Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Ouch. Went to see this with my niece and nephews. They had been in a production of Annie, so they were ready for the real deal. This wasn't it. As a musical, I suppose you expect good music. Even the 11 year old with me commented on how bad the singing was. Even so, the end result is that I found my self mildly entertained, but for all the wrong reasons. This is not a film where you laugh at the jokes. This is a film where you laugh at the film and the decisions that were made about what the jokes were. If you embrace "laughing at" instead of "laughing with", you will get through it.
2 stars (out of 5)

Sunday, December 21, 2014


A Chinese police thriller that follows Lieutenant Liu through a case that becomes increasingly personal. His crime squad is on the hunt for a brazen gang of thieves that are pulling daring armored car heists in the middle of Hong Kong. His "by-the-book" approach is starting to make him (and others) think that he will never be able to prove that is prime suspect is involved. As the stakes escalate, so does the ethical ambiguity. In addition to being a quality police procedural/action film, I also enjoyed watching the struggle of this character as he balanced justice, what he "knows to be true" and even over time, the adjustment of that knowledge as he encounters facts. I must say, I also appreciated the visual effects of adding tracer bullets to the gun battles. I saw that explicitly for the first time in Fury and now again here. It sure does remove some of the seeming chaos from a shoot out scene.
4 stars (out of 5)


This film is a good concept. A kidnapping victim needs to get rescued, but the entire strength of the US Department of Defense can't figure out a way to stage an operation. So the CIA releases four women from prison to make a rescue team. It is a classic technique, with each member chosen for their specific skills. It worked for Dirty Dozen, Mission Impossible, and a host of other films. The twist here it that it is an all female team. However, you can tell from the opening line that this is a B-movie. Story, acting, and production quality are all 2nd or 3rd tier. Alas...
2 stars (out of 5)


Pretty interesting look into domestic terrorism in London. The title refers to UK citizens who have no historical association with any terrorist organization or ideals. They are not on any watchlist and are so below the radar that the terrorist radar does not know they exist. Enter into this a secret service agent who has seen better days, but is still a master of his craft. What I found particularly interesting was the exploration of fear. The motivation of the terrorists, the motivation of the government, the impact on "the populace". What is rational and what is irrational fear and what actions are led to by these fears. Moderately good action/thriller, thought provoking social drama.
3 stars (out of 5)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

We pick up with out any "last time, on the hobbit..." reminders. Smaug is attacting Lakewood and the dwarves are trying to get into the mountain hold. Once they take the hold, men and elves come to claim their ancestral treasures that have been secreted away. They start to fight, but then orcs come and everyone fights together to defeat the orc invasion. Overlay this simple plot on sweeping vistas, a series of individually dramatic grudge battles within a massive, carnage filled field, and undertones of "last stand against evil" supported by "love will bridge all boundaries". Now that the series is finished, I am largely uninspired. Ho-hum, epic tale of middle earth...
3 stars (out of 5)

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Imitation Game

The story of Alan Turing's conquest of the Nazis. Or, how the field of computer science was born. Turing got himself hired as a civilian contractor in WWII England, tasked to a team responsible for breaking the Nazi code system called Enigma. The permutations of the code were too big to crack by brute force each day, so Turing had a plan for a machine that could outperform thousands of people. It seems that his relentless pursuit was less about breaking the code that about building the machine. This is a great portrayal of the intelligence world of WWII Bletchley Park, the drive of one person, the group dynamics that necessarily fracture and fuse under intense pressure, and the horrible implications of both power and culture on the individual. It does make me wonder how other cultures (less individualistic cultures) would look at this film and interpret the personal sacrifices and personal suffering portrayed. Well written and well acted...
5 stars (out of 5)