Monday, April 27, 2015

Wknd Box Office: Age of Adaline, Water Diviner (Russell Crowe Mocks Armenian Holocaust, Luvs Muslims), Ex Machina, Little Boy, Hunting Ground,True Story, Unfriended, Monkey Kingdom

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: Age of Adaline, Water Diviner (Russell Crowe Mocks Armenian Holocaust, Luvs Muslims), Ex Machina, Little Boy, Hunting Ground

By Debbie Schlussel



I’m still sick with this bad cold (and maybe flu) I can’t seem to shake, but getting better, thank G-d (and thanks for all your well-wishes I’ve received). Plus, I had internet and site issues, and was only able to get my Bruce Jenner column posted on Friday. I was unable to get my written movie reviews done and up in time before the Jewish Sabbath, especially since I had a lot to say about each of the five new movies which debuted in theaters, Friday. Remember, you can always hear my movie reviews live, first thing every Friday morning on “The Mike Church Show” on SiriusXM Patriot Channel 125 after 7:05 am Eastern and on “The Pat Campbell Show” on KFAQ 1170 AM Tulsa at 7:35 am Eastern. I do my movie reviews on both, as well as some discussion of current political issues and pop culture topics on both shows.
* “Age of Adaline“: I enjoyed this very charming sci-fi movie parading as a chick flick. It’s far better than that label. The movie has old-style Hollywood glamor brought to us by the ageless, timeless main character, Adaline. And I loved the period clothing, cars, and sets. Add to that the intrigue created by the plot, and you have an entertaining, engrossing movie. Actress Blake Lively, of whom I’m not normally a fan, is perfect casting, playing lead Adaline with class, dignity, and elan.
Adaline is a woman born close to the turn of the century (the last century), who was in a car accident with the freak biological result that she is forever 29 years old and does not age. Because of this, she knows that the government and other parties will seek her out to do experiments on her, as they tried to do once in the past. So, she is forever fleeing and moving, and assuming new identities. The movie takes place in the present, with flashbacks to what happened in the past.
Because of Adaline’s background and age, she’s lived through a lot and has mostly old-fashioned style and values . . . except when she sleeps with the new guy on the first date. That didn’t make sense to me, given what we know about her. Also nonsensical to me: Adaline falls for an unremarkable-looking, scruffy multi-millionaire app-creator, even though she’s not the gold-digger type. The movie never explains why–after all these years of running and failing to stay in a relationship because of her situation–she finally decides to stay put and why with this kinda plain guy. Perhaps it’s that her daughter, who now resembles a grandmother–maybe even a great-grandmother–is asking her to stop and isn’t getting any younger.
In any event, the situation becomes interesting when Adaline’s new boyfriend takes her to meet the parents on their 40th anniversary weekend. It turns out that pop is a former Adaline flame from nearly a half-century ago (and now a failed astronomer who somehow owns and lives in a multi-million dollar mansion and estate). And the reactions of the former boyfriend (Harrison Ford) and his wife of 40 years are priceless and funny. But also somewhat predictable. The movie gives away too much in its promotional trailers and a good deal of what happens is predictable. Still, it doesn’t matter, as the movie charms and is great two-hour escapism.
The thing I most enjoyed about this movie is that it got me thinking about things. I wondered how much different Adaline’s experience would have been had she been an ugly or even a plain-looking woman–rather than the stunning Blake Lively–stuck forever at age 29. Would people notice? Would she have an easier time living life and moving about? Or would it be more difficult? Another thing the movie didn’t explore much is the issue of how much easier–and alternatively, how much more difficult–it is to assume a new identity and disappear, given the new technologies of today, as opposed to the antiquated, non-computerized identification systems of yesteryear.
But the movie is only two hours, and you can’t explore it all in that. As it is the movie raised some interesting questions (most of which it did not answer) and wasn’t a rehash of something I’d seen before. Fresher movies and plots always get better regards from me. There’s something to be said for that which you haven’t already visited.
Watch the trailer . . .

* “The Water Diviner“: It can’t be a coincidence that actor Russell Crowe–who also makes his directorial debut with this–chose Friday, the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Holocaust, to send a love letter to Turkish Muslims with this painful, boring movie.
As we all know, the Turkish Muslims perpetrated the Armenian Holocaust, committing genocide against 1.5 million Christians of Armenian ethnicity. And, yet, instead, Crowe makes a movie about Turkish Muslims as the victims of the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915, and a movie about how much nicer Muslims are to an Australian father in his endeavor to find his three sons’ bodies after they perished there fighting for ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps). The movie contrasts the ANZAC and British authorities’ rudeness and deplorable behavior toward the grieving father and widower, played by Crowe, versus the kind-hearted, caring, solicitous treatment he gets from Muslim Turks when Crowe arrives in Turkey to find his sons’ bodies underneath the ground of the battefield.
Crowe’s directing debut doesn’t even attempt to make things seem believable. His Turkish Muslim love interest is played by Ukrainian/Russian actress Olga Kurylenko, who looks and sounds Ukrainian and Russian, not even making the faintest attempt to hide her real accent. Kurylenko is the wife of a Turkish Muslim who went to fight in the Battle of Gallipoli and has never returned. She, her son, and brother-in-law run the small hotel where Crowe, a “water diviner” (a man who finds water underground in rural Australia), stays in Turkey. While the British and Australian military officers in Turkey try to deport Crowe and block him every step of the way in his quest to find and bury his sons bodies, a Turkish officer takes pity on Crowe, helping him, then risking, and eventually giving his life for the Australian’s quest. Turkish Muslims–good; Christian Anglos–very bad. Got that? Not surprising, given Crowe’s anti-Semitic attacks on Jews over circumcision, but refusal to condemn Muslim circumcision. He loves Islam and its adherents. The rest of us, not so much.
Oh, and just in case you don’t get that, one of Crowe’s sons’ skulls is shown with a bullet through it, and the ANZAC and English claim the Turkish Muslims did it. But, in fact, another of Crowe’s sons did that–killed his own brother to put him out of his maimed misery on the battlefield–and we are treated to that awful scene. On top of all that, there aren’t just once, but TWO scenes of the interminable wailing of Crowe’s maimed sons bleeding out and to death on the battlefield. It’s just painful to watch and listen to the first time, but Crowe clearly believes twice is nice.
This movie is long, slow, depressing, and just plain dreadful. And that’s aside from the fact that this absurd mash note to Muslims is a slap in the face of the 1.5 million Armenians they brutally snuffed out.
Watch the trailer . . .

* “Ex Machina“: I like a weird futuristic movie, and this was definitely that. But I didn’t love it and wasn’t very intrigued, as I would normally be for a movie of this type. While it was high on style, it tried too hard, in my view, to be different and artsy. In the end, it was kind of a slow moving movie that didn’t really explore new ground or make me think about issues and questions it might have raised.
The story: an employee (Domnhall Gleeson) at some sort of big-time internet company wins and online, intracompany contest for some sort of trip or vacation at the mansion of his hipster billionaire boss (Oscar Isaac) . But when he arrives at his boss’ remote, ultra-modern digs, he learns that it isn’t actually a vacation at all. In fact, it appears he was chosen by his cold, weirdo boss to test the artificial intelligence of a female robot the boss has invented and whether or not it is good enough to resemble human intelligence, interaction, and behavior. The robot tells Gleeson she’s being mistreated and wants to leave. And he plots against his boss. But ultimately, we learn that the robot does, in fact, have a great deal of intelligence because she can play and manipulate others with the best of them. Some of that–much of that–you could see coming a mile away, especially if you’ve seen the body of films that have already explored this issue: “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Moon” (read my review), “Westworld”/”Futureworld,” “A.I.” and so on.
I liked the set, the accoutrements of technology, and the spot-on acting of Isaac, who plays the annoying, spoiled manchild internet billionaire to perfection. Gleeson, too, it good as the brilliant but extremely naive employee. And the movie is entertaining. It’s just that it’s not entertaining enough, doesn’t move along quickly enough, and simply doesn’t provide any viewpoint or statement on artificial intelligence that’s new or unique. Maybe there’s nothing new to say, given that science fiction seems to have explored every imaginable aspect of life with robots. On the other hand, that’s hard to believe. There has to be something more, given that more and more of our real life world is being robotized (including, now, farmhands to pick produce–another reason we don’t need amnesty for illegal aliens OR more visas for farm workers).
I don’t believe this movie deserves the gushing most mainstream movie critics are heaping on it. Still, if you like science fiction and futuristic stuff, you’ll probably enjoy this at least a little.
Watch the trailer . . .

* “Little Boy“: I had mixed feelings about this movie. On the one hand, I really loved the very cute, young, precocious child actor Jakob Salvati. He’s quite charming and was cast well. The movie is a touching American love story between a boy and his father, away at war. And I liked the old-fashioned setting of the movie (it takes place during World War II). The religious nature of the story is a plus, too. But the movie is kind of manipulative regarding death. And, even worse, it portrays America as a very racist country (against the Japanese) during World War Ii, when, in fact, the Japanese attacked us (um, remember Pearl Harbor?), and we discovered Japanese spies in our midst. Despite that, most Americans did not beat up and nearly murder Japanese-Americans. But that’s what this movie portrays. Do we really have to constantly portray America, including during World War II, as “the bad guy”? We’re the good guy, and we were especially the good guy, once we entered the war and kicked Nazi (and Axis) butt.
I must say I was shocked, too, at the preface to the movie, which features the film’s producers, Mark Burnett and his wife, actress Roma Downey. Downey, once very beautiful, clearly has had so much–way too much!–plastic surgery that her cheeks are now part of her forehead, and her previously decent-looking nose now looks like a pig’s snout with nostrils facing skyward. If you want to promote faith and spirituality, carving up your face seems to diminish your message. And if you believe in G-d’s creations as she professes to do, why mess it up with all that manmade work? That was scary. And it was distracting for me, even as the movie proceeded into the serious and sober.
The story: it’s the 1940s, World War II is going on, and Pepper Busbee is a small-sized eight-year-old kid who isn’t growing as big as kids his age. As a result, he has no friends, and is constantly bullied. But no matter. He has his best buddy in his father, who buys him comic books, plays games, including “Cowboys and Indians” with him, and play-acts all kinds of adventures to him. Until his father gets drafted and sent to fight in World War II. (Pepper’s older brother was set to go instead, but has been ruled medically ineligible due to flat feet.)
Thereafter, Pepper is bullied again and prays for his father’s return, as he’s all alone and friendless. Pepper’s brother and others in town repeatedly persecute and attack the local Japanese resident, Hashimoto, and beat him so badly on more than one occasion, that they nearly kill him. Virtually the whole town is racist against Hashimoto, except for the local Catholic priest. He teaches Pepper that the way to bring his father home from war is to complete a checklist of good deeds and implores Pepper to befriend Hashimoto and perform many of the good deeds on him. In the meantime, we learn that Pepper’s father has been captured by the Japanese, and tragedies happen. That’s where the movie’s manipulations occur, including in a predictable plot device.
As I said, I hated the fact that this movie portrays all Americans as racist (everyone in town is racist against Hashimoto–most of them violently so–except for the priest and Pepper). But other than that, this would have been a very charming, decent movie. Parents who take their kids to see it will have to counter that anti-American propaganda. Plus, I thought the movie was a tad too sad for kids. But other than that, it had good messages for kids, somewhat muted amidst those two negative aspects of the film. For adults, though, it is mostly enjoyable, if you can wade through the “Americans are racist” message of which we already get more than enough in the mainstream media.
Message for Roma Downey and Mark Burnett: you don’t promote faith in G-d by promoting the idea that racist hate runs through the veins of Americans. The Fergustan narrative is stale, tired, and boring.
But for that, I would have given this movie TWO-AND-A-HALF REAGANS (maybe even THREE REAGANS). And, therefore, I give it only . . .
Watch the trailer . . .

* “The Hunting Ground“: The irony was particularly thick on the day I screened this propaganda-laden, one-sided documentary about rapes and other sexual assaults on college campuses. It was the same day that Rolling Stone issued its mea-not-so-culpa regarding its phony story about alleged University of Virginia rape victim, “Jackie.” And that’s the thing here: many of the so-called “victims” of campus rapes are actually not victims at all. They are perpetrators of lies and defamation campaigns from which the actual victims–wrongfully accused males–may never recover. See the Duke Lacrosse team as Exhibit A.
This documentary, though, dismisses the false claims of rape, minimizing them and citing several studies claiming those are only ten percent or less of all rape complaints. Sadly, none of those studies are reliable, because those “studies” categorize the large percentage of rape complaints that are never resolved (because there is no evidence either way–it’s just he said, she said) are ruled by the studies to be “legitimate” rape complaints where sexual assault occurred. In fact, those cases are often not legitimate, maybe more often than not. But the movie doesn’t tell you that.
Instead, we are treated to “expert” after “expert”–all of them on the same side and all of them with an agenda to push the rape-victim industry–telling us that your daughter or granddaughter or niece will be raped on campus, that the rape will be covered up and whitewashed, and that your female “victim” relative will be re-victimized and harassed all over again. The chasm between that version of events and reality today on college campuses couldn’t be more vast. In fact, the Obama Department of Education makes it more likely that the male accused will be victimized and denied any due process rights he would normally get in any Consitutional, lawful proceeding. The Obama DOE mandates that colleges give the most weight to the claims of accusers in sexual assault complaints. And there is story after story–none of them noted in the least in this fake-umentary–of men falsely accused and kicked off college campuses (and denied their diplomas) without a shred of evidence of much of anything, often where the accuser continued a long-term sexual relationship with the accused before and after the alleged rape occured.
You wouldn’t know any of that watching this movie, which hails two female college activists traversing the country seeking to bring the wrath of the Obama Administration down on colleges and universities. One of those women says she was raped by a male at college, but the movie ignores that she has an LGBT decal (barely shown, and you really have to look) on her laptop. She clearly doesn’t like men too much, and has an agenda against them.
That’s not to say that none of the cases in this movie aren’t convincing. We know rape does occur on campuses, but likely far below the numbers put forth in this film. And we know that liberal/leftist college officials are the ones covering it up and/or whitewashing it. One case–of a religious Catholic woman who was tricked into going to a party at a dorm room, when in fact there was no party and she was trapped and raped–is disturbing and believable. The woman seems very sincere, and I felt for her. Nothing happened to the man who did this, and that’s even more disturbing, because he was a Notre Dame student, and Notre Dame pretends to adhere to some higher ethical and moral code (but apparently doesn’t). More disturbing was the campus police chief who resigned because he was told by university officials to cover up the crime, he says. I found him to be very credible.
Another persuasive case in the film, much in the news, gave the other side we never saw: the point of view of the woman who was allegedly raped by Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston, projected to be the number one pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Her story is very believable, and I believe he’s a rapist who skated, after drugging and kidnapping a woman who didn’t know him. Another rape victim committed suicide when her Notre Dame accuser (I believe he was a football player) went free and she was horribly persecuted for reporting him. You can’t help but be touched by her parents’ pain.
The case of the religious Catholic rape victim and a few others did bring up an issue in my mind that isn’t addressed in the movie and should have been. I agreed with the movie’s “experts” that colleges and universities sweep actual, real sexual assault numbers under the rug because it’s bad for marketing and public relations purposes (not to mention fundraising). But I’ve always wondered why colleges and universities, particularly the publicly-funded ones (but also the rest, which get a ton of federal dough), are allowed to have their own police forces and star chamber “courts” for alleged crimes that are perpetrated on campus. I think if the local municipalities’ and state police forces and courts were the sole forum for law enforcement and adjudication, things would be different, and with better, slightly-less-political results. Sadly, that wasn’t the case with the Jameis Winston case, in which local police were involved (and reportedly covered it up because they are football fans). But I think in most cases, it would at least ensure that Constitutional rights were protected for all involved and that legitimate law enforcement investigations were conducted.
Again, though, this wasn’t covered in the movie. Nor was any point of view to the right of Gloria Steinem. This was just plain and simple a propaganda piece they’d show at the annual convention of NOW, or as we call it hear, NO(U)W–the National Association of (Ugly) Women. And the movie didn’t address the correlation between feminism’s emphasis on rampant female sexuality and sleeping around with the vast increase in sexual assault complaints. Women spending four years at keg parties drinking and toking it up and wantonly engaging in sex with strangers and casual acquaintances, then calling it “rape” after the guy doesn’t come calling for a dinner date–that certainly accounts for a good number of sexual assault complaints. And the feminist sexual “revolution” (or is that, devolution?) is certainly responsible in no small part for the ever-more-confusing behavior of far too many co-eds who get naked, make out, and then change their minds in the middle of sex, calling it rape.
But none of that is explored here. It would get in the way of the agenda. The filmmakers call this movie an expose of rape on campuses. It’s anything but an expose.
Watch the trailer . . .

Wknd Box Office: True Story, Unfriended, Monkey Kingdom

By Debbie Schlussel


Sorry that I’ve been away for the past few days, but I’ve been very sick. I think I had the flu or a fever or something like that, coupled with the worst cold ever and a horribly sore throat. I could not swallow or eat, and it’s been hard to breathe. And I’m finally starting to feel better (thanks to everyone who expressed concern about my absence). Just in time to post my reviews of the new movies debuting in theaters today. “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2″ was not screened for critics, which means it’s probably awful. I did like the first installment (read my review). I was going to see it anyway to review it for you, but I was just too sick, last night, to do so. Sorry.

* “True Story“: While this was entertaining, I’m not entirely sure what the point of it was. It’s based on a true story, which is a lot less entertaining than as portrayed in this movie. I know that because I’ve seen the story of convicted murderer Christian Longo (here played by James Franco) and disgraced former New York Times Magazine reporter Mike Finkel (here played by Jonah Hill) on “Dateline NBC” and other TV true crime shows.
Finkel was a high-flying New York Times Magazine writer, until he got caught fabricating a story and was fired. He retreated to his cabin out West when he learned that a fugitive accused murderer, Longo, was apprehended in Mexico, where Longo had assumed Finkel’s identity. Finkel meets Longo in prison, where he is charmed by the accused criminal and begins writing a book asserting Longo’s innocence. It’s quite obvious, though, that the criminal may be smarter than the “smart” writer. The movie explores that relationship.
The movie was mildly entertaining, but it was kinda slow, and there’s nothing to it because there is no suspense. We already know who the murderer is and that the reporter has been disgraced and is trying to make a comeback. So, again, what was the point?
Watch the trailer . . .

* “Unfriended“: I had mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it’s done entirely through technology–videos on Skype, communication on Facebook, etc. That was interesting and done well, as it managed to keep my interest (the movie is very short and under 1.5 hours). On the other hand, as a “thriller” and supposed “scary movie,” it wasn’t that scary or thrilling. And I found the movie, overall, to basically be “cyberrevenge-porn.” The language and images, while accurate for today’s teens, are disturbing, regardless. The movie is essentially revenge for cyberbullying, and it’s not all that satisfying.
The story: a high school student commits suicide, after she was bullied when someone posted an embarrassing online video of the student drunk and with her pants soiled (either by feces or period blood–it’s hard to tell). Did I really need to see this shot up close?! Five of her fellow high school students are online on Skype and Facebook, when they realize that an intruder is interrupting their communications, trolling them, and sending viruses and violent threats their way. The intruder claims to be the dead girl, taking her revenge.
As I said, the use of technology was interesting, but I could have done without the revenge-porn and disturbing images. It was kind of over the top. Plus, no way I’d pay ten bucks plus to see this. Not even close.
Watch the trailer . . .

* “Monkey Kingdom“: This very cute, G-Rated movie from Disneynature is great entertainment for families with young kids. Narrated by Tina Fey, it follows a female monkey in Sri Lanka and/or India and her cycle of life. The movie shows how she fends for herself and her son as she attempts to fight her way up from the lowest rung in the monkey caste system to the top. There is nothing political about this movie–a big plus, because usually these kinds of movies are preachy propaganda. This one isn’t. And it’s entertaining and endearing.
Watch the trailer . . .

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