Hacksaw Ridge

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Hacksaw Ridge is based on the true story of Desmond Doss. During WWII, serving in the Pacific, he became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor while serving as a medic.

I almost felt I was getting two movies for the price of one.  The first hour is Doss growing up, family turmoil, falling in love, enlisting and standing up for his desire to serve in a capacity that does not  require him to kill.  The second half is the story of his participation in the battle for Okinawa, his incredible bravery while sticking to his principles.  The war scenes are extremely well made but also incredibly violent (so if you don’t like disturbing war images skip this film).

This is Mel Gibson’s first directorial effort in 10 years (time flies),  It’s a well made film and it does it good job in telling the story of Desmond Doss (stay for the closing credits to see pictures/interviews with Doss and others).  My biggest knock was there are parts (in both halfs) that felt formulaic and all the expected caricatures of characters in an army barracks were provided.


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Crimson Peak

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

No, Crimson Peak is not about the heydey of Harvard’s football team. It’s a warning issued by a ghost to an eight year old girl. Which raised a question for me: do ghosts know the future? I guess, at least Dickens thought so in A Christmas Carol, where  The Ghost of Things Yet to Come warns Scrooge of what lies ahead. Which raised another question for me: if the ghost takes all the effort to warn the girl, and by the way (no spoiler alert, it happens in the first couple of minutes), it’s her dead mother warning her little girl, couldn’t the ghost be a little more specific? I mean, who knows what she means by Crimson Peak? How is that exactly going to help her? And why scare the hell out of her in the meantime?

Anyway, this is a very well done film, kept my attention with an interesting plot and excellent scenery, acting, and cinematography. I don’t seek out horror movies, but this movie has just enough creepiness where I was never too grossed out or even too scared. I recommend you see it! Don’t bring your pre-teens though.

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Bill asks  excellent questions.  Especially the ones about why not be  more specific and why can’t the mother be a little less scary to her daughter.  The shocking thing about Bill’s review is he never mentioned nor picked a picture that included his favorite actress, Jessica Chastain!

The movie is directed by Guillermo del Toro, and while this is no Pans Labyrinth, it is a good movie – more for the atmosphere and effects than the plot.  And as Bill says, the right word is creepy – this isn’t a horror movie that will get you jumping out of your seat.


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Mood Indigo

Bill C’s Review – 1 out of 5

Mood Indigo is the latest directorial effort by Michel Gondry, the director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This is a VERY quirky, special-effect-loaded with romance.  Usually I’m into quirky stuff, but this did not do it for me.

The quirkiness and special effects were interesting at the beginning, but as the movie wore on they became tiresome and distracted from the plot.  Towards the middle, I lost interest and was wishing I had chosen another movie.  The end should have carried an emotional wallop, but due to all the diversions, it came off flat for me.

My guess is there will be lots of folks that love this movie, but I was not one of them. This film is in French with subtitles.


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Obvious Child

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 4

Obvious Child is an entertaining romantic comedy.  Jenny Slate plays Donna Stern, a stand-up comedian who gets dumped, loses her day job,  gets pregnant and decides to have an abortion.  Slate, whose claim to fame before this movie was saying the F-word on her Saturday Night Live debut (before not being brought back the next year), does a great job showing a range of emotions as she tries to get her life together.

The movie is funny, while also dealing with tough emotional issues.  The film has a good supporting cast of most unknowns playing her mother, best friend,  and new beau.

The film dealt with the topic of abortion from where Donna was with her life and what was best for her, and didn’t feel preachy to me. But if you’re strongly (or maybe even moderately) pro-life, this movie is probably not for you, but others might enjoy it.

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 4

I enjoyed this film. Jenny Slate is naturally interesting, and plays very very well a young woman who combines aspects of intelligence, ambition, laziness, incredible candor and courage, of course humor and personality, as well as a lack of fortitude to confront her problems head on.  Most of the movie I felt like I was waiting for something to happen, but this is more of a slice of life, albeit during a time when she has to make a tough choice, as Bill described above.


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Bill I’s Rating – 4 out of 5

This movie is many things: a romance (Omar and Nadia are teenagers, almost sweetly naive, making eyes and passing secret love notes), a thriller (Omar and his two Palestinian buddies are budding terrorists/freedom fighters – take your pick as one reviewer said – striking back at their Israel occupiers/overseers in the West Bank in an amateurish but lethal way) and ultimately a political statement that portrays the helplessness and brutality felt by these young men. It is fast moving, realistic, well made film that includes some great chase scenes, chaste love scenes and in your face confrontations between friends and between captor/prisoner. Religion and historical disputes are not discussed, only the reality of the sad situation. Well done.

About Last Night

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

Two buddies (funny, manic Kevin Hart and the more subdued Michael Ealy, fresh from his robot role in Almost Human on TV) meet two chick buddies (Regina Hall, right up to par in funny and manic-ness with Kevin, and Joy Bryant, the similarly subdued counterpart) and pair off, with predictable ups and downs and a (non-spoiler alert) nice happy ending. It’s not the plot that makes it an enjoyable film, rather the characters, and surprisingly the realness of the relationship between the couples. OK, not much realness between the crazy couple, but they are good for laughs amid the wild romps in bed.

Joy Bryant was a revelation to me; with her stunning beauty she steals the scenes she’s in, although I felt the tension between the two was somewhat artificial given how well they paired off. While it didn’t seem phony, I just wanted to slap Ealy’s character. A good date movie and I would certainly call it a chick flick. Good one to see paired with Non-Stop to get the testosterone going after this estrogen fest.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

Alternating between the drab reality of life at the bottom of the office food chain and unable to take any sort of initiative other than do his job exceedingly well (managing the photo negatives of a soon to be defunct Life magazine), and an incredibly realistic fantasy life, Walter (well played by Ben Stiller) goes into a trance while he fantasizes what he would really like to do at the moment, whether that be a super hero or romantic player. He paralyzes in the simplest act of asking out a cute office colleague, played straight by Kristen Wiig. I found this film enthralling, aided in great part by the fantastic photography and action scenes, some of which are imagined, and some of which are real. Wait for the skateboarding down a mountain road scene. Sean Penn and Shirley Mclain are perfect as a famed photographer and Walter’s mom (repspectively, do I need to say?). Family friendly, with a life affirming message, I recommend it for all ages.


Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

This is a love story, between a man and ultimately his life. As we first meet Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix, in a tour de force, he’s in literally every scene),  he’s shuffling through his day-to-day blah existence, from his weirdly creative job (creating “handwritten” letters for other people) to his hotel room-like condo where he plants himself on his couch to play an interactive reality video game until he’s ready for sleep in a high rise in some not too distant future where men wear high waisted pants and almost everyone is talking on their invisible phones while they walk around. There’s no background noise, which sets an ethereal, plastic world feel, no garbage or poor people in sight,  and apparently no one watches TV or listens to the radio. Where’s Howard Stern when you need him. As it turns out, Theodore is an emotional, sensitive guy who’s having trouble getting over his split from his ex-wife and still friend, played by the lovely Rooney Mara. He ends up buying an “operating system” that is intuitive, so much so that he falls in love with her, named Samantha. Scarlett Johannson is incredibly evocative as this ultimate fantasy partner who can, and does, do everything possible to cater to his needs. (all wives should pay attention!) Kudos to a couple of small parts: Olivia Wilde plays a beautiful, charming girl Theo dates once (till she gives a hint into her obsessed psycho mind) and Kristen Wiig (I didn’t realize tlll the credits) histerically plays a sexy girl he has phone sex with. The film has an ending which I won’t give away, except to say that it doesn’t involve procreating little half human, half software beings. It captured my attention throughout, had quite a few funny moments, and ultimately delivers a message that we need to get the most out of the life we are given.


The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

This review is not intended for those who are really into this series as all of those people have undoubtedly seen this already (probably twice). I had not seen the first movie, but I watched it on Netflix (what dedication!) once the sequel got such good reviews. I even looked up “dystopia” in the dictionary since everything I heard or read talked about the story set in a dystopian society (and they are right—an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives).

I was glad that I went back and watched the first movie to have a good context for this one. Overall I liked Catching Fire and thought it was better than the first. The movie is almost 2.5 hours long but it did fly by. The characters are interesting and the acting, good, with a surprisingly good cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, and more. For the most part, the action was good although I found some of it hard to follow. I did have a couple of quibbles about the ending. It reminded me a little of The Empire Strikes Back--I didn’t think it had a real ending. It just sort of found a good point to stop, so the next film would have a good place to start. I have been told this is how the book ends too. I also didn’t like that they had to explain at the end what happened in the battle towards the end (since there’s no way to have figured it out just by watching), and what happened to some of the characters since they didn’t show that in the movie, but wanted you to know for the next movie.

Despite the quibbles with the last 15-20 minutes overall I enjoyed this.

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I was not as diligent as Bill so I have not seen the first movie, thinking this one should be able to stand on its own. I think it does, but also am sure that I would have appreciated it more if I was familiar with the prior episode and the characters. I agree with everything Bill says in his review, including the excellent acting, the movie moving fast, and the abrupt ending, almost like it’s going to a long commercial. Very imaginative scenarios to go with a very depressing futuristic life under a powerful Donald Sutherland as “President”. The way the government thugs march in and torture and kill citizens without a second thought, much less a trial, reminds me of Syria and other hot spots in our current world. How powerless the citizenry must feel, which is the essence of this story. There’s enough humor to keep me from getting miserable watching, and some situations that stretch logic (OK, count how many arrows Katniss starts out with in her quiver, then count the number she ends up shooting, or firing, or whatever you do with arrows.). I’d be interested in reading comments of anyone who’s a fan of this series.


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Blue is the Warmest Color

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

What relevance does the title have? I don’t know. At some point I thought it might be because Emma (the “older” women in this love affair, although only a college student when we meet her) sports blue streaks in her punky hairstyle. But that’s not it. The original title, La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2 – “The Life of Adèle – Chapters 1 & 2, makes more sense, as it focuses on the younger lover, Adele, in a spectacular breakout performance by Adele Exarchopoulos. Adele the actress was 18 when she played Adele the character, who is a high school junior when we first meet her. This is a love story, with its tender, exploratory beginnings to its explosive sexual  and emotional dynamics and ulitimately its (spoiler alert, sorry) typical demise. I wondered how great this film is, given its biggest publicity has surrounded the lesbian aspect – is it exploitive, is it genuine or just titilating? Certainly the plot is nothing special: girl meets boy, girl meets the love of her life and forgets the boy, they have a fight and break up. And it takes 3 hours to do so. But it held my attention, and I really liked it. I attribute that to one main factor, which is the beauty and geniuneness of Adele playing Adele. Her captivating screen presence grew on me. She starts out looking like a typical high schooler, rushing off to catch the bus, hair a mess, dumpy clothes, nothing special about her. But you see her beauty, and her face is so expressive, in an understated way, that you can tell how she is feelling, from bored, to excited, to love, to vulnerable and to miserable. There’s some great scenes: with her classmates freaking out ’cause she’s hanging out with a butch girl; with her family around the dinner table; with her nursery school class as she rejoices in teaching the kids; with a party when she plays host/chef/server to Emma’s upper class artistic friends. And of course, the 1 on 1 scenes between the women show true love, show how routine life interferes and then how one intense fight can destroy it all. A lot has been written about the 10 minute explicit sex scene, and as a typical hetero male I certainly enjoyed it. Probably not as genuine as what I’ve seen in The L Word, or in actual porno films, but as close to real sex as you will see in mainstream movies. I mean, you can’t fake kissing and biting someone’s ass. But you can legitimately tell your spouse and friends that you are going to see an excellent foreign film, and mean it.