Monday, December 31, 2012


Daniel Craig as James Bond. I guess it is just a different Bond than I grew up with, so it will never be THE James Bond. But as a decent action film, very nice. Great chase scenes, a little (very little) bit of intrigue, a bit revealed from the character's history, and some clever humor and nods to the past. I think a Craig-Bardem grudge match is quite interesting, regardless of the characters. Bardem is simply the best sociopath out there right now. He is flat-out creepy. With overall low expectations going in, I can say that all my expectations were fulfilled.

One general observation is that any time I am watching a film and thinking about something else, or about editing or how the film was made, then the film probably missed something. Here it was the green screen. I think it is fair to expect high quality effects in big budget films and when the green screen is low budget enough for me to notice, then someone overlooked the details of their job. When your protagonist is standing on a road overlooking a vista and pondering both past and future, there is no reason for the viewer to be thinking "Wow, that is particularly bad green screen masking". Do I ask for too much for my $12?

3 stars (out of 5)


Very much the same storyline as Lauren Oliver's Delirium trilogy. In the film (released in 2002, well before the book was written) we have a society that has decided that emotion is the root of all evil. As a result, the society has decided to drug all members into a state of senselessness. A special police force is created, called the Clerics, and charged with hunting down and executing all "sense offenders". This includes destroying all nostalgia, art, music, etc. Christian Bale plays the chief cleric and of course, must deal with his own developing emotions. This was an adequate effort, but not extraordinary. For example I wonder, if everyone was really drugged to remove all emotion, why would anyone ever smile or smirk. You either get automatons or you don't. While Bale is generally very good, he didn't have much to work with here. I would have loved to see a bigger role for his kids and the development of those relationships into a bigger portion of the plot. In terms of action, I did appreciate the hand-to-hand combat with pistols. A fine mixture of martial arts with the added necessity of keeping your opponent from ever getting any sort of inside position to allow firing of their weapon. That particular scene was well done. Apparently this never went to wide release in the theaters, so most of us missed it 10 years ago. Thanks Netflix...
3 stars (out of 5)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

This is 40

Or more appropriately, This is 40 minutes too long. I like to think I am the target audience for almost any movie. I can appreciate teen humor, am looking forward to seeing Pitch Perfect, like a good RomCom, historical drama, action spy thriller and will even enjoy the occasional period piece. But I don't get This is 40. I mean, I get that the characters are realizing that not everything is as "good" as it used to be. But does that make a movie. The writing is not clever enough, the plot does not move enough and the jokes are not funny enough to entertain. I chuckled twice. Otherwise, I found myself looking around more often to see facial expressions of those around me. Was I missing something? Unfortunately, no. There was nothing to miss.

2 stars (out of 5)

Sunday, December 9, 2012


While any story of Lincoln is a story about the Civil War, this is more about the 13th amendment abolishing slavery and the political machinations that surrounded its passage. It was not part of my awareness that the amendment passage was so tied to the negotiations to end the war. What I will remember about the process, even though it was not a highlight of the film, is that the continuation or cessation of the war was extremely political and extremely ideological. So even though Lincoln/Seward manipulated peace negotiations to achieve a political goal, it turns out that even when the constitutional abolition of slavery was irreversible,  it still took several months and thousands more lives before the Confederates would surrender. Perhaps the fact that abolition was constitutionally guaranteed by the political process led to a reenergized southern leadership to fight for an ideological win. And there was just enough imagery of war shown to really remember that this was the most brutal of wars. This was not an exciting or even entertaining film. But it was good to see.
3 stars (out of 5) 


Fascinating historical fiction. If you don't know the story, during the Iran hostage situation in the early 80's, several embassy employees escaped capture and hid out with the Canadians. The US government needed a way to get them out of the country. Presumably, if they were discovered, the fact that they were hiding in the first place would support the Iranian government accusation that US embassy employees were spies. Enter Ben Affleck. His CIA character is able to concoct a crazy scheme by which he poses as a location scout for a film, flies into Iran, connects with the hiding Americans and they all fly out together as part of the film scout team. Only sounds crazy, but it was better than the idea of buying the 6 Americans bicycles and asking them to ride 300 miles to the Turkish border where they could try to sneak across.

My own recollection of the actual time and events is limited to seeing lots of yellow ribbons on trees. I have to memory of the story portrayed here. I also have to memory of the footage that was shown on public news. Affleck uses this actual footage to set tone and remind viewers of the national and international mood during the situation. As a film, this was entertaining and engaging. As a history lesson, it is at best an approximation - romanticizing the weeks of sitting around, smoking, drinking, discussing. Nobody is arguing the veracity of the facts portrayed (let's just say liberty was taken). Instead, we are treated with a stylized view of an important historical event in this country that is fully colored by being in the middle of the cold war. I wonder if a filmmaker could make an alternate history film of the same events taking place 20 years later. It would look more like invasion, I am sure, and less like 400+ days of negotiations with no hostages killed.
4 stars (out of 5) 

Monday, December 3, 2012


This film wasn't bad... just forgettable  I actually watched this as a late night diversion last month some time and, while I am sure it diverted me in the moment, it immediately left my head as the credits rolled. Maybe were I the target audience of those who find it impossible to forget Taylor Lautner, the film would have made a lasting impact. Instead, I was the target audience of those who appreciate a good action film with some plot intrigue. On those grounds it failed. Lautner is a "normal" high school kid who parties too much and has a couple of friends that don't quiet fit in. He finds out that his entire life is actually a ruse as he is unwittingly part of an unofficial witness security program (his father is a spy and this is the only way of protecting his son from all the bad guys). Some bad guys find out where Lautner is, chase him and are ultimately outsmarted by the kid. Father and son reconcile (sort of) in the end. Thankfully, this was not intentionally built as a franchise, so the odds of seeing a sequel are pretty slim.
2 stars (out of 5)