Monday, September 5, 2016

Bad Moms

I am sitting in the theater with a demographic breakdown as follows: 90% middle age women in groups (presumably moms day out), 9% men with a couple other women (the tagging along dad) and me. I personally found the film mildly entertaining. I found the crowd hilarious. The stereotypes and predictable laugh gags all worked, which does make for a more enjoyable viewing experience. Mila Kunis, is a working mom with two kids, a dog, and a husband who does nothing. When she finds him internet cheating, she kicks him out. She already does everything, but has reached her tipping point and opts out of the "perfect mom" treadmill. In reality, this is a film with a message telling parents that they are actually serving their children better by jumping off this treadmill. It pushes them beyond the entitlement and helps them grow up. At the same time, it gets parents some of their life back. The 'Bad Moms' of the title is recognition that all parents are bad parents, in as much as they are not perfect. But recognizing that, and loving your kid at all costs, means that you are a good parent. The mid-credit outtakes included interview vignettes with the actresses and their real-life moms, which was also cute and heartfelt. Everybody walked of that theater feeling better about themselves.
3 stars (out of 5)

Mechanic Resurrection

I am not sure what people expect of a movie like this, or how you could possible give it a bad rating. You know exactly what you are going to get, so in my opinion if you don't want to see that, don't go. But going to the film, getting what you know it is going to be, and then critiquing it for not being something else is simply not good for your formulaic-tentpole-summer-action-movie-karma. What you do get is Jason Statham reprising his role as The Mechanic. Here he is a retired hit-man who has faked his own death to be left alone. He gets found, and gets coerced by a weapons dealer to assassinate said weapons dealers competition. The coercion in this case is the lovely Jessica Alba, former military operator turned rescuer of children from the Cambodian sex trade. How could you not rescue that? The action is solid Statham (hand to hand, clever chases, impossible break-ins, several opportunities to remove shirts), and the plot is so standard that even the twists are straight up formula. What more could you want?
3 stars (out of 5)

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Sex and the City

Watching it again on HBO as hotel time filler. It has been at least 5 years since watching any of the series or films, so it was fun (nostalgic) to watch again. All the girls helping each other cope with NY and with relationships and with themselves. In many ways, revealing the best parts of true friendships (laugh together, cry together, fight but always make up, etc.) and exposing the insecurities that arise (or continue to exist) as we grow older. Definitely felt dated, in as much as it made me remember a particular phase of life when we watch the show.
4 stars (out of 5)

Friday, September 2, 2016

Catch Me If You Can

The based-on-a-true-story telling of part of Frank Abagnale Jr.'s life as a con man. He started with check fraud and moved on to impersonating pilots, doctors, lawyers and police. DiCaprio plays Abagnale and Tom Hanks plays his nemesis from the FBI. This is a cat & mouse game where the conclusion is foregone (remember: based-on-a-true-story) but the joy is in the journey. 
3 stars (out of 5)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Hard Day

Korean film following the main character of Detective Go Geon-soo. Go is juggling his mothers funeral and an internal affairs investigation into his unit for taking bribes. And then he hits a pedestrian with his car. Freaked out and pressed for time, he covers up the accident and moves ahead to put out his other fires. But the coverup does not go unnoticed and Go is drawn deeper into a corruption scandal that threatens to destroy him and his family. Go, even as a corrupt cop, is the protagonist that we root for here. This is classic Korean style police drama, but feels more 'real' by leaving out the expert martial arts and crazy mafia revenge storylines. Standard, but enjoyable.
3 stars (out of 5)

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Tina Fey vehicle to demonstrate that her abilities extend outside the comedic actress lines and develop her portfolio as a dramatic actress. This film is based on real person Kim Barker. Fey plays Kim Baker, TV journalist copy writer who is sent to Afghanistan in 2003 (since most reporters were in Iraq at that time). She is in way over her head, but develops a network of support and a bit of an addition to the adrenaline of reporting in a war zone. While the film is ostensibly about Baker, it tells a seemingly pretty honest story about Afghanistan, war and the US role there. No progress, lots of corruption, lots of good individual expats, soldiers, locals, all put in a sucky situation and doing their best to continue to be people and live life. We get hints of the arrogance of the West and the polarity of Afghan society. Yes, this was entertaining and superficial. But it is not a war exposé. As a mainstream film, it opens our eyes just a bit to a new way of seeing the world. I liked it more than I thought I would.
4 stars (out of 5)

Southside with You

The story of Michelle Robinson and Barak Obama's first date in Chicago in the 80's. The two are working at the same law firm (her as 2nd year associate, him as a summer intern) and connect one afternoon on their way to a community gathering in the low income Gardens neighborhood. In many ways, this is a sentimental love story that portrays this famous couple in the best possible light, foreshadowing all of their good and righteous characteristics. The plotting was slow enough to allow me time to think throughout, which you can judge as a good or bad thing. During all this thinking, I tried to watch the film as a depiction of random characters instead of the famous ones. If this was a random, fictional story, would it be a good story? Or is it only interesting because of the famous pedigree? How would a Tea Party audience view this film? How would a black audience? A 20 something? I enjoyed the film partially because it was a 'nice story' about a 'nice couple'. I enjoyed it more because it gave me time to ask questions, and to ponder their answers. It led me to wonder about perspective, and about white privilege, and then about responsibility. It let me see passion for social justice and the wax/wane of personal commitment to life values? It showed people question whether actions define values, or whether values can direct action. One of the better discussion films I have seen recently.
4 stars (out of 5)