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Monthly Archives: March 2016

Embrace of the Serpent

(Spanish with English subtitles): The film takes place during two time periods woven together through the continuity of an Amazonian guide named Karamakate. He guides two white explorers looking for a particular plant that has sacred and psychedelic properties. The film is quite stunning; it is shot in black and white, which has the interesting effect of making the jungle and the stories it contains feel much more real. It is also a great historical story about colonialism, missionary work, and the effects the intrusion of white men had on native culture. There is one story line in particular that …

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Sicario

Emily Blunt plays Kate, a young, idealistic, and talented FBI agent whose specialty is hostage situations. She is recruited by Matt (Josh Brolin), a government agent who offers her an assignment that will get her at the heart of the drug trade to really make a difference in the war on drugs. A mysterious man, Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), is quiet but seems to have a key role on Matt’s team. The movie is about the execution of a mission to find a specific drug lord. The film is excellent; it is intense but very skillfully written and directed, and …

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Theeb

(Jordan; Arabic with English subtitles) – This is a coming of age film set in the Arabian desert during the early 1900’s (I think during the first world war). A young Bedouin boy goes with his brother into the desert to lead an English soldier and his translator to some unknown destination. The movie is the story of that journey. I thought the film to be quite excellent. It feels in a lot of ways like an American western; the parallels are striking in terms of the setting and story, but here the conqueror of the west is a young …

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Black Mass

Johnny Depp plays Jim “Whitey” Bulger, head of the Irish Mafia who became an informant for the FBI through the plans of his childhood friend and FBI agent John (played by Joel Edgerton). The film starts just before Bulger becomes an informant, and the story of that collaboration is the focus of the movie. I thought the film overall was a bit of a miss. I thought Johnny Depp gave a tremendous and really creepy (especially in the latter half of the movie) performance, and his was really the strongest of the movie. I enjoyed the story – I knew …

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Bridge of Spies

Cold war thriller, based on a true story, in which Jim Donovan (played by Tom Hanks), plays the insurance lawyer who negotiates a prisoner swap involving Gary Powers, who was shot down over the Soviet Union during a spy run, and Rudolf Abel, who was apprehended in the US and charged with spying for the Soviet Union. I think this is a really engrossing film about the Cold War era and all of its tensions and fears. The acting is great, especially Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance, who played Abel, and the story pace was great (it felt a lot …

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Creed

Michael B Jordan plays the Adonis Johnson, son of Apollo Creed who fought Rocky in the original film. Rocky, played again by Sylvester Stallone, who owns a restaurant, comes out of retirement to train Johnson to be a professional boxer. I liked the movie overall, although it is very predictable. Michael B Jordan, who was great in Fruitvale Station, also is superb in this movie; the acting across the board is very good. I also loved the music the young lady in the film sings – it is very unusual. Thumbs up for a solid movie and story; the film …

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Zootopia

(3D) – Judy Hopps is the first bunny to make it through the police academy, and she moves to the metropolis of Zootopia to taken on her first job. Not taken seriously and assigned to give parking tickets, she manages to get embroiled in a mysterious case of a missing otter and enlists the assistance of Nick Wilde, a sly fox on the wrong side of the law, to help her crack the case. The movie is hilarious. There are a lot of pop culture references (music, Iphones, apps, and such) as well as nods to several movies like the …

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A War

(Danish with subtitles) – Claus commands a small unit in Afghanistan whose mission is to protect civilians from the Taliban. During one of the missions, the unit comes under heavy fire, and Claus makes a decision; the impact of that decision forms the basis of the story. This is a very strong film that explores the context and impact of Claus’ decisions from multiple perspectives – his wife and three children in Denmark; the men who serve with him; the Afghanistan civilians with whom he comes in contact; the defense and prosecuting attorneys who pick apart the circumstances surrounding the …

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Risen

In this story of the resurrection of Christ and the days following it, Joseph Feinnes plays Clavius, a tribune to Pontius Pilate, who is ordered to find the body of Christ that is missing from the tomb. The film is about the transformation of Clavius as he goes on that search. Surprising to me, I actually liked the film. I thought Feinnes did a good job portraying the transformation of Clavius. The cinematography was also very good – it was a pretty film to watch. The film felt true to the original story (just told from a slightly different perspective), …

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