky and funny and contemplative and it is all centered around the tremendous skill of an actor that generally stays out of the limelight. You might probably best know Harry Dean Stanton as the janitor in The Green Mile that the guards use to practice for the execution. That is one of hundreds of roles he has had in his storied career. This also serves as the Directorial debut for that guy that everyone thinks is the Zodiac killer in Zodiac (John Carroll Lynch). I can imagine that I will probably be quoting lines from this for months after watching.

October

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – 10/13

After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case, Mildred Hayes (Academy Award winner Frances McDormand) makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby (Academy Award nominee Woody Harrelson), the town’s revered chief of police. When his second-in-command Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), an immature mother’s boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing’s law enforcement is only exacerbated.

I’ve been ready for this one since I saw the trailer in front of something back in June or July. It is a combination of a number of things that I love. Frances McDormond is an amazing actress that doesn’t get nearly the number of roles she deserves. Much of that is probably because she only takes roles that are good. Sam Rockwell takes everything he is in up a couple of notches. And Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) is one of my favorite screenwriter/directors in the business today.

Marshall – 10/13

About a young Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, as he battles through one of his career-defining cases.

I’m a bit embarrassed that I know next to nothing about Thurgood Marshall except for the fact that he served on the Supreme court from 1967-1991 (I even had to look those dates up). Chadwick Boseman has been Mr. Biopic as of late. Before landing his role as Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (including his own stand-alone movie coming in 2018) he starred in 42 as Jackie Robinson and most recently in Get on Up as James Brown. So, he is no stranger to taking on another’s mannerisms and portraying their lives. This is clearly a story of Thurgood Marshall’s young life before he became part of the US Supreme court. Is this a film that interests you?

Same Kind of Different as Me – 10/20

International art dealer Ron Hall must befriend a dangerous homeless man in order to save his struggling marriage to his wife, a woman whose dreams will lead all three of them on the journey of their lives.

It looks like Hollywood might finally be figuring out that Christians want to see movies with Christian themes of love and mercy and generosity and equality portrayed in a artful manner by talented actors. I for one will be one of the first people lined up to see this film and I will be encouraging our Church to buy out showings to encourage more film like it to be made. With a cast of actors as eclectic and talented as this group there is no reason it shouldn’t be good. I just hope it’s not too schmaltzy or preachy. If they can walk that fine line and maintain realism while telling the story then it should be good.

Suburbicon – 10/27

Suburbicon is a peaceful, idyllic suburban community with affordable homes and manicured lawns…the perfect place to raise a family, and in the summer of 1959, the Lodge family is doing just that. But the tranquil surface masks a disturbing reality, as husband and father Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) must navigate the town’s dark underbelly of betrayal, deceit, and violence. This is a tale of very flawed people making very bad choices. This is Suburbicon.

I was torn whether to put this one in the Horror or Comedy category or here. It definitely will not be your average thriller. But I can’t just discount it as a comedy like Hot Fuzz. Instead, it seems to be blending Drama, Comedy, and Thriller tropes together to create something. It should be very interesting because The Coen Brothers usually direct the stories that they write, but this one they have handed off to their good friend, George Clooney, who has great abilities as a Director, but we haven’t seen his best work as of late.

Others to Watch:

Stronger coming on September 22nd. Stronger is the inspiring real life story of Jeff Bauman, an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become a symbol of hope following the infamous 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. This is getting some praise from actual Boston natives about it realism and authenticity. Jake Gyllenhaal is super talented so it should be great to see him get lost in this role.

Breathe coming on October 13th. The inspiring true love story of Robin and Diana Cavendish, an adventurous couple who refuse to give up in the face of a devastating disease. Their heartwarming celebration of human possibility marks the directorial debut of Andy Serkis. Yes, Gollum is directing a film with Claire Foy and Andrew Garfield. That’s intriguing if nothing else.

Only the Brave coming on October 20th. A drama based on the elite crew of firemen from Prescott, Arizona who battled a wildfire in Yarnell, AZ in June 2013 that claimed the lives of 19 of their members. Firemen are good people and they risk their lives to protect people. This might not be the greatest movie, but it should be a powerful reminder of their service with a great cast featuring: Jennifer Connelly, Taylor Kitsch, Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, and Andie MacDowell.

Wonderstruck coming on October 20th. The story of a young boy in the Midwest is told simultaneously with a tale about a young girl in New York from fifty years ago as they both seek the same mysterious connection. Directed by Todd Haynes (Carol, I’m Not There) and based on the Novel by Brian Selznick (Hugo).

The Mountain Between Us coming on October 20th. Stranded after a tragic plane crash, two strangers (Idris Elba and Kate Winslet) must forge a connection to survive the extreme elements of a remote snow covered mountain. When they realize help is not coming, they embark on a perilous journey across the wilderness. This sounds stressful and I won’t be taking my wife to see it or I will never get her on a plane.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women coming on October 27th. The true story of William Moulton Marston, the polyamorous relationship between his wife and mistress, the creation of his beloved comic book character “Wonder Woman”, and the controversy the comic generated in its earlier years. Playing off the success of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman earlier this year, we get a biopic about the guy who created the Amazonian princess. Could be interesting.

Wow. That’s already quite a list and we still have two more months of the year to look at. Which are you most enthused about? Are there any that you aren’t sure about or that you think might not live up to their expectations? Let me know in the comments below or on Social media. Also, don’t forget to check out the other installments of this Fall Movie Guide: Action/Adventure, Horror/Thriller, and Comedy/Family.

2009 Best Movie Bracket

What was the best movie of 2009? I could have easily listed a top 3 with nothing but animated features. We saw traditional live action directors like Wes Anderson (Fantastic Mr. Fox) and Spike Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are) make a leap into animation and childhood adaptations with great success. The Secret of Kells came out of Ireland and is available on Netflix. It is well worth your time. Also, Pixar gave us one of the most painfully beautiful wordless montage that I have ever seen. I cannot watch it to this day without tearing up. If Up ended after the first hour it would probably be my favorite of the year, but I think it falls apart a bit in the 3rd act.

We had solid releases from directors like James Cameron (Avatar) and Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds). And real surprises from newcomers like Duncan Jones (Moon), Neil Blomkamp (District 9) and Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth). All of these are great pictures and could qualify as the best of the year in their own rights. But let’s see my top 3 movies of the year.

Continue reading 2009 Best Movie Bracket

Weekend Outlook – Independence Day, Shallows, Free State of Jones, Neon Demon

It is a very busy weekend at your local multiplex. It’s really one of those weekends that there is something for everyone. However, the battle for box office supremacy this weekend is not going to be much of a battle at all. It would be a huge upset if Finding Dory doesn’t handily take down the alien invaders.

Since its record-breaking, $135 million opening weekend, Finding Dory has continued to impress with its box office performance. Forget about comparing it to all other animated films which it has blown out of the water (no pun intended). Finding Dory‘s performance puts it in the company of films such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World and The Dark Knight. I’m expecting Dory to bring in another $80 million this weekend. So let’s look at the four wide releases that will hit theaters today and find out what you should watch and what your should wait for.

Continue reading Weekend Outlook – Independence Day, Shallows, Free State of Jones, Neon Demon

Weekend Outlook – June 10, 2016

With X-Men: Apocalypse, Alice Through The Looking Glass, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows tumbling their way down the top 10,  there’s more than enough room for a couple more sequels to make waves amid another weekend stuffed with multiple new wide releases. This weekend we will see a highly anticipated follow up to one of the best horror films of the last 10 years. Second, we have a not-so-highly anticipated sequel to a mediocre mystery drama about a troupe of magicians illusionists. Finally, we see a video-game adaption from a visionary director that has been doing amazingly well in China and Russia.

The Conjuring 2

Conjuring2

So far, 2016 has become a graveyard for high-profile sequels as Alice Through the Looking Glass, Zoolander 2, Allegiant, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, and The Huntsman: Winter’s War have all under-performed. However, both cinematic continuations hitting theaters Friday look like they will bring in respectable grosses. The Conjuring 2 will almost certainly take the #1 spot this weekend after the dazzling run of its predecessor in 2013. I won’t be watching it, because I don’t like having nightmares.

The Conjuring, based on the spooky real-life dealings of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, grossed $41.9 million in its opening weekend nearly three years ago. Its sequel, also directed by James Wan with Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson returning, is opening on approximately 3,200 screens this weekend, and will bring the series back to No. 1 at the weekend box office. For starters, strong critical reviews for a modern horror film are almost an anomaly, but The Conjuring 2 has them, as 64 percent of critics surveyed by Metacritic have given the film a positive review.

Warcraft

warcraft-movie

While it is expected to disappoint in North America, Warcraft, however, could put up a worthy fight for the No. 2 slot. Traditionally, video game adaptations are awful, but if anyone call pull off the impossible, it is Duncan Jones the director of two of the most original and thrilling sci-fi movies of the last 20 years in Moon and Source Code. The film hits almost 3,400 North American screens this weekend with a robust international gross already under its belt. Based on the wildly popular Blizzard Entertainment video game series with millions of active subscriber accounts.

Warcraft brought in the biggest Thursday gross ever (around $45 million) in China following a huge estimated $46 million opening on Wednesday, upping its total in the country to more than $90 million and counting. Given its low critical reviews (32 percent on Metacritic) and lack of star power among the cast, the picture is seemingly selling itself on brand alone. However, with more than 1.7 million likes on its official Facebook page, Warcraft also seems to be making a decent impact with its target demographic via their go-to medium: the internet.

Now You See Me 2

Nowyouseeme2

Now You See Me 2 has big shoes to fill. Its 2013 predecessor was arguably the most unexpected runaway hit of the year, grossing $351.7 million worldwide during its run. This film has a great following and has infused some new talent into it’s cast. As I watch, I’m going to be waiting for Harry Daniel Radcliffe to pull out his wand.

The only problem for Now You See Me 2, however, is that its legs are probably nowhere near as sturdy as its forerunner’s. Critics haven’t been as kind this time around (it currently sits at 48 percent on Metacritic), though audience anticipation is strong, I think we will see a fairly warm welcome from fans, but that passion will quickly die down and Now You See Me 2 will join the graveyard of 2016 sequels.

Denzel Washington – Top 5 Performances

If you are a fan of the awards scene like I am you probably saw that Denzel Washington took home the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Golden Globes on Sunday. I think he is very deserving of this honor and so I have narrowed down what I consider to be his top 5 performances. In each case, the title of the film is a link to Roger Ebert’s Original review of the film.

If you missed it, you can watch a great montage of his films and his acceptance speech (warning: His speech is endearing, but he is mostly rambling because he forgot his glasses).

5. Glory (1989)

4. Remember the Titans (2000)

3. Malcolm X (1992)

2. American Gangster (20007)

1. Training Day (2001)

Let me know if you agree with my Top 5 in the comments below. Maybe you are a big fan of Man on Fire, John Q, Philadelphia, or The Book of Eli, or maybe you think Denzel is overrated and you don’t like him at all. That is fine, you are entitled to your opinion, but I dare you to tell him to his face.

Seven Samurai (1954)

Roger Ebert – Great Movie Review – 2001:

A farming community learns that the upcoming harvest will result in a raid by a group of thieving bandits. An outspoken worker suggests that they should go to the nearest town and find a group of warriors who will protect them and help them defend their land…

Wait a second, I think I accidentally put A Bug’s Life into the DVD player instead of Seven Samurai… Sorry about that, I’m always getting those two confused. Obviously, I’m not saying that A Bug’s Life is a remake of Seven Samurai, but there is no doubt that it borrows some of its basis for a story on this original ensemble battle film, as did:

MIFUNEThe Guns of Navarone (1961)
The Magnificent Seven (1960)
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966)
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
The Dirty Dozen (1967)
The Wild Bunch (1969)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)
The Road Warrior (1982)
Die Hard (1988)
Ronin (1998)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
The 13th Warrior (1999)
The Phantom Menace (1999)
Three Kings (1999)
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
The Inglorious Bastards (2009)

Clearly, this Akira Kurosawa masterpiece tapped into a concept or trope that was so simple it could be the basis for kids movies, westerns, and space comedies. It is the universal desire to see the strong protect the weak and the fact that with a varied group of warriors, we can each find our own place in the story. But just because Kurosawa did it first, does that necessarily mean that this movie is great? Why has this 3 hour and 27 minute epic held the attention of the cinematic community for over 60 years. Why is this movie regarded as highly as it is? Well, let’s recount the basics of the story’s theme along with some character analysis, then we’ll look at Kurosawa’s skill as a director which I believe sheds some light on what makes this film shine after 60 years of imitators have tried to recreate its charm, power, and craftsmanship. Continue reading Seven Samurai (1954)

Day 18 – 30 Day Movie Challenge

A Movie That You Wish More People Would’ve Seen

Today’s challenge was simple. If I can only recommend one movie to anyone, it is this delightful gem from Roberto Benigni. And it is a rare occasion that they have already seen it. I wonder what prevents people from seeing this film. Is it the fact that it is a foreign film or maybe that there are no recognizable movie stars in it? Perhaps it is the fact that the subject matter is generally so depressing. But the funny yet haunting Life Is Beautiful, is quite possibly the best most satisfying movie I have ever seen.

Life Is Beautiful is the story of clever Italian waiter named Guido Orefice (played masterfully by writer and director Benigni himself). Over in Germany, Hitler is making his malevolent preparations, but for the first half of the film, world politics are only a backdrop to Guido’s comic attempts to woo a beautiful schoolteacher named Dora (Nicoletta Braschi), away from her fiance. Benigni’s brand of physical comedy reminds me of Charlie Chaplin. He even has touches of political satire a la Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, for instance, Guido’s automobile has malfunctioning brakes and his frantic waving people out of the way is mistaken for stiff-armed salutes. But where Life Is Beautiful turns into something rare and extraordinary is not until midway through the film.

Fast-forwarding a few years, Guido, now owns a small bookstore. Guido and Dora have married and have a young son. It wasn’t until writing this review that I found that his son’s name is “Joshua” spelled Giosue (Giorgio Cantarini). A Nazi presence is now creeping into their Italian town, and signs have begun to appear in shop windows: “No Dogs or Jews Allowed” Guido, who we learn is Jewish himself, jokes to a confused Giosue that he should put up a sign on their store: “No Spiders or Visigoths Allowed.” The film shifts gears when his family is arrested and sent to a concentration camp. Dora, who is not Jewish, chooses to follow her husband and child. It is at this point that Life Is Beautiful changes into a very different film. I was impressed at how seamlessly the comedy moved into the world of the death camps.

It’s a risky transition, as Guido continues to struggle to shield his son from its harsh realities and atrocities of the Holocaust, but Benigni handles it with class. He accomplishes this minor miracle by shifting the focus and audience of his humor to Giosue. He makes the camp and its officers look foolish not to make us laugh but to spare his beloved son from the trauma of this horror. Some detractors see it as making light of tragedy, but they fail to realize is that its humor does not make light of the genocide but rather exalts the sacrifice of a parent.

Do you have any lesser known gems in mind that you would recommend to everyone? I watch a lot of movies that every one else passes up. I hope you will share some with me in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook.

Day 17 – 30 Day Movie Challenge

A Movie That Disappointed You

You would think that with 20 years to work on a worthy follow-up to the Indiana Jones Trilogy that Steven Spielberg and his collaborator George Lucas could create an entertaining and exciting film. However, it seems that instead of becoming sweeter with time, this one just became rotten. In Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, we see an elderly Indy (or should I say Henry because he is rarely called “Indiana” or “Indy” in this film) in his baggy grandpa pants with locks of grey-white hair peeking out under a crisp and rarely-dirty brown fedora you really don’t get the feeling that you’re watching anything historic. This is a movie that obviously misunderstood its audience, it’s exactly the type of summer blockbuster developed to make money at all costs: things blow up; there are aliens; and an unnecessary youthful sidekick.

The film tries too hard to convince its audience that it’s set in the 1950s. You have Russian spies, nuclear testing, Howdy Doody, and Communist blacklisting all in the first act of the movie. While the earlier Jones films were an attempt to capture the magic of 30s and 40s adventure films, this one is an attempt to capture the feel of a 1950s action romp. You have campy dialogue, Shia LaBoeuf playing the Fonz, and a run-of=the-mill soda fountain brawl that plants this film in that era. In the previous Indy films, even with their date stamps, the adventures that took place are universally exciting and timeless.

The other aspect of the film that disappointed me was the role that extra-terrestrials play. The original trilogy uses religious artifacts as the treasure the Indy is hunting. But as with the abominable Star Trek prequels that George Lucas thrust upon audiences, all of the religion and mysticism was replaced by science-fiction. Why don’t film-makers understand that audiences want to encounter something inexplicable in the theater. We don’t want midichlorians to give a scientific explanation of the force or science to replace our religion. The presence of the aliens is strong, but there is no dialogue between the two parties, much like Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The adventure sequences are hit-or-miss. Some of the car chases and fight sequences are good, and a lot of the side jokes are on the mark, but there are times that it’s hard to follow what’s going on as they try to pack too many characters and subplots into a fast-moving sequence. Ultimately, there are too many diversions like the plausibility of surviving a nuclear explosion by climbing in a refrigerator, the CGI prairie dogs, and Mutt’s own private army of monkeys. Dr. Jones doesn’t get very much solo screen time. Everyone around Henry seems to have become more like Indiana Jones, while he has become more cautious in his old age.

Ultimately, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a film that, while not entirely bad, is nowhere near worthy of its lofty pedigree. As generic action films go, it may have provided some level of entertainment in the vein of National Treasure..But with the attachment of “Indiana Jones” to the title and the involvement of Harrison Ford, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg my expectations were raised and my standards were set to a level that these individuals can sadly no longer meet.

What about you? Did you have expectations for a film that fell short? Have previews and the raves of critics left you expecting a masterpiece only to find a film that failed to thrill your cinematic sensibilities? I’d love to hear your rants about these lackluster experiences. Leave a comment below or on Twitter or Facebook.

Day 09 – 30 Day Movie Challenge

Favorite Movie Soundtrack

Growing up, I remember getting to go to work with my dad from time to time. My dad has worked for several different companies, from pest control to shoe repair, but I will never forget the day that he took me to work with him at the radio station. He sold airtime to businesses that wanted to advertise on the station. I got to sit in the booth with the Djs, I even recorded a little radio spot when I was probably no older than 4 or 5 for the station that used to be GC-101.

My dad and I always connected with music. We agreed that the oldies were goodies, and I developed a love of music that sometimes surprises people. I can’t stand most modern music but the anthems and ballads of the 1960s struck a chord with me. Because of that, my choice for favorite movie soundtrack popped immediately into my head. Just look at this list of songs from Forrest Gump. Entertainment Weekly published a list of the top 100 soundtracks of all time, and this was a gigantic glaring omission from that list. I will be silent and let the music speak for itself.

  • “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley
  • “Blowin’ in the Wind” – Joan Baez
  • “Fortunate Son” – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” – The Four Tops
  • “Respect” – Aretha Franklin
  • “Rainy Day Women” – Bob Dylan
  • “Sloop John B”- Beach Boys
  • “California Dreamin'” – The Mamas & the Papas
  • “For What It’s Worth” – Buffalo Springfield
  • “What the World Needs Now Is Love” – Jackie DeShannon
  • “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” – The Doors
  • “Mrs. Robinson” – Simon & Garfunkel
  • “Turn! Turn! Turn!” – The Byrds
  • “Joy to the World” – Three Dog Night
  • “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” – B. J. Thomas
  • “Sweet Home Alabama” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • “On the Road Again” – Willie Nelson
  • “Hanky Panky” – Tommy James and The Shondells
  • “All Along the Watchtower” – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  • “Hello, I Love You” – The Doors
  • “People Are Strange” – The Doors
  • “Love Her Madly” – The Doors
  • “Hey Joe” – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  • “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” – Pete Seeger
  • “Let’s Work Together” – Canned Heat
  • “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” – Tony Orlando & Dawn
  • “Get Down Tonight” – KC & The Sunshine Band
  • “Free Bird” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • “Go Your Own Way” – Fleetwood Mac

How about your pick for best soundtrack? Is there one that you find particularly moving or have a personal connection to in some way? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook.