Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Hunger Games: The Mockingjay: Part 1

Clearly a placeholder film. I mean, it has a place holder in the title (Part 1). So go in with your expectations set at that level, and this is a fine film. Katniss is now in District 13, having been rescued after the escape from the games in Catching Fire. Peeta is not in District 13, having been left behind by the rescuers and forthwith captured by the Capital. President Snow plays his part en pointe, as a friendly, grandpa sort of evil tyrant. Katniss resists and then develops a driving need to be part of the revolution. Great scenery, costumes, etc. Well written, etc. I suppose what makes it a placeholder is that we get no conflict arc. We know the conflict will not be resolved, so it is a slow amping up of the tension. We just have to wait... for a year... I think I will appreciate this series when I watch all four in a marathon next christmas.
3 stars (out of 5)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


The 2005 released Hong-Kong action thriller (not the Veronica Roth dystopian Chicago future film released this year). This is the story of a grieving cop chasing the murderer of his witness, the lawyer who protects the suspected mastermind, and the hitman who pulled the trigger. An engaging little tryptic that feels like three independently woven stories even though it is clearly one story. And is it possible for a film to be engaging and enjoyable, and entirely forgettable at the same time? Seems like it had nothing substantive to offer.
3 stars (out of 5)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Equalizer

Denzel Washington is a guy with some serious special forces skills who has retired and is living the quiet life. Well, he doesn't sleep much, so he is always reading in the middle of the night in a diner. When another regular gets in trouble, he helps her out. Since the trouble has a lot to do with human trafficking, the help has a lot to do with hunting down bad guys and killing them. In this helping, Washington apparently finds his post military vocation. There will probably be a sequel and he will probably have business cards by then. And I will probably see it.
3 stars (out of 5)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Way Back

The story of prisons of the Soviet gulag and the prisoners within them. A few escape and walk south to get out of Russia. They walk through Tibet, China (gobi desert), the Himalayas into India. These are not all nice, falsely accused political prisoners. But over their 4000 mile walk, they learn to trust each other. The story is fascinating (similar to Unbroken) in how much abuse a body and mind can endure. And it is fascinating how different characters interpret loyalty, to each other and to place.
4 stars (out of 5)

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Peter O'Toole is a famous stage and film actor at the end of his career (he gets roles laying in hospital beds). When he is introduced to (takes under his wing) the niece of a colleague, his world is changed. We have a lot of the typical "you're old - I'm young" miscommunication and misunderstanding. But O'Toole is also bright enough to recognize that he doesn't get it, but can enjoy the ride anyway. Made me laugh a couple times...
3 stars (out of 5)

Friday, October 17, 2014


In the 80's, the conservative party of Margaret Thatcher was in a bitter dispute with the labor unions of the coal miners. Mining communities were hit hard by an extended strike and were not getting good press. Into this frying pan, a group of young men and women in London created an organization called Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. They adopted one particular small community, raised  money in London, traveled to the community to offer their solidarity. Clearly the miners prejudice was a roadblock to accepting the help. In the end, everything works out (of course, this is a movie). This was over the top and exaggerated the differences between the two groups for effect. And we wrapped up those differences in short order. So while this is clearly not a documentary, it is a puffy feel good piece that is based on the true story. And perhaps the most inspirational part is the end, when we find that the miners union later went on to support gay rights.
4 stars (out of 5)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Sword with No Name

In rural Korea a local guy decides that it is up to him to protect the queen. He trains himself and basically stalks her to insure that no harm can come to her. Obvious conflicts arise with the official guard, until he is hired. Then he needs to work his way into her personal guard. Along the way, he falls in love and ... lost interest... not a compelling story and mediocre martial arts scenes.
1 star (out of 5)