The World’s End

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

It starts out in one direction – 40-something never-was Gary decides to recreate the highlight of his life, at 17 when he and his 4 buddies went on a legendary pub crawl in his town (but never made it past the 6th of 12 pubs, so now he’s determined to make it all the way to the 12th pub, The World’s End) – then about when I was asking my wife why she picked this film it gets WEIRD, and my jaw dropped and the fun begins. Luckily I hadn’t read any reviews or seen any trailers so I will not give away any surprises here, and encourage you to see this movie pronto. Do not watch the trailer, do not read any reviews beyond this, and you will laugh your ass off. It’s just crazy, and the actors are terrific, especially Simon Pegg as Gary, the leader of the 5 Musketeers.

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

I agree with Bill that this is an excellent movie and is definitely worth seeing. This one is brought to you by the same people who did Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. All three have been written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, directed by Wright, and star Simon Pegg. They are all extremely funny and deal with friendship, but are not thematically related. If you liked those other films, you will also enjoy this one.

I will try not to give too much away either, except to say:

– This joins my list of this summer’s movies with robots.

– This would make a great summer of 2013 double-feature if paired with This is The End.

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In a World…

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

For all those looking for a good feminist movie, In a World… is the top choice this weekend. For others that are looking for a good romantic comedy, this is also a very good choice.

Lake Bell writes, directs and stars in her directorial debut. Lake, who majored in speech and drama in college in London, plays a vocal coach trying to break into the male-dominated voice-over business for movies and commercials. The business is dominated by a few men, including her father played by Fred Malamed who discourages her at every opportunity. Bell and Malamed do some great voice-over work and Bell does some very funny voice bits while coaching others. The title is from the signature line of ‘The voice of God’, Don Lafontaine who was the voice-over king until his death in 2008. Bell ends up competing for voice-over work that will resurrect the ‘In a World ‘ intro. The voice-over scenes include a very funny fake trailer of a Hunger Games-type movie.

Besides her career aspirations, the movie intertwines three couples (those of Lake Bell, her father, and her sister) working through their various issues. In addition to good performances by Bell and Malamed, there is good supporting work from Rob Corddry, Alexander Holden, Demetri Martin, and Ken Marino (as another voice-over star).

I was at a screening with Lake Bell in attendance, and she was as down-to-earth as her character in the movie. This film is definitely worth seeing.

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The Butler

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

It’s a civil rights history lesson through the eyes of Cecil (excellent Forest Whitaker) from seeing his family brutalized in the cotton plantation in 1926, through his tutorship in how to be the perfect house negro and ultimately butler for four presidents. The story is fictional but inspired by a real person. Cecil displays his two faces (one toward the white folks) while witnessing the Selma riots, freedom riders, Martin Luther King, rise of the Black Panthers to the present day election of Barack Obama. Much of the drama is based on his relationship with his (along with his wife – a believable Oprah) oldest son, Louis, who is embarassed by his father’s servile ways.

I enjoyed the journey, which was neither overly dramatic nor too comedic. I didn’t learn much, except for the shock of seeing how blacks could be openly gunned down in 1926 south without fear of retribution. The most eloquent and insightful defense of the black service profession comes from Dr. King, in a couple of short sentences he directs toward Louis. The only false or contrived note is the juxtoposition of Cecil having short interactions with several presidents immediately followed by a change of heart and the president next seen pushing civil rights legislation. Ultimately it’s an inspiring film, and I recommend it.

The Act of Killing

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

In 1965 Indonesia was overthrown by the military and death squads killed over a million communists, native Chinese and intellectuals with the knowledge/approval of the military.  None of these people have ever been brought to justice and are still treated as heroes and with respect in Indonesia.

The Act of Killing is a fascinating and disturbing documentary focusing on some of these murderers.  They have no remorse and this film puts a human face on these people who have performed inhuman acts.  They recreate some of these acts for the film because they think it is necessary to resent their side for history.   At the end of the recreations you see the impact of these acts of horror on the people acting in the scenes even if, for the most part, the original perpetrators still don’t.

Some of this movie is tough to watch.  other parts are actually funny (as when one person decides to run for elected office).  Before the film stated there was a short intro by the director.  He said he didn’t really expect people to enjoy the film but hoped they would find it interesting and thought provoking.  This film isn’t for everyone but it is definitely achieves the directors goals.

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The Spectacular Now

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

The other repeating theme (besides robots) from this summer’s movies is coming-of-age stories. This film is about Sutter (Miles Teller), a high school senior. Sutter is enjoying life to the fullest, but is a budding alcoholic who doesn’t worry/plan for his future and has issues due to no father at home.

After he and his girlfriend break up, Sutter meets Aimee (Shailene Woodley) when he wakes up hung-over on some random front lawn. He lives by the spur of the moment and for the spectacular now, while she is more laid back and future-thinking. They help each other grow, but of course also have issues. I thought they both gave very good performances. This also has good supporting performances by Kyle Chandler and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Sutter’s parents.

The Spectacular Now was written by the same folks who wrote (500) Days of Summer, another movie  I really liked. They did not go for the easy, predictable resolution at the end. This film is definitely worth seeing.

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

This reminded me of one of my favorite movies of last year, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. This film focuses on a charismatic, charming, savvy beyond his years, high school outsized personality (that’s Sutter played by a spectacular Miles Teller), comparable to Ezra Miller’s Patrick character in Perks, who develops a close bond with a seemingly naive, nerdish outcast (Aimee, by also spectacular Shailene Woodley, incredibly likeable and natural), comparable to Logan Lerman’s Charlie in Perks, and they are both transformed. The theme is a love for life, a realization that you can live your life as your true self and find people who love you as you are. You can have people in your life who disappoint you or even hate you and rise above it. You can be hit with what appears to be horrible experiences in high school and not only survive, but move on to an exciting future. This film, same as Perks, has an inspiring life affirming message that is appropriate for kids of all ages. I would especially encourage teenagers to enjoy this film.

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Elysium

Bill C’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

I had high expectations for Elysium after watching coming attractions for this movie all summer. It has Matt Damon, who has been great in action movies with the Bourne series, and is directed by Neil Blomkamp who made the highly entertaining District 9. This movie was ok, but did not live up to my expectations.

The 1% have now left earth to live in a utopia orbiting earth with machines that can cure any medical problem, while the downtrodden 99% struggle to live on a polluted, decimated earth. Elysium is protected by ‘Homeland Security’ run by Jodie Foster. I usually like Jodie Foster. While she successfully comes across as evil, she has a really weird accent and overall I didn’t like her performance at all.

Matt Damon’s character has had a tough life and is trying to get his life together. But due to circumstances beyond his control, he needs to join up with the resistance to try to reach Elysium and save the 99%. Damon, as usual is good. I also liked many of the action scenes. The first half was better than the second half, and I didn’t really like the ending.  SPOILER ALERT ON  This also had one of my pet peeves on movies with computers being key parts of the plot: when computer screens have random numbers and characters scrolling on and off the screen faster than any human being can read them, it is not possible for the person who has never been exposed to that program to figure out what the program does, how it does it, and to immediately provide his desired input to the program in seconds to save mankind. SPOILER ALERT OFF

This movie joins my growing list of this summer’s films that have robots! This movie is ok…but if you haven’t seen it, stay home and watch District 9 instead.

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Elysium

2 Guns

Bill C’s Review – 3  out of 5

I didn’t have high expectations for this one but I was pleasantly surprised. The plot is ridiculous as is much of the action. This is a buddy-cop movie and what makes it entertaining are the performances. Denzel Washington is good in anything he does and the pairing with Mark Wahlberg works well. Their banter pretty much makes the movie. Bill Paxton is also good as the ove-the-top dirty CIA agent and Paula Patton as Washington’s love interest.

If you don’t like violence (especially against chickens), you might want to avoid this. It’s not the best movie of the summer, but you could do worse.

Bill I’s Review – 3  out of 5

Lot of fun, and yes, nutty unbelievable plot, but the repartee between Markie and Denzel is perfect, and the action never stops. The bad guys (mostly our government agents) are super bad, lots of bullets flying, point blank killing and things blowing up, but it somehow seems fresh, Tarantino-like, including the quips in the midst of the violence. I love watching Paula Patton but she seemed the least believable character. I had heard her real-life husband (Robin Thicke of recent Blurred Lines fame) describe how it was Paula’s idea to do the love scene with Denzel fully topless, and I have to say that was a good call. Perfect summer movie, no thinking needed.

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Blue Jasmine

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

I am going against the grain here, where Rotten Tomatoes rated it an 87, I was underwhelmed and left wondering where all the laughs are. Ultimately I see this as another typical latter-stage Woody plot centered on infidelity among the upper class, in this case embodied by Alec Baldwin as a Madoff-like financial manipulator and Cate Blanchett as the ultimate society climbing wife. Actually, Alec has has his comeuppance by the first scene, so his story is told in flashbacks, while Cate has to move in with her blue collar sister (a very watchable Sally Hawkins), who tends to gravitate toward “loser” boyfriends, played very well by Andrew Dice Clay (first husband) and Bobby Carnavale (current lover). The most fascinating aspect of the film is Cate Blanchett’s tour de force of this unstable, narcissistic character. The plot is unsurprising, the characters are mostly cliches (oh wow, Dice Clay and Canavale talk this “dis” and like simple things like watching football on TV with their beer drinking buddies). And the ultimate second husband material Cate finds, played by Peter Sarsgaard, is too good to be true: a diplomat with political aspirations, he’s single, super rich and needs a wife to move to Vienna with him. The most subversive scene that p-d me off is when Cate finally figures out that Alex has been cheating on him (for years). Like Woody must have been confronted by Mia over his Soon-yi affair ( remember “the heart wants what the heart wants”), Alec is confronted by Cate. She’s a hysterical mess, screaming, mascara running, while he’s super cool, calm and civilized, asking to talk it over and figure out how to divorce so they can move on with their lives. Oh really, Woody, is that how it was? Yuck! Anyway, if you want to see Cate Blanchett do her thing, have fun. But there’s not that much that’s actually funny to see.

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

While I agree with much of what Bill says I liked this movie more than Bill did.  Possibly I was helped by Bill’s review and was not expecting a comedy and view this more as a drama.

I thought both Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins were great.   Cate is able to show an amazing variety of emotions in a single scene.  I also like the performances of Canavale, Louis CK and Dice Clay.  Clay was sort of playing the stereotypical version of himself but he was good at it.  I agree with Bill on Peter Saarsgard – he was ok but the character was too good to be true and too convenient for the the story.

I liked the way the story wasn’t told in a straight linear fashion and for me there were enough surprises in the plot for me to find this interesting.  I liked this and recommend it although there’s a lot of other interesting movies worth seeing right now as well.

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The Attack

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I had no intention of seeing a film about the Israeli Arab conflict, focused on a terrorist attack. But I listened to one of Bill and Bill’s faithful readers (my mother!) and went to The Attack, and was very glad I did. It is centered on an Arabic surgeon (Amin) who’s living a fairly easy life in Tel Aviv, with a wife he loves (Siham) and the respect of his peers. In fact the film opens with Amin’s winning the local medical equivalent of an Academy Award, but pretty soon a suicide bomber blows up a restaurant and Amin’s in the OR pulling shrapnel out of the bodies of child victims. The gruesome scenes are held to a minimum, while the movie turns into a whodunit and why-done-it, with Amin at the center. We have his point of view as he navigates the multiple levels of secrecy and conspiracy in the various entities. The story walks successfully in a fine line, hearing perspectives from real people on each side of the conflict, and I never felt manipulated to one or the other side’s point of view. Amir’s journey is tortourous but necessary, and he angers both the Israeli’s and the Muslims equally. I don’t think this is a spoiler to tell you that ultimately Amir declines to help propogate the endless cycle of revenge-motivated violence. This is a terrific film, not a tear jerker at all, and I highly recommend it!

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

This is a really good movie on a couple of levels.

From a personal perspective, it’s the story of Amin whose seemingly perfect life – great career, great friends, loving wife –  is literally blown to bits when a terrorist commits a totally unfathomable act. He goes on a quest to Nablus and to understand how such a thing could happen and learns some truths about himself and what his life has in store for him.

This movie also does a really good job of showing both sides of the conflict and how a solution is nowhere in sight. You can see the total lack of trust and common ground.

This movie is definitely worth seeing.

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