kon-tikiWhile you might be highly skeptical if Thor Hyerdahl’s theories of the population of the Pacific islands (he postulated that South Americans sailed to these islands on balsa wood rafts – which has been disproven with DNA research), you have to admire his determination to prove a point. As for the movie? It’s fun to watch, but a little stiff at times. There’s only so much optimistic bronzed Nordic dudes I can handle.


seraphineSure, I liked this, but I can’t figure out how to summarize my thoughts on it. I wish I could just make a painting to describe it. The movie has definite “acts” which make it almost like 3 (or how many acts the are) movies in one. If you’re interested in the motivations of a forgotten artist, check it out.


WildI have a bit of a rare perspective on this, as I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail myself… a few years after Cheryl Strayed did. Because of this, I was focused on a different character – the PCT itself. There’s a lot the movie gets right about the PCT – some of the scenery, the other hikers, and the challenges along the way. But there was just too much ‘wrong’, and that kept me distracted the whole way through. Right at the start, we see Cheryl trying to set up her tent near the start of the trail. But, she’s not at the start of the trail, she’s at Smith Rock State Park in Oregon – 2000 miles from the start of the trail. So, instead of watching Cheryl Strayed, I’m watching Reese Witherspoon… and wondering why they filmed this scene where they did. This kind of thing happened frequently through the movie, and kept pulling me away from the story (another example is a view of the landscape in Northern California, which is clearly Southern California – would it have been that hard to get a stock shot of Mt. Shasta?). I realize that when you shoot a movie, you have to make some practical compromises. But it would not have taken much effort to get some of these details right, and that might have made the movie amazing, instead of just decent.


Something was broken with this movie. I almost hate to admit it, because I respect Angelina Jolie, but the directing was well… lacking. The story was told very straightforwardly (and technically sound), but I always had the feeling that these were actors standing around acting. I didn’t feel transported into the movie – like I was standing right there with them. Instead it was more like: this happened, then this happened, then that happened… all with perfect lighting, the perfect angle, and makeup & costumes that looked like makeup and costumes. Maybe the book kind of ruined this for me. The book was compelling – any movie would have a difficult time living up to that. Oh well, it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t great.


foxcatcherBased on the true story of how creepazoid gazillionaire John DuPont (of the DuPont family) “adopted” US wrestling for a time in the mid 1980s. There’s not a lot of money in wrestling (the real kind, not the entertainment kind), so when a weirdo with money builds a state-of-the-art wrestling center on his estate, it’s an offer too good to reject. Of course, things go from weird to creepy to unhealthy to dangerous in a one way spiral of madness. DuPont has created a fantasy land disconnected from reality. He pines for the approval of his aloof mother, and wants desperately to be “someone important”. Instead, he’s just a rich fool… Deep down, he knows this, so he fills his life with distractions and tries to buy his way into relevance.

Like most movies based on a true story, this one takes liberties with how things actually happened. But the essence of the actual events and characters is there. It’s a dark movie from start to finish. Even the somewhat lighthearted moments are tense. If I had any complaint, it’s just that the sound is too quiet. I realize it was like this purposefully – to help set the mood (and it worked), but on a purely practical level, I need at least a little volume to be able to hear what’s being said.

The acting was all excellent all around. Steve Carell deserves a gold medal for his portrayal of DuPont. I get the heebee-jeebee’s just thinking about it.

The Deep (Djúpið)

the-deepI’m a sucker for Icelandic movies… but this one stood on its own as a “good movie that happened to be Icelandic”. It had a small town feel that is quintessentially Icelandic – where you get the sense that everyone is part of a large extended family.

The movie is a little-known true story about the improbable survival of a fisherman, who has to swim many miles to shore in ice-cold waters after his boat sinks. Most people succumb to the cold after 20 minutes, but somehow he survives.

Perhaps the best part of this movie was the way it didn’t overdramatize the story – it just told the story. The hero wasn’t some kind of super-human, just really lucky by a quirk of genetics. And perhaps best of all, the events of the story don’t really change his essence. In his darkest moments, he makes a deal with God that if he survives, he’ll finally go talk to that girl he likes. But, he never follows through. Why? Because his character was simply like that. That made the movie true to me.


hitchcockI got the impression someone was sitting in an office thinking, “You know, Anthony Hopkins could play a great Hitchcock”. And they were right – he did… Then, they really tried to build a movie around the idea. As window into another time and place, it was fun to watch. But, movies like this work better if they stand on their own. If the main character wasn’t Alfred Hitchcock, and this was just a movie about the struggles of a fictional director, it’d be completely forgettable. Anyway, I suppose I am glad they made it, and glad I watched it… kind of like stepping into a time machine and being a fly on a wall for a bit.


Wow. Not only was this a great story, it was written & filmed well… and delivered in a wrapper that actually made some sense. Count me among those who believe we don’t know the whole truth about who Shakespeare was. Was this the true story? Part of it? Possibly… Surely, I don’t believe all the details of this particular drama, but I think the premise holds a lot of merit. We hardly know the truth about events that have happened in our lifetime, and we’re supposed to believe that we know the truth about Shakespeare?

I was shocked to realize this was done by none other than Roland Emmerich. Huh?  Now I don’t know what to think of  him. Maybe someone else created the “Worst movie ever” (aka – Independence Day), and Roland Emmerich is a fraud?

City of God

A story about gangs and drugs in the slums of Rio… from the mid 1960s through mid 1980s, I think. The movie was powerful at times, and bloody all the way through. While it was worth seeing just for the portrait it portrayed. I was left feeling that it missed an opportunity to really get into the feelings and motivations of some of the characters – the main character in particular. He’s just presented as a ho-hum guy in the middle of it all. I suppose there probably are a lot of people like that, but why make a movie about ho-hum people with little to say? In the end, the only message I got was that violence & drugs are a dead end, and that at least gangs bring some sense of order to the chaos… for a short time. The movie was very loosely-based on some real characters…

Princess Kaiulane

A nice little movie that will hopefully introduce a lot of people to another ugly chapter in US history. The movie does compress history a bit, but for those who are so particular, there’s a nice documentary included with the DVD – worth watching too. As for a movie on its own merits? It’s really not bad… It could have been done much worse. And if it’d been done a lot better, it probably would have required a greater degree of creative license with the actual history of events. As such, I think they got this one just about right – good enough to be engaging, but not so dramatic as to be dishonest with the history.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention what the movie is actually about – the take-over of Hawaii by a few US corporate interests. It follows the life story of the last royal princess, who was a remarkable representative of her people – especially given her young age. Although her cause was in vain… she was instrumental in winning at least a few concessions.

The Bank Job

Usually you see a movie like this, and have to roll your eyes because you know it could never be real. This one is real. Well, mostly… (sure, they embellished a lot). Be sure to watch the extras – just fascinating. One thing though – I wish they could have let at least one of the characters get away with the money. I mean, since they’re embellishing, why not?

Coco Before Chanel

wonderful epic period piece about the birth of modern fashion. Best part for me was how the popular culture changed through the movie… It wasn’t just coco who was coming of age, but all of us. I wasn’t too “big” on the secret revealed at the end… Whether is was true to life or not, it just seemed kind of contrived and unnecessary. Though, if it was indeed true to life, I guess it was kind of necessary… But didn’t need to be presented as this big secret…


I’ve always liked well-done period movies. If they do it well, the plot doesn’t even matter much… It could just be about regular people hanging out. But, a good story is like icing. And this one was a delicious desert.


A detailed study of the early life of Ghengis Khan… Helping to explain how he became who he was. I do wish they’d continued the story a bit into the rest of his life, because though he was a famous person, I think few people have a good understanding of exactly what he did, and how he did it. I was watching this, thinking, “ok, now that I understand where he’s coming from, this is going to get really interesting”… and then it ended. It’s worth watching for the filmography alone, just don’t expect any epic battle scenes of a thousand Mongol horsemen sweeping across the steppes.

The Blind Side

Sure it’s a nice, feel good movie. And sometimes you need a movie like that. Just be advised, there is basically zero tension. So, if you’re looking for some kind of plot twist or crisis… There isn’t one. They do try to add a little drama at the start/end but it’s pretty weak tea.

Danny Deckchair

Gosh, just a feel-good mush-fest to the maximum degree.  I guess the world needs movies like this though, it helps offset all the Vin Diesel movies, and keeps the universe in balance. It’s an aussie love story plot includes: An underappreciated man, a beautiful single woman, small town hijinx, and a big bunch of yellow helium balloons. One thing though, the box promised the DVD “extras” included a visit with the “real” Danny Deckchair, but that was nowhere to be found. I feel ripped off!

Boys Don’t Cry

She just wanted to be one of the boys… a real tragic movie for all obvious reasons.  I will say that I didn’t feel much for Tina until near the very end.  Afterall, she was lying to everybody… and she wasn’t much a better person than the people who ended up killing her.  But at the very end, she lets the real person come out a little & we discover there’s a decent person down under those artificial layers.    Anyway, I liked the movie.  If I have any complaint, it was the scene where “John” shows his compassionate / feeling side to Brandon.  I think this ruined his character development.  We only have an hour or so to get to know these people, it was hard to understand just how he could be so crazy and violent after seeing that scene.  Yes, I know – he had a ‘dark side’, but I think it would’ve been better they developed him as a testosterone-crazed redneck, rather than a pseudo-sensitive crazy guy.  Then again, this was based on a true story, so maybe the real John was like that… I’ll probably never know.

Sweet and Lowdown

Thoroughly entertaining. This is the story of Emmet Ray, a jazz guitar virtuoso from the early part of the 1900’s. To be honest, I don’t even know if there actually was an actual person, or whether it was all an elaborate “made-up documentary” by Woody Allen (I’d find that amusing if true). Well, I suppose I could figure it out with a little investigation next time I go on-line. Anyway, it’s a good fun character-study movie, Sean Penn did a great job. Anyone wanna go shoot rats at the dump and look at trains?