Monday, November 20, 2017

Victorian Slum House 2016


     Fifteen volunteers have been selected to go back in time to Victorian London.  Their ages range from 10-59 and they will spend three weeks working and living in a recreation of the Old Nichol slum in Bethnal Green in London’s East End.  Their lives in the slum will begin in 1860 and go through 1900 when the era changed from Victorian to Edwardian.  Each person in the slum is assigned a role and an occupation when they arrive.  One family includes modern-day tailor with his wife, daughter and son.  He will make or re-purpose garments from used clothing or from rags.  There is a retired gentleman with a wife, a daughter and two grandchildren, both girls.  He works a full day without a meal at a bell-making factory.  He’s unable to go back because of too much strain on his back.  This family will need to find other ways to earn money.  There is a single mom with a son and daughter.  A single man is handicapped and he will exchange his high-tech artificial limb for a peg leg and crutches.  A married couple will manage a grocery store.  A brother and sister of Jewish faith emigrate from Russia. 
     This is an eye-opening series!!  The courtyard in front of the multiple story building is always muddy.  There is a central shared hand pump for water in the courtyard. There are outdoor privies, the rooms for the tenants are small and very drab.  The biggest problem for the people is earning enough money to pay the rent and buy food.  The grocery will offer credit for the purchase of food if the grocers believe the person can repay.  The grocers also have their own rent and food bill to pay.  If they extend the credit and the person can’t pay the money back, they could be evicted like the other tenants.  The families never seem to have any extra money or get ahead of their bills.  They constantly need to worry about food and the rent.  The work and the finances change for the tenants every ten years until 1900.  3 ½* (I liked this series)

59 min each episode, eight episodes, Doc, TV series shown on PBS with presenter Michael Mosley, Mandy, Russell, Rebecca and James Howarth, Graham Potter, Allison, Heather, Olivia Oldfield, Andy Gardiner, Adrian and Wiebke Bird.

Note:  Imdb 7.8 out of 10, 82% critic 100% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic 73 out of 100 with 6 critics, Amazon 4.4* out of 5* with 27 reviews.
Special Note:  The actual Old Nichol was London’s most notorious slum established in the 19 century.  It was a home to 5,719 people living in a dense network of about 30 streets and courts.  There were rented rooms, workshops and stables.  The clearance of the slum began in 1891.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Fate of the Furious 2017


     This is installment eight.  Brian and Mia have retired as members of the Fast and Furious.  Dom and Letty are on their honeymoon.  The other members of the crew are enjoying some downtime in their lives.  A mysterious woman forces Dom into her world of crime.  Letty and the others don’t know what kind of hold she has on Dom to make him work for her?  Letty, Roman Hobbs, Deckard, Tej and Ramsey learn that the woman is Cipher and she steals the program God’s Eye from Mr. Nobody and Owen.  Cipher’s goal is to get the launch codes for a nuclear submarine with nuclear weapons.  This installment of the franchise takes place in Cuba, New York City and the arctic Barents Sea. 
     I wonder how the next Furious will be able to top the Russian submarine emerging from the ice?  Plenty of cars, plenty of weapons, not a lot of the plot and the dialogue is cheesy!!  I don’t know how many times the word family is used?  We get that?  We got it before??  There is some bluffing anger from some of the characters.  The cars and the action are the best part of these films for me!!  3 1/2* (I liked this movie)

136 min, Action directed by F. Gary Gray with V in Diesel, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Charlize Theron, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood, Nathalie Emmanuel, Luke Evans, Elsa Pataky, Kristofer Hivju, Patrick St. Esprit, Janmarco Santiago, Luke Hawx, Corey Maher, Olek Krupa.

Note:  Imdb 6.8 out of 10, 67% critic 73% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 2 ½*, Amazon 4.3* out of 5* with 1040 reviews, Metacritic 56 out of 100 with 45 critics 7.0 out of 10 with 620 reviews, Rolling Stone 3* out of 4* review by Peter Travers.
Special Note:  Filmed in Atlanta and Perry, Georgia; Cleveland, Ohio; Havana, Cuba, Akranes and Myvatn, Iceland; Berlin, German; New York City.  Director F. Gary Gray also directed Straight Outta Compton.  Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel had a secret meeting a week before filming ended.  Some of Johnson’s planned scenes were cancelled at the last minute?  Diesel didn’t show up on the set as scheduled several times?  This caused expensive delays?   They were able to resolve their issues and Johnson may return for the next film?  There us a mistake with the 1957 Plymouth in Cuba?  Dom uses the opener ring of a soda can to remove a vacuum line off the engine.  Actually, you would get reduced boost and less power with this fix?  There will probably be a Furious nine since these films have made almost $4 billion worldwide.  This film has the highest gross of $1.5 billion.  Michelle Rodriguez posted on Instagram that she might bow out of the franchise if the roles for the women are not improved.
Cars used in Manhattan:  1966 Chevrolet Corvette, 2016 Mercedes AMG GT S, 2016 Jaguar F-Type, 2016 Bentley Continental GT, 2017 Subaru BRZ, International MXT. 
Cars used in Iceland:  Customized vehicles are used in the ice sequence but the two street models are Lamborghini Murcielago, Subaru WRX STI, heavily modified Dodge Ram truck, Local Motors Rally Fighter.

Killer: A Journal of Murder 1995


     This film is based on the true story of serial killer Carl Panzram.  Henry Lesser is a new Prison guard at Leavenworth.  He meets Carl Panzram and Carl has been sent to Leavenworth for burglary.  Upon his arrival, one of the guards brutally beats Carl.  Henry feels Carl didn’t deserve this treatment and he has sympathy for him.  Carl isn’t used to getting any kind of sympathy and he’s been in prison before.  Henry learns that Carl has a very violent past but Henry believes Carl’s capable of turning that around.  The prisoners are not supposed to have any writing instruments or any paper.  Henry gives Carl paper and a small pencil to write his crime history.  Henry takes the manuscript to a publisher but he’s never seen anything like this before?  He doesn’t know if this can be published and if so, what category would it belong to?
     There is a LOT going on in this film.  It’s not just about a killer, his crimes or his time in prison but it’s also about the prison system itself.  There is a LOT of brutality on both sides of the bars.  I wonder what Henry saw in Carl?  I’m sure it would be very interesting for a psychiatrist to exam the manuscript of Carl’s life and determine exactly what made him the type of man he was?  He received brutal treatment at the Minnesota State Training School in 1903 when he was 12 years old until 1905.  Carl is not a normal man by any stretch of the imagination.  He doesn’t seem to have any boundaries and he never has any regret for his actions?  3* (This movie was OK)

91 min, Bio directed by Tim Metcalfe with James Woods, Robert Sean Leonard, Ellen Greene, Cara Buono, Robert John Burke, Richard Riehle, Harold Gould, John Bedford Lloyd, Jeffrey DeMunn, Conrad McLaren, Steve Forrest, Richard Council.

Note:  Imdb 6.4 out of 10, 47% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon 3.6* out of 5* with 38 reviews, Roger Ebert 2*,
Special Note:  Filmed in Rhode Island, Groton, New London and Norwich, Connecticut.  This film is dedicated to Sam Peckinpah because the film The Wild Bunch of 1969 inspired director Metcalfe to become a director.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Ghose in the Shell 2017


     The setting of this film is a future Hong Kong.  Major Motoko Kusanagi is the first of her kind.  Her body is entirely man made and her brain is from her original human body.  She was told she was saved from a terrible terrorist attack and she almost drowned.  Her parents did drown in the attack.  Now she is the perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.  Terrorism is evolving with hacking into the minds of the people to control them.  Major Kusanagi is physically and mentally qualified to face this new enemy.  Then, she learns she has been lied to, her life was not saved but stolen, her parents didn't drown.   Now her mission is to recover her past, find out who did this and stop them before they move on to doing this to others.
     There is a lot of color in this film but also a lot of darkness and black.  I usually find the blackness is to hide the imperfections.  The city is very unusual with a lot of color and also unusual animated characters.  There was a lot of push back because of casting Johannson and not a Japanese actress in the lead role.  I would’ve liked more to the plot and more character interaction along with less murkiness.  3* (This movie is OK)

107 min, Action directed by Ruper Sanders with Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbaek, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Michael Pitt, Chin Han , Danusia Samal, Lasarus Ratuere, Yutaka Izumihara, Twanda Manyimo, Peter Ferdinando, Anamaria Marinca.

Note:  Imdb 6.4 out of 10, 45% critic 52% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 2*, Amazon video 3.5* out of 5* with 810 reviews DVD 4.2* with 527 reviews, The Guardian 4* out of 5* review by Wendy Ide 3* out of 5* review by Peter Bradshaw, Metacritic 52 out of 100 with 42 critics 6.9 out of 10 with 851 reviews.
Special Note:  Filmed in Wellington and Lower Hutt, New Zealand; Hong Kong and Shanghai, China.
Special Note:  There is a shot of a Pan Am advertisement and this is a reference to Blade Runner of 1982 that included an advertisement for Pan Am.  There is another film with the same title from 1995.  Some scenes are exact re-creations of the original artwork from 1995.  Imbd gives the 1995 film 8 out of 10, 1.6 points higher than this 2017 version.  The city of Hong Kong is actually a highly digitized city.  Margot Robbie was also considered for the role played by Johansson.  Her character wears a Thermosuit made out of silicone.  The gross for this film worldwide was $169 million with a budget of $110 million and it was considered a box office bomb. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Wedding Banquet 1993


     Wei-Tung’s parents are Chinese but living in Taiwan and they are always trying to make a marriage match for him.  His father has a stroke and he said his last wish is to hold a grandchild.  What Wi-Tung’s parents don’t know is that Wei-Tung is gay and he has been living in Manhattan with Simon.  Wei-Wei is a tenant in Wei-Tung’s building.  She’s lost her job and she doesn’t have a green card.  Simon suggests that Wei-Tung and Wei-Wei get married and that will solve both their problems.  They decide to have a ceremony at the court- house and Wei-Tung’s parents insist on a lavish banquet since there wasn't a formal ceremony.
     You can see what’s going to happen from the onset of this film!!  There will be many mix-ups between everyone.  Simon and Wei-Tung will be mad at each other and jealous.  Wei-Tung’s parents won’t understand what’s going on.  Wei-Wei will be in the middle.  2 ½* (This movie is so-so)

106 min, Drama directed by Ang Lee with Winston Chao, May Chin, Ah-Lei Gua, Sihung Lung, Mitchell Lichtenstein, Dion Birney, Jeanne Kuo Chang, Paul Chen, Chung-Wei Chou, Yun Chung, Ho-Mean Fu, Micahel Gaston, Jeffrey Howard.

Note:  Imdb 7.7 out of 10, 96% critic 87% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 3*, Amazon 4.4* out of 5* with 122 reviews, Empire Online 4* out of 5*.
Special Note:  Filmed in various locations of New York City, New York.  This was the highest earning film of 1993.  Earnings were $23.6 million with a budget of $1 million.  The director Ang Lee wrote the screenplay five years before filming and fives years before his first film Pushing Hands of 1992.  Ang Lee makes an appearance as a guest at the wedding banquet.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sing Street 2016


     The setting of this film is 1985 and some scenes were inspired by true events.  Everyone is interested in pop music and music videos are appearing on television for the first time.  This is after the Beatles formed their group in Liverpool, England in 1960.  Conor is a teenager 14 years old living in Dublin, Ireland.  His family is down on their luck with money and Conor will need to change to a Catholic School instead of his expensive fee-paying school.  It’s a rough start with bullying from the Brother and one of his classmates.  Conor meets Raphina and everything begins to change.  She tells Conor that she’s a model and she doesn’t go to school.  She’s leaving for London soon to begin her career.  Conor tells her he has a band, he really doesn’t but now he needs to start one!!
     Conor reminds me of a young Paul McCartney and Eamon reminds me of John Lennon.  Perhaps, that's why they were chosen for their roles?  Conor and the other band members start to record their own work instead of being a cover band using songs from other bands.  Conor might really have a chance with Raphina becoming his girlfriend.  At least, the band takes his mind off of this new school and the problems.  3 ½* (I liked this movie)

106 min, Drama directed by John Carney with Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Aidan Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jack Reynor, Ian Kenny, Ben Carolan, Percy Chamburuka, Mark McKenna, Don Wycherley, Des Keogh.

Note:  Imdb 8.0 out of 10, 95% critic 92% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 3 ½*, Amazon 4.7* out of 5* with 527 reviews, Metacritic 79 out of 100 with 37 critics 8.6 out of 10 with 163 reviews, The Guardian 4* out of 5* review by Mark Kermode also 3.5* out of 4* review by Peter Bradshaw, Rolling Stone 3.5* out of 4*.
Special Note:  Filmed in Dublin, Ireland.  Ferdia Walsh-Peelo’s father and uncles attended the real Synge Street Christian Brothers School.  Mark McKenna is in the role of Eamon, his father is the musician Eamon.  The director John Carney was the bassist in the Irish rock band The Frames from 1991 to 1993.  He also directed the movie Once from 2007.  Glen Hansard wrote two songs for this film, Go Now and Don’t Go Down.  He won an Oscar for his song Falling Slowly featured on Once.  Adam Levine performs the song Go Now.  Originally U2”s Bono and The Edge were going to work with Carney on this film.  There was some back and forth communication during the development stages but scheduling conflicts arose. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Wizard of Lies 2017


      Bernard Lawrence Madoff is probably the top American fraudster and former stockbroker, investment advisor and financier.  He was formerly the non-executive chairman of the NASDAQ stock market.  He operated a Ponzi scheme that was the largest financial fraud in US history.  The size of the fraud was estimated to be $64.8 billion or more.  In November 30, 2008, he had 4800 clients.  He cheated the wealthy and he cheated the poor.  People lost their savings, retirement money and many were bankrupt.  The scheme started as early as the mid-1980’s but could have been in the 1970’s.  The US Securities and Exchange Commission had conducted multiple investigations but had not uncovered any fraud?  Madoff didn’t invest any of the money he received, gains were fabricated and monthly statements were fraudulent?
     Bernie Madoff has some kind of psychological condition??  He destroyed lives and this included his own family.  He doesn’t feel remorse, he can readily lie to your face, he doesn’t feel anything about what he did?  He said he was guilty in court to 11 felony counts just to escape a trial?  The first clue anyone in the family or in the offices had that something was wrong was Bernie writing early bonus checks.  He wanted to “take care of people” before the Feds came to arrest him?   This story seems unbelievable but it’s true??  3 ½* (I liked this movie) 

133 min, Bio directed by Barry Levinson with Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Allesandro Nivola, Michae Kostroff, Katerine Narducci, Steve Coulter, David Lipman, Kelly AuCoin, Don Castro, Amanda Warren, Mark La Mura, Michael A. Goorjiian.
Note:  Imdb 6.9/10, 72% critic 64% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 3*, Amazon Video 3.4* out of 5* with 63 reviews, Metacritic 67 out of 100 with 26 critics 6.8 out of 10 with 27 ratings, The Guardian 2* out of 5* review by Simon Abrams.

Special Note:  Two films were made about Bernie Madoff in 2016, this film and also Madoff.  Both films are TV productions and this film is by HBO.  Michelle Pfeiffer prepared for her role by spending time with Ruth Madoff.