Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Descendants

Watching this for the second time (see first time here) was still enjoyable. It holds up as a good tragic comedy. What I noticed in particular this time was the island accent. There is a particular lilt to a native Hawaiian speaking that is fun to listen to. If you didn't see this film the first time, see it now.
Still 4 stars (out of 5)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Interview

James Franco and Seth Rogan are entertainment news "stars" and somehow get invited to interview Kim Jung Un. As their chance to do "real news", they accept and are promptly charged by the CIA with assassinating their guest. Clearly intended to be slapstick comedy with a bit of political bite. It doesn't really get either of these right.
1 star (out of 5)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The End of the Affair

The setting: Ralph Fiennes is having an affair with Julianne Moore during WWII in London. When an act of God causes the affair to end, Fiennes hatred, anger and jealousy are exposed as he reintegrates himself into Moore's (and her husbands) life. This is a VERY DRAMATIC film. So much so that it is not any fun. It seems to me that one might have an affair because they are unhappy in their current circumstance. In this situation, the affair would serve to increase happiness. However, there is so much angst here that it seems the affair does not make anyone happier, even on the surface. And when the affair ends the emotional strings are pulled even more taught. I suppose I felt throughout that I was being manipulated to feel. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind feeling. But I prefer to come by it honestly, sans manipulation.
3 stars (out of 5)

Jupiter Ascending

Most recent entry by the Wachowskis (of The Matrix fame) and you can definitely see similar themes. The world created is one where earth is a planet owned by a wealthy family for the sole purpose of harvesting humans. The matriarch of this family has died and there is a bit of a power struggle among the heirs when they discover that Mila Kunis is the true heir (and owner of Earth). So they try to kill her and Channing Tatum is sent to protect her. This is big scale space opera with all the drama and special effects one would expect. I can't say that the acting or the story is high quality. But is was enjoyable. Like The Matrix, what really enjoyed was the meta-theme and social commentary that the film presented. In this case, the Wachowskis are really presenting a critique on capitalism. They do this by taking the principles of capitalism and pushing them to their extreme. How would capitalism work and what arguments would you make if you push it forward into a galactic scale? And in this scenario, capitalism becomes comical (in the tragic sort of way). Wage disparity and power differentials that have been news recently (think Occupy and the 99%) result in ownership of lives as capital in an explicit way. Anytime you can make me think, you get at least
3 stars (out of 5)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Switch

After a pretty good experience with Blended, I took a shot at another romantic comedy. Or should I say half a shot. Jennifer Aniston is having a baby, gathers a sperm donor, and wears her angst and anxiety on her sleeve throughout. When her best friend turns out to be the donor... And then I couldn't watch anymore. Just plain bored. Sorry.
1 star (out of 5)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Small Time

Christopher Meloni is a lifetime used car salesman. The lot that he and his business partner started and built into a successful small business is in many ways, the love of his life. When his son decides to forego college to come learn the trade, he is honored and conflicted. Does he want better for his boy? By admitting yes, does he devalue his own life work? I found this to be an introspective look at family relationships, self-value, identity, and hopes and dreams. A bit of a downer midlife reflection coupled with the anticipation of the next generation pushes this toward a conflicted, emotional ride. I like the realism with which the relationships were portrayed and how the satisfaction and/or disappointment were registered with a glance or a sideways look. Ultimately this is a subtle, yet powerful exploration of identity.
4 stars (out of 5)

Saturday, March 14, 2015


Romantic comedy, Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore. A Brady Bunch scenario with with reluctant parents and cute kids thrown into extraordinary situations (African safari vacation) that somehow turns out to be a them vacation for "Blended Families". In many ways, this plays like an extended PSA sponsored by some agency that wants to provide support for kids whose parents remarry. In other ways, it is a typical (and often cute) romantic comedy that works primarily based on chemistry and authenticity of Sandler and Barrymore in their roles. This is not film, or cinema. But it was mostly entertaining and a decent weekend diversion.
3 stars (out of 5)