‘The Family Fang’

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Starring: Christopher Walken, Nicole Kidman, Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Marin Ireland, Eugenia Kuzmina, Jason Butler Harner, Michael Chernus, Josh Pais, Mackenzie Brooke Smith
Genres: Drama
Directed By: Jason Bateman
Runtime: 105 minutes
Studio: Starz Digital Media
MPAA Rating
R

Once in a while I see a movie that reminds me of a made-for-tv film but then about 1/2 way through, I really like it and take it back. This is one such film. The subject matter is on having quirky parents and being embarrassed bt them even into adulthood. The parents’ problem is not alcohol, philandering, or even physical abuse. Instead, its their constant inclusion of their children in video pranks and other created scenes they call “art.” The children all grown up are played by Nicole Kidman and Jason Bateman. The film is also directed by Bateman.

In one of these stunts, their father and mother (Christopher Walken and Maryann Plunkett) drive all four of them to a public food court at a park. They hand out coupons for free chicken sandwiches and film the reactions at the food stand as people (in theory) become enraged when they are rejected.

There are many pranks and works of art that are shown in the film. Some take place as flashbacks when they were kids and others take place in modern times. This takes the storyline into pranks you can imagine fully experienced and aged pranksters might pull. Could it be the adult children are now the butt of the joke?

The film does get more cinematic and less made-for-tv but always carries an air that is just short of a powerful film. There are topics relating to abusive parents that may come up in a discussion afterwards if one cares to bring them up. It lost points for being such an unbelievable subject and having characters and plot that were difficult to identify with.

‘Chariots of Fire’

Running is an endurance sport. Not everyone who loves this true-story movie is a runner but it touches them because we all must endure day to day. This film is a metaphor for life, faith, and the importance (or not) of achievement.

*This review contains spoilers.

The story of Eric Liddell is an inspirational one. The music by Vangelis in this film works to elevate the audience to a higher place than most of us usually experience. After all, not all of us will run in the Olympics. The evocative message in Chariots of Fire is strong and timeless.

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Chariots of Fire (1981)
Cast

Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nicholas Farrell

Directed by

Hugh Hudson

Written by

Colin Welland

Other Info

Biography, Drama, Sport
PG

There was a poster in my running coach’s office when I was in High School that read: “The agony for the ecstasy.” That is why serious runners do it. I didn’t run anymore but in my twenties I knew the ecstasy of it. Chariots of Fire displays it masterfully. The film’s true story and anthemic music touched a generation beginning at its 1981 release.

Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) is the protagonist and he wants to win the olympic medal at any cost. He’s also a student at Harvard who is obsessed with running to run, second place is not good enough. As the Olympics near, he hears of another runner, Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson) vying to run in the Olympics. The difference with Eric is that he has a natural ability to run. Abrahams needs a coach and all manner of training to have a chance at winning. Liddell is also a Christian with high ideals. When he finds out the qualifying races are on a Sunday, he tells the committee he cannot run due to his Sabbath. This is the first time something like this ever happened to the committee so they hardly know what to do. Ultimately, they put Liddell in a different race category so he doesn’t have to run on Sunday. At the same time, Abrahams becomes tortured because he will never be able to prove himself against Liddell. This eats him up inside. 

The film is a psychological study of Abrahams. He is a “win at all costs” scrupulous fellow. Conversely, Liddell is a contented missionary in China doing the “work of the Lord” with his sister Jennie (Cheryl Campbell).

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There are two speeches by Liddell: one sounds like a sermon and another like a funeral. In fact, the final speech is drawn from actual lines Eric spoke at Abrahams funeral in real life. While they were adversaries on the track, they did become friends. What’s the one thing you won’t do? If you can’t think of anything, you probably need to work on your integrity. Liddell’s live mat seem like a stoic life of service. Abrahams life may look more indulgence with a girlfriend, wine, and the finest of food while studying at the finest of universities. The irony is that Abrahams is always unsatisfied. He becomes jealous of Liddlell, not because he is a better runner which he is but rather because he is content and joyful. It tears Abrahams up that he himself lacks that calmness and self-acceptance.

The music by Vangelis is some of the most evocative and beautiful pop piano ever recorded. It has a synth drum sound which was only just beginning to be used in music. A combination of some ethereal sounds, the synth drum, and the analog piano made this music infectious. It showed up on the pop charts. As a personal anecdote, I was 11 years old when I saw this in the theater. My parents remained through the credits, an action they had never done up to that point and still haven’t since, just to soak in the incredible song.

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This is a British film for sure. Settings include London, Harvard, and a Scottish beach where the British Track Team runs. The beach run is one of the most iconic scenes in movie history. Whether a person runs or not, this film applies to all of us. We see Liddell’s idealism contrasted against Abraham’s determination and grit. There is some of both in all of us. The question to talk about over coffee at the end is: “What would I stand up for?” The second question: “Who am I more like: Abrahams or Liddell?” They are the two poles on the spectrum. It’s a very tough question to answer. I think it’s clear Liddell is happier but I’ll leave that up to the viewer.

There is a scene at the beginning that has all the members of the British Olympic Track Team playing a game of cricket. Everyone fits except Liddell. He is off to the side and he seems out-of-place. As a missionary, I imagine he felt out of place with those guys. He says “When I run, I feel [God’s] pleasure. His character makes it a very spiritual film. Sadly, Ian Charleson died of Aids in 1990. He is also known for his roles in Ghandi and Tarzan, the Legend of Greystoke. His role as Eric Liddell remains his most popular role. The fact that he was probably not a Christian, though I don’t know if he was or not, goes to show what a great job of acting he did in Chariots of Fire. In a world where ideals seem less and less important, Eric Liddell’s life stands as a beacon of what integrity and sacrifice means. I’ve seen this film 50 times or more. I watched it again today to write this review. It’s one of the best movies ever made in my opinion. I recommend it to you.

‘Demolition’

Have you ever tried to put something broken back together again? How about a heart, stricken by grief. That may be what is happening in this film. That would explain a lot.

*This review contains spoilers.

Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, and Chris Cooper star in this film that may be better watched in a therapist’s office than in your DVD home theater.

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Demolition (2015)
Cast

Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper

Directed by

Jean-Marc Vallée

Written by

Bryan Sipe

Other Info

Drama
Rated R
1h 41min

I like most of Jake Gyllenhaal’s movies. They are usually a bit left of centre. Enemy was one of the strangest endings I’ve seen in a long time. I also adore Naomi Watts in just about anything she has starred in. The Impossible is one of my favorites. Chris Cooper is also a legend and a treat to watch. With all three of these in this film, you’d think it was an amazing piece of work, you’d think. There is a lot of fun going on here but, as is customary for Gyllenhaal, it’s odd fun indeed.

The story summary is as follows: Jake Gyllenhaal’s character is stricken with grief and apparently in denial after the death of his wife in a horrible car accident they were both in. Instead of grieving by taking off work and showing sadness, he decides to return immediately to work much to the dismay of his late wife’s father, played by Chris Cooper. It’s odd how he is so okay after the accident. What’s more, he seems preoccupied with the way things are put together. He is obsessed with taking household items like appliances apart and assembling them. I told you about the odd part. He meets Naomi Watt’s character and they start a sort of relationship. This doesn’t get much tread because he is usually rebuilding things or breaking things with a sledge-hammer. There is an interplay between Gyllenhaal’s character and his newfound girlfriend’s son. This oddly takes the film in a different direction. The boy suspects me might be gay and seems to draw strength from breaking things apart too. One thing I should note about Gyllenhaal’s character is that he really seems askew, almost “touched.” It’s endearing to watch him go through healing stages if you assume that is what is happening but his character’s outlandish actions of grandiosity discount his realism. He needed to be more human more of the time.

jomovie13 - Stills from the movie Demolition starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Judah Lewis##########jomovie13##########CATHEY-KERIS FILMS

I take this movie as an abstract map for grief. When you go through such a terrible loss, it breaks you apart. It leaves you to pick up the pieces and put yourself back together. I think someone going through grief could find some solace in this film. Sometimes you have to break down to build yourself strong again. This is an interesting and possibly therapeutic film but as a typical box office movie, I felt it was just short of the mark. It didn’t feel like a movie. Instead, it felt like a gesture from someone like a director seeking to help those going through grief. That isn’t a bad thing it’s just not a movie thing for me, too simplistic and not interesting enough subject matter. And again, Gyllenhaal’s character was not real and not believable enough for me to care about him.

You could start a cult with this film. It teaches self-actualization through destruction. There is a lot you can do with destruction, we all want to know what’s inside things. Sometimes it’s tempting to break them open and see it immediately. I think if one looks at the movie as a therapy session, it will make sense and one can have a good experience watching it. If one can’t buy my reading and doesn’t have a framed purpose for this plot, it will get extraordinarily boring very quickly. To close, I’d say it works on one level but not another. People who have been through grief are more likely to enjoy it. For those not interested in grief or the psychological study of it, I wouldn’t recommend this one.

‘Good Kill’

Ethan Hawke gives an amazing performance of grounded pilot trapped in a box, unable to escape his fate.

*This review contains spoilers.

This thriller moves a bit slow but builds the suspense until you get the point like a tidal wave: War is hell whether “in theater” or via joystick.

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Good Kill (2014)
Cast

Ethan Hawke, January Jones, Zoë Kravitz

Directed by

Andrew Niccol

Written by

Andrew Niccol

Other Info

R
1h 42min
Drama, Thriller

Writer/Director Andrew Niccol has an impressive resume: 2014 Good Kill, 1998 The Truman Show, 1997 Gattaca, and more. Good Kill is just the latest impressive project he’s done. It deals with the individual conscience amidst a system that goes against it.

Major Thomas Egan, Ethan Hawke, is a grounded pilot. He has become part of a secretive force that controls drones in Afghanistan by controls resembling that of an XBox. He is stationed in Las Vegas and goes to kill every day in a portable room of sorts where the remote equipment is kept. There are many rooms like this. In fact, Egan is not alone in his daily kills. He has a team with him.

In charge of Egan’s team is Lt. Colonel Jack Johns (Bruce Greenwood). Being a huge fan of his, I was glad to see him in this role. I liked the character because he wore his heart on his sleeve. He shared his difficulties with the drone kills they were doing. Still, he never breached his orders and did what he was told from his commander.

Egan starts regretting what he has to do every day. He begs the Colonel to put him back in the plane but that seems like it will never happen. Egan starts seeing rape and murder happening and he is told to stick to the orders. He is told the rapist “is a bad man but not their bad man.” He is ordered to let him be.

Events like this and others like collateral damage he witnesses cause profound strain on Egan. He starts drinking and neglecting his wife and kids. From there we starts to see him crumble and we learn through his story what this sort of remote warfare can do to an individual.

This film is done very well. The obvious comparisons to XBox games like Call of Duty are there but it’s more about real war I think. How many of theirs do we have to kill until they stop killing us? Is this sort of warfare that is going on now in real life actually protecting us from terrorism? So many questions like these are raised in this film. I would have liked it if they gave more background on his type of warfare and showed the connection to video games. It was alluded to that there is a connection but seeing that as part of the story would have sent a stronger message to the young men and women out there who get vehemently into these games. Because that connection was not explored much, it lost a star for me. I still think this is one of the better films of 2014, I recommend it.

Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice

In 1969, things were more open minded than in decades past. It was “The Age of Aquarius” and I imagine couples were delving curiously into open marriage affairs and wife swapping.
Title: Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice
Number of times I’ve seen it: 1
Genre: Comedy, Drama
MPAA Rating: R
Year: 1969
Director: Paul Mazursky, known for “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” “Antz”
Top Billed Cast: Natalie Wood, Robert Culp, Elliott Gould, Dyan Cannon
Brief Synopsis: 2 couples explore open marriage affairs and a wife swap.

This film gets into those social mores without being an x rated film. It is a comedy but the concepts show the difference between traditional and modern marriages which can sometimes make for an uncomfortable scene. Natalie Wood is stunning. She plays an open-minded wife who lets Robert Culp’s character have an affair. Through doing so, she has an impact of Dyan Cannon’s character who initially has no intention of allowing her husband, played by Elliot Gould, to have an affair. It’s a funny, interesting study of free love marriage in 1969.

‘Vigilante’ – Charismatic Portrayal of One-Man-Justice in a Village

Can a vigilante exist in a small village as a beneficial star or hero? Yes and no. Find out why and why not when you see this film.

I sat down and enjoyed Vigilante today. It had the thrills of a vengeance film but with a dark comedic element. Having said that, some scenes are dead serious.

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Vigilante (2016)
Cast

Simon Cassidy, Millie Reeves, Moir Leslie

Directed by

Darren Bolton

Written by

Darren Bolton

Other Info

Drama
Rated PG-13
1h 30min

When punk street fighter kids get old they sometimes make it in society. By “making it” I don’t mean they become famous actors or musicians, but rather, they sometimes make it as members of a small village leading lives of quiet desperation. I use the word “sometimes” because they don’t always make it and more often than not, they end up in jail or dead. The ones who do make it, often add a lot of value to their hometown. I had my prediction early on in this film that “Pep” (Simon Cassidy: Labrats, North and South) was not going to be one of those. I won’t reveal if I was right or wrong here though.

Pep starts out as an unemployed, relatively young guy in his 30’s who has to pick a fight with just about anyone he sees. The director, Darren Bolton, who is known for Scent and a short film also called Vigilante on which the film is based, chose to shoot the film in documentary format. This works well to create suspense and it draws the viewer up close to the Pep. He is a sort of small town hero but I use that word loosely. Not everyone in the village is a fan and they let him know in scenes ranging from the coffee shop to their front doors when Pep comes by to do his “service calls.”

Pep sets out immediately in the film to clean up the streets of this village he is in. In many ways, his actions are that of an out-and-out asshole. In other ways, he is a charismatic figure who can exact justice when he sees the chance. But despite small town fame, there is something not right about Pep and we watch in high suspense as we wait for him to mess up. There was a time in the film when I was proven wrong, surprised he was correct about a perpetrator of a burglary. Other times, it was clear he was wrong about who he accused. Unlike most people though, Pep doesn’t seem to show remorse or ever apologize when he does have the wrong person. This sets up a lot of tension as he continues to seek his own reckless vigilante justice.

vigilante1There are several actors that captured my attention but the one most worth mentioning I think is his ex-wife Becky (Millie Reeves). Since Pep is always hamming it up with his camera crew, it’s difficult to see what he is really like. Becky doesn’t buy into his newfound local stardom. She is downright annoyed every time he comes around to see his son. We get lots of hints from peoples’ reactions about Pep’s character but ultimately, not much concrete is revealed so we have to make our own conclusions. Becky has a bit of love and lot of hate and resentment for Pep. He’s a charismatic character you love to hate certainly. He also represents the animal inside all of us that doesn’t want to wait for cops and courts. When we are wronged, we want justice now. That’s why Pep appeals to us.

vigilante-2This is not a particularly violent film, though it has a few shocking depictions. The confrontations are not as bloody as Dead Man’s Shoes for example but both films carry a theme of vigilantism. Simon Cassidy is an actor I have not seen before this. He is a very charismatic, quick actor and was a pleasure to watch in this role. I like films like this because I can feel imagined vindication without going to jail for it. These movies usually draw a large audience because people enjoy the catharsis of vigilante films. From credits to credits, these elements are present and it’s my hope a lot of people will be able to see and enjoy this film as I did. The way it ends up for Pep is not predictable but it does make sense. Discussing it with my wife over coffee, I could hear she had some of the same feelings I did about Pep. This is a thinking man’s (woman’s) film or sure to be discussed with a date or a friend at length. I will certainly discuss it on some future podcast.

There are many remarkable particulars about this film but I think one of the most noteworthy is the editing. I imagine editing for any feature film is a bitch but when you look at the hundreds of cuts that are made in this quasi biography, the task appears gargantuan. David Brook does an elegant and commanding job telling this story through its editing.

All in all, this new film Vigilante is a masterpiece that achieves what it sets out to do. Bullseye. For that reason, I give it a 5/5.

 

The Benefactor

This film was written and directed by Andrew Renzi who is a relative newcomer. Unfortunately we see the same sort of “bare all” ugly reality side Richard Gere gave us in Time out of Mind, and it doesn’t work as well.

This film was written and directed by Andrew Renzi who is a relative newcomer. Unfortunately we see the same sort of “bare all” ugly reality side Richard Gere gave us in Time out of Mind, and it doesn’t work as well.

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The Benefactor (2015)
Cast

Dakota Fanning, Theo James, Richard Gere

Directed by

Andrew Renzi

Written by

Andrew Renzi

Other Info

Drama
Rated R
1hr 33min
Riley’s Rating:

The more you know about addiction the more you know the difference between a schedule I drug and a schedule V. No addict is groping for a fix of a schedule V drug, although some kids these days are mixing them to get high. Richard Gere is showing us addiction in a very in-your-face way. He seems to be creating these roles for himself at his current age which I believe is around 60. Time Out of Mind is where I saw it recently. He is bare-boned and raw in that one suffering the effects of homelessness and early-onset Alzheimers. You can see his pain in that film, in fact, you fan smell it, even feel it as your own. It’s uncomfortable in that film as it is in The Benefactor. I’m fairly certain Mr. Gere is trying to show he’s a great actor by baring his yellow teeth, so to speak. In other words, he’s not holding back in his portrayal of character these days and he wants you to come along on the journey with him.

The Benefactor isn’t just about addiction but rather the personality flaws and types that make people become addicted. We can say to ourselves, “He’s an addict by choice, that would never happen to me.” We say it every day about the disheveled brutish person begging for a dollar in front of Starbucks. We say it about our friend’s teen who just entered rehab. We judge and prejudge and post-judge and become disgusted when we hear about the lengths addicts go to in order to obtain a fix. This film looks at one man and who he is in a singular way. In the beginning you could argue we are meant to hate him. Middle and end,  one could argue the same.

He’s the head of a hospital, a pushy benefactor to an unwitting twenty something Olivia, played by Dakota Fanning of many movies you can look up if you don’t already know her. He is also a general piece of shit to her fiancee, Luke, played by Theo James known for the Divergence series. Let’s visit a tiny bit of plot to see why he acts this way: Franny (Gere) was in a terrible car accident with Mia (Cheryl Hines) and Bobby (Dylan Baker) and Mia and Bobby were killed. Franny was like an uncle to Olivia and after recovering from the accident and becoming addicted to pain pills, he extends financial help and a space in his mansion-like home for Olivia and Luke to live. The trouble is, his money has strings attached and he needs a lot of attention.

We see Franny go through withdrawals from Morphine and through many embarrassing situations where he begs for drugs from many people in the movie, including Olivia and Luke, who by the way is an oncologist doctor. Watching the film is uncomfortable to say the least. As I noted earlier in my review, Gere seems bent on showing every ugly (real?) side to the audience these days. It may be there is no better side. Whatever the reason, this film is the second in a series of films where he chooses to be ugly and in-your-face. It’s telling in fact after the final generic title flash which indicates the end that we see flashes of Gere shaving his scraggly, overgrown white beard with a razor. I actually stopped watching there because I was so on edge with what he would do to himself throughout the movie, I thought he might cut himself on purpose just to show us his true blood.

This is an ok story but a strange convoluted script. Gere is meant to be hated and he is. I had no compassion for him in the little pharmacy desperate to get a refill. He screams, he cuts himself, he says mean hurtful things to olivia and her fiancee, it’s not a happy go lucky movie like Pretty Woman that’s for darned sure. He’s moved way beyond that as an artist and I think he wants you to know it. If he could have developed the other characters a bit more it might have been better. We never get the backstory on what Olivia has been doing as he was healing. Well, she’s pregnant so we know one thing she was doing. Movies with a hate-able protagonist work better when you get other perspectives. As it is, the whole movie is a camera right up Gere’s nose. That detracts from the story.

Another problem is the script given to Gere. I don’t “buy it” when he’s trying to be tender with a kid in the cancer wing, hiding under the blanket and playing good doctor. I don’t buy it when he’s trying to be sweet with Olivia. He doesn’t strike me as an uncle or even a friend. For her to move in with him, risking her marriage and her pregnancy, it would need to be a safer place. It feels tense from the beginning. Another odd non-sequitur is the fact that Luke just up and moves in with Franny because Olivia wants to. If Luke is a doctor, couldn’t they afford their own place? Finally, by the end of the film, we hate Franny almost to the point where we want him to disappear. Yes, he’s that annoying. Still, when he wakes up, the orderly nurse escorts him to the maternity ward to see Luke and Olivia’s child? What? Based on the story I sat through for 1hr 30mins, that would not be appropriate at all. I kept expecting it to all be a dream and he’d wake up in rehab. Unfortunately, you’ll find an alternate to my expectation. There isn’t anything smart here. I think if you really love Richard Gere in movies, you may have a reason to go. You’re gonna see everything about him at 60, well, not everything. Hopefully that won’t get back to him and give him any ideas.

‘Colonia’ (The Colony)

Life in a cult, specifically in a commune sounds horrible to most people. This film shows the worst of the worst in history that eventually fell when its leader was captured.

*This review contains spoilers.

Emma Watson ladles through this historical drama, “inspired by true events.” There are elements of cults and what they do to their members in this but it’s really about one in particular that had a truly evil leader and was eventually tried and convicted as such.

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Colonia
Cast

Emma Watson, Daniel Brühl, Michael Nyqvist

Directed by

Florian Gallenberger

Written by

Torsten Wenzel, Florian Gallenberger

Other Info

Drama, History, Romance
Rated R
1h 50min

I often wonder in my life’s travels how many people know what a cult is? I do. I had experience with one in college that I’ll never forget. It started with me attending their little “bible talk” and before too long they were pressuring me to move into a “shepherd” brothers house and pay part of the rent. For God, nonetheless. Before I got too involved, my Dad got wise to what I told him and explained they were a cult on campus for years. That’s when I quit going to meetings. Colonia is a true story about a cult in Chile. I think it has existed up until the early 2000’s. In the film, once you enter you can never leave. In fact, up to the time the story takes place, no one had ever escaped the cult. That’s what makes this story interesting.

Emma Waston and Daniel Bruhl play Lena and Daniel, a Chilean Professor/activist and his English stewardess girlfriend. When a coup erupts in Chile, Daniel is captured. The activists tell her he has been exiled to the Colonia Dignidad, a world-famous frightening place where the members stay for life in a brutally neo Christian environment. Sins are punished by group slapping, to name one torture. When Lena hears her love has been taken there, she realizes her only chance to save him is to enter the cult voluntarily. She does, and a large segment of the film shows the torture she endures at the hands of this sick cult. Michael Nyqvist plays Paul Schäfer, the charismatic and frightening leader of the cult. We learn later he has impregnated, raped, and tortured thousands of members in the cult. He does a great job playing the part. I always wonder what the actor’s motivation could be for playing the part of a cult rapist. No matter, he finds it and he ends up playing this role quite well.

thecolony2It’s interesting watching Watson adopt the tenets of the cult. Several times, he tests her. It takes many days before she sees Daniel alive there. She has to go on faith that he is there and that she has done the right thing coming to the site. Daniel has to pretend he’s retarded as a result of a terrible beating he receives. It’s smart because they send him to the commune since they feel every person has a purpose. There are some terrible scenes of abuse. When Lena is working in the fields the first day she says she is thirsty. One of the leaders, an especially evil one, brings her a bucket of water telling her to not drink it but rather carry it with her all day. In another case, a woman shares she is to be married. This is forbidden in the commune so the leaders subject her to a public “slapping” or beating session to the point to where she must be hospitalized. Even the man who she was supposed to be married to must deal blows on her face. It is a barbaric scene and apparently the kid of thing that went on in Colonia.

Emma Watson plays the role barely well. I find her a little too unaffected by everything. I think she plays sheltered roles well but when it all comes down to her and her agony, she falls short. In this role, she is a bit weak that way. In a similar fashion, Daniel Bruhl is hard to relate with. I found both of their faces and delivery of dialog vanilla. These roles call for a dynamic set of emotions and neither seems to exude that. But, at the end of the day, the story itself is not all that engaging either. It was not promoted well and there is a bit of false advertising in it. You can watch the trailer or read the ads and then later in the film think to yourself, “I’ve been duped, this is not what I thought.” I like historical films and this is based on a story but it didn’t play out like a movie about cults. Instead, it was about torture and evil people. It would have been nice to see a little more on the psychology of cults and communes and a lot less of the coup material.

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Years ago I had a college writing teacher who would tell the class “Focus on one thing.” I think Colonia focuses on too many things. Occasionally a film can get away with multiple items to focus on but usually, the good ones I remember have that overall focus. The one in this film should have been the Colony because that was the title. It should have started at the gate going in. The coup in Chile really has little to do with the cult stuff. It could have been portrayed quickly in the introduction. As it is you have to wait almost 1/3 of the film to get into the commune and even then, they are still building up to what’s really going on in there. The final scenes are great. You feel elated as they escape to the airport and somehow convince the pilot to fly them away, even with Chileans with assault rifle banging on the door. It’s a great ending to a so/so movie. It lost points with me in its story because it wasn’t focused enough. Furthermore, I thought Emma Watson was miscast. This role needs someone who wears their emotion on her face, blood sweat, and tears. Maybe in 20 years we’ll see that from Emma but she’s not showing it enough in this film.

Luke Cage

Luke Cage is the latest output from Marvel. I just started watching the early epsiodes on Netflix. The show has it all: a tough, relatable hero, villains, a few attractive love interests, and a superpower that will be hard to beat throughout the show. It may be considered different in that Cage is black but I find the immersion in his small Harlem community entertaining and enlightening. How many seasons will it power out? Time will tell.

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Cast

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Written by

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Other Info

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Cage is a hangdog dishwasher trying to make ends meet with two jobs. He lives alone in a small apartment and gets chased down by the little old landlady. I think they are trying to show us a good-hearted guy, humble, and trying not to use his superpowers. He hangs out at a barbershop and gets to know “Pops,” the owner quite well. In fact, he is like a father figure to Cage. There is another surrogate son in the picture, he’s the mafia leader running an organized crime ring in the city. I have a feeling there will be a lot of friction between these two. It could perhaps resemble a Lex Luthor/Clark Kent rivalry.

Cage’s superpower appears to simply be indestructibility. He gets stabbed and knives break, shot and bullets fly off. It doesn’t appear he has a weakness yet, I am only on e3. I find it a highly entertaining show. I recommend it for anyone who likes Marvel superheroes or thriller tv.

Apocalypse Now

War movies don’t always leave a good impression with me. In fact, I rarely go to see them. When I saw Apocalypse Now, it was years after its release on DVD and I wasn’t that excited going in. Luckily, I was hugely pleased with the result. This film made it into Riley’s Great 100.

apocalypsenow-poster

Apocalypse Now (1979)
Cast

Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall

Directed by

Francis Ford Coppola

Written by

John Milius, Francis Ford Coppola

Other Info

Drama, War
Rated R
2h 33min

When I saw it the first time, I was in an American Literature course at Cal State Fullerton. I had a prof named “Dr. Friend.” Some people didn’t see him as a friend but I did, considering the amazing books and movies he turned me on to. This film is one of those.

One of the assigned novels in the course was Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” This is a gut-wrenching novel about killing for profit. The first chapter of the book is full of blood soaked descriptions. It describes a place where human life no longer has value in the wake of the mighty dollar. Conrad was getting at real “truth” and many a college student since has studied his words looking for that elusive word. What is at the heart of darkness? That’s what Conrad is luring us toward.

Apocalypse-Now3Apocalypse Now is based on “Heart of Darkness.” It takes place on a boat in Vietnam. The soldiers are lost in a lost cause war but they stumble on something far more sinister and evil. A living being created by the American war machine. There are parallels to Conrad’s book but both pieces stand alone as incredible vignettes of evil and the dark propensity of the human soul if left unchecked.
IMDB gives a short synopsis as such:

During the Vietnam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade colonel who has set himself up as a god among a local tribe.

Robert Duvall stars in this film along with Harrison Ford a cast of other now-legendary actors. The two that usually get the most press are Martin Sheen as Captain Willard and Marlon Brando as Kurtz. Apocalypse Now KurtzBrando is hypnotic to watch and listen to. What can you do when you have sympathy for the devil? The interplay of what we see as “moral” vs. “animal” makes this movie a trip. Should we assign guilt to those who are survivalists at all costs? If not, why do we murder them in war? These are questions that came up for me. I saw this as less a war movie and more or a moral drama. I really enjoyed it on that level.

david_halberstam_on_apocalypse_nowThe war images are still prevalent here. Almost every scene has an orange sky, alluding to the use of crop dust laced with Agent Orange to commit mass unbridled homicide against the Viet Cong. All is fair in love and war? You see the men uttering phrases like: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” upon waking. There is even a stud from San Diego with a surfboard who catches waves in between mass carnage. This black humor lays the foundation to look at what we do in the military on both sides and the dark hearts we must have to do it. The director, Francis Ford Coppola gave so much of his heart and soul to make this movie. francis-ford-coppola-on-the-set-of-apocalypse-now-1050x715A documentary called Hearts of Darkness shows some of the ghastly things the cast and director had to go through to get this filmed. It’s an amazing doc, I highly recommend it. Martin Sheen was so stressed filming he had a heart attack during filming. Fortunately he was able to get proper medical care and rest and he finished the film. If you are like me and don’t like war films but the idea of this “heart of darkness” being portrayed is interesting to you, I recommend seeing it anyway. The war images soon fade in the presence of a profound cinematic look at the human heart. What you make of that experience is up to you and your conscience. Are you more or Kurtz or Willard? For me it was tough to choose one over the other as good. In the end though, I made my choice. I recommend this film highly, a LOT of other movie critics do as well. This is of course, a classic of all time.