Sami Blood: Audio Film Review

One review I read before watching this movie said, “Open up to this film.” That’s what I did and I am glad. It is beautiful to look at and it contains a timeless tale.

The haves vs the have-nots: one of the most ageless templates of humankind. This is a Swedish film with English subtitles. That’s what’s going on here in “Sami Blood.” Elle Marja is an old woman reflecting on her life as a young woman who is part of the “Sami Blood” or the reindeer farming peasants. After foul treatment at “school” and discovering a general malaise in the life style she was born into, she decides to impersonate someone in the upper echelon. She is desperate, she will do anything to be part of the higher society.

Sami Blood (2016)
Sameblod (original title)
1h 50min | Drama | 2 June 2017 (USA)

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A reindeer-breeding Sámi girl who is exposed to the racism of the 1930’s at her boarding school, starts dreaming of another life. But to achieve it, she has to become someone else and break all ties with her family and culture.
Director: Amanda Kernell
Writer: Amanda Kernell
Stars: Lene Cecilia Sparrok, Mia Erika Sparrok, Maj-Doris Rimpi

The Swedish landscapes are incredible and the hardworking director/writer Amanda Kernell makes sure they are in many scenes as background or even just filling the entire frame. These hills tell a story. In interviews she says she had to make decisions similar to this young character. Many of her culture had to decide where they would live. There is a powerful scene where the young woman demands an heirloom from her family so she can continue going to private school under a dead girl’s identity. The mother is torn as to what she should do. The “low people” are like native Americans the way they live. They do need money though so this is a demand that borders on insult.

She falls into a relationship with a young man. At first it appears as if they love each other. The cinematography of them dancing and enchanted time time together is wonderfully mesmerizing. Later though, his parents in whose home they are having their affair question her motives and they force him to turn her out. On her way out, she doesn’t state her love for him, she is desperate. She only pleads, “Tell them I can work here cleaning.” While a sad scene, it goes to show the invisible wall between these two castes of the Swedish countryside.

My daughters are going to “Vid-con” in a few months. We paid for their tickets at Christmas. There, they will see “The Gabby Show” and other of their favorite Youtube stars. These rich famous people are their stars. I couldn’t help but draw a parallel to the lower and upper people in this film. Maybe America hasn’t come very far in its middle class. Still, I am happy my kids have tickets to something they feel excited about.

As the film concludes, we aren’t given a nicely wrapped conclusion. This is one of those films you have to make your own mind up about. For me, it is about the age=old controversy between upper and lower class. The middle class is a new thing America has produced. THrough time people have been either “Haves” or “Have-nots.” Can we judge Elle Marja for wanting something better? Was this her only option? He young sister stayed faithfully with the Sami Blood. At a point near the end, at her sister’s funeral, Elle Marja rips off the casket lid and her sister’s weathered face is revealed. Which lived a truly happier life? This is a longer, historical period piece in a foreign language. It won’t appeal to everyone. As for me, I was deeply touched. It lost one point because several scenes took longer than they should have. Beyond that, it’s excellent. I give this film a 9/10.

‘Ashby’ – Legendary Mickey Rourke as Mentor

How does ‘Ashby’ stack up as the latest Mickey Rourke film? The jury is in for this reviewer.

My Rating: 6/10 – Mickey Rourke is an irresistible performer. I’ve been watching his movies since I was a kid and his presence in movies had drawn audiences for years and up to the present day. Is Ashby a welcome presence? Hmmm.

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Ashby (2015)
Cast

Mickey Rourke, Nat Wolff, Emma Roberts

Directed by

Tony McNamara

Written by

Tony McNamara

Other Info

Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rated R
1h 40min

Ashby is one of those movies you keep questioning whether it’s an independent or major studio motion picture. You think it must suck as the latter and might be hip and cool if it’s the former. Turns out, neither platform can save this film, it comes up empty on several levels.

The premise is that a High-school student Ed Wallis (Nat Wolff) enters into a friendship with his neighbor, Ashby, (Mickey Rourke) a retired CIA assassin who only has a few months left to live.

The basic plot bears similarities to Scent of a Woman. The main difference is that Mickey Rourke doesn’t play the role as deftly as Al Pacino. In fact, his character is boring and without charisma. It’s hard to believe we are watching the same Mickey Rourke that kicked ass in Iron Man 2. Maybe he came off as lucid there because he was playing with a thick accent. His character could have been performed much better. The film’s biggest weakness is in him being mis-cast. He’s a great actor and I have huge respect for him. Another film I truly loved him in was The Wrestler. This is not The Wrestler. Unfortunately his performance falls short and almost nonsensical in this film. The romance present in the film can’t save it either. Emma Roberts and Nat Wolff are both charming but the other story overshadows everything and mostly, you want to forget it. I actually chose to watch this film because it was a romance but I think that is another “mis” in the movie along with miscast: a mislabeled.

It’s a fun idea for a story and for a while, I wanted to see what was going to happen. Soon however I lost interest in the characters and the predictable story unraveling before me. When a high school kid is mentored by an old dude, cool things can happen. I guess the trouble here is that not enough cool things happen. The film weaves a high school film into a hit-man drama with another “coming of age” cord woven in. If each were like seasoning, I’d say each overpowers the other. Nothing is subtle. I’ll be a Mickey Rourke fan to the end but this is not one of his films I can wholeheartedly recommend. I wanted deeper, more rounded characters and a better story. I see what they tried to do but in the end they missed it. It’s not a total bomb so if you are a fan, you may enjoy it because hey … it’s MICKEY ROURKE! Still, Ashby doesn’t pack the punch of some of his other hit films.

‘High Rise’ – Style Over Accessibility

Some movies look really slick as this one does, and believe me I was impressed with the look of it. Unofrtunately for me, I hadn’t read the book and I think somewhere along the plot line I got lost.

My Rating: 6/10 – *This review contains spoilers.

In the future, everyone might live in communal buildings. If you’ve ever lived in a tiny apartment in a big city, you know these can have their drawbacks. This film shows some of those potential problems in the form of a drama. It all looks great but it somehow lost me in its fragmented plot.

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High Rise (2015)
Cast

Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller

Directed by

Ben Wheatley

Written by

J.G. Ballard (novel), Amy Jump

Other Info

Drama
Rated R
1h 59min

Did you “get” this film? Imagine you live, work, swim, workout, shop, and recreate in a London high-rise building. That’s what’s going on here. The cover almost looks like the game “Clue” since it has all the characters posed sardonically as if to say “I could have done it, but I didn’t.” But this isn’t a “whodunnit.” Instead, it’s a drama about things that go on in said high rise. One facet that’s really weird and alluring is the way the futuristic stuff is all retro 70’s looking. It’s like a trip into a sort of “James Bond” land on a movie studio theme park tour. I also reminded me of Ray Bradbury’s writing. He wrote in the 50’s about a future he imagined from 50’s stuff (phones, analog computers, telescreens, monorails). What’s different here is you have a move made in 2016 that portrays a future using 70’s stuff. It really needs to be seen to be understood. I call it futuristic retro.

Tom Hiddleston plays the main character, Laing. He is the protagonist in the real life novel of the same name by J.G. Ballard. I would assume the novel provided some of the retro visual motivation. The film was directed by Bean Wheatley who is known for Kill List and Sight Seers. He is joined by his wife as screenplay writer on this film once again. Jeremy Irons plays “the architect.” He represents the older gentleman who knows everything about the building. Sienna Miller also stars in the film.

High-Rise is a story about surviving and thriving in a futuristic high-rise. It’s as much about human technology as it is about its failures. Were people meant to live this closely together? One might decide not after watching this film. Then again, it could be the fault of a few bad applies that spoils it for everyone. When Laing first moves in to the building, I asked myself “Why would he ever need to leave?” There is even a floor that serves as a grocery store. On its face it seems a novel idea, but perhaps we do need to go out from time to time and mingle?

Luke Evans (known for Dracula) plays a scary Wilder. He is the antagonist and the constant fly in the ointment. At the same time, he was the character I enjoyed watching the most. He bares a similar resemblance to Michael Shannon, who has a similar demeanor as well. It’s impossible to rule out whether a certain person or the faulty plans of the architect pave the way for anarchy in this London high-rise. despite the contained setting, there is sex, violence, vengeance, and science fiction that keeps the plot interesting. By the way, does anyone agree the sex scene was way too long? Is Tom Hiddleston gunning for a new genre here? Unfortunately, the structure and slick look is fragmented. I don’t think I “got it” as I was supposed to.

Lots of time movies look really slick but I just can’t get into them. It happened with the remake of The Man Called Uncle and some others I reviewed last year. I could probably go back and understand this film better a second time but I probably won’t anytime soon. For the visuals and futuristic/retro ideas, I gave it a 3/5. This is one however that I think will depend a lot on the individual as to whether it’s “gotten” or not. Part of being a “spoilers” reviewer as I am these days is being honest about my gut response. On a gut level, this movie scores lower with me. I try to avoid rating film by my gut so for the look, acting, and structure, I give it 3/5.

Passchendaele

Passchendaele reminded me that war is organized murder and nothing else. It also illustrates the beneficent role Canada had in WWI.

My Rating: 6/10 – This is a good film that lacks in its script and there is no clearly discernable message. I think great war movies have that. It’s meant to show the passion of a country for its cause, namely Canada in WWI.

Passchendaele (2008)
Cast
Paul Gross

as Michael Dunne

Caroline Dhavernas

as Sarah Mann

Joe Dinicol

as David Mann

Directed by
Paul Gross
Written by
Paul Gross
Other Info

Drama, History, Romance
Rated R
1h 54min

A war film should have a tangible, good story woven throughout and I didn’t feel like one existed here. We see the empty eyes of a woman bereft of her lover. We also see a man who survives war and loves the best way he knows how. The road to these conclusions is peppered with war violence and reverie of a war long past and I wasn’t really into it.

This film is a pride to the Canadians. It shows the role Canada played in the war. That was an important factor of this film and I liked it for that. Did I mention Canadian pride in war is rampant here? If you’re Canadian or you treasure grim war scenes, you will like it for that reason. Otherwise, you might agree with me that the writing was thin and there was no universal, apart from Canada, message being put forth in the story.

I don’t normally put a caveat on my reviews but in this case I think it’s appropriate to inform the reader that I am a pacifist. I try to discourage my kids from joining any military system.

I do think that my global view on war affects my interpretation of war movies so, there’s my caveat.

I do enjoy some war movies when their message is clear and well delivered. I don’t like being among the bombs and bayonets when I see no real purpose. An example of a war film that gets its message out clearly is “Apocalypse Now.” This is no “Apocalypse Now.” People talk quickly and there were no real memorable dialogs or monologues in my opinion. Stabs with a bayonet don’t count as intriguing moments for me.

There is excellent cinematography and the wardrobe is all retro and in sync with the time being portrayed. There is a romance, it’s not thrilling.

War is hell and this film takes you there.

I did get some positive messages from it but overall I found it to be a dismal account with no apparent purpose or moral at the end. For that reason along with poor acting and script, I took away a few stars. Some may like it but this is definitely not a pacifist’s film. I am glad I saw it for the historical aspects and the cinematography. I never knew Canada had such a role in the war, I didn’t need a two hour History Channel TV movie to understand that though.

‘Stand and Deliver’ (1988) – An Inner City Teacher & His Students Make History

After Jaime Escalante’s students passed the A.P. Calculus exam for a second time to prove they didn’t cheat, Escalante says to the test company: “I want the original scores reinstated.” What a cinematic moment! Those kids stood and delivered!

My Rating 10/10 This film means a lot to me as someone who values education. I can only think of one other film that competes for the position of my all time favorite and that is ‘Lean on Me’ with Morgan Freeman. They both demonstrate the concept of raising your expectations high for students, trusting they want to achieve.
*This review contains spoilers.

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Stand and Deliver (1988)
Cast

Edward James Olmos, Estelle Harris, Mark Phelan

Directed by

Ramón Menéndez

Written by

Ramón Menéndez, Tom Musca

Other Info

Drama
PG

This film, as far as I am concerned, should be required viewing for anyone who wants to be a teacher. I’m not saying it will discourage that career path but I think it accurately shows what you have to aspire to be if you want to reach your students. The larger than life teacher, Jaime Escalante, is played by Edward James Olmos in an eerie sort of doppelgänger way. It’s as if he was born to play this part.

The story goes that Escalante starts his first day teaching in an inner city Los Angeles school. The school is overwrought with gang members and students who seem to not care about school or their new teacher. I can tell you I have seen this played out in high school when I was a substitute teacher there in my twenties. At the same time, I’ve seen it in the lower grades, though a little more innocently, in my 17 years of teaching elementary public school. How do you tame this teeming horde? That’s the method you must develop as a teacher and it doesn’t come easy. Sending kids to the Principal becomes a last resort and you have to deal with unruly and disrespectful kids on your own.

Because the situation is so bad in some schools, teachers should see this movie. You can pick up some tips and you can be encouraged to go toward what you think is best. That’s called developing a teaching style. It’s also really easy to get into because it’s an 80’s movie with a great soundtrack. Credits to credits, you feel immersed in the miracle that truly took place in an inner city L.A. school. It is a powerful film for anyone to appreciate and enjoy, especially teachers.

StandandDeliverEdwardJamesOlmosEscalante gets a group of hispanic kids all fired up to take the AP calculus test. This surprises everyone in the film because up to now, the school has been one of the most underperforming in the country. Escalante petitions to the school board to get his students to take it and in spite of some people disagreeing, he gets permission. The kids do finally take the test and at that point, the worst of all worst things happens: the state comes out to investigate possible cheating. As if it wasn’t enough for these kids to work so hard, now they get accused of doing an immoral thing. They have to take the test again to exonerate themselves.

slide-daniel-villarreal-1All along the way, Escalante is reaching out to his students: showing them a finder trick to learn their 9’s in multiplication, dining at their parents’ restaurants trying to get buy-in on them going to college, and things like that. He is not a normal educator but rather a “super” one. I think it would be foolish for me to try and be like him, he’s an individual with a specific skill set of gifts. I on the other hand, have my own bag of tricks when it comes to classroom management and student achievement. Even those who are not teachers will find this film entertaining. Everyone has been in that student chair right? It is relatable from both sides and it clearly shows the benefits of having a common goal and never backing down.

stand-and-deliver_1Lou Diamond Phillips plays on of the hoodlum gang types that gets drawn in by Escalante’s teaching style. There is a great scene where Phillips’ character and a few hoodlum types steal his car and then fix it up in their chop shop. They make his old VW into a tricked out show car. It’s a great scene because is really shows how much he means to these kids now, after proving himself a conscientious and caring teacher.

4407856_f248I love another scene where Andy Garcia comes in from the test company to investigate the possibility of cheating. Phillip’s character jokes with him faking him out that they cheated. Then he springs a punchline insulting Garcia. There is another scene where Garcia throws a fit saying he is a Mexican and he understands the pressures. They are basically accusing him of not being sensitive to the Mexican people. It’s one of his more irate scenes I’ve seen him play. He does and excellent job.

ejo-stand-and-deliverThe movie is like a racing film in that there is a goal and despite tons of setbacks, the race ensues until the end where the elusive prize is won. For anyone starting school, college, a new challenging endeavor of any kind (but academic would probably receive the most benefit) this is an excellent motivation tool and source of inspiration. As a teacher, this is one of my favorite films but it ranks up there with any other movie I love. I’d put it in my top 10. So if you’ve never seen this “based on a true story” film, I highly recommend it to you. It has something for everyone and it affects you in a very banal way. If you don’t walk away after watching this in a more positive mindset, I think you need to rewind it and watch it again, you probably weren’t paying attention ese.

Edward James Olmos consulting on the set with the real teaching legend: Jaime Escalante.
Edward James Olmos consulting on the set with the real-life living-legend of teaching: Jaime Escalante.

‘Ben Hur’ (2016)

Ben Hur is effective for bringing up the topic of the historical figure of Jesus because the film is not about Jesus, he is only background. There is no Jesus-subtlety in this reboot.

*This review contains spoilers.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting this film’s release and now, after watching it am suffering extreme let down. Hopefully you don’t like sermons or preaching, if that’s the case you may agree that this film misses the mark by a mile. If you liked this film, read on with caution, especially if you liked the enhanced evangelical aspect.

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Ben Hur (2016)
Cast

Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Rodrigo Santoro

Directed by

Timur Bekmambetov (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter)

Written by

Keith R. Clarke
John Ridley
Based on the novel by: Lew Wallace

Other Info

Adventure, Drama, History
Rated PG-13
124min

For many this can be a fun afternoon at the movies, don’t let me ruin it for you but this is after all, my blog so here goes.

From Ben-Hur to Jesus’ words and back again … repeat. That’s pretty much the formula of this Ben-Hur reboot. This is quite different globally from the 1959 subtle presentation of religion. We rarely see Jesus in the original, he is a suggestion, a sideline, a background to be accessed and made sense of only by the individual. That’s what makes the original a more powerful movie. What little religion is there, you can take or leave it. It’s not preached but rather suggested.

The story is more or less the same, though certain parts were left out of the reboot: A Jewish prince must suffer to make it back to his rightful freedom. Along the way, he has battles with his adopted brother. It turns out the best way to defeat him is in a chariot race. There are periodic appearances of Jesus speaking scripture and acting out Bible stories in parallel time to Ben-Hur’s life. In the end, it is revealed that this Jesus guy/god was telling the truth and everyone gets a healing of sorts.

The original Ben-Hur is a beloved film made in 1959 starring Charlton Heston and a cast of thousands. It is as epic a film as one can imagine. Looking at it even on a surface level shows what is really happening here. This is a movie for evangelicals first. So why is it in theaters? That’s my biggest question. Producer Mark Burnett who is known for the Bible miniseries and the religious film Son of Man, secured the rights to re-do the 1959 film that won 11 Oscars. I have always seen the original as a secular movie to be enjoyed by all religions or by those who practice none.

Why pick a film to reboot that was so popular in its time as it was? Why not pick a film that did poorly and improve upon it? The answer is this: The name Ben-Hur is already established and therefore easier for evangelicals to force an agenda and a reading into a film.

Jesus appears a few times in the original Ben-Hur but in the reboot, he pops up a lot more. When he does, we see his face, hear extended monolog, and we even hear him tell Ben-Hur “I have a plan for your life.” Sounds like youth group at the local evangelical church “movie night.” The original Ben-Hur can be seen as pro-Christian but it is subtle and doesn’t over shadow the whole movie (especially the last 1/4). I honestly thought Greg Laurie or Billy Graham was going to appear during the credits and ask people to come forward to make a decision for Christ. Honestly people, there is a time and a place for this. Stealing the influence of Ben-Hur is not a cool move for the faithful. It’s already blowing up in their faces being a 30% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 4/10 on IMDB. I predict it will not be in theaters long.

But let’s get to the actual movie instead of going on and on about the philosophy of the producer: Is this a quality film apart from the preachy religious stuff? Apart from two segments, this is a nothing more than a Hallmark tv movie. It’s hard to believe it made it to theaters. The two segments that made it worth watching fo me are: 1) The galley slave/boat scenes and 2) The chariot race. Everything else is like witnessing a dud firework not go off.

I should say a quick word about Morgan Freeman. All the acting is bad in this film. It’s like watching a long-haired 13 year old play Spartacus after oiling up his arms. Freeman is comatose. It’s as if he was paid a ridiculous sum out of the 100 million spent on the film and is thinking about all his relatives private school tuitions as his lines are delivered. I hope people reading this who disagree with me will get a chance to see the original Ben-Hur. This is nothing like it in any way. I had a similar criticism of Pete’s Dragon recently. I will actually praise Pete’s Dragon over this because Pete’s Dragon can stand on its own without preaching religion. There are parts that are neutral and enjoyable but due to its preachy side, this film should be playing in churches, not secular theaters.

In conclusion, I have no problem with a movie having religious overtones, many humans have religion and movies are for people. The problem here is that this reboot is preaching. Secular movies should be adventures anyone can get on board. I’ll forget this film in a couple of days and I do not recommend it. If you liked it, I’d like to hear why in the comments. To me, this is a made for church, church movie. I’m looking forward to putting my dashed hopes aside and getting on to the next film I want to see.

‘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.

Good_Kill_poster

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.