Monday, February 23, 2015

American Sniper

American Sniper - 132min - R

Sitting in the theater with the soundless credits rolling I had time to collect my thoughts and put down on paper some of the things that were going through my head. This movie focuses on one person's journey through the war from his perspective. We see his transformation from idealistic young kid to hardened war veteran. We can see the price that our service members and their families pay for their service. But I have to ask myself: what does this film inspire me to do? What does it tell us about the war that we didn't already know? This film is a yellow light. As a biography it highlights the man Chris Kyle but only the events during the war and his death. They are selecting only the history that supports the narrative of Chris Kyle, American Hero.

Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) is a sniper for the US Navy Seals. The story takes us from recruitment, to deployment and even him marring his wife (Sienna Miller), though his struggle with multiple deployments and his personal life when he returns home. After the deployments he uses his experiences to help veterans acclimate back into civilian life.

I was pleased at how much they focused on just the main character's achievements and how he helped people when he got back. His journey is fascinating and it's important to tell it. His struggles illustrate how hard it is on our veterans and even if the story ends in his death it shows how hard it can be to re-assimilate onto civilian society.

I wonder if the director (Clint Eastwood) will tell this story from the other end as well. In war there are two different perspectives. Watching the story of the other sniper, an Olympic medalist returning to his home only to be recruited in the war, would be a great companion to this film. His films Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima told the war from two sides. Those films did a great job of give us a well-rounded perspective of each side of the war.

I don't think the other movie will ever be made because of the director's politics and because the viewing public would never be ready for it. Our wounds are still too raw to be objective enough to see any other side.

This movie is a political rorschach test. Those who are very right wing are going to see this as a pro American film in the war. The left wing crowd will use this as another example of how bad the war is. But the movie itself does a good job keeping to the middle of the road. Taking no side on the events surrounding the main character gives it a sterile feel leaving the viewer to fill in the motivations that speak to them.

The few nitpicky things that took me out of the moment were the use of CGI to give the blood more of an effect. It unfortunately looks poor and didn't enhance anything but my feeling like I was at a movie. The baby dolls that they used also took me out of the importance of the dialog that was being said. It was again something that took me out of the story at what should have been some very engaging material.

What do you think about the film? What did you walk away with?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Unbroken

Unbroken - 137min - PG13

I have seen solder bio pictures back to back (American Sniper). This one tells the story of Louis Zamperini. He was an Olympian who served in World War II as a bombardier. I think out of the two this one gives us a message, whereas the other was very message neutral. We see a person's struggle to survive but also to forgive. With many war films the overall tone of the picture is dark. They take a toll on me as a viewer. This one wasn't as soul crushing as American Sniper. It's a fine film. The story is good but due to some poor editing choices it earns a Yellow light.

During World War II a bomber crashes into the ocean, Louis Zamperini (Jack O'Connell) and two other crew members have to survive until they are rescued. 45 days later they are picked up by a Japanese navy ship. Louis is sent to a prison camp and fights a battle of wills with the post commander Watanabe (Takamasa Ishihara).

The strongest message in this picture is how powerful forgiveness is. This message is brought to light at the end so we can see the impact of the impact of one act of forgiveness. Mr. Zamperini took a trip back to Japan and forgave his captors for what they did to him. As this picture focused on his brutal treatment the viewer starts to develop the same feelings as Mr. Zamperini. If put in the same position I don't know if I would have been able to forgive.

The lost opportunity was in showing the fact that he forgave his captors on a placard at the end of the film. There is also news footage of him carrying the Olympic torch through the streets. It would have taken about as much time to show him as an old man standing in front of the location where he was in prisoned and even talking with some of the Japanese people talking about forgiveness.

Watching the cast deteriorate before our eyes during the 47 day sea voyage is hard, not to mention the unquantifiable time in solitary confinement as prisoners of war. These were the most grueling parts of the film. The choices that were made for shots lengthen the journey but may not strengthen the story. Angelina Jolie shows wonderful skill in directing films. I may not agree with the choices she made as story teller but her work is good.

The stand out point in the film was the scene where Mr. Zamperini had to stand and hold a beam over his head. Most of that emotion was brought by the two stars Jack O'Connell and Takamasa Ishihara. The battle of wills that climaxes in that scene is well played. The agony of the horrors that Watanabe inflicted on Louis not going to break his spirit and he knew it.

It's kind of cool that at its core this is a movie about a man and his faith. It's not overdone, only mentioned in passing. This is an element that other Christian films seem to be lacking. To steal a line from President Clinton, "We should impress them with the strength of our example, not the example of our strength." If the Christian filmmakers want to draw more people to the theater they need to highlight people who live Christian values and not deliver a 2 hour sermon.

What if anything would you change in the story of unbroken? Take this time to be an armchair quarterback.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Mortdecai

Mortdecai - 107min - R

There is no earthly way I can express my disappointment in this film. There are some really talented people attached and you'd figure it would have been better just on star power. The story is feeble and the jokes are delivered with determination but none land. At most the audience gave a nervous pity titter. All I can feel is embarrassment at how poor this movie came out. The lowest I can give it is a Red light, this movie has made me think I should set up a no light award.

Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) and his wife, Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow), owe back taxes to the tune of 8 million pounds. He needs to find a way to make a lot of money in a week before he loses his estate. His gets approached by Marland (Ewan McGregor), a member of MI5, who hires Mortdecai to find a rare painting that is supposed to have been destroyed. With his faithful man servant Jock (Paul Bettany) he sets off to find the painting and save his mustache and his home.

The one thing I did like about the movie is how Johnny Depp threw himself into the role. He doesn't do things in half measures. He transformed himself into the character. The character of a complete and total tit. There were absolutely no redeeming qualities to him. Paul Bettany did show off his action skills and he does them well. While he stood out in this film, with the bar set so low it wasn't hard.

I wonder if this movie looked better on paper, a person doesn’t start out by making a bad film… do they? I bet Johnny Depp was friends with them and decided to join in regardless of how bad it looked.

Johnny Depp is a standup guy. He has done a few things that have really gotten me on his side. So it baffles me why he chose to do this picture. His over-the-top British character was grating after a while. If this character was a member of a minority class, people would have called racism with as many stereotypes were used in the performance.

The movie has two endings. One was when Mordecai finds the painting, and I would been happy with the end being there, or maybe I just wanted to be done. There is another section where he comes up with a huge plan to get himself out of debit by pretending to sell it. I didn't care at that point. As a viewer I was not interested in the second part of the movie.

This movie really is all about the lip ferret Mordecai is growing and trying to get his wife to accept. One of the more mildly amusing moments is Gwyneth Paltrow gaging after each kiss, and Mortdecai's sympathetic gaging in reaction to her gaging. Really not enough to carry the movie but it did put a smile on my face. The 'stash is so absurd that it has more of a personality than the character did.


Monday, February 2, 2015

The Imitation Game




This biography delivered on two fronts. It was entertaining and informative. A good movie that can master that blend will last. I was aware of Alan Turing and his work but never really understood the things that he had to go through. After the film I again feel bad for what we, as a people, do to our own species. He was a brilliant person who may have been a jerk but his work did help the war effort in World War II. I know that we won the war. However this film had me on the edge of my seat, not sure if we were going to make it.  That is a good movie,worthy of a Green light.

During World War II, the Germans have a code machine that is unbreakable. The Allied forces have 18 hours to work out the code before the Germans change the code and they have to start all over again.  Alan Turing(Benedict Cumberbatch) has an idea for a machine that could render the enigma machine unless. Will he get the support for this crazy idea? He recruits Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) as she is brilliant and passes the application test with impressive times. They work together in making this machine work, while she works on getting Alan to be more sociable with his co-workers.

Benedict Cumberbatch is everywhere in the geek-sphere. He has popped up in so many of my favorite genres and roles that I was interested in this film just because of him. He does an excellent job of capturing the mannerisms and the essence of a person who is a social outcast. He has gotten a lot of heroic roles so it was great to see him pull this off.  It really shows off the depth of his performance chops.

This is the second film I have seen with Keira Knightley recently and watching her performances almost back to back also shows off her skill. Her American Accent was put to the test in Jack Ryan:Shadow Recruit, good overall, but her attitude and was completely different in this film. They are both strong characters but one is playing with the rules of propriety and the other is completely American.

What I knew of Alan Turing was that he was the namesake for the Turing test his name and he was pardoned for the crime of being gay in 2009.  That is an incredibly long time to final get round to recognizing someone. The tension they build in the story really brings you into the movie. I was completely nervous that they wouldn't solve the enigma machine and the Germans were going to win. 

The Theory of Everything is also out at round the same time. These films are going head to head in Best Actor category. I have a feeling Eddie Redmayne will win for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking. However I will be rooting for Benedict Cumberbatch because it was a more engaging role.  



What political figure are you wanting to see on screen next? Or what historical figure are you wanting to see Mr. Cumberbatch perform next?