Friday, September 15, 2017

American Assassin [2017]

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

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

American Assassin [2017] (directed by Michael Cuesta, screenplay by Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch, Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, based on the novel [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Vince Flynn [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) introduces Viewers of the silver screen to the character of Mitch Rapp [wikip] [IMDb] (played here in the film by Dylan O'Brien).

As in the late  Vince Flynn's book series, previously generally normal / care-free early-to-mid 20-something college/grad-school aged Mitch Rapp's [wikip] [IMDb] life is forever changed by loss of his sweetheart / would-have-been-the-love-of-his-life Katrina (played briefly in the film to set the story up by Charlotte Vega) in a terrorist attack.  In the book series, she dies in the 1998 PanAm 103 Lockerbie Bombing.  In the current film, she along with other carefree tourists is gunned down (right before Rapp's eyes) in a massacre at a beach resort in Spain.

Rapp survives the attack, and decides that he's going to get Revenge.  He decides initially that he's not going to waste his time with Intelligence services.  Instead:

(1) He apparently teaches himself to speak utterly flawless / accent-less Arabic and learn (somehow) Arabic / Muslim customs to the level that he would _never_ get caught the way that poor sap of a British intelligence officer did the classic scene in Inglourious Basterds [2009] (where the poor sap, impersonating a German officer in Nazi occupied France) ordered three drinks in a bar filled with Germans including Gestapo using the wrong three fingers...);
 (2) trains like "a Demon on a Red-Bull drip" at a MMA gym and
 (3) becomes an ace sharpshooter.

I guess the old slogan is true: "MasterCard, it's everywhere you want to be..." ;-)  

His chatting with ISIS / Al Queda-like recruiters on the "dark internet" catches the attention of the CIA who apparently then with further surveillance discover his antics at the MMA gym and various shooting ranges, and ... at least one analyst at the CIA, Irene Kennedy (played in the film by Sanaa Lathan) is ... impressed.

Eventually, Rapp is taken-in -- in an interesting way at interesting time -- by Kennedy, _not_ to incarcerate him, but rather to recruit him, but ... does Mitch Rapp "want to play ball?"

And this then becomes the over-riding question in the film (and apparently in Flynn's entire series): Rapp has a clear agenda (to simply hunt down and kill Terrorists) for easily and arguably heartbreakingly understandable reasons (they murdered the love-of-his-life).  But the CIA is "bigger" than that with more issues / adversaries on its plate, some arguably more powerful and dangerous than simply annoying if also deadly "two bit terrorists."

Is Mitch Rapp going to be able to understand / accept that?  Much ensues ...

Viewers may see in Mitch Rapp [wikip] [IMDb] a combination of James Bond [wikip] [IMDb] and Jason Bourne [wikip] [IMDb] with Charles Bronson's character from the Death Wish [wikip] [IMDb] series thrown in.  He is, perhaps, a compelling character.  However, I would note to Readers here that the film here is not nearly as polished the James Bond, Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan, or the Jason Bourne films.  Some may like that.  However, the entire scenario in this film becomes not merely quite far-fetched (the James Bond plots / villains are _usually_ wildly crazy) but more problematically ... sloppy.

As such in the end, I found the current film disappointing.  It's a shame, because the lead character, Mitch Rapp [wikip] [IMDb], I found (initially) quite compelling.  It just that not only "the CIA" but also arguably the film's screen-writers chose to "not use him well." Sigh ...

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Wind River [2017]

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

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

Wind River [2017] (written and directed by Taylor Sheridan) is an extremely well written / well crafted / well acted, if (Parents take note) appropriately R-rated, thriller / contemporary murder mystery that should certainly garner an Oscar Nomination for Best Original Screenplay (Taylor Sheridan) and possibly others including Best Direction (Taylor Sheridan), Best Actor in a Leading and/or Supporting Role (Jeremy Renner), Best Actress in a Leading and/or Supporting Role (Elizabeth Olsen) and perhaps even Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Graham Greene).

Wyoming based, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Ranger Cory Lambert (played by Jeremy Renner) quietly grieving the loss of his own teenage daughter to tragedy some years earlier, while on a random favor to "take care" of a wildlife predator problem for his Native American ex-father-in-law Ben (played by Graham Greene) a part-time Sheriff / part-time rancher on the nearby Wind River Indian Reservation, comes across the barefoot body (in the middle of winter and in the middle of nowhere) of an(other) frozen teenage girl.  What the heck was she doing out there, like that, in the middle of nowhere?

He reports the matter to his father-in-law, who, since a murder was suspected, dutifully calls in the FBI as the local Reservation Police Force had neither the personnel/resources nor apparently _the jurisdiction_ to investigate murder.  So ... the FBI _had to be called-in_ to the visible, seething resentment of the Native American populace and its tiny understaffed / underequipped law-enforcement community.

Who the FBI sends _doesn't_ exactly inspire respect / confidence: A young / green and seemingly out-of-her depth agent from the FBI's "Las Vegas office" named Jane Banner (played to Oscar Nomination worthy depth by Elizabeth Olsen) who drives-up "in a rental car" woefully under-dressed for the still cold Wyoming winter. When one disbelieving middle-aged Native American woman asks: "Are you _really_ from Las Vegas?," wondering what kind of "law enforcement expertise" could a perhaps sincere if overly/inappropriately bubbly (and again, if not scantily then certainly still under-dressed) "young woman from Sin City" possibly offer them -- visibly concerned/convinced that "the Whites" who've dominated them for over a century now were once again going to screw them -- Agent Banner answers, "No, I'm not originally from Las Vegas, I'm actually ... (stopping herself, realizing that her answer wasn't going to help) ... originally from Fort Lauderdale ("Sin City -- East")."

And so it is, the visibly offended middle-aged Native American woman, gets Agent Banner some weather appropriate clothes, _pointedly_ telling her: "This is NOT a gift to you. I _expect_ that you will return these clothes (in the same shape as you've received them) when you are done with them."  (Who would tell that to someone, 'cept in the context of History realizing that Whites have for _hundreds of years_ now taken _just about everything_ from the Native Americans who originally lived here)

But Agent Banner proves, in fact, both quite competent in her work and a quick intelligent study.  She realizes that this Native American community NEEDS HER, and as she is quite _socially intelligent_ she realizes quickly that she's going to need help _from them_, and especially from someone like previously introduced "good white guy" U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Ranger Cory Lambert with a good reputation in the Wind River Native American Community to help her help them.

Much ensues ...

I found the story very well crafted, extremely well acted, and if perhaps distressing (is this really where we still find ourselves today?) very, very _realistic_.

A truly impressive number of seething resentments and prejudices -- both racist and sexist -- are quite remarkably laid bare in the course of this story as its various protagonists, almost none of them initially particularly liking each other, come to realize that they were going to _have to work together anyway_ in order to solve and bring closure to this terrible tragedy.

A truly remarkable "cold, winter's tale" deserving of its praise.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Marjorie Prime [2017]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B+)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (G. Cheshire) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Marjorie Prime [2017] (screenplay and directed by Michael Almereyda based on the stage play by Jordon Harrison) is a fascinating low budget indie sci-fi piece with a SINGLE simple "special effect" sequence that could have been pulled-off by a 10th grader ;-) ...

Set in the near future, it's about a relatively wealthy family whose aging mother / matriarch Marjorie (played by Lois Smith) is slowly coming down with dementia.  To perhaps help her better remember (or to simply accompany her, as her world inevitably shrinks / slows down) her daughter Tess (played wonderfully by Geena Davis) and son-in-law Jon (played by Tim Robbins) decide to buy for her a new programmable gadget called a "Prime" ... Basically, a "Prime" is a programmable holographic companion, which, since it is programmable, could be programmed to resemble (in the case of this story) a deceased loved-one.  So they buy her a "Prime", which Marjorie decides to program as a 40-year-old ("in his prime" ;-) version of her deceased husband Walter (played with wonderful, somewhat stilted/programmed inquisitiveness by Jon Hamm). 

Now the trick here is that though perhaps his holographic physical appearance was no doubt designed through "uploaded photographs," his memory bank is programmed by conversation.  The more one talked to him, thus feeding him with information, the more he becomes "real."  To make Walter Prime "more real" Marjorie has to talk to him, sharing her memories of her times with Walter (her deceased husband).  That puts grown daughter Tess and her husband Jon off the hook as Marjorie spends most of her time now talking to a quite interested Walter "Prime," and Jon seems to have fun then talking to Walter "Prime" as well as he "corrects" some of Marjorie's memories to better fit his own recollections of things.

The concept of creating such a "Prime" who exists primarily through the memories of others is truly fascinating.  And the story starts to play with it ... Midway through the movie Marjorie dies and Jon buys another "Prime" (now Marjorie "Prime") to help his wife Tess cope with the loss of her Mother.

Then another character dies (presumably in some tragic accident).  And soon there are THREE "Primes", interacting now _primarily_ with _each other_ with only one human feeding the three with  memories.

It's just a brilliantly simple film, though very well acted: All the actors play their characters straight as an arrow, producing a fascinating vision of the future in which at least some versions of some people could live past their human lives in this world, based on the memories that others had of them.

It just makes for a brilliant, just brilliant sci-fi story... and WITHOUT any "car chases" or "starship battles" ;-)

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Wound (orig. Inxeba) [2017]

MPAA (UR would be R) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing (F. Mignard) review* (V. Petkovic) review (A. Wilkinson) review

Los Angeles Times (R. Abele) review (P. Sobczynski) review
AVClub (M. D'Angelo) review

The Wound (orig. Inxeba) [2017] (directed and screenplay cowritten by John Trengove along with Malusi Bengu and Thando Mgqolozana) a South African film built around the traditional Xhosa initiation rite called Ulwaluko.  In the rite young Xhosa men are separated from their families for a period of time, taken to a camp in the countryside, invited/forced to endure a circumcision-like wound and then in the days-to-several weeks in which the wound heals, are led by a group of somewhat older mentors into manhood.  The film, which in the United States premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival opened recently at the Laemmle Theaters across the Los Angeles area.

The film which has a particular, arguably propagandistic take on the Rite -- it plays like a South African / traditional Bantu-people rendition of Brokeback Mountain [2005] or Moonlight [2016] ... -- NEVERTHELESS the film offers viewers a fascinating opportunity to reflect on what exactly makes "a man" or more generally "an adult."

I write this Dear Readers because there's little doubt that this age-old Xhosa rite is meant sincerely to initiate its young men into the Responsibilities of Adulthood, AND YET ... since it is (by its _nature_) SECRETIVE ... it lends itself to ... corruption / abuse:

A couple of the mentors prove to be gay, and quite notably EVEN THOUGH traditional Xhosa society _looks down upon_ homosexuality (and arguably _persecutes_ it), the Elders of the Xhosa community seem to LET IT GO ON ... there ... in the context of said Rite.

What the heck is going on??

Yes, Dear Readers, WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? ;-)

MY take on this Rite is perhaps different from the intent of the film (which at least to some extent sought to expose the hypocrisy present in "traditional Xhosa society").  For my own reasons, I _don't_ particularly like my understanding of the film, but it makes for A FASCINATING UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT MAKES A MAN / ADULT:

IS AN ADULT ... one capable of "keeping one's mouth shut?" :-).

It's to me a fascinating question, and plays in a very interesting way on the theme of the recent Stephen King inspired film It [2017] (which also opened here this week).  That film was about a town in which ALL the adults were "silent" even as all kinds of horrors took place in the town, horrors that their kids saw, but NOBODY seemed to do anything about.

Be that as it may, by the end of the current film, most Viewers would find it clear that the Xhosa traditional Ulwaluko initiation rite lends itself to homosexuality.  (And like other secretive Rites, it would lend itself to various other kinds of corruption / abuse).  That said, what does, in fact, the Rite teach its initiates?  And arguably is that lesson necessary for a Society's survival?

Fascinating stuff!


To us, the Servite Friars of the United States Province, any film about the various native peoples of Southern Africa has a special resonance because since 1948 we have been responsible for the Catholic Mission in KwaZulu (Zululand).  While the Xhosa and Zulu peoples are naturally not the same, many of their customs are similar.  Another GREAT recent movie about the native peoples of the region is The Forgotten Kingdom [2013] about a young man who comes back to the mountain kingdom of Lesotho to bury his father.

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It [2017]

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

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

It [2017] (directed by Andy Muschietti, screenplay by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman based on the novel [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Stephen King [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) felt like a film that will probably be better in its "director's cut".  Not that the film was bad; it did its job, but ... I always feel sorry for film makers trying to condense "1500 pages" of a novel (and by an author with a fanatical cult following) into a reasonably sized film for the movie screen.  Either the film runs way too long (like the LOTR's Return of the King [2003]) or ends up like this one, where one feels that 10, 20 even 30 or 40 necessary minutes were sent to the cutting-room floor by nervous producers worried about contemporary attention spans.

Though transposed to the 1980s from the 1950s (presumably to make Part II be set in the current day), the film tells the story of middle-school kids in a small, random town, a fictionalized Derry, Maine, that's tormented by ... many things.  Its more "mundane"/day-to-day torments come from teenage bullies, both male and female, as well as parents of all kinds: pushy, emotionally absent/clueless, to physically and even (implied) rapey / sexually abusive.  Indeed, there is enough quite natural horror in these kids' lives that there would be no need to add any supernatural horror.  BUT ... this is a Stephen King story ;-),

SO ... in the midst of these awful day-to-day torments one of the kids, a somewhat portly "New Kid on the Block" (played by Jeremy Ray Taylor), who incidentally secretly loves listening to the boys-band New Kids on the Block [wikip], discovers that the seemingly sleepy little town seems to be hiding (or is unawares of) a dark secret -- Every generation (27 years or so), there's a spate of unsolved murders / disappearances, mostly of children.  Then there's an eerie silence for 26 years and in the 27th year the horror repeats itself again.

What's going on?  Well, sleepy, or at least silent Derry seems to be in the midst of yet another one of these spates of murders / disappearances.  Another one of the kids, Billy Denbrough (played by Jaeden Lieberher), whose little brother Georgie (played by Jackson Robert Scott) is among the town's first current "disappeareds", is convinced that someTHING,, "IT," lurks in the city's sewers.  But even his own dad, Georgie's dad, seems to prefer that Georgie's disappearance remain unsolved.  "He's dead Billy," he tells his son. "Don't further traumatize your mother." 

And this is how it is: NO ONE of the older generation wants to do anything.  They prefer to cower in silence.  And perhaps they KNOW that ... "IT'll go away."

But this band of little "losers," which includes Billy (who stutters), Ben (the somewhat chubby kid who finds that awful / evil pattern in the town's history), Beverly (a 1980s-era "Molly Ringwald" character played by Sophia Lillis) known in the kids' middle school as the "class slut" (and yet harbors a secret at home), a small Jewish kid (played by Jack Dylan Grazer) whos's preparing for his Bar Mitzvah and African-American Mike Hanlon (played by Chosen Jacobs) whose grandpa would just prefer that he "keep his nose to the ground", working (and "just his mouth shut") CHOOSE to "not shut up."  And ...

... the rest of the story ensues.

It's honestly AN INTERESTING TAKE on MY GENERATION (I was a teenager in the 1970s and college student in the 1980s) ... when a lot of "secrets" were still kept quiet, even as OUR GENERATION'S TEEN ORIENTED FILMS often dealt with Horrors (one thinks of the Halloween, Prom Night, Nightmare on Elm Street movies... of my time).

It's just that the characters in the story seemed to be reduced simply to their most basic elements.  Again, a 30-40 minute LONGER film that would have fleshed out some of these characters' stories a bit more would have produced a more satisfying film.

So over all, it wasn't a "bad job" here -- there are obvious homages in the film to late-1970s-80s era classics like Carrie [1976] and The Shining [1980] (both based on Stephen King novels [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn]) as well as ... Breaking Away [1979] -- I just honestly wish that THIS FILM was ... a bit longer / more developed.

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Monday, September 4, 2017

Trip to Spain [2017]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13/R) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

Trip to Spain [2017] (directed by Michael Winterbottom) becomes the third feature length installment of The Trip series, following actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing somewhat fictionalized versions of themselves (Readers think here of the wildly successful 1990s-era American sitcom Seinfeld) as they travel through _some place_, in this case Spain, eating wonderful food (American Readers think of Anthony Bourdain's CNN "Parts Unknown") and talk / joke about life as experienced by upper-middle class Anglo 50 year-olds (American readers think of _both_ Seinfeld's and Bourdain's projects ;-).

Readers here who enjoyed the previous Trip movies, I reviewed the second one Trip to Italy [2014], will probably enjoy this film:  As the two continue to banter about "Life the Universe and Everything" (from the perspectives of two 50-something upper-middle-class white Anglo men) they continue to do often (IMHO) wildly funny impressions of various pop-culture icons (in one the two imagining Mick Jaggar doing an impression of Michael Caine ;-).  On the other hand, those who haven't seen the previous films will probably get "lost" in this one and not understand the concept behind the film / series at all.

Having ended-up enjoying their Trip to Italy [2014], I enjoyed this third installment as well.

However, if any Reader here would wonder _why_ Britain would have chosen to leave the European Union in its infamous "Brexit" vote last year, this film, along with Trip to Italy [2014] gives a clear-as-day answer: Britains still largely see other Europeans as "foreigners."  As such, they were never really "Europeans" to begin with.

Be that as it may, the film (and the series) is enjoyable (to white Anglo-American upper-middle class 50 year olds men).  To others?  I don't know.  Still, since I meet a good number of the above mentioned qualifiers, I really enjoyed it ;-).

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Sunday, September 3, 2017

Ingrid Goes West [2017]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB () (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (J. Yamato) review (S. O'Malley) review
AVClub (K. Rife) review

Ingrid Goes West [2017] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Matt Spicer along with David Branson Smith) is a cutting but wildly entertaining (in a feel-sorry-for sort of way) late-teen-to-early-20s-young-adult-oriented dramedy about Ingrid (played wonderfully / almost always convincingly by Aubrey Plaza) a young late-teen / early 20s "loser-ish" woman from the Midwest with "some issues."

SOME issues??  Okay, she had no real friends, was addicted to Instagram and had clearly become a Stalker.  But part of the film's charm (and arguably _its point_) is that while she's clearly "gone off the edge," she's clearly _not that far_ from said "edge" and the various "cool" / "have it together" people that she so admires are not necessarily that far from said "edge" either.

It's just that, once one "goes over the edge," all that there is ... is AIR ... and a long, inevitable (and painful) FALL down.  So going "over the edge" does have ... CONSEQUENCES even if those of us who haven't _yet_ "gone over the edge" ought to not be THAT PROUD because ... we could be close to said "edge" ourselves.

Very well... we meet Ingrid as she crashes the #Blessed #Perfect wedding of ... some girl she barely knows (but is a friend of on Instagram), spraying her with mace because ... she wan't invited to said #Blessed #Perfect wedding.  That lands her, well, in a local psychiatric institution ... for a few months.

When she gets released, she goes back to the empty home that her mother left her (mom died sometime back ... yes, Ingrid does have a story too ...) and after an afternoon long binge on Instagram finds a new Insta-lebrity, a Taylor Sloane (played with wonderful #Blessed ditziness by Elizabeth Olsen) who Ingrid decides she's now going to FIND and ... _model her life_ around.

Taylor lives in Venice Beach, CA, Ingrid's somewhere in the snow-bound Midwest.  No problem.  Ingrid goes to the bank, _cashes_ her inheritance (about $65,000) left her by her mother (stuffs said bills into a school backpack and ... heads California-way.

And thanks to Instagram ... she soon finds Taylor.  Okay, she kidnaps Taylor's dog (in order to "rescue it" for her) and ... with $65,000 ... that can make for a pretty pleasant life ... for a while.

Sigh, it's hard to say that Ingrid was evil.

All she wanted to do was to be Taylor's BFF.  And she _kinda does_ until ... Taylor gets introduced by Taylor's _psycho_ / sociopath brother Nicky (played wonderfully in mob-style user fashion by Billy Magnussen ... seriously, he "gets by" by befriending and then "knife to throat" extorting rich young people) to a model named Harley Chung (played again in even more #Blessed ditzy fashion by Pom Klementieff) who now TAYLOR would like to imitate ;-)

Poor Ingrid ... all she ever wanted to do is to be #liked by someone as popular and wonderful as Taylor and ... Taylor now wants to be #liked by someone else.

Much ensues ...

Again, Ingrid is #psycho.  But to say that she was _hugely_ more #psycho than most of the people that she wanted to be around and admired would not be fair.

It all makes for one funny / sad cautionary tale of our times.

Honestly, quite great job!

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Leap! (orig. Ballerina) [2016]

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

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Walsh) review (M. Zoller-Seitz) review
AVClub (J. Hassenger) review

Leap! (orig. Ballerina) [2016] (directed by Éric Summer and Éric Warin, screenplay by Éric Summer, Laurent Zeitoun and Carol Noble, original story by Éric Summer and Laurent Zeitoun) an French / French Canadian (Quebecois) animated film, along with the Japanese animated film In This Corner of the World [2016] also recently released in the United States, offers American audiences a glimpse into another culture (in this case French), its humor and its (artistic) priorities.

The current film is set in France of the late 1870s-1880s.  Felicie (voiced by Elle Fanning) along with her fellow orphan BFF Victor (voiced by Dane DeHaan) flee their timeless, ancient (and presumably Catholic) orphanage by the sea in rural Brittany to pursue their dreams in Paris of the Belle Époque, that is when Gustave Eiffel was building the famous tower that would become the city's emblem and when the Statue of Liberty was being built as a gift to the United States.  Felicie wants to be ballerina, Victor an inventor.  Many difficulties / adventures await them when they make it the City of Light ...

The plot is quite predictable and thin: Felicie is after all a poor orphan from Brittany and here she wants to "make it" as a ballerina (and without any previous formal training) in probably the most class (and certainly _form_) conscious city in the world at the time.

But France had had a number of tastes of "Liberté, Egalité et Fraternité" over the course of the century that followed its Revolution.  So she is not without hope.  She finds people who do come to help her, notably a 30-something cleaning lady named Odette (voiced by Carly Rae Jeppson) who could both empathize with the aspirations of the barely teenage Felicie and _could actually help her_.  Even the otherwise impossibly strict ballet instructor Mérante (voiced by Terrence Scammell) at Paris' premier Ballet, perhaps because he was sooo impossibly strict, has learned to put aside mere consideration of class and has instead focused _his attention_ on his charges' actual output / performances.  (Yes, he demands nearly impossible perfection, but at least it's perfection that he's after and not merely keeping "class privilege" in tact.  In his new world view, a poor person with drive / talent finally "has a chance...").

Still the humor of the film, _very French_, expresses if with a smile, the previous reality when one's lives had been largely predetermined, indeed all but "set in stone," right from birth (and Dear Readers remember here that Felicie was left as a baby in front of an orphanage out in the middle of "nowhere" that is to say, Brittany).  "Oh come on, smile, it's not hopeless," one of Felicie's young ballerina companions tries to reassure her.  "No, no, no, this may be exactly one time when it still is," another tries to "bring her down to earth" / "crush her" but _gently_ ;-).

Contemporary viewers (and particularly Americans) may wince at the seemingly cruel put-downs, but are then invited to better appreciate the times.  We live in a time when almost everything seems possible.  Back then, that was just _starting_ to become the case.

Anyway, though the story is wafer thin, the art and its overall message -- don't give up -- are not.  Viewers are treated to a lovely if exaggerated view of Paris of the 1880s, and the ballet / dance animation is almost photo-realistic.  As such, the film will not necessarily be for everyone (ie not for those who would have perhaps wished for more plot, nor for those who simply don't like the French or find their (often gallows) humor / way of saying things to be surprisingly cruel).

But if one were interested in how a non-Anglo culture would tell a story aimed at inspiring young children, especially young girls, ... well ... this is not necessarily a bad film to see.

Over all, pretty good job!

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Monday, August 21, 2017

The Hitman's Bodyguard [2017]

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

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

The Hitman's Bodyguard [2017] (directed by Patrick Hughes, screenplay by Tom O'Connor) is a surprisingly current and perhaps prophetic comedy that reminds us that sometimes it really requires a court jester to warn "the powers that be" that something is deeply awry.

In the film, a fictionalized thug named Vladislav Dikhovich (played by Gary Oldman) ex-president of a midsized post-Soviet/post-Communit State, nominally Belorussia but he could have been from any number of post-Soviet / post-Communist States across Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Caucuses finds himself on trial at the International Criminal Court at the Hague for War Crimes / Crimes Against Humanity.  Yet eye witnesses to his crimes tend to die or "change their stories" for fear of death or the death of their loved ones.

What to do?  Well there is one possible witness, an incarcerated African American contract assassin named Darius Kincaid (played by Samuel L. Jackson) who along with his Mexican wife Sonia (played by Salma Hayek) are rotting away (separately) in maximum security prisons in Britain.  Sonia is by all accounts "a small fish."  She's being held by the authorities to provide pressure on Darius.  Why?  Because of the circles in which he operated, he could provide information on, and here, in a pinch, even testify against such thugs as Vladislav Dikhovich.

Obviously, the authorities would have preferred to use more meritorious witnesses to testify against Dikhovich but ... as I already mentioned, they tended to find bullets in their heads or be so credibly threatened by Dikhovich's henchmen that they tended to "walk away" from their previous statements.  So all the prosecutors at the ICC were left with was ... the testimony of someone like Darius Kincaid.

But even getting this clearly less than ideal witness from England to Holland proved to be frighteningly difficult.  Dikhovich's henchmen ambushed Interpol's heavily armed convoy escorting Kincaid from his prison somewhere near Manchester, England to the Hague.  Clearly, with the stakes this high, even Interpol's security was compromised.

What to do?  Well certainly motivated / tough as nails but still relative rookie Interpol officer Amelia Roussel (played by Elodie Yung) who had been, quite surprisingly, given the task of getting Kincaid to his destination, recognizes that she can't trust her own people to complete this mission.  So she calls on an American ex-boyfriend named Michael Bryce (played by Ryan Reynolds) who runs a low-key private security firm to get Kincaid across still much of England, across the Channel and then to the Hague.  Bryce's operation is "low key" because he had had a terrible mishap in his work (lost a client) some years back, a mishap that he blamed on Roussel.  Roussel knew that she was not at fault, and thus continued to trust Bryce's capabilities in "getting the job done" even as Bryce himself seemed to feel (bitterly) that he was destined to work "small potatoes" jobs.

Of course Bryce's "low key" security operation was exactly what was needed to get Kincaid to the Hague _largely_ "under the radar."  Yet, of course, much had to ensue ...

Yes, dear Readers, one could dismiss this film as Mission Impossible / Jason Bourne-like pulp.  Yet, this film is arguably more serious than the MI films and more current than the Jason Bourne ones:

This current film asks some very sharp questions of the very project of the International Criminal Court: To get even the Serbian war criminals Radovan KaradžićRatko Mladić and the biggest fish
Slobodan Milošević required years of waiting (for arguably the overthrow of the government in Serbia).  To get someone like the fictionalized Vladislav Dikhovich (from a far larger state than the statelets of former Yugoslavia) to the Hague at all would be _really difficult_.  Further, given that a former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko was, in fact, poisoned as a candidate (by dioxin) by presumably Russian FSB agents because he was running then on a platform opposed to the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin, IT IS ENTIRELY POSSIBLE that the arrest of pro-Putin strongmen leading pro-Russian states and stateless across the former Soviet Union for War Crimes / Crimes Against Humanity COULD PRODUCE THE KIND OF CARNAGE envisioned in the current film as they, like the fictionalized "Belorussian" strongman Dikhovich in this film could well choose to defend themselves, their interests and those of their friends by truly _any_ means necessary.  (This film seems to predict a very ugly and violent future awaiting us ... if we take seriously the I.C.C. and its mission.  A true drive to "clear the swamp" could produce a real bloodbath... This MAY prove necessary as unchecked corruption only makes things worse, but let's go into such a project with eyes open...).

Then Kincaid has a back-story and his first brush with Terrorism was _not_ with bearded olive skinned Middle Eastern types but rather with white racists who murdered his preacher father in Alabama...

So all in all, this "court jester" of a film points out some really unnerving stuff:  (1) True "big fish" war criminals aren't exactly easy to apprehend and their networks of henchmen and hidden kingpins could very well choose to fight back, and (2) to people of color and minority religions in the U.S. don't necessarily have "Middle Eastern" terrorists to fear.  White men with hoods over their heads or wearing Nazi armbands scare just fine.

One surprisingly unnerving "comedy"

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Logan Lucky [2017]

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

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

Logan Lucky [2017] (directed by Steven Soderbergh [wikip] [IMDb], screenplay by Rebecca Blunt) is the second (and certainly happier of the two) West Virginia "redneck" / "hillbilly" movie to come out in the last two weeks (the other being the far more serious drama The Glass Castle [2017]).  If nothing else, Trump's recent election win has brought new attention to this often overlooked and certainly / _unfairly_ disparaged part of our country. 

The story is about the Logan family, two brothers and a sister -- Jimmy, Clyde and Mellie (played by Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and Riley Keough) -- sibblings, none of whom look much like any of the other two :-) -- legendary for their terrible luck, so much so that one-armed Clyde (he lost it in Iraq because -- "He stepped up while everybody else (around him) stepped back...") of a family curse, who come up with an insanely complicated plan to knock-off the vault at the Charlotte Motor Speedway "across the border in North Carolina" during its biggest NASCAR race of the year.  Among the complexities is that they need the help of "Joe Bang" (played insanely well and in completely straight fashion by Daniel Craig) the only "local" with any experience in "blowing bank vaults."  There's but one problem: "Bang" is IN-CAR-CE-RATE-ED (as he reminds them).  NO PROBLEM ;-) ... they'll "just get him out" (and _bring him back_...) from/to jail ;-).  Indeed, could one possibly think of a more "rock solid alibi?" ;-).

Anyway, much ensues in this "incredibly complicated operation" performed by _on the surface_ "incredibly simple people" -- even the star-studded cast colloquially called the film "Ocean's 7/11" [1960] [2001] ;-).  It's just a joyful film where one does root for the characters who had so self-evidently been _down on their luck_ for so long ;-).  Adam Driver's performance as Jimmy's brother Clyde working as a sad / still shell-shocked "one-armed bartender" at a local road-side dive named "Duck Tape" ;-) is simply priceless ;-) ;-).   And at the end of Channing Tatum's Jimmy Logan's "10 point plan" to knock off the vault is point 10: "Don't get greedy, know when to walk away."  One just wants to cry.

A special bonus to the film is that Viewers are reminded of the absolutely lovely (and now perhaps even haunting) John Denver song "Country Roads" that Jimmy Logan tells his precocious 8-10 y/o daughter Sadie (played by Farrah McKenzie) "You don't even have to have been here (to West Virginia...) to love."

Great job folks, simply a great job!

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power [2017]

MPAA (PG) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review (S. Tafoya) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power [2017] (directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk) is a film that deserves, indeed needed to be made, is more nuanced than most of its detractors who'll probably never see it would admit and probably caused me more trepidation than the vast majority of films that I've viewed and reviewed in the nearly seven years that I've written my blog.  Consider simply that I saw this film 2 1/2 weeks ago and am only now sitting down to write about it.  Why?  Well... Dear Readers, guess...

I think here of my 85 year old dad, a Czech born life-long outdoorsman - camper, hiker, backpacker, cross-country skier (I grew-up doing ALL THESE THINGS with him as a kid).  Since he grew-up first under Nazi Occupation and then Communist domination, he never owned a gun and so never equated "outdoorsmanship" with gun ownership.  Yes, obviously under Nazi occupation / Communist domination he didn't exactly have a right to have a gun, but also understood that under such regimes going after a gun meant certain and needless trouble and probably jail and/or death.  And yet even under Nazi / Communist domination he (and my whole family) grew-up appreciating THE NATURAL BEAUTY of this world (beyond the reach of any Dictator / Regime) especially when one gets out of the cities into the countryside.

Today ANYONE who hikes / backpacks _knows_ that the world's glaciers are melting.  My dad now lives largely in Colorado where former U.S. vice president Al Gore's example in his first movie on the subject (An Inconvenient Truth [2006]) of the "beetles eating the trees" in Colorado due to warming temperatures is again OBVIOUS TO ALL.

So why is Climate Change even "debated" anymore today?  Obviously because there are HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS of dollars invested in Oil.  There are scholars on the American Civil War who also say the obvious: Prior to the American Civil War white southern slave owners had BILLIONS of dollars sunk in their slaves, giving them up was NOT going to happen without a fight.

So former U.S. vice-president Al Gore continues to make the obvious case, even trying to educate American Viewers that countries like India have their own reasons for being angry at limits on carbon emissions: In the film a government minister from India sarcastically tells Al Gore and his group meeting with him: "You and your people (Europeans) had FOUR HUNDRED YEARS of UNFETTERED OPPORTUNITY TO POLLUTE THIS EARTH OF OURS FOR YOUR ECONOMIC BENEFIT, GIVE _US_ AT LEAST A HUNDRED AND FIFTY TO DO THE SAME.  THEN we'll talk ..."

But EVERYBODY (including the U.S. and India) _did_ step-up in Paris in 2016 to come to an agreement to try to save this planet by reducing our global carbon emissions.

'Course, now that agreement is threatened by, well, WE ALL KNOW ...

So folks, go up into the mountains, enjoy the fresh air and the trees, TAKE PICTURES ... and at least try to do your parts to reduce your own carbon footprints.  We can all do our parts ourselves.

Dictators do die (either with a bullet in their heads like Hitler, or by natural death in the case of Stalin).  The Earth will outlast them, and even most of us will outlast them as well.

In the meantime, let us enjoy and bear witness to the natural beauty of the world today, and then seek to live _humbly enough_ to bequeath what we can of this beautiful planet of ours to future generations.

An excellent if poignant / sad film and one DOES wonder "what difference will it make?"  But difference it will ...

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Monday, August 14, 2017

The Glass Castle [2017]

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

IMDb listing

Los Angeles Times (J. Walls) author's review of the process of making this film based on her memoir

CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (C. Rife) review

The Glass Castle [2017] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Destin Daniel Cretton [wikip] [IMDb] as well as Andrew Lanham based on the memoir [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Jeannette Walls [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) is a film that will challenge many of its American Viewers (to say nothing of Viewers overseas, who'd struggle even more than American viewers for a sense of context).

After all, this is a film about a woman, Jeannette Walls (played in the film as a child by Ella Anderson, and later as a teen / adult quite excellently by Brie Larsen) who eventually became a successful GOSSIP COLUMNIST FOR THE NEW YORKER (!) who grew-up in a more or less OBVIOUSLY ABUSIVE non-Conformist yet also Catholic household IN APPALACHIA.

OMG non-Conformist, Catholic, Appalachia ... to many / most American Readers TODAY those three words would seem to be at the far extremes of some bizarre contemporary American ideological triangle.  Yet, all is not what it would rigidly seem in today's American straight-jacketed cultural climate: 

To begin with, while to many today Appalachia would seem to be exclusively the province of bearded and bonnet-wearing, moon-shine swilling still Evolution-denying Evangelical Protestant snake-charming descendants of the Catholic-hating Scots-Irish settlers (read Northern Irish Protestants) who crossed the Appalachian mountains -- eventually kicking out the Cherokees... -- to settle there in the early days of the Republic, many of those West Virginia miners whose jobs Hillary Clinton infamously and perhaps still prematurely foreclosed-upon are actually Catholics of Slavic -- Polish, Slovak, Ukrainian, Belorussian (back in the day called Ruthenian) -- descent.  So there _are_ Catholics in them-thar-hills (and for some it'd be interesting perhaps to research the "contributions" of  these vodka / slivovice drinking peoples to the moonshine culture of the region ;-).

Then while to many, especially non-Catholic, Americans today, the terms "non-Conformist" and "Catholic" would seem like complete / unfathomably polar opposites, that was NOT the case until at least the mid-late-1980s.

[Readers note here that in the mid-1980s, much to truly everybody's surprise, the Reagan Administration reversed two centuries of U.S. foreign policy to establish formal diplomatic relations with the Vatican (something that the Holy See desired for most of those 200 years).  IN RETURN however, up until recently (changing back to the previous norm with the election of Pope Francis), the appointments of Catholic bishops in the United States (which _are_ made by the Vatican), have been ever more conservative ... So was there an informal deal made between the Reagan Administration and the Holy See at that time to change the composition of the US Catholic bishops in a more GOP / right-wing / Conservative friendly direction?  After all, since the late-1980s and up until the election of Pope Francis, pretty much all that the Catholic Bishops in the U.S. have been known to talk about has been about abortion and homosexuality.  In contrast, prior to that, in the early-mid 1980s, the U.S. Catholic Bishops made two very prominent statements one on Peace and the other on Economic Justice.  So a case could be made that such an ever informal and always _deniable_ deal (in return for diplomatic recognition) was made ...].

However, be those "diplomatic / bishops appointment intrigues" as they may, one need only mention the names of people like Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day and even Jack Kerouac (who, growing up in a Quebecois household in New York in the 1930s-40s was obviously influenced by the other two, as well as, of course, others like the more conventionally, non-Catholic / classically American writer John Steinbeck) and the "free-spiritness" of Jeannette's parents even as they came from Catholic upbringings no longer seems strange.   A faint if persistent echo of that "radically free-ing" past in 20th century Catholic writing can still be found in the works of people like Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM [wikip] [GR].

However, "non-Conformity" especially when it comes to raising a family has its problems: Rules / social norms _often_ (not always, but _often_) have their basis in the practical experience of a culture (my point being here that rules should be neither blindly accepted nor out-of-hand rejected without serious critical reflection.  Simply rejecting "old rules" out-of-hand negates the accumulated wisdom of a people and needlessly forces descendants to "reinvent the wheel" / "start from scratch"):

Yes, it _would have been_ "nice" from the perspective of Jeanette's parents Rex (played in this film to Oscar nomination worthy heights by Woody Harrelson) and Rose Mary (also played excellently by Naomi Watts) to simply live quite the "carefree lives" of beatnik Jack Kerouac or artist Georgia O'Keeffe, but THEY HAD KIDS that they were responsible for, and there are REPEATED instances in this story when VIEWERS are left simply stunned and wondering WHY their kids were not simply taken away from them.

And yet, they weren't (taken away), and that is probably _for the best_.  Rex (and Rose Mary, for that matter) _were_ TERRIBLE PARENTS, but they were -- like all of us -- also _more_ than their (often clear enough) sins / failings.

I live and work very much in this world of complex _real people_.  As such I applaud the honesty and complexity of the presentation.  Otherwise, we'd be forced to watch / read simply sanitized versions of Pleasantville [1998] of one sort or another with the "good people" (idealized according to one or another au currant ideology) and "horned / tailed villains" clearly defined.

So then, this is a simply excellent if, often enough, _difficult to watch_ film and PARENTS NOTE thematically deserving of an R-rating rather than the silly PG-13 that it apparently received.  This film would require an adult, at least in their mid to late 20s, in order to really understand it.  Again, some of the situations, though I suppose _technically_ meeting "PG-13" criteria (technically no blood, nudity or gore), are very difficult to watch.  EXCELLENT though it is, it is not for the squeamish.

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

In this Corner of the World (orig.Kono sekai no katasumi ni) [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
Japan Times (M. Schilling) review
South China Morning Post (B. Shin) review (J. Fae) review (I. Navarro) review*

Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review
Slant Magazine (C. Bowen) review

In this Corner of the World (orig.Kono sekai no katasumi ni) [2016][IMDb] [wikip] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Sunau Katabuchi [IMDb] along with Chie Uratani [IMDb] based on the manga [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Fumiyo Kouno [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) is a truly poignant/lovely if often very sad Japanese animated film about a simple young woman named Suzu (voiced in the Eng. version by Laura Post), with an endearing talent for drawing, who grew-up in a small fishing village on the outskirts of Hiroshima in the years before WW II and then married into a similarly humble family living "on the other side of the mountain" on the outskirts of Kure whose harbor had been a major Japanese Naval Base during WW II.

So the film, which won this year's Japanese Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film, tells the story of World War II (or the experience of it) from the perspective of a quite ordinary young Japanese woman:

Of course she's patriotic: How could she not be?  Her husband Shusaku (voiced in the Eng. version by Todd Haberkorn) was a clerk for the Imperial Navy at the Navel base in Kure, her father-in-law (voiced in the Eng. version by Kirk Thornton) was an engineer at the base as well.  She had a childhood friend who's stationed on a Japanese cruiser.

YET, she also sees hints of problems: When as the War progresses / rationing tightens and she accidently breaks the family's only sugar jar, Suzu's mother-in-law (voiced in the Eng. version by Barbara Goodson) gives her extra money that she had kept in a shoe-box and tells her to go down a seedy part of Kure where she could probably buy replacement sugar on the black market.  Suzu is shocked to see that "if one had the money, war or no war, one could buy basically anything."  Walking home from shady part of town with a bag of black market sugar that she bought for 8x the official price, she gets lost ... winding-up in the seedy part of town's red-light district, where she is helped to get-out by a (foreign?) geisha-girl.  The geisha quite kindly/discreetly tells Suzu that it'd probably "not be a good idea" for Suzu "stay long" in that part of town.

Later, of course, the bombs start falling.  The irony, of course, is that Kure with its Naval base is bombed repeatedly / devastatingly while Hiroshima remains largely untouched and its residents including Suzu's own family repeatedly give assistance to "the poor residents of Kure, across the mountain," until ...

It's a film that does make you want to cry EVEN THOUGH, OF COURSE, the Japanese did terrible things in Korea ("comfort women"), all across China (the Rape of Nanjing ...), the Philippines (Bataan Death March), and across South East Asia (Burma Railway).  But, of course, Suzu wouldn't know any of that ... just that slowly but surely her childhood friends were "not coming back" from the War: Her brother's urn comes back with _only a small rock in it_ ... his ship was sunk somewhere in the Pacific and so, of course, there were no remains to "send back..." but apparently the Imperial Navy felt the need to send the bereaved family "something" to "honor."  And of course the bombing near the end of the War just gets worse and worse.

Yes, I know why the war was fought.  Yes, Imperial Japan did all kinds of terrible things all across their side of the Pacific.  Still ... one can not but feel for this simple Japanese woman and her family living through a war that they certainly didn't start and only really supported because ... they were told to ... by the same kind of authorities (their national leaders at the time) that we ourselves are taught to as-a-matter-of-course ... trust.

A truly fascinating and poignant film, worthy of being seen / reflected upon.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Kidnap [2017]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (1/2 Star)  AVClub (D+)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Walsh) review (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Kidnap [2017] (directed by Luis Prieto, screenplay by Knate Lee), perhaps in line with the recent commercially successful / far more _critically acclaimed_ "inverted" (and African American-centered) horror dramedy Get Out [2017], could be considered to be a similarly "inverted" version of the Liam Neeson-starring Taken [2010-2014] films, with the (pale / ever deathly serious) ex-CIA assassin Neeson's role played by Halle Berry, playing a humble (and at times quite emotional) New Orleans residing African-American diner waitress in the process of a divorce, whose cute-as-a-button six-year-old African-American boy (rather than "white naive suburban teenage daughter") gets kidnapped, here _not_ by crazed / bearded malevolent terrorist mafia types from the Balkans / Middle East ("expected" to naturally "hate America...") but rather by similarly crazed / bearded malevolent here emphatically _white redneck_ types who could have been extras in Hell's version of Swamp People (and "expected" then to "naturally" hate people of color ...).

I think the critical reactions to the current film need to be taken in light of who the heroes were in this film and who were its villains because as crazy as the car chases were ... they were IMHO _no crazier_ than those in Taken 3 [2014].

I confess, I didn't particularly mind the current film, and kinda enjoyed it.  But I would suggest that Hollywood try to learn a thing or two from the Italians for instance who have made it an art of making compelling (and often very funny) films in which there are no discernable villains at all...

Again, I think I totally get this film, and am happy that it was made (as a fascinating counter-point to such films as the Taken series).  But I do agree the critics above that after making this point, there wasn't much there ... course there wasn't much in the Taken series either 'cept the message of "Be afraid, be very, very afraid ..."

So Two Stars, as I gave the last Taken film.

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Detroit [2017]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (L) (2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

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

Detroit [2017] (directed by Katheryn Bigelow, screenplay by Mark Boal) is a searing movie that has it's place:

The next time President Donald Trump places himself in front a backdrop of police officers PLEASE COUNT THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE OFFICERS OF COLOR PRESENT.  Last week, as he was instructing Police Officers to "not be so nice" to the people that they arrest THERE WERE EXACTLY _ZERO_ POLICE OFFICERS OFFICERS OF COLOR standing behind him (out of at least 100) and only TWO WOMEN (and he gave that speech in Suffolk County on Long Island -- the same county that has "the Hamptons" among its city ... not even remotely resembling America's cities today).

Dear Readers, I asked you to count the number of police officers of color at Trump's police photo-ops because regardless of the current several-years-long wave of shootings of unarmed black men by still generally white police officers, IT COULD STILL HONESTLY BE WORSE:

Today ALL THE MAJOR CITIES OF THE UNITED STATES have thoroughly integrated Police Forces.  I know this first hand because I served in a Parish on the South East Side of Chicago for 12 years, a parish _heavily_ populated by Chicago Police Officers (over 100 families had members of of their families in law enforcement) and 1/2 of those Police Officers were WHITE and 1/2 were HISPANIC, the neighborhood itself being a mix of Hispanic / White.  Statistically, about 40% of Chicago's police force is White, 30% is African American and 30% is Hispanic.

What good is that when unarmed black men still are shot by white police officers?  Well ... again, it could be A LOT WORSE ... FOR ALL CONCERNED.


And Catholic Readers here remember THIS IS EXACTLY (!!) WHAT BELFAST LOOKED LIKE DURING "THE TROUBLES" IN NORTHERN IRELAND ... only there it was THE OVERWHELMINGLY PROTESTANT "Royal Ulster Constabulary" tasked with "policing" OVERWHELMINGLY CATHOLIC neighborhoods in Belfast / Derry , etc with _similar results_.

There is simply no way to credibly "police" a city when its police come so _obviously_ from only one faction.

Yes, one can demonize the residents of (generally poorer) neighborhoods.  But even the Police themselves (!) are _not safe_ if their membership does not _clearly_ come from a credible cross-section of the city.  (That it itself clearly won't solve a city's crime problems but the situation could only be worse (again, even for the police themselves) if the vast majority of the police force's members come form only one group).

So the current film follows the beginning of the riots / rebellion in Detroit in 1967 and then proceeds to focus on a particularly awful murder of three unarmed black men in a hotel (the police / national came there initially in search of a possible sniper) and the brutalizing of many others, including two white women staying there.

Viewers will easily recognize tragic / unfortunate similarities between our time and then -- most notably that NONE OF THE POLICE OFFICERS INVOLVED IN THOSE MURDERS WERE CONVICTED OF ANY CRIMES -- but HOPEFULLY Viewers will note the differences (that the cities' Police Forces are FAR MORE INTEGRATED and hence CREDIBLE in our cities than in the 1960s).


Because if you don't do that, President Trump, you're dousing still brush-fires (!) with gasoline.

A simply _unforgettable_ film, this current one, and certainly important for our policy makers to see.

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