Tuesday, December 19, 2017

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (2017) - Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher

Director:     Rian Johnson
Writers:      Rian Johnson, George Lucas

I liked this one much better than THE FORCE AWAKENS.  It might be because “Force” had to take time to establish new characters.  In this one, we could engage into the storyline much faster.

This latest STAR WARS movie is focused more on the personal odysseys of the main characters and the dynamics between the familiar characters and the new ones.  It’s fascinating how we love the robots (C3PO, R2D2, BB-8) as much as we love the humans.

Mark Hamill, as Luke Skywalker, “The Last Jedi,” is cynical and dark.  Yet, it’s his very darkness which makes his ultimate rescue of the rebels more climactic.  Daisy Ridley, as Rey, fulfills her heroic potential, fighting to keep Kylo Ren, Han Solo's and Princess Leia’s son, from surrendering to evil. 
In “Force,” I was a little disappointed in John Boyega’s portrayal of Finn, the new character meant to be Rey’s heroic counterpart.  He acquits himself better in this version, though he still suffers by comparison to Harrison Ford’s crazy, charismatic “Han Solo” character.

Director Rian Johnson’s choreography of the battle scenes adds to the storyline, rather than detracting from it.  Benicio Del Toro is strong as a would-be ally overcome by dark motives.  CGI effects are excellent, and Andy Sirkis, who embodies his CGI manifestation of the villainous Snout, is excellent.  I loved the little critters with big eyes from Skywalker’s island who kept getting in Chewbaca’s way.

In the end, I have to admit that I thought BB-8, the upgraded version of R2D2, was the most heroic and lovable of all.  Funny, huh, given that he’s “just” a robot.

TAGS:  Star Wars, Jedi, Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, George Lucas, Rian Johnson, Benicio Del Toro, Andy Sirkis

Sunday, October 29, 2017

BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017 - Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Ana De Armas

Director:     Denis Villeneuve
Writer:        Hampton Fancher, Michael Green
Actors:       Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Ana De Armas

This is a sequel to the original “BLADE RUNNER” movie which was released in 1982.

At the time I saw the original, I found it so filled with mysterious subtext and incredible ideas that it took three viewings for me to “get” what the story is about.  The romance between Decker (Ford) and the replicant played by an impossibly beautiful Sean Young touched me at such a gut level, I’ve never been able to forget it.

I had so many questions:  Can an android really know what love is like?  If so, is love a spontaneous response to “memories”?  Is love simply the sum total of emotions generated by such memories?  And never mind that  I was blown away by the incredible potentials of AI technologies.

Well, this sequel has stirred up even more questions for me along those lines.  Ryan Gosling, as this movie’s new Blade Runner, is heartbreakingly believable as he unravels one mystery after another.  He sweeps us into the trauma of his dilemma and we have no choice but to hang on to his coat tails.  The storyline itself is brilliant in concept and resolution, and Villenueve directed this version with respectful homage to the original.  It is every bit as fascinating and mind-twisting as the 1982 version.

It was wonderful to see Ford in his “older” persona of Decker, still possessing all the passionate convictions which led him to the non-traditional choices of his past. 

Ultimately, the beauty of this movie is that while it is very much about the technological reality of our future, it is even more about the infinite possibilities of our human ability to love what we can remember and imagine about people and things. 

Tags:   Blade Runner, Villenueve, Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright,  suspense, Sci-Fi, 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD (2017) Ryan Reynolds, Samuel Jackson, Gary Oldman, Elodie Yung

Director:     Patrick Hughes
Writer:        Tom O’Connor
Actors:       Ryan Reynolds, Samuel Jackson, Gary Oldman, Elodie Yung

The title of this movie suggests crime, violence and suspense thriller, right?  To my happy surprise, it’s also a fun comedy.  Samuel Jackson’s character (Darius) has witnessed a crime and is set to testify in court.  The criminal he’s testifying against doesn’t want him alive, so a lot of bad guys are trying to kill Darius.  In fact, a task force headed by Elodie Yung (Amelia) is assigned to protect him until the trial.

Unfortunately, the task force team members keep getting killed.  So, Amelia knows someone who is the best when it comes to being a bodyguard.  This is Ryan Reynolds (Michael) who wants to be on the straight and non-criminal path.  Amelia, his ex, persuades him to take on the task of keeping Darius alive until the trial.

The chase and fight scenes are well choreographed and include some “make-fun-of-itself” moments, but it’s the “buddy” chemistry between Jackson and Reynolds that create a funny, enjoyable movie.  Salma Hayek, as Jackson’s wife, is hilarious and affecting as the tough tootsie with a dirty mouth who’s captured Jackson’s heart.  As usual, Gary Oldman is at his villainous best.

While the storyline is predictable, it’s a delight to watch Reynolds portray a tough guy who deals with murderous thugs.  His character is likable and charming.  He treats his job akin to a janitor cleaning out the toilet, “It’s a stinky job, so let’s do it and move on.”  He dispatches killers with effortless ease.  It takes a lot more effort for him to deal with Jackson’s crazy-guy attitude.  All in all, this is a fun movie.


TAGS:  Hitman’s Bodyguard, Ryan Reynolds, Samuel Jackson, suspense thriller, comedy, Patrick Hughes, Tom O’Connor, Gary Oldman, Elodie Yung

ATOMIC BLONDE (2017) Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman

Director:     David Leitch
Writer:        Kurt Johnstad
Actors:       Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman

COMMENTS:   Based on a graphic novel, “The Coldest City,” this movie is a suspense thriller filled with twists, turns and dramatic surprises enough to please any lover of spy films.

Ultimately, it’s all about Charlize Theron and how much fun it is to see her play the sexy, gorgeous and brilliant heroine of this movie.  Now in her early 40’s, she defies any preconceptions people might have of a woman no longer in her prime.  Her face is glorious, her body is slender and toned, and she moves with exquisite purpose.  Then, too, let’s not forget that her academy- award-winning acting prowess comes with the package.

As a super agent, she’s a visual wonder of physical agility as she displays solid martial arts and masterful work with any weapon she gets her hands on.  She is pitted against James McAvoy’s character, who is suspected of being a double agent, so sometimes they work with each other, and sometimes not so much.  James McAvoy, who has often played characters who are mellow and charming in other films, is tough, cold and ruthless in this movie.  I didn’t want to believe he was the “bad” guy in this story, but darn it, he was.  Except... was he really?

The plotline is certainly as complex as you would expect, filled with double agents and, ultimately, triple agents.  This is not a movie for children as it includes adult-themed scenes, all credibly worked into the storyline. 

Kudos to the choreographer of the fight scenes, featuring our heroine in full dangerous mode.  Theron is frighteningly believable as an unstoppable live weapon who fearlessly takes on her enemies with no regard for life or limb.  Yep, she gets scratched up, bruised and battered, but that’s life when you’re an agent.

TAGS:  Atomic Blonde, Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Kurt Johnstad, David Leitch, spy, thriller, The Coldest City

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017) Tom Holland, Robert Downey, Jr., Michael Keaton

Director:     Jon Watts
Writers:      Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Actors:       Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jacob Batalon, Zendaya
This is going to be another Spiderman franchise, and it begins when teenager Spiderman (portrayed by Tom Holland) is just learning how to use his newfound powers.  There is a great deal of charm and humor in this version..

Robert Downey, Jr. looks fabulous and is quite believable as the wannabe father figure for teenage Peter Parker.  Michael Keaton portrays the villain with frenzy and calm interfaced into his character all at once.  Marisa Tomei, as Peter’s beleaguered aunt, is delightful, and Jacob Batalon as Peter’s pal, is great. 

For me, the school scenes tended to slow down the momentum and could have been shortened somewhat.  CGI effects were excellent, and Vulture’s techno costume was impressive and scary.  Most of the charm was in the relationship between Tony Stark and Peter, Ironman stepping off his heroic platform to experience the impatience of a dismayed father over his disobeying son, and Spiderman feeling the helplessness of trying to please a father whom he adores.  Both Downey and Holland create a believable, dynamic interaction which we can relate to and sympathize with.

There’s one scene where Ironman has given young Peter a spiderman costume, and when Peter puts it on, it sags on him and we understand that he has a lot to experience before he can “grow” into his Spiderman persona.  This was a fun adventure movie filled with heartwarming characters, and I think we’ll all want to see how young Peter ultimately fills out his Spiderman costume and destiny.

GEN:  9   JUST: 8   HUVA: 7

TAGS:  Spiderman, Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Watts, Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Robert Downey, Jr., Marisa Tomei

Friday, August 25, 2017

DUNKIRK (2017)

Director:     Christopher Nolan
Writers:      Christopher Nolan
Actors:       Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Aneurin Barnard, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance

Christopher Nolan wrote and directed this movie to dramatize the evacuation of Allied soldiers who are surrounded by German forces during World War II.  There is literally no escape from the beaches of Dunkirk except for the military ships, which the Germans destroy in a barrage of air firepower.  Ultimately, an appeal is sent out to civilian boats to come to the rescue of over 300,000 soldiers stuck on the Dunkirk shores.  Hundreds of boats -- trawlers, lifeboats, pleasure yachts -- answered the call for help.

The movie focuses on half a dozen soldiers, each with his own agenda, but all motivated to survive the disastrous trap.  There are fine soul-searching moments for the soldiers, and the fact that most of them are not readily recognizable superstars makes each scene more real and visceral.  Mark Rylance, as owner of a fishing boat who cannot ignore the call for help, is quite wonderful as a humble man who makes heroic choices. 

There are many emotional moments in this movie.  As a director, Christopher Nolan is brilliant in depicting the horrible aftermath of bomb attacks, underwater as well as on ships and land.  Some of the frames are virtual artistic masterpieces of cinematography.

For me, the storyline was very difficult to follow.   Because I wasn’t clear as to what was really happening, I was frustrated and confused at times.  It might have been helpful for Kenneth Branagh to take a more active role in the film to clarify the events taking place.   Perhaps Nolan didn’t want to insult his audience with narrative, but I would have welcomed a little more back story.  Nevertheless, this is a powerful film, depicting how life-threatening circumstances bring out the worst and best in people.

GEN:  8   JUST:  N/A   HUVA:  8

TAGS:  Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh,   Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Aneurin Barnard

Saturday, June 17, 2017

WONDER WOMAN (2017) - Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen,

Director:     Patty Jenkins
Writers:      Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder
Actors:       Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen

What magnificent Amazons the women are in this film.  Robin Wright, in the role of Antiope, the military leader of the Amazons, is absolutely wonderful as she twists and turns in the air to send a fury of arrows at the German soldiers attacking their invisible island.  Connie Nielsen, as Queen Hippolyta, is majestic and vulnerable as she tries to control and guide the young princess Diana towards her destiny as Wonder woman.   

Even Chris Pine, who portrays pilot Steve Trevor, is made more humane and manly in the presence of such awesome women.  I totally loved the choreography of the island battle.  Even as they battle, we watch the warrior women perform incredible feats, but never once do we even consider that it’s about prowess or superior skills or just plain winning.  Director Patty Jenkins made choices which encourage us to see instead the generous spirit of these women who only want to honor life and save the world.  The CGI effects are excellent.

Once Wonder Woman leaves the island behind and enters the WW II scenario, she still embodies that sense of spiritual and moral strength which define her Amazonian heritage.  Gal Gadot is beautiful and strong and steadfast as Diana Prince, Wonder Woman.  There is no arrogance in her possession of enhanced fighting skills.

The best thing about this movie, though, is the human focus on the big picture.  Patty Jenkins understands the true female spirit:  that when it comes to protecting and defending those we love, women are fearless and fierce.    

GEN: 9  JUST: 9  HUVA:  9

TAGS:  Wonder Woman, Amazons, Diana Prince, Gal Gadot, Robin Wright, Patty Jenkins, Connie Nielsen, Chris Pine, Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder

Saturday, June 10, 2017

KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD (2017) - Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou, Eric Bana

DIRECTOR:  Guy Ritchie
WRITERS:    Joby Harold, Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram
ACTORS:      Charlie Hunnam, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou, Eric Bana

I really liked this version of “King Arthur.”  It was more about the evolution of King Arthur from child-to-man-to-king, and the spiritual significance of why only Arthur can pull the legendary sword.    

Charlie Hunnam is wonderful in the TV series “Sons of Anarchy,” but, for me, he wasn’t the right choice to portray Arthur the king.  Of all our recent hunk-heroes, I think Channing Tatum could have given Arthur the soul and the heart which made him such a beloved legend.  Charlie has the looks, the physique and determination to portray Arthur, but I didn’t see the beleaguered heart of a great king who knows intuitively that whatever decisions he reaches as leader of his people, some of those people will die and/or be hurt by the choices he makes.

In “The Vow,” I saw Channing Tatum portray that heart and spirit in his love for Rachel McAdams’ character.  He drew me in emotionally. 

In this version, Arthur’s journey becomes more about his confronting his personal fears rather than the monster within himself he must battle.  King Arthur of legend is a king of magnanimous heart and spirit., one willing to sacrifice himself for his people.  Eric Bana as Arthur’s father depicted more of that in his scenes than did Arthur the man.

That said, CGI effects and cinematography are excellent.   Guy Ritchie has a strong vision of magnificence on the screen.  I did miss Merlin’s character.  I’m not sure being raised in a brothel creates “king” character better than being raised by a magician who understands politics, leadership and miracles.  Still, I did enjoy this movie.

GEN: 7  JUST: 8  HUVA:  5

TAGS:  King Arthur, Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Eric Bana, legend, Guy Ritchie

Monday, April 3, 2017

LOGAN (2017) - Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen

DIRECTOR:  James Mangold
WRITER:       Scott Frank
ACTORS:      Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook

No doubt about it, superpower movies are thrilling fantasy adventures.  They engage the adrenalin surge.  This movie, however, is more about engaging the heart than the adrenalin. 

Little did I realize “Logan” was a Wolverine story.  Nevertheless, I was immediately engaged because, from the beginning, it was evident to me this movie was more about the human condition than human superpowers.  We see Logan struggling to survive undercover as a mere human on the road to ultimate death.  We witness his gruff reluctance to save his mentor, Charles, now fragile and broken by the aftereffects of his own superpowers.

Disillusioned and bitter, Logan’s love and respect for his mentor renders him a vulnerable fragility which we can’t ignore.  The tenderness which cannot quite overcome the sharp ruthless edge of his metallic claws is heartbreakingly real.

He knows nothing else but that he must protect his loyal friends who are all quite overcome by their own superabilities which now betray them at every turn. When a new child mutant enters his life, one which possesses his own Wolverine traits, what choice does he have but to protect her too?

My journey in this movie was more about the challenges which arise because of conflicting emotions:  compassion vs. hatred; forgiveness vs. anger;  vengeance vs. love.   Sometimes the opposites co-exist.  What then do you do?  I absolutely identified with Logan’s dilemma.

Does he use his hated savage power for the good of others?  To save an innocent child’s life?  To guide that child to a gentler, more normal existence despite her Wolverine powers?

In the end, at great cost to himself, Logan has no choice but to allow his monster-self to prevail in order to defend those he loves most.  This is an excellent movie, directed with nuanced sensitivity.

GEN:  9;  JUST:  N/A   HUVA:  6

TAGS:  James Mangold, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Wolverine, X-men, Logan

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

HIDDEN FIGURES (2016) - Olivia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner

Director:     Theodore Melfi
Writers:       Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi
Actors:        Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner

This title is apt but somehow doesn’t suggest the history, the passion and the magnificent humanity of this movie.  It is a fine example of how we humans who exist in a duality view of black/white and bad/good are forced to face the mirror of ourselves and come to terms with the fact that “we all piss the same color.”

What makes this movie so engaging and satisfying is that it’s as much about the evolution of our souls as it is about the evolution of our space technology. 

The three African-American actresses who portray the three genius-level mathematicians during the early NASA days are magnificent and iconic in their roles.  We understand them, feel them and see them as the stellar human beings they are.  They each find a moment to glow in the spotlight which brings up that lump in my throat.

In my opinion, they all deserved “Best Actress” nominations, but, yes, if I had to choose, it would probably be Olivia Spencer.  In one scene, she has to reveal to us her self-righteous indignation, her staunch refusal to surrender to inevitability, her stubborn pride and passionate courage.  While Taraji Henson and Janelle Monae have similar scenes, the element Spencer chooses to overlay all that is heart-rending vulnerability and, for me, that wins the ticket.

Director Theodore Melfi hits all the right notes and elicits great work from all his crew and actors.  Kevin Costner does a fine job of being the team leader, led by his heart and not his mind.  He’s perfect in the role.  The script is excellent, telling us the story, point to point, in an efficient manner, without sacrificing heart and soul in the process.

GEN:  9;  JUST:  9;  HUVA:  10
TAGS:  Hidden Figures, space program, mathematicians, women, black, African-American, Taraji P. Henson, Olivia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Theodore Melfi, Allison Schroeder

Friday, February 3, 2017

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (2016) - Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler

Director:     Kenneth Lonergan
Writers:      Kenneth Lonergan
Actors:  Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler

From the first scene with Lee Chandler (portrayed by Casey Affleck), we sense something dark and repressed within Lee’s soul.  His eyes have no light, his voice is a dead monotone, and he moves with robotic energy.  We can’t see any light in him at all.

It’s not till midway in the movie we discover what has caused the near-death of his soul.  Yet, even as we understand why he lives in such pain and denial, we also want to shout at him to wake up.  He is physically alive.  Surely that’s worth fighting for?

Casey Affleck depicts this character beautifully.   This film is not a feel-good, happily-ever-after movie.  Rather, it’s a simple journey through a man’s psyche to understand why he can be so self-destructive.  It’s an honest exploration of the human condition.

Michelle Williams portrays his wife, Randi, who co-experiences the tragic events with her husband, but who deals with loss and pain in a more constructive way. Years after they have gone separate ways, there’s a powerful scene where Randi opens her heart to Lee and tries to repair the damage to their lives.  This scene is why she got the nomination for best supporting actress.

The death of Lee’s brother propels Lee into becoming his nephew’s guardian.  We sense that Lucas just might be the instrument of his Uncle Lee’s salvation.  Will his guardianship force Lee to escape his self-destructive mode?  At first we think Lucas is a sex-absorbed, unfeeling teenager.  In a heart-rending breakdown, he reveals to us that he has actually buried the pain of his father’s loss deep inside himself in much the same fashion his Uncle Lee denies pain.

Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan has united his two functions and created a film which addresses human frailties and strengths in a compassionate, loving way.  This is a powerful movie.

  SUMMARY:   GEN:  9; JUST: n/a;  HUVA: 10

TAGS:  Manchester, Massachusetts, Kenneth Lonergan, Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, fishing, Lucas Hedges

MOONLIGHT (2016) - Mahershala Ali, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes


Director:     Barry Jenkins
Writers:      Barry Jenkins
Actors:  Mahershala Ali, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, Jharrel Jerome, Andre’ Holland

I love when a film’s director is also the writer.  There is such a consistency and heart to the end result.  The story line is simple and straightforward.  It’s about a boy’s journey from child to man.

Juan (Mahershala Ali) and his wife Theresa are a strong thread in the first two incarnations of Little/Chiron/Black.  We witness pre-teen Little struggle to deal in a home governed by the needs of a drug-addicted mother and no father.  Juan, who is no saint, nevertheless provides a paternal model for Little, and Theresa provides the unselfish, maternal love Little’s own mother can’t provide.  Mahershala Ali is notable in his role.  He has a strong, subtle presence, all emotions and thoughts shining with genuine truth from his eyes.

One childhood friend, Kevin, manages to break through teenage Chiron’s inherent distrust, but events force him to betray Chiron, and Chiron morphs into the adult Black, still a loner and still unable to trust others easily.

I was distracted by the fact that the three actors who portray the three ages of Little/Chiron/Black look nothing alike.  However, they each conveyed the loneliness, distrust and soul of the character successfully.  Kevin’s character transition from boy to man was more physically believable to me.

Writer/director Barry Jenkins elicits honest performances from all his actors.  The scenes when Black and Kevin unite are loaded with unspoken emotions and thoughts. Yearning for the trust and friendship they once shared, the air is thick with their mutual fear of being rejected.

Ultimately, despite the harsh realities our hero has been forced to endure, the film itself is never judgmental and always humane.   I would have to say it’s a tender movie, all about heart and soul.

SUMMARY:  GEN:  8; JUST:  n/a; HUVA:  10

TAGS:  Barry Jenkins, Mahershala Ali, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

LA LA LAND (2016) - Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

Director:     Damien Chazelle
Writers:      Damien Chazelle
Actors:   Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling

COMMENTS:   What a charming, old-fashioned movie this is.  It’s neither dependent on CGI effects nor filled with dramatic twists, shocks and mind-bending flashbacks. Rather, it is simple, dreamy, predictable, but imbued with such charm and style we can’t resist it.

The charm begins with the main stars, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.  Let’s be clear that they are not Gene Kelly and Ginger Rogers. 

They are wholly the characters they portray, Sebastian and Mia, who dance and sing only as it serves to tell their story.  Their trembling, unsure voices depict their cautious exploration and the mystery of falling in love.  Their dance steps remind us of the tentative moves we make in our vulnerable moments of being open to love.

There is one CGI scene where they are floating among the stars at Griffith Park Observatory, and we know they have already fallen in love and are lured magically into the realm of impossible hopes and dreams, rising above the mundane realities which weigh people down.

Of course we can see what’s coming.  Life happens, and they are forced to face the material necessities of paying rent and dealing with people who don’t recognize – much less appreciate – their unique talents and skills.  I was so enraptured by the lovers I was resisting with all my might the inevitable intrusion of harsh reality.

But it happens.  How can it not?  Life is what it is.  In a wonderful scene when they meet again years after their breakup, Mia imagines life if they had stayed together. The look Sebastian gives Mia as she walks away is filled with all the love and compassion in his heart. 

Writer/director Damien Chazelle deserves kudos for his courageous brilliance in taking such a predictable love story and making it magical and real.

GEN:  9;  JUST:  8;  HUVA:  10

TAGS:  LA LA LAND, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, pianist, actress, Los Angeles, Damien Chazelle

Monday, January 30, 2017

ARRIVAL (2016) - Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Director:     Denis Villeneuve
Writers:       Eric Heisserer (screenplay) 
Actors:        Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

COMMENTS:   Twelve mysterious alien spaceships appear at strategic locations around Planet Earth.  Are they conquerors or are they space travelers with peaceful intentions?

Since no one seems able to communicate with them, the world must choose: Attack or befriend?  Amy Adams, who portrays linguist Louise Banks, is soon recruited to figure out a language for communication with the ET’s.

Jeremy Renner portrays Ian Donnelly, her physicist cohort.  While he offers theories of his own, very quickly we trust Louise’s theories more.  Amy Adams inhabits her role of brilliant scientist.  Yet the nuances of her human normality shine just as brilliantly when we witness the lingering heartbreak in her personal life and her inherent terror at facing the alien visitors.

Jeremy Renner is less effective.  The only time I believe in his character is when he’s fighting to protect Amy Adams.  I wish I could have seen some emotional passion in him.

The scenario is entirely believable.  When General Shang decides to attack one of the ships, we know that would be a big mistake.  Surely a civilization which can travel through galaxies has superior weapons?  It’s Louise Banks who saves the day, and there’s a nice twist in the story which makes this possible.

Director Denis Villenueve has opted for scenes which emphasize the predictable reaction of humanity at the dramatic arrival of ET’s on earth.  Of course there’s immediate military takeover of the situation, but shouldn’t we be patient and achieve communication before attacking?

There is no violence per se in this movie, but the fear factor is there. In the end, we are forced to consider the possible destruction of all humanity, and that is scary enough.

SUMMARY:  GEN:  8; JUST:  9; HUVA:  10   

TAGS:  Arrival, Denis Villenueve, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Extraterrestrials, Science Fiction, Linguist



Wednesday, January 18, 2017

ALLIED (2016) - Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris

Director:      Robert Zemeckis
Writers:       Steven Knight
Actors:        Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris

COMMENTS:   Brad Pitt has grown up.  I still remember his beauty as the youth in THELMA & LOUISE.  I thought then he was destined for a successful career.  Boy, did I underestimate the trajectory of his career (and life).

This movie is about love set in a time of world war between nations.  A man and a woman meet as Allied spies in the beginning of war, get married and establish a home base in London.  Marion Cotillard is a fine actress, one whose beauty derives not only by virtue of an attractive body and features, but more so because of her dazzling courage, her bright spirit, elegant intelligence and integrity of character.  The combination makes her absolutely irresistible.  Brad’s beauty has matured from his youthful days into a sexy version which elicits love more than lust.  He has endured the test of time imbued with a masculine depth and complex soul wisdom which totally fulfills all of the potential of his youthful self.

Their acting rings so profoundly true any real-life spouse of either one of them would feel challenged by the mutual love and respect they exude for each other as man and wife on screen.  The director, Zemeckis (the theme is quite darker than his BACK TO THE FUTURE movies), chose to elucidate the workings of the human condition as opposed to the dark violence of war.  Yet, we understand that the conflicts of war engage not only those between nations but those within the intimate closeness of people who love each other.  This is a beautiful love story.  Having watched this, I have no doubt that, during times of war, people on both sides are challenged every day, every minute and every second to question their love for country pitted against love for another human being.

SUMMARY:  GEN: 9;  JUST: 5 (The good guys are bad and the bad guys are good, so who can tell what’s just or unjust?); HUVA:  8 (the ending is at great cost, but it was paid in the only way possible).

TAGS:  Allied, Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Robert Zemeckis, World War II, Allies