Monday, October 7, 2013

Wknd Box Office: Gravity, Parkland, Runner Runner, Inequality for All

Here is an interesting article from reviewing some of the movies that came out over the past weekend. This follows this post about some of the movies from last week and THIS POST about some movies that have been released over the past few years that you might have missed! This all follows this post about guidelines to choosing good movies to watch yourself!

Wknd Box Office: Gravity, Parkland, Runner Runner, Inequality for All

By Debbie Schlussel

One fabulous new movie in theaters, this weekend, as we get closer and closer to the better movies in the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.

* “Gravity“: A great movie adventure. The best thing about this movie is that it is visually stunning. Although I saw it in 2D, this is one of those that is worth shelling out the extra few bucks for 3D and/or IMAX. It makes it even more real when space debris is traveling at the astronauts in this movie (and you) at 100,000 miles an hour. The worst thing about this movie: the male astronaut, who knows exactly what he’s doing and does everything right, isn’t rewarded. The female astronaut, who is in a panic, doesn’t listen, and doesn’t stop talking, is.

The story: George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are American astronauts up in space to repair satellites. Suddenly, space debris from a destroyed satellite is traveling at them at very high speed and velocity, putting them in danger. Soon, they are stuck floating in space alone and without help, as their space shuttle is destroyed, and everyone on it is dead. And they are unable to communicate with NASA or anyone else but each other. They have limited oxygen supply and need to find a way out and home.

George Clooney is only in about a fifth of the movie. The real star is Sandra Bullock. I like this kind of movie, where survival is the goal and those trying to survive are all alone in an environment in which they must rely on brainpower and wit to stay alive. So, I enjoyed this. Add to that, space and beautiful visuals and special effects, and you have a great movie.

I didn’t need to hear or know the tragic sob story behind Sandra Bullock’s life on earth, but that’s very brief and a tiny part of the movie, and doesn’t really take away from it much.

This is the first of Oscar-hyped movies about survival. The next one, which is very similar, is “All is Lost,” coming out later this month, with Robert Redford playing a man trying to survive while lost at sea in the Indian Ocean. The movies have interesting similarities and differences and make great companion movie viewing about survival in different atmospheres. Stay tuned for my review on that one.

And, for now, go see this. It’s fun, thrilling, suspenseful, and entertaining. A great escapist movie. Odds are that you’ll enjoy it, as I did.


* “Parkland“: This is about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the days surrounding it, and the hospital, Parkland, to where the bodies of both the dead President and his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, were taken. At first, I expected to hate this movie and wondered what it could possibly show us. After all, half of Kennedy’s head was blown off, so I wondered, what is there to show? As we all know, efforts to revive the President were futile, and even if they were able to, were we gonna have a President walking around with half of a head? But I was pleasantly surprised, and the movie–even if overly sad and melodramatic–was much better than I expected, and it made me think a lot, including about angles that weren’t covered in it.

In an age where many Americans know only the history of the Kardashians and/or the Jay-Z/Beyonce Knowles Carters but not actual, real American history, this is a nice tutorial on the JFK assassination, the 50th anniversary of which takes place this November. However, for the rest of us, you won’t learn much new stuff, but the movie does explore interesting points, such as the reaction of Oswald’s brother and his encounter with the assassin sibling at the police station after the shooting. One glaring omission: the movie never mentions Jack Ruby, though there is notice of the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald, and it never explores or even quickly asks why Ruby killed Oswald.

Still, I found the movie interesting and entertaining, and American history buffs will probably still enjoy it. One caveat: there are more men crying onscreen in this movie than at a showing of “Brokeback Mountain” in West Hollywood. It’s a little unsettling.

Paul Giamatti is probably the most memorable actor in the movie, as his portrayal of a morally centered and deeply affected Abraham Zapruder, the Jewish immigrant clothing maker who took the only film of the assassination. In the age of TMZ, it is touching to see his negotiations with LIFE Magazine, in which he insists that LIFE not publish stills from his movie that show “a dignified President in an undignified position.” Today, those pictures would be all over the place, as we now live in undignified times where anything goes and all gruesome death photos are published, except the ones of the only man we’ve (actually Obama has) raised as more holy than the rest of us, Osama Bin Laden. Zapruder talks about how his father took them away from Europe to escape certain death, and he is extremely sensitive to the situation in which he finds himself now.

If you are looking for conspiracy theories here, you won’t find them, except for the crazed, delusional ravings from Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother (Jacki Weaver), who insists that her son was a trained CIA agent and is deserving of full burial in Arlington National Cemetery.

The movie is a little maudlin and macabre at times. We see Mrs. Kennedy giving an emergency room nurse a piece of the President’s skull and brain that landed on her during the assassination. And there is a scene in which Secret Service agents struggle to get Kennedy’s coffin onto the plane and have to cut out sections of it.

But there are touching moments and interesting ones, such as the scene in which Catholic Secret Service agents kneel and pray at the President’s coffin on the plane in mid-air, and the scene contrasting the funerals of the President and his assassin. (Billy Bob Thornton co-stars in this as a senior Secret Service agent.)

The movie is based on the book “Four Days in November: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy ,” by Vincent Bugliosi. I wondered about the accuracy of certain things. Is it true, for instance, that the FBI received a bomb threat from Oswald, ten days before the JFK assassination and ignored it? Is it true that, after Oswald was assassinated, agents in the Dallas FBI office burned the bomb threat letter, destroying all evidence of that?

The postscripts in the movie are interesting, telling us what happened to the doctors who tried to revive Kennedy, the Secret Service agents on his detail, Oswald’s mother, and so on. But the postscripts are lacking. They don’t tell us what happened to Oswald’s wife and kids, who remained in Texas. Check out the video interview of Oswald’s daughter, June, below; I don’t agree with her conspiracy theories, but the interview is interesting, nonetheles). The postscripts also don’t tell us that the Zapruder family got $16 million from the federal government as compensation for the feds taking the Zapruder film under eminent domain laws. And, again, Jack Ruby is just never mentioned anywhere.

Still, if you like history, you’ll probably like this, as I did, if you can ignore the overwrought melodramatics. And, as with me, it might inspire you to look further into the matters covered in the movie.


* “Runner Runner“: Two annoying words: Ben Affleck. I hated this movie, and I felt like I’d seen it a million times before, including the first time, when I saw the movie, “Wall Street.” This is a different setting, but it’s basically the same story, minus the “Greed is Good” speech. The movie was long, boring, pointless, and I struggled to stay awake, as it moves very slowly.

Justin Timberlake plays a working class student at Princeton University who is an “affiliate” of an online gambling site owned by Ben Affleck. The site primarily specializes in poker. An affiliate has customers (gamblers) he brings to the site (using coupons and other enticements), and he earns a cut of the action or some other form of payment. One day, Timberlake decides to gamble his $17,000 tuition money on the site and loses it all, even though he’s an excellent poker player and knows the precise mathematical odds for each move. He discovers that the site conned and cheated him, knowing his cards in advance.

Timberlake goes to Costa Rica to confront Affleck. Affleck apologizes, returns the money, and ultimately hires Timberlake. Then, he has Timberlake, a naive guy who thinks everything is aboveboard, do his dirty work. Timberlake pays off officials with bribes and soon finds friends missing. His life is threatened, as is his working class gambling father’s life, and he wants to get out, after finally realizing Affleck is a crook, a mobster, and a scammer. Believe me, I’m making it sound more simple than it actually is, as the movie is confusing, nonsensical, and ridiculous.

The movie is incredibly violent, and in one disturbing scene, Affleck and his henchmen pour chicken fat over public officials they’ve handcuffed. Then, they dump them in the water to be eaten by alligators. Or is it crocodiles? I didn’t care which, because I was so disgusted and already so bored and annoyed by sitting through this 1.5 hour pointless bore that seems like 5.5 hours.

Skip this.


* “Inequality For All“: Should have been called, “Inequality For You Compared With Hypocrite Multi-Millionaire Fraud Robert Reich.” This is a “documentary” by and about Robert Reich, Bill Clinton’s Labor Secretary. The diminutive Reich explains why he is short (he has a disease, and his parents are normal-sized). And that is about the only explanation that is reasonable in this highly skip-able lecture of a movie. If you get orgasms over Occupy Wall Street, which is highly lauded in this movie, this is your flick. For those of us who are not Neo-Marxists, stay away.

Robert Reich tells us that the economy is bad and getting worse because of greedy shareholders who don’t work hard and just sit around and collect millions. He doesn’t tell us about his shares in the stock market and how greedy he is. Or about how he doesn’t work too hard giving once a week boring lectures as a highly-paid professor at UC Berkeley, although he does show us that he is a professor there.

Reich shows us some multi-millionaire original investor in Google (or Facebook, I can’t remember which and don’t care either). The guy tells us how his family is very wealthy from making pillows and investing. But, then, the guy whines that you only need six pairs of pants in life and that he has too much money because he’s made so much by investing. Well, then, give it to me, instead of hypocritically whining about it and imposing your left-wing, anti-free-market principles on the rest of us, while you continue to sit on your gazillions. Fraud.

The rest of the movie is Reich’s socialist clap-trap and fakery while he jets around America like the rich capitalist hypocrite limousine liberal that he is. He shows us some Hispanic people in California, whining about how hard life is for them because they live in a generously sized apartment (not a house–sad sad, too bad), and they might not be able to afford to continue to give their kids iPhones so their kids can call them in an emergency. Wow, that’s poverty?! Hilarious. Cry me a river. I don’t have an iPhone, but I don’t use that as an excuse for why the government should impose socialism and tell shareholders how much money they can make. Reich does.

There is only one good point in this movie, which is that when American workers make less or have less jobs, they don’t buy things, and, therefore, businesses die, and the economy sinks. We have turned into a purely service and consumer economy, not a manufacturing economy, and if we don’t manufacture things, we will die.

But he doesn’t point out a big reason a lot of people are losing their jobs and can’t afford to buy things and keep the economy humming: his precious ObamaCare. This is the biggest reason that people are either losing their jobs or being reduced to part-time and not making enough to survive. It’s glaring that this is never addressed in the movie. But, then, that’s what socialists do. They focus on the problems with capitalism, rather than the disasters they impose on our already weak economy.

If you want to get a survey of Marxist theology, better to read Das Kapital than to pay ten bucks to left-wing capitalist hypocrite Robert Reich.


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