Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pacific Rim * * * *

To battle giant alien monsters from another dimension, the human race builds skyscraper tall robots that are human piloted.

There is a certain silliness to the premise of Pacific Rim that giant robots would be needed to fight giant creatures from another world.  A single missile would probably kill any one of these monsters, and if that didn’t do the trick, the second or third missile would finish the creature off.   A single Apache helicopter or fighter aircraft would have more than enough firepower to destroy one of these creatures.

Pacific Rim also has a certain amount of corniness that reminds me of “An Officer and a Gentleman.”  Even the “bad soldier” becomes a hero in the end.   The movie is also reminiscent of “Real Steal” and possibly other movies like “Top Gun.”

However, the movie is so well executed and so effectively draws into its world, that I quickly forgot any logical objections that I had to the film.  The movie is dominated by special effects and battle scenes, but these are done so well and are so engaging that it kept my on the edge of my seat.   The characters are slightly corny, but the movie somehow gets us to completely empathize with them.  Throughout the film there is a sense of wonderment that all good science fiction stories have.

Even a slightly silly movie like this one can be done so well that it feels like a perfect movie.   I am sure that I will watch it a couple of more times.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


As a child, I saw a small part of this movie on television. This is the movie that 12 year old Shirley Temple did after failing to get the part of Dorothy. This movie competed with The Wizard of Oz and has similar ideas. Even though it is not nearly as good as The Wizard of Oz, looks cheaply made, and was a commercial failure, I think that it is delightful in its own charming way.

After this film, Shirley Temple began to lose some of her appeal as a child actress and gradually made the transition to teenage and young adult roles. Within a decade she decided to give up acting altogether.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pan's Labyrinth * * *

In a fairy tale, Princess Moanna, whose father is the king of the underworld, becomes curious about the world above, the human world. When she goes to the surface, the sunlight blinds her and erases her memory and she eventually dies.

In post–Civil War Spain in 1944 (after Francisco Franco has come into power) Ofelia, a young girl who loves fairy tales, travels with her pregnant mother Carmen to meet the harsh Captain Vidal, her new stepfather.

Ofelia discovers a large insect resembling a stick insect which she believes to be a fairy. That night, the insect appears in Ofelia's bedroom, where it changes into a fairy and leads her through the labyrinth. There, she meets the faun, who believes her to be the reincarnation of Princess Moanna and gives her three tasks to complete before the full moon to prove that she is the princess.

As far as fantasy or fairy tale movies go, this film is insanely dark and somewhat depressing.  Don't expect a Disney picture.

This is the kind of movie that made me wonder who the intended audience is?  The movie is rated R for graphic violence and some language, although the film is in Spanish and subtitled in English.  So this is obviously not a kids film, as no kid would have the patience to sit through a subtitled film, and the Spanish Civil war scenes wouldn't much sense to children.   However, the mixing of dark fairy tale and violent war makes for a very odd if not incompatible mix that I think that few adults would appreciate.  In America, I think that the intended audience would be those who appreciate foreign or "art" films.

Despite this, the movie is compelling.  It has interesting characters, not the least of which is the evil Captain Vidal.  The movie makes us wonder what is going to happen to these characters.  It has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which shows that it is highly acclaimed by critics, but the tragic ending left me a little confused about what the message of the movie is.  The ending gave me the impression that because the world was so harsh, the fairy tale aspects of the story had only been imagined by the girl Ofelia as a kind of escape from reality.  I am not sure if this is the correct interpretation.

I think that this movie would have more meaning for those living in Spain, as it deals with their history.

Some movies are just so strange that you are glad that watched them.  It is not your typical movie watching experience.  

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Friday, October 11, 2013

John Carter * * *

Stories where Flash Gordon rushed across the galaxy in a rocket ship, or other stories where men met triple breasted green women on Venus, or commanded armies of alien swordsmen on Mars, are all before my time. Sometime in the mid 20th century, a sensible editor named John Campbell came to demand that science fiction actually have some science in it, and not be some ridiculous pulp fantasy.  Mr Campbell had a profound effect on the development of science fiction in the 20th century, and as a result we now have the science fiction that our more sophisticated tastes have become accustomed to.

But it makes you wonder, doesn't it?   A lifetime ago people actually enjoyed the pulpier space operas about princesses on Mars and bug eyed monsters.  And if they could enjoy it, why couldn't we?  This is the spirit of the movie John Carter, a 250 million dollar Disney flop that has a much worse reputation than it deserves.

John Carter is the protagonist of a series of Edgar Rice Burroughs novels.  He is a civil war veteran who, while looking for gold, finds an alien artifact that transports him to the planet Mars.  There he gets involved in a planet wide civil war involving a couple of human looking races, and a couple of more alien races.  This is a complex story that is bigger on swashbuckling than it is on science.  Still, it seems like a good solid story done on a really grand scale.  It may not be very scientific, but it certainly is fun.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Sound of Thunder * * *

A Sound of Thunder is a sci-fi thriller about the butterfly effect:  If you could travel back in time and make one insignificant change, you would radically alter the present.   In this movie the radical changes occur slowly, which has the convenience of allowing the main characters to see what is happening and attempt to fix it.

About half of the special effects in this movie look real and about half don’t, but that is good enough for me to enjoy the movie.

Personally I think that if you made an insignificant change in the past that nothing would change in the present;  The effect of your change would diminish over time and be washed away by historical forces that lead to the modern world.   I think that you would need to make a major change in the past to affect the present.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Chaplin * * * 1/2

Charlie Chaplin grew up impoverished in England. After his mother was committed multiple times to an insane asylum, the teenage Chaplin got a job in theater and was a comic success in Vaudeville type shows. After getting a chance to tour the United States a couple of times, he was offered a job as bit player in a fledgling movie company. It was here that he invented his Little Tramp character and quickly became an international sensation. At the time, he was possibly the most famous man in the world. Around 1920 he co-founded the United Artists movie studio with a few other actors including Douglas Fairbanks. This gave him complete creative control over his movies and he directed films that are now considered classics, like The Kid, The Gold Rush, City Lights, The Great Dictator, and Limelight.

Chaplin used the last 6 minutes of The Great Dictator to express his political views, calling for peace just before the United States got involved in World War II. Although the ending is now considered great, it wasn't well received at the time. Chaplin was being increasingly political and many people viewed him as extreme left wing. By the early 1950’s the Red Scare was causing some people in the government to think that Chaplin was a communist. Chaplin had further problems in the 1940’s because he was involved in sex scandals, which angered many Americans. Chaplin had never become an American citizen, and when he took a vacation to Europe in 1952, he was told that that he would not be readmitted to the United States. Chaplin could have fought this easily, but instead made a statement that he no longer wanted to live in such a hateful country. He moved to Switzerland where he lived for the rest of his life.

Chaplin continued to make movies. Charlton Heston worked with him in the 1960’s, and described Chaplin as unpleasant to work with.

In 1972 the aging and ailing Chaplin was invited back to the United States to receive a special Oscar at the Academy Awards. In 1975 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth. He died in 1977 at the age of 89.

The 1991 movie called simply “Chaplin” received mixed reviews because many critics felt that it focused too much on Chaplin’s personal life and not enough on his creative genius. I feel that it does both rather well. Chaplin lead a long, complicated, colorful and controversial life and this movie tries to hit all the major points, which makes the film feel rushed. You almost need a road map to understand all the things that happened in Chaplin’s life. The man had multiple relationships, 4 marriages, a large number of children, and he lost a paternity suit over a child that was most likely not his.

It is hard for me to dislike this movie because I am such a big Charlie Chaplin fan.

A very young Robert Downy Jr does a splendid job of playing Chaplin. He does the physical comedy so well that it creates the illusion that you are seeing the real Charlie Chaplin. The movie also features the fine acting talents of Anthony Hopkins, Dan Aykroyd, Kevin Kline, and David Duchovney. Charlie Chaplin’s daughter, Geraldine Chaplin, does an extraordinary job playing her grandmother.

The movie does a good job of showing how Chaplin’s motivations derived from early unpleasant experiences in his life. It also does a good job of recreating early 20th century America.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

World War Z * * *

Certain characteristics of zombie movies:

1. Sooner or later in all zombie movies you will see a hoard of zombie-infected humans chasing normal humans. World War Z adds a new twist to this by having some very suspenseful scenes where the healthy humans try to quietly sneak past a hoard of zombies.

2.  Most of the older zombie movies have zombies who shuffle slowly.  The more modern zombies run very energetically after the humans.

3. All the George Romero zombie movies have the zombies resurrect from the dead.  That isn't very believable, so I prefer the alternative idea explored in 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks later, I am Legend, The Last Man on Earth, Zombieland, The Crazies and The Omega Man, where the zombie condition is simply a insanity causing disease, possibly a human form of rabies or mad cow disease that is spread from person to person.  World War Z seems to take both approaches.

4. The zombie condition can be spread to healthy humans, usually through a bite.  This leads to the concept of a Zombie Apocalypse where the zombie disease spreads so rapidly that it quickly overtakes most of the human race.  Most zombie movies are really just post apocalyptic movies.

In some movies, like 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks later, and World War Z, the infected person turns into a zombie in just a few seconds.  Although that is completely unbelievable, it does allow World War Z to have a couple of interesting scenes where a very large crowd of people become completely infected in mere minutes.

5. All the George Romero zombie movies and 28 Days Later explore the idea that despite the Zombie Apocalypse, man's greatest enemy is still the other non-dead non-zombie humans. World War Z does not take this approach. Instead the movie is about the search for the cause of the epidemic.

6. All the George Romero zombie movies have some sort of deep social message, while many of the other movies just focus on action.

7.  Almost all zombie movies have various degrees of gory special effects, some of which are extreme.  World War Z is probably the least gory zombie movie I have seen.

I don't think that World War Z covers much new ground, but the special effects are terrific and movie does such an effective job of creating suspense that it is worth watching.  Despite this, I can find a number of details that I can nit pick:

1.  The opening scene shows a family preparing their kids for school.  The next scene shows the family in a car when the zombie epidemic breaks out.  The very next scene is already nighttime, which doesn't make much sense, so the best I can figure is that the family car scene must have taken place after the kids had returned from school.

2.  Since there are a number of scenes where people are either running from zombies or trying to not get noticed by zombies, this was starting to feel repetitious.

3.  The main character, played by Brad Pitt, does a lot of globetrotting, going from country to country looking for the cause of the epidemic, but he never makes any progress.  Furthermore, the movie states that you would have to find the source of the epidemic in order to treat it, but that is like saying that you couldn't find a way to treat AIDS without first finding patient zero.

4.  The characters come up with a way to camouflage humans from the zombies, which I didn't find very believable, but believability is not a word that I would associate with zombie movies.

5.  Some of the early action scenes seem to be deliberately confusing.

As far as I am concerned, the best zombie movies are...

 1.  28 Days Later
 2.  The Crazies
 3.  Dawn of the Dead (1978 version)
 4.  Zombieland (which is a comedy.)
 5.  I am Legend

However, the best zombie related drama might not be a movie, but The Walking Dead television series.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines * * * 1/2

The Place Beyond The Pines is a unique movie because the main character changes about 40% of the way through the film and it changes a couple more times toward the end.  At first this feels like a betrayal toward the audience, because having invested  our emotional interest in one character, the movie asks us to change our interest to someone else.  However, this works because of  nature of story which explores how a criminal act influences the lives of many people.

Telling you more would give away too much.  

The movie has a certain real feeling about it because it does not try to the rush the story, but instead lets the characters interact with each other in a casual way that feels authentic.  Some of the entertainment value comes from the mood of the film, although some people might feel that the pace is a little slow.  At 2 hours and 20 minutes, the movie does seem slightly long.

It is likely to be the most unusual movie I will see this year, but I think that it deserves credit for being different.  It also raises all sorts of questions about its meaning and message that left me scratching my head, but the film is oddly engaging in this way.  It is the kind of movie that people will talk about for a long time.

The movie is rated R mostly for frequent strong language and some drug use.  There is minimal violence and no nudity. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

RE: Iron Man III (* * *)

From: Robert


I used to like Robert Downey Jr. in movies and his characters he plays.  But since he has taken on the Iron Man character, I can’t stand him anymore.  I still like Robert, I just can’t stand Iron Man the character.



From: Larry


  I disagree. I traditionally liked Robert Downey Jr in most of his roles. (My wife and I liked Heart and Souls, a lot).Then he had various problems outside of his acting career. I felt sad for such a talented person.

  I read a lot of Iron man as a kid and loved the character.I was amazed how the rich, narcissistic, reckless,fun,talented, playboy character of Tony Stark meshed with Robert Downey Jr’s real life and acting abilities. To me, there is no better person in Hollywood, to play this role, and I am happy Iron man is having such great success, and that they keep making more.



From: Robert


I’m more NOT a fan of the entire comic book adventure movie genre as a whole, Iron Man, Super Man, Bat Man,  Spider Man, X-Men, etc.  They seem to be big on action but severely limited in depth and plot.  I’m usually board when I get out and wondered why I even spent the time.   I missed out on comic books when I was growing up so I don’t have the connection that most everyone else has with them.   If I had read comic books as a kid I might be more interested.


It’s always fun to see latest incarnations of a story line that I’m familiar with.  Fond memories from childhood.  They could keep making Star Trek movies and no matter how bad they got I would probably go see them first run. 


I don’t have this connection with comic books.  I think this is the root cause of why I  don’t care for Iron Man.


From: John


I didn’t read a lot of comic books as a kid, although I did watch a limited amount of super hero cartoons on TV.   I don’t think that I had much interest in comic book characters until the first Superman movie came out.  At this point I started to enjoy super hero movies like I would any action film.


Prior to Star Wars, science fiction movies in general had a bad reputation.  One  movie changed everything.


Iron Man III (* * *)

The main problem that I had with Iron Man III is that most of the entertainment value comes from all too frequent over the top action sequences.  There is some character development that is interesting, but this feels more like a sideshow squeezed between one battle after another.


Friday, July 12, 2013

RE: Amazon Prime?

It seems to me that mostly what is free is TV shows, and not all of them are free.  They want to charge for some of them.  I have seen a limited selection of movies, but their service doesn’t make it easy to figure out which movies are free, most of which I have already seen, and the majority of movies they charge for.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

From: Trout, Larry R


I disagree, John.

I think you may just have trouble finding shows and movies for some reason.

I believe Amazon is slightly lower selection/quality than Netflix, but  T.V. Shows are very good.

I am rewatching all seasons of the new Dr. who with my kids. I liked the Tudors, Justified, American horror story, Falling Skies, arrested developments, etc.

Even if you never use the streaming or kindle books, the free two day shipping is very good.


RE: Amazon Prime?

I have Amazon Prime because they discounted it down to $59 late last year.


The video selection is so bad that I don’t use it. 


I just signed up for Netflix streaming.


The free 2 day shipping is nice.   It makes buy from Amazon more often.



Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Croods * * * 1/2

A prehistoric family of (presumably) Neanderthals, the Croods, find their isolated existence of hiding from predators threatened by continental separation that destroys their cave.  They begrudgingly follow a young homo sapien, Guy, who offers to guide them on a long journey to safety.  Guy introduces them to new concepts, such as fire and shoes.  Father Crood hates Guy and is resistant to change, but along the way the Crood family learns that they can adapt and bond better as a family.

This is a relatively simple story that is just sentimental, funny, and different enough to make it a little more enjoyable than the average movie.

I am more impressed by the quality of the computer 3D animation by Dreamworks Animation, which is one of the most detailed I have seen.  The Croods seem to live in the land that evolution forgot.  They are surrounded by a large variety of weird creatures, most of which I am sure that never existed.  Nevertheless, this makes for a visually interesting movie.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Who is the actor?

Quick quiz:: Who is the "king" in this movie? Although it doesn't
say, I recognized the actor immediately. I am a big fan...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

FW: Cloud Atlas on DVD

From: Witmer, Robert C.

I watched it 4 times now.  It’s a bit too complex to take it all in on the first viewing.  It’s an awesome story.  I’m trying to get the 2-disk Bluray version because they must have extra content maybe a commentary track.

Compared to any movie I’ve seen in the theaters lately and it blows them all away.  Shame on the Academy for totally ignoring it.

Bob Witmer

Ebert did a review!

Oz The Great and Powerful * * *

Oscar "Oz" Diggs is a small time magician and part time con man working in a traveling circus.  He dreams of becoming a great man.  He inadvertently flies a hot air balloon to Oz where he is greeted as the prophesied wizard savior.  He schemes to work this to his advantage until he learns that he must battle the evil witch.  Promised a fortune in gold, he decides to battle the witch even though he has no real power.

Oz The Great and Powerful is the kind of movie that creates huge expectations, falls way short, but barely manages to entertain anyway.  The movie is visually impressive, but the story feels like great opportunity missed.  Given that this is the 11nth most expensive movie ever made, I think that they should have worked the story more.  (What would George Lucas have done with this film?  It would have been fantastic beyond belief.)

What made the biggest impression on me was the little girl made of "china".

She is damaged and the "wizard" uses glue to fix her which allows her to walk again.  This bookends a scene from the beginning of the movie where a girl in a wheelchair (played by the same actress) asks the magician to help her walk again and he is exposed as a fraud.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Man of Steel * * * 1/2

Seven years ago we had Superman Returns which was a good film that just didn't click as well with audiences as it did with me.  Superman Returns tried to continue from where the previous Superman movies left off while at the same time being overly reminiscent of the first Superman Movie.  I think that it is a pretty terrific movie that didn't get enough attention.

Man of Steel reboots the franchise with a forgettable title, a new face and a few new twists on the Superman story.  The story is already familiar to everyone, but this remake adds enough to the mythology to make it fresh and interesting.  Unlike all the bad remakes I have seen recently at the movies, Man of Steel made me glad that I bought a ticket.

The multiple teaser trailers led me to believe that this going to be a brooding film.  It is anything but.  I thought that the regular trailers gave away too much of the story, but they don't.  What surprises me about Man of Steel is how hard it tries to a science fiction film.  Superman is, after all, an alien from another world, but previous films aren't as interested in this fact as this movie is.  We see a lot of hardware in this movie and this film gives a greater sense that aliens have invaded this planet.

The last 30 minutes have been criticized by some as being all action, but I think that it works.  I liked it much better than the mind numbing last 30 minutes of The Avengers.  The last half of Star Wars was nothing but action and that worked pretty well.  For me the key to any action sequence is what it reveals to us about the character(s).  If the action sequences advance the story while giving us insight to the people involved, then you couldn't ask for anything more.

You can't make a good superhero movie without a good villain, and General Zod in this movie is a complex character who in his mind has honorable intentions.

I am surprised and disappointed by the 56% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  This is a better film than that.  Like the previous Superman movie, it seems that it didn't click with everyone.

Given the intensity of the last 30 minutes, which had enough action for at least a couple of movies, it is hard for me to imagine how they would make a sequel without going over the top.

I have a theory that Superman is a modern day Hercules and perhaps inspired by this myth or other ancient mythology.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Wreck-It Ralph * * * 1/2

A video game character, Ralph, is tired of being the bad guy in the arcade game Fix-it Felix. He journeys to other arcade video games in an attempt to prove that he can be a hero. In the racing game Sugar Rush, he befriends the sassy Vanellope, who is an outcast because her character is "glitchy." All is not well the in the Sugar Rush kingdom because King Candy is trying to delete Vanellope, who instead should be the star of the game.

The main problem, and the only problem with this movie is the suspension of disbelief.   We are talking about video game characters after all.  How hard or how easy is it to root for a video game character?  How likely are we to believe that a video game character could have a personality and feelings?  On the other hand, how believable was Toy Story?  In that movie we were expected to believe that toys could have personalities and emotions.  The story of Wreck-It Ralph is really not much different than the story of Shrek in that an unlikely hero goes on a quest to do something good.  It also shares qualities with Alice in Wonderland.  What Toy Story and Shrek had going for them was a combination of great characters, interesting villains, great animation, good humor along with some interesting mythology.  Wreck-It Ralph has all of these characteristics in spades although not quite at the same level.

Rather than depend upon a wise cracking donkey for humor, Wreck-It Ralph gets its humor from pop culture references, mostly from classic video games.  This is one place I fear that movie might go over most people's heads, as not everyone is familiar with 30 year old video games.  I wonder how many people under the age of 20 have heard of Q-Bert or Qix?  There are a ton of 1980's video game characters is in this movie, but I happen to love classic video games.  So humor is the one area where the movie could have been a little bit better.  What Wreck-It Ralph lacks in humor it makes up for with good characters and story.

I am impressed that the Konomi Code is part of the story.  (Talk about your pop culture references.)  There is a point in the story where King Candy uses a cheat code to hack the computer program of the Sugar Rush video game.  This is a pretty interesting scene because it is portrayed as going into a deep vault with thousands of connecting pieces of computer code.  This serves to remind the audience that videogames are after all computer programs.

With the fast rate at which technology is advancing, maybe someday computer video game characters will actually be smart enough to have personalities.  This I find easy to believe.  The trend has started.  Already I can have a primitive conversation with my iPhone.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness * * * 1/2

Star Trek Into Darkness has a secret that isn't revealed until about 40% of the way into the movie.  Up to this point I was pretty interested in the terrorism plot, but then suddenly the movie shifted gears.   I notice that other reviews have not revealed what the secret is except to say that the movie recycles, or pays homage to, some material from previous Star Trek movies.  So the secret is that the movie is a bit of a remake.  Although I enjoyed the movie, all the advance publicity lead me to believe that it was going to follow brand new plot lines.  It would have been a slightly better movie if it had.

The trouble with remakes is that they tend to not be as good as the originals.  Some examples are The Amazing Spiderman, Total Recall, and Planet of the Apes.  Star Trek Into Darkness reminds me of Superman Returns which was a pretty good movie but had a schizophrenic personality because it tried to be both a sequel and remake.  This is what happens when a sequel too closely resembles one of the previous movies.

That isn't to say that Star Trek Into Darkness isn't a terrific science fiction action film.  The movie looks gorgeous.  There are enough action sequences in this film to keep audiences happy and maybe coming back for repeat viewings.  This is likely to be a blockbuster hit for awhile until it gets replaced by other summer blockbusters.

Zachary Quinto is so convincing as Spock that I never once during the movie thought to myself, "Hey, that's Zachary Quinto!"  Chris Pine is mostly convincing as Kirk, but it is not the same as the William Shatner performance.   He is more of a manic Kirk.  John Cho makes for an interesting Sulu, but most of the other characters come across as mere parodies of the original characters.  Karl Urban manages to be half convincing as Bones.  It is the chemistry between Kirk, Spock, and Bones that makes the movie work, although mostly it is just the chemistry between Kirk and Spock that does the job.  It seems to me that in order for this franchise to suceed, the other characters are going to have to step up to the plate and be a little more believable as the Star Trek characters that we know and love.

Ender's Game movie comes out in November.

'Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci are two of the writer-producers behind "Star Trek Into Darkness," but the team known as "K/O" is also producing the coming films "Ender's Game," "Now You See Me" and the Fox television series "Sleepy Hollow." Not to mention the sequel to "The Amazing Spider-Man," which they co-wrote and which is currently filming around New York.


Speakeasy talked with Kurtzman and Orci, who have been friends and writing partners for more than 20 years, starting with the television series "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys."


"It's funny, it used to be a binary, like he's Spock and I'm Kirk, in terms of personality," Kurtzman says. "It's not quite that simple anymore. I think when we first started, Bob was more about logic and logic flow, and I was always about the emotion of what was going on. Now, having written together for almost 22 years, our voices are in each other's heads to such a large degree that it's very difficult sometimes to distinguish between the two."


What were some of the challenges you and director Gavin Hood faced in adapting Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game" into a film?


Orci: "Ender's Game" was a book that we both loved from teenagehood. It was published in 1985 and I think we read it in high school, maybe even earlier. The challenge with the book is it's very internal in that a lot of the narrative that occurs is within the character's head and the trick is, how do you dramatize that? The answer is both through having some of those internal struggles be dramatically shown as scenes, and second, we have an advantage that the book does not have, and that is actors. We have great actors who can not only say things, but play things and play reactions on their faces and actually convey a lot of the emotion of the book. Thankfully now we have the technology to make it the grand adventure that it deserves to be. We have the technology to render a Zero-G environment in a totally believable and incredible way.'


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

RE: Hitchcock the movie

I haven’t seen the movie, but Hitchcock had a reputation for disrespecting women, maybe because of marital problems.  There is a scene in Frenzy where a couple meet at a matchmaking service and the woman immediately starts telling the man that he has to change.   According to one documentary, Hitchcock often portrayed women as controlling.

John Coffey

From: Witmer, Robert C.
Sent: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 3:52 PM


I watched Hitchcock last evening.


Not sure how much is factual but now I need to watch Psycho again.  The story centers around Hitchcock getting Psycho filmed and produced.  And I sure do feel old because I remember watching Alfred Hitchcock Presents on TV.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook


From: Witmer


Great show. 


There is a scene where the guy is reading Ernest Hemingway’s book “Farewell to Arms”.  He gets so disgusted with the depressing ending of Hemingway’s book that he throws the book crashing through the glass window landing out in the street.


Unlike Hemingway this story ends pleasantly.




Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Thursday, April 25, 2013

FW: Jango Unchained


From: Witmer, Robert


As a Quentin Tarantino fan (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, Death Proof, Inglorious Bastards), Jango Unchained to me is “one of the best” or “the best” western movie of all time.  But I know this just drives all the John Wayne and Clint Eastwood fans crazy to hear such sacrilege.  It’s a very hard R for vicious violence, not suitable for most “normal people”.  It will definitely make most uncomfortable.  But it’s that uneasy feeling about what is going to happen next that I like.  It was very entertaining.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

I like this movie quite a bit, but it starts with torture and ends in
a bloodbath. It is not for the feint of heart.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

'Finding Dory' to set sail,0,7857457.story

Thursday, March 7, 2013

George Lucas says Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamil to appear in new 'Star Wars'


Monday, February 11, 2013

RE: Looper?

Some movies, especially ones involving time travel, come across to me as rather silly.   Nevertheless, if the characters believe the story then so do we, at least for a couple of hours.


From: Witmer, Robert


Have you watched it yet?  It’s one of those hard to follow stories because of all the alternate timelines involved.





Flight 2012 movie

From: Witmer, Robert


I saw this over the weekend.  Nice movie and very hard to watch crash scene.  It’s more about the pilot being an alcoholic than about flying.  But the flight scenes are pretty interesting.  I clipped the crash scene to YouTube.  I’m sure it will be taken down soon since it has 3rd party content.



Saturday, February 2, 2013

Skyfall * * *

Skyfall is considered one of the best James Bond movies in recent years, but that by itself isn't saying much.  I prefer it to Quantum of Solace, but it isn't necessarily any better than Casino Royale.  This is a no-frills Jame Bond movie, apparently by design, and lacks some of the style, gadgets and attitude that you come to expect in a movie like this.  As a result, it feels a little incomplete.  Instead, the focus is on character study of both James Bond and M, where Bond is portrayed as a man who has gotten a little old for the job and maybe too old fashioned, and M is portrayed in the same way.  This is a James Bond for an aging baby-boomer post-911 generation.

In short, this is a movie about tracking down a rogue agent who wants revenge against M.  One thing that makes a good James Bond movie is is great villain, and Javier Bardem plays about a creepy of a villain as you can get.  But the plot plays like a simple action picture, with minimal style.  The movie started to lose me a little when the final battle takes place at a decrepit Scottish Mansion.  I kept thinking that single drone missile would have ended the battle really quick, but this movie deliberately stays away from the really cool high-tech stuff.  Instead, the film has a schizophrenic personality where it shows us many high-tech computer screens, but not much else in the way of cool technology.

The movie pays homage to the old Bond films by bringing out an Aston Martin DB5, but even this emphasizes the theme of James Bond as an aging hero.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Looper * * *

Roughly 80 years from now, time travel will be invented, but it will illegal.  Around the same time it will be nearly impossible to get away with murder, so organized crime will use time travel to send people 30 years back in time where they have henchmen waiting to murder the people they send back.  As part of the deal, if the henchmen live another 30 years, they get sent back to be killed by their younger selves.  It sounds like a rotten deal, so who would strike such a bargain?  Junkies who don't care too much about the future but do care about getting paid.  However, a couple of the future-selves escape which puts their present-selves at risk.  This leads to a mob manhunt where both the future-selves and the present-selves are on the run.

Like many movies, the future is not very pleasant.  Society has degraded.  Human life seems to be cheap and the characters have few qualms about killing people.  The main character realizes that things are only going to get worse as time goes on, so he decides to change the future.  Could a film like this also be telling us that we need to change the future or else face similar misery?

The main character takes refuge on a farm where he meets a cute little boy who is likely some future evil mob boss.  This gets into the kind of question of would you kill Hitler if you could go back in time?  The movie teases us with the notion that the boy is evil without making it totally clear.  The film left me with the impression that certain people were going to have to die who I did not want to see die.  Fortunately, the film ends with a twist that turns everything on its head.

It is such an odd premise, but it works because the characters believe it.  I find myself wondering, however, if you have a time machine and you want to get rid of someone, why not send them a million years into the future?  Maybe there is a possibility that they would come back?

I thought that I understood the rules by which Time Travel movies work, but recently those rules seem to be changing.  Movies and TV shows have gotten more inventive in how they portray time travel, and the notion of a Time Travel Paradox seems to not really matter anymore.

One problem with watching any movie is that you have to wonder if it is worth 2 hours of your time?   A movie that is too grim leaves me feeling down and not very entertained.   Fortunately, Looper ends on such a  positive note that all its dystopian death and destruction becomes tolerable.  The fact that the time travel plot so thoroughly messes with your mind is a good thing, although I suspect that some people might not like it.  Throw in some great action sequences and you end up with a pretty decent movie that is still maybe not perfect.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Cloud Atlas * * * *

It is rare that I applaud at the end of a movie, but when I do it is because I have just experienced something special.  I knew that my 3 hours was not wasted.  I felt that I had just lived through something and not just watched a story.    I noticed that only a couple of other people in the crowded dollar theater also applauded, but to be honest, this a highly complex movie that might go over many people's heads.

Cloud Atlas follows 6 very different stories, each taking place in a different time period, but with the same actors playing different roles, races and even genders in each time period.  Most of the stories are in the past, but a couple are in the distant future.  Watching this film is like watching 3 different episodes of LOST all at the same time.  The movie switches between stories somewhat seamlessly with the idea that they are all connected, as are the characters who seem to have reincarnated from one time period to the next.

The movie's philosophical bent seems to be one of reincarnation and karma.

The themes of this movie include karma, love, oppression/slavery, violence/murder, rebellion and hope.  The central idea is that we are all connected and events that happened long before we were born affect our lives and our lives will affect others long after we are gone.

The stories of Cloud Atlas are as follows:

Year 1849:  Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) is a lawyer crossing the Pacific in a ship who is involved a a business deal involving slavery.  He befriends an escaped slave (Keith David) while a greedy doctor (Tom Hanks) tries to poison him.  He is saved by the escaped slave and is able to return to his wife (Bae Doona) and confront his father in law (Hugo Weaving) over the issue of slavery.

Year 1936:  Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw) is a bisexual musician who goes to work for a famous but aging composer Vyvyan Ayrs (Jim Broadbent) and then develops an affair with the man's younger wife (Halle Berry).  Vyvyan tries to blackmail Robert, so Robert shoots him and then is on the run from the law.  He hides in a hotel where he is then blackmailed by the owner (Tom Hanks).   After barely finishing his musical masterpiece, Cloud Atlas, Robert kills himself.

Year 1973:  Luisa Rey (Halle Berry) is a journalist investigating an unsafe nuclear power plant run by a corrupt oil company.  (No agenda there.)  She is befriended by an engineer (Tom Hanks) and a security guard (Keith David).  She is then pursued by a hit man named Bill Smoke (Hugo Weaving)  hired by an oil executive (Hugh Grant).  Along the way she hears the music Cloud Atlas for the first time but somehow recognizes it.

Year 2012:  Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) is a publisher who has a windfall when his gangster author (Tom Hanks) commits murder at a party.  Other gangsters come after him so he flees to his antagonistic brother (Hugh Grant) who tricks him into permanently checking into a retirement home where he is abused by a sadistic female nurse (Hugo Weaving).  From there he plots his escape with other retirees.  This is the only humorous sequence in the film.

Year 2144: In a dystopian future, Sonmi-451 (Bae Doona), is an artificially created slave clone who simply waits tables when one of her fellow clones fights against being abused, but as a consequence is executed.  She is then recruited by a rebellion officer (Jim Sturgess), who she falls in love with, and a rebellion general (Keith David) who want to use her to broadcast a message of truth to the whole world.  Once the rebellion is crushed, she is interrogated by a not so friendly Asian inquisitor (Hugo Weaving).

Year 2321:  106 years after the fall of Earth, Zachry (Tom Hanks) is a primitive tribesman living on the Hawaiian islands.  His tribe is often attacked by cannibals, and Zachry often has visions of the Devil (Hugo Weaving) taunting him.  His people believe that the Devil lives on top of a mountain.  These people also have a myth about Sonmi-451 being a goddess.  The island is visited by Meronym (Halle Berry) who belongs to a small group of people who still have technology.  She tells Zachary that the Earth is dying and that they must travel to the top of the mountain, where there is a giant transmitter, so that they can send a request for help to humans on another world.

This last sequence uses a degraded form of English that is full of odd expressions like "true true."  It  makes the speech harder to follow but I was able to keep up.  When the movie comes out on DVD on 2013-02-05, I suggest turning on subtitles so as to better follow the dialogue.

The end credits show pictures of all the different roles that each actor plays, many of which come as surprise.  Sometimes the makeup is so heavy that you cannot easily recognize the actors.    This would be a fun movie to watch repeatedly so as to pick up on the different actors.

I highly recommend watching the eye popping trailer.  This is a film where the ideas are slightly better than the execution of the story.  I give this movie a great deal of credit for being different, daring and innovative.  In terms of acting and cinematography, the movie is a triumph.  The fact that a movie of this scale was independently made is astonishing.  This movie only has a 64% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but I think that the complexity of the movie lost some people.  I wager that over time the movie will gain more acceptance and be considered a great film.

Roger Ebert said that this is one of the most ambitious films ever made

The movie is rated R for many brief moments of intense violence, along with some nudity, sexual situations and language.