Life Itself

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

Life Itself is a great biographical documentary about film critic Roger Ebert.  The movie spans his entire life including a significant amount of filming during Ebert’s final weeks as he finally succumbed to cancer.

The film is a moving tribute and shows Ebert, warts and all, from his days breaking into newspapers while still a teenager, his ascension as a critic while battling alcoholism, a nuanced view of his pairing with fellow critic Gene Siskel, finding his soul mate later in life, and finally his brave and very open battle with cancer.

The film is directed by Steve James, who is most famous for Hoop Dreams.  It’s a very emotional movie movie with a lot of humor as well.  Some people might find parts of this movie tough to watch due to the toll that his illness took on him and the physical problems that he faced, but this is a film well worth seeing.

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Lucy

Bill C’s Review – 2 out of 5

I knew from the previews that the plot of Lucy made little sense, but since the film was directed by Luc Besson, I hoped the action would make up for it.  Unfortunately, it didn’t.

Scarlett Johansson stars as Lucy and does a fine job.  She is happy-go-lucky until drug dealers use her as a drug smuggling mule by implanting a new drug in her stomach. Things go from bad to worse as the bag of drugs break, causing Lucy to utilize 100% of her brain power. (Luckily, Morgan Freeman is giving a lecture so we know humans only use 10%). This turns her into a vengeful superhuman fighting machine. Up to this point, the film had lived up to my expectations of having a dumb plot, but the action did not redeem the movie either. In some ways, this film reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey as there were flashbacks to prehistoric monkeys and other animals, but that didn’t make much sense to me either.

The action was never boring, but it didn’t seem that original and when necessary, Besson seemed to just give Lucy a new super  power that didn’t have too much to do with brain power.  Lots of guys coming at you with guns? Give her the power to disarm all of them at once from a distance. No problem!

Besson has written/directed some great action movies, including District B13 (very highly recommended), Taken, La Femme Nikita, and The Transporter.  I’d recommend one of those instead of his latest film.

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Snowpiercer

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

Snowpiercer takes place in a post apocalyptic world after a plan to reverse global warming goes awry and most life on earth is wiped out as the earth is plunged into a deep freeze.    All survivors  have been riding on a super train that needs to keep moving to allow it to sustain life.   All of this is told before the opening credits.e

The class system rules on the train with the lower classes in the back doing all the work and the 1% in front living the good life.  After several years the people in back revolt.  This is an excellent sci-fi movie with excellent, varied action.   The plot is also pretty good with a lot of  surprises/twists revealed along the way.  There’s also a good mix of humor to go along with the action and serious themes.

This is directed by South Korean (this film is in English)  film maker Joon-ho Bong who is most famous for The Host a few years ago.  The cast is excellent with Tilda Swinton (almost unrecognizable) steals the movie as one of the leaders of the upper class trying to control the lower classes.

I think this just had a limited release and might be easier to find on video on demand.  it is worth looking for.

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Boyhood

Boyhood – 4.5 out of 5

I originally reviewed this at SXSW in March.  It is now being released.  So far this is my favorite movie of 2014.

This is a great movie that everyone should see when it comes out in July.  It’s a narrative that took over 12 years to make.  Richard Linklater shot for 3 days every year with the same actors telling the journey of a boy and his family as he grows from 1st grade to his first few days of college.  While Linklater had the basic arc he wanted to follow it’s interesting to watch as he weaves in the cultural events of the time into the story.  And it’s just fascinating to watch as he and his family go through change (including physical changes during those 12 years).  While nothing incredibly exciting is going on plot wise it’s just fascinating to watch.    This also had an excellent cast led by Ethan Hawke (also great in Predestination), Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane (as the boy) and Lorelei Linklater (the director’s daughter) as his sister.

This  movie packs an emotional wallop.

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