Minnesota Seniors Online



Welcome to Doug & Jeff's Movie 2016 Review Archive!

In case you missed any of past movie reviews, you can find them here.

Dunkirk - Directed by Christopher Nolan
Spider-Man Homecoming - Directed by Jon Watts
Wonder Woman - Directed by Patty Jenkins
Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Men Tell No Tales - Directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg  
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 - Directed by James Dunn
Going In Style - Directed by Zach Braff
Disney's Beauty and The Beast - Directed by Bill Condon
Lion - Directed by Garth Davis
Hidden Figures - Directed by Theodore Melfi
Fences - Directed by Dezel Washington
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Directed by David Yates
A Stray - Written and Directed by Musa Syeed 
Sully - Directed by Clint Eastwood
Star Trek Beyond - Directed by Justin Lin
The Secret Life of Pets - Directed by Chris Renaud & Yarrow Cheney
Swiss Army Man - Directed by Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert
The Nice Guys - Directed by Shane Black
The Jungle Book - Directed by Jon Favreau
10 Cloverfield Lane - Directed by Dan Trachtenberg
The Finest Hours - Directed by Craig Gillespie
The 5th Wave - Directed by J Blakeson
13 HOURS:  The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi - Directed by Michael Bay
The Revenant- Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Hunger Games- Mocking Jay Part 2 - Directed by Francis Lawrence
Click Here for Past Year's Reviews
 

Zala's Featured Review 
Dunkirk
Directed by Christopher Nolan

“We shall fight on the beaches….” Churchill

British and French soldiers surrounded on three sides by German forces with their backs to the English Channel are a mere 26 miles from England. Dunkirk is the historical portrayal of the WWII battle where German troops are preparing to wipe out 400,000 English troops which would be devastating to the security of England and the outcome of the Second World War.

The Story - Director and Writer, Christopher Nolan tells the story of this epic WWII battle which changed the direction of the war. By interactively weaving the story through the perspectives of soldiers, pilots, sailors and civilians. The overlapping scenes are repeated from the viewpoints of each of the groups affected in a way that puts the movie together like a jigsaw puzzle letting you see the interaction as it unfolded for each of the groups adding a deeper dimension to the film.

 

The Cast - The story unveils through sets of characters who are bound to destiny by the rescue mission. A set of pilots who need to protect a fleet of naval ships and civilian yachts by air, a group of soldiers who attempt to get off the beach by a variety of means, and civilians who launch yachts when called upon by the British government to save the soldiers. The experience of actor, Kenneth Branagh, as Naval Commander Bolton, solidifies this set of actors lesser known to American audiences. The group of soldiers, (Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles, and Aneurin Barnard) and pilots (Jack Lowden and Tom Hardy) deliver strong performances as their characters unfold throughout the movie. The interaction between father (Mark Rylance) and son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) is deliverance-of-duty and coming-of-age relationship. Peter’s friend, George hops on the yacht at the last moment to have the adventure of his life to hopefully impress the townsfolk who see him as a teenager who hasn’t accomplished much in school or the community.

Should You See This Movie?  Grade: A-

For those of you who love history won’t see this as the typical history movie. The interweaving of the story between the perspectives in the film and interaction between the characters draws you into the suspense of this rescue. The music pulls you into the drama of human survival. The film focuses less on the battle and destruction and more on the relationships and dilemma taking place to save over 300,000.  Churchill had hoped for 30,000 to continue to the war effort so the rally by the civilian fleet is a feel-good story. The ending is warming versus damning. The story moves fluently through the hour and 46 minutes. The film will appeal to both history lovers and those who like a good story. 

 

Zala's Featured Review
Spider-Man - Homecoming
Directed by Jon Watts

When I heard of yet ANOTHER Spider-Man movie coming out this summer, I was reluctant to see it. This version of Spider-Man, I will have to admit is my favorite. The story goes deeper as it ties into the last Avengers movie and shows the struggle of high school senior Peter Parker balancing school, a Tony Stark “Internship” and his desire to be a member to be a superhero!

The Story - Director, Jon Watts, portrays this Avenger in Training as a high school student who spends more time with his friends, being the typical student growing into his role as a super hero.  He balances friendships and dates with school activities, while trying to keep order in the streets. His frustration is that he waits for a call from Tony Stark for his chance to do something “big” instead of menial tasks. His secret is accidentally revealed as he sneaks back into his room as his best friend is sitting on his bed waiting for him. Throughout the movie, more people exposed to his secret identity. There is a bit of humor carefully woven into this story to make the characters warmer. 

 

The Cast - If you have seen the Spider-Man movies, you will recognize the usual suspects:  Tony (Robert Downey Jr.), Happy, (Jon Favreaux), Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow). Tom Holland (Peter Parker) provides a broader acting ability than previous “Spider Men”. Marisa Tomei does a nice job in portraying Aunt May. Michael Keaton is an excellent villain in the story. We understand why he feels driven to be the anti-hero playing both villain and family man. High school sidekick to Peter Parker, Jacob Balaton (Ned), is a surprise. He learns about Peter’s secret and has a difficult time keeping the news quiet. He dreams of being the “guy in the chair” – the guy who is the tech geek who guides Spider-Man to succeed. This is one of a couple of supporting characters you want to see again in the future. Another is Michelle (Zendaya) who plays a high school loner who quietly observes others and sketch their struggles. The obligatory cameo of Stan Lee takes place early in the movie.

Should You See This Movie?  Grade: B+

This is a superhero movie. The story is what it is, but with some character development it has some warmer hues. The characters are real and except for special abilities, they feel real. The special effects are well done with some cinematography effects that capture your attention throughout the movie. Moments of humor help to engage the audience and the 2 hours and 13 minutes moves well. If you like stories and dislike superhero movies, you may like this one. If you like the Avengers, you can’t miss it. Remember to stay until after the credits to get the full experience!

 

Zala's Featured Review 
Wonder Woman
Directed by Patty Jenkins

Wonder Woman….Wonderful

For those of you who watched the Wonder Woman television series in the 1970s or saw the movie in 2011, you may wonder why you would spend money to see Wonder Woman. This movie is all grown up and the DC Comics version is one of the best of the series of comic book character movies produced in years.

The Story - Director, Patty Jenkins, takes us to scenes of an Amazon Island created to be protected from the fall out of the Greek gods. We meet a young Diana (Gal Gadot) and watch her grow up as she begins to learn of her ancestry and become a warrior. When a German WWI plane crashes into the sea off the island we meet Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) working for British Intelligence. Diana rescues him from drowning.  The spy is being chased by a German ship whose sailors come on to the beach and a battle of Amazons and humans ensues. Diana leaves the island to join the war effort to stop the suffering of humans who she thinks is being caused by Ares, the god of War. Much is discovered about Diana’s background. This story is more about the mythology of the gods than previous versions of Wonder Woman. There are a variety of twists within the movie and there is a more athletic portrayal of Wonder Woman and her powers as a super hero.

 

The Cast - Most of the members of this diverse cast aren’t as recognizable to most movie viewers. This adds to the enjoyment of the movie. Chris Pine may be the only actor you recognize, but the cast is strong. Gal Gadot delivers a passionate performance as Diana. Her action scenes are solid, while she reaches deep to deliver compassion for humans as she discovers more about herself that was veiled by her queen mother and warrior aunt.  Chris Pine is good in his role of spy and Diana’s first “man” experience. At times, he seems a bit stiff, but is able to loosen up throughout the movie. Lucy Davis plays a strong British secretary to Steve Trevor. She is a character actor whom I would have enjoyed seeing more in the movie. The variety of characters provides an acting buffet that should satisfy your tastes.

Should You See This Movie?  Grade: A

I will admit that I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy this movie based on the previous versions of Wonder Woman.  I am glad I did. Of all the comic book, super hero character movies I have seen, I had to admit that this is one of the best, if not THE best! The action is strong. There are moments of compassion and comedy. The story is what brings this movie together. Of course, there are fantastic special effects. I saw this on an IMAX screen in 3D and at times even the seats vibrated, all adding to the experience. You don’t need IMAX, but this is a movie that plays well on a big screen and the 3D does make the movie a treat. It is worth the extra cost.

 

Zala's Featured Review
Pirates of the Caribbean
Directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg  

ARGGG!  Dead Men Tell No Tales….

In what may be the final movie in the Pirates of the Caribbean series many of the plots from past stories come full circle in Dead Men Tell No Tales. Directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg pull out the stops to bring this story to the screen. The sets have that “Disney” look, the action holds your attention and there is a bit of magic that brings it all together.

 The Story - The story opens with a young boy searching the sea for his father who is held in the spell with the undead crew of the Flying Dutchman. The boy learns he must find the trident of Poseidon to release the spell. The boy grows up, enlists in the British navy and after running into some trouble with superiors due to his quest, he searches for Captain Jack Sparrow whom he runs into in the brig on St. Martin. Captain Jack has diminished from his previous legend by lacking a real ship (the Pearl is still trapped in a bottle), a crew who walks out on him, and even the bounty on his head has dropped to 1 pound. In this adventure, we learn about how Jack Sparrow got his name and became a captain. With the help of an astronomer, accused of being a witch, who has an old journal with drawings of the stars which lead the way to the trident, the search begins. If you like a bit of absurdity, slapstick, and pirate tomfoolery, you will not need this movie to make total sense. The ending is reminiscent of Moses dividing the Red Sea and a “lives happily ever” after conclusion prevails as Captain Jack Sparrow sails off to new adventures. The music sets the mood during the dark and ominous portions as well as the recognizable melody during the adventure scenes.

The Cast - Most of your pirate favorites appear in this movie. Obviously, the story centers on Johnny Depp (Captain Jack Sparrow). Javier Bardem (Captain Salazar – Flying Dutchman) and Geoffrey Rush (Captain Hector Barbossa) are both strong characters in the film. Orlando Bloom (Will Turner) and Keira Knightley (Elizabeth Swann) return in this film to double the happily ever after ending. There is also a special appearance by Sir Paul McCartney as Uncle Jack.

Should You See This Movie?  Grade: B-

If you have seen the previous movies you need to see this.  If the previous movies haven’t interested you, then you can skip this one as well. The movie is action packed and moves along well.  You can’t take any of this seriously. It isn’t outlandish, but you can see outlandish on the horizon. The movie is entertaining and a fun way to spend a couple of hours during the summer. 

 

Zala's Featured Review 
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
Directed by James Dunn

I am Groot! - As for space adventures, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, is another humorous look at these cosmic vagabonds.  The action starts immediately with scenes in which you instantly fall in love with Baby Groot who is oblivious to the dangers of the battle as he rocks to Fleetwood Mac.  This MARVELous film begins shortly after the timeline of the first movie, which you don’t have to see to enjoy this one. Director, James Dunn, takes us on a journey where Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) learns more about the romance of his mother and father (Kurt Russell). 

The Story - The music for this film is set to Awesome Mixtape #2. We travel through the romance of Peter’s parents and old foes and family who bond to form new alliances. Peter’s father finds him and invites him to live in an utopian world he created. The team learns while on this planet that not all is as it seems and there is greater evil to follow. Throughout the film the Sovereign’s try to rid the galaxy of evil. They continue to show up as they are still upset because Rocket stole some batteries while the team was contracted by them. The story unfolds song-by-song until the all-out battle of supremacy.  

 

The Cast - There is a star-studded on camera and voice over set of actors in this film. The Guardians include Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax) Vin Diesel (Baby Groot-voice), and Bradley Cooper (Rocket-voice). Sylvester Stallone (Stakar Ogord) plays an antihero thug and Stan Lee (creator of many of the Marvel characters) appears briefly in many Marvel Comics movies. 

Should You See This Movie?  Grade: A

The action is exciting, the music makes you want to sing along, the dialogue will make you laugh, and the ending is touching. You will want to see this on the big screen AND in 3D!  The 2 hours and 16 minutes “fly” by. And do not leave when the credits roll. There are 5 more scenes during the credits (typical for Marvel movies). The scenes provide a few more laughs and as always, will forecast the next movie!

 

Zala's Featured Review 
Going In Style - Directed by Zach Braff

A humorous look at life as seniors…This is a classic movie showing the challenges that seniors who aren’t ready for “the home” face daily. Add a loss of pension and the tables are turned to a point of desperation.  Zach Braff directs a cast of experienced actors including Alan Arkin, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Matt Dillon, Christopher Lloyd and Ann-Margret. 

The Story - Reaching retirement age, I can realize what the three pensioners are going through in the story.  Steel manufacturing closing American offices decides to use the pension funds to cover the company debt.  Three septuagenarians are forced to find funds to survive beyond social security.  Each has unique challenges with family, health, and relationships.  When the reach their deepest struggles, they feel compelled to rob a bank replacing the money their pensions would provide. The hilarity ensues. What we see in this film are the themes of the importance of family relationships, friendship, love, and the challenges seniors face.  

 

The Cast - For those of you have enjoyed the work the of Freeman, Caine, and Arkin you realize that age humor will come into play much like the movies of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.  None of the actors are winning academy awards for their performances which at times feel a bit subdued, but they do play some feisty senior citizens who aren’t about to give up on life.  The love interest of Ann-Margret offers the memory of her role in Grumpy Old Men. If you enjoyed those movies, you ought to enjoy this one. The character that felt fresh is Joey King, Caine’s granddaughter in the movie.  Her bio includes a lot of television and movies of the week type of performances. She acts with a strong confidence and we should be seeing a lot more of her in movies to come.

Should You See This Movie?  B-

You will laugh – not rolling on the floor laughter, but there are some funny scenes and will feel good after watching this film. Not needing to view this movie on the big screen, you can easily wait to see this as a rental or on cable/dish.  I would give this movie a B minus because I enjoy these actors.  The story isn’t anything new, but it is plausible and humorous.  

 

Zala's Featured Review
Disney's Beauty and The Beast
Directed by Bill Condon

A tale as old as time…. Worth Seeing Again

The 2017 version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is a great way to spend a couple of hours on any day.  Directed by Bill Condon, the film makes the 1991 animated version more of a contemporary family movie and less of children’s story. Perhaps this was done for so that the children of the 90s will return to watch it with their families.

The Story -Beauty and the Beast begins with a formal ball in a lavish castle decorated as only Disney can envision. As the Prince of the castle is cursed and the scene turns winter, a darkness overtakes the land. We travel to a nearby small French Village as Belle sings about her life growing up in a provincial village. You will get the feeling that you are watching other Disney animated films with human characters as they interact in the street market. The interactions are well choreographed and flow well as we get introduced to the villagers.

 

A Classic Fairy Tale - This fairy tale follows the formula for great storytelling. There is the story of a girl who is raised by her aging father. Belle is searching for more in life than what her village can provide for her life. The scenes from venturing in the woods are full of danger with packs of wolves hungry for humans, falling trees which opens new pathways and the feeling of mystery and evil in the dark of night. The castle is devoid of life, with the exception, of the fresh blooms in the rose garden surviving the winter.  The magic in this fairy tale comes from the characters of the castle who, we meet in the opening scene, surviving the curse as inanimate objects – teapot, candelabra, mantel clock, chipped cup, harpsichord, wardrobe. The most classic part of the fairy tale is the girl falling in love with the Prince who was turned into the Beast. The two grow close to each other by understanding one another with the help of the characters. The spell can be broken when love conquers all.

Why You Should Go - The version I saw was a sing-along.  The words to the songs appeared on the screen with the old “bouncing ball” to allow the audience to engage even more. There is also a 3D version. In the past, these movies seemed massed produced but now, headline actors appear.  Emma Watson, Dan Stevens (Legion), Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Josh Gad and Stanley Tucci star to make this a quality movie.  The use of CGI makes exciting chase and fight scenes and fun-filled entertaining characters.  I hadn’t seen the entire 1991 animated version so I can’t compare. Many of you are in a better place to do so. I know a lot of families wore out their video tape copy as children watched it over and over. I wasn't sure if I would enjoy this movie, but I was highly entertained watching this film. 

 

Zala's Featured Review 
Lion - Directed by Garth Davis

Imagine being 5 years old and needing to help your family eat and survive near Calcutta, India.  With his older brother Guddu, young Saroo scavenges for anything he can from trains to barter for goods to take home to his mother and sister.  From a one-room shack in a small town, Saroo convinces Guddu that he is strong enough to go out during the night to the train station to see what they can find.  Saroo, however gets tired and Guddu has him stay on a train station bench to sleep while he ventures out alone.  As Saroo wakes up in the night, he calls out for Guddu, makes a mental image of his surroundings noticing the water tower in the train yard, and goes into one of the train cars to sleep.  He awakes to find himself on a train with no passengers traveling thousands of kilometers from his village.  As a lost boy, he does what he can to survive and experiences a new language, other lost children, and a world of questionable adults who require him to rely on his intuition and inner strength.  Eventually, he lands in an orphanage and is adopted by an Australian family.

 

Saroo grows up “Australian”.  As an adult, he decides to educate himself in the hospitality industry where others are interested in background begin to ask him questions about where he grew up.  This causes him to start thinking about his family and a new journey begins.  His efforts turn to finding his roots with only a handful of clues from his memories as a 5-year old.  With the help of Google Earth, he tries to piece together his train journey focusing on the water tower and village landmarks he remembers as a child.  We witness the mental journey as he struggles to find home and himself.

The movie is based on a true story, adapted from the book “A Long Way Home”.  Director Garth Davis captures the happiness of youth who grow up in a loving family while scraping together an existence. These memories are strong enough to bring Saroo back home to find his birth family while remaining connected to his adopted family.  Saroo as an adult, is played by Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman plays Saroo’s adopted mother.  The cast is strong.  Perhaps the strongest performance comes from young Saroo, Sunny Pawar.  The ability of this young actor pulls you deep into the story from the start.  The relationship between him and his brother Guddu, Abhisheck Bharate, is an amazing story of brothers who love one another.  The cinematography is gripping.  The use of lighting, the motion of the cameras, and the angle of the shots all add to scenes of intensity and calm. 

Saroo, does make it back to find his family and the movie ends with the reunion followed by actual footage of Saroo and his adoptive parents meeting his family and villagers.  The movie is intense as it plays with your emotions of happiness, fear, and sadness.  Lion is justifiably nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture as well as five others.  I wouldn’t miss seeing it and I suggest you bring some tissues, even if they are to give to the people seeing it with you!

 

Zala's Featured Review
Hidden Figures
Directed by Theodore Melfi

For those of you who didn’t grow up in the Sputnik Generation, Hidden Figures, entertains you with a “based on true events” version of the early NASA space program during the space race which impacted American society in the early 1960s. The part of history we learn about is that this wasn’t all about white males who were astronauts, engineers, and administrative figures at NASA. Hidden Figures focuses on the contributions by Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to turn a dismal set of rocket failures into successful launches and recoveries and concludes with the successful orbiting of the Earth by John Glenn. 

The story is about these women who each contribute greatly as human “computers” and how they use their mathematical skills to the advance the space program. They were needed to check the calculations of engineers, join the ranks of the engineers and find ways not to become obsolete as IBM delivered a mainframe computer to NASA. These real women may or may not have interacted with one another in the way the movie portrays, but it makes for heartwarming story as they try to serve their country. The main characters need to hurdle two barriers – the prevailing attitude of what women could do in the work place and being given opportunities as African Americans. 

 

The themes in this movie include the value of women in the work place, single-working parents, race relations, and the ability for women of color to advance in both educational institutions and job promotions. The film depicts the struggle of women of color with the attitudes of the day and how they are challenged in dealing with law enforcement, segregation in society and at work, the ability to take courses to advance in white schools. Historically, this story takes place on the cusp of the Civil Rights Movement. A group of “colored” women work in part-time positions and the ability to advance is made difficult even in a federally funded agency. Slowly during the movie, their talents convert the attitudes so they are recognized for their contribution.  You experience the discrimination throughout the movie and rejoice in the growth that is achieved.

This film combines the talents of actors you haven’t seen in the same cast including Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Octavia Spencer, and Kirsten Dunst. They don’t overshadow the other characters who deliver well to make this ensemble cast more about this story and characters than the individuals who portray them. Much of the musical score was written and performed by Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams (Happy). Perhaps the most entertaining part of the score is used effectively when Katherine is forced to leave her work space to run a half mile to get to the Colored Women’s rest room in another building. One of the most dramatic moments is when Katherine is asked why she isn’t always at her desk where her boss (Kevin Costner) can find her. This leads to making bathrooms available to whites and “coloreds”

Director Theodore Melfi, who co-wrote the screenplay based on the book written by Margot Lee Shetterly, captures the warmth of universal themes of families and heroes and the portrayal of the struggles for African Americans living in a society of prejudice. In some ways, we see how far we have come as it points to our own attitudes and in others, it shows how far we need to grow. Perhaps the title itself, Hidden Figures, provides a paradox. Are the hidden figures the math equations that were needed to developed a successful space program, or are the hidden figures the people behind the scenes who don’t receive the credit for their contributions? Answer that for yourself as you see this incredible story!  

 

Zala's Featured Review 
Fences - Directed by Dezel Washington

Fences is the story of the challenges a black family faces in Pittsburgh during the 1950s. The film’s screenplay by August Wilson is adapted from his Broadway Pulitzer Prize-winning play 29 years ago. Denzel Washington both directs and stars in the lead role, Troy Maxson, a sanitation worker who dreamed of playing major league baseball. Viola Davis equals Denzel’s performance as his wife, Rose Maxson. Troy’s life revolves around baseball and his frustration of being too old by the time baseball admitted black players on the teams. It is the classic struggle of raising a family who all want to realize their dreams and have find themselves settling for what life gives them. 

The story of the Maxson family could be the story of many families of the time-period and today. Sons growing up to combat their aging father, a wife serving the family first and their dreams last, the reality of growing up and growing old and how the relationships change over time provides an interesting twist as each character wants more in their lives and is trying to find the way to get what they need. It is the story of dreams being tempered by the reality of life. This is what makes the movie riveting.

The experience was more of watching a play more than a movie. I felt like I was watching this dynamic story on a stage rather than the screen. The audience was fully engaged as we watched this drama wrap around us.

 

The dialogue resembles Shakespeare at times, as the conversation is woven masterfully between characters in a fast-paced exchange.  At the beginning of the movie, Troy speaks the most as friends and family listen to his stories of past greatness.  He is the person with the most knowledge and experience. He dreams of more for his life and challenges the status quo. We learn of his struggles to succeed again the odds of age and color. But as he ages during the movie, other voices start to speak up and be heard, challenging him at times with differing viewpoints.  Those of you who grew up in the 50s and 60s may recognize this from your own family’s relationships.  We learn about his fears and flaws as his decisions impact the family greatly. His sense of duty and responsibility overpowers good judgment at times.  No matter how much the family is in conflict with Troy, they all grow to realize that he is a part of them. This was most evident in the singing of the song “Old Blue” between the youngest son and daughter at the end of the movie.  The daughter makes the Marine sing the song with her and he realizes that it was much more than a song about dog and more about his relationship with his father.

This is a “don’t miss” movie.  You will see this movie nominated for awards this spring as Washington and Davis are both already nominated for Golden Globes.  The 2 hours and 19 minutes will pass quickly as you watch this family grow and change before you. You witness love, respect, betrayal, and emotional moments that are ready to tear the family apart.  The characters will stick with you long after you leave the theater. The story is easily recognized without being trite, the characters are complex and the actors deliver an experience you that will enrich your life.

 

Zala's Featured Review
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Directed by David Yates

This new venture by J.K. Rowling, takes Harry Potter fans to a grown-up story with more magic and outstanding visual effects.  Taking place in New York City, 1926, the new world wizards are worried that they will be detected by the “No-Maj”, the American version of Muggles.  The Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) works to keep the magic hidden.  The Second Salemers, a group driven to hunt wizards and witches, is led by an abusive woman who has adopted children to hand out pamphlets and watch for suspicious behavior.  Her son is working with the Director of Magical Security for MACUSA (Colin Farrell) in hopes of being accepted by the wizards.

Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a magizoologist, once expelled from Hogwarts despite support from then Professor Dumbledore, brings a collection of magical creatures to educate wizards and witches in North America to build a case to preserve these unique creatures. 

In the opening of the movie, Jacob Kowalski (a No-Maj) goes to a large bank to get a loan for a bakery he wants to open to change his life.  He and Newt intersect in what makes for an entertaining exchange of suitcases – one filled with baked goods for the banker to sample and the other with fanciful creatures.  Jacob is on for the adventure of his life.  

 

There is a similarity between Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts as David Yates directed the last four Harry Potter movies.  There are themes of good and evil, paired with a possible love story or two, and of course, fantasy. This story centers more on the interaction between real-world New York and the beasts which cause havoc.  There are times where you feel you are watching Night at the Museum – creatures roaming the streets of New York and many other action films in which evils destroys the city. 

Where this film sets itself apart is the setting of a worn suitcase in need of repair.  A broken latch releases to foreshadow the creatures’ possible escape into the city requires immediate attention by the characters throughout the story.  The suitcase itself provides a whimsical world where the creature collection lives in life-sized magical spaces and serves as a place to hide and escape into the world of the creatures.

The film is highly engaging.  If you enjoy the jazz from the 1920s you will appreciate how it is used throughout the movie.  The effects are spectacular and create a realistic viewing experience.  There are brief moments of tension, keeping the audience wondering what will appear next through cracking walls.  You will see “Potteresque” effects that are done even better with today’s technology.

The movie introduces us to the Hogwarts equivalent in North America, the Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  At the end of the movie, we discover that Scamander will write the Hogwarts’ textbook “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” which Harry studies in his first year a few decades later.  There are also a couple of story lines that are left unanswered for a possible sequel.  

Rated PG-13, this film is not as child centered as the Harry Potter series.  This is more of an adult story which Rawlings may have written for those children who have now grown and the for rest of us who read the Harry Potter books.  You will be entertained for the full 2 hours and 13 minutes.  

 

Doug's Featured Review 
A Stray - Written and Directed by Musa Syeed 
By Guest Reviewer, Jeff Gigler

Honest Disclaimer - I went to see this movie just because I had been used as an extra in the filming - I played an old white guy in the waiting room of a non-profit housing assistance agency.  Two years ago.  I had almost forgotten all about it, until a friend who went to go see the movie at St. Anthony Main Theaters sent me an e-mail saying she saw my face up on the "big screen" and in the credits.  I've played a lot of zombies in my career, bunker border guards, enthusiastic fight fans, even generals who want to use nukes on giant mutant mosquitoes.  But not someone in a "real" movie.

I went to the movie not even knowing what the full story was.   Basically, it's a story about a young Minnesotan originally from Somalia who tries to fit in to a new culture, a new place, and make new friends.   The best friend he reluctantly makes.....is one that he almost accidentally kills.   He becomes responsible for a stray dog he names Laila, at a time in his life when he can barely take care of himself and find a safe place to sleep.   Add to the mix the fact that he is Muslim and dogs are "unclean" to him, makes his journey even more fascinating.

 

There's a lot of humor in this movie.   The clash of cultures almost insures it, and people struggling between the new and old almost require humor to stay alive.  There's a lot of tenderness in this movie, not always between the dog and his boy, or even between the boy and his mother.   And there is a LOT of tension in the movie, inserted because of terrorism....but not from the direction you would expect.

I found the movie fascinating from the standpoint of seeing people trying to live their life in a new world and keep true to their faith.   This was longest window I have ever had into the life of someone following Islam, and it really opened my eyes.  Not to the "threat", but to the struggle.    We have "communion shooters" and other changes to our Christian religion that accommodate modern life;  the people in this movie don't have many options  if they want to be a "good person" in the eyes of others.

This movie also makes Minneapolis look good.   Even if you are homeless and wet.   

Some parts of the movie take place in heavily accented English;  others are related in subtitles.  As with any foray into a foreign culture, it's worth the effort to do your best to listen carefully and watch closely.   I highly recommend this movie if you came here from another country - as your great grandfathers probably did.

Playing for a limited time (until Nov 3rd) at the St. Anthony Main Theaters.

 

Doug's Featured Review 
Sully - Directed by Clint Eastwood
By Guest Reviewer, Jeff Gigler

Spoiler Alert:  everyone lives!    Biggest surprise - everyone is changed.  Including the audience.

When I first heard they were making a movie about Flight 1549 and the heroic efforts of Captain Chelsley "Sully" Sullenberger to land his airliner in the Hudson river....I found it hard to believe it would be interesting, or exciting - after all, the whole flight was only 208 seconds long...and no one died.  

What the movie really succeeds in doing is putting you in the cockpit with Sully, and even into his head.  It also puts you into the passenger seats of an airplane without power, at very low altitude, over the most densely populated part of the United States.  When you are sitting in THOSE seats, in THAT cockpit, inside Sully's head....things look very different and at times, terrifying.  Actor Tom Hanks does an outstanding job portraying the pilot, and you really never start thinking, "Oh, there's Tom Hanks giving that 'Sleepless In Seattle' smile or that 'You Have Mail' laugh.  Hanks really portrays the professional pilot so well, in both appearance and mannerisms, that it's very believable from the start.

And from the start, we learn that Sully the Hero is also Sully the Human, and there's no escaping from a plane crash, even one where everyone survives, without it affecting you deeply.  We get a you-are-there viewpoint of Sully's nightmares, when he makes a different decision and things go horribly wrong.  And these nightmares don't only come out at night time, or when he is asleep.   Anything can trigger them, and the audience starts to wonder when he passes something ordinary or looks at something if we are going to once again see his worst fears come to life.  Being this is New York City, there are a lot of ways airliners can be turned into nightmares.

 

The "enemy" in this movie turns out to be facts - facts in the hands of people trying to show human failure instead of human triumph.   Since this movie is directed by Clint Eastwood, the enemy is rather ham-handedly shown to be the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which has all the facts of the flight in front of them, plus even more facts from aeronautical engineers, radar tracks, and engine management data.  Captain Sully is basically accused of making the wrong decision to land in the Hudson River when two airports were, according to the facts and data, reachable from the point of impact with the flight of geese that destroyed both engines on a two-engine jet airliner.   Clint takes his anger for Big Government out on the investigators of the NTSB, which I thought was unfair - and makes them look like a kangaroo court.

Not many of us will ever sit in a cockpit of a jetliner, much less operate the controls.  But the movie does a very good job of putting us in the passenger seats, where many of us HAVE been, and can easily empathize with the passengers on the flight.  So many normal, everyday tasks - the push to stow luggage, fussing with the seat and the tray table, the safety brief of the flight attendants.  It all helps, believe it or not, to build up the tension to nearly unbearable levels - we KNOW the monster is in the basement, don't open the door and go down there!   We can see ourselves in many of the passengers...even though we don't really get to know any of them in any detail.  This is Sully's story (for the most part).

The special effects in this movie are excellent - from the scenes where we see the flock of geese hit the airliner engines and they burst in to flames and flying parts, to the vivid enactment of Sully's sleeping and waking nightmares come true, to the water landing and rescue - which was actually filmed on the Hudson using a full-sized airplane for the passengers to exit.    Seeing the airliner barely clear bridges and be watched at eye-level with the workers in the office buildings next to the river gives you an idea how terrifying that must have been for New Yorkers, after September 11, 2001.

In the end, it's Sully's belief in his own skills and experience, that help him win over the "enemy".   All he needed to do was to find a way to get all of these investigators to be there with him in the cockpit, and they would understand what an amazing thing he was able to do - glide an airliner at just above stall speed to a safe "landing" on a smooth river.  Make no mistake - he Sully been able to set it down on another cleared piece of land (there were none), the speed of impact would have broken up the airliner and there would have been deaths and injuries.   After all the doubts raised at the start of the movie, both generated by Sully himself and by "experts", we get to keep and better understand our "hero".

And the movie emphasizes an important point - Sully was not the only hero that day.  Yes, his piloting skills were excellent -   but he was aided in the cockpit by a cool-thinking co-pilot; experienced flight attendants who were able to herd the passengers to exits; by ferryboat captains that reacted immediately to get to the ditching site and take on passengers from a rapidly sinking airplane; "Scuba cops" that rescued passengers in the freezing water; and hundreds of first responders who met the survivors on the pier to make sure no one suffered from hypothermia.  

There were times in the movie when I cringed and shrunk back because it was too intense to watch.  There were times when I teared up and stifled sobs, especially when families were connected again in person or by phone right after the crash, but had feared the worst because they were missing (some survivors were taken to the New York side, some to the New Jersey side).  Those actors did such a great job at showing joy and relief their loved ones were still alive, it became infectious - again, something else that we, as passengers, could imagine going through.

I am a self-confessed aviation anorak (fanboy), and I loved so many of the little details.  I also love a good story, which is one that I THOUGHT I knew all about, and learned so many new details from many different points of view that it was almost a new story.  I'm also a cinema buff, enjoying a well-made, well-written movie.  This one was excellent.    Make sure to stay through all the credits - there's no sequel (God, I hope not, not for Sully, at least), no outtakes - but there is a little story worth waiting for.

Bring anyone you want to this movie.  Except people who are terrified of flying. This will NOT help them.  :)

 

Doug's Featured Review
Star Trek Beyond
Directed by Justin Lin
Guest Reviewer: Doug Solem Jr.

I would just like to say I have always been a huge fan of Anton Yelchin, the Star Trek actor who was killed in a freak car accident a few months ago.  Starring in movies such as Charlie Bartlett, Alpha Dog and Fright Night, Anton was clearly a rare talent who died to soon.  If you’re not aware of who he was, do yourself a favor and check out one of his movies.

 Long Story Short: (as provided) A surprise attack in outer space forces the Enterprise to crash-land on a mysterious world. The assault came from Krall (Idris Elba), a lizard-like dictator who derives his energy by sucking the life out of his victims. Krall needs an ancient and valuable artifact that's aboard the badly damaged starship. Left stranded in a rugged wilderness, Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the rest of the crew must now battle a deadly alien race while trying to find a way off their hostile planet.

 

My Take: So far I have absolutely loved the rebooted star Trek franchise.  The movies are always action packed and leave us with heroics that are second to none.  Once again the newest installment “Star Trek Beyond” does not disappoint.  In my opinion this is the most entertaining of the three.  Justin Lin who is the director of the fast and the furious franchise leaves his mark with some incredible fighting sequences and special effects. Chris Pine kills as Captain James T. Kirk.  He’s a true badass who does things his way. The entire cast overall have great chemistry, and there is more than enough humor in the movie. I also need to mention that the climax (accompanied by a beastie boys soundtrack) is one of the best I’ve seen in a really long time.  I literally got an adrenaline rush from watching it. If you’re a nostalgic person, you will also enjoy the homage paid towards Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin.  They celebrated these actors’ lives in a very classy way.  However as memorable as this movie was, it has some flaws.  I thought the plot seemed weak compared to its predecessors.  The main villain had a pretty weak motive for wanting to destroy an entire civilization.  It basically had to do with him being accidentally abandoned by Starfleet (fictional space organization). There were also some scenes that just didn’t make sense and could have been cut from the final edit.  In the end, who really cares this movie was downright awesome.

 Final verdict, go see this movie.

 

Jeff's Featured Review 
The Secret Life of Pets
Directed by
Chris Renaud & Yarrow Cheney

I believe "The Secret Life Of Pets" is a must see for any animal lover.  Not just cat and dog owners;  there are parakeets, hamsters, hawks, snakes, and alligators in this movie and they all have an important and usually funny role to play.  The movie follows the adventures of a small terrier named Max and a large shaggy dog named Duke as they chase and escape there way across New York City.   Luckily for us all, the movie has a very happy ending.

Like all "buddy" movies, Max and Duke do not get along at the start, and it's their own war between each other that ends up putting both of them in great danger.   Caught by Animal Control, on their way back to the Pound (which Duke had recently been rescued from and is terrified of going back), they wind up in the hands of "The Flushed Pets".   They trick the leader, Snowball, and escape through the sewers again.   These scenes are probably too scary for most very young kids (I would say no younger than 8), since they involve snakes, alligators, spiders, and very mean looking dogs....as well as near-drowning.

What I really liked about the movie is that the humor is really geared down to kids.  This isn't just a animated movie with adult humor that winks at the grown-ups.   This is belly-laugh funny in jokes, slapstick humor, and surprise actions.  While this reviewer saw it in 2D, I would probably recommend seeing it in 3D because many of the chase and escape scenes are elaborate and very exciting.    The animals never break the fourth wall and talk directly with humans;   people only hear barking, hissing, and screeching when they interact with animals - and sometimes that lack of communication is funny.

 

Everyone is stereotyped - little dogs are smart and fast, big dogs are dimwitted and slow, cats are sneaky and aloof....but they all have big hearts and are brave when they need to be.   Only the big fluffy poodle is not what he appears to be.   There's even a love story in the movie, at about the 2nd grader-level.  More chaste even than "The Lady and the Tramp".      The quality of animation is excellent, and very realistic.....so much so that kids might get anxious during the sewer scenes or the truck-dangling-over-the-edge-of-the-bridge scenes. 

Everyone gets a happy ending by the end of the movie;  you get to watch the joy on the faces of the pets and their owners as they come home at the end of the day (the whole movie takes place in almost real time).   There is no real villain that needs to be vanquished and given his just deserts;  the worst character of them all gets cuddled by a little girl at the end.

This would make a great date movie, a great take-the-grandkids movie, a great family movie, a great movie for a solitary cat lady to go see.   All you have to do is like animals.   Oh, and make sure to come a little early;  most theaters are showing three upcoming animated family movies that also look funny and good.   And stay past the first few credits.   :)

 

Doug's Featured Review 
Swiss Army Man
Directed by Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert
by Guest Reviewer:  Doug Solem, Jr.

I’m excited to be back for a second movie review.  I had a great 4th of July, spending time with family and friends.  This year we got to experience the fireworks from the lake for the first time.  It was a great time and the show was spectacular.  I even found time to catch a movie with the old man.

Long Story Short: Being stranded on a deserted island leaves young Hank (Paul Dano) bored, lonely and without hope. As a rope hangs around his neck, Hank prepares to end it all, until he suddenly spots a man (Daniel Radcliffe) laying by the shore. Unfortunately, he is dead and quite flatulent. Using the gassy body to his advantage, Hank miraculously makes it back to the mainland. However, he now finds himself lost in the wilderness, and dragging the talking corpse named Manny along for the adventure.

I really was not sure what to expect from this movie.  After watching the trailers, it looked bizarre, gross, and confusing.  Turns out that’s exactly what it was.  However it was also beautiful and mind provoking.  I find myself sitting here wondering how that is possible, but it is.   Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe I thought we’re great together.  Their journey together was full of highs and lows.  The movie was true to its title; Dano used Radcliffes body in a number of ways to get back to salvation. The oddest was using his body as a jet boat fueled by his gas. This movie shows us that everyone is a little weird in some way or another, and that’s all right. There were a lot of laughs along the way, and the ending is worth the wait. I don’t think this movie is for everyone, but is definitely something to see if you’re in the mood for something original.

 

 
 

Doug's Featured Review 
The Nice Guys - Directed by Shane Black

Believe it or not, I am still not done unpacking boxes at our new home on Brigg’s Lake.  It has been the most labor intensive thing I have ever done next to trying to find the golf balls I lose every week in the woods.  It is with mixed emotions that I also report that we sold our little cabin on Elk Lake.  For almost 20 years, it served as our weekend summer getaway for fishing, golfing, grilling and family fun.  What makes it even tougher, our good friends, Jim and Linda, live right next door to our old place…so every time we go to see them, we are reminded that someone else has taken over.  With that said, we are looking forward to all the great times ahead at our new place.

My son and I heard some good things about the new flick The Nice Guys starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling.  We went to the early show at the incredible St. Michael Cinema…grabbed a large popcorn and pop…and settled in for what I thought would be a sure thing.

Long Story Short:  (As provided)  The Nice Guys takes place in 1970s Los Angeles, when down-on-his-luck private eye Holland March (Gosling) and hired enforcer Jackson Healy (Crowe) must work together to solve the case of a missing girl and the seemingly unrelated death of a porn star. During their investigation, they uncover a shocking conspiracy that reaches up to the highest circles of power.

My Take:  As much as I wanted to like this movie…I just couldn’t get behind it.  All the other reviews I read were giving it the big thumbs up.  So, I had high expectations that this would be a real winner.  I like Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling but I honestly thought they were just going through the motions.  I thought their performance was stale and almost like they were just there to collect a pay check.  In all fairness, my son and I were the only ones in the theater.  I think sometimes, laughter is contagious and maybe we just needed a few more people to help us feel the vibe.  The little gal that played Gosling’s daughter (Rice) was cute and was a breath of fresh air compared to her sleepwalking costars.  The other problem I had was the plot was so weak and boring that it didn’t really give the guys much to sink their teeth into.  They were hog tied from the start because, although it is suppose to be a farce, it was just stupid and not stupid good like Dumb and Dumber….at least to me.  I must admit though that Cinematographer (Rousselot) and Production designer (Bridgland) did a great job of capturing that 70’s feel.  As another critic pointed out, the use of a filter that made everything snap with beige and orange tint worked perfectly for that period.  Along with the crazy attire, that somehow we thought looked cool back in the day, and a good mix of all the muscle cars that were so popular back then…the movie was still great fun to watch.  

 
 

Doug's Featured Review 
The Jungle Book
Directed by Jon Favreau
As Viewed at the St. Michael Cinema

As many of you are aware, I recently moved to my new digs in Clear Lake.  I was looking around for another movie theater that was near by, to visit when it was time to do a movie review.  I saw that the St. Michael Cinema wasn’t too far away…so my son and I decided to go see The Jungle Book.  Normally, I would stop here and have you get right into the movie review below but I think the whole world needs to know that the St. Michael Cinema is amazing.    As soon as you walk in, you can tell that some major dollars were invested in this theater. It is seriously a jaw-dropping venue for a guaranteed great night out.  The complex offers great seating and screens for watching the latest movies.  They have a full bar upstairs and an entertainment room.  The night we went they were running a Texas Hold’em tournament.  They even hold live concerts in a special wing of this sprawling entertainment center.  Whether you live in the neighborhood or are looking for a “must see” destination…you have to check out the St. Michael Cinema located at 4300 O’Day Avenue NE, St. Michael, Mn  763-400-8006.

  

Long Story Short: (provided by studio)  Directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man), based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories and inspired by Disney’s classic animated film, The Jungle Book is an all-new live-action epic adventure about Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi), a man-cub who’s been raised by a family of wolves. But Mowgli finds he is no longer welcome in the jungle when fearsome tiger Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba), who bears the scars of Man, promises to eliminate what he sees as a threat. Urged to abandon the only home he’s ever known, Mowgli embarks on a captivating journey of self-discovery, guided by panther-turned-stern mentor Bagheera (voice of Ben Kingsley), and the free-spirited bear Baloo (voice of Bill Murray).

 

My Take:  Best picture of the year, so far.  Neel Sethi was a great choice to play Mowgli.  The kid is awesome.  He will charm the socks right off you.  Sethi had never been on the big screen before.  Director Jon Favreau noted Sethi was chosen after thousands of auditions.  He added “Casting is the most important element of any film and finding the right kid to play Mowgli was imperative.  Neel has tremendous talent and charisma. There is a lot riding on his little shoulders and I’m confident he can handle it.”  Obviously Favreau has some great instincts of his own because I can’t imagine a better choice for such a major role. 

Just when you think there is no way they can get any better with CGI or what I like to refer to as “movie magic”…along comes this movie.  Favreau has made the best movie to date that seamlessly blends live action with this CGI movie magic.  Whether Mowgli is walking with a bear, riding an elephant or running from a tiger…you would absolutely believe this is the real deal.  Add in the star power voices of people like Bill Murray and Christopher Walken and you have a cinematic masterpiece.

 
 

Jeff's Featured Review 
10 Cloverfield Lane
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg

This is a psychological horror film.  Without blood and guts;  the story and filming and even the soundtrack claw and tear at your mind, like a caged animal just out of reach.   The suspenseful ending comes like a relief, and you are glad to get back to a world where the monsters are easily seen and understood and can be fought directly.  

The previews of this movie make it seem like it’s some kind of apocalyptic Fort Apache;  desperate survivors trying to stay alive against the monsters attacking from outside.   But with some very slight and subtle plot twists and reveals, you soon realize that the worst monsters are inside RIGHT NEXT TO YOU.  It’s very much a parable for today’s world, where we can get so afraid of the Unknown that are beyond our sight and contact…..and miss out on the evil just up the street and the overblown fear that betrayal and “they seemed so nice” can create.

 

The story revolves around Michelle, who is leaving town via a dark and lonely rural road.    The car radio starts to report some strange and interesting things – then disaster strikes.  She wakes up in Howard’s underground survivalist bunker, and everything starts out creepy.  And stays creepy for two hours.  Normally, I’m not a fan of big-name actors in roles – it always seems like “Oh, that’s Leo DiCaprio playing the role – but in this case, John Goodman’s previous role as the nice guy helps to build the severe creepiness of it all.    A third occupant, Emmett, who Howard hired to help build the bunker, doesn’t really help to alieve the tension and suspense.

At first you don’t believe anything Howard says, and share Michelle’s fear and doubt.  Then Michelle has an encounter with someone from the outside that makes everything Howard said to be true, and they are a happy family again.  Then another dive into suspense (I haven’t closed my eyes in a “crawl through the airducts” scene before, but this time I did), and suddenly everything Howard says is false again.  Maybe.    There’s a big internal fight where being a hero did nothing to help…..and our heroine Michelle is free from the fear and the horror in the bunker…..to find herself under attack from even MORE monsters and fear.    But these are obvious.  These will always be monsters, and you don’t have to guess.

As has been mentioned in other reviews, this movie really isn’t a sequel to the previous sci-fi horror movie “Cloverfield”.   But it still tells a story filled with suspense and mystery, reminding us that even if we think we are safe behind walls and doors…..there is always evil lurking right next to us, in the same room.

 

Jeff's Featured Review 
The Finest Hours
Directed by Craig Gillespie

My first piece of advice is – do NOT read anything about this movie or the TRUE STORY that it is based upon!   Aside from seeing the previews in the movie theater, I did not know the story of this Coast Guard rescue effort back in 1952…and it made the movie a real “cliffhanger”!   The heroes of the story…both the sailors trying to save them and the sailors hoping to be saved…have to overcome gigantic obstacles thrown in the way.  Some of the obstacles are created by Nature – thundering, pounding waves bigger than the ships that try to sail through them;  hurricane force winds – and some problems are created by the man standing next to you.   It’s hard to say which is more dangerous, in this movie.

I’m glad we live in the era of computer generated special effects – I would hate to think how many great actors we would lose if we really had to film 60ft waves crashing into ships, tearing them in half.   The fierce storm looks frighteningly real, as you see the sailors on the tanker Pendleton trying simply to stay alive to make port.    The engine room on the tanker is where some of the best dramatic parts of the movie take place, and there is enough sound and fury to make it seem like a war movie battlefield.  Steel explodes, men are thrown through the air, other men grimly hold their “ground” trying to keep on station, fighting against the sea.

The Coast Guard sailors are portrayed as just normal guys….but normal guys (boys, most of them) who joined for a sense of adventure and to save people.   Discipline has brought them so far;  to go out in conditions where all of the local fishermen and even some of the senior enlisted Coast Guard sailors tell them NOT to go to sea and attempt a rescue requires a personal strength and heroism that is not “normal”.   As Chris Pine says (playing the rescue boat captain), “The Coast Guard says you have to go out…it doesn’t say you have to come back.”

 

Not everyone survives.  That’s evident when the tanker crew learns how much trouble they are in, and one-half of their ship is gone in an instant, taking members of the crew with it.   After an initial panic and hopelessness (the dynamics of leadership are very real in this story), they rally around the man who has expertise, calmness, and a plan.  The tanker crew get to work trying to save themselves, and what they do and how they do it is fascinating.  And, speaking as a former Navy officer, completely realistic and true.  For the movie, Disney built an engine room and other real ship sets taken from a T2 tanker about to be cut apart for salvage.  There’s no foam rubber in this movie magic.

Just when you think the boat sent out to rescue the crew is completely inadequate for the extreme weather it is sent out in…..the weather proceeds to worsen the odds even more by damaging nearly every important component on the boat.  The audience is pleading with the rescue boat captain to turn around and save themselves…just like the crew.

And the end of the movie?  It makes you feel good, and warm, even though icicles are forming on the sailors.   Making a movie about a TRUE story that has a happy ending is one of the best formulas for a great movie – but it doesn’t guarantee the story will be easy to endure.  The storm will make you flinch, the waves will make you gasp for air, the failing pumps will make you beat on the cinema seat arms in frustration.   Go see this movie to be immersed in drama, tension, and suspense.

 

 Jeff's Featured Review
The 5th Wave
Directed by
J Blakeson

The quickest way to explain to you why you should not waste time going to see this movie is to tell you:  all of the best parts were in the movie trailer.  Since most movie trailers are 2 minutes long, another hour and 58 minutes is a long time to be either bored or not amused by bad acting and bad writing.

The movie is based on the book “The 5th Wave” by Rick Yancey, a ‘young adult’ novel written about an alien invasion that progresses through five ‘waves’ of events, killing off the human population of Earth.   First it starts with an ElectroMagnetic Pulse (EMP), which fries all electronics and communications (and causes 747 airliners to fall out of the sky, a dramatic scene in the trailer).  Next come massive earthquakes, even in formerly stable locations, which also cause massive flooding on the coasts and inland waterways (the next impressive special effects display).   Then widespread disease, which explains why many of these teenagers no longer have parents to help them survive.    The aliens land on Earth, but we never see the aliens themselves, only the flying bicycle helmets their drones seem to resemble.

The only explanation given for the waves of attacks is that the aliens want to preserve as much of the planet as they can, for their own use.   EMP is a good start, so that we can’t fight back too well.   But earthquakes and floods?  Wouldn’t aliens who could cause events like that have more than enough power to crush any resistance?  And wouldn’t aliens who could create a flu strain that can wipe out all but 1% of the human race…..come up with airborne Ebola and take out the rest with little effort?  I mean…are there, like, only 15 aliens up in their spaceship?

 

There are so many holes in the plot that it almost hides the bad acting.  The main character, a teenaged girl, has only two expressions –shocked, and scared.  Even before the attack, when she was attending high school.  Even angry would have been nice to see.   The most convincing part for this actress was greasy hair, after days on the run through the woods from aliens in human bodies.   Perhaps the series “Walking Dead” has spoiled the apocalypse for me;  everything in that alternate reality of a collapsed society is dirty, dusty, damaged, and broken.  In The 5th Wave, it’s mostly a lot of trash left lying around, as if we had come in the morning after a big rock concert.

This movie obviously wants to be another “Hunger Games” series of movies.  It falls far short of that, because the plot and story are so unbelievable.   Which should say a lot, since the Hunger Games takes place in a dystopian future where greedy leaders want to oppress the masses to exploit them – which is not too unbelievable.   Incompetent aliens who have to rely on brainwashed teenagers to do the final clean-up in aisle Earth are not.

Don’t see this movie.  Don’t encourage them to make another one.

 
 

 Jeff's Featured Review 
13 HOURS: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Directed by Michael Bay

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is an action-adventure-war movie right from the first three minutes - that's probably due to the direction of Michael Bay.  However,  the story is so well crafted and manages to make you care about the characters (or loathe them) so quickly that it doesn't need to rely on Bay's signature EXPLOSIONS to move the story along.

 Minutes into the movie you quickly understand that Libya is a very dangerous place, and only the realization that you have another two hours of film to go make you believe the characters we first meet will survive past the first ten minutes.   The Americans manage to bluff their way it of a very bad situation, which is prescient of the fact the Americans there in Benghazi are on their own and without help for the entire incident.

 It really helps that the actors in the movie are not well known, and there no distraction in seeing a favorite actor or actress "playing" the role of a special operator security contractor.  These actors are very believable as hard and tough men.  The excellent screenplay comes into play again, telling their stories and creating their characters in a very minimal amount of screen time. 

 

Another completely believable aspect of the movie is how reluctant the CIA station chief in Benghazi and US military officers outside of Libya were to be courageous and do the Right Thing.   Other people have said that the CIA station chief who refused to give permission for a timely rescue has been treated harshly;  the truth is many times government officials are reluctant to jeopardize their careers without higher orders.   It happened in Benghazi, it happened again during the Mayaguez rescue operation, again during the attack on the USS Liberty.....and it will happen again in the future, when mistakes are made and no one wants to take responsibility or do the Right Thing.

 The combat scenes are very intense and bloody - not appropriate for pre-teens or sensitive people.   We get to see in very close detail how tactical  military decisions are made to fight off overwhelming odds and save the rest of the people in the CIA annex.   The tension builds and builds, and doesn't let up until either the good guys or the bad guys are dead.   We never really learn anything a out the bad guys, either who they are or why they attacked,  only they died in great numbers.  That's okay, because the story is really about the heroism of the GRS contractors who fought against hordes of Libyans.

 The location looks extremely authentic – it was filmed on the island of Malta, just off the coast of Libya itself.  The narrow streets, the stone buildings, all lend to the atmosphere of people being trapped with no escape.  

 The movie should be used as a teaching tool in the years to come.  From the very beginning of the movie, we are forced to wonder why these Americans are here.  It's not even a real country, just angry mobs with guns.  A nation is needed before you can start nation-building.   Before we send more Americans into harms way,  we should ask a question that is raised halfway through the movie - why are we in a place we didn't need to be, in a battle we don't understand.

 

Doug's Featured Review 
The Revenant
Directed by
Alejandro González Iñárritu

I have been off the grid for the last month or two.  My wife and I got it in our heads that we should move.  So…in about a two month span, we sold our home in Coon Rapids, packed everything up and moved to a log home in Clear Lake Minnesota.  It’s on the Brigg’s chain of lakes and is just 45 minutes from my office here in the Northern Suburbs.  We have all of our possessions boxed up in the garage as we work on some rehabbing projects that need to be completed before we settle in for good.  We have been breathing drywall dust and listening to the sounds of hammers pounding day and night…but we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.  With that said…Jr. and I decided it was time to take a break and go see The Revenant.

Long Story Short: (As provided by studio) While exploring the uncharted wilderness in 1823, legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) sustains injuries from a brutal bear attack. When his hunting team leaves him for dead, Glass must utilize his survival skills to find a way back home to his beloved family. Grief-stricken and fueled by vengeance, Glass treks through the wintry terrain to track down John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), the former confidant who betrayed and abandoned him.

 

 My Take:  I will jump right in by saying, and I might be in the minority here, that I felt that DiCaprio was miscast.  He just didn’t seem right for the part of mountain man.  Sure he had a beard and talked with a growl…but just not buying it.  That’s not to say, I haven’t enjoyed his acting in tons of other stuff…just not so much here.  On the other hand, Tom Hardy was incredible as his nemesis and was totally believable.  An earlier scalping by Native Americans and a face so leathered it looked like it was taken off an old catcher’s glove left nothing to remind you that this guy is normally a Hollywood pretty boy.   In my opinion, it was also the best acting performance I have seen to date for him.  He, not DiCaprio, deserves award consideration.  The movie also felt extremely long.  I can think of several scenes that just seemed to go on forever!  If a guy is crawling through the snow to try and survive…do we really need to watch him crawling for 20 minutes to get the point?  On the other hand, the cinematography was stunning.  The fantastic framing of the landscape was jaw dropping.  The epic scenery shots were filmed in Canada, Montana and parts of Argentina and were worth the price of admission.

 I enjoyed the movie…just wish a few things had been done a little different…but what do I know?

 

Jeffs's Featured Review 
Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
Directed by Francis Lawrence

Refresh your memories and hold onto your hats, because Hunger Games:  Mockingjay 2 starts off fast and right where it left off...a year ago.   Make sure you know who is who and what just happened because things start to happen fast and not everything is to the character's liking.   The first conflict is very close and personal,  and psychologically hurtful.    It throws Katniss into such a deep despair that even death seems a better choice to her.

The books may have been written for youth, but early in the movie the characters are forced to make some real grown up decisions about war and morals.   Trying to win against superior odds forces the Alliance to choose actions which differ little from Snow in the Capitol.   Art imitates life as surrendering refugees are given commands to "Get down on the ground!  Show your hands!" with such force and fear that tension builds,  and the viewer almost expects someone to be unjustly shot dead.

This movie is less about adventurous combat and more about the effects of war on people.  It's also how the justification for doing evil in the name of good seems reasonable and expedient....until the perpetrators are finally held accountable.    Including holding yourself accountable.   

 

There is enough combat and action in the movie to make fans happy.   The level of violence and gore is manageable, even for pre-teens.   However, the battle in the flooded tunnels is so intense that it might be prudent to watch it through a screen of fingers before the eyes.    I doesn't help that a beloved character and hero dies a gruesome death.

Katniss is not motivated by strategic goals, or support for the revolution....early on the movie, she is driven by pure revenge and hate.   And nearly everyone around her suffers.   At the climax of the movie,  she reclaims her pure, good intentions.....and causes Snow to die a far more horrible death than she had hoped to inflict on him by her own hand.

The end of the movie treats us to a beautiful sunset and idyllic countryside.   Katniss' final words could easily be said by any veteran that survived a protracted, painful conflict.   We should listen to all of what they tell us.

 

 

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