American Sniper

I caught American Sniper this weekend. It tells the story of Chris Kyle, a Texan who became a Navy Seal. This is based on the book of the same name. Though he started older than most of the cadets, he becomes a sniper and is deployed for the invasion of Iraq, acting as part of an ‘overwatch’ (support unit) for Marine troops tasked with clearing out cities of enemy combatant. You’d think that the role of a sniper is fairly straightforward, however, since the conflict involves moving through the civilian population, some moral judgements are required.

Along the way, he meets Taya, the woman who becomes his wife. They are married right before a deployment, and keep in touch, via satellite phone, while he’s out there. Taya and Chris struggle to keep the family together in the midst of all the turmoil (sometimes during!), and it leads to an interesting dynamic between the two. Chris is redeployed several times, between the arrival of their two children. His military career is a legacy that I hope lasts for a long time.

The story is pretty linear, but there are some flashbacks, and a flash-forward at the start of the movie. Before sitting down in the theater, I tried to stay ignorant about the goings-on in the story. The movie itself necessarily continues past the end of the book, and has its own significance, considering what happened.

Bradley Cooper plays Chris Kyle, and Sienna Miller plays Taya. Sienna, to me, melts into the role (I’ve seen her in several films, but couldn’t place her), and Bradley is quite effective, but in a way, aloof. I don’t know how detailed the book was about Chris’ psyche, but in the movie, he’s portrayed as distant, and a bit cold.

There is significant wartime violence, as well as some that is morally objectionable. Be forewarned.

Recommended.

Welcome to the Aisle!

Hello everyone!  I like movies.  No, scratch that, I LOVE movies!  I go out to the theater quite frequently, and used to post quick movie reviews online.  If you’re interested, take a look at some reviews  here

More recently, I’ve been posting them on Facebook, and they’ve gotten hard enough to find, so I decided to start this blog, where you can find them easily. I will be reposting those reviews from the last year’s movies in the near future.

 

Enjoy!

 

Unbroken

Unbroken, the retelling of the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Italian-American immigrant whose parents spoke no English. This is an adaptation of the NY Times bestseller of the same title, written by Laura Hillenbrand. This movie also has many flashbacks, and jumps between events. In his teens, Louie is an outcast, picked on for his ethnicity. He manages to overcome that, and participates in the 1936 Olympics in Germany. He becomes a bombardier in World War II, in the Pacific theater. While on a search and rescue mission, his plane goes down and is cast adrift with two survivors. They are eventually captured by the Japanese and interned in Japan. He suffers through the abuse of a Japanese soldier, and tries to survive.

It’s a very compelling tale, directed by, surprisingly, Angelina Jolie. The flashbacks disappear before the final third of the film, and you’re left wondering what will happen, in the end. Jack O’Connell, as Louie, was the only memorable prisoner. Takamasa Ishihara was the prison guard Wantanabe, who became the major tormentor, and he provided the right amount of intensity. This film represents prison life, and is quite brutal. I was quite stunned when I saw that Joel and Ethan Coen were listed as the first and second screenwriters (two others besides Laura received credit), but given the story and nature of the film, it seems about right.

It seems that most American movie actors, at some point, have to star in a prison film, and this film allows Jack to make that check mark. WIthout straining too hard, Bruce Willis, Sly Stallone, Paul Newman, Robert Redford (twice!), Burt Reynolds (and Adam Sandler in the remake) immediately come to mind as also having that check mark. I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule, so no need to point them out.

I really am on the fence with this film. I can say with certainty that if you want to see it, you don’t need to see it in the theaters. Most of the cast exist to serve the plot, but the ‘atmosphere’ didn’t quite gel for me. None of the other prisoners were all that memorable to me, as was also the case for entirety of the Japanese captors, besides Wantanabe. They seemed to exist just there as filler. I do want to grumble a little about the trailer, but I don’t want to say more.

The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game, a dramatization of the life of Alan Turing. Turing is considered one of the fathers of modern computing. His main accomplishments took place during World War II, when he became a part of the British effort to crack some of Germany’s codes. The codes would be changed daily, frustrating much of the efforts for timely work. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch, who most people will recognize as the current incarnation of Sherlock on BBC TV. Turing was antisocial, didn’t understand most people, and IMO, borderline autistic, and that is demonstrated in the film.

 

The film itself takes place in three times during his life – school, WWII, and postwar, and jumps between the three periods quite well. I do not want to spoil the outcome of the film, but I do have to say that this is one of the best films of last year. Highly recommended, despite casting Kiera Knightley.

Top Five

Originally posted on FB on December 14, 2014 ·

I saw Top Five, Chris Rock’s new movie. It’s pretty much a more Rom-Com version of Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories. A comedian who’s made a successful string of cornball movies about a bear who works for the police is now trying to break away from what everyone expects of him.

His new film is a serious one, about a slave uprising in Haiti. It’s just premiered, but it’s being ignored in favor of his upcoming wedding to a reality TV star played by Gabrielle Union. She’s a borderline Kardashian, backed by Bravo, who’s filming it. Chris Rock’s character has been able to avoid the reality TV limelight, and is in NYC to promote the film. The pressure’s on and no one wants to take him seriously. Several well known interviewers appear in the film. Somewhere, he’s been convinced to let a reporter from the Times to trail him for the day, and and was played by Rosario Dawson. She starts out by asking him why he isn’t funny anymore, and it goes downhill from there. If you know the rules of Rom-Com, you know what happens. They wander the streets of NYC, visit his childhood home, and so on, all while the reporter is trying to grill him for actual details of what’s happened.

It’s a very funny movie. There are some unexpected comedic moments that help this film from being the typical no-brainer crap that Hollywood churns out on a regular basis. The end was just the icing on the cake, IMO.

Recommended.

Antarctica: A Year On Ice

Posted to Facebook on November 17, 2014 ·

Tonight’s movie screening with the Arthouse Film Festival was ANTARCTICA: A YEAR ON ICE. It’s a documentary about spending a year on the continent, as told by New Zealander Anthony Powell. He repairs satellite dishes at and around McMurdo Station. Anthony shot the footage for this movie over the course of 10 years, using self-made camera mounts and many cameras over the years. What you see are time lapse movies of the area, you also get to see the sky, stars, and Southern Lights.

While the majority of this movie shows amazing visuals of what it’s like to live down there, there’s a focus on the lives of the people who spend their time there year-round. The stations there are heavily populated during the Summer, and more or less go into maintenance mode for the rest of the year. Naturally, their Winter is our Summer, and this base has 4 months without sunlight.

If you are interested at all in Antarctica, see this movie, and see it in a theater, sit close to the screen. It’s unbelievable. It’s definitely my favourite documentary from this season of the AFF, so far.

The movie opens November 28th. Don’t miss it!

Check out the link below, it contains clips from the film, but they don’t compare to seeing it on the big screen.

http://frozensouth.weebly.com/

St. Vincent

Originally posted to Facebook on November 16, 2014

Saw St. Vincent tonight. The trailer is cut to imply the movie is a comedy, and while there are comedic elements, it’s more of a drama. After separating from her husband, a woman (Melissa McCarthy) and her son move into a home next to the one occupied by the titular character, Vincent, a cranky, down on his luck, older man, nicely played by Bill Murray. She is forced to hire him as an afternoon babysitter, which leads to several misadventures in Vincent’s life. He’s not entirely the horrible person he turns out to be, and we get to discover many things about him that have made him the ‘bawdy misanthrope’ (as one reviewer described him) that he’s become.

The son, Oliver, is played by apparent newcomer Jaeden Lieberher. IMO, he’s a little too eloquent for the child he plays. Naomi Watts plays Daka, the pregnant Russian exotic dancer with the heart of gold (yes, exactly) really saves this from becoming a much sadder movie.

I did enjoy this film, and do recommend it if you’re in the right mood. Do not be fooled by the idea it might be a comedy.

Wild

Originally posted to Facebook on November 11, 2014 ·

Tonight’s movie at the Arthouse Film Festival was Wild, the story of a woman who goes on walkabout along the Pacific Crest Trail, after enduring some personal loss. She underestimates the trip, but learns to adjust. This movie is the adaptation of the best-selling book. Reese Witherspoon plays Cheryl Strayed, who wrote the book about her real-life adventures. As she walks the trail, there are frequent flashbacks to what got her there, and it’s all pretty engaging. At the forefront of those is Laura Dern, who plays Reese’s mother. She was really good in her role. Along the way, music is half-remembered, and there’s a lot of it, but it never overpowers the story.

I was pleasantly surprised by the movie. I was expecting the bubbly Reese, but there’s no trace of it here. She’s a far better actress that I’ve given her credit for in the past. This movie was shot on location, perhaps 90% that way, and the scenery is incredible. The personal interplay is interesting and engaging.

At the screening, Urs Hirschbiegel, the associate director, was present to tell us tales of things behind the scenes. He said that the story was shot in linear order, which isn’t usually done,, mainly to give the actors the flow to evolve with their characters as the story progresses. He’s worked with the director, Jean-Marc Vallée, on several movies, including Dallas Buyer’s Club. The two are currently shooting their next movie, Demolition, in NYC.

Wild opens generally on December 5th.

Big Hero 6

Originally posted to Facebook on November 8, 2014.

Saw Big Hero 6 last night. The film is based on a comic book, and revolves around a boy named Hiro, who teams up with his brother’s fellow students (and the balloon-y robot his brother created) to stop the person who stole one of his inventions and killed his brother. Good interplay between the characters, and a story that holds together. I saw it in 3D, which was not my choice, and it’s definitely not necessary for you to enjoy the film. Worth seeing.

BTW, Scott Adsit (Yes, Hornberger!) voices the robot Baymax.