Sunday, July 23, 2017

Dunkirk [2017]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  RogerEbert.com (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (A-)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review
RogerEbert.com (M. Zoller-Seitz) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review


Dunkirk [2017] (written and directed by Christopher Nolan [wikip] [IMDb]) I came to with some trepidation as well as some biases:

As a person of Czech descent who remembers that Britain essentially gave my parents' country of Czechoslovakia to the Nazis _on a platter_ two years before the desperate battle portrayed in the current film, I came to this story with some anger because this battle need not have happened _at all_ if then Prime Minister Chamberlain had done the right thing and stood with Czechoslovakia (the only remaining democracy in Central Europe at the time) in the 1938 Sudeten Crisis.  Instead he handed my parents' country over to a Dictator, Hitler, again, _on a platter_, who, of course then only wanted more ...

But that said, and after the British / French endured some crazy "Rules of Engagement" restrictions (imposed by the Belgians -- who didn't let the Brits / French even come into their country until Germany actually invaded them ...) helping to precipitate Brits / French armies' encirclement at Dunkirk ... this becomes a GREAT STORY OF NATIONAL SURVIVAL:

No matter what the circumstances were that got the Brits (and the French) into this horrific mess, this was now WAR and a War with the stakes as high as they could possibly be ... Honestly, it's hard to imagine what the world would be like today if Britain had been unable to successfully evacuate 400,000 of its soldiers encircled around Dunkirk.  Yes, the British army lost the greater portion of its heavy and mobile weaponry there in the Dunkirk pocket.  HOWEVER, it was able to save a good portion of the soldiers, and thus be able to continue to defend Britain from invasion.  Had those 400,000 soldiers been captured, Britain would not have had a credible army to defend itself with.  And if Britain had fallen in 1940, THE WORLD WOULD BE UTTERLY DIFFERENT THAN IT IS TODAY.

So writer-director Nolan portrays in this film THE TRUE DRAMA of the TRUE HEROICS that it took to get those 400,000 British (and hundreds of thousands of French) soldiers, ever under enemy fire, from Dunkirk and back to Britain.

Stylistically Nolan does so by telling three intertwining (and at times admittedly confusing) stories (because the timeline of each of the three stories was different) -- (1) "from the mole" (from the perspective of the soldiers _on the ground_, and more specifically _on the beaches_ in and around Dunkirk, (2) "on the sea" (presenting the story of the civilian (!!) boat owners who were called by the British Navy to cross the English Channel to get to Dunkirk in whatever boats that they had -- from yachts to sailboats to fishing trawlers -- to evacuate the soldiers trapped there), and (3) "in the air" (telling the story of the RAF pilots at the time who risked and sacrificed their own lives for the soldiers and sailors _below them_ by scattering / fending off Nazi Luftwaffe attacks during the height of the evacuation).

Again, it all makes for a great and compelling story, reminding us of the heroism of these men, and ALSO of the ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY RALLYING / _CHEERLEADING_ of the great Winston Churchill who succeeded the disastrously naive / incompetent Neville Chamberlain as Britain's Prime Minister and who really did _step up_ when the country and even THE WORLD needed him.

As a War movie (and then made, again, in a somewhat confusing intertwining style) this film is not necessarily for everybody.  However, if one wants to see a movie about STEPPING-UP / bravery when the stakes truly are high, this is it.  GREAT, GREAT JOB!


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Saturday, July 15, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes [2017]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  RogerEbert.com (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (A-III)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review
RogerEbert.com (B. Tallerico) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review


War for the Planet of the Apes [2017] (directed and cowritten by Mark Reeves along with Mark Bomback based on the characters created by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver), block-bustery though it is, is not exactly (the recent) "Spider-Man" ;-), neither is it intended to be.  So Dear Readers, if you think that you can "put aside your mind" as you watch this film, smiling from ear-to-ear with a big tub of popcorn in your lap, that's probably not going to happen.  That will probably disappoint / anger some, while others will make the best of it, saying to themselves "Okay, this is not a pure entertainment flick, let me then try to reflect on what the film-makers are trying to say."

The current film, the third of a series of "prequels" [1] [2] to the famed 1960s-70s era Planet of the Apes [wikip] [IMDb] film-franchise inspired by the novel (1963) [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by French author Pierre Boulle [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb], explores the Rise of a new Civilization of the Apes (as well as the simultaneous / corresponding collapse of the Human one): It would have had to have been an "Apocalypse" -- or as a graffiti in the current film declares it to have been an "Ape-ocalypse" ;-).  Postulated in this series of prequels is a human Mass Extinction Event brought about by a viral "simian flu" which simultaneously killed the vast majority of humans while greatly increasing the capacities of Apes (allowing them to walk erect as well as develop true language -- some Apes in the current film were able to speak while most others could communicate by means of a by now well-developed sign language).

The current film is set in that transitional period when the numbers of both remaining humans and (rising) intelligent apes were small.  The resulting _lack of noise_ (because of a _lack of a lot of people_ (and still a relatively small number of intelligent, but mostly sign-language communicating, apes) is probably the _most memorable aspect_ of this film.  (It will also be the aspect of the film that will probably most frustrate casual Viewers...).

That much of the film takes place _in winter_ in and around a human citadel based up in California's (High) Sierras adds to THE COLDNESS / DREARINESS of the Time -- one Civilization was Dying and another completely different one was Rising.

The Human Citadel in question had apparently been intended to be a "quarantine facility" for first "infected humans" but had been converted instead into "a safe zone" for those (few) humans who were not.  The few crazed but highly armed humans who lived there were making their "last stand" and ... in as much out of weakness / dread as out of their (remaining) strength (the humans were still heavily armed while the apes were not), the crazed humans there, led by a head-shaven former "Special Forces" Colonel (played quite realistically by Woody Harrelson in a manner clearly intended to evoke Marlon Brando's portrayal of the crazed Col. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now [1979]) ran the Citadel as a "Gulag-like" "Ape Concentration Camp" (as a last gasp effort to "keep the (rising) Apes down").

I don't think that it's much of a Spoiler to tell Readers here that this "last gasp effort" (to keep the Apes down) did not succeed ... And a fascinating final "Act of God" (or at least Act of Nature...)  finally settles the Story.

It's all very remarkable, if DEFINITELY NOT simple "Blockbuster Fare" ;-).

Striking to me, though I _don't_ think it was directly intended, is that the "Ape-ocalypse" presented in this recent series of films plays out in quite similar fashion to the European Conquest of the Americas:

After all, it's becoming increasingly clear (as per a remarkable book called 1491 by Charles C. Mann) that what happened to most of the Native Peoples in the Americas (and did not happen the same way in Africa or Asia) was that the Native Peoples of the Americas were, above all, _decimated_ (reduced to 1/10 their strength) by the _inadvertant_ arrival of European-brought DISEASE (mostly small-pox) and that, only _afterward_, the remaining Aztecs or Incas were not capable of putting up an effective resistance to encroaching Europeans. (In contrast, the Native Peoples / Civilizations of Africa to say nothing of South / East Asia were not destroyed in the same way.  Yes, many were conquered and endured decades or even (a few) centuries of Colonial rule, BUT ... the native peoples of Africa / Asia didn't disappear completely as they largely did in large parts of the Americas).

In the current series of films, the successful Rise of the Apes comes about only after the decimation of Humanity by a (similar) plague ...

Again, fascinating, thought-provoking, but ... not exactly what one would expect to contemplate after a "light" summer movie ;-).  Good job, I think ;-)


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Friday, July 7, 2017

Spider-man: Homecoming [2017]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  RogerEbert.com (3 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review
RogerEbert.com (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

I came to Spider-man: Homecoming [2017] (directed and screenplay co-written by Jon Watts along with Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, screen story by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley based on Marvel comics' Spider-Man [Wiki] created by Stan Lee [IMDb] and Steve Ditko [IMDb]) wondering WHY there'd be a need for a full reboot of this superhero (sub)franchise for the third time in fifteen-years (!) and left once again _in awe_ of Marvel Comics' (since 2009 a Disney Company) vision / humor and wisdom.  They pulled it off: This film both "moved the ball" in the MC's Avenger story / Universe and, even on its own, "deserved to be made."

What do I mean?  After last year's Captain America: Civil War [2016], I complained ("mildly" I recall ;-) to my friend of 40+ years from high school and my go to expert on "all things Comics" that I was getting tired of the ridiculous amount of destruction left behind by the various battles in the Superhero films, and he replied that _already decades ago_ Marvel Comics had an answer to this problem -- a line of comic books about a company called "Damage Control" [MC] [wikip] which specialized in "fixing things" after a bout between superheroes / supervillains ;-).

SO ... this film BEGINS (it would seem) in the aftermath of the first full Avengers [2012] movie after a thwarted Loki (brother of Thor...) led alien invasion of New York.  A quite sympathetic (and quite  _local_ contractor) named Adrian Toomes [MC] [IMDb] (played wonderfully by Michael Keaton) had run-around and gotten the contracts _from the city_ to start "cleaning-up the mess" when "the Feds" (with troops) roll-in, tell him and his people "to step away from the rubble" (which, of course, included _alien technology_) and tell them "not to worry about the damage" to the city anymore as a company called DAMAGE CONTROL [MC] [wikip] had been contracted "to fix things."  Adrian Toomes pleaded with the commanding officer in charge, telling her "I sank everything I've ever had into getting this contract from the city."  But to no avail, "the Feds" have decided.

When the previously mild-mannered if perhaps hustling Toomes sees that "Damage Control" is "a division of Stark Industries" (Tony Stark played by Robert Downey, Jr is Iron Man [MC] [IMDb], one of the Avengers [MC] [wikip]) he is disgusted and tells his colleagues: "PERFECT, first these people destroy our city and then _they_ hire themselves to rebuild it ..."  Toomes orders his people to keep hidden at least a truckload or two of alien debris that that they had collected... and ... he's soon on his way to become a scrappy if enterprising local super-villain who comes to be known as "TheVulture" [MC] [IMDb] building contraband super-weapons from the "scraps" of alien technology that he's able to get his hands on before Stark Industries' "Damage Control" does.

Enter the similarly quite local (and teenage) Peter Parker (aka Spiderman) [MC] [IMDb] (played by Tom Holland) who though still "a sophomore in high school" (in my recollection, the worst / most boring year of High School's four ;-) has "an internship" with Stark Industries.  Something of a "nerd" and certainly socially awkward, he notices some rather strange things happening in his neighborhood -- a local heist which utilized strangely sophisticated (out-of-this-world) tools / weaponry.  He reports this to Tony Stark [MC] [IMDb] / the good folks at Stark Industries, who, of course, ignore him (he's just a teenager, after all...).  Well, of course, much further ensues ...

But ... Peter, is of course, a teen.  So ... ;-) ... while spending his "off time" with "Saving the World" (or at least "Saving / Protecting his Neighborhood" ;-), he has a normal teenager's life with normal teenage concerns / pursuits.  Did I mention that he was "kinda a nerd"?   But add to that, since he had that "internship with Stark Industries," and then ON HIS OWN spent a good part of his remaining off time "Saving / Protecting his neighborhood" THAT'S A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE FOR A TEENAGER ... and hence ... still lacking _super human_ "time management skills" ... he's OFTEN LATE for the various functions that he's part of.  And in typical teenage fashion, he suffers for this: Those who already don't like him make fun of him for this, and those who do like him are consternated when he does not show-up on time (or doesn't show up at all...) for his commitments.  High School ;-).

But he's not totally alone.  He's being raised by A BRILLIANTLY RE-IMAGINED still mid-40 something May Parker [MC] [wikip] [IMDb] (played simply BRILLIANTLY by Marisa Tomei).  He also has a BEST FRIEND, Ned [wikip] (played wonderfully by Jason Batalon) presented here as vaguely Asian Pacific and he A DEEP CRUSH on Liz Allan [wikip] (played again wonderfully by Laura Harrier) a bright, beautiful, popular girl, here presented as African American and portrayed as having her own insecurities -- she's "a bit tall."

I LOVE WHAT MARVEL COMICS DOES WITH ITS CHARACTERS.  Every one of these characters, May, Ned and Liz, I KNOW.  Plus, I can not but APPLAUD Marvel Comics' decision here to widen the ethnic / racial mix.  The Spiderman story plays out in QUEENS, New York, one of the most diverse parts of the most diverse city in the country.  HOW WONDERFUL IT IS THAT MARVEL / DISNEY have _chosen_ to portray this diversity _RIGHT_ and give ALL CHILDREN, both in the United States AND BEYOND a chance to _see a bit of themselves_ in the story.

Much then plays out ... all WONDERFULLY APPROPRIATE _TEENAGE FARE_ often done with a smile (Captain America [MC] [IMDb], another "once local boy" played by Chris Evans, shows up _repeatedly_, appropriately and amusingly throughout ;-)

Again, I left the movie and finish writing my review ... in awe.  Simply a great, great job!


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Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Big Sick [2017]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB ()  RogerEbert.com (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B+)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review
RogerEbert.com (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review


The Big Sick [2017] (directed by Michael Showalter, screenplay by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani) is a crowd-pleasing (and at times challenging) contemporary romantic dramedy that actually tells the story, okay somewhat fictionalized, of "When Kumail met Emily" ;-) -- the film tells the story of how the film's screenwriters met, fell in love and eventually married.

Kumail Nanjiani plays himself, Emily's role is played quite wonderfully by Zoe Kazan.  The challenge of the story to North American audiences is that Kumail is, of course, a Pakistani-American, while Emily is native born and white.  So viewers are reminded, repeatedly, of the quite literally pre-judices that Kumail faces in day-to-day life.  In one instance, when asked _yet again_ what he thinks of 9/11, exasperated, Kumail, a comedian both in the film and in real life, responds: "Yes, it was a tragedy.  We lost nineteen of our best people that day..." ;-) AND THEN HAS TO EXPLAIN (QUICKLY) THAT HE WAS JUST KIDDING, that OF COURSE the tragedy was that thousands of people, overwhelmingly Americans were senselessly murdered by those 19 terrorists.

But to its credit (on multiple levels, including simply a much needed _informative_ one) the film ALSO presents the expectations / prejudices that existed in Kumail's own home: Kumail's parents and especially _his mother_ (played wonderfully by Zenobia Shroff) simply expected him to marry the PAKISTANI WAY (by arranged marriage).  And since Kumail's family was quite wealthy ... the parade of eligible young Pakistani women that Kumail's mother was constantly inviting over to their home for Kumail to meet was _not_ exactly "bottom of the barrel."  These were attractive, educated, young women from similarly wealthy Pakistani-American families wanting their daughters to also marry well.  But there certainly was a prejudice in the culture against "marriage for love" which was quite clearly being dismissed as "marriage for lust."  Interesting.

Anyway, much takes place in the story of Kumail's and Emily's romance.  And it was actually Emily's parents (played wonderfully by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano.  If the Academy chose to be brave this year, Holly Hunter honestly deserves a look for a Best Supporting Actress nomination) who, if initially wary / distrustful of Kumail's presence / intentions, come around to his defense.  Kumail's parents are the ones who seem to dismiss even the possibility that their son marrying outside their ethnicity / religion (as Pakistanis, they were, of course, Muslim) could be a good thing.

So honestly this is a contemporary dramedy, aimed at millennials and their parents, that seriously "moves the ball" in Western / Muslim dialogue.

Honestly a brave and good job!


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Monday, July 3, 2017

13 Minutes (orig. Elser) [2015]

MPAA (UR would be R)  RogerEbert.com (3 Stars)   Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing

Zeit.de (M. Schwickert) interview w. director*

SuddeutscheZeitung.de (M. Knoben) review*
FAZ.net (A. Kilb) review*
Spiegel.de (B. Moldenhauer) review*
Welt.de (B. Möller) review*

Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review
RogerEbert.com (G. Kenny) review


13 Minutes (orig. Elser) [2015] (directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, screenplay by Léonie-Claire Breinersdorfer and Fred Breinersdorfer) tells the sad story of Georg Elser [de.wikip]*[en.wikip] (played in the film by Christian Friedel) a random somewhat solitary carpenter / machine shop worker (something of a mix of Edward Snowden and Lee Harvey Oswald ...) from small town Bavaria who came to the conclusion that the Nazi leadership must die and on Nov 8, 1939 (a few months after the Nazi invasion of Poland with which World War II began) came within thirteen minutes of blowing Hitler up at a Nazi rally at the Bürgerbräukeller [de.wikip]*[en.wikip] in Munich .  A large beer hall, the Bürgerbräukeller had been ground zero of Hitler's failed 1923 Beer Hall Putsch and hence had become something of a Nazi shrine, the site of solemn annual tributes and commemorations during the whole of the Nazi Era.  Elser had hoped to blow-up Hitler along with a good part of the Nazi Leadership while Hitler was speaking at the 1939 edition of said commemorative event.

Both the genius and tragedy of Elser's attempt on Hitler's life was that Elser came BOTH _very close_ to getting his man (Hitler just happened to end his speech early that evening and had left the rally only thirteen minutes before the bomb went off) AND _nearly_ got away:  He was quite randomly picked-up at the relatively nearby border between Germany and Switzerland.  The German guard who had quite accidentally come-upon him had INITIALLY NO IDEA of the significance of the man he was arresting as the bomb that Elser had set, hidden in a column behind the speakers' podium at the Bürgerbräukeller, had not yet even gone off ....

Well, the bomb went off, and Elser had with him incriminating pictures / drawings of the Bürgerbräukeller linking him to the bomb plot ... (Sigh ... why hadn't he gotten rid of them?)

Soon he was being interrogated (and tortured ...) under the direction of Gestapo investigator Arthur Nebe [de.wikip]*[en.wikip] (played in the film by Burghart Klaußner) and the shadowy Gestapo co-head Heinrich Müller [de.wikip]*[en.wikip] (played in the film by Johann von Bülow).  Interestingly Arthur Nebe himself was executed in March, 1945 for his involvement in the July 1944 Claus von Stauffenberg Plot [de.wikip]*[en.wikip] against Hitler.  Heinrich Müller, in contrast, was last reported to have been seen in the Führerbunker [de.wikip]*[en.wikip] in Berlin on May 1, 1945 and remains the highest ranking Nazi to have neither been captured nor confirmed to have died at the end of the war.  He simply vanished.

Elser, for his part, was _not_ executed immediately after the Nazi interrogators "were done with him."  (It took a while for them to become convinced that he _really did_ "act alone").  Instead, he spent most of the war in the Dachau Concentration Camp [de.wikip]*[en.wikip] where he was executed in the closing weeks of the war.

The film really offers a quite fascinating picture of a complex (and contradictory...) "simple man" who _nearly_ did the world an enormous favor by _nearly_ getting rid of one of the most Evil figures in human history.

But that _may be_ the point of Elser's tragic story.  It / HE wasn't enough ...


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Saturday, July 1, 2017

The House [2017]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (O)  RogerEbert.com (1 Star)  AVClub ()  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
Los Angeles Times () review
RogerEbert.com (C. Lemire) review
AVClub () review


The House [2017] (directed and cowritten by Andrew Jay Cohen along with Brendan O'Brien), crude / appropriately R-rated, could be described as Amy Poehler Parks & Recreation [2009-2015] mashed with every movie that Will Farrell has ever made.

The two play Kate and Scott Johansen proud-as-punch that their only daughter / mutual "best friend" (yup, kinda creepy) Alex (played wonderfully by Ryan Simpkins) got accepted to Stanford University-like "Bucknell U."  Loveble, kind, but not at all financially practical, of course, Kate and Scott have made NO PLANS WHATSOEVER to save-up for the big day when their Alex was gonna go off to school.  Instead, they were BANKING on "straight A" Alex getting a full-ride scholarship traditionally offered by their town.

But newly elected, pettily corrupt dweeb of a quiet suburban town mayor, "Bob" (played spot-on wonderfully by Nick Kroll) has decided to sink the town's funds into his pocket, err ... into a ridiculously elaborate (and probably never, ever to be built) "aquatic complex" (read glorified town swimming pool) instead.  When the Johansens protest this sudden and previously unannounced change in the town's practices, "Mayor Bob" puts the scholarship "for the Johansens and their 'smarty pants' daughter Alex ONLY" vs the ridiculously bright colored / elaborate "pie in the sky" "aquatic complex for _ALL_" to "a vote" ... and ...

What to do? ... Kate decides that she'll go back to work, but where ... she's been out of the workforce for years.  Scott decides to ask his generally amiable (but well versed in / exhausted with the petty assumptions of "white privilege") African American boss for a raise.  "Not a chance" the boss answers even before Scott finishes his question, (and in the film's out-takes shown at the end of the film, challenges Scott, "Okay, I'll give you a raise if you can name even ONE of my three lovely kids" (a proud picture of the boss and his smiling cute-as-a-button kids sits prominently on his desk, as it probably has FOR YEARS ;-)  Of course Scott CAN'T REMEMBER the name of EVEN ONE OF HIS BOSS' KIDS ;-).

So ... with little options ... the two get talked into a truly hair-brained scheme concocted by a friend named Frank (played wonderfully in bug-eyed fashion by Jason Mantzoukas) whose wife was leaving him and was in the midst losing his house BECAUSE OF A GAMBLING ADDICTION to go in with him on running AN ILLEGAL CASINO out of his house because ... as EVERYBODY KNOWS ... "The House ALWAYS wins" ;-)

Much, often in quite hilarious "Suburban Goodfellas" fashion, ensues ... ;-)

This is a movie that hasn't exactly gotten "much love" from the critics (above) but I do have a soft spot for these "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" style of films ;-).  Exaggerated as the film may have been, _every one of characters_ in this film could have easily been a parishioner ;-).

SO... obviously DON'T DO WHAT THE JOHANSENS DID AT HOME ... ;-) ... and parents remember that this is an R-rated movie but ... when the kids are asleep or on date night ... enjoy the film ;-).  Yes, things can be worse ... ;-)


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Friday, June 30, 2017

Beguiled [2017]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB ()  RogerEbert.com (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review
RogerEbert.com (S. O'Malley) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review


Beguiled [2017] (written for the screen and directed by Sofia Coppola, based on the screenplay by Albert Maltz and Irene Kamp (credited as Grimes Grice) for the 1971 Clint Eastwood starring film by the same name, based on the novel [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Thomas Cullinan [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) is billed as this summer's "guilty pleasure" and, if you'd like a lazy but steamy Confederate Era SAH-THERN tale that takes its time to get to an inevitable pot-boiling / corset-ripping climax (of sorts) with a final twist, well ... ;-) ... I've generally enjoyed Sofia Coppola's [1] [2] [3] story-telling ;-).

So then, what's the story about?  Corporal McBurney (played by Colin Farrell), a young just-off-the-boat-in-New-York-harbor-before-he-got-paid-300-dollars-to-join-the-Union-Army Irishman finds himself wounded near but behind enemy lines somewhere in Virginia and in the care of a boarding house (Seminary School) for young Southern women headed by a proper-but-practical perhaps mid-30-something Miss Martha (played wonderfully by Nicole Kidman).  Talk about "The Luck of the Irish," right?

Well ... it's, of course, more complicated than that.  These young women / girls are Southern patriots, of course, with fathers, brothers and beaus "defending the Homeland" in this "War for Southern Independence" / "War of Northern Aggression."  But then Corporal McBurney is ... A MAN, and these young women, for multiple reasons, haven't exactly seen much of "their kind" in recent times.   And then McBurney is not necessarily the typical "Yankee" that they would have expected ... Again, he was barely "off the boat" when "for $300" he was given "a gun and a uniform" and shipped to the front lines to "fight for the North."

Well much winking / flirting, working its way to a slow boil, takes place as several of the young and perhaps at-the-edge-of-no-longer-being-all-that-young women (played by an exemplary cast that includes the above mentioned Nicole Kidman, as well as Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning) plot their strategies of "getting their man."

It is indeed ... one fun movie ;-).


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Baby Driver [2017]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (L)  RogerEbert.com (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (A-)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review
RogerEbert.com (B. Tallerico) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review


Baby Driver [2017] (written and directed by Edgar Wright) is an EXCELLENT, slick, doesn't miss a beat, (crime story) genre film that should make Hollywood proud.  Fictional, yes, with a morally edgy -- yes, they're bank robbers, yes, they're mostly psycho and/or evil and certainly doing evil things, "but" ... we do "get to know them ..." -- story, though set in contemporary Atlanta (nicely in the heart of the Bible Belt...), the story's trajectory is that of classic noirish gangster movies of the "Production Code" past (where Good ultimately had to be vindicated, and Evil could not be left to survive or let alone thrive...).

The story centers on "Baby" (played by Ansel Elgort) a prodigy of a "get-away driver" with a number of "psychological-ticks" born of "a tragic back-story":  He had been a kid, sitting in the back seat of his parents car when they, too busy yelling at each other to pay attention to the road, were crushed after crashing into the raised back of a stopped-semi on the freeway.  The resulting crash / explosion damaged his ears (making him listen incessantly to music on his iphone to drown-out a similarly constant "humm in his drum").  The accident also made him _really good_ at split-second averting of obstacles while driving on the road, or as we see in _beautifully choreographed_ 5+ minute _continuous shot scene_ (while the film's opening credits rolled) ...simply walking down the street ;-).  (Again, this is an _very_ well-crafted film)

Left without parents, "Baby" was raised by a foster parent, interestingly with a Biblical name, Joseph (played by CJ Jones), who we see the now early 20-something "Baby" taking care-of during the course of the film.  "Baby's" "swerve to get by" driving antics also had caught the attention of a local Atlanta-based gangster kingpin going by the nickname "Doc" (played wonderfully in ice-cold sociopathic fashion by Kevin Spacey), who then lured / blackmailed him into serving as the getaway driver for his bank-robbing crews.

Said crews often question the capabilities of incessantly headphone wearing "Baby," but "Doc" repeatedly went "to bat" for his young driver prodigy, noting "Has he (or I...) _ever_ steered you wrong?"

But as good as "Baby" is at what he does, and even as good of a heart has "Baby" does seem to have "in his off time" ... again, he takes care of his older, mute step-father Joseph quite well, and he strikes up a lovely (and refreshingly chaste) "made for Hollywood genre flicks" romance with a lovely, ever-smiling diner waitress named Debora (played wonderfully by Lily James) ... he's making a living in crime.

And that, of course, must change ...

How his life does change (and I'm not going to get into this further, because that would enter deep into Spoiler Territory) is truly in the best tradition of Hollywood genre films of this type, AND IT IS NICE TO SEE THE FILM-MAKERS TAKING THE TIME TO DO THIS RIGHT and not just for the sake of doing "due homage" to films like this of the past, BUT ALSO, FRANKLY, FOR THE SAKE OF THE NEW / YOUNGER GENERATION.

This is a film that Evildoers DO "get their DUE" ... and "Baby" did need to be Saved / Redeemed. For regardless of how "nice of a guy" he was, he still did wrong ... and _some price_ needed to be paid for his transgressions.

Honestly, excellent job!


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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Despicable Me 3 [2017]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-II)  RogerEbert.com (1 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C)  Fr. Dennis (0 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review
RogerEbert.com (P. Sobczynski) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review


Despicable Me 3 [2017] (directed by Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin, codirected Eric Guillon, written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio) like the stupidly racist DM2 [2013] and unlike the 2010 original (which I had thought was brilliant) remains a difficult movie for me to feel good about.

Yes, the Minions (voiced by Pierre Coffin) remain cute. Yes, Agnes (voiced by Elsie Fisher) the youngest adoptive daughter of heart-of-gold, reformed arch-villain, vaguely-East European Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and super-virtuous/super-ANGLO Miss Hattie (voiced by Kristen Wiig) remains adorable, BUT ... if DM2 [2013] went UTTERLY _OUT OF ITS WAY_ to racially attack Mexicans (!), the current film now GOES OUT OF ITS WAY to attack Gru's "vaguely South / East European background" ...

When Gru goes out with his family to search out his long lost twin brother Dru (voiced also by Steve Carell)... they find him on some "Greek-ish / Serbo-Croatian-like Island" where EVERYBODY seems to _raise PIGS_ (!!) and in probably the most unfortunate scene in the whole film, when a little boy from the Island seems to have fallen for Margo (the oldest of Gru's / Hattie's three adopted girls) OFFERING HER, AMONG OTHER THINGS _HIS PIG_ ... Hattie "STEPS UP" to "PROTECT" HER FROM HIM (and his utterly perplexed mother).

YES, IN THIS _ONE THING_ POPULIST RUSSIAN STRONGMAN VLADIMIR PUTIN IS _EXACTLY RIGHT_: Many Westerners (hence North Americans) seem to think that people from his country, Russia, (and _let's be honest_ from the other countries bordering his, many of whom sincerely believed that they were actually becoming OUR RESPECTED (!) FRIENDS and ALLIES...) are just ONE OR TWO GENERATIONS "FROM THE TREES."

How else to explain this film's portrayal of Gru's "homeland" as a place where people SEEM TO ONLY RAISE _PIGS_ and a local boy (and his mother) are portrayed as CATEGORICALLY UNWORTHY of somehow, again, categorically "more refined / sophisticated" Anglos ...

Yet this is an arrogance that is honestly born of ignorance as anyone who's actually been to Prague, Budapest, Moscow or even Belgrade or Athens would IMMEDIATELY recognize.  (Oh, but what about these countries' hinterlands?  Well, if one _wants to be honest_ none of these places are _categorically different_ from the hinterlands of the United States ... Alabama, Appalachia, Indiana, Kansas / Nebraska ...).

But we seem to insist on our (racial) superiority ... and more problematically, seem to insist on teaching our kids that as well.  Shame.


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Monday, June 26, 2017

Transformers: The Last Knight [2017]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  RogerEbert.com (1 Star)  AVClub (C)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review
RogerEbert.com (B. Tallerico) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review


Transformers: The Last Knight [2017] (directed by Michael Kay, screenplay by Art Marcum, Matt Holloway and Ken Nolan, story by Akiva GoldsmanArt MarcumMatt Holloway and Ken Nolan) continues a financially successful (if somewhat diminishingly successful) movie franchise [wikip] based on the Transformer Toys [wikip]  involving two races of giant shape-shifting Robots who've come to Earth with quite mixed motives and in previous episodes have wreaked havoc with contemporary humanity.

In the current episode, humanity seems to have regained some control over its destiny and its relations with the leftover transformer robots in its midst has deepened / become more complex.  Some humans seem to have established a more or less friendly relationship with many of the left-over robots, while others, based on past violent recent history, continue to see them as enemies and in as much as possible want to see them expunged from the earth.  For their part, some of the Transformer robots have proven to be quite kindly / protective of humanity, while others remain a threat.

The current film conflates elements of the legends surrounding King Arthur / Merlin the Magician with other elements from the more recent story of The Da Vinci Code and invites Viewers to believe that the history of interaction between the Transformer Robots and humanity is actually much longer and more complex than previously imagined producing a Transformer Robot / Ancient Aliens [wikip] [IMDb] mash-up of sorts.

Over the years, I've found the Transformer films to be fascinating from a sociological / psychoanalytical point of view.  After all, why would TENS OF MILLIONS of viewers pay good money (smiling from-ear-to-ear, buckets of popcorn in their laps, beverages of choice at their sides...) to sit through two-and-a-half hour to three hour (!!) "Transformer" films in which two races of GIANT shape-shifting transformer robots beat the daylights out of each other, laying to waste huge sections of earthly cities in the process, while "little people" (us) watch helplessly by?

Is this how a surprisingly large portion of humanity sees our world today -- that GIANT "shape shifting" heartless-metallic forces "above them" are battling it out, and that all most of us can do is ... watch (and perhaps occasionally ... duck)?

Anyway, this has been a strange, if IMHO also strangely fascinating series that while never destined for "Oscar Glory" offers an oddly disconcerting view of a good part of contemporary humanity.  


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Sunday, June 25, 2017

47 meters down [2017]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  RogerEbert.com (2 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (1 Star)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Walsh) review
RogerEbert.com (P. Sobczynski) review
AVClub (M. D'Angelo) review


47 meters down [2017] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Johannes Roberts along with Ernest Riera) is a film similar to, if IMHO _far more problematic_, than last year's "shark movie" The Shallows [2016].

In the current film, two young North American women, Lisa and Kate (played by Mandy Moore and Claire Holt respectively), "on vacation" to Mexico consent to (are talked into?) being sent down into shark infested waters in a small metal cage lowered into the sea from an already quite rickety-looking local commercial fishing boat, and ... much (often terrible...) ... ensues.

I suppose the message to young Western / North American tourists is: Don't be idiots (!).  It's one thing to "not be racist" / to _try_ to experience local indigenous culture BUT ... most people, both North American or far more _local_, taking ONE LOOK AT THAT BOAT, and _NOT QUESTIONING_ the intentions of the crew would say: "No gracias, no se ofenden pero no me pongo en esa barca ..." ("No thanks, don't be offended but there's NO WAY that I'm getting on that boat much less in that cage...") and that'd be that.

But in this film, we have _two_ naive North American women taking a really bad risk with a number of local (and one must call this for what it is) "men of darker complexion" whose motives while _perhaps_ not evil were nonetheless _necessarily inscrutable_ and ...

And let's be totally honest here: About 15 years ago, a young and perhaps quite naive North American woman, Natalee Holloway, disappeared on a high school senior trip to the still WHITE DOMINATED Dutch colonial possession of Aruba (an island in the Caribbean) and was probably killed and perhaps even _thrown to the sharks_ (to dispose of her body, never found...), while in the company of a VERY WHITE Dutch colonial local named Joran van der Sloot who while never convicted of a crime in Holloway's tragedy, some years later was convicted of murdering a local Peruvian woman while on vacation in Peru.

So the racial undertones of this film in which two white North American women find themselves (or put themselves) in danger while in the company of _darker skinned_ "locals" while on vacation are ... well, at minimum _unfortunate_ and perhaps even _wildly unfair_.

I wonder if the film would have been "better" if the two North Americans had been a young heterosexual couple (or perhaps themselves of color_), so the film would have not been about _just_ "naive young white women folk in danger... (and in need of "protection"....)" 

In any case, it's not racist to say to tell a group of young men, be they "of color" or "dashing red-mained" _white men_, descendants perhaps even of former slave owners, to say: "Hey, WE DON'T KNOW YOU, and there's NO WAY we're getting on THAT BOAT (or ANY BOAT) with you"

But then that would make for a very different movie ...

In contrast, Blake Lively's surfer in The Shallows [2016] faced _simply_  ... a really big, really driven ... shark.  Again, a much better and much less problematic film.

So while certainly "giving thrills" and perhaps serving as _a cautionary tale_ the current film is IMHO quite fatally mixed with unfortunate racial undertones that needent have had to have been there (and if they weren't would have made for a much better film) -- 1 Star.


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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Beatriz at Dinner [2017]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB ()  RogerEbert.com (3 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review
RogerEbert.com (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review


Beatriz at Dinner [2017] (directed by Miguel Arteta, screenplay by Mike White) is a darkish dramedy that reminds us that art can sometimes precede (predict?) the future: A sort of (now) Trump-era Guess Who's Coming to Dinner [1967], the film was actually made before Donald Trump was elected U.S. President (or before just about anyone, including possibly Trump himself, thought it possible that he could win).

Beatriz (played to self-evidently Oscar nomination worthy levels by Salma Hayek) is a non-descript Mexican-born, long-time American residing (a slightly older "dreamer"?) "healer" (in Spanish "curandera") working mostly as a massage therapist at a Santa Monica based "Alternative Medicine Center" who a quite rich Newport Beach residing couple Grant and Shannon (played by David Warshofsky and Chloë Sevigny respectively) met some years earlier when their teenage daughter had been having a tough time with undergoing standard cancer (chemotherapy / radiation) treatments.

Beatriz had helped their daughter get through the treatments, and subsequently Shannon had been having Beatriz come regularly to their quite lovely "cliff-side ocean view" home out there in _Southern_ Orange County to give her a monthly massage.  Insane amount of driving that this "triangle" -- from her modest home in Altadena to her work in Santa Monica to Shannon's gated community (of course) home in Newport Beach and back to Altadena (the geography here is both important and insane)-- notwithstanding, Beatriz, a seemingly quite gentle, somewhat "New Agey" soul appeared content to do this for the sake of her past relationship with Grant / Shannon and their daughter and because, well, she truly saw her vocation to be "a healer."

Well, one afternoon, after giving Shannon her massage, Beatriz' car finally "dies" (could not start) from all that driving.  No matter, Shannon invites her to stay the night in her previously sick daughter's room (she's long since "better" and now in college) and invites Beatriz to stay for a dinner party that they were hosting for one of Grant's clients, a _big shot real estate developer_ named Doug Strutt (played wonderfully by John Lithgow).  The two -- Beatriz and Strutt -- could not possibly have been more different and on so many levels (race, gender, class, fundamental outlook on the very purpose of life), and after a couple of glasses of wine ("liquid courage"), it's _Beatriz_ who in good part _decides_ that she's _not_ going to keep her mouth shut.

A fascinating if increasingly _painful_ film to watch.  Could _this film_ become this year's  Moonlight [2016] (89th Academy Awards [2107])?


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Friday, June 23, 2017

Cars 3 [2017]

MPAA (G)  CNS/USCCB (A-I)  RogerEbert.com (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review
RogerEbert.com (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review


Cars 3 [2017] (directed by Brian Fee, screenplay by Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson and Mike Rich, original story by Brian Fee, Ben Queen, Eyal Podell and Jonathon E. Stewart) continues, and after a rather_weak_ Cars 2 [2011], IMPROVES this "what if cars were people too" franchise [wikip].  Indeed, I'd say that the current entry is at least as good as the original, Cars [2006], and IMHO better.

Why such praise from me, who really did not like Cars 2 [2011], and generally suspects _any_ film that seeks to humanize _things_ (especially _things that one needs _to buy_) at a time when we're often asked to consider all kinds of _people_ as somehow less than human -- from the (most obviously) unborn, to the physically or intellectually challenged, to the more darkly complected, to simply non-U.S. citizens, to those for whom answering what gender they are is, quite honestly, not simple matter to answer?  I bristle at the attitude, "Well I don't like ___________ (fill in one's human hate preference) while I LOVE my (ipad, iphone, car, dog, etc)."  Don't get me wrong, I love pets, plants, etc, and even the occasional gadget -- and among the Friars in my Province, I'm certainly considered (and generally rightly) to perhaps be attached to too many (electronic gadgets) -- I write a blog after all ;-) -- BUT I do try to put _people_ first, and do firmly believe that as Christians WE HAVE TO PUT PEOPLE FIRST otherwise the Incarnation of Jesus, "God among us,"[Mt 1:23, Mt 28:20] makes no sense and our own ultimate value is diminished: Either as humans we all count, or were left "fighting for _scraps_ of importance" and ultimately none of us do (Who'll remember _any of us_ 100-200 years from now ...?).

That said, I don't "hate" Pinocchio :-). And artists from Homer to Beethoven to The Beatles to Steven Spielberg remind us our "lasting creations" need not necessarily be just biological,  And finally at some point, one has to say to oneself "Just shut up and remember how it was when _you_ were an eight-year old and you could think that the match-box car you had in your hand was at minimum driven by a 'human driver' or was otherwise 'animated' / 'alive'" ;-).

So accepting the premise that at least in this story "Cars can be people too" how does the current film fare and what kind of a story does it tell?  Well I do believe the story in this film is a good one.

Gone are the arguably RACIST (I'm not kidding) elements that plagued Cars 2 [2011] where all the "good cars" were American or British accented English and all the "bad cars" were jalopies from Eastern and Southern Europe (again, I'm not kidding...).  In the current film, one of central protagonist American sports-car Lightning McQueen's (voiced by Owen Wilson) old friends from back home was a kindly and old(er) Fiat 500 ;-) named Luigi (voiced by Tony Shaloub), so this unnecessary "racist problem" is thankfully gone.

Then, the central challenge facing Lightning McQueen is the current film is finding a way to deal with "growing old" (or at least "growing older"):  In the story, he had been at the top of the auto-racing game for some time, but _now_ a new generation of cars was taking his / his generation's place.  Yes, he tries to stage a "Rocky-like" comeback, but ... is that the _only_ option?  Here I do believe that Disney-Pixar "does it again"!  It raises the storytelling level here from a film "merely for kids" to one that really speaks to / challenges adults: Instead of trying to be "young" (or trying to "beat-back" the young) forever, how about doing something else with one's age (and accumulated wisdom)?

I'm not going to say more because that would damage one's experience of the film, but HONESTLY, what a _nice film_, _reminding_ us "becoming older folks" of an obvious (and healthier) alternatives to just trying to fight a losing battle with Time.

Excellent job!

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Rough Night [2017]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (O)  RogerEbert.com (2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review
RogerEbert.com (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (K. Rife) review


Rough Night [2017] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Lucia Aniello along with Paul W. Downs) is a definitely R-rated "Bridesmaids [2011] meets Weekend with Bernie [1989]" comedy.  There's a lot of crude (often penis) humor, two of characters are (or at least were) lesbians (back in college...), and a pharmacy's (or at least backwoods meth shack's) worth of illegal drugs is used/abused.  It's a film that _aims_ for goofy / raunchy and often enough succeeds.

What could possibly be redeeming about a film like this?  Well a lot of young people are going to watch it.  It has gay people in it, but they know and many/most of them will have already had gay friends and most will have kept them as friends even if they are gay.  The drug use in the film is extensive, even "creative" (to a 53-year-old (Catholic priest) like me).  But said drug use is not exactly portrayed as "positive" -- cocaine is clearly portrayed as impairing decision making, meth that "yes it can keep you awake" BUT ... again _severely_ limit your judgement.

And to anybody who may have doubts here, let me then reiterate the obvious: (1) Cocaine can kill you. (2) Meth can kill you.  (3) Driving impaired be it from alcohol to meth to "red bull" can kill you.  And yes, while "crossing the street" "can kill you" too, only an idiot would see "crossing a street" to be equivalent to doing lines of coke or driving on meth.  But my guess is that most Millennials will know that, and if they don't then, I've just told them.

So why the insanely exaggerated drug use in the film ... because most viewers would find it insanely dangerous / _funny_ ... after all, how many different concoctions of drugs could one possibly take _on one drive_ to _try_ "to keep awake"? ;-)

Then with the homosexuality.  Yes, the Catholic Church is right.  At minimum _at some level_ homosexuality is _disordered_ (a plug fits into a socket not another plug...).  That said, we all know people who are gay (and happy with their homosexuality).  And (I've written about this before) while the Church teaches that homosexuality is disordered, that homosexuality simply does not fit into its 2000 year tried-and-tested Theology of Marriage (that Marriage is to be open to both Life and to Love), outside of the Church the Society remains (thankfully) Free to go on its own ... and certainly for now and for the foreseeable future Western Society has chosen to accept homosexuality as a _legitimate_ lifestyle option for people ... AND ITS FILMS WILL REFLECT THIS _NO MATTER_ WHAT THE CHURCH SAYS ABOUT IT.  (That's again Freedom ... indeed Freedom of Conscience which the Church itself defends).

That does not mean that the Church should stop teaching that at least on some level homosexuality is intrinsically disordered.  On the other hand, it is needlessly putting itself in a self-imposed box if it an issue like this is all that matters.

I return to the question: What is "redeemable" in a film like this (or Bridesmaids [2011]) before it?  I think its emphasis on friendship: Is it possible to truly be "Best Friends Forever" and if so, doesn't that friendship have to change over time?

Then I did find it rather insightful that the couple getting married were both "perfect" in terms of the nominal standards of our time: Scarlett Johanssen's Jess was like a 30-year-old Hillary Clinton (bright, educated, indeed running for office) and her fiance' Peter (played by Paul W. Downs) was the _perfect_ well-groomed / sensitive ("Metrosexual") guy.  Yet both were _really boring_, and needed the _less perfect_ people around them -- from Jess' weight-challenged former college roommate Alice (played wonderfully by Jillian Bell), to her just plain goofily weird friend (played by Kate McKinnon) from her year of study abroad "out in Australia" to the by this point in my article "famous" lesbian / sort of (seriously) friends Blair and Frankie (played by Zoe Kravitz and Ilana Glazer) -- to give them life.

So while definitely _not_ for "the little ones" (the R-rating is RICHLY deserved), this is a film that a lot of 20-something Millennials are going to watch and it's not an entirely awful film.  It is often very funny and stresses friendship.

  
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Friday, June 9, 2017

The Mummy [2017]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  RogerEbert.com (1 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review
RogerEbert.com (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

The Mummy [2017] (directed by Alex Kurtzman, screenplay by David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman, screen story by Jon Spaihts, Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet) is a summer popcorn blockbuster-ish sort of film ... and, well, it's summer blockbuster time.

Yes, the film is a Studio concoction: Universal has eyed quite jealously the "universes" that Disney's been able to assemble both from among its long-time fairytale franchises and also from its recent Marvel Comics acquisition.  And so, Universal has apparently decided to launch its own "dark world" universe with this feature film, which reboots (for the 4th or 5th time) its 1930s era "Mummy" character and to cast no doubt about its "campily megalomaniacal" intentions, adds a number of other "dark" 1870s-1930s era supernatural characters to the mix, notably a Russell Crowe playing Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde [wikip] [IMDb].  Seriously?  Yes, seriously.

What's going on?  I do honestly see a definite "campiness" (winking, non-seriousness) to the project. here (though certainly Universal, like _any studio_ would love to take our money, if it takes off ;-).

Consider Tom Cruise's role in the film as its key.  He plays "Nick Morton" a shifty largely out-for-himself American "special forces / recon sort of a guy."  Consider his character something of a FRANKENSTONIAN "studio creation" in which he gets to play BOTH of the characters that he's most famous for -- the "can't trust him but you love him" Joel of Risky Business or Jerry Maguire of the film by that name grafted onto the "super-heroish / secret agent" Ethan Hunt of the Mission Impossible series.

In the film, Cruise's "Nick" uses his "deep cover" to steal priceless Middle Eastern antiquities before ISIS-style Islamicists "blow them up."  Yes, it is true that ISIS (as well as the Taliban) has really taken upon itself to try to raze the Middle East's pre-Islamic history.  Yes, this constitutes a truly appalling Crime against Humanity.  But, Nick and his fellow "recon" buddy / partner in (in the scheme of things "petty") crime Chris (played by Jake Johnson) aren't exactly heroes here: Pre-ISIS, they'd be called war-profiteers / looters.

Again, what's going on here?  Again, I see "camp."  And since it is summer, since the film is _generally_ fun, I kinda applaud it ;-).  Call it simply ... summer entertainment ;-).

And some of the characters are quite good, the best being Ahmanet (played by Sofia Boutella) the Egyptian princess, the Mummy of the story, who the greedy but bumbling, here "way over his head," Nick accidentally awakens: In her time, Ahmanet was supposed to become Pharoah.  But late in life, her father had a son with a second wife, and ... Ahmanet freaked-out.  After murdering her father, her half brother and seemingly half the Pharoah's Court, the surviving Pharoanic officials captured her, and "mummified" her, alive!, and buried her deep and far, far away ... to try to erase her from history, only to be "awakened" by ... Nick and his friend.  And when she awakens, she's ... NOT HAPPY ...

Much ensues ...

Is this a great film?  No.  Is it a terrible one?  Again, no!  Again, this is a popcorn movie that for the most part "smiles" even onto-itself.  I just wish the Studio found a more dignified way to introduce Russell Crowe's (Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde) character to the franchise ... LATER.  He really deserved his own movie.   Other than that ... enjoy the ride ;-).


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