Friday, May 27, 2016

The 5th Wave

I have a theory about teen friendly fiction and movies, and it all has to do with what children want.  Preteens want to be teenagers, because, you know, teenagers are cool.  Teenagers want to be adults, with all the benefits of being adults, like romance and being able to make decisions, without all the responsibility that makes being an adult such a drag.

So it is not surprising that a teen friendly movie like The 5th Wave would kill off most of the adult characters leaving the adolescents in charge.  The main character, Cassie, practically acts as a mother to her younger brother Sam.

As far as alien invasion movies go, the movie is not bad, but it is also not great.  There are echoes of plots and characters from other teen-centric movies that seem familiar.  It is only slightly better than a good science fiction TV show, but that quality also makes it a good rental.  

Rating:  * * *

The 5th Wave has only a 17% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but I see nothing major wrong with it.  I enjoyed the movie.

The movie is a setup for a sequel.  Given the generally negative reviews, I am not sure if we will get a sequel or not.

Captain America: Civil War

Captain America:  Civil War is the type of of movie that entertained me as I watched it, but as soon as the credits rolled I struggled to understand what it was I just saw.  If a bunch of superheroes had fought and almost died together, is it likely that the first disagreement they had would cause them to start punching each other in a herculean battle?  This makes no sense, because sensible adults in the real world would try to hash out their differences and come to a compromise.  But it does make for entertaining movie because we get to see the different super powers go head to head.

To say that this is a "busy" film is an understatement.  There are so many factions wanting to hurt or control each other that it made my head spin.  The story is so complex I couldn't quite wrap my brain around it.  It jumps between so many countries and and so many people that you need a map to keep up.

Does the film make sense?  Not entirely.  But it is a little more intelligent and definitely more entertaining than the average superhero movie.  Just don't think too hard as you watch it; it will spoil the fun.

Rating:  * * * 1/2

The movie should have been called "Avengers 3", because the movie is really about all the Avengers.  I assume that the title has something to do with marketing.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Jungle Book

Disney's The Jungle Book is a remake of the 1967 film by the same name.  The original is a classically animated film consisting mostly of mildly amusing and somewhat silly songs.  The remake is more of an action adventure film, and as such is a remarkable accomplishment.  It appears as if the entire movie is computer animated, except for the main character of Mowgli, who is played by Neel Sethi.  In case you have any illusions that they filmed this movie in a real jungle, the end of the credits states that the movie was filmed in downtown Los Angeles, California.

Mowgli is a feral child found in the jungles of India by the panther Bagheera, who gives Mowgli to the wolves to raise.  However, Mowgli is threatened by Shere Khan, the tiger who killed Mowgli's father.  It is decided for his safety that he must leave the wolf pack and travel to the man village. Along the way he is threatened by the snake Kaa, who has hypnotic eyes.  Mowgli is saved by the sloth bear Baloo, who acts as a mentor to Mowgli.  Initially it seems like Baloo only wants to exploit Mowgli to help him get honey.  Later Mowgli is kidnapped and threatened by King Louie.

At the end of the original film Mowgli ventures off to the human village.  This doesn't happen in the remake, which leaves the door open for sequels. 

As great as this film is, I felt like something was missing.  My favorite musical number from the original was Bare Necessities, which sort of describes my life right now.  Compare the same musical number from the remake and it is not as clever.  In the original, the character of Baloo was a carefree mentor figure to Mowgli, but in this film, as voiced by Bill Murray, he seems nervous and more interested in exploiting Mowgli.  I miss the old Baloo.  This made me feel like the film had less heart than the original, although the film does have some heart to it.

As a technical accomplishment the film deserves much credit, but it is also a great action adventure film.  The acting by Neel Sethi is not perfect, but considering that he had to act with computer generated characters, it is pretty darn good.  I read that they brought in Jim Henson Creature Shop characters for Sethi to act against, although none of these appear in the final film. 

Rating: * * * *

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


I feel a certain emotional attachment to the 1960's.  Although I was a young child in the 60's, and my perspective did not extend much beyond small town Indiana, I was aware that there was a bigger world out there.  I knew that there was the Vietnam War, hippies, Rock & Roll, and The Beatles.

This is why I recently enjoyed on Netflix streaming the CNN series The Sixties, and the follow up series The Seventies.  Both are very well done.

I have always felt emotionally moved by the events of the 60's, most of all the JFK assassination.  This is a major event in American history, and it is a dividing line between the innocence that preceded it and the turmoil that followed.  Maybe this is why I feel so moved by watching Parkland.  This docudrama focuses on the people who would have been in Dallas at the time of the assassination, especially the people who were at Parkland Memorial Hospital.  The movie also portrays secret service agents, Abraham Zapruder, and Robert Oswald, the brother of Lee Harvey Oswald.

The natural tendency is to want to watch a movie about famous people.  Although there are famous people portrayed in the movie, most of the screen time goes to the ordinary people who were there at the time and found themselves swept up by a historical event.  As such I think that it makes for very powerful drama.

Don't even talk to me about the acting.  There are so many good actors in this movie, many of which only have a few minutes of screen time, but we get one great performance after another.

If you feel as emotional about this event as I do, then I think that you will find that this movie is a very powerful drama.  Parkland only has a 49% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  The biggest criticism is that the different stories in the film feel a little disjointed, but I could not disagree more.  This is what it would have felt like if you were there at the time.  If the purpose of a movie is to transport you to a different time and place, then this film does it superbly.

Rating:  * * * *

Consider this an undiscovered gem.

Thursday, May 5, 2016


Ashton Kutcher does such an amazing job portraying Steve Jobs that this makes the movie worth watching by itself.  Kutcher looks a bit like Jobs, making him an ideal actor to play him, but not completely like Jobs, so the film plays some games with us.  At first we see less of his face, but by the time we see Kutcher clean shaven, we have come to accept Kutcher as Jobs.

It is hard to know how much of the movie is historically accurate.  It feels somewhat incomplete, because the movie only covers Jobs life up to the point where he returned to Apple.  This make the film feel like it didn't quite live up to its full potential, like maybe the film didn't have enough budget to do a full biography.

Maybe this is why Jobs has only a 28% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but I find very little wrong with the movie.  It does a good job of telling the early story of Apple, which is exciting and interesting, but then the film kind of flatlines as it covers Jobs slow fall from grace at Apple.  This is followed by a  jarring jump to his return to Apple, and then shortly thereafter the film ends making it feel truncated.

Still, the movie does entertain, and I love the performance by Ashton Kutcher.  This movie demonstrates that he is much more than just a television actor.

Rating:  * * * 

Although the 2015 movie Steve Jobs is highly fictionalized, it is a much more powerfully acted portrayal of the man and the people around him.  I think that both movies are worth seeing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


CIA analyst Susan Cooper has been content to sit behind a desk until she has a chance to become a field agent, in this parody of James Bond films.

I am convinced that I am better off watching comedies in a group, because if I watch them just by myself I am likely to think that they are silly.  However, in a group laughter can become infectious, and Spy has a huge number of funny moments.

The  movie is rated R for frequent strong language.

Rating: * * *