The Changeling

Mysteries are great. I love when I piece together significant things to paint a picture of the end. The Changeling is one such movie and a true story.

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Changeling
Cast

Angelina Jolie, Colm Feore, Amy Ryan, Gattlin Griffith

Directed by

Clint Eastwood

Written by

J. Michael Straczynski

Other Info

Biography, Crime, Drama, History, Mystery, Thriller
R
Fri 31 Oct 2008 UTC
141min
IMDB Rating: 7.8

In the early days of Los Angeles, there was some intermingling between police and mob business. You see it reflected here. Beyond that, the police department was responsible for some really shady stuff on its own. This story chronicles some of that. I really liked the vintage cars and costumes, what I didn’t like was seeing such corruption from the very people who are supposed to protect and serve. We ca only hope times have changed since then.

The rest of this review may contain spoilers

Angelina Jolie’s character loses her son one day. By that, I mean she comes home and finds her 10-year-old missing. She naturally calls the police and a search ensues over weeks. At this point something so bizarre and unbelievable happens. Flabbergasted viewers must remember: this is a true story.

The police call her saying they have her son when in fact it is clearly not her son. She tells them so but they insist. It even gets so pushy on their part that eventually they have her illegally committed to a mental ward.

This is one part of the film. The other is woven as a texture and it involves the real fate of her son. Why the police pull this odd switcheroo on the mother is never completely revealed but I would figure it had something to do with PR in a pedo/murder case that they are making no progress on. They wanted the press to show progress so they did what they did..

After some really good drama/thriller stuff, the location of the pedo is found. We surmise Walter was killed there. Then the film begins to really feature Malkovich. He plays the preacher in a local church with a lot of political complaints. He is really her only hope when the police turn against her.

All in all, this is an amazing thriller with a compelling true story-line. All the acting is great and the costumes/props are vintage to a fault. I recommend this film for fans of the major actors in it as well as for fans of the thriller/crime genre.

The Story of Us

Some movies are feel-good the whole way through. Others are just sad. Others still take you through ups and downs to leave you sighing because you have just experienced life as it is, or almost anyway. This film is definitely one of those. I won’t call it feel good but it can still be called a romantic comedy. Hat tip on this one to Rob Reiner.

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The Story of Us
Cast

Bruce Willis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Colleen Rennison, Jake Sandvig

Directed by

Rob Reiner

Written by

Alan Zweibel, Jessie Nelson

Other Info

Comedy, Drama, Romance
R
Fri 15 Oct 1999 UTC
95min
IMDB Rating: 5.9

Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer play a couple who have been married for 15 years and have reached the breaking point. It’s a series of flashblacks intermingled with present day challenges. There are some real keen insights into marriage: what works and what takes years to work out.

The rest of the review may contain spoilers

They have two kids, which makes the film more heart-rending. In one scene their daughter lays in bed with them pulling their hands together, very touching. You go through the whole movie asking yourself if they will get back together. In fact, you sometimes hope they won’t, the fighting is stressful to watch. You ask yourself if she has a real gripe with him because he “talked intimately” with another woman at work. She caught wind of it and initiated the separation. The issue of affairs and what really constitutes one comes up again and again.

It seems to me there were a lot of conflicts prior to the questionable “talking.” As you watch the film it seems questionable whether they should have ever gotten together at all. She is a mathematical, ordered thinker whereas his head is in the cloud. Can an analytical type ever be happy with an artist? That’s another question brought up here again and again.

It’s a movie singles and couples can enjoy. If you don’t identify with the couple, perhaps you were the children at a younger age. The great thing about this film is that it dares to present real people. I’ll take that over a fake romance, unless I want to watch fake romance, which from time to time I do, then I wouldn’t watch this. Still, I’m glad it’s here, I’m glad this film was made.

Doctor Strange

This film is very good. The visuals are probably the best feature but it has a solid cast, good acting, and a very able hero to add to the Marvel film universe. There were several times I lost interest in the characters and what they were doing, a better story with more aside type humor might have helped that.

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Doctor Strange
Cast

Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong

Directed by

Scott Derrickson

Written by

Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson

Other Info

Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
PG-13
Fri 04 Nov 2016 UTC
115min
IMDB Rating: 7.5

This film is serious, that’s for sure. It starts out with a doctor making life or death choices in surgery. From there is transfers to Hong Kong and the focus is on learning martial arts and a Zen mindset. My 9-year-old found these parts very boring. To me, they were ok in that they were part of the machine of telling the story. I did think those scenes could have been eliminated in retrospect.

There is a villain and he is certainly hated and scary. It is unclear where he gets his powers though and so he seems flat. It would be nice to get more back story on him. The visuals, mostly CGI, are stunning and they really drew me in. This idea of “folding in” dimensions one upon another is hypnotic and this part of the story is told well.

Tis film is very polarized on its hero. I would have liked to see his relationship with his colleague/lover developed. This could have opened our minds more to his motivation. As it is, the first half of the movie is basically just life events that lead up to the car accident. The second half is him flailing to find a way to make his hands stop shaking. That is the only motivation in the film really.

There is a lot of action here. If you want something visually stunning, Doctor Strange is for you. Some viewers might find the focus on training a bit long but there is plenty of action here as well. I guess I would have liked to see this film “get to it” sooner but then again, I am not familiar with the comic book storyline. I would definitely recommend this film to Marvel comic fans and those interested in Eastern meditation, martial arts, and the Doctor Strange character.

Donnie Darko

Weird things are just simple things you don’t understand yet. For many, this film appears weird but I would argue it’s not quite as weird once you have a little research under your belt and of course, you actually sit down and watch it, credits to credits. If you have done those things, I’ll bet it’s less weird for you. Am I right?

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Donnie Darko
Cast

Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne

Directed by

Richard Kelly

Written by

Richard Kelly

Other Info

Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
R
Fri 26 Oct 2001 UTC
113min
IMDB Rating: 8.1

Jake Gyllenhaal plays this evil-eyed high school kid very well. He is haunted by this vision of an evil bunny. The research I alluded to in my introduction will tell you what that’s all about as well as how he cheats death in the beginning of the film. After that, he is unwittingly on a journey to understand the bunny and his own mental health issues. 

Donnie is seeing a therapist. She increases his medication which seemingly should make the evil bunny go away but it does not. We can only reason from that he is not a hallucination. When we start understanding more about this creepy bunny, the film takes a strange Ray Bradbury-like turn and if you can follow this as a sci-fi film, the creepy turns to sensibility.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying this film s simple ir that most viewers will “get it.” I am saying, just like Bird Man, you can read many interpretations into this. It has multiple meanings and all can be successfully argued.

I think I can safely say you will not understand this film without reading something about it on the internet. I’ve read quite a few lengthy posts about it. The general idea put forth is that there are 2 realities: the real life one and some other-worldly dimension. I’ll let you chew on that and see if you agree once you see it. I think the ending is great, it shows Donnie to have the capability of being self-less. Incidentally there are a lot of great names in this film. You have some great actors giving excellent performances. In my closing words I would just reiterate that this film is not weird. I would encourage interested parties to look around at some interpretations online and then make your own. I do wish more was explained but that’s my only criticism. I recommend this one to ’80’s movie’ fans, sci-fi geeks, and dark movie fans.

Breaking Bad

A beleaguered teacher who becomes a meth dealer, now there’s an idea for a series! At this point, I’m not sure who hasn’t seen Breaking Bad. If you haven’t, I’ll give you quick run-down on why I think it’s a great watch.

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Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life
Cast

Griffin Gluck, Lauren Graham, Alexa Nisenson, Andrew Daly

Directed by

Steve Carr

Written by

Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer

Other Info

Animation, Comedy, Family
PG
Fri 07 Oct 2016 UTC
92min
IMDB Rating: 6.1

Walt is nothing like me. I’m a 4th grade teacher, he’s a high school chemistry teacher. He’s unhappy in his married, I’m quite happy. The one thing he has going for him that I identify with is the desire for something better. He wants better healthcare and instead of waiting for the union to come through for him, he takes the situation into his own hands.

Through the course of a few episode he becomes a meth maker and small time distributor. The drama follows that as well as the rapidly deterioration of his marriage. His wife is a total bitch. I can’t really blame him for wanting to get out f the house. She dreams up ideas that he should do and then forces him into them. You get the fleeting notion from time to time there was once something between them but as for the now, the marriage is on its last leg.

Walt partners up with an ex-student Jesse who knows the street smarts of the game. Between the two of them they rake in cash along with mounds of trouble. It seems the more they make, the closer they come to being caught or killed. They have adventures involving local drug rings and you get to see the dark side of all that.

In conclusion, this show has a lot of cool action sequences and certainly some well-written drama. Still, it also has a lot of dry episodes where literally nothing happens except that the cactus grows. If you ca hang in there through these episodes, the story is great and enjoyable up until the final episode. I recommend it as an excellent binge watch.

Army of One

Nicolas Cage in a comedy based on a true story about a guy who goes to hunt Bin Laden? Hmm, I said to myself when I heard that. This one is about 2 steps removed from reality in the way Nacho Libre is. It’s entertaining because it’s ridiculous.

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Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life
Cast

Griffin Gluck, Lauren Graham, Alexa Nisenson, Andrew Daly

Directed by

Steve Carr

Written by

Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer

Other Info

Animation, Comedy, Family
PG
Fri 07 Oct 2016 UTC
92min
IMDB Rating: 6.1

Nicolas Cage plays this guy who has bad kidneys, works as a part-time construction worker, and is obsessed with his mission from God. He needs dialysis a couple of times a week and if he doesn’t get it, he hallucinates. In the film, God is played by Russell Brand which is kind of fitting in the most ironic way possible. I always picture Brand barefoot talk 100 words a second. That’s about what they made him look like as God.

Cage’s love interest, Wendi McLendon-Covey from the Goldbergs and Reno 911, does a great job of falling for him. Their relationship is innocent and she can’t put any expectations on him because he’s just an impulsive freak. Still, there are some touching moments between them. Their relationship is a lot of fun to watch in this film while other parts maybe aren’t so much.

I think the scenes in Pakistan are my favorite. That’s when the movie puts it money where its mouth is. After all, you are now in a different country watching him and everything looks like you really are in Pakistan. The best scene in this setting has to be when he hang-glides down from the mountains in a red white and Blue flag hang glider.

This is a bad movie, make no mistake. I had a chuckle or two because it was an assignment for my podcast discussion group. Having said that, there is something special about directors and movies that just don’t care about appeal. I thought Nacho Libre was in that category. It’s one to laugh at in its incredulity. This is one you will laugh about and share at the thanksgiving table. I only hope for your family’s sake you have no access to play it for anyone.

The Accountant

I love watching a film I know hardly anything about that has mediocre scores on Rotten Tomatoes and that surprises the hell out of me to be on my best films of the year list. Watching the Accountant was like that for me.

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The Accountant
Cast

Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal

Directed by

Gavin O'Connor

Written by

Bill Dubuque

Other Info

Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller
R
Fri 14 Oct 2016 UTC
128min
IMDB Rating: 7.4

The rest of this review may contain spoilers

This is a film of two worlds: 1) a history and upbringing of an autistic boy and 2) The path of adulthood and a career for that boy after becoming a man. As it turns out, high functioning autistic people make ingenious accountants. Ben Affleck is this man and he is so good, many underground crime bosses use him to “uncook” their books. Let me reiterate, he is really good at it.

We are catapulted from stories of his youth where his father mercilessly trains him to fight a exist alone to his life as a criminal accountant who’s cool as a cucumber. If you heard he was doing well and not getting caught year after year, you might think to yourself, “Ok, so what’s the problem. This guy has it made.” Wrong. There are some real issues that would prevent the average person from being happy in his shoes. First, he can’t have relationships. His autism gives him tunnel vision and he is literally unable to walk away from projects. He attempts a relationship with Anna Kendrick but it never really pans out because of his disorder. In more than one way, it gets in the way.

In this film we see what Affleck’s character can do as a result of his father’s horrifying training. He is a machine when it comes to fighting. He is able to see details no one else does and this makes him not only an accounting weapon but also what we might call a para-military soldier and killer.

So, these are just some if the amazingly creative particulars written into this gem of a film. Affleck is at the top of his game. There are many shoot-em-ups from which he generally emerges victorious. I loved every minute of this film. They say people with autism are on a different level than the rest of us. This film shows that shouldn’t be looked down on. Someone with autism, trained in this way, could save the world. Would he be happy though? The jury’s still out.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

This Jerry Bruckheimer production truly “brings it.” On the heels of Pirates of the Carribean, this mega-producer was able to produce another highly entertaining Summer swashbuckler for Disney. It is partially based on the popular video game of the same name.

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Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Cast

Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina

Directed by

Mike Newell

Written by

Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro

Other Info

Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Romance
PG-13
Fri 28 May 2010 UTC
116min
IMDB Rating: 6.6

Jake Gyllenhaal (Jake from here on out) plays Dastan, a street rat who becomes a prince. Sound familiar? No, actually other than that there are no parallels to Alladin. He obtains a dagger that is able to rewind time one minute in duration. Naturally everyone wants this dagger so he must keep it safe. Gemma Arterton is the beautiful princess who is charged with the task of getting it back from him. Dastan wrongly believes she wants HIM and not the dagger, as every prince probably would, but he is mistaken. Their romantic comedy banter back and forth is some of my favorite stuff from this film.

There are a couple of actor heavyweights in the film as: Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina. They bring a stoic feeling to the film. Both are very physical in the film, along with Jake. They appear to do many of their own stunts including Alfred Molina’s harrowing scene when he kisses an ostrich. I understand these are mean animals and yet, they manage to be ridden in the film without the use of CGI. Quite amazing if you asked me.

The film looks like a sword and sandal epic but feels just short of it at times. It isn’t a bad movie but it’s not as good as The Gods of Egypt or The 300. The story is a bit complex and I think could have been more engaging if it were whittled down and simplified a bit. Despite poor reviews and some stale audience periods, It did gross over 300 million dollars so something definitely is there that kept people swiping their cards and slapping down bills at the box office. I would recommend this film for fans of Jake or possibly the video game (I’ve never played it) but ony after you’ve seen everything else he’s done. I think you’ll find it a lot of fun in a branched off performance for him.

10 Films and Film Moments that Scared Me

I’ll be appearing as a guest on the LAMBcast as part of a panel discussing “Films That Scared Us.” I thought it would be fun, as I’m preparing for that, to write a post about 10 films that scared me through the years.

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I also think it’s fitting since we are on the doorstep of Halloween. I’ve given 2 categories of scary: 1. Scary Films that are totally creepy in their totality or in a general way and 2. Scary film moments.

Scary Films
Halloween

Tusk

The Descent

Insidious

The Funhouse

2. Scary film moments
The Village – “Creatures that we don’t speak of” walk by.

The Other – Pitchfork jump.

Jaws – Shark eats Quint

Pet Sematary – Zelda

The Silence of the Lambs – Hannibal’s Escape