Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Book of Life

An animated story telling of the Mexican festival of the day of the dead. Brilliant colors, clever story. Entertaining for all ages. Watched this right after watching photos of my parents recent trip to Mexico and the animated coloring was not exaggerated at all.
4 stars (out of 5)

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Living on One Dollar

Two econ grad students are studying global wage distribution and decide they need to experience global wage inequity first hand. They travel to rural Guatemala, move into a small village, and plan to live for 8 weeks on 1 dollar per day. They actually do it pretty well to mimic real world scenarios, with a variable daily income that will average $1. They set about renting a house, and getting a bit of instruction on how to plant radishes as a cash crop. All told, this isn't a perfect portrayal (they get to opt out of the system when one of them gets sick and pull out the "emergency drugs"), but it really does reflect what life is like in rural Guatemala. Well worth seeing, and only one hour long.
4 stars (out of 5)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Top Five

Chris Rock is the lead character, playing a comedic, big-screen actor who is interested in becoming a serious big-screen actor. His fiance is a reality TV super-star whose entire life is public. The premise of the film is that Rock is being shadowed by a journalist doing an entertainment piece trying to find out what really makes the comedian tick. Throughout, comedians make appearances and the running discussion is "list your top five rappers". Turns out that this is a moderately interesting look at comedy, confidence, and self worth. But moderately interesting does not mean hilarious or thought provoking or worth your time.
2 stars (out of 5)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Wild

I didn't read the book, but having recently seen another single woman trek in the wilderness film (Tracks), which I really liked, I was up for another adventure. Here Reese Witherspoon plays the woman who is using the Pacific Coast Trail as her personal therapy. She is walking from Mojave to Washington state to change her life after losing her mother and (apparently) making some poor life decisions. Unfortunately, the film is more focused on the backstory of the daughter/mother relationship than about the adventure travel. We get 1-2 minutes of walking followed by 5-6 minutes of flashback. We didn't really ever sink into the true physical enormity of making this walk, or the emotional strength needed to maintain forward momentum. It could have been so much better.
2 stars (out of 5)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Annie

Ouch. Went to see this with my niece and nephews. They had been in a production of Annie, so they were ready for the real deal. This wasn't it. As a musical, I suppose you expect good music. Even the 11 year old with me commented on how bad the singing was. Even so, the end result is that I found my self mildly entertained, but for all the wrong reasons. This is not a film where you laugh at the jokes. This is a film where you laugh at the film and the decisions that were made about what the jokes were. If you embrace "laughing at" instead of "laughing with", you will get through it.
2 stars (out of 5)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Firestorm

A Chinese police thriller that follows Lieutenant Liu through a case that becomes increasingly personal. His crime squad is on the hunt for a brazen gang of thieves that are pulling daring armored car heists in the middle of Hong Kong. His "by-the-book" approach is starting to make him (and others) think that he will never be able to prove that is prime suspect is involved. As the stakes escalate, so does the ethical ambiguity. In addition to being a quality police procedural/action film, I also enjoyed watching the struggle of this character as he balanced justice, what he "knows to be true" and even over time, the adjustment of that knowledge as he encounters facts. I must say, I also appreciated the visual effects of adding tracer bullets to the gun battles. I saw that explicitly for the first time in Fury and now again here. It sure does remove some of the seeming chaos from a shoot out scene.
4 stars (out of 5)

Mercenaries

This film is a good concept. A kidnapping victim needs to get rescued, but the entire strength of the US Department of Defense can't figure out a way to stage an operation. So the CIA releases four women from prison to make a rescue team. It is a classic technique, with each member chosen for their specific skills. It worked for Dirty Dozen, Mission Impossible, and a host of other films. The twist here it that it is an all female team. However, you can tell from the opening line that this is a B-movie. Story, acting, and production quality are all 2nd or 3rd tier. Alas...
2 stars (out of 5)