Tales From The Ipe!

I sit by and watch the river flow. I sit by and watch the traffic go.

Tag: drama (page 1 of 6)

Joel’s review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)



To be honest, I had never watched any of the original 70’s / early 80’s Planet of the Apes films. Of all the stuff I watched growing up, the Planet of the Apes series wasn’t one. Go figure. In 2001, I did watch the Tim Burton Planet of the Apes remake with Mark Wahlberg and Estella Warren, but that was fairly bad.

A few years ago, I watched the 2011 film Rise of the Planet of the Apes directed by Rupert Wyatt. Starring James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, and John Lithgow (among others), that was pretty amazing. The apes were the stars of the show, with heartfelt performances, and a intriguing story.

The sequel, Dawn of The Planet of the Apes, came out in 2014, but I only watched it recently. Directed by Matt Reeves, the story follows up on Caesar and his liberated apes 10 years later in 2026 in what was formerly the San Francisco area of the United States. Caesar has forged a healthy community of maybe 100 apes still living in the Muir Woods. They’ve built a home, go hunting, and are seemingly thriving. They haven’t seen humans in a decade. As the film’s intro tells us, the Simian Virus spread across the globe, decimating the human population. We do find humans living holed up in a partially constructed residential tower in San Francisco. Eventually both sides meet, and are shocked to find each other. Specifically:

  1. Humans still exist.
  2. Apes can speak.

The tension builds among both sides because of mistrust and fear, and also desperation among the humans. The human camp will run out of gasoline in two weeks, and are desperate to repair and restart a hydroelectric dam in ape territory. At the same time, Koba (a Bonobo chimp from the first film, scarred from repeated human experimentation) doesn’t trust the humans. In fact, Koba believes the only good human is a dead one.

It’s a clash within the humans, within the apes, and between both groups. At the same time, there are individuals within both camps trying to work together for peace. With all that going on, to watch the emotions and drama among the apes….. just wow.

Excellent film. I couldn’t say that enough.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Joel’s review of Inside Out (2015)

We watched Inside Out (2015) recently, and it was damn interesting. Damn interesting, I say. We didn’t have time to see it opening week, but caught it the week after on a Friday night.

The film stars Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, and Bill Hader as Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Fear, respectively. These are the emotions in all of our heads supposedly in control at various moments in our life. Yes, your main characters are anthropomorphic emotions.

We start at the birth of Riley, a girl from Minnesota. The film introduces us to this little world in our heads as she grows up in Minnesota, but the plot takes off as she and her family move to San Francisco. Riley is older, and living in a new city, away from her friends, and in a new school. At some point, Joy (Poehler) and Fear (Smith) are lost, and the remaining emotions are in charge.

I’ll assume you’ve seen the trailers, know the plot, etc. We all really liked the movie. Extremely age appropriate and entertaining for the kids, though Josh thought the film was “too sad.” What I liked about the film were the multiples of jokes for the adults thrown in. My favorite running gag was Anger regularly reading newspapers with headlines about what’s happening with Riley, such as “First Day of School” and “No Dessert.”

Most of the film’s drama comes from this push-pull battle where Fear wants or needs to be involved, but Joy is attempting to always keep Riley happy.

What I also appreciated was there was no overt villain to battle in the climax. It was a good story about these emotions working together, specifically Joy and Fear.

Very entertaining story that doesn’t drag, and it looks great on the screen.


Inside Out (2015)

Joel’s review of Gravity (2013)

I recently watched Gravity starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, a 2013 film directed by Alfonso Cuarón, written by Alfonso Cuarón and his brother Jonás Cuarón. The film was released nearly two years ago, and we really should have seen it in the theater.

The premise of the film is simple and to the point:

A medical engineer and an astronaut work together to survive after a catastrophe destroys their shuttle and leaves them adrift in orbit.

The direction on this film is outstanding. I’ve read a few bits and pieces, but I’m still not sure how they made each scene look so real, especially the weightlessness. I found the drama heart pounding, since you like Sandra Bullock’s astronaut newbie as a character, and I was in the midst of worrying about how she would ever survive this disaster.

I was also reading thay there is a sublayer to the film. That the space disaster represents the grief of a recent tragedy in this character’s life, and her mind finding a way to get past the tragedy…. I didn’t get all that. Maybe that all went over my head. It’s an enjoyable film.


Gravity (2013)

Joel’s review of Gone Girl (2014)

During our recent hotel stay, we rented Gone Girl (2014). This is that David Fincher film starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. Based on a novel by the same name by Gillian Flynn, the book’s author also wrote the screenplay. Besides Affleck and Pike, the film has strong cast of supporting actors and actresses:

  • Carrie Coon
  • Neil Patrick Harris
  • Tyler Perry
  • Kim Dickens
  • Emily Ratajkowski
  • Sela Ward
  • Missi Pyle

The story is basically about the marriage between Nick and Amy Dunne. On the morning of their 5th wedding anniversary, Nick comes back to his house to find Amy missing from what now looks like a crime scene in their house. As the days pass after Amy’s disappearance, and the search for Amy continues, both the local police and the public begin to question Nick’s initially assumed innocence. I won’t reveal much more than that.

It was an interesting film, and the film’s plot continued way past where I thought it would end. Yes, there was one or two plot holes that I’m still trying to wrap my head around, but certainly a worthwhile film to rent. I don’t think you need to own this though. One viewing is enough.

Gone Girl (2014)

Gone Girl (2014)

My review of The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

I recently watched The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Martin Scorsese’s latest film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. This is a 2013 film based on the memoir of the actual Jordan Belfort. Back in the 1990’s, he was a NY stockbrocker who ran a investment firm that was eventually prosecuted for securities fraud and overall a whole lotta corruption.  The film has a pretty interesting supporting cast, namely: Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Cristin Milioti, and Jon Favreau, Yeah, Rob Reiner of all people.

The film depicts the rise and fall of Jordan Belfort. Although the plot and themes are fairly basic in itself (rise and fall of a person, the corruption that comes with fame and fortune), Leonardo DiCaprio sells the entire movie. There is a pretty good supporting cast in this whirlwind tale, but he is the center. He’s the heart of the firm, the star that everyone revolves around. And he really sells all of the charisma and the character faults.

My only beef is that this is a long film, clocking in at nearly three hours. It’s hard to sit down and watch one film for that long. I ended up watching this over the course of two weeks. You should watch this film, but keep the kids away, and anyone easily offended by strong language, female nudity, secular scenes, heavy drug use, and did I mention the strong language?

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)

With the kids staying overnight with their grandparents this week, Namita and I went out on a Thursday night to the Menlo Park Mall to see The Hundred-Foot Journey. We could have seen it closer to our home, but Menlo has the nearby AMC Dine-In Theaters Menlo Park 12 theater. It’s bar food quality, but one can eat, drink, and watch a movie at the same time. Also, one can also reserve your seats ahead of time. It’s win-win. The theater wasn’t packed for this film, so seating wasn’t a problem anyway. I took a cab from Metropark Station to the mall, met my wife, sat in our seats, ordered our food, and waited for the film to begin.

The Hundred-Foot Journey stars Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, and Charlotte Le Bon. The Kadam family escaped from political upheaval in India, makes their way to Europe, until finally crashing their way into a sleepy French town. The patriarch, played by the fantastic Om Puri, decides they will end their nomadic lifestyle, and settle down in this little town. Furthermore, they will open their own Indian restaurant (“Maison Mumbai”) within the town. Unfortunately, the town is well known for being the home of a famous high-class French restaurant run by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren.) There is a competition for the hearts, minds, and stomachs of the townspeople. Meanwhile, an illicit romance brews between members of both restaurants.

This was a decent film, but it’s light fare. There’s no hard hitting story, the plot is somewhat predictable, and I thought the story was a bit corny in a few places. Lastly, I found the 3rd and final act a little trite, in that it seemed both predictable in story and resolution. How trite? Well, during some portions of the film, at times, I noted similarities to Pixar’s 2007 animated film Ratatouille. Yeah, no kidding.

Does this make it a bad film? No, as I said, it’s a decent but light film. It’s a simple and easy way to pass the time, with some nice performances from Helen Mirren and Om Puri, and also the supporting cast. Eat your dinner, drink a little, sit next to your pretty wife (or husband), and enjoy your date night, I say.

The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)

The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)

Godzilla (2014)

I was in Toronto this week, and my late night flight in on Sunday wore me out. By late Monday afternoon, the coffees were barely helping. After I left the office, my wife and I took care of a last minute mortgage-related document request (she at home, me in the hotel Business Center), then I had to catch up on work at a nearby 24 hour Tim Hortons with free WiFi.

After all that, I rested a bit in the hotel, then decided to take a walk and find some dinner. It was past 9pm at this point. I ended up on Younge St near the Toronto Eaton Centre, and got some thai fast food dinner at the mall food court. They also had free WiFi, so I had an oppportunity to chat with my wife via Google Hangout.

While I was deciding on food choices, I discovered there was a movie theater upstairs, and I ended up catching the new Godzilla flick. The 9:50pm showing was only available in 3D, but I figured why not see it anyway. Although the film came out in May, there were quite a handful of people in the audience, including a strange older man who kept talking to himself loudly.

Gareth Edwards directed the film, but I have never watched any of his previous works. The film primarily stars Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Ken Watanabe. Elizabeth Olsen, David Strathairn, and Juliette Binoche also have minor roles in the film. The film starts off in 1999 when there is a strange discovery large fossils within an underground cavern at a mining site  in the Philippines. Soon after, there is a mysterious accident at the Janjira nuclear power plant  that levels the entire plant. Bryan Cranston’s character loses his wife in this “accident”, and then spends the next 14 years attempting to discover the truth.

As the film progresses, both Godzilla and the other monsters glimpsed in the film trailers are fully revealed and eventually do battle. Humankind, however, can do nothing but do its best to not get run over. It’s an entertaining film, and you get your monster battles. There are a lot of plot holes, but you need to let those go so you can enjoy the film.

Godzilla (2014)

Godzilla (2014)

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

I’m in sunny Florida this week, having taken a Boeing 767-400 through United down to Orlando. Flight time is a relatively short 2+ hour, but I got some work done while watching Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) on the seat back monitors. Note to United: really nice plane and the complimentary screen with viewing options is a nice amenity for the passenger. The flight was delayed an hour taking off from Newark, and the crying children weren’t my choice, but I shamefully liked that it was a half empty flight. Funny, because when I attempted to book it, the flight appeared full. Instead, I get a window seat and two seats to myself.

Anyway, so I watched one of Chris Pine’s latest Hollywood films. I do love a good Tom Clancy / Jack Ryan film. I missed the previous film The Sum of All Fears (2002) starring Ben Affleck. I don’t think it reviewed or performed well, as I don’t recall much interest or buzz when it came out. Fast forward to 2014 and we Chris Pine stepping into the role. Directed by Kenneth Brannaugh, the 2014 film is a prequel or reboot of sorts. As I read the history on this film, it turns out this is the first Jack Ryan film that isn’t based on any of Clancy’s original works. It’s a prequel about Jack Ryans’ start within the CIA.

Without giving out any key spoilers, I found the dastardly villainous plot to be a little… anti-climactic. I was also surprised at how quickly “Jack Ryan the 1st year junior CIA analyst” got turned into a field agent with such limited training and experience. I mean, I love Jack Ryan as much as any self-respecting red-blooded American would, but geez, doesn’t the CIA have more experienced assets to put up in the field to battle wits with Kenneth Branaugh’s villainous Cherevin and his FASB cronies?

Kiera Knightley stars as Jack’s fiance then young wife. She’s okay. Kevin Costner stars as Jack’s handler or manager or whatever. He’s also okay. The action in the film got a little hinky and unbelievable towards the end, again, because Jack is an now an analyst with previously unknown action star abilities and reflexes.

What I found ironic was the movie tagline: “Trust no one.” Spoiler alert! You can easily identify the bad guys, and you can trust all of the good guys. The writer and director (and Marketing Dept) warn you that you shouldn’t trust anyone, but really, there are no big twists. Rather disappointing and misleading. Once you realize that, it made the film plot even more anti-climactic.


Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

I thought the debut of the 2nd Captain America film would never get here. It’s been been three years since Cap’s first film in the official Marvel movie universe, Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). Notice what I did there? I am completely glossing over the early 1980s Captain America film with the motorcycle and the see – thru transparent shield. And all the baked-in cheesiness. It was on par with the equally cheesy 1970s Spiderman films of that era. The new Marvel Cap was an extremely likeable and heroic star of the original 2012 film. The long wait since his last appearance in The Avengers (2012).

What I initially liked about this film, prior to even watching a single minute of the film, was that it wasn’t a film about a single hero up against insurmountable odds. I like a good ensemble, and there’s a good sized supporting cast of characters working for and against Captain America. Besides Chris Evans as Cap, this sequel strongly features Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Nick Fury (Sam Jackson), and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders). You will also see some familiar and unfamiliar baddies, including the mysterious assassin the Winter Soldier.

While the first film combined both heart, action, and humor, this one does much of the same. Maybe that’s the secret sauce for the new Marvel universe. This film pumps up the action but there are plenty of character moments to keep you interested on a secondary level.


Captain America: The Winter Soldier

28 Days (2000)

Did you ever say to yourself, “Hey, I haven’t seen a famous Sandra Bullock film in a while. I wonder what’s available on Netflix, starring Sandra Bullock, circa 2000?”

That’s not quite happened here, but I did happen to see 28 Days available for streaming / “instantaneous visual consumption” on Netflix earlier this month, so I thought it would be worth 103 minutes of my time. This is one of her early films from 2000, playing a young woman from NYC named Gwen with some fairly serious binging issues. The film sets up the story with an interesting / slightly heavy-handed introduction. She’s out on some late 1990’s style bender at a late 1990’s cliched visualization of a night club. I didn’t really do too much clubbing back in the day, but whatever one she was in, looked more Los Angeles than New York. Anyways…… she stays fairly drunk throughout her sister’s wedding (as a bridesmaid), and causes quite a mess of the wedding. She eventually steals a limo, wrecks it, and is offered either a jail term or 28 days at a  drug and alcohol rehab center somewhere in the woods.

She is, of course, rather unwilling and unrepentant alcoholic, so much of the film is her bucking and fighting her confinement at a center where she doesn’t believe she belongs. I’ll say that Sandra Bullock was alright in this film, but the film as a whole felt like more of a tv-movie, and less of a great theatrical film. Also, while Sandra Bullock normally comes across the role of the “every woman”, she still looked a bit too glamorous to be a Manhattan-based newspaper columnist. I made it through the entire film, but I wasn’t all that wowed by either the acting or the story line. It just felt too much like, “Hey, it’s Sandra Bullock as a woman in rehab!” I don’t know — it was the little things about this film that pulled me out from being engrossed in this film.

28 Days (2000)

28 Days (2000)

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