Tales From The Ipe!

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Tag: drama (page 1 of 7)

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 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 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 Neerja (2016)

I read a Geekdad article a few days ago titled ‘Airlift’ and ‘Neerja’: A New Breed of Bollywood Film about two new historical Bollywood films that weren’t the typical song and dance musical.  One of them was Neerja, a based-on-true-events film currently available on Netflix for online streaming.  As

Neerja tells the real-life story of model and air-hostess Neerja Bhanot, whose efforts saved hundreds of lives when PanAm flight 73 was hijacked in Karachi, Pakistan in 1986. The story weaves between her doting family, flashbacks to the abusive marriage she escaped, and the events on the plane and in the airport. The story touches upon the sexist attitudes that still prevail in India, and celebrates this brave woman who defied them.

Actress Sonam Kapoor (daughter of Bollywood film legend Anil Kapoor) does a fantastic job as Neerja Banot. She did a great job portraying this brave, sympathetic, vivacious woman who stands up to the Abu Nidal hijackers. With the aforementioned flashbacks to her previous abusive marriage, you saw this woman as a survivor. And here she is in the middle of a life-or-death hostage situation, and you are hoping that she can survive it too, and get back home to her family.

Neerja (2016)

Neerja (2016)

Joel’s review of Rebecca (1940)

We rented Rebecca, the first film Alfred Hitchcock made in Hollywood and the only one that won a Best Picture Oscar. Starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. It was….. somewhat interesting. Here’s a synopsis I found on IMDB:

A shy ladies’ companion, staying in Monte Carlo with her stuffy employer, meets the wealthy Maxim de Winter. She and Max fall in love, marry and return to Manderley, his large country estate in Cornwall. Max is still troubled by the death of his first wife, Rebecca, in a boating accident the year before. The second Mrs. de Winter clashes with the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, and discovers that Rebecca still has a strange hold on everyone at Manderley.

It’s probably a somewhat famous film, but I couldn’t get into it. Maybe because it was first seen in 1940 and I haven’t watched many films from the late 30’s and early 40’s. I fell asleep 3/4 of the way through. I eventually finished it, but meh.

Rebecca (1940)

Rebecca (1940)

Joel’s review of Joy (2015)

As part of a double feature, Namita decided to have lunch, and watch two films back to back at the theater — first Joy (2015), then The Force Awakens with the kids. In one afternoon! We’ve never done that before. For a 1:10 PM showing on the last Wednesday of the year, the theater was surprisingly packed.

Joy is the not-quite-biopic, inspired by true events, story about a woman named Joy. She’s a smart, talented, put-upon, divorced mother of two, living in Long Island. She was the valedictorian of her high school class, and had a lot of promise. Life, however, went in a different direction for her, and she hasn’t lived up to anyone’s expectations. Not for lack of trying, but it’s like her bad luck or something. Anyway, she gets an idea that might turn around her entire life — a revolutionary new mop.  She has to then try to produce, market, and sell this mop, and thus change her life. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence as Joy, and there’s a large and talented cast in David O. Russell’s latest film.

I thought the film was okay. Yes, it’s a talented cast, but it seemed like the tone of the film veered over the entire 124 minutes.

  1. The entire first act seems like this dysfunctional family comedy. The supporting cast circling poor Joy acts nutty, and is seemingly dragging her down. You’ve got the mother (Virginia Madsen) spending her days watching General Hospital. Her father (Robert De Niro) moving back home and living in the basement with Joy’s unemployed ex-husband. She’s raising 1.5 kids (you see the daughter, but you barely ever see the son.) She’s got issues keeping her job at Eastern Airlines, trying to keep afloat financially, and managing the crazy family.
  2. The second act is all about Joy trying to develop and finance her mop.
  3. The final act is about Joy trying to protect her invention, and attempting to sell it on QVC.

On paper, you would think this would work, but it didn’t work for me. The tone of the story kept morphing and threw me off. Sometime during the third act, and after the 90 minute mark, I was waiting for the film to end.

Joy (2015)

Joy (2015)

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)

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