Saturday, August 9, 2014

Ink

The setting for this film is both "realworld" and "dreamworld". So automatically, you know there are going to be some weird things going on. Ink is a character that lives in dreamworld. He has traveled to realworld and stolen the soul of a girl. The entire story is one of battle between the Incubus (purveyors of bad dreams) and storytellers (givers of good dreams), with Ink and his stolen soul in the middle. We jump back and forth between the two worlds, and in time (from present to flashback and back again). This is a fascinating creative exploration of what the dreamworld might look like and how the human mind and sub-conscious work to provide meaning and motivation to our lives. In that respect, very similar to the mind-bending books like The Lathe of Heaven and Going Bovine.

4 stars (out of 5)

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

I used to love reading the Tom Clancy novels, so any Jack Ryan film adaptations that are reasonably good are high on the nostalgia rating for me. In this iteration, Ryan is just recruited into the CIA and on his first operational assignment (to save the world, of course). Spoiler Alert -- he does. I appreciated how understated this film was. The actions scenes were not over the top, but filmed instead with a "realistic" bent. So no one guy v. twelve in a fist fight. My favorite scene was also really a character scene, when Ryan is doing his analysis mojo while his fiance (Kiera Knightly) looks on. I loved how, with a few facial expressions she was able to portray the realization that "Oh my god, this is what he does, and he is really good at it, I love that I get to watch this". Kinda lame, but that made the whole movie for me.

3 stars (out of 5)

The Hundred-Foot Journey

A fusion food movie integrating Indian and French culture and cuisine. Hasan and his family have moved from Mumbai to Europe to try to start over in the restaurant business. They land in Rotterdam in a run down building directly across the street from Helen Miren's fancy traditional French restaurant. Of course there are culture clashes, and a minor food war between the restaurants. Yet while this is a film about food and chefs, it is more about culture and relationship, with the food taking a supporting role. This is unfortunate since the storyline tends to meander without the focus on one thing (2 hours could have been 90 min) and the best part of the film is the slo-mo and close-up filming of food preparation. No actors, and often not even hands. Just the food being chopped, poured, sliced and spritzed. These film scenes also provide the most vivid color and action and yet we see none of it in the second half. Even with these limitations, the film consistently pulled a laugh out of me.

3 stars (out of 5)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Family

Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer star in this dark comedy about a family in witness protection. De Niro testified against his mob friends in New York, so his witness protection needs are extreme. So much so that the family and their permanent federal protectors are in France. But the entire family is a bit wacky, with the mom burning down a grocery store when the owner is rude, the kids taking over the school black market, etc. When the mob finds them (was that really a spoiler?) everybody chips in to save themselves from certain death. It is quirky, and subtle and dark. And moderately fun.

3 stars (out of 5)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Neighbors

Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne v. Zac Efron. Young married with children next door to ultimate frat guy. Let the hi-jinks begin. Rogan and Byrne try to make friends, try to fit in with the frat guys, try to out smart them, try to ignore them, try to outprank them. Unfortunately, I didn't find much of it funny. Byrne has a bit of a whiny, baby-talk voice that just annoys me and Rogan's chuckling doofus is a bit tired. And/Or I am getting old and am no longer the target audience for college party humor.

2 stars (out of 5)

In the Blood

This Gina Carano vehicle puts a husband and wife on their honeymoon in the Caribbean. There is some back story to provide some motivation (both are recovering addicts, he is wealthy, the in-laws don't like her, etc.) but in the end, this is a Gina Carano vehicle. The husband is kidnapped, she tracks down the kidnappers and "holds them accountable". Some pretty good fight sequences, but this is not novel or engaging in any way I hope films would be.

2 stars (out of 5)

The Wolf of Wall Street

This was not a good film. The story of a self made Wall Street stock broker who knows no bounds (including laws) to achieve wealth. The result is a story of excess that is not even fun to watch, but instead is disturbing. As a genre, I might put this in a "horror-realism" category. Maybe I was expecting too much to get entertainment. That said, Leonardo Di Caprio is good, in that he is fully into this role. He is legitimately a money and power crazed narcissist who cannot release himself from the high he gets from power. But you can still tell that it is Leonardo having fun being crazy. I think the voyueristic possibilities of wealthy debauchery were supposed to make up for the not-so-subtly depressing commentary on wealth. It didn't. Depressing won.

2 stars (out of 5)