Saturday, October 31, 2015

Movie Review: Our Brand is Crisis

"Our Brand is Crisis" is a strange title for a movie even though there is a line from the movie when the main character who is a political operative played by Sandra Bullock determines that the only way for her candidate to win is to create an environment of crisis in Bolivia so that her aggressive candidate would be more accepted by the voters. Despite this fact, the title of this movie is rather bad but so is this movie.

I have noticed over the years and seeing many movies that one of the signs of a bad movie is what are called "filler scenes", where the director realizes that there are not enough of a story to fill out an entire 2 hour movie, so there are cuts to scenes of music and unnecessary action. In this movie, this happened about 5 times and some of these filler scenes (including Bullock's character mooning people in a passing bus) are just plain ridiculous. This entire movie could have been shown in about 1 hour and 10 minutes, rather than the 2 hours of boredom and pointless dialog that this movie has.

At the end of the movie there is a scene where Sandra Bullock's character puts a strange metal hat on her head which makes absolutely no sense. Also at the end of this movie when the election is over with a predictable result, Bullock's character decides to stay in Bolivia for reasons that are never explained to the viewer. The one thing I did admire about this bad movie is the 3 stars, Billy Bob Thornton, Sandra Bullock and Anthony Mackie and the fact that they spent probably several months in Bolivia which is a poor and perhaps dangerous country to live in; so many dues were probably made there to earn their salaries. Its too bad that after all this money and effort such a bad movie was created. There is a scene where a Lama is killed by a passing car which was in very bad taste and was actually offensive. Obviously the producers of this movie either forgot about or never heard of PETA. Why was this scene even in this movie? Was this suppose to be funny? It sure was not funny and was very disturbing.

Another very bad thing about this movie is the constant smoking of several of the main characters, continuing this Hollywood tradition of showing so many people in movies with the worst health threat we have to humanity. It seems we are a long way from a ban of all smoking in movies and that is a real shame.

This movie should be avoided.

Hollywood and Smoking: A Brief History


IMDB Our Brand is Crisis

Friday, October 30, 2015

Movie Review: Burnt

This movie will remind anybody who sees it of one thing. What we all have to do for money and more importantly the people we have to deal with, which in some cases includes abuse that you have to put up with because of the money. There is a scene in this movie where the main character, played very well by Bradley Cooper is extremely abusive to all of his employees in the kitchen. None of them quit and eventually he fires one of them for some very minor infraction. The main character in this movie reminds one of someone like Steve Jobs and his legendary abuse of people who worked for him.

The main character in this movie is a chef whose entire existence and value as a human being centers one getting 3 stars from food critics who tour the world and give their opinions on the best restaurants. It probably takes obsession like this to be the best in the world at the finest restaurants but the real point of all this is, is it worth it? Is it worth it to almost commit suicide over something like this or to be so abusive to all the people who work for you? You get the impression towards the end of this movie that the main character realizes that its not worth it and this is even despite that fact, as is suggested at the end, that that elusive 3rd star was realized.

One thing I once again hated about this movie was the smoking of at least 2 characters about 5 times. Why we have outrage like this in movies to this degree is a mystery to me considering the millions of people who have died of smoking related illnesses. Smoking gives a human being a 2000% greater chance of dying of cancer than any other reason and yet we still show characters in movies smoking at an alarming rate. This is wrong and it has to be stopped.

Overall, I do recommend this movie.

IMDB Burnt

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Movie Review: Freeheld

Why is there smoking in movies? Why? Why hasn't smoking in movies been banned since the 60's? Why is that as soon as the surgeon general determined that smoking WILL KILL YOU that smoking was not allowed in any movie? In the 40's and 50's smoking was considered cool and because of this, God knows how many people took up this horrible habit and lost years off of their life and died horribly from lung cancer or any number of 100 other diseases caused by smoking.

Freeheld is a true story and the first movie I have ever seen that got this smoking issue right because it showed the main character smoking heavily and then later she gets stage 4 lung cancer and then it spreads to her brain and then she dies. This is how lung cancer works and your odds of surviving stage 4 lung cancer is something like 10-15%.

The other part of this story is the incredible injustice of a gay lesbian couple who are living together, essentially married, but the law at the time stated that her partner was not able to get her police pension. The politicians at the time in Ocean City New Jersey could have cared less about what was fair or right in treating a police officer with 23 years of service fairly or even with some respect. All they cared about was saving their township some money and not doing what is right.

The acting in this movie from Julianne Moore and Ellen Page was outstanding and there might be an academy award nomination for one or both of them for there performances. I definitely recommend Freeheld.

Freeheld IMDB

Friday, October 23, 2015

Movie Review: Steve Jobs

This movie definitely has some great acting and great writing. Of course every time Aaron Sorkin writes anything (his last movie being the Social Network in 2010) you know that there will be some very impressive dialog. I was most impressed with the acting of Seth Rogan who proved in this movie that he can definitely act and because of that, its highly unfortunate that most of his movies have been so bad when he has written, acted and starred in them.

This movie is highly unusual in that its really 3 stories told in real time; the release of the Macintosh in 1984, the release of the Next Computer in 1988 and finally the 3rd act, the release of the IPOD in 1998. The connecting thread throughout these 3 acts was Steve Job's relationship with his daughter Lisa. At first Job's denied he was Lisa's father and at the end he fully believed and embraced the fact that she was his daughter. Along the way there was his turbulent relationship with the woman who he had Lisa with and his constant arguing early on that he was not the child's father, even coming out with a 28% algorithm that proved that 28% of American men could have been her father.

What is most amazing about this Apple Computer history lesson and the career of Steve Jobs is we all forgot that the Macintosh was a huge failure for Apple in 1984 and that Jobs first computer with Next was also a huge and overpriced disaster. Despite all of this, Apple rehired Jobs in 1997 and he completely turned the company around even though Apple Computer was 90 days from going under financially. Now some 18 years later, Apple is the most valuable and most important company in the world.

Other connecting threads of this movie were Steve Jobs relationship with Steve Wozniak and his close friend and adviser Joanna Hoffman and his rudeness and ruthless behavior towards everyone who worked for him. It is probably well known the difficult and argumentative relationship Jobs and with Wozniak, but I for one never heard of Joanna Hoffman. Its amazing that Steve Jobs was able to accomplish what he did in his life being so rude to so many people but over time he did improve this part of his personality. Steve Jobs was 100% driven to change the world and he just did not care how he was able to accomplish this along the way.

The big flaw in this movie is that it is really NOT a biography of Steve Jobs, after the book "Steve Jobs" written by Walter Isaacson. This movie is only about 3 incidents in Job's life and at times was like a soap opera of arguments and conflicts, which did include many moments of great acting. I for one would have rather seen an accurate biography of Steve Job's life even if the movie was 3 hours long instead of this movie, which was good for what it was, but I think overall not what most people would expect or even want to see.

The 4 main actors in this movie: Seth Rogen, Michael Fassbender Jeff Daniels and Kate Winslett are all very good in their roles and despite the obvious flaws in this movie I do recommend it.

Steve Jobs IMDB

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Movie Review: Crimson Peak

Was this movie a period movie or horror movie? Who knows? What this movie was more than anything else was extremely bad. There is a funeral at the beginning, followed by a ghost that shows up that was never explained, the mention of Crimson Peak that was never explained, followed by a love story that was staged in a city in the 1870's, followed by the relocation of the main female character and her new husband to a huge mansion that is falling apart.

The story and connections of the different scenes have no rhyme or reason. Nothing is ever explained. While in the mansion the husband and wife meet up with his sister who is living there and for some reason (also never explained) they have both killed his many wives over the years, for reasons completely unknown. The soil in the outside of the mansion is red clay but is the clay red because of all the dead women they buried? There is an oil rig in the front of the house that is digging for something, but this is also never explained. Is the director and writer trying to make people think that they are insane or stupid watching this horrible movie? What is the point of a bad movie like this. Why would someone read the script and decide to make a horrible movie from a horrible script?

Guillermo del Toro directed this bad movie, but why he did this is a mystery. Jessica Chastaine is barely recognizable as the husband's sister and why is she in this very bad movie? Mia Wasikowska is a relative newcomer who should also have never taken the part in this movie. While watching this disaster I could barely believe that it was only 2 hours long because it felt like 4 hours. I almost walked out about 3 times.

Do yourself a huge favor and MISS this horrible movie.

Crimson Peak IMDB

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Movie Review: Bridge of Spies

This is one of the better spy movies about the Cold War that have come out in the last 20 years and considering the importance of the Cold War, there should have been more movies like this made about what went on during this very difficult time in our Nations history.

The main character in this movie, played by Tom Hanks is James B. Donovan and he is an important American who should be more famous considering the important things he did for this country. After the trial of a Russian spy (Rudolf Abel), who was defended by Donovan, he was commissioned by the CIA to negotiate the prisoner swap Francis Gary Powers, who was a pilot who was shot down at 70,000 feet in a spy plane and the Russian spy. Where this true story got very complicated was when the United States wanted two prisoners in return for the Russian spy; Gary Powers and an Economics student who was arrested in East Germany, Fredrick Pryor. The politics of the negotiations between the Russians, East Germans and the United States all being handled by Donovan was for the most part interesting, but there were times when the movie stalled and was rather boring.

This movie hit the mark for the most part and was a good story to know about during the Cold War. Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg both did a solid job as the lead actor and director in this movie, but I don't see this movie necessarily being up for best picture or best director, perhaps because the subject matter is not strong enough. At the end of this movie it was mentioned that James B. Donovan was also hired by President Kennedy to negotiate the return of American prisoners after the Bay of Pigs and was able to negotiate the release of 9 times more people than he was originally commissioned to return, which is another great accomplishment that more Americans should be aware of. Movies about true history events and great Americans like Donovan is another reason why we go to the movies, to learn about world history that most of us are not aware even happened.

I definitely recommend this movie.


Bridge of Spies IMDB


Friday, October 9, 2015

Movie Review: 99 Homes

Man's inhumanity to man. The year 2008 and the following nightmare of the housing crisis which almost brought down the economy of the entire world is yet another example of "mans inhumanity to man". Mega rich billionaires were given the ability to do whatever they wanted in an attempt to revive an economy that was in bad shape since the internet bubble and bear market of March 2000 to October 2002. Home loans for any dollar amount were given to everyone regardless of their income or even if they had no job. As a result because of the leverage caused by all this; the insane loans that were given to so many Americans who soon defaulted resulted in the worst housing bubble in US history and created a disaster that has almost quadrupled the National Debt of the United States.

The movie 99 Homes is about what happens to people when they can't get a job for a long period of time or when they can no longer afford their adjustable rate mortgages. What happens is they are cruelly evicted from their houses, regardless of whether they have children or are very old or are waiting for a legal proceeding that might save them. Unscrupulous criminals are then able to take advantage of this situation to the determent of so many people who are forced out of their houses. During the housing bubble and subsequent economic disaster that started in 2007; appliances were stolen and houses were trashed as the people abandoned their houses. What this movie showed is that some criminals were removing these appliances illegally and then charging Fannie May for the replacement of these appliances and pocketing the profits. This movie is about criminals who will do anything to get rich and could care less if they ruin many lives to get there. This movie is also about a young man who gets caught up in this criminal activity after his own family home was foreclosed on and in the end he develops a conscience.

This movie was very well done and very well acted and is highly recommended. The actors Andrew Garfield and Micheal Shannon did a very good job in this movie. Micheal Shannon might be a candidate for best actor.

IMDB 99 Homes


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Movie Review: Sicario

According to a display at the beginning of this movie: "Sicario in Mexican means Hit Man". This movie points out some horrible life realities about Mexico and the poor that we all already know about. When you are so poor that your future life will mean living on the streets then the only way to survive is to either illegally break into the United States or lead a life of crime which mostly includes drug trafficking.

Recent news events and comments about illegal immigration in this country from the likes of Donald Trump is at the center of this movie which is about major drug king pins from Columbia and Mexico and tunnels that lead from Mexico into Arizona and Texas. This movie is also about revenge and a strategy by the CIA and FBI to flush out the worst and highest ranking drug criminals to get them to reveal not only themselves by their higher contacts in Mexico and Columbia in an attempt to reduce drug trafficking from the top down.

This movie was well made for the most part but during other scenes it was kind of slow, not really moving forward for some time. There was a long scene in the beginning of this movie which involved a long convoy of SUV's driving through many miles of Mexican roads through crime country, that eventually lead to a major shootout on a highway which was highly unusual in how it eventually came about. The acting was very solid throughout and the ending scenes which involve revenge of of a Colombian drug agent working with the CIA was very well done but at the same time very disturbing. Emily Blunt did a fine job as the lead in this movie but just like her character she seemed at times over her head with some of the extreme violence in some of the scenes.

I do recommend this movie.



IMDB Sicaro Movie

Friday, October 2, 2015

Movie Review: The Martian

This movie does live up to the hype and the movie trailers and the anticipated special effects. The director Ridley Scott , who is most famous for many of his space movies starting with Alien in 1979 directed this movie about a group of Astronauts who have to suddenly leave Mars because of a very bad storm that hits the area where they have been living. During the evacuation, one Astronaut played by Matt Damon is impaled by an antenna and knocked some distance from the space ship that would have taken all 6 of them off of the planet. The remaining 5 astronauts believe that Matt Damon's character has been killed and some months later it is discovered that he not only survived but is continuing to survive on his own on the planet by grown his own potato plants. Too much of the movie is devoted to the mostly boring planting of the potato plants and the difference science Damon's character uses to survive eventually finding the first Mars space probe from 1997 and even the small space car that dug for soil samples so many years earlier. Its this 1997 space probe that provides the method how Damon can communicate with earth and begin the long process to save his life and return home.

The year this movie takes place is not really made that clear, unless I missed that somewhere, but the science and technology seems to be about 10 years in the future. I wonder if the current group of people trying to go to Mars for life will watch this film and change their mind about going. As they say in the movie, there about a million things that can go wrong on any mission to Mars.

The ending of this movie was not good enough and involved some Hollywood drama that was rather ridiculous for dramatic effect. A decision was made to put a bomb on the spaceship in order to link with Damon's spaceship to somehow make up the distance between the two spaceships. I thought this ending was rather stupid and not up to the quality of the rest of this movie.

I highly recommend this movie despite the unsatisfactory ending.

The Martian IMDB

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Movie Review: The Walk

Very simply: If your afraid of heights this is not a movie you should see and definitely not in IMAX 3D, which is how I saw this amazing film.

There is no doubt that the greatest and most courageous stunt of all time will always be Philippe Petit's August 6th 1974 walk across the twin towers. Because of the scale and the odds of success this stunt can never be topped and is the most insane and dangerous single human act anybody has ever attempted. When you see this movie you at first cannot believe that the logistical problems of firing a bow and arrow across the towers and then anchoring a 1 inch wire and and its supporting wires across the World Trade Center were overcome. The men in Philippe's crew were able to work all night to accomplish the anchoring of this wire on both sides to make sure it was going to be able to withstand a 160 pound man walking across it for a long period of time.

One strange scene in this movie which really made no sense is when the wire was first shot across the one tower to the other and Philippe could not find it, he took off all his cloths hoping that while nude he could somehow better find the thin wire in the dark. Perhaps because he was so overwhelmed with fear of dying that Philippe thought that being naked would be enable him to find the wire, but who will ever know other than Philippe himself? The wire was finally found at the outer edge of the building and after a number of setbacks and the strange appearance of a business man who arrived at the top of the observation deck only to just turn around and leave right before the walk began, the wire was assembled and the walk started at about 6:30 AM on August 6th 1974.

While its understandable that some people do not have any fear of heights, what is not understandable is that Philippe Petit had no fear of death and no fear that a strong wind might knock him off the wire along with any number of mishaps, including the failure of the wire which almost happened during this walk. The problem with a potential gust of wind was never discussed during this movie and for me that should have been mentioned as the #1 potential disaster that could have easily caused Philippe's death.

What was most agonizing about watching the end of this movie was Philippe's continuing to turn around to avoid the police and walk to the other tower about 4 times over which included kneeling down on the wire and at one point even laying down on his back. Philippe did this knowing that one of the supporting cables had a join clamp that was installed upside down, greatly increasing the odds of a tragic fall. Amazingly Philippe was able to stand up again on the wire, taking risk after risk until he finally surrendered to the police. His sentence was very simply to do a wire walk for some kids in Central Park and no prison term.

During the wire walk the NYC police stupidly flew a helicopter over Philippe yelling at him with a megaphone to get off of the wire never seeming to realize that the wind caused by the helicopter blades could have easily knocked Philippe off the wire and killed him. This could be one of the stupidest single acts the NYC Police ever did in their entire history. In the end the miracle walk was successful and Philippe was given a "forever" ticket to the observation deck, which considering the demise of the towers was a rather poignant moment towards the end of this movie. How the director Robert Zemeckis filmed the many scenes of the twin towers given that the they are now long gone, even considering the power of computer movie making is very impressive and might just win this movie an academy award for special effects. The actor who played Philippe in this movie Joseph Gordon-Levitt also did a very good job with this role and could be nominated for an academy award as well.

I very highly recommend this movie.


The Walk IMDB