Fences

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

A platform for tremendous acting by Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, it’s a great way for those of us who haven’t seen the play on Broadway to experience this well written production. Yes, a movie version of a play, with most scenes set in the backyard, or kitchen, of an old brownstone in Pittsburgh in the late 1950s. Lot of talking from the lead character played by Denzel, a blowhard, a has been baseball star (from the Negro leagues before blacks were allowed in Major League Baseball), a hard working, hard drinking family man who beats down his teenage son verbally while ostensibly instilling discipline and forcing him down a reasonable career in his eyes and not following his own path of refuse collector/driver. The second half allows Viola to come to the front and take charge of the household when her husband stumbles. Solid film, just not too exciting or compelling enough for me to rave about.

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Rogue One

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

First, let’s see if this film follows the legacy of its predecessors. Does it focus on a young warrior who has father issues? Check. Does the main bad guy wear a billowing cape? Check. Is the fate of the galaxy in jeopardy? Check. Are the foot soldiers of the bad guys in full armor uniforms where they all look alike, faces covered, and just get mowed down while having terrible aim and slow reactions? Check, check, check. Is there a funny robot? Check.

So far, so good, although not many surprises. Now more questions that arose for me while I watched. Why do so many vehicles and equipment in this super advanced society have steam shooting out of them? (my best guess: the better to appear dramatic and give the good guys cover). Where is the wind that causes the bad guys cape to billow when he’s standing literally in outer space? (guess: maybe it’s the air rushing out of the spaceship?). Why do most of the characters have English accents? (guess: the best actors are English, right? Laurence Olivier, Anthony Hopkins, Judi Dench, Sacha Baron Cohen…) When do these characters ever eat or sleep? (guess: they’re taking some kind of futuristic super amphetamine) How do they travel from one galaxy to another so quickly? (guess: worm holes, what else?) Finally, not to give too much away, but pay attention to the data warehouse of the future, where you actually have to remove the data with a mechanical arm from its slot in the shelves.

I hope I didn’t give any spoilers. Pretty fun film, good for all ages.

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Lion

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

The first half is somewhat reminiscent of Slumdog Millionaire in that it focuses on the plight of a 5 year old boy from a poor rural family in India. He and his older brother, whom he adores, spend their days jumping freight trains to steal coal, then turn over their booty to their hard working mom. It’s not much of a spoiler to disclose that the boy gets lost, and without cell phones, or even phones, or even a correct town name or name of his mother other than mum, there’s no chance he will be found. Stuck in a child’s prison (aka an “orphanage”), he ends up being adopted by a family in Australia, and the rest I will not tell here. The actor playing the young boy is amazing, and the scenes of beauty (at first, by his home) and then chaos (in Calcutta) and danger at every turn are amazing. It got a little slow for me when 20 years go by and the boy is now living a normal life in Tasmania (more amazing scenery by the coast). It picks up at the end, and what an ending. Dev Patel as the grown up boy, and Rooney Mara as his love interest, are both very good. Nicole Kidman as his adoptive mother I thought was a little overly dramatic. Very cool photos during the credits of the actual boy/man whose story the movie is based on. Highly recommended for ALL ages.

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

I liked this as well and for many of the reasons that Bill articulated.  While this shows great beauty in India it also shows tremendous poverty and the incredibly tough life the poor have.  As Bill states, both actors playing Saroo are excellent (Dev Patel starred in Slumdog Millionaire also).  A very moving ending and definitely stay during the closing credits.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

Arrival

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

I agree with one reviewer’s characterization of Arrival as achieving what Interstellar tried (and failed) at, as a “thinking person’s movie”. I suggest that you not read any reviews in advance of seeing this film, so that you go in like me, having no idea of the plot or character elements beyond the most basic:  alien spaceships have arrived on (or over!) Earth and Amy Adams’ linguistic expert character, teamed with Jeremy Renner’s scientist, try to help the US government figure out what they want. The slow unraveling of this mystery is masterfully done, with soundtrack, cinematography, and hints at what is happening doled out to the viewer. It’s tense, it’s fun, it’s scary in a non-typical alien disaster movie way.  It gets a little slow at times for me. Amy Adams is great, as usual. And it resonates with today’s global political climate. I walked out proud to have figured out the plot, with a little help from my wife, and admiring how it was woven together. Unlike when I left Interstellar, furiously disputing the outlandish logic and plot elements. Arrival is terrific, highly recommended for all ages, say 12 and above!

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