Tuesday, April 12, 2016

12 Years a Slave

Solomon Northup was a free black man living in New York.  In 1841 he was kidnapped and taken to Louisiana and forced to be a slave for 12 years under the most cruel conditions.  After obtaining his freedom, he wrote a memoir Twelve Years a Slave and became an abolitionist and public speaker against slavery.

Watching the film 12 Years a Slave is a difficult experience to get through.  There is such cruelty depicted in this film that it makes Roots look like a Disney picture.  Not only is Solomon repeatedly beaten, but the movie also focuses on the character Patsey, who was a real person and suffered horribly under slavery.  In the movie, Patsey is played by the actress Lupita Nyong'o, who also played Maz Kanata in Star Wars: The Force Awakens,.  She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Patsey.

One has to wonder about the historical accuracy of the film, but from what I can read the film is mostly accurate, except that the cruelty in the film seems to be less than what was told in the book.

The film is an important history lesson, but it is hard to classify it as "entertainment."   Is the story entertaining?  Very much so, but for some it would too difficult to watch.

Rating:  * * * .5

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

Lately we have had an overdose of superhero movies, with few of them being exceptional.  I think that the 2004 Spider-Man 2 is the best superhero movie ever.  After that, what superhero movies were exceptional?   It certainly wasn't Ant-Man, and all the recent X-Men movies have been just decent. 
As popular as the first Avengers movie was, I think that the film has a few problems.  The second one is much better.  Most of the Marvel based films have been good, but not great.  However, the first Iron Man movie is really good, and Captain America: The First Avenger deserves some credit too.

I think that the 2006 Superman Returns is quite good, but underappreciated.

The reviews weren't particularly great for the 2013 Man of Steel, but I enjoyed it quite a bit, and it almost qualifies as a great film.  It was willing to take a new direction with more of a science fiction perspective on the Superman story.  

Now the sequel to Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, has terrible reviews, but I can find nothing wrong with the movie.  It is also willing to take a new direction that seems more appropriate for the age we live in, which is an age of terrorism in a post 9-11 world.  Some people view the movie as too dour, but the tone seems perfect to me, and the movie is smartly written.

The story starts with Bruce Wayne witnessing the destruction and loss of life from Man of Steel.  He concludes that Superman is an alien threat to this world, which inevitably leads to a showdown between the two.

Having Jesse Eisenberg play an overly manic Lex Luthor is a nice bonus.

Rating:  * * * .5

Sunday, April 3, 2016


Creed is the first Rocky movie to not be written by Sylvester Stallone, but manages to capture all the best elements of the Rocky movies, while possibly rebooting the series for a new generation.  Creed is a hero for a new generation, while the character of Rocky stands out as a hero for an aging population.  The film is a perfect mix of old and new, and will touch your heart as it did mine.

Rating: * * * *


Trumbo was a skilled hollywood writer who wrote one of my favorite movies, Spartacus.  He also was a communist, who went to prison for Contempt of Congress, and then was blacklisted by the film industry for his beliefs.  The movie portrays him as someone willing to take a fall to defend the First Amendment, but in reality he was someone who supported some hard line communist dictatorships.

Trumbo managed to break the Hollywood Blacklist by writing under fake names, while helping some of his fellow blacklisted writers to do the same, which is what the movie is about.

As a history lesson the movie is really good. The acting is subperb. The entertainment value of the film isn't exceptional, but it is good.

Rating:  * * *

Air (2015 Film)

Air is the kind of science fiction film that has limited budget, limited sets, and very small cast, but tells a very effective story.  This is why the 20% rating on Rotten Tomatoes has me puzzled.  It is not the greatest movie ever, but there is nothing wrong with it, and the movie kept me in suspense.  It sort of reminds of watching one of those TV shows like The Outer Limits, where you know that the show is low budget, but a few of those episodes were pretty darn good.

The story is that after a nuclear apocalypse, the atmosphere of the earth is contaminated to the point of not being able support life.  What remains of the human race is in hibernation in a converted nuclear bunker.  Two technicians awaken periodically to make sure all the equipment is working properly, and then after a couple of hours go back to sleep along with the other 106 survivors, who were specially chosen to restart the human race once the earth becomes habitable again.  However, technical problems with the equipment create tension between the two technicians, and threatens their lives.

This film deserves at least three stars.  I like this movie.

Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead deserves much credit here for making the movie entertaining and believable.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Olympus Has Fallen

Olympus Has Fallen is an anti-terrorist action film on par with the best of the Die Hard films, or Air Force One.  This would be a great film had it not gotten a little corny toward the end.  The movie began to lose believability for me when they could not turn off a system that would destroy all our nuclear missiles.  

There are many places in this movie where you probably don't want to think too hard.  Despite the obvious problems with believability, the movie is fine.  It is a great action film.

Rating:  * * *