Monday, November 10, 2014

Wknd Box Office: Interstellar, Camp X-Ray (Gitmo Terrorist BS), Big Hero 6, Whiplash, Elsa & Fred, Laggies

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: Interstellar, Camp X-Ray (Gitmo Terrorist BS), Big Hero 6, Whiplash, Elsa & Fred, Laggies

By Debbie Schlussel
It’s an unusual weekend at movie theaters, with several terrific movies (three FOUR REAGAN flicks), and only one bad choice among the new releases.



* “Interstellar“: As I noted in my full review column, I very much enjoyed this movie, with a few reservations. A fabulous unfolding of several stories, including a sci-fi thriller, a love story between a father and his daughter, and so much more. A smart person’s “Gravity,” but better. Read my complete review.
FOUR REAGANS (with slight reservations, as noted above)
* “Camp X-Ray“: This is Kristen Stewart’s attempt to show she’s something beyond the constantly sullen vampire’s girlfriend of the “Twilight” movies. And it’s also Hollywood’s attempt to show what fabulous, great guys the Islamic terrorist inmates at Guantanamo Bay are. And in that, it’s simply laughable. Oh, and did I mention that the commanding officers are portrayed as sex-crazed, anti-Islamic meanies?
The story: Stewart is a soldier in the Army’s Military Police. She’s assigned to Gitmo and becomes a guard in the detention center. She becomes friendly with one of the detainees, Ali, who insists he is innocent and loves reading Harry Potter books. There is some funny dialogue when they first meet and he discusses his love for Harry Potter books, including how upset he is that Gitmo doesn’t have the last of the series. But that’s about the only good part of the movie.
The head of the military police is an oversexed stock Southern bad guy, who has a stash of porno magazines and hits on Stewart. He says “f— you, bitch!” when after kissing him, she doesn’t want to have sex with him. Then, he forces her to watch Ali take a shower because he knows this will embarrass her and Ali. Stewart files a report against the Southerner over this, saying he is disrespecting the Muslim detainee. Again, ridiculous.
Ali insists he is innocent and unfairly detained at Gitmo, and Stewart becomes apparently convinced of this. She buys him the last Harry Potter book and writes what is basically a love letter to the guy, telling him how great he is and signing it, “Love.” She also cries upon leaving him and Gitmo. PUH-LEEZE! I was at the same time appalled and laughing.
A friend of mine was a Gitmo guard who did the same job in real life that Stewart does in this movie, and some of the things portrayed are things he told me actually happened there, such as the “sh-t cocktail”–detainees saving their feces in a cup and throwing it on the military police–and the spitting on and biting of the military police by the detainees. But a good deal of the detainees’ disgusting, horrible behavior is not shown in this flick. And that figures.
This is propaganda–just the latest that Hollywood’s put out against America and in favor of Gitmo’s Islamic terrorist killers. I have a solution: move all the Gitmo detainees to the Hollywood Hills and Malibu.
Reader SeanM, who proudly served in the U.S. Army:
How cool that they’re releasing it just in time for Veterans Day. Nice way to take a steaming dump all over our soldiers, guys.
I just saw the trailer on YouTube. How many Islam-loving stereotypes can we cram into one trailer? The guy was kidnapped while devoutly praying (not assembling a car bomb or suicide vest)(CHECK!), one of the guards allegedly told him he KNEW the detainee was innocent (CHECK!) … which makes TOTAL sense to me (eye roll) since we obviously were so hurting for actual terrorists we were asking Middle Eastern countries to kidnap random people to fill up Gitmo. He speaks to her like a nice person, not like he thinks she’s a piece of property (CHECK!). One last little nit-pick: Stewart’s character is a Private First Class (PFC), which is a very low ranking person in the Army. So how did she get access to his file, which I’m sure MUST have been classified and under strict access controls? Also, I can’t imagine they would have a small woman on the team of guys rushing into the cell with protective gear on. And since she just stood there in the doorway, we can see why.
Spot on.

* “Big Hero 6“: I absolutely loved this movie. Even though it is a Disney animated product aimed at kids, it’s a great movie even on the adult level alone. So parents taking their kids will be completely entertained. The animation, story, plot, and everything else in this are terrific. And it’s also very funny. The movie is a comedy, a drama, a suspenseful action thriller, and much more. Plus I love that it glamorizes science and technology, something in which America is far behind because America is too far ahead in Kardashians and Real Housewives. Before the movie begins, there is a separate, short animated cartoon about a dog, and that alone, is worth seeing–sooo cute and funny. I saw this movie in 3D, and while the 3D was very good, it’s just fine in regular 2D. (This is from the makers of “Frozen” and “Wreck-It Ralph.”
The story: Hiro, a young boy in the fictional city of San Fransokyo, spends a lot of his time bot-fighting (using the small robots he builds to fight other people’s robots for money), and he’s something of a hustler. After getting into trouble for the bot-fighting hustling yet again, his older brother, Tadashi, suggests he enroll in the nerd program for geniuses at the local university. Tadashi is in that program and has invented Baymax, a healthcare robot (perfect for the age of ObamaCare!). Hero invents micro-bots in order to get into the program. But one night, there is a fire at the university, and Tadashi races in to save their professor. Tadashi dies in the fire. While moping about in mourning for his brother, Hiro comes upon Baymax and one of Hiro’s micro-bots. The micro-bot leads him and Baymax to an abandoned warehouse. And, soon, Hiro & Baymax, along with the other nerds in the program at the university, use their technological skills to find a mysterious figure who may be behind the fire and some other mysterious occurrences.
Funny, charming, so funny and cute. But one caveat: while the movie is not politically correct in most aspects, it goes out of its way to have an ethnically diverse, PC cast of nerd genius characters (that does include a White guy; filmmakers say the White girl is supposed to be Hispanic), but the two bad guys are old White men (there’s one very bad guy and one semi-bad guy). Parents need to explain to their kids not to buy into what isn’t spoken but quite clear on the screen, when it comes to skin complexion.
FOUR REAGANS (with one reservation, as noted above)

* “Whiplash“: This is a fabulous study in when perfection demanded by mentors, teachers, and gurus goes too far. Sadly, it is only applicable to a very minute group of Americans, since we are a country of mediocrity and less-than-perfection. And that’s because the “problem” identified in this movie is really not much of a problem in America. Instead, the opposite–mentors, teachers, and gurus demanding too little, if anything–is far more of a problem facing this nation. And, so, as I watched this very smart, well done movie, I also wondered if it wasn’t just a tiny bit of a veiled attack on having high standards in America, when the actual problem is that we have such low ones.
Still, the mentor in this movie does go way over the line. There is a fine line but that line is clearly crossed here. A young musician striving to be “the best” does whatever is demanded of him by the teacher/mentor and what is demanded is far beyond what should be asked. It nearly kills the young musician. Miles Teller, of whom I’m normally NOT a fan (in fact, I was an anti-fan), is that young musician, and he’s just terrific in this movie. His acting, along with that of J.K. Simmons as the teacher/mentor, is really very good and will probably garner Oscar nominations for one or both. The movie, while not suitable for young kids, is R-rated only because of language, most of it used by the mentor against his musician student. Despite the language, I think it’s fine for older teens.
Teller is a drum-playing prodigy who is on scholarship at a fictional, highly competitive music conservatory in New York (it’s clearly supposed to be Juilliard). We learn that he is Jewish and that his mother abandoned him and his father, who is a working-class guy without a lot of money or a fancy apartment. (These things are relevant in that his mentor later uses this knowledge in verbal attacks on him, and perhaps the abandonment is the reason he strives so hard to be the best, to prove something.)
Teller is practicing on his drums one day at school, when he’s approached by Simmons, a professor at the school and the leader/organizer of the school’s prestigious jazz band. Simmons invites Teller to try out for the band, and, thus, begins a series of abusive, psychological mind games and teases by the teacher upon the student. Simmons heaps insults (including the use of anti-Semitic slurs) and verbal abuse, much of it in public and in front of other band members, upon Teller and some others. But his attacks are primarily focused on Teller, always demanding more from him.
And Teller always answers the challenge, at one point drumming until all hours of the night. The whole thing drives Teller to crazy lengths. He practices until his fingers and hands are bloody (and even after that), and he breaks up with his beautiful girlfriend, telling her that he wants to be the best in the world and having a girlfriend will get in the way. And his striving to be the best and to please a never-satisfied, demanding mentor almost costs him everything.
The question raise here is, how far would you go to be the best? How much abuse would you take? And when does the demand for perfection go too far? When does it exceed legitimate demands for excellence to abuse?
In this movie, to learn the answers, it costs. And it costs a lot.
Like I said, this is a smart movie that asks excellent questions and makes great points. But, again, the problem rife throughout America is not too many demands for excellence. It’s too few.
If you like jazz, as I do, you will especially like this movie, as there is a lot of it in here.

* “Elsa & Fred“: This is an English-language remake of the far superior, far more charming Spanish-language film, “Elsa y Fred” (read my review). With Christopher Plummer and the always-annoying Shirley MacLaine playing the two single senior citizen leads in this version, it just doesn’t work as well. Not even close. They don’t have any chemistry, and they simply lack the grace, class, and charm that the leads in the original had.
The story: two single seniors (one is a widower) and the other a woman (whose single status and the reason for it are matters for debate) end up living as neighbors in the same New Orleans building. At first, they are at odds–the woman rammed her car into the man’s son-in-law’s car. But, eventually, they fall in love and engage in adventures and craziness brought on by the woman. She also has a sad secret.
I really didn’t like this much because I was spoiled by the much better original. Still, you might like it if you hadn’t seen the original. But if you have the choice, Netflix (or whatever other service) the original. It’s sooooooo much better.

* “Laggies“: I enjoyed this movie because it addresses a growing problem in America: 20-something and 30-something adults who are in perpetual adolescence (or think they are) and refuse to grow up. They refuse to act adult and take responsibility. And, as in this movie, part of the problem may be their choice of friends and lovers, as well as their parents’ un-adult and enabling behavior.
Keira Knightley is Megan, who lives with a rather fawning, effeminate boyfriend. Ten years after high school graduation and not long after earning her master’s degree, she’s working as a sign-holder for her father’s accounting business. And she doesn’t have any ambition. She hangs out at her parents’ home and mooches off of them endlessly. Her mother wants to institute tough love and make her grow up, but her father coddles her and invites her to dinner at home all the time.
Megan’s friends from high school are all married, getting married, having children, and moving on with their lives. She has nothing in common with them, and they pressure her to be like them. But, probably because these friends are all so superficial, annoying, and obnoxious, she rebels against them. When they coach her aforementioned effeminate live-in boyfriend to propose to Megan, she needs a break from him and all of it. So, she pretends she’s gone away for the weekend to a self-help retreat, when she’s actually hiding out with a teen-aged high school student (Chloe Grace Moretz), whom she met when she bought the girl alcohol. Yes, she’s not a very responsible or civic citizen.
But in hanging out with the teenaged girl, Megan finally grows up (though, in real life, not sure you can say the same for Knightley, who, today, is asking the world to view her naked topless pic). She assumes a sort of motherly role with the teen and her friends. And she begins a relationship with the girl’s father. Some of the movie is very predictable, but it’s also hysterically funny.

Midweek Box Office: Interstellar

By Debbie Schlussel
Interstellar” debuted Wednesday at the few movie theaters which still show film, and it will debut tomorrow (Friday) at most theaters (with some offering early screenings tonight), which are digital. I am, therefore, a day late or a day early, depending upon where you live, with this review. Either way, I enjoyed the movie with a few reservations. I saw it in crystal clear IMAX, and as I always say, “Once you go IMAX, you never go BAX.”

I loved the movie, until the hokey parts toward the end. While it was a thriller full of action and suspense, it also touched on so many issues and was about so many things beyond that. It shows a loving, dedicated father–something you see very little of in Hollywood films–and depicts a love story between the father and his daughter. It slaps down those who question America’s lunar landings, mocking them, and it questions Communist-style job selection for kids at a young age (something that is apparently a feature of Common Core on some fronts). It raises questions of science and family and whether one would risk possibly never seeing family again in order to save the earth. It’s a smart movie for those of us interested in science, and those of us disappointed that America is very obsessed with Kardashians, but turns out a bunch of morons who are way behind in science, math, engineering, etc. It’s also a tribute to cowboys of the space variety. And it’s far better, in my view, than the vastly overrated “Gravity” (read my review)–I liked it, but didn’t worship it like the rest of the movie world). Plus, true to real life, a truly evil guy is played by a truly evil guy in real life: Matt Damon. Some say his appearance in this movie is a “surprise,” but he’s listed online in the credits, so how much of a surprise is it, really?
Here’s what I didn’t like:

I could have done without the semi-mild anti-war and environazi part of the storyline and plot–that the world is disintegrating and a lot of humans and animals have died after a great war of sorts, that the earth rises up in poisonous dust storms, and that few crops can be grown (at the time of the movie’s setting, it’s just corn, corn, and more corn). Granted, this is just a tiny part of the movie, but it’s there. A fault of the storytelling in the movie is that they never really explain what happened and why, nor do they tell you why the earth is bad for you and rises up in storms.
And then there are those hokey scenes I referenced. One of them takes place toward the end of the movie. There is a scene–when all hope is supposed to be lost–that shows star Matthew McConaughey in some sort of surreal world without time and space, featuring lots of different times and scenes of the same place and the same person. It looked like it was ripped off from another of Director Christopher Nolan’s films, “Inception” (read my review), and I wasn’t buying it. (This is far better than “Inception,” by the way, and not pretentious like that movie was.)
Also, not in my bought items list, the last few scenes, where things are neatly fixed, resolved, and everyone is happy. Yes, I like happy, uplifting movies, but it just wasn’t believable how everything was resolved or this notion that we are calling ourselves out from the past and future. Didn’t make sense. Some of the things in this movie, such as equations for gravity and suggestions that gravity is just another dimension to others, may be confusing even for a physicist.
Plus the movie is nearly three hours long (169 minutes to be exact). So don’t drink anything like I did before the movie. I had to go sooo badly for the second half of the movie but didn’t want to miss anything. I wasn’t bored at any point during this length, and it went by quickly, unlike most long movies. But the filmmakers possibly could have made it a little shorter. In this, there are so many stories and there’s so much going on that it had to be longer than average, but probably would have been fine at 2.5 hours.
The story: set sometime in the future, the earth has been afflicted by war and some sort of series of dust storms have killed a lot of people and animals and ruined the ability of the people to grow many crops. This time around, it’s corn. They can no longer grow wheat or potatoes. There is no electricity or power of that sort. McConaughey is Cooper, a former Air Force pilot and engineer, who is now, like most others, stuck being a farmer because the population needs food. He’s a widower because his wife died of cancer, since there were no operable MRI machines, given the lack of power, etc. And, so, he’s raising his young son and daughter on the farm with the help of his father.
Cooper’s daughter is genius smart and thinks she sees “ghosts” or some sort of aliens giving her signs in the dust that settles on her bedroom floor. But Cooper says it’s gravity. One day, they search the location suggested by the bars formed by the dust and the gravity. They stumble into NASA and Cooper’s old professor, Dr. Brandt (Michael Caine), who tells him that the world will eventually die/be destroyed. Brandt recruits Coop to fly with some other astronauts into space, in search of another world to which to transfer human life. But Coop will have to leave his young kids for a long time and he knows that he might never come back because who knows what will happen in space? Would you leave your young kids, possibly forever, in order to sustain the human race? It’s one of many issues and questions the movie asks. Coop goes on the mission and is joined by Brandt’s daughter (Anne Hathaway), and he communicates with his kids via video communications that are sent back and forth, some of them over long periods of time. There are issues with time and aging, and it’s all very interesting and good for the plot. Ditto for the wormholes and other cool stuff we space-loving people love. To give much more away would take away from the magic of the movie.
My favorite part of the movie is the scene in which Cooper’s teacher tells him why his genius daughter is in trouble at school. She brought the old textbook to school, and that’s a no-no because it depicts the astronauts landing on the Moon. The new, improved textbooks instead explain to kids that we never landed on the Moon and that it was all staged by America to make the Soviets bankrupt themselves by spending on a space program. Cooper tells off the teacher and the principal. It’s in the same scene that Cooper is told his son has been selected to be a farmer, based on his test scores, even though Cooper wants his son to go to college and make something of himself other than farming. But, as I noted above, the society currently needs people to grow food, not go to college to become engineers or study history, so the kid doesn’t have a choice. Big Brother government at work.
As I said, I really liked the movie. It’s entertaining, thought provoking, and enjoyable. Plus the acting is terrific, as are the special effects. Unlike other movies with pounding musical scores, I enjoyed the music in this one and it’s very appropriate, adding to the suspense and excitement (though it might get on your nerves). And this is just one of the good movies out this weekend. Stay tuned for the rest of my reviews after Midnight tonight.
**** UPDATE: As a commenter noted, this movie is fine for kids and has no sex or gratuitous language (at least that I can remember regarding the language). Younger children might not understand some of it, as it is confusing even for adults. But I think for teens and pre-teens, it’s fine.
FOUR REAGANS (with slight reservations, as noted above)

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