Staff Picks: Movies
Staff-recommended viewing from the KPL catalog.
The new documentary from filmmaker Ken Burns (The Central Park Five) is an outrage-inducing expose of the insidious injustice carried out upon five New York City teenagers in 1989. The story begins with the brutal attack of a jogger in Central Park. From there, the police department and prosecutors seek out those that they could label as the perpetrators, not the actual rapist. The evidence would suggest that investigators were neither interested in justice nor the truth about who was responsible for the vicious crime. The city explodes in racist condemnation of the teen suspects with much of the media and political class trying the case in the court of public opinion and tabloid. This is a must-watch film that should be shown in every classroom across this country.
The Central Park Five
The Man with the Iron Fists was a pretty cool Chinese martial arts movie with plenty of action. I was surprised to see Russell Crowe in this movie but they gave him a knife that spins and shoots bullets. Jungle Village has several warring clans. The Governor trusts Gold Lion to protect a shipment of Gold. Well, Gold Lion did not live long, he was killed by one of his own lieutenant’s, Silver Lion. Jack Knife (Russell Crowe) arrives, he is the Emperor’s undercover agent. He comes into the Pink Blossom brothel run by Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu), requests a room overlooking the street and 3 of the women, one of whom is currently with Crazy Hippo. Jack warns Crazy Hippo to give up the woman and not fight him then promptly knives him with his spinning knife. This isn’t a serious martial arts movie and it seems like they had fun with it. Later in the movie when Jack shoots someone with his knife he says I bring a gun to a knife fight. It’s funnier in the movie that it sounds here. There is a blacksmith played by Rza who also wrote the story, screenplay and directed the movie. He is the one who gets the Iron Fists. There is a mercenary named Brass Body. I think he was the most formidable person. His whole body turns into brass and nothing can hurt him, until the end of the movie and Iron Fists does him in. The movie has a lot of action and the basic plot is guard the gold, gold gets stolen, gold gets back to Emperor but the enjoyment of the movie is watching everyone go martial arts on everyone.
Man with the Iron Fist
End of Watch is a movie shot in documentary style of two police officers in the south central Los Angeles area. It gives you a good insight and feel for Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavela (Michael Pena) as partners. A lot of the movie is the two of them in the locker room, in the squad room or in the car, talking about everything with each other. It really shows you the bond the two of them have. The movie also has many moments of gripping action. Mike says that they see more action in one shift than some officers will see in their entire lifetime. Some police can go their entire career without drawing their gun but not in southern Los Angeles.
Brian is making a film so he is always filming with his camera and he and Mike are wearing button cameras. This gives us the feeling of being part of the action. There is a Latino gang that ironically is also filming and we see them inside their van gearing up for action. They are talking about hitting Tre and his fellow Bloods gang. We see them getting their guns together and a we see them drive by the Bloods and start firing their AK47s and hand guns, hundreds of bullets are fired and then off they drive. Our officers find the burnt out husk of the van dumped. Brian would like to be a detective but as he is a uniformed officer the homicide detectives shoo him away and tell him to stay on the other side of the crime tape. Next we watch the officers respond to a missing children call, only to find a man and a woman obviously high and not in their right mind. The woman is saying her children are missing, the man is saying they are at their grandmas. Brian searches the house and finds the children duct taped in the closet. This is to give us a feel of what their watch is like. Later they pull over a truck and the driver tries to shoot Michael with an ornate looking pistol. They search the truck and find oodles of cash and what looks like a gold plated AK47. Our next adventure is when Brian and Michael are at a house fire and they risk their lives to rescue a bunch of small children. This section of the movie was very powerful and definitely had you on the edge of the seat of your chair, you could almost feel the fire and have a hard time breathing due to the smoke. They are awarded medals and accolades from their fellow officers. Brian, who wants to be a detective, decides to dig deeper into the driver with the ornate gun. He convinces his partner to back him up and they go to the house where the truck came from and they find a room full of human trafficking people. Suddenly there are many ICE agents descending and they tell Brian and Michael to lay low as there may be reprisals.
Now we go back to the personal side of life and Michael’s wife has a baby. Then back to driving around in the squad car talking about the baby when a call comes in to help two officers. When they arrive they find one of the officers with a knife sticking out of his eyeball in his head, and his partner is getting beat on. They get the huge hulk of a man off the female officer but her whole head is caved in and is a misshapen bloody mess. This gives you a feel for the harshness of the streets. There are more personal moments and of course a reprisal happens with a hit put out on Brian and Michael.
This movie has a lot of action, and gives you insight into the life of a police officer. This was modeled after two real live police officers. I think that gave me the most scare. This is not just a movie, this stuff really happens. This movie is not for the faint of heart and there is a lot of use of the foul language to give you the realness of the gangs.
End of Watch
When I started watching John Dies at the End I knew it was science fiction and that it was different. I wasn’t really ready for how different it was. It was a real Mind Tripper. And even though I had talked about this movie with our resident movie expert at KPL, Dan, I was not ready for the girl to turn into a bunch of snakes. Dan did not forewarn me about that and he knows I have a phobia about snakes. I was scurrying to grab the remote control and fast forward not carrying what dialog I missed. If you are not bothered by snakes this movie has it fair share of bugs and other disgusting looking creatures. John and some others are enticed by a drug called Soy Sauce which we find is linked to an alternate reality’s world attempt to take over our world. Dave is John’s best friend and it is up to the two of them to stop the invasion. Time travel is involved, Dave is constantly getting calls from future John. The movie has a lot of action, then seems to stop for dialog period where Dave is talking to a reporter or the police or John on the phone then it jumps back into action and people explode or have their head blown off by a shotgun and then set on fire and they may or may not die. I would say that Dave and John are pretty laid back dudes, not much frazzles them. When pieces of meat from the freezer start coming together to form a meat monster they take it in stride, tell it to hang on a second while they make a phone call. They then hand the phone to the monster who takes it and he listens and then falls all apart, end of monster. This is a movie for adults not children and it is for adults who are willing to just be entertained and not try to point out the flaws in the time travel and are ok with someone finding their cut off head, putting it back on and fastening it with fishing line then looking for the guy who cut off his head.
John Dies at the End
I love Morgan Freeman. He has a way of talking. Like when he is teaching the dog to fetch a ball. Morgan Freeman throws it and the dog just lays there. He says “Maybe it’s the word Fetch that doesn’t resonant perhaps retrieve will stimulate some long dormant instinct” or when he is invited to a seven year olds party he says “I greatly appreciate being included in your celebratory plans and I will be sure to mark that special day on my calendar.” In this movie, The Magic of Belle Isle, Monte Wildhorn (Morgan Freeman) is a writer of western novels whose wife died seven years ago and with her passing he gave up writing. We see him arrive at the island brought there by his nephew. Monte is in a wheel chair a bit cantankerous and drinking heavily. He moves in next door to Charlotte O’Neil (Virginia Madsen) and her three daughters. The middle daughter, Finnegan asks Monte to teach her how to use her imagination. Monte becomes her mentor. As time passes, Monte develops a fondness for the O’Neils and they of him. The plot is predicable but who cares, you get a warm feeling of happiness from this movie and that’s all that matters. Monte does write some a story or two, but not a western. It’s about an elephant, the youngest girl loves elephants. Through the story of the elephant Monte lets Charlotte know that he likes her and for those of us too dense to figure it out Charlotte while reading the story says I think he likes me. Monte is invited over for dinner and Charlotte plays the piano. Monte comments that for playing like that he would leave his windows open. Later in the movie when Luke and Joe are trying to buy the rights to the books to make a movie we hear piano playing. Monte tells Luke and Joe that the music is for him and it’s personal so they have to go. Monte lies in bed listening to the music and dreams of sipping wine with Charlotte and dancing by moonlight. He is awakened by the dog licking his face. I don’t think it will spoil anything to let you know that the dog eventually does fetch a ball. They show that very comically. Monte tosses the ball and the dog heads in the exact opposite direction. Monte says “I admire consistency” then the dog shows up with the ball. This could be a Hallmark movie of the week. I loved it mostly because of Morgan Freeman and his portrayal of Monte Wildhorn. Give it a watch some time when you want a warm fuzzy.
The Magic of Belle Isle
The Turkish film Once Upon a Time in Anatolia was on many end-of-the-year polls of best movies. It’s a slow burning film about a murder and the men who venture into the dark of night charged with locating the deceased’s body. The viewer already knows who did it. The murderer sits between two police officers in the back of a car that traverses the Turkish countryside. It’s actually not about the murder at all but rather about the interior lives of its varied cast of characters. It’s a film about what goes unsaid, that which is communicated only by silence and the elapse of time. It’s a film about a single night and the complicated pasts of men living in a moment.
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
This is one of those feel good Disney movies; The Odd Life of Timothy Green. A couple, Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) are told by a fertility doctor that they cannot have children. While feeling sorry about the news they have some wine and make a list of all the things their child would be if they could have one. He would be good at drawing, score the winning goal in soccer etc. They take this list and put it in a very nice wooden box (this shows the depth of their grief, this looked like an expensive box) and bury it in the garden. That night there is a thunder storm, even though the town is in a drought, and this thunder storm only occurs at their house. Timothy Green a 10 year old boy appears in their house covered in mud. At first they think he ran away from home but Timothy calls them mom and dad and he has leaves growing out of his legs. They check the garden and indeed the spot where they put the box has been disturb. This boy must have come from that box and is destined to be their son. OK we are over that hurdle, now to tell the story of Timothy Green and all the wonderful things he does, and how he makes people’s lives he touches better. It is a cute story, it delves into father son relationships and parenting, hopes for your children all that gooey stuff. But it does it in a way that keeps you entertained. That being said I do have two comments. The first is that even if one comes up with a better way to make a pencil you cannot just say the plant is saved all your jobs are secured. You would have to retool the plant, and make sure there is a market place for said pencil, and personally from looking at it, I would not want to write with it. However it does tie in nicely the leaves on Timothy’s legs with the leaves to make the pencil. My other comment is when Timothy draws Cindy’s boss’ picture and includes the chin hairs. Cindy says Timothy is very honest and outspoken. Mrs. Crudstaff, a very stuffy and stern lady, asks what else has Cindy not told her. Cindy bolstered by Timothy’s actions proceeds to tell Mrs. Crudstaff her honest opinion, that Mrs. Crustaff could be nicer, that her one joke is not funny and that they need to open the curtains to let in light so people can see the objects in the Pencil museum. I thought this was going to be one of those hallmark moments and Cindy gets a raise or at least high praise but nope, she got fired. I liked that twist to what I thought would happen. This is a good family movie, you should give it a watch.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green
It’s pretty easy to argue that movie expert Roger Ebert was America’s First Film Critic, in the sense that he was the country’s most well-known and respected reviewer of cinema. Ebert passed away yesterday from complications due to cancer. Ebert and the late Gene Siskel introduced millions of Americans to thoughtful conversations about both commercial and artistic-oriented films with their Saturday afternoon television show that aired from the mid 1980’s until Siskel’s death in 1999. Ebert’s brilliant reviews, many of which are collected in numerous books, are an excellent starting point for the novice fan of film to introduce themselves to the treasure trove of great movies. Ebert was known for his superb prose, much of which eschewed jargon and obtuse forms of critical theory. He also had a keen ability to criticize films he found intellectually stupefying or devoid of purpose with a biting sense of humor, some of which can be found below.
“The Last Airbender is an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented. The laws of chance suggest that something should have gone right. Not here. It puts a nail in the coffin of low-rent 3D, but it will need a lot more coffins than that.”
“Battlefield Earth is like taking a bus trip with someone who has needed a bath for a long time. It’s not merely bad; it’s unpleasant in a hostile way.”
“Dice Rules is one of the most appalling movies I have ever seen. It could not be more damaging to the career of Andrew Dice Clay if it had been made as a documentary by someone who hated him. The fact that Clay apparently thinks this movie is worth seeing is revealing and sad, indicating that he not only lacks a sense of humor, but also ordinary human decency.”
“Saving Silverman is so bad in so many different ways that perhaps you should see it, as an example of the lowest slopes of the bell-shaped curve. This is the kind of movie that gives even its defenders fits of desperation. Consider my friend James Berardinelli, the best of the Web-based critics. No doubt 10 days of oxygen deprivation at the Sundance Film Festival helped inspire his three-star review, in which he reports optimistically, ‘Saving Silverman has its share of pratfalls and slapstick moments, but there’s almost no flatulence.’ Here’s a critical rule of thumb: You know you’re in trouble when you’re reduced to praising a movie for its absence of fart jokes, and have to add ‘almost.’”
And one of his most famous disses concerns Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. It "is a horrible experience of unbearable length, briefly punctuated by three or four amusing moments. One of these involves a dog-like robot humping the leg of the heroine. Such are the meager joys. If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination."
I learned a few things from the movie Trooper and the Legend of the Golden Key.If you are an 8 year old boy and get moved to a new town, that is a good time to bamboozle your parents into getting a dog and if they say yes to one dog then they will for sure allow you a second dog. I also learned that if you have a maniacal evil plan then you should laugh about it with your partner in a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde sort of way. One more thing I learned, if you want to show your audience that your character is a bad dude, have him take candy from a baby. Trooper is a bloodhound and he narrates the story. Due to budget cuts, by the bad guy of course, Trooper can no longer be a police dog. Luckily a boy has just moved into town and is able to have his family adopt the dog. The evil bad guy is trying to shut down the local bookstore so he can put in an oil well that will make him rich. He tells the bookstore owner that she owes back taxes for 25 years and has to come up with a million dollars. The boy learns of this and also hears about a recently deceased man who may have left a treasure in his house. Trooper and the boy discover the Legend of the Golden Key which is worth a million dollars (coincidence?). This was a nice little just watch the movie and don’t worry about the facts. I was a bit fixated that the book store owner just accepted that she owed a million dollars. This is after all, a children’s movie.
Trooper and the Legend of the Golden Key
Federico Fellini’s most well-known film and a classic of Italian cinema, 8 and 1/2 continues to stand-up as a trailblazing film that introduced viewers in 1963 to an overly self-conscious form of storytelling that mixes fiction, memoir and dreamy surrealism together as a prophetic statement about the nature of celebrity, the mass media and the pressure to create art even when uninspired. Self-referential, wildly imaginative and irreverent, this classic film points the finger at the film industry and increasingly aggressive media while humorously mocking the hollowness of fame. Poking fun at both himself and his critics (both Catholics and Communists), Fellini delights in highlighting the absurdity and emotional alienation of those forced into positions of creating successful commerce while their personal life grows increasingly dysfunctional. See a trailer here.
8 and 1/2