Chariots of Fire (1981)

Chariots of Fire is about two rising Olympic champions: Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams who are driven by very different impulses. Liddell is an ardent missionary who cares more about “feeling God’s pleasure” when he runs that he does about winning trophies or medals. Abrahams on the other hand …

This is a repost of my review from 2012. I plan to write an encore review this week.

Chariots of Fire was directed in 1981 by Hugh Hudson, known also for Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. It stars Ian Charleson as Eric Liddell, a devout Christian runner, and Ben Cross as Harold Abrahams, a dedicated Jewish runner. Watching the movie now, over 30 years later, one can identify an A-list class from both major and minor characters.

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This movie is based on a true story. It is called a drama, history, and sport movie by imdb.com. It’s one of those movies I liked so much I bought. It’s a story of running, endurance, and conviction. The signature music of Vangelis inspired many in my generation to run and to appreciate running. I’m a proud runner probably because I saw this film at age 11.

Chariots of Fire is about two rising Olympic champions: Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams who are driven by very different impulses. Liddell is an ardent missionary who cares more about “feeling God’s pleasure” when he runs that he does about winning trophies or medals. Abrahams on the other hand is overly ambitious about winning. He is in fact primal in his drive to win at any cost. There is a lot of development toward the climax but the most important point is when the Olympics are to be held on a Sunday. Liddell refuses to run due to his beliefs. This is where we see the conviction of a truly inspiring man displayed in real time. Because this is a true story, we feel the temptation we might have to run but Liddell refuses. It is an excellent conversation piece. What drives us? How do we define success? and What will we not do in our quest for that success?

This movie is a gem and a pride among movies. While I don’t share Liddell’s polarized worldview, I still admire his conviction and resolve. This movie tells me I should define success and answer the questions above for myself. I am always defining and redefining myself. Chariots of Fire reminds me that true success has to be self-defined. You don’t have to be a runner to enjoy this film, it’s for everyone. When I first saw it I was 11 years old. When the credits rolled, I got up to walk out of the row. My mother stopped me and motioned me back into my seat. I saw the eyes of my parents and siblings watching the credits in awe as they listened to the angelic music. I would later learn the theme song and play it in the house hundreds of time. This is truly a remarkable film in my collection.

10/10

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

The seeds of this story were sown with Blade Runner and the Matrix. I don’t know if the creator knows that or not but they were. Androids do indeed dream of electric sheep and I know I may after watching this visual candy parlor for the eyes the past couple hours.


Ghost in the Shell
“In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.” -IMDB
Cast
Scarlett Johansson Major
Pilou Asbæk Batou
Takeshi Kitano (as ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano) Aramaki
Juliette Binoche Dr. Ouelet
Directed by
Rupert Sanders
Written by
Shirow Masamune (based on the comic “The Ghost in the Shell” by), Jamie Moss(screenplay) …
Other Info
Action, Crime, Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
PG-13
Fri 31 Mar 2017 UTC
107min
IMDB Rating: 6.9

This film is also a child of the Matrix. Johansson does a pristine job as the heroine. I’ve never read the comics but I feel so lucky the director saw fit to adapt them into this amazing sci-fi action film of 2017.

I love everything about this film: the special effects, the look of the city with it’s giant hologram advertisements. Though it started slow in the first 1/4, it picked up and became an insane ride I didn’t want to get off. Think of our bodies as shells encasing our brains, maybe we all can identify with being a “ghost in a shell.”

FINAL THOUGHTS
The concept of finding your purpose radiates from this film. Young people will be drawn to it because they are doing just that in their young lives. All humans will relate wth the loss suffered by the mother and the quest of “Major” (Johanssen) to regain her memory and set out on her mission, whatever that is. I found it entertaining and inspiring and recommend to anyone, though children below 13 may find it hard to understand. They will likely still enjoy the incredible colorful world created through special effects.

9/10

We Go On (2016)

Don’t go messing with the dead, that’s what this film is letting us know. Perhaps it’s better that door remain closed.

We Go On
We Go On
“Paralyzed by his fear of dying, Miles Grissom is offering reward money to the first person who can show him a ghost…” -IMDB
Cast
Annette O’Toole Charlotte
Clark Freeman Miles
John Glover Dr. Ellison
Giovanna Zacarías Josephina
Directed by
Jesse Holland, Andy Mitton
Written by
Andy Mitton (screenplay), Andy Mitton (story)
Other Info
Drama, Horror, Thriller
Tue 07 Feb 2017 UTC
90min
IMDB Rating: 6.4

This is a pretty good idea for a movie but it certainly doesn’t belong on a big screen. This film is enjoyable but not clever or ultra-creative in any way. To put it bluntly, we’ve seen this before. It’s a lot the The Sixth Sense the way supernatural and/or dead things cross his path. Unlike that film however, there are no mysterious curves in plot that deserve discussion over coffee.

I suppose the film is good enough on the couch as you’re preparing to fall asleep. The jump scares are very mild and nothing really comes close to scary or jarring. Will our hero learn about and believe in the afterlife? That is the question. He pays for a full page ad in the paper asking people to give him proof and the movie him seeking that proof through strangers. Do we go on? I won’t say, watch if you want to see what this film maker thinks.

Final Thoughts
This film is better suited to the drama genre. Nothing horror here but the same old tired cliches of seeing dead people. Having said that, it is cleanly made and has a beginning, middle, and an end so it’s something just worth watching at home when you are seriously out of any impressive horror to watch.

My Rating: (0 / 5)

I Am Not a Serial Killer (2016)

I actually enjoyed this movie despite its nonsensical plot and unbelievable characters. As a thriller with some horror and a lot of gore, I think it’s a good choice.

I Am Not a Serial Killer
I Am Not a Serial Killer
“In a small Midwestern town, a troubled teen with homicidal tendencies must hunt down and destroy a supernatural killer whilst keeping his own inner demons at bay.” -IMDB
Cast
Christopher Lloyd Crowley
Laura Fraser April
Max Records John Wayne Cleaver
Karl Geary Dr. Neblin
Directed by
Billy O’Brien
Written by
Billy O’Brien (written by) &, Christopher Hyde (written by) …
Other Info
Drama, Horror, Thriller
Not Rated
Thu 29 Sep 2016 UTC
104min
IMDB Rating: 6.2

Here we have a main character from Where the Wild Things Are. It was cool seeing him on screen again, though I must admit I had to run and look him up. The other astounding feature of this film is the amazing and timeless Christopher Lloyd. He has a new “Marty” in a way in this odd film.

John Wayne Cleaver is a teenager by all accounts. He broods, he yells, he laughs. We never see him doing it, but he probably smokes pot! He is a student of killers and unwittingly has to track and eliminate a killer in their town. Be careful what you study kids!

FINAL THOUGHTS
This film is not a genius piece of writing but I did enjoy it. It definitely takes one on a thriller journey through the body parts of the morgue and the knife trails of a serial killer. Remember the title though as you predict the ending! Some will be turned off by this film’s quirkiness and frankly, terrible characterization in acting and writing. Still, if you’re a horror buff and like those teen angst characters, you’ll love this give it a try. Oh yes, and then there’s Christopher Lloyd!

My Rating: 6.5 Stars (6.5 / 10)

‘The Walking Dead’ S07 Finale

Be warned, I’m not happy. Tiger, Tiger … I thought this was an improvement but not much better than what this soap opera has been lately.

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The reason I still watch this show is because it’s on Sunday nights and my family likes it. Every week I get less and less interested in what the millionaires who make it want to say. I know Negan is in the comic lol ut he needs to die. This isn’t because I fear him or anyone should but rather because he is a boring character that simply does the same thing over and over.

The show has lost its zombie appeal almost completely. It seemed once the human stories played backup for the zombie reality. Now its flipped. We have ti sit through tears and crap side dialog about people who are dead or who are in other camps. I truly hope this show improves.

Negan gets wise to Rick and his plans. He captures some people. It looks like Rick or people close to him will die. There is an intervening hand (or paw) at the end.

What I’d like to see is less of a “war” with Negan and more about how the zombie world is rebuilding itself and innovation is taking over. If you’re a fan, you’ve probably seen it, if not, this is not the one to come in on. Dull and mundane. Does anyone really care if she killed herself as a sacrifice to become a zombie? I won’t get into detail but feel free to in the comments.

2/5

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Article first published as Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close on Blogcritics.
At a time of enlightenment about Autism, this film sheds a realistic light that’s not always easy to watch.

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Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was directed by Stephen Daldry, known for The Reader, Billy Elliot, and the Hours. It has been advertised as a stunning, avant garde movie centering on how the 9-11 tragedy affects one family. It centers around Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), a nine-year-old boy who is hell bent on discovering a remnant of his father’s past. His father is Thomas Schell (Tom Hanks), a jeweler, who dies in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The last remnant, as it were, he has left behind for his son is a cryptic key. Oskar finds in a vase in the closet after his father is dead. He is from then on driven and fixated on finding the lock that the key opens. This generates a plot of pseudo adventures meeting all sorts of people and devising all sorts of elaborate schemes along the way. What about the twin towers? That was my burning question most of the movie. Make no mistake: this film is not so much about 911. Instead it is more akin to a public service announcement for Asperger’s syndrome, or some garden variety diagnosis of a tortured genius nine year old. Oskar Schell apparently has license to scream horrible words at his mother, (Sandra Bullock) because of his unique disorder. He rolls on the floor, bangs his hands against furniture, and shows utter frustration when his “genius” ideas are thwarted. I could get into the unrealistic amounts of time he is alone to carry out his adventures but I won’t. I also won’t get into the ridiculous cussing exchanges (equally implausible) he has with the security guard (John Goodman) of his building as he comes and goes. I don’t think this movie is meant to be realistic, it’s up to something else. I am not sure I know what it is. It is definitely hard to follow. Fortunately, we can find some compassion for the boy and that held my interest for some of the film.

Of course, anyone would have sympathy for Oskar. He lost his father who was seemingly his best friend to the tragedy we now refer to as 9-11. Still, it doesn’t excuse his disdain for his mother and the strange fixations he leaps headlong into to find the origin of the key. Along the way, he meets a nice, quiet (mute in fact), man who rents a room from his grandmother. He is aptly called “The Renter” (Max von Sydow). He accompanies Oskar on his key expedition which is very difficult because the old man cannot speak. In a way, the renter is best suited to Oskar: he never talks back. The renter is Oskar’s long lost mute grandfather and ironically becomes the only voice of reason. In my opinion, Max von Sydow gives the most compelling performance in the movie. I must add also that there isn’t much competition.

Oskar is very taken with his own “clever” ideas and likes to tell people about them with every opportunity. His lines are annoying and they are delivered with an equally unsettling voice. There isn’t much more to the story than Oskar finding the lock for the key. The mystery’s end is not exciting and he doesn’t seem to advance much in is grieving process for his dad.

I think this movie failed to impress me because it was not about what it advertised. A movie can get away with that when it is such a powerful film you forget you were cheated by the ads. In my opinion, this movie used 9-11 as a “bait-and-switch theme to get people into the theater. There is only minimal reminiscing about the tragedy. On the other hand, the movie centers on Oskar who is not an emotionally well young man. We therefore have nothing to relate with. The boy’s actions are annoying and obtuse, he treats his mother atrociously. I can’t relate with how a kid like that sees his mother and the world. We want to relate with Oskar but the feelings never come. Then there is the theme of 9-11. We want to relate with that but it has such a small small place in the movie. I think it would have been better to either make a well developed movie about 9-11 -or- to make a movie with a decent script about Asperger’s syndrome. They didn’t do that though so what we are left with is a movie with an extremely long title and an incredibly flat plot. I was very let down by this movie and the way it promoted itself to be something it was not. If you like the actors, it is worth seeing. If you want to re-examine 9-11 or anything “real” about the grieving process, or Asbergers for that matter, stay incredibly far away from this one. While this movie may be extremely loud & incredibly close on one level, it is most decidedly not incredibly deep.

Toni Erdmann (2016)

This was a oddly enjoyable multilingual experience. It has comedy, relationship drama, and a surprisingly large amount of nudity! While it may sound hard to believe, it’s all in there and it works to make this an amazing film.


Toni Erdmann
“A practical joking father tries to reconnect with his hard working daughter by creating an outrageous alter ego and posing as her CEO’s life coach.” -IMDB
Cast
Sandra Hüller Ines Conradi
Peter Simonischek Winfried
Michael Wittenborn Henneberg
Thomas Loibl Gerald
Directed by
Maren Ade
Written by
Maren Ade
Other Info
Comedy, Drama
R
Sun 25 Dec 2016 UTC
162min
IMDB Rating: 7.6

I’m giving subtitles more of a chance and with this film, I sure am glad of that. This is one of the funniest films I’ve seen in recent years and it’s filled with relationships and real people to make the 2 hour running time go quickly. Oh, and then there’s the nudity. It supports the comedy well. It’s not Benny Hill by any means, in fact the nudity jokes are actually intellectual in fact.

Ok, now that I’ve piqued the interest of pervs out there like myself, I’ll get into the plot.

Toni is a retired guy in his late sixties, maybe older who is constantly playing practical jokes on people, especially his family. He’s played by a powerful actor with goofiness and finesse. The film is about 2/3 in German so make sure you can give the subtitles your full attention. One of his gags early in the film concerns the impersonation of his “brother” who ordered unmentionables. His daughter is a workaholic and after having been retired, he sets himself down the road of reconnecting with her while she is at work. The results are quite hilarious and at times very touching.

Final Thought
This is a diamond in the rough that I have missed for a while since I up to now haven’t liked watching subtitled films. When I decided to give it a shot, I was very pleased and realized the subtitles were not a hindrance at all. The comedy is top notch and sure to bring a belly laugh. The relationship between father and daughter is also a very touching story and worth the watch as well. The nudity towards the end is laugh a minute. I can find no fault in this film, for that reason I highly recommend it to all.

5/5

An Innocent Man (1989)

This post is part of Movie Rob’s Genre Grandeur challenge. Jay Cluitt of the LAMB and Life vs. Film stepped in to choose the genre: Prison Films. You can read this post over at Rob’s Genre Grandeur page as well as all the other reviews by blog film critics on prison films. At any rate, here’s what I thought of An Innocent Man with Tom Selleck.

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This film stands as my favorite prison film because of the directing, acting, and story. I’ll start out with the director: Peter Yates was a renowned director long before this film. He had directed throughout the 60’s and 70’s and is probably most known in that time for his film The Deep written by Peter Benchley (Jaws). He made action movies that pulled no punches. I think he was perfect to tell this story, it’s action from credits to credits. More than that though, it gives an innocent man a challenge: How to survive time in jail.

There is some amazing acting in this film. Tom Selleck is incredible as the “oaf” happy-go-lucky man who’s simply in love and happy at his job. What better guy to pin a murder on right? Selleck transforms his almost buffoon-like happy character in a victim and then a fighter. The viewer easily lives vicariously through that character. They should have a ride at an amusement park themed after the plot. It is indeed a roller coaster but one I very much enjoyed riding.

I just want to emphasize Selleck is no bit actor in this, as some may expect him to be. He takes this role and makes it his own. The viewer is meant to be right there in prison with him planning, scheming to get out, and prove his innocence. There is one other actor I cannot leave out of my review: F. Murray Abraham. He is one of the most underrated actors of our time. I loved him in Amadeus and every time I see he’s in a film I try to see it. He has done much to demonstrate power in acting. He plays Virgil, the mentor figure of Selleck’s character. My favorite quote from him is: “Someone messes with me in here, it’s their life.”

To summarize the film: you get a vignette of a few years in prison. Danny Scalise is a happy-go-lucky married blue collar guy who gets framed for a drug job and a murder he didn’t do. We the audience see that clearly. A couple of crooked cops make a terrible mistake picking him as the fall guy and as he is arrested for the crime and is doing time, Scalise becomes much more jaded about the system and begins to exact a process of revenge. The cops end up regretting framing this “innocent man.” Mostly this is not because of who he was going into jail but after what his time there has made him.

FINAL THOUGHTS
This is not a masterpiece of the 1980’s but it sends a powerful message and stands as my favorite prison movie. While in prison, the main character must stand for himself even when it means killing. It is kill or be killed there. Because I think most people who watch movies wonder what they would do in prison to survive. You work with what you have in prison, that’s the message here. To keep your dignity you may have to do barbaric things. Those who don’t may be killed or raed within an inch of their lives, repeatedly, daily. To avoid getting attacked would you attach first? I think Selleck’s “everyman” personality and image fits perfectly in this role. Finally, it wraps just like an 1980’s movie, what’s wrong with happy endings?

5/5

Real Steel (2011)

Here is a truly fun film for kids and adults with the urge to have their own downtown underground fighting robot.

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Last night my wife and I sneaked out leaving the brother to babysit and saw Real Steel is about robot boxing. Yep, it’s that simple and that great! I have to say, I wasn’t too excited to see it. The idea of robots punching each other for 2 hours didn’t really pique my interest. But I am happy to recommend it now as a fun family film, with some fight scenes, that has all the charm of the Karate Kid and cgi as good as Transformers.

It was directed by Shawn Levy (Night at the MuseumBig Fat Liar …) and stars Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, and newcomer Kevin Durand. Jackman plays Charlie, an ex prize fighter who now slums as a robot coach (of sorts). Jackman discovers he has a son, Max, and try as he might to do otherwise, he is destined to partner up with his 13 year old son throughout the movie. Charlie and Max try their hand at robot management and coaching but it has mixed results. It isn’t until they have a few shared experiences that they acquire a new, plain, yet mysterious powerful robots. What that power is remains to unfold. Together they discover the worth of teamwork and the analog body in sync with the digital robot technology. I won’t give away anymore about the plot but know that it’s quite a fun ride.

Evangeline Lilly plays Bailey, Jackman’s ex. She is the calming force in his life even now that they are not together. They share a little romance that sizzles off the screen. Max is just happy-go-lucky. He ends up getting a dad and a prize fighting robot in the deal. There is not a while lot of real life character development but for what this movie is, an action movie, that isn’t required. Atom is the robot. You end up feeling like he is an actual person. He is the classic underdog fighter with no chance and a small physique. The twist is that he is not a human, like Rocky from the 70’s, but rather a steel fighting machine. He never says to his corner man to “cut me” but several comparisons are obvious, as well as to the Karate Kid.

All in all, this movie isn’t very real amid the steel. That being said, you will cheer when the good robots win fights. It is just the right time for this sort of movie to be made. Technology makes these things seem like real chunks of 1,000 pound metal to watch, enjoy, and give a high five to. While weak on the storyline and character development, this is the ideal underdog movie for the kids of today. And for those of us in our slightly older years, we should suspend disbelief so this movie can please us as well.

3/5