Tales From The Ipe!

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Category: Entertainment (page 1 of 38)

I watched Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium (2013), and I wished it made more sense

It took me 4 years to get around to watching Neill Blomkamp’s film Elysium (2013) starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Alica Braga, and Sharlto Copley.

In the year 2154, the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth. A man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.

Okay, can I summarize with spoilers? Some apocalypse has occurred resulting in the poor and middle-class living on Earth, while the filthy rich have moved to an orbital space station paradise. While the poor toil away on earth in poverty in menial jobs (or stealing), the rich have mansions and water and grass and miraculous bio-beds that can heal any ailment. And people down on the planet can’t have access. The rich control the lower classes using robots. And people do try to sneak onto the station but station security usually shoots them down. Because they’re evil.

Now I get the class warfare, but the bio-beds don’t make a lot of sense. People aren’t trying to sneak onto the station to pretend to be “citizens.” They only want access to a bio-bed to get healed. It doesn’t seem to cost anything, so why are they hoarded? It’s a plot hole a mile wide.

Matt Damon’s character gets a terminal dose of radiation, and agrees to participate in a heist, in order for a ticket to sneak onto the station and use a bio-bed. During the heist, we get introduced to Sharlto Copley’s Kruger, who morphes from being a hired thug to the major villain. I don’t know why he became more than a hired goon. It didn’t make any sense.

There are other characters who seem to change their complete motivation when the plot requires them, which also didn’t make any sense. There are a number of interesting ideas in this film, but too many interesting ideas.

Elysium (2013)

Elysium (2013)

After all these years, I finally watched The Godfather: Part II (1974)

All these years, here’s what I’ve heard about Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather films (Anthology? Trilogy? Trilogy.)

1. The first film is fantastic (and highly quotable.)

2. The sequel The Godfather Part II is supposed to be even better.

3. The third film is terrible, and Sofia Coppola’s acting allegedly didn’t help matters.

I recently watched (2nd attempt) the original film – The Godfather (1972), and yeah, it’s pretty good. An interesting story about characters within the fictional Corleone Mafia family during the late 1940s and early 1950s. And the original film featured some famous (and young) actors and actresses, such as Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, etc.

So…. Part II. I don’t quite the big hub bub. I thought the film was too divided between multiple plots. The story takes place between two timelines:

1. The early 1950s where Al Pacino’s Michael has continued to reign as the head (or “Don”) of the Corleone crime family. This is despite promising his wife Kay that he would make the family’s business completely legitimate. While the family still appears to have some business in NY, they’ve relocated to a large estate on Lake Tahoe, Nevada, as much of their income comes from their casinos and some other dealings with Hyman Roth, a Jewish mobster. Michael is also working to expand the business through some dealings in Cuba (prior to Fidel Castro taking power.)

2. A flashback to Vito Corleone’s life as a young boy immigrating from Italy to America in the early 20th century (after his family is murdered) and building a new life in Little Italy around the 1920s. The older Vito (aged somewhere in his 20s or 30s) is played by a young Robert De Niro, if you can believe it. Here we also meet a young Clemenza… played by Bruno Kirby!

Among all this, Michael is trying to figure who is trying to kill him. And dealing with his wife Kay. And deciding if he should be involved in this Cuba deal. There’s multiple story elements all rotating into focus during the film.

By the time the film concluded, we both sat during the end-credits trying to digest what we watched. What we agreed on was Vito was a better head of the family. During the course of the flashbacks, the audience leaves with the impression that Vito is respected by the Italian immigrant community.

Meanwhile, Michael is in quite a different situation. He is struggling to keep the family together, surrounded by enemies, and isolated. What he does as the Don doesn’t engender respect, and his world is crumbling around him.

Overall, I found the flashbacks scenes to Vito’s early life the most interesting aspects. There was nothing wrong at all with Al Pacino’s performance, but I was not engaged in that story as it developed, especially with the multiple plot elements that make the story drag for me.The Godfather Part II

Joel’s review of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)

It’s been two months but I finally finished watching Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. The 2016 film was adapted from the book The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a memoir by U.S. journalist Kim Barker about her experiences reporting in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and published in 2011.

Tina Fey and Lorne Michaels produced the film, and Fey stars in the film as Kim Baker, a cable news producer who decodes to become a war reporter in 2002. She heads to Kabul, and slowly transforms while living in the “Ka-Bubble”. Living in guarded guest quarters, she meets various soldiers while being embedded, fraternizes with the various ex-pats and other journalists, and keeps searching for her next big story. 

The film is interesting to a degree, because you see Afghanistan as this entirely different world, and the American soldiers who were off living and fighting in this forgotten war that the American people lost interest in. I was interested in watching the Kim Baker character adjust to life in this crazy dangerous world as her normal office environment. The supporting cast is also interesting – Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Christopher Abbott, and Alfred Molina.

After finishing the film, I’m still not sure if there was a message or theme to the film. It helped you realize that Afghanistan the troops that America sent over were forgotten over time. It was a semi-interesting story about Kim Barker / Kim Baker in her time working in Kabul. The film also briefly touches upon life for women in Afghanistan, but very lightly. I don’t think there was an big message. At times it was serious, while at other times it was comedy. A little odd. It was a little all over the place. 

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)

Joel’s review of Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Well, that was interesting.

By happenstance, my wife Namita heard that Spider-Man: Homecoming would be out early today (Thursday) at select theaters. On a whim, I checked out the local theater near us, and lo and behold, we’ve got show times. Josh went to his math tutoring class, and Lily and I picked up tickets. The kids and I later made dinner, my wife was on the way back from her business trip, and we all showed up at the theater for an 8 pm showing, reserved seats and all.

The film has Tom Holland returning as Peter Parker, and stars Michael Keaton (love him) as Adrian Toomes (“Vulture”). We’ve got plenty of other cameos and supporting roles, such as Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Gwyneth Paltrow, Donald Glover, Zendaya, Bokeem Woodbine, Tyne Daly, Hannibal Buress, and even Chris Evans reprising his role as Steve Rogers.  I counted a number of traditional Spider-Man rogues  and members of the Sinister Six — the Shocker, the Tinkerer, and the Scorpion. That was cool.

The film runs 140 minutes, and it begins with a connection to The Avengers (2012), and then Captain America: Civil War (2016) where we are first introduced to Tom Holland’s Spider-Man character. Without giving away too much, Peter is jazzed and thinks he’s now going on missions with the Avengers, but no, Tony wants him to stay safe at home. Peter is juggling his school work, teenage social life drama, and wanting to stop the real criminals (not just bicycle thieves.) At the same time, we’ve got this secondary, more serious plot-line with the villains led by Toomes out acquiring and selling advanced weapons technology. The film does a nice job bringing the two story lines together.

This is very much a heartfelt film about a teenager who also wants to be a superhero. I liked it. Go see it. Two end-credits scenes, btw. First is good. Second is a funny bit.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Joel’s review of The Godfather (1972)

This weekend, my wife Namita borrowed The Godfather on Blu-ray from our local library. I remember attempting to watch this years ago, but I fell asleep during my viewing. I knew everyone found this to be an amazing film, but I couldn’t match that to falling asleep. At the time, I remember finding it slightly confusing, slow-paced, and I couldn’t get into it. I’m glad we attempted it a second time, albeit a decade later, because we thought it was a very good film. Now that I was able to stay awake, I understood the film, the characters, and the overall storyline.

In case you haven’t seen it yet either, here’s my understanding. The film takes place in the late 1940’s / 1950’s, sometime after American GIs have returned from the war.  The film tells the story of the Corleone family, a major NY Italian mob organized crime family. You watch some of the inner workings of the family (run by patriarch Vito Don Corleone), and their interactions with the other mob families. The cast is a veritable Who’s Who of major actors and actresses:

  • Marlon Brando
  • Al Pacino (Al Pacino!?!)
  • James Caan
  • Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton
  • Abe Vigoda

When one of the other families wants to break into drug distribution (e.g. meth, cocaine, heroin), the families disagree. While the disagreement doesn’t seem like a big deal at first, we see a war between the other families. I enjoyed seeing a story about the mob from this time period, the phenomenal acting, the emotions, and the storyline kept us engaged. No wonder it won the 1973 Academy Award for Best Picture

The Godfather (1972)

The Godfather (1972)

Joel’s review of Wonder Woman (2017)

Last weekend the Ipes finally went to see Wonder Woman. This is the long awaited with baited breath latest film in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), which kicked off with Man of Steel in 2013. I personally think the film got a greenlight when Gal Gadot became the single good part of Batman vs Superman.

I missed maybe the first 10 minutes of the film, but I heard it starts off with Diana in the present day thinking about the past. There’s a whole history of the Greek pantheon of gods fighting among themselves, with Ares (the Greek God of War) being a key instigator. The film then picks up with Diana as a young girl on the island of Themyscira with the rest of the Amazons, including her mother Queen Hippolyta (played by Connie Nielsen), and being secretly trained by her aunt Antiope (Robyn Wright.) Eventually, Diana witnesses a WWI-era bi-plane crash land in the bay, and she rescues Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), and she’s ultimately motivated to enter the modern world, in order to kill Ares, and stop World War I.

The plot of the film is engaging, and Gal Gadot (and many of supporting actors and actresses) are also very good in their roles. Above all, Gal Gadot’s portrayal of Wonder Woman really sells this innocent, good-hearted, kick-ass warrior who is committed to saving the world, and yet enjoy an ice cream scoop on a cone for the first time. The film’s 2 hours and 21 minute run time goes fast, and you won’t be checking your watch. Add in some fun fight scenes, and it’s definitely a must-watch on the big screen. I wouldn’t say I was a fan of the big climatic battle at the end of the 3rd Act, but Patty Jenkins did a great job with this film.

Woman Woman (2017)

Woman Woman (2017)

Joel’s review of Arrival (2016)

I started watching Arrival (2016) on a flight to Dallas, but didn’t finish the 2nd half until I had a chance to request the Blu-ray disc via Netflix this week. From what I watched initially, I was absolutely fascinated by the look of the film, and the quality directing. Especially with the directing by Denis Villeneuve, I was impressed with the atmosphere with the film — if this happened in real life, this is exactly how humankind would react, and the challenges we would face in communicating.

The film is based upon the short story “Story of Your Life” written by Ted Chiang in 1998. According to one of the disc extra features, the producers desperately wanted to turn the novella into a film, but he was very doubtful that Hollywood would ever be interested. Finally, when he had a good chance, he made the pitch, and the movie execs said yes.

The film stars Amy Adams as top linguist Louise Banks. The audience is initially introduced to her through some interesting backstory. Soon enough in the present day, the world is shocked when 12 alien ships arrive on Earth. She and Jeremy Renner will be tasked with making first contact with the aliens in America. While Jeremy Renner’s character Ian Donnelly is the scientist, Louise is the key as she must try to make sense of the alien language, then formulate a response. Forest Whitaker plays the gruff Colonel Weber in charge at the alien landing site in Montana.

The film is really different than what I would have expected. Without giving the plot away and ruining the surprise, while the film is really realistic, there are clues that the film is more than the sum of its parts. In addition, the film makes a “Crazy Ivan” towards the end of the film that surprised me, and I like when a film surprises me.

Arrival (2016)

Arrival (2016)

Joel’s review of Hidden Figures (2016)

On a recent business trip to Dallas this month, I had an opportunity to watch Hidden Figures, a film my wife and I had attempted to see in theaters last year, but were highly unsuccessful.  With four hours to sit and stare, I kicked off Hidden Figures on my in-flight entertainment (Thanks, American Airlines!)

The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, as three  African-American women (and skilled mathematicians) who worked at United States NASA organization during the 1960s. At this time, they’re working in their respective divisions (within segregated “Colored”) departments behind the scenes, out of sight. NASA is in the midst of the 1950s and 1960s “space race”, as the US and USSR raced to make achievements in getting to orbit.  These women are friends, but also each working independently to gain respect, further their careers, and fight against the challenges holding African-Americans back at the time.

The film also stars Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, and Mahershala Ali in key supporting roles.

Um, so the film….. I thought the acting was pretty good from the major stars, and the supporting cast. I liked how the film brought the 1960s to life, including NASA at this time. The film seemed a little heavy-handed with the whole RACISM thing. It wasn’t Crash-level heavy-handedness, but at a few points in the film, I’m say, “Yeah, I know, we get it.” Overall, I thought the film is a good rental, nothing earth-shattering.

Hidden Figures (2016)

Hidden Figures (2016)

Joel’s review of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017)

After running a few errands on a Saturday, we went to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 opening weekend. This is the latest MCU featuring this version of the Guardians. Once again directed by Peter Gunn, the film follows up with the self-styled Guardians on what they’ve been doing for the past six months. It seems they’ve continued on this “Heros for Hire” mercenary line of work, still living on the Milano, and the film begins with them working a job for the Sovereign. The film features a large cast, and at least two plot lines that diverge during the film, and merge at the end.

The film brings back:

  • Chris Pratt (Peter Quill / Star-Lord)
  • Zoe Saldana (Gamora)
  • Dave Bautista (Drax)
  • Bradley Cooper (Rocket Racoon, still funny as ever)
  • Vin Diesel (Groot, in baby form)
  • Michael Rooker (Yondu)
  • Karen Gillan (Nebula)

The film adds Kurt Russell (Ego) and Pom Klementieff (Mantis), two other Marvel Comics characters.

Without revealing too much, the film is entertaining, but there is a long stretch in the middle which talks about emotions. In fact, the film talks about emotions a lot. Listen, a good action film should balance character development and action. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s imbalanced, but the film runs quite long (2 hours and 16 mins), so after you’ve watched 30 minutes of trailers, then sat for nearly 2.5 hours to watch the actual film, and then sat for 5 end-credits scenes…. wow, you could have trimmed some of that emotions stuff.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017)

Joel’s review of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

I was a little surprised to learn Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation came out two years ago. Wow, really? It’s taken me two years to get around to watch this movie? Color me surprisingly busy to think about stuff like this for a while, all of a sudden remember that I wanted to do something, then act surprised that it happened.

In case you were curious….

Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate – an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF.

Instead of Ethan Hunt being the only person disavowed and having to run around looking for a mysterious arms dealer, the entire team has been disavowed. Which I think happened at least twice with this series. Look, I gotta tell you — after all these years, these films are frankly getting a little repetitive. Ethan Hunt and/or the entire team is on the run after being betrayed, and the villain is an nefarious arms dealer.

The plot is okay. The action is okay. The acting is the usual. I don’t know, folks. It wasn’t the most exciting story, and it was really similar to the previous films. No big deal.

Movie_Mission_Impossible_Rogue_Nation (2015)

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