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On my recent flights, I got to watch several movies. See below for some reviews:

Logan

I LOVED this. I loved how fierce Laura was – yes, it was unusual to see a child being so violent but it was very cool to see a mini she-wolverine in action. I thought the story was interesting and the characters’ interactions were really entertaining. Love the chemistry between Logan and Laura, Logan and Charles, Charles and Laura. There was really funny dialogue, like laugh out loud funny. Watch it. Rating: A

Queen of Katwe

It’s a story of Phiona, a girl from Katwe, an impoverished town in Uganda, who learns to play chess and competes in various competitions. There were some great characters in this movie and it’s a pretty subdued drama – a pretty tame Disney story. Recommended for anyone who enjoys chess or movies about people beating the odds. Rating: B-

The Circle

Emma Watson and Tom Hanks star in this modern movie about The Circle, a successful company on the leading edge of social media / technology. Mae (Watson) joins an experiment to “go transparent” and broadcasts every moment of her waking life (bathroom breaks are the exception) with her followers, to great success that ends in a tragic way (no spoilers). Very interesting take on how things could be, or almost are today, really. I enjoyed it. Recommended for people who enjoy or appreciate innovation or the new age of social media. Rating: B+

The Dinner

Subdues drama about two brothers and their wives who find out about a crime their kids committed together over dinner. A solid cast and good writing kept me from switching it off. It was an OK story, and comic relief was provided by the restaurant’s antics (a really uppity place pretty full of itself) but I found it enjoyable.  It’s not for everyone though. Recommended for those who enjoy movies centered on dialogue and don’t need bells and whistles to be entertained. Rating: B-

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I’ve only got 2 movies to go (Amour, Django Unchained) and I’ll have watched all ten films nominated for Best Picture. Many of them have something special going that makes them stand out. See below for my reviews of the eight I’ve watched to date:

Argo: Good movie – I see what all the fuss is all about. I liked that it was based on true events and enjoyed everyone’s performance. Although there were no standouts for me, the story itself was a great one worth telling.

Beasts of the Southern Wild: I admit to tuning in and out of this one – it just didn’t keep my attention. I was actually surprised that this got a nom for Best Picture but now that they have 10 spots to fill, I guess this will more and more likely.

Les Miserables:  Once I got past all the singing (by people we don’t expect to be singing in a movie), I did enjoy all the storylines and the relationships between the characters. After all the hype about the emotion of the movie, I was left with a “meh” feeling. I’m not sure why – I just got the sense that many parts of the story were purposely setup to be tragic and heartbreaking the same wa that sci-fi movies always result in “something going terribly wrong”. But, that’s the book’s fault and not the movie.

Life of Pi:  I liked this one a lot. The imagery, special effects, the story, the score, the characters – everything worked. The narrator (the man telling the story) was fantastic and a joy to watch/listen to. For a story that was considered “unfilmable”, Ang Lee did an amazing job. Highly recommend.

Lincoln:  Here’s another that’s got a lot of hype surrounding it. Daniel Day-Lewis was great in the role.  But again with this one, I struggled with staying 100% focused on the movie. I did enjoy the storytelling and the politics of the time. If nothing else, I learned something about that period in history.

Silver Linings Playbook: This quirky movie was hilarious, in a “I shouldn’t be laughing at this but I can’t help it” sort of way. Starring two of the most popular stars in recent months (Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper), they did a fabulous job of convincing us that dysfunctional people are more common than we think. Robert DeNiro was a scene-stealer throughout and the showdown between him and Lawrence near the end was classic. Highly recommend.

Zero Dark Thirty:  This one was my favourite. It’s the story of the investigation that led to the discovery of Bin Laden’s whereabouts after 9/11. Jessica Chastain played the role of the agent responsible for finding him incredibly well – her persistence and conviction throughout the movie were very powerful. Highly recommend.

 

In terms of my predictions, the only one I keep wavering on is Best Actress between Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain. It’ll be one of them for sure, but I just can’t choose!

Best Picture: Lincoln (although I’d much rather see Argo, Zero Dark Thirty or Silver Linings Playbook win)

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)

Best Actress: Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) or Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)

Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)

Directing: I think Spielberg will win for Lincoln but Ang Lee did an admirable job with the “unfilmable” Life of Pi

Production Design: Anna Karenina

Documentary feature: Searching for Sugar Man

Animated short film: Paperman

Documentary short: Open Heart

Live Action short film: Curfew

Film Editing: Zero Dark Thirty

Sound Editing:  Zero Dark Thirty

Foreign Language film: Amour

Sound Mixing: Les Miserables

Animated feature: Brave

Makeup and hairstyling: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Visual Effects: Life of Pi

Cinematography: Life of Pi

Original Score: Life of Pi

Adapted Screenplay: Lincoln

Costume Design: Anna Karenina

Original Song: Skyfall

Original Screenplay: Zero Dark Thirty

 

We’ll see how I do! 🙂

 

 

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I’m a sucker for an action movie with fast cars and wisecracking beefy dudes. It’s such a frivolous form of entertainment and every once in a while, it’s just what the doctor ordered. When all else fails and chocolate or wine are not within reach, a macho-flick will do just fine.

I didn’t go see Fast Five when it came out in theaters last year although I had seen all previous movies (The Fast and The Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, Fast and Furious).

Fast Five has all the important bits: lots of muscle cars, lots of muscles, lots of bad guys with guns, the requisite mysterious girls, fun banter between the guys. I actually liked it a whole lot. Some of my favourite parts included the fight between The Rock and Vin Diesel – they took rough-housing to a whole new level. The 4-police-car drag race in the streets of Rio was hilarious. The final chase at the end with that huge vault smashing everything in its way – awesome. I enjoyed when they were practice-racing through their man-made track trying to beat the video surveillance. And through it all, awesome driving and the sound of muslce car engines. What’s not to like?? 🙂

It won’t win any Oscars. You won’t come out of it with any revelations about life.

But if you’re still reading this, that’s probably not what you were after anyway.

Buy a pizza and something fizzy to drink, buckle up and enjoy the ride.

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I had some time off for the holidays so decided to do some catching up on my movie-watching. Below are the ones I’ve seen recently, some in theaters, some not.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

I’m a Mission Impossible fan. I like the franchise, I like action films with techie gadgets and cool stunts and effects. I even like Tom Cruise in the Mission Impossible movies. In this one, I really enjoyed the cast including Jeremy Renner (who is moving up on my actors-I-like-to-watch list), the hilarious Simon Pegg and the female badass agent Paula Patton. I liked the story, the requisite “cool car” these types of movies have, the techie effects…the whole bit. Is it Oscar-worthy? No. Did I leave the theater feeling fulfilled and enlightened? Nah. Did I thoroughly enjoy the couple of hours I spent watching an action-packed movie with an awesome cast? Absolutely! I also liked Ving Rhames at the end. Needed more Ving.

Rating: B+

The Help

Bring the Kleenex. This is the story of an aspiring writer (Emma Stone) that wants to write a book in Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960’s civil rights movement about the point of view of the help – the African-American maids who work for white families. It’s a tough topic to cover and there are several tragic and heartbreaking moments (Constantine!!) – the story was told remarkably well. The performances in this movie were fantastic. Definite Oscar buzz here. Emma Stone is great. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are fantastic. Jessica Chastain is hilarious. A must-see.

Rating: A

Moneyball

I’m a sucker for an inspirational sports movie. And one based on a true story will get me every time. Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, the General Manager for the Oakland A’s. Partnered with a young and bright Yale graduate Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill), they manage the team on a shoestring budget and, unable to compete with the “richer” teams, pick their players based strictly on computer statistics. Philip Seymour Hoffman always delivers a great performance and in this one, he’s the guy you love to hate as he resists the new theory and ultimately delays the A’s success. Jonah Hill steals most of the scenes he’s in. And is it just me or does Brad Pitt look more and more like Robert Redford the older he gets? It’s uncanny. Good movie all in all.

Rating: B

The Ides of March

George Clooney plays Governor Mike Morris who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Philip Seymour Hoffman (Paul) is his campaign manager and Ryan Gosling (Stephen) is a sharp up-and-coming media consultant who works for Paul. Paul Giamatti (Tom) is the rival candidate’s campaign manager. As with many political movies, there are the usual tactics, scandal and maneuvering but in this film, it’s still done tastefully and with style. Morris’ campaign focus is very current and timely in our world today. Clooney’s character is very likeable,  his beliefs and direct manner foster hope and enthusiasm on the part of his audience. There are some good performances in this film. Oscar buzz? Yes, some. But I fear the subdued style of the movie just might slip under the radar.

Rating: B+

Midnight in Paris

This Woody Allen film about a family on a business trip in Paris. Engaged couple Gil (Owen Wilson) and Inez (Rachel Adams) tag along on her parents’ business trip. Gil is a successful Hollywood scriptwriter but is currently struggling to write his first novel and isn’t receiving much support from his fiancee, who doesn’t share Gil’s enchantment with 1920’s Paris. One night, Gil is walking the streets of Paris and gets pulled into the past, and meets literary and art idols how they were during la belle époque including F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, Ernest Hemingway, Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Salvador Dali (Adrian Brody), Pablo Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, T.S. Eliot, as well as Picasso’s mistress Adriana (played brilliantly by Marion Cotillard). The movie itself is a feast for the eyes and any Paris aficionado would appreciate the sets, the music, the overall look and feel of the film. It’s a very creative concept and encourages the viewer to jump in with both feet and enjoy the ride. Some highly entertaining performances here. I appreciated the out-of-the-box creativity and enjoyed being immersed in old Paris while it lasted.

Rating: B-

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It’s over.

No more movies, no more books.

We went to see the last Harry Potter movie last weekend and it was awesome. I wore my Dementors t-shirt and almost brought my wand (Elder wand for the win!), but I drew the line. The action scenes were great, the presence (and return) of all the characters was great, Ron & Hermione finally get together, everything was neatly tied up in the end. I loved seeing the older versions of Harry, Hermione and Ron and all their kids.

Couldn’t ask for anything more.

Except more books.

And movies.

WinGARdium LeviOHsah!

Swish and flick!

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Here’s the latest:

Red Riding Hood

I didn’t see it coming at all. I was torn between two possibilities for the wolf, I refused to believe that the few others the story was hinting at…and then BOOM – surprise ending. Although it wasn’t “Sixth Sense” shocking, it was still unexpected. The story was good and I enjoyed the movie. The touches in the film describing life in those times were just on the surface but the viewer still got the gist. I was able to immerse myself in the tale. I liked the occasional hints of ‘creepy’ too. At the end, i found myself hoping for a bit more depth. Rating: B-

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I went in with very low expectations, due to some mediocre reviews I read over he past couple of weeks. But, surprisingly, I enjoyed the movie. The funny moments when Thor is banished to Earth and he still behaves like a God/King are hilarious (i.e. walks into a pet store and announces that he needs a horse). The romance between Thor and Jane (Natalie Portman’s character) was fun to watch. The characters were good including Odin played by Anthony Hopkins. It was a good storyline and the God elements were interesting. All in all, a good watch. Rating: B

Tip: Stay past the credits for a clip.

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We watched a couple of movies last weekend. They were both movies we were interested in seeing but never got around to when they were still in the theater.

Hereafter

From IMDb: A drama centered on three people who are haunted by mortality in different ways. George (Damon) is a blue-collar American who has a special connection to the afterlife. On the other side of the world, Marie (de France), a French journalist, has a near-death experience that shakes her reality. And when Marcus (Frankie/George McLaren), a London schoolboy, loses the person closest to him, he desperately needs answers. Each on a path in search of the truth, their lives will intersect, forever changed by what they believe might-or must-exist in the hereafter. (Written by Warner Bros. Pictures)

My two cents: This was a very gloomy movie. Although the ending was positive, don’t go in expecting a happily ever after, uplifting end to an otherwise dark story. The early tsunami scene was scary especially following the tragedy in Japan. Definitely not a date movie. Gloom. Darkness. Death.  I’m a Matt Damon fan and I’ll forgive a lot of things. So the moments I liked best in the film were his “readings”. Rating: C.

The Tourist

From IMDb: Elise (Angelina Jolie) sits next to an American tourist, Frank (Johnny Depp), on a train going to Venice. She has chosen him as a decoy, making believe that he is her lover who is wanted by police. Not only will they need to evade the police, but also the mobster whose money her lover stole. Written by Douglas Young (the-movie-guy).

My two cents: Ho-hum.  As much as I love Angelina Jolie, I dislike Johnny Depp. I like most of Jolie’s movies and do not like most of Depp’s. So, going in, I was expecting a so-so response. That being said, the whole movie was just “meh”. I didn’t find that they had very much chemistry. Compared to Jolie and Pitt in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, this was very tepid indeed. I found Jolie’s performance very flat. Yes, she was beautiful, distant, refined. I was just hoping to see more depth or some layers. Depp – well, at least he didn’t have any his usual googley-eyed Tim-Burton-face in this one. The best part was the Venice scenery. Rating: C.

Very disappointing movie weekend indeed. I also purchased Unstoppable with Denzel Washington and Chris Pine (Star Trek). Hopefully that one will be better. Stay tuned for that review.

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It’s been a while since I posted about the movies I’ve seen. So here’s a recap of the ones we’ve seen at the theater and at home:

TRON: Legacy (in 3D)

A must-see for those who remember the original; with updated special effects and an awesome soundtrack.  Jeff Bridges returns as Kevin Flynn, the designer of the virtual world that he developed on the original film. This movie follows Kevin’s son Sam Flynn as he goes looking for his father and ends up inside the digital world. I enjoyed the movie – Jeff Bridges is always entertaining and it was fun to see Olivia Wilde in a role other than Thirteen on House. The new-and-improved games played in the movie were high-tech eye candy, which is always fun. Did the movie change my life in any way? Probably not..but it didn’t matter. This one is more for the ride than the journey. It’s a must-see for anyone who saw and liked the original. RATING: B

Storyline: Sam Flynn, the tech-savvy 27-year-old son of Kevin Flynn, looks into his father’s disappearance and finds himself pulled into the same world of fierce programs and gladiatorial games where his father has been living for 20 years. Along with Kevin’s loyal confidant, father and son embark on a life-and-death journey across a visually stunning cyber universe that has become far more advanced and exceedingly dangerous.

Inception

We just watched this last night and it was REALLY GOOD. When it first came out in theaters, the trailer really didn’t do it justice. I was somewhat intrigued but imagined a movie filled with moving worlds and confusion and I wasn’t really in the mood for that. But Inception was so much more than that and there was only one major scene of “moving worlds”. It’s about dream-sharing  where several people share the same dream, or rather, join the dreamer’s subconscious, usually with the goal of finding secrets and hidden information stored in the dreamer’s subconscious. It was a very cool movie. And the cast was great: Leonardo DiCaprio was fantastic as usual. Ellen Page (from Juno) was great as the “architect” who created the dream worlds – talk about a cool job. Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were also very good. It was fascinating to delve into the various layers of people’s subconscious. All in all, an excellent way of sending a couple of hours. RATING: A+

Official storyline from Warner Bros.: Dom Cobb is a skilled thief, the absolute best in the dangerous art of extraction, stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state, when the mind is at its most vulnerable. Cobb’s rare ability has made him a coveted player in this treacherous new world of corporate espionage, but it has also made him an international fugitive and cost him everything he has ever loved. Now Cobb is being offered a chance at redemption. One last job could give him his life back but only if he can accomplish the impossible-inception. Instead of the perfect heist, Cobb and his team of specialists have to pull off the reverse: their task is not to steal an idea but to plant one. If they succeed, it could be the perfect crime. But no amount of careful planning or expertise can prepare the team for the dangerous enemy that seems to predict their every move. An enemy that only Cobb could have seen coming.

The Book of Eli

This was one of those movies that I hadn’t heard very much about and happened to have the TV on when it started. And after a couple of minutes, it completely sucked me in.

In a violent post-apocalyptic society set in 2043, sometime after the Last Great War, the drifter Eli (Denzel Washington) has been travelling west across North America for the last thirty years reading a unique book that he brings with him. The movie follows Eli through his travels; the struggles he must face and the people he meets, in particular when he stops in a town that’s being run by Carnegie (Gary Oldman). Carnegie’s gang finds out about the book Eli is protecting and make it their goal to obtain it. A girl, Solara, from the town (Mila Kunis) ends up teaming up with Eli along his journey. Solara asks Eli about the world before the war and he tells her that people had more than they needed and threw away things that others kill for today. When asked why he keeps the book, Eli explains that it’s the only Bible left in the world since it was singled out for extermination after the war, as the post-war population believed it was the cause of the war. They eventually end up at Alcatraz, where a curator has been gathering all the remnants of pre-war civilization, such as books, music, and art, and storing them in the cells until they are ready to rebuild and re-establish society. There’s an interesting twist that’s revealed but I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen the movie.

A fascinating movie. RATING: A

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I’m very happy that they’ve announced that filming will begin on Star Trek 2 (aka Start Trek XII) in summer 2011 with a tentative release date in the US of June 29, 2012. I really enjoyed the “first” one and have watched it probably upwards of 5-6 times – if I catch it on TV, I’ll just leave it on. The cast was awesome (although the Spock/Uhura romance is still a bit odd but I’ll go with it) – I loved the characters and getting to see everyone at the beginning, before all their adventures. Big fan.

Chris Pine has also been cast as Jack Ryan in “Moscow”. Jack Ryan is the famed Tom Clancy CIA hero (previously played by Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck). That looks promising – most of the Tom Clancy movies have been great hits in my book.

Also looking forward to Avatar 2 and Avatar 3. Last I heard though, tentative release dates were somewhere around December 2014 and December 2015 respectively so we have some time to kill.

The Hobbit: Part 1 (J.R.R. Tolkien / Lord of the Rings) is in pre-production, scheduled to begin filming in Feb 2011.

The Dark Knight Rises is the next instalment in the Batman franchise – scheduled for release in summer 2012.

Hmm. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Although I usually like Nicolas Cage’s movies and end up going to see them, I can’t say that I’ll definitely go see this once it comes out. I’ll have to wait and see. Although…the guy’s skull is on fire. That’s kinda cool.

The one movie I’m not jumping up and down about is James Cameron’s remake of Titanic in 3D… The original movie was great but I’d much rather see something new instead of something redone and re-released… I mean, there’s milking and there’s MILKING. Fans of the movie may actually go see it. My feeling? Tepid at best.

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