Saturday, June 24, 2017

Beatriz at Dinner [2017]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB () (3 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Beatriz at Dinner [2017] (directed by Miguel Arteta, screenplay by Mike White) is a darkish dramedy that reminds us that art can sometimes precede (predict?) the future: A sort of (now) Trump-era Guess Who's Coming to Dinner [1967], the film was actually made before Donald Trump was elected U.S. President (or before just about anyone, including possibly Trump himself, thought it possible that he could win).

Beatriz (played to self-evidently Oscar nomination worthy levels by Salma Hayek) is a non-descript Mexican-born, long-time American residing (a slightly older "dreamer"?) "healer" (in Spanish "curandera") working mostly as a massage therapist at a Santa Monica based "Alternative Medicine Center" who a quite rich Newport Beach residing couple Grant and Shannon (played by David Warshofsky and Chloë Sevigny respectively) met some years earlier when their teenage daughter had been having a tough time with undergoing standard cancer (chemotherapy / radiation) treatments.

Beatriz had helped their daughter get through the treatments, and subsequently Shannon had been having Beatriz come regularly to their quite lovely "cliff-side ocean view" home out there in _Southern_ Orange County to give her a monthly massage.  Insane amount of driving that this "triangle" -- from her modest home in Altadena to her work in Santa Monica to Shannon's gated community (of course) home in Newport Beach and back to Altadena (the geography here is both important and insane)-- notwithstanding, Beatriz, a seemingly quite gentle, somewhat "New Agey" soul appeared content to do this for the sake of her past relationship with Grant / Shannon and their daughter and because, well, she truly saw her vocation to be "a healer."

Well, one afternoon, after giving Shannon her massage, Beatriz' car finally "dies" (could not start) from all that driving.  No matter, Shannon invites her to stay the night in her previously sick daughter's room (she's long since "better" and now in college) and invites Beatriz to stay for a dinner party that they were hosting for one of Grant's clients, a _big shot real estate developer_ named Doug Strutt (played wonderfully by John Lithgow).  The two -- Beatriz and Strutt -- could not possibly have been more different and on so many levels (race, gender, class, fundamental outlook on the very purpose of life), and after a couple of glasses of wine ("liquid courage"), it's _Beatriz_ who in good part _decides_ that she's _not_ going to keep her mouth shut.

A fascinating if increasingly _painful_ film to watch.  Could _this film_ become this year's  Moonlight [2016] (89th Academy Awards [2107])?

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Cars 3 [2017]

MPAA (G)  CNS/USCCB (A-I) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

Cars 3 [2017] (directed by Brian Fee, screenplay by Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson and Mike Rich, original story by Brian Fee, Ben Queen, Eyal Podell and Jonathon E. Stewart) continues, and after a rather_weak_ Cars 2 [2011], IMPROVES this "what if cars were people too" franchise [wikip].  Indeed, I'd say that the current entry is at least as good as the original, Cars [2006], and IMHO better.

Why such praise from me, who really did not like Cars 2 [2011], and generally suspects _any_ film that seeks to humanize _things_ (especially _things that one needs _to buy_) at a time when we're often asked to consider all kinds of _people_ as somehow less than human -- from the (most obviously) unborn, to the physically or intellectually challenged, to the more darkly complected, to simply non-U.S. citizens, to those for whom answering what gender they are is, quite honestly, not simple matter to answer?  I bristle at the attitude, "Well I don't like ___________ (fill in one's human hate preference) while I LOVE my (ipad, iphone, car, dog, etc)."  Don't get me wrong, I love pets, plants, etc, and even the occasional gadget -- and among the Friars in my Province, I'm certainly considered (and generally rightly) to perhaps be attached to too many (electronic gadgets) -- I write a blog after all ;-) -- BUT I do try to put _people_ first, and do firmly believe that as Christians WE HAVE TO PUT PEOPLE FIRST otherwise the Incarnation of Jesus, "God among us,"[Mt 1:23, Mt 28:20] makes no sense and our own ultimate value is diminished: Either as humans we all count, or were left "fighting for _scraps_ of importance" and ultimately none of us do (Who'll remember _any of us_ 100-200 years from now ...?).

That said, I don't "hate" Pinocchio :-). And artists from Homer to Beethoven to The Beatles to Steven Spielberg remind us our "lasting creations" need not necessarily be just biological,  And finally at some point, one has to say to oneself "Just shut up and remember how it was when _you_ were an eight-year old and you could think that the match-box car you had in your hand was at minimum driven by a 'human driver' or was otherwise 'animated' / 'alive'" ;-).

So accepting the premise that at least in this story "Cars can be people too" how does the current film fare and what kind of a story does it tell?  Well I do believe the story in this film is a good one.

Gone are the arguably RACIST (I'm not kidding) elements that plagued Cars 2 [2011] where all the "good cars" were American or British accented English and all the "bad cars" were jalopies from Eastern and Southern Europe (again, I'm not kidding...).  In the current film, one of central protagonist American sports-car Lightning McQueen's (voiced by Owen Wilson) old friends from back home was a kindly and old(er) Fiat 500 ;-) named Luigi (voiced by Tony Shaloub), so this unnecessary "racist problem" is thankfully gone.

Then, the central challenge facing Lightning McQueen is the current film is finding a way to deal with "growing old" (or at least "growing older"):  In the story, he had been at the top of the auto-racing game for some time, but _now_ a new generation of cars was taking his / his generation's place.  Yes, he tries to stage a "Rocky-like" comeback, but ... is that the _only_ option?  Here I do believe that Disney-Pixar "does it again"!  It raises the storytelling level here from a film "merely for kids" to one that really speaks to / challenges adults: Instead of trying to be "young" (or trying to "beat-back" the young) forever, how about doing something else with one's age (and accumulated wisdom)?

I'm not going to say more because that would damage one's experience of the film, but HONESTLY, what a _nice film_, _reminding_ us "becoming older folks" of an obvious (and healthier) alternatives to just trying to fight a losing battle with Time.

Excellent job!

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Rough Night [2017]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (O) (2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (K. Rife) review

Rough Night [2017] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Lucia Aniello along with Paul W. Downs) is a definitely R-rated "Bridesmaids [2011] meets Weekend with Bernie [1989]" comedy.  There's a lot of crude (often penis) humor, two of characters are (or at least were) lesbians (back in college...), and a pharmacy's (or at least backwoods meth shack's) worth of illegal drugs is used/abused.  It's a film that _aims_ for goofy / raunchy and often enough succeeds.

What could possibly be redeeming about a film like this?  Well a lot of young people are going to watch it.  It has gay people in it, but they know and many/most of them will have already had gay friends and most will have kept them as friends even if they are gay.  The drug use in the film is extensive, even "creative" (to a 53-year-old (Catholic priest) like me).  But said drug use is not exactly portrayed as "positive" -- cocaine is clearly portrayed as impairing decision making, meth that "yes it can keep you awake" BUT ... again _severely_ limit your judgement.

And to anybody who may have doubts here, let me then reiterate the obvious: (1) Cocaine can kill you. (2) Meth can kill you.  (3) Driving impaired be it from alcohol to meth to "red bull" can kill you.  And yes, while "crossing the street" "can kill you" too, only an idiot would see "crossing a street" to be equivalent to doing lines of coke or driving on meth.  But my guess is that most Millennials will know that, and if they don't then, I've just told them.

So why the insanely exaggerated drug use in the film ... because most viewers would find it insanely dangerous / _funny_ ... after all, how many different concoctions of drugs could one possibly take _on one drive_ to _try_ "to keep awake"? ;-)

Then with the homosexuality.  Yes, the Catholic Church is right.  At minimum _at some level_ homosexuality is _disordered_ (a plug fits into a socket not another plug...).  That said, we all know people who are gay (and happy with their homosexuality).  And (I've written about this before) while the Church teaches that homosexuality is disordered, that homosexuality simply does not fit into its 2000 year tried-and-tested Theology of Marriage (that Marriage is to be open to both Life and to Love), outside of the Church the Society remains (thankfully) Free to go on its own ... and certainly for now and for the foreseeable future Western Society has chosen to accept homosexuality as a _legitimate_ lifestyle option for people ... AND ITS FILMS WILL REFLECT THIS _NO MATTER_ WHAT THE CHURCH SAYS ABOUT IT.  (That's again Freedom ... indeed Freedom of Conscience which the Church itself defends).

That does not mean that the Church should stop teaching that at least on some level homosexuality is intrinsically disordered.  On the other hand, it is needlessly putting itself in a self-imposed box if it an issue like this is all that matters.

I return to the question: What is "redeemable" in a film like this (or Bridesmaids [2011]) before it?  I think its emphasis on friendship: Is it possible to truly be "Best Friends Forever" and if so, doesn't that friendship have to change over time?

Then I did find it rather insightful that the couple getting married were both "perfect" in terms of the nominal standards of our time: Scarlett Johanssen's Jess was like a 30-year-old Hillary Clinton (bright, educated, indeed running for office) and her fiance' Peter (played by Paul W. Downs) was the _perfect_ well-groomed / sensitive ("Metrosexual") guy.  Yet both were _really boring_, and needed the _less perfect_ people around them -- from Jess' weight-challenged former college roommate Alice (played wonderfully by Jillian Bell), to her just plain goofily weird friend (played by Kate McKinnon) from her year of study abroad "out in Australia" to the by this point in my article "famous" lesbian / sort of (seriously) friends Blair and Frankie (played by Zoe Kravitz and Ilana Glazer) -- to give them life.

So while definitely _not_ for "the little ones" (the R-rating is RICHLY deserved), this is a film that a lot of 20-something Millennials are going to watch and it's not an entirely awful film.  It is often very funny and stresses friendship.

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Friday, June 9, 2017

The Mummy [2017]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (1 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

The Mummy [2017] (directed by Alex Kurtzman, screenplay by David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman, screen story by Jon Spaihts, Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet) is a summer popcorn blockbuster-ish sort of film ... and, well, it's summer blockbuster time.

Yes, the film is a Studio concoction: Universal has eyed quite jealously the "universes" that Disney's been able to assemble both from among its long-time fairytale franchises and also from its recent Marvel Comics acquisition.  And so, Universal has apparently decided to launch its own "dark world" universe with this feature film, which reboots (for the 4th or 5th time) its 1930s era "Mummy" character and to cast no doubt about its "campily megalomaniacal" intentions, adds a number of other "dark" 1870s-1930s era supernatural characters to the mix, notably a Russell Crowe playing Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde [wikip] [IMDb].  Seriously?  Yes, seriously.

What's going on?  I do honestly see a definite "campiness" (winking, non-seriousness) to the project. here (though certainly Universal, like _any studio_ would love to take our money, if it takes off ;-).

Consider Tom Cruise's role in the film as its key.  He plays "Nick Morton" a shifty largely out-for-himself American "special forces / recon sort of a guy."  Consider his character something of a FRANKENSTONIAN "studio creation" in which he gets to play BOTH of the characters that he's most famous for -- the "can't trust him but you love him" Joel of Risky Business or Jerry Maguire of the film by that name grafted onto the "super-heroish / secret agent" Ethan Hunt of the Mission Impossible series.

In the film, Cruise's "Nick" uses his "deep cover" to steal priceless Middle Eastern antiquities before ISIS-style Islamicists "blow them up."  Yes, it is true that ISIS (as well as the Taliban) has really taken upon itself to try to raze the Middle East's pre-Islamic history.  Yes, this constitutes a truly appalling Crime against Humanity.  But, Nick and his fellow "recon" buddy / partner in (in the scheme of things "petty") crime Chris (played by Jake Johnson) aren't exactly heroes here: Pre-ISIS, they'd be called war-profiteers / looters.

Again, what's going on here?  Again, I see "camp."  And since it is summer, since the film is _generally_ fun, I kinda applaud it ;-).  Call it simply ... summer entertainment ;-).

And some of the characters are quite good, the best being Ahmanet (played by Sofia Boutella) the Egyptian princess, the Mummy of the story, who the greedy but bumbling, here "way over his head," Nick accidentally awakens: In her time, Ahmanet was supposed to become Pharoah.  But late in life, her father had a son with a second wife, and ... Ahmanet freaked-out.  After murdering her father, her half brother and seemingly half the Pharoah's Court, the surviving Pharoanic officials captured her, and "mummified" her, alive!, and buried her deep and far, far away ... to try to erase her from history, only to be "awakened" by ... Nick and his friend.  And when she awakens, she's ... NOT HAPPY ...

Much ensues ...

Is this a great film?  No.  Is it a terrible one?  Again, no!  Again, this is a popcorn movie that for the most part "smiles" even onto-itself.  I just wish the Studio found a more dignified way to introduce Russell Crowe's (Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde) character to the franchise ... LATER.  He really deserved his own movie.   Other than that ... enjoy the ride ;-).

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Churchill [2017]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB () (1/2 Star)  AVClub (C-)  Fr. Dennis (2 3/4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (G. Goldstein) review (G. Cheshire) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

The Guardian (D. Alberge) article

Churchill [2017] (directed by Jonathan Teplitzky, screenplay by Alex von Tunzelmann) is "a small film" that _perhaps_ tries to do _way too much_.  I do believe that the film gets _a lot_ right (!) about Winston Churchill, its subject.  It's just that it does so in a manner that would appall many / most students of history.  How could that be?

Well, the film tries to express its thesis -- that Churchill (played both quite humanly and realistically in the film by Brian Cox) was very conflicted about the 1944 Normandy Invasion (for very personal reasons -- during World War I, he was the champion / chief architect of the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign, also an amphibious assault, on Turkey, that ended in utter failure and cost 200,000 British / Imperial lives) -- in the context of the final lead-up to D-Day.


Indeed, it just defies belief that the Normandy Invasion could have possibly been launched -- FROM ENGLAND -- without by then _living legend_ Churchill's blessing.

SO this film is essentially "a week in the life of Winston Churchill" that NEVER REALLY HAPPENED THAT WAY.

And yet, it does express a real truth: Go back a few years, and Churchill really was against a simple "frontal invasion" to liberate France because _he really thought_ it would end in slaughter.  He really thought the Germans were better soldiers than either the Brits or the Americans and he looked for all kinds of alternatives -- invading Italy, invading perhaps even the Balkans, just BOMBING Germany into submission -- ANYTHING other than making a direct assault on the Germans.

And YES, he had to be convinced by (largely) the Americans (U.S. Gen. Eisenhower is again portrayed quite well / iconically in the current film by John Slattery) that (1) WW II really was a different war than WW I, and (2) that the Allies would have simply SO MANY MEN, ARMS and SUPPLIES that they would just overwhelm / "bury" the Germans -- NO MATTER WHAT the Allies' initial losses would be.

It's just that THOSE ARGUMENTS didn't happen "a week before the invasion."  Instead those arguments were hashed out OVER THE TWO-THREE YEARS during which the Normandy Invasion was planned.

So Readers, please understand when you see this otherwise _quite excellent film_ (seriously), you're going to see "Shakespeare" not Documentary.

I would add that the presence of Winston Churchill's WIFE Clementine (played wonderfully / quite realistically by Miranda Richardson) adds another _humanizing_ dimension to the story that simple "pure history" generally has little space for.

So as much as I understand why a history purist would find oh _so many_ problems with this film, I do believe it is a quite good one, and that despite its _obvious (and at times appalling) simplifications_ it does (perhaps quite surprisingly) get "the true measure of the man."

So argh ... despite everything ... a pretty good job ;-)

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

3 Idiotas [2017]

MPAA (PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (2 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing

3 Idiotas [2017] (directed by Carlos Bolado, adaptation by Carlos Abascal along with Carlos Bolado, Cory Brusseau and Martha Higareda) is a cheerful and often quite excellent / insightful Mexican adaptation of a phenomenally successful Indian college/coming-of-age movie 3 Idiots [2009].

Interestingly enough, I've reviewed two of director Carlos Bolado's previous films Tlatelolco, Verano de 68 [2013] and The Forgotten (orig. Olvidados) [2014], both far more serious films than the current one, clearly a comedy.  Yet, since the director here chose to take-on the making an adaptation of a film that deservingly carries significant currency in contemporary World Cinema, it indicates that Bolado continues to have his sights pointed, rightly, high.

Note here as well that I was led to 3 Idiots [2009] by Readers here when I began my (first) Indian Film Tour last year and loved it and have recommended it to ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE since as a remarkably insightful film with regards to India (and young adult Indians) today.

So how did current director / script-writers do in adapting this film about contemporary Indian engineering students to engineering students in (Monterrey) Mexico today?

Well essentially the same characters are presented in the Mexican adaptation as in the Indian original, with the original film's insight -- that not everybody who makes it to a prestigious Engineering school should really be there -- left intact as well.  But there were a number of changes, some brilliant, and at least one that I could have done without (an unfortunate addition of "potty humor" with regards to one of the characters that served little purpose other than diminishing the final product).

Still, the Mexican adaptation has its moments of brilliance as well, notably in its portrayal of one of the "idiots" in the film, Felipe (played by Cristian Vazquez).  Felipe is portrayed as coming from a very poor family from the Mexican countryside.  In the Indian original, Felipe's character came from a "streets of Calcutta poor family," where each time he came home, his mother would always remind him THAT THE FORTUNES OF THE ENTIRE FAMILY HINGED ON HIS SUCCESS IN SCHOOL, and motivated by such crushing guilt, he tried his best, but ... In contrast, in the Mexican adaptation, while Felipe's family was also portrayed as quite poor, and he certainly did not want to disappoint them, the family was portrayed as being far happier and just PROUD AS CAN BE to have "a son of their own" having "made it all the way to a Monterrey Engineering school."  In both cases, Felipe's character was really not cut out to be an engineering student, but I found the Mexican adaptation's portrayal of his family quite insightful: the Mexican family was just happy to see "one of their own" already "kinda succeed" while the Indian original's family really, really put pressure on him to continue (though they were also more desperate than the Mexican family) even when it was becoming clear that he was "over his head" at the Engineering school.

The other characters, Beto here (played by German Vadlez) who was studying Engineering only to please his parents, Isidro here (played by Vadhir Derbez) who was studying Engineering only because he expected to make a lot of money afterwards, and Pancho here (played by Alfonso Dosal) who was the actual engineering prodigy who all his life loved tinking with things to come to understand how / why they work and how to make them work better, are taken straight out of Indian original, as is the stern Engineering dean (played here by Enrique Singer) who had his reasons (interestingly different if  poignant in the Mexican adaptation from that of the Indian original) for being so stern, and the Dean's daughter Mariana here (played by Martha Higareda) who becomes something of a love interest in both Indian and Mexican versions of the story.

All in all, I found the Mexican version of the story to work quite well.  I just do wish that the film had toned down or even completely eliminated the unfortunate "potty humor" surrounding Isidro's character.  It was quite unnecessary and seriously diminished the film.  Still putting aside that drawback, the adaptation was really quite fun.

Readers if you do see the film, stay through its closing credits, because the film ends with a lovely, and once again cheerful / fun Mexican homage to a Bollywood ending ;-)

So overall a pretty good job!

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Friday, June 2, 2017

Wonder Woman [2017]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (A.J. Bastien) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

Wonder Woman [2017] (directed by Patty Jenkins, screenplay by Allan Heinberg, story by Zack Snyder, Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs based on the DC Comics [wikip] Wonder Woman [DC] [wikip] characters created by William Moulton Marston [wikip] [IMDb]) formally rolls-out this quite significant character in the DC Comics Universe [wikip] [DC] to moviegoers of this generation worldwide.  Viewers will find similarities between the Wonder Woman [wikip] [DC] [IMDb] character (played here quite marvelously by Gal Gadot) and both the Thor and Captain America characters of the Marvel Comics Universe [wikip] [MC].

The story of Wonder Woman's origins begins on an idyllic island on the Aegean Sea populated _entirely_ by women warriors named Amazons who in this story were said to have been created by the Greek God Zeus to protect humanity from the evil machinations of the Greek God of War Ares.  The island was kept hidden from humanity by a dense outlying circle of mist that was so thick that virtually no human found it worth-while to try to penetrate it.

And so it was that the future Wonder Woman, named Diana, grew-up on this mythological "garrison island" populated, again, _entirely by these women warriors_ The Amazons who did not age but rather trained for a War that could but did not necessarily need to ever happen.

A fair question becomes: Where were the men? ;-).  The fair response was: They _weren't needed_.  These were mythological warriors after all, created directly by Zeus.  Indeed, even Diana, we learn was created _out of clay_ (kinda like Adam in the Genesis story [2:7] ;-), by her mother Hippolyta [wikip] [IMDb] (played in the film by Connie Nelson) and Zeus breathed life into her.  Indeed, a good part of the film involved a rather interesting query into the necessity / nature of sexual / gender relations...

Well, one blissful, sunny day (like any other day), the now young-adult Diana (played by this point by Gal Gadot) looking out toward the sea / horizon spotted what would be a World War I era German plane that _penetrated_ the all but impenetrable ring of fog / mist that circled the island, the plane crashing into to the sea.  The jumps then into the water to save the pilot dragging him to shore.  As she does so, she (and the other Amazons) spot a a sizable World War I era landing party pursuing on the water said downed pilot.  A battle between the platoon of German soldiers (armed with World War I era rifles) and the Amazons (armed with the bows/arrows and spears / daggers of Classical Greece) ensues.  In the end, the Amazons because of superior numbers win...

Who was the pilot of the German plane and why were German marines pursuing him?  Well it turns out that the pilot was actually an American, named Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine) who was escaping from a Turkish / German base on the Mediterranean with plans regarding a ghastly chemical weapon that the Turks / Germans (allies during WW I) were developing that they hoped would turn the course of the War in, then, its final stages.

The young Diana, hearing Steve Trevor describe the war becomes convinced that this War MUST HAVE BEEN INSTIGATED (and LED) by the Evil God Ares, and DISAPPOINTED that the "older / wiser" AMAZONS remained _unconvinced_ (that Ares ! was behind this War), SHE departs with Trevor to find / fight this Evil Monster.  Much ensues ...

Among that which ensues, Diana, coming to be called by her human compatriots as "Wonder Woman" as her adventures progress, discovers that World War I  was a war that _really couldn't be blamed_ ON ONE GUY:  She's convinced at one point that the German General Ludendorf (played in the film by Danny Huston) an actual notorious German WW I era general (who in actual history after WW I had connections to Adolf Hitler) was Ares incarnate.  Yet, she discovers that "things were a bit more complicated than that" -- crimes as large as Wars _can't_ really be blamed SIMPLY on "one or another person."

So Wonder Woman's story here offers Viewers A LOT TO THINK ABOUT.

In the first place, with regard to gender and sexual relations, Viewers are invited (repeatedly) in this film to reflect on relative necessity of sexual relationships to make one happy.  After all, Diana grew-up on an island inhabited entirely by women ... Even more profoundly, the film offers Viewers an opportunity to reflect on the nature of happiness to begin with:  Is "happiness" to be simply equated with "pleasure" (If so, then simply putting _everyone_ on a morphine or heroin drip, would suffice to make "everybody happy...") or is it more than that?

Here I'd interject that while in this film Diana seems to suggest to Trevor that the Amazons on her Island simply found happiness by learning to "pleasure themselves," that in the Christian conception of Dante's Divine Comedy, the Amazons of this story would have then found themselves in the Third Circle of Hell -- In the First Circle would have been those righteous pagans who simply never knew God.  In the Second Circle were the Lustful ho decided to look for their ultimate happiness not in God but simply in another.  In the Third Circle were the Gluttons who realized that they didn't even need another to be Happy.  In the Fourth Circle were the Greedy who realized that there was "only a limited amount of Happiness out there" and sought then to "hoard happiness" or otherwise steal it from others, and finally in the Firth Circle were the Despondant who realized that "Happiness was simply unattainable" and were divided into two groups, the Angry near the surface of this group who were still upset about this and the Sullen who brooded below not seeing even a point in complaining about the lack of Happiness ("it just does not exist.")

In any case, the film offers Viewers with the possibility of reflecting on the Nature of Happiness: What actually makes us happy (again, is it simply feeling, hence something that can be produced simply by taking a drug of one sort or another, or it is _more than that_)?

Second, the film invites us to reflect on the Nature of Evil (a fairly significant preoccupation of the original makers of DC Comics).  Can one really blame Evils such as Wars on individuals?   THIS IS AN IDLE CONCERN TODAY as many people (certainly on the Traditional Left) are increasingly viewing current U.S. President Donald Trump as being "Hitlerian" in tendency.

Yet this film would argue that Evil is more complicated than that: That one CAN'T BLAME EVIL on SIMPLY ONE PERSON.  "Ludendorf" it turns out wasn't simply "the one to blame" for the carnage of WW I ... it was far more complicated than that.  Even Turner, who was fighting "Ludendorf" was telling Diana: "Perhaps we're ALL to blame for this War..."

Anyway, this is _not_ "a dumb film," and IMHO is certainly best DC Comics [wikip] [DC] based film since The Dark Knight [2008].  So by and large .... A REALLY GOOD JOB.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Lowriders [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB () (3 Stars)  AVClub (C)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (R. Abele) review (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (M. D'Angelo) review

Lowriders [2016] (directed by Ricardo de Montreuil, screenplay by Cheo Hodari Coker, Elgin James, Joshua Beirne-Golden, Justin Tipping), the inaugural feature of the production company Telemundo Films, is a well written / well acted / excellently cast, gritty if also then _somewhat cliched_ urban (Mexican American) family drama that will remind Viewers of the Rocky [1976-2012] films and cop-shows like Hill Street Blues [1981-1987] / NYPD Blue [1993-2005].  

Yet A KEY (and _fascinating_) DIFFERENCE between these films / television series and the current film is that while the Rocky films (excellent, yet _also_ thoroughly cliched , as they were) focused on individual achievement / overcoming-of-obstacles and perhaps on _friendships_ between the various characters in the story, and the cop-shows suggested above perhaps portrayed "The Force" or "The Unit" as de facto "Family" for the various characters, THE CURRENT FILM REALLY IS ABOUT THE STRUGGLES OF "AN ACTUAL" MEXICAN AMERICAN FAMILY living in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East L.A.

Another interesting difference between this film and others that would tread on similar territory -- one could think here of Boyz in the Hood [1991], or more recently Straight Outta Compton [2015],  -- is that while taking the perspective "of civilians" (none of the members of this family were Police Officers, though both of the teenage / young adult sons found themselves at various times in trouble with the law), the POLICE HERE WERE _NOT_ PORTRAYED BADLY (OR EVEN PREDOMINANTLY WHITE) IN THE FILM.  Instead, the Police were seen as simply _doing their job_.  Indeed, the strong father, "Pops" (played wonderfully / AND QUITE REALISTICALLY by Demián Bichir), with his own struggles -- alcohol, tragic loss of his first wife -- clearly wanted to raise both his boys right.  And _clearly_ didn't want his kids ending-up in jail.

Indeed, there is A MAGNIFICENT (and UTTERLY REALISTIC) SCENE still fairly early in the film when the story's central protagonist / narrator Danny (played by Gabriel Chavarria), a young "tagger" (well "street" BUT LETS BE HONEST largely _graffiti_ "artist") gets, inevitably, caught by the Police along with his friend Jesús er Chuy (played again wonderfully by Tony Revolori) for, well, tagging, and ... it's Chuy who calls Danny's dad, "Pops" to bail them out.  THE SCENE (largely SILENT) with clearly angry but even more _disappointed_ "Pops" driving the two boys home ... from the two boys' night in jail ... IS SIMPLY PRICELESS.

And then there's "Pops'" second wife (Danny's step-mother) Gloria (played to SERIOUS BREAK-OUT ROLE HEIGHTS by Eva Longoria -- honestly she probably won't get nominated for this role, because it's still too small for that, but LONGORIA CERTAINLY PROVES THAT SHE PLAY TRULY SERIOUS ROLES, indeed HIT THEM OUT OF THE PARK).  It's Gloria who's holding the family and its individual members together.  She knows her husband.  She knows his sons.  And SHE'S got a daughter too from a first marriage -- who's preparing for a Quinceañera ;-).  The family's on a volcanic razor's edge -- it can collapse / go broke _in so many ways_.  And yet, IT'S GLORIA _keeping them from falling off the edge_ ALL OF THEM -- including "Pops'" harder older son Francisco / "Ghost" (played by Theo Rossi) who ALREADY DID do some HARD TIME in jail (for car theft -- for the parts).

It's one heck of a story!

Now wait, isn't this story supposed to be "about cars", "lowriders" to be exact?  YES, but they are both almost _beside the point_ AND the film's FUNDAMENTAL METAPHOR.

This is a film about a family / community that are living (under PRESSURE) REALLY CLOSE TO THE GROUND.  And yet it is ALSO a family / community that is both PROUD and HAS REASON TO BE PROUD.  Pops like a lot of other Hispanics is an auto-mechanic.  During the day, he fixes _other people's cars_.  BUT IN OFF HOURS HE WORKS ON / BUILDS HIS OWN -- BEAUTIFUL CARS, SOUPED-UP CARS, CARS THAT MAKE A STATEMENT.

And it's actually a similar matter with the Quinceñera that Gloria's preparing her daughter for: A _lot_ of Anglos simply don't understand Quinceañeras seeing them as an exorbitant "waste of money."  But Quinces are so much more than "just the dress / party" -- they are above all A FAMILY AFFAIR, then ALSO A RELIGIOUS AFFAIR (generally they are held in Church, and often enough, the mothers send _the whole court_ of teenagers, both the girls and boys, to Confession in the days before the Quince is celebrated), and FINALLY THEY ARE A SOURCE OF PRIDE saying to the world (and to themselves): "We may not be rich, but we will CELEBRATE THE RICHNESS THAT WE HAVE in _our young people_ in our families."  INDEED in MANY Mexican-American families Time is remembered in terms of the Big Gatherings / Fiestas that are held -- Baptisms, First Communions, Quinces, Weddings, and fainlly Big Anniversaries / Birthdays: "Remember Anita's Quince.  Grandma was still alive then, and so was Uncle Jorge..."

The cars here are the same.  They are extravagant, but they are beautiful, and they are remembered in the family / community for a long long time, and SOME ... even become LEGENDARY.

One awesome film!

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Baywatch [2017]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (O) (1 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C-)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Yamato) review (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (S. O'Neal) review

Baywatch [2017] (directed by Seth Gordon, screenplay by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, story by Jay Scherick, David Ronn, Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, based on the series by Michael Berk, Douglas Schwartz and Gregory J. Bonann) is certainly appropriately R-rated -- for both the gleefully free-flowing use of the F-word ("oh go ... yourself") as well as at least one scene, probably involving a prosthetic, that nevertheless makes it utterly inappropriate for "the little ones" (though I don't think it speaks much of the "maturity" of Viewers legitimately "old enough" to see the film).   That said, this is a legitimately enjoyable movie that THAT KNOWS WHAT IT IS: a gleeful (and still gentle / kind) send-up of the "beautiful people" subculture that existed (and perhaps still exists) on our sunnier shores.

For anybody who takes this film seriously clearly didn't get it.  And yet it's nice.  (My Beach Boys' fave "Wouldn't it be Nice? [YouTube]" even makes the soundtrack ;-)

I'd certainly ENJOY being as built as ever-smiling Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (playing the role of "chief lifeguard" Mitch BuchannonDavid Hasselhoff, who played the character in the original series, makes a couple of cameos) or for that matter Zach Efron (playing an initially "way too into himself" / a-hole of an "Olympian" named Matt Brody -- could he be based on New England Patriot QB Tom Brady?), who may have been initially "arrogant" but, well, HAD, legitimately, "much to be arrogant about ..." ;-).

Then the women, are, of course, good-to-great looking -- Sports Illustrated model Kelly Rohrback plays Pamela Anderson's role of CJ Parker.

But then there's AN ETHOS present in the film that IMHO _certainly redeems it_.  The overwhelming message of the film is "Your looks, and EVEN YOUR TALENTS are WORTH NOTHING if you don't put them into the service of WORKING TOGETHER to authentically help / save others / BUILD UP THE COMMUNITY."  And honestly, I think THAT IS GREAT.

So honestly, I was very nicely surprised.  Yes, this is an R-rated movie (for the reasons I give above).  Yet, there are worse films, with certainly _much worse massaging_ that have been made.

So GOOD JOB FOLKS, surprisingly GOOD JOB!

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales [2017]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (2 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Walsh) review (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales [2017] (directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, screenplay by Jeff Nathanson, story by Jeff Nathanson and Terry Rossio, based on characters created by Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie and Jay Wolpert) while not the best of the series is certainly NOT the worst.  I'd put it at number 2 or 3, with the best entré in the series being the surprisingly good first installment (after the whole franchise is based on a Disneyland Theme Park ride) with the current film probably tied for second in terms of humor / entertainment value with the second installment.

Indeed, with the exception of a single (if extended) unfortunate joke (below), I spent most of my time during the movie wondering "Ah, to be a seven year old again" ;-). This is because the various gags / situations seemed gleefully geared to that exactly age group.  How else to appreciate jokes that began with: "Did you hear the one about the skeleton who went into a bar and ordered ..." (I'm not going to finish the joke ... IMHO the punch line alone is worth the price of admission to the movie ;-) or the ZOMBIE SHARKS !!! (OMG ... HOW UNBELIEVABLY COOL IS THAT :-) -- Sharknado meets the Walking Dead ;-).

The single unfortunate joke in question involved one of the main characters in the film, a 20-something young woman named Carina Smyth (played wonderfully by Kaya Scodelario) constantly accused of being "a witch" (Why a witch?, because she seemed way too smart and _self-educated_ for a young woman of her time) who kept repeating "I'm _not_ a witch, I'm an astronomer" (Why an astronomer?  Well, she was looking for her dad, who had left her as a 5-6 year-old at a portside orphanage somewhere in Britain with small ruby crystal hand and a small diary filled with star-maps presumably for navigation).  Well, there was a point in the film where protecting a fairly impressive time-piece from the dirty hands of dumb, inebriated pirates, she declared: "I'm not only an astronomer but also a horologist," (knowing something about time would have been very important for navigation back in that day...) to which, confused, one of the (male) pirates responded, "I think my mother was one too, but I don't think she was as proud of it as you," and the rest of the pirates including the always-amiable if also ever-confused Jack Sparrow (played, of course, by Johnny Depp) continued with then with a series increasingly stupid / sophomoric, "horology" jokes.  Yes, it was clear that Sparrow's pirate friends were a bunch of drunk / goofball morons.  Yes, it was Clear as Day they didn't know what they were talking about.  But a not a few Parents may wince, to the glee of their 5-6-7-8 year old charges, just waiting to ask their parents: "What's an horologist?"  ("Someone who studied the characteristics of Time (back in the 18th century) my child" -- and you'd be right ... but ... of course, somehow the title seems "dirtier" than that ;-)

But if you can get past that dumb joke (indeed a bunched-up series of jokes) the film is honestly a joy, both poking fun at the various characters and ... tying loose ends together: Obviously, somebody from the original cast was Carina's father... And there was another character Henry (played by Brenton Thwaites) who was also trying to do something for his long "lost at sea" dad ... Finally both Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly make (necessarily older) in-character cameo appearances in the film, as does Goeffrey Rush, who actually has a more extensive role in this film.

So over all, I have to say that I really quite enjoyed this 2 hour excursion into "5-6-7-8 year old land." I do wish that the above mentioned joke was not part of the film, but the other jokes / gags were more than worth the price of admission.  So over all very good job Maties! Very good job ;-)

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Alien: Covenant [2017]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (L) (4 Stars)  AVClub (B+)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (M. Zoller-Seitz) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Alien: Covenant [2017] (directed by Ridley Scott, screenplay by John Logan and Dante Harper, story by Jack Paglen and Michael Green based on characters by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett) continues a continues the franchise's 40-or-so year quite fascinating, often monstrously "detached" and at times flagrantly subversive _critique_ of what would seem at least initially to be unassailable: Life, Reproduction, here in this film Creation (the act of creating) in general.

Okay, one could begin by stating that Life and its Growth / Expansion is by definition Good.  Well, from its very beginning, the Alien series proposes a counter-example:

What of a REALLY UGLY / VIRULENT (at some point, any/all sense of "beauty" becomes "inefficient") organism -- a giant, fanged, acidic-saliva dripping, beetle-like monster with a lizard/scorpion-like tail (used as both a weapon and as a means of propulsion) -- whose ONLY DRIVE appears to be to SURVIVE, THRIVE and REPLICATE (MAKE MORE OF) ITSELF (following all manner of stunningly hideous if ever efficient pathways -- from eggs to spores, from sexual to asexual, from carnivorous to parasitic).

Indeed, Ridley Scott's Alien monster is like a hideous "Swiss Army Knife" of Survival a living embodiment of the "Genesis Torpedo" that the Klingons were so afraid of in Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock [1984] (to mix alternative sci-fi universes).

The question that the current, eighth in the series, Alien movie seeks to address is: Who would create such a monstrous monster?  The answer given in this film is clever and as has been always the case in the Alien series, not _entirely_ subversive of traditional (Christian) religion.

As generally the case with the Alien series, a quite thought-provoking if also "jump-from-your-seats" Sci-Fi horror film.

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword [2017]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (2 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (1 3/4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword [2017] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Guy Ritchie along with Joby Harold and Lionel Wigram, story by Joby Harold and David Dobkin) while perhaps "okay" as _simply_ ANOTHER "sword-and-sorcery adventure film" with poor King Arthur's "brand name" _pasted_  to it to "up sales," those of us who've spent a fair amount of time in our younger days actually researching (as teenagers / young adults do, or used to do...) the Arthurian Legends will find this current cinematic concoction anywhere from disappointing to outright offensive.

Yet, the opening scene of the film literally "throws down the gantlet" to Viewers (who've just paid $10-15 to see the film...): Arthur's father, Uther Pendragon [wikip] [IMDb] (played in this film by Eric Bana), is seen leading the defense of his LOTR-esque hillside citadel of Camelot [wikip] before an onslaught of GIANT / FEARSOME (200-300 foot tall) BATTLE ELEPHANTS (!!??) conjured up by the (in-this-film largely unseen but...) Evil Mage / Arthurian nemesis Mordred [wikip] [IMDb] (played in the film apparently by Rob Knighton).   

"GIANT / FEARSOME (200-300 foot tall) BATTLE ELEPHANTS (!!??) attacking CAMELOT (!!??), HOW'D THEY EVER GET (T)HERE?"  Well, ever fainting Aunt 'Pittipat' Hamilton (of Gone With the Wind [1939] fame...) the Carthaginian general Hannibal _did_ invade Roman-era Italy from Carthaginian Spain in the Second Punic War by famously crossing the Alps with actual BATTLE ELEPHANTS some centuries earlier.  So the image isn't completely anachronistically insane.  But it is a real ... stretch ;-).

Yet this both AWESOME and APPALLING opening scene (which twists / conflates all kinds of actual historical bits, stories, and legends together) is THE KEY TO THE FILM.  If the Viewer can get past this opening scene (and not walk-out...) one will probably stay for the rest.  It should be clear however, that this (re)telling of Arthur's story is a _sovereign entity_, its inventors clearly not caring to be bound by past tellings of the story or form.

And so we see young / future King Arthur being sent down (Moses style ...) by small cast-away boat from (legendary) Camelot to ... Londonium (London's actual name in Romano-British times) after his parents are murdered by Uther's Evil / duplicious (Loki-like) brother Vortigern (played by Jude Law), where he's raised in a brothel and makes friends with a TOTALLY ANACHRONISTIC (but kinda cool) CHINESE (!!??) dockworker / martial-arts bad-a named ... George (played by Tom Wu).

Eventually the late-20 / 30-something Arthur (played by Charlie Hunnam) comes to recognize his calling to reclaim his destiny as the rightful heir to the THRONE OF "ENGLAND" (!!??) -- whatever questions historians have had in their various attempts to search for the "Historical Arthur" in Legend, ALL ARE CERTAIN that "Arthur" would have been a Romano-British leader WHO ACTUALLY FOUGHT AGAINST THE ENCROACHMENTS OF INCOMING ANGLO-SAXONS (!!), hence why the oldest versions of the Arthurian legends come from the WELSH (of Western Britain) and the BRETON REFUGEES who settled after the establishment of Anglo-Saxon dominance over much of Britain in what is today (FRENCH) BRITTANY -- and much, much (sword / sorcery fighting) ensues ... 

Catholic / Christian viewers would also find it surprising (to appalling...) to see the COMPLETE EXPUNGING of Christianity from the current story. This is despite the simple reality that Roman Britain was very much Christian by the time of the "historical Arthur" with clearly the continued / still recent presence of Celtic Paganism personified in the presence of wizard / druid Merlin in the  Arthurian Legends ... Indeed, the Romano-British St. Patrick [wikip] (!!) who evangelized Ireland would have arguably lived before or been a contemporary of the "historical Arthur." And then Sir Thomas Mallory's [wikip] late 1400s Le Morte d'Arthur [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn], which I read as a bright-eyed enthusiastic 20 year-old, is practically a Catholic / future High Church Anglican devotional piece.

This simultaneously dumbed-down / anything-goes (dare-one-say "Trumpian"...) approach to the Arthurian Legends makes for a rather _silly_ story that still, on the whole remains reasonably entertaining (if one is willing to accept the knee-jerk expunging of Christianity from the story, this despite the inclusion of just about _everything else_ from GIANT 200 FOOT TALL CONJURED UP WAR ELEPHANTS to WILDLY ANACHRONISTIC CHINESE MARTIAL-ARTS EXPERTS).

Perhaps the best way to understand the film is to see it as doing to the Arthurian legends what the recent Robert Downey Jr starring Sherlock Holmes films did to the original Sherlock Holmes canon and the recent Chris Pine starring Star Trek films did to the Gene Roddenberry originals.

And Dear Readers, if you don't see the above characterization as much of a compliment, well, you get my point and ... have been ... warned ;-/

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Snatched [2017]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (L) (2 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (2 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Snatched [2017] (directed by Jonathan Levine, screenplay by Katie Dippold) is an appropriately R-rated (definitely not for little kids) MOTHER-DAUGHTER comedy about a really ill-conceived trip to a "Club-Med-ish" resort in Ecuador.  Why Ecuador?  It's not really explained, but presumably because the trip was relatively cheap and sounded "kinda (eco)-exotic" to should-be grown, but not really (not by a long shot) early 20-something daughter Emily (played actually quite well in her trademark self-effacing "Trainwreck [2015]" style by Amy Schumer).

Things inevitably go terribly wrong in "Act 2", but this allows Emily and her 40-something, long-divorced (and long depressed) ma' Linda (played by Goldie Hawn) to "really bond" for the first-time in years.  Even long dismissed (as a basket case) of a brother Jeffrey (played by Ike Barinholtz) _kinda_ "comes through" to _help_ save the two after Emily inevitably gets them in trouble (though the vast majority of the "saving" comes from Emily / Ma' themselves).

So it's not a terrible movie.  Indeed, often it's quite funny and it's often quite self-deprecating which gives movies like this some soul. 

Okay most of us are not going find ourselves kidnapped by a band of local drug / sex traffickers working-out of the jungle border/hinterlands of Ecuador / Colombia.  But the clueless arrogance of the two lead characters (especially Emily) are certainly relateable, perhaps even endearing.   Hence it's not an altogether terrible Mother Day movie, though certainly for mid-teens and above.  Indeed, it may produce a conversation or two and perhaps even a hug ;-).

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Baahubali 2: The Conclusion [2017]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing listing

Hindustan Times (D. Sinha) review
The Hindu (S.D. Dundoo) review
Indian Express (S. Gupta) review
Times of India (M. Iyer) review

The Guardian (M. McCahill) review (M. Javali) review

Baahubali 2: The Conclusion [2017] [IMDb] [FiBt] (screenplay and directed by S.S. Rajamouli [IMDb] [FiBt], story by Vijayendra Prasad, [IMDb], Malayalam dialogue by Mankombu Gopalakrishnan [IMDb], Tamil dialogue by Madhan Karky [IMDb], Telugu dialogue by C.H. Vijay Kumar [IMDb] and Hindi dialogue by Manoj Muntashir [IMDb]) was probably the most anticipated INDIAN BLOCKBUSTER RELEASE in HISTORY and at least in terms of Box Office figures, it certainly did not disappoint.  Two weeks since its release it already has become the most successful Indian film in history, and even in the U.S. it shocked many observers as the weekend that it opened it ranked #3 in American box office sales (beating the Tom Hanks / Emma Watson starring film The Circle [2017]) and even the second week out it still landed #7 in American box office sales.  Wow!

Yet, to be truthful, I found Part 1, Baahubali: The Beginning [2015], an almost "Indian Thor [2011]-like" film (with which I began my 2016 Indian Film Tour last June) to be far more interesting.  The current film, which features EXTENDED (going on and on and on...) if admittedly AWESOME medieval style battle scenes, best resembles the final installment of the three part Hobbit series The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies [2014], or perhaps the Spartan Era 300 [2006].

That said, I suspect that many Western viewers will watch much of the film with jaws dropped, wondering ... HOW THE HECK did such a culturally / technologically advanced country as Silk Road / Medieval era India ever fall under the boot of the British (or otherwise European) colonization?  (There's obviously a complicated history there involving the reality that India was not a single country but rather a civilization / cultural unit comprised of many competing states who the Brits / other European states played against each other).

So while perhaps not even the best of these epic Indian films -- I liked Bajirao Mastani [2015] (available on various mainstream streaming platforms at a reasonable price) to be the best of the current Indian films of this genre -- I really do believe that seeing a film like this could change one's life.  A non-Indian would never be able to look at India the same way again.  In that regard, a simply AWESOME film!  

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