Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Other Woman

Cameron Diaz finds out that her boyfriend is actually married to Leslie Mann. They meet accidentally and strike up a strange friendship. Actually, Mann stalks Diaz for awhile trying to find answers about why her marriage ended with a cheating husband. In the process of their sorting out their friendship, they discover Kate Hudson is yet another girlfriend. So of course, the revenge plan commences. This feels a little bit like Home Alone repurposed for the midlife crisis. And with that image, you can guess how everything turns out. Moderately entertaining diversion.
3 stars (out of 5)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Trainwreck

I don't get the fascination with this film. Amy Schumer plays a professionally successful woman who has decided that relationships are impossible, so all relationships should be one night stands. This comes from her opening scene 'Monogamy is not realistic' mantra that her father ingrains into her and her sister. So the film becomes a series of drunken relationships and confusion about the lack of life satisfaction that they give. The film is only moderately comedic (it relies on all the tired stereotypes) and the characters are shallow and really uninteresting. Maybe I watched it "too late" after the cultural hype was dead. But if this is the case, if the only reason this was "good" was because of a flash in the pan cultural hype, then I guess it was not really good at all.
2 stars (out of 5)

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Huntsman: Winter's War

A sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman, from four years ago. Let's start with my initial reaction in the theater. I knew it was a sequel, but for the first 30 minutes I felt like I should have known more than I did. The story required that I remember some plot details from four years ago. And while a Morgan Freeman narration did what it could to provide a setting, in fact the only result was him reminding me how much I should remember, but didn't. Lesson: If your sequel is four years later for a barely-moderately successful film, don't assume anyone remembers, and don't assume a voice-over will help anyone remember. Once we settled in, the film has given some backstory on the huntsmen and why they were created and who they were. As I write this, I am thinking there are some pretty significant timeline issues with this backstory and how it fits in with the original Snow White. But I digress... this is a fairy tale with a basic question: Will love conquer all? Since it is a fairy tale that must, by definition, end happily-ever-after, you know the answer. With a great tale, the journey is epic. The journey, in this case, is only adequate. I am not sure if I am aging out of the target audience age-group and I would have really liked this more 10 years ago? Or is this just a middling, quarter-good attempt at some action-fairytale fare? Not yet wanting to give up on my fantasy-action-loving youth, I am going to stick with the later at this point.
2 stars (out of 5)

A Hologram for the King

Tom Hanks is a salesman for an IT firm that has developed next generation teleconferencing technology. He is in Saudi Arabia to pitch his company to be the sole provider of IT for a brand new (actually in-process) planned community. The planned community is a pet project for the King, hence the film name. Once in country, Hanks encounters resistance and unexpected delays, along with unexpected friendships and self discovery. In fact, the way this plays out, the film is not exciting, or comic, or romantic. It is instead a pretty mundane slice of life for a middle-aged, middle-manager. Hanks is discovering some things about himself, but they are not epiphanies. He is gradually sliding into deeper understandings of his relationship with his daughter, his career, his failed marriage. In many ways, the plot contrivances are absurd. At the same time, they come together to create a rather plain film that in many ways presents a more realistic path to self discovery than most films. Not sure if "pleasant" is praise for a film, but that really is what this was -- pleasant.
3 stars (out of 5)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Sing Street

Fabulous. Set in Dublin, the story of a boy (Cosmo) who changes schools and begins to discover who he is. His older brother is a dropout, musician wanna-be who lives at home, smokes alot, and continues to give him advice about music, girls and life. Cosmo, in order to get the girl, decides to start a band. The film basically follows the development of this band as they traverse the 80's genres (Duran Duran, The Cure, Hall and Oats, The Jam, etc.), using these bands to fine tune their sound as well as their look. It is quite fun to see the entire band changing its look from one week to the next as they encounter another influence. Fun music and the outstanding flavor provided by all the surrounding characters in the school makes this pure fun.
5 stars (out of 5)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Hello, My Name is Doris

Sally Field plays Doris. She is an aging spinster who is dealing with the recent death of her mother. She finds herself falling for the new 20-something director of marketing where she works. She gets some help from the 13-year old granddaughter of her best friend (facebook, concert tix, etc.) and makes her move. Equal parts cheesy and grimace (oh no, don't do that). As a comedy, it plays like a series of caricatures and one liners that induce laughs. But it does not hold together as a good film. The relationship that Doris is seeking comes from a place of true loneliness and here is used simply as a setup for laughs. You will get a much better treatment of this same material (aging, loneliness, relationship, coming of age regardless of generation) with the excellent Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont.
3 stars (out of 5)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Eye in the Sky

This was a difficult film to watch. But also important. It is an extremely well done presentation of the behind the scenes actions around drone strikes. I understand that everyone who sees this will see it through their own political and moral lens, somewhere between a moral tragedy and necessary heroic actions. The film itself dives into the political/moral morass explicitly through the presentation of a single military mission in two hours of real time viewing, which probably realistically reflects actual stress and drama. What starts out as a capture mission changes to a kill mission, with Helen Miren as the hawkish British Colonel leading the mission and Alan Rickman the general managing the politicians. The most telling statement of the film was the response by a political figure to the question "You would save this one collateral damage and suffer the risk of up to 80 deaths?" Her response ... "Yes". Unequivocally. Collateral damage is not acceptable. Imagine if we could create a world, by making daily difficult decisions, that values every individual life at every moment. Is it ever worth trading one life now for many, or potentially many, in the future? My answer is no. And so you see my bent. We think we can predict the future, so we think we can do the moral accounting and achieve the greater good. But what we, humanity, has never been able to achieve on a significant scale is to value the current life, and let that value system change the future. Even here, the filmmakers do an excellent job of letting us sit with the implications of the mission. We see many possible futures resulting from every decision made, and we are left to sit with the tragedy of these decisions, and second guess every one. And in the end, where do we come down? The power and ego that is wielded with the drone weapons are not acceptable in a civilization that I want to be part of. Everyone should see this film.
5 stars (out of 5)