The Purge (2013)

The Purge

(R) 1h 25 min

Plot Summary: In the future, a wealthy family is held hostage for harboring the target of a murderous syndicate during the Purge, a 12-hour period in which any and all crime is legalized.

Director & Writer: James DeMonaco

Stars: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Must See) From a strictly artistic standpoint, this is not a great movie.  Some of the scenes are hokey, and the character development lacks enough depth to inspire your investment in the protagonists. However,  its plot is pretty unique, the socioeconomic conversations it inspires could go on for days, and, frankly, it’s a pop culture icon (as we discussed in Episode 19 of the podcast, and as further detailed in IMDB’s The Purge trivia page, this film has inspired a few major horror maze/experience productions). Hawke manages to transcend the script with his usual intensity, and it’s pretty different to see Headey in such a morally upright and vulnerable role.

Rising Sun (1993)

Rising Sun

(R) 2h 9min

Plot Summary: At the offices of a Japanese corporation, during a party, a woman, who’s evidently a professional mistress, is found dead, apparently after some rough sex. A police detective, Web Smith is called in to investigate but before getting there, he gets a call from someone who instructs him to pick up John Connor, a former police Captain and expert on Japanese affairs. When they arrive there Web thinks that everything is obvious but Connor tells him that there’s a lot more going on.Written by rcs0411@yahoo.com

Director: Philip Kaufman

Writers: Michael Crichton (novel & screenplay), Philip Kaufman (screenplay), Michael Backes (screenplay)

Stars: Sean Connery, Wesley Snipes, Harvey Keitel

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Don’t Bother)  The actors are capable across the board, but the story is just very cheesy and often predictable, with some of the plot “twists” not developed enough to make sense.

 

The Middle (2009-Present)

The Middle

(TV-PG)

Plot Summary: The daily mishaps of a married woman and her semi-dysfunctional family and their attempts to survive life in general in the city of Orson, Indiana.

Creators: Eileen Heisler, DeAnn Heline

Stars: Patricia Heaton, Neil Flynn, Charlie McDermott

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (White Noise) Every once in a while, you’ll get a chuckle out of this show, and there are some insightful commentaries about life in general. However, watching Frankie & Mike Heck schlep through life in their crappy jobs, in their crappy house, and with their ungrateful kids is way too often depressing. After Season 1, I will only be watching further episodes of this show if it happens to come on TV while I’m doing something else. That being said, Heaton and Flynn are charismatic in their roles; Frankie is a much better character than Debra Barone. Also, Atticus Shaffer is an excellent little weirdo.

Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel

(PG-13) 2h, 23min

Plot Summary: Kal-El, one of the last of an extinguished race disguised as an unremarkable human, is forced to reveal his identity when Earth is invaded by an army of survivors who threaten to bring the planet to the brink of destruction.

Director: Zack Snyder

Writers: David S. Goyer (screenplay & story), Christopher Nolan (story), Jerry Siegel (Superman created by), Joe Shuster (Superman created by)

Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Must See) This is new and improved Superman. Today’s audiences generally don’t care for flawless characters who are all-powerful, morally inpenetrable, and have all the answers to every problem in life. Snyder and company dirty Superman up a bit, focusing on his formative years. You can recognize Nolan’s influence on this film. Viewers get to observe as young Kal struggles with impossible situations to develop his moral compass, as well as to survive battles in which he is the underdog. Theology fans will appreciate the many subtle biblical analogies inherent throughout the movie.

As we discussed in Episode 23, Part 1, of the podcast, not since Christopher Reeve has any actor embodied this role so effectively that it becomes hard to picture anyone else playing Superman, and Cavill does so while changing the direction of the character. Not only is Cavill utterly convincing in his gritty portrayal of Superman’s loneliness, confusion, bottled-up anger, idealism, and loyalty, but he even looks more like Superman than anyone else that has ever worn the costume.  Beyond having the strong jaw, cleft chin, and piercing blue eyes, acccording to IMDB, Cavill trained for 11 months to take his already-V-shaped physique to the next level, ingesting five 1,000-calorie shakes a day to bulk up, then dropping to 1,500 calories a day to shred to 7% body fat, all while shunning steroids and working out with Gym Jones trainer Mark Twight until he couldn’t walk out of the gym. Snyder made it a point to include shirtless scenes in the film just to show that Cavill’s hard work on his body was real and not just the costume or CGI.

However, at least from an acting perspective, Cavill does not do all the heavy lifting by himself. The rest of the cast is top-notch.  As also discussed on the podcast, Shannon established his own intense and unyielding interpretation of General Zod. Adams portrays Lois Lane as a combat journalist, which gives the character a very different dynamic than the passive, helpless cheerleader that she has been in the past. Russell CroweAyelet Zurer, Diane Lane, and Kevin Costner not only make you care about Superman’s parents through their charismatic performances, but their characters are also legends to the map of Superman’s psyche, through which you can recognize aspects of his personality and moral code.

The visual effects in this film are stunning. They are everything that you could ask for in terms of big explosions, mind-blowing CGI, and breathtaking scenery. Krypton is its own character in this movie.

My only disappointment was that some hokiness was present throughout the film, beyond what is inherent in a comic book. For instance, it is silly to have a school bus full of kids plummet off a bridge, hit the water, and cut to every kid in the bus still sitting in their seats, unharmed; the impact with the water would have resulted in numerous injuries and kids flying all over the bus.

The Amazing Spiderman (2012)

Amazing Spiderman

(PG-13) 2 h, 16 min

Plot Summary: After Peter Parker is bitten by a genetically altered spider, he gains newfound, spider-like powers and ventures out to solve the mystery of his parent’s mysterious death.

Director: Marc Webb

Writers: James Vanderbilt (screenplay & story), Alvin Sargent (screenplay), Steve Kloves (screenplay), Stan Lee (based on the Marvel comic book by), Steve Ditko (based on the Marvel comic book by)

Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Worth Watching)  As we discussed in Episode 23, Part 1, of the podcast, we love the Spiderman character, and Garfield not only does him justice, but he also presents a unique and charismatic version of Peter Parker that is even more interesting than when he dons the mask. Emma Stone brings The Girlfriend Experience, making Gwen Stacy endearing in her own right, not just because of how much the hero cares for her. Martin Sheen and Sally Field not only make you care about Uncle Ben and Aunt May, but they show you aspects of Spiderman that Garfield can’t by himself. Denis Leary really manages to walk that fine line between pompous jerk and loyal protector right into the viewer’s heart. In short, the acting is phenomenal.

Unfortunately, the storyline is nothing special, and the movie is too often unnecessarily hokey (Really? Is it that easy to break into a high-security lab with genetically unstable spiders?), which conflicts with the film’s more gritty tone. This film feels more like a background setup for sequel, which I have yet to see, but which I’m hoping will take the franchise to the next level, like Captain America: The Winter Soldier did for its franchise.

Changeling (2008)

Changeling

(R) 2 hrs, 21 mins

Plot Summary: A grief-stricken mother takes on the LAPD to her own detriment when it stubbornly tries to pass off an obvious impostor as her missing child, while also refusing to give up hope that she will find him one day.

Director: Clint Eastwood

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski

Stars: Angelina Jolie, Colm Feore, Amy Ryan

Serious Jest:animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)(Must Watch)  The film is set mostly in the 1920s, but the hokiness of some of its scenes (although, according to IMDB, “Virtually every event depicted in the film appears as cited in legal documents, with dialog often taken verbatim from court transcripts”) and its sappy score are straight out of the 1990s. However, all of that is overcome by tremendous acting performances, especially from Jolie (but not Eddie Alderson, who was not convincing as Sanford Clark), as well as by the incredible story, which is mostly true.

I can’t believe that this could happen to somebody. This is yet another frightening example of the dangers inherent in handing over unchecked power to any law enforcement organization. If we do not pay attention to history, we are doomed to repeat it.

Additionally, this story reminds me of the value of today’s technology and social media. While many complain about how much easier it is to invade someone’s privacy, it is also a lot easier to expose corruption. Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Oscar Grant…these cases are not a new trend developing amongst police departments. This kind of rampant corruption and abuse of authority has existed for long before anyone can remember. But now we finally have the tools to expose them.

And it’s not just the police. As an attorney, I have personally stopped a mental health professional from wrongfully committing a person to a mental health institution over what basically amounted to a petty verbal argument between the doctor and the patient.

Respect to Straczynski for getting this movie made. This is where filmmaking crosses over into activism. If someone just told you the facts of this case, you might struggle to fathom how this would play out in actuality…how many people would have to screw up, be complicit, or just flat out do nothing to perpetuate this evil…and just how many people would have to decide to do the right thing, even at risk to their own career, financial interests, or even personal safety, in order to unf*ck this mess. This movie very effectively portrays how this unfortunate situation could very plausibly go down…and while there are many more checks and balances today to help prevent some of the previous injustices from happening again, perhaps some who would previously dismiss all police corruption and mental health abuse as wild conspiracy theories might have their minds changed just a little bit by this film.

This List is Not All-Inclusive!

Remember that you’re getting movie & TV advice from regular guys with regular lives.  The fact that we’re not sitting in front of our computers and TVs all day also means that we don’t have time to review every movie ever made.  While this list will continue to grow as fast as we can continue to watch and review movies & TV, we apologize in advance for those we did not get to yet.  Rather than relying on it as an exhaustive encyclopedia of movies & TV, though, we hope that you will simply use this list as a source for good suggestions of what to watch or stay away from.

What is The Girlfriend Experience?

We use this term so much in our film/series reviews, as well as on our podcast, that we got tired of explaining it for the newcomers.  So, we figured we’d create this short post to define it and just refer you here next time we use it.

The Girlfriend Experience, as applied to films or series, is when an actress is so convincing as a wife, girlfriend, love interest, etc., that she almost makes us fall in love with her…when she makes us feel like we know her…like she’s bared her soul to the camera, and we’ve caught a small glimpse of what it would be like to have this woman love us.  This is beyond being hot or making us want to bang her.  This is the complete package.  Examples are Emily Blunt in The WolfmanSanaa Lathan in Brown SugarAllison Miller in Kings, and Jennifer Connelly in The Dilemma.  The term is obviously an homage to the term used by escorts who deliver more than just sex (not to imply that actresses are whores).