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Chuck Movie Review

Chuck is based on a true story.  Interestingly enough the film is based on the man who Sylvester Stallone based his Award Winning film Rocky on and that is Chuck Wepner (Schreiber) of Bayonne, New Jersey, who was a humble yet moderately successful prizefighter… and liquor salesman.  His nickname was the ‘Bayonne Bleeder.’  This came from his childhood and stuck with him because one thing he could do almost better than anyone was take a punch.  It didn’t matter how many times a fighter hit him, he took it and kept coming back for more.  He and his manager, Al Braverman (Perlman), had a ‘Never stop the fight!’ agreement.  Wepner seemed also to be a self-centered narcissist, though he’d never see himself that way… putting himself above all others was his style and only when he needed help did he truly allow people into his life.

In 1975 he was going to get his big break.  He was given the chance to fight George Foreman but suddenly, Muhammed Ali beats Foreman and the fight is off.  He’s crushed as his future depended on a match of this size.  At what seemed like the final hour, his manager gets a call from promoter Don King.  Since Chuck is a white fighter with stamina, King has the idea that he’d be ideal for a fight with Ali.  Odds of Wepner winning are Forty to One. 

Only someone like Chuck would love those odds.  Then we’re in the ring where it’s a much different story.  It’s a good match where Chuck admits to liking to ‘wear him down with my face.’  The crowd loses its mind for the butt kicking he’s taking, but he sends a surprised Ali (Pooch Hall) to the mat once and the crowd loves him even more.  Chuck’s inner dialogue during the fight is insanely comical and shows how erratic his thinking was and how unstable his mind was at the time.  If you don’t want to know the outcome, don’t read this part (skip to the next paragraph) but at the end of the fight, and much in the same way that Balboa ends his fight with Creed, he almost ‘Goes the Distance’ with Ali.  Just nineteen seconds shy of making it the entire fight, the fight is called and it’s a technical win for Ali.

I enjoyed this film.  The 70’s music and the styles are represented incredibly well; the overall look of the film itself shouts another time.  The characters are great.  Chuck shows you who he is before this fight and who he becomes after the fight… neither guy particularly pleasant but somehow still loveable.  When he’s depressed he looks for women to make him feel better… which doesn’t go over well with his wife, Phyliss, played by Elisabeth Moss who should get recognized for this performance.  She’s frightening as she approaches Chuck sitting with his latest conquest.  Her performance is excellent.  She has to hold the family together by herself because her husband, who desires to get knocked out for a living, can’t take the beating once it’s over.  She alone is worth seeing this movie. 

I really liked Chuck.  It’s perfect for both men and women; not at all just a guy film, despite the subject matter.  It’s interesting to learn that this boxer was the inspiration for Rocky and intriguing to watch him interact with Sly before the making of Rocky II.  It’s also a fascinating look at the relationship between men and women.  A quote by Chuck at the end of the film sums up his views flawlessly.  ‘Sometimes life is like a movie… and sometimes, it’s better.’  He has enjoyed being Chuck as Rocky enjoyed being who he was.  Winning or losing, it didn’t matter, as long as he was in the ring.  

Snatched

I love Amy Schumer.  I love that she’s not afraid to show off her body that isn’t the Hollywood preferred size zero or to be dirty.  Some adults like their R-rated films to be hard-core, even if they star women.  Men, don’t fear.  There isn’t too much estrogen it’ll push you away.  Snatched isn’t really geared toward any specific sex.  While it’s true a few gags are aimed directly at the relationship between mother and daughter, which is a refreshing thing to see, that not all it has.  It’s just a hysterical film.  Sophomoric also comes to mind to describe it but its genre is comedy and funny it is.  Again I will reiterate that it can be lowbrow at times but go in knowing that and just have a chuckle.   

The movie opens letting the audience know that when it comes to the mayhem that eventually happens, it’s Schumer and Hawn who’ll end up inflicting it on their captors rather than the other way around.  It’s not necessary to give this away but films can’t help but be predictable sometimes, being aware of this in advance doesn’t hurt the story any.

Schumer plays Emily, a young woman torn apart by the devastating blow her boyfriend just dealt her.  She has an exotic vacation planned to Ecuador and he breaks up with her right before they’re supposed to go.  Never one to listen to what her mother, Linda (Hawn), tells her to do, she had purchased nonrefundable tickets… something her mother always warned her against.  After asking all of her friends if they’d take the extra ticket off her hands, she has no choice but to crawl to mom and admit she didn’t listen to her and that she needs her to go.  She pleads by asking her to help put the fun in nonrefundable. 

Linda isn’t excited about it at first but admits to herself that a life that centers around her cats and dealing with Emily’s agoraphobic brother, Jeffrey (Barinholtz), who still lives at home, would be nice to get away from for awhile.  Linda does go but it’s difficult for her to let go.  She’s set in her ways and though her daughter means well and wants her to break loose, she’s not willing to change who she is for anybody.  On the beach, as Emily tries to talk her mother into relaxing and not being so afraid of everything, they end up meeting two of the more hilarious characters in the film.  They are Ruth (Sykes) and Barb (Cusack) who throw their two cents in, interrupting the conversation by disagreeing with Emily.  They tell her they should never let their guard down.  Barb was in Special-Ops and knows a lot about these matters.  Knowing that the movie is about two women who are kidnapped, it’s glaringly obvious that this will come into play later.

Emily meets the gorgeous, too good to be true, James (Bateman), who she can’t wait to have sex with.  A scene where she preps for that moment is shocking but not too surprising… this is an Amy Schumer film after all.  They decide to go out the next day and see the beauty of the land.  James says it’s okay to bring Linda for their little adventure.  Ever the pessimist, Linda doesn’t want to go but agrees to anyway.  When she turns out to be right not to trust the unknown environment, mother and daughter are tested when they’re kidnapped and thrown into a dark room.  This entire situation lends to some ludicrous scenes for Schumer to do her thing.  Luckily, they make their escape and find that they must get to the U.S. Embassy if they hope to find any further help.  The men they meet during this trek contribute to the story and the humor without being frivolous or just sex objects.  Christopher Meloni, who plays Roger a guy who slightly oversells his jungle talents, attempts to give them a hand and finds he probably should have sat this adventure out.  Bashir Salahuddin, a State Department official contacted and constantly badgered by a desperate Jeffrey to help his mother and sister, is a wonderful supporting role as he attempts to be left alone.  Jeffrey’s character gets old fast but it’s necessary for the overall story and works for the film.  Some of the comedy can be immature and crude but it’s a comedy… it’s okay to laugh at the absurd and be amused by the ridiculous. 

What works best is that the relationship between Emily and Linda is believable.  It wouldn’t be too hard to believe they’d be real mother and daughter.  That said, it’s apparent to see that Linda has always wanted Emily to do more with her life and though you already know that the bond between them will be strengthened through the film, it’s fun to watch because the trip that Katie Dippold (Parks and Recreation, MADtv ) wrote for these actors to bring to life really works with the casting director Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies, The Night Before) did for the film.  At the end, we see them one year later.  Has Emily grown up or was that just wishful thinking?  See it this Mother’s Day and find out for yourself.  Bring your mom… even if she doesn’t want to go!

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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

All the best Superhero movies seem to come with origin stories. Can you do the same for Classical Myth characters? Take a famous legend such as King Arthur, and make a fantastical story of his origins. Would it be better if you just come out and make him a Superhero along the way? This is what the movie “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” does in its retelling of the Arthurian myth.

Back in some long ago times, when scenes set in Scotland were called England, the ruler was Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana). He was the King, and he ruled in peace over humans, and a people called ‘The Mage’. These were magic wizards and warlocks, who could control nature and animals. His brother was Vortigern (Jude Law), who was evil and willing to sacrifice his wife to gain the throne.

Uther was killed in the fighting, and he sent his little boy away to survive. The magical sword Excalibur was frozen in stone, so that none could posess it. The little boy grew up to become Arthur (Charlie Hunnam). He knew nothing of his childhood, or his royal blood, because he was raise in a house of ill repute. Vortigern was worried that Arthur would return some day, so he forced every man in the kingdom to try and take the sword from the stone.

Arthur is of course the only man who can do it. So Vortigern sets out to have a public execution Arthur. However, a loyal soldier named Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou) still serves the late King Uther, and he plans an escape for Arthur. With the help of a magic-enriched woman call ‘The Mage’ (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey), he helps Arthur to be free. But now in return, he wants Arthur and the legendary sword Excalibur to fight against evil king Vortigern.

With a small underground ‘Resistance’, they plan ways to eliminate Vortigern. Goosefat Bill (Aidan Gillen) is an excellent archer, and can shoot the king from a great distance. But things go awry, and soon Arthur, Bedivere, Goosefat Bill, The Mage, and many others are on the run. Arthur wants no part in the group’s plans and tries to get rid of the magical sword. But since it is magical, the Lady of the Lake delivers it back to Arthur. When he can finally use it, it unlocks the secrets of his past and it has the power that can take down Vortigern. So can Arthur find the way to become England’s rightful King, and first Superhero?

That is what director Guy Ritchie hope everyone wants to know. This is supposed to be a beginning part of a series of ‘Arthur’ movies, so hang on to your bollocks. This concocted story of Arthur’s roots has very little to do with well-known stories and legends. It has a blenderized version of Arthur, Bible stories, ‘Lord of the Rings’ and even the kitchen sink thrown in. Monty Python had more ‘accurate’ storytelling in “The Holy Grail”.

Charlie Hunnam  (Arthur) is a poor-man’s Brad Pitt, and he finally warms up into this role. Jude Law is quick to chew up every piece of scenery and perhaps a few other actors as Vortigern. Every other actor does pretty good, looking like they just walked out of the Renaissance Faire. The backgrounds of the countryside are quite striking.

But the relentless motion and movement on the screen, along with the booming and blaring soundtrack, makes it a major effort to sit through and watch the movie. There is no ‘three act’ structure or any type of structure at all. It is mostly action, frantic action, major battles, speedy escapes, more frantic action, more battles, etc. So there are always a lot of things going on, but there is no time to catch your breath at all…

There are many clever sequences and nicely edited shots, but usually the sum total is just overwhelming. It might be a huge box office hit, and I hope it does well. But in the back of my mind, I would like to slow down a bit and rewatch Disney’s “Sword and the Stone”.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

The Master of the Marvel Mix Tape is back. Yes, Peter Quill  and his gang of misfits have returned to the movies. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” takes another step into the wilder side of Marvel’s never-ending stream of comic book heroes. Back in 2014, the first movie introduced the characters, and now you have more time to get to know your ‘Guardians’.

Quill (Chris Pratt), also known as Star Lord, is working with Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista). With them are the two creatures; a genetically-modified raccoon named Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and humanoid tree-thing, now called Baby Groot (Vin Diesel). They are hired to fight off a monster for a group of gold-colored Sovereign people. They defeat the beast and win the release of Nebula (Karen Gillan), Gamora’s evil half-sister.

But soon the Sovereign leader is after the Guardians, and they hire a mercenary team of Ravagers led by Yondu (Michael Rooker). Yondu and Quill have a sorted history going way back to when Peter was kidnapped off  Earth. Peter Quill is still looking for his father, when the Guardians meet up with Ego (Kurt Russell). Ego is an ancient being called a Celestial, and he has created an entire Living Planet based on his brain power.

Quill learns that Ego (his human-like avatar, not the Planet) is his actual father. But Quill is still upset that Ego loved his mother, but then left her. Quill wants to go along with Ego, so that he can be a semi-immortal creature, too. But Gamora is wary, and she has a right to be. Not everything is as rosy as it appears. Yondu has his crew mutiny against him, but with help from Rocky and Baby Groot, he’s back in command.

Nebula escapes and goes after her half-sister Gamora. They fight an attack each other, but they do eventually find common ground. Ego has plans, much larger than what Peter Quill can imagine. But his plans would cause death and destruction of thousands of planets. All of the Guardians, along with Nebula and Yondu, team up for a good old-fashioned fight to the finish. Ego is immortal and all-powerful, but he still has some weak spots. If the crew all work together, can they find the answers in time?

Marvel scored really big with the first ‘Guardians’ movie, and now they have a chance to double-down on the crazy fun of these characters. There is such a high-energy spark within this group that the easy dialog and funny situations just are a joy to watch. Each characters get a little time to develop more and become deeper and more intense. Some are real standouts, such as Yondu. His character was not much more than a cameo in the first movie. But here Michael Rooker really gets to make fantastic impression.

 

All the actors are great and well cast for the roles. The most fun is to see Kurt Russell coming back into movies big time, and this role for him is just icing on the cake. Baby Groot is such a little huggable sapling, that every time his image is on screen, you just want to say, “Awwwww”.  Quill is still clever and snarky, Gamora is strong and stoic, and Drax is a huge mountain of power, with a big soft heart.

The movie is full of pop culture references. Lots of things are brought up, such as Pac-Man, Cheers (the TV show), Knight Rider (the TV show) and David Hasselhoff. There are again lots of Marvel cameos, like Howard the Duck, Cosmo the Space Dog and (of course) Stan Lee. There are a few celebrity cameos: Sylvester Stallone, Ving Rhames, and Michelle Yeoh.

Yes, the “Guardians of the Galaxy” have come back, and they are saving the Galaxy again. As Rocky says, “We can really raise our rates now”. It seems that they have raised the quality standards, too. Hey, and it can also be found in 3-D and in IMAX format, which actually makes for Greater Guardians!

Free Fire Movie Review

Free Fire is another terrific A24 release.  They seem to be cornering the market on must see films.  With outstanding and unique movies such as Room, Locke, The Lobster, The End of the Tour, American Honey and the 2016 Academy Award winning best picture, Moonlight, all which were well received when released, it seems A24 isn’t afraid to take a chance on something out of the norm… and we’re all the better for it.

Much in the same way that Pulp Fiction captured its audience by being surprisingly and overwhelmingly unconventional, Free Fire does that same thing.  If people are telling you to see this film, as I am now, listen to them.

It’s a fun movie with characters that are so well defined they grab you right away and you never once want them to let you go… and they don’t.  The acting is unbelievable.  The talent who worked from this uncommonly witty script was perfectly cast, never dropping character or ever releasing you from the story they’ve pulled you into until the credits roll.

Sharlto Copley and his group play gunrunners selling guns on the black market.  He is almost the singular reason to watch this film.  His Vern is the epitome of the word coward yet he hides behind a thin veneer of self-possessed hooligan that anyone can see straight through.  On this night, they are selling guns to an IRA buyer by the name of Chris (Murphy) and his group.  They are led into an old warehouse to meet Vern by a well-dressed, slick talker named Ord (Hammer) who sets the rules for the meeting.  Not long into the meeting… something goes wrong.  Once this happens, the film becomes a free-for-all where ridiculously hilarious words are exchanged as the two groups begin to also fire at one another.

Not wanting to reveal too much of the plot to encourage your interest in seeing this than there needs to be, I will say that if comedy plus action is your thing then there’s no way you can go wrong by giving this movie your full and immediate attention at the theatre today.  Armie Hammer is outstanding handling the dialogue with his brand of dry humor. 

Brie Larson, the only woman in the cast (and don’t think that isn’t addressed) who tries her best to calm the situation, gives the film that ladylike touch of femininity only a brave yet tender woman can bring.  I don’t have the space to tell you about everyone else.  There isn’t one character who’ll disappoint.

I can’t say enough about Free Fall and I do realize that I’ve barely said a thing but you’ll have to trust me on this one… this is insanely funny!  It’s a powerfully strong comedy that centers around an epic shootout where the characters screaming insults back and forth escalate the situation to the point of being barbaric.  It’s genius.  There are so many erratic, off the wall moments in this film that you’ll be turning around planning on seeing it a second time so that you can catch all the ones you missed.  Well done Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump for this magnificent movie.

Born In China Movie Review

In this beautiful Disneynature documentary, we find ourselves in China.  We meet a female Snow Leopard named Dewa, alone with her babies, an over-protective Giant Panda named Ya Ya and her cub Mei Mei, a Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey by the name of Tao Tao, who has anxiety over his new sister and chiru the Tibetan Antelope.  The gorgeous land they live in is an untouched region of China, away from the influence of the human race where animals are left to their own devices where their biggest worries are the elements and sets of teeth or claws belonging to their natural predators, not guns and man.

The film cycles through the four seasons with these four sets of animals.  A bit of a warning, Born in China even touches on the subject of death.  However, to help with what may hurt a little during this time, director Chuan Lu, known as one of the best young directors in China at the moment, reminds us of something the Chinese have always believed in… reincarnation.  This is where the bird the Crane comes in.  They claim the Crane, which he shoots beautifully, carries the soul from this life to the next.  Subscribing to this point of view will help take out the sting a little bit.

What the film seems to be doing is pointing out to us and even educating our kids about the fact that animals aren’t that different from us.  They feel as we do, they love like we do and they have a right to exist, as do we all.  Sometimes people need to be reminded that ours is not the only lives that matter.  Leave it to Disneynature to find an exquisite and entertaining way to send us that message and at what seems to be the perfect time.

The footage took four years for the film crew, living through the difficulties in climate and terrain, to capture these amazing moments for us to witness.  Some images have been captured for the first time which is mindblowing in and of itself.  You’ll enjoy Krasinski narration, often throwing in some of the animals attitudes.  Tao Tao would prefer to hang out with his friends, The Lost Boys than with family when his horrible sister, who steals all of his love, is born.  This is particularly adorable but he learns a hard lesson about his decision.  Ya Ya’s cub rolling down a hill after its first attempt at climbing is too cute but also heartbreaking because you know the anguish Ya Ya is experiencing.  Dawa trying to fight off hunger for her and her cubs is painful to watch as an injury makes the quest for food nearly impossible.

The movie is glorious.  It’s touching and you have to see it on the big screen.  Every moment that the filmmakers spent, waiting through a climate that changed every thirty minutes, is well worth your time seeing, to be a part of and to experience.  Stay during the closing credits.  Here they shared some moments they went through to make this film for you.  Gems await you that are almost as fun as any moment in the film itself.

Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer Movie Review

Norman is the new film by Academy Award® nominated director Joseph Cedar.  In my opinion, having been only nominated could change with this absorbing and compelling narrative.  The film is remarkable.  Immediately, the title may lead you astray.  You’ll think this is just a story about a simple, meek and non-threatening older man named Norman Oppenheimer (Gere), which is a brilliant maneuver on the part of Cedar, who also wrote and produced the movie, to set you at ease right off the bat. 
It doesn’t allow for the watcher to be suspicious of any of Norman’s activities.  He seems to be as unassuming as they come.  At the start of the film, Norman is asking his nephew Philip (Sheen) who’s a lawyer, for information on a client.  Philip’s client is necessary for him to set up a deal where he can benefit financially and move up in the political and financial world of New York.  He promises the deal is so good, everyone will prosper, including Philip.  Less than excited about it, the dutiful Philip gives him the name of Bill Kavish (Stevens).  When he tries to speak with him we see the real Norman and his vulnerabilities exposed; he’s a nobody with no experience.  He’s a New York dealer trying to get the right connections hoping to join with the right people so that maybe something will pay off.

The film goes into four Acts.  Each is titled.  The first is, A Foot in the Door, because, a meeting finally does pay off.  He meets Micha Eshel, played by Lior Ashkenazi, who is brilliant in the movie.  Eshel is an up and comer in Israeli politics.  Norman sees Eshel admiring a pair of very pricey shoes and purchases them for him as a favor.  Several years later, we’re into Act Two which is Backing the Right Horse… and we learn that Norman did.  The shoes make it into several inventive and important shots.  When Act Two starts, we see them being worn by the new Prime Minister of Israel. 
We move up from the shoes to the face of the person wearing them and it’s Eshel.  Norman sees him backstage after an event and Eshel instantly recognizes him.  Norman finally has an in with someone in power.  Soon, we see some truly imaginative visuals and editing on the part of cinematographer Yaron Scharf (Footnote) and editor Brian A. Kates (Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Kill Your Darlings) to not only fill in an awful lot of the story in ingenious and stimulating ways but to keep us entertained.  You’ll be absolutely engrossed at what Cedar came up with to cover a few phone calls Norman has to make.

Eventually, a relevant character emerges; Alex Green (Gainsbourg).  She’s cold when Norman tries to get her to open up to him but then reverses it on him and begins to ask him questions… questions he should realize he shouldn’t be answering.  Cedar characters are so well developed, Norman in particular, that you being to worry about him; especially as flaws surface, such as talking about Eshel to strangers and his inability to tell the truth to anyone.  It’s critical to him that he is a friend of an important leader to get favors for one friend or another.  Those lies and promises start to stack one on top of the other.  How he hasn’t had a heart attack by now is beyond comprehension.

Without revealing too much about this provocative film or of who the real Norman is, Cedar does an extraordinary job of getting us to feel for the man he is or who we think he is.  He is compassionate… or is he?  He’s reliable and virtuous… or is he?  He’s a small man trying to get something to finally hit for his friends and finally for himself.  Maybe it has or it hasn’t… all due to a pair of shoes.  This is an amazing film with some outstanding acting.  Josh Charles has a small role but is noteworthy, as well as Gainsbourg but then everyone in this cast does an exceptional job bringing this impressive script to life and you don’t want to miss it.  This is a must see as soon as possible.

The Promise Movie Review

“The Promise” is a big-budget, professional production that looks at World War I and how the Ottoman Empire mistreated the native Armenian population in Turkey. It is not a common topic in the movies to delve into the roots of genocide and ethnic cleansing. But Terry George has written and directed this subject before (in “Hotel Rwanda”) about the ethnic killings in Rwanda in 1994. With this movie, he makes a strident point of the cruelty of the Turks regarding the minority Armenians.

Prior to the start of World War I, many small villages in Turkey had many Armenians, and from one village came Mikael (Oscar Isaac). He wanted to study medicine, so he agreed to marry into a wealthy family and use the dowry money for schooling in Constantinople. While he is there, he stays with his rich uncle. He hires a young woman named Ana (Charlotte Le Bon) to tutor his children. Ana is Armenian, but she has grown up with her father in France. Makael and Ana meet, and both are attracted to each other.

Ana spends her time with Chris Myers (Christian Bale), who is an American reporter for the Associated Press. He is there to cover the tensions as the world comes to war. Once that war is declared, Turkey finds an ally in Germany. Turkish government officials find it easy to tighten down on all non-Turks, and they are especially hostile to the Armenians. Many villages are ransacked, and all non-Turks are jailed. Mikael tries to get a student exemption, but he instead gets put into a work camp.

Mikael finds a way to escape and he gets back his village. His mother Marta (Shohreh Aghdashloo) makes him marry the girl in the village he had agreed to marry. Mikael was secretly in love with Ana, but he knows he must make good on his promise. Turkish troops get deeper into the outlaying lands to scour and destroy more villages, and Mikael’s village is on the list.

Ana and Chris Myers had spent time fleeing the chaos in Constantinople. They found a missionary clinic in the hills, where the pastor in charge was secretly taking orphans to a nearby port and getting the children out of Turkey. Mikael’s wife is pregnant and she needs medical help, so they wind up at that same clinic. He again meets Ana and Chris, but he says he must stay with his family and the village. But the villagers are slaughtered, and there is nothing there for Mikael.

They travel to find the village with the port and the boats for the children. But the Turkish forces had destroyed the port and the village, and the people are wandering out into the hills. Chris is captured the Turks and it takes a visit by the U.S. Ambassador (James Cromwell) to get his free. Chris runs into a French destroyer captain (Jean Reno) and convinces him to use his artillery power to fight off the Turks. That will give the people fleeing the country a chance to stay alive.

The subject matter is difficult, because war enters Turkey and gives them all the room they need to quietly exterminate the Armenian people. There is a lot at stake; the story of the three people on the screen is shadow of what misfortune hits the country as a whole. The three main characters are mostly well-defined.  Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon, and Christian Bale play the roles with a lot of empathy for the pain all around them. They are at times proud, and frightened, and shell-shocked, and worn down and then happy to meet up again. Love is found and lost in the shadows of war.

The movie is paced a little slow in some area, and the overall length might have been cut down a little bit. There a lot of characters over the course of the movie and many of those who are the main group or in the immediate surrounding group, they all tend to blur into a fuzzy stereotype. The Turks and almost all bad, and the Germans are all mean and stuck-up. The occasional American is noble and good-hearted, and the French need to be talked into doing the right thing.

There are some minor flaws in the movie. But in the long run, it is an honest and heartfelt effort to tell a story about World War I that normally gets pushed aside. But don’t expect the movie to be a box office smash (in Turkey).

 

After the Storm Movie Review

In Phoenix, exclusively playing at Harkins Shea 14

“After the Storm” is a film by Japanese director and writer Hirokazu Koreeda. This work is a family-centered look at the life of a middle-aged man who thinks that his life should have turned out differently. There are a lot of regrets in his life, and he wishes to have things the way he would like them to be. But that is not how it is to be…

Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) had written a prize-winning novel in his youth, and married a woman named Kyoko (Yoko Maki). They had a boy named Shingo (Taiyô Yoshizawa), and then his life took a turn for the worse. There was little interest in the writer Ryota, and he could only get offers to ghostwrite stories for manga graphic novels. Ryota gambled away most of his savings, and Kyoko divorced him and took Shingo.

Soon after his father dies, he meets with his elderly mother Yoshiko (Kirin Kiki). She has a low-class standard housing apartment with few luxuries. She lives on her small pension but she seems to be happy. Ryota thinks that his older sister Chinatsu (Satomi Kobayashi) has been coming over to visit his mother so she can borrow money. But Ryota is always broke, and he never has enough to pay his child support.

Ryota works part-time at a detective agency, and he says it is for doing ‘research’ for his next novel. But it pays him just enough to pay the rent and gamble away the rest. He uses the job to go undercover and spy on his ex-wife Kyoko, to see whom she is dating. She is involved with a man who runs a very successful real estate firm.

Ryota and his sister Chinatsu visit their mother just before a violent typhoon hits the city. Kyoko and their son Shingo are also there that night. Chinatsu and her family leave to get home before the storm. Ryota, Kyoko, and Shingo have to spend the night at Yoshiko’s apartment. Yoshiko thinks that Kyoto and Ryota might have another chance together, but that will not happen. Shingo and Ryota have a time to bond as father and son.

Yoshiko gets to say things that sound profound and wise, such as “You can’t find happiness until you’ve let go… of something.” What you decide to let go of, I guess that is up to you…

This is a leisurely-paced movie. The most exciting sequence is during the storm, when they are running around a playground searching for missing lottery tickets. There is no flashy camera work or take-your-breath-away special effects. Things like would take away the quiet honesty of this film. The dialogue is in Japanese, and there are subtitles, so it takes some concentration to watch and adsorb the nuances of the characters.

So this might not be everybody’s cup of hot green tea and rice cakes. But if you can appreciate a small family drama that treats you like an adult, then you could enjoy seeing “After the Storm”.

Is That A Gun in Your Pocket?

The plot of Is That A Gun in Your Pocket? is loosely based on the ancient Greek play “Lysistrata.”  It was written and first performed in 411 BC.  It’s interesting to see how little has changed in that men and women still lock horns over what the other considers to be best for their family and also in the way we entertain one another.

In the play, Lysistrata persuades the women of Greece to withhold sex from their husbands until they negotiate peace and end the Peloponnesian War.  Using the theme of a 2,000-year-old sex comedy works for what the women of this small Texas town want from their men.  These are strong values to stand on and the film does a good job of giving the audience both point of views.  The comedy chafe’s the brain a few times as some scenes are not only too contrived but sophomoric, however, in the long run, it’s worth a watch for the number of times you’ll chuckle at this battle the sexes.

In Rockford, Texas, guns are the order of the day.  This is set up in several ways.  Pay special attention to the titles playing at the theatre for the wittiest of them.  This little borough of 6,969 people is calm and quiet almost idyllic, in fact, and everyone seems happy on the surface yet deep down brews a silent soldier in the form of resentment.  The women speak of it and make fun of men in group chats; the men do the same behind the backs of their wives or girlfriends, mostly while hunting.  What is this resentment based on?  Their sex lives.  Their sex lives couldn’t be staler if it were a cracker from 1991 found this morning behind the refrigerator.  As if it were a sketch comedy show, writer/ director, Matt Cooper (Perfect Opposites, The Last Supper) gives us set up after set up and joke after joke of men and women pinned against one another, all charged up and in full battle mode.  Some japes in this comedy do land better than others but if you don’t take the subject too seriously, the touchdown is a lot less bumpy.

Married couple, Glenn (Passmore) and Jenna (Anders), and seemingly the rest of the town, are having problems in the marital bed.  After their son takes a loaded gun to school and accidentally discharges some bullets, Jenna decides to take some of her unspent energy out on a cause.  That cause is to rid the town of guns altogether.  Glenn is against this and before you know it, the frustrated couple decides on one thing… neither will give in.  She talks her girlfriends into helping her take a stand for something she feels is important to her after she learns that guns contribute the most to the death of children… above everything else.  She explains that gun violence can end by removing the reason it exists… guns.   The women agree and the men aren’t going to have it.  So, the fairer sex comes up with the one thing that’s sure to break the men… they’ll close their legs until the guns are gone.

When the men hold up surprisingly well and are still not giving in, the women decide to turn up the heat.  This is also when Cooper turns up the funny.  These gals play some dirty tricks on these unsuspecting lads.  I’ll let you discover those when you watch the film.  As the title alone might suggest, there are some really fun moments that will hook you into the lampoonery you’ll find in Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?; like the revelation of a vibrator thought to have been a candlestick, a man crying because his ak47 is painted pink and the men wishing the women would have had a talking strike instead of a sex strike.

It’s slow to get going at first but hang in there.  Laughing at jokes aimed at your sex, whether you think they’re completely accurate or not, is healthy.  If you can do that you’re going to be entertained.  There’s some really funny dialogue delivered by Cloris Leachman’s character, as well, such as suggesting that, ‘There is nothing more powerful than p*ssy.’  But her dirty old lady was a bit overused.  Had she said only a few filthy things, I believe the declaration of that particular line would have had a much bigger impact.  That said, when Horatio Sanz says, ‘Hell hath no fury like a Latina scorned,’ I hope you don’t have a drink in your mouth.  My suggestion is to see this crazy little movie and don’t worry so much about the politics mentioned within.  Whether you agree with the stance within or not you’ll laugh if you let yourself.  You’ll like the characters once you get to know them and you’ll want to see where the story is leading.  You truly care for them and what they’re standing up for and it’s also hard not to like this wonderful cast; there’s hardly a name you won’t recognize.