FRUITVALE STATION [2013] movie review – recommended

December 22, 2013

I am not good at becoming aware of emotional manipulation in movies.  I let the director tell the story and if she/he wants me to feel sad, happy, excited, I do not question it, just feel it, if they have the skill to make me feel anything.  I was not in the U.S. at the time of the real life events at Fruitvale Station, so I was unfamiliar with it.  FRUITVALE STATION [2013], the movie, was prefaced with a based on a true story tagline, but for me I had no idea what happened so I did not know the ending.  I should have known the ending could not be good, because if had all turned out well, then a movie probably would not have been made about the story. [Read more]

BEFORE MIDNIGHT [2013] movie review

December 20, 2013

It only occurred to me while watching this third movie in the Jesse & Celine story, BEFORE MIDNIGHT [2013], that I am basically the same age they are and how my own life beats have been somewhat in tune with theirs.  I actually was planning to never watch this movie because I hold BEFORE SUNRISE [1995] in such high regard in my memory, and that BEFORE SUNSET [2004] did not ruin things, so taking a second risk seemed too much.  Ultimately, I am both glad and not so glad that I watched BEFORE MIDNIGHT, but I do realize it is something I had to. [Read more]

THE KINGS OF SUMMER [2013] movie review

December 14, 2013

I needed counter-programing to balance out the CGI onslaught from seeing DESOLATION OF SMAUG last night, so a movie I have had on standby for nearly two months, THE KINGS OF SUMMER [2013], served nicely as a coming of age tale about three teen boys running away from home lives they could no longer tolerate to build their own house in a hidden glen in the woods. [Read more]


December 14, 2013

I have to unfortunately preface this review by saying yet another movie experience was ruined by fools addicted to their cell phones.  These were not even punk kids, but a middle-aged couple (woman in a wheelchair no less) flashing their phones out checking texts, especially during the end of the movie.  I had to ask them to stop several times and they still persisted.  Just disgusted by the absolute cell phone addiction in society.

It was not going to be a positive review of THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG [2013] anyway, but it did not help to have my theater experience ruined.  I just saw a reviewer on IMDB call Peter Jackson’s Hobbit story a reimagining, and that has just greatly helped me put things in perspective.  This is the setup for the larger Lord of the Rings story that was just not present in the book version of The Hobbit.  Still, hinting at an elf-dwarf romance??

My criticisms are basically repeats of the ones from the first Hobbit movie, the action sequences are so beyond ludicrous in their complexity and danger that every character on screen would have zero chance of surviving.  One gets hit by a single arrow in the leg this time, that’s it.  It just makes the action have no consequence.

Gandalf continues to be the best character on screen in any movie.  SMAUG opens with a quiet flashback talk in Bree between Gandalf and Thorin.  What Jackson excels at is creating the world of Middle Earth from its look to its atmosphere.  Coming out of the rain in Bree, I could feel the cold and weariness Thorin must feel from seeing the visuals on screen.

The best scene in both Hobbit movies by far involved Gandalf in a direct clash with the dark power of the Necromancer.  On a narrow stone bridge, casting out his sphere of white light bombarded by the dark light of the Necromancer, that scene was pure fantasy and it delighted me.  I felt privy to a different world.

However, another Jackson weakness is when he cuts scenes.  Bilbo about to finally descend down a secret passage in the side of the Lonely Mountain to face the dragon, it was built up so well, boom, cut to Gandalf.  I would have liked to have let that Bilbo scene play out without interruption.

I was pleased finally when we got the first conversation between Bilbo and the dragon Smaug, with Bilbo bragging about being a Barrel Rider among other titles and Smaug letting him boast for awhile.  That was believable.  Smaug chasing around Bilbo and all the other dwarves and not even injuring a single one of them, preposterously unbelievable.

Then the movie just ends.  For readers of the book knowing the story, it is especially abrupt.  I was actually expecting at least 30 more minutes of movie!  Come next November I will rematch SMAUG in the unbreakable silence of my own home and relish seeing Gandalf do battle again, but I am sorry to say probably not much else.

UPDATE:  November 29, 2014

Rewatched SMAUG this evening and was not in unbreakable silence as I am currently homeless…but upon a second viewing I feel I liked SMAUG a bit better having been prepared for ludicrous action scenes.  I feel I picked up on a little more of the expanded LOTR universe being shown in the Hobbit movies that is not present or fleshed out in the book.  Still, I think it would be hard for Smaug to not kill a dwarf trying his best not to harm them moving around in tight quarters, never mind every one getting out without a scratch.  Despite all this, I am looking forward to THE BATTLE OF FIVE ARMIES, after all, the marketing was effective, it will be one last time in Middle Earth.

RUBY IN PARADISE [1993] movie review – recommended

December 7, 2013

As an avid movie watcher of many genres, I am always on the lookout for hidden gems and often decide to watch a movie the same day just because I heard some random recommendation of it. Such was the case today with RUBY IN PARADISE [1993], which I had never heard of before until it was mentioned in passing in a Dear Abbey type advice column in the newspaper. I saw that it starred a young Ashley Judd and the source of the recommendation intrigued me, so I tracked the movie down and indeed was very pleased to discover this gentle, hidden gem of a movie. [Read more]

PRISONERS [2013] movie review – recommended

December 6, 2013

It is not possible to review PRISONERS [2013] in any detail other than to mention the basic premise of the story and then say the first half of the movie is a slow burn where you doubt if the movie is any good and going to be any good. Then the second half of the movie accelerates the unfolding of the story until the final credits come and the viewer is left with no doubt that this was a hauntingly, special thriller. [Read more]