Sunday, December 10, 2017

How to be a Latin Lover 2017


    Maximo is a penniless gold-digger and he has lived as a boy-toy in a marriage with Peggy 25 years.  They go to purchase a new Lamborgini for Peggy’s birthday but it’s really for Maximo.  Unfortunately for Maximo, the young car salesman becomes Peggy’s new boy toy.  Maximo is tossed out on the street, there was a prenuptial agreement and Maximo gets nothing.  He goes to stay with his younger sister and her son but this is not a happy arrangement.  All Maximo can think about is connecting with another wealthy woman.
     Maximo is very shallow and he is very self-centered.  He even claims that he is younger than his sister but he is the older brother?  He needs to get a real job and turn his life around instead of being a sponge!!  There is a lot of humor in this film.  3* (This movie is OK)  

105 min, Comedy directed by Ken Marino with Eugenio Derbez, Salma Hayek, Raphael Alejandro, Rob Lowe, Kristen Bell, McKenna Grace, Raquel Welch, Linda Lavin, Renee Taylor, Rob Corddry, Rob Riggle, Rob Huebel, Michael Cera.

Note:  Imdb 5.9 out of 10, 38% critic 62% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 1 1/2*, Metacritic 54 out of 100 with 11 critics 5.4 out of 10 with 35 reviews.
Special Note:  Filmed in Santa Clarita and Pasadena, California.  Eugenio Derbez’s son in real life plays Maximo at 22 years old in the beginning of the film.  There is a mistake with the truck in the opening scene.  The truck is supposed to be driving down a road.  The instruments show no amps drawn from the battery and the coolant temperature is below the lowest end of the cold range?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Frontier House 2002


     The setting is 1883 and the location is the Montana Territory in the United States.  There were many challenges for the settlers in this time period.  There are blizzards, the scorching sun, forest fires, difficult, neighbors, cattle drives and hunger.  Three modern families will be living the real life of this period on the American Frontier.  One of the families is the Clunes and they are a wealthy family from Malibu, California with three children and their niece.  There is the Glenn family and they are a middle class suburban family from Tennessee with two children.  The Brooks family consists of the father and his adult son.  Nate brooks will marry his fiancĂ© Kristen on the frontier and his father Rudy will return to his home.  They had set a date to marry and then Nate was selected to participate in the program.  The families will spend five months living in the Territory.
     Over 5,500 families applied to be on the show and the filming location was south of Big Timber, Montana.  Each family received a 160-acre plot of land.  Initial provisions and supplies were purchased based on a period appropriate budget.  A dairy cow was included for each family to provide milk for their use.  The families were expected to farm, graze animals and build a home.  The properties had access to a creek for water and they were within a 15-minute walk of each other.  The country store was 10 miles away and required a hike on foot over two mountain passes.  One family received a bonus because there was already a cabin on their land parcel.  The other two families needed to construct a wood cabin using trees from nearby property.  Ten days before the conclusion of the project, historical experts assess the families preparedness to survive a Montana winter.  I thought this was very interesting, it was a LOT of hard work and there were contentions between the families.  The families left with a different perspective on the lives they were returning to after their Montana experience.

6 episodes, TV mini-series shown on PBS with Kristen, Nate and Rudy Brooks; Adrienne, Aine, Conor, Gordon, Justin, Tracy, Clune; Karen and Mark Glenn, Erinn and Logan Patton, narrated by Kathryn Walker.

Note:  Imdb 8.6 out of 10, Amazon 4.7* out of 5* with 97 reviews, AreYouScreening.com 4 ½* with 97 reviews.
Special Note:  When the attack on the World Trade Center towers happened on 11 September 2001, the families were notified of this event by local newspapers.  Adrienne sewed an American flag with the details of 1883.

Miles from Nowhere 2009


     Cameron Stiles is playing football in high school and his dad Gary Stiles is the coach.  Cam is good on the field and he will be able to get a scholarship for college.  His parents aren’t able to afford the tuition and fees to send Cam to college.  Cam and his best friend John go out to a party that John doesn’t want to attend.  Cam promises John that they won’t stay long.  John is committed to his training in track at the same school with Cam.  John decides to run home since Cam obviously isn’t ready to go home.  John is accidentally hit and killed by a car on his run home.  Cam feels responsible and he is totally devastated.  He decides to change to running track to in remembrance of John.  This change causes conflict between Cam and his father Gary because of the scholarship situation.
     Cam is torturing himself because of the accident and John’s death.  He decides to honor the life of John by following John’s goal of an under 4 minute mile.  I thought this was interesting and about the deep subjects of death, guilt, pain, forgiveness, parents and teens.  3 ½* (I liked this movie)

89 min, TV movie directed by David Burton Morris with Andrew Lawrence, Treat Williams, Joanna Going, Kevin Kilner, John Beasley, Rachel Style, Jake McLaughlin, Jarrod Bailey, Kevin Elms, Christa B. Allen, Ryan Krueger, Julian Alcaraz.

Note:  Imdb 6.7 out of 10, 79% critic 77% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon 4.6* out of 5* with 81 reviews.
Special Note:  Filmed in Los Angeles, California.  Also titled Chasing a Dream.  There is a quote from a proverb about the antelope and the lion.  "Both the antelope and the lion better be running when the sun comes up!!"

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Band Aid 2017


     Anna and Ben are a married couple and they are always fighting.  The reason for their fighting is because Anna suffered a miscarriage and they are both grieving.  They need to find another way to manage their grief without attacking each other.  It doesn’t help their situation that friends and family are always asking when they are going to have a baby.  All their friends seem to have children and invitations are usually for child birthday parties.
      The couple is going to a councilor but they don’t open up to her.  She gives them some advice about how to fight with a purpose instead of their normal fighting.  Anna and Ben decide to form a band with their neighbor as the drummer.  Maybe they can make a career out of their fighting through songwriting??  Anna and Ben also struggle with unfulfilling jobs, unemployment and monotony.  The songs lead to the most important thing the couple needs, communication.  3* (This movie is OK)

91 min, Comedy directed by Zoe Lister-Jones with Adam Pally, Fred Armisen, Zoe Lister-Jones, Susie Essman, Retta, Hannah Simone, Ravi Patel, Brooklyn Decker, Angelique Cabral, Majandra Delfino, Nelson Franklin.

Note:  Imdb 6.7 out of 10, 86% critic 72% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 3*, Amazon 4.3* out of 5* with 34 reviews, Metacritic 65 out of 100 with 21 critics and 7.5 out of 10 with 6 reviews.
Special Note:  Anna and Ben change the phrase misery loves company to misery loves accompaniment.  Written, directed and produced by Zoe Lister-Jones.

Big Little Lies 2017


     This series is based on a novel by Liane Moriarty.  Madeline Martha Mackenzie meets single mom Jane Chapman on the orientation day of first grade.  Jane and her son Ziggy are new in this Monterey community.  There is an incident at the school and another student chokes one of the first grade girls.  The red marks can be seen on her neck.  Amabella says it was Jane’s son Ziggy but he denies the accusation.   Madeline goes on the warpath against Amabella’s mom Renata because of the accusation.    
     This series is filled with ex-husbands and their relationships with present and past wives.  Also there are current marriages and their relationships.  It’s about problems in the classroom and the schoolyard with school personnel and first grade students.  Mainly it’s about the lies we tell to ourselves and the lies we tell each other.  How can we face the next day without these lies?  All the hair products, makeup, expensive homes and cars can’t change the inside of a person!!  I thought this series was very good and I did succeed in figuring out who was hurting Amabella and what would happen with the adults in the ending.  4 1/2* (I loved this series)

7 episodes, 3 discs, TV mini-series, Crime directed by David E. Kelley with Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgard, Adam Scott, Zoe Kravitz, James Tupper, Jeffrey Nordling, Laura Dern, Ian Armitage, Santiago Cabrera, Darby Camp, Kellen Coleman, Larry Bates, Kathreen Khavari, Sarah Baker.

Note:  Imdb 8.6 out of 10, 92% critic 94% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon 4.6* out of 5* with 541 reviews, Roger Ebert 3 1/2*,  Metacritic 75 out of 100 with 42 critics 8 out of 10 with 215 ratings.
Special Note:  Filmed in Monterey, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, Carmel Highlands, Malibu and Los Angeles, California.  Witherspoon and Kidman are also the producers of the series.  Nicole Kidman was once engaged to Lenny Kravitz, the father of Zoe Kravitz.  There was a bidding war for the filming rights between HBO and Netflix.  Witherspoon and Kidman became close during filming and Witherspoon bought the residence next to Kidman’s home in Nashville.  Witherspoon withdrew from Downsizing of 2017 to make this film.  Kidman turned down Wonder Woman 2017.  Witherspoon and Kidman also obtained the rights for an adaptation of Truely Madly Guilty, also a novel by Liane Moriarty.  In the novel, the setting is in a seaside suburb of Sydney, Australia. 
Titles for Episodes:  Somebody’s Dead, Serious Mothering, Living the Dream, Push Comes to Shove, Once Bitten, Burning Love, You Get What You Need.
BOOKS:  Big Little Lies 8/11/2015, (4.5* out of 5* 15,248) Three Wishes, The last Anniversary, What Alice Forgot, The Hypnotists Love Story, the Husband’s Secret.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tanna 2015


     This film is based on an actual marriage dispute that happened in 1987.  The setting is the remote South Pacific island of Tanna and people are the Yakel tribe. The island is covered in rain forest and dominated by an active volcano.  Wawa is now a woman and she is promised to a man from another tribe to settle a peace treaty.   Wawa is in love with Dain and they want to marry but they are both from the Yakel tribe.  There could be another war between the two tribes if Wawa does not marry into the other tribe.   The tribes have rejected colonial and Christian beliefs in favor of their traditional Kastom belief system.
     I thought this was interesting and I had never heard of these two tribes or this island.  The scenery of the island is very beautiful.  The villagers know about Captain Cook, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.  Captain Cook was the first European to visit this island in 1774 and the volcanic light of Mount Yasur attracted him.   I was surprised about the information about Cook and the Queen.  3 ½* (I liked this movie)

104 min, Drama directed by Martin Butler and Bentley Dean with Mangau Dain, Marie Wawa, Merceline Rofit, Charlie Kahla, Albi Nangia, Lingai Kowia, Dadwa Mungau, Linette Yowayin, Kapan Cook, Mangau Yokay.

Note:  Imdb 6.9 out of 10, 90% critic 79% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon 4.7* out of 5* with 28 reviews, The Guardian 4* out of 5*
Special Note:  Filmed in Tanna, Vanuatu.  Awards won by this film were AAFCA Best Foreign Film and also Best Original Music Score, ADG Best Direction in a Feature Film, FCCA Best Music, Sutherland Award Special Jury Prize, Venice Best Cinematography, Zagreb Special Mention Feature Film.

Monday, December 4, 2017

New Life 2016


     Benjamin Morton moved with his family from the UK to America and he met his neighbor Ava right away.  They were both seven years old.  They seemed to hit it off as friends and their friendship seemed to last.  Ben and Ava almost break up during her senior year but they get back together.  Ben gets a good job with his father’s architectural firm and Ava is a grade school teacher. They almost lose there way again when Ben forgets what’s most important and he is gone for work too much. 
     This movie is a real downer!!  Ben and Ava want to have a baby but Ben never seems to be home.  Ava is wondering if he wants the same things from their marriage?  They start to pull together as a team again but then a lot of life events get in the way.  3* (This movie is OK)

88 min, Drama directed by Drew Waters with James Marsters, Barry Corbin, Terry O’Quinn, Bill Cobbs, Jonathan Patrick Moore, Erin Bethea, Kris Lemche, Irma P. Hall, Drew Waters Brenda Jo Reutebuch, Caige Coulter.

Note:  Imdb 5.8 out of 10, 40% critic 67% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon 3.7* out 5* with 24 reviews.
Special Note:  Filmed in Winona Lake and Warsaw, Indiana.  Erin Bethea in the role of Ava was co-host of On Mission Xtra of 2009 on Family Network.  There is another film with the same title from 1983.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Embrace of the Serpent 2015


     This film is based on diaries by scientists Theodor Koch-Grunberg and Richard Evan Schultes.  It is the story of the relationship between Karamakate and the two scientists.  Karamakate is an Amazonian shaman and the last survivor of his tribe of people.  There are two separate stories of journeys to find the rare yakruna sacred plant.  The journey with Theo was in 1909 and the one with Evan was in 1940.  Theo is an ethnologist from Germany and Evan is an American botanist.  Theo is very sick and the yakruna is the only cure for his disease.  Evan has a book recording Theo’s journey and he wants to make drawings of the yakruna plant. 
     Karamakate is the guide for both Theo and Evan but Manduca also travels with Evan.  Karamakate says he can’t remember any of the customs of his people now that he is old and he can’t remember how to locate the yakruna plant.  Evan has lied to Karamakte and he’s not interested in the plant.  He wants to obtain a disease free rubber tree to increase rubber exports to America.  The yakruna grows on rubber trees and improves their quality.  The underlying theme of this film is the effect of European colonialism on the Amazon.  This film reminds me of Fitzcarraldo directed by Werner Herzog.  This film was confusing to me and I didn’t understand until later that it was the same Karamakate and it was the same journey just at different time periods.  The yakruna plant is fictitious and doesn’t exist in the Amazon.  3* (This movie is OK)

125 min, Adventure directed by Ciro Guerra with Nilbio Torres, Jan Bijvoet, Antonio Bolivar, Brionne Davis, Miguel Dionisio Ramos, Luigi Sciamanna, Nicolas Cancino, Pediwake Daniel Martinez, Jose Sabogal.

Note:  Imdb 7.9 out of 10, 97% critic 84% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 3*, The Guardian 5* out of 5* review by Mark Kermode, Metacritic 82 out of 100 with 31 critics 7.8 out of 10 with 60 reviews.
Special Note:  Filmed in Vaupes and Guainia, Colombia.  This the first Colombian film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.  The languages spoken are Cubeo, Wanano, Tikuna and Uitoto.  The Governor of the Guainia Department decorated Ciro Guerra with the Order of the Inirida Flower.  This is a symbol of respect and value for featuring the indigenous populations in his film.  This award also gave the Department recognition for tourism and culture.  A young girl of 13, has leishmaniasis.  This is a disease caused by parasites spread by the bite of certain types of sandflies.  Theo is suffering from malaria. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Look of Silence 2014


      During 1965-1966 there was a state sponsored purge of communists in Indonesia. The killing of six Army generals started the bloodshed.  The people hated the communists for many reasons and they killed as many of them as they could.  Half a million people were killed and some were taken out of prisons and killed.  Adi decides to talk to the men who are still alive that participated in the killings.  Adi’s older brother Ramli was murdered during this time.  Many family members of those killed have lived in fear and silence.  Adi wants to find out the truth try to remove the fear. 
     The biggest truth that Adi learned is that none of the men involved in the killings feel any remorse for what they did?  They talk freely about their crimes and about killing Ramli.  Many of their family members didn’t know what they did?  Now these men are treated as heroes instead of murderers?  Adi wonders how he can raise his son and daughter in a society with the survivors terrorized into silence about the murders.  Adi and his family moved to the other side of the country to get away from the shadow of the perpetrators.  There still could be danger because many of the men are still in positions of power in the community.  Many times this is difficult to watch.  3* (This movie is OK)

Note:  Imdb 8.3 out of 10, 96% critic 90% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 3 ½*, Amazon 4.5* out of 5* with 43 reviews, Metacritic 92 out of 100 with 29 critics 8.4 out of 10 with 74 critics, 5* out of 5* review by Peter Bradshaw.

103 min, Doc directed by Joshua Oppenheimer with Adi Rukun, M.Y. Basrun, Amir Hasan, Inong, Kemat, Amir Siahaan, Ted Yates.
Special Note:  Filmed in Indonesia.  Joshua Oppenheimer also directed The Act of Killing of 2012 and Silence is a continuation.  On the DVD cover and in the film Adi uses different lenses to test people for their prescriptions for glasses.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Dinner 2017


     This film is based on a book with the same title by Herman Koch.  Paul Lohman is a former elementary school teacher and he goes with his wife Claire to dine with his elder brother and his wife.  Stan is a prominent politician running for office and his wife is Babette.  The restaurant is very fancy with many courses.  While they are dining, the film goes back to earlier history and a crime committed by their teenage sons.  The boys are harassing a homeless woman asleep in an ATM enclosure.  The prank gets out of hand and the security camera films everything.  Paul doesn’t get along with his brother Stan and the dinner doesn’t go well.
     I don’t know what it is but about a dinner and the movie is BAD!!  I didn’t like Beatriz at Dinner of 2017 and I really didn’t like Carnage of 2011.  I didn’t like anything about this film.  It wasn’t worth watching from the beginning, it doesn’t get any better and possibly it gets worse.  It’s better to complete any dreaded chore than watch this film!!  It’s a total waste of 120 minutes of your life that you will never get back!!!  Even the menu, the restaurant and the servers are annoying!!  1* (I hated this movie) (I rarely give only 1*!!)

120 min, Crime directed by Oren Moverman with Michael Chernum, Taylor Rae Almonte, Steve Coogan, Laura Linney, Richard Gere, Rebecca Hall, Charlie Plummer, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Miles J. Harvey, Laura Hajek, George Shepher, Adepero Oduye, Joel Bissonnette, Chloe Sevigny, Patrick Kevin Clark, Emma R. Mudd.

Note:  Imdb 4.5 out of 10, 51% critic 18% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 1 ½*, Metacritic 58 out of 100 with 27 critics 4.4 out of 10 with 18 reviews.
Special Note:  Herman Koch, the author of the book walked away from the European premier in Berlin on February 10, 2017.  He didn’t stay for the after-party and he didn’t talk to the director, cast members or the audience.  He didn’t like the movie at all because the script transferred his cynical story into a moral tale.  There have been three movies made from his book and he said this one “is easily the worst!!”  There was a Dutch film in 2013 and an Italian film in 2014.  Both of these films received and were nominated for numerous awards.  Koch didn’t like the didactical tone (teaching in an annoying or unwanted manner) and references to the themes of American violence and the stigma of mental illness.  Originally Cate Blanchett was selected as director but Oren Moverman replaced her.  Another annoying element of this film is in the background is the Apple Alert Sound during the entire movie!!  WHY!!!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Going in Style 2017


     This film is a remake of a 1979 movie directed by Martin Brest with George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg.  Joe, Willie and Albert are living on meager social security checks and retirement from the company they all worked for.  Willie learns his kidneys are very bad and he needs a transplant.  Joe is going to have his house foreclosed on soon.  They all learn that their retirement checks are stopping because the company is closing.  Joe is in the bank that has his mortgage and there is a robbery.  Three men make off with a LOT of money and the FBI does not catch them.  The elderly men decide they can rob a bank too and see if they can get away with it?
     Joe, Willie and Albert don’t know anything about robbing banks!!  They just feel cheated by life and if they want a piece of pie for dinner, they want to have one.  They don’t want to think they can’t have the pie because they are too poor to afford it!!  Joe can’t give up his house because his daughter and granddaughter live with him.  Where will they go??  The men could spend the rest of their lives in prison but they will get a free place to live, free food and better healthcare than they have now?  What’s to loose with that??  3 ½* (I liked this movie)

Note:  96 min, Comedy directed by Zach Braff with Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, Ann-Margaret, Matt Dillon, Richie Moriarty, Josh Pais, John Ortiz, Jorge Chapa, Joey King, Maria Dizzia, Christopher Lloyd, Anthony Chisholm, Jeremy Bobb.

Note:  Imdb 6.6 out of 10, 49% critic 58% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon 4.4* out of 5* with 405 reviews, Roger Ebert 2 1/2*, Metacritic 50 out of 100 with 31 critics 5.9 out of 10 with 67 reviews, Rolling Stone 2* out of 4*.
Special Note:  The movie the three guys are watching the night before the robbery is Dog Day Afternoon of 1975 and it’s about a botched bank robbery.  George Burns discovered Ann-Margaret in 1960.  The name of the bank is the Williamsburg Savings Bank.  There was a real bank with this name but it was taken over by HSBC Bank.  The bank interior shots were actually filmed in the WSB building in Brooklyn, New York and this building has landmark status.  Supposedly, the money was more than $2 million dollars.  They carried out the money in a few duffel bags?  This amount of mixed denomination bills could not fit into these bags.  It they did fit, the bags would weigh hundreds or thousands of pounds?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Sunset Boulevard 1950


     The setting of this film is Hollywood, California during the 1950’s.  Joe Gillis writes screenplays but he’s fallen on hard times.  He can’t pay the payments on his car and two men are sent to repossess.  He ditches them when they come to his apartment but then sees them on the highway going home.  He gets a flat tire and parks his car in the empty garage of a mansion on Sunset Boulevard.  He thinks the house is abandoned.  Actress Norma Desmond lives there with her butler/driver Max Von Mayerling.  Norma invites Joe to move into the mansion and help her to write a screenplay for her acting comeback.
     Many of the silent film stars attending the premiere of this film recognized personal details of how they really lived!!  The butler was formerly a director and he is living a life lived by other silent film directors.  Many stars and directors were not able to transition from silent films to talkies.  They were left by the wayside and didn’t work again.  This didn’t stop them from thinking about their former careers and dreaming about returning to film.  One of the movies screened at the mansion by Norma for Joe is Queen Kelly of 1928 directed by von Stroheim.  He directed two sound films and that was the end of his career.  4 ½* (I loved this movie) 
      
110 min, Drama directed by Billy Wilder with William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, Fred Clark, Lloyd Gough, Jack Webb, Franklyn Farnum, Larry J. Blake, Charles Dayton, Cecil B. DeMille, Hedda Hopper, Buster Keaton, Anna Q. Nilsson, H.B. Warner, Ray Evans, Jay Livingston, Fred Aldrich, Joel Allen.

Note:  Imdb 8.5 out of 10, 98% critic 95% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 4*, The Telegraph 5* out of 5*, Amazon 4.8* out of 5* with 675 reviews.
Special Note:  Filmed in Los Angeles and West Hollywood, California.  Joe drives a 1946 Plymouth DeLuxe convertible and this model was produced from 1946-50.  Originally, Montgomery Clift was to play Joe but he quit because he was having an affair with a wealthy middle-aged former actress.  He didn’t want this information revealed.  Gloria Swanson was Paramount’s top star for 6 years in a row.  She was 53 when she made this film and her character was 50.  She was a health nut and protected her skin from the sun.  When she looks in the mirror, it reflects smooth skin instead of a face with wrinkles.  Actually, the mansion was located at 3810 Wilshire on the corner of Crenshaw and Irving Blvd.  William Jenkins built the house in 1924 and at a cost of $250,000.  The divorced wife of the second owner, Jean Paul Getty, rented it to Paramount for this film.  It was torn down in 1956 and a large office building for Getty Oil was built on the site.  This film is number 12 on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Greatest American Films.  There is also a book, On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Ottoman Lieutenant 2017


     Lillie lives in the United States and she has become disillusioned by ongoing injustice in this country.  She sails for Casablanca after she meets Jude.  He’s an American doctor and he runs a remote medical mission within the Ottoman Empire.  Lillie sails with a truck she is donating.  It belonged to her brother and he died.  She is also bringing medical supplies for the mission.  Lillie doesn’t know that this area is on the brink of WWI, supposedly the war to end all wars.  Lillie becomes enamored with a lieutenant in the Ottoman Imperial Army.  This event will require her to must make a decision?
     This film is too much like a soap opera?  This could be a Hallmark story of love, war, genocide and death???  How can a film co-produced by a Turkish Company deal with a genocide they say never happened?  Eastern Sunrise Films was the production company and they have offices in Istanbul, Turkey and Los Angeles, California.  The only good thing about this film is the scenery of the area.  I thought The Promise of 2017 with the same subject was much better!!  2 ½* (This movie is so-so)  
      
106 min, Drama directed by Joseph Ruben with Michiel Huisman, Hera Hilmar, Josh Hartnett, Ben Kingsley, Haluk Bilginer, Affif Ben Badra, Paul Barrett, Jessica Turner, Peter Hosking, Selcuk Yontem, Eliska Slansky, Hasan Say, Deniz Kilic Flak.

Note:  Imdb 7 out of 10, 19% critic 53% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 1*, Metacritic 26 out of 100 with 13 critics 9.4 out of 10 with 206 reviews, Amazon 3.4* with 57 reviews. 
Special Note:  Filmed in Cappadocia, Istanbul, Van, Nigde and Nevsehir, Turkey; Prague, Czech Republic.   

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life 2016


     This film is based on one of the books from the Middle School book series written by James Patterson and published in 2011.  Rafe Katchadorian has been expelled from all the middle schools he has attended.  He’s on the last school in his area and there is a chance he could be expelled from this one too?  Principal Dwight has a LOT of rules for HIS school.  Rafe decides he will try to break every one of the rules.  He is going to do this secretly just in case he might not be expelled?  Rafe’s brother passed away from cancer, his father couldn’t handle this loss and he left the family.  Jules, Rafe’s mother doesn’t know what she will do if Rafe is expelled again?
     There are a LOT of funny moments in this movie.  Some of the action is animated.  Many times teens have trouble with rules but they don’t take the drastic actions shown here.  A good movie for this age group as long as they don’t decide to copy the rule breaking!!  3* (This movie is OK)

82 min, Family directed by Steve Carr with Griffin Gluck, Lauren Graham, Alexa Niesenson, Andrew Daly, Thomas Barbusca, Retta, Adam Pally, Luke Hardeman, Jessi Goei, Jacob Hopkins, Patrick Fagan, Isabela Moner, Isabella Amara, Efren Ramirez.

Note:  Imdb 6.1 out of 10, 58% critic 58% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon Video 4.4* out of 5* with 295 reviews DVD 4.7* out of 5* with 70 reviews, Metacritic 51 out of 100 with 13 critics 6.2 out of 10 with 20 reviews,
Special Note:  Filmed in Atlanta, Georgia.  There is a mistake in this film.  Georgia, Rafe’s younger sister is driving a car and she hits several dumpsters.  The dumpsters would not be able to go up straight or as high as shown.  This film was nominated for the 2017 Annie Award for Best Animated Special Production.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Anomalisa 2015


     Michael stone is a self-help book author and he travels to Cincinnati, Ohio to give a speech to promote his book.  His book is about customer service.  Michael practices his speech in his hotel room and he has notes to follow during the presentation.  Despite his preparation, Michael seems to stumble, mumble and undermine his credibility during his speech.  He somewhat stays on topic but rambling enters into his pauses.   
     There seems to be more reality to this film because of the subject and the animated characters.  This is an adult film and Michael has a LOT of problems!!  He seems to be suffering from despair and could be having a mid-life crises?  He specializes in customer service but he’s unable to deeply interact with other people?  He feels his own life is too repetitive but he has a lack of interest?  He has low sensitivity to excitement.  He smokes too much and he drinks too much.  If he’s not on an expense account, he also spends freely?  He contacts a female friend he hasn’t seen in a long time.  They meet at a bar but that ends badly.  How could it not if he can’t interact with another person?  It seems strange for all the other characters to be voiced by Tom Noonan including the women but this becomes understandable because of how Michael sees people.

90 min, Animation directed by Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman with the voices of David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan.

Note:  Imdb 7.2 out of 10, 91% critic 70% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 3 1/2*, Amazon 2.9* out of 5* with 464 reviews, The Guardian 5* review by Peter Bradshaw, Metacritic 88 out of 100 with 46 critics 7.5 out of 10 with 250 reviews, EmpireOnline 5*.
Special Note:  Kickstarter.com crowd-funded this film.  Charlie Kaufman was screenwriter and executive producer on Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  The name of the hotel where Michael stays is the Fregoli.  The definition of this word is delusion of doubles.  This word offers the explanation of why all other characters are voiced by Tom Noonan.  It’s a rare disorder causing a person to have a delusional belief that different people are actually a single person.  This person changes their appearance or is in disguise to only look different but is remains the same person.  Someone with the disorder believes the person they continually see is persecuting them?  Aboulomania is also a condition affecting the ability to function socially.  This is the first R-rated animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.  Duke Johnson is the co-director and he said one scene required six months to animate!!  The character Michael is in every scene except for the last one. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

My Life as a Zucchini 2016


     This film is adapted from a novel by Gilles Paris and was also made into a live-action French drama in 2004.  The boy’s real name is Icare but he prefers Courgette as his nickname and he is a nine-years-old.  Courgette actually means Zucchini in Britain, Ireland and New Zealand.  He has been living in an attic with his single drunken mother living downstairs.  She disappears and Courgette is taken to a community foster home.  There are are several other orphans his age living at the home.  At first, everything seems very strange and he doesn’t fit in.  He does receive some bullying but it starts to get better.  Raymond, the police officer that took him to the new home begins to help him.  Once he settles in he does find friends at the small orphanage. 
     There are heart-breaking and sad moments but also times of life getting better with normalcy.  This film is for both children and adults.  It can provide ideas for later discussions about how children can have different families and lives than the one the viewing family is living.  It can be bad for a while but it also can turn around and be better than before.  3 ½* (I liked this movie)   
    
70 min, Animation directed by Claude Barras with the voices of Gaspard Schlatter, Sixtine Murat, Paulin Jaccoud, Michel Vuillermoz, Paul Ribera, Estelle Hennard, Elliot Sanchez, Lou Wick, Brigitte Rosset, Monica Budde, Adrien Barazzone.

Note:  Imdb 7.8 out of 10, 98% critic 87% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 3 1/2* out of 4*, Amazon 4.2* out of 5* with 64 reviews, Metacritic 85 out of 100 with 28 critics 8.3 out of 10 with 36 reviews, The Guardian 5* out of 5* review by Mark Kermonde 4* out of 5* review by Peter Bradshaw, Rolling Stone 3 ½* out of 4*.
Special Note:  Filmed in Rhone-Alpes Studios, Lyon, France.  This film was the official submission of Switzerland for Best Foreign Language Film in 2017 for the Academy Awards.  Top jury and audience prizes were received at Annecy, Melbourne and Angouleme.  The filming process used is stop-motion.  The characters are pop-eyed plasticine figures.  The title in French is ma vie de courgette.

This Land of Mine 2015


     The setting of this film is Denmark of 1945 after the defeat of Germany.  The title in Danish is Under Sandet.  Sergeant Carl Rasmussen is assigned by Lieutenant Ebbe Jensen to remove 2.2 million land mines.  The location of the mines is the Danish West Coast.  The beaches will remain unsafe until all the mines are removed.  A group of teenage German prisoners of war are sent to do the clearing.  Carl tells the boys that they will be released to return to Germany after their job is finished.  In the beginning, Carl feels very hostile towards the boys and other Danes feel the same.  Then he starts to realize they are just boys and he feels better about working with them plus treating them better. 
      In the planning stages of where to set up these mines, Hitler must have thought that an Allied invasion would come to this beach?  This area is the closest land point to Berlin.  60,000 mines were placed along this beach.  There is a map listing the locations and kinds of mines.  Every inch of the beach still needed to be tested because there may have been mistakes on the map.  The Germans occupied Denmark for five years.  This must have left a very bad impression on the Danish people!!   There are 14 boys that were drafted near the end of the war and they are in the 15 to 17 year-old range.  I thought the boys should’ve been sent home and the defeated German soldiers over the age of 21 sent to remove the mines.  Possibly, the Danes were confident only one sergeant could handle the boys and more men would be required to supervise adults?  3 ½* (I liked this movie)
100 min, Drama directed by Martin Zandvliet with Roland Moller, Louis Hofmann, Joel Basman, Mikkel Boe Folsgaard, Laura Bro, Zoe Zandvliet, Mads Riisom, Oskar Bokelmann, Emil and Oskar Belton, Leon Seidel, Karl Alexander Seidel, Tim Bulow.

Note:  Imdb 7.8 out of 10, 90% critic 88% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 3*, Amazon 4.5* out of 5* with 106 reviews, Metacritic 75 out of 100 with 26 critics 7.8 out of 10 with 32 reviews, EmpireOnline 3* out of 5*, The Guardian 3* out of 5* review by Peter Bradshaw.

Special Note:  Filmed in Vejers and Blavand in the Danish North Sea Nature Park, Municipality of Varde and Oksbollejre, Jylland, Denmark.  Filming took place at historically authentic locations.  The use of German children for post WW2 mine sweeping really happened in 1945.  Historians declared this the worst case of war crimes ever conducted by the Danish state.  According to the Geneva Convention it is explicitly forbidden that any Prisoner of War be forced to perform dangerous and/or unhealthy labor.  A Danish sergeant leads the mine clearing operation but historically British forces controlled the missions and German Officers commanded each team.  It is believed that more than 2,000 German soldiers were forced to remove mines and nearly half lost their lives or limbs.  In the film, the young actors didn’t know when or if they will be killed off.  They were sent home each time they were killed in a scene.  The actors felt lonely and isolated similar to the real boys  as filming continued.  Selected as Denmark’s submission for the Foreign Language Film Award at the 89th Academy Awards. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

American Wrestler: The Wizard 2016


     This film is based on true events.  Ali Jahani is seventeen years old.  He was smuggled out of Iran to save his life after the Iran hostage crisis.  Ali is having a difficult time in high school because he’s not like the other students.  He wants to fit in but the other teens are putting a lot of pressure on him.  He is living with his uncle and even his uncle is giving him a hard time.  Ali decides to take up wrestling to somehow fit in.  His uncle turns around too because he is a former wrestler.
     I can understand why Ali is having such a difficult time blending in with other students.  It doesn’t help that America is very angry at Iran because of the hostage crisis.  There are many news items on television and in the newspapers about America should send everyone from Iran back home.  The wrestling does offer him an advantage.  3* (This movie was OK)

117 min, Drama directed by Alex Ranarivelo with William Fichtner, Ali Afshar, Lia Marie Johnson, Garbriel Basso, Jon Voight, Sasha Feldman, Iyad Hajjaj, Chase Mowen, Kevin G. Schmidt, Nicholas Guilak, Shannon Collis, Karina Andrews.

Note:  Imdb 7.2 out of 10, 95% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon 4.7* out of 5* with 108 reviews, ThatMomentInTime 4* out of 5*.
Special Note:  Filmed in Petaluma, Tomales and Santa Rosa, California.  There is also a character named Principal Skinner in The Simpsons.  On November 4. 1979, Iranian students stormed the US Embassy in Tehran.  They took more than 60 Americans as hostages.  They were released 444 days later on January 21, 1981.  They were released just hours after President Ronald Regan took office.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Colonial House 2004


      A group of seventeen men, women, young adults and children arrive in Maine to live as original settlers of Plymouth Colony in 1628.  Three houses were provided on the property and later the colonists built a fourth house.  Chickens, goats, casks of ship’s biscuit, 500 lbs of salted fish, 1000 lbs of salted pork.  Also provided, 1 firkin (40.9 liters) of wine, 1 firkin of aqua vitae and a keg of beer.  The colonists traded with the Passamaquoddy people to secure seed corn to be planted in a large field near the settlement. 
      The people selected to serve as colonists were probably screened prior to their selection?  There is a couple included in this TV settlement that initially attended the Sunday services.  Later, they refused to attend and they were reprimanded by the settlement Governor.  Then they were asked to wear a letter representing their failure to attend.  Finally, it became accepted that they would not attend and this became a thorn in the community!!  The actual original English colonists in Maine established the Popham Plantation at the mouth of the Kennebec River in 1607.  Puritan Separatists initially known as the Brownish Emigration later became known as the Pilgrims.  Most of the citizens of Plymouth fled religious persecution and were looking for a place to worship as they saw fit.  I don't believe some of the soap opera drama in the series would've happened in an actual settlement in this time period?    3 1/2* (I liked this series)
 
60 min, 8 episodes, TV Mini-Series, aired on PBS with Jonathon Allen, Julia Friese, Carolyn and Don Heinz, Amy-Kristian Herbert, Paul Hunt, Jack Lecza, Jeff Lin, Dominic Muir, Michelle Rossi and John Voorhees, Giacomo Voorhees, Clare Samuels, Danny Tisdale, Craig Tuminaro, Dave and Debby Verdecia, Emily and Maddison Verdecia, Tony Verdecia, Kathryn Walker, Don Wood, Amy, Bethany and David Wyers, Jeff and Tammy Wyers.  Additional colonists were Jeff Lin, Dave, Debbie, Maddie and Tony Verdecai, Craig, Clare Samuels, Jack Lecza. 
Titles for episodes are A New World, Harsh Reality, City of God, The Outsiders, Regime Change, The Shake Up, The Reckoning, Judgment Day.

Note:  Imdb 7.5 out of 10, Amazon 3.3* out of 5* with 54 reviews.
Special Note:  Filmed in Machias, Maine on a 1000-acre isolated area.  Also, in this area were several members of the current Passamaquoddy tribe of Maine.  Later members of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe set up a nearby camp.  Historians from Plimoth Plantation and Emerson Baker of Salem State College, an archaeologist and Maine Historian, aided in making the setting as accurate as possible.  There were thousands of applicants for the project.  Most were American but there are also some British citizens.  The owners brought two dogs into the settlement, Henry (a white dog) and Chloe (a brown dog).

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.