Saturday, September 24, 2016

Rock: It's Your Decision (1982)

Fundamentalist style Christian propaganda movie about the evils of rock music. I think it would be fair to say the movie overshoots a little, as our lead character (even IMDb can't be bothered with his name) becomes a religious fanatic and loses all his friends after being challenged by his youth pastor (following a prompting by his mom and dad) to give up rock music for two weeks and investigate if it's really compatible with a Christian life style. This movie is interesting as both a bad movie, and in a vaguely anthropological sense. You can see the whole 52 minutes for free online, or watch any numbers of videos of people ripping into it. To me the movies chief virtue is probably that part of it was filmed inside a mall, and I find 1980's malls nostalgically quite satisfying. More watchable then it has any right to be. **

Singles (1992)

Though some people absolutely love his work, there is something about Cameron Crowe and his movies that, on the whole, is just too preening and self satisfied for me. That being said I did like Singles, an extremely Gen X movie (though Crowe is actually a Boomer) set amidst the grunge music scene of early 1990's Seattle. This thankfully episodic and loosely structured movie winds back and forth through the lives an loves of a half dozen 20 something's, chiefly those living in a single apartment structure. Matt Dillon, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick and Bridget Fonda are all good to satisfactory as the principal players. This movie raised in me two chief questions: 1) Whatever happened to Bridget Fonda? (Turns out she married composer Danny Elfman and quite acting.) & 2) Am I Gen X or a Millennial? (According to Wikipedia I'm at the tale end of Gen X.) ***

Hostage (2005)

Perhaps the laziest, most cliché Bruce Willis film yet. When a hostage situation LA cop Willis is negotiating goes awry, and three people die, he decides to start over and takes the job of sheriff in a small, peaceful California town. But to no one's surprise Bruce soon finds himself in the middle of another hostage situation, and to make matters even worse bad guys have taken Willis's family hostage until he successfully resolves the first hostage situation, as one of those hostages is an important mob accountant. Though at first a little painful to watch, once the set up is more or less complete the film manages to run pretty well on genera momentum. I watched this because it seemed like the kind of movie my dad would have enjoyed, after I finished it I learned that in fact had seen it and apparently quite liked the movie. I love my dad, but I can only give this **

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Truth (2015)

Film about the Killian documents controversy and producer Mary Mapes September 2004 Sixty Minutes II story, which accused then president George W. Bush of going AWOL from the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War era, this during a presidential election which had also seen charges calling into question the war record of Bush's general election opponent Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. Certainly a competently made movie, I had a little trouble seeing its point. Why make this movie? There are certainly better films about investigative reporting, in fact Cate Blanchet, who plays Mapes in this film, also stared in the 2003 journalism movie Veronica Gurein, which is arguably a more engaging film. This film is based on Mapes own book about the controversy Truth and Duty: The Press, the President and the Privilege of Power, and leaves the impression that the authenticity of the Killian documents is at worst uncertain, though I had been under the impression they had pretty well been proved forgeries. In fact one of this films problems is that it was not able to install desire in me to investigate its claims much further. The cast is good but largely wasted, with Blanchet giving it her all, Topher Grace giving it some, and Dennis Quaid, Elisabeth Moss, and Bruce Greenwood collecting paychecks. Robert Redford is good as Dan Rather, who must have been just thrilled about the casting. For those who don't know the story depicted in this movie is what ultimately costs Rather his position as anchor of the CBS Evening News. See Spotlight instead. **1/2

Infamous (2006)

That other mid 2000's Truman Capote movie. Infamous is based George Plimpton's 1997 book Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances, and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career. Like the better know Capote, Infamous focuses on Truman's life during the late 1950's and 1960's when he was working on what would becomes his most famous and successful book In Cold Blood. What I found most remarkable after watching this film is that we now have (at least) three movies focusing on the now 'infamous' 1959 Clutter family murders, and each of them is an excellent film. In Cold Blood (1967), Capote (2005), and Infamous (2006) are all great movies, and each of them feel fresh and distinct from each other. Of the two that really incorporate the author in the story Capote will always be the better known, given Philip Seymour Hoffman's Oscar winning performance in the title role. Yet Toby Jones, who plays Capote in Infamous, is the more obvious casting, he naturally looks more like Capote, and his performance is strong, maybe just slightly weaker then Hoffman's.

Film critic Jack Matthews said of this film that its "certainly as good (as Capote) and a lot more fun." I think he's right, it's been nearly 10 years since I saw Hoffman's film but I still recall its consistently grim tone. Infamous is serious for good stretches, but on the whole more playful. I think you get a good sense of Capote the public personality and how his time investing the Clutter murders and getting to know the perpetrators, particularly Perry Smith, here played by Daniel Craig, affected him. The film has a very impressive cast including Sandra Bullock as Harper Lee, and Jeff Daniels as the sheriff of Holcomb, Kansas, with Peter Bogdanovich, Hope Davis, Isabella Rossellini, and Sigourney Weaver playing Capote's New York society friends. The now much more well know Lee Pace plays the other killer. Particularly near the beginning of the film various character's give talking head 'The Office' like commentary on what's going on, which given the nature of the books source material works better then you might suspect it would. Again even if you've seen the other films about this story, Infamous is probably worth your time. ****

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sully (2016)

Film about Captain Chelsey "Sully" Sullenberger and the 2009 "Miracle on the Hudson" passenger jet water landing from which all 155 people on board survived. In a compact 1 hour 36 minute running time 86 year old director Clint Eastwood manages to convey everything you need to know about this story in a more then satisfying manner. The film starts with a nice misdirect and then holds back some, gradually giving you the downing of US Airways Flight 1549, not all at once, but letting it build. However as well rendered as the "crash" is, that was not the most interesting part of the movie, rather the lesser known controversy about how "Sully" and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles handled the situation after both engines became disabled following a collision with a flock of birds, well that is worth the price of admission and not to be spoiled. Tom Hanks plays "Sully" as a straight forward stand up guy, he does that well as you'd expect him to, and as a friend of mine pointed out Hanks probably more or less directs himself at this point. Aaron Eckhart does a good job as co-pilot Skiles, as does Laura Linney as "Sully's" wife  Lorraine, though to be honest none of the supporting parts are all the demanding. "Sully" is that rare inspirational movie that is well written, directed, and acted and doesn't talk down to you, and is thusly kind of a gem.****

Me Before You (2016)

Jojo Moyes adapted her own popular novel and first time film director Thea Sharrock helmed this romantic piece about a quirky working class girl (Emilia Clarke) whose life is forever changed by the time she spends as the hired care taker and companion of a recently paralyzed executive and son of Britain's ruling class (Sam Claflin). The maudlin premise could have been too much had the leads not been likable and pored on the charm so heavy, Clarke in particular has gone all in on the quirky and adorable, with the film makers deciding the only why to make her look more average is to put her in ridicules clothing and cast Jenna Colman as her sister. A surprisingly thin Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom from the Harry Potter series) plays Clarke's running obsessed, take her for granted, long time boyfriend, who really doesn't deserve her anyway. As corny as it is when I first saw the previews for this it actually looked like something I would be interested in seeing, which is more then I can say for most of the romantic Hollywood dreck I see advertised. ***