Tales From The Ipe!

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Category: Entertainment (page 1 of 37)

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)

Joel’s review of La La Land (2016)

Namita and I attempted to see La La Land a month or two ago, but the kids were extra special ridiculous that afternoon so we had to cancel movie nights for everyone. “No movies for anybody!”

It took a few weeks later for us to forgive them, and we still wanted to La La Land, a 2016 musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. We found a day, theater, and a window of time where La La Land and the Lego Batman movie we’re playing around the same time. Game on!

The film is about an aspiring actress and a somewhat down-on-his-luck jazz musician who meet up via serendipity in Los Angeles, try not to fall in love (but do), and try to get their careers going and make their individual dreams come true. 

I know it win a number of industry awards, and was even nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Award. I gotta say it was interesting, but I didn’t think it was anywhere close to being Best Picture worthy. The story also suffers from a number of plot holes which are necessary for the predictable story beats to occur. I don’t think the film is supposed to be all that realistic anyway. It’s a vehicle to tell a particular story featuring its cast, and to have its song and dance numbers.
Visually appealing (and the music is decent), but the story is meh.

La La Land (2016)

Joel’s review of Bad Moms (2016)

I wanted to like this movie.

It is not a good use of your time.

Bad Moms stars Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, Kristen Bell, Christina Applegate, Jada Pickett Smith, and Annie Mumolo.

When three overworked and under-appreciated moms are pushed beyond their limits, they ditch their conventional responsibilities for a jolt of long overdue freedom, fun, and comedic self-indulgence.

The writing isn’t very good.The characters aren’t remotely believable. I love movies that are well-written, raunchy, and/or funny. This film tried most for raunchy or “outrageous”, but it was meaningless. Mila Kunis plays Amy Mitchell, a mother who works really part-time as a sales rep at some imaginary “hip” coffee company in Illinois (what?), and is overstressed and overworked running around between work and family. Again, she works part-time. My wife works full-time, does most of the organizing of our life. She’s justified in being tired. Eventually, she flips out after a PTA meeting that outlined fascist rules for a bake sale. Is this a possibility? No. Amy decides she doesn’t care, and decides to be hands-off. Hahn and Bell are also mothers, and join in on this. They will eventually go up against Christina Applegate’s fascist PTA president.

I don’t say this often, but you can skip this film. I like the actresses in this cast, because they’re talented. The writers? Not so much. Nothing in this story made sense — it was all a construct to allow the writers to show some scenes, like going wild and crazy at a supermarket.

Bad Moms (2016)

Bad Moms (2016)

Joel’s review of Ghostbusters (2016)

Namita picked up Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters (2016) remake from our local library. The film was strangely controversial last year, as a number of people were up in arms about this film threatened their respective childhoods. Some people need to take a chill pill every once in a while. Hollywood remakes films all the time.

The film stars Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. The film’s plot is somewhat similar to the original 1984 film, except there’s no Gozer the Gozerian or ancient Sumerian deities. Here’s the summary I found on IMDB:

Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat.

The Ghostbusters take up residence upstairs from a Chinese restaurant and go hunting for the source of recent hauntings. They do discover there is one individual involved who is summoning these ghosts. I could tell you more, but……. meh. You get the gist.

The film has its moments, and the actresses are great. There are cameos from the old Ghostbusters cast, and Chris Hemsworth is kinda funny as their idiot assistant Kevin. Unfortunately, the film’s story was a bit lacking, in my opinion.  It wasn’t engaging at all. It had some small moments, but the writing and story could have been much better.

I enjoyed the original 1984 film immensely, and I loved the Saturday morning cartoon also. I’d be happy to give these talented ladies another shot if the writers could give them a better plot.

Ghostbusters (2016)

Ghostbusters (2016)

Joel’s review of John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

I enjoyed the original John Wick film back in 2014. I didn’t know much about the film at all, but I was pleasantly by the film. A character played by Keanu Reeves, whom you felt genuine empathy for. Amazing action sequences. Good background soundtrack. What do you want in the sequel? More of the same please.

Sitting down to watch John Wick: Chapter 2 after it came out in February, I was mildly disappointed. Maybe I’m crazy, but there was no heart in this movie. Was there action? Yes…..  but this wasn’t about revenge or retribution or something else you could get behind. Without giving away too many spoilers, John agrees to perform a hit, and is then on the run due to the consequences. That sounds like a decent story, but after the umpteenth action sequence that was fairly repetitive of the last 14 action sequences, you get bored. Well, I got bored by this film.

Side note — let me tell you what also really bugged me about this film. I’m a New Yorker, and we kinda know our landmarks. I understand that the cinematographers are looking for the best shots and sites, and will dress up one place to look like another. No big deal. And the audience will never know the different. Fine, whatever. Do what you gotta do.

In the first film, we established that John lives in NJ — he has NJ plates. Early in this film, however, John walks from his house in NJ (long story), across the Brooklyn Bridge (?), and checks into the Continental hotel. Who would do that? That’s not how you would get there from NJ, and also, why not call a cab or take an Uber/Lyft?

Speaking of the Continental hotel (the one that that hosts the various assassins in NYC), the real location is really not a hotel. The building is downtown in the Financial District near Wall and Water St, and in the lobby, it’s a Japanese restaurant that sells somewhat overpriced sushi. But it’s a hotel in these films. Fine, whatever, who cares. Soon after John enters the hotel, he goes to the roof, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral (normally located in Midtown) is next door. Hmm, that’s odd. I mean, it’s St. Patrick’s, and that’s a long way from downtown.

During a important fight scene, John is running through what is obviously Lincoln Center (up in the 60s), and heads down into a nearby subway station…. and pops into what is obviously the World Trade Center Oculus mall (again, way downtown.) There’s a shootout that continues onto the PATH train platforms, and continues onto a PATH train, which normally only go to NJ, but are now heading to Brooklyn for some reason. Now I can only assume we’ve entered into some alternate dimension.

Is this  a big deal? I suppose not, but man, I really found this all very annoying.

Anyway, I didn’t like this film as much as the first one. There’s not a lot of story, the action was repetitive very quickly, and overall meh.


John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

New addition to the Ipe video library – Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Seasons 1 – 5

New addition to the Ipe video library – Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Seasons 1 – 5. We enjoy Star Wars, and the Clone Wars was appointment television in our house. I’ve already started ripping these episodes to our Plex media server.

New addition to the Ipe video library – Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

New addition to the Ipe video library – Kubo and the Two Strings (2016). Lovely film we watched back in September, and much painstaking effort by Laika studios went into the animation.

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