Designated Survivor (2016)

Keifer Sutherland stars in a new series that may prove quite interesting. Since it’s a story about a lower member of government taking over as President is raises a lot of questions about politics. Besides that, it’s exciting.

Designated Survivor

Designated Survivor

“A low-level Cabinet member becomes President of the United States after a catastrophic attack kills everyone above him in the Presidential line of succession.” -IMDB

Cast

Kiefer Sutherland Tom Kirkman (22 episodes, 2016-2017)
Natascha McElhone Alex Kirkman (22 episodes, 2016-2017)
Adan Canto Aaron Shore (22 episodes, 2016-2017)
Italia Ricci Emily Rhodes (22 episodes, 2016-2017)

Directed by
Written by

David Guggenheim

Other Info

Drama, Thriller
TV-14
2016
60min
IMDB Rating: 8.0

Apparently there is something in the laws of government in the USA that has a designated survivor in a certain remote location during the State of the Union Speech. Sutherland is in that place when the white house is bombed. The premise of the show is that he assumes leadership of the country that night.

It’s weird how quickly everyone in the White House accepts him as the new President. Immediately they address him as such. There are some characters in the story who are not behind him though, specifically the military general. This makes for good drama, Sutherland does a good job being statesmanlike and making tough choices immediately on short notice.

FINAL THOUGHTS
I probably won’t be watching this show, despite the fact that it seems well made. I’m not a fact of political dramas. I would recommend to those who are though. I think it has a lot to offer in that genre.

7/10

The Zookeeper’s Wife

This is a historical film showcasing the Warsaw Zoo that protected and hid over 500 jews during the holocaust reign of Hitler. there is excellent acting that makes an average script shine.

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I love the scene where the Zookeper is bringing in a new Jew to the zoo and he is stopped and questioned by the Nazi police. They pass through but later on he shares with his wife he didnt know if he was going to be shot. its a powerful sequence and illustrates well what it must have been like.

To summarize this based on a true story plot, a small family run the Warsaw zoo. They get along with the animals incredibly well. Whenthe bombers of war attack, war is evident. the Zookeper and his famoly take in Jews and give them a place to be safe.

FINAL THOUGHTS
I loved the light cadence of this film. Chastain’s performance is nothing short of marvelous. The story drags a bit at the beginning but the final scenes makes it worthwhile.

7/10

Pulp Fiction (1994)

This is the highest earning film to date for director Quentin Tarantino. There is a good reason for that: it’s a lot of fun to watch!

Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction

“The lives of two mob hit men, a boxer, a gangster’s wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.” -IMDB

Cast

John Travolta Vincent Vega
Uma Thurman Mia Wallace
Samuel L. Jackson Jules Winnfield
Bruce Willis Butch Coolidge

Directed by

Quentin Tarantino

Written by

Quentin Tarantino, Roger Avary

Other Info

Crime, Drama
R
Fri 14 Oct 1994 UTC
154min
IMDB Rating: 8.9

Minor plot spoilers ahead:

This film’s plot consists of 4 stories that intertwine. My favorite one features Bruce Willis and Ving Rhames. They start off under the auspices of Rhames’ character, a mob bookie, ordering Willis, whose character is a fighter, to throw a fight. When the fighter wins anyway and runs off with bet money, Rhames starts tracking him. What happens later concerns them both randomly being captured in a gun shop. Rejects in the basement attempt to rape the 2 men. It twists the situation to where they have a common enemy and it works when Willis escapes and kills the sickos. If you’ve seen this, how messed up is the “Gimp?”

The film is outrageous in so many ways. There are hitmen, drug addicts, drug pushers, and outlandish characters in every scene. The techniques of filmmaking that Tarantino showed us in his early films, like Reservoir Dogs, are all there and they work wonderfully.

FINAL THOUGHTS
For me, this stands out as his best. He had a big idea and used well crafted techniques to make this film. I think the characters are bigger than life and aren’t meant to be realistic. They are comic-book-like. There is some violence but most occurs off screen. I highly recommend this, but still I caution some may be offended and the profanity and violence. Give it a chance I say!

8/10

Snatch (2000)

All style but how much substance? This is a funny show filled with British humor. It works as a hip, cool piece of film but it lacks the sort of character development I like to see in crime films. I like to laugh at films like this but I also want to care what happens to people, In this film, that didn’t happen for me.

Snatch

Snatch

“Unscrupulous boxing promoters, violent bookmakers, a Russian gangster, incompetent amateur robbers, and supposedly Jewish jewelers fight to track down a priceless stolen diamond.” -IMDB

Cast

Jason Statham Turkish
Brad Pitt Mickey O’Neil
Benicio Del Toro Franky Four Fingers
Dennis Farina Cousin Avi

Directed by

Guy Ritchie

Written by

Guy Ritchie

Other Info

Comedy, Crime
R
Fri 19 Jan 2001 UTC
102min
IMDB Rating: 8.3

Guy Ritchie the director is concerned with the look and style of films. I will acquiesce and admit that his films look amazing. The question for me is whether the look and style of a film is more important than developing characters you can recognize and feel like you know. Even in comedy films, this makes the movie experience better in my opinion.

FINAL THOUGHTS
I really enjoyed this film but the same gags and stylistic effects keep barraging throughout. I’m like to see a film like this but with some characterization and dialog that holds my interest. In closing I want to comment on Brad Pitt’s character. He is completely indecipherable. I’ve had Irish people tell me it isn’t a dialect. It’s something strange he and Guy Ritchie came up with I suppose. I’m sorry I can’t recommend this one but I do know a lot of people who are smarter than me would.

5/10

Better Call Saul (Season 2)

I fell into the Breaking Bad pool years ago and got hooked completely. Maybe it was because I’m a teacher and the main character is easy to identify with. Whatever the reason, I loved the show and watched it faithfully through all seasons. In contrast, I wasn’t very take in by Better Call Saul, the spinoff about a crooked lawyer. But that was season one, now I’m in s2 and it is really amazing.

Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul

“The trials and tribulations of criminal lawyer, Jimmy McGill, in the time leading up to establishing his strip-mall law office in Albuquerque, New Mexico.” -IMDB

Cast

Patrick Fabian Howard Hamlin (30 episodes, 2015-2017)
Michael McKean Chuck McGill (30 episodes, 2015-2017)
Rhea Seehorn Kim Wexler (30 episodes, 2015-2017)
Bob Odenkirk Jimmy McGill (30 episodes, 2015-2017)

Directed by
Written by

Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould

Other Info

Crime, Drama
TV-14
2015
46min
IMDB Rating: 8.7

Vince Gilligan is once again at the helm. He does a great job in s2 showing how Saul becomes the lawyer he is. He was like an ADHD kid who used crime as his Ritalin. His brother knows him well and shares a lot of back story that explains Saul. Like Breaking Bad, we are led hither and yon to decide if he is a good guy or not. I am still not sure myself but I like the character!

To summarize, Saul is a lawyer who just can’t fit in any law practice. He rents a space in the back of a laundromat and starts practicing law his way. He finds loopholes but they never seem to hurt anyone, except big fat rich people, the likes that pilfer funds from old folks’ homes. I guess he’s a Robin Hood figure that way. S1 was dull in my opinion but S2 is so good, I have that same feeling when I would watch Breaking Bad. Looks like Vince Gilligan has still got it.

FINAL THOUGHTS
This is a great, engaging show that is worth your time. It raises issues of the legal system similar to many legal drama shows. I recently wrote the same thing about Billy Bob Thornton’s series Goliath. You won’t find Saul in court much but when you hear him offer legal reasoning it’s refreshing and “everyman” in style. I highly recommend (require) fans of Breaking Bad to see this. For those who like morality play in legal dramas, this is also for you. Because it lagged a lot in S1 and I’m not yet done, this is a preliminary rating. I could see this show getting to a 8 or 9/10. For now however:

7/10

Goliath (Season One)

I’ve just finished watching the season finale of Goliath, an Amazon series, starring Billy Bob Thornton. It’s a righteous legal drama with some great acting from the man as well as from a certifiable odd William Hurt.

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Legal dramas can be very appealing to me. I watched every episode of Judging Amy and The Good Wife and started enjoying legal drama films with Spencer Tracy in 1960 Inherit the Wind and Gregory Peck’s uber classic To Kill a Mockingbird early in my movie watching life. Unfortunately, they can also lag, sputter, and die to become boring Fords up on blocks in the annals of the IMDB.

I wasn’t sure about Goliath at first but I’m happy to say it had suspense and smarts and all the stuff I look for in a legal drama series. There is a spot where the writing gets a little dull around episode 4 and thereabouts but these days I can’t say any show is perfect.

There is an explosion at sea that causes much controversy. Thornton is in a bar in the first episode basically feeling washed up in his law practice. He’s been successful in ripping people off and getting money the easy way and it has more or less driven him to depression and drinking. You can probably imagine him in this state if you’ve seen the Bad Santa films.

William Hurt plays the head of a corporation trying to hide what happened on that boat. The storyline is a mystery really that unfolds about what happened in that mysterious explosion. Thornton is approached by a woman who needs his skills to take on the corporation and he sees the chance to do something right with his skills, for a change. Oh, and don’t let me forget to mention it’s a chance to redeem himself with the firm that expelled him.

FINAL THOUGHTS
It’s great watching Thornton in this series. He is truly in his element in this series. I recommend it to fans of the genre and of Thornton.

8/10

High Fidelity (2000)

This is before Jack Black was huge. He’s quite funny here in a supporting role. John Cusack’s character is the consummate “cool dude” managing a record store. He is also the narrator of a quirky, hosted, cult-status film that takes the viewer through museum tour of failed relationships

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This is a hip movie for hipsters. In other words, the jokes are subtle and righteously understood by students of pop culture circa 2000. It has a simple setting: a record store and we watch Cusack’s character travel to the edge and back again not being able to keep a girl around to save his life.

While not a romantic comedy per se, this film could be recommended as a great date movie. It conjures up the lessons of falling in love in your teens through your twenties. Cusack definitely has his shit together in terms of having a pad and a job but he falls way short of what these women need. Caught in the middle: any guy whose gone through dating segments will likely relate, I know I did.

There is a scene when Jack Black and his friends go gangsta on “Rob” (Tim Robbins) the current dating interest of his late girlfriend. It’s quite a sight to see. The whole “bros before hoes” idea played out. But that scenes ends up different. Most of the film is a bit different, I guess that’s why it resonates so much with me.

FINAL THOUGHTS
In a similar tone to “Office Space,” this film is quirky hilarious. You hae excellent actors, a dynamite script, beautiful women, and of course JACK BLACK! I recommend to all but especially those with a quirky and dark sense of humor.

10/10

Chariots of Fire (1981)

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)

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